Lord Vishnu tells the King and Queen of Ponnivala they must complete a long list of charitable deeds if they want to be granted children. Making life tough, a group of artisans develop a plot to kill both under the wheels of a temple cart Vishnu had them commission. Faith brings the gods to the couple’s rescue. But then Lord Vishnu spells out one final challenge.
The Heroic Couple Undertake Good Works
Lord Vishnu first asks the couple to build a set of resting stones for people with heavy head loads. He also asks that they construct eating shelters and pay to have public wells dug. He also asks them to marry two particular trees (similar to constructing a local shrine). Most importantly, they are to have a temple cart built for the goddess and then pull it around her temple.
The Rival Clansmen Cleverly Plot To Kill The King and Queen
The rival clansmen hear of the coming festival and the plan to hand pull a new temple cart around the temple. They instruct the carpenters to stop the cart part way. They are to declare that a dream was sent to them by the goddess asking that the king and queen place their heads under its heavy wheels as a powerful sacrifice. They are counting on the couple’s belief in the goddess to get their agreement. A huge bribe is promised in exchange for this lie. The artisans agree and do as they are told. The devout king and queen do reluctantly place their own heads on the ground in front of the cart’s heavy wheels. But with Lord Vishnu’s help, the great wagon magically rises up and flies above their heads, causing them no injury! Now we see divine justice at work. The 16 clansmen who were pulling the cart are killed, along with six lying artisans (the 7th escapes).
A Vow To Feed The Multitudes
The queen remembers that there are two more important things Lord Vishnu has asked for. They are to feed a thousand beggars and then to travel to heaven and perform penance the at the feet of Lord Shiva himself. The feast for the beggars is prepared. But the couple can only find nine hundred and ninety nine beggars, one short of the 1,000 needed to fulfill the vow. The queen sets off to find one more, but there are no more, anywhere. Finally, on the way back she finds a very weak and poor man lying in a ditch. The queen takes this man in her arms and carries him to her palace where she coaxes him into eating a little rice. The vow is fulfilled!
The Penitents Begin a 21 Year Pilgrimage
Next the couple begin their pilgrimage to the gates of heaven. First they lock the palace and a leave a perpetual lamp burning in the family temple. Next all the people of the area come to say good bye. Even the animals of Ponnivala appear one by one. They ask that the queen return from heaven with a gift of fertility for them as well. Among the visitors are cows, who ask for calves, and horses who ask for colts. A poor woman from the area asks for the gift of a strong son who can serve as a powerful assistant for the queen’s sons-to-be. Finally the couple set off. The four gates to the palace compound are locked and black beetles and wasps are called to stand guard.