Raja Rasalu: The Hunter (Swynnerton)

The first half of this unit was taken from a collection of stories by Flora Steel. For the second half of the unit, you will be reading stories taken from an entire book of Raja Rasalu legends compiled by Charles Swynnerton. You can read the whole book online: The Adventures of the Punjab Hero Raja Rasalu.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Raja Rasalu unit. Story source: The Adventures of the Punjab Hero Raja Rasalu by Charles Swynnerton (1884).

Raja Rasalu and the Hunter

WHEN he had established a new government in Sialkot, it was that Raja Rasalu set out alone for the Deccan because he wished to meet and to see Mirshikari, the renowned hunter. As he was riding along, his horse suddenly heard the sweet strains of distant music proceeding from the depths of the forest.

"Sir," said she to her master, "what is that sweet sound which I hear, and whence is it coming?"

"I have been told," answered Rasalu, "that there is a certain king of the greenwood named Mirshikari who sits in the forest playing on a lute which was given to him by the Water-King, the immortal Khwajah Khizar.

All the animals, when they hear the melodious music, come and gather around him to listen. Then, when he finds a chance, he shoots at them with his bow and kills whatever game he favours."

Saying this, Raja Rasalu, with his horse and with Shadi his parrot, followed the direction of the sound, and approached the glade in which Mirshikari was sitting.

Now Mirshikari had been informed by astrologers that in the course of time one Rasalu would come, who should be his master in magic and fighting and in woodcraft. So he was always expecting him, and now, when he saw a mounted stranger approaching, he enquired of him, "Who are you?

"What Raja's son are you?
And say what name you bear;
Where lies your fatherland?
What city owns you there?"

And Rasalu answered him: —

"Raja Sulwan's son am I,
Rasalu is my name;
Sialkot is my fatherland,
My city is the same."

Then asked Mirshikari: "Are you the Rasalu that should come?"

"Yes," answered the king.

"As I have heard about you," said Mirshikari, " so now have I seen you."

"What have you heard about me?" enquired Rasalu.

"The real Rasalu," answered Mirshikari, "carries an arrow weighing one hundred pounds. By this token I know you are the real Rasalu, and today, by the grace of God, I have met you in the forest, where I had scarcely hope of seeing you at all."

Then said Rasalu, "What are you doing? Why are you playing on a lute?"

"It is my usual custom," answered Mirshikari. "Every day of my life I play on my lute in order to entice the animals, because, when my lute is playing, all the animals of the forest gather round me to listen to it, and then, watching my chance, I choose my sport and shoot at them and kill them, since I cannot live without flesh-meat every day. But, my Master, as you have come to the green- wood at last, I pray that you will make me your disciple."

"So let it be," said Rasalu, "but first, if you will be a follower of mine, there are three conditions which you will have to observe."

"Whatever shall be told me," said Mirshikari, "that shall I observe to do implicitly."

Then said Rasalu, "The first condition is this — Let no one know of my coming here, and tell no one that you have seen me. The second is this — You may go and shoot over three sides of the forest, the north, east and the west, but on the fourth side you shall not shoot. And the third condition is this — On the forbidden side of the forest there live two deer, a buck and a doe. On no account must you kill them."

"How shall I know," then asked Mirshikari, "which of all the deer of the forest the two reserved ones are?"

To him Rasalu returned answer, "On the south side of the forest those two deer live, and to that side alone they resort. You will never meet them and you will never see them unless you go there. But if you do go there, and if you shoot them, oh, remember, you will lose your own life!"

All these terms were accepted by Mirshikari, and Rasalu, having shown him his mode of using weapons of war and of the chase, went away from that place, and tarried in another part of the forest.

So Mirshikari, after playing on his lute and killing some deer, returned to the city, and when he had eaten his food, he went to his chamber, and there he began to address sweet words to his wife. In the midst of their colloquy, he broke the first condition imposed upon him by Raja Rasalu, for he said to her: "Today I have seen Rasalu in the forest."

The woman turned round and said, "You are speaking a jest. What, is Rasalu a madman to be wandering about in the woods? What a wise man are you!"

Feeling ashamed and abashed on account of his wife's words, he took an oath to God before her, and said: " I have verily seen Raja Rasalu today with my own eyes."

(900 words)

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