Folk Tales from Kashmir

Table of Contents

  Index
  About the Author
  Foreword
  Preface
  The Precious Present
  The Devil Outwitted
  Just a Nickname
  The Son-in-Law
  Eh! Oh!
  The Inauspicious Bride
  Himal and Nagrai
  The Haunted Mosque
  The Intruder
  The Burglar's Gift
  The Two Thugs
  The Patwari and the ...
  The Upstart
  Two Brothers
  The Merciful Burglar
  The Clever Lawyer ...
  Shabrang
  Counting Ripples
  The Fugitive Fawn
  Akanandun
  The Mortal Utensils
  The Hydra-Headed
  The Physician's Son
  The Professional Wedding ...
  The Village Teacher
  The Opium Smokers
  The Drone
  Telltale Narration
  Mahadev
  Snippets
  Glossary
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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Chapter 20

Akanandun

Long long ago there lived a king. His principality comprised seven towns and his capital was called Rajapuri. He was a kind and conscientious ruler and dispensed justice with an even hand to high and low alike. He maintained peace and his subjects lived happy and content under him. He was a god-fearing man and his subjects held him in reverence as their father. He punished with a severe hand all those who dared to trouble his subjects in the least. He took measures for the welfare even of the birds and animals living in his country. Ponds were dug to store drinking water for the quadrupeds and troughs were placed on perches to enable birds to quench their thirst. In all this he was assisted by able, honest and hardworking ministers.


His subjects had but one longing and that was for the birth of an heir-apparent. The king had but one queen who had borne him seven daughters. The king and the queen were highly devoted to each other but craved for the birth of a little brother to the seven sisters to gladden the hearts of the subjects and their own. The Prince would shoulder the responsibilities of the kingdom in time to come. Even his subjects begged God Almighty in their matins and vespers to grant their ruler the gift of a little son, and the royal couple did all in their power to secure such a coveted fruit. They gave lavishly in charity which included gifts of land, garments, corn, livestock and gold. Holy men from far and near came to Rajapuri to give their benedictions to the queen who also met the expenses on the weddings of many destitute girls and the maintenance of orphans and widows. Still the heir-apparent of their dreams was as far away as ever.

The king except when busy with the affairs of the State was always melancholy. "What good is it for me to rejoice in my palace," he would brood, "when the line of my illustrious ancestors will come to an end with my demise? Happy are the poor beggars in my kingdom who look forward to the day when their sons can relieve them of their burdens.... Were it not better for me to renounce my throne and take to the life of an ascetic in the forests of the vast Himalayas or in the cave of Shri Amarnath Ji. . . ?" He did not reveal this corner of his heart to his consort lest she feel hurt. She, however, had not given up hope and retained faith in holy men and ascetics.

One day the queen was sitting as usual in her chamber when she was startled by a call for alms. It was nothing new for her who satisfied hundreds of such calls every month, but this time there was a peculiar lure and a strange tone in the voice of the caller which demanded the personal attention of the queen. She at once 'rushed to the courtyard. She beheld a jogi invested in an expression of ecstasy. He had long locks of curly hair running down to his back, his bare body was smeared with ashes and he had a clattering wooden sandal under his feet. He had rings in his ears and his eyes were sparkling. He carried a beggar's bowl in his hand and a wallet hung from his shoulder. The queen requested him to name what would please him.

"Give me anything in the name of God," replied the jogi. The queen told her consort that the jogi was the very person whose aid should be enlisted in seeking fulfilment of the age-long craving. She gave him a handful of precious stones which he received in his wallet. The queen explained to him how she was pining for a son. She said, "God gave us a kingdom to rule and many rulers acclaim our suzerainty. But what is the good of all this splendour when we have no male issue to look after it on our demise? Our seven daughters will go their own way and bless the homes of young men unknown to us. Would that they had a brother to shine in their galaxy as the sun! " she concluded with a sigh.

The jogi listened, apparently unmoved.

"With your permission may I say something more?" asked the queen.

The jogi nodded and the queen proceeded, "Only a few days back I saw in a dream a care-free man resembling you. He patted me on the shoulder and assured me that my longing would be fulfilled after nine months. O jogi, you alone can interpret this dream."

Cutting the matter short the jogi said that he would give them a son provided they returned the child to him after twelve years. "The child will be yours for twelve years if you promise that I can have him at the end of that period," he said firmly. The king and his consort held consultations and ultimately gave their promise that he could have the child back after twelve years. On this solemn promise the jogi gave them the assurance that their barren land would soon turn green and their longing for a male child would be fulfilled even before their expectation. "Call the baby by the name of Akanandun," he added, took a few strides and was lost to view.

In due course the queen was conscious of motherhood once again. At first she kept it a secret. When her consort made persistent inquiries she shared the secret with him on the condition that he kept it to himself.

"It is none else but Akanandun" said the king and rejoiced in his heart. "Was it God or man who granted us the gift?" he added complimenting the jogi.

"Don't count your chickens before they are hatched," cautioned his wife.

Nine months being over the queen was in labour pains and was delivered of a male child. "The jogi has indeed made his word good," said the king. There were immense rejoicings in the whole country on the birth of the heir-apparent. Thanks-giving services were held in temples and shrines, and people came in large numbers to the ruler to offer their congratulations. Inside the palace everyone was mad with joy. The king who already possessed a stout heart for giving gifts was bountiful like a river. God had fulfilled his heart's desire and he tried his utmost to see that nobody went away disappointed from his door.

The baby was brought up right royally. There were seven wet-nurses to feed him at the breast. Their lullabies chanted melodiously sent him to sweet slumbers. They rocked his cradle which was draped in velvet and cloth of gold, and inlaid with gems. The baby was the dearest little creature ever born. His eyes and eye-brows, his nose, his lips and chin, his forehead and complexionó each in its own way betokened an extraordinary heredity for the little infant who shone as the light of the palace. His sisters fondled him in all affection and he was the apple of the eyes of his parents who were ever grateful for his birth.

The baby grew fast into a child and then a strong, handsome and intelligent boy. His parents arranged for his education in a befitting manner. Akanandun, for that is how they named the new-born as advised by the jogi, went to school with his satchel and drank the learning deep according to the fashion of the time. His teachers were not a little surprised at his acute intelligence and sharp wit. The boy imbibed all that was worth knowing.

While everyone looked hopefully to the future when the boy, in the fullness of his physical strength and the maturity of his wisdom, would relieve his father of the burden of ruling the State, there was one day a wild uproar in the streets. "What is all this hue and cry about?" asked the passers-by and heard back in whispers: "Twelve years are over and the jogi has returned to claim the child." People talked with trepidation. "Was all this a dream?" "And is the jogi really so callous as to deprive us of the young prince?" "Will he blow out the lamp which is the only source of light in the palace and abroad?"

Meanwhile the jogi made his call at the palace and the ruler and the queen rushed out to welcome him within. Their hearts were full with the debt of gratitude for the jogi for the invaluable gift and they were only too eager to do something to repay the debt to whatever extent. They solicited him to take a seat of honour and to indicate what would please him.

He replied, "I have come to seek fulfillment of the promise you gave. I have not seen Akanandun for more than twelve years. Get him to my presence now."

"The child has gone to the seminary. He will be here presently," said the queen.

"If you but name a precious gift I would deem it a privilege to place it at your feet," submitted the father.

The jogi promptly replied, "I have nothing to do with gifts. I simply want my Akanandun."

The parents made many subtle attempts to beguile his mind, but to no purpose. These attempts only enraged him. He called the child by name and the latter was on the spot immediately. They submitted that he was the one who alone sustained their lives and that their very existence was impossible without him. The jogi was harsh and stern, "I have to kill Akanandun and you will rue it if you try to dissuade me."

Everybody who heard it burst into tears except the jogi. He divested the child of his garments and ornaments. Warm water was got for cleansing his body to which his mother had to attend. The child had a bright and radiant body and the jogi had him dressed in bright new clothing. He had the soles of his feet dyed in henna and applied collyrium to his bright almond eyes. The child looked like a fresh-bloomed flower, but the jogi had no time to waste. Proceeding forthwith to kill the child, he got a butcher's knife. Everybody there cried but the jogi was entirely remorseless. He laid Akanandun sprawling on the ground and asked his sisters to catch hold of his limbs severally. There was a tremendous intensification in the hue and cry raised. The king tore his tunic to shreds and his wife rolled herself on the dust. But the jogi was remorseless and reminding them of the promise given warned them of the inevitable consequences if they tried to shirk the fulfillment of the promise.

The jogi passed on the knife to the king and asked him to behead the child. Even demons and monsters would fail to comply with such a commandment. But when the king betrayed hesitation the inexorable jogi, overawing him, pushed the knife into his hand. Finding that there was no escape the unlucky father cut the innocent throat and scarlet blood welled out. The house was turned into hell. Who was so petrified as to resist sobbing and crying? There was beating of breasts, gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. The blood stained the walls, coloured the floor and dyed their clothes.

The involuntary movement of the child's limbs having petered out, the jogi severed them, had them washed and began to hack the flesh assiduously like a butcher. When it was over he asked them to put the flesh into an earthenware vessel and to boil it. Akanandun's mother attended to it smothering her sobs and hiccoughs. The jogi warned her, on pain of dire punishment, not to lose even the least particle of flesh. When the faggots were burning bright, the jogi asked her to put the lid on. lie also got oil poured into several cauldrons which were put on fire. The flesh was thus cooked as if it were mutton, salt and spices being added according to need. The jogi asked the queen to make haste as he was getting hungry. The lady could suppress her feelings no longer and burst out upon him: "Which is the faith that permits thee to eat human flesh? O stone-hearted jogi, how have I ever offended thee? Aren't thou afraid of the curse of the innocent sufferers?"

The jogi replied, "O lady, I am indifferent to all the human weal or woe. You may take me for a goblin or an ogre, but I have to fulfill my promise. So, without prolonging the matter please attend to your cooking and tell me how it tastes."

In spite of her protests the unfortunate lady was forced to taste the soup. The jogi asked her to pick out the flesh and to cool it as it was his wont not to eat steaming dishes. He also asked for seven freshly baked earthenware bowls. The bowls were got and he distributed the flesh evenly among them all. The queen asked him what for he was dressing up seven bowls with flesh. He replied promptly, "Four are meant for the female folk, two will suffice us, two males, and one I am keeping for Akanandun."

This was a blow which cut the queen deep in her heart. "How preposterously the fellow speaks," she thought.

Meanwhile the jogi passed on the bowls to the people for whom they were meant and turning to the queen, said, "O lady, go and call Akanandun upstairs. I shall feel really glad to see him and I can't taste a bit in his absence."

This was obviously too much for her and she could not help saying, "O jogi, I completely fail to fathom your mind. I have suffered the loss of my son, but have not lost my wits yet."

The jogi returned, "I'm not what you take me for, O lady; I constantly change my deceptive appearances," and with that he gazed at the queen so that she seemed to have been held in a vice.

When he again asked her to call Akanandun from below she could not help going downstairs. And when she called him by name she was surprised to hear, "Coming mother." Anon he came to her as before, was held in fond embrace and carried upstairs where another pretty bewilderment was in store for her. The jogi was nowhere to be seen and the seven bowls of cooked flesh had disappeared.

 
 

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