An iserendip recounting and illustration of the witty folktales of the infamous court jester ‘Andare’
Andare was employed by King Rajadhi Rajasinghe (1782-1798) of the Kandyan Kingdom (1593-1815) the last kingdom of Sri Lanka. Andare was a skilled poet with superior intellect, a mischievous trickster and a witty jester, who provided great amusement to the King and Queen and thereby received much liberties at court. The King was very fond of Andare who could always make him laugh, and very aware of his mischievous brain often trying to outwit him and turn the tables on the jester’s tricks but never being able to prevail over Andare’s quick wit.
Sweet Tooth Andare and the Delightful Sugars at the Palace
It’s a beautiful sunny morning in the Sri Lankan hill city of Kandy, and as usual, Andare is making his way to the palace, where it’s a hubbub with daily activities.
As he walks through the gates and strolls down the garden with a spring in his step, Andare observes the different on-goings; the gardeners caring for the vast grounds, the queens handmaids gossiping in the corner, the washer women carrying the clothes off to the rivers. He enters through the high doorways of the palace into its spacious courtyard and sees something that stops him dead in his tracks.
Now, I must tell the reader what a notorious sweet tooth Andare is, and what he sees brings him the happiest delight of his life. The palace cook directing the kitchen servants to put out the sugars to dry on woven mats as per custom in the inner palace courtyard. The King’s sugars specially made were the finest in the country and Andare had a burning desire to try them, but he was sure to be teased and chastened by the King if he were to ask for some or lose his head if he were to take some without approval. Andare’s quick brain starts to devise a plan.
The King at that same moment walks into the courtyard advising his chieftains on a matter of business, and notices Andare intently observing the sugars put out to dry. Suddenly he sees the jester break from his reverie. “Your Majesty,” Andare addresses him loudly, “what’s this on the mat?” The King knowing Andare, deduces instantly what his intentions are and decides to outwit him and put him off track. “It is a kind of white sand, Andare,” he replies. “Do you want some of it?”
Andare realizing that the King is on to his tricks today, feigns disinterest, “Oh, no my lord” and immediately excuses himself and runs back home to put a more elaborate scheme in place. He recruits his wife and son into the ploy, enticing them with tall tales of the sweet palace sugars.
The following morning, Andare is again off to the palace, in high spirits. The King happens to be once again in the courtyard at this time and the sugars once again are out to dry. Andare soon engages the King deep in conversation to hold him on this same spot where he plans to enact his dramatics.
Soon, Andare’s son appears on the scene in great distress. “What’s the matter my son” asks the jester moving cautiously over towards the sugar mats pretending worry and signalling his son to follow suit. Little Andare too as quick witted as his father, immediately gets the gesture and does the same. “Oh, father dear, father dear,” he answers, “our mother dear has just died,” and begins to sob, “what shall we do now?”
Andare falls upon his knees wringing his arms like a mad man in grief, weeping and screaming. “Oh Lord, what’s the use of my life now? Let there be sand in my mouth! I too want to die!” Andare starts rolling upon the sugar mats, gulping down handfuls of the ‘white sand.’ His son too follows his father’s example and soon the sugars on the mats are nearly all devoured, and Andare and son are covered with ‘white sand’ all over themselves.
The King looks on at the absurdity in both astonishment and amusement, whilst admiring Andare for once again playing the cleverest trick and turning the tables on him. “Dear Andare, I hope you have remained some of the ‘white sand’ in memory of your beloved, take that home and place a little of it in your dead wife’s mouth. Perhaps she may come back to life.”