Folk Gathas of Kumaon
By Anjali Nauriyal
Adding to the repertory of the traditional oral performing art form of Kumaon, i.e. Lok Gathas, is the tale of Malusahi Rajula, a story of triumphant love. This story has its version in Garhwal as well wherein the lovers see their counterparts in their respective dreams and follow the quest of meeting each other. This wonderful love story continues to be nurtured in the villages by folk singers.
There once lived a Raja named Dham Sahi who ruled over Katyuragarh. His kingdom was rich and prosperous. The Raja had every reason to be happy and had no real worry in the world except that he was old and issueless. He and his Rani, Dharmavati tried all prescribed methods of propitiating their family deity but in vain. They visited all places of pilgrimage, and worshipped all possible gods; and gave away food, clothes and money in charity. But despite praying for years on end for a son, they remained without child. His Rani was crestfallen. Raja Dham Sahi too was saddened but felt helpless. One day he had a dream. In his dream a voice spoke to him and asked him to pay a visit to the holy land of Haridwar. The voice further asked him to go on a pilgrimage to Panchkedar, Bageshwar, Baijnath and Nanda Devi.
Paying heed to the directions given by the voice Raja Dham Sahi and his Rani Dharmavati soon proceeded with all pomp and show on their pilgrimage, along with hundreds of their Kathyuri subjects. Enroute, after having travelled some hundred kilometers, they chanced upon a similar pair of issueless parents, namely Raja Sunpati Sauk Saukyan of Saunkot and his Rani, Ganguli Saukyan. The two Ranis and the two Rajas camped together and gradually come close to each other. They liked each other’s company and when it was time for them to part ways, they promised that if they have issues they would marry them and become relatives. Dharmavati made a promise to Ganguli Saukyan: “If I have a son and you a daughter; or I a daughter and you a son, we will marry them and cement this friendship that has become so dear to us in so short a time.” Rani Ganguli readily agreed and held Dharmavati’s hand tightly in a gesture of promise.
At long last the prayers of both sets of parents were answered. Raja Dham Sahi and his Rani Dharmavati were soon blessed with a beautiful male child whom they named Malu Sahi while Raja Sunpati Sauk Saukyan and his Rani, Ganguli Saukyan were blessed with a female child, whom they named Rajula. And as promised to each other their parents had them engaged when they were still in their infancy.
But as luck would have it, soon after the engagement Raja Dham Sahi did not live to see the joy of his grown up son and daughter-in-law and died a sudden death. His subjects held Rajula’s unlucky stars responsible for his death. The Brahmans came up to Rani Dharmavati and filled her ears with ill will for Rajula. “She has eaten up her father-in-law; her stars are unlucky (abhagi); we must not make her our Bahu; our Malu Sahi is young and lacking in understanding yet, therefore he will never know he was ever engaged to a girl called Rajula.”
Rani Dharmavati was convinced and in order to protect her son from the evil stars of Rajula, she married him to two lovely princesses named Hansia and Kausia.
Days passed into months and months into years. Malu Sahi soon grew up to be a handsome youth, while Rajula was transformed into a charming young maiden. Neither was aware about each other’s existence. But from what followed it appeared that providence had planned their espousal even before they were born.
When Rajula grew to a marriageable age, word about her beauty spread all over and soon a handsome young Prince came to her parents to ask for her hand. Her father remembered that he had promised to marry her into the kingdom of Katyuragarh; therefore he could neither say yes, nor no, to any proposal. Days later he realized that since no reminder had come in from Katyuragarh he must take a decision. After rejecting several proposals he finally agreed to marry her to Prince Guna Pal, son of Huriya Bikhipal of Jalandar.
There was great rejoicing in his kingdom and the day of Rajula’s wedding was decided. But destiny had something else in store for Rajula. Much before her day of marriage she saw Malu Sahi in her dreams and was captivated by his charming face. During the same time, Malu Sahi too had a dream in which he fell in love with the bewitching Rajula. In the dream Rajula talked to Malu Sahi and told him about her impending marriage to Guna Pal. She beseeched Malu Sahi to come over to Saunkot and take her away as his bride.
When Malu Sahi woke up from his enrapturing dream, he informed his mother about his decision to go to Saunkot and fetch Rajula. Dharmavati protested strongly and chided him for neglecting his two Ranis. “I warn you, do not trouble them,” she thundered. But all her remonstrances fell on deaf ears. Malu was adamant about going to Saunkot. He averred “Come what may, I will most certainly go to Saunkot and I will marry Rajula and bring her here.”
When his mother chided him further he gave up his food and all his pleasure. His Ranis did their utmost to please him. But Malu Sahi remained lost in thoughts of Rajula. When they were unable to bring him out of his fascination and reverie they called in the Brahmins and organized various yajnas and prayer meetings. Daily they massaged his head with the purest of pure oils; gave him a thorough bath; cooked his favourite delicacies and lovingly put morsels of food in his mouth. But Malu Sahi could hardly enjoy all this pampering. He mechanically went through the routine and remained lost in his reveries.
Rajula yet again appeared in his dream and requested him to come to Saunkot to take her away. His delay in coming might end up in her being married off to Guna Pal, she explained.
Malu Sahi at once was filled with renewed energy. He called out for Rupa Singh Gaira, his right hand man, and ordered him to decorate and make ready his dearest horse, Shyamkaran, for his journey to Saunkot.
When Dharmavati learnt of his plan she tried her best to stop him with eyes full of tears. She tempted him and said that she would marry him to girls far more beautiful than Rajula, after choosing one from amongst the very many of them who came to visit the Somnath Mela. She warned him of insurmountable dangers he would be confronted with on the way.
“But it’s the lovely visage of Rajula I adore and crave for,” replied Malu Sahi and the very next day he embarked on his journey which turned out to be much more arduous and fraught with dangers than his mother had warned. He had to pass through the land of the Durials, where the most dangerous of witches resided. Enroute when he stopped at a spot to revitalize himself the witches enticed him and Malu fell into a twelve year long slumber.
His horse Shyamkaran somehow managed to bring him home.
While Malu Sahi was still on his way, Huriya Bikhipal came to Saunkot to fix the date of his son’s marriage to Rajula.
Rajula was worried and appeared in Malu Sahi’s dream. Malu Sahi was bewitched seeing her beauty. He promised her in his state of slumber that he would come and marry her before the date fixed for her marriage. But Rajula was not willing to wait any longer. She coaxed and cajoled her mother to reveal to her the way to Katyuragarh. “Dear, mother please tell me how I can reach Katyuragarh,” she implored. Ganguli understood her daughter’s pain but thought it proper to remind her that she was engaged to Guna Pal and therefore it would be better for her to forget Malu Sahi.
Rajula then quietly sneaked out of her chamber in the dead of the night. Crossing hills and meadows she reached Munsiari, guided by animals for friends; she then reached Bageshwar where the birds showed her the way. Her mother discovering her absence immediately sent Bhairov, their family deity after her to stop her. Travelling for many days and nights Rajula’s hands and feet were benumbed with fatigue. Luckily the Ramola brothers meet her on the way and gave her Kanwar Ki Zari that invigorated her. And now even Bhairov could not stop her. She finally managed to reach Katyuragarh.
At Katyuragarh she managed to somehow enter his bedchamber. There she was shocked to see Malu Sahi lying listless on his golden bedstead. Rajula tried her utmost to waken him, but Malu Sahi did not stir. Rajula then came closer to him and whispered into his ears her ardent message. “Dear Malu, open your eyes. You have fallen into a twelve-year sleep. But I have lost my sleep and hunger pining for you.” Crying profusely she wrote a note for him on the bark of a tree she had picked up on the way. The note read as follows: “Dear Love, you had accepted me as your future wife when I was a mere five years old girl. Your parents had committed on your behalf, I am told by one of my handmaids. But when I came of age you did not come. Now Guna Pal is ready to wed me. If you want to accept me still in accordance with your parents’ promise, come to Saunkot before the day of my marriage. Come to take me if you are born of a tigress; but if you are born of a vixen, remain reposed on your bedstead all your life. ” Sliding her letter under his pillow and slipping a ring, empowered with Bhairov’s mantra, on his index finger, Rajula returned to Saunkot.
The ring worked like magic on Malu Sahi. He was awakened from his slumber under its influence and potency. Seeing the ring on his finger, he at once recognized it to be the one Rajula had been wearing in his dream. When he stirred in his bed, the letter under his pillow created a ruffling sound and he at once got up to hold the bhoj-patra in his hands.
He then once again started for Saunkot. On the way he had to yet again battle the dangerous seven witches in the country of the Durials. When the seven witches sighted Malu Sahi they fell headlong in love with him and tried their best to entrap and carry him away. But Malu Sahi outwitted them with his intelligence and continued his onward journey. Days later he reached Trijugi peak, the dwelling place of Lord Shiva. There he propitiated Shiva with rigorous penance. Shiva assisted him in reaching Saunkot.
At Saunkot Malu took on the guise of a mendicant and established his abode right in front of Sunpati Sauk Saukyan’s palace. Impressed by his mild manners and polite demeanour, Raja Sunpati Sauk Saukyan ordered his manservant to bring the mendicant inside the palace and welcomed him with customary respect due to an honoured guest.
Once inside the palace Malu Sahi soon found an opportunity to meet Rajula. They discussed their dreams and expressed their love for each other. They kept their love a well-guarded secret and met stealthily in the nooks and corners of the palace.
The day of Rajula’s marriage to Guna Pal was soon at hand. Rajula became restless and worried; she suggested to Malu Sahi that he should find a way to take her away.
Malu Sahi planned their escape and just a day prior to Rajula’s wedding to Guna Pal the two lovers ran away from the palace.
When Guna Pal learnt about their running away he went after them in hot pursuit along with some of his soldiers. They finally caught up with them and saw them crossing a rope bridge.
When Guna Pal’s soldiers reached the centre of the bridge while crossing it, Malu Sahi slashed the rope of the bridge, towards his side, causing the soldiers to fall into the river and drown.
Thus triumphant in love Malu Sahi brought Rajula to his palace and married her with all the dignity, pomp and show befitting a royal marriage. There was great rejoicing in entire Kathurgarh. And Malu Sahi and Rajula lived happily ever after.
Dr Anjali Nauriyal is Senior Fellow with Ministry of Culture, GOI. Veteran journalist, author and actor, Dr Anjali Nauriyal is currently Senior Fellow with Ministry of Culture, GOI.