The Giant’s Blood-river

Between the town of Egeln and the village Westeregeln in Magdeburg, not far from the Hakels, there was a shallow water canal. The water is red here; and the local people call it the stream of Giant’s blood. 

The story goes like this: once upon a time one of the giants was being chased by another. Running fast to save own life, he crossed the river Elbe. But when he reached the area where now Egeln lies, he could place only one foot on the narrow ground, moreover could not lift the other foot enough to be able to hang from the tower-top of the old castle. He stumbled, tried to get up and crossed a few thousand foots in between, nevertheless finally collapsed.

His nose struck straight with a large boulder in Westeregeln in such a big force that his nasal bone was crushed. A steam of blood flowed and the red flow we see these days is the remains of that.

Reddish river? -picture credit Wikimedia Commons

We have another version of this story. That says that the giant lived in the area of ​​Westeregeln. He enjoyed playing between the mountains, jumping over the village and its small inhabitants and often indulged in this game. But one day he jumped and cut his big toe as it foot struck on the top of the tower. His blood sprang out of the wound in a thousand-foot arc to reach the pool below. Thus the never-ending stream of giant blood was created.

The Eye of the Needle in Bilefeld

At the Bilefeld Abbey, on the left hand side, next to the Harz road, a heavy stone-block stands noticeably on a high mountain. This has a long and narrow passage in its centre. All the farmhands of Nordhausen and the surrounding localities had to crawl through this thrice when they needed to go to the Harz-forest behind Bielefeld to bring fire-woods. Crossing this eye of the needle was cumbersome as well as act of bravery, needless to say. On top of that their comrades behind mercilessly torture them with whip-butts, while they crawled in and out.

If some of them did not want to endure that diversion, they had to liberate themselves from their masters in exchange of money. Farmhands were bonded surfs otherwise. The authorities had forbidden this custom several times, but even their prescribed punishment went in vain. The surfs who tried to avoid the custom of being hurt could not live peacefully with their own group members because others were not ready to accept their rejection of the custom anyway.

But how did the weird stone come their? We have a popular story here: a giant was travelling through this region once. He crossed miles before reaching behind Bilefeld. Coming here he felt that something was pricking him in the shoe. He took his shoes off to check and found a stone inside. He removed the stone and tossed that in the wind. It fell in the place of mountain where it is seen today. It became the eye of the needle.

Through these mountain holes towards the forest behind? – picture credit Wikimedia commons

A stone thrown by a giant and it’s turning a terrible route to cross an otherwise difficult mountain can be a story not so unusual but when people need to tolerate physical torture by own group member while crossing the route, it becomes uncommon.  Content wise a unique story to me; cannot remember any similar story from anywhere.

Throwing the Shirts

This incident happened in Coburg. The girls of the village, curious to know who would be their future lover, were sitting together in a room on Christmas Eve. They followed all mandatory customs religiously. They did not even forget to collect nine kinds of wood-pieces from the forest the day before. As midnight approached, they made a fire in the room and the first one took off her clothes. She threw her shirt out of the door, and chanted standing beside the fire:

“Here I am waiting absolutely naked,

If here comes my lover awaited –

And throws my shirt in my lap, elated! “

Within moments her shirt was thrown inside again. She could also see the face of the man who did throw it. She was happy – this man was truly the person whom she courted later. Seeing her to turn lucky, other girls also undressed one by one, stood naked beside the fire and chanted the same lines. Only thing they did not know was the art of throwing their shirts together wrapped in a cloak. The spirits could not find the exact one they were supposed to collect and throw back. They began to hop around aimlessly outside, roaring and grumbling, so much so that the girls were horrified. Finally the poor girls had to douse the fire and crawl to bed silently to remain unnoticed to the restless spirits. When the girls came out of the room in the morning, they discovered their shirts torn into thousands of small pieces – scattered in front of the door.

Greeting card with Christmas Devil Krampus by 1900 – credit: WIkimedia commons

We know of pagan tradition of decorating homes with branches of evergreen trees during winter solstice; also know how this tradition was maintained, somewhat in a modified way especially by German speaking people even after their conversion to Christianity. Anyway I couldn’t find information about the significance nine types of woods here – would be grateful if any reader can enlighten.

Second interesting idea is the “spirits” – seemingly evil, which appears on Christmas eve when shirts are not properly wrapped by adolescent girls waiting to be selected by potential husband. The Christmas evil Krampus and associated Krampuslauf was popular in Austria and Bavarian regions. Krampus was supposed to take bad children away in his basket; do not know the spirit in the story is similar to that.

Bubenried or the Marshland of the Boys

This is a story from Hessen region.

In the district of Gross-Bieberau there is a valley called Bubenried towards Ueberau. Locals did not go there at night as had fear meeting some hair-raising unknown there.

Eiserner Vorhang in Hessen : picture from Wikimedia commons

Long back, even before the days of war and famine broke out in the region, there lived two beggar boys. They took care of each other with much affection. Since they came to the valley, they always used to share their alms with each other. .

They had saved only a couple of sheet-metal coins those days, but the rich Schulz gave one to a poor soul so that he could share that with his spouse. Anyway they shared everything else well between them. So one afternoon after a hard days begging, returning their abode the boy took out the loaf of bread he earned from his sack. The smell of the fresh bread was so good that he held it close to his nose. He smelled it once, then twice and thrice – the sweet smell made him greedy. He no longer wanted to share it with the other boy, rather keep it to himself. He began eating it instantly.

The peace between them came to an end. That was the first time they quarreled, and from the words it came to scuffling and wrestling. None of them could dominate the other. Each one tore a pole from the pen to fight with each the other as if they were led by the evil spirit. After fighting long they fatally hit on each other’s head. Both died together. It was such a ferocious fight that even after three nights after the violent death of both, no leaf on any tree around that marshland dared moving – no bird sang in the valley. After their death they turned into monsters and staying there since then. You will hear them whimpering and whining once you go there.

Which war the story is talking about? Since 15th century the ownership of the region changed hands several times and hence might have seen many wars. IN recent history we know of 30 years war that took place in 18th century and at the end of which the region became part of Großherzogtum (Grand Duchy) Hessen.

The Christ of Wittenberg

They say that there was a magic picture of Christ in Wittenberg. It was a beautiful painting indeed, also had an amazing quality. It always showed a man one inch larger than his actual size whenever one looked at the picture standing in front – be the person of a large built or a small one.

Schlosskirche Wittenberg : picture credit Wikipedia commons

The Village at the Sea-side

A Story from Holstein

A holy man walked to the shore, looked at the sky and went on praying. As it was the Sunday afternoon, all the villagers came to celebrate there well dressed – mostly in shining silks, with their sweethearts in their arms. They began jeering at the saint’s devoutness. He did not pay attention to their words. What’s more – he prayed to God not to attribute that sin of mocking at a saint to them.

But God has his own will. Two oxen entered the village next morning. They walked straight towards the sand-dune close to the village and began rummaging it with their long crooked horns. They continued doing so till the nightfall, till the time they went invisible in the darkness. The night came with a strong stormy wind that blew the entire loose mountain of sand over the village. Whole village including agricultural fields and water bodies were soon buried under the layer of sand. Nothing that could breathe survived.

Again in next morning, people from nearby village gathered to measure the loss and dig up the buried land. They worked all day, but at night came the storm to cover everything again. For many days they toiled hard during daytime to remove the sand while a sandstorm buried everything again at night. Finally people gave up. And the village looks like a desert even today.

German Warden Sea – Schlesswig Holstein : picture from Wikimedia commons

The Dancing Mountain-dwarfs

The story comes from Brixen, located in South Tirol of Northern Italy. This region was once under German rule. Bavarians captured the area from Romans in the end of sixth century and in tenth century it became Bishopric till it’s annexation by Austrian empire in 19th century. Post-world war boundary settlement differed but German remained first language of the region.

The old inhabitants of the city claimed the story to be authentic. It happened in the village named Glass, an hour’s drive from Wunderberg and an hour from the city of Salzburg.

A wedding was taking place in the village. A mountain man came down from Wunderberg to join the celebration towards evening. He exhorted all the guests to be sincerely cheerful. He demanded that everyone should be happy to honour the wedding celebration, and to express the happiness everyone should dance with him. None said no to him as well. He performed three dances with the bride and each of all young ladies with an extraordinary merriment, which all the guests at the wedding observed with sheer amazement. After the dance he thanked all and gifted all young ladies three gold-coins from an unknown land. Each coin would value hefty amount in the currency known to the village. Everyone understood that the coins would assure a happy and peaceful life of a Christ follower which would help ladies also baptize and educate all their children for a good pious life. The mountain man announced that the blessed people would hardly face any distress in life if the coins were used for money; only thing they would have to ensure was to live the life of a Good Samaritan, not turning too ambitious but always share their abundance with the neighbours.

That mountain man stayed with them till nightfall, and took a little amount of food and drinks from everyone so that none gets disappointed. After the celebration was over, thanking everyone again he requested the host that a boatman should take him towards the mountain across the river Salzach. Johann Ständl was a boatman who came there as a wedding guest eagerly accepted his proposition. They started sailing together. After reaching the destination, the boatman asked for reward and the mountain man humbly gave him three pennies. The boatman disdained that very little amount. However the little passenger told him not to be annoyed but keep the little amount instead. In future, those pennies would save him from his impious habits. He also gave the ferryman a small pebble saying, “You will never sink in water if you keep this tied in your neck.” The boatman came back that day. What a wonder! The pebble proved its power in the same year when the boat met an accident in the river.

The boatman followed the pious path and lived a happy life thereafter.

A medieval tale obviously created after the advent in Christianity in the mentioned region. Many of this kinds of stories praising the path of Christ and importance of following Christianity are scattered in entire Europe – giving an idea how the religion influenced people in remote villages once by proving its magical strength.

Men of the Mountain

Numerous Swiss folktales tell the tale of mountain ghosts. The stories are popular not only among the folks in the mountain region but also in the valleys till Gelterfingen and Rümlingen in Bern midland.

The mountain–ghosts are actually dwarfish mountain-men. They were shepherd by profession but their livestock does not include goats, sheep and cows. As a matter of fact they reared chamois. From chamois-milk they made cheese which grow again to make a block whole again once a piece is cut or bitten from it. Anyway the eater should not be too careless to consume the entire block without leaving leftover.  

Chamois -photo from Wikimedia commons

These mountain people lived peacefully in the quiet and innermost cliffs of the mountains. They were diligent and introvert; seldom appeared before our kind of humans. In fact their appearing indicated suffering and misfortune for other humans; however seeing them dancing on the mats was considered the forecast of a blessed year ahead.

Their lost lambs at times led them to human’s houses; also poor kids who went to forest to collect woods, at times found milk bowls or small baskets with berries left by those dwarves.

Once a herdsman was plowing his field accompanied with his servant when they saw steam and smoke on a stone wall. The servant said, “The dwarf-men are cooking! They are boiling stew I see. Also we are very hungry. Only if we had a bowlful of that!”

As soon as they turned their plough, they saw a white sheet spread before them on which a plate with freshly baked cookies was placed. The thankful men ate to their heart’s content. By the time they returned home in the evening, the plate and knives disappeared, but the white tablecloth was still there. The peasant took it to home as a memento.

Poltergeist in the Castle of Linz

The castle of Linz in Austria may be a castle museum today but it was once haunted. A poltergeist known as Chinmeke in Pomeranian region of North-East Germany lived in this castle. To keep him pleased, people had to keep milk for him every evening. One kitchen boy was not among these superstitious people. He consumed the milk. The angry poltergeist chopped him up into small pieces and kept the pieces in an earthen pot. This pot in which Chimmeke chilled his anger was a visitors attraction for long.

Friedrichstor in Castle Linz – credit Wikimedia Commons

Buttermilk Tower

This is the story of Buttermilchthurm  or Buttermilk tower. Once it was located in Marienburg in Prussia. Now it lies in Malbork area in Poland where we find ruins of a Teutonic castle too. One powerful Teutonic knight lived in that castle. He had ordered some buttermilk for himself from the neighbouring village. But the peasants jeered at his message-carriers.  Two men from the village carrying a large barrel full of buttermilk arrived at the knight’s castle only after a few days. The enraged knight imprisoned those two farmers in one tower. He kept them locked there till they drank all the buttermilk from the barrel. The tower is called Buttermilk tower since then.


We have heard another story as well: the inhabitants of a neighbouring village had to make a road to the building site spending a fortune. Through the road they carried gallons of buttermilk instead of water to prepare the lime.  The mortar they prepared this way was more than what they needed for the road. Hence a tower was built using that mortar later. Obviously the tower was named Buttermilk tower.

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.  

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 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?”

 -“No.”

-“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

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.

Sage

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.

Fable

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.)