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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Story of Sankamma -Part 3

(Still not satisfied, Neelegowda sadistically spreads big thorns on the ground; and being a sorcerer, creates two magic figures.  He stations them to guard the door, with the orders to them that if anybody enters the hut or tries to go out, they should immediately kill such persons.  Then he goes out and joins his clan-men.

     Sankamma, moaning and writhing in pain, mentally prays to many gods and goddesses to come to her aid, but to no avail.  Finally, in desperation, she prays to Madeshwara.)


Our Father, Madeshwara,

Came there on foot, on  auspicious Monday.

He saw the thatch-hut

Of Sankamma, the devotee of Shiva.

Alas!  In this dark and desolate forest,

Neither during the day nor during the night,

There are crows to crow and owls to hoot;

Birds to twitter and chirp.

Into such a wild forest, some man, a widow’s son,

Has brought this poor creature of a woman,

And has condemned her into such misery.

Great I am not in this world;

This woman, who is in this thatch-hut,

This loyal wife, is greater than I.

If the tears shed by her

Touched me in my heavenly abode in the Seven Hills,

She must be a woman of rare fidelity to her husband –

Thinking thus, Mahadeva,

Went round the thatch-hut seven times.

Then, he stood in the North-East quarter,

Turned himself into a man ripe old age,

Toned down the radiance of his Linga,

And the ringing sound of his anklet bells;

And then, softly, lest she might be startled, he said:



     Who are you, my child?  Who are you?

       My beloved child, who are you?
     My child, whoever you are inside this hut,
     Give alms to Hara;
     Give charity to the Guru;
     Give generously to Shiva.
     My daughter, give me alms with your auspicious hands;
     And send me back to the Eastern hills.
          // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak. //

Give me alms,
Give alms to me – he shouted.
But this poor woman couldn’t open her mouth to answer him;
And, her hands and legs bound, couldn’t move and talk to him.
He had bound her hands and feet – this Neelegowda had.
Then  words like ‘charity’ ‘generous turn’ and ‘alms’
Fell on her ears, lying prostrate.
Then Sankamma thought:
O Mother Earth!  O Sky above!
My husband’s family deity didn’t come to my aid.
Some vagrant,
Or a lame or a blind person,
Or a dull or a left-handed person,
Or a monk of the Kalamukha sect,
Has arrived and is begging for alms.
If I could get up and go there,
And though I have no food-grains at home,
If, with folded hands, I could send him to the next house,
My sins would be atoned.
But it is impossible for me to get up.
O Mother Earth!  O Sky above!
My gods –
None of my gods could understand my suffering.
Madeshwara of the Seven Hills,
Who has blessed my father’s home –
Even he could not understand me.
O Madeva!
       The tears shed by me, a sinner,
       Let your feet, Madeva, take cognizance of them.
           // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak.  //

Lying prostrate,
Sankamma folded her hands to Madeva.
The tears shed by that poor woman
Were felt by the feet of Madappa,
Who stood in front of the hut.
As soon as Madeva, the great Guru,
Became aware of the poor woman’s tears,
His legs, with bells on the anklets, shook;
And he, Madappa, began to perspire profusely.
O, what a noble woman of conjugal fidelity she is!
When she moaned just once,
My Linga and anklets both trembled,
And hot perspiration streamed down from my body.
If this poor woman moans once more,
I will go up in flames, completely.
I have to ameliorate this woman’s suffering, immediately –
With these thoughts,
The great Guru took out from his holy alms-bag,
The sacred ash of the Seven Hills.
My Guru, who taught me knowledge and wisdom,
And who administered to the five-fold initiation,
Shantamallikarjuna Swamy fo Salur monastery –
Let his blessings be on me.
O my father Shivappa!  Shantamallaiah!  --with these words,

     Sir, he takes out the sacred ash of the hills,
    And tosses it on the head of the devotee of Shiva.
                 // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak.  //    

The lord, Madeshwara,

Over the head of Sankamma,
Tossed the sacred ash, immediately.
As soon as Madappa’s sacred ash fell on her,
All the bonds secured on that poor woman,
By that hunter of the hills, Neelegowda,
Began to come off, one by one.
As soon as Madappa’s sacred ash fell on her,
     The needles in her eyes got lost;
     The bodkins in her ears fell down;
      The lock on her mouth came off;
      The knots on her hands got loosened;
      The fetters on her legs came off;
      The boulder on her back rolled down;
      And, in fear, went back to the hills.
      The woman gets up with a deep sigh,
      Sankamma, the woman of Truth.
             // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak.  //

(Madeshwara, then, tests and teases Sankamma; but eventually turns her hut into a palace and fills it with foodgrains, gold and silver.  But when Sankamma asks for the boon of children, he teases her again.  In the end, overcome by her devotion, he grants her the boon on the condition that the twins to be born to her should be given to him.
In due course, Neelegowda returns from his hunting expedition.  He sees the palace and his pregnant wife, and at once flies into a murderous rage.  Despite her explanation regarding Madeshwara’s blessings, he decides that she has betrayed him.)

Fie on you, foul widow’s daughter!

Wife, your words are meaningless.
Leaving aside the king who rules this country,
And all the other people of substance,
You are blaming it on that monk, who meditates in the forest.
That ascetic, with his tribal devotees,
Goes from door to door begging for alms.
He lives in a thatch-hut himself,
And entertains other similar monks there,
In the name of his Salur monastery.
You say such a Madeshwara built this palace for you.
Can Madeshwara do the job of a mason?
 Or, the job of a contrctor?
Or, has he huge wealth stored in a pit?
You, foul widow’s daughter,
Don’t blame it on Madeshwara.

O my master!  I swear
By your feet,
By the feet of the Sun and the Moon,
By Mother Earth,
By the feet of my parents,
That it is Madappa who rid me of poverty – she said.
If so, is your Madappa such a man of Truth?
Yes, my master.
If your Madappa is a man of Truth,
Hear me, my wife:
     Prove your words as true, my wife;
     Or, be prepared to lose your life.
           // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak.  //

If Madeshwara, the family-deity of your father,
Is such a man of Truth,
Give me proof – he said.
Tell me, my master, what kind of proof?  --she asked.
Look here, wife; you  talk about proof so casually.
I shall place three stones in the inner yard,
Make a huge fire in that oven,
And I shall place an iron cauldron on it  --
The kind of iron-cauldron I carry with me –
And, pour into it three khandugas
Of wild honey and light honey, and light the fire.
When the honey begins to boil and it bubbles,
I will slide into it three big steel balls.
When the steel balls get heated up and rumble,
O Sankenne, if you dip into the cauldron thrice,
And take out the three steel balls,
Without losing your life, and then come and bow to my feet,
     Sankenne, I shall accept the Truth of Madeva,
    The family-deity of your father.
         // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak.  //

We will go to Shivagange in the valley,
And worship you, offering incense.
O Madeva, the Charmer of charmers!
Absolve us of our sin.

Sankamma heard her husband’s words,
And grieved, sitting in her palace:
O Madappa, the Charmer of charmers!
The family-deity of my father!
Not one – not two,
But three steel balls.
When they boil in wild honey,
The very first time I dip into the cauldron, Father,
I’ll be burnt to ashes.

          When will you understand, O Madeva,
          The agony of my miserable womanhood?
                // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak.  //

The devotee of Shiva, sitting in the palace,
Raised her folded hands to Madappa.
The tears shed in the palace,
My Father, Madappa, felt in his abode of the Seven Hills.
His Kailasa of the Seven Hills
Caught fire and burnt allthrough,
And was reduced to hot embers, in no time,
Like the live coal of a tamarind tree.  

Madappa looked up at the sky.

On the plain near the Kokkare Boli Hill,

Neelegowda, the son of a fould widow,

Must be causing all sorts of pain and anguish

To Sankamma, the devotee of Shiva.

The tears of that poor woman

Have set fire to my abode in the Seven Hills.

By the time I put on my dress,

And go there sitting on my tiger,

That son of a foul widow will have killed that woman –

Thinking thus, Madappa,

Like a flash of lightening during monsoon,

           Just as a tip-cat leaps in the air,

           Behold Madappa leaping in the air.

                 // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak. //


In our time, there was a game known as ‘Tip-cat’;

We don’t know by what new name it’s called now.

Just as the tip-cat springs when its tip is hit,

Like a flash of lightening during monsoon,

There arrived Madappa,

There he arrived.

But Madappa was visible

Neither to the eyes of Sankamma,

Nor to the eyes of Neelegowda.

On the threshold of Sankamma’s palace,

Madappa sat, waiting, in the form of a white lizard.


Sankamma sat inside, bemoaning her lot.

That son of a foul widow, the Soliga of the hills,

Arranged three stones in front of the palace, and,

Placing a cauldron on the stone-oven,

Poured wild honey and light honey into it,

And he lit the fire.

When the honey began to boil and bubble,

He slid three steel balls into it.

Then, Madappa, sitting there,

Unable to bear Sankamma’s sorrow any longer –

     My child:

     Don’t be frightened, my child;

     Be not afraid, my child.

     O Sankamma of conjugal fidelity,

     Why do you fear, my child, when I’m here?

     Listen, Sankamma, my daughter.

            // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak. //


My child, dip three times; nay, six times, my child;

I shall make you feel as if you took a cold-water bath in a deep pond.                      

Be not frightened, my child.
Take the name of your parents, your in-laws,
And the one who took your hand in marriage,
And plunge into it, my child.
        I will negate, in no time,
       Whatever sorcery your husband practices.
            // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak.  //

The honey in the cauldron is  boiling and bubbling.
Having slid three iron balls into the cauldron,
Neelegowda came in.
Sankamma was grieving over her plight.
Hey, Sankenne!
You, daughter of a foul widow!  What are you thinking about?
With these words,
           He catches hold of her long hair,
           And comes out, dragging and pulling her along.
               // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak.  //

Holding her by her long hair,
And dragging her out violently,
He made her stand before the cauldron.
Fie on you, daughter of a foul widow!
Dip quickly into it three times,
Take out all the three iron balls, and placing them here,
If you want to live, bow to my feet – he roared.
Loyal wife Sanakamma
Saw the cauldron; it is hissing.
The wild honey is bubbling.
O Madappa!  If my fidelity to my husband is true,
Protect me – so saying,
     She invokes her mother and father,
     Takes the first dip,
     And brings up one ball;
     She invokes her mother-in-law and father-in-law,
     Takes the second dip,
     And brings up the second ball;
     She invokes her husband’s feet,
    Takes the third dip,
    And brings up the third ball;
    And then she falls and clasps her husband’s feet.
          // Give alms to the sage on the mountain peak.

(Not satisfied with this ordeal, Neelegowda makes her go through eight more ordeals, one more gruesome than the other.  But, with the blessings of Madeshwara to her protection, Sankamma completes all the ordeals successfully.  Finally, Neelegowda accepts her and,  later, two sons are born to them.
Then, one day, Sankamma tells her husband:)

O Master!

What really belong to us for ever,
Are our clan, the hills, and the forests.
This palace cannot be ours for ever –
So saying,
Invoking the name of Madappa,
Both the husband and wife,
Carrying all of their pots and pans,
Left the palace and set out for their hamlet.

(They eventually return to their original place and clan, and live happily there, for a long time. )
Dr. C.N. Ramachandran

Next:  The Story of Kenchavvaa

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