Here is an interesting incident that happened in a remote village on the banks of Wular Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Kashmir. Silver coins were not known in this remote village, and people used copper coins in low denominations. No one had seen a silver coin with the image of Queen Victoria, the then Queen of Britain.

And then one day, it happened. Someone in the village got a silver coin with Queen Victoria’s image. Everyone wanted to have a look at it. They handed over the coin to the headman for safe custody. The next day, the nambardar, or the headman, told the villagers that it would make for a great present to the King, who lived in his palace by the river Jhelum. The headman then explained how the nazar, or the present, would be taken to the ruler. They decorated an elegant palanquin and placed it inside an intricately woven blanket and silk. They placed the silver rupee coin on the silk and pulled the palanquin curtains.

The headman nominated six elders from the village to carry the palanquin. The palanquin reached the dock, where a doongha, or a canoe, was waiting for them. The villagers lifted the palanquin and gently placed it inside the canoe. They began their upstream journey southward. They took turns to watch over the palanquin till dawn. Whenever someone asked why they were traveling to the capital, they would reply that it was a precious present for the king.

When the boat got to the capital, they lifted the palanquin on their shoulders. A villager walked ahead of them, the flag in his hands. The headman humbly followed. The palanquin passed through the main streets before reaching the palace. When people heard about a present brought from such a remote corner of the kingdom, they were naturally curious to know what it was. The headman, however, refused to reveal what it was and replied that only the king was entitled to open it.

The palanquin made it to the palace with a lot of pomp. While the palace officials and guards wanted to know what the present was, they were hesitant to express their curiosity out of the fear of offending the ruler. The excited headman wondered what reward they would get for their efforts. When the king finally allowed them in, the headman paid his tribute and requested the king to accept their present. The headman pulled the curtain open to pick the silver coin. However, unable to find it, he raised the curtains all the way up and started looking for it. He and his men searched for the coin in the folds of the blanket and even in the corners of the palanquin. But the nazar was nowhere to be seen.

Their frantic search yielded no result. Meanwhile, the prime minister asked them to hurry up, for the king had other, more pressing matters to look into. Disappointed with the sudden turn of events, the headman apologized and explained how they had lost the king’s gift on the way.

The prime minister took this as an affront to the king. He requested the king’s permission to imprison and punish them. However, the headman pleaded for the king’s permission to explain what happened. The king believed their intentions were true and loyal.

The king asked them to stay there for the night and treated them to a savory meal. Instead of giving them burning firewood or coal, the villagers were given a box of safety matches. Unfamiliar with how to use them, the innocent villagers were unable to cook their food. As a result, they ate part of their food raw, leaving the other food items untouched. When the king learned about this, he was convinced about their innocence. He treated them as royal guests and showered them with presents on their way back.

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya
Kalai

Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at kalai.muse@gmail.com to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from Kashmiri Pandit Network.