The first two stories feature the healing powers of the banyan tree, a cool refuge from the summer heat. In “Savitri and Satyavan,” the princess Savitri marries the poor woodcutter Satyavan, who is actually a prince robbed of his kingdom. When Satyavan dies suddenly, Savitri asks the banyan tree to guard him. She then persistently follows the King of the Underworld until he grants her three wishes, which she uses to regain her husband and his kingdom. “Sharavan Kumar and His Wife” tells how a wife who is mean to her husband’s parents redeems herself after their deaths. She asks the banyan tree to cure her wounded husband, and the tree is moved by her caring and remorse.
Four stories from the Mahabharata tell about the god Krishna, whose birth is celebrated in August. In “The Birth of Krishna, the Blue God,” evil King Kans hears a prophecy that his sister’s child will kill him. He imprisons his sister and her husband, killing each of their newborn children. Heaven helps the couple switch Krishna with a cousin in the next kingdom just as Kans orders all male newborns in his realm slaughtered. “Krishna and the Demon Nurse” relates how Kans discovers Krishna’s rescue and sends the demon Pootana, disguised as a nurse, to poison the child. The infant’s powers, however, enable him to destroy the nurse. In “The Serpent King,” Krishna, at the age of twelve, destroys the five-headed snake Kaliya, rescuing his friends from its...
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