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Raja Harichand's Punishment

Title:     Raja Harichand's Punishment
Author: Anonymous [More Titles by Anonymous]

There was once a great Rájá, Rájá Harichand, who every morning before he bathed and breakfasted used to give away one hundred pounds weight of gold to the fakírs, his poor ryots, and other poor people. This he did in the name of God, "For," he said, "God loves me and gives me everything that I have; so daily I will give him this gold."

Now God heard what a good man Rájá Harichand was, and how much the Rájá loved him, and he thought he would go and see for himself if all that was said of the Rájá were true. He therefore went as a fakír to Rájá Harichand's palace and stood at his gate. The Rájá had already given away his hundred pounds' weight of gold, and gone into his palace and bathed and breakfasted; so when his servants came to tell him that another fakír stood at his gate, the Rájá said, "Bid him come to-morrow, for I have bathed, and have eaten my breakfast, and therefore cannot attend to him now." The servants returned to the fakír, and told him, "The Rájá says you must come to-morrow, for he cannot see you now, as he has bathed and breakfasted." God went away, and the next day he again came, after all the fakírs and poor people had received their gold and the Rájá had gone into his palace. So the Rájá told his servants, "Bid the fakír come to-morrow. He has again come too late for me to see him now."

On the third day God was once more too late, for the Rájá had gone into his palace. The Rájá was vexed with him for being a third time too late, and said to his servants, "What sort of a fakír is this that he always comes too late? Go and ask him what he wants." So the servants went to the fakír and said, "Rájá Harichand says, 'What do you want from him?'" "I want no rupees," answered God, "nor anything else; but I want him to give me his wife." The servants told this to the Rájá, and it made him very angry. He went to his wife, the Rání Báhan, and said to her, "There is a fakír at the gate who asks me to give you to him! As if I should ever do such a thing! Fancy my giving him my wife!"

The Rání was very wise and clever, for she had a book, which she read continually, called the kop shástra; and this book told her everything. So she knew that the fakír at the gate was no fakír, but God himself. (In old days about two people in a thousand, though not more, could read this book; now-a-days hardly any one can read it, for it is far too difficult.) So the Rání said to the Rájá, "Go to this fakír, and say to him, 'You shall have my wife.' You need not really give me to him; only give me to him in your thoughts." "I will do no such thing," said the Rájá in a rage; and in spite of all her entreaties, he would not say to the fakír, "I will give you my wife." He ordered his servants to beat the fakír, and send him away; and so they did.

God returned to his place, and called to him two angels. "Take the form of men," he said to them, "and go to Rájá Harichand. Say to him, 'God has sent us to you. He says, Which will you have--a twelve years' famine throughout your land during which no rain will fall? or a great rain for twelve hours?'"

The angels came to the Rájá and said as God had bidden them. The Rájá thought for a long while which he should choose. "If a great rain pours down for twelve hours," he said to himself, "my whole country will be washed away. But I have a great quantity of gold. I have enough to send to other countries and buy food for myself and my ryots during the twelve years' famine." So he said to the angels, "I will choose the famine." Then the angels came into his palace; and the moment they entered it, all the Rájá's servants that were in the palace, and all his cows, horses, elephants, and other animals became stone. So did every single thing in the palace, excepting his gold and silver, and these turned to charcoal. The Rájá and Rání did not become stone.

The angels said to them, "For three weeks you will not be able to eat anything; you will not be able to eat any food you may find or may have given you. But you will not die, you will live." Then the angels went away.

The Rájá was very sad when he looked round his palace and saw everything in it, and all the people in it, stone, and saw all his gold and silver turned to charcoal. He said to his wife, "I cannot stay here. I must go to some other country. I was a great Rájá; how can I ask my ryots to give me food? We will dress ourselves like fakírs, and go to another country."

They put on fakírs' clothes and went out of their palace. They wandered in the jungle till they saw a plum-tree covered with fruit. "Do gather some of those plums for me," said the Rání, who was very hungry. The Rájá went to the tree and put out his hand to gather the plums; but when he did this, they at once all left the tree and went a little way up into the air. When he drew back his hand, the plums returned to the tree. The Rájá tried three times to gather the plums, but never could do so.

He and the Rání then went on till they came to a plain in another country, where was a large tank in which men were fishing. The Rání said to her husband, "Go and ask those men to give us a little of their fish, for I am very hungry." The Rájá went to the men and said, "I am a fakír, and have no pice. Will you give me some of your fish, for I have not eaten for four days and am hungry?" The men gave him some fish, and he and his wife carried it to a tank on another plain. The Rání cleaned and prepared the fish for cooking, and said to her husband, "I have nothing in which to cook this fish. Go up to the town (there was a town close by) and ask some one to give you an earthen pot with a lid, and some salt."

The Rájá went up to the town, and some one in the bazar gave him the earthen pot, and a grain merchant put a little salt into it. Then he returned to the Rání, and they made a fire under a tree, put the fish into the pot, and set the pot on the fire. "I have not bathed for some days," said the Rájá. "I will go and bathe while you cook the fish, and when I come back we will eat it." So he went to bathe, and the Rání sat watching the fish. Presently she thought, "If I leave the lid on the pot, the fish will dry up and burn." Then she took off the lid, and the fish instantly jumped out of the pot into the tank and swam away. This made the Rání sad; but she sat there quiet and silent. When the Rájá had bathed, he returned to his wife, and said, "Now we will eat our fish." The Rání answered, "I had not eaten for four days, and was very hungry, so I ate all the fish." "Never mind," said the Rájá, "it does not matter."

They wandered on, and the next day came to another jungle where they saw two pigeons. The Rájá took some grass and sticks, and made a bow and arrow. He shot the pigeons with these, and the Rání plucked and cleaned them. Her husband and she made a little fire, put the pigeons in their pot, and set them on it. There was a tank near. "Now I will go and bathe," said the Rání; "I have not bathed for some days. When I come back, we will eat the pigeons." So she went to bathe, and the Rájá sat down to watch the pigeons. Presently he thought, "If I leave the pot shut, the birds will dry up and burn." So he took off the lid, and instantly away flew the pigeons out of the pot. He guessed at once what the fish had done yesterday, and sat still and silent till the Rání came back. "I have eaten the pigeons in the same way that you ate the fish yesterday," he said to her. The Rání understood what had happened, and saw the Rájá knew how the fish had escaped.

So they wandered on; and as they went the Rání remembered an oil merchant, called Gangá Télí, a friend of theirs, and a great man, just like a Rájá. "Let us go to Gangá Télí, if we can walk as far as his house," she said. "He will be good to us." He lived a long way off. When they got to him, Gangá Télí knew them at once. "What has happened?" he said. "You were a great Rájá; why are you and the Rání so poor and dressed like fakírs?" "It is God's will," they answered. Gangá Télí did not think it worth while to notice them much now they were poor; so, though he did not send them away, he gave them a wretched room to live in, a wretched bed to lie on, and such bad food to eat that, hungry as they were, they could not touch it. "When we were rich," they said to each other, "and came to stay with Gangá Télí, he received us like friends; he gave us beautiful rooms to live in, beautiful beds to lie on, and delicious food to eat. We cannot stay here."

So they went away very sorrowful, and wandered for a whole week, and all the time they had no food, till they came to another country whose Rájá, Rájá Bhoj, was one of their friends. Rájá Bhoj received them very kindly. "What has brought you to this state? How is it you are so poor?" he said. "What has happened to you?" "It is God's will," they answered. Rájá Bhoj gave them a beautiful room to live in, and told his servants to cook for them the very nicest dinner they could. This the servants did, and they brought the dinner into Rájá Harichand's room, and set it before him and left him. Then he and the Rání put some of the food on their plates; but before they could eat anything, the food both in the dishes and on their plates became full of maggots. So they could not eat it. They felt greatly humbled. However, they said nothing, but worshipped God; and they buried all the food in a hole they dug in the floor of their room.

Now the daughter of Rájá Bhoj had left her gold necklace hanging on the wall of the room in which were Rájá Harichand and the Rání Báhan. At night when Rájá Harichand was asleep, the Rání saw a crack come in the wall and the necklace go of itself into the crack; then the wall joined together as before. She at once woke her husband, and told him what she had seen. "We had better go away quickly," she said. "The necklace will not be found to-morrow, and Rájá Bhoj will think we are thieves. It will be useless breaking the wall open to find it." The Rájá got up at once, and they set out again. Rájá Bhoj, when the necklace was not found, thought Rájá Harichand and the Rání Báhan had stolen it.

They wandered on till they came to a country belonging to another friend, called Rájá Nal, but they were ashamed to go to his palace. The three weeks were now nearly over, only two more days were left. So the Rání said, "In two days we shall be able to eat. Go into the jungle and cut grass, and sell it in the bazar. We shall thus get a few pice and be able to buy a little food." The Rájá went out to the jungle, but he had to break and pull up the grass with his hands. He worked half the day, and then sold the grass in the bazar for a few pice. They were able to buy food, and worshipped God and cooked it; and as the three weeks were now over they were allowed to eat it.

They stayed in Rájá Nal's country, and lived in a little house they hired in the bazar. Rájá Harichand went out every day to the jungle for grass, which he pulled up or broke off with his hands, and then sold in the bazar for a few pice. The Rání saved a pice or two whenever she could, and at the end of two years they were rich enough to buy a hook such as grass-cutters use. The Rájá could now cut more grass, and soon the Rání was able to buy some pretty-coloured silks in the bazar.

Her husband went daily to cut grass, and she sat at home making head-collars with the silks for horses. Four years after they had bought the hook, she had four of these head-collars ready, and she took them up to Rájá Nal's palace to sell. It was the first time she had gone there, for she and her husband were ashamed to see Rájá Nal. Their fakírs' dresses had become rags, and they had only been able to get wretched common clothes in their place, for they were miserably poor.

"What beautiful head-collars these are!" said Rájá Nal's coachmen and grooms; and they took them to show to their Rájá. As soon as he saw them he said, "Where did you get these head-collars? Who is it that wishes to sell them?" for he knew that only one woman could make such head-collars, and that woman was the Rání Báhan. "A very poor woman brought them here just now," they answered. "Bring her to me," said Rájá Nal. So the servants brought him Rání Báhan, and when she saw the Rájá she burst into tears. "What has brought you to this state? Why are you so poor?" said Rájá Nal. "It is God's will," she answered. "Where is your husband?" he asked. "He is cutting grass in the jungle," she said. Rájá Nal called his servants and said, "Go into the jungle, and there you will see a man cutting grass. Bring him to me." When Rájá Harichand saw Rájá Nal's servants coming to him, he was very much frightened; but the servants took him and brought him to the palace. As soon as Rájá Nal saw his old friend, he seized his hands, and burst out crying. "Rájá," he said, "what has brought you to this state?" "It is God's will," said Rájá Harichand.

Rájá Nal was very good to them. He gave them a palace to live in, and servants to wait on them; beautiful clothes to wear, and good food to eat. He went with them to the palace to see that everything was as it should be for them. "To-day," he said to the Rání, "I shall dine with your husband, and you must give me a dinner cooked just as you used to cook one for me when I went to see you in your own country." "Good, I will give it you," said the Rání; but she was quite frightened, for she thought, "The Rájá is so kind, and everything is so comfortable for us, that I am sure something dreadful will happen." However, she prepared the dinner, and told the servants how to cook it and serve it; but first she worshipped God, and entreated him to have mercy on her and her husband. The dinner was very good, and nothing evil happened to any one. They lived in the palace Rájá Nal gave them for four and a half years.

Meanwhile the farmers in Rájá Harichand's country had all these years gone on ploughing and turning up the land, although not a drop of rain had fallen all that time, and the earth was hard and dry. Now just when the Rájá and Rání had lived in Rájá Nal's palace for four and a half years Mahádeo was walking through Rájá Harichand's country. He saw the farmers digging up the ground, and said, "What is the good of your digging and turning up the ground? Not a drop of rain is going to fall." "No," said the farmers, "but if we did not go on ploughing and digging, we should forget how to do our work." They did not know they were talking to Mahádeo, for he looked like a man. "That is true," said Mahádeo, and he thought, "The farmers speak the truth; and if I go on neglecting to blow on my horn, I shall forget how to blow on it at all." So he took his deer's horn, which was just like those some yogís use, and blew on it. Now when Rájá Harichand had chosen the twelve years' famine, God had said, "Rain shall not fall on Rájá Harichand's country till Mahádeo blows his horn in it." Mahádeo had quite forgotten this decree; so he blew on his horn, although only ten and a half years' famine had gone by. The moment he blew, down came the rain, and the whole country at once became as it had been before the famine began; and moreover, the moment it rained, everything in Rájá Harichand's palace became what it was before the angels entered it. All the men and women came to life again; so did all the animals; and the gold and silver were no longer charcoal, but once more gold and silver. God was not angry with Mahádeo for forgetting that he said the famine should last for twelve years, and that the rain should fall when Mahádeo blew on his horn in Rájá Harichand's country. "If it pleased Mahádeo to blow on his horn," said God, "it does not matter that eighteen months of famine were still to last." As soon as they heard the rain had fallen, all the ryots who had gone to other countries on account of the famine returned to Rájá Harichand's country.

Among the Rájá's servants was the kotwál, and very anxious he was, when he came to life again, to find the Rájá and Rání; only he did not know how to do so, and wondered where he had best seek for them.

Meanwhile the Rání Báhan had a dream that God sent her, in which an angel said to her, "It is good that you and your husband should return to your country." She told this dream to her husband; and Rájá Nal gave them horses, elephants, and camels, that they might travel like Rájás to their home, and he went with them. They found everything in order in their own palace and all through their country, and after this lived very happily in it. But the Rání said to Rájá Harichand, "If you had only done what I told you, and said you would give me to the fakír, all this misery would not have come on us."

Later they went to stay again with Rájá Bhoj, and slept in the same room as they had had when they came to him poor and wretched. In the night they saw the wall open, and the necklace came out of the crack and hung itself up as before, and the wall closed again. The next day they showed the necklace to Rájá Bhoj, saying, "It was on account of this necklace that we ran away from you the last time we were here," and they told him all that had happened to it.

As for Gangá Télí, they never went near him again.

Told by Múniyá, March 4th, 1879.






1. This king is probably the same as "The Upright King," Harchand Rájá, p. 68 of this collection.

2. The Kop Shástra. Múniyá says kop is a Hindústání, not a Bengáli word, and has nothing whatever to do with demons. This is what Mr. Tawney writes on the subject: "It might mean kapi, or kapila if the woman is a Bengáli. Kapi is a name of Vishṇu, possibly it might be the Rámáyana as treating of monkeys, but I really do not know. I see Monier Williams says that there are certain demons called kapa. But of course kópa is anger. I suppose you know that the natives of Bengal pronounce the short a as o in the English word hop." Múniyá pronounces kop like the English word cope. This Shástra seems as hopelessly mythical as the Rát-vashá-ke-dhán.



Bél, a fruit; Ægle marmelos.

Bulbul, a kind of nightingale.

Chaprásí, a messenger wearing a badge (chaprás).

Cooly (Tamil kúli), a labourer in the fields; also a porter.

Dál, a kind of pulse; Phaseolus aureus, according to Wilson; Paspalum frumentaceum, according to Forbes.

Dom (the d is lingual), a low-caste Hindú.

Fakír, a Muhammadan religious mendicant.

Ghee (ghí), butter boiled and then set to cool.

Kází, a Muhammadan Judge.

Kotwál, the chief police officer in a town.

Líchí, a fruit; Scytalia litchi, Roxb.

Mahárájá (properly Maháráj), literally great king.

Mahárání, literally great queen.

Mainá, a kind of starling.

Maund (man), a measure of weight, about 87 lb.

Mohur (muhar), a gold coin worth 16 rupees.

Nautch (nátya), a union of song, dance, and instrumental music.

Pálkí, a palanquin.

Pice (paisa), a small copper coin.

Pilau, a dish made of either chicken or mutton, and rice.

Rájá, a king.

Rakshas, a kind of demon that eats men and beasts.

Rání, a queen.

Rohú, a kind of big fish.

Rupee (rúpíya), a silver coin, now worth about twenty pence.

Ryot (ràíyat), a cultivator.

Sarai, a walled enclosure containing small houses for the use of travellers.

Sárí, a long piece of stuff which Hindú women wind round the body as a petticoat, passing one end over the head.

Sepoy (sipáhí), a soldier.

Wazír, prime minister.

Yogí, a Hindú religious mendicant.

[The end]
Anonymous's short story: Raja Harichand's Punishment