was a king who had two queens, Duo and Suo1.
Both of them were childless. One day a Faquir (mendicant) came to the
palace-gate to ask for alms. The Suo queen went to the door with a handful
of rice. The mendicant asked whether she had any children. On being answered
in the negative, the holy mendicant refused to take alms, as the hands of a
woman unblessed with child are regarded as ceremonially unclean. He offered
her a drug for removing her barrenness, and she expressing her willingness
to receive it, he gave it to her with the following directions: "Take this
nostrum, swallow it with the juice of the pomegranate flower; if you do
this, you will have a son in due time. The son will be exceedingly handsome,
and his complexion will be of the colour of the pomegranate flower; and you
shall call him Dalim Kumar2.
As enemies will try to take away the life of your son, I may as well tell
you that the life of the boy will be bound up in the life of a big boal
fish which is in your tank, in front of the palace. In the heart of the
fish is a small box of wood, in the box is a necklace of gold, that necklace
is the life of your son. Farewell."
In the course of a month or so it was
whispered in the palace that the Suo queen had hopes of an heir. Great was
the joy of the king. Visions of an heir to the throne, and of a never-ending
succession of powerful monarchs perpetuating his dynasty to the latest
generations, floated before his mind, and made him glad as he had never been
in his life. The usual ceremonies performed on such occasions were
celebrated with great pomp; and the subjects made loud demonstrations of
their joy at the anticipation of so auspicious an event as the birth of a
prince. In the fullness of time the Suo queen gave birth to a son of
uncommon beauty. When the king the first time saw the face of the infant,
his heart leaped with joy. The ceremony of the child's first rice was
celebrated with extraordinary pomp, and the whole kingdom was filled with
In course of time Dalim Kumar grew up a fine
boy. Of all sports he was most addicted to playing with pigeons. This
brought him into frequent contact with his stepmother, the Duo queen, into
whose apartments Dalim's pigeons had a trick of always flying. The first
time the pigeons flew into her rooms, she readily gave them up to the owner;
but the second time she gave them up with some reluctance. The fact is that
the Duo queen, perceiving that Dalim's pigeons had this happy knack of
flying into her apartments, wished to take advantage of it for the
furtherance of her own selfish views. She naturally hated the child, as the
king, since his birth, neglected her more than ever, and idolised the
fortunate mother of Dalim. She had heard, it is not known how, that the holy
mendicant that had given the famous pill to the Suo queen had also told her
of a secret connected with the child's life. She had heard that the child's
life was bound up with something -- she did not know with what. She
determined to extort that secret from the boy. Accordingly, the next time
the pigeons flew into her rooms, she refused to give them up, addressing the
child thus:- "I won't give the pigeons up unless you tell me one thing."
Dalim. What thing,
Duo. Nothing particular,
my darling; I only want to know in what your life is.
Dalim. What is that,
mamma? Where can my life be except in me?
Duo. No, child; that is
not what I mean. A holy mendicant told your mother that your life is bound
up with something. I wish to know what that thing is.
Dalim. I never heard of
any such thing, mamma.
Duo. If you promise to
inquire of your mother in what thing your life is, and if you tell me what
your mother says, then I will let you have the pigeons, otherwise not.
Dalim. Very well, I'll
inquire, and let you know. Now, please, give me my pigeons.
Duo. I'll give them on
one condition more. Promise to me that you will not tell your mother that I
want the information.
Dalim. I promise.
The Duo queen let go the pigeons, and Dalim,
overjoyed to find again his beloved birds, forgot every syllable of the
conversation he had had with his stepmother. The next day, however, the
pigeons again flew into the Duo queen's rooms. Dalim went to his stepmother,
who asked him for the required information. The boy promised to ask his
mother that very day, and begged hard for the release of the pigeons. The
pigeons were at last delivered. After play, Dalim went to his mother and
said -- "Mamma, please tell me in what my life is contained." "What do you
mean, child?" asked the mother, astonished beyond measure at the child's
extraordinary question. "Yes, mamma," rejoined the child, "I have heard a
holy mendicant told you that my life is contained in something. Tell me what
that thing is." "My pet, my darling, my treasure, my golden moon, do not ask
such an inauspicious question. Let the mouth of my enemies be covered with
ashes, and let my Dalim live for ever," said the mother, earnestly. But the
child insisted on being informed of the secret. He said he would not eat or
drink anything unless the information were given him. The Suo queen, pressed
by the importunity of her son, in an evil hour told the child the secret of
his life. The next day the pigeons again, as fate would have it, flew into
the Duo queen's rooms. Dalim went for them; the stepmother plied the boy
with sugared words, and obtained the knowledge of the secret.
The Duo queen, on learning the secret of
Dalim Kumar's life, lost no time in using it for the prosecution of her
malicious design. She told her maid-servants to get for her some dried
stalks of the hemp plant, which are very brittle, and which, when pressed
upon, make a peculiar noise, not unlike the cracking of joints of bones in
the human body. These hemp stalks she put under her bed, upon which she laid
herself down and gave out that she was dangerously ill. The king, though he
did not love her so well as his other queen, was in duty bound to visit her
in her illness. The queen pretended that her bones were all cracking; and
sure enough, when she tossed from one side of her bed to the other, the hemp
stalks made the noise wanted. The king, believing that the Duo queen was
seriously ill, ordered his best physician to attend her. With that physician
the Duo queen was in collusion. The physician said to the king that for the
queen's complaint there was but one remedy, which consisted in the outward
application of something to be found inside a large boal fish
which was in the tank before the palace. The king's fisherman was
accordingly called and ordered to catch the boal in question.
On the first throw of the net the fish was caught. It so happened that Dalim
Kumar, along with other boys, was playing not far from the tank. The moment
the boal fish was caught in the net, that moment Dalim felt unwell;
and when the fish was brought up to land, Dalim fell down on the ground, and
made as if he was about to breath his last. He was immediately taken into
his mother's room, and the king was astonished on hearing of the sudden
illness of his son and heir. The fish was by the order of the physician
taken into the room of the Duo queen, and as it lay on the floor striking
its fins on the ground, Dalim in his mother's room was given up for lost.
When the fish was cut open, a casket was found in it; and in the casket lay
a necklace of gold. The moment the necklace was worn by the queen, that very
moment Dalim died in his mother's room.
When the news of the death of his son and
heir reached the king he was plunged into an ocean of grief, which was not
lessened in any degree by the intelligence of the recovery of the Duo queen.
He wept over his head Dalim so bitterly that his courtiers were apprehensive
of a permanent derangement of his mental powers. The king would not allow
the dead body of his son to be either buried or burnt. He could not realise
the fact of his son's death; it was so entirely causeless and so terribly
sudden. He ordered the dead body to be removed to one of his garden-houses
in the suburbs of the city, and to be laid there in state. He ordered that
all sorts of provisions should be stowed away in that house, as if the young
prince needed them for his refection. Orders were issued that the house
should be kept locked up day and night, and that no one should go into it
except Dalim's most intimate friend, the son of the king's prime minister,
who was intrusted with the key of the house and who obtained the privilege
of entering it once in twenty-four house.
As, owing to her great loss, the Suo queen
lived in retirement, the king gave up his nights entirely to the Duo queen.
The latter, in order to allay suspicion, used to put aside the gold necklace
at night; and, as fate had ordained that Dalim should be in the state of
death only during the time that the necklace was round the neck of the
queen, he passed into the state of life whenever the necklace was laid
aside. Accordingly Dalim revived every night, as the Duo queen every night
put away the necklace, and died again the next morning when the queen put it
on. When Dalim became reanimated at night he ate whatever food he liked, for
of such there was a plentiful stock in the garden-house, walked about on the
premises, and mediated on the singularity of his lot. Dalim's friend, who
visited him only during the day, found him always lying a lifeless corpse;
but what struck him after some days was the singular fact that the body
remained in the same state in which he saw it on the first day of his visit.
There was no sign of putrefaction. Except that it was lifeless and pale,
there were no symptoms of corruption -- it was apparently quite fresh.
Unable to account for so strange a phenomenon, he determined to watch the
corpse more closely, and to visit it not only during the day but sometimes
also at night. The first night that he paid his visit he was astounded to
see his dead friend sauntering about in the garden. At first he though the
figure might be only the ghost of his friend, but on feeling him and
otherwise examining him, he found the apparition to be veritable flesh and
blood. Dalim related to his friend all the circumstances connected with his
death; and they both concluded that he revived at nights only because the
Duo queen put aside her necklace when the king visited her. As the life of
the prince depended on the necklace, the two friends laid their heads
together to devise if possible some plans by which they might get possession
of it. Night after night they consulted together, but they could not think
of any feasible scheme. At length the gods brought about the deliverance of
Dalim Kumar in a wonderful manner.
Some years before the time of which we are
speaking, the sister of Bidhata-Purusha3
was delivered of a daughter. The anxious mother asked her brother what he
had written on her child's forehead; to which Bidhata-Purusha replied that
she would get married to a dead bridegroom. Maddened as she became with
grief at the prospect of such a dreary destiny for her daughter, she yet
thought it useless to remonstrate with her brother, for she well knew that
he never changed what he once wrote. As the child grew in years she became
exceedingly beautiful, but the mother could not look upon her with pleasure
in consequence of the portion allotted to her by her divine brother. When
the girl came to marriageable age, the mother resolved to flee from the
country with her, and thus avert her dreadful destiny. But the decrees of
fate cannot thus be overruled. In the course of their wanderings the mother
and daughter arrived at the gate of that very garden-house in which Dalim
Kumar lay. It was evening. The girl said she was thirsty and wanted to drink
water. The mother told her daughter to sit at the gate, while she went to
search for drinking water in some neighbouring hut. In the meantime the girl
through curiosity pushed the door of the garden-house, which opened of
itself. She then went in and saw a beautiful palace, and was wishing to come
out when the door shut itself of its own accord, so that she could not get
out. As night came on the prince revived, and, walking about, saw a human
figure near the gate. He went up to it, and found it was a girl of
surpassing beauty. On being asked who she was, she told Dalim Kumar all the
details of her little history,-- how her uncle, the Bidhata-Purusha, wrote
on her forehead at birth that she should get married to a dead bridegroom,
how her mother had no pleasure in her life at the prospect of so terrible a
destiny, and how, therefore, on the approach of her womanhood, with a view
to avert so dreadful a catastrophe, she had left her house with her and
wandered in various places, how they came to the gate of the garden-house
and how her mother had now gone in search of drinking water for her. Dalim
Kumar, hearing her simple and pathetic story, said, "I am the dead
bridegroom, and you must get married to me, come with me to the house." "How
can you be said to be a dead bridegroom when you are standing and speaking
to me?" said the girl. "You will understand it afterwards," rejoined the
prince, "come now and follow me." The girl followed the prince into the
house. As she had been fasting the whole day the prince hospitably
entertained her. As for the mother of the girl, the sister of the divine
Bidhata-Purusha, she returned to the gate of the garden-house after it was
dark, cried out for her daughter, and getting no answer, went away in search
of her in the huts in the neighbourhood. It is said that after this she was
not seen anywhere.
While the niece of the divine
Bidhata-Purusha was partaking of the hospitality of Dalim Kumar, his friend
as usual made his entrance. He was surprised not a little at the sight of
the fair stranger; and his surprise became greater when he heard the story
of the young lady from her own lips. It was forthwith resolved that very
night to unite the young couple in the bonds of matrimony. As priests were
out of the question, the hymeneal rites were performed a la Gandharva4.
The friend of the bridegroom took leave of the newly-married couple and went
away to his house. As the happy pair had spent the greater part of the night
in wakefulness, it was long after sunrise that they awoke from their
sleep;-- I should have said that the young wife woke from her sleep, for the
prince had become a cold corpse, life having departed from him. The feelings
of the young wife may be easily imagined. She shook her husband, imprinted
warm kisses on his cold lips, but in vain. He was as lifeless as a marble
statue. Stricken with horror, she smote her breast, struck her forehead with
the palms of her hands, tore her hair and went about in the house and in the
garden as if she had gone mad. Dalim's friend did not come into the house
during the day, as he deemed it improper to pay a visit to her while her
husband was lying dead. The day seemed to the poor girl as long as a year,
but the longest day has its end, and when the shades of evening were
descending upon the landscape, her dead husband was awakened into
consciousness; he rose up from his bed, embraced his disconsolate wife, ate,
drank, and became merry. His friend made his appearance as usual, and the
whole night was spent in gaiety and festivity. Amid this alternation of life
and death did the prince and his lady spend some seven or eight years,
during which time the princess presented her husband with two lovely boys
who were the exact image of their father.
It is superfluous to remark that the king,
the two queens, and other members of the royal house-hold did not know that
Dalim Kumar was living, at any rate, was living at night. They all thought
that he was long ago dead and his corpse burnt. But the heart of Dalim's
wife was yearning after her mother-in-law, whom she had never seen. She
conceived a plan by which she might be able not only to have a sight of her
mother-in-law, but also to get hold of the Duo queen's necklace, on which
her husband's life was dependent. With the consent of her husband and of his
friend she disguised herself as a female barber. Like every female barber
she took a bundle containing the following articles: an iron instrument for
paring nails, another iron instrument for scarping the superfluous flesh of
the soles of the feet, a piece of Jhama or burnt brick for rubbing
the soles of the feet with, and alakta5
for painting the edges of the feet and toes with. Taking this bundle in her
hand she stood at the gate of the king's palace with her two boys. She
declared herself to be a barber, and expressed a desire to see the Suo
queen, who readily gave her an interview. The queen was quite taken up with
the two little boys, who, she declared, strongly reminded her of her darling
Dalim Kumar. Tears fell profusely from her eyes at the recollection of her
lost treasure; but she of course had not the remotest idea that the two
little boys were the sons of her own dear Dalim. She told the supposed
barber that she did not require her services, as since the death of her son,
she had given up all terrestrial vanities, and among others the practice of
dyeing her feet red; but she added that, nevertheless, she would be glad now
and then to see her and her two fine boys. The female barber, for so we must
now call her, then went to the quarters of the Duo queen and offered her
services. The queen allowed her to pare her nails, to scrape off the
superfluous flesh of her feet, and to paint them with alakta, and was
so pleased with her skill, and the sweetness of her disposition, that she
ordered her to wait upon her periodically. The female barber noticed with no
little concern the necklace round the queen's neck. The day of her second
visit came on, and she instructed the elder of her two sons to set up a loud
cry in the palace, and not to stop crying till he got into his hands the Duo
queen's necklace. The female barber, accordingly, went again on the
appointed day to the Duo queen's apartments. While she was engaged in
painting the queen's feet, the elder boy set up a loud cry. On being asked
the reason of the cry, the boy, as previously instructed, said that he
wanted the queen's necklace. The queen said that it was impossible for her
to part with that particular necklace, for it was the best and most valuable
of all her jewels. To gratify the boy, however, she took it off her neck,
and put it into the boy's hand. The boy stopped crying and held the necklace
tight in his hand. The boy stopped crying and held the necklace tight in his
hand. As the female barber after she had done her work was about to go away,
the queen wanted the necklace back. But the boy would not part with it. When
his mother attempted to snatch it from him, he wept bitterly, and showed as
if his heart would break. On which the female barber said-- "Will your
Majesty be gracious enough to let the boy take the necklace home with him?
When he falls asleep after drinking his milk, which he is sure to do in the
course of an hour, I will carefully bring it back to you." The queen, seeing
that the boy would not allow it to be taken away from him, agreed to the
proposal of the female barber, especially reflecting that Dalim, whose life
depended on it, had long ago gone to the abodes of death.
Thus possessed of the treasure on which the
life of her husband depended, the woman went with breathless haste to the
garden-house and presented the necklace to Dalim, who had been restored to
life. Their joy knew no bounds, and by the advice of their friend they
determined the next day to got to the palaces in state, and present
themselves to the king and the Suo queen. Due preparations were made; and
elephant, richly caparisoned, was brought for the prince Dalim Kumar, a pair
of ponies for the two little boys, and a chaturdala6
furnished with curtains of gold lace for the princess. Word was sent to the
king and to Suo queen that the prince Dalim Kumar was not only alive, but
that he was coming to visit his royal parents with his wife and sons. The
king and Suo queen could hardly believe in the report, but being assured of
its truth they were entranced with joy; while the Duo queen, anticipating
the disclosure of all her wiles, became overwhelmed with grief. The
procession of Dalim Kumar, which was attended by a band of musicians,
approached the palace-gate, and the king and Suo queen went out to receive
their long-lost son. It is needless to say that their joy was intense. They
fell on each other's neck and wept. Dalim then related all the circumstances
connected with his death. The king, inflamed with rage, ordered the Duo
queen into his presence. A large hole, as deep as the height of a man, was
dug in the ground. The Duo queen was put into it in a standing posture.
Prickly thorn was heaped around her up to the crown of her head; and in this
manner she was buried alive.
Thus my story endeth,
The Natiya-thorn withereth;
"Why, O Natiya-thorn, dost wither?"
"Why, does thy cow on me browse?"
"Why, O cow, dost thou browse?"
"Why, does thy neat-herd not tend me?"
"Why, O neat-herd, dost not tend the
"Why does thy daughter-in-law not give me
"Why, O daughter-in-law, dost not give
"Why does my child cry?"
"Why, O child, dost thou cry?"
"Why does the ant bite me?"
"Why, O ant, dost thou bite?"
Koot! koot! koot!
1. Kings, in Bengali
folk-tales, have invariably two queens -- the elder is called duo,
that is, not loved; and the younger is called suo, that is,
Dalim or Dalimba means a pomegranate, and kumara son.
is the deity that predetermines all the events of the life of man or
woman, and writes on the forehead of the child, on the sixth day of its
birth, a brief precis of them.
4. There are eight
forms of marriage spoken of in the Hindu Sastras, of which the Gandharva
is one, consisting in the exchange of garlands.
5. Alakta is
leaves or flimsy paper saturated with lac.
6. A sort of
Palki, used generally for carrying the bridegroom and the bride in