5. A Brother, a Sister, and a Snake
A raja had a son and a daughter. His queen died before her time and the raja married another woman. The second woman didn't like her stepchildren. She even wanted to kill them. So she put a baby snake in a spouted cup (gindi) studded with pearls, filled it with water, and gave it to the girl to drink. The innocent girl drank it all up. The baby snake entered her stomach and grew inside her as she herself grew up. When her belly began to swell noticeably, the queen got the ear of the king, accused the young girl of being pregnant, slandered the children, and had them cast into the jungle.
While the young boy and girl were wandering in the forest, eating leaves and fruit, a kindly ogre's eye fell on them. He took them home and settled them there. He turned over the management of his entire household to them. Years passed.
He had buffaloes in his yard. One day the sister milked a buffalo, put the milk pot on the hot stove, and went to sleep. When the milk boiled over and the whole house was filled with the sweet smell of scalded milk, the snake in her stomach was enticed by it. It came out, went straight to the boiling milk, drank it and died. Now that the snake had come out, the sister slept even better. The brother saw the snake and cut it to pieces, threw it in the next room, and locked the door. He forbade his sister to open the door of that room.
One day, when her brother was not around, she got inquisitive and opened the door. To her astonishment, she saw a big green jasmine bush in full blossom. She gathered the flowers and made a lovely garland. When her brother came home, she affectionately tried to put it around his neck. When the brother saw the flowers he knew at once what had happened. He begged her not to put the garland round his neck. But she wouldn't listen; she was stubborn. Then, seeing no way out, he gave her three pebbles and said to her, “If you must throw that garland around my neck, take these three pebbles first. If something terrible happens to me, throw those pebbles on me.”
She said, “All right, I'll do as you say, but I must put this garland round your neck. I made it for you,” and put the garland around his neck. At once, he turned into a snake, and began to slither away. She was shocked at the result of her action, and followed it everywhere, till it glided into a snake hole in the forest floor. She sat there waiting for him to come out.
Her father, the raja, came there on one of his hunting trips. He saw this beautiful girl, didn't recognize her, fell in love with her, and asked her to go home with him. She told him of her brother's plight. The king at once called his snake charmer, who played his flute, enticed the snake out of the hole, and caught it. They all went to the king's palace, with the snake in a basket. In the palace, she remembered what her brother had said about the three pebbles and threw them on the snake. The snake vanished, and in its stead stood her brother.
The king now insisted that she marry him. She and her brother knew by now that he was their own father. She said that they should decide on their marriage in the open court. Then she asked for a pearl-studded spouted cup (gindi), and got one.
In the assembled court, the young woman placed the pearl-studded gindi in front of her and began her story. As she began, “Once there was a king…,” and went on, the gindi listened and nodded. She told it everything, all about her stepmother who gave her the baby snake to swallow, how they were banished to the forest, how her brother had changed into a snake, and all the rest. The gindi nodded at every pause. It didn't take long for the king to see that the young man and woman were his own lost children. He threw out his wicked queen and lived happily with his children.
[AT 450A, The Brother Transformed to a Snake.]