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Neem Yakshi's Wish

Dense forests circled the holy city of Varanasi. Some of these were old, some had developed into maturity, while others at the edges were just about to change from woods into forests. In one of the younger forests animals from other areas began to move in. The birds came first in search of new nesting trees. Then rabbits appeared followed by the deer. Soon herds of gazelles, antelope and wild buffaloes made their way to the luscious grass that grew. Two yakshis (protective tree beings) took residence there. One lived in a sal tree whose branches bent down with foliage. The other became part of a nearby neem tree.

The forest grew thick and dense. Attracted by the possibility of getting abundant prey, a lion moved in with his family. A few months later a young tiger too made this forest his home.

One day the neem yakshi complained to the older sal yakshi, "Do you remember the days when this forest of ours smelled so verdant and clean. Look at it now! There are bones covered with stinking putrid flesh all over the place. Flies galore swarm around them. These carnivorous predators have ruined our home. I am tempted to scare them away to where they came from. Let them dirty that place not ours." The sal yakshi replied calmly. "Certainly I remember those days. It is however the nature of these predators to behave the way they do. After all they kill only to eat. What is left over provides food for the wolves and jackals. We might as well leave things as they are."

The neem yakshi was not convinced by her friend's view. She felt very strongly that by chasing away these large carnivores the forest would once again be a quiet and clean place. One summer day when the lion was resting under shade of the neem tree, the yakshi suddenly changed her form. The tree took on an awesome monstrous look. The fear struck lion trembled. He bolted out of there with his entire clan. The yakshi played the same trick on the tiger when one day he was passing by the neem tree looking for prey. He had never ever seen such an ominous looking tree shaking its branches so violently. He too left the forest with his cubs and tigress. The forest soon became free of their roars.

Months passed by. Villagers who lived at the edge of the forest noticed that they too no longer heard the sounds of the large carnivores. The green grass of the forest looked very inviting to the sheep and cattle. More and more of them moved into the forests for grazing. The sound of axes began to reverberate with in the deep jungle. The woodcutters were busy chopping lumber. More light streamed into the jungle and open spaces popped up in several spots. The farmers brought their tools and animals to clear the land for their crops.

It took only a few years before the entire forest became thin and sparse. The neem yakshi realized what she had caused. Overcome by regret she ran to the edge of nearby forests calling out to the lion and the tiger to return. It was too late. That day too came when both the sal yakshi and the neem yakshi had to leave. There were no more large trees for them to dwell.

Om Muni Muni MAHAmuniye Svaha