Behula

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Behula (Bengali: বেহুলা) is the protagonist in the Manasamangal genre of Bengali medieval epics. A number of works belonging to this genre were written between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. Though the religious purpose of these works is to eulogise the Hindu goddess Manasa, these works are more well known for depicting the love story of Behula and her husband Lakhindar.


Impact on Bengali ethos[edit]

Behula continues to fascinate the Bengali mind, both in Bangladesh and West Bengal. She is often seen as the archetypal Bengali woman, full of love and courage. This image of Behula is reflected in one of the poems of Jibananda Das. Behula was the daughter-in law of Chand Sadagar of Champaknagar.According to myth, two beautiful "apsara's of the kingdom of heaven, Usha and Aniruddha were cursed by Gods as per the plan of Goddess Manasa and sent to earth as Behula and Lakshinder- Behula as the only daughter of Say bene and Lakshinder as the seventh son of Chand sadagar. Chand sadagar was a great devotee of Shiva and for certain reasons he hated Manasa. But Manasa had to get "Anjali" by Chand sadagar's right hand- the Bhaktasreshto to get position of Goddess in the heaven.However, Chand sadagar promised to himself that he will never give anjali to Manasa by the hand he uses to give anjali to Lord Shiva. To get an anjali from Chand, Manasa took away his six sons.They died from poisonous snake bites and manasa had absolute power over all snakes. These deaths infuriated Chand sadagar even more and he vowed to save his last son, lakhinder, in any way possible. Chand found a girl,Behula, whose destiny spoke that she will never be a widow. Chand got his seventh son, Lakshinder married with Behula. Chand also had an iron-palace built without any hole so that not a single snake could enter the house. Bishyakarma made it for the wedding night of Behula-Lakshinder. But due to the request of Manasa, Bishyakarma kept a hole in the palace. The night came and Manasa sent her Kalnagini, the most poisonous snake, to the iron palace. Behula fell asleep due to a spell Manasa cast on her. When Kalnagini was going to bite Lakshinder, she saw that Behula had committed no sin for which she might be given such a harsh punishment. So kalnagini, with the help of the lower end of her body smeared the parting of Behula's hair with the oil of the lamp, which was a sin according to the Hindu mythology. After she bit Lakshinder, Lakshinder shouted aloud. Behula woke up and saw kalnagini going out of the room. In anger, she threw the jaanti towards kalnagini and the lower part of the snake's body was cut off. kalnagini was not eager to bite Lakshinder; Manasa forced her to do so. To get back her husband's life from the Gods in the heavens, Behula sailed with her husband in a raft towards Heaven. She faced many dangers during her incredibly long and difficult journey in the rivers. After reaching Heaven, she pleased all the Gods with her beautiful and enchanting dancing and got the Gods to promise to give back her husband's life on the condition that Chand would give anjali to Manasa. Desperate to save his son's life, finally Chand gave in and gave the anjali by the left hand. Consequentlty Manasa got the position of Goddess in heaven and gave back the life of all the six sons of Chand. Behula is regarded as the epitome of loving and loyal wife in the Bengali culture.

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