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The Goala And The Cow

Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once upon a time a young man of the Goala caste was going to his
wedding; he was riding along in a palki, with all his friends, to
the bride's house and as he was passing by a pool of water he heard a
voice saying, "Stop you happy bridegroom; you are happy, going to fetch
your bride; spare a thought for my misfortune and stay and pull me out
of this quagmire." Looking out he saw a cow stuck fast in the mud at
the edge of the pool, but he had no pity for it and harshly refused
to go to its help, for fear lest he should make his clothes muddy.

Then the cow cursed the Goala, saying, "Because you have refused to
help me in my extremity, this curse shall light on you, directly you
touch your bride you shall turn into a donkey." At these words the
Goala was filled with fear and telling the bearers to put down the
palki he alighted and ran and pulled the cow out of the mud; this done,
he begged her to withdraw the curse, but the cow declared that this
was impossible, what she had said was bound to come to pass. At these
words the Goala began to lament and threw himself at the feet of the
cow, beseeching her; at length the cow relented, and promised that
though the curse could not be withdrawn it should be mitigated and
it would be possible for his wife to restore him to human shape. So
the Goala had to take what comfort he could from this and returning
to the palki he told his friends what had passed. Much downcast the
procession continued its way, wondering what would be the upshot of
this adventure.

Arrived at the bride's house, they proceeded to celebrate the wedding;
but as the Goala touched the bride with his finger to apply the
vermilion mark to her forehead, he suddenly became a donkey. The
company were filled with dismay and the bride's parents declared that
they would never let their daughter go away with such a husband,
but the bride herself spoke up and said that as Thakur for some
reason had given her such a husband she would cleave to him, and
nothing that her relations said could shake her purpose; so when the
bridal party set out homewards, she went with them to her husband's
house. But there everyone laughed at her so much for having married
a donkey that she made up her mind to run away to another country;
so one day she packed up some provisions for the journey and set out,
driving the donkey before her.

She journeyed on and on till one day she happened to come to a tank
with a large well near it; she turned the donkey loose to graze on
the banks of the tank and sat down by the well to eat some of the
food which she had with her. In the fields below the tank were some
twenty ploughmen in the service of the Raja of that country, driving
their ploughs; and when it got past noon these men began to grumble,
because; no one had brought them their dinner; as it got later and
later they became more and more violent, and vowed that when anyone
did come they would give him a good beating for his laziness. At last
one of the maid-servants of the Raja was seen coming along, carrying
their food in a basket on her head and with her child running by her
side. The sight pacified the ploughmen and the maid-servant hastened
to set down the basket near them and then went off to the well to
draw some water for them.

Just as she was ready to let down the water-pot, a wedding procession
passed along the road with drums and music, making a fine show. The
maid could not keep her eyes off this, but at the same time did not
wish to keep the ploughmen waiting any longer; so, with her eyes on
the procession, she tied the well-rope, as she thought round the neck
of the water-pot, but really, without knowing it, she tied the rope
round the neck of her own little child and proceeded to lower him
into the well. When she pulled up the rope she found that she had
strangled her own child.

She was of course much distressed at this, but she was even more
afraid of what might be done to her and at once hit on a device to save
herself from the charge of murder. Taking the dead child in her arms
she ran to the ploughmen and scattered all the food she had brought
about the ground; then with the child still in her arms, she ran to
the Raja and complained to him that his ploughmen had assaulted her,
because she was late in taking them their dinner, had knocked the
basket of food all about the ground and had beaten her child to death;
she added that a strange woman was grazing a donkey near the place
and must have seen all that passed.

The Raja at once sent a Sipahi to fetch the ploughmen and when they
came before him he asked them what had happened, and bade them swear
before Sing bonga whether they were guilty of the murder. The
ploughmen solemnly swore to speak the truth, and then told the Raja
exactly what had happened, how the woman had killed her child by
mistake and then falsely charged them with the murder. Then the
Raja asked them whether they had any witnesses, and they said that
there was no one of their own village present at the time, but that
a strange woman was grazing an ass on the banks of the tank, who
must have seen all that happened. Then the Raja sent two sipahis to
fetch the woman, telling them to treat her well and bring her along
gently. So the sipahis went to the woman and told her that the Raja
wanted her on very important business; she made no demur and went to
fetch her donkey. The sipahis advised her to leave it behind to graze,
but she said that wherever she went the donkey must go and drove it
along with her.

When she appeared before the Raja he explained to her what had
happened, and how the maid-servant told one story about the death
of the child and the ploughmen another, and he charged her to speak
the truth as to what she had seen. The Goala's bride answered that
she was ready to take an oath and to swear by her donkey: if she
spoke the truth the donkey would turn into a man, and if she lied
it would retain its shape. "If you take that oath," said the Raja,
"the case shall be decided accordingly." Then the Goala's wife began
to tell all that she had seen and how the ploughmen were angry because
their dinner was late, and how the maid-servant had gone to the well to
draw water and had strangled her child by mistake and had then knocked
over the basket and charged the ploughmen with the murder. "If I have
lied may Chando punish me and if I have spoken the truth may this ass
become a man;" so saying she laid her hand on the back of the animal
and it at once resumed its human shape.

This was sufficient to convince the Raja, who turned to the
maid-servant and reproached her with trying to ruin the ploughmen by
her false charge. She had no answer to make but took up the dead body
of the child and went out without a word.

Thus the Goala was restored to his original shape, but he and his
faithful wife did not return to their own relations; they took service
with a farmer of that country and after a time they saved money and
took some land and lived prosperously and well. From that time men
of the Goala caste have always been very careful to treat cattle well.

Next: The Telltale Wife

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