Clever Narayani

- February 1, 2023

By Meghana L. 

A long long time ago, a man named Nandu and his daughter Narayani, lived in the town of Rajgir in the district of Nalanda, Bihar. He made a living by working as a labourer on wealthy landowners’ fields and rearing pigs. Narayani helped her father by taking care of the pigs.  

 Every day Narayani would take the pigs to a pond near her home, where they would wallow. One day she saw a young man walking past the pond in a hurry. Narayani stopped the man and asked him, “Where are you going in such a hurry, sir?” 

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 The man stopped and replied, “I have to reach the Ganga by the full moon. It is an auspicious day, and I must take a dip in the river.” 

 She told him that the river was too far away for him to reach there in time. Instead, she asked him to trust her and do as she said.  

 She pointed to the pond her pigs were wallowing in and said, “I need you to have faith in your heart and take a dip in this pond. I will bring on the auspicious moment of the full moon, and you will be rewarded.” 

 The man followed her advice and took a dip in the pool. To his surprise, he found precious jewels under the water and brought them out with him.  

 Narayani asked him to take another dip, and the man agreed, thinking he could pick more jewels. Instead, he only found mud at the bottom. He came above and asked her why he could not find anything this time. She replied, “The result is equal to the faith you have in your heart and your confidence in me.” 

Script: Mrinalini Manda; Illustration: Vineet Nair

 The man asked Narayani to marry him as he was taken by her wisdom. She replied to his proposal by saying that she would only marry him if her father agreed to the match.  

 The man went to her father and asked him for permission to marry his daughter. Nandu was hesitant to give his approval. He told the man they were poor and could not afford a grand wedding. The man said that he was not concerned with all that and he was only interested in Narayani, whose wisdom had impressed him. On listening to what the man had to say, Nandu agreed to their wedding.  

 After the wedding, Narayani told her husband that in reply to her father’s question about what wedding gift he wanted, he should say: Suravi, Varahi, and Shaurya. He did as she told him without question and found out that Suravi, Varavi, and Shaurya were a cow, a pig, and a parrot, respectively.   

 Narayani, her husband, and the animals lived happily together. However, one day, Shaurya, the parrot, told them that Indra had decided not to send rains down in all the regions, except the barren hills and valleys of Rajgir, in the next monsoon. As a result, there would be a famine. 

Script: Mrinalini Manda; Illustration: Vineet Nair

 The husband was surprised to see this and asked the parrot how he knew this. Narayani revealed to him that they were no ordinary animals. The parrot had access to King Indra’s court and would visit it every day, bringing news to his mistress. Varahi was the leader of the pigs, while Suravi was the auspicious cow that yields plenty.  

 Narayani proceeded to assign tasks to the animals to counter Indra’s decision. She asked Varahi to gather her herd and dig up the barren hillside and valleys and asked Suravi to manure the fields. She then asked her husband to sow paddy in the area dug by Varahi. Everyone followed her instructions, and by the harvest season, they had an abundant harvest which they decided to share with the rest of the village during the famine. 

 When Indra came to know, he was enraged. In return, he decided to send rats to destroy the crops. Shaurya overheard this and relayed the message to Narayani. Her husband arranged for a clutter of cats to guard the crops and foiled Indra’s plan once again.   

Script: Mrinalini Manda; Illustration: Vineet Nair

 Indra was furious and decided to teach Narayani a lesson. He declared he would send a storm when they stored the crops on the threshing floor. The grains would get washed away, and there would be a famine as he had originally planned. Shaurya came down and relayed this information to Narayani. She asked her husband to dig a moat around the foot of the hills. Her husband did as she said and completed the ditch, along with other men from the village.  

 When Indra sent the storm, the water collected in the moat instead of flooding the area, so the paddy did not wash off and remained safe. The entire village shared this harvest and Narayani and her family saved everyone from the famine.  

 This is the legend of Narayani that people in Bihar and its surrounding areas have passed down to date. A moat similar to the one in the story presently exists in the district of Rajgir. Locals attribute its existence to Narayani. They also believe that Bawan Ganga, or 52 Gangas, is the same pond where her pigs used to wallow and where she met her husband.  

Read more folktales from around India in our title ‘Buying A Song and Other Stories’.

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