When the Hindu god Vishnu decreed the churning of the Great Ocean, the first product that arose was a stream of poison that Lord Shiva drank in order to protect the world. With the poison there also emerged Jyestha, the goddess of poverty and discord, dressed in flaming red. When the churning progressed further, amrita, the elixir of life, emerged, and with it came Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Therefore, Jyestha and Lakshmi were sisters, and as everyone knows, sisters sometimes quarrel.
Once it happened that this pair of goddesses argued about who was more beautiful. When they were in the heat of their dispute, neither one able to convince the other, they saw a merchant coming along the road toward them, and decided that they would put the matter on his shoulders – they would ask him to decide.
When the merchant heard who they were, he was awestruck, but when he heard what they wanted him to judge, he was terrified. To his eye there was no doubt that Lakshmi, the source of all that was profitable, was far more attractive, but how could he dare to anger Jyestha, who dealt out upon the world inharmony, anger, deceit and loss? If he failed to please either one, his life was sure to be in ruins.
The merchant was clever, though, and used to dealing with the twists and disputes of the marketplace. Without hesitation, he saluted them both with great reverence and said, “O Lakshmi, no one in heaven or on earth can compare with your beauty when you are entering a house. But O Jyestha, your elegance and grace are incomparable when you are leaving a house.”
Thus both goddesses were satisfied – but the real winner in the dispute was the merchant, who, for his clever judgment, received the blessings of both for the rest of his life.