The very name of sparrows, harks the mind back to my childhood days when we lived in a village. Most of the houses were made of mud and roofs supported by wooden logs. These left so many awnings which acted as the niches where these creatures made their nests for raising their chicks.
Whole day, they will dart inside and out bringing semi dry grass stubble for construction of the nest. There was chirping all day. There was a mulberry tree in our courtyard where in the evening these birds rested in its cool and secure boughs. The cacophony in the evening would be ear deafening.
They were so common that we hardly noticed them. They were the part of Punjabi folklore. For example, the unmarried girls were compared with them, saying that these girls are like sparrows chirping all day in the verandahs of their parents and will also fly away when married.
As the time passed, moving towards modernisation, the cities began expanding and eating away the agricultural land in the neighbouring villages. The houses in the villages also gave way to pucallpa houses which left no scope for these birds to make their nests. In other words their habitat was destroyed and factors like mobile towers radiations from which are supposed to be interfering with their lives, added the more trouble.
But still there are places in rural areas which have awnings and bushes for them to survive. I discovered them at many places in my neighbourhood.
History of the undivided Punjab and adjoining areas on its western front is replete with stories of valour and love. This area acted like a conduit for those from the west who wanted to enter India. From the times immemorial, streams of people crossed into India in search of its rich resources. Some solely entered through this corridor for the purpose of looting and taking with the exploits back. Others like Aryans and Mughals came here and settled here permanently. Aryans are said to be the cattle raring people who were constantly on the move in search of green pastures for their livestock. First Mughal emperor Babur came this side because he was forced to by his cousins who had fully controlled the Western areas and did not allow Babur to get any hold there. He headed east and as luck would have it, he easily won Afghanistan. As he had heard about Hindustan, he drove down into plains of Punjab and adjoining areas. Even when he established himself in India, he longed to go to his native place as he found the weather here too hot. It was Akbar who however firmly established the Mughal rule in India.
Due to the continuous movement of the people including aggressors and traders, the cultures of many places diffused into culture of this area. Many forms of literature also entered this area. One such was Quissa or the oral story telling. The stories were of the religious type initially but took into their fold the folklore and other social forms. So quissa telling became very popular in the Punjab and many famous quissa are popular and people knew heard them again and again. For example, there were lovers tales like Mirza Sahiban, Sassi Punnu on one hand and religious stories on the other hand.
One such Quissa is named Quissa Puran Bhagat. Story is set in the Sialkot which is now in Pakistan. There a king ruled in older times and his name was Salwaan. He had two wives. First one was Ichhran and younger one was Loona. Loona belonged to Chamba and there was large difference of age between the king and her age. In fact, she was the age of his children. As she was the daughter of a very poor low caste man, there was no question of the poor man resisting the marriage although Loona was not inclined. But those were the olden days. She is said to be very beautiful. King was guest of Chamba Royality and saw her in fair and was mesmerised and wanted to make her the queen.
The king was blessed with a son from first wife. He was christened as Puran. Astrologers advised the king to keep the child away from the palace till he attains the age of twelve. So he was established outside with king providing all the facilities there.
After twelve years, he returned as a very handsome boy. He went to her mothers palace. As they days passed, he went to meet the second wife of the king as was the custom in those days. Upon seeing the handsome boy, Loona was bewitched and fell in love with him. But the boy resisted her advances and told her that she is like her mother being the wife of his father. He left the palace after extricating himself. But Loona was heart broken and out of jealously she planned revenge.
She called for the king and with tears told that Puran had tried to rape her. King without seeing the truth, ordered the limbs of Puran to be amputated and he be thrown into a well. Now here is the folklore part. Puran remained alive in the well for many years reciting the name of Gods. Once a wandering religious man called Guru Gorakhnath, a Jogi in local language happened to pass by the well and heard Puran’s voice from the well. With the help of his disciples he took him out and made him hid disciple and showered many spiritual powers on him. Thus Puran became a Bhagat-a religious person. He established him near the well. People began to flock to him for blessings.
In the meanwhile through these years, Loona did not get any children. She was very unhappy. She and the king decided to seek the blessings of Bhagat. Puran Bhagat blessed her with a son. But as the king and queen did not recognise him, he asked Loona that she might have done some terrible deed in the past due to which she had not got any children. She told the truth before the king and Puran revealed that he was the victim.
King was very repentant and beseeched the Bhagat to come home and take over the reins of Kingdom but he refused and told them that the child to be born shall be the next king.
The well in which he was thrown still exists. People even now come to seek blessings for having sons from all over Pakistan. It is called “Puran de Khuee” meaning the well of Puran.
The story has been told and retold for years. The famous Punjabi poet, Shiv Kumar, rewrote the epic by giving it a different interpretation. He says that what was the fault of Loona in desiring for Puran who was almost only slightly younger than her. Her only fault was to be born into a poor family which could not resist the king’s demands. Her parents thought it to be an honour that they have established relations with the mightiest person. But nobody saw into the heart of young Loona. She hardly knew Puran who as per the social norms of the time considered her his mother. She did not saw it that way. She surrendered to her suppressed feelings. Shiv’s argument is that the women was like slave and had no say in any matter. He attempted to bring the women at par with the men.
Yes, I am not a Scheherazade, the famous woman -never ending story teller of ‘Arabian Nights‘ who could keep you on the edge of seat and weave a magical tale from the previous tale. She kept her husband prince Shahryar spellbound with a new story every night but never completed it and kept the end for next day to avoid being killed by her husband. The king, in order to listen the climax did not kill her. She told the tales for thousand and one night. During this period, the prince fell slowly in love with her and revoked his vow to keep a bride for one conjugal night and then kill her the following morning.
Depiction of Queen Scheherazade telling her stories to King Shahryar in The Arabian Nights. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My store of imagination is very meagre, It is bits here and there. After writing a single paragraph, it is quits for me. My imagination runs dry. Thank God, I am not telling my ideas to a prince of Arabia, otherwise my head must have rolled off long time ago. For that matter, my readers-if there are any-are very tolerant and forgive my idiosyncrasies. I am not a pedagogue, I am not teaching any lessons to anyone. As my attention wanders from place to place, I try to capture the events in my mind and then transfer them to the paper and ink. That is all. Thanks