Raantas is Kashmir’s mythical lady demon that roams around during dark wintery nights. Kashmir folklore has countless stories about this ‘creature’ fabled to abduct unsuspecting men. This story scripted by Ghulam Nabi Aatish in Kashmiri was published by DPS, Srinagar with sketches. Azra Hussain translated it into English for Kashmir Life
Once upon a time, there lived a bald man in a village. This man, although young, was very clever. One day he climbed a mulberry tree to eat some fruit. As he was chomping down the juicy berries, a Raantas disguised as an old woman passed by.
“Lady, do you want to eat mulberry?” called out the man, unaware of the woman’s true nature.
“Yes, please do throw some down for me,” she replied, gathering the hem of her cloak. The mulberries, however, fell straight to the ground. “Can you please give me the berries yourself?”
The bald man got off the tree, his hands full of berries. When he got closer, the old woman got hold of the man and threw him in her bag. On her way back home, she came across a farmer ploughing his field.
“Take care of my bag till I return, will you not?” Saying this, the Raantas left for a stroll. Finding an opportunity to escape, the bald man began shouting. As soon as the farmer heard the commotion, he untied the bag, setting the man free. The bald man then collected logs and threw them in the bag so that the Raantas wouldn’t notice his absence.
When the Raantas returned and lifted the bag on her shoulders, she felt logs digging into her back. Hissing in pain, she shouted, “You satanic creature! I know you’re hitting me with your knees. You think I’ll let you go? Let us reach home, I will teach you a lesson.”
As soon as she reached home, the Raantas called her daughter. Handing her the bag, the Raantas said, “There is a man in this bag. Take him out and mash him into a paste.”
When the daughter untied the bag, instead of finding a human in there, she found a pile of logs. The Raantas got red when she realized that she had been fooled. “This has to be the doing of that wretched farmer. I should not have had trusted him.” However, the damage was done and the bald man had already escaped. The Raantas was so angry that she was not able to sleep that night.
The next day, the Raantas found the bald man on the same mulberry tree, eating mulberries like nothing had happened. Seeing her, he called out, “Old woman, do you want to eat mulberry?”
“Yes, please do throw some down for me,” the raantas replied, gathering the hem of her cloak once again. The mulberries fell straight to the ground and she asked the man to give them to her by hand. As soon as the bald man got off the tree, the Raantas threw him in her bag and made her way back home. On the way, she met a shepherd.
“Take care of my bag till I return, will you not?” Saying this, the Raantas left for a stroll. As soon as the Raantas left, the bald man began shouting. The shepherd heard the noise and untied the bag, setting the bald man free. The bald man poured water into the bag, so that the Raantas would not notice his absence.
When the Raantas returned and lifted the bag on her shoulders, she felt the water leaking out of her bag. Frustrated, she yelled out, “You spawn of Satan! Are you peeing on me? I’m not going to let you go. Let us reach home and I will teach you a lesson, you pest.”
As soon as she reached home, the Raantas called her daughter. Handing her the bag, the Raantas said, “There is a man in this bag. Take him out, mash him into a paste, and cook him for dinner.”
When the daughter untied the bag, she found a pool of water in it instead of a man. The Raantas was driven to tears in her anger. “This has to be the doing of that damned shepherd. I should have known better.” However, the damage was done and the bald man had already escaped. In her anger, the Raantas was not able to have a good night’s rest once again.
The next day, the Raantas found the bald man on the same tree eating mulberries. Seeing her, he called out, “Old woman, do you want to eat mulberry?”
“Yes, please do throw some down for me,” the Raantas replied, gathering the hem of her cloak. The mulberries fell down and she asked him to give them to her by hand.
As soon as the bald man got off the tree, the Raantas threw him in her bag and made her way back home. This time around, however, things were different. Instead of stopping anywhere, the Raantas went straight to her home, called her daughter, and gave her the bag. “I finally caught that wicked human. I am tired; cook him while I take a nap.”
As soon as the daughter untied the bag and saw the bald man, she fell in love with him. “I will let you live,” she said, “But you will have to marry me.”
“I would marry you if your mother wasn’t after my life,” the bald man said.
“Don’t worry about that,” she said. “Come with me, and I’ll show you how I keep my mother shut.”
The Raantas was sleeping in her room, unaware of what was being done to her. “The hair of a Raantas holds her power. Therefore, if I tie my mother’s hair around a pole, she won’t have enough energy to wake up from her sleep,” the daughter said, tying her mother’s hair around a pole.
After they did this, the daughter took the man on a tour of her home, where he found priceless jewels and treasures. Seeing all these luxuries made the bald man’s mouth water, and he hatched a plan.
A few days later, he caught a wild bird. He went to the Raantas’s daughter and said, “I’ve heard that you cook delicious meals. Will you cook this bird for the both of us? If you manage to do this, I will marry you.” Hearing this, the daughter was overjoyed. She took the bird and put it in the mortar. However, the pestle was too heavy for her to lift and she couldn’t do so properly.
“Don’t worry, I will help you. Let me hold one end of the pestle and you can hold the other.”
Since she was holding the lower end of the pestle, the daughter was closer to the mortar. Finally, finding an opportunity to carry out his devious plan, the bald man seized the daughter by her hair and mashed her head into the mortar, instantly killing her. He then proceeded to rob her house of its riches and gold.
Later, the man went to the farmer and the shepherd and gifted them bags of gold as a token of gratitude.