Guptadhan : Story by Rabindranath Tagore in English

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      Guptadhan - Hidden Treasure : is not just a simple story of treasure hunt. Mrityunjaya gives up half his life decoding a set of clues that will enable him to find hidden treasure that supposedly belongs to his family. But once he does come upon the treasure in a deep well within the forest, he realizes that there are more valuable things in life like open air and nature. This is a story with a message of relinquishment, of the conquest of covetousness.

Mrityunjaya gives up half his life decoding a set of clues that will enable him to find hidden treasure that supposedly belongs to his family.

Short Story :-

It was a moonless night. Mrityunjaya sat in a small temple within the courtyard of his ancestral house. In the temple there stood the idol of Kali, his family deity. Throughout the night he worshipped the idol according to tantrik rituals.

It was dawn by the time he finished.

Now he moved away the mat on which the idol was placed, and took out a wooden box from underneath. He opened it with a key attached to his 'upavita' string. As soon as he opened it, he gave a start and hit his forehead with his hand in a gesture of despair.

It was empty. Mrityunjaya looked everywhere around the idol, around the temple, all though the night.

In the morning, he sat down utterly fatigued, he found a Sanyasi or mendicant with matted hair standing right in front.

As Mrityunjaya bowed to him, the mendicant blessed him. "You are grieving uselessly, my child".

"Surprised, Mrityunjaya blurted out:" You are omniscient! How else did you know that I was grieving? I hadn't said a word to anyone."

"I tell you, my child, do not grieve for what you have lost, but celebrate!"

"You know everything, then!" Mrityunjaya hugged the mendicant's feet. "Tell me how to get it back. Or l won't let you go."

The whole day he served the mendicant in every way he could. But next morning he found the mendicant gone.


When Mrityunjaya was but a child, a mendicant had come just like this and stood before his grandfather Harihara.

Harihara hosted him for several days and served him so well that the mendicant asked if he could do anything for him.

"If you are pleased with me, make our family wealthy and prosperous again - richer than our other relatives"

The mendicant smiled a little. "Why try to be richer than all others? Stay the way you are and be happy.

But Harihara would not let him go. He was ready to do anything to make his family powerful and prosperous prove its superiority over that of his relatives.

Then the mendicant took out a roll of thick, rough paper wrapped in cloth. As he unfurled it, Harihara saw that it had various symbols arranged within various circular shapes. At the end there was a rhyme:

Paye dhorey sadha
Ra nahi day Radha

(Radha does not give dha although I plead, touching her feet, pa).

Sheshey dilo ra
'Pagol chharo pa'

(In the end she did give ra or response: pagol, mad fellow! Let go of my feet!")

Tentul bater koley koley
Dokklhine jao choley

(The Tamarind on the lap of the Banyan - go south!)

Islhankoney Ishani
Koye dilam nishani

(Durga in the north-west,

Now I have given you the clue!)

"But I cannot made any sense of it, Baba", said Harihara.

"Keep it with you. Worship the goddess Kali. By her favour someone or the other will be able to decipher this writing. Then he will acquire wealth that is beyond compare in this world."

"O Baba, will you not explain it to me?" pleaded Harihara.

"No", said the mendicant. "You have to strive to decipher it - you have to do it yourself."

Just then Shankara, Harihara's younger brother, came up. As soon as he saw him, Harihara quickly tried to hide the scroll.

"The trouble with being superior has started already!" smiled the mendicant. "But there is no need to hide it or keep it secret. Only one person will be able to penetrate through to its secret. Try as they might, no one else will be able to do so. Now out of you that special person will be, nobody knows. So you can easily keep it in everybody's sight."

The mendicant went away. But in spite of what he had said, Harihara could not keep it out in the open. So that his younger brother Shankara cannot get to it, so that no one else, in fact, can benefit from it, he kept it locked up in a wooden box under the seat of their family deity Kali. Every moonless night, that is, every fortnight, he worshipped the deity and at midnight, opened the box, took out the scroll, in the hope that the deity would bless him with the power to decipher it."

Shankara began to pester Harihara to let him have a look at the scroll. "I have burnt it up", Harihara told him. "It was only some stuff and nonsense that fraud of a mendicant fooled me with."

Shankara was silent. Then after a couple of days he just vanished from the place.

Harihara could think of nothing but the hidden treasure, and became incapable of any other work. Just before his death, he passed this scroll on to his son. On inheriting the scroll, the son gave up working and spent his entire life worshipping Kali and studying the scroll.

On his death, the scroll had gone to his son - Mrityunjaya, and as his financial conditions became worse, he became more and more engrossed in the scroll, putting his entire mind into it.

It was at this stage that - on one moonless night - the scroll could no longer be found, and the mendicant who had come also disappeared.

"I cannot let him go", said Mrityunjaya. "He is the one who holds all the clues to the hidden treasure".

He left home in search of the vanished mendicant. One whole year passed by with him on the roads.


The village was called Dharagol. Mrityunjaya was sitting at a grocery shop having a smoke. Suddenly he caught sight of a mendicant walking across the field to the forest adjoining the village. By the time it struck him that it was the very mendicant he was looking for; the mendicant who had visited his home and made off with the scroll. The grocer told Mrityunjaya that the forest had in epic times been a prosperous town. Epidemics had destroyed it, but it was rummored that it contained hidden treasure. But no one dared to look for it, even in broad daylight. Those who had done so had never returned.

Mrityunjaya was spending the night in the grocer's shop. As he lay tossing and turning, fending of swarms of mosquitoes, the rhyme he by now knew by heart came back to him again and again:

Radha does not give 'dha' although I plead, touching her feet.

In the end she did give 'ra' or response: mad fellow! Let go of my feet!"

As he dozed off in the early hours of the dawn, they suddenly became clear in the easiest of ways.

If Radha does not give 'ra' there remains only 'dha'.

If she gives 'ra' in the end, it becomes "ra after dha or dha-ra."

If pagol (mad fellow) lets go of her feet (pa), what remains is (gol).

That makes it 'dha-ra-gol', and the village was indeed named Dharagol!

Mrityunjaya jumped out of his sleep.


The whole of next day he spent in the jungle, finding his way out with great difficulty, and returning tired and hungry in the evening. He went in again the next morning taking some puffed rice with him.

Struggling through the jungle all day, in the afternoon, he came upon a Tamarind tree around which a huge Banyan had taken root.

Immediately he remembered the lines:

The Tamarind on the lap of the Banyan - go south!

Going south he came upon an impenetrable growth of cane. As he turned back, through the branches of the Banyan - Tamarind, he caught sight of the spire of a temple.

Finding his way to the ruined temple, he found traces of a recent fire before it, along with a mendicant's saffron robe, blanket and water-pot.

In the gathering darkness, Mrityunjaya saw a slab of stone that had broken and fallen off from the temple. There were some etchings on it the same circular arrangement of letters and symbols that had been there on the scroll! Mrityunjaya had seen it so many times as he had bent over it in the lamplight after worshipping Kali at his own home.

That meant that he was close upon the treasure! Mrityunjaya began to tremble with excitement.

As the night fell, he saw firelight in the distance among the trees.

He advanced and saw that it was the mendicant - the one that had visited his home.

In front of him was spread out the familiar scroll. No wonder he had asked Mrityunjaya not to grieve for it. He had stolen it himself!

What he was doing was to study it, make calculations, scratch upon the forest floor with a stick, realize he had miscalculated, nod his head in despair, and start calculating once again. He gave up his efforts at dawn and Mrityunjaya too carefully got out of the forest. Next day he was quite late in going back. It was night already and he could not find his way to wherever the mendicant was. But he had decided that he just had to find him. He alone could guide him to the treasure. Day after day he persisted in coming to the forest at night in search of the mendicant.


Making mistakes again and again, the mendicant finally discovered a tunnel. With a flare in his hand, he entered the tunnel. It was damp inside, with frogs lying in a heap on the slimy wall. The mendicant came some distance and then found him face to face with a blank wall. A dead end.

He came out and again sat before the scroll, thinking. That night, following certain instructions he had deciphered, he removed a brick from that blank wall and found another tunnel that branched off.

He crawled along it and found it to come to another blank wall. He came the next day with fresh instructions that he had again deciphered and found a further tunnel branching off. This went on till the fifth night. "I cannot go wrong tonight!" said the mendicant as he entered the tunnel on this fifth night.

Creeping along an intricate network of passages, carefully carrying his flare, he came upon a room that was round in shape and had a deep well at the centre of it. A thick iron chain attached to the roof went down toward a little well. Down somewhere in the hollow of the well, it fit something with a clang. The metallic sound rose up from the depths and echoed round and round the room "I have got it!" shouted out the mendicant.

Instantly there rolled out a rock from somewhere in the darkness of that room, and something live fell down and screamed out in pain.


"Why, it is Mrityunjaya!" exclaimed the mendicant.

"Fraud! Cheat! ", Mrityunjaya said wildly and painful. "You stole my scroll a mendicant had given it to my grandfather and said that only a member of our family will be able to decipher it. The hidden treasure it leads to thus belongs to me and my family alone. That is why I have been after you all this time. Weakened as I am by hunger, I have been following you through the tunnels. Finally, when just now you said, "Got it!" I could not stop myself from throwing that rock at you. But instead of killing you, I just hurt myself. I think I have broken my leg. But I curse you. That hidden treasure is mine. My ancestors have died thinking of it. Our family has grown impoverished dreaming of it. I have left my wife and child at home and been roaming here and there like a mad man - hankering for it. You can't take it away from right under my nose!"


Then listen, Mrityunjaya. I am none other than your grandfather's younger brother Shankara, who had left home long back."

A huge sigh came out of Mrityunjaya.

This meant that the mendicant, belonging to the same family, did have a claim upon the hidden treasure. It was not that Mriytunjaya alone had a right to it.

Shankara - the mendicant who was his grand-uncle - told him his story.

When he realized that elder brother Harihara was not going to let him have a look at the scroll, Shankara had found out where her was hiding it. He made a duplicate key to the wooden box at the feet their family deity Kali. Opening it secretly for some time every day, he painstakingly made a copy of the scroll. Then he left home in search for the hidden treasure. Year after year he tried to make out the secret of the scroll. He kept the company of mendicants in the hope that one of them will help him. None could. A couple of false mendicarnts even tried to steal the scroll away from him. Then in Kumaon hills he came in contact with a Swamiji who cured him of his mad craving for the hidden treasure. He lost his desire for wealth and even burnt up the scroll. Taking pleasure in the beauties of nature, he moved about now with a true mendicant's spirit.

In course of those travels, he just happened to come to this area and as he took shelter in the ruined temple in the jungle, he chanced upon stone slabs lying here and there with signs and symbols that had been there in the scroll.

He understood that he was within reach of what he had been after for so long. But he no longer had any desire for wealth or good living. He felt he should just move away, leaving the treasure hidden where it was. But then he was curious as well, and wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery where was the treasure hidden? He began to regret destroying the scroll containing the clues. Gradually the desire to solve this problem grew so strong that he went down to his old village and stole the original scroll He found his family home in poor condition, and realized that the treasure could be of use to the present generation even though he himself had no use for it. For a whole year he devoted himself to deciphering the scroll - calculating where the hidden treasure lay. Again he became madly engrossed in it. That is why he had not realized that in the past few days someone Mrityunjaya - had been following him about.

"I have deciphered the final clue now and that is why I had screamed out "Got it" when you threw that stone at me", said Shankara. "If I want to, I can lead you to a treasure that even emperors do not possess. I can do it this instant."

Mrityunjaya grabbed hold of Shankara's feet. "Oh, do take me there!"

"The stone that you threw at me has killed - not me -but the last shreds of desire I still had left in me", said Shankara. "I have seen how desire can be a killer."

"You may be free from desire", pleaded Shankara." I am not. You cannot deprive me of the treasure!"

"Take your scroll back then. If you can hunt the treasure out, do take it." With this the mendicant placed the scroll near Mrityunjaya and his stick, and left.

"Oh, don't leave me here!" screamed Mrityunjaya. "Take pity on me. Show me where the treasure is."

There was no reply.

Leaning on the stick, Mrityunjaya tried to limp out. Bur the network of tunnels was too intricate. After a while, he collapsed wherever he was and fell asleep. When he awoke he felt so hungry that he ate some puffed rice that he had still left with him. He tried again to get out, but could not find the way. "O mendicant, where are you? "he screamed out.

The scream echoed along the underground tunnels and there floated back a reply: " I am close by. What do you want?"

"Kindly take me to the treasure", prayed Mrityunjaya.

There was no reply to that. Mrityunjaya cried again and again. But no one answered.

Again the fatigued fellow fell asleep and again he woke up in the dark." Are you there?" he screamed.

"I am here itself. Tell me what you want."

"Just take me out of this dark tunnel. I want nothing else."

" You don't want the treasure?"

"No, I don't", said Mrityunjaya.

There was the sound of flintstones being struck. Soon the mendicant became visible, holding a flare.

"Come, then, Mrityunjaya, let's get out of the tunnel", said the mendicant.

"Baba, is it all going to be a futile hunt? Even after all this, can't I get the treasure?"

Immediately the flare went out. "How cruel!" said Mrtiyunjaya and sat down again. There was no way he could measure the passage of time or find an end to the darkness stretching out in all directions. He felt like smashing up the darkness with all the force of body and mind that he had. He became desperate for light and air and the world outside.

O cruel mendicant, I don't want the treasure. Rescue me.

"You don't want the treasure? Then take my hand. Come with me." No flare was lit, but Mrityunjaya could catch hold of the mendicant and limp forward with the help of the stick. For a long time they wound their way through dark passages and tunnels. Then there was the sound of rusted iron door opening, and Mrityunjaya went ahead into some sort of a cell or room.

A little while later as the flare got lit, an amazing sight met his eyes. Across the wall there were thick sheets of shining gold - layers and layers of them!

Eyes glittering, Mritunjaya shouted out, "This gold is mine! I just carnnot go leaving it behind."

"Alright then, don't", and the mendicant left him there with water, some puffed rice and a flare. He closed the iron door from outside.

Mrityunjaya felt the gold all around him, pulled some sheets out, put them in his lap, sounded them against one another, and then rubbed them all over his body.

Finally he laid the sheets of gold out on the floor like a mattress, and went to sleep on them. When he got up, he found gold shining down on him from all the sides. There was nothing else other than gold.

Mrityunjaya began to think. Perhaps it was morning outside; he remembered the morning smells and sounds. At home perhaps this moment the ducks were waddling down to the pond, and the maid washing the brass and copper utensils in its waters.

"Are you there, mendicant", Mrityunjaya hit the door from inside and called out.

The mendicant came in. "What do you want?" he asked. "I do want to go out. But can't I take just a couple of these sheets of gold?"

In answer, the mendicant just replenished his stock of puffed rice and water, and went out. The door was locked once more.

Mrityunjaya took a thin sheet of gold and crumpled it into small pieces. He flung those pieces out like clods of earth. He bit into a few pieces of gold, making teeth marks. He stamped upon them again and again and tired himself out into sleep.

Waking up, again he saw the gold heaped all around him - He again pounded on the door and shouted out, "Oh mendicant, I do not want the gold - I do not!"

But the door did not open. Mrityunjaya's voice got cracked with all the shouting. But the door remained closed.

Mrityunjaya picked up the pieces of gold and flung them upon the door. Nothing happened, Was the mendicant then gone? Was he never going to come back? Was he himself to remain confined in this golden prison forever and die by small degrees?

He felt terrified by the sight of so much gold around him.

Cold and cruel, the gold had no throb of life in it. In the perpetual darkness of the underground, it was perpetually bright.

Was it evening now on earth? Mrityunjaya remembered the gold of sunset and of lamplight. Everyday scenes crowded into his brain - the grocery in Dharagol, his own home, the villagers going to the market, his pet dog curling up in the courtyard. If only he could go up and draw a breath of the fresh air!

Just then the door opened.

"What do you want, Mrityunjaya?" asked the mendicant. "I Just want to get out of this maze of tunnels, this prison of gold. I want light, air and sky."

"There are stores of jewels here - worth much more than this store of gold. Won't you just take a look at them?"

"No", declared Mrityunjaya.

"Don't you want to just see them?"

"No, I don't even want to see them. I'd beg all my life rather than spend another moment here."

"Come then". The mendicant took him out of the room and led him to the mouth of the well with the chain. He handed him the scroll. "What do you want to do with this now?"

ln answer Mrityunjaya tore it up and threw it into the well.

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