My name is Hare Ram Mukhiya. My village is in Darbhanga. It is called Ucchhti . It is a small village, not a very big one. In the big map they show on the net, I cannot find the name, but it is my village, where I live, and I have photographs to show for it.

Many, many moons ago, long before I was born, my village had no water running through it. Life was very hard. My village folk had to go miles to collect water, and in the hot, dry, summer months, it was very difficult. The heat was unbearable and there was very little to relieve it. No one knew what to do until one day someone came to our village and asked for water. There was very little water to be had. He saw the plight of the villagers and he decided to do something about it. He found a tree, beneath which stood a small idol of the Devi, the Goddess of the village. Her name was Kamala Devi.

The visitor stood in front of the Devi, and he began to meditate and to pray. He stood there without eating or drinking any water, for seven long summer days and seven long summer nights, before the Devi. Finally, the Devi, Kamala Devi was pleased, and she came to him in a vision and she said, “I will grant you one boon . What shall it be?”

The visitor, who was now a stranger no longer, bowed before her and said, “There is no fresh water in this village. I beg that you will grant a permanent source of fresh water so that the villagers may suffer no more.”

The Devi was pleased with this visitor. She blessed him and said, “At the foot of this tree you will find some sacred ash. Take this ash and sprinkle it continuously and wherever you sprinkle it you will find what you seek.

The visitor took the ash and went to the back of the village, where the fields began, and he began to sprinkle the ash. He walked in a long continuous course sprinkling the ash, and lo and behold, all along the course of that ash, water began to appear and the river began to rise.

The next tale I will tell you happened during my life time, and I myself have heard tell of it and I know it to be true.

At the banks of this same Kamala river, lived a Pujari, a holy man who said all the village prayers for us. He took great care of the fish in the Kamala river. He said that they were Lakshmi’s nishaan,a sign that Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity lives here. We were warned never to disturb the fish in that area. We could go up and down the river and catch fish, but not there, oh no. The Pujari warned us that all the fish would leave this river, forever, if anybody disturbed them there. None of us dared to flout the Pujari. He was a good man, but who knew what powers he had, and what he would do if he were angry? Also no one wanted the fish to disappear! No one wanted to test if it were true! So we boys, who were quite naughty otherwise, obeyed the Pujari. As a result, the fish grew very, very big, this big even…and bred in that river, and never left the spot. I have seen them, khud,(myself) with my own eyes, swimming about unafraid, enormous creatures with big round eyes. The river always had fish teeming. There was no barricade to keep them there. No cage, no net, nothing, yet they stayed and grew bigger and bigger, and more and more numerous.

There are many stories about that river and those fish. One time, it is said, a Brahmin who had done some penance beside the river, had pleased Kamala Mata, and she came to him and gave him permission to take one fish per day for his consumption. This was all fine until one time, this Brahmin had guests coming to his home, and he got greedy and caught many more fish than the share he was allotted. The very next day when he went to bathe in the river, he slipped and fell and drowned. Everybody believes that this happened because Kamala Devi was angry with him for taking more lives than he needed.

Now this was fine for all the time that I was growing up. No one ever dared disobeyed the rules of the village of Ucchti, but the fame of our River spread far and wide and many people came to see the fish for themselves in this holy spot. Many people were impressed by the number of fish in our part of the river, and the size of them. The Pujari died, and there was no one quite as good to replace him. Finally one day it had to happen. Many people these days do not believe the old tales, and so they do not respect another’s ground.

One dark night, when all the village were asleep, a gang of men from the village next to ours, came and stole a whole lot of the biggest fish. This too I know to be true, because a case has been filed against them and is being argued still.

This is bad enough, but there is worse. If you go to that spot and look for the kingly fish who stayed of their own free will, and grew and grew and grew, and crowded that place just around the mandir (temple) you will now see nothing. This too I have seen with my own eyes. Trust has been broken, and hard times follow. Many of us believe the river will not yield the bounty it once possessed. The fish have left that place and do not come again.

——————————————————–

Story collected by: Shaiontoni Bose (retold)

Story told by: Hare Ram Mukhiya
Location: Darbhanga, Bihar

Image source : http://www.fao.org/docrep/field/003/AC526E/AC526E02.htm