Once upon a time there were two sisters – Tilmajhni and Chaurmajhni. Chaurmajhni always got favours from her mother but her step-sister Tilmajhni neither got good food nor good clothes.
One day, the step-mother asked Tilmajhni to get inside a granary (kothi) of sesame (til) thinking that she would have to eat the sesame seeds and will die eventually inside the kothi. In the same way, she put her daughter Chaurmajhni inside a kothi of rice thinking that she would eat rice every day and would get fat.
On the contraty, Tilmajhni ate the sesame seeds and got fatter day by day. However, Chaurmajhni got ill after eating rice every day and got thinner day by day.
After one to two months, when she took out both the daughters, she was surprised to find that Tilmajhni had turned fatter but her daughter Chaurmajhni had turned thinner.
So, she sent Tilmajhni to graze goats so that she would get dark in the sun and get thinner with the work. She kept Chaurmajhni at home and gave her delicious food to eat. She would send khichri (gruel like pudding made from broken rice) with Chaurmajhni on broken clay pots to Tilmajhni. Seeing the food, Tilmajhni would cry every day.
One day the goat (khasi) asked why she was crying. She told everything to the goat and said she was not used to eating such bad food and she would not be able to eat it. The goat took pity on her and said, “Ask the mother earth to split apart and put the khichri inside the earth and cover it with broken clay pots.” She did same. The goat then told her to tap on her ears so that sweets would fall from there. She did the same.
Every day, she used to bury the khichri inside the earth and eat the sweets that fell from the goat’s ears. She again started getting fatter day by day. One day, Chaurmajhni spied on her hiding behind the bushes. When she was about to eat the sweets, Chaurmajhni came out of the bushes and asked for the sweets. Tilmajhni gave her the sweets and asked her not to say a word about it at home. Chaurmajhni promised not to tell about it to her mother.
However, when she came home she told her mother what she saw, word by word. Knowing this, the step-mother readied a knife to kill the goat.
The goat knew about it and told Tilmajhni, “Today, they will kill me.” “But don’t worry. When they will kill me, a bone would get away in the garden and grow into a jalebi (a fruit resembling the sweet of same name) tree. Climb the tree and eat jalebi every day.”
The goat was killed that day. Tilmajhni was sad to lose her goat. However, as the goat had predicted, when the goat was killed a bone flew off to the adjacent garden and grew into a jalebi tree. Every day Tilmajhni would pick the jalebis and take them with her and eat them while grazing the goats.
In spite of getting khichri every day, she never got thin. The step-mother was surprised to see this and she found out the reason. She saw Tilmajhni picking jalebis from the tree. So, she decided to cut down the tree.
Before being cut down, the tree told Tilmajhni, “When they will cut me, a small splinter would fall inside the pond and grow into a sparkling tree.” “Nobody would recognise it, but only you would be able to tell that it is a Jhilmiliya (sparkling) tree. And then you would get to marry the prince.”
When the step-mother cut down the tree, a small splinter fell into the pond and within the night, a tree grew on the bank of the pond. Nobody could recognise the beautiful tree. When the prince came and asked about the tree, Tilmajhni said that it was a Jhilmiliya tree. The prince was happy to hear about the tree and said that he would marry her.
So, the prince married Tilmajhni and she became the queen. Now she had everything – good clothes and lots of jewellery and a big palace to live in.
Chaurmajhni was jealous of her sister’s fate. So she thought of a plan to get rid of Tilmajhni. She borrowed Tilmajhni’s clothes and jewellery. Tilmajhni was naïve so she gave her clothes and jewellery to Chaurmajhni. Then Chaurmajhni said, “Let’s go to a well and see how we look like.”
When they went to the well, Chaurmajhni pushed Tilmajhni into the well and ran away.
Tilmajhni had a baby back at the palace. Chaurmajhni, wearing Tilmajhni’s clothes and jewellery went to the palace. She took hold of the baby and told that king that she was Tilmajhni. However, the baby would cry as it didn’t get its mother’s milk.
Tilmajhni could not see her baby crying. So, every night Tilmajhni would come out of the well feed the baby, put oil and massage the baby and would again get back to the well in the morning.
In spite of being fed at the night, the baby became thinner and thinner. The king became suspicious and decided to check what happened every night. One night he slipped into a thin cloth and watched.
Like every night, Tilmajhni came out of the well and fed the baby. When she began putting oil and black soot (kajar) to the baby, the king caught her and asked, “Who are you? A spirit or a ghost?”
Tilmajhni told everything to the king – how Chaurmajhni had taken her clothes and jewellery and pushed her into the well and pretended to be Tilmajhni.
The king was furious. He buried Chaurmajhni alive and they again lived happily ever after.
Narrated by: Sangita Chaudhary, Terhauta VDC, Ward No. 1, Saptary District
Collected by: Manisha Chaudhary and Suman Chaudhari
Kajar: black soot applied on eyes
Kothi: a mud granary
Khichri: rice pudding
Jalebi: a fruit resembling the sweet jalebi