Introduction & Part 1 |
Part 2 |
The Kheer Doll (Continued)
In this way, in a terrible
apprehension, one month, two months, three months passed. The elder queen’s new
cottage began to wear off. The thatched roof began showing holes, some of its
hay were swept off by the wind. The monkey met the king.
The king asked –“Why monkey? Why
have you come?”
The monkey asked–Maharaja, should I be fearful or
“Be fearless,” said the king.
The monkey replied--“Maharaja, my mother suffers in her
broken room. There are cracks on the door; the roof has hardly any hay. It is
cold inside. My mother doesn’t have a quilt to cover herself with, she has no
firewood to light a fire. She shivers throughout the night.”
The king rejoined--“Right!
Right! Good that you have reminded me.
Monkey, bring your mother into the palace, I will give orders to get a wing
ready for her.”
The monkey said--“Maharaja, I am scared to bring mother in
here. The younger queen might poison her.”
The king said–“Do not fear that. I
will keep her in a new house. I will dig a moat around. I will keep
guards to guard the entrance. The younger queen will not be able to enter. My
elder queen, her deaf and dumb maid and you, her pet son, will reside there.”
The monkey said--“Let me then move
my mother there.”
The king ordered–“Go Mantri,
make an accommodation ready for the queen.”
The minister employed thousands of
men and arranged a big house for Duorani to stay in within a single day.
her ruined cottage, her torn mattress, and came to her new house wearing a gold
sari. She sat on gold bedstead, ate
from gold plate and donated money to the
poor. All in the kingdom sang her praises.
All this made the younger queen’s blood boil
There was a Brahmin sorceress who
knew the dark secrets of black magic. She and the younger queen were very good
friends. Since they could speak their minds to each other, shared almost everything,
they fondly called each other “Moner
The sorceress was always at the younger queen’s beck and call. The younger
queen ordered, “Ask Moner Katha to
come to me. Tell her, I need to talk to her. ”
The sorceress hurried to the palace
since none other than the queen had
The queen greeted her–“Come friend, Moner Katha, how are you? Come, sit
close to me.”
The sorceress sat beside the queen
and said, “Why did you send for me friend? You look blue around the gills.
There are tears in your eyes. What has happened?”
“Don’t ask!” replied the queen
angrily. “The elder queen has returned here. She wore a gold embroidered sari
and got a new house all to herself. She has become the king’s beloved queen.”
That beggar of a Duorani has become Shuorani now and has
captured the entire palace. Moner Katha,
my friend, all this gives me blisters. Get me poison so that I may swallow and
die. I cannot bear to see her happy.
The sorceress said–“Oh no dear
friend, you shouldn’t speak like that. Why should you take poison? Duorani has become the queen today;
tomorrow she will turn into a beggar once again. Our Shuorani will remain where
“No my friend,” replied Shuorani. “I have no wish to live. Duorani will give birth to a prince who
will become the king in future. People will praise Duorani and say that she has borne a jewel in her womb; she will be
a king’s mother. And about me they will say--“Look at that black-faced Shuorani,
she enjoyed being the Maharaja’s beloved Shuorani all the while,
yet she couldn’t bear him any children. Fie! She is a bad omen. If you look at
her in the morning you will have to go without food. Friend, I will not be able
to bear their sharp tongue. Give me poison. Either I will drink it and die or I
will give it to the elder queen.”
The sorceress whispered, “Hush
queen. Someone might hear you. Why do you worry? I shall secretly bring you poison
which you can give to that Duorani.
Now grant me leave. I must go in search of the poison.”
“Go friend, but take care,” said Shuorani, “It must be strong enough so
that a single dose does its work.”
“Do not fear,” replied the
sorceress. “Within a few days I shall poison Duorani, I will crush her desire to be a mother forever. Be in
The old sorceress went in search of
poison. She searched for days in dense
forests and one late evening she found a deadly snake coiled beneath a bush .
She cast a spell on the sleeping snake and extracted its kalkut[viii]
poison and brought it to her friend.
Shuorani prepared varieties of sweets, some with
condensed milk, some out of green gram, some with gram flour, and mixed the
deadly poison in all of them. She then arranged all the sweets on a plate and
called the sorceress and told her–“Friend, go and sell these poison sweets to
the elder queen.”
The old sorceress obeyed and carried
the plate to Duorani’s house.
happily greeted her, “Come in, come in my dear. Should you forget me because I am a Duorani?”
“What are you saying!” replied the evil old
woman. “I live only at your mercy. How can I forget you? Look, with such a lot
of care I have prepared these sweets for you.”
The queen saw that the old Brahmin
lady had a plateful of sweets arranged beautifully for her. She happily thrust
into her hands two handful of gold coins and bade her leave. The sorceress went
The queen tasted a little of the kheer sweet. Her tongue lost the sense
of taste. She took a bite off a gram-flour laddoo. Her throat turned dry. She
ate the boondi laddoo and her chest
burned like fire. She cried out to the monkey, “The sorceress has fed me something
that’s making me feel terribly sick. I don’t think I will live.”
“Come mother. Lie down on the bed.
You will feel better,” said the monkey. The queen stood up. The poison hit her
head. Her vision blurred. Her head reeled. She fell down on the marble floor
like a golden idol.
The monkey pulled her head up on his
lap, checked her pulse, pulled open her eyelids and looked into her eyes—she
was cold and senseless. The monkey laid the queen on her bed and ran to the
forest in search of medicinal herbs. He collected some unknown leaves,
creepers, and roots from the forest, and made a paste and fed her.
The news spread to the palace that
the elder queen has had poison. The king stumbled and rushed to the elder
queen. The king’s minister ran along. Next came the court physician chanting mantras. A crowd of workers, maids, men
and women from the palace followed.
The monkey said, “Maharaja, why have you asked so many
people to come? I have given Mother a medicine. She is well now. Let her sleep
for a while. Please ask your men to leave.” The king ordered the physician to test the sweets for poison
and asked him to leave. He asked the
minister to take charge of the kingdom for some time and he himself remained with
his elder queen.
For three days and three nights Duorani
remained unconscious. On the fourth day she came back to her senses. The queen
finally opened her eyes. The monkey
reported to the king--“Maharaja,
the elder queen has recovered. You have a son, a prince, a king of the kings.”
The king immediately took off his
diamond necklace and gave it to the monkey and said, “Let’s go monkey. Let’s go
and have a look at the elder queen and my son!”
I have consulted his horoscope,” replied the monkey. “If you look at your son
now, you shall turn blind. You should
look at him only after he is married. Now you must go and have a look at your elder
queen. Look what Shuorani has done to her.”
The king went and saw that the
effect of poison had turned the queen’s golden skin black. She lay like a metal
The king went back to his palace and
got the younger queen imprisoned. He shaved off the head of the sorceress,
poured yoghurt on her bald head, made her sit backwards on a donkey and
banished her from his kingdom forever.
Then he sent for his minister. “Mantri, today is a blissful day. I
have got a son, a king of kings, after decades. Light up the streets, burst
fireworks in every house, call the poor and the destitute and give them coins
from the treasury. See that there remains no beggar in the kingdom’. The
minister followed the king’s orders and decorated the streets with lights,
lit fireworks in the houses, gave coins
from the treasury to the poor and the destitute. Everyone in the kingdom
praised the king.
In this way, with new celebrations
each day, with the regular worship of gods in the temples, and sacrifices at
the altar of goddess Kali, and distribution of food and clothes to the poor,
ten long years passed.
The king then called the monkey and
said--“Ten years have passed. Now show me my son.”
“You must first find a wife for your
son,” replied the monkey, “then get him married and only then should you look
upon him. If you look at him now you will turn blind.”
At the monkey’s advice the king sent
heralds, all of whom were well versed in genealogy, to different kingdoms to search for a bride for his son. From
many countries arrived the news of many a princess but none impressed the king.
Last of all news arrived from the kingdom of Patali. The king’s herald returned
with a picture of a princess in a golden box. She looked like a gold idol.The
princess had a golden-hued skin, her joint-eyebrows were like a beautiful bow,
she had beautiful large eyes and a smile on her lips. She had long hair that,
if left open, touched her feet. This was the princess the king chose as the
bride for his son.
He called the monkey and said, “I
have chosen a princess. Tomorrow is an auspicious day, and at an auspicious
hour I shall go and get my son married to this princess.”
said the monkey, “send the groom’s palanquin with the bearers to mother’s house
tomorrow evening. I shall escort the groom to his wedding ceremony.”
“Look here,” said the king, “I have
listened to you for ten long years, if I do not get to see my son tomorrow
... there will be trouble.”
don’t worry,” assured the monkey calmly. “You go over to the in-laws house at
Patali. We will take the groom along with us.”
Worried that if he stole a glance at
the prince by mistake, he would turn blind—the king left for the in-laws house
early that day.
And monkey went to the elder queen’s
Since the time Duorani had heard that their son was to get
married she had stretched herself on her bed crying. “O where shall I get a son
from? How will I trick the king now?” she thought.
The monkey came and said with great
urgency in his voice, “Mother, O Mother, get up. Arrange for the groom’s dress,
get the topor headdress ready, and
make a doll of kheer,and we’ll dress
up the doll as the groom, it will be kheer
kumar, the doll of kheer. I will take it to the wedding ceremony and get
The queen was shocked. “Child have
you no fear? How can you take a doll of kheer
as a groom? Is this how you plan to trick the king? Child, let’s drop it. I
have cheated the king to get his affection, and for that sin Shuorani gave me poison. I have luckily survived! How can I dare cheat the king again? Enough son! Why increase the burden
of my sins? Go and call the king, let me confess everything.”
“Where will I find the king now?”
said the monkey. “It takes two days to reach the bride's house. The king has
already left. Keep your word and make me a doll of kheer. The king must be waiting there for the groom to arrive. It
will be a great insult for him if the groom doesn’t turn up. Mother do not
worry, you are sending kheer doll
to the wedding ceremony, if goddess Shasthi[ix]
takes pity on you, you might get a handsome son as your own.”
The queen put her trust in the
monkey, mastered courage in her heart and moulded a lovely doll out of kheer that was yummy and sweet. She put
on this doll the groom’s dress, put on the topor
as the headdress, put shoes with golden lace on its feet. The monkey placed the
groom in the palanquin secretly and pulled down the colourful curtains. Only
the groom’s feet with a pair of golden laced shoes were visible.
Sixteen palanquin bearers carried
the groom’s palanquin on their shoulders. The monkey wore a headdress, tied a
shawl around his waist, and with ensigns, bands, and torches went ahead to get
the doll of kheer wedded to the
princess of Patali.
The queen alone remained in the dark
house and desperately called upon the gods to protect her.
After travelling for the whole night
the sixteen bearers carrying the palanquin, the light-bearers carrying torches,
the band carrying drums, and all the invitees from the groom’s side reached
Dignagar —with great noise and aplomb.
Morning dawned beside the pond of Dignagar.
The torches had burnt out. The
horses were fatigued having galloped for so long. The palanquin bearers were
exhausted .The drummer’s hands could drum
The monkey ordered to put up a tent
beside the pond. He asked the bearers to place the palanquin beside the pond in
the temple-ground of Goddess Shashti
and gave them leave. He called the minister and said “Mantri, nobody should look at the prince; it is the king’s order.
It is bad omen to look at the groom today.”
The minister gave his orders. All
the king’s men bathed in the pond, cooked, ate their lunch, and rested inside
their tents. Nobody came towards the banyan tree under which the palanquin
When the women from the village came
to worship goddess Shasthi the king’s
men urged them to go away.
Nobody offered any prayers to the
goddess under the banyan tree that day. Inside the temple, Goddess Shasthi grew restless with hunger, her
throat turned dry with thirst. The monkey was having a good laugh in his heart.
It was late afternoon yet nobody had
offered the goddess even a drop of water. The goddess grew impatient; her black
cat began mewing.
The monkey had his plans . He left
the palanquin door open and hid nearby.
The goddess thought--Ah, the
trouble has gone at last! She came out of her frame in the scorching sun
looking for the regular offerings of fruits and sweets. But lo and behold! She
found a huge doll made entirely of delicious kheer inside a palanquin.
How could she resist now! She summoned the beloved Aunts of the Land of Sleep
in her mind.
Although it was day time in Dignagar
it was night time in the Land of Sleep.
The Aunts of Sleep had just cast
their spells in Dignagar and had put the children of the Goddess to sleep. In
the morning they had cast the spell of sleep on the eyes of the princess of the
Land of Sleep and now it was late afternoon and they were free to take a nap--but
at that very moment Goddess Shasthi summoned them. The Aunts of the Land of Sleep
sat up. The Aunts, who were actually two sisters, left the Land of Sleep and
travelled towards Dignagar once again. They touched the feet of the Goddess and
asked--“Goddess why have you summoned us?”
The goddess said--“My dear, it is so
late but I still haven’t had anything to eat. Do me a favour, put everyone in
the kingdom to sleep, while I go and eat the delicious doll of kheer that is inside this palanquin.”
At the goddess’s order the Aunts cast their
spell of sleep. All in the kingdom fell asleep. The shepherd boy in the field,
the babies at home, the babies’ mothers beside their babies, their elder
sisters in their nursery—everyone fell asleep. The king’s men in the Shasthi
temple-ground and even the children in their village schools fell asleep. The
minister dozed off with the pipe of hookah between his teeth. The school master
went to sleep with cane in his hand. It was nightfall at noon in Dignagar. The
Aunts cast their spell of sleep in
everybody’s eyes. Only the dogs and the jackals around the village, the king’s
elephants and horses around the pond, the birds in the forest, and the queen’s
monkey sitting in the tree, were awake. The wild cat of the goddess, the water
cats, the tree cats, and the domestic cats were also awake.
Goddess Shasthi then quietly pushed open the
door of the palanquin and took the kheer
doll in her hand. At the smell of the sweet yummy kheer the squirrels
scampered down from the trees, wild cats
came running out of the forest, water cats came out of the water, and domestic
cats crawled out of their corners towards the Shasthi temple-ground.
The goddess distributed the ten
fingers of the kheer doll to the cats to eat. She herself ate the arms, the
legs, the chest, the back and the head. She gave the two ears to the two Aunts
and bade them leave.
The Aunts flew back to the Land of
Sleep. The king’s party woke up beside the Dignagar pond; the villagers woke up
in the village. The goddess Shasthi
wiped her mouth and was about to enter her frame when the monkey jumped down from the tree
and caught her--“Goddess where are you going, give me back my kheer boy. I have
caught you stealing kheer. I will
spread the news of your deed throughout the
lands if you don’t return my kheer boy.”
The goddess was greatly troubled. “Oh no!” she
said, “Look what this burnt-faced monkey is saying! Leave my path this minute,
let me go! People will see me.”
The monkey said--“I will not. You
must first return me my boy or else I shall dip your idol in the pond, it will
be a fit punishment for stealing condensed milk being a goddess.”
The goddess was extremelyembarassed.
“Hush! Hush! Child, be quiet.” She said. “Someone might hear you. You see, I
did eat your milk doll, how can I bring it back now? There under the banyan
tree all my children are playing, choose whomever you want and get him married
to the princess. With my blessing, Duorani will look upon him as her own son.
Let me go now!”
“But where goddess?” asked the
monkey. “Where are they? I see no children under the banyan tree. Let me have
the magic eye, only then will I be able to see the children of Shasthidas Seth.”
The goddess touched the monkey’s eyes
and the monkey had the magic vision.
The monkey could now see that it was
a crowd of children around the Shasthi temple -ground. There were children everywhere—children
inside, children outside, children playing in the water, children running on
land, children on the roads and river banks, on the branches of trees, on the
green grass; wherever he looked he saw happy groups of boys and girls. Some
were black, some beautiful, some dark. Some wore anklets, some wore
girdles around their waist; some wore beaded chains around their neck. Some
played flutes, some played with rattles, some danced around turning their
babyish hands while their anklets jingled.
Some wore red shoes, some wore red
caps, some wore floral mulmul shawls
worth lakhs of rupees. Some boys were lean, some were chubby, some were naughty, some
were sober. Some children were riding on wooden horses, some were fishing in the
pond, some were bathing in the dam water, a group of children picking
flowers under a tree, another plucking fruits from the trees. All around were
fights and frolic, laughter and tears. It as a new land, a dream land.
There was only sports and games
here. There were no schools, no teachers in schools, no cane-holding hands of
teachers. There was a pond of dark water, beside the pond extended a stretch of
green long grass. There was a faraway field sprawling endlessly, and beyond it
were the mango and jackfruit orchards, on those trees perched long-tailed
parrots, and in the waters of the river dwelled the round eyed sheat fish, under the colocasia bushes lived troops of mosquitoes.
Beside the forest dwelt the Aunts of Bongaon
who prepared sweets out of puffed rice, and upon the pomegranate
tree beside the house danced the lord. Janti
fruits grew on the Janti tree beside the river, and blue horses grazed on the fields,
while golden peacocks of the land of Gaud were found everywhere. Some boys
mounted on the blue horses, some mounted the golden peacocks, played drums and
cymbals and took a palanquin and went to Kamalapuri to marry Puturani off. The
monkey went along with them to the land of Kamalapuri. That was a land of
parrots. There was only pandemonium of parrots, they sat on playstands and
pecked at the paddy, they sat on branches and squawked, and they played with
the children. There the men grew cows and bullocks along with crops and brushed
their teeth with diamond. That was a unique land indeed—within the wink of an
eye it would be morning and in another wink it would be evening—such were the
strange ways of that country!
Riding on a palanquin, counting six cowries, a
group of boys came to fish where the water was trapped between fine shinning
sand banks. Some of the boys got their feet pricked by fishbones, some had
sunlight shining on their faces. The sons of the fishermen slept covered in the
fishing nets. Just then it began to rain and the river flooded. The group of
boys left their wooden palanquin and six cowries behind and ran back home. On
their way back the fishes they had caught were snatched away by kites, the boys
returned home angry, their mothers cooled their hot milk and gave them to
drink. And beside that fine sand, beside that water god Shiva came and anchored
his boat. He had three maids with him. One cooked and served, one ate and the third
left for her father’s house angrily. The monkey went along with her to her native
In that maiden’s homeland, girls had
flocked to the river bank to bathe. They were drying their long black hair. On
either side of the river two carp fishes raised their heads—a rohu and a katla. Guruthakur, the
respected teacher, took one fish and a parrot who had arrived there rowing a
boat took the other. An otter saw this and began dancing with the fish in one
hand and the parrot in the other. At the door of a house a mother played with
her little boy and sang—
“Otter turn and look
look how my boy dances.”
The monkey saw that the boy was as
bright and lovely as a golden moon. He snatched the boy and took him quickly.
Immediately the magic land of the Shasthi temple ground vanished. The long-
tailed parrots spread their green wings across the sky and flew off to unknown
lands. The boat of Lord Shiva sailed away to a faraway land. The maidens at the
riverbank tucked in their stripped saris and disappeared. The pussy cat in the
land of Shasthi had tightened the girdle around it’s waist and was accompanying
the mother- in- law, to delight her with ladoos of puffed rice, four maids,
they were going through the mango and jackfruit orchards while taking Puturani
to her in-laws,they all quietly faded away into darkness. The otters who were
dancing on the tamarind leaves melted into the leaves. It was as if the whole
country sank underground.The monkey found that there was no goddess Shasthi
around. He was standing alone there with the boy under the banyan tree beside
the pond.The monkey called the King’s men. He made the handsome boy sit inside
the palanquin, lit torches, played
drums, and finally left Dignagar by evening.
There in the land of Patali the king
sat in the in-laws house and thought--the
monkey hasn’t turned up yet. Did he cheat me? I shall go back and cut his head
off. The bride thought—God knows how
the groom looks? The bride’s parents thought—Alas, our beloved child will
soon go away to an unknown household. The servants and maids of the palace
thought—When will we complete our work
and climb on the terrace and take a look at the groom? It was then that with drums
and pipes, with galloping horses, and with flaming torches the monkey arrived
with the groom. The king took his son by hand and led him to the court. The
bride’s father gave his daughter’s hand to his son–in–law. The neighbours
welcomed the groom, the maids blew conches and ululated--at last the
much-awaited wedding took place.
The king, his son, and his
daughter-in-law, with pipes and galloping horses, returned home the next day
along with the monkey. The Patali King’s palace became desolate overnight. The
beloved daughter of the parents was on her way to her new home.
There in King’s land the Duorani, having wept and worried for two
days and two nights at a stretch, had fallen asleep before dawn. She dreamt
that goddess Shasthi was telling her,
“Elder queen wake up. Look, your son has returned to you.” The queen woke up
and heard the maids calling her from the door, “Wake up Rani, wake up, wear a
proper sari and welcome your son and his bride.”
The queen dressed and stepped out.
She found that it was true! The king had brought back a bride and a groom!
Smiling, she greeted them.The boon of goddess Shasthi had worked. She forgot all about the kheer doll, she thought that she must have dreamt of such a doll
while worrying about her true son.
The king gave the kingdom to his
son, made the monkey the minister and he gave those eight pairs of bracelets
set with eight thousand gems, those ten pairs of anklets made of ten hundred
carats of gold that he had brought form the
magic lands to his daughter- in- law. In her hands the bracelets seemed as if
blood was oozing out. The anklets jingled in a sweet chime.
And the younger queen died of envy.