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Folk Tales of Kumaon

This tale is amongst the foremost historical and bravery legends of Kumaon and depicts how Vir Ajuabafaul was devoted to his mother and motherland. The narrative dates back to the 15th Century. It carries memories of the past and represents people’s experiences.

By Anjali Nauriyal

This is an old story. It begins with five deities who set out on a pilgrimage to the Himalayan Mountains.

While resting at one place, they began playing a game for amusement and relaxation. They made four balls and threw them in four directions. From those balls, four powerful and mighty individuals or combatants were born.

They asked the five deities about the reason for their existence. The deities replied, “We were just playing for refreshment and diversion, and that’s how you were born.”

The combatants requested to be assigned a task or a mission. The deities told them to travel the world, engage in battles with powerful individuals like themselves, and evaluate their own strength.

The four combatants then embarked on their mission and travelled far and wide. They challenged the renowned warriors and defeated them one after another. They tested their strength throughout the world and returned to the presence of the five deities, narrating their experiences.

They narrated tales of their travails and expressed their exhaustion and finally revealed their difficulty in finding sufficient food anywhere. Now, they requested the five deities to arrange for their meals.

The five deities were confounded about how to fulfill the dietary needs of the combatants. They said, “We are ascetics who sustain ourselves by begging for alms. Sometimes we find food, and sometimes we don’t. We live an austere existence. However, Champavat, the kingdom of King Kalichandra, has warriors like you, and the king provides proper arrangements for their meals. He perpetually needs fighters like you. Go to his court.”

The combatants did just as they were advised. In King Kalichandra’s court, there were 22 powerful brothers called Bafaul. They had a wife named Dudhakela whom they loved dearly. Their love for her was well known throughout the kingdom.

However, the Queen is said to have her eyes on the Bafaul Brothers. She wished to kill the King and become the ruler herself while keeping them as her loyal subjects.

But the Bafaul Brothers refused to comply with her wishes. The queen feared that they would disclose her plan to the King, so she devised a scheme. She told King Kalichandra that the Bafaul Brothers were casting an evil spell on her, which made her feel awkward and ill at ease in the court.

How could King Kalichandra endure or allow such behavior towards the Queen.  He therefore ordered the execution of the Bafaul Brothers.

At that moment, the four combatants were pleading with the King to let them stay in the court. The King ordered that if they brought the severed heads of those 22 Bafaul Brothers, he would keep them in his court.

Everyone knew that the Bafaul Brothers were not with malicious intentions. They were only deeply in love with their wife. However, the King did not listen to anyone and gave the order to the four Malls.

The four combatants engaged in consecutive battles and killed all the twenty-two Bafaul Brothers.

Dudhakela, grieving the death of her husbands, was preparing to become a sati (a practice of self-immolation by widows) when she heard a voice from her womb saying, “Mother stop, why are you making yourself a Sati? I will also die with you. This way, the Bafaul lineage will come to an end.”

Upon hearing these words from her seven-month-old fetus, she changed her mind about becoming a Sati. She saw hope for her own life in that child.

Dudhakela gave birth to the child and named him Ajuabafaul. As time passed, Ajuabafaul grew up, and his strength became the talk of the town. On the other hand, all the villagers were troubled by the scarcity of food due to the four combatants or Malls. They took excessive amounts of food, milk, and yogurt for themselves. No one could say anything to them or comment on their consumption.

When the news reached Ajuabafaul, he asked his mother about those four Malls, and Dudhakela told him that they were the ones who killed his father. Hearing this, Ajuabafaul became enraged. He challenged the four Malls to a battle. A fierce battle ensued between them, and one by one, Ajuabafaul killed the four Malls.

After killing them, Ajuabafaul’s anger subsided. In this way, the villagers also breathed a sigh of relief. Ajuabafaul accused the King of false accusations. Without conducting any investigation or hearing the Bafaul Brothers’ side, he had pronounced a severe punishment for their execution.

Not taking the accusations lightly, the King ordered the questioning of the Queen. When she was interrogated vigorously, she admitted the truth, and the King turned punished her by turning her into an ordinary maid.

(Dr Anjali Nauriyal, veteran journalist, author, actor and social worker is currently Senior Fellow with Ministry of Culture, GOI)