Kuwar and the Princess
There was once a rich merchant who lived in a Raja’s city; and the Raja founded a school in order that his own children might have some education, and the boys and the girls of the town used to go to the school as well as the Raja’s sons and daughters and among them the rich merchant’s son, whose name was Kuwar. In the course of time the children all learned to read and write. In the evenings all the boys used to mount their horses and go for a ride.
Now it happened that Kuwar and the Raja’s daughter fell in love with each other and she wrote him a letter saying that if he did not marry her she would forcibly install herself in his house. He wrote back and begged her not to come to his house as this would be the ruin of his family; but he said that he would willingly run away with her to a distant country, and spend his whole life with her, if she would overlook the fact that they were of different castes; and if she agreed to this they must settle to what country to go. Somehow news of their intention got about, and the Raja was told that his daughter was in love with the merchant’s son. Then the Raja gave orders that his daughter was not to be allowed to go outside the palace, and the merchant spoke severely to Kuwar and neither of them was allowed to go to the school any more. But one day the princess went to the place where the Raja’s horses were tied up and among them was a mare named Basanti and she went up to the mare and said "You have eaten our salt for a long time, will you now requite me?" And Basanti said "Certainly I will!". Then the princess asked "If I mount you, will you jump over all these horses and this wall and escape?" And the mare said "Yes, but you will have to hold on very tight." The princess said "That is my look-out: it is settled that on the day I want you you will jump over the wall and escape." Then she wrote a letter to Kuwar and gave it to her maid-servant to deliver into Kuwar’s own hands, without letting anyone know: and in the letter she fixed a day for their elopement and told Kuwar to wait for her by a certain tree. So on the day fixed after everyone was asleep Kuwar went to the tree and almost at once the princess came to him riding on Basanti; he asked her how she had escaped and whether she had been seen and she told him how the mare had jumped over the wall without anyone knowing; then they both mounted Basanti and drove her like the wind and in one night they passed through the territory of two or three Rajas and in the morning were in a far country.
Then they dismounted to cook their rice, and went to the house of an old woman to ask for a light with which to light their fire. Now this old woman had seven sons and they were all robbers and murderers; and six of them had killed travellers and carried off their wives and married them. When Kuwar and the princess came asking for a light the seven sons were away hunting and when the old woman saw the princess she resolved to marry her to her youngest son, and made a plan to delay them; so she asked them to cook their rice at her house and offered them cooking pots and water pots and firewood and everything necessary; they did not know that she meant to kill Kuwar and unsuspiciously accepted her offer. When they had finished cooking Kuwar asked the old woman whether she lived alone and she told him that she was a widow but had seven sons and they were all away on a trading expedition. The old woman kept on looking out to see if her sons were returning, and she had made an arrangement with them that if she ever wanted them she would set fire to a small hut and they would come home at once when they saw the smoke rising. But before her sons came back Kuwar and the princess finished their meal and paid the old woman and mounted Basanti and galloped off. Then the old woman set fire to the hut and her sons, seeing the smoke hurried home. She told them that a beautiful girl had just left who would make a suitable wife for the youngest of the brothers. Then the brothers tied on their swords and mounted their horses and went in pursuit. Kuwar and the princess knew nothing of their danger and rode on happily, but presently they heard horses neighing behind them and looking round, saw men riding after them with drawn swords. Then the princess said to Kuwar "Our enemies are upon us; do you sit in front and let me sit behind you, then they will kill us both together. If I am in front they may kill you alone and carry me off alive." But while they were thinking of this the seven brothers caught them up, and began to abuse them and charge them with having set fire to the house in which they had eaten their rice, and told them to come back with them at once. Kuwar and the princess were too frightened to answer and they had no sword with which to defend themselves. Then the robbers surrounded them and killed Kuwar, and they said to the princess "You cannot stay here all alone; we will take you back and you shall marry one of us." The princess answered "Kill me here at once, never will I go with you." They said "We shall take away your horse and all your food, will not that make you go?" But the princess threw herself on the dead body of Kuwar and for all they could do they could not drag her off it. Then the murderers said to the youngest brother "She is to be your wife: you must pull her away." But he refused saying "No, if I take her away she will not stay with me, she will probably hang herself or drown herself; I do not want a wife like that, if any of you want her, you can have her." But they said that it would not be right for one of them to take a second wife while their youngest brother was unmarried, and that their mother intended him to marry this girl; if he would not they would kill her there and then. But the youngest brother had pity on her and asked them to spare her life, so they took away her horse and her food and everything that she had and went away and left her there.
For a day and a night the princess lay there weeping and lamenting her dead Kuwar and never ceased for a moment. Then Bidhata said "who is this who is weeping and what has happened to her?" And he sent Bidhi and Bidha to see what the matter was; they came and told him that a princess was weeping over the body of her dead husband and would not leave him though she had been robbed of everything she had.
Then Bidhata told them to go and frighten her, and if they could frighten her away from her husband’s dead body he would do nothing, but if she would not leave him then they were to restore him to life. So they went and found her holding the dead body of her husband In her lap and weeping; and they first assumed the form of tigers and began to circle round her roaring, but she only went on weeping and sang—
"You have came roaring, tigress:
First eat me, tigress:
Then only will I let you eat the body of my lord."
She would not quit the body nor run away from fear of the tigers, so they slunk away and came back in the form of two leopards, and prowled round her growling; but she only sang
"You have came roaring, leopardess
First eat me, leopardess
Then only will I let you eat the body of my lord."
and as she would not fly from them they slunk away and came back in the form of two bears, but the princess only sang the same song; then they appeared as two elephants; and then as two huge snakes which hissed terribly but still she only wept; and in many forms they tried to frighten her away but she would not move nor leave the corpse of Kuwar, so in the end they saw that all the heart of the princess was with Kuwar and that even in death they could not be separated, so at last they drew near to her in the form of human beings and asked her why she was crying, as they had heard her weeping from a long way off, and had been filled with pity for her lamentations. Then the princess said "Alas, this youth and I are from such and such a country and as we loved and our lives were bound up in each other we ran away together hither, and here on the road he has been killed and the murderers have left me without my horse or food; and this is why I weep." Then Bidhi and Bidha said "Daughter, rise up and we will take you to your home, or we will find you another husband; this one is dead and cannot be restored to you; you will find another; come arise, you have but one life," But the princess answered "No I will not go and leave him here. I will not leave him while my life lasts; but I pray you if you know of any medicine that might restore him to life, to try it." Then they answered "We know something of medicine and if you wish we will try to cure him;" so saying, they ground up some simples and told the princess to spread out a cloth and lay the dead body on it and to put the head which had been cut off into position, and then to cover it with the cloth and hold the head in position; so she did as they bade, and they rubbed the medicine on the body and then they suddenly disappeared from her sight.
Then in a few moments she saw Kuwar’s chest heave as if he were breathing; thereupon she shook him violently and he rose up and said "Oh, what a long time I have slept," but the princess said "Do not talk of sleep; you were killed and two men appeared from somewhere and applied medicine and brought you to life again;" then Kuwar asked where they were and she told him how they had disappeared without her knowledge.
Then they rose up and went in search of food to a village where there was a bazar, and they tried to get employment as servants; but the people advised them to go to the capital city where the Raja lived, and there if no one would take them as servants they could get employment as coolies on a big tank which the Raja was excavating. So they went there and as they could not get employment as servants they went to work at the tank with the common coolies and were paid their wages at the end of the week and so managed to live. Kuwar’s desire was to somehow save five or six rupees and then build a little house for themselves.
Now although the tank had been dug very deep there were no signs of any water. Then the Raja ordered the centre post to be planted in hopes that this would make the water rise; and he told the coolies not to run away as he would make a feast to celebrate the making of the tank and would distribute presents among them, and at this the labourers were very pleased.
Now Kuwar’s wife was very fair to see and the Raja saw her and fell in love with her and made a plot to get possession of her. So when the centre post had been planted and still no water came he said "We must see what sacrifice is required to make the water come. I have animals of all kinds; one by one they shall be offered and you shall sing and dedicate them." So first an elephant was led down into the bed of the tank and the people sang
"Tank, we will sacrifice to you an elephant
Let clear water bubble up, O tank,"
But no water came.
Then they led down a horse and sang a similar song, but no water came; and then in succession a camel, a donkey, a cow, a buffalo, a goat and a sheep were offered but no water came; and so they stopped. Then the Raja asked why they stopped and they said that they had no more animals. Then the Raja bade them sing a song dedicating a man, to see if that would bring the water; so they sang and as they sang water bubbled up everywhere from the bottom of the tank and then the coolies were stricken with fear for they did not know which of them would be sacrificed.
But the Raja sent his soldiers and they seized Kuwar and bound him to the post in the middle of the tank; and then a song was sung dedicating him to the tank and as the water rose around him the princess wept bitterly; but the Raja said "Do not cry I will arrange for your support and will give you part of my kingdom and you shall live in my palace." The princess said "Yes: hereafter I may stay with you, but let me now watch Kuwar till he is drowned;" so Kuwar fixed his eyes on the princess and tears streamed down his face until the waters rose and covered him; and the princess also gazed at him till he was drowned. Then the Raja’s soldiers told her to come with them and she said "Yes, I am coming, but let me first offer a libation of water to my dead husband;" and on this pretext she went into the water and then she darted to the place where Kuwar had been bound and sank beneath the surface. The Raja bade men rescue her but all were afraid to enter the water and she was seen no more. Then the Raja gave all the coolies a feast and scattered money among the crowd and dismissed them. And this is the end of the story.