The Tale Of The Brahmaraakshas
March 12, 2011 4 Comments
Time for a folk-tale, a story heard from my Grandma some fifty years ago. Authorship not known.
There lived a poor farmer and his wife in a village. His lands were fallow. However hard they worked on the fields, the harvest of grains was always just sufficient to feed themselves leaving very little surplus to trade in the market.
One day a Sadhu came to the village. Everyone took offerings of flowers, fruits and grains and paid respects to him at the temple. He advised them on their problems. The farmer’s wife pressed him to go and see the Sadhu and seek some help.
Reluctantly, he dragged himself to the temple and presented himself before the Sadhu. When the Sadhu inquired about his well-being, the farmer told him about his unending penury. The Sadhu took pity on him. He instructed him to chant a mantra without a break until he got some result. He assured him it won’t be long in coming.
He came home and narrated the happenings to his wife. She persuaded him to try it out for there was nothing to lose. So he found a peaceful place where he would not be disturbed and began the chant. Several hours had passed without food or water. He continued with his chant as instructed by the Sadhu.
Darkness set in.The wife was close to regretting pushing him into it. Just then they were both startled by the sudden appearance of a Brahmaraakshas before them.
‘Not to fear, I am not here to harm you. You have invoked me for some purpose. You’re my master for this night. I’ll do whatever is your bidding until sunrise tomorrow.’
The farmer quickly recovered: ‘You mean anything I tell you?’
‘Yes, I would.’
The wife chimed in: ‘See what I told you, Sadhu would help us!’
‘There is one condition, however. You must task me until the morning. If you are not able to, I’ll kill you.’
‘That’s least of the problems. My regret is we have you for only one night and there’s so much work to do.’
‘You need have no regrets. Now, where do I start?’
‘Go to my fields, just beyond the temple. There is a water-well in the northern corner that has run dry. Deepen it far enough to strike water.’
‘Is that all?’
‘Once water is found, then there is more to do.’
‘I’ll be back.’ The Brahmaraakshas disappeared from the scene.
The wife complimented him: ‘That was quite smart of you. Let us get the difficult part done first. If there is time left before the sunrise we can put him on other jobs, though I doubt very much. Come on in. I’ll get the dinner ready. You haven’t eaten since morning. You must be very hungry.’
The farmer washed his hands and feet, dried himself and sat down for the meal.
Before he could convey the first morsel into his mouth, the Brahmaraakshas appeared before him. His hands were wet, the farmer could see.
‘Really? How far had you to dig?’
‘Not much, another ten feet was enough. There’s plentiful water down there. What would you like next?’
‘Go back to the fields and remove all the weeds.’
‘I’ll be back when done.’
‘Wait, you must be tired. Food is ready. Have some before you go.’
The Brahmaraakshas couldn’t have heard him for he was long gone.
‘Amazing. He finished it in such a short time. He’s truly a ‘Brahmaraakshas’. Good, anyways, we can get everything in order in one night itself, it looks like.’
He ate hungrily. When he was onto the second and the final course of his meager meal, the Brahmaraakshas was back.
‘I’ve piled up all the weed just beyond your fields. The fields are clear now.’
‘Now water them first to loosen up the soil and then plough them well raking at least two feet into the ground. Here’s the sack of seeds. Sow them in the furrows. Turn the soil over a little so that the birds don’t get the seeds, at the same time they aren’t buried deep.’
The Brahmaraakshas was on his way out even before the farmer completed his instructions.
As he finished his meal, he felt a sense of discomfort for the first time. He came out to the front porch and settled down with the verrilai-petti (betel leaf, supari…) on a coir-stringed cot.
The wife finished her meal, cleaned up and joined him in the front porch.
‘I’m worried. Once the sowing is completed, there isn’t much to give him except for some odds and ends. And it is not even midnight. What do we do? It’s turning out to be a curse. He has threatened to kill me if I don’t line up work for him until the sunrise.’
The wife did not appear to share his concern: ‘Look, get all your work done. When you’re through with him, send him to me. Quit worrying. I’ll keep him busy.’
He was puzzled by her composure.
Before he could ask her, the Brahmaraakshas stood before them. Clumps of soil quite visibly stuck to him.
He asked for the cowshed to be cleaned, hay to be stacked. There were some other miscellaneous chores.
All done within a few winks.
‘I must thank you for all that you have done. Now I have nothing more to give you. My wife has some job for you. Please take your orders from her.’
The Brahmaraakshas turned to her with a quizzical look.
(To be contd.)