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Story No. 558


The Two Wives

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

There were once a Raja and his Dewan who had each one son, and the two boys were great friends. Both had been married in their infancy and when they grew up and heard that they had wives, they agreed to go together and visit them. So they set out, and they arranged that on account of the superior rank of the Raja’s son they would go first and visit his wife; and they also agreed that, as they were going to a strange place, they would keep together day and night.

When they reached the house of the Prince’s father-in-law they were received with great honour and when night came they lay down with their beds side by side. Presently the Prince’s wife came to him and began to rub his arms and legs, until she had soothed him off to sleep. The Dewan’s son pretended also to go fast asleep, but really he was careful to keep awake, for he thought it safer to be on the watch in a strange place.

His prudence was rewarded, for after a time he saw the Prince’s wife leave her sleeping husband and go out of the house.

The Dewan’s son followed her and saw her enter the house of a Gosain who lived on the outskirts of the village. He went near and listened at the door. He heard the Gosain ask the young woman why she was so late in coming, and her answer that she had been detained by the visit of her husband. The Gosain reproached her for not having told him that she was married, and she protested that she had known nothing about it until her husband appeared. The Gosain said that she must choose between him and her husband, and she answered that she would never give him up. “Then” said the Gosain “if you really mean it, go and bring me your husband’s head.” At this the Dewan’s son hurried back and lay down on his bed. Presently he saw the woman come with a sword and cut off her husband’s head. But when she took it to the Gosain, he rose and beat her with his iron pincers and drove her out, swearing that he would have nothing more to do with a woman who was so heartless as to kill her own husband. Then the woman returned and placed the severed head by her husband’s body and raised a great outcry, that her husband had been murdered. The people of the house came and at first they charged the Dewan’s son with the crime and were about to put him to death; but he called the Gosain as a witness and the real facts were proved by his evidence, and the murderess was hanged.

The Dewan’s son would not allow the Prince’s body to be burnt but insisted on taking it with him, that it might be cremated at his own home. So he took it on his back and carried it off.

He thought that, as he had come so far, it would be better to visit his own wife before going home. So, when he reached the village where his wife lived, he hid the Prince’s body in a hollow tree and went to his father-in-law’s house.

That night when they had gone to bed, the Dewan’s son saw that his wife had something on her mind, so he resolved to watch her.

When she thought that he was asleep, he saw her rise and go out of the house. He followed her to a shrine of Mahadeb; there she smeared the ground with cowdung and worshipped the god and said “O Siva! I have worshipped you for many days; now my husband has come to take me to his house, and you must find another worshipper.” The Mahadeb answered “You have served me for many days; call hither your husband; as you have worshipped me for so long, I will confer a boon on you.” So she went and called her husband and as he knew what had happened, he had no hesitation in going with her to the shrine. There the Siv bade him ask a boon, and he prayed that the Raja’s son might be restored to life, The Siv bade them bring the body and cover it with a wet cloth; and when they had done so, the body began to breathe and presently the Prince rose up alive and well. The Dewan’s son told him all that had happened and the next day they went home, taking with them the wife of the Dewan’s son, through whose virtue and piety the Prince had been restored to life.

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