Behula and Laxminder
I heard the story of Behula from my grandmother whom we affectionately called Bibi. I was perhaps eight or ten years old and, needless to say, impressionable. The other day, eons later, I stumbled into a copy of the same story which rekindled my interest. I picked it up and was surprised to see that the book, although written in Bangla, had an introduction written in English! More disgusting surprises awaited. The writer of this English masterpiece has an EGO so big that Freud and his partner of brief Jung, would have been flabbergasted and would perhaps reconsider their definition of ego! How can one even dare to write in a language when he has absolutely no idea about grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax unless, of course, he has this thing called ego! Few excerpts quoted in verbatim will give the readers a better idea of what I mean:
...The Bridal Chamber of Behula is stand in the south 2 k.m. from Mohaastan garh. That is said the Bridal Chamber which was made of iron of Behula Lakhinder...There are so many beautiful scence has destroyed of the Archeoeogy. Nobody cannot say this Archaeoeogy has built in which era...How much money has expenced it was built?....
This piller is built of Brick. It is round and more slight bighter in the east west side. The highter of this piller...? I have heard of Queen's English, American English but this defies any classification.
The story of Behula and Laximnder fascinated as well as saddened the rural Bengal from the time it was adapted from the Puranas to the vernacular. Chand Sowdagar was the father of Laximnder and was blessed by Siva and was given supra power. Manasha Devi was also blessed by Mahadev and she hoped that Chand Sowdagar would offer his puja to her. The merchant steadfastly opposed. Manasha Devi by her cunning stole away the special power of the merchant, killed his friend Ozha Dhanantari, killed six of his sons and burned down his house.
But Chad Sowdagar stood firm. He left with his ships to Sri Lanka but on his way back, the revengeful Padmabati raised a storm and the merchant lost all his ships.
But he was defiant and did not bow down. Around this time of misfortune, Soneka, the wife of Chad, gave birth to a son, Laxminder.
The astrologers predicted that Laximnder will die of snake bite on his nuptial bed. This distrubed the husband but on the insistence of his wife, he agreed to the marriage of his son when the time came.
Behula, the daughter of another merchant, was to become the wife of Laximnder. He ordered the royal blacksmith to build a nuptial room made of solid iron with no openings whatsoever. But the wily Padmadevi bribed the smith to leave the tinniest of a tiny hole in the corner of that iron room. Behula was aware of the prediction and decided to stay up all night by her husband.
During the wee hours of the morning, Behula's eyes shut for a moment. In comes the snake through the hole and stings Laxminder fatally. Just at that moment Behula's eyes open and she sees the disaster and screams. Laxminder is dead. Chad Sowdagar stoically accepted and prepared for the funeral pyre.
Behula implored him not to for she heard that some snake charmers can bring the snake bitten and dead person to life. She made a raft and left down the river with her dead husband. Soon she meets Netai Dhobini, a washerwoman, who was known to have worked miracles. Behula fell on her feet and wailed her request to bring backher husband from death.
Netai took her to Siva and Behula charmed Siva with her dance and asked for justice. Siva admonished Padmadevi and ordered her to bring Laxminder back to life.
Behula also charmed Padmadevi and she brought Laxminder back to life. Not only Laximnder, she brought back all his brothers, Dhanantari Ozha, Chand Sowdagar's lost ships back. Even the merchant finally agreed to offer his puja to Mansha Devi and thus the practice of this ritual was established on earth....all ended in a happy note except....! Behula announced that she is not really a mortal neither is Laximnder. They came to earth disguised as Behula and Laximnder to introduce the ritual of Mansha puja on earth. Now that their work is done, they must depart for the abode of the gods and they did.
I can visualise the village minstrel reenacting this story to hundreds of people gathered around one of those open huts in a village. I can see tears rolling down those eyes as Behula wails for her dead husband, I can see the joy and smile in their faces as the story ends as they wished. The ascent of Behula and Laxminder to heaven did not matter much ( Omar Husain Holiday, July 11, 2003).