Monday, 14 October 2013

The Curse

“Tana, can you pull up the last bucket? My arms are aching.” Riri, thoroughly tired after pulling 7-8 buckets of water from the well, called out to her sister who was busy shifting water into different pots. Even though Tana immediately stopped what she was doing to help out her sister, Riri’s mood wasn’t improved. She was very well aware that they would have to carry back the pots to their home, which was nearly 2 kilometers afar.

In an effort to cheer up their morning chore, Riri started singing while shifting water.
Seeing her sister enjoying the song, Tana joined her while pulling the water from the well. Both the sisters established the rhythm of singing with their chore. Out of the blue, they heard footsteps coming from the south. Putting a hand over their temple to shield their eyes against the morning sun, both the sisters stood on their tip toes and craned their neck to see what was happening. Although they couldn’t see much clearly, they did realize that an assembly of few men carrying something huge was coming toward them. For few moments, they were scared. Was their village going to be attacked? Or were these men bandits out to rob their village?

“Riri, who are all these men? Do you think we should run to our village and notify them about this development?”Although Tana found the idea of running against her principles, she wanted to alert the villagers. Maybe they could gear up for the battle and give a mighty fight to these men.

 “I don’t think we need to do that.” Riri was able to see the approaching group with better clarity. “These men don’t look like bandits. They are wearing soldiers’ uniform. Also, it seems they are carrying some kind of bed.”

Both the sisters decided to wait and see what the procession was about. When the men came near them, they could see that they were carrying someone in a bed; someone who was groaning and moaning in pain. Now their curiosity was piqued. Instead of wondering about it for hours, Tana decided to ask the men there and then. “Oh mighty men, from where are you coming and whom are you carrying?”

“Oh lady, we are King Akbar’s soldiers. And the man on the bed is Tansen.” Saying this, the men put down the bed to rest under the shade of the tree near the well. One of them asked Riri for water. “Milady, would you be kind enough to offer us some water? We are short on water.”

When Riri was busy offering water to the men, Tana approached the bed. What she saw next horrified her enough to make her gasp. “Are these burns from Deepak raag?”

Tana’s question surprised Tansen. “Yes. It seems you have an immense knowledge about music. Do you know raag Malhaar? If you can sing that, my life can be saved.”

“Yes, my sister and I are proficient in music. We are Vadnagara Nagars. Generally we don’t sing for anyone except for our God, but we will sing to save your life. Before we do that, please do tell us why did you sing the Deepak raag when there wasn’t anyone to sing the Malhaar raag?”

“Actually I didn’t want to sing the Deepak raag but the king Akbar was adamant. So I sang to please the king. However, now I am on fire. Until now I couldn’t find anyone who could sing raag Malhaar to put out the fire in me. Please lady, do me a favor and do sing for me. If you save my life, I would remain eternally grateful to you.”

Seeing Tansen’s pain, Tana called Riri and they both started singing. Their melodious Malhaar raag brought on the rain that put out Tansen’s fire. Each and every drop of rain worked like magic. Tansen’s burns disappeared without leaving any scars. Tansen, relieved and grateful, couldn’t thank Tana and Riri enough. When Tansen offered to go to the king and get a special reward granted for them, both of them refused. “We are not professional singers. We do not sing in front of anyone but God and so any kind of reward for our singing talent would be an insult to our community. We would also appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell this to anyone as this might jeopardize our reputation.”

Tansen understood their perspective. Gracefully accepting their request to not to tell anyone about them, he went back to the king happily.


“Tansen, how did you recover so miraculously? Didn’t you say finding anyone with the knowledge of Malhaar raag was next to impossible?”

“Yes, my king. But I met some adroit singers who saved my life. I am eternally grateful to them.”

“Do tell me who they are. I too would like to listen to them.”

“With all the due respect my king, I cannot tell you their names. They have requested me to not to do so.”

Listening Tansen defying his order, Akbar got angry. “How dare you? You refuse to fulfill my request? I will have you executed!”

Tansen was scared for his life now. “But my king, those singers specifically asked me to not to do so as the revelation of their name will put them in trouble.”

The king could understand Tansen’s reluctance, but he was the king. He will get what he wanted. “Tansen, don’t worry. I will protect them and will make sure that they will never lack for anything in their life. Do tell me their names.”

Tansen knew that defying the king’s request was out of question now if he wanted to live. Hesitantly he told the king about Tana and Riri. “Also, they said that they do not sing in front of anyone but their God.”

Akbar’s curiosity elevated. He had to listen to those girls. And how could the girls refuse to sing for him? Of course, they will be grateful for his patronage no matter how much they pretended otherwise. Ignoring Tansen’s protests, Akbar ordered his soldiers to bring Tana and Riri to his court.


After reading the king’s summons, Tana and Riri’s father broke out in sweats. How could he send his daughters to the king’s court to sing? They weren’t lowly gypsies. They were Vadnagara Nagar girls, full of pride, respect and knowledge. Just because they were talented, Akbar couldn’t insult his girls like that. He refused to obey the summons. Akbar’s commander was furious. How could a mere man refuse to answer the king’s orders?

He took the summons to Vadnagar’s leader. As the Nagar girls never sang before anyone but God, the summons was refused by the leader too. 

“But you cannot refuse the king’s order.” Akbar’s commander couldn’t believe that his king’s order was summarily dismissed by the entire community. “If you do so, Akbar will attack the village. You have 48 hours to think upon it. Either Tana and Riri comes to the king’s court or the king is going to attack the village.”

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Listening to the king’s commander, the villagers got scared. They knew how powerful the king Akbar was. The leader of the community called Tana and Riri’s father. “You have to send your daughters to the king’s court.”

The father was aghast at the suggestion. “But how can I do that to my daughters? You know that we Vadnagara Nagars don’t sing in front of anyone. How can my daughters go to that Muslim king’s court and sing there? It’s as good as losing their reputation. Who will marry them? They will be sullied!”

“I don’t care about that. I am responsible for the entire Vadnagar village. If your daughters won’t go to the court, the king will attack us. Do you think we have enough resources to fight the mighty king Akbar?”

“Yes, I know that, but still I think we can have some sort of communication with the king to convince him how we can’t do that.”

“We have tried everything. It seems the king is adamant about listening to Tana and Riri. Send them to the court. And if you won’t do it, leave the village. I can’t jeopardize the lives of every Nagar to save your daughters.”

“Please, how can you do that to us? I beg you. Protect my daughters! They are the part of this community too! Don’t they have the right to your protection too?”

“They have, but in this case, I can’t help you or them. This situation is out of my hands.” Softening his tone, the leader tried to convince the father. “Please send them to the court. King Akbar might reward them a treasure. That will take care of your daughters for the rest of their lives.”

The father knew he couldn’t do that to his daughters. Dejected and depressed, he didn’t know what to do. But one thing was for sure: he’d rather kill himself than let his daughters sing in the king’s court. He went home and told his wife to pack their belongings. “But where will we go?” His wife couldn’t keep the anxiety out of her voice. “This has been our home since generations. All our ancestors have lived here and died here.”

“I know that.” The father too hated to move but he didn’t see any other alternative. “But to live here, I can’t send my daughters to the king’s court as bloody singers. And that too to a Muslim king’s court.” The mother knew her husband was right. Quietly she started packing their things for the journey.

Both Tana and Riri were standing behind the door, listening to their parents talking. They were regretting singing for Tansen. Hadn’t they saved Tansen’s life, they wouldn’t be facing this situation. They didn’t want to be a burden for anyone; they didn’t want their parents to suffer due to their stupidity. Both of them went to the well, the place from where the debacle had started.

“Tana, what do you think we should do?” Riri wanted to jump off in the well. But she wasn’t sure if that would solve the problem.“Do you think we should die? I think if we aren’t alive, the king can’t attack the village.”

“Really? Do you think if we die, the king will spare our parents and the village?”

“Yes, I think so.”

Both of them started contemplating death in silence. They were in their early 20s with dreams of getting married and starting a family. It seemed to them their dreams weren’t meant to turn into a reality. Hugging each other, they sobbed for their broken dreams and ruined lives. Nobody was there to save them. The only alternative left for them was death.

Tana and Riri climbed the wall of the well and looked down. Before jumping off, both of them looked at each other and took a vow. “This village, Vadnagar, where the Vadnagara Nagars reside, has turned its back on us for their own safety. They failed to protect us even though we were a part of them. We couldn’t live here peacefully. Before we die, we curse this village. The way we couldn’t live in this village in peace, no Vadnagara Nagar will be able to live in this village. If anyone dares to spend even a single night in the village, he/she will be ruined physically, mentally and financially. No Vadnagara Nagar will find peace in Vadnagar.”

Cursing the entire community of the Vadnagara Nagars, Tana and Riri jumped into the well.

PS: This story is a famous folklore among Vadnagara Nagars. We indeed do not spend a single night in Vadnagar when we visit the village. It has been rumored that whosoever has dared to do so, he/she has lost everything that has been dear to him/her.


  1. A lovely story..I never heard of that village or Vadnagar Folklore..
    And I googled about it I came to know that it is the birthplace of Narendra Modi..
    But do people even believe about losing everything if they spend a night there?
    And as I understand from the Story--The Curse is only applicable to those who visit the village but not for those who are inhabitants of that village,correct me if I am wrong..

    1. Harsha, I am Vadnagara Nagar and my caste originates from there. According to this curse, we can't spend the night in Vadnagar but we do visit the village during the daytime as our diety's main temple is there. This curse is applicable only to Vadnagara Nagars, who left the village after the curse, and not anybody else. Right now the village is inhabited by everyone but our caste.

  2. Wow that was a riveting tale ...had suspense, drama, cruelty, enigma everything :)

  3. Wow, very interesting. I'm intrigued.

  4. I have just realised how less I know about our country and all the stories connected to us all. Thanks for sharing this one.

    Arvind Passey

    1. Yes...we have beautiful folklore but it's impossible to know each and every one. Or I think so. Thanks for dropping by :)

  5. Enjoyed this Pankti...indeed I did not know about this story. Can you plz give the link to the original story?

    1. Janaki, there's nothing written about this story but every Vadnagara Nagar is brought up with this story, the reason being we aren't allowed to spend the night in Vadnagar.(All superstition according to me) But there's one Wiki article on Tana Riri. However, this story is incorrect according to the folklore.

  6. interesting and intriguing! Seems a budding writer is in making! to produce interesting novels, if not already! :-)

    1. Thanks Jaideep. Yes, I am writing a novel. Whether I get published will depend on the publishers ;)

  7. Interesting tale. Nicely narrated. Were you told this story by your elders. Are you planning to write more about other folklore?

    1. Yes Shri, my dad used to tell me this story at bedtime. :) And I might write other folklore as I enjoyed writing this :)

  8. Beautifully narrated. But this is not so obscure a myth as such. We had this in our English text book at school during my 3rd standard I think. Brought back nostalgic memories.

  9. Beautifully narrated. I think you have done a great job. I remember this story from my school English text book. However I think to make it more acceptable to children, they had dropped the suicide part of the story.

    1. Wow, I never knew this story was a part of curriculum anywhere. Even though I studied in Gujarat Board, we didn't have this. But it's good I didn't study it in school. I loved listening to this story at bedtime.

  10. That was brilliant, you nailed it Pankti Mehta, really nailed it. Well i don't know about curriculum but this was the first time I read this legend and as far as story telling goes, it was perfect. A bit of this and that and you stitched the old legend in the modern way amazingly. You should write more stories in this genre. Good work.

    1. Thanks Siddhesh. I enjoyed writing this and so I think I will try again, all thanks to you :)

  11. Very nicely narrated, Pankti!
    I had tears in my eyes at the end. Oh! Such a sad end to two talented women!
    All hopes dashed that too for saving a life... What sort of a punishment! I thought Emperor Akbar was wise and kept his subjects in mind...

    1. Yeah, there are several unknown facets of Akbar. Glad you liked the tale :)

  12. Wow really intriguing. Though I knew the story is about a curse I kept hoping nothing would happen to the girls....but alas!! Very well narrated.

  13. Pankthi, you are a wonderful story teller- not many write good stories these days.Keep up the good work.Your revelation that you were in fact telling the story of your ancestors brought goosebumps as I read. all the best!

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