Le moulin du diable (Guerande) and the Kamakhya temple legend

This article is off the beaten track.  It concerns an intriguing similarity between the myth behind the “Le moulin du diable” (Devil’s Mill) in Guerande, France and the myth connected to the Kamakhya temple in Assam, India.  In both cases, the Devil has to build some structure within a night in order to secure a bride.  The Devil almost succeeds in his task before a cock prematurely crows to signal that night has ended.  Since this similarity has not been noticed before, I am posting it here.

Kamakhya temple legend in Assam

This is the legend from : http://www.kamakhyatemple.org/LegendofKamakhaya.aspx

Once Naraka, motivated by his carnal desire, wanted to marry Devi Kamakhya. When proposed, the goddess playfully put a condition before him. If Naraka would be able to build a staircase from the bottom of the Nilachal hill to the temple within one night, then she would surely marry him.

Naraka took it as a challenge and tried all with his might to do this marathon task. He was almost about to accomplish the job when the Devi, panic-stricken as she was to see this, played a trick on him. She strangled a cock and made it crow untimely to give the impression of dawn to Naraka. Duped by the trick even Naraka thought that it was a futile job and left it half way through. Later he chased the cock and killed it in a place which is now known as Kukurakata, situated in the district of Darrang. The incomplete staircase is known as Mekhelauja path.

This story appears in print as early as 1893 according to Google Books, although there could be earlier references in books which have not yet been scanned.  Follow the links below to read some early versions.

  1. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol LXII(1893), p 271
  2. Assam district gazetteers, Volume 6 by B. C. Allen, 1905
  3. A history of Assam by Sir Edward Albert Gait (1906)

French folk tale: Le moulin du diable, Guerande

This is the French version of the story from the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/creuse/devil/transcript.shtml

Ce diable, que ce soit dans un cas comme dans l’autre est tombé amoureux de la fille du meunier. Le meunier avait donc son moulin sur le bord de la rivière. Il avait une très belle fille et le diable était tombé amoureux de la fille du meunier. Et le meunier parallèlement avait beaucoup d’ennui parce qu’il n’y avait plus assez d’eau pour faire tourner la roue du moulin. Donc il avait commencé à détourner le ruisseau pour que l’eau vienne encore plus fort sur sa roue du moulin. Mais c’était un travail énorme surtout dans une région comme la nôtre où il y a beaucoup de granite, où la terre est très dure, où il faut piocher dans le rocher, et ce pauvre meunier était désespéré parce qu’il n’y arrivait pas.

Donc le diable, ayant entendu le meunier se plaindre, il lui dit “On va faire un marché. Si tu me donnes ta fille en mariage, moi je détourne le ruisseau pour toi, c’est un petit travail pour moi qui me prendra à peine une nuit”.

Alors le meunier un peu désespéré, mais il fallait bien qu’il finisse par détourner ce ruisseau, fait le marché avec le diable et il lui dit: “Tape là, si tu réussis a détourner le ruisseau avant le lever du soleil et donc avant le chant du coq, puisque le coq chante lorsque le soleil se lève, je te donne ma fille en mariage.”

Alors le diable, fou de joie, se met à travailler comme un malade, remue les rochers, etcetera, etcetera, et malgré tout, avant de commencer ce travail il était tellement sûr de lui qu’il avait donné un très beau bijou à la fille du meunier en guise de fiançailles, de cadeau de fiançailles, un très beau diamant.

Alors la fille du meunier entendait le bruit des rochers, le bruit du martèlement du cheval du diable sur les rochers, et était bien sûr très ennuyée parce qu’elle ne voulait pas se marier avec le diable. Et comme toutes les filles creusoises elle était aussi très maligne. Elle était là en train de se désespérer au bord de la table, elle était assise au bord de la table avec la chandelle qui l’aidait à passer cette nuit épouvantable, et le reflet de la chandelle dans sa bague envoyait des éclats de lumière extraordinaires, tellement cette bague était belle et était pure.

Et à ce moment-là la fille du meunier eut une idée. Elle partit dans le poulailler avec la bougie, la chandelle et sa bague et elle se mit à côté du coq. Et le coq, un peu étourdi par cette espèce de lumière extraordinaire que faisait la lueur de la bougie sur la bague, crut que c’était le lever du jour et se mit à chanter, alors que bien sûr il faisait encore nuit.

Et comme le coq avait chanté et que le diable n’avait pas fini son travail, il restait juste une pierre, une dernière pierre mais elle n’était pas encore déplacée. Le meunier malgré tout réussit à finir le travail tout seul et le diable ne pouvait pas épouser la fille du meunier.

This story appears as early as 1878 according to Google Books.  Follow the links below to read:

  1. Contes de chasse et de pêche by Gaspard Georges Pescow Cherville (marquis de) from 1878
  2. La Revue illustrée de Bretagne et d’Anjou from 1886

English version of the story

The Devil had fallen in love with the Miller’s daughter. This Miller had a mill on the river and he was in distress because there was not enough water to turn the mill wheel. So he began to divert the stream so that water would collide harder on his mill wheel. But it was a lot of work especially in a region like ours where there are lots of granite, where the ground is very hard, where you have to dip into the rock, and this poor fellow was desperate because there happened to be no help.

So the Devil, having heard the Miller to complain, said, “Let’s make a deal. If you give me your daughter in marriage, I diverted the stream for you.  It’s a small job for me and will take me to just one night. “

The Miller was a little desperate, but the stream had to be deflected, so he made the deal with the Devil and said, “Remember this, if you manage to divert the stream before sunrise and therefore before the cock crows, as the cock crows when the sun rises, I give you my daughter in marriage. “

Then the Devil, mad with joy, began to work as a patient moves the rocks, etcetera, etcetera, and yet, before starting the job he was so sure of himself that he had given a beautiful diamond to the Miller’s daughter as an engagement gift.

So the Miller’s daughter heard the sound of rocks, the sound of pounding on the rocks, and was obviously very annoyed because she did not want to marry the Devil. And like all Creusoise girls, she was also very clever. She was in despair sitting at the edge of the table with the candle which helped her to pass this terrible night.  The reflection of the candle in the ring sent bursts of extraordinary light, making the ring look beautiful and pure.

And then the Miller’s daughter had an idea. She went in the house with the candle and the ring and sat next to the rooster. And the cock, a little stunned by this kind of extraordinary light which was the glow of the candle on the ring, thought it was daybreak and began to sing, while of course it was still dark.

And as the cock had sung but the Devil had not finished his work.  He was just one stone away, but the last stone had not moved. The Miller then managed to finish the job himself and the Devil could not marry the Miller’s daughter.

Conclusion

As you can see, the legend behind the Kamakhya temple and the Devil’s Mill in Guerande (Le Moulin du Diable à Guérande) are quite similar and have existed for the past few centuries.  To unravel the source of this mystery requires anthropological investigation into cross-cultural transmissions.

A video tour of the Kamakhya temple, Assam

A French song on the Le moulin de Guérande by Gilles Sevat

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2 thoughts on “Le moulin du diable (Guerande) and the Kamakhya temple legend

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