In a distant village of Bengal, a poor Brahmin and his wife lived a miserable life. Both begged from house to house and were somehow able to manage a square meal a day. Days passed into years and one day their village had a new zamindar (landowner). The Brahmin thought of paying court to the new zamindar and asking him for a boon. The next day, dressed in the only good dhoti (loin cloth) he had, the Brahmin set out for the mansion of the zamindar. The zamindar, however, was busy acquainting himself with the affairs of the village.
Some of the zamindar’s servants informed him of a large banyan tree in the outskirts of the village which was supposed to be haunted by many, many ghosts. A few brave men, the servants said, had ventured to the tree, but none had returned alive. They were all found dead near the banyan tree with their necks wrung grotesquely. Since then, the area around the tree was always deserted at night. Only some shepherds, grazed their cattle around that place during the day.
The zamindar was a trifle worried about this. So he announced a reward of a hundred bighas of rent-free land for anyone who could dare go there after dusk and bring back one branch of the banyan tree to him. The Brahmin, who was seated nearby, thought maybe one of the zamindar’s men would be brave enough to perform the task. But when he saw that no one was forthcoming, he decided to try his luck.
`As it is,’ he thought, ‘my life is miserable. If I can get a branch from that tree I can at least hope to live a better life. And, if the ghosts kill me, they would only be ending my wretched existence.’ He volunteered to go there.
When he returned home and told his wife about it, she was overcome with grief. She pleaded with him not to end his life so foolishly, “Please don’t leave me. My life will be worse if you are not around.”
The Brahmin remained unmoved by her entreaties. The villagers, however, mocked and pitied him. “You can count this as your last day. Change your mind while you still can.”
The Brahmin was a determined man and so an hour after sundown he left for the banyan tree. As the distance to the haunted tree grew lesser with every step he took, his heart thumped louder and faster with fear. Shivering, the Brahmin stopped under a bakul tree, just a couple of yards away from the haunted tree.
The bakul tree was inhabited by a Brahmadaitya (spirit). The Brahmadaitya was quite impressed with the poor, skinny Brahmin’s bravery at having made it so near the banyan tree. He asked him, “Oh, Brahmin, are you afraid? What do you want? I will help you.”
The Brahmin gulped twice and managed to croak out a hoarse whisper, “0, blessed spirit, I have to cut and take a branch from the banyan tree for the zamindar. I am very poor, but if I do this the zamindar will give me hundred bighas of rent-free land. I am very frightened to go there. I will be eternally grateful to you if you could help me.”
The Brahmadaitya answered in the positive, “Come with me. I will take you to the banyan tree.”
The Brahmin heaved a sigh of relief as he was aware of the powers of the Brahmadaitya. So with his head held high, he accompanied the spirit to the banyan tree and took out his saw. Just then, more than a hundred ghosts sprang out from nowhere and rushed menacingly towards him. The Brahmadaitya intervened and asked the ghosts to allow the Brahmin to cut a branch from the tree.
The ghosts revered the Brahmadaitya because although he too was a ghost, he was far superior to them. So on hearing his commanding voice, the ghosts heeded his wish and even offered to cut the branch themselves. And, before the Brahmin could even bat an eyelid, there was a huge branch lying in front of him. He thanked the Brahmadaitya profusely and ran as fast as he could to the zamindar’s house.
The zamindar was surprised to see the branch. He said he would go to the banyan tree the next day to ascertain whether the branch actually belonged to the tree.
Early next morning, the zamindar, accompanied by his men, went to the tree. To their great amazement they realized that the branch had actually been cut from the haunted tree.
The zamindar kept his promise and gave a hundred bighas of rent-free land to the poor, landless Brahmin.
The fields that came the Brahmin’s way had paddy ready for harvest. Since the Brahmin knew little about harvesting and had no resources to go about it, he once again rushed to the Brahmadaitya for help. “Rescue me, 0, Brahmadaitya! I need your help again.”
“How can I help you?” the Brahmadaitya asked.
“The land I received is full of paddy, ready for harvest. I do not have the resources to cut it. Help me, otherwise everything will be ruined!” the Brahmin pleaded.
The benevolent Brahmadaitya assured him, “Do not worry,
Brahmin. I will ensure that the paddy is not only cut, but the rice is thrashed and stored in granaries and the straw piled up. All you have to do is to get a hundred sickles and place them at the foot of the bakul tree at night. Also ready the place where you want the grain and the straw to be stored.”
The Brahmin, being a poor man, did not have many wealthy friends. He stood there wondering how to get a hundred sickles.
The Brahmadaitya solved his problem. “You are a rich man now. Borrow the sickles from the villagers.”
The Brahmin rushed back to his village and did as the Brahmadaitya had asked him to. He was pleasantly surprised when the villagers handed over their sickles to him with a smile. He took these and placed them at the foot of the bakul tree at sunset.
He then prepared a piece of ground near his but to store the paddy and the straw. All his chores done, he retired for the night.
Once the village was lost in deep slumber, the Brahmadaitya beckoned a hundred ghosts from the banyan tree and told them to cut and store paddy for the poor Brahmin. The ghosts were more than willing to be of any help. Armed with the sickles, the ghosts took to the field. Before the sunrise, the paddy was cut, the grain separated from the straw and all stored neatly in the Brahmin’s newly-built granary.
Next morning, the Brahmin and his wife were thrilled to see the good job done by the Byahmadaitya. The villagers were equally stunned at the miracle, and believed the Brahmin to have been blessed by the gods themselves.
After some days, the grateful Brahmin approached the kind Byahmadaitya once again. “O, Byahmadaitya, can you help me out again? I wish to thank the gods for all the favours that they have- bestowed on me. For this, I shall have to feed a thousand brahmins. I shall be eternally thankful to you if you could provide me with the material needed for such a big feast.”
The Byahmadaitya was a very noble spirit. He said, “O, Brahmin, your request shall be fulfilled. Just show me the place where I should store the provisions.”
The Brahmin prepared a makeshift room to serve as a store room. And the day before the feast he was overjoyed to see the room filled chock-a-block with a hundred jars of pure ghee, massive mounds of flour, an amazing array of dry fruits and vegetables, about a hundred jars of sugar and an equal number, if not more, of milk, curd, and all that is needed for a sumptuous feast.
The Brahmin then employed a hundred cooks to prepare the feast for the thousand brahmins. The next day dawned bright and clear. The Brahmin and his wife were busy welcoming the unending stream of brahmins. He himself remained hungry as he wanted to partake the feast with the Byahmadaitya who had helped him beyond measure. This wish remained unfulfilled as by befriending the Brahmin, the Byahmadaitya had completed his stay on the earth.
Soon Pushpak, the chariot of Kuber, the god of wealth, descended from the heavens to release the Byahmadaitya from his ghostly existence. The Byahmadaitya was ecstatic to find a celestial place.
The Brahmin too had his cup of life brimming over with joy and peace. He had many sons and daughters and he lived long, long enough to enjoy the company of his grandchildren.