The Sham Child

: Part I.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There was once a Raja who had two wives and each Rani had a maidservant

who was the Raja's concubine; but none of them had any children. In

the course of time the ladies began to quarrel and when they appealed

to the Raja, he found that the elder Rani was to blame and turned

her out of the palace, and sent her to live in a palm leaf hut on

the outskirts of the town. Her faithful maidservant followed her,

and the two su
ported themselves by begging. But they barely got

enough to keep body and soul together.

After a few days the maidservant asked permission of her mistress to

play a trick on the Raja, by which they should at least get sufficient

food. The Rani assented and the maidservant went off to the Raja

and told him that the wife whom he had turned out was five months

with child, and that it was a disgrace that one who was to be the

mother of his heir should have to beg her bread. On hearing this the

Raja somewhat relented towards the Rani, and he ordered money to be

sent her sufficient to provide her with food, and had a proper house

prepared for her. When the proper time arrived, the maidservant went

to the Raja and told him that a son had been born; at this joyful

news the Raja became still more generous and told the maidservant

that she was free to take whatever was wanted for the child.

This suited the maid and her mistress excellently; so long as they

could keep up the deception they lived in comfort; when the child

was supposed to have grown old enough to run about, they asked for

the price of some anklets with bells on them and bought a pair,

and whenever the Raja passed by the house in which the Rani lived,

the maidservant made her mistress rattle the anklets, and then went

outside and told the Raja to listen to the anklets tinkling as his son

ran about the house. The Raja would tell the maidservant not to let the

boy run about too much, lest he should fall and hurt himself; then she

would hurry inside and tell the Rani to stop the jingling, and then

come and tell the Raja that the boy was resting in his mother's lap;

but for all this the Raja was never given an opportunity of seeing

his son.

However as time went on the Raja chose a bride and arranged for

his son's wedding; the bride's friends did not come to inspect the

bridegroom; a day was fixed right off for the wedding. As this day drew

near, the Rani became more and more frightened, for it seemed that her

deception must at last be discovered, and she would probably be put

to death. But the maidservant encouraged her and promised to devise

a plan; so when the day came for them to start for the bride's house

she made a paste of ground mowah flowers and out of this fashioned

an image of a child; and when the procession started off, with the

Raja in a palki, and drummers, and palki-bearers, the maidservant

was also carried in a palki and pretended that she was holding the

child. Off they started and as it was too far to go in one day,

they stopped for the night at a bazar, where there was the shrine

of a saint. At midnight the maidservant arose and went to the shrine

and called to the spirit (bonga) which dwelt there, and said that he

must grant her a boon, and if not it would be the worse for him; the

spirit asked what she wanted and she showed the paste image and said

that she was going with the procession to marry her son, and somehow

on the way he had been turned into paste; if the spirit would not

give her another son, she would spit on him and curse him. The spirit

saw that she meant what she said, and for fear of being spat upon,

he produced a boy from somewhere and gave him to her. The maidservant

was delighted at her success and bowed down three times in reverence

to the spirit and took away the boy and put him in her palki.

The next morning they rose and reached the bride's house and

the wedding took place in due form. As they were returning, the

maidservant sent on two men to warn her mistress of what had happened

and to tell her to get ready a feast. So when they reached home there

was a feast ready and the bride's friends were duly entertained and

dismissed. Afterwards the Raja fell out with his second wife and left

the palace where she lived and came and stayed with the elder Rani,

whom he had formerly turned out.