THE YAKSHA’S TREASURE by Hemendra Kumar Roy (2)

by Jash Sen

Chapter 2

The Yaksha’s Treasure

What could be the meaning of these strange numbers? I obsessed about them, but couldn’t make head or tail of the whole thing.

Then I remembered my grandfather’s pocket-book. It was there with the skull as well, might I get an answer to this mystery in its pages?

I immediately pulled it out from the shelf. On opening it, I found it filled with writing from cover to cover. I read the first sixteen or seventeen pages in the beginning, but it was all inconsequential drivel. Then suddenly, somewhere, I saw:-

“September, 1904. We were coming through a forest one evening on our way back from Assam. It was nearly dusk, we were descending from a hill to the valley below. All of a sudden, we saw an enormous tiger some distance away. It was crouching – aiming before its killing pounce on someone! Then I saw a hermit some distance away beside the track, lying down under a tree. It was him the tiger was aiming his leap at!

I shouted out right away. The porters shouted along with me. The hermit woke up and the tiger, startled by the din, saw us and disappeared in one jump.

The hermit had understood all. He came to me and expressed his gratitude, saying, ‘Son, today you saved me from the jaws of a tiger.’

I said, ‘Thakur, is it sensible to sleep in the middle of the jungle like this?’

The hermit said, ‘This jungle is my home, son.’

I said, ‘But you could have lost your life just now!’

He said, ‘Where, son? I didn’t lose it after all. God sent you to me at just the right time.’

I learnt he was headed the same way as us. So we took the hermit along with us and moved on.

The hermit stayed with us for two days. I took care of him to the best of my ability, leaving no stone unturned.  Before taking our leave on the third day, he told me, ‘Son, I am truly pleased by your unstinted service. You saved my life as well. Before I leave, I want to give you some directions.’

I asked, ‘Directions to what, thakur?’

The hermit said, ‘To a yaksha’s treasure.’

I asked eagerly, ‘Yaksha’s treasure? Where is it, thakur?’

The hermit said, ‘In the Khasia* hills.’

(*Translator’s comment: the old Bengali name for Khasi hills. I have taken the liberty of using Khasi hills throughout from now on)

I said in dismay, ‘But how will I know where it is, thakur?’

The hermit said, ‘I’ll tell you. Have you heard of the Roopnath caves in the Khasi hills?’

I said, ‘Yes, I have. Legend has it that one can go all the way to China from these caves, and that many years ago, a Chinese emperor had come through these caves with his troops to attack India.’

The hermit said, ‘Indeed. If you go about sixty miles to the west, you will find an ancient temple in the middle of the valley. The temple is in ruins, some years down the line there will probably be no signs left of it. Once there was a sprawling monastery there for Buddhist monks. A king from those times hid all his wealth in this monastery before embarking on a battle with a foreign enemy. But he lost the battle. Fearful that his wealth would fall into the hands of the enemy, the king hid it all in one place and left a yaksha to guard his treasure for him. Then he escaped, but he never returned. The treasure is still in the same place.’ Then he gave me the directions to the monastery in detail.

I said, ‘But what if someone has already found out about the treasure?’

The hermit said, ‘No one has. It is very difficult terrain, no one knows that there is a monastery there, no one goes there. Even if they reach the monastery, they won’t find it if they search for it for the rest of their lives.’ Saying this, the hermit fished out a skull from his sack.

I asked him in surprise, ‘What’s that for, thakur?’

The hermit said, ‘This is the skull of the yaksha who is guarding the treasure. I have put a spell on it, the yaksha will not harm the person who carries it. These numbers and calculations that are carved on the skull are in a code. I will also give you the key to the code, once you use it, you will know exactly where to find it.’ Saying this, the hermit explained the secret key to the code to me.

I contemplated this for an entire year; but wasn’t confident enough to venture into that difficult terrain on my own. Finally I decided to trust my neighbour, Karali, and told him everything, adding, ‘Karali, you’re young, if you come with me, I’ll give you an equal share.’

However, I hadn’t realized that Karali would betray me. He kept trying to dupe me of the skull. He also sent mercenary thieves to try and steal it, but failed. Thank heavens I had not told him the whereabouts of the yaksha’s treasure.

But I have given up all hope of going to the Khasi hills. Should I lose my life on alien soil in my old age to wild bears or tigers or bandits? And I no longer trust anyone enough to take them with me – who knows, a friend could kill me in the end for greed!

Still, I have written everything down in this pocket-book. It might come in useful to my descendants in the future. But if any of my kin truly decide to travel to that Buddhist monastery, they must think of the dangers that will befall them before they embark. Danger will follow this mission every step of the way.”

I sat with the pocket-book in my hand, transfixed.