Continuing our series on Stories from the hills…
Shupnakha is in love with Banasur, a powerful demon king of Kinnaur. He is most powerful in the region because he is the sole owner of the only water mill in the area. He is also a great warrior with an passionate dislike for Ravana who, Banasur thinks, is corrupt and split-tongued, like a snake. (Going back on your word is a severe crime in this region even today.)
Ravana, on the other hand, yearns to possess Banasur’s land and more importantly, his water mill. He pays Banasur a visit and persuades the reluctant Banasur to marry Shupnakha.
On the night of the wedding, just as Banasur is entering the bridal chamber, the massive flower decoration on the doorway falls on him. While he is trying to free himself from the tangled garlands of flowers, Ravana attacks and kills him — all this as Shupnakha watches helplessly. Ravana then falls at his sister’s feet, begs her forgiveness and vows to always look after her and protect her honour.
(Even today, the nuptial chamber doorway is decorated with flowers, usually wild roses and rhododendron and the bridegroom tears them down with his sword before entering.)
Banasur’s tribe does not believe that Shupnakha was innocent of the murder. They think that the conspiracy was hatched by both brother and sister and refuse to give her the place of honour that is her right as the widow of Banasur. Shupnakha has no other choice but to accept her brother’s entreaties and the shelter offered by him.
Much later, Shupnakha reminds the reluctant Ravana of this vow and forces him to abduct Sita to avenge her dishonour.
The introduction to this series can be read at http://kiskikahani.openspaceindia.org/manyramayanas/stories-from-the-hills-i-sitas-abduction-by-ravana/
More wonderful stories from Himachal on our Many Ramayanas all this month.
Noor Zaheer writes both in English and Hindi. She has written My God is a Woman, Mere Hisse Ki Roshnai (Hindi Academy Award), Barh Urraitte, Surkh Karavan Ke Humsafar, Ret Par Khoon, Patthar Ke Sainik, and Aaj Ke Naam. Noor has translated Peter Shaffer’s A Royal Hunt of the Sun and Tennessee William’s A Street Car Named Desire to Urdu for legendary theatre director Ibrahim Alkazi, Shakespeare’s Titus to Hindustani for National School of Drama and adapted M F Hussain’s autobiography for stage for Nadira Babbar. Noor has worked intensively in Himachal Pradesh on the tribal performance tradition and Buddhist influence. She is also the recipient of the Times Fellowship, the Senior Fellowship of the Culture Department, Govt. of India, and was writer in Residence at the Sahitya Akademy. At present she is translating early women’s writings from Urdu to English for the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts and working on her next novel in English.