From the Galpoghor Series:
The Story of Malan Kumar and Kanchan Shundari
Translated by Kabir Chowdhury
Continued from the Last Issue
“Here I stand before you on your path.”
“But you can't stop me, Kanchan.”
“Yes, I can. You must go to the King and tell him to seat you on Kanchan's right side. If you don't do it I'll go to the King and tell him that you have outraged me. Then I'll see what happens to you.”
Malan Kumar did not know what to do. At last he said, “Look, Kanchan, don't you think I value my life at all? How can I go and make such an absurd proposal to your father? No, I can never do that.”
On hearing this Kanchan Kanya burst into tears. Tears rolled down her cheeks, She was overwhelmed by unutterable grief and dismay. Seeing her condition Malan forgot about the danger to his life and said, “Come, Kanchan, let us go to the King.”
The King was sitting in court at that hour with his Prime Minister, the Revenue Chief and the Chief of Police. Kanchan Shundari and Malan Kumar entered the Royal Hall and then Kanchan Shundari said to Malan, “Go, Malan, speak to the King, and tell him to seat you on my right.”
O Kanchan's father,
Listen to me, please.
Seat me on her right,
Please make her my bride.
As soon as the words reached the King's ears he flew into a rage. The sky and the earth seemed to quiver and crack at his wrath. The King turned toward his Minister and said, “Look, Minister, what is Malan Kumar saying? Listen to his words and punish him. He is your son. You pronounce the verdict.”
The Minister said, “Where is the hangman? O hangman, where are you? Behead Malan Kumar at once.”
The hangman at once started to tie up Malan's hands and feet. When Kanchan Kanya saw this she rushed to the hangman and falling at his feet cried out:
Free my beloved husband, O hangman,
He is my life and soul, O hangman,
Let him go,
O hangman, let him go.
And what did the hangman say? He said, “Princess, I am a hangman, I have to do what the King commands.” After much shedding of tears and piteous importuning the hangman's heart melted. He allowed Kanchan to take Malan away with her. Then the hangman went to the King and said, “Sir, the Princess has snatched Malan Kumar away from my hands. What shall I do now?”
The King did not know what to do. He was very perturbed. He called the Minister to him and said, “Look, Minister, you ordered one to be put to death, but another came in between and set your orders to naught. Tell me what am I to do now.”
The King's Minister was indeed a clever one. He pondered for a moment and said, “Do one thing, Your Highness. Marry Kanchan secretly to a Prince of a distant Kingdom. Make sure that Malan never finds out about it. Only thus can you save two lives."
The King decided to act according to his Minister's advice. He settled Kanchan's marriage with the Prince of another Kingdom, but kept the whole matter secret and hidden from others. Instead he announced that he would give a royal feast to all his subjects. He then arranged to send a number of men to the woods to hunt birds and beasts for the feast. All the people of the Kingdom would participate in the feast. It was no small affair! The King, aided by the clever designs of the Minister, decided to send Malan Kumar along with a party of hunters into the woods. But Malan Kumar was no fool. Somehow he got scent of the whole scheme and refrained from going hunting on some pretext or other.
The Minister again found himself in a fix. After a while he came up with a new plan. He announced that the person who would be able to successfully hit the target in an arrow-shooting contest would be made the commander of ten thousand soldiers and sent to the woods, to kill birds and feasts for the royal feast. People began to take part in the contest. One by one the sons of the Police Chief, the Revenue Chief, and other nobles came and shot their arrows and tried to hit the target. But none succeeded in hitting the Bull's Eye. At last came Malan Kumr and lo! He hit the target right at the center. And then he was packed off to the southern forest at the head of an army ten thousand strong, and the King began to make preparations for Kanchan's wedding.
Malan Kumar rushed toward the southern forest with his men and covered in a fortnight a distance that would normally take others at least a month. On reaching the heart of the forest he asked his men to set up their tents and went out alone to explore the forest.
In a short while it became dusk. Malan found out that there were deer in the forest. When day broke Malan Kumar told his men to barricade the forest. They did what he told them and he shot seven deer with his arrow. His followers were overjoyed at his success. They congratulated him most heartily. They said that they had gone hunting many times before with the King himself and other nobles, but at no time did they enjoy their exploits more. Happy and gay, Malan Kumar returned home with his men, only to find that preparations were afoot to marry Kanchan to a Prince of another Kingdom, and the Prince had already arrived for the wedding.
The untimely arrival of Malan Kumar on the scene upset the King. He had wanted to marry Kanchan off before the return of Malan Kumar from the forest. Now he was again in trouble. He called his Minister and said, “Well, what shall I do now?”
The Minister thought for a while and said, “Your Highness, please pass an order prohibiting the entry of outsiders into the inner quarters of the palace. If anyone enters the same without proper permission he will be put to instantaneous death. Once you promulgate such an order Malan Kumar will not be able to see Kanchan Kanya and talk to her.” The King quickly acted on the Prime Minister's advice and announced his new order by beat of drum.
Malan Kumar was in a quandary. How could he get in touch with Kanchan? He thought and thought and still could not hit upon a plan to solve his problem. They said once you were stuck in a difficult situation all your intelligence evaporated.
Deeply preoccupied, Malan Kumar strolled and reached the hut of a sorrowing, poor, old woman. This sad and poor woman supplied milk to the royal palace everyday. Now somehow she had lost her cow. She had looked for it everywhere, and yet failed to see any trace of it. It was already dusk and the old woman was very worried. It was the Princess's wedding day. If she failed to supply milk on such a day as this she would surely be hanged. She sat on her courtyard and wept bitter tears. Just at that moment Malan Kumar came to the old woman. Seeing her sobbing so disconsolately he said, “What is the matter with you, old woman? Why are you weeping thus?” The old woman told Malan of her troubles.
Then she and Malan went out again to look for the cow. This time their joint efforts bore fruit. The cow was recovered. After milking her the old woman turned to Malan and said, “Look, Malan, I am an old woman. My eyes are bad and I can't see well. It will be very difficult for me to go to the palace this dark night. But it will be a sad thing if I can't supply the Princess with milk today of all days when she is going to be married. I am sure if I could supply the milk today I would receive many gifts and rewards.”
(To Be Continued)
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