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TWO SISTERS | A folktale from Karnataka

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

In a little village by the river Kaveri, in a thatched hut, there lived two sisters- Diya and Soumya. They loved each other very much. In fact, everyone in the village claimed that such a sisterly love was impossible to find.

They were orphans and poor, thus Diya, who was the elder sister, sold flowers to make a living. One day, while selling flowers, Diya reached the capital of the kingdom and the queen of the kingdom saw Diya from her balcony. The queen was amazed, as she had never seen such flowers ever before.

Her royal gardens were filled with flowers, but none were as beautiful as the ones that were being sold by Diya. So the queen bought all the flowers from Diya. Then the queen asked Diya for a sapling of the flowering plant so that they could have these flowers in her royal garden too. However, when the queen asked Diya about the flowering tree, Diya got nervous. She left in a huff, blurting that she could not procure the sapling for the queen as Diya collected the flowers from the forest. The queen got pretty intrigued by Diya’s behaviour and ordered her soldiers to follow Diya, to find out about the flowering tree.

Unaware that soldiers were following her, Diya returned home. The soldiers noticed no plants in Diya's courtyard, "so then from where does she get them," they asked themselves. Hence, they decided to wait and watch some more time.

In the morning, when the soldiers saw the source of the flowers, they were astonished. They saw phenomenal thing. They saw that Diya poured water over Soumya. The moment water was showered on Soumya, she turned into a huge flowering tree with colorful and fragrant blooming flowers. They were the similar looking flowers that Diya had sold to the queen. The soldiers then saw that Diya delicately plucked flowers from that magical tree. After she had carefully plucked out the flowers, Diya poured water over the tree again. The moment water fell on the tree, it transformed into into Soumya.

Astounded, the soldiers returned to the palace and reported whole thing to the queen. After that, the queen summoned both the sisters to the court the next day. The queen walked to Soumya, held her hand and lovingly said, "You have a beautiful gift, Soumya, and such a gift should be in the royal palace.” Then the queen turned to Diya, “Why don’t you leave your hut, and stay with us in the palace. I will give both of you everything that you want. I want only one little thing in return. Every morning, you give me the magical flowers. They are special flowers and I would like to offer them to god every morning.”

Soumya and Diya agreed to stay in the palace, but they put forward a condition. They stated that Soumya would turn into flowering tree for the queen so that she could obtain flowers for worship, but apart from that, Soumya would never transform in her flowering tree state. Queen would never use Soumya as a property or possession. Queen readily agreed to the condition. Then the sisters moved into the royal chambers.

As time went on, Diya got married and moved to another city. Now Soumya was alone in the palace. The queen made sure to take care of Soumya, but the princess of the kingdom was snooty and snobbish. One day her princess friends from other kingdoms visited her palace. All these girls began boasting about their horses and castles, wealth, and money. Hearing them, the princess got jealous and stated, "You have things, which are pretty common for everyone.” Then she snootily added, “What we have is pretty special. We have a girl in our palace who can turn into a flowering tree." The friends of the princess are not ready to believe this claim. So the princess decided to show them the proof. Then the princess went to her mother and said, "Mother, my friends and I will be going to the picnic tomorrow. So, I was thinking of taking Soumya along." The queen naively thought that the princess genuinely cared for Soumya and thus readily agreed.

The next morning, the band of girls took Soumya to a deserted place in a forest. Once they were in the secluded part of the forest, the princess turned to Soumya and bossed her around, "turn into a tree. I want to show my friends."

Soumya refused by saying, "My gift is to be used only for good. I am not a showpiece." But the princess pestered Soumya so much that she had no other option. She finally relented and said, "Pour water on me and I will turn into a tree, but be careful while plucking the flowers from me." The princess shrugged off her advice, "Sure, just turn into the tree already." And just as the girls poured water on Soumya, she turned into a majestic flowering tree. Once they saw the beautiful tree, the girls forgot all about Soumya’s cautionary statement. They pounced on the tree- pulling, pushing, grabbing, snatching all the flowers. Due to their ruthless handling, the tree now stood, flowerless, leafless, and branchless. After a while, the princess remembered and asked someone to pour water over it. Once water was put on tree, it into Soumya. But this Soumya was limbless, wounded, and was bleeding all over.

The scared princess knew that the queen would be upset and angry if she came to knew about this incident. So, the princess and her friends left Soumya in the forest alone and returned to the royal palace.

When the queen did not see Soumya with the princess, she asked about it. The princess replied with guile, "Soumya said that she was not happy in the palace and so she did not return with us." The queen accepted her daughter’s lie as the truth.

After some days, Diya returned to meet her sister. On asking about her sister's whereabouts, she was told that Soumya had left without giving any explanation. Diya knew that this couldn't happen, 'this is not how Soumya would behave,' she thought. So, to investigate the matter, Diya went to the princess and started asking her questions. On probing, Diya realized where the princess had taken her sister. So she went to the same spot, and heard a whimper coming from somewhere. Following the voice, she came to her sister. Seeing the condition of her sister, Diya broke down. Soumya told her, "I can go back to my normal form, but it will take a few days." A teary Diya replied "Days? I will give my entire life, if you need it. Tell me what do I do?" To which Soumya replied, "Pour water over me. Let me turn into a tree." So, Diya poured water over Soumya and she turned into a tree. That tree was not a flowering tree, instead a bruised, damaged, withering tree. But Diya took care of that tree.

Every day nurturing the tree. And thus, slowly over time the tree turned into a flowering tree again. Once the tree was whole again, Diya poured water over it. And the tree turned back into Soumya. The sisters were finally happy to see each other again.



Ulka Mayur


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