Nine hundred years ago a remarkable collection of stories called Kathasaritsagara,
''Ocean of Stories", was produced in Kashmir. Somadeva, its author, is
said to have included in this tome many stories which he had heard from
others and which, in fact, had their origin in folk-literature. The Kathasaritsagara,
may justly be called a treasure of folk tales, has had considerable influence
on countries which were in close touch with India during the Middle Ages.
The first collection of Kashmiri folk tales in
English was brought out by the late Rev. John Hinton Knowles towards the
end of the last century. Sometime later, a renowned scholar, the late Sir
Auriel Stein, published another collection of this kind.
this latter is called, is a collection of tales in verse and prose recited
in Kashmiri for the savant by one Hatim who was an oilman by profession.
These two works can by no means be said to exhaust the harvest of tales
garnered in the fertile minds of the people. The present editor has endeavoured
to collect some of the more interesting tales current in the valley of
Kashmir which, but for two exceptions, have not appeared earlier.
Tales, myths, sagas and other narratives comprise
perhaps the most interesting part of the literature named "Folklore", a
term coined in 1846 by W.J. Thoms to designate the traditional learning
of the uncultured classes of civilized nations. This is not the place to
go into minute details on the subject. Suffice it to say that folk tales
comprise a respectable volume of literature in all languages which is being
explored with increasing interest everywhere. The earliest tales of this
kind are traced to about 2800 B.C. in Egypt.
There is an unmistakable similarity in many folk
tales of countries as far apart as Kashmir and France or China and Sweden.
The obvious conclusion is that they have all been influenced by a common
stock of tales which appear as variants in different languages. Apart from
this there is the same affinity between the folk tales of different countries
as in their fables, legends, myths, apologues, etc. There is, therefore,
nothing to be surprised at if some of the folk tales of Kashmir have close
parallels in other countries.
Several tales in this section are based on incidents
centering on real persons. By and large, however, the tales portray a large
variety of men and women, both individuals and types, and project peoples'
beliefs, customs, ideals, preferences and prejudices in all their rich
variety as few other literary forms can do. As a matter of fact they impart
meaning and substance to culture as it is crystallized in our day-to-day
living. In this sense they are allied to myths. "Myths," according to the
of Religion. and Ethics,
"are not created out of nothing .... It [a
myth] is always the covering, the shell, to a kernel of truth contained
inside .... Folk tales are the myths of the race." Many tales in this volume
could without doubt be called the myths of the race living in this land.
Text Reproduced from:
FOLK TALES FROM
by S. L. SADHU
Bishta: A Clever Thief
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.
Tale of Bib Garazmaej
tale of Bib Garazmaj will surely be told on the ocassion of
the annual 'Pann' in Kashmiri Hindu households by the
matriarch of the family, to those present at the Pooja. The
tale is an emphatic assertion of the intervention of divine
mercy in the reversal of misfortunes of those who have faith
and submit but inflicts terrible retribution to those who are
haughty, arrogant or non-believers.
of the Name
game of inventing a name, a label for a particular person that
sums up in one word all that he stands for, his idiosyncrasies,
his follies, warts and all, is played to perfection in
Kashmir. This appelation is usually a funny word, crisp and
tasty on the tongue.
fanciful tale centres round one of the illustrious kings of
Kashmir, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (1423-1474 A.D.) fondly named 'Badshah',
the great king, by his loving subjects and remembered with
love and reverence by the posterity even to this day.
Birth of Lake Sheshnag
For Visakha, a Brahman youth of about twenty one, it was a close
encounter with death. Caught unawares between the charging
cavalry columns of king Nara of Kashmir, who descended upon
the place like wolves upon a fold, he, in utter confusion,
panicked and flew for his life.
upon a time in a certain village in Kashmir, there lived a
happy family - an old couple with their two children, a
daughter and a son. The girl named Sankisar (the golden bead)
was about to blossom into a beauty.
Tales from Kashmir
hundred years ago a remarkable collection of stories called
Kathasaritsagara, the ''Ocean of Stories", was produced
in Kashmir. Somadeva, its author, is said to have included in
this tome many stories which he had heard from others and
which, in fact, had their origin in folk-literature.