Saturday, 23 July 2016


*     While researching my latest fiction novel, I stumbled upon the most fascinating folklore about Saranga and her lover Sadavrij. Not much has been written about this fabulous story. About thirty to forty years ago this story was regularly played by every 'Nautanki' group across the Hindi heartland of India. With the death of 'Nautanki' this story along with others too got buried.

*      Saranga and Sadavrij were lovers, and their story goes back in the folk tradition. There are 35 different versions of this story. (No other folktale in India has so many versions). But almost all versions agree that Saranga was the daughter of a merchant, and Sadavrij the son of a king. And Saranga was married to someone else, while Sadavrij had many wives. Yet the lovers live only for each other, and finally are united apparently forever. Their passion and suffering end not in death but in union, blessed with worldly happiness, power and societal acceptance.

First Version

*  A popular version of the story begins when Guru Gorakhnath, a powerful yogi in North India, encounters a pair of swans, and gives them a boon. In the ancient times Guru Gorakhnath, lost in meditation of God, came to the shore of the lake Manasarovar. In that lake a pair of swans played in the water. When their gaze fell upon him, the female said to her mate, “Let me go now, as Guru Gorakhnath has come here. His attention might be drawn towards us. He is a virtuous holy man, who is easily pleased and displeased.” 

*     When Guru Gorakhnath heard this, he was pleased and gave a boon to both: “You are virtuous and modest. Therefore, after leaving this body, you will take on a human body and enjoy the worldly happiness.” Having said this, he threw a fruit. The male flew away but the female remained there, unhappy. Seeing her sad, the saint said, “If you are sad at the boon, then go, leave this body and take on a beautiful form. Your mate will take on human form at the proper time. You search for him.” Gorakhnath then went away.

*     The female swan became a beautiful woman. Seeing her own naked body, she got embarrassed and sat down in the lake. At that time a King, out on hunting, came there. When his glance fell on that pool, he saw her and became enchanted. The king took her to his palace to marry her. She sent out bird catchers who eventually bring her mate. But the male swan dies of grief over her changed form, and she dies of grief at his death. The king dies of grief at her death. The three are then reborn as Sadavrij, Saranga and her future husband Rupa.

Second Version

*    The second version is the story of the Pari Rambha, who smuggles her mortal lover into the world of Lord Indra. She turns her lover into a bee and conceals him in her bosom. But his presence makes her dancing less skillful than usual, and Indra becomes suspicious. He sprinkles the magic water over the bee. The moment water falls on that bee, it appears in its true form. An infuriated Indra shouts at Surajbhan, “Oh Man, who are you?” Surajbhan, with folded hands and head bowed, humbly replies, “Oh King! I'm the son of the merchant Lakshminarayan. With Rambha’s aid, I have come here to see you.” 

*   These words further enraged Indra. And he rebuked Rambha: “Oh Rambha, you, a Pari of Indra’s throne, have gone to the mortal world and taken your pleasure with a man. Therefore, you are no longer worthy of living in the world of Indra. I hereby curse you that you both go in the mortal world and take on the bodies of jackals because you both have tricked me. For seven births you will not be able to enjoy each other, and even it you try your efforts will be in vain and fruitless. For seven births you will wander, longing for union.”

*    Rambha's mortal birth story is often found as a sequel to one of the other stories, thus motivating the pair’s desperate love. 

Third Version

*   Once upon a time in the city of Ambavati lived a Brahman named Sadasukhlal. His wife Sukhmana was very delicate, as dear as life, as valuable as nine cities, brilliant in form, abode of all virtues, and devoted to her husband. Sadasukhlal loved her so much that he could hardly live even a moment without her, and leaving his work spent time with her twenty four hours. She too was devoted to her husband. Their love became known in the whole city. Everyone felt it improper to put any obstacle in the path of their love and began to help them. People gave them food and water. Thus they passed their youth in worldly enjoyment and reached old age. After some time, death tormented them but neither could die without the other. At that time Gorakhnath came, and having seen their love, gave them a boon: “Go, you will receive this human body again.” Then, having heard these words of Gorakhnath, these two gave up their bodies.

Fourth Version

*   On the outskirts of a city lived a potter. When poor Augharnath called out at his door, he came and prostrated himself before him and said, “Please come in, Maharaj, and sit down. Please take whatever you need, and have your meal.” Augharnath said, “Oh child, be happy. Through your grace, there has been peace. Abandon this city, and go settle in some other city. The moment you leave, a fire will start in this city and destroy everything. When you go out, don’t look back; otherwise, you’ll turn into a monkey.” Having heard Augharnth’s words, the potter and his wife went out of the city. The moment they left, fire started in the city, resulting in commotion everywhere. Hearing the noise, the potter and his wife stood still, and watched the spectacle. Immediately the potter became a male monkey and his wife a female monkey. They spent the night in a banyan tree on the banks of the river Narbada.

*      In that tree lived a pair of swans. The female swan said to her mate, “Look, these poor creatures, stricken by misfortune, have settled here. Tell some qissa that will help them pass the night, and as soon as it is morning they will move on.” The male swan said, “Look, these two poor things are sleeping, tired from travel. Leave them alone. But there is an omen that whoever, at this moment and conjunction of stars, bathes in the Narbada, will leave his body and become a youth of twelve years. By now only a little time is left.” The moment she heard this, the female monkey lept into the Narbada; the male monkey was left staring at her. The female monkey became a twelve-year old girl. Eventually she too is found by a king who took her as his queen. The male monkey dies of grief; she stabs herself to death; the king stabs himself at her death. Thus follow Saranga, Sadavrij, with the king returning as Saranga’s husband Rupa. 

*     There are so many other interesting versions of this folktale, which has sadly got buried under the sands of time.   

Related Posts with Thumbnails