One of the little known Rupkatha (fairytale) from Bengal. Notable for presence of gods in the story which is rare in case of common fairy tales here.
There was a king who ruled a kingdom.
The royal palace was all agog with footfalls of courtiers, soldiers, servants as well as countless visitors. Diamonds and rubies spoke of the abundance in the palace. The gods from heaven often came to work as doorkeepers here – such was the glory of the king.
The king was the master of his territory. Yet he was not happy. He was childless.
Who would keep the seven-wicked ghee-lamp in the palace alight if the king didn’t have an offspring — who would rule the kingdom after him?
What’s more, his subjects had started gossiping about the barrenness of the king.
Once the sweeper was sweeping the palace courtyard at dawn; the king woke up hearing the sound of the broom, opened the door and ohhh! — He saw the sweeper.
Also the sweeper saw the king. He hurriedly covered his face with both his palms; then recalled the names of twelve deities with a sigh — “Ohh!”
“Seeing the barren king at the dawn / Food will be spoiled today, my luck is gone!”
The king could hear that. To his sheer surprise, he discovered, “Even the hapless sweeper finds me an ill-omen — my face inauspicious!”
He did not scorn the sweeper. After all it was his fate which kept him barren. With a heavy heart he closed his bed-chamber’s door. He kept himself locked in his bed-chamber. Water preserved for him in the golden kettle outside evaporated, the betel-leaves prepared for him dried in the tray. At the end of the day, entire palace was heard mourning his absence. All royal tasks were stalled – even judges stopped judging the complains of the subjects; none was there to look after people of the kingdom.
Seven days and seven nights were over. All courtiers, ministers, officers and servants queued in front of the king’s closed door. The king uttered only one sentence “I do not want to show my face to anyone in this world. I do not want to live.”
That day, Bidhatapurush the god of fate was the doorkeeper at the lion gate. The king’s palace swept away by the tidal wave of tears of all the people in the kingdom. Cloud of dust covered the royal throne. And Bidhatapurush was touched by the overwhelming sorrow there. Letting his club of judgment lean on the gate, he took his pen.
Drawing only one line with his pen, he smiled. Dressing like a monk and taking the lamp of hope in hand, he arrived before the king’s closed door.
“Get up and come out!
You are King, the owner of the club of judgment,
Why are you wailing like wretched repugnant?
As the days of your misery is over
Get up, embrace your future in clover.”
The loud wake-up call attracted everyone’s attention to the door – they found a monk with a lamp. Also the surprised king got up from bed.
The monk was singing:
“What was written in your fate has changed,
Look, for you twin fruits on the tree arranged
Go forward taking the lamp of hope in your hand
Find your luck, future ruler of the land!
Golden temple stands beside the water
Where you see the life-lake –
It’s not far from where comes your son –
With nine qualities to glorify your throne.”
The hope-lamp in the monk’s hand lighted on its own. The overwhelming mourning ended. After seven days and seven nights, the king opened the door.
The monk said, “Wipe your tears King. Go to your life-lake with this lamp of hope. You will see twin golden fruits in a golden tree. Keeping the lamp on your head bow before the tree, hold your breath and pluck the fruits. Those will fulfill your wish.”
Hopeful king went to the lake placing the lamp on his head.
He saw gravels had covered the way to the lake within those seven days, snakes and jackals had dug holes on both sides of it, flowers stopped blooming in the garden, the lake started drying, weeds covered the ground surrounding the trees.
Wiping tears with his tears, the king went under the golden tree. He bowed before the tree – but what happened? He let his hope fly by mistake as he exhaled instead of holding his breath. Hope returned without touching the fruit. Holding the lamp on his head, the king fainted on the ground. The monk called him again, “O mighty King! You shattered it all committing a mistake absent minded. Nevertheless –
Get up, o King, close your eyes
Open your palms – get a golden bird nice
Cut its claws, and wings; also its beak
Preparing seven dishes, all you eat.”
The king stood up, folded his hands, closed his eyes and then, opened his palms.
A golden bird from nowhere fell on his open palms.
His soldiers and guards were waiting in the courtyard with their newly sharpened swords. The chief Queen was waiting making fire in her wood-stove. The moment king entered the yard with the birds, all soldiers and guards chopped off its claws and wings and beak with their sharp swords. The ghee in the golden cooking pot began crackling on the sandalwood flame. It did not take long to prepare seven items. The king sat to have a meal with seven items together on seven golden plates.
The monk said –
“O king, eat the meat of bird from the family-tree;
Golden prince will bring kingdom in happiness-spree.
Ten months and ten days, calculating time –
Send queen to stone palace underground prime –
Away from planets and light for twelve years.
Golden son of yours, Madan is the name he bears.
Countless carts, carriages, rows of canopies
Will make his convoy conquer planetaries.”
More the king listened, more he became proud. His chaste grew sevenfold wide with pride till he finished eating seven items made of the bird-meat. The monk continued,
“Listen more, O king, stay yet cautious.
Don’t open the door before twelve years,
If opened, having his flags unfurl
Wayfarer Madan will roam in the world.”
The startled king looked at him, found none on the seat where the monk was seating.
His guards and soldiers ran off in all directions to find him out. The king came out of the palace. He saw the first ray of daylight coming splitting the dark night apart.
(to be cont.)
© Kathakali Mukherjee 2018