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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

Jalat Khan and Mehbooba



Once upon a time, in the heart of a vast kingdom ruled by the ruthless King Na-Muslim, a tale unfolded, dark and twisted. The King, consumed by an insatiable desire for a male heir, harbored a venomous hatred for his own flesh and blood—his daughters. Six innocent souls met their tragic fate at the hands of their own father, snuffed out as soon as they drew their first breath.


Then came the seventh, a fragile spark of life. The baby girl was so beautiful, that the King’s wives decided to convince Na-Muslim that it was a still-birth, and the baby had been born dead. They named her Mehbooba. In the dimly lit chambers of the royal palace, she was concealed from the tyrant's gaze, hidden away by her compassionate mother and stepmother’s in the secret recesses of the basement. A delicate rose, nurtured in the shadows, blossomed in the gloom.


When the King set forth on his hunting expeditions, young Mehbooba would be brought up from her chambers, like a hidden jewel brought into the light. Her mothers, bound by a love stronger than fear, shielded her from the malevolence that lurked in the royal halls. On an untimely return, the King's eyes fell upon Mehbooba, and the deceptive web of secrecy unraveled. Betrayed by his own kin, the King, fueled by a twisted sense of justice, condemned his own flesh and blood to the gallows.


That night, the King dreamt a haunting dream. Mehbooba, his forsaken daughter, stood in his chambers, appearing to be the embodiment of innocence and beauty. As he reached out to embrace her, she crumbled to dust, slipping through his desperate fingers like grains of sand. A sudden surge of paternal love gripped the King's heart, a force stronger than his malevolent instincts.


Morning arrived with a change of heart. Instead of a swift execution, the King decreed a labyrinthine prison beneath the palace, a maze devised by the finest architects in the city. Little did they know, their fate was sealed with the completion of their creation, and they were put to death.


Mehbooba, however, proved to be more than the sum of her circumstances. Her intellect, a beacon in the dark, guided her through the intricate twists and turns of the maze. Freedom became her quest, and against all odds, she emerged from the subterranean prison, a breath of fresh air after years of confinement.


As Mehbooba approached the palace gates, a wandering mystic, Malameer, caught sight of her. Entranced, he gazed upon her with awe, an admiration that would cost him dearly. The King's caravan returned, and Malameer, beaten and bruised for his audacity, fled to a neighboring kingdom. There, in the court of King Khoonkaar, he wove tales of Mehbooba's unparalleled beauty, captivating the attention of the king's eldest son.


Enamored by the stories, the prince yearned to make the elusive princess his own. Little did he know of the deadly challenge that awaited any suitor daring to claim Mehbooba's hand. The King, aware of the consequences of harming a prince from a neighboring land, devised a treacherous scheme—a drum, a proclamation, and a lethal labyrinth.


The city resonated with the ominous beat of the drum as eager suitors stepped forth, each facing the perils of the maze. One by one, they met their demise until the blood of King Khoonkaar's six sons stained the path to Mehbooba's heart. Undeterred, the youngest son, Jalat Khan, stood resolute. Against his father's pleas, he embarked on the perilous journey, accompanied by the enigmatic Malameer, whose fate remained intertwined with Mehbooba's mysterious destiny.


In the bustling city, Malameer whispered to Jalat Khan, "Don't play the drums. We must find a way first." Disguised as wandering faqeers, they roamed the cobbled streets, seeking a path through the impending doom.


One day, as Mehbooba ventured beyond the maze into the palace gardens, her eyes caught sight of Jalat and Malameer from the distant gates. Struck by the prince's striking allure, she fainted, overwhelmed by an unexpected wave of emotion.


Upon awakening, Mehbooba, determined to find the mysterious faqeer, enlisted her handmaidens. They devised a plan: distribute food to the poor at the palace gates, hoping to lure the disguised duo into their midst. As Mehbooba laid eyes on Jalat once again, her heart succumbed to his enchanting presence.


Meanwhile, Malameer uncovered a vital clue—a Mohmandi goldsmith in the city who sent a daily necklace to the princess. Persuading the goldsmith to employ Jalat as an apprentice, Malameer set the stage for Jalat's entrance into Mehbooba's world. Jalat, with princely charm and intellect, impressed the goldsmith and unwittingly became the talk of the town. The goldsmith, benefiting from the increased business, declared Jalat as his brother, unknowingly adding a layer of complexity to the unfolding drama.


One day, Jalat poured his heart into crafting a necklace for Mehbooba. When the necklace reached her through the hands of the goldsmith's mother, she recognized its craftsmanship as foreign. Intrigued, she demanded to meet the artisan behind the masterpiece. The old woman quickly brushed aside Mehbooba’s questions, and told her that a young woman, staying over with them as a guest has crafted the necklace. What she did not have in mind was that Mehbooba would insist to meet the girl!


Perplexed about where should she bring a girl from, caught in a dilemma, sought Jalat's counsel. With a mischievous grin, Jalat approached Malameer, who, in turn, transformed him into a veiled maiden. Accompanied by the old woman, Jalat ventured into Mehbooba's presence, concealing his true identity. All night long, the disguised Jalat engaged in intimate conversations with Mehbooba. Suspicion occasionally crept into her thoughts, but Jalat's beauty proved a beguiling distraction.


Overwhelmed by his feelings, Jalat confided in the goldsmith, revealing his royal lineage and his quest for Mehbooba's hand in marriage. Unfazed, the goldsmith vowed to aid him in his endeavor.


Crafting a magnificent lion with a concealed compartment for Jalat, the goldsmith presented it to the king. The lion used to roar every time a lever was pulled. Impressed, the king rewarded him, and tales of the roaring lion echoed through the court. Intrigued, Mehbooba expressed her desire to witness the lion's marvel. As she played with the lifelike creation in her chambers, fatigue overcame her, and she fell into a deep slumber.


Seizing the opportune moment, Jalat emerged from the lion's confines, discreetly taking one of Mehbooba's rings. When she awoke to find her belongings missing, confusion set in. Jalat, undeterred, returned the ring during her next slumber and declared his love for her. United in their affections, Mehbooba and Jalat planned their escape. They agreed to meet near the maze's entrance, with Mehbooba taking the initiative to find Jalat. The following morning, Jalat, veiled in anticipation, played the drums and entered the maze.


Instead of emerging where King Na-Muslim awaited, Jalat led Mehbooba through an alternative exit, fleeing with the Princess to his kingdom. Upon Jalat Khan’s return, King Khoonkaar announced celebrations, but Jalat told his father that celebrations can wait, war is coming. Na-Muslim’s army close at their heels, a  battle followed, but Jalat Khan and King Khoonkaar raised the banners of victory. Na-Muslim was imprisoned and originally sentenced to be executed, however, Princess Mehbooba intervened, and pleaded for her father’s life. Her request was granted, and Na-Muslim was sent back to his kingdom is disgrace. With their love triumphant, Mehbooba and Jalat Khan were wed in joyous celebrations, leaving behind the shadows of a dark past. The kingdom rejoiced, and the once-captive princess and her true love lived happily ever after.

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