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     Volume 2 Issue 3 | February 03, 2007 |


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From the Galpaghor Series:
The Story of Jiradhani

Translated by Kabir Chowdhury

In “The Story of Jiradhani” we come across the faith in reincarnation. We have already mentioned before of the similarity in motifs in the folktales of various parts of the world. This similarity extends to the domain of the plot and the episode, too. In fact we meet with many different versions of the same tale with minor variations of text. “The Story of Jiradhani” presented in this volume has been collected from the district of Faridpur in Bangladesh. This story is, however, prevalent in various parts of Khulna district, too, were it goes by the title “Lebu-Shundari” (The Lemon Beauty).

They were seven brothers and they had only one sister. Her name was Jiradhani. Along with her bothers she, too, went to school to learn how to read and write. One day her younger brother Dalim Kumar found a little sapling of a pomegranate tree and planted it behind the main room of their house and said that whoever ate the first pomegranate borne by this tree would be his bride.

Everybody in the household heard about this announcement of Dalim Kumar except Jiradhani. It is said, "What is lotted can never be blotted." Who could evade what fate had decreed? In an earlier life Dalim Kumar and Jiradhani were man and wife. For their good deeds in an earlier life they were born as brother and sister in this life. And now they would again be man and wife. Dalim Kumar watered his plant everyday and slowly it grew into a big tree and bore flowers and fruits in due course. One day Jiradhani plucked a pomegranate and ate it with great relish.

Dalim Kumar had gone to school. When he came back he found that someone had eaten up his big ripe pomegranate. He raged and fumed and went into the Hall of Anger, and lay down there. Everybody in the house took their meals, but not Dalim Kumar. His mother and his father requested him to eat something but he paid no heed to their requests.

At last the wife of his eldest brother divulged the fact that Jiradhani had eaten his pomegranate. Now Jiradhani had to be married to Dalim Kumar, otherwise the latter would not touch food or drink.

When they heard this they were all very upset. How could that be? How could a brother marry his sister? What would the people say? But the parents of Dalim Kumar felt quite concerned about their son, whom they knew very well. He never gave up. He would rather die than give up. If he ever pledged anything he would see that his pledge was redeemed at all costs. Dalim Kumar's sisters-in-law tried in vain to make him see reason. His brothers tried hard to make him give up his mad resolve but with no success.

At last his parents said that, well, since he was so adamant let them be married. What did it matter after all? Many crazy things happened everyday all over the world. Who kept track of them and who cared?

When Dalim Kumar heard his parents speak in this manner he broke his fast and took his meal. In the meantime Jiradhani too had heard about everything. Well, what could she do? She was a girl and had no importance at all. Boys were different. They were precious. They were like gold to the parents.

Jiradhani decided to fast unto death rather than marry her younger brother. She raged and fumed and went into the Hall of Anger. Then after a while she went to the riverside and decided to drown herself there. All the members of her family followed her there. Jiradhani stepped into the water which ran over her feet. Just at that moment her father came up to her and said,

"The water is rising, O Jiradhani,

Come and break your fast."

Jiradhani turned to her father and with tears swimming in her eyes said,

"Being my father you will be my father-in-law,

Well, that is something my heart can never stand.

Go home, father,

And let me drown in the waters of this river."

The father went back home. Then Jiradhani's mother went up to her daughter who stood, by this time, in ankle-deep water. Her mother said.

"The water is rising, O Jiradhani,

Come and break your fast."

Jiradhani looked at her mother and sobbed aloud and said,

"Being my mother you will be my mother-in-law,

Well, that is something my heart can never stand.

Go home, mother,

And let me drown in the waters of this river."

Jiradhani refused to go back. The waters came up to her waist. Then her eldest brother went up to her and said,

"The water is rising, O Jiradhani,

Come, sister, and break your fast."

Jiradhani raised her eyes for a moment to her brother and said,
"Being my brother you will be my brother-in-law,

Well, that is something my heart can never stand.

Go home, brother,

And let me drown in the waters of this river."

Jiradhani did not come back home. Then the other brothers and the other sisters-in-law went up to her but Jiradhani listened to none. And then she went under the waters and was drowned. Everybody shed tears and made laments, and then slowly went back home.

Now after Jiradhani went deep down into the river she found a large oyster-shell. She entered the shell and made her home there.

People forgot about Jiradhani and, in course of time, no one had any remembrance of her.

Everybody knew that Jiradhani was dead.

Now a fisherman with the members of his family lived near the riverside. They cast their net in the river and lived by selling the fish they caught. For many days they could catch scanty fish and only somehow managed to eke out their living.

It was a moonlit night when they cast their net in the river again and again, only to find it empty and without any catch. But when they threw the net once very close to the bank and dragged it up they found caught in their net a big oyster-shell, the like of which they had never seen before in their life.

They took the shell home with them. Now the fisherman's wife was very clever. She had heard from other men that oyster-shells had pearls hidden in them. She tried hard to pry the shell open but failed. At last she decided to take the shell to the royal palace and see if she could get some money in exchange for it.

One day the fisherman's wife left her home early in the morning and went to the King's palace taking the oyster-shell with her. She found the queen sitting by the ghat of the palace tank. The queen saw the fisherman's wife and asked her to come to her. The fisherman's wife went and sat by the queen and showed her the oyster-shell to which the queen at once took a great fancy. She paid the fisherman's wife a handsome amount and bought it from her.

The queen pondered as to where she should store the oyster-shell. At last she decided to keep it in one corner of the dark room. And that was what she finally did.

Jiradhani came out of the shell every night, swept the courtyard of the palace neatly, and went back into the shell before the night was over and the day broke. The queen saw her sweeping the courtyard but failed to understand as to where she came from.

On the night of the new moon when everywhere it was pitch dark the queen suddenly saw that her dark room was shining with bright light. Then it seemed that someone opened the door of the room and stepped out. The queen kept quiet and in a minute she saw a beautiful maiden, bright and luminous, sweeping the courtyard of her palace. The queen quietly and all alone saw the maiden carry on her work.

And then when the night was nearly over the maiden quickly slipped into the dark room and got inside the oyster-shell, but a corner of her skirt got stuck and showed outside the shell.

When daylight dawned the queen entered the dark room and looked for the beautiful maiden everywhere but found no trace of her anywhere. Then she noticed the corner of a skirt peeping out from inside the shell. She took hold of the corner of the skirt and pulled with all her might but nothing happened. The queen decided to wait and see what happened again when night fell. She was determined not to be duped any more. She shut the door of the dark room firmly and came out.

Night fell. Everybody in the palace lay asleep. Everybody except the queen. She looked at the dark room and found it full of light. She kept quiet and continued to watch. Jiradhani came out of the room and swept the courtyard. The queen in the mean time tiptoed into the dark room, got hold of the shell, and threw it hard on to the floor shattering it into seven pieces.

Slowly the darkness lifted and it was nearly dawn. Jiradhani slipped into the dark room and found the shell broken into pieces. What would she do now? She worried and worried and wept. Even the trees were moved by her tears and started shedding their leaves.

Then the queen stepped inside the dark room and saw that a beautiful maiden, pretty as gold, was weeping disconsolately. She affectionately took her hands in her own two hands and asked her why she was weeping.

The maiden gradually told her about her sad plight. The queen thought that since they had no children of their own it would not be a bad thing to adopt this maiden and have her live with them. Word was sent to the King who was delighted to hear about it. He made a royal proclamation, and all the people rejoiced and made merry and showered praise and blessings on the royal couple.

After some time the queen wanted to marry the beautiful maiden to some noble young man. The King sent his emissaries far and wide in search of a suitable bridegroom for Jiradhani, but they found none whom they could approve of and recommend. At last the King himself set out to look for a bridegroom for the maiden. His ministers and his generals accompanied him. They moved from one kingdom into another and thus came at last to the land of Jiradhani's father.

When the people saw the King's men they took fright and started fleeing into the woods. Jiradhani's father heard about it and sent his men to catch hold of all the people and bring them back. They joined the King's forces and did as they were told.

Jiradhani's father heard about the King's mission from him. He showed him his youngest son, to whom the King took an immediate fancy. Soon a date for the wedding was set and on an auspicious day the King left with Dalim Kumar and came back to his own kingdom. There were rejoicing and festivities everywhere. And then, amidst great pomp and grandeur, Dalim Kumar and Jiradhani were married.

The mouse ran into the woods,

And here ends my fairy tale.

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