There is a thin line between bragging and sharing. Probably, the difference actually lies in the intent of the teller, which isn’t easy to hide from the listener. Telling someone about one’s achievements when necessary constitutes sharing. If the sharing helps the other person in some way, it is well justified! But talking about one’s successes purely to get admiration or envy out of someone is bragging. A story from Shiva Purana about Anasuya, the wife of sage Atri stands out in this context.
Once, the Kamada forest region in Chitrakoota Mountains suffered a severe drought. Every sage and commoner who lived there left the area, except Sage Atri and his wife Anasuya. “I can’t abandon my own land. Let me help revive it,” decided the sage and indulged in a severe penance to Lord Shiva.
Anasuya stayed with her husband and served him. “I can’t be in a penance like my husband. Someone needs to keep the place habitable. But let me pray to Shiva while performing my duties,” thought Anasuya and acted accordingly. Every single waking moment, she did her work and prayed to the Lord.
Lord Shiva along with Goddess Ganga (who resided on Shiva’s matted hair, ) were so impressed watching Anasuya’s selfless acts, they even debated. “Is Atri’s penance better or Anasuya’s service?” Ganga was firm about her choice – it was Anasuya.
One day, after many years, sage Atri woke up from his penance, “Anasuya, can you get me water to drink and for my Pooja?” He asked his wife.
With over a fifty-year drought, there was not a drop of water anywhere close-by. Anasuya had survived on mere air all those years. But she did not have the heart to tell her husband the truth. She took a pot and entered the dry forest, thinking of ways to find water.
Now Ganga decided to help Anasuya and appeared before her. After getting over the shock of seeing the Goddess, Anasuya requested her, “Can I have some water for my husband, Goddess?”
Ganga was more than happy to help. She filled a small ditch to the brim and said, “This spring shall never dry.”
Atri was surprised when he drank the water his wife brought him, “This water tastes divine, nothing like I have ever drunk before. Moreover, the entire region being dry and withered goes to show that there has not been any rain here. Where did you get this water from?”
Anasuya contemplated her reply. “If I tell him the truth, I will be boasting of having brought Ganga to earth. That will never do.”
Then she decided what to say. “By the grace of Lord Shiva, whom you have been worshipping for so long and hard, Goddess Ganga has manifested here.”
But later Atri learnt from Ganga herself that she flowed to Chitrakoota as a boon to Anasuya.
The story ends with Shiva staying as Atrishwara in the Kamada forest at Atri and Anasuya’s request and Ganga continuing to flow there as Mandakini.
It is near impossible for mere mortals to do what Anasuya did – not take any credit for a great accomplishment. However, keeping a story of this sort in mind might help us control the urge to brag, at least once in a while!
PS: Please do read my book Saptarshi - The Seven Supreme Sages, Published by Amar Chitra Katha to know more about the sages and their luminary wives.