Bengal: The Evil Eye of Sani (end)

This story is part of the Bengali Folktales unit. Story source: Folk-Tales of Bengal by the Rev. Lal Behari Day, with illustrations by Warwick Goble (1912).

The Evil Eye of Sani (end)

Leaving Sribatsa to arrange his gold-bricks under the tree on the river-side, we must follow the fortunes of his wife. Chintamani was a woman of great beauty and, thinking that her beauty might be her ruin, she, when seized by the boatmen, offered to Lakshmi the following prayer: “O Mother Lakshmi! Have pity upon me. Thou hast made me beautiful, but now my beauty will undoubtedly prove my ruin by the loss of honour and chastity. I therefore beseech thee, gracious Mother, to make me ugly and to cover my body with some loathsome disease that the boatmen may not touch me.” Lakshmi heard Chintamani’s prayer; and in the twinkling of an eye, while she was in the arms of the boatmen, her naturally beautiful form was turned into a vile carcase.

The boatmen, on putting her down in the boat, found her body covered with loathsome sores which were giving out a disgusting stench. They therefore threw her into the hold of the boat amongst the cargo, where they used morning and evening to send her a little boiled rice and some water. In that hold, Chintamani had a miserable life of it, but she greatly preferred that misery to the loss of chastity.

The boatmen went to some port, sold the cargo, and were returning to their country when the sight of what seemed a hillock of gold, not far from the river-side, attracted their attention. Sribatsa, whose eyes were ever directed towards the river, was delighted when he saw a boat turn towards the bank, as he fondly imagined his wife might be in it.

The boatmen went to the hillock of gold when Sribatsa said that the gold was his. They put all the gold-bricks on board their vessel, took Sribatsa prisoner, and put him into the hold not far from the woman covered with sores. They of course immediately recognised each other, in spite of the change Chintamani had undergone, but thought it prudent not to speak to each other. They communicated their ideas, therefore, by signs and gestures.

Now, the boatmen were fond of playing at dice, and as Sribatsa appeared to them from his looks to be a respectable man, they always asked him to join in the game. As he was an expert player, he almost always won the game, on which the boatmen, envying his superior skill, threw him overboard. Chintamani had the presence of mind, at that moment, to throw into the water a pillow which she had for resting her head upon. Sribatsa took hold of the pillow, by means of which he floated down the stream till he was carried at nightfall to what seemed a garden on the water’s edge. There he stuck among the trees, where he remained the whole night, wet and shivering.

Now, the garden belonged to an old widow who was in former years the chief flower-supplier to the king of that country. Through some cause or other, a blight seemed to have come over her garden, as almost all the trees and plants ceased flowering; she had therefore given up her place as the flower-supplier of the royal household. On the morning following the night on which Sribatsa had stuck among the trees, however, the old woman, on getting up from her bed, could scarcely believe her eyes when she saw the whole garden ablaze with flowers. There was not a single tree or plant which was not begemmed with flowers.

Not understanding the cause of such a miraculous sight, she took a walk through the garden, and found on the river’s brink, stuck among the trees, a man shivering and almost dying with cold. She brought him to her cottage, lighted a fire to give him warmth, and showed him every attention, as she ascribed the wonderful flowering of her trees to his presence. After making him as comfortable as she could, she ran to the king’s palace and told his chief servants that she was again in a position to supply the palace with flowers, so she was restored to her former office as the flower-woman of the royal household.

Sribatsa, who stopped a few days with the woman, requested her to recommend him to one of the king’s ministers for a berth. He was accordingly sent for to the palace, and as he was at once found to be a man of intelligence, the king’s minister asked him what post he would like to have. Agreeably to his wish, he was appointed collector of tolls on the river. While discharging his duties as river toll-gatherer, in the course of a few days he saw the very boat in which his wife was a prisoner. He detained the boat and charged the boatmen with the theft of gold-bricks which he claimed as his own.

At the mention of gold-bricks the king himself came to the river-side and was astonished beyond measure to see bricks made of gold, every one of which had the inscription—Sribatsa. At the same time, Sribatsa rescued from the boatmen his wife, who, the moment she came out of the vessel, became as lovely as before.

The king heard the story of Sribatsa’s misfortunes from his lips, entertained him in a princely style for many days, and at last sent him and his wife to their own country with presents of horses and elephants. The evil eye of Sani was now turned away from Sribatsa, and he again became what he formerly was, the Child of Fortune.

(900 words)

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