Raja Rasalu: How He Became a Jogi

You may be surprised by the ending of this story, and in order not to give it away, I have put a note at the bottom instead of here at the top!

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Raja Rasalu unit. Story source: Tales of the Punjab by Flora Annie Steel, with illustrations by J. Lockwood Kipling (1894).

How Raja Rasalu Became a Jogi

THEN, after a time, Rasalu went to Hodinagari. And when he reached the house of the beautiful far-famed Queen Sundran, he saw an old Jogi sitting at the gate, by the side of his sacred fire.

"Wherefore do you sit there, father?" asked Raja Rasalu.

"My son," returned the Jogi, "for two-and-twenty years have I waited thus to see the beautiful Sundran, yet have I never seen her!"

"Make me your pupil," quoth Rasalu, "and I will wait too."

"You work miracles already, my son," said the Jogi, "so where is the use of your becoming one of us?"

Nevertheless, Raja Rasalu would not be denied, so the Jogi bored his ears and put in the sacred earrings. Then the new disciple put aside his shining armour and sat by the fire in a Jogi's loin-cloth, waiting to see Queen Sundran.

Then, at night, the old Jogi went and begged alms from four houses, and half of what he got he gave to Rasalu and half he ate himself. Now Raja Rasalu, being a very holy man, and a hero besides, did not care for food and was well content with his half share, but the Jogi felt starved.

The next day the same thing happened, and still Rasalu sat by the fire waiting to see the beautiful Queen Sundran.

Then the Jogi lost patience and said, "O my disciple, I made you a pupil in order that you might beg and feed me, and behold, it is I who have to starve to feed you!"

"You gave no orders!" quoth Rasalu, laughing. "How can a disciple beg without his master's leave?"

"I order you now!" returned the Jogi. "Go and beg enough for you and for me."

So Raja Rasalu rose up and stood at the gate of Queen Sundran's palace in his Jogi's dress and sang,

"Alack! At thy threshold I stand,
Drawn from far by the name of thy charms;
Fair Sundran, with generous hand,
Give the earring-decked Jogi an alms!"

Now when Queen Sundran, from within, heard Rasalu's voice, its sweetness pierced her heart, so that she immediately sent out alms by the hand of her maid-servant. But when the maiden came to the gate and saw the exceeding beauty of Rasalu, standing outside, fair in face and form, she fainted away, dropping the alms upon the ground.

Then once more Rasalu sang, and again his voice fell sweetly on Queen Sundran's ears, so that she sent out more alms by the hand of another maiden. But she also fainted away at the sight of Rasalu's marvellous beauty.

Then Queen Sundran rose, and came forth herself, fair and stately. She chid the maidens, gathered up the broken alms, and setting the food aside, filled the plate with jewels and put it herself into Rasalu's hands, saying proudly,

"Since when have the earrings been thine?
Since when wert thou made a faqir?
What arrow from Love's bow has struck thee?
What seekest thou here?
Do you beg of all women you see,
Or only, fair Jogi, of me?"

And Rasalu, in his Jogi's habit, bent his head towards her, saying softly,

"A day since the earrings were mine,
A day since I turned a faqir;
But yesterday Love's arrow struck me;
I seek nothing here!
I beg nought of others I see,
But only, fair Sundran, of thee!"

Now, when Rasalu returned to his master with the plate full of jewels, the old Jogi was sorely astonished and bade him take them back, and ask for food instead. So Rasalu returned to the gate, and sang,

"Alack! At thy threshold I stand,
Drawn from far by the fame of thy charms;
Fair Sundran, with generous hand,
Give the earring-decked beggar an alms!"

Then Queen Sundran rose up, proud and beautiful, and coming to the gate, said softly,

"No beggar thou! The quiver of thy mouth
Is set with pearly shafts; its bow is red
As rubies rare. Though ashes hide thy youth,
Thine eyes, thy colour, herald it instead!
Deceive me not — pretend no false desire —
But ask the secret alms thou dost require."

But Rasalu smiled a scornful smile, saying,

"Fair Queen! What though the quiver of my mouth
Be set with glistening pearls and rubies red?
I trade not jewels, east, west, north, or south;
Take back thy gems, and give me food instead.
Thy gifts are rich and rare, but costly charms
Scarce find fit placing in a Jogi's alms!"

Then Queen Sundran took back the jewels and bade the beautiful Jogi wait an hour till the food was cooked. Nevertheless, she learnt no more of him, for he sat by the gate and said never a word. Only when Queen Sundran gave him a plate piled up with sweets, and looked at him sadly, saying,

"What King's son art thou? And whence dost thou come?
What name hast thou, Jogi, and where is thy home?"

Then Raja Rasalu, taking the alms, replied,

"I am fair Lona's son; my father's name
Great Salbahan, who reigns at Sialkot.
I am Rasalu; for thy beauty's fame
These ashes, and the Jogi's begging note,
To see if thou wert fair as all men say;
Lo! I have seen it, and I go my way!"

Then Rasalu returned to his master with the sweets, and after that he went away from the place for he feared lest the Queen, knowing who he was, might try to keep him prisoner.

And beautiful Sundran waited for the Jogi's cry, and when none came, she went forth, proud and stately, to ask the old Jogi whither his pupil had gone.

Now he, vexed that she should come forth to ask for a stranger, when he had sat at her gates for two-and-twenty years with never a word or sign, answered back, "My pupil? I was hungry, and I ate him, because he did not bring me alms enough."

"Oh, monster!" cried Queen Sundran. "Did I not send thee jewels and sweets? Did not these satisfy thee, that thou must feast on beauty also?"

"I know not," quoth the Jogi; "only this I know — I put the youth on a spit, roasted him, and ate him up. He tasted well!"

"Then roast and eat me too!" cried poor Queen Sundran, and with the words she threw herself into the sacred fire and became sati for the love of the beautiful Jogi Rasalu.

And he, going thence, thought not of her, but fancying he would like to be king a while, he snatched the throne from Raja Hari Chand, and reigned in his stead.

For more about sati, often spelled in English "suttee" (reflecting the Hindi pronunciation), see this Wikipedia article: Suttee. For more about the wife of the god Shiva, from whom the practice took its name, also see Wikipedia: Sati.

[Notes by LKG]

(1100 words)

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