Folk Tales from Kashmir

Table of Contents

  About the Author
  The Precious Present
  The Devil Outwitted
  Just a Nickname
  The Son-in-Law
  Eh! Oh!
  The Inauspicious Bride
  Himal and Nagrai
  The Haunted Mosque
  The Intruder
  The Burglar's Gift
  The Two Thugs
  The Patwari and the ...
  The Upstart
  Two Brothers
  The Merciful Burglar
  The Clever Lawyer ...
  Counting Ripples
  The Fugitive Fawn
  The Mortal Utensils
  The Hydra-Headed
  The Physician's Son
  The Professional Wedding ...
  The Village Teacher
  The Opium Smokers
  The Drone
  Telltale Narration
  Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Chapter 8

The Haunted Mosque

The mosque in one of the villages had remained unattended to for quite a long time. The villagers were awakened to the urgency of repairing and building it and they made preparations accordingly. But the winter set in earlier and it was naturally decided to put off the operations till the dry season. Under the weight of snow part of the roof and one of the walls gave way and people abstained from offering prayers here on account of the hazard involved. They did not think it necessary to light the earthenware lamp in the evening and offered prayers at their respective homes.

Before they could start their repairs the holy month of Ramadhan came round. The villagers were devoutly religious with their simple faith and stout commonsense. It occurred to many of them now that they could not earn merit by keeping fasts without offering prayers in the mosque, and some of them decided not to keep away from the mosque, come what may.

Early in the month of Ramadhan there was great consternation in the village. The village mosque was pronounced to be haunted. On the very first day of the holy month one or two of them died and a couple of them went mad; and these were the very people who had gone there to offer prayers. "They have been devoured by a jinn who haunts the mosque" said the terror-stricken villagers amongst themselves. They went to the village headman who, of course, could not offer any ready-made solution to the problem. A conference of the inhabitants was called to find a solution.

Various aspects of the problem were discussed but no solution was in sight. In the past the villagers had tackled many grave issues in such conferences. Once the village had been infested with robbers and the villagers sent them away tripping after a plan had been chalked out at a conference. On another occasion they rid the village and its neighbours of a severe menace of wild beasts that were threatening to destroy both man and his pet animals. But today the problem was entirely different. Mere physical strength was unavailing. What was needed was wisdom of a type as had never been put to test before.

When the conference was about to break up as infructuous a young man offered his services. "I shall endeavour my best to meet him on his own ground provided I have your blessings and cooperation," he said. Who was there amongst them who would not do everything to ensure his success in driving away the common enemy? They wished him god-speed.

The young man called for a wooden hammer, a piece of wood with nails running through it and a pot of kanji. Equipped thus he went into the mosque and found the jinn there. The young man was quite prepared for such an encounter. "How do you do, uncle," said he in an even, confident tone. The jinn saw that this was quite a different sort of man and had to be dealt with differently. "Take a seat, nephew, how do you do!" he replied. While the jinn was about to set him an apparently arduous task the young man said, "Good uncle, where is mine aunt? I trust she is well." The jinn was by no means so chivalrous and was slightly taken by surprise. However, before long he opened his offensive.

"Sweet nephew, will you do your old uncle a good turn?"

"By all means, dear uncle."

"Run your finger nails along my skin while I lie down and gradually stroke the bones on my back with your h: tar] "

A jinn is nothing if not thick-hided and no human being could gratify the jinn's thirst for stroking him. He was known to have exhausted men first, urged them next to re-invigorate their efforts which is impossible for a tired man, accused the victim of having failed in the task set to him and finally punished him.

The young man had, however, already provided against that. The moment the jinn lay down on his side he started stroking him with his hammer. The j inn was really pleased because it was no mere fleshy first that was at work this time. He enjoyed it and forgot his evil purpose for the time being. The young man then picked the small board and began to rub the nails gently along the hide of the jinn. "Dear me! how delicious!" said the jinn enjoying the operation immensely. He was completely disarmed for the moment of his evil designs.

Having made sure of his ground the young man began to press the nail-board home. Scratches deeper and deeper were furrowed into the hide and the jinn began to complain as he felt the pain. "Oh! is it so?" said the young man, "let me wash your body." He rubbed kanji into the scratched skin of the jinn. The jinn was terribly stung all over and was in great agony. The young man now made deft use of his hammer and nail-board and the jinn ran away as fast as he could, shouting that the jinn had been outjinned. The villagers felt a sigh of relief and the young man came to be commended everywhere The nambardar declared that he would give him his daughter in marriage. Prayers were offered in the mosque and everyone felt satisfied.

But this feeling of complacency proved to be shortlived. The jinn in agony ran away and found asylum in a desolate forest amongst his fraternity. Seeing him treated thus the other jinns Severe much upset. "If they start treating us thus," said they, "how long will it be before we are extinct?" It did not require much argument to urge them to take concerted action against the village.

"And who amongst the villagers has treated you thus?" they asked the defeated jinn.

"I can recognize him," he replied.

"Not a trace of him will be left, nor of his relations, for seven generations. We shall strike hard and strike home."

They invaded the village like a swarm of apes, led by a one-eyed jinn.

There was panic in the village once again, with this difference that its magnitude was unprecedented. On the eve of this invasion of the army of jinns, everyone tried to disclaim his responsibility for the rash indiscretion of the young man. Some of them condemned the young man to escape injury from the jinns and even the nambardar said that he never expected to be landed in this mess. The young man was left almost alone to face the music.

But he never despaired of it. "I'll face them, come what may," he said and selected his weapons. He provided himself with a bag full of ashes and a small labor and ascended a tall poplar tree. A jinn cannot ascend a tree and till they discovered a means of striking him aloft, he could watch their activities and be forewarned.

The invading army arrived in the village under the leadership of the one-eyed jinn. They made a search for the young man. "Where is he?" they asked the defeated jinn, "oh, where is he?" How long could the young man escape notice? They spied him and the beaten jinn gave a shout of joy.

"Thou rascal," he cried, "art thou going to impose upon me again?"

The young man kept patiently silent. He was safe unless they felled down the tree and burnt it as no ladder could be found long enough to reach where he was perched.

Well, the jinns began to fumble when they realized that the young man was out of their physical reach. They were mighty jinns but they lacked the petty skill of an insignificant human to go up a tree, and this young man made use of this trick to defy them all. They were not oblivious of the two easy methods of punishing the wrongdoer, by felling the tree or burning it down; but they wanted to catch him alive and make an example of him.

But even a jinn is gifted with intelligence, probably more if he is one-eyed. The last described jinn showed his superiority and leadership. "Let us make a living ladder," he declared, "and I shall form the lowest rung." He stood close to the poplar and caught hold of it with both hands. Another jumped on to his shoulders and paved the way for a third rung of the ladder. In short they began to reach startlingly close to their enemy.

The villagers took it for granted that the jinns would complete their operations and not feel satisfied till they had flung the bones of the young man to the four winds. "He has invited the trouble" was their hushed comment. There was only one among them who was anxious for him and she was the nambardar's daughter whose hand her father had promised to the young man. While all others were sitting in rooms bolted and locked, she was watching the young man on the poplar and saw with bated breath the progress of the living ladder. It was worse than death for her.

The events took a startlingly new turn. The young man put his weapons to use. He thumped the labor, taking the jinns by surprise. There was a visible tremor through the living ladder. He undid the knot in the mouth of the bag and ashes fell on the jinns like a Niagara, blinding them. They never expected this reception. The single eye of the lower-most jinn was blinded and he was confused. Then came a loud voice reciting the doggerel:

The labor goes dub-a-dub-dub and the ashes fall from the tree.

The one-eyed jinn at the lower-most rung, I have grappled with but thee!

The one-eyed jinn was already startled with the drumming; the ashes depriving him of his sight put fear into his heart. These words put him into panic. He felt his feet giving way under him and finally he collapsed. But before he could fall prostrate, the whole living ladder came down crashing and the jinns fell one upon another. While the labor went on beating dub-a-dub-dub the jinns who had some life left in their bodies took to their heels while a good many left their carcasses behind, including the one-eyed leader. The young man thus exorcised the jinns away not only from his own village but from many others too; and the nambardar's daughter who had witnessed the terrible scene with her own eyes was ultimately received by the young man in his arms as his all too willing bride.



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