Raju and the seven fairies

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Many many years ago, in a small village called Shudhur, there lived a young boy named Raju. His father had passed away when he was little; his mother used to make wicker baskets to raise money so that she could get them two meals a day. They lived in a small mud house, in the village outskirts.

One day Raju realized that he should do some work to earn money so that her mother could get good food and proper clothing. He was skillful in making kites, so he decided to go to Kannauj, the capital city of northern India (Northern India was ruled by the emperor Harsha at that time). Raju wanted to work in a kite shop, in the city and had planned to return home after collecting five gold coins. When he told his idea to his mother she hesitated, but when Raju assured her that he will be safe, and he is old enough to take care of himself, she gave her consent.

Next day early in the morning, Raju packed his stuff in a simple cloth bag, took his mother’s blessings and began his journey. Raju’s mother had put seven loaves of bread in a bundle for Raju to eat on the way. It took two days to reach Kannauj, on foot. There lay two small towns between his village and the city, one needed to cross the Ganga River to go from one town to another. Raju was very eager to see the capital city, so he walked speedily. He reached the first town in the afternoon; he was surprised he wasn’t feeling hungry at all, may be due to excitement, he thought. He didn’t take respite in the town but kept walking ahead, within an hour or two he reached the bank of the Ganga River, crossed the River on a rowboat and paid one copper coin as the fare to the oarsman. When the sun was about to set, he got tired and searched for a good place to relax. As he moved around, he saw an old stone well which looked deserted. He noticed a nice patch of grass near the well, and hurriedly he slumped against the broken wall of the well. He took out his bundle of bread and opened it, counting the loaves he muttered, ‘shall I eat one… or two… or three… or all the seven’, since he couldn’t decide, he repeated, ‘shall I eat one… or two… or three… or all the seven’. As soon as he finished the sentence, seven fairies appeared in front of him shouting, ‘Please don’t eat us… Please don’t eat us’. Raju couldn’t believe his eyes, seven beautiful fairies dressed in shining gowns stood in front of him. Each fairy wore a differently colored gown, as the seven colors of the rainbow, and each had a sparkling wand. They all looked very scared; Raju wouldn’t understand what was happening, but he remained quiet and then the Red fairy spoke to him, ‘If you won’t eat us we promise that we will give you a magical gift’. Raju slowly came to his senses and thought, ‘Oh…When I was thinking aloud about eating the seven loaves of bread, these seven fairies must have thought I’m planning to eat them’. As he was witty, he answered, ‘I will not eat you on one condition, if you can prove what you are saying’. Hearing this the Red fairy waved her wand and a goat appeared out of nowhere, it looked like any ordinary goat. Raju enquired, ‘What’s so special about this goat’. The Blue fairy answered, “When you say ‘goat goat… open your mouth’, a gold coin comes out of her mouth”. Raju did what she had said, and a gold coin fell from the goat’s mouth on the ground. Looking at this spectacle, he danced with joy. He thanked the fairies and happily turned towards his home taking the goat with him; he kept thinking that now mother would never have to work.

When Raju reached the town it was already dark with stars shining brightly in the night sky, feeling the gold coin in his pocket he thought, ‘I am rich now, I should spend the night in some comfortable inn’, so he went to an inn that displayed a board ‘Honesty is the best policy’. He called the innkeeper, a fat potbellied man was called ‘Laalu’ by the townsmen. Laalu looking at him spoke rudely, ‘It will cost 20 copper coins for boarding and lodging at my inn, can you pay?’ Raju’s hand went into his pocket, and he tossed a golden coin toward Laalu. Laalu stared at the gold coin for some time and then he said smiling, ‘Dinner and a hot bath is ready sir, I’ll take the goat to feed’, Raju replied, ‘Thanks…no need… goat will stay with me; I’ll feed her myself’.’ The innkeeper didn’t say a word and left. After dinner, Raju entered inside his room taking the goat and closed the door, after making sure that no one was watching he said softly, ‘Goat goat…open your mouth’ and a gold coin fell on the floor, he happily picked it up and kept it safely in his cloth bag. Raju wasn’t aware that all this time Laalu had been watching him hiding behind the window outside. Raju tied his goat to one of the legs of his bed and fell asleep soon. At the stroke of midnight, Laalu entered Raju’s room through a secret passage and after replacing the goat with an ordinary one, he left without making any sound.

Raju woke up early in the morning and got ready quickly, taking his belongings and the fake goat he went to the innkeeper’s desk. The innkeeper returned him 80 copper coins and with a wicked grin said, ‘Please come back again’. After biding Laalu goodbye, Raju started moving towards his village with the fake goat. On his way, he kept thinking ‘Mother will be very happy’. When he reached his home, mother was surprised to see him. Raju told her about the fairies and everything that happened to him. To show the magic to his mother, he spoke loudly, ‘Goat goat…open your mouth’, but nothing happened. Raju shouted the words again and again, but in vain. Raju became very angry and thought he was fooled by the fairies, taking the goat he went back to the stone well and there he shouted angrily, ‘shall I eat one… or two… or three… or all the seven’. The Fairies appeared, and Raju blamed them that they have tricked him, seeing him so angry the fairies became very scared and gave Raju another magical gift, which was a magical pot. The Blue fairy told Raju, “when you say ‘pot pot…give me something hot’ it will be filled with delicious food”. Raju accepted the gift and after warning the fairies that he would surely eat them if the pot doesn’t work in front of his mother, he left. He went back again to the same inn to spend the night; this time didn’t order any food and told innkeeper Laalu that he was very tired, he rented a room and gave Laalu 20 copper coins. Laalu gave Raju the same room and to see what happens this time, he waited behind the window quietly. After Raju went inside the room he mumbled, ‘pot pot…give me something hot’ and he saw that the pot got filled with many delicious food items. He ate till he couldn’t eat anymore and keeping the pot near his pillow, soon fell into deep sleep. Laalu watched all this and again at the stroke of midnight; he performed the same cunning deed; he switched the magical pot with an ordinary one. Poor Raju, not knowing about what happened at night, left the inn next morning with the ordinary pot. When Raju reached home he again became furious when the pot didn’t give food. He went back to the fairies again. The fairies grew suspicious this time and asked him, ‘Do you stop at any place before you reach home’. Raju tells them that he spends his night at an inn in the town. Listening to this, fairies gave Raju a thick wooden stick and a rope, and told him when you meet the innkeeper this time just say, ‘Rope rope…tie the dope’ and then say, ‘Stick stick… do it quick’. Taking the stick and the rope Raju went to the inn and seeing the innkeeper he did what fairies had told him. Raju said, ‘Rope rope…tie the dope’ the rope itself gripped the innkeeper tightly and then he said, ‘Stick stick… do it quick’, the stick started beating the innkeeper. Getting beat, Laalu cried out of pain, ‘Please forgive me, I’ll give all your magical things back to you’. The stick stopped, and the rope untied him and he gave the magical goat and the pot to Raju. Taking the four magical items, Raju returned to his mother happily, telling her everything that actually happened he showed her the magic of the goat and the pot, seeing the magic, Raju’s mother was filled with joy and hugged him tightly.

Since then, Raju is living happily with his mother.

History- In 600BC, Northern India was ruled by the emperor Harsha whose fort was in the capital Kannauj. People who lived in the village were mostly farmers, potters and carpenters, some of them who were of an artistic nature dreamed of getting a chance to show their skills to the King. King Harsha celebrated a religious festival every five years, at the confluence of three rivers (the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the Saraswati) at Prayaga. It is said to be the beginning of the famous Kumbha Mela of India which still attracts lacs of devotees.

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