This story used to be told by my mother when we were very small. Few can remember the details. I typed it in whatever I remembered. . . [email protected]
How Bassein was acquired .
When the Portuguese arrived and wished to settle at Bassein,
they resorted to a ruse. They begged of the King for a present of land as much
as a cow-hide. Amused with the novelty of this request, the Sovereign granted
them their modest petition and permitted them to choose a spot.
The Portuguese then cut the hide into thin stripes and with
these proceeded to measure the ground hosen with the result that the surface
now occupied by the Bassein Fort. The Raja was so struck with the ingenuity of
the Firangis that he made over to
the entire district of Bassein.
Why St. Joseph was chosen by Our Lady as her Spouse.
Because of her vow of virginity. Our Lady had made up her
mind never to marry. But when pressed by her parents and relatives she did not
wish to displease them. She, however, asked for one favor and that was the
choice should be with her. They agreed. Then let them repair to the Temple
who seek my hand and assemble in the house of th Lord three days hence, said
Our Lady. I will come and make my choice.
On the day
appointed by Our Lady, going to the Temple handed each aspirant a rod of dry
wood saying, Whosesoevers rod shall put forth leaves and blossom, him will I
instant the rod in St. Josephs
hand sprouted and blossomed !
Why the souls from Purgatory now do not visit their relatives.
The atmas (souls) from Purgatory were permitted by God to
visit their kinsfolk once a year and to spend the day- mid-day to mid-day on
earth. An old lady whose only son had died, whom she loved dearly, was very
happy to see him back. She, however, would not let him go back when the time
came and closed him under a zamp,
i.e a large basket.
souls return, when the roll was taken and his absence noted the matter was
reported to God, who said, Well, this means that we shall have to cancel this
privilege in future and from that time the souls have lost this holiday.
A St. Francis Tradition
There is a tradition that St. Francis Xavier on landing at
Utan was met with resistance by its inhabitants and force to leave the
village. When he came to the shore, there was no vessel, so he spread his
handkerchief on the waters, blessed the element and the floating piece of
cloth, sat on it and was conveyed across the arm of sea to Bassein.
About a Hidden Treasure
In the parish of Our Lady of _______ within a quarter of a
mile from the Church, may be seen (unless things have changed now) the
foundations over-grown with the banian and papal of what must have been a
tradition says, there is a hidden treasure guarded by a headless Kafri, a Negro. Once a year a on a
moonless night at the
treasure-trove come to the surface of the earth and glitters. If you can know
the day, and what is more, are bold enough to undertake the journey alone to
the spot, you will be rich; for you are permitted to exchange your silver and
copper coins for an equal number of gold coins.
and copper which you throw into the trove immediately turns into gold.
The Water Nymph
Hel-li, an evil
spirit, in the form of a young woman, lives in lonely wells and tanks, comes
out on certain days at mid-day to play on the swing of which amusement she is
very fond. Ia a banian tree is close by she prefers its hanging roots from
which to swing leaving her long hair disheveled. (On this account a grown up
girl leaving her hair loose is reproached asa Hel-li.)
is said to take temporary possession of young people, who may encounter her
whilst swinging making them boisterous for a time.
A Tale of Elf
On the other hand Zoting
or Gera, who haunts the ourskirts of
villages and marshy places, is a mischievous spirit who appearing in the form
of a man but with the feet pointing backwards, takes pleasure in annoying
lonely travelers, or in frightening a group of them by assuming fantastic
shapes, and with this intent he is very officious and will offer his services
to anyone that is stranded.
the parish priest of _______ was found waiting to be ferried across the creek
that lay between him and his parish. The boat lay anchored, but there was no
sign of the boatman. Darkness was gathering fast, and the poor priest was at
his wits end. Whilst in this dilemma, he was addressed by some one whose voice
you doing here Father ?
waiting to be conveyed across
boatman is gone home, Father, and will not return till morning.
returned the priest, so I had best wade through, while the tide is yet low,
that trouble, Father ? Ill take you across on my back.
kind of you said the unsuspecting Vicar, and allowed himself to be carried.
minutes later the Father was puzzled. Somehow, it seemed that all was not well,
that instead of being across, the movement seemed to be at right angles to the
ferry. Perhaps he thought, he was mistaken, and asked how far the shore lay.
quite near, dont worry- but the tone had perceptibly changed.
was quick to note the change but said nothing. He thought for a while, drew his
conclusion and began to pray.
you murmuring to yourself ? Stop it.
the priest went on with his prayers.
ghun-ghun (murmur) of your, I say again.
doubt had lingered in the priests mind, it had vanished now. And the prayer
were mingled with many a sigh, not unmixed with self-reproach for being so
easily taken in.
stop ? Then take ______
the poor priest found himself buried breast-deep in the bog !- where he
remained until rescued next morning.
An Uncanny Beast
Bhaloo, a famous animal lives in caverns, and has the power
of destroying whole villages by its howling. It seldom howls, but when it does
howl over against a village, flames leap forth and coals of fire fall from its
mouth and the doom of that village is sealed, some epidemic then sweeps the
population, desolation sets in and the houses fall into ruin (The lost villages
of Magathan and Old Gorai, and the remnants of Dahisar and Kashi, are some
instances in point)
malediction can befall a family than to be cursed (by a woman, of cours) with
this uncanny beast: Tuje ghattanavar bhaloo bhunkel, ani tuja sagla sattia nas
hoil. On the ruined foundations of your house, shall the bhaloo howl, and your
destruction will be complete.
The Ingenious Fox
One day a farmer was seated near his well apparently in deep
you so sad, Thomas Fari ? asked the fox.
puzzled about my mare, Sir Fox replied the farmer.
my neighbor Jamboo Ghonsal ?
see, my mare and his cow were friends and were always together. I never dreamt,
when her time came, would come home with a calf !
mused the fox and I suppose the cow has the colt, is it ?
Fox, that is the position which is puzzling me.
puzzle it is, no doubt, and complicated too. What are you going to do ?
Thomas Fari, you are a simpleton. Take the case to court .
case to the court, and summon me as you witness.
Fari was puzzled more than ever. He consulted his friends who shook their
heads, Was Thomas mad to listen to the wily fox ? said one. Who could stand
against jamboo Ghonsal ? or gainsay his influence ? said another. What proof
had he against the rich man and how dare he take the Patel to court ? said the
Then . . .
be losing your senses, Thomas Fari they all said in a chorus and left the
farmer convinced of the fool-hardy advice of the fox.
Mr. Fox appeared for his drink at the well and inquired of Thomas how matters
think Ill proceed replied the farmer.
Fari, Take my advice and file your complaint. Dont waste time.
So the suit was filed.
Never was there a case which drew
public attention as this one, for apart from the novelty of the case and the
person charged, the enter of attraction was the fox. On the day of hearing,
therefore, the whole village and even the neighboring village went to watch the
Ghonsal and his witnesses were examined, Farmer Thomas went through the ritual,
and then came the turnoff his witness. As his name was called, there was a
general movement of people, but the fox was nowhere to be seen.
somebody said he had seen Mama (Uncle i.e the fox), asleep at the court-yard.
And there indeed was the fox found fast asleep. With difficulty he was
awakened, brought in and placed in the dock. Even here he began to doze and
yawn. Poor Thomas Fari felt his case was lost for he read displeasure in the
face of the Judge.
sharp word from the court brought the fox to his senses and still yawning, he
pray excuse my dozing and yawning, but you see, your Honour, last night the sea
was on fire and was burning, and I had gone to extinguish it. There was
laughter in the court.
! Are you mad ? How can the sea catch fire ? came sternly from the judge.
face of the sly fox beamed with joy, for he precisely waiting for a question
like this from the Judge, and prompt was his reply, which was also his
Sarkar, said, the fox with a twinkle in his eyes, how can a ow give birth to
a colt ?
wisdom ! said the Judge and garlanded the fox, while shouts of Shabas
Well Done, Uncle, well done rent the court premises.
Why the Water-Melon has disappeared from Bandra
The Water-melon grew luxuriantly in Bandra, and was quite a
rival to its Alibaug and Pen cousins. But the time came when it disappeared
from the very face of Bandra.
goes that the farmers, in the anxiety to watchthe malas
(farm-yards) in the season, forgot to pray. And Father X___ of St. Andrews
Church saw with concern that his parishioners were keeping away from Sunday
Mass and were thus neglecting to hear the Word of God. He remonstrated, he
persuaded, but his was a voice in the wilderness. Finding his fatherly
admonitions falling on deaf ears, he begged of them with fear in his eyes not
to force him to do anything that would injure their interest, but even this
threat was taken no notice of.
against his will, he ordered a water-melon to be brought to church and. . . Maldisao dilam kalagravar. . .he cursed the water melon Never shall the
like of you grow in Bandra anymore.
water-melons grow in Bandra, or for that matter in Salsette or Bassein.
A Saying about the City of Bassein
In connection with siege of Bassein by the Marathas and the
gallant defence of the doomed city by the Portuguese garrison. There is a
saying (which is current also amoung the Hindus) that seems to point to an
appalling loss of life on the side of the besiegers and evidently to record the
Phyrric nature of their victory Naw Lakh
bangri phutli . . . Nine Lakh bangles
it must be mentioned here that it was a bangri-walla from Marol, (near Andheri)
who acted as a spy and disclosed to the Maratha General the plight of the
defenders. It is said that the ladies of Bassein were particularly fond of
bangles and consequently the pedlars of these dainty wares were, so to speak, a
privileged class, and were allowed to enter the city without let or hindrance.
The bangri-walla ranks next to the village barber in cunning and shrewdness and
here he was not long before he took advantage of the freedom that was his. He
secretly conveyed information to the Peshawas brother, commanding the Maratha
forces, who had already come to the end of his tether and was planning to raise
the siege and retire to Poona.
acted upon the information and pressed the siege with more vigour, until the
sick and famished garrison was compelled to capitulate.
fair bassein lost.
vanity, was once again the cause of loss.
Why the banana blossoms once only.
Once Our Lady was on a long journey (the reference evidently
is to Our Ladys visit to St. Elizabeth after the Annunciation, or what is more
probably, to her return journey after the sojourn with her cousin) hungry,
tired and foot-sore, she sought a shady spot near a place where grew the banana
and the date-palm, side by side. Whilst resting she beheld the banana tree
bending with the weight of a large bunch (longer) of plantains. This alcove or
grove was on the way-side, that is to say, on Gods earth, and no-mans land.
Otherwise, Our Lady would never attempt without permission to do what she
presently attempted. She rose, stepped to the inviting tree and was about to
put her hand to the ripe fruit when the treacherous tree straightening itself
grew higher and was thus out of reach. At this moment the date-tree seeing the
perfidy of the banana tree, lowered itself down to Our Ladys height that she
may reach her dainty hand to the tiny but luscious fruit, ate it and satisfied
So spontaneous as act of charity
could not go unrewarded. Our Lady thanked the date-palm for the delicacy of her
though, no less for her gracious deed which thenceforth was to sweeten the
mouth on happy and auspicious occasions.
While to the banana tree she said
Henceforth your fruit shall be your end. Therefore you shall blossom and bear
fruit only once and then . . . die
plantain tre yields fruit one once and is then cut down.
An Episode in the Life of the Baptist
Our Lady dwelt with her cousin, Elizabeth until after the
birth of St. John and ministered to
her. Mother-like St. Elizabeth, expected Our Lady to kiss the new-born, but her
expectation was not fulfilled, for Our Ldy did not kiss the baby. St. lizabeth,
lady-like said not a word, nor did she show any sign of disappointment, but Our
Lady read the mind of her kinswoman and thus addressed her:
Elizabeth thou art troubled (sad) because I gave no kiss the baby, but when
thou knowest the reason, thou wilt understand and rejoice.
shall not touch Johns baby face until that which is done unto me shall come to
pass, then, when I have imprinted a mothers first kiss on the Fair Countonance
of the Saviour of mankind, my sanctified lips shall touch Johns prophetic
So be it,
Blessed Mother of my Lord, said St. Elizabeth.
boy John is represented, in art, with the child Jesus and His Blessed Mother,
but not with St. Elizabeth, his own mother.
hen after taking sand or mud bath should come into the house to shake off
the dust. It is believed that a visitor is due today.
visitor is due at nightfall, the sign is different, the housewife or the
person baking appas or chapaties is the first to notice it. In this case
the plate called khapri, shows more than once tiny sparks of fire inline, a little below the rim,
outside. The one who notices it usually says Khapri hansteya, kon pauna
yetya ? i.e the khapri is laughing, who is the guest that is coming ?
crow is considered bird of ill omen. His persistent crowing in the
peculiar raucous manner near the house is a sign that all is not well.
Usually a messenger arrives with news of a relatives death.
number of crows should perch on trees or house tops and begin their
cawing, then a body leave still cawing, fly a certain distance, come back,
and then repeat the procedure several times, it is a sign that the village
will soon be visited by a pestilence.
a person going on business find a cat cross his path from right to left,
he will stop short and wait until another passer-by goes past him. He will
then continue his journey as the bad luck, which might have befallen him
has been counteracted by the passer-by
hoot-hooti: Who-did it, a bird usually hard during the night and
particularly in hot season, is considered unlucky. A pinch of salt thrown
into the fire counteracts the evil.
male cobra encountering a woman in delicate health turns blind. To regain
his sight he lives in hiding about the neighborhood until the baby is born
and bathed, when he come out to drink or bathe in the water in which the
baby has been washed and thus regains his sightand we suppose runs for
his life for all his worth !
honey comb, which we should go far to seek, is considered to bring
ill-luck, if the bees take into their heads to build their hive in a
dwelling place. A fire is prepared on the ground immediately below the
hive to drive the bees away.
or the devil is supposed to be haunting oarts, gardens, deserted
habitations and the wildsfrom
sunset to first cock crow; so that no driver of vegetable carts (though
these move in a body caravan-fashion) will ever think of yoking his
bullocks till the crowing of the cock has sent the ancient adversary to
the nether world.
the rowing of the cock is interpreted as: Sao Pedro negar: St. Peter
denied the Lord !
an empty cradle gives baby a stomach ache.
spider is always associated with good luck. When it is found crawling on
ones shoulder or arm he or she is in for money.
from the house, especially from the kitchen, must not be thrown out at
night, but allowed to remain in a corner until the morning. Ifthey are thrown out the prosperity of
the house will suffer.
person sneezes, or whilst drinking the liquid should enter the wind-pipe
resulting on a choking sensation, it is a sign that some one is thinking
fire from the chula to your neighbor at night time is considered bad luck
to the giver.
may not be set when the tide is in, or when the moon is full, as they are
likely to be spoilt.
the many small points for good behavior the young bride carries from her
mothers home, the first is that she must place her right foot on the
first step when entering her husbands house the first time.
Lady of the Mount has seven sisters each of whom she visit once a year.
Ifa person drinks water at sun-down, that
is, while the sun is sinking below the horizon, he deprives his relatives
who may be in purgatory of their quota of water for that day (the
reference is that every mortification in their behalf helps the souls)
broom, especially the reed one, mush not be kept vertically (standing) in
a corner of the house, but must be left flat on the house, but must be
left flat on the floor after use, otherwise it creates a friction in the
home and is also a sure source of quarrel with the neighbors.
other hand a vertically placed broom has the power of sending away in
haste a boring or an unwelcome visitor, provided the zaroo is
intentionally so placed, that is in the name of the wearisome person.
persons and even unmarried ones must avoid eating the twin banana
(plantains stuck together) lest twins be their portion.
discarded sandal, slipper or shoe tied to a fruit bearing tree keeps away
the evil eye.
the lizard chuckles the housewife is heard to say: Sital hov maule
tender calm Mother Mary
rearing of pigeons is considered unlucky usually the bread-winner of the
death the soul appears before the judgment seat on the third day, until
which time the body lies in the grave intact. After the soul has been
judges, the earth begins its work- the tip of the nose being the first
organ of attack.