Translated from the Bengali by Palash Baran Pal
When the act of creation was coming to an end and the final whistle
was about to be blown, an idea transpired in Lord Brahma's head.
He called the storekeeper and said, "Hey storekeeper, bring fair
amounts of all five elements to my workshop. I will create a new
The storekeeper folded his hands and said, "Grandfather, when you
created the elephant, the whale, the anaconda, the lion and the
tiger, in all your excitement you did not pay any attention to
stocktaking. The supplies of all the strong and heavy elements are
almost completely drained. There is very little left of earth,
water and fire. Only air and space are left, and they are there in
The four-headed Brahma twirled His four mustaches for a while and
said, "Well, bring me whatever you have, let me see what I can do."
This time, when He created the new animal, He was really stingy with
the earth, water and fire. He did not give horns to the new animal,
and no claws either. The teeth that He gave were good for chewing
but not for biting. He gave it a small amount of fire so that the
animal could be of some use in battlefields, but not enough to make
the animal interested in fighting. This animal is the horse. It
does not lay eggs but there is a heresay about these
eggs,1 so it can be
called a twice-born
No matter what He did with the other elements, the creator was very
generous with air and space. As a result, the animal was almost
totally obsessed with freedom. It wanted to run faster than the
wind, as if it dared to cross the endless sky. Other animals ran
when a reason appeared. But this one ran for no reason, as if it
wanted to run away from its own self. It did not want to grab
anything from others or to kill others --- it only wanted to flee:
as if to become ecstatic with flight, intoxicated with flight, and
finally vanish into nothingness. Wise people say that this is
exactly what happens when air and space completely overshadow earth,
water and fire in one's nature.
Brahma was very pleased. To some animals, He gave forests as their
home. To some animals, He gave caves. But to this animal, He gave
open fields, because He loved to see it running.
Man lived by the side of the field. Whatever things he scrounged
for himself became a big burden to carry. When he saw the horse
running in the field, he thought, "If we can somehow harness this
animal, it would be a big help for our marketing trips."
He lassoed the horse one day. He put a saddle on its back, and a
bridle with a bit in its mouth. He whipped the animal on its
shoulders and kicked it with spurred shoes. In addition, there were
assaults on its torso.
If the horse were left free in the fields it might get away, so man
put walls around it. The tiger had forests, it stayed in the
forest. The lion had caves, no one claimed it. But the horse had
the open field, and it ended up in a stable. The elemental air and
space ushered the animal towards freedom, but could not save it from
When it became unbearable, the horse started kicking the walls of
the stable. Its legs got more injured than the walls. Still, the
plastering of the walls was damaged and the walls looked ugly.
Man got very irritated by this. He said, "This is ungratefulness at
its height. I provide fodder for the horse. I pay a hefty salary
to a lad to look after it around the clock, and yet I cannot win the
To win the heart, the stable lads used their clubs with such vigor
that the horse did not even have the strength to lift its legs for
kicking. Man called his neighbors and said, "There is no other
animal that is as devoted to its master as this one of mine." The
neighbors said in an appreciative tone, "You are right. It is as
cool as ice. Cool like your own
The horse did not have appropriate teeth or claws or horns to begin
with. Now, it could not even kick the walls, or even the air. So,
in order to clear the mind, it raised its head to the sky and
started neighing. That disturbed man in his sleep. The neighbors
also thought that the sound did not have the tone of deep gratitude.
So a lot of appliances were designed to keep the animal's mouth
shut. But the cries cannot be stopped unless breathing is. So a
muffled groan kept coming out of its mouth from time to time.
One day that sound reached Brahma's ears. He woke up from his
meditation and looked at the open field on earth. There was no sign
of the horse there.
The Grandfather called Yama, the god of death, and said, "It must be
your doing. You have consumed my horse."
Yama said, "Creator, you always put me on top of your list of
suspects. Why don't you take a look at the neighborhood of man?"
Brahma saw a very small space, enclosed by walls, and the horse
standing in the middle, neighing faintly.
His heart melted. He told man, "If you don't set this animal free,
I will give it claws and teeth like the tiger's, and the animal will
be useless to you."
Man said, "That would be a shame! That would only indulge violence.
But Grandpa, whatever you say, this animal of yours is not worth
setting free. I have spent a lot of money to build the stable only
to help the animal. A grand stable, you must agree."
Brahma said stubbornly, "You have to set it free."
Man said, "Fine, I will. But only for a week. If, after that, you
still insist that your open field is better for the animal than my
stable, I will concede."
Man let the animal in the field. But, before doing so, he tied its
two front legs with a sturdy rope. The horse could only move with a
gait that was worse than a frog's leaps.
Brahma lived far away in heaven. He could see the movement of the
horse, but could not see the rope that tied its legs. He blushed at
the clownish gait of the animal of his own creation and said, "I
made a mistake."
Man folded his hands and said, "What shall I do now with this
creature? If you have fields in your heavenly abode, I can send it
Brahma said hurriedly, "No no, take it back to your stable."
Man said, "But, Revered Creator, that will be a big burden for
mankind to bear."
Brahma said, "That is what humanity is all about."
1. In Bengali, "horse's egg" is an idiomatic
expression for something absurd and
impossible.(Back to text)
2. In Bengali, there is a word that can be used for
birds and reptiles, whose etymological meaning is "twice-born":
first in the form of an egg, and second when the egg
fertilizes. (Back to text)
3. The Bengali word in the original, "dharma", can
be used to mean either "disposition" or
"religion".(Back to text)
The translator thanks Shoili Pal and Chhanda Chattopadhyay Bewtra for their critical comments on an earlier draft.
Published in Parabaas, May 7, 2021.
The original, titled
[Ghora, ঘোড়া] by Rabindranath Tagore
was first published in the Bengali magazine Sabuj Patra (সবুজ পত্র) in Boishakh, 1326 (April-May, 1919) and later collected in lipikaa (লিপিকা) (`Brief Writings') in August 1922.
Palash Baran Pal [পলাশ বরণ পাল].
(b. 1955) is a physicist by profession. He mainly writes
research articles in his field of research, but ...
Illustrated bySanchari Mukherjee. Sanchari is currently working at Delhi.
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