The village at the foot of a hill was peaceful. People were honest and hard working. The Village Chief was a kind and just man.
One morning, the villagers woke up to the sound of a bell. They knew it was not the familiar temple bell. This was different. It sounded scary. A child woken by the sound started crying. The mother hugged her child and said a prayer to ward off danger.
They did not know who was ringing the bell. But they were certain that the sound was coming from the hills.
An old man said that a demon had come to the hills. A cowherd said he saw huge footprints. “No man can leave such huge footprints,” he said. “It must be the footprint of a giant.”
“Why does he ring the bell?” a small urchin asked. He was told to shut up.
But one villager had a ready explanation. “I’ve heard of giants with huge bells hanging from their ears!”
“As they walk, the bells swing making those clanging sounds,” explained a villager who was considered smart.
Now the villagers had a picture of a giant or a group of giants with huge bells hanging from their ears. They called the giants Ghantakarnas — the Bell Demon.
They stopped going to the hillside.
Nagamma, who lived in a hut on the outskirts of the village, became curious. One morning, she left for the hills. Being cautious, she moved stealthily. Then, she heard the bell ringing. Scared, she climbed the nearest tree. From the tree top she could see far. She was surprised to see a pack of monkeys playing. They were playing with a huge bell!
Nagamma surmised that the monkeys must have found the bell in the old temple atop the hill.
She came down from the tree and headed for her village.
She was back next day — this time with a basket full of bananas. Seeing her with bananas, the monkeys came after her. She dropped the basket and ran for cover. The monkey which was ringing the bell, dropped the bell to pick up a banana. The monkeys were busy eating the bananas. They hardly noticed Nagamma picking up the bell and moving away swiftly.
Nagamma reached the village square and rang the bell. At first, the villagers were scared that the Bell Demon had entered the village. Then they realized it was Nagamma ringing the bell. They gathered around her. She told them how she drove away the Bell Demon and walked away with his bell.
The villagers had a hearty laugh. They were also relieved that they were quite safe, for which they thanked Nagamma.