The Story of Ramaraja of Athara Deula

Dr. Biyotkesh Tripathy

Teller: Misra Sankhuala

[M 45. Tribe: Bathudi. Village: Hati Sahi, Udala, Mayurbhanj. Date: Aug 24, 2000. Interviewer: F. B. Pothal. Cassette No. 232, Side A. O. Tr. Pp. 11,157-181. F.N.: Mbj 4. Transcriber: F. B. Pothal. Status: As told (minor editing; editorial explanations & additions in brackets). Type: Myth-tale.]

Translator: Biyotkesh Tripathy


Ram Raja had seven wives. Rama Chandra was the only son of his father. Although he was the only son, he had seven wives. One he brought from a market, one he brought from the road, wherever from he wished, he brought. This way he had seven wives. Though he had seven wives, he had plenty of wealth and property. As time passed, one day the wives quarreled. When they quarreled, his father cursed him, ‘Rama Chandra, you lack nothing. Yet why should [your wives] quarrel every day? You had one wife, yet you brought seven from here and there. Since there is no lack of anything, why should you start quarrels? Since there is perpetual quarrel, you go away and spend fourteen years in the forest.’

When his father banished him to the forest, his mother said, ‘Hey, Rama Chandra, I had given birth to you as my only child and you will go away to the forest? No, you don’t go.’

The mother’s words may be disobeyed, but the father’s words cannot be. One had to go for fourteen years. When three days had passed like this, he told his wives, ‘Just as you had come with me out of your own wish, you may follow me like that. I shall not force anyone. If you want to come willingly, you may come.’ So, they went to the forest for fourteen years. They ate and drank and started on the third day.

Going on they reached the deep forest and stayed there. Breaking the branches of sala trees, they made a hut out of it on the bank of a river and stayed there.

When he had started out into the forest, his mother had said, ‘Rama Chandra, you are my only child, but now that you are leaving me, tell me where you will go, so that some time or other I may come to see you.’

So Rama Chandra said, ‘Okay mother, for you I shall break the branches of the trees on my path as I go. Where there will be no broken branches, there you call out to me thrice.’

Like this, when twelve years had passed, the old king and the queen started quarreling.

The old woman said, ‘Old man, I cannot serve you any longer. Bloody hell, I had given birth to only one son and you drove him out with his wives. If the daughters-in-law were here, you would be eating in comfort. How long shall I keep serving you? No, this time I shall go away to my son.’

When the old woman decided to go, she started putting together some rice, some pop rice etc. Rama Chandra used to be fond of eating podapitha [a type of baked cake], so she made one and went away with these.

(Q: Okay, what is the name of the old man and the old woman?)

I know, but shall not tell you.

So, like this the old woman went. Now, when Rama Chandra had left home, he had not taken anything. The clothes they wearing were all that they had. They had taken nothing else. They had gone and lived on the bank of that river. That night they had slept on empty stomach. When the morning came, Rama Chandra asked his wife, ‘What shall we eat?’ Then they went into the forest to bring fruits and dig up roots. That forest vegetable, "marsha," that we call "pittalu" [bitter potato], has a thread-like root. When it is pulled away it becomes marsha. Two of them went into the forest and dug up and brought that pittalu.

The others said, ‘Okay, you have brought it, but how shall we eat it?’

Rama Chandra said, ‘Pick out its eyes, then put a little water around it cover it with leaves and put it on fire.’

After two hours, when it was cooked, Rama Chandra would be served first, then the six co-wives would eat. The eldest wife ate last, having looked after the needs of the husband, massaging oil and smearing turmeric paste etc. But instead of oil she used to fetch a little water and instead of turmeric she used to apply brown clay. They lived like this.

The day twelve years were completed, that very day the old woman started the quarrel with the old man. In anger the old woman started out.

She came into the deep forest [as Rama Chandra had instructed her] and called out, ‘Rama Chandra, Rama Chandra,’ thrice. Her call fell in the ears of the eldest wife. At that time they were in the pit and Rama Chandra was digging for pittalu. At this time, the call fell in the ears of his wife.

‘Hey,’ she said, ‘today I seem to hear mother’s voice.’

Rama Chandra said, ‘For twelve years her voice was not heard. How can it be heard today?’

‘Yes, I can hear it. You come out of that pit.’

When he came out of the pit and listened, he could hear his mother’s voice. Then what Rama Chandra did was, he tied three pieces of dry wood he broke off and went forward holding them. And Rajani came behind him. Rajani was the name of his eldest wife. When Rajani saw her, she put down the basket of potatoes and they crawled from there to her. Rama Chandra came and kissed his mothers shoes. When the other six heard her call, they also came and sat down under the tree. Whatever the old woman had taken, she did not give to any one else. She came right up to the tree and first gave it to Rama Chandra and then gave it to all others. The seven daughters-in-law ate their bellies full. After they had eaten, the old woman gave the rice, pop rice etc. that she had brought.

Rajani said, ‘For twelve years now we have not got rice. How shall we eat it?’

‘How you will eat?’ the old woman said. ‘Okay, you finish eating. I’ll show you how.’ And she herself fed them the podapitha.

Then the old woman said, ‘Dig a pit.’ [When this was done] she said, ‘Go dig a shallow line from the river to this pit.’ [When this was done and water flowed into the pit], she told the eldest daughter-in-law, ‘Now, make a drain around the pit with your fingers. [Put firewood in it and light a fire].’ [When this was done], she poured rice into the pit. In two hours the rice started boiling.

At this time the eldest daughter-in-law said, ‘Mother, for twelve years now we have not tasted Mahalakhmi’s water. Today let us have a little "peja" [thick starchy water left after rice was boiled in it].

‘Okay, you want it? Then dig a line from here to there.’

She dug a line with her fingers. The peja flowed out through that. When the peja started flowing out, the old woman made arrangements for eating it. She asked them to go pluck siali [sal] leaves. They brought the leaves and spread it. Two leaves were given to Rama Chandra; one was given to the six daughters-in-law, one for the eldest daughter-in-law and one for the old woman.

When the old woman was being served, she said, ‘I shall not eat rice. Give me something of the fruits and vegetables you have brought from the forest.’ So, they gave two of those to the old woman. Then what the old woman did was that she ate one of those fruits and tied one in her cloth. When she was tying it, her eldest daughter-in-law saw this.

‘What are you doing, mother?’ she asked.

‘My girl, I lam keeping this to show to your father-in-law.’

‘No, no, I have kept for him.’

Then the old woman ate both the fruits. All the rest of them ate the rice. She again gave Rama Chandra that podapitha [baked cake]. He ate it. Everyone ate. After they had eaten, since they had not eaten these for twelve years, they fell deeply asleep like intoxicated. Rice was still full as it was. They had eaten but little rice each; they couldn’t eat any more. They ate as much as a could.

For twelve years they had had no clothes. They had worn only pieces of the leaves and bark of trees, for twelve years. They had no clothes. [The old woman saw all this]. Then she ate and fell asleep.

But Rajani had not slept. [When time passed and no one got up], she wondered what had happened, why no one was getting up. To find out if they were alive or dead she awakened Rama Chandra and said, ‘Get up, let’s see what has happened.’

‘What? What’s the matter?’

‘Nothing. Go to mother, she’d tell you.’

He went to his mother and said, ‘Mother, see how everyone is sleeping like drugged. No breath or nothing.’

Then his mother said, ‘You go and sleep. Eat and sleep. I’ll tell you the whole story later.’

The old woman said this. [They slept]. Then the night came to an end. When the next day came, the old woman started. When she started, they arranged everything for her. With those things she came back home. When she reached home, the old man asked, ‘Old woman, you had gone to your son’s house, why you couldn’t stay more than a day?’

‘Did I stay in my son’s house or what? The comfort with which my son and daughters-in-law are living, I’ll go away to them.’

‘Are they living in such misery there? We had only lone son, he is in such difficulty? Okay, I’ll go there tomorrow.’ This is what Dasaratha said. Then the old woman arranged everything for him as she had done for herself—the pop rice, rice, cake etc. Thus, the old man started. But he did not know the way. What to do? The old woman told him to follow the trail of broken branches. Where broken branches stop, he should call out to them.

When the old man reached that place, he called out the name of Rama Chandra thrice. Like before, the two had gone out to dig potatoes. Who? Rama Chandra and Rajani. The other six daughters-in-law had been left under a tree. Like before, Rajani heard the call and told Rama Chandra. Just like they had taken the old woman, they took the old man to their hut. When they arrived, they served food and drink for him. After eating, the old man surveyed everything, how they were staying and living.

Then he said to his son, ‘Rama Chandra, you come back home now.’

Rama Chandra said, ‘Fourteen years have not passed. I can’t go until fourteen years have been completed.’

‘No. Your fourteen years are complete. Now you come.’

‘If fourteen years have passed as you say, okay.’

He went back home. The old man returned with his son and seven daughters-in-law. When they arrived, the old man stopped them at the end of the village. He then called the washerman, barber, Brahmin, Baishnaba etc. Having trimmed, shaved and dressed them, made them civilized, he took them home.



Illustrations:Sarasi Das