Story of Nickel Brothers

In the island of Rügen a deep lake lies in a dense forest. The lake is abundant in fishes, but its water is muddy, and for the same reason, one cannot fish well in the lake.

However, many years back one group of fishermen planned fishing here. They brought their boats into this lake, caught good amount of fish and at the end of the day, returned home with their fishing nets. But the next day when they came back to the lake, all the boats and barges had disappeared. One of the fishermen tried to find out what had happened. He looked around and found his boat stuck on the top of a tall tree. He screamed: “Who is the devil who took my boat on the tree?”

A voice answered from seemingly a spitting distance: “Not all the devils did that. Only I and my brother Nickel did it together!” None could see the speaker.

Obvious that none of the fishermen came back to the lake again.

Carl Gustav Carus – Mondnacht bei Rügen from Wikimedia Commons.

An apparently absurd story which reveals some historical fact related to early metal mining activities in German speaking regions. Nick derived from Saint Nicholas was considered as another name of devil. But German Nickel has added significance. German miners in 17th-18th century were keen to discover more valuable metals than the traditional gold, silver and iron. In the process of discovery, they found copper and then nickel. Both the metals were difficult to extract from its ore, but nickel was most difficult for its high arsenic content. Miners believed that devil had changed or contaminated the ore to a strange one which is poisonous. Hence copper and nickel became two devil siblings in their stories. Interesting is we don’t know existence of nickel or copper in Rügen area though there are some coal mines.

We have some more stories of the region. The ruin of Hertha castle, especially the outer wall of the castle is seen in Jasmund, which is not far from Stubbenkammer. We don’t know how many centuries old this castle is; presumably it is there from the time of heathenism. Goddess Hertha, the mother earth was once worshipped in this castle. The Goddess used to take bath in a lake there. Accompanied with her consecrated priest, she travelled to the deep, dark lake in the middle of the dense forest by a bullock-cart covered in a mystery-veil. If any unconsecrated person caught sight of the Goddess, he would have to die. That was reason all the slaves who came along to look after the bullocks were drowned in the lake after the bath-ritual was over. Hence none survived to tell us how the ritual was.

Some believe that Goddess Hertha was the form of devil and that is why the lake is still haunted.  Another belief is that the unhappy spirit of an ancient princess who was deported to that forest cause supernatural incidents in that area.  Anyway witnessing those happenings can be life threatening for humans. On the full-moon days the beautiful Goddess Hertha can be seen traveling to the lake along with her lady slaves emerging from the castle. The sound of splash can be heard and all the slaves disappear after that. Any human watching them is dragged to the lake by supernatural power.  The ill-fated person dies drowning in the lake powerlessly.

The stories of Hertha indicate the pagan past of the region seen through the eyes of later Christian inhabitants. The history of the ancient idol-worshipping inhabitants of the region was unknown, and medieval Europe did not favour curiosity. In fact in many stories of medieval period curiosity is described as reason that draws humans to life-threatening situations.  

Story of the Vibrant Alps

The Alps region that is covered with ice and debris of pebbles today looked glamorous with colourful flowers and fruit-bearing trees once. This region in Switzerland was not only beautiful and fertile, but also home for numerous legends – more than any other locations in Switzerland. Particularly Bern uplands had a popular story about mount Clariden.  

Alpine uphill was once rich and gorgeous. The cattle here thrived in all aspects; cows were milked thrice a day and each cow gave two buckets of milk every time.

A wealthy herdsman lived in one of the hills. He became too proud of his wealth. He furnished his old country home as elegant as a rich man’s and began courting Catherine, a beautiful milkmaid. Above all he built a staircase in the house with cheese, polished it with butter and washed it with milk. His love Catherine, his favorite cow Brandyl and pet dog Rhyn walked across those steps.

His pious mother did not have any idea of the sin her Alpine dairyman son committed. One summer Sunday, she thought of visiting him. She got tired on the way. Reaching her son’s home, she went upstairs and asked for a drink. The shepherd instructed his lady-love to take a milk-barrel, fill it with sour milk, sprinkle with some sand and serve that as drink. Shocked by the despicable act, the mother came out of home. She ran down the hill. Standing still at the foot of the hill she cursed at the wicked one – “May God punish you!”.  

A devastating storm rose within moments, ravaged the beautiful meadow, destroyed the cattle and cottages. All the people and the animals of the hill were buried. The spirit of the herdsman was condemned along with his property till the time they learn to handle the mountain properly again. He screamed – “I and my dog Rhyn, my cow Brandyl and my Cathy will be in Clariden forever.” But their salvation depended on one condition. Only if a milkman could milk Brandyl’s thorny udder in complete silence then only they could escape the curse. But the village destroyed and wild plants came in its place. The cow too went wild. Milking a cow that didn’t stand still became more difficult. Once one milkman had milked half a bucket-full when another man arrived there out of the blue and asked tapping his shoulder: “Does the milk foam well?” The milkman forgot the condition of silence. He replied: “Oh yes!” With his response the chance of the salvation of the cursed one was over. Also Brandyl the cow disappeared before his eyes.

Bernese Alps – From Wikimedia Commons

Stories of Stone-bread

This story is told in many locations; especially in Westphalen. At the time of great famine one poor woman asked for some bread for herself and her children from her rich sister. But the stony-hearted sister denied.  Revealing sheer unkindness she said, “Even if I had bread, I would rather want those to turn into stones!” All breads in her store immediately turned into stone. One person at Leiden in Netherlands brought one of these stone-breads in the great St. Peter’s Church to prove the historical fact showing that to the people.


During the famine of 1579, a Becker in Dortmund had bought a lot of wheatgrains. He was cheerful at the likelihood of preparing breads enough to fill his store using the wheat. But one day when he was in the middle of making breads, all the bread in his house became stones. He grabbed a loaf and wanted to cut it with a knife. As soon as he cut the bread with his knife, blood flowed from it. He hanged himself in his room right away.

Traditional four (bread-oven) from chalk stones in the Dordogne near Liabou-haut from Wikimedia Commons

In the prime church of Landshut consecrated to Saint Castulus, a round stone in the shape of a bread hangs in a silver case. Four small holes are seen on the surface of that stone. This also is associated with another legend. The savior had appeared just before the fest of death began. Saint Castulus came to a widow in the city dressed as a poor man and asked for alms. The woman told her daughter to give him the sole bread left in her home, which was kept for the needy. The daughter, however reluctant had to give it but she tried to save a piece from it before. The bread was actually meant for the Saint. Hence it turned into a piece of stone the moment one piece was removed. The sin of the girl showed it. They say that the fingerprints of the starving one are still seen clearly in that stone.

Another story of stone bread: at the time of the great famine, a poor woman was walking on a road of Danzig city having one child in her arms and another beside her. The one walking with her was crying for a piece of bread. They met a monk from the monastery of Oliva. She begged for a loaf of bread from him. The monk replied, “I don’t have any.” The woman said, “But I see you are holding one in your bosom.” He replied, “Oh! This one is a stone only to throw at the dogs.” After some time when he took out the bread to eat, he found that it had really turned into a stone. The incident shocked him. He understood what wrong he had done. He left the stone in that church – it still hangs in the monastery.

All stories show how the sin of ignoring the poor and needy is punished by God. The content itself shows the time-frame when the stories were developed.  Obviously these stories were developed after Christianity established and its morals were well accepted in Central Europe.

Summoning the Mountain Dwarfs

From where did the great wisdom and the amazing secrets of the world emerge?

We have a story from Nürnberg. Paul Creuz was an inhabitant here who knew an amazing magic. To fulfill some of his wishes, he used his miraculous magic spell. He placed a new table in his garden, covered that with a white cloth, placed two milk-bowls on it, and also two honey-bowls, two plates, and nine knives. Then he took a black hen and shredded it on a pan in which cabbage was being cooked. The blood dripped into the boiling food. An unimaginable dish was prepared.

Next morning he took one part of it left it on the table. In the evening he kept the rest of the cabbage on the table and began chanting a spell. Finishing the incantation, he ran towards a green tree and hid himself behind that. He saw two small mountain people emerging from the earth. They sat at the table, and ate the precious smoky dish that was left there.

After they finished, Paul came to them and asked some questions. They answered. His wish was fulfilled.

Paul Creuz practiced the same repeatedly. The little men became so familiar that they too visited him in the house quite often. But he needed to give them time to finish the food first. If he did not wait, they either did not show up or disappeared soon. He finally got their king to support him. One day after hearing his sincere chant, the little king of the dwarfs came alone in a red scarlet cloak, under which he had a book. After finishing dinner, he threw the book on the table and allowed the host to read it as long as he wanted.

Eventually humans earned knowledge of all valuable secrets and great wisdom from that host of dwarfs.

Death of a Reader

Banaphul (Balaichand Mukhopadhyay) was the King of Bengali short stories – according to me. I tried to translate one of his stories.

Almost ten years back.
I was waiting for train at Asansol station. Another person was sitting beside me. He had a book in his hand. It was a thick novel. After we began chatting, I came to know that he had to wait the whole day for his train.
My train was supposed to arrive in three hours.
Both of us were Bengali.
Hence, within five minutes I asked him, “May I see the book once?”
“Oh yes, why not?” – I received the answer as I expected.
I possessed the book immediately as he handed it over.
It was an afternoon of the intoleranly scorching summer.
We were sitting under the tin roof of Asansol station.
Nothing could bother any longer.
It was a wonderful novel.
The owner of the book looked at me once with the corner of his eyes. A line appeared between his eyebrows for a moment. He took out a time table then and concentrated in that.
I continued reading breathlessly.
Excellent book!
In fact, I did not read such an appealing novel before.
The lines were almost whipping me.


Two hours passed.
The owner of the book browsed through the time table several times in the meantime. Finally he looked at me and told, “I think it is almost time for your train – so…” he cleared his throat once.
I was immersed in the book.
Once I took a quick look at my watch. It was still one hour left for my train. The book was left over a half. I did not want to waste time by talking. Again I concentrated in the book. I was devouring it.
Wonderful book!
That one hour almost flew away.
The bell for my train rang.
The large part of the book was still left unread.
I turned aggressive.
I said, “I will go by next train – not going to leave before finishing this book.”
The owner of the book coughed once and went silent after this.
The train left – I continued reading.
But I could not finish it – a few pages at the end of the book were torn.
I said to the owner of the book, “Oh – so many pages of the book are torn! What a shame! You could tell me before!”

The man only gazed at me in response. I noticed the veins on his forehead bulging.
I found the book once again after ten years.
It was the in-law’s place of my niece. I accompanied her to her home and was supposed to come back that day only. But my attraction for the book made me stay back.
I picked up the book from shelf; began reading once again. I decided to start anew instead of reading arbitrarily from the end.
I felt bizarre after a few pages.
I turned the cover – was it the same book? – It was the same!
Again I started – But another few pages of reading brought me the same feeling –something seemed wrong!
Yet I continued.
After some time I realized my inability to carry on reading anymore.
Was it the same book which I was reading breathlessly in the scorching summer afternoon in Asansol station?
How could an author write such a rubbish!
It was not at all possible to finish it!
I could not even realise when the curious reader of ten years back had died.
I could not finish the book this time as well.

The Weighing Scale of Bamberg

Curving the image of justice on the tomb of a king is an ancient practice. Also on the tomb of the Kaiser Heinrich in Bamberg, the idol of justice is carved with a weighing scale in hand. But the tongue of the scale is not on the middle; instead it leans a little in one side. The reason hides in an old belief – it was told that having both tips of a weighing scale at same level would bring the world to destruction.

Tomb of Kaiser Heinrich in Bamberg

Who wants to destroy the world only by maintaining balance in justice’ scale?

The Story of Arendsee

This story came from the region around Arendsee in the Altmark in Saxony-Anhalt. Arendsee is the name of a lake. Also an adjacent municipality is known by the same name.

Once upon a time, there was a large castle in place of the lake and the land. The castle sank under the ground all on a sudden; but reappeared soon as man and wife.  As they stepped forward, the wife noticed the swift change that took place in the location meanwhile. Her husband’s name was Arend. The lady uttered in sheer surprise, “Arend see, Arend see!” And that was reason people started calling the town as Arendsee that was built beside the lake.

Finest whitest particles of sand glittered in this lake, and when the sun shined bright, all the walls and buildings of the submerged castle were seen clearly like it is seen in Brok Sea near Ossenberg. Some people once thought of measuring the depth of the sea here. They threw a long rope into the sea to fathom it. As they pulled the rope, they saw a note pasted at the other end of the rope. What was written in it? “Do not be too curious. Engage yourself with your own business; otherwise your place will be devastated same way what you are seeing here.”

Arensea on Google map

People did not dare measuring the sea again.

The Story of Saint Andrew’s Day

We believe that a girl can invite her future sweetheart on Saint Andrew’s Day, Saint Thomas’ Night, Christmas Night, or New Year Night and see him. What’s more, a small trick would help her to gain her lover forever.

She will have to arrange a table for two but should not place forks on the table. Then she should carefully preserve whatever her lover leaves on the table at the time of leaving. Why carefully? Because the man, being the owner of the item may be intensely possessive of the item. He may madly search for it. If not found, he may not be able to forget it for life.

However eager the man is, the girl has to ensure that the item should never be found out by him. Reason is, the discovery may make him recall the torment he had to undergo that night under some supernatural force. He would be aware of the magic which might have brought him bad luck after his favourite item went missing.

One story tales us how the discovery of such an item turned fatal once. A beautiful girl in Austria sought to see her future beloved in the middle of one such night. She followed all the conditions she was supposed to follow. A cobbler showed up there with his dagger, threw the dagger at her and quickly disappeared. She instantly caught the dagger and locked it in a chest. The cobbler came back soon to ask her hand for marriage.

Many years after her marriage – it was a Sunday when the snacks in her kitchen was finished – and she needed to open the chest to get some from there. She wanted to carry that for lunch next day. As soon as she opened the chest, her husband arrived there. He wanted to check the chest himself. She tried to resist, but who can prevent an arrogant man from looking into his wife’s chest? And the accident was bound to happen. While looking for snacks, he saw the dagger.

Grabbing it immediately he asked his wife how she got access to the dagger that he lost years back, at a particular tormenting time of his life.

In sheer confusion and anxiety, she could not reflect on a proper excuse, but narrated honesty that it was the same dagger he left before her on the night when she first desired to see him. Her honest confession infuriated the man. He shouted a terrifying curse, “Bloody hell! So you are the whore who scared me so terribly that night?” and pushed the dagger right through her heart with all his force.

The union with the desired man thus ended in a tragedy. This is a story popular in many regions in Europe. Sometimes characters are different. E.g. in one version a hunter leaves his deer-catcher behind on the first night of meeting the girl. After her first childbirth, the wife sends him to her chest to get some household linen. She did not know that the deer-catcher was a magic device, which would kill him if separated from him for long and later rediscovered. She lost her husband, just due to her carelessness.

Der Liebeszauber (Sorcery for love), Gemälde des Meisters vom Niederrhein, 1470–80

The Argument

An argument was going on.

The first arguing mammal was telling that meat becomes tasty if first fried and then boiled.

The second opposed immediately saying, “Meat cannot be cooked easily if fried first. Hence it is better to be boiled well at first and then it can be fried drying excess water in the vessel. You do not have proper idea of cooking.”

-“As if I don’t know cooking! Not only the meat should be fried first, also the spices should be fried along.”

-“Cook-books do not say that.”

-“Forget about cook-books! I have heard from acclaimed chefs that meat has to be first boiled- “

-“Don’t you abide by the rules of cook-book?”


-“May I know why?”

-“Because different cook-books have different opinions. That is why opinion of the chefs who cook on their own on a regular basis should be taken as authentic.”

The first arguer looked puzzled now; however his mind started functioning at once. -“Not all chefs have same opinion either!”

-“Chefs who like to first fry meat are no chefs, but dumb chaps. Do you know what the Japanese do?”

The first arguer lost patience. He reacted, “I do not know what Japan means. Who are you to humiliate chefs? You uncivilized brat!”

– “Stop it! Hold your tongue! You are not aware of anything of the world, still trying to be a bragging arguer – Bonehead!”

-“You are calling me bonehead again!?”

-“I will call you bonehead again and again.”

 -“I see – let me have it out …“

-“You crook!”

The argument turned into a battle.

A jackal was enjoying their dispute sitting nearby. He started laughing seeing them preparing for a fierce battle; said, “Hey men, aren’t you both vegetarian? Why do you indulge in such a riot over non-veg food? You will be in trouble once your master gets up.”

They did not pay attention to the words of the jackal; started fighting violently with their horns pounding against each other’s.  

The coachman suddenly woke up to find the pair of his bullocks fighting among themselves. He was well aware of the right method to stop that kind of battle. With appropriate use of his bamboo stick and suitable abusive words, he succeeded to tie the bullocks separately keeping right distance between them. He also placed fodder before them –“Eat! You rascals – don’t try to be smart!”

The bullocks were given only rice-straws.


I too woke up all on a sudden. Coming out of drowsiness I found that the two aggressive young men, who were arguing with each other over the hot issues of Japan and Germany, Hitler and Mussolini etc, already got off. The train stopped in the station named Nathnagar.

I translated few stories of
Balaichand Mukhopadhyay (Banaphul) and published in my google blog for English-speaking readers. Republishing here while blogger is going to be closed. This story is translation of “Tarko o swapno”.

Sheetla – the Goddess of Gurugram

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I have stayed in several Indian cities. Anyway I did not have the scope to revisit most of those places. Well, there is couple of exceptions; and Gurgaon is one of those. Gurgaon is neither my workplace, nor a tourist spot that forced me to make a plan to come back time and again. What’s more, I was not much convinced with the name change of Gurgaon to Gurugram. I always associated the place with Gur, the good cane-juice jaggary I tasted here. In fact today’s glitzy city seemed an agricultural village during my first visit in 2000 – attending a library digitization workshop was my reason to come. My stay in a posh guest house did not give me chance to know anything about local history. Naturally I couldn’t associate Gurgaon with any Guru. It was only last year, when I had the scope to learn about the city during my long stay here, my idea about the city and its surroundings changed! I found the age-old mythological history of the area which I always considered a simple agrarian locality turned ultra-luxurious city.

What changed my belief?

A temple called Sheetla Mata Mandir in Sector six in Gurgaon. Sheetla or Shitala is a goddess who gained popularity in northern part of India from puranic era. Also in the eastern states of India, namely Assam, Odisha and West Bengal, Shitala is worshipped as the goddess who heals diseases. The story tells that the Goddess Durga, who took birth as Katyayani the daughter of sage Katyayan, took the form of Devi Shitala when Demon Jwarasur began spreading diseases like cholera, smallpox. measles etc. in  her village. She cured not only her friends but also all village children taking a broom, a winnowing fan, a jar of cooling water and a drinking cup as tools in her four hands. Then she sent her friend Batuk to fight Jwarasur. Batuk turned Bhairav, the ferocious form of God Shiva and after a long struggle, defeated and killed the demon. Being a Bengali, I imagined Goddess Shitala would be same everywhere especially when she cures diseases.

Singing the song of the Goddess

I was wrong.

Shitala is a Goddess mostly worshipped by backward communities in Bengal. There are roadside shrines of the Goddess and couple of temples in the city, but nothing close to the grandeur of Sheetla Mata I visited in Gurgaon – oops! Gurugram. In fact, the presence of Seetla Mata justifies the place name Gurugram – the village of the Guru.

Which Guru?

Guru Dronacharya was married to Kripi or Kirpai who used to live in Keshopur village. The Guru had Ashram in south of Gurugram but visited his wife regularly in Keshopur while the lady took care of sick children there. Grateful villagers called her Mata Sheetla out of sheer respect. She went on taking care of children till Guru Dronancharya died in the war of Kurukshetra. Folk belief says that she embraced death in her husband’s funeral pyre. A temple was built in her honour and people continued worshipping her in the name of Mata Masani. Around four hundred years back the goddess expressed her desire to come to Gurugram leaving Keshopur appearing in the dream of the local landholder Chaudhri Singh Ram. The Chaudhri established her in a temple making an idol as she had instructed. Villagers in Keshopur was not happy about her leaving them but could not stop her after she cured the child of the famous Begum Samru of Jharsa village. She gained immense popularity after this. Finally king Jawahar Singh of  Bharatpur built a big temple dedicated to her commemorating his victory in a war over Mughals in 18th century.

Old temple

And the temple was extended; the gateway and several new structures came up in recent years to support the overwhelming number of pilgrims. Women having kids do worship taking Vrat for the welfare of kids and women seeking a child also takes up the Vrat to pray to the Goddess. The worshipper needs to cook food cooked one day before the worship, which she and her family members should have on the day of Vrat. I spotted makeshift earthen stoves in a place which are used for cooking.

Women who pray to Goddess asking for a child often tie a piece of red cloth on a banyan tree beside the temple. I noticed some tied on the iron fence of the temple too. Belief controls our life. Believers come here to untie the cloth and perform a special Vrat once their wish is fulfilled. They take a dip in the pond beside the temple, water of which is believed to have some medicinal property to cure many diseases. The mother Goddess takes care of all her devotees.

The temple complex gave space to several other gods and goddesses, some of whom are over hundred years old. Two of them, Vishnu and Hanumanji caught my attention. However could not take their snaps while photography inside temple is strictly prohibited. Another interesting view was the handprints on a temple wall. Devotees making their presence visible like this on the temple wall is a new phenomena to me – did not notice this custom in any other temple before.

My visit to temple was over, but another wonder was waiting for me outside the temple. The sweetshop who sells Bengali Rasgulla! Does that mean good number of Bengali devotees too visit the temple? Or temple visitors in general prefer Bengali Rasgulla to break their fast. I was standing on the opposite side of the road and companions were in a hurry; hence were not ready to allow me to enter the sweet shop, try those sweets and have a chat with the seller. Now it’s your duty to find out the answer to the question.

How to reach the temple?

Gurugram Railway station is approximately 2.5 kilometer from temple. You may come to Gurugram by train and take an auto rickshaw straight to the temple. If you are coming from Delhi and like to take Metro route, you have to get down at Huda City Metro Station which is about 6.5 kilometer from and take a bus 212D to reach the temple. Coming from a faraway location? Then you should know that the nearest airport is Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) at New Delhi is about 17 km from the temple. You may take a take cab directly from the airport and reach within half an hour provided there is no traffic jam on the way. Well the nearest highway NH 8 is only 6 kilometer from here. You know cab is the most comfortable transport on the roads here. Where ever you come from, I would suggest you to take a cab to reach the shrine.  Come with enough time in hand so that you can visit the temple premises peacefully and also take a walk in the adjacent road. You will find the true flavour of Gurugram here that still carries the memories of the ancient Guru.

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Departure of Dwarf-clan

The small caves in the hills on the southern side of the Harz, especially in some parts of the region of Hohenstein deserve our special attention. Why? For the most part, these are so low that adult humans can only creep in, but the location feature looks suitable to be used as home for large communities. These were once inhabited by dwarfs and are still called Zwerglöcher (dwarf holes) after them.

Once upon a time the Dwarfs had two kingdoms between Walkenried and Neuhof in the Hohenstein region. Once one farmer of that region noticed that his crops were being robbed every night. Even after much effort he could not find out who the offender was. At last, following the advice of a White woman, (weisen Frau – ref. EU folklore) he went to his pea-field at nightfall and struck the pure air with a thin rod. It was not long before some dwarfs appeared in front of him. He had to split off their invisible fog-caps. The trembling dwarves kneeled down before him.

He came to know the people who robbed the fields of all the landowners of that region. But he also learnt that they were forced to steal crops only because they were hungry. The story of the captured dwarfs created lot of uproar in the entire region. The dwarf people finally sent messenger to villagers offering a solution for themselves and their captive brothers – they wanted to leave the country forever. But the nature of the condition set created new dispute. The inhabitants of the country did not want to let the dwarfs leave along with their collected and hidden treasures and on the other hand, the dwarf people did not want to be watched during departure. Finally it was agreed upon that the dwarfs would build a narrow bridge at Neuhof, and place a large pot there. Each one of them would keep a certain portion of his possession as deduction duty in that container. Also none of the inhabitants of the country would watch them passing through the bridge.

The departure of the dwarfs was planned per agreement. But a good number of curious people had hidden themselves under the bridge. They wanted to ensure that even though gazing at the departing dwarfs ruled out, they would at least hear the sounds of the coaches carrying the dwarfs. And so they heard those little people passing through the bridge for many hours as if a very large herd of shepherds crossing the bridge. Since that last major emigration of the dwarf people, any trace of them was rarely found in this region. We have heard from our grandfathers that a few of them, who were still residing in the mountain caves, sometimes stole babies from the country-dwellers’ houses, whom they exchanged with changelings (ref. EU folklore).

Meaning of Märchen

I translate less-known Bengali Folktales and German Märchen. I also face questions from readers about how we differentiate between Folktales, Fairy tale, Märchen, Myth, Legends, Fables etc. Are all these same with different names? We are sure about the existence of Gorakhnath or the Siddha poets – shall we include their stories in folktale or in legends? If Märchen are fairy tales why the stories of fox and fowl are included in Märchen? If Myth exclusively deals with gods, then why the story of the Swabian and the God is included in Märchen and not in Myth?

Categorizing stories based on definition is difficult; more difficult because definitions too change with time. Studies of Märchen and Volkskunde began in 18th -19th century in Germany while Folklore studies gained momentum at global level in post 1950s. The definition Germans used in 19th century has become obsolete in 21st century, but when we study literary works collected in 19th century, we have to search for stories following 19th century definitions. We also have to remember that numerous stories have been developed in every human community everywhere in the world, but the subject called folklore studies is developed only in 20th century. Akbar loved to listen to stories and Singhasan Battisi was translated in Persian Nama – Khirad Afza (Wisdom-enhancing book) by Bada’uni, but none recognized Singhasan Battisi or its original Sanskrit Siṃhāsana Dvātriṃśikā as folktale or myth or legend before British government came with their administrative and ethnographic research programs.

Same happened with German folk stories. Mostly collected during 18th-19th century by Grimm brothers, Ludwig Bechstein, Josef Haltrich and many others, all stories were first defined as Märchen. Grimms had separated their collected traditional tales into two broad categories – Märchen and Sagen. Märchen were fictional stories and included tales of magic (fairytales), comic, religious, nursery rhymes and animal tales, while Sagen were legends or narration of incidents believed to have actually happened.

Hence when we translate or adapt Märchen, those will include all of fictional stories, fantasy, tales of magic (fairytales), comic, religious, nursery and fables. After folklore studies gained momentum in 1950s, new definitions of folktales, folklore, fantasy, fiction, fairy tales, fables, legends and myth were created to distinguish each field so that academic study of traditional culture follow better  scientific method.

Märchen are illustrative prosaic narration without idea of space and time. This ignores reality and has focus on protagonist – usually hero and heroine. Confrontation between good and evil as well as presence of natural and supernatural forces are must. Good and evil are clearly distinguished here, mostly using good and bad characterization. The good wins in the end while wish-fulfillment of hopeful ending distinguishes Märchen from other kinds of folktales so that we can equate this with fairytales. According to content Märchen or German fairytales can be divided into four categories.

Zaubermärchen is the “real” fairytales which narrates the miraculous ways that bring fortune for the hero and heroin. The miracle is obvious here, as it is found in the Frog-prince in the Grimm’s fairy tales. Tale of enchantment and liberation from sorcery is the theme of most of these types of Märchen.

Novellenmärchen describe “unheard occurrences” like the literary novel does. Common or natural incidents appear as miracle helping to reach the happy ending. The Clever daughter of the peasant is god example of this.

Schwankmärchen is droll fairytale where hero wins fortune not by magical power or supernatural help but using own wit, smartness and courage. Applying own skill he defeats the sorcery that is used against him. Obvious that this too shows happy ending.

Tiermärchen are those where we see animals as characters, hero and heroine, but unlike fable these do not end with a moral. Only the story of the triumph of good animals against the bad or odd is ensured. “Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten” is good example.

Again, according to origin, Märchen can be of two types. Volksmärchen or Folktale, and Kunstmärchen or fairy tale.

We all know European folktale is much-discussed segment of world literature. These are orally transmitted stories created, developed and popularized by unknown people, i.e. people of the land. The Swiss Literary scholar Max Lüthi distinguishes folktale on the basis of one-dimensionality, areal aspects of the characters and abstract style. The hero here is simultaneously isolated and connected.  The theme comes from reality but the reality is twisted and often sublime. The characters including hero and heroine lose individual value, but gain transparency.

In contrast to folktales, Kunstmärchen are written by individual author like any fictional story. The author’s work is not evaluated on the basis of some literary rating, but his style and content becomes matter of interest. Fairy tales created by Hans Christian Anderson or Wilhelm Hauff belong to this category.

Myth is pictorial and pre-scientific explanation of imagined reality. In other words this is basic human interpretation of reality which they believe to be true. Myth is sacred narrative of imaginary world of gods and demi-gods and demons – their activities and characterizations. E.g. The mythical stories of Krishna.


Legends are religiously inspiring, popular narrative of the worldly life of a sacred person or extraordinary individual and miracles in his life.  Differentiating legends from Märchen  sometimes becomes difficult , especially when these have Christian content, include dogmatic statements and developed in mixed format. Eg. The legend of the Saint Valentine.


Collective term of mostly orally transmitted old or new short stories. These are stories of the terrifying, which speak of human fear. These show the wide spectrum of human engagement with himself and everything around him – by it nature or technology.  These are also about the conflict between human’s historical reality and contemporary reality.  The events or legends mentioned in these stories are believed to be true by local residents or those who refer to the stories.  We all know of the large collection of Sagen\tales by Grimm brothers.


Short, witty or satirical tales where animal, instead of humans are the characters. They talk and behave as if to mimic humans, revealing the good and evil of human nature, establishing moral wisdom humans need to live an ideal social life. The stories are wrapped with a moral or political statement. E.g. Aesop’s fables

Hope this will clarify.

Madhumala 11

Did we forget what happened in Madhumala’s land?

At daybreak after that night, the parrots in her cage began talking, the court drummers started beating the drums, her maids entered her chamber to find flowers scattered everywhere and her bed displaced. The cleaning cloths slipped their hands, the princess’s attendants looked nervous. The parrot Shuk asked, “What happened? What?” Also the parrot named Sari repeated, “What happened? What?”

The anxious attendants wake the princess up. Opening her eyes Madhumala murmured, “How strange my Madankumar dressed! Oh my prince, what did you do? Did you put out all lamps of the room only to illuminate the room by own glory?”

Madhumala lost her awareness so far that she could not recognize own attendants. The worried girls asked, “What are you telling princess? Who is the prince?”

Madhumala replied, “First you forget yourself and then you ask me!”

The girls said, “Princess, we are friends – what are you telling? Wake up from your dream; see the parrots talking. If you talk like that, even your parrots with fly away. We wish to end our lives in the sea if you talk like this!”

They did not know Madhumala had lost her sanity. She sang:

 “O prince, my prince, let us go where you ocean is.

Wherever your bed is, I will find there my bliss.”

The disheveled princess lost consciousness again in the lap of her red-attendant and black-attendant. The red was worried that god of fate had written something wrong in the royal family’s fate.

The no-nonsense black said, “We need the mist of the dawn, the cleanest water collected from the lotus-leaves, and the morning breeze illuminated by the sun to bring her into consciousness. I am taking her to the garden. You write a letter to the king.”

As the morning shined, the honey-bees came near the flowers in the garden, the palace guards started loitering noisy, and a letter was sent to the king. The mist of the dawn, the cleanest water collected from the lotus-leaves, and the morning breeze illuminated by the sun brought the princess back into senses. Sitting on her bed, she saw the golden morning light shimmering on the sea outside her window. But she runs to the sea stretching her hands:

“Prince, my Prince, why are you in the ocean so far –

While you had to open this anklet of mine shackling me here?”

Poor Madhumala! She was mistaking plants, ocean, stones – everything in her sight as her Prince. She was lost forever – fainted again.

The king and queen hurried in – executed palace guards. People from his court rushed to the palace – but Madhumala did not open her eyes that she closed not seeing her prince around.

Everyone began wailing – entire kingdom was shedding tears as all the subjects began mourning their loved princess’s miserable state.

Deceiving thousands of eyes, Bidhi has sneaked in her room

Who brought such a dream in her eyes spelling her doom?

Only palace floats in the ocean; princess floats inside –

On the ocean of tears shed by everyone there alike.

Where is the Rahu gone, breaking into the palace –

Eating our moon, leaving her in a state hapless?


Days passed, the shine in the moon did not return. Flowers bloomed in the gardens but without fragrance. The princess breathed but never giggled. The king in tears ordered, “What shall I do now? Demolish the walls of my golden palace, open all its doors, guard the place day and night- let us wait. Whoever the prince is, if he comes back, my Madhumala might be alive again.

After his servants pulled down the walls and the golden temple which was highest peak of the palace, opened the doors and windows and deployed guards everywhere, the king sent message to all his neighbouring kingdoms – “I will gift him my kingdom along with my princess – if the prince Madankumar comes back.”

They kept on waiting – and waiting.


The night was dark and silent – as if someone had poured blank ink on the sky and the hell alike.

All on a sudden, the sky was illuminated as if thousands of lamps were lighted together. Even before people had time to wink their eyes, the thousand blazing planets came on top of the palace. The night guards fainted.

What happened in the sky on the other hand? Madankumar sitting on the thousand gemstone-studded wings of his priceless peacock which illuminated entire sky, found no trace of the temple. He became numb – and then – cried revealing the grief of the entire world:

“Tell me sky, tell me dear ocean –

Who has stolen my life’s gemstone –

Mistaking her as the moon of Lakshmi

Took my Madhumala away from me?”


Hearing his voice mourning for her, Madhumala woke up, crying:

“Prince, my Prince, why are you in the ocean so far –

While you had to open this anklet of mine shackling me here?”

Madhumala hurtled toward the sound, she fell down. Hitting her head against the golden wall of the palace she fell on the ground.

Moving the sky and pushing the air, the peacock rider Prince descended in her chamber.


The king came running, also the queen came running. All of palace dwellers came running. But the princess was not opening the door.

The King called out, “Madhumala, my child!  She replied, “I will open only if you promise whatever I want.”

The King promised. As she opened the door, everyone found two stars together – as if the moon of the full-moon night and the morning sun sparkling together. One half of the kingdom thought, they were experiencing a full-moon night. They played their conch shells and lighted lamps in their homes. The other half of the kingdom assumed the hour to be a bright morning. They cleaned their courtyard and took the bullocks to the fields.

Right that moment a letter arrived from the land of King Dandadhar. What was written there?

“There was a prince Madan who lived inside stone palace for twelve years.

Goddess of fate betrayed as the door was opened three days before time appeared.

The beautiful Madan came out from under the ground.

Not listening to anyone he went hunting – did not find game, instead had a dream.

Taking fourteen boats along with his ship he went on voyage following his fate.

The king still looks at the road, his eyes hazy with tears.

Two kingdoms devastated – only for one prince.”

The kingdom of Tambul started celebrating as soon as they came to know what was written in the letter. Every home was decorated with colourful flag, an auspicious pot in front placed in front of every home, the roads were decorated with bejeweled canopies and aromatic flowers. Cheerful king sent a letter to King Dandadhar with the good news. The dhak and flute players began playing music of joy and happiness. Under the canopy of love and abundance, the prince and princess exchanged garlands. Seeing the beautiful couple unite pleased every one of the heaven and earth and underearth. Subjects of the kingdom enjoyed every kind of delicacies for thirteen nights and twelve days. Giving a dowry of jewelry, precious stones, silk, kingdom with its land and rivers, lakes and canals, the Tambul king and queen gave their daughter and son-in-law a splendid send-off. People from entire kingdom crowded before the palace when Madhumala and Madankumar flew towards the sky sitting on the golden peacock.


Soon the golden peacock crossed mountains and plateaus, rivers and lakes; then it crossed the sea. As it was flying above Chandrakala’s land, Chandrakala saw them from her palace.

“Sister Madhumala, come down – let us sit on the same palanquin for sometime.”

Madhumala asked the prince, “Who calls me?”

“One sister of yours.”

“Let us take her along.” – upon her words, the peacock came down. The King welcomed them. After three days and three nights, three of them together started their journey towards Madan’s home sitting on the peacock. On their way, they stopped for Panchakala and Champakala too same way.


The king Dandadhar, his queen Pateswari along with their courtiers and servants and maids and attendants were spending their days and nights looking at the sky. Their joy knew no bound when one day they spotted a golden peacock carrying Madankumar with the four princesses in the sky. Like the sun rises in east with goddesses of directions –

The golden carriage with the prince with princesses was seen in the sky.

They were all eager to welcome the peacock-riding son of Ujani-nagar along with his wives.

Within moments the peacock came down on earth. Madankumar jumped at the feet of his parents, asked for their pardon for his forgetting them for so long.

Happiness reigned everywhere. The palace dressed up in euphoric lights. On an auspicious day the prince was declared as crown prince amidst joyous celebration in the royal court. The flag of prosperity flew there forever. The reign of the King Dandadhar surrounded by his queens, son, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren was extended through four yugas.

“What shall we see – what is left there to see

Bidhi had created the sun and moon –

Both of them came here as her boon

We the sisters will dance here with jubilant glee.”

Singing this song, the two fairy sisters, Time-fairy and Sleep-fairy came to dance in the court of Dandadhar leaving Indra’s job.

The end

Madhumala 10

He walked and walked – he saw someone on the way – a sentry.

Madan asked, “Could you tell me where the kingdom of Panchakala is? I have to go there to find a trace of my Madhumala.”

Soon, the guard brought palanquin, carriage, carriers and many other sentries to escort him. They all knew this unknown man would be the husband of their princess.

The lotus-eyed princess Panchakala was doing a Brata. She got up the moment she heard the “O Madhumala – my Madhumala!” cry, she too ran to her father to tell, “Look father, this is my husband. But the god is on his mission, we won’t be able to keep him here. Arrange my marriage with him today.”

“So be it.” Telling this, the king called his employees and servants. Finding an auspicious moment that day he arranged the marriage in festive mood. The chamber for the newlywed was bedecked with incense, camphor and five ghee-lamps. Panchakala asked, “Dear husband, won’t you share your mind with me?”

Madan too was curious, “Do you know the trace of my Madhumala?”

The princess said, “I understand your pain. I will tell you about her. But you are my husband, my only hope of life. I am like your housekeeper married to you – tell me, would you support my living?”

Madan answer, “Well, I will.

If I can return my kingdom taking my Madhumala along,

I promise I will support your living lifelong.”

The lotus-eyes princess lighted five wicks of the ghee-lamp in her auspicious tray. Washing her husband’s feet with the water from the golden pot she said, “But dear husband, I won’t be able to tell you the whereabouts of Madhumala; another princess Chandrakala will be able to. Please wait till dawn – I will send some people with you to make your difficult journey easier.”

Madan denied, “I do not want people with me. Wait looking at the road through which I will walk down. Someday I will come back.”

Like the sun-god on his way to morning, he took the path along with banks of seven rivers.

(To be cont…)

Madhumala 9

Madankumar never had an intension to listen to anyone. With his fleet of fourteen boats, he set off on a voyage of discovering Madhumala’s land. The fleet sailed and sailed and sailed. All on the sudden, a violent storm broke out in the middle of the sea. All his people washed away, all the boats with the sailors capsized; a huge wave carried Madan away from his ship. His persistent loud cry “O Madhumala – my Madhumala!” was still being heard – he was floating on the high turbulent waves.

The storm continued even after seven days and seven nights. Floating and crying and relentlessly reciting Madhumala’s name, Madankumar lost consciousness. After thirteen nights, the stormy waves changed into tidal waves. Tidal waves carried unconscious Madan to seashore in an unknown land.

There were grazing lands close to shore where cowherds used to come with cattle. One of those boys found him lying on the sand. He cried as loud as he could, “Brothers! Come here fast! The moon from the sky has fallen on the bank today!”

All of the boys gathered there. What did they see? “No, this cannot be the moon. He has hands and feet. This could be a god – perhaps fell down from heaven while fighting with other gods; or this is a god emerged direct from the sea. The terrified cowherds rushed back to village to inform everyone about their discovery. Villagers crowded in the sea-shore to see that fallen god, which could be either the moon from the sky or the god from under the ground. But there was an intelligent milkman among them. He said, “We are mistaken. This must be a human. Either this is a prince or a trader, might have fallen into trouble in the sea-route.

By the milkman’s effort, Madan came back to sense. He opened his eyes, “What’s name of this place?”

“O my fate! I went a-hunting first

Failed, I slept in forest accursed;

With Madhumala I dreamt my first romance

Taking fourteen boats drawn by mesmeric trance

I set off on voyage to find her out –

Hurting my loving parents devout.

Shall I see you again my love?

My tears tell my story of truelove.”

Everyone was convinced that he is the husband of the princess of that land about whom the astrologer foretold.

The princess Champakala was beautiful and knowledgeable. She had finished reading Mahabharat and all Purans. Her father King Champaman invited many princes from many other kingdoms to marry her, but none could answer her quarries regarding Sastras. She could not be married as right match was not found. After a long wait, Champakala had informed her father, “Father, none of these princes are suitable to be my husband. My husband will be the one who will come on his own chanting the name of ‘Madhumala”. 

The king’s announcement reached every corner of the kingdom. Everyone came to know the name of Madhumala. Hence the moment the subjects heard the name from the mouth of the frantic Madan, in no time they escorted him to the royal palace.

The princess was engaged in reading Puran. She heard someone crying “O Madhumala – my Madhumala!” Leaving her books she ran to her father before whom the prince was brought.  She said, “Yes father, this is my husband. He is being carried by high tide of love, who would be able to keep him home forever? Please arrange my marriage with him today.”

The wedding was celebrated with great pomp. Everyone in the palace was happy like never before.

As they meet in their bedchamber on the wedding night, the gorgeous princess asked the prince “What is your name, dear husband?”

Madan answered, “I am Madankumar. I will go to the land where Madhumala stays.”

“I know, dear husband, but you have married me. Tell me one thing – would you look after of me in future?”

Madan said, “Yes, I can look after you. If I find my Madhumala one day and return to homeland with her, I will take you too as one of my queens.”

The doe-eyed princess prepared her auspicious goodbye-tray with ghee and sandal. Taking vermillion from own forehead, she drew a dot on her husband’s forehead saying, “After seven rivers stays another princess Panchakala. Go to her – she will give you the direction to reach Madhumala.”

“Well, you stay here till I come back!” – saying this, Madankumar left the palace long before dawn. He started walking along the banks of the seven rivers.

(to be cont.)

Madhumala 8

Everyone in the royal hunting troupe got up when the first ray of the sun called them in the morning. The noise of morning commotion filled the mountain. The minister’s son called:

 “Madan, my dear, open your lotus eyes.

Let’s return home, for the sake of your parents.”

Waking up, Madan found himself inside the tent but on a different bed. He burst into tears lamenting – “Where is my Madhumala? I set out first time to hunt jungle animals and spent first night outside home. But did I spend the night in this forest or in Madhumala’s land? What an amazing first night of love I had – the image of her face is still clear in my mind. How come all those can be a dream?”

The entire mountain forest began mourning with the prince – what kind of a magical dream came to ruin him? None of sandal paste, honey and butter, cold aromatic water from the golden pot, waving fans could help rejuvenate him. The prince went of lamenting, “O Madhumala, my Madhumala!”

The minister’s son went on pursuing, “What is in a dream, my Prince – one should not lament a dream. Let us return home – who knows how our parents are doing without having us around?”

Madan could not be comforted anyway, “Who says dream is only a dream?”

“If dream is only a dream – how did we exchange rings?

How did we chew betel-leaves together in my dreams?

If dream is all untrue, how did we change shawls there?

How do I still remember the fragrance of her hair?

If dream is all false how did our cots exchanged?

O dear! How did I see in dream how she is dressed?”

“How do I still remember the beautiful name – Madhumala – my Madhumala?”

True – now the minister’s son realized the truth – Madankumar’s cot and the shawl and the ring were all different. “Who used such a sorcery against us last night! Did we enter a sorcerer’s zone by mistake?” He ordered the troupe to move out of the place.


The evening lamp was not lit in the royal palace that day. The troupe came back devastated – Madankumar still crying loud, “O Madhumala – my Madhumala?”

The weeping king and queen rolled on the dust if grief. Madan said, “Please listen to me. I did not dream – it was all true. Now I have to go to find that truth. Father! Please arrange fourteen boats to accompany my Madhukar ship. Mother! Please bless me showing your auspicious lamp before my journey once again. I will find out my Madhumala. Without her, I cannot live in this earth.”

“O Bidhatapurush, what did you do to us!” – His parents fainted.

Only their people stopped calling them barren. Their happiness did not last long. The king and queen realized opening the door of the underground stone palace only three days before time became reason of their ill-fate. They were going to lose their only son, the apple of their eyes once again. The heartbreak could not be avoided.

(to be cont…)

Madhumala 7

Who opened the eyes first? – Madhumala. She opened her eyes wondering why the parrot in the golden cage did not start talking, why the anklet-bells of her maid was still not being heard, why the three rows of ghee-lamps were still alight. She sat on her bed – and her eyes fell on whom?

“Seeing the morning sun so close before her eye,

The princess fainted at once as if lost in the sky.”

After some time her sense revived – she looked at him again. Her eyeballs were not moving; her long dark eyelashes seemed frozen. Gazing and gazing and gazing at him, Madhumala thought – “Is this a Devata? Who else can enter my chamber crossing the fluctuating sea, so many guards and all these seven thirty six thirteen rooms in the palace?”

Removing her anklets and bangles and floral jewelry, she took the seven headed knife from the betel-leaf casket. Silently she held it on Madankumar’s chest –if he was a devata, he would wake up; if he was a Daitya or Danav or sorcerer, blood would ooze out from his heart.

Madan woke up the moment the knife touched him. He saw the  dark cloud hair, cloud-colour saree and sandal-coloured shawl of the princess –

What a gleam was hidden in the moon,

Like lightning from cloud it appear by which boon?

He looked at her long – to realise she was not the moon in the sky. He had heard of fairies from paradise; began crying thinking he had been fallen in their trap.

Madhumala kept the knife aside, said:

“Who are you, Devata or Danav, tell me wiping tears for Bidhata’s sake

Golden face should tell the truth; death awaits if you settle for a fake.”

Madan replied, “Neither I am a Devata, nor a Danav. I am only a human being.”

Going back to her seat, the princess asked:

“Who are your parents – from where you came,

Tell me all about you, what is your name?”

Madan narrated:

“My home is in Ujaninagar, my father king Dandadhar

I am his only son, named Madankumar.”

The princess giggled happy as showering flowers around. Madan asked her who she was.

“Bhatina Sea is where I live. My father is the king Tambula

I am the princess of the kingdom, named Madhumala.”

Both giggled together.

Princess said, “When Bidhata sent you inside my chamber in this golden palace crossing the barrier of the ocean and seven thirty six thirteen rooms, then I cannot think of marrying anyone else but you. Accept my finger-ring, give me yours.”

Both stood up; exchanged rings; the parrots from the cage sang auspicious song. The prince said, “Once we exchanged rings, let us exchanges our shawls too.” They looked like the dazzling sun wrapped in transparent cloud and the gleaming moon in the fog.

The sleep-fairy asked the time-fairy, “Sister, how long the night will stay with us?”

Time fairy said, “Well sister, bring them sleep.”

Before they finish chewing betel-leaves from their casket, the prince and princess fell fast asleep.”

The time fairy said, “When we have done so much, why don’t we change their beds too? The two sisters placed the princess on the prince’s bed and the prince on the princess’s bed. Taking the prince on her bed, they flew again to that mountain-forest – to place the bed beside the minister’s son’s inside the prince’s tent.

The sleep fairy said, “How shall we go to paradise today? See the sun we have hidden under the ocean yesterday, is coming out from the east.”

To be cont…

Madhumala 6

Crossing the sky from one corner to another, the sisters reached where Madhumala lived. Only the sound of the waves roaring and crashing  in the sea was heard in the dead of the night. Silent but watchful guards were all alert. The golden palace having golden pot on the top of its dome was glittering even in darkness.

Madhumala’s chamber could be reached crossing seven thirty six thirteen rooms of the palace. Madhumala sleeps alone on thirteen layered mattress on the golden cot surrounded by 3 rows of ghee lamps.

Princess Madhumala was sleeping in peace

Under the umbrella of thousand gemstone-snakes

She was in deep sleep on her bed, her cloths ruffled

Like cloud in the sky looked her long hair disheveled

Like sleeping moon, her skin as smooth as flower-petal –

Flowers adorning her hair, like a seabird she was special.

Images of moon broken on the sea-waves looked dull beside her – those are created and destroyed every moment. But the moon inside the golden chamber was tied by floral garlands forever – never to be diminished.

The fairy sisters entered the chamber making themselves invisible to place Madan’s cot near her’s. Both the full moon of the full moon night and the morning sun seemed shining beside each other as if sleeping in same carriage. The time-fairy’s thirst couldn’t be quenched even after seeing them together for long – “How come Bidhi* could keep them separated so long? Let us wake them up and see what they do.”

“No, don’t!” – Sleep-fairy looked alarmed as she moved from there creating a mild floral breeze, “what are you doing, each of them will become distracted if one sees the other!”

The time-fairy did not listen; she was humming a tune:

“What is prettiness if I can’t see it with my own desire?

Unless I surrender my life to it – be it water of fire.”

*Fate – female form of Bidhata

To Be cont….

Madhumala 5

They had already crossed a long way before their royal cavalcade reached a mountain-forest. It was a large mountain forest, yet no sound of birds chirping was heard there. Not even a shadow of a deer was seen.

At the end of the day, everyone was tired of the futile search for the hunt. None found anything that could be hunted. The shadow of the sun in west elongated till east; slowly the sun went down; the arrow Madan picked up in the morning still stayed in his hand in the evening – he didn’t find a chance to shoot.

He kept his horse under a tree; said to the minister’s son,“See what an inauspicious moment we have started in. We did not find any stalk in this vast forest area. I don’t want this bow and arrow any longer.” He threw his bow and arrow on the ground.

The minister’s son said, “Well prince! Let’s go back then  -it is already evening.”

Madan protested, “What are you telling!”

“This is inauspicious as well as humiliating

Not finding a game after coming for hunting

I brought dishonor upon my family

Having failed in my first venture silly

Listen, Minister’s son! Pitch a camp here

I won’t go to meet father today for sure.”

The minister’s son replied, “My Prince! You are only son of the King – heir of the throne.

Not returning will force them bemoan.

Madan remained resolute as before, “I am not going to listen to you.”

“Neither kingdom, nor king means anything

When Madankumar fails in life for first time.

No, that is not going to happen. Call the people – tell them to arrange tents here.”

Soon the rows of tents of royal troupe were set in the wide valley in the middle of the mountain forest. The prince ordered, “Let all take rest tonight.” Only the minister’s son had reason to worry.  

In the evening, there was much noise; in the late evening, his people were still busy with cooking. In the middle of the night, everyone fell asleep. The tents of his force surrounded his tent; his was decorated with a silk-canopy with dangling gemstone-designs. On their golden royal beds, both the prince and the minister’s son fell asleep.


In that bewitching hour of the night, the two fairy-sisters- one time-fairy, another sleep-fairy were on the way to Indra’s palace illuminating the sky with their aura. The stars were sparkling in the sky. The wind was blowing mild. The time-fairy called the sleep-fairy:

 “Look sister, crossing so many forests, bushes and mountains.

Where we came, what are we seeing in the valley astounding?”

“True, every day we go through this route but never notice anything like this. What we are seeing today – fainted stars, faded moon, daitya and danav stopped moving, even the breeze is mild – what happened here today?”

 Startled time-fairy said, “Look downwards, there are lamps alit as if thousand moons blossomed in the earth. Or did anyone collect all the sparkling gemstones of the world here together? Did any of our devatas from heaven come to stay here? – let’s have a look.”

Sleep denied, “Let’s not spoil our time here – the night passes fast.”

Time-fairy was not ready to move without exploring.Sleep-fairy discovered, “No, this is neither gemstone, nor a devata – this is a mortal prince!”

“Prince! How come a mortal can look so beautiful? I am not going from here before seeing him once! – She started floating downwards. Her sister had no other choice but to follow. Coming down, they stood near the bed of Madankumar to see him properly.

Time-fairy was surprised:

“Did Fate-deva create him to puzzle women on the earth!

Did he give his form using a paintbrush?

To draw lines, where did he find the ink? 

Did he collect butter from the ocean of milk?

Why did he create a beauty so rare

If for him he didn’t make a suitable pair?”

Smiling sleep-fairy answered:

“Madhumala is the Tambul princess,

If this is gemstone, she gems-basket.”

As time-fairy expressed doubt whether anything in the world can be more gorgeous than the prince, her sister informed:

“Entire kingdom laughs if she laughs,

All of them cry when she sighs

Making a golden palace in the middle of the sea

King of Tambul keeps her there, not everyone can see.”

The news cheered up the time-fairy, “Is it? Then let’s help the prince meet Madhumala. Hold the other side of bed.”

Sleep, her sister differed again, “No sister, the night will be over soon. We won’t be able to attend Indra’s festival if involve ourselves in mortal’s affairs.”

“No, we have to make sure that two of them unite once we have found one of the pair. Let Paradise go to hell! Let’s carry the bed to the land of Madhumala.”

“What a trouble you invite!” – Sleep sister expressed concern, but then – two of them flew in sky spreading their floral wings holding Madankumar’s bed from both sides amidst that lonely night.

(to be cont._