In search of legends
Most people interested in fairies must have heard about Lake Baikal
situated in Russia – an
know as the Paristan. When I was doing my Russian Language in the National
University of Modern languages Islamabad, our Great Russian teacher who
knew about how Paristan (fairy land) is famous in our local literature
used to tell us tales of fairies famous there in Russia. She told about us
about Baikal Lake. “Baikal is one of the most beautiful and forth highest
lakes in the world: clean water, naturally feed and lot many aqueducts
coming out of that. The panorama is such that fairies come and dance there
and meet those who visit Baikal.” She also told about fairy of love and
taught the language in the process.
Lake Baikal is picturesque, tranquil and pollution free place shrouded in
romantic legend. It is a miracle on land. Endless forests all around. You
see blue, blue and blue. It is like a coast-less entity. It is all blue
and it is all beautiful. The frozen blue skin of the lake ripples into
crests of broken crystal as it approaches the pebbled coast.
Even in winter the mighty tide of the sleeping lake challenges its icy
restraints, crushing against the shoreline with the force of a glacier.
Farther out, a smooth sheath of white flows uninterrupted to the horizon
where the faint outline of a majestic mountain range floats mysteriously
on the hazy sky. It seems as if we are standing at the spring that feeds
glaciers their ice -- as if the vast permafrost that coats most of glacial
region begins here on a journey to the skies.
There are the alpine meadows, the springs, and the flowers but there is
nothing like Baikal Lake itself. What is particular is its sudden change
of mood. It could be blue, quiet and calm one moment, and then immediately
the wind rises and huge waves appear. It is like an old man mumbling. It
is difficult to exaggerate Lake Baikal's beauty -- or its size.
Baikal is very deep. Plunging more than a mile deep in the middle, Baikal
holds more water than any other lake on Earth. It is fed by more than 300
torrents. But none comes out of it. In its depths thrive between 1,500 and
1,800 animal species -- most of them peculiar to Baikal. And it is home to
the world's only freshwater seal.
The Lake Baikal shoreline also is home to growing human activities,
including controversial industrial concerns, camping grounds, and grazing
fields on the southern coast. Environmentalists claim the growing human
activities are unreliable, and disturb this “heaven on earth.” However,
the biggest threat to Baikal comes from poachers and careless visitors -
But what is
the most distinct feature of Baikal? It is a fairies land full of romantic
legend. I have heard many and one that particularly touched me is this:
Local lore has it that there was a fairy of love. Her job was to
distribute love among those who needed that in life. (Who does no need
it?) She wanted love to prevail the world over. She also protected
Baikal's natural surroundings. She used to be on the shores of Baikal
One night she met a man who just appeared on the shore of Baikal out of
blue. The man’s name too was Baikal: mortal, deprived, lonely, and it
looked from his face that he needed some love in life. The fairy saw him
and fell head over heal taking it as a test case. Led over the waves of
sympathy and challenge, they instantly crossed all the distances usually
not possible in a short time. They together wove hopes for the future.
But there love came to a tragic end. Baikal though he was no match to the
fairy. He was afraid of himself being human. And one day, he disappeared
all of a sudden without any explanation, without warning. The fairy kept
looking for him, fond him and cut his feet making him unable to move. Who
will decide about this love affair?
There are two other Lakes that remind me of Baikal: one is the world's
highest lakes Toba in Simatra (Singapore) and the other Lake Saif ul Muluk
in Northern Pakistan. Besides similar environs, the romantic legends are
also attached with both Lakes. A man named Samosir once caught a fish in
Toba Lake that transformed into a beautiful woman. She married Samosir and
started living happily with him, bore him children. Their love too came to
a tragic end when the husband transgressed and told some one the secret
that she was a fish. Gods sent relentless rain, flooding the valley.
Samosir drowned and an island and the lack grew from his body.
And about Saiful Muluk we are more familiar; the Crown Prince of Persia
hears about the beauty of the fairy Princess Badar Jamal - the daughter of
king of Caucasus - and falls in love. The prince after wandering and
hardships succeeds in winning the heart of Badar Jamal. The lake becomes
the rendezvous where the lovers meet: contemplating matters of heart and
their future together, hence the name. The Jinn guard of the queen of
Parbat becomes jealous of their love and one day breaches the bank of the
Lake to drown them. But the lovers escape and find shelter in a nearby
cave, which still exists, and we were to see later, on our way back.
Off the beaten track, up in the upper Hunza Valley, is another lake
Sheosar. This place offers beautiful views of distant peaks and a
panoramic view of Deosai Plains. At Bara Pani, one may spend hours in a
hope to watch a Bear or you may enjoy fishing in the cold waters of Barwai
Stream. From here, you can travel back via Skardu and Gilgit to enjoy the
most thrilling drive along the Indus River, or continue to glacier areas
if you have to. Or just sit there and think about Adam Khan and Durkhane's
love lore. And if you hear intently, you hear Adam Khan playing his Ik
When ever I get the chance and revel into any lack (Saiful Muluk) water, I
keep thinking of the lovers and fairies that come to the lakes to swim and
dance in moon lit nights. I tend to believe such legends. The first impact
that I get after setting eyes on any alpine lack is simply romantic. You
do not get tired seeing the play of sun and shade. When you devote enough
time to look at the Lake, Baikal, Saiful Muluk or any other, it becomes a
bit magical -- clouding over, changing colours, cliffs of surrounding
hills turning in to convex and concave according to the slant of light and
haunting. These seem places where one can forget the stress of today's
fast lane life.
The legends keep haunting me though.