The Story of the Rakshasas

There once was a poor Brahman who was rather lazy and did not like to travel far. One day he came upon a strange sight while walking – hills made of cowrie shells, then pice coins, then larger coins up to hills of gold coins. Nearby was a beautiful palace where a lovely woman greeted him as her husband.

The Brahman was confused but the woman was actually a Rakshasi, a man-eating demon. She had eaten the king, queen, and all the people in the area. The Brahman was the first human she had seen in a long time.

The Brahman’s wife was worried when he did not return home, but then heard rumors he had fine clothes and jewels for her. When he returned with gifts, she realized something was strange. She insisted on going with him to see what happened.

She too saw the hills of coins and the beautiful woman. The woman embraced her and cried, saying she now had two wives. The Brahman’s wife realized her husband and the area were enchanted.

They lived happily with the demon wife who gave them riches. The Brahman had a son named Champa Dal. The demon wife had a son Sahasra Dal. The demon wife had to eat humans but spared the family.

The Brahman woman had long harbored suspicions, based on numerous subtle cues, that her sister-in-law was not human but a Rakshasi. Despite the Rakshasi’s outwardly restrained behavior, the demoniac nature eventually manifested itself. The Brahman, having taken up hunting to pass the time, unwittingly provided the Rakshasi with an opportunity to indulge her appetite for raw flesh. Each day, as antelopes were hunted, the Rakshasi surreptitiously devoured the meat before it reached the kitchen. The Brahman woman, observing this from a hidden vantage point, witnessed the Rakshasi’s monstrous feasting.

Fearing for her life and the lives of her husband and son, the Brahman woman spent a restless night anticipating the Rakshasi’s vengeance. To prepare her son, she instructed him to monitor the color of a small vessel of her breast milk. Reddening would signify the death of his father, and a deeper red, her own demise. The next morning, the Rakshasi, having prevented any communication between the Brahman and his wife, suggested a joint trip to the river for a bath. The Brahman, unable to refuse, reluctantly followed. At the riverbank, the Rakshasi revealed her true form, gruesomely dismembered and devoured the Brahman, and then captured and consumed the Brahman woman.

The Brahman woman’s son, Champa Dal, forewarned by the changing color of his mother’s milk, fled on his horse. He encountered his half-brother, Sahasra Dal, who had just slain the Rakshasi. Together, they escaped, riding on their bird-like horses, and sought refuge in a distant village. There, they discovered a community in distress due to a pact with a Rakshasi, requiring them to sacrifice one member each night. Despite protests, Sahasra Dal and Champa Dal volunteered to face the Rakshasi as proxies for the afflicted family.

Through a night of vigil, the brothers successfully thwarted the Rakshasi’s attempts to claim them. However, in a moment of fear, Champa Dal misspoke when confronted, leading to the Rakshasi breaking into the temple. Sahasra Dal swiftly beheaded her, ending her reign of terror. The grateful king rewarded Sahasra Dal with his daughter’s hand and half the kingdom.

Living harmoniously, Sahasra Dal and Champa Dal eventually encountered a Rakshasi in disguise within the royal palace. The demon, a trusted maid-servant, sought to eliminate Champa Dal as an obstacle to her nightly feasts. Manipulating the situation, she convinced the queen-mother to expel Champa Dal, falsely accusing him of inappropriate behavior. Despite Sahasra Dal’s protests, Champa Dal, devastated by the betrayal, left the palace.

One night he saw a beautiful sleeping woman in a palace and touched her with a magic stick, waking her. Her name was Keshavati and she explained that 700 man-eating demons lived there, leaving each day to hunt. They had killed her family and people.

Champa and Keshavati devised a plan to escape when the demons returned. When they did, full from their hunts, the old demon woman woke Keshavati with her magic stick. Keshavati then managed to find out how the demons could be killed.

Champa killed the demons and he and the princess were married and happily lived in the palace.

A servant pretended to be Keshavati’s aunt and kidnapped her, taking her to Sahasra Dal. He admired her but she vowed not to see men for 6 months.

Grief-stricken, Champa searched for 6 months and finally found Keshavati at Sahasra Dal’s palace. Together they devised a plan where Champa would publicly tell the story of what happened at a ceremony ending Keshavati’s vow.

During the story, the servant demon grew pale, realizing she was discovered. When the story ended, Sahasra Dal recognized Champa as his brother. The servant demon was buried alive as punishment. Sahasra Dal and Champa lived happily with their wives.