This is a story sung by the Gonds of central India and it is also depicted in their paintings

Parvati and Mahadeo were sitting around a tree, chatting when she asked him a question that had bothered her for a while. “How is it you are deathless and I had to be born ten times to be with you?” Mahadeo replied: “It is true, yet our pair has never broken!”

Since that was not the point of the question, Parvati asked again: “But why I alone should die!” Cornered, Mahadeo replied, “I know the Bijmantra, the secret of life, that is why I am deathless.”

Parvati wanted the Bijamantra. Mahadeo was not too keen but finally had to relent when Parvati dismissed all his trepidations. Upon her advice he roared loudly to clear the forest of any outsiders before he began telling her the mantra, the animals, birds, serpents, every living creature you can think of scurried away. And then Mahadeo started his lesson.

Now the spell and the story connected with the secret of immortality would take nine days and nine nights. As Mahadeo launched into it, he told Parvati that she would have to respond with and ‘hu’ at appropriate intervals so that it was clear to Mahadeo that she understood what he was telling her.

But sometime through the period as the days and nights melded into one, Parvati dozed off. For a while Mahadeo did not realise this because the ‘hu-hu’ that Parvati was meant to say continued. When Mahadeo discovered his wife asleep, before he could vent his anger upon her careless demeanour, he looked for the source of the ‘hu-hu’. And he soon found it; a parrot’s nest on the tree under which they sat had an unhatched egg when he had started, but sometime in the course of the recitation, the egg had given way to a young hatchling and; since the first sounds baby parrot heard were ‘hu, hu’, it began saying that.

Mahadeo chased the parrot but it flew away into the forest. As it flew it found refuge in the ashram of Vyasa. It flew into his mud hut where Vyasa’s wife lay asleep with her mouth open (or had opened it in a yawn) and the baby parrot dived right in. When Mahadeo stormed into his ashram, Vyasa begged for the life of the parrot that was now in his wife’s womb, growing as a child. Mahadeo granted him his boon and a son was born to Vyasa.

Meanwhile after returning to the forest, Mahadeo banished Parvati for being so callous about the secret of life. Parvati went to her father, but he drove her away for having disobeyed her husband. So she went to her son Khatmukh, but the son said that he would not take her in his house and displease his father.

Parvati then came to the mountain Vindhya and built a hut for herself and lived there. She was frightened of the beasts at night. So she took out dirt from her body and made a boy and put life in him. Her son sat on the threshold of her hut while Parvati practiced penance inside.

But soon Mahadeo’s anger was appeased and he began to repent. His remorse was so great, that he swooned and lay in that condition for twelve years. When he regained consciousness he called out his wife. But there was no reply. He threw his drum angrily on the ground. Mother earth then assuming the form of a cow stood before him and counselled him.

Mahadeo set out in search of his wife. When he finally found her hut, the boy Ganesh would not allow him to enter. There arose, then, a fight between Mahadeo and Ganesh. Mahadeo cut Ganesh’s head and went in. Parvati when she saw him said: “Why have you come here?” You had driven me out of the house!” Mahadeo denied having ever having done that. But on finding that he had killed her son, Parvati was distraught. Mahadeo then plucked a hair from his body and made a demon of it and ordered him to bring the head of a newly-born baby, whose mother was sleeping turning her back to it. But no demon was found to be sleeping thus and only a female elephant was found who slept with her back turned to her young one. Her head was brought to Mahadeo who fixed it to the head of the boy Ganesh and this is the god worshipped even today.

Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta

Source: Folk tales from central India, Durga Bhagwat

Location: Madhya Pradesh

Image Source: Wikipedia