Folk Tales of Kumaon
Brahma Kamal, the state flower of Uttarakhand is rare, legendary and mythological. It is said to have medicinal powers and protects humans from evil forces. It is named after Brahma, the God of creation
By Anjali Nauriyal
In the upper reaches of the mighty Himalaya grows a fascinating flower called Brahma Kamal. This sparkling flower is of sterling medicinal and sacred import.
It grows in pure and salubrious environ that is free from pollution, and is worshipped for its allure, elegance and stateliness.
Folklore has it that just a look at this flower absolves the beholder of all sins. Myths and stories relating to this flower abound, wherein it is referred to as the flower of Devlok, or a pious sadhu. In one narrative it is even referred to as a fairy.
As per folklore there was a time when fairies would frequent the Earth. They would roam the forests and vales the entire day, and return to their heavenly abode by night. They loved the fresh mountain air, clean river water, unpolluted streams, crystal clear lakes and huge mountains. They loved to spend time in private, concealed or unfrequented areas that were unaffected by human population.
These fairies were petrified of humans and would disappear the moment they sighted them. Therefore they would look for areas where they would feel free and safe from human interference. At times they would end up being panic-stricken during their earthly visits, but their love for the Earth was so strong that they would not stop visiting it.
A large number of fairies would keep visiting the Earth at regular intervals, but the Queen Fairy would never do so. She never allowed even her daughter to explore the Earth. She had been told by her Grandma that the Earth is an bewitching place, but full of dangers. For this reason she had decided never to visit the Earth.
The Princess Fairy was young and impressionable. The Fairies would regale her with details regarding their earthly visit. They would explain how they played in the river water. They described the beauty of the tall trees, colorful flowers, juicy fruits and captivating animal population.
As the Princess Fairy grew older, her craving and enthusiasm to visit the Earth became stronger. She too wanted to see the rivers, trees, flowers, fruits, animals that made Earth a special place.
When Queen Fairy learnt of her daughter’s yearning, she was infuriated and put a stop to her daughter interaction with the Fairies.
Princess Fairy felt alone and neglected. With time she became all the more beautiful. She was fair and had golden, long hair that framed her angelic features. She yearned to be as free as the other fairies. She would meet the Fairies clandestinely and beseech them to take her along. But the Fairies did not want to face Queen Fairy’s wrath and straightaway refused.
Not inclined to give in easily, Princess Fairy became as stubborn as ever and decided to hide in one of the orchards in her palace. When it was morning, and all the Fairies spread their wings and began floating towards the Earth. Quietly Princess Fairy joined the group from behind. The Fairies fluttered and glided in the skies joyfully and Princess Fairies followed stealthily. The Fairies could never have imagined that Princess Fairy would take such a risk.
The group had traversed a long distance in gay abandon when Princess Fairy sneezed. The Fairies turned around to see who had sneezed and were shocked to see Princess Fairy had followed them so far. They reasoned with her to return to her abode immediately, but the obstinate Princess stated that if they did not allow her to accompany them she would go all by herself, but at no cost would she return.
Realizing that Princess Fairy was adamant the Fairies then decided that they would take her to Earth, but return early. Princess Fairy was euphoric.
Earth was not far off from where the herd was presently halting. They descended on Earth soon enough and chose a pond near a concealed, undisturbed forest. This was amongst their favorite places, frequented by them mostly in the mornings.
Princess Fairy was bedazzled by the place. It was shielded and secure, and its beauty was beyond her imagination. She bathed here along with the other Fairies. They spent hours here playing their usual water games. And when it was time to return they readied their wings. Just then Princess Fairy expressed her desire to visit other similar places. The Fairies tried to reason with her but she was adamant. And as they could not return without her, they had to relent.
They took her to rivers and valleys, showed her flowers and trees and birds and animals. And finally they took her to snow clad mountains. Princess Fairy was awe-struck. She now never wanted to return to her abode.
At this the Fairies became angry and tried to explain to her that the Earth was not as perfect as she imagined. It was full of ferocious bloodthirsty animals like panthers, tigers, and lions and posed great danger to their lives.
While they were engrossed in this conversation, a Fiend appeared from nowhere. Seeing the creature they all ran helter-shelter in terror and hid themselves.
One look at Princess Fairy, and the Fiend was immediately besotted. Without wasting a minute, he lunged forward, grabbed Princess Fairy by the waist and carrying her on his shoulders scurried out of sight into the darkness of the forests.
The Fairies watched helplessly from their hidden spaces. They neither came out, nor screamed for help, as they were well aware of the power of the demon. They were at a loss. They didn’t know how to rescue their Princess. They couldn’t return minus her and face the wrath of Queen Fairy. They discussed amongst themselves and decided to look for someone lionhearted to come to their help. Instead of waiting for the valiant person to come to them and waste precious time, they decided to go out in search of such an individual.
They decided to go out in all directions as ordinary women, and look for a valorous and good individual who could come to their rescue. They searched day in and day out, but could not sight even a single person. Fear of the Fiend had probably driven all people into hiding.
Three days passed by and the Fairies could find no one. Then one afternoon a full-bodied, striking young man came riding on his horse from the interiors of an adjacent jungle. A Fairy standing against a tree sighted him. She shouted and appealed to him for help. The young man halted. Got down from his horse and moved towards the Fairy. The rest of the Fairies too came running to him and surrounded him. They revealed to him that they were Fairies from Fairyland and were in a dilemma as their Princess had been carried away by a demon.
The young man then revealed his identity. He was the Prince of the region and was well acquainted with every corner of his kingdom. He promised to help them find their Princess. He said that he knew where the Fiend resided.
He then got on to his horse and began moving in one direction.
Crossing several hills and crannies, and rivers and vales he arrived at a riverside, surrounded on two sides by deep, dark dens. He got hold of his sword and came and stood before one huge den. This was the Fiend’s lair, covered by a huge rock. This meant that the Fiend was not in his hideout.
The Prince then put down his sword and tried to move the rock. He pushed and pushed and with great difficulty was able to create enough space to let in a human.
Carrying the sword, he then began moving inside the den. It was not yet sundown and there was enough light to view the insides of the hidey-hole. There were nothing but human and animal remains strewn all over. It seemed to him that Princess Fairy had been killed and eaten up by the demon.
But then he heard a wailing sound. He began moving towards that sound. He reached a corner and lo and behold a pretty face sat weeping in one corner. She looked frail and tortured. Seeing her beauty he at once understood that she was none other than Princess Fairy. And the man in front of her was nothing short of a heavenly messenger and savior. He told her who he was, and holding her hand moved her out of the cave. He knew that the monster could arrive any moment, so he along with the Princess got on to the horse and hurried towards safety.
But as luck would have it, the hellhound appeared from nowhere and blocked his path. Seeing him the Princess swooned in shock. The Prince quickly got down from the horse and placing her on the ground wielded his sword and in few quick moments stood before the bad guy.
The Fiend laughed a deadly laughter, and challenged the Prince to take him on in a bout. Full of conceit, he stated that the Prince was no match before his raw physical power and capability and would be vanquished easily.
The Prince just smiled and did not think it wise to reply to his challenge verbally.
Seeing the Prince’s smile, the Fiend was enraged. He lunged forward to catch the Prince. The Prince was alert and bent backwards and struck the monster’s left wrist with his sword. The demon’s hand fell to the ground oozing blood and he sent out a thunderous cry of agony. Doubly enraged, he lifted his right hand to strike the Prince. This hand too met with the same fate.
But before the Prince could think that the fight was decisively over in his favour, the demon’s hands flew and got reconnected with his body magically and he laughed menacingly. The Prince struck again and again and dismembered the Danav’s hands. But each time his hands reattached.
The Prince now knew that it was not easy to eliminate the Fiend.
By then Princess Fairy had gained consciousness. She shouted and revealed that the Danav’s life resided in a parrot imprisoned in the demon’s hideaway. If the parrot were killed he too would automatically die.
Without losing time the Prince rushed to the demon’s haunt, sighted the parrot and twisted its neck. The moment the parrot took its last breath, the Fiend too dropped dead.
By now the Prince’s soldiers too had arrived. They were out looking for their Prince and were relieved to see their Prince was safe.
The soldiers had imprisoned the Fairies. When the Prince heard of this he immediately ordered the soldiers to set them free.
All applauded the Prince’s gallantry and heroism. The Prince then invited all the Fairies to be his guests at the palace. They were looked after with great hospitality.
By now the Prince had fallen in love with Princess Fairy and he didn’t want them to return.
There in Fairyland Queen Fairy was overwrought and fretting. She was especially worried sick, thinking about her daughter. She waited for few days and when there was no information forthcoming regarding their whereabouts, she got into her cosmic vehicle and set out in search of her daughter and the Fairies. She had her magical ways of reaching out to them. Intuitively she could gauze their whereabouts.
Her cosmic vehicle straightaway landed at the Prince’s orchard.
At that time Princess Fairy was sitting amongst flowers, with the Prince’s head on her lap. They were engrossed in tender talks of adoration and passion. Suddenly seeing Queen Fairy they were stunned. The other Fairies came out of hiding with their soldier partners, as by now they had all found a match for themselves.
Seeing Queen Fairy, the Fairies bent their heads in a gesture of non-compliance of her wish and resistance to her orders.
This enraged Queen Fairy and maddened her no end. She chanted a powerful mantra and using her cosmic powers converted her daughter in Brahma Kamal and the Prince into Lotus. The Fairies and soldier too were transformed into flowers of different hues.
With a heavy heart Queen Fairy returned to Fairyland!
(Dr Anjali Nauriyal, veteran journalist, author, actor and social worker is currently Senior Fellow with Ministry of Culture, GOI)