Manorah, the dancing princess

New Indian Express
By Reeja Radhakrishnan Published: 22nd November 2013 03:08 PM

Thai myths have a blend of Hindu and Buddhist influences. This is from the Pannasa Jataka, based on the previous births of Buddha. Kinnarees, according to Thai mythology, were half human, half bird and lived in Himmapan, a legendary forest in the Himalayas, separating Heaven and Earth. This story of Manorah has inspired a dance form known as the Manorah Buchayan.

Manorah was the youngest of the seven Kinnaree daughters of King Prathum and Queen Jantakinnaree who ruled Mount Grajrat.

Now the Kinnarees were magical beings, with the upper body of a woman and the lower part of a bird with delicate wings. They could fly or shed their wings to assume human form as they wished.

In the Grajrat lay the great Himmapan forest, an enchanted place where many strange creatures lived. In the middle of this forest was a beautiful lake where the seven sisters came to splash about on full moon nights.

One such night, as the princesses played in the water, laughing and splashing about, a young man named Prahnbun chanced upon them. Manorah without doubt was the most beautiful among them and Prahnbun could not take his eyes off her. What an ethereal beauty this maiden is! I must catch her and present her to our Prince Suton. He would surely love to make her his bride, thought he. Prince Suton was the son of King Artitvawong and Queen Jantaivee of Udon Panjah from where this young man came.

Prahnbun knew that it was not easy to catch a Kinnaree and sought the advice of a hermit who lived in the forest. “It is not an easy task to catch a kinnaree,” the hermit told him. “They will fly away if anyone approaches them. I don’t know how you can do this. May be you can ask the Great Dragon who lives further down this forest.”

Thanking the hermit, Prahnbun raced off to meet the Great Dragon. The Dragon was a noble creature and was not very happy to hear of the young human’s plan. But he did not want to seem unhelpful. “Here, take this magic rope with you,’’ he said handing over a golden rope to Prahnbun, “you can catch a Kinnaree with this.” The young man took leave of the Dragon, thanking him for his help and set out once again for the lake.

The Princesses were still playing and no one saw Prahnbun approach with his magic rope which had become invisible now. He crept to the edge of the lake and threw the rope around Manorah’s neck and pulled. It caught her delicate neck so tight that she couldn’t scream. She thrashed about in the water helplessly while her sisters watched in horror.

Prahnbun pulled her to the shore and carried her away. Her sisters, fearful of being caught too, flew away.

Prahnbun pinned down Manorah’s wings so that she couldn’t escape and took her to Udon. Just as he expected the Prince was delighted with the special ‘gift’ Prahnbun got for him and rewarded him generously. His parents, the king and the queen, raised no objections when Prince Suton expressed his desire to marry the Kinnaree princess. Soon they were married and Manorah grew to love her handsome husband who was gentle, kind hearted and brave.

Manorah with her beauty, intelligence and gentle ways won the heart of every one in Udon. They had taken away her wings, afraid that she would leave them but Manorah had adjusted to her new life. Besides, she loved Prince Suton.

But there were some evil courtiers in King Artitvawong’s court who disliked the Kinnaree princess. Once, when the Prince was away at war, they hatched a plot to kill her. The chief court counsellor approached the king. “Your Majesty! Great misfortune and tragedy is going to befall our kingdom, I’ve heard a wise ascetic predict. The only solution lies in a sacrifice and that, I’m afraid has to be the Princess!” The King trusted his counsellor and summoned Manorah.

Manorah was to be sacrificed in a fire and she agreed willingly. “Only one wish I have, Your Majesty! Let me wear my wings one last time and dance before I perish in that fire!”

The King agreed and Manorah was given her wings back. She began to dance round and round the fire, moving her wings this way and that.

The entire court watched mesmerised. The fire burned brighter and brighter.

Suddenly, the Kinnaree princess flapped her wings and flew up, up and away. Before they knew it she was gone, back to her world.

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