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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 592


The Killing of the Rakhas

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

Once upon a time a certain country was ravaged by a Rakhas to such an extent that there were only the Raja and a few ryots left. When things came to this pass, the Raja saw that something must be done: for he could not be left alone in the land. Ryots need a Raja and a Raja needs ryots: if he had no ryots where was he to get money for his support: and he repeated the verse of the poet Kalidas:

                  “When the jungle is destroyed, the deer are in trouble without jungle:

                  When the Raja is destroyed, the ryots are in trouble without their Raja:

                  When the good wife of the house is destroyed, good fortune flees away.”

So thinking the Raja made a proclamation throughout all the land that if any one could kill the Rakhas he would reward him with the hand of one of his daughters and half his kingdom. This proclamation was read out by the headman of a certain village to the assembled villagers and among the crowd was a mischievous youth, named Jhalka, who when he heard the proclamation called out that he could kill the Rakhas in ten minutes. The villagers turned on him “Why don’t you go and do so: then you would marry the Raja’s daughter and we should all bow down to you.” At the thought of this Jhalka began to skip about crying “I will finish him off in no time.” The headman heard him and took him at his word and wrote to the Raja that in his village there was a man who undertook to kill the Rakhas. When Jhalka heard this he hurried to the headman and explained that he had only been joking. “I cannot treat such things as a joke” answered the headman: “Don’t you know that this is a Raja’s matter: to deal with Rajas is the same as to deal with bongas: you may make a promise to the bongas in jest, but they will not let you off it on that plea. You are much too fond of playing the fool.”

Ten or twelve days later sipahis came from the Raja to fetch Jhalka: he told them that he had only spoken in jest and did not want to go to the Raja, but they took him away all the same.

Before he started he picked out a well-tempered battle axe and begged his father to propitiate the bongas and pray that he might be saved from the Rakhas. When he was produced before the Raja, Jhalka again tried to explain that there had been a mistake, but the Raja told him that he would be taken at his word and must go and kill the Rakhas. Then he saw that there was nothing left for him but to put his trust in God: so he asked that he might be given two mirrors and a large box and when these were brought he had the box taken to the foot of a large banyan tree which grew by a ford in the river which flowed by the hill in which the Rakhas lived: it was at this ford that the Rakhas used to lie in wait for prey.

Left alone there Jhalka put one of the mirrors into the box and then tightened his cloth and climbed the banyan tree with his battle axe and the other mirror. He was not at all happy as he waited for the Rakhas, thinking of all the people who had been killed as they passed along the road below the tree: however he was determined to outwit the Rakhas if he could. All night long he watched in vain but just at dawn the Rakhas appeared. At the sight of him Jhalka shook so much with fright that the branches of the tree swayed. The Rakhas smelt that there was a human being about and looking up into the tree saw the branches waving. “Ha,” said he, “here is my breakfast.”’ Jhalka retorted “Ha! here is another Rakhas to match those I have got” “What are you talking about?” asked the Rakhas: “I am glad to have met you at last” returned Jhalka. “Why?” asked the Rakhas, “and what are you trembling for?” “I am trembling with rage: we shall now see whether I am to eat you or you are to eat me.”

“Come down and try.”

“No, you come up here and try.”

Jhalka would not leave the tree and the Rakhas would not climb it: so they waited. At last the Rakhas asked “Who are you? I have seen a thousand men like you” And Jhalka answered “Who are you? I have seen a thousand like you.” At this the Rakhas began to hesitate and wonder whether Jhalka was really his equal in strength, so he changed the subject and asked what the big box was. “That is the box into which I put Rakhases like you when I catch them; I have got plenty more at home.” “How many are there in the box?” “Two or three.”

The Rakhas asked to see them, but Jhalka would not leave the tree until the Rakhas had sworn an oath to do him no harm; then he came down and opened the box and made the Rakhas look into the mirror inside the box; and he also held up the second mirror saying that there was another Rakhas. The Rakhas was fascinated at the sight of his own reflection; when he grinned or opened his mouth the reflection did the same; and while he was amusing himself with making different grimaces Jhalka suddenly cut him down with the battleaxe, and he fell down dead. Then Jhalka cut off the ears and tongue and toes and hastened with them to the Raja. When it was found that the Rakhas was really dead the Raja assembled all his subjects and in their presence married Jhalka to his daughter and made over to him half the kingdom and gave him horses and elephants and half of everything in his palace.

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