Once upon a time, a poor Brahmin and his wife lived in a village. They had two daughters. The Brahmin was a simple and honest man. In spite of his poverty, he was happy. He loved his wife and daughters very much and worked hard to provide everything for them. The family lived happily.
However, as luck would have it, the Brahmin fell sick and within a few months, he passed away. His wife and daughters were grief stricken. There was nobody to look after them. His wife was illiterate. She had never set her foot out of the house. “Who will provide food for us? How will I look after my daughters now?” she thought and cried loudly. Her neighbors heard her cries and came to the house. They consoled the family and told them not to worry. They were all kind people and promised the Brahmin’s wife that they would provide food and clothing to her family.
So, from that day, the neighbors took turns to provide food for the dead Brahmin’s family. Everyday, the Brahmin’s wife would go to the neighbors’ houses to collect food. Once in a year, she also got clothes for him and her daughters. The neighbors had collectively taken the responsibility of the poor family.
In the meantime, the Brahmin was reborn as a golden swan. Yet, he had not forgotten his previous birth. He remembered his house, his wife and daughters. One day, he thought of going to his old house to see how his family members were. He went and sat on the roof of his house. From there, he saw his wife bringing food from one of the neighbor’s house. He felt sorry for her and thought of helping the family.
Just then, his daughters saw him. They wanted to catch him and put him in a cage. As they were about to catch him, he said, “Dear Vani and Rani, I am your father. I have been born as a golden swan. I have come here to help you. From now onwards, I shall regularly come here and drop one of my golden feathers. You may collect my feather and sell it in the market. It will fetch you a good price. With that money, you will be able to buy all the necessities of life and you will not have depended upon the neighbors”. So saying, the swan dropped a golden feather and flew away.
The daughters were very happy and picked up the feather. When their mother came home, they told her the whole story. The mother was also happy. She went to the market and sold the feather. She got a good price for it. With the money, she bought all the necessary things she needed.
From then onwards, the swan came to the house everyday and dropped one feather. Very soon, the family became rich. They bought a big house, jewels, clothes, etc. they even engaged servants to do the household work. The swan felt happy at the prosperity of his family.
One day, a thought came to the Brahmin’s wife. “The golden swan may go away from here and stop coming to us. What will happen to us then? I must catch him and take out all his golden feathers”. She thought. When she expressed her intention to his daughters, they told her not to do so. “The swan has been kind to us and we should be kind to him”, they said.
However, their mother did not listen to them and she was filled with greed to possess all the golden feathers. When the bird came again, she caught him and began to take out all the feathers out of his body. The swan was surprised at the cruelty of his wife whom he loved so dearly.
The swan tried to plead with her. But she did not listen and took out all the feathers from the swan’s body.
Then she picked them up and made a bunch of golden feathers. But lo! The feathers were not of gold, they were ordinary feathers. The swan told her that she had been cruel and greedy and, therefore, his feathers had turned ordinary.
The Brahmin’s wife got very angry. She picked up the featherless body of the swan and hurled him out into the garden. It remained in the garden for a few days. When his new feathers came out, he decided to leave that village and go far away. He did not want to stay with such a cruel and greedy woman.
As for the Brahmin’s greedy wife, she lost all her wealth and become poor again. This time, even the neighbors did not help her. She had to work for the survival of her family. Her greed for more golden feathers led her downfall.