India a true land of diversity is a treasure-chest of legendary love stories. The sagas of love are inherent part of our cultural heritage and be it the narrations of Great Gods or valiant Heros, its incomplete without the emotions of Love in it.
The feelings of mutual endearment, passion, attraction & intimacy between Man and Woman known and understood as Love has been celeberated and cherished over generations across all cultures and mainly Indian History & Mythology is rich with unusally idealistic and larger than life love stories. While most of the love stories are with happy endings, there are couple of them which concludes with self-sacrifice making it a timeless, starry-eyed tale of a utopian Love.
On this Valentine day in search of such exceptional love stories, am reminded of one such mythical as well as unparalleled story from the folklore of Gujarat which has survived the edge of time and is one of its kind in which both hero and heroine are entangled in love beyond the realms of mind and body.
It's the famous story of Jesal and Toral full of love, wisdom and inspiration from mid 14th century. Jesal was a very strong and powerful man who was a decoit. He used to rob and kill people and harras them no end.Once he was attracted by the mare of high pedigree, 'Tori' of one Bhagat named Sansatiyaji, a well-known person of the Kathi caste. Also he looked forward to snatch away Sansatiyaji's wife, Toral, who was extremely beautiful. So, one night. ..
That night was of 'jaagaran' at Sansatiya household. It is a celebration of festival when the devotees observe fast for the day and sing devotional songs. When everybody was busy in the group singing ofbhajans, Jesal stealthily entered the stable of Sansatiya Darbar. Even in the dark, the mare made out the stranger's entry, and she pulled at her peg, pulled it off the ground and ran to her master. The groom of Bhagat calmed her down after a while and brought her back to her place in the stable. Here he began to strike the peg into the ground once more, and unfortunately this was a spot where Jesal had hid himself in the haystack, and his hand was on the very spot!! However, fearing that he would look a coward if he cried in pain, Jesal kept quiet as the peg went home. He suffered the terrible pain without even a small gasp or a little crying out, and continued lying there.
The worship was now over and everyone partook of the 'prasad'. To everyone's surprise, unlike on all other occasions when the offerings were always over when the last man took the 'prasad', this time a little of it was still left over! For whom was this? Everyone began to speculate. Soon they heard the groans of the uncomfortable mare from the stable again. Sansatiyaji began to investigate. As he reached the stable he saw the situation, and was stunned by the great tolerance of pain that Jesal had shown. He removed the peg from his hand. Toral came and nursed the injury and offered hospitality to Jesal. But, Jesal had not let go of his ambitions even now. In the early morning he expressed his desire to take away Tora and Toral with him. All were shocked at this bold demand. But Sansatiyaji was a true saint. He put up a condition: Jesal must turn on the path of devotion, and only then his desires would be fulfilled. Egged on by his own desire, Jesal agreed for it, just to own such beauties. The grand old man kept his promise.
So, now Jesal took the mare and the wife of Sansatiyaji with him.
As you travel from Kathiawad to Kutch, you have to cross the creek on the way. Jesal and Toral had now seated themselves in a boat for this purpose. On the way there was a great cyclone in the sea. The boat started rocking dangerously. It seemed that it would sink any moment. When Jesal saw Death staring at him in the face from all sides, his ego, his confidence went down crashing. He was truly frightened. His valor evaporated. His inner cowardice came to the fore, and fear began to eat at his heart.
Toral could make this out, and in this delicate moment of Life and Death, she preached him the secrets of life. She pointed out the path of Truth and Goodness. He had a change of heart. The robber who was moved only by physical desires, and disregarded all but his own self, now turned into a follower of goodness and truth. His eyes were now open to the real meaning of life, The words of Sati Toral made him give up saber and instead pick up the 'Ektara' that accompanies the singing of devotional songs. The folk songs that lead this change of heart have remained very popular even today: "Paap taru parkash Jadeja, Dharam taro Sambhal re ... " and 'Jesal kari le vichar ... ". These songs embody the folk wisdom and guide the lost soul to the true path of life in this world.
Their relationship is spoken with great respect in this region. It is believed that Toral took sati when Jesal died. Both their tombs are at a monument in Anjar and is a tourist spot.
This story is narrated by the locals and they believe that these tombs move and when they come too close a calamity hits this region. They feared that it was moving closer during the most terrible earthquake Gujarati had faced. Anjar was the most devastated city during the Bhuj earthquake (Jan 2001). But people say the tombs were undisturbed.
Thus at the conclusion of this ethereal love story am reminded of beautiful words of Rumi;
“Hail to thee, O Love, sweet madness! Thou who heal all our infirmities."