“Many are the devotees who visit sacred places like mount Kailash and Varanasi, take holy dips in sacred rivers like Ganga and Kaveri, pray to us and attain virtue. But not all can do these for various reasons. What will happen to them and how those people can earn your grace and save themselves?”
“The answer for this will be available only on earth” replied Shiva with a smile and they both descended from their abode to find that out.
The divine couple landed in the Kashi town, sanctified by their presence as Lord Vishwanatha and Goddess Visalakshi. They went there in the guise of an elderly couple, utterly frail and shaky, and positioned themselves somewhere near river Ganges.
Struggling even to stand up, the old man started slumping down suddenly, as his equally weak wife tried to hold on to him. She somehow managed to take him on her lap and made an impassioned appeal to the all those who passed by. “This old man, my dear husband is in the very last stage of his life. Can someone please get him the holy Ganges water at this dying stage? I am too old to go and bring it myself.”
The place was quite crowded with many passing that side, but no one bothered even to stop and listen to her pathetic plea. At long last, there came a rough-looking person, and taking pity on the couple went to the river, grabbed some water in his palms and brought it to the dying man, as requested by his old wife. The woman looked at him with a lot of gratitude, but as he was about to pour the sacred water through the parched lips of the aged man into his mouth, the lady told him in a shivering voice.
“My dear man, thank you very much. My husband will die anytime, and this may be the last that he consumes in this life; so, please do remember one good act of yours in life and then pour the water in his mouth.”
The man held his hand back and stood there shocked for a moment. He was indeed a robber, who has committed only sins all his life. There is not one act of kindness and mercy that he could remember to have done ever in his life. Then, where was the question of recollecting any such action?
Still, the robber was determined to help out the couple somehow and told her straight, “Mother, I a sinner who has done only despicable things all my life. If I somehow manage to provide this water to your husband now, this may become my first and only virtuous deed that I have done in my entire life so far. But I don’t want to disappoint you by any means; so, I will remember this act of compassion and provide the sacred water to the old man so that something good happens to him after death.” So saying, he gave the water to the old man.
And lo and behold, there stood before him Shiva and Parvati in their original forms. As the man turned speechless and bowed before them, they looked at him kindly and declared that it was indeed a great act of his, which has earned him their divine mercy and pardon. He will be relieved of all his sins, will lead a virtuous life from then on, and will also attain the ultimate salvation at the end of his life.
Thus the divine mother got the answer to her query. And that was – a person need not visit holy places or dip in sacred waters; and for attaining divine grace, all one needs to do is to perform one good act with a pure heart and a selfless attitude.