The Strong Prince

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

There was once a king who, though he had two wives, had no son. He was very anxious to have a son and heir and went away into the midst of the hills and jungles and there began a course of worship and sacrifices. His prayers were heard and while he was away it was found that both his wives were pregnant. In due time the senior Rānī gave birth to a son and sent a Brāhman to the king with the welcome news. The Brāhman was a very holy man and he had to pray and bathe so often that he made very slow progress on his journey. A day or two later the younger Rānī also gave birth to a son and she sent a low caste Ghāsi to give the news to the Rājā. The Ghāsi travelled straight ahead and reached the Rājā some time before the holy Brāhman. On hearing the news that the younger Rānī had given birth to a son the Rājā had at once declared that this boy should be his heir. He was therefore much put out when the Brāhman arrived with the news that the senior Rānī had given birth to a son first.

The Rājā returned home and entering the palace saw the senior Rānī sleeping with her babe beside her. The boy had sore eyes and the Rājā, declaring that the child bore no resemblance to himself said that it was not his son and that the Rānī had been unfaithful to him.

The Rānī indignantly denied the accusation and said that if the two brothers fought her son would prove his parentage. Accordingly the two boys were set to wrestle with each other. The struggle was an even one. As they swayed to and fro it happened that the elder boy caught hold of the Rājā and pulled him to the ground. This incensed the Rājā more than ever and he ordered the senior Rānī to leave the kingdom with her child. On the road by which they had to pass the Rājā stationed a mast elephant in order that they might be killed, but when in due course the elephant attacked them the boy caught hold of it and threw it to a distance of four kos. After this feat the prince and his mother journeyed to another kingdom. There they took up their quarters near the ground where the Rājā’s palwāns wrestled. The prince went to wrestle with them and easily overcame the most renowned palwāns. In many ways he showed his strength. One day he went to a mahājan’s shop and the Mahājan instead of serving him promptly kept him waiting. In indignation the boy took up the entire building and threw it to a distance; hearing of these feats the Rājā of the country sent for him and took him into his service; but here also he caused trouble. He insisted on being treated with deference. Going up to the highest officials he would tell them not to twist their moustaches at him, and knock them down. On the throne in the palace when the Rājā was absent a pair of the Rājā’s shoes was placed and every one who passed by had to salaam to these. This our hero flatly refused to do. In fact he became such a nuisance that he was promised that he would be given his pay regularly if he would only stay away from the palace. After this he spent his days in idleness and by night he used to go to the shore and disport himself in the sea.

One night the goddess Kālī came to the Rājā’s palace and knocked at the gate: but no one would come to open it. Just then the prince came back from bathing in the sea. Seeing him, Kālī Mā, said that she was so hungry that she must eat him, though she had intended to eat the people in the palace. She, however, promised him that though eaten he should be born again. The boy agreed to form a meal for the goddess on these terms and was accordingly eaten. Afterwards gaining admission to the palace Kālī Mā ate up everyone in it except the Rājā’s daughter. Then our hero was born again and marrying the Rājā’s daughter succeeded to the kingdom, and lived happily ever after.