Shashti is a Hindu folk goddess, revered as the protector and benefactor of kids. She is usually pictured as a motherly figure, sitting on a cat and nursing infants.
In the Kushan period, symbols between the first and third centuries CE, she is described as two-armed and six-headed like Skanda Mata. Numerous Yaudheya and Kushan coins, inscriptions, and sculptures produced from 500 BCE picture the six-headed Shashthi, often on the coin’s other side, with the six-headed Skanda on the watch.
A Hindu folk about Shashthi tells of the youngest of seven daughters-in-law in a wealthy household who was a glutton that used to steal food secretly and then accuse a black cat, which was punished as retribution. The black cat happened to be the mount (vahana) of Shashthi and cried about the mistreatment to the goddess, who vowed to avenge it. When the youngest daughter-in-law ultimately gave birth to a child, the cat stole the kid in the night, gave it to the goddess, and did the same for her next six sons.
The neighbors blamed the young mother for negligence and started to believe she might be a witch who ate her own kids. Finally, when a seventh daughter was born, the young mother chose to stay awake the whole night to solve the mystery. She succeeded in catching the cat in the act of crime and injured it with her bracelet, but the cat disappeared with the kid, leaving a trail of blood.
The mother followed this trace to Shashthi’s abode. There she saw her kids playing around Shashthi as the god held the mother’s newborn daughter in her arms. Shashthi revealed the reason for the mom’s distress and told her to ask the cat’s pardon. The mother asked the cat’s pardon, which was given, and then she ensured the goddess that she would offer worship in a ceremony devoted to her, which would come to be known as the Jamai-Shasthi Vrata. The mother retreated home with her kids and spread the goddess worship, who blessed her family with kids, happiness, and wealth.
So, the regular movements of cats from one home to another carrying their kitten are often associated with a soul’s journey from one life to another. Hinduism prohibits attacking any animals, and the lessons from the folklore above are simple: don’t blame others for your mistake. Don’t consider others (including animals) as weak, voiceless, and vulnerable. Karma protects everyone.
In my opinion, Hindu folklore is not mythology but history. Swipe next and read ‘A Valuable Indian folklore of Mata Shashti and Black Cat on Parenting, Tradition, and Animalism from India.’ This story is a quick read for those interested in morals and values. Respecting animals is essential as even they experience emotion. Our ambitious demands on sea, land, and freshwater have turned the world into a bloody hell for animals. However, Karma doesn’t just apply to humans. It also seeks revenge if you harm the voiceless creatures.
This story from 500 BCE (or even before) teaches why respecting everyone (including cats) is a must. Visit nykdaily.com for articles in 40+ different categories.