Bhim the Shepherd
In a particular country, there was a shepherd named Ram. One day, while grazing his sheep in the meadow, Ram found a newborn babe under a tree. Being childless, Ram took care of the babe, fed it with a ewe’s milk and took it home.
From then on, the ewe became the child’s mother, and the child thrived well on her milk. It grew up so amazingly that Ram named it Bhim. The boy lived up to his name. Even at seven, he could pull out medium-sized trees without effort.
Ram was glad his foster son would have a bright future instead of tending sheep all his life. When Bhim was fourteen, Ram said, “Son, your fame has already spread a hundred miles. Why should you waste your time going behind sheep? Visit various countries and make for yourself a name, earn wealth and be happy.”
So Bhim started on a tour of the world. He went to several cities and defeated several strong men. The name of Bhim the Shepherd spread very far and wide.
Sometimes they have elapsed. One day, while passing through a jungle on the outskirts of a town, Bhim the Shepherd saw a strange person tearing up trees with his bare hands.
“What are you doing that for, brother?” Bhim asked the tree-tearer.
“Bhim the Shepherd is coming. I am keeping myself in the form to defeat him,” the tree-tearer replied.
“Is that so?” said Bhim. “I am Bhim the Shepherd. Let us see you defeat me!”
Then they started wrestling. Bhim tried to catch the other man by the waist and pull him down. But the other avoided his grasp and ran apart. Then he dashed forward to kick Bhim in his chest with both his feet. However, Bhim caught him by the feet, swung him around, and threw him away. As they fought in this manner, the earth shook like jelly.
At last, Bhim managed to grip his rival by the waist and dashed him to the ground with such force that the tree-tearer was stuck in the earth up to his knees. However, he quickly came up and, seizing Bhim, dashed him to the ground. Bhim got stuck in the world up to his waist. Then Bhim got very wild. He jumped up and, catching hold of the tree-tearer with all his might, dashed him to the ground. The tree-tearer got stuck in the earth up to his neck. He could not come up and accept defeat. Bhim pulled him up and, at his request. We were allowed to become his disciple and accompany him.
They travelled together for some time till they reached a rocky place where they saw a queer person picking up huge stones and crumbling them in his bare hands.
“Brother,” said Bhim, “What are you doing that for?”
“Bhim the Shepherd is coming. I am keeping myself in trim to defeat him,” the stone crusher replied.
“Is that so?” said Bhim. “I am Bhim the Shepherd. Let us see you defeat me.”
They began to wrestle, and in a short time, the stone-crusher got stuck in the ground up to his neck, begged for mercy and wished to follow Bhim.
The three of them wandered together for a very long time. Then they came across a queer man in a particular town. This man was taking lumps of iron and kneading them like dough in his bare hands.
“What are you doing this for, brother?” asked Bhim.
“Bhim the Shepherd is coming. I am keeping myself fit to defeat him,” the iron kneader replied.
“I am Bhim the Shepherd,” said Bhim, “Let us see you defeat me.”
They fought until Bhim dashed the iron kneader neck-deep into the ground. Then the iron- kneader, too, begged for mercy and offered to follow Bhim as a disciple.
With his three disciples, Bhim toured many places until they reached an extensive forest. On the first day, Bhim asked the tree-tearer to cook food for all and hunted in the woods with his other disciples. While the tree-tearer was busy cooking, a tiny dwarf appeared and said, “Sir, I’m hungry. Will you give me some food?”
“Nothing doing,” said the tree-tearer. “Get out of here.”
But the dwarf did not go away. He sat at a distance till the cooking was finished. Then he came behind the tree-tearer, pulled him flat on the ground and sat on his chest. While the dwarf went on eating the food, the tree-tearer could do nothing about it. After finishing the food, the dwarf calmly got up and walked away.
The tree-tearer was ashamed that a dwarf had defeated him. He could not tell his companions what had happened. So he began to prepare another meal hastily. But before the meal was ready, his companions returned from the hunt.
“You have not yet finished cooking?” Bhim asked the tree-tearer. “You don’t seem to know how to cook.”
At the next stop, Bhim asked the stone crusher to stay behind and prepare dinner while he went with the others to hunt in the forest. Again the dwarf arrived, put the stone-crusher to shame and, having eaten the entire food, went his way. The stone-crusher was obliged to cook afresh, and the others returned from the hunt before the food was ready.
Bhim was dissatisfied with the stone crusher too. On the third day, he asked the iron kneader to cook food while he went hunting with the others. But the iron kneader fared no better than the others. The dwarf overpowered him and went away, having eaten all the food.
When he returned, Bhim was surprised to see that the iron kneader was still preparing the food. Only the other disciples knew the cause for the delay.
However, on the fourth day, Bhim stayed behind to cook food while the others went hunting. He suspected that there was something the others were hiding from him. He wanted to find out what it was. Just as he finished cooking, the dwarf came and asked for food. Bhim lifted the cooking pot very high and said to the dwarf, “Get going. I am giving you no food.” The dwarf tried to jump up and catch Bhim by his throat. Bhim took the dwarf to a considerable tree some distance away and securely tied him to its trunk.
His disciples returned and found to their surprise, that the food was ready.
“You must be ashamed of yourselves,” Bhim admonished them. “To think that you let a pigmy fool you! Strong men indeed! Finish your food, and I shall show you what I did to him.”
But when Bhim took them to the tree, there was no tree, only a massive hole in the ground. There were marks on the bottom indicating that someone dragged a heavy tree along. The four followed these marks until they reached a vast chasm where the spots ended. The depth looked bottomless.
“I must see the end of this affair,” Bhim said to his disciples. “Lower me in a basket with the help of ropes.”
Bhim went down and down in the basket till he finally touched the bottom. There he saw fine palaces and lovely gardens. Bhim saw a beautiful girl in a park. She was perturbed on seeing Bhim and said, “What are you doing here? This is the abode of the King of Serpents. The Twelve-headed Serpent King will not allow you to go back alive if he happens to see you.”
“Let the Serpent King be afraid of meeting me. I am not afraid of him. Anyway, who are you?” Bhim asked her.
“I am a princess. The Serpent King abducted my three elder sisters and me and kept us prisoners here. After the next New Moon, he will shed his skin and marry us,” the girl replied.
While they were talking, the Twelve-headed Serpent King arrived.
“You vain fool! How dare you come here where I am strong?” the Serpent King hissed in anger. “Now your fate is sealed!”
At once, the Serpent King flung his coils over Bhim and began to squeeze him in a ferocious grip. But Bhim made his body and limbs as rigid as steel. Failing to crush Bhim to death, the King of Serpents viciously thrust his twelve-headed hood at Bhim to bite him with his poisonous fangs. But Bhim caught hold of the hood in his solid arms and kept it away from him. The Serpent King pulled Bhim’s hands down with the strength of his coils, but the waves did not get a grip. Now Bhim began to dash the hood of the Serpent King against the ground with all his might. Gradually the Serpent King began to lose consciousness, and his coils began to slip down from Bhim.
Sprawling on the ground weakly, the Serpent King begged Bhiza to spare him and take him as his disciple.
“Throw your weight around where you are strong. But if you try to come to our world and behave like a big fellow, I shall crush you like a worm! Beware of Bhim, the shepherd!” Bhim told the Serpent King.
Then Bhim rescued the four princesses from the Serpent King and was drawn up along with them by his disciples. Bhim married the princess he saw in the garden below, and his disciples married her sisters. They lived happily at their father-in-law’s place.
The Twelve-headed Serpent King was so scared of Bhim the Shepherd that he never dared to show his face again on earth.
Chandamama November 1955 | R Das Gupta