Lord Rama, Lakshmana and the Vanara army reached the shores of the ocean. They had to cross the ocean to reach Lanka and vanquish Ravana. Rama prayed to the lord of the ocean who in turn suggested that they build a bridge across the ocean, and he would help hold the rocks together.
Building a bridge with rocks! The rocks will sink in water! Jambavan, the chief of the bears suggested that if Hanuman can cross the ocean with the strength of the name of the Lord – RAMA, surely rocks with Rama Nama written on them would float!
All the mighty and strong vanaras engaged themselves in building the long bridge with the help of rocks and trees. They would bring huge rocks and Hanuman would write RAMA on them, and then they would toss it into the waters. Sure the rocks floated!
A little squirrel was observing all this. Everyone was engaged in the service of Lord Rama. It also wanted to serve the Lord. But how could a tiny little creature like the squirrel help in carrying huge rocks. It did not know what to do. The bushy-tailed squirrel sat down thinking very seriously in what way it can help.
Suddenly its little eyes were filled with tears. It stood up on its hind legs and held its fore limbs across its chest and exclaimed, “the hard rocks with pointed edges will sure hurt my beloved Lord’s delicate and soft feet. And inbetween the rocks, there are gaping holes which are not at all comfortable to walk on. And the rough bark of the trees will surely hurt the Lord’s feet”.
After a few minutes of thought, the squirrel suddenly knew what to do! It scurried along quickly across the shore, dipped itself in water, came back and rolled itself over in the sand. Then it ran quickly on to the bridge and shook its body so vigorously that all the sand fell on the rocks. Again and again it repeated this process.
As it was darting to and fro, running here and there, it almost got crushed when it came under feet of a Vanara. Angrily, the Vanara shouted at the squirrel to stay away from them all, otherwise it would lose its life. The squirrel looked up and told them that it also wanted to serve Lord Rama in building the bridge. “Please do not deprive me of this sacred seva to the Lord, brother vanara,” implored the squirrel. Hearing this, the Vanaras laughed. How could a little squirrel help in building the huge bridge across the ocean? One of the Vanaras picked it up and tossed it a few yards away so that it would again not cross their path. The squirrel cried, “Rama!” The Lord heard its cry, got up and stretched His hand out. The squirrel came and softly landed on the Lord’s palm. It was safe in His hands!
The Lord realized what had happened. He advised the Vanaras never to underestimate the service of anyone – big or small. It is the attitude or bhava which ultimately decides the nobility and beauty of the work executed. It was infact the grains of sand that cemented the rocks and held them together, and rendered the surface more comfortable to walk on.
In recognition of its seva, and acknowledging the same, the Lord held the squirrel in His palm and softly ran His three fingers on the furry back of the squirrel. Lo! there were three white stripes on the back of the squirrel! To this day the three white stripes seen on the back of squirrels is attributed to Lord Sri Rama as a reminder that no seva is insignificant!
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