Folklore of the Santal Parganas


Part I

In these stories there are many incidents which appear in stories collected in other parts of India, though it is rather surprising that so few of them appear elsewhere in their entirety. We have however, instances of the husk myth, the youngest son who surpasses his brother, the life of the ogre placed in some external object, the jealous stepmother, the selection of a king by an elephant, the queen whose husband is invariably killed on his wedding night, etc. etc.

Few of the old Indian stories found in the Kathâ Sarit Sâgara or the Buddhist Birth stories appear in recognizable form in the present collection.

I. Bajun and Jhore.

Once upon a time there were two brothers named Bajun and Jhore. Bajun was married and one day his wife fell ill of fever. So, as he was going ploughing, Bajun told Jhore to stay at home and cook the dinner and he bade him put into the pot three measures of rice. Jhore stayed at home and filled the pot with water and put it on to boil; then he went to look for rice measures; there was only one in the house and Jhore thought "My brother told me to put in three measures and if I only put in one I shall get into trouble." So he went to a neighbour's house and borrowed two more measures, and put them into the pot and left them to boil. At noon Bajun came back from ploughing and found Jhore stirring the pot and asked him whether the rice was ready. Jhore made no answer, so Bajun took the spoon from him, saying "Let me feel how it is getting on", but when he stirred with the spoon he heard a rattling noise and when he looked into the pot he found no rice but only three wooden measures floating about; then he turned and abused Jhore for his folly, but Jhore said "You yourself told me to put in three measures and I have done so." So Bajun had to set to work and cook the rice himself and got his dinner very late.

Next day Bajun said to Jhore, "You don't know how to cook the dinner; I will stay at home to-day, you go to plough, and take a hatchet with you and if the plough catches in a root or anything, give a cut with the hatchet." So Jhore went ploughing and when the plough caught in anything and stopped, he gave a cut with his hatchet at the legs of the bullocks; they backed and plunged with the pain and then he only chopped at them the more until he lamed them both. At noon Bajun saw the bullocks come limping back and asked what was the matter with them. "O," said Jhore, "that is because I cut at them as you told me." "You idiot," said Bajun, "I meant you to give a cut at the roots in which the plough got caught, not at the legs of the bullocks; how will you live if you do such silly things? You cannot plough, you must stay at home and cook the rice. I will show you this evening how it is done." So after that Jhore stayed at home and cooked. Bajun's wife grew no better, so one day Bajun, before he went to the fields, told Jhore to warm some water in order that his wife might wash with it. But Jhore made the water boiling hot and then took it and began to pour it over his sister-in-law as she lay on her bed; she was scalded and shrieked out "Don't pour it over me," but Jhore only laughed and went on pouring until he had scalded her to death. Then he wrapped her up in a cloth and brought her dinner to her and offered it her to eat, but she was dead and made no answer to him, so he left it by her and went and ate his own rice. When Bajun came back and found his wife scalded to death he was very angry and went to get an axe to kill Jhore with; thereupon Jhore ran away into the jungle and Bajun pursued him with the axe.

In the jungle Jhore found a dead sheep and he took out its stomach and called out "Where are you, brother, I have found some meat." But Bajun answered, "I will not leave you till I have killed you." So Jhore ran on and climbed up inside a hollow tree, where Bajun could not follow, Bajun got a long stick and poked at him with it and as he poked, Jhore let fall the sheep's stomach, and when Bajun saw it he concluded that he had killed his brother. So he went home and burned the body of his wife and a few days later he performed the funeral ceremonies to the memory of his wife and brother; he smeared the floor of the house with cowdung and sacrificed goats and fowls. Now Jhore had come back that day and climbed up on to the rafters of the house, and he sat there watching all that his brother did. Bajun cooked a great basket of rice and stewed the flesh of the animals he had sacrified and offered it to the spirits of the dead and he recited the dedication "My wife I offer this rice, this food, for your purification," and so saying he scattered some rice on the ground; and he also offered to Jhore, saying, "Jhore, my brother, I offer this rice, this food, for your purification," and then Jhore called out from the roof "Well, as you offer it to me I will take it." Bajun had not bargained to get any answer, so he was astounded and went to ask the villagers whether their spirits made answer when sacrificed to: and the villagers told him that they had never heard of such a thing. While Bajun was away on this errand, Jhore took up the unguarded basket of rice and ran away with it; after going some way he sat down by the road and ate as much as he wanted, then he sat and called out "Is there anyone on the road or in the jungle who wants a feast?" A gang of thieves who were on a thieving expedition heard him and went to see what he meant; he offered to let them eat the rice if they would admit him to their company; they agreed and he went on with them to steal; they broke into a rich man's house and the thieves began to collect the pots and pans but Jhore felt about in the dark and got hold of a drum and began to beat on it. This woke up the people of the house and they drove away the thieves. Then the thieves abused Jhore and said that they could not let him stay with them: "Very well", said he, "then give me back the rice you ate." Of course they could not do this. So they had to let him stay with them. Then they went to the house of a rich Hindu who had a stable full of horses and they planned to steal the horses and ride away with them; so each thief picked out a horse, but Jhore got hold of a tiger which had come to the back of the stable to kill one of the horses; and when the thieves mounted their horses, Jhore mounted on the tiger, and the tiger ran off with him towards the jungle. Jhore kept on calling out "Keep to the road, you Hindu horse, keep to the road, you Hindu horse." But it dragged him through the briars and bushes till he was dead and that was the end of Jhore.

II. Anuwa and His Mother.

Once there was a young fellow named Anuwa who lived with his old mother, and when he was out ploughing his mother used to take him his breakfast. One day a jackal met her on her way to the field with her son's breakfast and told her to put down the food which she was carrying or he would knock her down and bite her; so she put it down in a fright and the jackal ate most of it and then went away and the old woman took what was left to her son and told him nothing about what had happened. This happened several days in succession; at last one day Anuwa asked her why she brought so little rice and that so untidily arranged; so she told him how she was attacked every day by the jackal. Then they made a plan that the next day the mother should take the plough afield, while Anuwa should dress up as an old woman and carry the breakfast. This they did and the jackal met Anuwa as usual and made him put down the breakfast basket, but while the jackal was eating, Anuwa knocked him head over heels with his stick; and the jackal got up and fled, threatening and cursing Anuwa. Among other things the jackal as he ran away, had threatened to eat Anuwa's malhan plants, so Anuwa put a fence of thorns round them and when the jackal came at night and tried to eat the pods he only got his nose pricked.

Foiled in this the jackal called out "Well, I will eat your fowls to-morrow;" but Anuwa the next night sat by the fowl house with a sickle and when the jackal came and poked in his head, Anuwa gave him a rap on the snout with the sickle, so the jackal made off crying "Well, Anuwa, your fowls have pecked me on the head, you shall die." So the next day Anuwa pretended to be dead and his mother went about crying; she took her way to the jungle and there she met the jackal and she told him that Anuwa had died in consequence of his curse and she invited him to the funeral feast, saying that he used to eat the rice which she had cooked and he had become like a son to her. The jackal gladly promised to attend, and he collected a number of his friends and at evening they went to Anuwa's house and sat down in the courtyard. Then the old woman came out and began to bewail her son: but the jackal said "Stop crying, grannie, you cannot get back the dead: let us get on to the feast." So she said that she would fry some cakes first, as it would take some time before the rice was ready. The jackals approved of this but they asked her to tie them up with a rope first lest they should get to fighting over the food, so the old woman brought a thick rope and tied them all up and tightest of all she tied up the jackal which had cursed Anuwa; then she went inside and put an iron pan on the fire and from time to time she sprinkled water on it and when the jackals heard the water hissing they thought that it was the cakes frying and jumped about with joy. Suddenly Anuwa came out with a thick stick and set to beating the jackals till they bit through the ropes and ran away howling; but the first jackal was tied so tightly that he could not escape, and Anuwa beat him till he was senseless and lay without moving all night. The next morning Anuwa took the jackal and tied him to a stake near the place where the village women drew water and he put a thick stick beside it and every woman who went for water would give the jackal one blow with the stick. After a few days beating the body of the jackal became all swollen and one night some other jackals came there and asked him what he ate that he had got so fat and he said that every one who came to draw water gave him a handful of rice and that was why he was so fat; and if they did not believe him they could take his place and try for themselves.

So one jackal agreed to try and untied the first jackal and let himself be tied in his place, but in the morning five women came down and each gave him a blow with the stick till he jumped about for pain, and seeing him jumping other women came and beat him till he died.

III. Ledha and the Leopard.

Once upon a time a boy named Ledha was tending cattle with other boys at the foot of a hill, and these boys in fun used to call out "Ho, leopard: Ho, leopard," and the echo used to answer from the hill "Ho, leopard." Now there really was a leopard who lived in the hill and one day he was playing hide and seek with a lizard which also lived there. The lizard hid and the leopard looked every where for it in vain. At last the leopard sat down to rest and it chanced that he sat right on top of the lizard which was hiding in a hole. The lizard thought that the leopard meant to hurt it and in revenge bit him and fastened on to his rump so that he could not get it off, so that day when the boys came calling out "Ho, leopard," he ran towards them to get their help: but when they saw the leopard they all fled for their lives. Ledha however could not run fast because he was lame, and the leopard headed him off and begged him to remove the lizard. This he did after the leopard had sworn not to eat him, and before they parted the leopard made him promise to tell no one that the lizard had bitten him, and said that if he told then he would be carried off and eaten. So Ledha rejoined his companions and told them nothing of what had passed between him and the leopard. But that night when they had all gone to bed, Ledha's sister-in-law began to worry him to tell her what the leopard had said to him, when it had caught him. He told her that the leopard would eat him if he told, but she coaxed him and said that no one could hear them inside the house; so at last he told her that he had taken off a lizard which was hanging on to its rump. Then they went to sleep; but the leopard was hiding at the back of the house and heard all that they said; and when they were all asleep, he crept in and carried off Ledha's bed with Ledha in it on his head. When Ledha woke up towards morning, he found himself being carried through dense jungle and he quietly pulled himself up into one of the trees which overhung the path. Thus when the leopard put down the bed and was going to eat Ledha, he found it empty. So he went back on his track and by and bye came to the tree in which Ledha was hiding. The leopard begged Ledha to come down, as he had something to say to him, and promised not to eat him; but directly Ledha reached the ground the leopard said "Now I am going to eat you." Ledha was powerless, so he only asked to be allowed to have one chew of tobacco before he died; the leopard assented and Ledha felt in his cloth for his tobacco, but the tobacco did not come out easily and as Ledha felt about for it the dry tobacco leaves crackled; the leopard asked what the crackling sound was, and Ledha said "That is the lizard which bit you yesterday;" then the leopard got into a terrible fright and ran away as hard as he could, calling out "Don't let it loose: Don't let it loose."

So Ledha was saved from the leopard, but he did not know his way out of the jungle. He wandered about, till he came to the place where the wild buffaloes used to sleep at night, and he swept up the place and made it clean and then took refuge in a hollow tree; he stayed there some days, sweeping up the place daily and supporting himself on the fruit of a fig-tree. At last one day the buffaloes left one cow behind to watch and see who it was who swept up their sleeping place. The cow pretended to be too ill to rise, and Ledha after watching for some time came out and swept the ground as usual, and then tried to pull the sick cow up by the tail; but she would not move so he went back to his hollow tree. When the buffaloes returned they heard that it was a kindhearted man who cleaned their sleeping place; so they called Ledha out and said that they would keep him as their servant to clean their sleeping place and to scrub them when they bathed in the river; they made him taste the milk of all the cows and appointed the cow whose milk he liked best to supply him. Thenceforward he used to wander about with the buffaloes and he made a flute and used to play on it.

One day after scrubbing the buffaloes he washed his head in the river and some of his hairs came out; so he wrapped them up in a leaf and set the packet to float down the stream. Lower down the stream two princesses were bathing with their attendants, and when they saw the packet they tried who could fish it out and it was the younger princess who caught it. Then they measured the hairs and found them twelve cubits long. The princess who had taken the packet from the water went home and took to her bed and said that she would not eat until the man was found to whom the hairs belonged. Her father, the Raja, sent messengers in all directions to search for the man but they could not find him. Then he sent a parrot and the parrot flew up high and looking down saw Ledha with the buffaloes in the forest; but it did not dare to go near, so the parrot returned and told the Raja that the man was in the forest but that no messenger could approach for fear of the wild buffaloes. However a crow said, "I can bring him if any one can," so they sent the crow and it went and perched on the backs of the buffaloes and began to peck them; then Ledha threw stones at it, but it would not go away; then he threw a stick at it and last of all he threw his flute. The crow caught up the flute and flew up to a tree with it. Ledha ran after it, but the crow kept flying on a short distance and Ledha still pursued until he came to the Raja's city. The crow flew on till it entered the room where the princess lay, and dropped the flute into the hands of the princess. Ledha followed right into the room and they shut him in and the princess gave him his flute after he had promised to marry her.

So he stayed there a long time, but meanwhile the buffaloes all got weak and ill for want of some one to look after them. One day Ledha set off to the jungle with his wife to see them and when he saw how ill the buffaloes were, he decided to build a house in the jungle and live there. And the Raja sent them money and horses and cattle and elephants and servants and they built a palace and Ledha subdued all the jungle and became a great Raja; and he made a highway to his father-in-law's home and used to go to and fro on it.

IV. The Cruel Stepmother.

There was once a Raja whose wife died leaving him with one young child. He reared it with great care and when it could toddle about it took a great fancy to a cat; the child was always playing with it and carrying it about.

All his friends begged the Raja to marry again, but he said that he was sure that a stepmother would be cruel to his child; at last they persuaded him to promise to marry again, if a bride could be found who would promise to care for the child as her own, so his friends looked out for a bride; but though they found plenty of girls who were anxious to marry the Raja, not one would promise to care for his child as her own. There was a young widow in a certain village who heard of what was going on, and one day she asked whether a bride had been found for the Raja and she was told that no one was willing to take charge of the child. "Why don't they agree," said she, "I would agree fast enough. If I were Rani I should have nothing to do but look after the child and I would care for it more than its own mother could." This came to the ears of the Raja and he sent for the widow and was pleased with her looks, and when she promised to love his child as her own, he married her.

At first no one could be kinder to the child than she was, but in the course of time she had a child of her own and then she began to be jealous of the elder child; and she thought daily how she could get rid of him. He was still devoted to his cat and one day when he came back to the house, he asked his stepmother where the cat was. She answered angrily, "The cat has bewitched the boy! It is 'cat, cat,' all day long." At this the child began to cry; so she found the cat and threw it to him, saying, "Here is your cat: you are mad about your cat." But the boy hugged it in his arms and kept on crying at his stepmother's cross words. As he would not keep quiet his stepmother got more angry still; and catching hold of the cat she scratched her own arms and legs with the cat's claws until the blood flowed; then she began to cry and scold and when the neighbours came to see what was the matter, she told them that the boy had let his cat scratch her; and the neighbours saw that she was not loving the boy as she promised.

Presently the Raja came in and asked what was the matter; she turned and scolded him saying: "You have reared the accursed cat and it has scratched me finely; look, it has taken all the skin off; this is the way the boy repays me for all my trouble. I will not stay with you; if I stay the boy will injure me like this again." The Raja said, "Don't cry like a baby; how can a simple child like that know better? when he grows up I will scold him." But the woman persisted and declared that she would go away with her own child unless the Raja promised to kill his elder son. The Raja refused to do this, so the Rani took up her baby and went out of the house with it in a rage. Now the Raja was deeply in love with her and he followed and stopped her, and said that he could not let her take away his younger child; she answered, "Why trouble about the child? it is mine; I have left you your boy, if you don't kill him, when he grows up, he will tell you some lie about me and make you have me beaten to death." At last the Raja said "Well, come back and if the boy does you any harm I will kill him." But the Rani said. "Either kill him now or let me go." So at last the Raja promised and brought her back to the palace. Then the Raja called the boy and gave him his dinner and told him that they were going on a visit to his uncle's: and the child was delighted and fetched his shoes and umbrella, and off they set, and a dog came running after them. When they came to a jungle the Raja told his son to sit under a tree and wait for him, and he went away and killed the dog that had followed them and smeared the blood on his axe and went home, leaving the child.

When his father did not return, the child began to cry, and Thakur heard him and came down, and to frighten the boy and make him leave the jungle he came in the guise of a leopard; but the child would not move from where he was; then Thakur appeared as a bear, and as a snake and an elephant and in many other forms but the child would not move; so at last Thakur took the form of an old woman, who lifted him in her arms and soothed him and carried him to the edge of the jungle and left him on the outskirts of a village.

In the morning a rich Brahman found him and took him home, and as no one claimed the child he brought him up and made him his goat-herd, and they gave him the name of Lela. The Brahman's sons and daughters used to go school, and before he took his goats out to graze Lela used to carry their books to the school. And going to the school every day Lela got to know one or two letters and used to draw them in the sand while minding his goats; later he got the children to give him an old book saying that he wanted to pretend to the other boys that he could read and out of this book he taught himself to read: and as he grew up he became quite a scholar. One day he picked up a letter and found that it was from one of the village girls arranging to elope that very evening with a young man. At the appointed time Lela went to the rendez-vous and hid himself in a tree; soon he saw the Brahman's daughter come to the place, but as her letter had not been delivered her lover did not appear. The girl got tired of waiting and then she began to call to her lover, thinking that perhaps he was hiding for a joke. When she called, Lela answered from the tree and she thought that it was her lover and said "Come down and let us be off." So Lela came down and they started off together; when day dawned she saw that it was Lela who was with her and she sat down and upbraided him for deceiving her. Lela said that they had met by chance; he had not enticed her away, no harm had been done and she could go home if she liked or come away with him if she liked. The girl considered but she saw that if she went home now she would be disgraced and her family would be outcasted, so in the end she agreed to run away with Lela.

They went on and after travelling some days they came to a great city, where they took up their quarters in a tumble-down house and the next morning Lela went into the city to look for work. He went to the cutcherry and enrolled himself as a muktear (attorney) and soon the litigants and the magistrates found out how clever he was and he acquired a big practice. One day the Raja said, "This fellow is very handsome, I wonder what his wife is like?" And he sent an old woman to see; so the old woman went and got into conversation with Lela's wife and returned to the Raja and told him that none of his wives was so beautiful as Lela's wife; so the Raja determined to go and see her himself, and as the old woman said that she would hide herself in the house if she saw the Raja coming, he disguised himself as a poor man and went and saw her; he found that the old woman had not exaggerated and he determined to possess himself of Lela's wife. He had first to get Lela out of the way, so he sent for him and said, "You are a fine fellow and have given me satisfaction. I have one more commission for you, if you perform it I will give you half my kingdom and my sister in marriage." Lela said that he must hear what it was before he made any promise. The Raja said "It is this: in a certain mountain grows the Chandmoni Kusum flower; bring it to me and I will give you what I have promised:"--but the Raja felt sure that if Lela went to the mountain he would be eaten by the Rakhas (ogress) who dwelt there. Lela said that he would go if the Raja gave him a written bond In the presence of witnesses; and this the Raja willingly did. Then Lela went and told his wife and she said, "This is excellent: I have a younger sister in the mountain, her name is Chandmoni and it was she who planted the Chandmoni Kusum flower; when you get there call her by her name and she will certainly give you the flower."

So Lela started off and when he was gone his wife fell ill, and her body became a mass of sores. Directly Lela was out of the way, the Raja sent the old woman to see what his wife was doing and she brought back word that she was afflicted with illness; so the Raja sent medicines and told the old woman to nurse her. Lela went off and came to the cave in the mountain where Chandmoni lived with the Rakhas; and the Rakhas was away hunting men, so Lela called out Chandmoni and told her who he was and begged her to hide him; then they planned how they should kill the Rakhas, and she hid him in the cave; presently the Rakhas returned and said to Chandmoni "I smell a man: where is he?" But Chandmoni said that there was no one there but herself; and that the smell was probably due to the Rakhas having been eating human flesh and recommended her to anoint herself with hot ghee. The Rakhas agreed: so Chandmoni put a great iron pan of ghee on to boil, and when it was boiling she called the Rakhas, and as the Rakhas was leaning over the pan, Lela ran out and pushed her into the boiling ghee and she died. Then Chandmoni asked Lela why he had come, and he told her, "to fetch the flower." She promised to give it to him but asked what was to become of her now that the ogress with whom she lived was dead. Lela promised to take her with him, so they cut off the tongue and ears and claws of the Rakhas and returned to the city. And directly Lela returned, his first wife recovered from her illness.

Then the Raja saw that it was useless to contend with Lela, and he gave him half his kingdom and married him to his sister according to his bond. So Lela lived with his three Ranis and they bore him children and after some years he told them that he was the son of a Raja and he wished to visit his own country and see whether his father was alive. So they set out in great style with horses and elephants and came to the town where Lela's father lived. Now five or six days after abandoning Lela, his father had become blind and, he made over the management of his kingdom to a Dewan, and the Dewan and the Rani managed everything. When the Dewan heard that Lela had come with a great force he thought that he would loot the country and he ran away in fear. Then Lela sent word to his father to come to him, as he was the son who had been abandoned in the jungle, so the Raja set forth joyfully and after he had gone a few paces he began to see dimly, and by the time that he came to Lela's camp he had quite recovered his eyesight. When they met, father and son embraced and wept over each other; and Lela ordered a feast to be prepared and while this was being done a maidservant came running to say that the wicked Rani had hanged herself, so they went and burned the body and then returned and enjoyed the feast. Then the Raja resigned his kingdom to Lela and the ryots begged him to stay and rule over them; so he remained there and lived happily ever after.

V. Karmu and Dharmu.

There were once two brothers Karmu and Dharmu. Karmu was a farmer and Dharmu was a trader; once when Dharmu was away from home Karmu gave a religious feast and did not invite Dharmu's household; when Dharmu returned and learnt this, he told his wife that he also would perform the ceremonies in his house, so they set to work and were employed in cooking rice and vegetables far into the night; and Karam Gosain came down to see what preparations Dharmu was making in his honour, and he watched from the back of the house.

Just then Dharmu strained off the water from the cooked rice and threw it out of the window, and it fell on Karam Gosain and scalded him, and as the flies and insects worried the wound, Karam Gosain went off to the Ganges and buried himself in the middle of the stream. As he had thus offended Karam Gosain, all Dharmu's undertakings failed and he fell into deep poverty, and had not even enough to eat, so he had to take service with his brother Karmu. When the time for transplanting the rice came, Dharmu used to plough and dig the ditches and mend the gaps along with the day labourers. Karmu told him not to work himself but act as overseer of the other labourers, and the labourers also told him that it was not suitable for him to work as a labourer himself, but Dharmu said that he must earn his wages and insisted on working; and in the same way Dharmu's wife might have acted as overseer of the women, but she was ashamed not to work too.

One day they were transplanting the rice and Karmu brought out breakfast for the labourers; he told Dharmu and his wife to wash their hands and come and eat; but they answered that they belonged to the household and that the hired labourers should be fed first, so the labourers ate and they ate up all the rice and there was nothing left for Dharmu and his wife. When the midday meal was brought the same thing happened, Dharmu and his wife got nothing; but they hoped that it would be made up to them when the wages were paid, and worked on fasting. At evening when they came to pay the wages in kind, Dharmu's name was called out first, but he told his brother to pay the labourers first, and in doing this the paddy was all used up and there was nothing left for Dharmu and his wife; so they went home sorrowfully and their children cried for food and they had nothing to give them. In the night Dharmu's wife said "They promised to pay us for merely looking after the work and instead, we worked hard and have still got nothing. We will not work for them anymore; come, let us undo the work we did to-day, you cut down the embankments you repaired, and I will uproot the seedlings which I planted." So they went out into the night to do this. But whenever Dharmu raised his spade a voice called out "Hold, hold!" And whenever his wife put out her hand to pull up the rice a voice called out "Hold, hold!" Then they said "Who are you who stop us?" And the voice answered "You have done evil and offended Karam Gosain by scalding him; this is why you have become poor and to-day have worked without food and without wages; he has gone to the Ganges and you must go and propitiate him." And they asked how they should propitiate him, and the voice said "Grind turmeric and put it on a plate, and buy new cloth and dye it with turmeric and make ready oil and take these things to the Ganges and call on Karam Gosain." And they believed the voice and the next day did as it commanded, and set off, leaving their children in charge of Karmu. On the way they came to a fig-tree full of figs and they went to eat the fruit; but when they got near they found that all the figs were full of grubs, and they sang:--

"Exhausted by hunger we came to a fig-tree, And found it full of grubs, O Karam Gosain, how far off are you?"

Then they came to a mango tree and the same thing happened. And they went on and saw a cow with a calf; and they thought that they would milk the cow and drink the milk, but when they went to catch it it ran away from them and would not let itself be caught; and they sang:--

"We go to catch the cow and it runs away, We go to catch the calf and it runs away, O Karam Gosain how far off are you?"

But the cow said to them--"Go to the banks of the Ganges." Then they came to a buffalo and went to milk it, but it lowered its head and charged them; and Dharam cried but his wife said "Don't cry" and sang:--

"If you go to catch the buffalo, Dharmu, It will kill you. How shall we drink milk? How shall we drink milk? How far off are you, O our Karam Gosain?"

And the buffalo said "Go on to the bank of the Ganges." Then they came to a horse and they thought that they would catch it and mount it, but it kicked and snorted; and they sang:--

"Dharmu tries to catch the horse: But it kicks and runs away. How shall we reach the Ganges? O Karam Gosain, how far off are you?"

And the horse said "Go to the banks of the Ganges." Then they saw an elephant but it would not let them approach, so they decided to push on straight for the river; and they saw under a banyan tree a large pot full of rupees, but they were so disheartened that they made no attempt to touch it; then they met a woman who asked where they were going and when she heard, she said "For twelve years I have had a paimeasure stuck on my throat; ask Karam Gosain for me how I am to get rid of it," and they promised; and going on they met a woman with a bundle of thatching grass stuck to her head; and she made them promise to ask Karam Gosain how she could be freed; then they met a woman with both her feet burning in a fire and another with a stool stuck fast to her back and they promised to enquire how these might be delivered.

So at last they came to the Ganges and they stood on the bank and called to Karam Gosain; and when he came they caught hold of him and he said "Fie, what low caste person is touching me?" But they said. "It is no low caste person, but Dharmu." Then they bathed him and anointed him with oil and turmeric and wrapped him in the new cloth which they had brought, and thus they persuaded him to return; so they rose up to go back, and Dharmu asked about the women whom they had met, and Karam Gosain said: "The woman has a stool stuck to her back because when visitors came she never offered them a seat; let her do so in future, and she will be freed; and the woman has her feet burning in the fire because she pushed the fuel into the fire with her foot; let her not do so in future, and she will be freed; and the woman has the thatching grass stuck to her head because when she saw a friend with straw sticking in her hair she did not tell her about it; let her do so in future and she will be freed; and the woman has the pai measure stuck to her throat because, when her neighbour wanted to borrow her measure, she would not lend it; let her do so in future and she will be freed." And Karam Gosain asked whether they had seen an elephant and a horse and a buffalo and a cow and money and mangoes and figs and Dharmu said "Yes," but that he had not been able to catch the animals and the fruit was bad. Karam Gosain promised them that on their way back they should take possession of all; and they did so and mounted on the elephant and returned to their home with great wealth. On their way they met the four women and told them how they could be saved from their troubles. The villagers welcomed Dharmu and he arranged a great feast and gave paddy to all the villagers to husk; but when they had boiled it the weather became cloudy so that they could not dry it, so they prayed to the sun and he at once shone out and dried the paddy.

Then a day was fixed and they prepared rice beer, and worshipped Karam Gosain and they danced all night and got very drunk and enjoyed themselves.

VI. The Jealous Stepmother.

There was once a man whose wife died leaving him with one son and after a year he married again. The second wife was very jealous of the son and she told her husband that she would not stay with him unless he killed the boy; at first he refused but she insisted and then he said that he was frightened to do the deed, but she might kill the boy herself if she liked. She said, "No: he is your son and you must kill him; if he were mine I would do it. You need not be frightened; when you take him out ploughing make him drive the front plough, and you sharpen your plough pole to a point and drive it into him from behind and kill him and then it will seem to be an accident." So the man promised and made a sharp point to his plough pole but whenever they ploughed, the son drove his plough so fast that the father could not catch him up and so the boy was not killed; then the woman abused her husband and said that he was deceiving her. So he promised to finish the business the next day and told her to give the boy a good hot breakfast before they started, so that he might receive one last kindness, and he said that they must find some other way of killing him because all the ploughing was finished; but his wife told him he could plough down their crop of goondli, the bullocks would stop to eat the goondli as they went along and so he would easily catch up his son. Accordingly the next morning father and son took out the ploughs and the boy asked where they should plough, and the father said that they would plough down the field of goondli. But the boy said "Why should we do that? it is a good crop and will be ripe in a day or two; it is too late to sow again, we shall lose this crop and who knows whether we shall get anything in its place?"

And the father thought 'What the boy says is true; the first crop is like the first child, if I kill him who will support me in my old age? Who knows whether my second wife will have children. I will not kill him however angry she be;' so they unyoked their ploughs and went home. He told his wife that he would not kill the boy and scolded her and ended by giving her a beating. Then she ran away in a passion but he did not trouble to go and look for her and in a few days her father and brothers brought her back, and her husband told them what had happened and they also scolded her and told her to mend her ways.

VII. The Pious Woman.

There was once a very pious woman and her special virtue was that she would not eat or drink on any day until she had first given alms to a beggar. One day no beggar came to her house, so by noon she got tired of waiting, and, tying in her cloth some parched rice, she went to the place where the women drew water. When she got there she saw a Jugi coming towards her, she greeted him and said that she had brought dried rice for him. He said that omens had bidden him come to her and that he came to grant her a boon: she might ask one favour and it would be given her. The woman said: "Grant me this boon--to know where our souls go after death, and to see at the time of death how they escape, whether through the nose or the mouth, and where they go to; and tell me when I shall die and where my soul will go to; this I ask and no more." Then the Jugi answered, "Your prayer is granted, but you must tell no one; if you do, the power will depart from you." So saying he took from his bag something like a feather and brushed her eyes with it and washed them with water. Then the woman's eyes were opened and she saw spirits--bongas, bhuts, dains, churins, and the souls of dead men; and the Jugi told her not to be afraid, but not to speak to them lest men should think her mad; then he took his leave, and she returned home. Now in the village lived a poor man and his wife and they were much liked because they were industrious and obedient; shortly afterwards this poor man died and the pious woman saw men come with a palankin and take away the poor man's soul with great ceremony. She was pleased at the sight and thought that the souls of all men were taken away like this. But shortly afterwards her father-in-law died. He had been a rich man, but harsh, and while the family were mourning the pious woman saw four sipahis armed with iron-shod staves and of fierce countenance come to the house and two entered and took the father-in-law by the neck and thrust him forth; they bound him and beat him, they knocked him down and as he could not walk they dragged him away by his legs. The woman followed him to the end of the garden and when she saw him being dragged away, she screamed. When her husband's relatives saw her screaming and crying they were angry and said that she must have killed her father-in-law by witchcraft, for she did not sit by the corpse and cry but went to the end of the garden. So after the body had been burnt they held a council and questioned her and told her that they would hold her to be a witch, if she could not explain. So she told them of the power which the Jugi had conferred on her and of what she had seen, and they believed her and acquitted her of the charge of witchcraft; but from that time she lost her power and saw no more spirits.

VIII. The Wise Daughter-in-Law.

There was once a rich man who had seven sons, but one day his wife died and after this the family fell into poverty. All their property was sold and they lived by selling firewood in the bazar. At last the wife of the eldest son said to her father-in-law. "I have a proposal to make: Do you choose one of us to be head of the family whom all shall obey; we cannot all be our own masters as at present." The old man said "Well, I choose you," and he assembled the whole family and made them promise to obey the wife of his eldest son.

Thereupon she told them that they must all go out into the fields and bring her whatever they found. So the next day they went out in different directions and the old man found some human excrement and he thought "Well, my daughter-in-law told me to bring whatever I found" so he wrapped it up in leaves and took it home; and his daughter-in-law told him that he had done well and bade him hang up the packet at the back of the house. A few days later he found the slough of a snake and he took that home and his daughter-in-law told to tie a clod of earth to it to prevent its being blown away, and to throw it on to the roof of the house.

Some years after the Raja of the country was ill with cancer of the face and none of the ojhas could cure him. At last one ojha said that there was only one medicine which could effect a cure, but he saw no chance of obtaining it and that was human excrement 12 years old. Then the Raja sent messengers throughout the kingdom offering a reward of 200 Rupees to any one who could supply excrement twelve years old; and when a messenger came to the village where this family lived the daughter-in-law produced the packet which the old man had brought home and received the reward of 200 Rupees; and they were all delighted at making so much money by what the old man had brought home in jest.

And again it happened that the son of a Raja was bathing and he left his gold belt on the bank and a kite thought it was a snake and flew off with it. The prince was much distressed at the loss but the Raja told him not to grieve as the kite must have dropped it somewhere and he would offer a reward of a thousand rupees for it. Now the kite had soon found that the belt was not good to eat and seeing the snake's skin which the old man had thrown on to the roof of the house, it dropped the belt and flew off with the skin; and the daughter-in-law picked up the belt and when criers came round offering a reward she produced it and received the money. And they praised her wisdom and by this means the family became rich again.

IX. The Oilman and His Sons.

There was once an oilman with five sons and they were all married and lived jointly with their father. But the daughters-in-law were discontented with this arrangement and urged their husbands to ask their father to divide the family property. At first the old man refused, but when his sons persisted, he told them to bring him a log two cubits long and so thick that two hands could just span it, and he said that if they could break the log in two, he would divide the property; so they brought the log and then asked for axes, but he told them that they must break it themselves by snapping it or twisting it or standing on it; so they tried and failed. Then the old man said, "You are five and I make six; split the log into six," So they split it and he gave each a piece and told them to break them, and each easily snapped his stick; then the old man said "We are like the whole log: we have plenty of property and are strong and can overcome attack; but if we separate we shall be like the split sticks and easily broken." They admitted that this was true and proposed that the property should not be divided but that they should all become separate in mess. But the father would not agree to this for he thought that people would call him a miser if he let his sons live separately without his giving them their share in the property as their own, So as they persisted in their folly he partitioned the property.

But in a few years they all fell into poverty and had not enough to eat nor clothes to wear, and the father and mother were no better off; then the old man called all his sons and their wives and said "You see what trouble you have fallen into; I have a riddle for you, explain it to me. There are four wells, three empty and one full of water; if you draw water from the full one and pour it into the three empty ones they will become full; but when they are full and the first one is empty, if you pour water from the three full ones into the empty one it will not be filled; what does this mean?" And they could not answer and he said, "The four wells mean that a man had three sons, and while they were little he filled their stomachs as the wells were filled with water; but when they separated they would not fill the old man's stomach."

And it was true, that the sons had done nothing to help their father and they were filled with shame and they agreed that as long as their father lived they would be joint with him and would not separate again until he died.

X. The Girl Who Found Helpers.

Once upon a time there were seven brothers, and they were all married, and they had one sister who was not married. The brothers went away to a far country for a whole year, leaving their wives at home. Now the wives hated their sister-in-law and did their best to torment her. So one day they gave her a pot full of holes and told her to bring it back full of water; and threatened that if she failed she should have no food. So she took the pot to the spring and there sat down and cried and sang:--

"I am fetching water in a pot full of holes, I am fetching water in a pot full of holes, How far away have my brothers gone to trade."

After she had cried a long time, a number of frogs came up out of the water and asked her what was the matter, and she told them that she must fill the pot with water, and was not allowed to stop the holes with clay or lac. Then they told her not to cry, and said, that they would sit on the holes and then the water would not run out; they did this and the girl dried her eyes and filled the pot with water and took it home. Her sisters-in-law were much disappointed at her success, but the next day they told her to go to the jungle and bring back a bundle of leaves, but she was to use no rope for tying them up. So she went to the jungle and collected the leaves and then sat down and cried and sang:--

"I am to fetch leaves without a rope I am to fetch leaves without a rope How far have my brothers gone to trade?"

and as she cried a buka sobo snake came out and asked why she was crying, and when she told it, it said that it would coil itself round the leaves in place of a rope. So it stretched itself out straight and she piled the leaves on the top of it and the snake coiled itself tightly round them and so she was able to carry the bundle home on her head. Her sisters-in-law ran to see how she managed it, but she put the bundle down gently and the snake slipped away unperceived. Still they resolved to try again; so the next day they sent her to fetch a bundle of fire wood, but told her that she was to use no rope to tie it with. So she went to the jungle and collected the sticks and then sat down and cried:--

"I am to bring wood without tying it, I am to bring wood without tying it, How far have my brothers gone to trade?"

and as she cried a python came out and asked what was the matter, and when it heard, it told her not to cry and said that it would act as a rope to bind up the sticks; so it stretched itself out and she laid the sticks on it and then it coiled itself round them and she carried the bundle home.

As the sisters-in-law had been baffled thus, they resolved on another plan and proposed that they should all go and gather sticks in the jungle; and on the way they came to a machunda tree in full flower and they wanted to pick some of the flowers. The wicked sisters-in-law at first began to climb the tree, but they pretended that they could not and kept slipping down; then they hoisted their sister-in-law into the branches and told her to throw down the flowers to them. But while she was in the tree, they tied thorns round the trunk so that she could not descend and then left her to starve. After she had been in the tree a long time, her brothers passed that way on their return journey, and sat down under the tree to rest; the girl was too weak to speak but she cried and her tears fell on the back of her eldest brother, and he looked up and saw her; then they rescued her and revived her and listened to her story; and they were very angry and vowed to have revenge. So they gave their sister some needles and put her in a sack and put the sack on one of the pack-bullocks. And when they got home, they took the sack off gently and told their wives to carry it carefully inside the house, and on no account to put it down. But when the wives took it up, the girl inside pricked them with the needles so that they screamed and let the sack fall. Their husbands scolded them and made them take it up again, and they had to carry it in, though they were pricked till the blood ran down. Then the brothers enquired about all that had happened in their absence, and at last asked after their sister, and their wives said that she had gone to the jungle with some friends to get firewood. But the brothers turned on them and told how they had found her in the machunda tree and had brought her home in the sack, and their wives were dumbfounded. Then the brothers said that they had made a vow to dig a well and consecrate it; so they set to work to dig a well two fathoms across and three fathoms deep; and when they reached water, they fixed a day for the consecration; and they told their wives to put on their best clothes and do the cumaura (betrothal) ceremony at the well. So the wives went to the well, escorted by drummers, and as they stood in a row round the well, each man pushed his own wife into it and then they covered the well with a wooden grating and kept them in it for a whole year and at the end of the year they pulled them out again.

* * * * *

Another version of this story gives three other tasks preliminary to those given above and begins as follows:--

Once upon a time there was a girl named Hira who had seven brothers. The brothers went away to a far country to trade leaving her alone in the house with their wives; these seven sisters-in-law hated Hira and did what they could to torment her; one day they sowed a basketful of mustard seed in a field and then told her to go and pick it all up; she went to the field and began to lament, singing:--

"They have sown a basket of mustard seed! Oh, how far away have my brothers gone to trade."

As she cried a flock of pigeons came rustling down and asked her what was the matter, and when they heard, they told her to be comforted; they at once set to work picking up the mustard grain by grain and putting it into her basket; soon the basket was quite full and she joyfully took it home and showed it to her sisters-in-law. Then they set her another task and told her to bring them some bear's hair that they might weave it into a hair armlet for her wedding. So she went off to the jungle and sat down to cry; as she wept two bear cubs came up and asked what was the matter; when she told her story they bade her be of good cheer and took her into their cave and hid her. Presently the mother bear came back and suckled her cubs, and when they had finished they asked their mother to leave them some of her hair that they might amuse themselves by plaiting it while she was away. She did so and directly she had gone off to look for food, the cubs gave the girl the hair and sent her home rejoicing. The sisters-in-law were only made more angry by her success and plotted how to kill her, so they ordered her to bring them some tiger's milk that they might make it into curds for her wedding. Then she went off to the jungle and began to weep, singing:--

"I brought the hair of a bear: How far away have my brothers gone to trade."

At the sound two tiger cubs came running up and asked what was the matter; they told her to be comforted and they would manage to give her what she wanted; and they took her and hid her near where they were lying. Presently the tigress came back and suckled her cubs and as she did so she declared that she smelt a human being, but the cubs laughed at her and said that it must be they whom she smelt; so she was satisfied, and as she was leaving them they asked her to leave some of her milk in an earthern pot so that they might have something to drink if she were long in coming back. The tigress did so and directly she was gone the cubs gave the milk to the girl who took it home.--The story then continues as before.