A Celebration of Women Writers

"How Raja Rasâlu Became a Jôgi." by Flora Annie Steel (1847-1929)
From: Tales of the Punjab (1894) by Flora Annie Steel. London & New York: Macmillan and Co., 1894.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

HOW RAJA RASÂLU BECAME A JÔGI

T HEN, after a time, Rasâlu went to Hodinagari. And when he reached the house of the beautiful far-famed Queen Sundrân, he saw an old Jôgi sitting at the gate, by the side of his sacred fire.

'Wherefore do you sit there, father?' asked Raja Rasâlu.

'My son,' returned the Jôgi, 'for two-and-twenty years have I waited thus to see the beautiful Sundrân, yet have I never seen her!'

'Make me your pupil,' quoth Rasâlu 'and I will wait too.'

'You work miracles already, my son,' said the Jôgi; 'so where is the use of your becoming one of us?'

Nevertheless, Raja Rasâlu would not be denied, so the Jôgi bored his ears and put in the sacred earrings. Then the new disciple put aside his shining armour, and sat by the fire in a Jôgi's loin-cloth, waiting to see Queen Sundrân.

Then, at night, the old Jôgi went and begged alms from four houses, and half of what he got he gave to Rasâlu and half he ate himself. Now Raja Rasâlu, being a very holy man, and a hero besides, did not care for food, and was well content with his half share, but the Jôgi felt starved.

The next day the same thing happened, and still Rasâlu sat by the fire waiting to see the beautiful Queen Sundrân.

Then the Jôgi lost patience, and said, 'O my disciple, I made you a pupil in order that you might beg, and feed me, and behold, it is I who have to starve to feed you!'

'You gave no orders!' quoth Rasâlu, laughing. 'How can a disciple beg without his master's leave?'

'I order you now!' returned the Jôgi. 'Go and beg enough for you and for me.'

So Raja Rasâlu rose up, and stood at the gate of Queen Sundrân's palace, in his Jôgi's dress, and sang,

'Alakh!    at thy threshold I stand,
   Drawn from far by the name of thy charms;
Fair Sundrân, with generous hand,
  Give the earring-decked Jôgi an alms!'

Now when Queen Sundrân, from within, heard Rasâlu's voice, its sweetness pierced her heart, so that she immediately sent out alms by the hand of her maid-servant. But when the maiden came to the gate, and saw the exceeding beauty of Rasâlu, standing outside, fair in face and form, she fainted away, dropping the alms upon the ground.

Then once more Rasâlu sang, and again his voice fell sweetly on Queen Sundrân's ears, so that she sent out more alms by the hand of another maiden. But she also fainted away at the sight of Rasâlu's marvellous beauty.

Then Queen Sundrân rose, and came forth herself, fair and stately,. She chid the maidens, gathered up the broken alms, and setting the food aside, filled the plate with jewels and put it herself into Rasâlu's hands, saying proudly–

'Since when have the earrings been thine?
  Since when wert thou made a faqîr ?
What arrow from Love's bow has struck thee?
    What seekest thou here?
  Do you beg of all women you see,
  Or only, fair Jôgi of me?'

And Rasâlu, in his Jôgi's habit, bent his head towards her, saying softly–

'A day since the earrings were mine,
  A day since I turned a faqîr;
But yesterday Love's arrow struck me;
    I seek nothing here!
  I beg nought of others I see,
  But only, fair Sundrân, of thee!'

Now, when Rasâlu returned to his master with the plate full of jewels, the old Jôgi was sorely astonished, and bade him take them back, and ask for food instead. So Rasâlu returned to the gate, and sang–

'Alakh! at thy threshold I stand,
  Drawn from far by the fame of thy charms;
Fair Sundrân, with generous hand,
  Give the earring-decked beggar an alms!'

Then Queen Sundrân rose up, proud and beautiful, and coming to the gate, said softly–

'No beggar thou! The quiver of thy mouth
  Is set with pearly shafts; its bow is red
As rubies rare. Though ashes hide thy youth,
  Thine eyes, thy colour, herald it instead!
Deceive me not–pretend no false desire–
But ask the secret alms thou dost require.'

But Rasâlu smiled a scornful smile, saying–

'Fair Queen! what though the quiver of my mouth
  Be set with glistening pearls and rubies red?
I trade not jewels, east, west, north, or south;
  Take back thy gems, and give me food instead.
Thy gifts are rich and rare, but costly charms
Scarce find fit placing in a Jôgi's alms!'

Then Queen Sundrân took back the jewels, and bade the beautiful Jôgi wait an hour till the food was cooked. Nevertheless, she learnt no more of him, for he sat by the gate and said never a word. Only when Queen Sundrân gave him a plate piled up with sweets, and looked at him sadly, saying–

'What King's son art thou? and whence dost thou come?
What name hast thou, Jôgi, and where is thy home?'
then Raja Rasâlu, taking the alms, replied–
'I am fair Lonâ's son; my father's name
  Great Sâlbâhan, who reigns at Siâlkot.
I am Rasâlu; for thy beauty's fame
  These ashes, and the Jôgi's begging note,
To see if thou wert fair as all men say;
Lo! I have seen it, and I go my way!'

Then Rasâlu returned to his master with the sweets, and after that he went away from the place, for he feared lest the Queen, knowing who he was, might try to keep him prisoner.

And beautiful Sundrân waited for the Jôgi's cry, and when none came, she went forth, proud and stately, to ask the old Jôgi whither his pupil had gone.

Now he, vexed that she should come forth to ask for a stranger, when he had sat at her gates for two-and-twenty years with never a word or sign, answered back, 'My pupil? I was hungry, and I ate him, because he did not bring me alms enough.'

'Oh, monster!' cried Queen Sundrân. 'Did I not send thee jewels and sweets? Did not these satisfy thee, that thou must feast on beauty also?'

'I know not,' quoth the Jôgi; 'only this I know–I put the youth on a spit, roasted him, and ate him up. He tasted well!'

'Then roast and eat me too!' cried poor Queen Sundrân; and with the words she threw herself into the sacred fire and became sati for the love of the beautiful Jôgi Rasâlu.

And he, going thence, thought not of her, but fancying he would like to be king a while, he snatched the throne from Raja Hari Chand, and reigned in his stead.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Brooks Taylor and Molly Tamarkin.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom