The folk tales and myths of the Uttarakhand state are ample and multi-dimensional. They portray the ideas, aspirations and hopes prevailing in people’s lives.
Experts have categorized them into the following classes:
- Heroic tales
- Fairy tales
- Ghost stories
- Magic tales
- Animal tales
- Religious tales
Through the heroic tales, which are still narrated through several forms of music and dance, we get a fair idea of the history of the region. These tales present an account of contests and battles between the then regional lords. We come to know of the plight of ordinary people and the womenfolk in particular. One such tale is about Hiyunraj Mahar. The Mahars were the subjects the king of Champawat and they rebelled against his tyrannies under the leadership of Hiyunraj. After the defeat and defeat and death of the king, his wife poisoned all the remaining members of the family in order to protect their dignity.
Tales of one region have always been popular in the other. For example Garhwal’s ‘Gangoo-Ramola’ and ‘Sidua-Vidua’ are popular in Kumaon while kumaon’s ‘Rajula-Malushahi’ is very popular in Garhwal. Some of the tales that are popular in both the regions of Uttarakhand are ‘Gangi Ramol, ‘Goriya’ ‘Pandav’, the love tales of Arjun and the Nag-Kanya, the tale of Nanda Devi, ‘Ajuva Baffol’, Malu-Rajula’, Kalu Bajir’ and Anchair’.
There is a goldmine of folk tales and myths in the region and can be of immense interest ot researchers from varied academic backgrounds.
Myth of Jasuli Buri
Jasuli Bataal knonw popularly as Jasuli Buri (Jasuli, the old woman) was a rich and generous woman of Daantu villagein the Darma valley of Kumaon. She lived around 175 years ago. All kinds of legends are to be heard about her wealth and generosity. She had no children and this made her life very depressing and cheerless. The most popular version of her story tells us that during the last days of her life she became so desperate with her ample wealth that she decided to drown all that she had, in the Dhauli. As she was about to commit the deed, a British official happened to pass by. He asked her what she was doing. On coming to know of her plight and desperation, the British official requested her to put the money to better use for the benefit of her own people. It is narrated that several ponies and goats carrying Jasuli Bur’s riches followed the British official, who with that money built ‘dharamshalas’ (places of rest) for the Shauka traders and pilgrims at several places in Uttarakhand and even Nepal. Remnants of these Dharamshalas are still found.
The myth of the paddy fields in Jolingkong
At a height of almost 16,000 feet in Jolingkong (Vyaans valley, Pithoragarh) on the banks of Parvati Sarovar, one surprisingly comes across a paddy field. Science fails to give any explanation. The locals have a myth to provide the ‘logic’.
Once upon a time, there was a king living in Kuti called Leeben Hya. He had two wives. One of them was Tibetan while the other came from Marma in Nepal. The queen from Tibet was used to eating whatever grew in the heights of Kuti, which comprised generally of coarse food grains and had no problems whatsoever in adjusting. The Nepalese queen was used to eating finer delicacies in her paternal home and she could not get herself to like the traditional Vyaansi food.
She was a devout Brahmin woman and had firm faith in her gods. She decided to try growing paddy, barley and ‘madwa’ in these heights. The queen sent a messenger to her father who obliged by sending deeds of finer grains. A big field was especially ploughed and prepared for this purpose in Jolingkon. Following the Shauka tradition, the queen requested all the worms and insects of the world to come and populate her field and make it fertile. There was one technical problem though. Because of the altitude of the place, snakes could not survive there. And it was mandatory to have them present in order to grow the desired food because the region was infested with plague caused by mice and rats. So the Napalese queen, banking on her faith, began to worship Shesh Naag, the cobra-god. In the meantime, the Tibetan queen got jealous of the attention being given to the other queen and decided to have her own salt mine in Kuti. Her father’s kingdom could boast of several salt mines containing the wihitest salt possible. She too began to worship her deities, who granted her a salt mine near Kuti. A ravine overnight turned into a salt mine.
Yielding o the requests of the religious Nepali queen, the Shesh Naag neanwhile began his arduous journey from the Darma valley to Jolingkong via the 15 km long Syela glacier.
The Tibetan queen was waiting for the other queen’s efforts to end in a fiasco. When she heard the news of the divine cobra’s journey, her jealousy know no bounds. She summoned the evil village enchantress and asked for the rhelp. The enchantress accompanied the queen to the top of the mountain, from the other side of which the Shesh Naag was on his way to bless the pious queen’s field. The two wicked women waited for the Shesh Naag to reach the top and chopped off his head with the cobra god’s head fell down the steep knoll to the bank of Kuti Yangti while the rest of the body left its impression on the rocks. Hereing of the heinous crime, the enraged king reached the site and after a fierce battle, all three – king, the Tibetan queen and the enchantress – were killed.
Since Shesh Naag could not bless the field, the puja offered by the Nepalese – queen remained incomplete. As a result, every year one can see paddy plants coming up, but they don’t produce any grain. The salt mine of Kuti also turned into stone.