"Though history has forgotten her, Khona lives on as a mystery in folktales and legends of eastern India and in the curious brick structure that bears her name. Who was she really?
History is mute about her story. It is a pity, since the legend of Khona not only contains all the elements of a thrilling story — from romance to rivalry and even a bit of violence — but it may also have a ring of truth. She remains a ho usehold name in eastern India and Bangladesh; verses composed by her are compiled and fondly remembered. And then, there is a curious ruin in West Bengal that goes by her name. Yet, no one knows if she was a historical figure or not.
There are many versions of her legend. The common theme is that the famous scholar Varahamihira from Ujjain had a son, and he was horrified by the horoscope he had cast for the newborn. He thought his son would die within a year, and abandoned the child inside a vessel and let it flow with the river. The child was rescued and brought up in a distant land by demons, and named Mihir. He later married a brilliant woman, and they travelled together to Ujjain to face his father. In the royal court, Mihir’s wife defeated Varaha in a debate. She exposed and ridiculed his mistakes in public. Unable to bear the shame, Varaha ordered his son to cut his wife’s tongue.
In the version of the legend from Orissa, she came to be known after this bloody incident as “Khona” which means “dumb” in Oriya. In the Bengali version, she was given the name “Khona” by her father as he had thought she was born at an auspicious moment, a good “Kshana”. Although the Bengali version says that she was brought up by “demons” in Sri Lanka, it is possible that the “demon-land” was the then Bengal itself. Some medieval works like Kalhan’s Rajtarangini referred to Gauda, the then Bengal, as the kingdom of demons."
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Photo taken in Barasat, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Misplaced? Suggest new location