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 2

The monk was never found. The king called astrologer Brahmins to calculate auspicious moments for his union with the queen. Aromatic smoke of incense cones filled the quarter of the Queen of the queens. All corners of her chamber dazzled by freshly-lit Ghee lamps. She prepared welcome-tray for the king with fragrant Champa-flowers and the seven-wicked ghee-lamp. Taking auspicious bath, she gave alms to the poor. Then in the moonlit night, through the corridor decorated with flower bouquet, flower pots and floral canopies, the king entered the queen’s quarter.

Days passed,also the nights. After six months the king ordered to build an underground palace of stones as was directed by the monk.

His men rushed to all kingdoms in all directions. All his miners, soldiers, guards, stone masons,wood cutters, wrestlers brought all kinds of red, white, black and blue stones from every corner of the world. As those colourful stones were piled in one place – a large mountain of stones was formed beside the palace. Then the best stone masons of the kingdom – Sonalal, Rupalal, Hiramanik and Joybijay came with their assistants to cut the stones – to build a beautiful stone palace under the ground.

 What awonderful palace they built! Setting the stones one after another, they made its foundation with thousand stones; another thousand were used to construct the wall. They created a brilliantly designed roof with one thousand stones and encircled the palace with stone boundary wall. They didn’t make any door or window except a small door towards north. The door was tightly close so that no light, even moonlight could enter through that. Also the wind was barred –darkness reigned there day and night.

Guarding that doorway of darkness stood expert saw-blade army. Even a honey-bee was to be chopped into thousand pieces by their saw blades if one tried to pass through the door. The saw blades in skilled hands cut from both sides. Hence the underground palace became impassable – none could enter or come out of that.

The king ordered everything three people might need in next twelve years to be placed inside. As ten months and ten days of her pregnancy completed, the queen entered the palace with only one loyal nurse. Drumbeats announced the upcoming celebration.     

The moon from heaven took birth first time on earth – the offspring;

As thousand lamps lit in the dark palace underneath – lucky is the king.

As if thousand suns and moons play – in the palace underground.

Thousands of flowers spread sweet aromas – leaving all astound.

The queen and the nurse fell unconscious in the midst of the fragrance of thousands and ten thousands flowers. The stone wall could not contain the glow of the baby as glittering as thousands of lamps together, the scent of his skin as fragrant as thousands of flowers. Also the doorkeeper outside the closed door of the stone-palace fainted. The King was informed.

Taking all his ministers, councilors, courtiers, singers, Brahmins, astrologers, priests,musicians and singers, the king came to see his son with leading a spectacular procession. Tears of joy filled everyone’s seeing the newborn prince. All the jewelry and gemstones he brought as gift failed to match the radiance of the newborn.

The prince was named as the monk suggested – Madankumar.

The king told the queen not to open the door for next twelve years, Madankumar should see neither sunlight, nor moonlight till twelve.

The King returned his palace above the ground with great pomp and ceremony. The queen shut the underground door to the world above in the name of twelve long years.

Folktales from Bengal – The astute Yogi foiled Siva’s trick

Unmarried girls in Bengal once worshiped Siva praying for a loving husband. The Bengali idiom, “husband as good as Siva” is aged several hundred years. Folk stories indicate that girls those days were ready to accept even economic hardships in marital life but considered compassion to be essential quality of a husband. Even a forgetful cannabis-smoker was preferable as husband as long as the man expressed love and selflessness. Though fast disappearing, even today we see the custom of young girl’s in rural Bengal fasting and worshiping almighty Siva on particular days or months of the year asking for the same boon from him. But how much is it possible for Siva to fulfill a girl’s desire for a husband of preferred quality? This story found in one version of Gorakshabijay text narrates how even Siva’s boon could fail to fulfill worldly appeals at times.

Birahini was the daughter of a Gandharva king. The princess decided to perform a penance with a desire to have an immortal husband. She went to Kailas, Siva’s abode and began meditating standing on her head, her feet stretched upwards. Knowing her desire and seeing her strong will behind her austere practice, Siva had to contemplate. He knew Goraksha, his devotee was going against Parbati’s wishes. Not only he had disobeyed her wishes, had even punished her using his spiritual power. Seeing wife’s humiliation in the hands of his disciple disturbed Siva, a caring husband. Same like Parbati, he also thought of getting Goraksha married to the princess would fulfill her desire on the one hand and solve the unnecessary conflict between the Goddess and Goraksha on the other.

I could not trace any Gorakshanath idol or temple in Bengal though those do exist in neighbouring Odisha. This picture is from Panauti,Nepal, Credit goes to wikimedia Commons.

Siva was famous for his affection to devotees. He appeared before the girl to give her the boon – the immortal husband named Goraksha. Later calling Goraksha he asked him to marry her. As there was no other unmarried immortal man in the world, he could select none other than him to gift to the sincere girl. But this brought Goraksha to a deep dilemma. He could not deny Siva’swords being his disciple on one hand, but could not ignore his route to spiritual accomplishment too for which marrying a girl would be a barrier. After reflecting on this crisis for long, he finally decided to marry the girl.

Taking her husband along the happy princess went to a temple. And the ever-celibate Goraksha transformed himself into a six month old child there. As the child began crying for mother’s milk, the princess felt embarrassed.“what a husband I have received who is looking for a mother to feed him? What will my parents tell? Everyone will laugh at me that I achieved an awkward relation instead of a boon through my penance.” – she lamented for long in despair. At a time when she had no more tears in her eyes, she sat there frustrated thinking, “I am given this Goraksha through some magic. Did Siva create some illusion for me in his amusement?” She pondered a lot, but anyway she could not give up the responsibility of looking after the baby. While taking care of him, she said whispering, “I got you by Mahadev’s boon; why do you cheat me with your magical skill? If you don’t satisfy me on pretext of being a child, I will commit suicide so that you are punished for being a women-slayer. Your ploy will not work for long.”

Taking his real form Goraksha smiled at her disappointment. Now addressing the princess as daughter, he said, “Listen my child, it’s Shiva who played a trick with you. He cheated you by giving me – a person neither man nor woman, as a boon to you. I have neither strength nor semen. This body is as dry as a dead plank of a tree. I am a flower without smell bloomed in a body without fluid. That is reason I took the form of Siddha. If you believe me, I can predict that you will have an immortal son. What I keep in my bowl of skull works as magic potion. Have this Pakhala water if you want to have a son.”

Following Goraksha’s advice she drank the water from his skull-bowl and instantly she conceived. After ten hours she gave birth to a son.The child was born with all the signs of a Siddha.  Seeing him Goraksha chanted mantras for his well being. Giving the princess’ son a name, he left for Bijayanagar – the place where he would be able to continue his spiritual practice sitting under a medlar tree.  

Both Parbati’s and Siva’s tried to distract Goraksha. Both of their plans to drag him to the trap of the mortal world were thus failed before his determination and astuteness. Gorakshanath remained sole Siddha never enslaved by any material desire.


© Kathakali Mukherjee, 2018

Folktales from Bengal – Yogi who taught Goddess Parbati a lesson

Following Buddhist traditions we can define Mahasiddhas as great achievers of Buddhahood between 8th-12thcenturies who propelled the Mahamudra technique of meditation. We see some of the same Mahasiddhas as Siddha Yogis in Saivait Nath tradition. Does this indicate a merger of Buddhism and Saivism more than a thousand years back? I do not know if there is any conclusive evidence.

Shiva had to call all his Siddha disciples from different parts of the world through meditation to give his wife a chance to establish her truth. All Siddhas assembled in Kailas before Shiva. Parbati served them food and water. As she had predicted, the image of her lustful glance on the water in the golden pitcher maddened everyone. Besieged by an unspeakable yearning for love, none of them could help fantasising himself in the arms of beautiful women.

Once Shiva, the leader of the Yogis and his wife Parbati were discussing about his disciple’s duties on earth. Parbati wanted them to marry and have families but Siva differed saying that was impossible while his disciples were not attached to any mortal entity. The Goddess said, “Even if one can overcome anger, greed and other attachments,desire for women is the one of the six inherent human traits not even a monk can shun. Please allow me to prove – I will invoke their lust only with a gaze through the corner of my eyes.”

However, as Shiva asked her the outcome of her test, she narrated everything – that she had given boons to all of them fulfilling their desire. Only Gorakshanath’s desire seemed difficult to understand. Shiva smiled, “He is the purest Yogi disciple of mine; I would consider you the winner if you can charm him with your tricks.”

Everyone felt the lust for a sexual union with a woman in their minds. Only Gorakshanath had a different thought – “If I was born a son of such a beautiful mother, I could drink her milk sitting on her lap. She would have taken care of me with heartfelt affection, feed me,even clean my poops without disgust.” Hearing Goraksha’s thought, the Goddess decided to test him further – his looking at a young attractive lady as mother seemed unnatural.

Parbati saw Gorakshanath’s spiritual Guru Meenanath falling into the trap of beautiful women in the Land of Bananas,marry and enjoying worldly pleasures of family life. She felt annoyed seeing Goraksha still mediating to fulfill his spiritual goal unperturbed. She undressed before appearing in front of him – stretching her hands above her head. As soon as Goraksha saw her, he recognised her to be Shiva’s wife. “What this mischievous lady is doing here?” –  He thought while rushing to pluck a leaf from the tree under which he was sitting. Plucking aleaf he covered her vagina with that and then disappeared. The Goddess returned home embarrassed but with a vow to take another chance of allure him.

She took the form of a fly before approaching Goraksha once again. Seeing a fly moving before his mouth, the mendicant swallowed it. Through meditation he came to know who the fly actually was. He closed own anal tract to teach the Goddess a lesson. Going inside him,she did not find a way to come out. Struggling in pain, she called the Yogi, “I understand you know who I am. Staying inside your stomach causing me pain. You should not behave like this with your spiritual guide’s wife. Give me the way to come out so that I can go back home.” Gorakshanath chuckled hearing her meek request.However he too understood he had to let her go. Pondering which route he should open for a moment, he finally decided to open the anal track. This was only way he could ensure not seeing her again. The track was too narrow even for the fly.She broke her waist while struggling to come out.

The humiliated and injured Parbati decided to stay on the earth. He took the form of a Rakshsi now while living in the nearby forest. She began catching one human a day for her food.

Her absence for so long became reason for Shiva to worry. Not seeing her anywhere around, he meditated again to trace her.Guessing her presence close to Goraksha, he came to him. “Where is my wife –what did you do to her?” – He charged his disciple. The ever-conscious disciple laughed at him, “Too much of hemp and cannabis made you insentient. You can’t even remember where you lost your wife and came on earth to blame a celibate Yogi for hiding a woman?”

Anyway the yogi sympathised with his spiritual leader. He took up traveling to find his wife out. As he was going through the forest, the Goddess, now in the form of a Rakshasi pounced on him. Strength of his spiritual power made her immobile. He rebuked her, “What are you doing here?You are a Goddess, wife of the Shiva the greatest of the Yogis occupied with such a filthy act? Shame on you for eating humans! You should go back home at once.” The Goddess replied, “I can, only if you worship me establishing my temple here.”

The Yogi Gorakshanath not only promised so, he established the idol of the Goddess there in form of Kali and worshiped her building a temple. Pleasing the Goddess with his devotion, he took her to her husband in Kailas.

Kali idol of Kalighat temple, Kolkata

*Local belief says that the Kali idol and the temple of Kalighat were established by the Nath Yogi Gorakshanath. This story narrated in Gorakshavijay – “Ballad of Goraksha” supports the belief.

© Kathakali Mukherjee, 2018

Folktales from Bengal – Yogi trapped in a Quandary

I was reading an article on some international Yoga conference somewhere – and I remembered Meenanath, the yogi who once became susceptible to mortal sufferings and saved by his all-knowing all-pervading Yogi friends – according to a Bengali folktale.

Shiva the leader of the Yogis and his wife Parbati were discussing cycle of creation. The Goddess said, “Please do not listen to your Yogi disciples. Ganga and I – the inseparable duo became your wives. Let us have children, what is the use of all these Yoga and meditation if creation itself is at stake? Also tell your disciples to have families and live a life of fulfilment.”

Mahadeb answered, “I could tell them so, but they are free from desire, anger, greed or attachment; hence cannot be contained in a family.”

Goddess disagreed, “Even if one can overcome anger, greed and attachment, desire is the one of the six inherent human traits none can shun. Please permit me – I will invoke their lust only with a gaze through the corner of my eyes.”

Giving her a nod, Shiva called all his Siddha disciples from different parts of the world through meditation. All of them came – sat before Shiva while his wife served them food and water. Seeing her beauty, the image of her lustful glance on the water in the pitcher, everyone was besieged by an unspeakable yarning for love. None of them could help fantasising.

The Goddess came to know all the thoughts hidden in the minds of Siddhas. She gave boons to all of them fulfilling their desire of engaging with a pleasurable life on earth.

Meenanath started dreaming of company of a beautiful lady. “If I had such an exquisitely beautiful lady with me, I could spend entire night loving her” – he thought. The all-knowing Goddess understood his mind. She assured him, “Well – go to the land of bananas and be their King. You will have sixteen hundred gorgeous banana-ladies to give you company.”

Rato_Machhindranath_Temple,_Patan,_Lalitpur_02
Temple of Matsyendranath is in Nepal, but Bengal has a distinct story about him. (photo: Wikipedia)

As Meenanath reached the land of Bananas he saw numerous beautiful young women around. He felt an intense desire of making love with all of them. He started dreaming of a life of a gander surrounded by adoring geese in a lake.

True the moment he put his foot on the land, the banana women encircled him. His handsome look attracted all of them. Power of his meditative mind fascinated them. All of them showed interest in him; yet Mangala and Kamala were two articulate ladies who led the large group of them when they came to meet the Yogi sitting under a Banyan tree. All the ladies, determined to steal the Yogi’s heart dressed up elegantly. Their long hairs made beautiful long plaits – adorned with floral garlands these resembled lighting in the dark cloud in the sky. Their heavy breasts were adorned with precious gem-studded long chains. They were wearing lot of jewelleries on their hands and feet and waist. Their lustful glance at him mesmerised the Yogi. Sitting before him the leading duo started talking to him in a sweet insisting tone. They showed him their gorgeous breasts in pretext of moving their hands while talking with motivation. They touched his thighs while persuading him to live a life of luxury and pleasure leaving the life of the wandering ascetic. “We two sisters rule this land of sixteen hundred banana women. Marry all of us; be our king; we would love to worship you. The dress of the beggar you are wearing doesn’t suit you; let us bring you a kingly one. Please give the banana women the chance to fan you and carry your umbrella. Oblige us by sitting on our royal throne wearing royal dress.”

He was surprised seeing a kingdom being run by not a man but women. At their insistence, Meenanath forgot his spiritual purpose of life. Sixteen hundred women gave him a bath, dressed him, and led him to the royal throne holding the golden umbrella of grandeur. Taking the charge of the land he started ruling like a good king establishing good governance. On the other hand, gaining ownership of all beautiful women of the land he discovered the pleasure of sensual love. Day and night did not make a difference for the euphoric lover. He stayed inside the pleasure garden of his palace and went on enjoying lust and luxury forgetting his spiritual guide Shiva and everything he had learnt from him. In course of time, his first queen gives birth of his son.

With this, Shiva’s curse came as true. Along with his spiritual learning, he forgot also the secrets of creation and immortality that he had learnt in disguise of the fish once. Caught in the net of worldly desires, he became susceptible to mortal sorrows and pains. He was no longer capable of defending himself against aging, disease and death using the power of his spiritual learning. The once Siddha turned into a common mortal.

However his fellow-siddhas were determined to free him from the cobweb of mortalities. Kanapha met Gorakhnath, Meenanath’s once disciple to inform him about misery of Meenanath – “I saw him in a wretched condition. His skin is loose, he lost his teeth. Sitting in the women’s lap, he lost all his strength. You weak guru looks like a skeleton covered with skin losing all his power as well as consciousness. I went to Yama’s palace too. There I received information about threat to his life. He will live in this earth another three days only. Yama directed his emissaries to pick him up!”

They discussed the need of saving him. Goraksha rushed to Yama’s place first to save Meenanath. He scolded Yama for his atrocious intention of killing a Yogi who should be solely suffering due to his Guru’s curse, but never face the death like a mortal. His anger terrified Yama, especially when Yogi Gorakshanath threatened him to take him to Brahma to ensure his ruin. Yama showed him every paper on which Meenanath’s fate was written. Goraksha erased all lines that decided his Guru’s mortality and end of life. He left Yama’s palace issuing another warning. He sent an order to Viswakarma, the ironsmith of gods to make him a golden umbrella, golden stick and ornaments through Yama’s messengers, Langa and Mahalanga. Langa narrated every detail of the story to Viswakarma to make him understand the requirement. Finally, dressed in accessories suitable for a wealthy Brahmin, and having the messengers of Yama as own attendants Goraksha entered Bananaland. He succeeded in avoiding women with lot of effort, but as he entered King Meenanath’s court in disguise of a Brahmin, the king tried to get rid of him. Sixteen hundred women with weapons in hand attacked him – no man but the King was allowed inside.

Goraksha decided to cross-dress. Next day he entered the court in disguise of a beautiful court-dancer wearing a new dazzling dress and carrying a golden Mrudanga sent by Viswakarma.

Everyone in the court was convinced that the beautiful new lady would steal the heart of the king – he might even leave his queens for her. Meenanath’s queen Mangala tried to get rid of the dancer first with lump sum alms. Not being able to convince, she ordered the the guards to oust her from palace. But tenacious Goraksha began singing standing outside the palace – his voice and drum loud enough to reach the King’s ears – his lyrics telling the stories of their past life of spiritual quest and the death threat approaching Meenanath . Meenanath, though unable to remember anything, felt curious. He ordered to bring the dancer before him. As anticipated by all, he fell for the exquisite beauty of the new dancer and her art. He proposed to marry her. The once disciple in disguise started narrating the worthlessness of women’s love and uselessness of mortal desires through spiritual songs. The lyrics brought back the king’s memories, but the dancer’s calling him old angered him – “How dare you call me old? I will prove my vigour to be stronger than hundred young men together. Come here – I will undress you right here and show my strength.” – yelled fuming King as he got up from his seat. His disciple cooked up a story of being heartless Gorakhnath’s dancer wife. Meenanath apologized for own illicit attraction to disciple’s wife who he should have seen like own daughter. Delighted, he expressed desire to meet his past disciple, the singer-dancer started convincing the king to go with him. The queen and all courtiers understood the trickery of the dancer, but they could not prevent the tenacious effort of a yogi preaching the once Guru against his intension of spending life in worldly pleasure than spiritual penance. The King, still immersed in worldly desires, was not at all ready to pay heed. He started arguing even after knowing about death awaiting him. Goraksha was left with no other option but to apply his magical power to save his Guru. After much altercation and persistent appeals, application of force and show of supernatural skill by the disciple in disguise, Meenanath regained his memories of the days of spiritual ecstasy back. His restored knowledge of eternity helped him decide to go back to his monastic life along with his disciple leaving the luxury of kingship and company of women.

Thus the glorious Yogi Meenanath was finally saved from the trap of women and mortal life in banana kingdom. His yogi follower transformed all his precious women into bats to eliminate the chance of further provocation from them. The sanctity of spiritual knowledge once earned was thus restored.

© Kathakali Mukherjee, 2018

Folktales from Bengal – The Birth of Siddhas

We have ancient folklore of Bengal having reference to the Siddhas, the Saivait Yogi cult. We also know of the Siddhas,the pioneers of Bajrayana Buddhist cult, the creators of Charyapadas. 10th century verses which are oldest example of Bengali literature as well as Maithili, Assamese and Odiya discovered so far.
Maynamati song, Gopichand ballad or Gorakshabijay – folk literature which evolved around fantasies more than actual events might haven’t give an account of Siddha scholars composing or writing verses – but in reality, the composer of the Charyas were called Siddha!
Siddha composers called those poems as Charyā meaning chants or song of their secret sadhana, not sloka or pada. “Pada” was added by MM Haraprasad Shastri, the researcher and publisher of the collection of Charyās. Anyway we see Siddha as a title was commonly used by Buddhist Tantrik sect and Saiva Nath Yogi sect. Was there any connection?
H M Shastri’s publication of 1916 included Dohākosh by Sarahapada (Sarahapa), Dohākosh by Kanhapada (Kanipa?), and Dakarnaba along with Charyāgitikosh.
Among the fifty songs of Charyāgitikosh, the name of Siddhacharya Kanhapada is associated with 13 verses. How do we identify that this is the same Kanapha or Kanipa mentionedin Natha-Yogi lore? We cannot be sure, but remarkable is Kānhapāda was probably an advocate of Buddhist Tantrik philosophy from current Karnataka, southern part of India. Also in our Gorakshavijay text, the Siddha Kanapha (Kanipa) heads towards southern part of India after his leader Shiva moves to his mountain abode with wife Parvati.
No we don’t want to make this a researcher’s account. Let’s see what one version of Gorakshavijay, a Bengali folklore tells about the origin of Siddhas – how they were born?)

417px-Matsyendranath
Mahayogi Meenanath, alternatively called Matsyendra Nath: from wikipedia commons

I would start my story worshipping the creator, the formless one.

Creating the universe, sky, earth and under-earth for fun

As if playing with himself, he worshipped himself unaware

Who brought awareness in him, who was his pair?

Once aware he saw own form in his own eyes. View of his own body brought him euphoric passion; enamoured he embraced the self with all his desire. The passionate lover’s nails tore the body. His Blood oozed out and from that blood were born the moon and the stars. Overwhelmed by own charm he fell unconscious. Once his consciousness restored, he saw himself again. This time his form delighted him – he started laughing. He indulged himself in self-reflection; in deep thought he growled – from his growls born Brahma and Vishnu. Intense thought caused him sweat, and the prime hymn was born from that sweat. Some of the gods, fire and clay were also born from that. The heaven and hell, location and locality, and everything else were born one by one.

Once everything was created, the one who had a beginning (time-bound) and who did not (timeless) sat together to discuss creation. The one who was born asked the eternal omniscient the secret of the creation. The timeless one replied: creation follows the way a tree is born; none knows whether the seed comes first or the tree. The process of Creation is same like churning the butter from milk or making fire brushing two pieces of woods against each other. Learning all secrets of creation and the universe from him, the one who was born, became knowledgeable.

The knowledgeable was engrossed in thinking. Time flew like that – one full moon night passed and also the dark moon night. But within next two days he got up as if resurrected. He yawned; from his mouth was born Shiva taking the form of Yogi, whose hair was matted and ears adorned with conch shell jewellery. Guru Meenanath the healer was born in the middle of the night, already dressed as Siddha. From the bones of the knowledgeable was born Hadipa, from the ears Kanapha, piercing his matted hair arrived Gorakshanath – all of them were Siddhas – the successors. Finally an exquisitely beautiful woman named Gauri was born. The knowledgeable asked if anyone of the successors had the strength to own the woman – all of the Siddhas lowered their head, all went silent. Only exception was Shiva, who even without showing a sign of enchantment, gazed at the divine female. As the knowledgeable suggested, Shiva being the strongest one owned her. The creator ordered Shiva and Gauri to go to the mortal world with the Siddhas. They did not have anything to do in the celestial abode, but a lot needed to be done for the mortal world.

Coming to earth, all of them were staying together. Meenanath and Kanapha were serving Hadipa and Goraksha was serving Meenanath. All of them were practicing yoga together having no other food but air. Yet in course of time Shiva felt desire for Gauri – both of them started conversing with each other. She asked why Shiva adorned himself with a garland made of bones. Shiva replied that the bones came from different forms of Gauri in her previous births. Every time she had died, unbearable pain of separation besieged him. Every time after her death he collected her bone and made a garland out of that to be able to keep her memory with him. When Gauri asked him the reason why she had to die before him every time, he took her to an amazing water-palace in the middle of the sea to tell her the stories in secret.

What none could imagine that the successor Meenanath would follow them in disguise of a fish. Hiding himself in the water he went on listening to their dialogue. He also noticed Gauri falling asleep while the spirited Shiva continued telling his stories. Meenanath went on saying yes affirming her attention in the voice of Gauri, so that the Mahayogi’s storytelling did not disrupt. This way he learned everything Lord Shiva wanted to tell his lady.

After Gauri woke up, she felt ashamed of her falling asleep. She told her husband how bad she felt that she did not listen to the end of stories. Mahadev anyway felt annoyed – who then had hummed “yes” during his storytelling? He had to meditate to find it out. He went upset knowing how his disciple Meenanath tricked him. The obtrusive curiosity of the Yogi in disguise of fish angered him so much, that he cursed his Meenanath – he would forget all the knowledge he earned at the time of need.

After this incident Shiva and Gauri went to Kailas, their mountain abode to enjoy their union in isolation. The group of Shiva’s successors scattered in four directions of the land. Hadipa went towards east, Kanapha towards south. Gorakhnath went to the west and Meenanath towards north – thus creating four schools of Yoga in four directions.

But did Shiva’s curse bring any trouble for Meenanath? We will hear that story too – in next episode.

© Kathakali Mukherjee, 2018

Folktales from Bengal

India, being an old civilisation has rich tradition of folktales. Folklore research of 19th – 20th century discovered many of them. Anyway Folklore studies as a subject was mostly encouraged and funded by western world, European countries or USA. They developed folklore studies as a systematic area of research, discovered stories from different parts of the world, analysed those, found similarities and dissimilarities among different regional folktales. At the same time many stories remained undiscovered. Language and dialects created one obstacle in front of the effort of translating them. Another issue was reaching the locations in remotest corners of the world where a handful of stories could have been hidden.

Being born as Bengali, I had access to good number of Bengali folktales. As I started working on history of Bengali literature, I realised many of the tales of this region are either unknown to the world, i.e. never translated or was translated over hundred years back and then forgotten. Some of those are so old that those make us remember tells of the Puranas, some of them show fantasy comparable to medieval European tells, some carry strong flavour of Bengali societal morals of an unknown era. I thought of presenting some of those stories to my readers to make them aware of the folktale traditions from Bengal. Some of the tales have different version in different districts, also in neighbouring states. Good to remember that political geography of a land changes over the time depending on ruler’s convenience, sometimes making human migration impossible. But change in boundaries of states cannot block stories from traveling from one district to another, even from one part of the land to another – stories are orally transmitted. As long as folk stories are orally created by commoner, also preserved same way, versions change as per storytellers style and understanding – storytellers interpret stories matching to their life’s experience. Interesting is to find similar stories in any two disconnected locations. We can assume similar experiences encourage humans to create similar stories to interpret their world.

The history of Bengali language explains how changes over thousand years, if not more, could have influenced folktales – stories of the commoners developed in this language. We come to know about the existence of some written language in eastern part of India in the Buddhist text Lalitavistara composed not later than 308 CE claiming that Buddhadev learned scripts of Anga, Banga, Brahmi, Saurastri and Māgadhi. And the claim establishes us that there was a distinct script for language spoken in the Banga territory even before the birth of Christ. The geographical boundary of this Banga (Bengal?) before Christ is obviously not very clear to us!

1920px-028_Lalitavistara,_Buddha_and_the_Five_Ascetics
Lalitavistara relief from Borobudur (credit Wikipedia)

The oldest literary work of India, Veda Samhitas including Atharvan do not have any reference to Bangla, or the region Banga. Aitareya Brahmana which is considered one important text among later Vedic literature mentions Vanga as a territory inhabited by barbarian tribes. True that oldest example of Bengali script is found about one thousand years back  — there are manuscripts and inscriptions to support that.

800px-Coin_-_Silver_-_Circa_9-10th_Century_13th_Century_CE_-_Harikela_Kingdom_-_ACCN_90-C2752_-_Indian_Museum_-_Kolkata_2014-04-04_4303
Silver coin with proto-Bengali script, Harikela Kingdom, circa 9th-10th century. Credit: Wikipedia

But a language does not necessarily develop along with a script. History of languages tells that the grammar and script associated to a language usually develop long after the verbal usage of a language starts. And verbal language practice does not leave ‘evidence’ for historians. During colonialist period, a section of European academicians took effort to prove the origin of Bengali language and its script to be somewhere in Europe or Asian territories adjacent to Europe. Problem with those kinds of evidence based historical analysis is, those are based on very limited evidences — those kinds of evidences do not last for centuries. Ashokan inscriptions tell there were around 84000 of them scattered in different parts of the country. We found only around hundred of them! If Samudragupta, the illustrious Gupta King mentioned one of his Bengali subsidiaries in his Allahabad inscription, then there was some language and script in eastern part of the land as early as in fourth century AD. Deciphering inscriptions and manuscripts found in eastern part of India — current West Bengal, Bangladesh, Assam, Bihar, and Odisha, makes us sure of the existence of the predecessor of current Bengali script in 7th\8th century.

Difference between written and spoken language is normal. But when the difference becomes too wide, the written language dies and the spoken modifies to some extent to turn into written language.

Probably same happened in case of Bengali. If Prākrit has replaced Sanskrit in writing, then Prākrit too had to be replaced by its successor in course of time. Scriptural evidences tell us that Bengali was not a cousin, but successor of Prākrit, which began developing as the Buddhist cultural empire started collapsing. Bengali in post-Charyāpada era shows clear changes those make us anticipate that there was some effort to develop Bengali as a sankritised language removing its former Prākrtised form. Medieval Bengali texts like Mangalkavyas in 13th century becomes show signs of this kind of reformed Bengali. Chaitanya literature by 16th century presents the most refined classical form of Bengali in the history of the language. Yet many works of this period till 1st half of 19th century show desire to bring Bengali closer to Sanskrit. Some of the verses written by Bharatchandra Ray in first half of 18th century could be easily designated as Sanskrit verses considering the selection of words, metre and style. Is this an expression against invading Islamic influence on local language and literature? During Islamic rule that started around 13th century AD, Farsi was imposed as official language. Naturally, many of court literature composed in this period shows strong influence of Farsi. In sharp contrast to that, 19th century (during British rule) literature shows an inclination to use Bengali colloquy in literary works, which is no way Prākrit. Anyway most of the Hindu authors in between 18th-20th century mostly used sankritised Bengali as literary language. The Bengali educationist Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar (1820–1891) was the first person who gave Bengali a distinct form as literary language free from the excessive influence of Sanskrit, Farsi and colloquy.

Notable is, considerable section of Bengali folk literature of 17th 18th century also shows lot of influence of Farsi in language. Several hundred years of Islamic rule may have this kind of impact on literary use of language, but how come Bharatchandra Roy’s language is completely free of Farsi influence? Is it possible that different authors of same era opted for different linguistic styles depending on own subject?

Better not to indulge too much in discussing linguistic history . We will discover the stories told in this language – I promise to come up with one of the oldest stories found in Bengali in next episode.

“None knows when the era of Kalidasa was over — only the pundits continue arguing regarding the date and time.” — Rabindranath Tagore

© Kathakali Mukherjee, 2018