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Karmu And Dharmu

Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There were once two brothers Karmu and Dharmu. Karmu was a farmer and
Dharmu was a trader; once when Dharmu was away from home Karmu gave
a religious feast and did not invite Dharmu's household; when Dharmu
returned and learnt this, he told his wife that he also would perform
the ceremonies in his house, so they set to work and were employed
in cooking rice and vegetables far into the night; and Karam Gosain
came down to see what preparations Dharmu was making in his honour,
and he watched from the back of the house.

Just then Dharmu strained off the water from the cooked rice and threw
it out of the window, and it fell on Karam Gosain and scalded him, and
as the flies and insects worried the wound, Karam Gosain went off to
the Ganges and buried himself in the middle of the stream. As he had
thus offended Karam Gosain, all Dharmu's undertakings failed and he
fell into deep poverty, and had not even enough to eat, so he had to
take service with his brother Karmu. When the time for transplanting
the rice came, Dharmu used to plough and dig the ditches and mend the
gaps along with the day labourers. Karmu told him not to work himself
but act as overseer of the other labourers, and the labourers also told
him that it was not suitable for him to work as a labourer himself,
but Dharmu said that he must earn his wages and insisted on working;
and in the same way Dharmu's wife might have acted as overseer of
the women, but she was ashamed not to work too.

One day they were transplanting the rice and Karmu brought out
breakfast for the labourers; he told Dharmu and his wife to wash their
hands and come and eat; but they answered that they belonged to the
household and that the hired labourers should be fed first, so the
labourers ate and they ate up all the rice and there was nothing left
for Dharmu and his wife. When the midday meal was brought the same
thing happened, Dharmu and his wife got nothing; but they hoped that
it would be made up to them when the wages were paid, and worked
on fasting. At evening when they came to pay the wages in kind,
Dharmu's name was called out first, but he told his brother to pay
the labourers first, and in doing this the paddy was all used up and
there was nothing left for Dharmu and his wife; so they went home
sorrowfully and their children cried for food and they had nothing
to give them. In the night Dharmu's wife said "They promised to pay
us for merely looking after the work and instead, we worked hard
and have still got nothing. We will not work for them anymore; come,
let us undo the work we did to-day, you cut down the embankments you
repaired, and I will uproot the seedlings which I planted." So they
went out into the night to do this. But whenever Dharmu raised his
spade a voice called out "Hold, hold!" And whenever his wife put out
her hand to pull up the rice a voice called out "Hold, hold!" Then they
said "Who are you who stop us?" And the voice answered "You have done
evil and offended Karam Gosain by scalding him; this is why you have
become poor and to-day have worked without food and without wages;
he has gone to the Ganges and you must go and propitiate him." And
they asked how they should propitiate him, and the voice said "Grind
turmeric and put it on a plate, and buy new cloth and dye it with
turmeric and make ready oil and take these things to the Ganges and
call on Karam Gosain." And they believed the voice and the next day
did as it commanded, and set off, leaving their children in charge
of Karmu. On the way they came to a fig-tree full of figs and they
went to eat the fruit; but when they got near they found that all
the figs were full of grubs, and they sang:--

"Exhausted by hunger we came to a fig-tree,
And found it full of grubs,
O Karam Gosain, how far off are you?"

Then they came to a mango tree and the same thing happened. And they
went on and saw a cow with a calf; and they thought that they would
milk the cow and drink the milk, but when they went to catch it it
ran away from them and would not let itself be caught; and they sang:--

"We go to catch the cow and it runs away,
We go to catch the calf and it runs away,
O Karam Gosain how far off are you?"

But the cow said to them--"Go to the banks of the Ganges." Then
they came to a buffalo and went to milk it, but it lowered its head
and charged them; and Dharam cried but his wife said "Don't cry"
and sang:--

"If you go to catch the buffalo, Dharmu,
It will kill you.
How shall we drink milk? How shall we drink milk?
How far off are you, O our Karam Gosain?"

And the buffalo said "Go on to the bank of the Ganges." Then they came
to a horse and they thought that they would catch it and mount it,
but it kicked and snorted; and they sang:--

"Dharmu tries to catch the horse:
But it kicks and runs away.
How shall we reach the Ganges?
O Karam Gosain, how far off are you?"

And the horse said "Go to the banks of the Ganges." Then they saw an
elephant but it would not let them approach, so they decided to push
on straight for the river; and they saw under a banyan tree a large
pot full of rupees, but they were so disheartened that they made no
attempt to touch it; then they met a woman who asked where they were
going and when she heard, she said "For twelve years I have had a pai
measure stuck on my throat; ask Karam Gosain for me how I am to get
rid of it," and they promised; and going on they met a woman with a
bundle of thatching grass stuck to her head; and she made them promise
to ask Karam Gosain how she could be freed; then they met a woman with
both her feet burning in a fire and another with a stool stuck fast
to her back and they promised to enquire how these might be delivered.

So at last they came to the Ganges and they stood on the bank and
called to Karam Gosain; and when he came they caught hold of him and
he said "Fie, what low caste person is touching me?" But they said. "It
is no low caste person, but Dharmu." Then they bathed him and anointed
him with oil and turmeric and wrapped him in the new cloth which they
had brought, and thus they persuaded him to return; so they rose up
to go back, and Dharmu asked about the women whom they had met, and
Karam Gosain said: "The woman has a stool stuck to her back because
when visitors came she never offered them a seat; let her do so in
future, and she will be freed; and the woman has her feet burning in
the fire because she pushed the fuel into the fire with her foot; let
her not do so in future, and she will be freed; and the woman has the
thatching grass stuck to her head because when she saw a friend with
straw sticking in her hair she did not tell her about it; let her do
so in future and she will be freed; and the woman has the pai measure
stuck to her throat because, when her neighbour wanted to borrow her
measure, she would not lend it; let her do so in future and she will
be freed." And Karam Gosain asked whether they had seen an elephant
and a horse and a buffalo and a cow and money and mangoes and figs and
Dharmu said "Yes," but that he had not been able to catch the animals
and the fruit was bad. Karam Gosain promised them that on their way
back they should take possession of all; and they did so and mounted
on the elephant and returned to their home with great wealth. On their
way they met the four women and told them how they could be saved from
their troubles. The villagers welcomed Dharmu and he arranged a great
feast and gave paddy to all the villagers to husk; but when they had
boiled it the weather became cloudy so that they could not dry it,
so they prayed to the sun and he at once shone out and dried the paddy.

Then a day was fixed and they prepared rice beer, and worshipped
Karam Gosain and they danced all night and got very drunk and enjoyed

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