There are a thousand different stories on Sri Badat, the last Hindu or Buddhist king of Gilgit. It is possible that he is Chandra Sri Deva Vikramaditya of the Hunza Rock Inscription. It is said that he ruled all the areas from Chitral to Skardu involving Chitral, Yassin, Tangir, Darel,Chilas, Gor, Astor, Hunza, Nagar and Haramosh all of which were held by tributary princes of the same family. He was dethroned by a Muslim Azur Jamshed which ended the Hindu rule in the area permanently. As the time passed, the folklore built around the king made him a demon, with the general line following many local legends based on a story from the Epic of King Gesar and Jataka Tales. A version of the story is below –
Teb-le was ruled by Cho Bongskang, who had come from a distant land. He was invincible as his body was made of steel and he terrorised the local population.
As the sun’s rays fell very late on his fort at Teb-le, due to the obstruction by a hill, he demanded forced labour from the local population and made them level down the hill. The people were tired of this ruler and his egocentric demands. Once he wanted to have shoes made and the villagers engaged themselves in making shoes for him but none of the shoes would fit him. Ultimately an old woman made a pair of round shoes which fitted his feet and which resembled the hooves of a donkey. This is also indicated in his name, i.e., Cho Bong Skang (Chief Donkey Feet).
As regular tribute each household from the village had to provide him with a kid goat for his royal meals. One day the cook prepared the usual dish of goat meat which tasted unusually good to him. He immediately summoned the cook and demanded as to what meat it was that had such a good flavour. The cook replied that it was meat from the kid provided as tribute by the poor woman of the village whose child had recently died. However as to why the flesh tasted so good to Cho Bongskang the cook could provide no answer. So Cho Bonskang demanded that the woman be brought into his presence immediately. The poor woman was alarmed at being summoned and full of fear appeared before the chief at the fortress. She replied that since her only goat had died while giving birth to the kid, she had fed the kid with her own milk. Upon learning that the flesh of the kid tasted so delicious after being fed on human milk he wondered how good the flesh of young babies would taste.
Following this incident he began to demand young babies as tribute from the villagers instead of a kid. Thus each household had to deliver a child, in rotation, to Cho Bongskang for his meals. The people became weary of this cannibal and wanted to get rid of him but as he was made of iron they were at a loss as to how they would accomplish their task.
An old woman who knew the secret about Cho Bongskang’s vulnerability then took the task of appealing to the ruler at Charasa on behalf of the villagers. She conspired with the Charasa chief and informed him about Cho Bongskang’s heart being made of lac, the only weak point in an otherwise invincible body. It was due to this fact that Bongskang had a great fear of fire which could melt his heart and thus cause his death.
The ruler of Charasa then plotted to have ditch dug just inside the gateway of the fort and this he planned to do on the next occasion when Bongskang went to collect his tribute of a child. Hence on the next moonless night as Bongskang left his fort to collect the tribute from the village one body of the villagers went to the fort to dig a large ditch and cover it with branches and leaves.
A second party of villagers were assembled in the village premises with bundles of juniper branches. As the assembled villagers saw Cho Bongskang approach the village they lit the juniper branches and chased him. In his fear of fire Bongskang ran to take shelter in his fort followed by the villagers with the juniper torches Upon entering the threshold of the fortress he fell into the ditch prepared for him by the villagers. As the villagers approached they began throwing their well lit torches into the ditch where Bongskang struggled amidst the flames. As Bongskang died in agony the villagers threw stones upon him thus burying him in his fortress.
The only difference in this story and Sri Badat’s story is, he is not called Donkey Feet, his heart is of butter, he is brought down by his daughter Miyo Khai(Nur Bhakt Khatun) and her husband Azur Jamshed becomes the saviour. This incident may have happened anywhere between 780 AD and 1150 AD with a high chance of occurrence after the fall of Kabulshahis.
Various versions exist –
1. The Adam-Khor(cannibal) king is killed
2. The king is forced to flee and hid under a glacier in Ishkuman, biding for his time. He cursed for the bad days of Gilgit for the treatment meted out to him
3. The king is called Adam-Khor not for being a cannibal, but due to his harshness
4. Azur Jamshed is a fairy prince tricked to stay on earth by his brothers
5. Azur Jamshed is the son of a local ruler who was on a hunting trip
6. Azur Jamshed was a Persian prince who escaped the fall of Persia and is in search of lands to rule.
7. Shamsher, a local warlord, with his brothers Khushrau and Jamshaid invaded Gilgit. Sri Badat is killed in battle
It is possible that Sri Badat’s cannibalism can be as a case of the “demonization” of past history in order to validate a new social order. That is, Shri Badat, as the last Buddhist king of Gilgit, has been turned into a tyrant and a cannibal in order to discredit Buddhism by demonizing the previously sacred. The same is carried as tumshiling festival where torches are lit in every household and carried to a central place, where they were thrown together to form a bonfire. Just as torches were piled around Shri Badat’s fort to melt his soul/heart of butter, Hunza people would reenact the overthrow of Shri Badat.