Translated from the original Bangla by Barnali Saha
Even though Gupi only knew just one song, he sang it all the time. He couldn't survive even a second without singing it; he felt suffocated. When he sang it at home, all the customers of his father's store would run away. When he sang it in the fields, all the cows tore away from their ropes and fled. Eventually, people almost stopped coming to his father's store for fear of him; the cowherds couldn't take the cattle to the field either. Then one day, Kanu Kyne ran after Gupi with a stout bamboo staff, and he fled to the field; there the band of cowherds chased him away with their sticks. Gupi took refuge in the forest and began practicing ardently therein.
In a village next to Gupi's lived a man called Panchu Pyne. Panchu's young son greatly loved to play the dholak (a type of drum). When he played it, he used to nod in a drowsy stupor, shake his leg, roll his eyes, frown, and grimace. The villagers would stare agog at his expressions and interject, 'Aha! Aaaa!! Oh- ho-ho-ho!!!' Finally, he would exclaim, 'Huh-huh-huh!' and snarl like a tiger; the poor villagers, not knowing which way to run, would lie prone on the ground. From that time he was named 'Bagha' (one resembling a tiger) 'Byne'. (This Bagha name of his became so popular that soon nobody knew any longer what his real name was.)
Bagha used to play his dholak and break one every day. At last, Panchu couldn't pay any more for his dholaks. But how could Bagha stop playing? The villagers told Panchu, 'If you can't provide the money, then we can collect the amount and pay for the dholak. We have such a maestro in our village; we can't allow him to stop playing!' Finally it was decided that the villagers would collectively raise a subscription and buy Bagha a dholak so durable that even Bagha would find it difficult to break.
What a dholak it was! Its shell had a three and a half arms-length wide opening and its head was made of buffalo skin. Bagha was elated to receive it and declared, 'I shall stand and play.'
From that time onwards he played his dholak standing. Even after playing it day and night for one and a half months, Bagha couldn't break it. By that time his parents were driven mad by his incessant playing, and the villagers felt dizzy too. It is impossible to say what would have ensued had it continued like that for a few more days. But one day the villagers carrying stout sticks approached Bagha and said, 'Dear brother! We are giving you ten urns full of sweetmeat, please go play somewhere else, or else we'll all go crazy!'
What could Bagha do? He had to leave his village and settle in another one. But they, too, threw him out after only a couple of days. In this manner, he was thrown out of all the places he went. He was then forced to roam the fields all day; when hungry, he would visit his village and play his dholak, and the people would hurriedly give him some food and send him off, thanking God. But soon came a time, when nobody would give him any food. People from neighboring villages would come out with sticks whenever they heard the beat of his dholak. Then the wretched man thought, 'Not anymore! It's better to live in the forest than be in the vicinity of these ignorant people. Perhaps I would be eaten by a tiger, but at least I could play my dholak till then.' He placed his dholak on his shoulder and entered the forest.
Bagha was very happy with this arrangement. When he played his dholak, nobody chased him with sticks anymore. Let alone being eaten by the tiger, no bear or tiger even live in that forest. There was, however, one animal whom Bagha hadn't yet encountered; he trembled in fear whenever he heard its noise from afar. 'Dear me! If it found me, it could swallow my dholak and me in one gulp.'
Of course, that deadly animal was none other than Gupi Gyne. The noise that made Bagha shiver was Gupi's vocal workout. Gupi could also hear Bagha's percussion instrument and feared the noise the same way. At last he decided, 'I am surely going to die if I live any longer in this forest; it is better that I leave the place right now.' As Gupi was preparing to leave, he observed a person coming towards him, carrying a huge big dholak on his shoulder. Surprised, Gupi asked, 'Who are you?'
Bagha introduced himself. 'I am Bagha Byne. Who are you?'
Gupi said, 'I am Gupi Gyne; where are you going?'
'There must be some place for me. The villagers are idiots; they don't appreciate music, so I came to the forest with my dholak. But brother, there is a deadly animal whose voice I heard; an encounter with it would surely pronounce my end. That's why I am leaving,' said Bagha.
Gupi said, 'You are right! I, too, was running away after I heard the sound of a deadly animal. Tell me, where did you hear the beast bellow from?'
'In the eastern side of the forest, under the banyan tree,' disclosed Bagha.
Gupi said, 'Oh dear, then it was my song that you heard! Why would it be the animal's roar? That animal cries from the western corner of the forest, near the Haritaki tree.'
'Then you heard the sound of my dholak; I lived in that corner!' Bagha remarked.
Now they understood that they were fleeing in fear of their own singing and drumming. They started to laugh. After laughing for a long time Gupi said, 'Dear brother, you are just as good a Byne as the kind of Gyne I am. Together we could do something.'
Bagha wholeheartedly agreed. After some discussion, they decided that they would go together and sing in the Royal Court. They were certain that the King would be so pleased that he could even give them a part of his kingdom and marry them to the princess.
Gupi and Bagha were highly excited by the idea that they would perform for the King. Smiling and dancing they approached the huge river across which lay the palace.
There was a ferry on the river, but the boatman demanded money. The poor fellows were coming from the forest – where could they get any money from? They pled, 'Dear brother, we don't have any money with us, but if you ferry us across the river then we could sing and play for you.'
The passengers on board the ferry were overjoyed to hear of this free entertainment. They told the ferryman, 'We will all chip in and pay for their ride; you get them on the ferry.'
The ferryman had wanted very much to hear Bagha's magnificent dholak the moment he saw it, so he readily accepted the proposition. The ferry started off after boarding Gupi and Bagha. The boat being full, they couldn’t find a place to sit and play the instrument. After much difficulty they managed to find a little spot in the middle of the boat. By then it had sailed to the middle of the river. Gupi hummed for a bit before he began his song, and Bagha put his sticks on to the dholak. Jolted by utter surprise, the passengers hugged and huddled so much that the boat capsized.
There was no end to the troubles faced by Gupi and Bagha. Thankfully, Bagha's dholak was enormous in size; by grabbing on to it together, they managed to stay afloat. They could not, however, reach ashore to go visit the palace. All day they floated along the river, and in the evening, arrived at the edge of a terribly dense forest. One could die of fear upon entering that forest during daytime, let alone survive there at night. Bagha asked, 'Brother Gupi, everything seems hopeless to me! What can we do now?'
'What can we do? I will sing and you will play. When we know that the tiger is going to make a meal of us, then why not show him what we know before we die?'
'You are absolutely right. It is better to die like the maestros that we are rather than some rustic fools!'
Saying this, still in their wet clothes, they started playing and singing to their hearts' content. Since Bagha's dholak was damp, the sound it emanated turned out to be very somber. And because Gupi was thinking that it was his last song, his voice too was very solemn. Oh, how can I describe what a great performance it was! One hour, two hours passed and then it was midnight but their concert still continued.
It was then that they realized something was happening around them. Enormous, dark shadowy forms were peering down from the treetops; their eyes were blazing, like burning coals, their bare teeth were like a row of radishes. When the two friends saw this, Bagha's dholak beat stopped inadvertently, their arms and legs seized up, their backs arched, and their shoulders drooped and their mouths gaped open. Gupi and Bagha shuddered so violently that they couldn't even run away from the spot.
The ghosts, however, didn't harm them at all. They were so fascinated by the music of Gupi and Bagha that they had come to invite the duo to play at the wedding ceremony of their prince. When the song stopped, they asked in their nasal tone, 'Why did you stop, dear? Play on, play on, play on!'
Gupi and Bagha felt a little reassured. 'It doesn't sound like a threat, let's sing and see what happens.' And no sooner had they started singing, than the ghosts came down one by one from the trees and began dancing around them.
What an event it was! One wouldn't believe unless one saw it with one's own eyes. Gupi and Bagha had never in their life encountered such appreciation for their art. The night passed in merriment. The ghosts couldn't remain out in the open after dawn. As they were leaving a few moments before sunrise, they invited Gupi and Bagha, 'Dear boys, please come to the wedding of our chief's son. We will make you happy.'
'But we are headed for the palace,' Gupi protested.
'You can do that later, but first please sing and play for our King. We will make you happy,' said the ghosts. So carrying the dholak with them, together they went to the house of the ghosts. And what a marvelous performance it was!
Later, when they were about to leave, the ghosts asked, 'What do you want? Ask anything.'
'We want to entertain people with our performance,' Gupi replied.
The ghosts said, 'All right. When people would hear you perform, they would remain mesmerized in their seats, not being able to move before the completion of the performance. What else do you want?'
'We wish never to have any want of food and clothing,' Gupi said. On hearing this, the ghosts gave them a bag and said, 'Whenever you need clothes or food, just put your hands inside the bag and you'll get it. Anything else?'
'I don't know what more to ask,' said Gupi. The ghosts laughed and brought two pairs of shoes to them and said, 'When you wear these shoes, you can go to any place you want in a moment.'
So, there weren't anything else left to ask for. Gupi and Bagha took leave of the ghosts, put on their ghostly-gifted shoes and said, 'We want to go to the palace!' Suddenly the dense forest vanished in thin air, and they found themselves standing before the main entrance of a huge building. It was the nicest and the biggest house they ever saw in their lives; they realized it was the palace.
There, however, was a problem. A couple of fierce gatekeepers, looking like the minions of Yama (the God of Death), stood guard at the entrance. When they saw Gupi and Bagha approaching with the massive dholak, they frowned and asked, 'Hey, where do you think you are going?'
Surprised, Gupi said, 'Dear sirs, we are here to perform for the King.' The gatekeepers became very angry at this; they raised their sticks and shouted, 'Go away from here!'
At this Gupi turned up his nose and said, 'Of course we will visit the King!' As soon as he uttered this, the magic shoes brought them before the King.
The King was asleep in the inner chamber of his palace; the queen was sitting next to him and fanning. Suddenly, without any warning, Gupi and Bagha appeared with their massive dholak. The magic shoes weren't barred at all by the closed doors and windows. Unfortunately, the queen was so startled to see them, that she gave out a loud cry and fainted right on the spot; the King jumped up from his bed and started running around like mad; a tumultuous confusion broke out in the palace. The sentries and the soldiers rushed in with their shields and their swords.
Gupi and Bagha became totally confused. Had they uttered but once, 'We want to leave this place and go somewhere else' there wouldn't have been any trouble. But they didn't think of it at all. They tried to run away on foot, were readily apprehended and badly beaten by shoes, sticks, whip, thrash, slap, ear-pull—nothing was left. Finally, the King ordered, 'Let them remain imprisoned for three days. Then I will judge them and decide whether to execute them or feed them to the dogs.'
Poor Gupi! Poor Bagha! The wretched duo came to perform for the King hoping for some rewards; instead they found themselves in a dungeon. The guards tied them up and beating them along the way threw them in a dark cell. They hurt so bad that for a day they couldn't move at all. But that wasn't the most distressing part. What was worse was that Bagha's dholak had been confiscated. Bagha beat his chest and his head in grief, howling, 'O Brother Gupi! Oho-oh-oh-oh-oh! Brother Gupi! It's all right that we were beaten up and that we might die, I don't mourn that – but Brother, my dholak, it's gone!'
Gupi was somewhat calmer than Bagha. Patting Bagha on the head, he said, 'Why you are so worried, brother? They might have taken the dholak, but the shoes and the bag are still here. We are really foolish to suffer the blows. We could have easily escaped. Anyway, it's over now. Come, let's have some fun.'
A little reassured, Bagha asked, 'What fun are we going to have, brother?'
Gupi said, 'Let's have some fun with eating first. Then we can think about other amusements.'
Gupi put his hand in the bag given by the spirits and intoned, 'Bring on, bring on fast, a pot of pulav.' (Pulav is similar to rice pilaf.) A lovely smell emanated as soon as Gupi had made his wish! Even kings do not partake of such a kind of pulav, and what a large pot it was. How would Gupi get so massive a pot out of the little bag? Yet, somehow, he managed to extract it. Then, he instructed the bag, 'Bhaja, byanjan, chutney, mithai, doi, rabri, sherbet! — Bring on, bring on fast.' Within a few moments, the room was crowded with food items in golden and silver utensils. How could two people eat so much? The wonderful food eased all their aches and pains.
Bagha said, 'Brother, let's flee from here now, else we would be fed to the dogs.'
Gupi asked, 'Are you barmy? As long as we have these shoes, how can they feed us to the dogs? Let's wait and see what happens.' Bagha was amused; he now knew that Brother Gupi would do something interesting.
A couple of days passed. Only a day remained before their judgment by the King. On the night prior to their trial, Gupi put his hands inside the bag and said, 'We need royal attire for the two of us.' No sooner had he spoken out than two exquisite dresses materialized in the bag – so gorgeous that no ordinary dressmaker could have created them. They put on the fabulous new clothes, and packed their old clothes and the few utensils in a bundle. Donning their magic shoes they said, 'Let's go for a stroll in the field.' As soon as this was uttered, they found themselves standing in large field outside the palace. They hid their bundle in a corner of the field and sauntered towards the front entrance.
Seeing them approach, the King's men rushed to the King, shouting, 'Your Majesty, a couple of monarchs are coming this way.' Hearing this, the King himself came down to the entrance, and heartily greeting Gupi and Bagha, led them inside. They were seated in a spectacular chamber with countless servants, cooks, guards and footmen at their services.
After Gupi and Bagha had freshened up and partaken of some refreshments, the King asked after them. He had already guessed from their clothes 'what great kings they must be'. So he asked Gupi, 'Pray name the kingdoms you rule.'
Gupi pressed his hands together and said, 'Your Majesty, how can we be kings? We are your mere servants!'
Gupi was, of course, telling the truth but the King didn't believe him. He thought, 'How humble they are, and how very soft-spoken too. I see they are as much of gentlemen as great kings.' He didn't say anything further but escorted them to the court. The two prisoners who had barged into the King's bedchamber were to be judged that day. The time of judgment had arrived, and guards had been dispatched to bring the criminals to the court; but where would they find them? For three days their door had remained locked; when the soldiers unlocked it, they found the room empty, and the prisoners, gone.
A terrible hue and cry broke out. The captain of the guards became awfully angry and yelled at them. The soldiers pressed their hands together and said, 'Huzoor, we are not guilty; we locked the doors, and on top of that we stood on guard at all times. They were not human beings, they were ghosts, else how could they vanish from a locked cell?'
Everybody believed the above explanation. At first the King was so angry that he wished to sever the captain's head. Upon hearing the details he relented. 'Right, those two must be ghosts,' he agreed. 'My chamber was also locked, how then could they enter the room with that massive dholak?'
Then everybody said, 'Yes, yes, they must be ghosts!' They broke into cold shivers and sweats. Remembering Bagha's dholak, they said, 'A ghost's dholak is a deadly thing. You should never keep it in your house. You must burn it right now.'
The King too agreed, 'Dear Lord! Who would keep a ghost's dholak in the house? Burn it immediately!'
When Bagha heard this he covered his face with his two hands and began to roll on the floor and howl.
Bagha was causing Gupi a lot of headaches! Only hearing about the fate of his dholak made Bagha wail; God only knew what he would have done if it were really burned before his eyes. Could Bagha stop himself from owning the dholak as his? What a calamity! What if they were apprehended and killed instantly!
Gupi ardently wished to flee from the spot with Bagha. But that was an impossible now; before settling down in the court the shoes were taken off from their feet.
Bagha's exploits had in the meantime caused a dreadful commotion in the court. Everybody thought he must be terribly ill, and that he wouldn't survive any longer. The royal physician came and felt Bagha's pulse and then he nodded rather somberly. Bagha was given several doses of laxative and the belestara treatment (some naturopathic therapy with herbs and poultice). The physician then said, 'If this doesn't lessen the pain, a couple more of belestaras may have to be fixed on both sides.'
Bagha's howl immediately stopped upon hearing this. Everybody thought what wonderful medicines the physician had prescribed!
Anyway, despite the pain caused by the belestara, when Bagha realized that his howl had postponed the plan of burning his dholak, he felt a little calmed. The King had him brought over to his chamber with great care; Gupi sat by his side and fanned over the belestara.
When they were alone, Gupi said to Bagha reproachfully, 'Dear brother, why did you cry like that? See what a mess we got ourselves now.' Bagha replied, 'Had I not cried out, my dholak would have been burnt by now. I have to endure a little irritation, but at least my dholak is saved.'
When the King returned to court, he was approached by the captain of the guards, who whispered in his ear, 'Your Majesty, I have something to say if you would kindly allow me.'
The King asked, 'What is it?'
The captain said, 'Your Majesty, that man who rolled on the floor and howled, and his companion, those two are the ghosts; I recognized them.'
The King said, 'You may be right, I too thought the same. If that's true then we have a problem. What could we do now?'
Everybody in the court began whispering about it. Someone said, 'Let's call the exorcist, and have the two expelled.' Another person said, 'What if the exorcist fails to oust them, then they could get angry and do something dreadful. Let's burn them while they are asleep at night.'
Everybody liked the proposition, but while setting ablaze the ghosts the palace might also catch fire. After much deliberation, it was finally decided that they should be moved to the garden-house. It wouldn't cause much harm if the garden-house were to be burnt. The King said, 'Then you better place this dholak in the garden-house; that way when the garden-house is in flames, all the distresses would cease at once.'
Gupi and Bagha were greatly pleased to hear about the garden-house, unaware of the terrible scheme that was laid for them; they thought they could live comfortably in a secluded spot which would also assist their musical recital as well. The garden was beautiful. The house had a wooden structure, and it looked amazing. Bagha quickly recovered from his ailment.
Gupi asked, 'Dear brother, why should we continue staying here anymore? Let's leave this place.'
Bagha pleaded, 'Brother, we could never again stay in such beautiful a place as this; let's hang out here for a few more days. I wish I had my dholak with me here.'
That evening, while Bagha was strolling about the house, Gupi sat at a spot in the garden humming some song. Suddenly, Bagha screamed loudly, 'Brother Gupi, brother Gupi!' Gupi rushed into the room and found Bagha dancing like a madman with his dholak on his head. He continued screaming Gupi's name, so ecstatic that he couldn't stand still or speak clearly. This exhibition continued for another half an hour, before Bagha finally regained a certain amount of composure. He said excitedly, 'Brother Gupi, did you see my dholak — it's such a joy — ha...ha…ha!' again resuming his dance for another ten minutes. Then he remarked, 'Dear brother, I finally found my dholak after so much trouble. Let's please sing a song and I shall play it.'
Gupi said, 'Not now, brother; I am terribly hungry. At night, after dinner, we can sit in the verandah and indulge in a musical soiree.'
The King, however, had already decided to burn them that very night. The captain was ordered to arrange for a spectacular dinner party in the garden-house that evening. It was decided that the inspector would be present there along with fifty-sixty of his men. When Gupi and Bagha would be asleep after the meal, they would set fire simultaneously on all sides of the wooden house, thus blocking all the exit routes.
The dinner went well. Gupi and Bagha thought that after the guests had left, they would begin their musical program; the inspector, on the other hand, wanted to burn the house down as soon as Gupi and Bagha had retired for the night. He was anxious to send them to bed. When it became clear that he would not leave unless Gupi and Bagha went off to bed, the duo retired to their respective beds and started to snore.
Soon, the silence made Gupi and Bagha realize that everybody had left. They waited a little longer, to ensure that the garden was absolutely empty. Then they sat on verandah, started to sing and play the dholak.
Meanwhile, the captain of the guards had already instructed his men, 'Each one of you should very carefully set fire on the doors; make sure you don't leave the spot before the house goes up in flames!' He himself went to set fire to the staircase. The house was rapidly in flames. The captain thought, 'I should now flee from here!' when he heard Bagha's dholak. Gupi, too, had started to sing. The captain and his guards couldn't move from the spot, and almost everybody burned to death. Gupi and Bagha, however, were able to carry the dholak and their bundles to safety with the help of their magic shoes.
There were only a handful of survivors, who rushed to inform the King about the incident. The King was terrified of what he thought the work of vengeful ghosts. Soon more witnesses came forward with their account of how they were present on the spot to enjoy the fiery show, when they heard some very strange music there, and saw the two ghosts fly through the air with their own eyes. This made the King really tremble in fear! He dismissed this court that day, hurried home and locked the doors for the fear of ghosts. Then he wrapped himself with his quilt and sank in his bed. He didn't come out of his chamber for a month.
Meanwhile, Gupi and Bagha, having escaped from the fire, returned to the same forest near their dwelling where they had first met each other. They dearly wished to see their parents after all this.
Bagha asked, 'Brother Gupi, didn't I meet you in this spot?'
Gupi nodded. 'Yes.'
Bagha said, 'Then we must not leave this special spot without doing a musical performance.'
Gupi agreed. 'You are absolutely right, dear brother. Why delay? Let's start.'
In the meantime, a surprising event was transpiring. A group of dacoits had looted the treasury of the King of Halla and kidnapped his two young sons. The King gave chase with a huge army, but couldn't quite get hold of them. The dacoits were crossing the forest right at the time when Gupi and Bagha had commenced their performance. Since there wasn't any way to leave the place before the song ended, the dacoits were stuck. The musical performance continued throughout the night, so the dacoits, too, remained rooted on the spot. The King of Halla and his men caught up with them quite easily in the morning. Later, when the King came to know that it was because of Gupi and Bagha's musical performance that the dacoits could be apprehended, lavish praises and gratitude were heaped upon them.
The princes also exclaimed, 'Father, we've never heard such amazing music before. Let's take them with us.'
So the King of Halla asked Gupi and Bagha, 'Do come with me! You will be paid five hundred rupees every month.'
Gupi pressed his hands together and addressed the King. 'Your Majesty, please grant us a two-day leave. We will see our parents, and after we take their permission, we will arrive at your capital.'
The King replied, 'Very well then. I will be resting in this forest for the next couple of days. You will find us here when you return.'
After he had driven Gupi away from his house, Gupi's father was very anxious about him .So, when he saw Gupi return, there was no end to his happiness. Bagha, however, was terribly unlucky. His parents had died a few days ago. When the villagers saw him approach with his massive dholak placed on his head, they said, 'Oh God! That Bagha fellow is back again to trouble us; let's beat him up!' Bagha replied courteously, 'I have come to see my parents; I will stay with them for a couple of days and then leave. I won't play at all.' But they wouldn't listen. They told him about his parent’s death and then chased him with their stout sticks. When Bagha tried to run for his life, they broke his leg and left him bleeding. Gupi was sitting in the verandah and chatting with his father, when he observed Bagha all bloody and limping towards them. Gupi rushed to him, 'What happened? How did this happen to you?'
Bagha's face lit up when he saw Gupi. Panting he said, 'Dear brother, somehow I saved my life! The idiots in my village were almost about to smash my dholak.' After showing up at Gupi's house and receiving great hospitality from his parents, Bagha passed the next couple of days passed quite happily. Then Gupi took leave of his parents saying, 'Be ready; whenever we get a break, we'll come back and take you with us.'
A few months had passed. Gupi and Bagha had been comfortably living in the palace of the King of Halla. Their fame had spread far and wide. People said, 'There would never be greater maestros than these two.' The King, too, was very fond of them. He couldn't live a day without their music. He told Gupi about all his worries and woes. One day Gupi observed that the King was looking rather pale. He looked lost in thought, as if he were in some deep trouble.
Finally, he confided in Gupi. 'Gupi, I am in a very difficult situation. I don't know what will happen. The King of Shundi is coming to seize my kingdom,' said the King morosely.
The King of Shundi was the same monarch who had tried to burn Gupi and Bagha to death. When Gupi heard his name, he thought of an excellent plan. He said to the Halla King, 'Your Majesty, please don't think about it anymore. Give this servant of yours the order and I will turn this into a comic fiesta.'
The King smiled and said, 'Gupi, you are an artist, you don't care about wars, you don't even understand them. The King of Shundi has great military strength – what can I do about it?'
Gupi replied, 'Your Majesty, if you give me the orders, I could try something. There is no harm in trying.'
The King said resignedly, 'You can do whatever you want.' Gupi was already hatching up a plan.
Gupi and Bagha conferred for a long time that night. Bagha said, 'Dear brother, this time we must do something great. I am just worried about one thing; if there is ever a need to flee from some danger; I may totally forget the shoes and try to dash around like commoners and get beaten up. It was the thing that happened to me last time at the hands of the idiots in my village!'
Anyway, Gupi's words made Bagha feel reassured, and next day they started their work. They secretly visited Shundi at night and casually wandered around the palace and gathered information about the place. The battle preparations they observed seemed extensive; were the Shundi soliders to attack Halla, there wouldn't be any escape. Daily ritual worship was being held with great pomp at the King's prayer house. The plan was to worship for days until they pleased their God, and then start towards Halla.
Gupi and Bagha saw it all. One day they locked the doors of their private chamber and said to their magic bag, 'We need some new kind of excellent quality sweets.'
It need not be explained what exceptional sweetmeats came out of that bag. People never ate, nor saw, such exquisite confections. Gupi and Bagha climbed atop the King of Shundi's massive temple with those sweets. The worship was going on with great show below; smokes of incense and resin, the sounds of conch-shells and gongs—there was no end to the din and the bustle. The courtyard was filled with people. At an opportune moment, Bagha and Gupi emptied the container of sweets on the heads of the people. Clutching the spire of the temple, they enjoyed the show from above; nobody could detect them in the darkness amidst the incense fumes.
The noise ceased as soon as the sweets were dropped in the courtyard. A number of people jumped, some of them shouted and fled. Gradually, a few of the brave men among the crowd picked up a few sweetmeats and scrutinized them under the light. Finally, one of them closed his eyes and took a bite; after that he didn't talk—he picked up the sweets from the courtyard with his two hands and kept on eating them and dancing around and shouting in merriment. Then the whole crowd in the courtyard began to scramble madly and eat the sweets.
Meanwhile, a few of the men rushed to the King and said, 'Your Majesty! God is so pleased with our worship today that he sent us prasad (divine blessings or gifts) from heaven. We cannot explain what exquisitely tasting prasad it is.' Tucking his loincloth in, the King hastily rushed in the direction of the temple, gasping for breath as he reached the spot. But alas! By that time all the prasad had finished. Even after sweeping the whole courtyard not a morsel of the prasad was found for the King.
Very angry, the King said, 'What you did is unfair! I did the worship, and you had all the prasad! You didn't even save a morsel for me! I shall have all of you impaled!' Everybody was terrified. Trembling, they pled for mercy.
'Please, Your Majesty, how can we eat all your prasad? Oh dear, oh dear! No sooner had we started to taste, than the supplies somehow ran out! Please forgive us for today's prasad; all of tomorrow's prasad will be kept solely for Your Majesty!'
The King was mollified. 'Very well! But beware! Remember what you said.'
The next day, the King, wishing not to miss out on the prasad again, sat in the temple courtyard staring at the sky, from one in the afternoon. The others assembled a few steps away and watched. Today the prayer gong was a hundred times louder than before; everybody thought that it would so impress the deity that he would send more heavenly ambrosia for the King.
Around midnight, Gupi and Bagha perched atop the temple as usual, carrying more of the delectable, sweet fare. Today they were dressed in more gorgeous attire—crowns on their head, necklaces, bracelets and earrings; today they came looking like deities. Although hardly anything could be seen in the smoke of the burning incense, the King continued to stare at the sky. Shaking with mirth, Gupi and Bagha emptied the container of sweets on the King. Startled, the King cried out loud and picking up the sweets from the floor, put them in his mouth. Such was the magical taste that the King couldn't help but dance wildly about the place.
Gupi and Bagha alighted from the top of the temple and stood before the King. Seeing them the people shouted, 'The deities are here! The deities are here!' and started to argue who would genuflect first; the King was already lying on the ground and beating his head continually on the floor in supplication. Gupi said to him, 'Your Majesty, we are extremely pleased to see you dance; come, let us embrace.' The King felt that he had attained eternal happiness and riches beyond all description; embracing the deities, wasn't it a matter of great fortune?
The people began to cheer loudly. Gupi and Bagha embraced the King tightly and said, 'Now we would go to our room!' As soon as they said this, they were transported, along with the King, back to their private apartment. The crowd in the courtyard of the temple stared astounded at the sky for a long time. When the King did not return, they went home and said, 'What a spectacle we observed today! Our Majesty went to heaven in person! The deities themselves came to escort him!'
Meanwhile, the King had fainted in Gupi and Bagha's warm embrace; he remained unconscious for a long time. Early next morning, upon opening his eyes, he found the two spirits resting at his bedside. He immediately genuflected before them and said, 'Please, please do not eat me! I will sacrifice two hundred oxen for your worship.'
Gupi said, 'Your Majesty, you have nothing to fear. We are not ghosts, and we are certainly not going to eat you.' The King, however, didn't feel reassured. He didn't say another word, just sat with bowed head and trembled in fear.
Bagha went upto the King of Halla and said, 'Last night we captured and brought over the King of Shundi; what are your orders now?'
The King of Halla said, 'Bring him over here.'
When the two monarchs met, the King of Shundi realized that he had been captured. Not only could he now not conquer Halla, but also feared he might lose his life as well. The King of Halla, however, decided not to execute him and just confiscated his kingdom. Then he turned to Gupi and Bagha and said, 'You saved me from being ruined; had it not been for you I would have lost both my kingdom and my life. What can I do to repay you? I am offering each of you half of the kingdom of Shundi and the hands of two of my daughters in marriage.'
What a grand celebration then started! Having received half the kingdom of Shundi and become the sons-in law of the King of Halla; Gupi and Bagha happily continued playing their music. Gupi's parents' honor and happiness knew no bounds.
1. Gyne: One who sings
2. Bagha: One resembling a tiger
3. Byne: A player of a musical instrument of percussion.
4. Haritaki: Black myrobalan.
5. Da/Dada: Brother. A kind of address. Literally refers to an elder brother or elderly male cousin.
6. Yama: The Hindu God of death.
7. Polau: A delicious dish of rice.
8. Bhaja: A dish of fries.
9. Byanjan: Vegetable curry
10. Mithai: Sweetmeats; dessert.
11. Doi: Sweet yogurt.
12. Rabri: A dessert made of milk cream and sugar.
13. Huzoor: My lord.
14. Belestara: A kind of naturopathic or Ayurvedic treatment used in ancient India for certain ailments.
15. Prasad: Literally, a gracious gift. Anything, usually an edible food that is first offered to a deity, saint. Here meaning ambrosia, food of gods.
The original story "Gupi Gyne o Bagha Byne" (গুপি গাইন ও বাঘা বাইন) by Upendrakishore Raychaudhury was first published along with several others in the monthly children's magazine Sandesh (সন্দেশ) started by Upendrakishore himself during 1913-1915.
Illustration byBarnalli Saha.