Legends are narrative songs based on the exploits or sacrifices of some heroic or noble characters of history or tradition. These may be classified as heroic and romantic according to the character and achievements of the hero or heroine. The heroic legends of the Punjab, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra are widely known. Through English translation the romantic ballads of Bengal and Assam have reached the foreign scholars in this field. The Bengali legend of Prince Gopicandra, who was asked by his mother Mayamati to give up worldly life and embrace asceticism for twelve years at the prime of his life, has spread far and wide in the country and even penetrated into Nepal and Tibet. The legend of Jayamati is very popular in the whole of Assam. Jayamati, a princess, was inhumanly tortured to death by an oppressive king because she would not reveal the whereabouts of her husband, a prince who had been a fugitive to save himself from the wrath of that tyrant on the throne. She is a historical character. Her husband Gadadhara Simha became king in A.D. 1681. Her Son Rudra Simha, who succeeded his father in A.D. 1696, built a temple and excavated a big tank in her memory. The suffering undergone, and the tutimate sacrifice made by the lady held as a ransom, forms the subject - matter of this legend. She is adored as a martyr to wifely devotion and her legend still inspires the poets and playwrights of Assam. The anniversary of her death is observed every year in the whole of Assam. Another legend which is very popular throughout the State is that of Maniram Dewan, the 1857 martyr. The Punjabi legend of Rasalu Kuar has been done into English by several translators from different oral sources. It was translated into English for the first time by General Abbot as early as 1854. Rasalu, according to the legend, was the sone of Kind Salivahana of Sialkot, and scholars think that the story gives a hint of the true history of the Indo-Scythian hero who must have flourished between the first Arab invasions of Sind and Kabul and the rise of the Ghaznavi dynasty.25 Both valour and sacrifice for a noble cause are the basic ideas of the legend which is as follows:
Rasalu meets a princess by the side of a well. She has some attendants with her. Rasalu kills the attendants to talk freely with the princess, but falls into danger. He is about to be surrounded by people intending to kill him. He says to the princess:
Here is your mother's house,
But for me it is a foreign land.
For you I will lose my life
And who will send the news back to my home?
The princess replies:
I will make a pyre of sandal wood
By my brother Biram, I swear.
If you lose your life for my sake
I will leap into the flames
Sentiments of love and sacrifice are predominant in the legends of the eastern region and the ideals of heroism and adventure are in those of the western.