CHRITROPĀKHYĀN, a long composition comprising women's tales in verse, forms over one-third of the Dasam Granth. The work is generally ascribed to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. A school of opinion, however, exists which asserts that Chritropākhyān and some other compositions included in the Dasam Granth are not by the Gurū but by poets in attendance on him. According to the date given in the last Chritra or narrative, this work was completed in 1753 Bk / AD 1696 on the bank of the River Sutlej, probably at Anandpur. The last tale in the series is numbered 405, but number 325 is somehow missing. The tales centre upon the theme of women's deceits and wiles, though there are some which describe the heroic and virtuous deeds of both men and women.
Tale one is a long introductory composition. It opens with an invocation to weapons, or to the God of weapons; then a number of Hindu mythical characters appear, and a terrific battle between the demons and the gods follows. Finally Chaṇḍī appears, riding on her tiger, and her enemies "fade away as stars before the rising sun. " With a final prayer for help and forgiveness the introductory tale ends. In the last Tale 405 again the demons and gods battle. When Chaṇḍī is hard pressed, the Timeless One finishes off the demons by sending down diseases upon them.
Tale two tells how the wise adviser to Rājā Chitra Siṅgh related these tales of the wiles of women in order to save his handsome son Hanuvant from the false accusations of one of the younger rāṇīs. Some of these tales were taken from old Hindu books such as the Mahābhārata, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Purāṇas, the Hitopadeśa, the Pañchatantra, from Mughal family stories, from folktales of Rājpūtānā and the Punjab, and even from ancient Hebrew lore. The moral they aim at is that one should not become entangled in the intrigues of wily women by becoming a slave to lust, for trusting them is dangerous. This does not mean that it is wrong to trust one's own wife, or worthy women; but that it is fatal to lose this world and the next by becoming enamoured of strange women and entrapped in their wiles. The theme of most of the tales, however, is that many women will stop at nothing - slander, arson, murder - to obtain their heart's desire; that men are helpless in their clutches; and that if men spurn them they have to reckon with the vilest and deadliest of enemies; but that, conversely, worthy women are the staunchest of allies, and think nothing of sacrificing their lives for their beloved.
In the Dasam Granth a title is given at the end of each tale. Thirty-two of a total of 404 Tales are thus labelled "Tales of Intrigue. " The remaining 372 Tales are labelled as "The Wiles of Women. " However, while most of these are about lustful, deceitful women, there are some 74 tales of the bravery and intelligence of women, such as Tale 102 where Rāṇī Kaikeyī drives Rājā Daśaratha into battle when his charioteer is killed ; or Tale 137 where Draupadī rescues the unconscious Arjun and puts his enemies to flight. Men come in for at least a small share of being deceivers. In this mixture of tales of various sorts, there are ten "moral stories" of the folly of gambling, drinking, and opium-eating. There are also folktales; love stories of Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā of Kṛṣṇa and Rukminī of Auraṅgzīb's sister (Tale 278); and of Joseph and Zulaikhā, based on the Biblical story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife in Genesis.
The closing verses of Tale 405 have some lofty teaching about the Timeless Creator, His understanding love, and end with a plea for His continuing protection. Verses of gratitude for help in completing the composition form the final prayer of the author and close this strange mixture of the tales of intrigue, of women mostly, some worthy, many sinful, in which men are often pictured as the gullible tools of these enchantresses.
C. H. Loehlin