Once upon a time, there lived a young man in a small village in southern India. His name was Veera.
Veera, wanting to seek a better fortune for himself, was on his way to the city of Kanchi which was far off from his village. As he passed through the woods, he felt hungry. He was carrying some food with him. So, he looked for a place to sit and eat. He found a secluded temple with a huge banyan tree and a pond nearby.
After washing his hands and face in the pond, Veera sat down in the shade of the banyan tree to eat his food. Just then he heard a squeaky whimpering voice calling out for help. The voice sounded very eerie.
Veera looked around but could see no one. So he ignored the voice and started eating his food. But the voice kept coming. However, Veera did not get frightened. After he finished eating he asked in a loud voice, “Who are you and why are you calling out to me? If you want help, tell me where you are or show yourself to me.”
The voice replied, “Look up the tree under which you are sitting and see carefully, you can see me on a branch”
The man looked up and could see a small faint figure as if made of white smoke, sitting on one of the high branches. It was bobbing up and down.
When the figure saw him looking at it, it continued speaking in a squeaky voice. “I am a spirit” it said. “I was a musician in my earlier life with excellent knowledge of theory and practice but I did not want to part with my knowledge and refused to teach people who wanted to learn from me. So, I was cursed to be a spirit after my death and here I am. Afflicted with this curse, I cannot move from this branch unless someone forcefully lifts me from here and sets me free. Please, I beg you to release me from here” said the spirit, literally pleading with Veera.
Veera was amused by the reason given by the spirit. Curious to know more he asked, “But why do you want to go from here? The tree is so huge and has lot of shade and this is a peaceful spot…”
“Don’t ask me!” said the spirit. “Every evening a musician comes to this temple and sings for hours together. His singing is so horrible, full of faulty notes. With a voice of a croaking toad, he goes on and on, with no sense of any rhythm whatsoever. I just CAN NOT tolerate him singing and every day I wish I could just dissolve in the air and vanish! That’s the reason for my request, so please release me and I will go away somewhere else”
Veera was even more amused and wanted to make the best out of the situation.
“Oho! Is it so? If I release you, what will you give me in return?” he asked.
The spirit thought for a minute and said, “Well, the King of Kanchi has a young son who is very smart. The king loves him very much. If you release me, I will possess that prince and will leave him only when you come and tell me to leave. The king will be very pleased then and will surely give you lots of riches. But I have one condition.” It paused and then continued. “If you attempt to follow me to where I go after that, I will kill you”
Veera thought it was a good deal and so climbed up the tree and forcefully tugged at the figure of the spirit, which then got displaced and he set it free. The spirit thanked Veera and said, “You have done what you promised and I will also honour mine, but remember the condition. I will now go to Kanchi and stay there till you come and tell me to leave.” So saying it flew away.
Veera carried on with his journey and in a couple of weeks reached Kanchi. He could see that there was a sense of unease and despair in the city and he casually enquired with someone in the market place.
“Oh! I see you are an outsider which is why you are asking about what happened. Our young prince, the only son of our king has suddenly developed some strange mental illness. We don’t know if it is a disease or if he is possessed by some spirit, or if it is a sabotage by the enemy kings. Our king is desperate to find a cure for his son and has even announced a huge reward for anyone who can cure his son” said the by-stander.
Veera knew that it was the spirit’s doing as it had promised. He made his way to the palace and sent word through the guards that he was willing to try and cure the prince. The message was sent to the king and Veera was summoned inside.
Veera sought a private audience with the prince which was granted by the king. Veera was alone with the prince.
“Go away!” said Veera to the spirit in the prince’s body. “Please go away as promised”
The prince looked keenly at Veera and said, “Yes! I will, but remember you are not to come after me anymore; if you do, I will kill you”. It was the spirit speaking from the prince’s body and soon after it left the prince’s body, he fell down unconscious. Veera who was carrying drinking water sprinkled some on the prince and suddenly the prince got up as if waking up from a deep slumber. He was back to normal!
The king was overjoyed and rewarded Veera with riches enough to last for three generations and Veera went home elated, with numerous servants carrying all his riches. He soon got married and was enjoying life.
Now, the spirit was free. It chose to go and possess the daughter of the king of Madurai.
After trying out all possible remedies, the king of Madurai came to know about how the prince of Kanchi was cured by a young man. He requested the King of Kanchi for help. The king of Kanchi ordered Veera to go and help the king of Madurai.
Now Veera was in a fix! He remembered the condition put forth by the spirit. He was now newly married and living a luxurious life and could not even think of dying. He could neither leave his young wife and all the riches nor could he refuse the king’s order.
So he tried to delay his departure to Madurai. He initially said he had some important work, then he said that the time was not auspicious for travel and so on. He kept postponing his journey. But the King of Kanchi kept on sending reminders that finally it seemed like Veera had to go.
Veera’s wife was very puzzled. She did not know why the king’s messengers were meeting Veera so often and what the problem was and why they were talking of some journey all the time. Every time after the messengers of the king left, Veera would look so disturbed and pale, and would not sleep for days. Finally, she asked Veera what the matter was.
Veera told her the whole story. Veera’s wife was an intelligent lady. She thought over for some time and then whispered to him, a probable solution. “Go to Madurai now”, she said. “You should not disregard the king’s orders”.
Veera now looked confident. He travelled to Madurai and went to the palace. The king of Madurai was relieved that Veera had come and led him to his daughter. The princess was sitting in her room, with things strewn around her, her hair disheveled and a cruel look in her eyes.
Veera, as usual, sought a private audience with the princess and the king left him alone in the room and went out closing the door behind him.
Veera looked at the princess and the spirit in the princess recognized him. The princess’s face turned red with anger and she started yelling.
“You….” She screamed baring her teeth like a wild animal. “How dare you come here in spite of my telling you not to? Don’t you remember the condition I mentioned to you? I will… I will kill you”. Saying so the princess rushed and picked up a huge flower pot made of metal, to throw on Veera.
Veera gathered all his courage and said “Wait wait wait! Do you think I came here to chase you away? Not at all!” The spirit was confused and it paused for a moment. Veera continued. “I came here to disclose a secret to you. I will tell you the secret if you promise to not harm me”. The princess dropped the pot on the ground with a big thud and said “Tell me, tell me”
Veera spoke in a low voice. “That musician who was troubling you in your old abode has been hired here by this king to sing for this princess. I came to warn you as you are my good friend. Now you decide what to do. I am leaving”
The next moment the princess shrieked and looking at Veera and asked in a panicky voice, “Where should I go now?”
“Go away to some forest or the mountains where this musician will never be able to come. There you will be happy” said Veera.
“Thank you, thank you so much!” said the spirit and left the body of the princess. The princess fell down unconscious. Again Veera revived her by sprinkling water and the next moment she woke up being her normal bubbly self. Now the king of Madurai was overjoyed and he showered gifts on Veera and honoured him in his court.
Veera went back thankful that the idea had worked. He thanked his wife who had given him the brilliant idea. Of course, he did thank that wonderful musician who had saved him! He lived a prosperous life thereafter.