Mahadev Bishta: A Clever Thief
Braj B. Kachru
mothers often tell their children the stories of Mahadev at bedtime. It
is said that during the reign of Maharaja Partap Singh, Mahadev was considered
the leader of thieves in Kashmir. He was never caught in the act of stealing.
Mahadev had perplexed both the police and the government. Whenever Mahadev
went out to steal, he would do so like a cat, without making a sound. They
say that is why he was called Mahadev bishta. Kashmiri children refer to
a cat as bishti. Mahadev would even mew to make people think that it was
a cat. They would shout "bishti, bishti" - a sound made to scare away cats
- while Mahadev took off with the loot.
Mahadev bishta: A Clever Thief
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It is indeed
a fact that Mahadev was a well-known thief. It is also true that he would
rob people of their property and wealth. But, in spite of that, people
used to sing his praises. The people loved Mahadev because he would steal
from the wealthy to provide for the needy.
There is a
particularly well-known story about Mahadev. One day the thieves decided
that even though Mahadev was, without a doubt, their leader, he would still
have to undergo a test. In a meeting, they also agreed upon the way he
would be tested. We shall now tell you the story of this test.
One day Mahadev
was invited to a gathering of all the thieves. One thief stood up and addressed
Mahadev thus: "Hey, Mahdevju:, we all consider you to be our leader. We
are all in awe of you. But, in order to prove your superiority, we would
like you to take a test. If you agree, it will enhance your reputation
and our trust in you will increase." Mahadev became very serious and replied:
"Yes, of course, I am ready for a test." As soon as the thieves heard this
reply, they blushed. One thief slowly stood up and said: "All right, Mahdevju:,
we want you to make our Maharaja take off his trousers. These trousers
should then be presented to this gathering. The Maharaja should know nothing
about it " Mahadev smiled and said: "All right, if that is what you want,
so be it. It is not a difficult task." On hearing this the thieves were
delighted and the conference of thieves came to an end.
it took Mahadev four or five days to think. He went to Shergadi to observe
several things. First, he found out the location of the Maharaja's bedroom,
and the location of the palace guards. He also found a way to reach the
Maharaja's bedroom without causing suspicion. After observing all these
things, he started his preparations.
went out and filled a piece of reed with vicious red ants. Then he came
home and had his body massaged with oil. He then put on a lango:t
(loincloth) and looked at himself in the mirror. He was very pleased with
himself . And with a mischievous smile, he left for Shergadi. It was midnight
and pitch dark when he arrived. Mahadev swam across the kitikol. Then,
after reaching the royal palace, he entered the bathroom of the Maharaja
through a pipe. From there, like a cat, he entered the bedroom of the Maharaja.
that the Maharaja was sound asleep. He slowly took out the reed and dropped
the ants near the Maharaja's feet. These vicious ants spread all over the
Maharaja's legs. They made him miserable with their bites. The Maharaja
started scratching his legs with both of his hands. He was so uncomfortable
that, in his sleep, he took off his trousers and threw them aside. Mahadev
was delighted. He quietly picked up the trousers, and, again like a cat,
walked out through the pipe through which he had entered.
The next day
Mahadev went to the gathering of the thieves with the Maharaja's trousers.
When Mahadev arrived, the thieves were impatient to know if he had been
successful in obtaining the trousers. Mahadev haltingly opened a bundle,
took out the trousers, and placed them on a co:ki: with a smile.
On seeing this, all the thieves stood up clapping their hands and singing
the praises of Mahadev bishta. Mahadev was deeply pleased. The thieves
again accepted him as their clever leader. There are many other stories
about Mahadev bishta which entertain the Kashmiri children.
Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri
by Braj B. Kachru (URL: http://kachru.com)
of Linguistics, University of Illinois