- An Indian Folk Story
One of the most beautiful of our trees is the Tamarind tree. The leaves are tiny and delicate, and they make a beautiful tracery against the sky. It is said that there was a time when the leaves of the tamarind tree were large and thick, allowing neither rain nor sun to penetrate through them to the earth. This is the story of how they came to be split into the thousands of tiny, green, delicate leaves you see to-day.
And they wowed to live as wanderers, sleeping upon no bed save that of the green grass and fallen leaves and under no roof save that of the sky. Thus they lived, seeking no comfort and braving every hardship and stress.
One night, they happened to sleep under a tamarind tree. While they slept, a great storm arose. The wind howled through the forests like a raging demon, and the lightening flashed through the skies. The rain beat down on them, but under the tamarind tree, the wanderers slept peacefully, for they were weary and the rain could not reach them through the thick leafy roof overhead.
Thus sheltered, they slept until a crash of thunder woke Shri Rama. In surprise, he looked around him. The storm was raging still. But, beneath the tamarind tree, he and his companions had been sheltered from its fury - as well sheltered as if they had been under the roof and within the four walls of a house.
Then Shri Rama remembered their vow of asceticism and woke his brother. ‘We cannot rest here, Lakshmana,’ he said, ‘for according to our vow, we may have no shelter or protection above our heads. Pick up your bundle. Let us move on." Next, he put a hand upon the sleeping Sita, who stirred in her sleep and whispered ‘Rama!’ But, she did not wake up.
As she moved, Rama saw how tired she looked, lying upon that grassy bed. For her pillow she had a stone. She who had been a delicately nurtured princess, who in her palace had never laid her head on anything but the softest silk. A coarse bark cloth covered her and the forest grass was all about her.
So he let her sleep. And in her sleep, she looked more beautiful and serene than she had done at any other time. Rama thought of how she had walked with them over bushes and thorns across stony mountain paths, through fearful dark forests till her tender feet had bled, and never once had she complained. Always she had been bright and cheerful, asking only that she be with Rama.
Seeing her now, so peacefully asleep, he had not the heart to disturb her. He went back to Lakshmana saying : ‘She is asleep; I have no heart to wake her up. what can we do, my brother? If we remain here, we shall break our vow. And if we move, we must take her with us.’
Then Lakshmana smiled and nodded his head : ‘My brother,’ he said. ‘I know a way.’ And rising, he took his bow and with carful aim he shot his powerful arrows upwards at the thick leafy roof overhead.And lo, the arrows of Lakshmana went one by one through the tamarind leaves and shattered them. Each leaf split into the thousand tiny ones. and the rain came pouring through them and the ascetics were sheltered no more.
Ever since then, to this day, the tamarind leaves have remained split !