The Old Woman, the Cock and the Chafing Dish

In the village of Pennagarai, on the road from Conjeeveram to Wandiwash, there lived an old woman who had a chafing dish and a cock. Day after day, early in the morning, when the first streaks of light were visible, the cock would crow. All the villagers would then rise, procure fire at her house and go their ways. This state of affairs had run on for a long time, till the old dame took into her head that the day dawned because her cock crowed. She observed that all the villagers cooked and ate after getting fire from her house, and she wanted to see how the day could dawn if she quit the village, and how the villagers would manage to eat.

So she went, unknown to anybody in the village, to a wood far off, with her cock and her chafing dish and sat down there. The next morning, all the villagers arose, came as usual to the old woman’s house, but not finding her there, thought she must have gone somewhere on some errand, fetched fire from some other quarter, and performed their respective duties. In the meantime, the old woman fasted in the wood until dusk, when a villager passed by on an errand. She called to him and said,”I was not in the village this morning. Has it dawned there? Have the people procured fire? Have they all eaten?”

He laughed and said, “Do you think that the whole world depends entirely on your cock and your dish? Why do you sit fasting here? Get up and go home.” She heard him and was abashed, and renouncing the foolish vanity which had made her think that all the world existed through her, she lived happily.

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows a Japanese incense burner in the shape of a rooster (18th century CE). It was made out of copper alloy and used silica paste of different colors (created by different metal oxides).


  • Folk-lore of the Telugus by GR Subramiah Pantulu (1919)