Original in Bengali by Jogendranath Gupta*
It happened a hundred years ago. In village Rangpur lived a famous zamindar named Boikunthanath Chattopadhyaya. A wedding had been fixed at one of his relative’s homes. So, all the men and women of the household had gone to that relative’s house a few miles away. The zamindar’s huge house was surrounded with a wall. At the doors were durwans and some guards. So Boikuntha Babu had gone to attend the marriage, his mind at ease. At home were left only a cousin’s wife Annada Devi and some women. Annada Devi was about forty years old.
It was a new moon night around two past midnight. Dense darkness was all around. Nothing was visible. The villagers were all sound asleep. Sometimes a dog or a jackal would call out. It was the month of Ashadha (June-July). Clouds covered the sky. At one end of the village a creek twisted and turned to meet a small river far off. Both its sides were covered with dense bamboo groves, mango and other trees. Through this creek three small boats were speeding swiftly, each with ten to twelve persons wielding many sorts of weapons—lathis, swords, spears, shields. Everyone’s face was strangely painted with black and red designs. Very carefully they rowed the boats up to the darkness of the huge mango and bamboo groves next to Boikuntha Babu’s house. The sardar of the gang was named Gadadhar Das, a terribly strong man, as were his gang members. All the rich were afraid of their assaults. There was no saying when they would commit dacoity on whose house.
Gadadhar and his gang climbed over the high wall and entered the premises. One group attacked the durwans and guards and tied them up. Then they went indoors. Going in, lighting their torches, they shouted aloud, “Ha re rere rere!” Terrorising everyone with their terrible outcries, they began turning the household upside down.
The horrible cries broke Annada Devi’s sleep. Waking up she found the dacoits had begun to loot the house. Annada Devi was a well-built, brave woman. She did not delay an instant. Waking up the other women she ordered them, “From the roof of the house keep throwing bricks on the dacoits.” At once the servant maids and three or four other women went up to the roof and began to throw bricks and stones and whatever they found to hand on the dacoits. The dacoits’ torches had lit up everything, so their aim did not fail. Then the dacoits were thrown into confusion, not knowing what to do, where to run.
Annada Devi unbound her hair. Her long tresses, dark like clouds, flowed down her back. On her forehead she painted a large vermilion spot. She blackened her whole face and limbs, rolled up her sari to her knees, took up a curved sword and sticking out her tongue stood still like a statue of Goddess Kali in her room.
Looting one room after another, the dacoits arrived in that room. They saw terrible Mother Kali standing there. Seeing this frightful form of Mother Kali, Gadadhar was terrified. Throwing his sword away, like a lunatic he began singing songs in praise of Kali, “Victory, victory to Mother Kali!”
All his limbs trembled, his voice got stifled, he saw as if ghostly spirits, dakinis (witches) and yoginis, with gaping mouths were rushing towards him. Terrified, trembling, calling all his gang he said, “Brothers, there’s no way out. Mother is angry with us. Where she is standing, how can dacoity be done? Dakinis and yoginis are throwing bricks and stones on us. All say, ‘Hail, Kali! Victory to Kali!’” At his orders, all the dacoits knelt down and offered pranam. Then, leaving all the looted things, they ran away terrified, got into the boats quietly and left.
Standing like that unmoving, with unblinking gaze, Annada Devi’s body had become numb. Only because of an extraordinary strength of will had she remained still for so long. Now she fainted and fell down.
The next morning Boikuntha Babu, hearing of the dacoity from people, rushed home. Reaching there when he heard how Annada Devi had protected the household from dacoits, not a single needle having been lost, then he came to her and said, “Before your swift decision-making, even men admit defeat. You have saved our honour and riches. Truly indeed Mother Kali had descended into your body, otherwise how can this have happened!”
This event took place in the year 1924. The matter was reported in all newspapers. The government had rewarded this heroine for her courage and ready-wit.
*1893-1964, editor of many children’s magazines, biographies, authored a hundred books in Bengali including “Banglar Dakat” (Dacoits of Bengal) from which this is taken.
See also: Robbery and Dacoity
Mahamaya Devi and Chaandaa Dacoit