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Main > Indian folktales > Fairy tale "The Soothsayer's Son"

The Soothsayer's Son

Few heard him. The few that did took his words for the voice of a ghost. “How could he manage to live without food and drink for so long a time?” said the persons walking over his head to each other. Thus passed months and years. Gaṅgâdhara sat in the dark cellar, without the sun’s light falling upon him, and feasted upon the bread-crumbs and sweetmeats that the rats so kindly supplied him with. These circumstances had completely changed his body. He had become a red, stout, huge, unwieldy lump of flesh. Thus passed full ten years, as prophesied in the horoscope—Daśavarshâṇi Bandhanam.

Ten complete years rolled away in close imprisonment. On the last evening of the tenth year one of the serpents got into the bed-chamber of the princess and sucked her life. She breathed her last. She was the only daughter of the king. He had no other issue—son or daughter. His only hope was in her; and she was snatched away by a cruel and untimely death. The king at once sent for all the snake-bite curers. He promised half his kingdom and his daughter’s hand to him who would restore her to life. Now it was that a servant of the king, who had several times overheard Gaṅgâdhara’s cries, reported the matter to him. The king at once ordered the cell to be examined. There was the man sitting in it. How has he managed to live so long in the cell? Some whispered that he must be a divine being. Some concluded that he must surely win the hand of the princess by restoring her to life. Thus they discussed, and the discussions brought Gaṅgâdhara to the king.

The king no sooner saw Gaṅgâdhara than he fell on the ground. He was struck by the majesty and grandeur of his person. His ten years’ imprisonment in the deep cell underground had given a sort of lustre to his body, which was not to be met with in ordinary persons. His hair had first to be cut before his face could be seen. The king begged forgiveness for his former fault, and requested him to revive his daughter.

“Bring me in a muhûrta(an hour and a half) all the corpses of men and cattle, dying and dead, that remain unburnt or unburied within the range of your dominions; I shall revive them all,” were the only words that Gaṅgâdhara spoke.

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