Folk Tales of Gujarat (and Jhaverchand Meghani)

by Vandana P. Soni | 2014 | 98,532 words

This study represents an English translation of the Gujarat Folk tales composed by Gujarati poet Jhaverchand Meghani (1896-1947). Meghani was born in Chotila and left an important landmark on the history of Saurashtra and Gujarat folklore, Indian poetry, journalism and other literary sciences....

Chapter 11 - Nag Panchmi [Pancham]

[The ritual vow of Nag panchmi falls on the fifth day of the dark lunar month of the Shravan month. On that day the observer of the ritual lights the earthen lamp with ghee and paints the picture of a snake. After sprinkling water they offer Kuler to God. The observer of the ritual eats stale and cold food cooked on the previous day. ]

There was an old man and an old woman. They had seven sons. The seven sons were married. All the six daughters-in-law were favourite where as the seventh daughter-in law was unfavourite. She had no one in her parental house; at in-laws house all were taunting her as orphan.

Every day the whole family used to finish their dinner together happily; after all in the last the youngest daughter was eating the remaining morsels of the food stuck in the pot.

Above all everyday after taking meal she alone used to clean heap of utensils.

The month of ceremonial offerings to the ancestors or relatives had started.

The delicious Kheer of the milk of a buffalo was cooked. The youngest daughter was an expectant mother, so naturally her crave to eat kheer became strong but who would give her?

All finished their meal and very few morsels of kheer were stuck in the pot.

She thanked God that at least a few morsels of kheer were left. After thinking so; she peeled off morsels of kheer that were stuck in the pot and tied them in a sieve. She thought of eating them at ease after going out of the village.

By carrying the pot to fetch water she went to the plain which was at the end of the village. At the well there was a crowd of women to fetch water. The lady thought that she would eat kheer at ease during her second round of fetching water when there would be no one around her.

She came back after pouring one pot of water. She kept in a sieve the waste morsels of kheer that she peeled off and put the sieve near one mole hill. She went to take bath. She thought that she would eat after taking bath. As soon as lady went to take bath, soon after her departure, one female serpent came out of a mole hill. She was also an expectant mother, so she too craved to eat kheer. She came and ate everything. After eating she hid herself in one corner.

Female serpent decided, ‘If the owner of the kheer would curse me then I would bite.’

After taking bath a daughter in law hopefully opened a sieve; unfortunately she did not find a single morsel of kheer.

“Oh! As it was not in my destiny, I could not see at home, so I brought it here, even here also I couldn‘t eat them! No problem, some unhappy soul like me might have eaten them. Whosoever had eaten may get satisfaction!”

Soon the female serpent came out of a mole. In a human voice she asked, ‘lady, who are you?’

‘Mother, I am unhappy woman. I am expecting. I craved to eat kheer. But when I went to take bath somebody ate away my kheer. Ok, no problem! There must be some unfortunate like me. I have no problem with the poor one who has eaten them!’

‘Sister, I ate your kheer. If you had cursed me then I would have bitten you; but on the contrary you had blessed me! Now tell, what problems you have?’ ‘Mother there is nobody in my parental house. Now there will be a ritual on my first baby shower, but there is nobody from the parent’ s side to observe rites in the ceremony.‘Tears flowed out from her eyes while talking.

Female serpent said, ‘Daughter! Don’ t worry. From today onwards consider us as your parents. See, this mole hill is our habitant. During the time of your baby shower, put the written invitation card near this mole hill.‘

Thus female serpent became a mother of the orphan lady. On getting wondered the lady went home.

An auspicious time for a baby shower arrived. Mother-in-law taunted, ‘Orphan! There is nobody in your parental house. Which beggar would observe rites as per tradition in baby shower?’

Daughter-in-law said, ‘Mother, please give me one invitation card!’

‘Oh orphan! You don’ t have anyone in your parents then why are you making fuss over it? Whom will you give an invitation card?‘

‘I have one distant relative, I will send them. Please give me!’

One neighbour woman interrupted in between and said ‘Mother, an invitation card is simply a piece of paper. Please give her one invitation card! What harm is there in giving it?’

By taking an invitation card she went to the extreme end of village. On reaching there, she put an invitation card at the trunk of mole hill.

The day of baby shower arrived. Elder sister-in-law and mother-in-law sarcastically remarked that, ‘very soon from younger daughter–in-law’ s parental house one parental relative will come! They will bring a bag full of clothes! So very quickly start cooking! Cook lapsi very fast.‘As they were ridiculing at woman; suddenly everybody was amazed to see few stout men in a red turban arriving at the house of a pregnant lady.

Along with them there was one woman who looked like wife of a Rajput land owner. Younger daughter-in-law identified that the woman was no other but a female serpent.

In-laws murmured and whispered into each other’s ear that’suddenly out of blue from where this orphan’ s parental relative has emerged?‘

In-laws suppressed their suspicion and welcomed parental relatives of a daughter-in-law. Very quickily the preparations of cooking sweet dishes started.

The female serpent secretly suggested lady, “Daughter, please ask not to prepare any hard food! Put the bowls of boiled milk in one room. By closing the door we would drink. We belong to sub-terrene region, so we can‘t eat grain.”

Daughter-in-law told mother-in-law, ‘Please don’ t cook anything because my parental family only rely on milk. They will drink only boiled milk.‘During the time of lunch the bowls of boiled milk were put in the next room. The door was shut. Guests soon transformed themselves into their original form of serpent and sipped milk immediately.

Baby shower of a daughter got over. Parents of a daughter-in-law profusely showered gifts of silk clothes, gold and silver. In-laws were dumb founded on seeing the magnificence. ‘Oh! Much had been brought for a daughter-in-law! Much had been brought!’ A lot of gifts have been given to in-laws from parents’side! Guest said ‘now give us permission to leave; and please send our sister with us for her delivery.’

‘Ok mother! You can carry her. How can I refuse?’

‘Please don’ t send any one to bring her back. We would come to drop our sister‘

In-laws went to bid good bye to the parents of daughter-in-law. They accompanied them to a particular distance, later on parental relative permitted them to return. Finally while walking when they reached at their mole hill where they inhabited; the serpents said, ‘See sister! Don’ t be afraid. Now we will transform ourselves into our original form of serpent.‘

‘Come behind us inside the mole hill.’ Sister said ‘ok, brother.’

All transformed themselves into their original form of serpent. Promptly they went inside the mole hill. The lady also followed them. As she went inside she found exquisite rooms as white as lily! In a very deep stratum of the earth there was a beautiful swing. A female serpent was swinging and a lady saw one male serpent sitting on a cushion and mattress, he had a big moustache and a gem on his hood.

The female serpent treated a woman as her own daughter and arranged her accommodation in the deep stratum of the earth.

The lady enjoyed to sway on the swing which was made of gold and silver. Parents fondled the daughter very much.

Meanwhile, the time of female serpent to deliver baby serpents became due. The female serpent told the lady, ‘See sister don’ t be afraid. We are called serpents. If entire progeny of serpent survive on the earth then human beings can‘t put feet on the earth. So simultaneously we deliver and eat. So you please stand by holding a lamp; and don‘t worry.‘

The lady stood aside by holding a lamp. A female serpent simultaneously delivered and ate her own little ones. The woman got irritated on watching this filthy work. Her hand trembled. The lamp slipped from her hand. In darkness two small serpents ran away but their tails were already eaten by mother, so both became tailless.

After nine months the lady also delivered an angel like baby boy. The baby boy grew up day by day. As the boy learnt to crawl, the lady sought permission from a female serpent: ‘mother, now please escort me to my home.’

The female serpent decked her with ornaments. Anklets, necklace, cradle, quilts! The female serpent satisfied the woman by gifting all these things.

The female serpent said: ‘See daughter, your grandfather is sitting so you put your hand into his mouth. Don’ t worry. He would not bite you.‘

The lady fearfully put her hand into serpent’s mouth. She just put her hand till her elbow then in panic she quickly took out her hand from the mouth of a serpent. When she took out her one hand from the mouth of a serpent she was wondered to see that till elbow there became a broad bangle of gold!

‘Now put your second hand.’ The woman put the second hand until her shoulder. There became a broad bangle of gold until shoulder.

Two brothers went to escort their sister till the outskirts of a sister-in-law’s village.

As she went home, all said ‘younger daughter-in-law has arrived! Younger daughter-in-law has arrived! She has brought many ornaments! She has brought many ornaments!’ On saying such; all in-laws gathered around mother and son.

Nobody knew regarding whereabouts of daughter-in-laws‘parental relatives.

The son of a younger daughter-in-law grew up. One day elder sister in law sat down to grind. The boy playfully threw away fist full of barley.

Sarcastically elder sister-in-law retorted, ‘Don’ t do that brother! Your maternal uncle is rich; they would provide you barely made of gold. Why are you throwing barely of we poor people, brother?‘

The lady could not bear this taunt. She went at mole hill and wailed there. Soon bags and bags full of barely reached at younger daughter-in-law’s house and in-laws‘embarrassment was inexpressible.

Once son pushed the pot full of milk, soon elder sister-in-law satirically remarked:

‘Brother don’ t do that. Your maternal family is very rich they afford to send a herd of cattle. Dear please do not spoil milk of buffaloes of our poor family.‘

Once again she went at the mole hill and cried there. The female serpent came out of a mole hill. She told the woman ‘Go, do not see back; don’ t speak while giving butter milk; just speak nagel! nagel! So the herd of cattle will follow you.‘

The lady walked on saying nagel! nagel! Behind her there followed a herd of bellowing buffaloes. On reaching home the lady said, ‘mother, sweep the compound!’

In laws came out of home and saw the robust buffaloes standing in compound, they had white tilas on their foreheads.

Now what happened in a mole hill? Two young serpents of the female serpent were tail less, so whenever they went to play nobody allowed them to play. All said,

‘Oh defective, we would not allow you to play!’

‘Oh, tailless, we would not allow you to play!’

Two brothers came to their mother. They asked, ‘Mother! Mother! Say, who made us defective and tailless?’

Dear sons, in the mortal world, we have one sister. The lamp fell out of her hand when you were born. That is the reason that you became defective and tailless.‘

‘Now both of us would bite her.’

‘Alas! Son, Can we bite our sister? She is a good sister who always gives best wishes.’

‘If she will give us best wishes then we will gift her sari and other clothes. If she will curse us then we will bite her.’

Both the brothers went at sister’s house. In the evening one young serpent hid near the threshold of a door and another one hid himself near a water place.

Both said ‘As she will come here we will bite her!’ when sister came near the threshold of the door, her foot collided against the threshold while walking. Soon sister said:

Khamma mara Khandiya Bandiya Veer!
Mara Nair na pir!
Shehnag bap ne nagal ma
Jene puriya heer ne cheer

Blessings to my defective and tailless brother!
God for me orphan.
The serpent and motherly female serpent
They provided all clothes and ornaments.

On hearing this, young serpents realized, ‘Ah! This sister gives us best wishes. How can we bite her?’ Both the young serpent took the human form and met sister. They returned at the mole hill after gifting anklets of gold to their nephew.

‘As “Nag Pancham Ma” got pleased with the lady, may she get pleased with everyone!’

[To justify antiquity of the story; the story ‘Verotiya Alinjar’ from the collection named ‘Chaturvisati Prabandh’ dealing with the serpents‘tale has been given in detail in the introduction of the anthology of Kankavati. It is better to go through it.–Author]

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