The Enchanted Brahman's Son
In the city of Radschagriha there lived a Brahman by the name of Devasarman. His childless wife wept bitterly whenever she saw the neighbors' children. One day the Brahman said to her, "Dear one, stop your grieving. Behold, I was offering a sacrifice for the birth of a son when an invisible being said to me in the clearest words, 'Brahman, you shall be granted this son, and he shall surpass all men in beauty and virtue, and good fortune shall be his.'"
After hearing this, the Brahman's wife was overjoyed, and she said, "Such promises must come true." In the course of time she became pregnant and gave birth to a snake. When her attendants saw it, they all cried out, "Throw it away!" However, she paid no attention to them, but instead picked it up, had it bathed, and -- filled with a mother's love toward her son -- laid it in a large, clean container, fed it milk, fresh butter, and the like, so that within a few days it had reached its full growth.
Once when the Brahman's wife witnessed the wedding feast of a neighbor's son, her eyes clouded over with tears, and she said to her husband, "You treat me with contempt, because you are not making any effort at all to arrange a wedding for my dear child!"
When he heard this, the Brahman said, "Honored one! To achieve that I would have to go to the depths of hell and beseech Pasuki, the King of Snakes, for who else, you fool, would give his daughter in marriage to a snake?"
Having said this, he looked at his wife with her exceedingly sad face, and -- for the sake of her love and in order to pacify her -- he took some travel provisions and departed for a foreign land. After traveling about for several months he came to a place by the name of Kukutanagara. There, as evening fell, he was received by an acquaintance, a member of his caste. He was given a bath, food, and every necessity, and he spent the night there.
The next morning he took leave and was preparing to set forth once again, when his host said, "What brought you to this place, and where are you going now?"
The Brahman answered, "I have come to seek an appropriate bride for my son."
After hearing this, the host said, "If that is the case, then I have a very appropriate daughter. I have only respect for you. Take her for your son!" Acting upon these words, the Brahman took the girl, together with her servants, and returned to his home city. However, when the inhabitants of this region saw the girl, who was beautiful, gifted, and charming beyond comparison, they opened their eyes wide with love for her, and said to her attendants, "How could you deliver such a jewel of a girl to a snake?"
After hearing this, all of her companions were horrified, and they said, "She must be rescued from the murderer set up by this old Brahman."
Hearing this, the maiden said, "Spare me from such deception, for behold:
Kings speak but once. The virtuous speak but once. A girl is promised in marriage but once. These three things happen but once.
Not even wise men and gods can change the decrees of fate.
And moreover, my father shall not be reproached for his daughter's falseness."
Having said that, and with the permission of her attendants, she married the snake. She showed him proper respect, and served him milk and similar things.
One night the snake left his large basket, which was kept in the bedroom, and climbed into his wife's bed. She cried out, "Who is this creature, shaped like a man?"
Thinking it was a strange man, she jumped up. Shaking all over, she tore open the door and wanted to rush away, when the snake said, "Dear one! Stay here! I am your husband!" To convince her of this, he once again entered the body that he had left in the basket, then left it again. He was wearing a magnificent diadem, rings, bands, and bracelets on his upper and lower arms. His wife fell at his feet. Then together they partook of the joys of love.
His father, the Brahman, had arisen earlier than his son, and saw everything. He took the snake skin, which was lying in the basket, and burned it in the fire, saying, "He shall not enter it again." Later that morning, filled with joy, he presented his son to his family. Vitalized by unending love, he became an ideal son.
The magic flute
Bansilal had worked three long years in the fields of a miserly zamindar. On his fourteenth birthday he decided he would go in search of greener pastures."Babuji, please pay me for my years of hard work. I wish to find my fortune and travel to Banaras." "Hah!" scowled the zamindar. "Fortune indeed! And do you know how far Banaras is?" "I have made up my mind, Babuji," insisted Bansilal "So be it," replied the zamindar, talking a sniff of snuff and opening a fat sack of money. He handed three silver coins to Bansilal."A coin for each year. No arguments now." Bansilal had not intended to argue. He was happy with the three silver coins. It was more than he thought the miser would give him. He slung his pack of belongings over his shoulder and set off on the dusty path to fame and fortune. At dusk, tired and weary, Bansilal found a place to sleep under a hung banyan tree. there he met a strange old man. His long, matted hair was bunched upon his head, tired by a piece of rusty wire. His scrawny body was covered with a cracked layer of mud. His only piece of clothing, a loincloth, was ragged beyond repair."Baba, may I share the shade of this banyan with you?" asked Bansilal humbly. The old man opened his eyes."You have come, “he stated simply. "The one who is to share my wisdom." "I am Bansilal, a farmhand. I have little wisdom. I have only three silver coins. I will give them to you as gurudakshina if you give me some of your wisdom guruji."The old man shook with laughter."Yes, I will take your silver thought I have not need of it. Stay with me for a day and I will teach you all you need to know."Bansilal agreed. Next morning the old man taught Bansilal a mantra which could make anything happen. Then he gave him a sandalwood flute."Guruji,I am most grateful for the flute, but I do not know how to play it, “said Bansilal."All you do is blow. The flute plays itself. And anyone who hears its sweet music can't help but dance. Go now. And may fortune light your way, my son."Bansilal set off for Banaras again. He was very excited with his new powers. He wanted to try them out immediately. In the distance Bansilal saw a fat pigeon sitting on the branch of a babul tree."Aha!' he thought.' That bird will make me a good lunch."He chanted the mantra hoping that the bird would fall to the ground. The bird fell as if hit by an arrow. But as it happened, it fell straight into the lap of a robber who was hiding behind a thorny bush with a sack of stole jewels. Bansilal asked for the pigeon, but the robber that as it had fallen into his lap it was his. This annoyed Bansilal. He put the sandalwood flute to his mouth. No sooner did he begin to blow than the sweetest sound emerged. The robber could not help himself. He began to dance. He danced and danced until he was ready to drop from exhaustion."Okay,” Okay! Take the rotten bird. Take the jewels I stole. Take everything I own. But please, please stop playing that tune. Please!"Bansilal took pity on the man and put his flute down. The robber did not wait. He fled for dear life, leaving both the pigeon and his sack of loot. Bansilal was rich and happy. He continued on his way, amazed at his luck. The robber ran until he reached a village. There he thought of a plan. He disguised himself as a nobleman and went to complain to the sarpanch."...So you see, this boy stole all my jewels. I am ruined!" he said, a tear trickling down his cheek. "Fear not, my friend, "said the sarpanch. "This village is known far and wide for its honesty. We will find that rascal and restore your inheritance to you." The robber rubbed his hands gleefully. Revenge was close at hand. Poor Bansilal. He was soon accosted by a group of villagers carrying stick and clubs and sickles. They tied him up, flung him over a donkey's back, and rode home triumphantly."But what have I done?"asked a bewildered Bansilal. He stood in front of the village panchayat."You shameless, good-for-nothing rascal, “said the sarpanch scathingly. "First you steal from my good friend here, “he pointed to the robber who was sitting elegantly on a charpai," and then you have the audacity to asked me what you have done. Here the punishment for robbery is death!"Bansilal knew he was trapped. How was he ever going to prove his innocence? Well, at least he would die knowing that he had been a rich man, if only for a few hours."What is your last request?"asked the sarpanch of the condemned boy."That I may play my flute for a few minutes," said Bansilal hastily."No!"shouted the robber-nobleman."Do not allow that!" "It seems a reasonably harmless request to me," said the sarpanch."You may play. But only for five minutes."Bansilal picked up his flute and began to blow. In two minutes flat, the entire panchayat was dancing relentlessly. He was waiting for the robber to own up to his misdeeds."Stop!"screa med the robber."Stop! I can't dance anymore. Please stop. Keep the jewels. They were stolen anyway. Just let me sit down and rest."The sarpanch could not believe his ears. Bansilal stopped blowing into his flute."Is this true?"asked the sarpanch."You stole this money and put the blame on this young boy?" "Yes, yes. It is true," said the robber. He sat down heavily."Then you must be punished. This boy will decide your fate."Bansilal ha d picked up his belongings and his flute."Tell him to return the jewels to their rightful owners. Then he must work in the fields for three years, like I did. That will soon cure him of his thieving ways!"he said. Then, with a laugh he set off in the direction of Banaras.
Folktale from Nepal
The woodcutter and Death
Once there lived an old woodcutter. He was very poor and could scarcely make ends meet. One day he went into the forest and gathered a lot more wood than usual. As he bent down to lift the bundle onto his shoulders he found that he was too frail to raise the heavy weight. He sighed deeply and cursing his age, said: "If only I were dead." Suddenly someone stood next to him. A strange voice asked: "Did you call me?" The woodcutter felt a great fear. "No, no I didn't", he lied.
Ignoring the old man's clumsy deception Death made himself known. He explained that he had simply come, because he had been called. The woodcutter became less frightened and looked at Death. He found it very hard to believe that this was really Death himself. Seeing his doubt, Death pointed at an old woman who bathed in a nearby pond. The woman suddenly fell and died. This immediately brought the woodcutter to his senses. He at once remembered why he had wanted to die, and asked Death, now that he was here, if he could please give him a hand and lift the bundle of wood onto his shoulders. Death gladly obliged. The woodcutter was ready to hurry home, when the thought came to him that he might ask how much longer he had to live. As he left, Death answered: "Five years to a day."
That night the woodcutter did not sleep very well. Tumultuous thoughts haunted him. Early the next morning he returned to the forest. He looked for a big, big tree. And when he found it, he cut a single hole in the bottom of the tree. Then he started carving out the inside of the trunk. He carved for five whole years.
Then Death returned. Just as he said he would. The old woodcutter promised to come along, but, he said, before he was ready to leave the world, he so much wanted Death to see what he had carved as a gift for the people who would live long after he had died. They went to the woods. Deep into the woods they went. Death climbed into the tree-trunk. Proudly the woodcutter showed him round. When Death was in the top of the tree-trunk house, the woodcutter hastened down, crept outside, jammed a log into the entrance hole and hurried home.
Time passed. People and animals gave birth, but Death came to no one. Hunger and illness resided everywhere, yet nobody died. Even the gods became alarmed. They approached the Lord Shiva, the great one, who, donning the garb of a human being, decided to come to earth. He went immediately to the old woodcutter and asked him if he still wanted to go on living.
The poor woodcutter was by now even older and weaker, and so ill that he could hardly leave his resting- place, let alone return to the forest where Death was locked inside the tree- house. Quietly the old woodcutter acknowledge that, at last, he was ready to die. Then the Lord Shiva helped the old man to get up. Slowly they walked to the forest. They went deep into the woods. Then he opened the tree and released Death. Death was shaken by his ordeal in the tree. He pleaded with the Lord Shiva to make him from now on invisible, so that people could no longer devise ways to stave him off. "So be it", Lord Shiva said.
From that day onwards Death has been invisible to humankind, though he sees all of us. And the woodcutter, he died.