There was a time when the animals all looked similar, there were a few differences to mark their external appearance but they mostly looked alike. It was at a time like this that the Hanuman monkey and the Sambhar deer were among the closest friends in the animal kingdom. Now in those days, the sambhar deer had a very long tail while the monkey did not have a tail at all.
Once, there was a swallow by the name ‘Kirkiro’. He would cry the whole day- kirrr… kirrr… kirrr, thus everyone called him Kirkiro.
The story goes that in his earlier birth, Kirkiro was born as a man. He worked hard to put two square meals on the table so that his wife and old widowed mother could survive. Kirkiro loved both women very much. And was willing to do anything to make them happy. But there was not enough work for him in the village. So he decided to go to another village to look for work and took his wife and his mother along. As the three walked towards the next village, they came up to a river. Neither woman knew how to swim. So the man carried his wife on his shoulders and held his old mother’s hand and started wading through the river waters.
There was a time when Krishna was accused of theft and deceit. He was furious for no one had dared to ever level such allegations against him but he managed to clear his name and thereby gave rise to an intriguing tale of adventure involving lions, bears and princes of the Yadava clan.
The story told in the Vishnu Purana goes thus; Satrajit, a prince of the Bhoja clan, son of Nighna was an ardent devotee and friend of the sun god Surya. One day, he was walking by himself along the sea shore, deep in prayer. He was immersed in singing hymns to the sun god who, pleased with his devotion, descended from the heavens.
Satrajit was blinded by Surya’s brilliance and he appealed to the god to appear in his ordinary form and not as the golden orb in the sky that was visible to everyone. Surya obliged by taking off the jewel that hung around his neck; no sooner had he done that, a dwarfish being with a body the colour of burnished copper and eyes that bore a slightly reddish tinge emerged from the golden orb. Ask for a boon said the sun god and Satrajit asked for the jewel that he had just discarded. Surya gave it to him and went back to his home in the sky.
The jewel was the famous Syamantika, the gem of all gems. It gave its wearer the same radiance as the sun and yielded 8 tolas of gold every day. Also it dispelled all fear of beasts, droughts, fire and famine. It was a precious possession and Satrajit wore it proudly around his neck, looking like a god himself.
Word about the gem soon spread throughout the kingdom and Krishna who knew about the beauty and power of the Syamantika wanted the jewel be handed over to Ugrasena. However he left it to the prince to decide, not wanting to enforce his will, although he could well have, given his divine powers.
Satrajit went to meet Krishna but, he was worried that he would be asked to hand over the jewel and so he left it with his brother Prasena. Elated, Prasena wore it around his neck and sped into the jungle for a hunt where he was preyed upon by a lion who, having killed him, carried off the jewel in his mouth. But the lion had not gone far when he was attacked by Jambavat, the king of bears (also believed to be a close friend of Rama). Jambavat gave the jewel to his son Sukumara to play with.
Meanwhile Satrajit heard of his brother’s death and grew suspicious that Krishna had engineered the entire sequence of events just to acquire the jewel. When Krishna heard that, he was angry and decided to get to the bottom of the affair. He gathered a small army of Yadavas and set out for the forest and following the trail of Prasena’s blood reached Jambavat’s cave.
The bear king and Krishna fought a bitter battle that went on for 21 days. Finally when Jambavat was unable to defeat Krishna, he realised that his opponent was none other than god himself. He placed himself at his feet, gave back the jewel and also offered his daughter Jambawati in marriage.
Krishna married Jambavati and returned home and sent the jewel back to Satrajit, thereby exonerating himself completely from the crime. Satrajit was stricken with guilt for having falsely suspected Krishna and he went to him to offer his apologies and his daughter Satyabhama in marriage.
Krishna forgave him and married Satyabhama. However that is not the end of the story of Syamantika. The marriage of Krishna and Satyabhama was resented by many Yadava kings who were all keen upon her. Among the most aggrieved was Satadhanwan who declared that he would kill Satrajit and take the jewel into his possession. He was however fearful of Krishna and hence decided to wait for an opportune moment which made its appearance soon enough when the Pandavas and Kunti found themselves in a house of lac that was burnt down. When Krishna heard of their escape, he left his kingdom to be with them for a while. Taking advantage of this, Satadhanwan attacked and killed Satrajit and fled with the Syamantika.
An enraged Satyabhama immediately rushed to Krishna who rushed back home and went to Balarama, asking him to help him find and kill Satadhanwan and acquire the Syamantika. Balarama was furious when he heard the entire story and agreed to help his brother. The two set out to hunt down Satadhanwan approached a host of princes and kings for help. But none were brave enough to incur the wrath of Krishna. Finally he went to Akrura, but he too refused to get into a fight with Krishna. But Akrura agreed to protect the jewel only on the condition that no one should ever know that the Syamantika was in his possession.
Meanwhile Krishna and Balarama followed Satadhanwan. At one point they found that he had dismounted his horse and Krishna, asking Balarama to stand guard at the spot, pursued Satadhanwan on foot. He hunted him down and killed him but found no jewel on his person.
When Krishna came back to Balarama and told that there was no jewel, he turned on Krishna in rage. He accused him of jealousy and greed, accusing him of many things. Although he never spelt it out in so many words, he was convinced that Krishna had taken the jewel for himself and was misleading him. Angry, Balarama refused to return to their palace and went off to live in another kingdom (this was the time he taught Duryodhana the art of wrestling and use of the mace).
Meanwhile days went by and Akrura’s kingdom flourished. Even as kings in neighbouring provinces suffered from drought, famine and such other calamities, he managed to keep his people safe. Krishna sensed that there was something amiss and invited Akrura to Dwarka. When Akrura arrived, Krishna invited him to sit in his court and in front of the assembled kinsmen and kings and queens said that he knew Akrura’s secret. He requested that he present the jewel or be subjected to a search. He said that for long Balarama had suspected him of having the jewel and it was time to bring out the jewel and prove his innocence. Cornered Akrura showed him the Syamantika.
The brilliance of the jewel held everyone in thrall. Satyabhama staked claim to it as did Krishna and Balarama. However Krishna soon realised that this would lead to a difficult situation and he said that the jewel required its possessor to lead a life of purity and self-denial which, he said, none but Akrura could. And so the jewel remained with Akrura who went back to his kingdom, with the jewel secure in his care.
Image source: Wikimedia commons
We are all familiar with Draupadi as the heroine of the epic Mahabharata but, there is another Draupadi, a raging and fierce goddess, who lives in folk tales and myths in parts of south India and in Rajasthan. Alf Hiletbeitel who has studied the cult of Draupadi in great detail speaks of how she is seen as a caste goddess (Konar caste) in the Melacceri-Gingee region. She is worshipped in these places in a pure, virginal and fiery form.
One such story about Draupadi as the goddess of the forests goes thus. The Pandavas were in exile, eking out a living from the forest. Draupadi was with them and during the day, was by their side, sharing their sufferings and joys in equal measure. However as night fell, she would disappear and for a long time, her flight from her tent went unnoticed as no one dared to look in on her, without her wish.
Night after night, this was the story until one day Bhima saw her leaving the campsite. He was perturbed and asked Krishna about it who, of course, knew the whole story. He warned Bhima that he should not try and stop her, for if he did, she would devour him. But Krishna also told him that would need to devise a way to keep Draupadi confined to her tent at night. For the form that she took every night as she went out into the forest, Krishna said, was a danger to all of them.
Draupadi was another form of the goddess (Bhadra Kali, Celiyamman and such others), said Krishna, and every night she went into the forest as she sought the sacrifices due to her. She raided the forest for animals and birds and when she was satiated, she resumed her day-time form as the wife of the Pandavas.
There was only one way to stop her Krishna told Bhima and that would be to lock her up within her palm leaf hut and not let her out until she promised to give up her nocturnal adventures.
Bhima managed to lock her in but Draupadi was so angry that she pierced Bhima’s wrist with her sharp finger nails and five drops of his blood fell on to the forest floor giving birth to five sons. There could be many interpretations as to why Draupadi takes on such a form, but what is striking is the depiction of a heroine from epic as a strong and violent goddess, who is feared by all, even the brave Pandavas.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Love stories are quite an integral part of the Mahabharat, although not all of them are popular, some lie buried in the deep recesses of the epic, like this one. The story of Parikshit and Sushobhana has many versions, with different interpretations. It is referred to as a story where love leads to transformation.
The king of Mandukya’s daughter, Sushobhana, was not willing to get married, as she felt that marriage was like putting a free bird in a cage. Sushobhana would mask her identity, and get close to the man of her choice and live with him till she got tired of him, and leave under some pretext. The men would be forced to undertake a vow that they would never speak about the dalliance and thus the matter was never known to anybody, except her maid, Subinita and the king.
Subinita on her part had tried her best to stop the princess from her philandering ways, but Sushobhana was not one to listen. She felt her beauty and charm gave her the means to live a life of her choice. Her father could not convince her otherwise either.
Sushobhana met the handsome King Parikshit of the Ikshvaku dynasty and taken in by his looks, she drew him into a relationship. She hid her identity. Parikshit took the unknown lady to his palace and the two spent a long and enjoyable time together. A time came when Parikshit wanted to marry her, but Sushobhana true to her nature saw that as an entrapment. At the beginning of the relationship, she had made Parikshit take a vow that he would never take her near a water-body. Over a period of time, Parikshit had forgotten about it. When Sushobhana came to know about the wedding, in a moment of Parikshit’s weakness, made him take her close to a lake and on reaching the lake, she reminded him of his vow and her imminent departure.
When a shocked Parikshit probed further, she feigned a curse. At that moment Parikshit decided to hold her in a tight embrace, daring the curse to take effect. And then Sushobhana felt that this man was different, and something changed, but she could not accept that this was love. She managed to escape from there. While she was leaving, Parikshit noticed a spy watching them from a distance and from his attire, realised that he was from the Mandukya kingdom. He took his army to the doors of Mandukya and asked them to hand over Sushobhana who according to him had been ‘kidnapped’ by them. The King met Parikshit and told him the whole story.
Another version says that while escaping, she swam into the water-body never to emerge from it. Parikshit ordered the water to be drained, only to find a frog in it. He ordered to frog to be killed, and just when the soldiers tried to put it to death, the frog showed itself as the King of the Frog-kingdom, who told Parikshit the whole story of his daughter.
When Sushobhana came to know about it, she was depressed that her truth was out in the open and the shame would be too much for her or her father. At that moment she decided to commit suicide. Just when she was about to gulp down the cup of poison, her maid Subinita told her that Parikshit was waiting for her in his tent. Sushobhana was surprised to know that the prince wanted to marriage despite everything? Why would any man want a woman whose ways were so wanton? Subinita replied “For love”.
Sushobhana realised the power of love and that changed her, much to the delight of her maid and her father, the princess gave up her fears and transformed herself.
Story Collected by: Utkarsh Patel
Text Source: Mahabharata, Vana Parva: Markandeya-Samasya Parva: Section CLXL
Location: Pan India
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Bhima, many believe (arguably, of course), has been treated quite poorly by the writers of the epic Mahabharata and the reading junta. Despite his steadfast loyalty to his mother and his brothers and his tireless devotion to Draupadi, he gets the short shrift in our collective memories. His tales of heroism pale in comparison with his brothers and his brute force overwhelms all his other qualities. But here is one story that revolves entirely around him.
In Uttarakhand’s Nainital district, Bhimtal is a small town built around a lake, which incidentally is the largest lake in this district full of lakes and water bodies. Spread over 48 hectare, it was built in 1883, but the local people believe that water here was first discovered by Bhima. As is typically the case with many of the stories that we collect from people (as opposed to those already documented in books and other printed material), the oral version is different from the one that has been written down.
Let’s go with the oral version first. According to Anand, a resident of Nainital who is employed with a car hire agency and drives tourists around, the lake was born in the age of the Mahabharata. Bhim and his brothers were travelling all over Kumaon during their years of exile and one particularly warm day, a tired Draupadi asked for a drink of water. Her throat parched with thirst, she said, she would not be able to move another step without water.
The Pandavas were anxious to move on, the forest was dark and they worried about the wild animals that lay in wait for them. Bhima offered to look for some water. But despite his best efforts he found nothing, not even a dry river bed. Angry and frustrated he flung his mace to the ground with great force. The mace crashed through the ground and caused the earth to cave in, a large crater was formed which miraculously filled up with water. And thus was Bhimtal formed, named after the man who discovered it.
The other version also has Bhima as the creator of the lake, but he does not do it for Draupadi. The Pandavas had camped in the forest and Hidimba, a rakshasi who ruled over the forest with her brother Hidimb fell in love with Bhima. (Hidimba is still worshipped as a protector and has a temple in an adjacent state). But her brother was against the match and wanted to make a meal out of the Pandavas, instead. Hidimb challenged Bhima to a duel. The two fought hard and fnally when Bhima managed to kill him, he was bruised and weary and thirsty. Tired he thrust his mace into the ground and water gushed out, forming the Bhimtal as we know it today.
Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta
Story told by: Anand, cab driver with Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam
Image: Oil painting on paper, by Marianne North (1830–1890). “Bheemtal. Kumaon, India. July 30 1878” Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library.
Ram was gaining the upper hand in his battle against Ravan. It had been just a few days since Ravan’s army had rejoiced at the fall of Lakshman, but then to their great dismay, Hanuman uprooted an entire mountain and brought the precious life-giving Sanjeevani herb and revived him. This had given a huge morale boost to the entire monkey army and they had become invincible on the battlefield.
Lakshman’s revival had the opposite effect on Ravan’s army. And Ravana was feeling the heat as everyone, everywhere was raising chants to the greatness of Rama. He sent two of his best generals to fight but they were vanquished and killed by Hanuman and his aides. Angry and pained at the loss of his generals, Ravan decided to lead his army on the battlefield and take Ram on directly.
But before he went in to combat, he went to Sukra, the guru/preceptor of the Rakshasas. He asked Sukra for help and his blessings. ‘Let me not be defeated by Ram and let his death be in my hands’, he said. Sukra said that this was going to be the toughest battle Ravan had ever fought and to emerge victorious he would need to perform an intense yagna. For that he needed to isolate himself, not speak to anyone and recite a set of mantras that Sukracharya would teach him, without a break. If he could do this successfully, weapons would emerge from the fire of his yagna which would make him all powerful and even Ram would not be able to defeat him. If, however, for any reason, Ravan did not maintain these conditions–if he spoke or got up from his seat during the yagna or stopped chanting the mantras, Sukracharaya would not be able to help him. Ravana learnt the mantras and shut himself up in his chambers where he dug a large hole in the middle of the room and began the yagna.
Soon however word about the entire exercise reached the Ram camp. And Ram sent Angad and Hanuman with a large army to thwart the sacrifice. The monkey army trashed the city of Lanka looking for Ravan. They broke down forests and overturned mountains but they could not find him anywhere. Finally they reached his palace and realised that Ravan had holed himself up in his room. Angad thought of a way to draw him out; he went into the inner chambers where Mandodari was resting and dragged her out by her hair. When Ravana still would not get up from his yagna, Mandodari shouted out in anger. ‘Look’, she said, ‘how Ram has crossed the sea and fought such a hard battle because you have abducted Sita, but you, the great king who is known for his bravery, courage and goodness, have no sympathy for your own wife. I am being abused by these monkeys in your palace and you do not even get up!’
At this Ravan could not keep himself from breaking the yagna and he got up and and assaulted Angad with his sword. The penance was broken. And the monkeys fled, leaving a distraught Mandodari behind and an even angrier Ravan behind.
This story has many versions and is popularly told and performed in Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia. In the Thai version Hanuman leads the army to Ravan’s palace and rapes Mandodari.
A long time ago, in heaven, Shani the god of bad luck and Lakshmi the god of good luck had a row. Both claimed they were higher than the other in the hierarchy of gods. The gods were equally ranged on either side and a resolution was hard to find. So their sights settled on a man who was known to be wise and just. His name was Sribatsa, which meant the child of Lakshmi.
When Sribatsa was told that he had play adjudicator he panicked because he did not want to get on the wrong side of either. He decided that he would not speak at all but let his actions speak instead. He got two seats made, one of silver and another of gold. When they arrived he asked Lakshmi to sit on the golden stool and Shani on the silver. This infuriated Shani and he cursed him, saying that for the next three years, he would make life a living hell for Sribatsa. Lakshmi told him not to worry because she would always be beside him.
Sribatsa went to his wife Chintamani and told her that he would go away for a while so that Shani’s evil eye would spare her. She would have none of that however and refused to stay behind and the two set out together. Before leaving their house they did two things: hid all their gold and wealth in their mattress and invoked Lakshmi, asking her to watch over their home as they wandered the world. Lakshmi promised them her protection.
The two left with the mattress and soon reached the bank of a river. A boat with a boatman was waiting in the water. Sribatsa asked him to ferry them across. But the boatman said, he could take only one person at a time. So Sribatsa said, take my wife and mattress across first. But the boatman said, the mattress would have to be taken across separately. Reluctantly the couple agreed, but no sooner had the boat got to the middle of the river, a massive whirlpool rose out of nowhere sucked the boat into its swirling waters. The boat disappeared and so did the river.
Sribatsa and his wife found themselves in a village full of woodcutters. Sribatsa convinced the village folk to let him stay. He soon learnt the art of wood cutting and being sharp and skilled, he began felling trees whose wood carried a greater value. He would cut sandalwood trees make more money than the others with half the amount of wood. The angry woodcutters drove the couple out of the village.
The next village was full of weavers. Chintamani was a skilled weaver and she was soon spinning finer yearn than the other women in the village for which she earned more money and also their envy. To make matters worse, Sribatsa to earn the favour of the men of the village invited them for a feast where his wife cooked such a good meal that everyone went back and praised her to their wives. The women started hating her even more. One day at the village river, the women had gathered for work when they saw a boat standing by the water. Chintamani accidentally touched it and the boat began to move. The boatmen who had been unsuccessful in all attempts to move the boat for a few days were astonished and thought that this woman must have magical powers. So they ambushed her and dragged her on to the boat. The women stood watching and did nothing as they wanted to get rid of her.
When Sribatsa heard what had happened to his wife, he went mad with grief. He came to the river and decided to follow its course till he found her. As it grew dark he climbed on to a tree and slept. The morning came and he saw a Kapila cow which was known to be an inexhaustible source of milk. So he milked her and drank to his heart’s content. As he looked up he saw that the cow dung was pure gold and he wrote his name on it while it was still wet. As it hardened it took the shape of a gold brick. This went on day after day as Sribatsa set up a post on the tree from where he could watch the boats going up and down the river. The number of bricks went up and they made a neat pile of glistening gold which caught the eye of every traveller on that river and that is what drew the boat carrying Chintamani to the spot too.
Meanwhile on the boat, Chintamani prayed to Lakshmi to make her ugly and despicable so that her abductors would leave her alone. Chintamani’s face changed and her body broke out in sores and repulsed by her looks, the men threw her into a small cell where they let her rot. The boat made its way to the foot of the tree and the men grabbed the gold bricks and with them Sribatsa; he too was put into the same cell as Chintamani and despite the sores on her body, he recognised her. The two however kept this knowledge secret. Meanwhile the batmen who enjoyed a game of dice found an able partner in Sribatsa and they would often bring him into their group. But as Sribatsa began winning all the games, they threw him overboard. Luckily Chintamani had the presence of mind to throw a pillow over to him and he used that to float ashore. He found himself in a garden that seemed to have fallen upon bad times. He spent the night shivering in the cold. By the morning, as the sun came out, the garden had undergone a dramatic change. It was a riot of colour; every tree was laden with flowers and fruits. Now the garden belonged to an old woman who used to supply flowers to the king’s palace. But as the garden fell barren, she had lost her place and livelihood as the chief flower supplier to the royal house. She was ecstatic when she saw her garden blooming once again and when she saw Sribatsa curled up in a corner, she believed him to be a lucky charm. So she ran to the king who gave her back her job and she recommended Sribatsa for a job. The king found him to be an intelligent man and asked him to choose the post he wanted. Sribatsa asked that he be made in charge of collecting toll from all the boats that travelled up and down the river. And soon enough he found the boat that had his wife and his gold bricks. He detained the boat and charged them with kidnapping and theft and since all the bricks had his name on them, the king had no trouble believing him. Also when Chintamani stepped out of the boat, she turned as beautiful as she once was. And the king, when he heard all the troubles that Sribatsa had been through, plied him with gifts and food and after a few days sent him home.
There is a myth, at least there was in the times gone by, when my mother was a girl. It is that women do not suffer from the curse of flatulence. She told me this story. In a Goan village, many years ago, folks lived in harmony. There lived amongst them two families who had two sons of marriageable ages. Both of them, it was said, were born on the same day, same time right down to the exact moment of birth. Duly, and dutifully too, their parents arranged their marriages. Their respective wives also had striking resemblance to one another. So striking was their likeness that newcomers to that village believed that they were sisters.
However, the outer similarities did not bespeak of their inner make up and their characters. While one was sweet, the other was bitter; one the very embodiment of womanhood, the other had flaws in her nature not quite in keeping with the norms of feminine temperament. But there was no discord between either because of or in spite of their contrasting natures. In fact, both the girls soon won the trust and affection of all elders in the village.
One day there was a function in one house hold. The newlywed bride (the sweet one) was so adept at all the household work that not only did she help arrangements but cooked, it was said, a meal most delicious. Just as the men folk were busy satiating their appetites, the girl had an irrepressible urge to release pent up intestinal gasses. The girl panicked, for to let go in a hall full of people, all men at that, was the most horrifying predicament. She excused herself and rushed into the confines of a suitable antechamber, but alas! It was a tad late. All heard the most embarrassing sound enhanced by the concentrated quiet of the lunch hour and knew at once its producer. The poor girl ran right out of the dining hall through the passage out into the back yard where the well was. Not looking behind, she rushed on and jumped straight into the well overcome with shame.
In no time she drowned and her soul went directly to heaven. There, in heaven, Indra, the god of thunder was presiding. The celestial court was in session! The guards tried to hold the newly dead girl when she rushed to fall at the Gods lotus feet. The ensuing commotion interrupted the court proceedings. Looking at the lovely girl, puzzled by her young age, Indra asked Chitragupta, the Divine bookkeeper, the cause of her death. Chitragupta told Indra what had happened. He felt sorry that a young girl, in prime of her youth, was overcome with shame because of flatulence. He sent summons to the King of gas, Vayu who presented himself before Indra with folded hands. Indra, revealed the reason for his summons and ordered him never to inflict women. “From now on no woman will entertain you!” said Indra. Vayu accepted the command, and retreated with his Godly dignity.
Indra turned to the girl and smiled. “There!”, he said, :” From now on all women will live a long life bereft of the ignominy and shame of flatulence.” Then he called his treasurer, Kubera, and asked him to bedeck the girl with his priceless ‘abhushanas’ and asked Yama, Death, to bring her back to life and her homestead. Then he blessed the girl and bid her leave.
Down below, on earth, there was commotion near the well. The husband of the girl had jumped into the well. He had dived to look for her body many times but had failed. He dived again. This time, he touched something. So he quickly grabbed it. It was her arm and he pulled her out. The girl was resuscitated and brought home to rest after this tense incident.
Next morning, as though nothing at all had happened, the girl set about her chores. She went to the well to fetch water. There, all the women had gathered. They were restive, dying to know how the girl had managed to not only survive, but how she had come up with such exquisite ornaments of diamonds and gold. They had noticed the dangling diamonds dazzling her face. They all rushed to her with the other girl leading (the bitter one). She was the most curious of them all!
“What happened? Where did you get this? Is there gold at the bottom of the well? – There was a barrage of questions from the curious ladies.The girl calmly told her unbelievable story. No one believed her. They thought that the girl was fibbing in order to avoid telling them the truth. No one believed her, except her neighbour. They both knew each other well enough to know when the other was telling a lie.
After filling their pots the women dispersed. The other girl was thoughtful. She also wanted the diamonds and decided upon a plan. Soon enough an opportunity presented itself. The girl cooked many dishes, all with gas inducing ingredients. Before lunch the girl, with the pretext of tasting the dishes consumed much food. Her belly was tight! She tried hard to release the gas, but in vain! She ate more, and more; tried harder. She kept on trying to fart but it was not to be.
Vayu was a faithful ally of Indra, the king of gods. The girl was getting sadder by the minute, but something happened. Just as she bent to serve her father-in-law, a faintest of farts escaped her. She was elated! She rushed to the well and jumped. She died instantly. Yama’s aides were waiting for her. They escorted her to Indra’s court. Before Indra could ask, the girl putting on a great show of shame and grief told Indra why she had committed suicide at such a young age. He sent for Vayu. His guards returned with the news that Vayu was hospitalized with high fever and inexplicable but severe injuries to his whole body. Indra arranged to visit him with his retinue accompanying him and the girl. Vayu looked very badly hurt. Indra, moved to pity restored Vayu to some semblance of health and asked him what the reason was for breaching his trust.
Vayu sat up with difficulty and told Indra how the girl had coerced him. He told how he had resisted, pointing to his wounds and sobbed uncontrollably. Indra put his hand on Vayu and restored him to full health. They returned to court. He called in Kuber and fired an angry order, “Go at once and fashion ornaments in lead and iron. Don’t waste time designing things of beauty. A token embellishment would do fine!”
When heavy ornaments in lead and iron were brought to court and the girl bedecked with them, Indra said, “Go now back to mortality and toil there till such a time as death does not relieve you!” Quietly Indra’s guard accompanied the girl, deep into the cold waters of the well in the village.
Indra revoked the orders given to Vayu and said, Vayu, my dear friend and ally; I am pleased with your devotion. From today you are free to inflict any stomach that you deem worthy of your grace!” Vayu smiled at his Divine master. He saluted Indra and took his leave.
STORY COLLECTED BY: Vidya Kamat
STORY TOLD BY
“Mmmm!” Pithey Buro gently hints to Pithey Buri, “I say, isn’t it the best time to go to the bazaar? There are sweet potatoes by the bushel, sweet green peas barely rounded in their shells, jars and jars of the most exquisitely fragrant, syrupy nolen gur you ever smelled!”
“Humph,” says Pithey Buri. She knows what Pithey Buro wants. At last, the most delicious time of year has come round again. This is the time of year Pithey Buri works the hardest and what Pithey Buro lives for.
It is the time of Sankrant, the Spring Equinox, when balmy spring breezes are laden with the scent of Pithey Buri’s luscious “pithey”.
Pithey Buri’s pitheys are the best in the world.
Sweet or salty, steamed, fried or soaked in syrup, no pithey is too difficult for Pithey Buri!
Off she goes to the bazaar, her keys safely tied in a knot at the end of her sari, a small draw-string bag of money tucked into her waist, and her slippers flip flopping all the way.
She passes people flying kites.
She passes a number of ponds, deeply breathing in the smell of the wet earth in the cool, spring air. She knows, the fish traps must have caught shining, jumping fish and tiny wiggly prawns as the water glints in the sunshine.
She passes the great big banyan tree where the monkeys come and steal the chai wallah’s bread. She passes the barber at the roadside saloon, styling his client’s beards and moustaches and snip snipping at their hair and carrying tales from one to another.
At last she reaches the market. After bargaining vigorously, Pithey Buri comes triumphantly home to spread out her shopping and sort it out. Making Pitheys is serious business.
She has bought rice to grind into flour, nolen gur- the sweet, smoky sap of the date palm, coconuts, green peas, sweet potatoes, milk, raisins, cinnamon, camphor, cardamom and other condiments, oil for frying, coal and wood shavings and cow pats for the earthen stove.
Now Pithey Buri is ready. She says,”Acchha, the first day will be for steamed Pithey.” She grinds the rice, grates fresh coconut, brings out the “new molasses,” moulds the sweets tenderly and steams them. At night she carefully lays clean new cloth over them. Then Pithey Buro and Pithey Buri go to bed.
The next morning, the old man says, “Buri, where are the Pithey ?”
And the old lady says sleepily, “Why? Here they are. Eat them!” but all the Pithey have gone! There is not one left!
“Alright, says Buri, “Today I will make fried Pithey.” She boils sweet potatoes, grinds green peas, rolls them, and fries them. Having fried them, once again she puts them in a clean mud pot and covers them, leaving them for the night and goes to bed.
The next morning, the old man gets up and says “Where are the Pithey?”
The old lady says, “Why, there they are. Look inside and see if they are there or not.” Buro raises the lid and finds they are all gone.
The next day, Buri says, “What shall I make today? Pithey in syrup. And tonight,” says she, lifting a stern finger, “I’m going to watch and find out what happens to them at night!” So that evening, Buri boils fresh, red, sweet-potatoes, fills them with kheer, fries them, and soaks them in syrup.” Then she puts them in a clean pot, ties them up very thoroughly, and hangs the pot from an iron hook in the ceiling. Then she takes a stick, and sits up all night. Just as her eyes droop with sleep, at the crack of dawn, she wakes up, startled by a “khoot-khoot” sound!
She peers toward the sound, and sees Buro, bowl in hand, reaching out and bringing the pot of Pithey down from the hook! In goes his hand, and out comes a Pithey. He gobbles one Pithey, then two, then three till there is not one left in the pot.
Buri jumps out and says, “I have caught the thief!”
What is Buro to do? He looks at Buri, eyes brimming with fear. He is afraid that Buri is terribly angry, but Buri says, “Nothing to worry about. There’s still time. I will make all three kinds of Pithey in one day and you will eat them all on that day.”
Buri makes so many Pithey that their whole village and all their friends and neighbours are able to feast on them. Everybody is delighted. No one can make Pithey quite like Pithey Buri!
*A Pithey is a seasonal delicacy made in homes across Bengal, usually during the Spring Equinox. There are many variations and they may be sweet or savoury, fried or steamed. Usually the first one to be made and offered to the Gods is the Akshoy Pithey, a crepe made of rice flour, filled with coconut and jaggery or “kheer” (thickened milk).Raisins nuts and condiments are optional. Other kinds of Pithey are made with sweet potato or rice flour. These are usually croquettes. If sweet, they are filled with jaggery and coconut or kheer and fried and soaked in syrup, or steamed with fresh jaggery poured over them. If salty, they are filled with a paste made of fresh peas and then deep fried
STORY COLLECTED BY: Shaiontoni Bose
STORY TOLD BY: Bunny Gupta
LOCATION: West Bengal