"You do not understand" said she—"what I mean by 'Dusty cloth.' God has not given it to me and no one else can; what I mean by 'Dusty cloth' is the cloth of a mother made dusty by the feet of her child." Then her father and mother understood and wept with her, saying that they would do what man could do but this was in the hands of God; and they sang:—
"Whatever the child of another may suffer, we care not: But our own child, we will take into our lap, even when it is covered with dust."
CXLVI. The Brahman's Clothes.
There was once a Brahman who had two wives; like many Brahmans he lived by begging and was very clever at wheedling money out of people. One day the fancy took him to go to the market place dressed only in a small loin cloth such as the poorest labourers wear and see how people treated him. So he set out but on the road and in the market place and in the village no one salaamed to him or made way to him and when he begged no one gave him alms. He soon got tired of this and hastened home and putting on his best pagri and coat and dhoti went back to the market place. This time every one who met him on the road salaamed low to him and made way for him and every shopkeeper to whom he went gave him alms: and the people in the village who had refused before gladly made offerings to him. The Brahman went home smiling to himself and took off his clothes and put them in a heap and prostrated himself before them three or four times, saying each time. "O source of wealth: O source of wealth! it is clothes that are honoured in this world and nothing else."
CXLVII. The Winning of a Bride.
Formerly this country was all jungle; and when the jungle was first cleared the crops were very luxuriant; and the Santals had large herds of cattle, for there was much grazing; so they had milk and curds in quantities and ghee was as common as water; but now milk and curds are not to be had. In those days the Santals spent their time in amusements and did not trouble about amassing wealth, but they were timid and were much oppressed by their Rajas who looted any man who showed signs of wealth. Well, in those days the winters were very cold and there used to be heavy frost at nights. And there was a man who had seven grown-up daughters and no son; and at the time of threshing the paddy he had to undergo much hardship because he had no son to work for him; he had to sleep on the threshing floor and to get up very early to let out the cattle; and as the hoar frost lay two inches deep he found it bitterly cold.
In those days the villagers had a common threshing floor; and one day this man was talking to a friend and he jestingly asked whether he would spend a night naked on the threshing floor; and the friend said that he would if there were sufficient inducement but certainly not for nothing. Then the father of the seven daughters said "If you or any one else will spend a night naked on the threshing floor I will give him my eldest daughter in marriage without charging any bride price."—for he wanted a son-in-law to help him in his work. A common servant in the employ of the village headman heard him and said "I will accept the offer;" the man had not bargained for such an undesirable match but he could not go back from his word; so he agreed and said that he would choose a night; and he waited till it was very cold and windy and then told the headman's servant to sleep out that night. The servant spent the night on the threshing floor without any clothes in spite of the frost and won his bride.
The following stories illustrate the belief in Bongas, i.e. the spirits which the Santals believe to exist everywhere, and to take an active part in human affairs. Bongas frequently assume the form of young men and women and form connections with human beings of the opposite sex.
At the bidding of witches they cause disease, or they hound on the tiger to catch men. But they are by no means always malevolent and are capable of gratitude. The Kisar Bonga or Brownie who takes up his abode in a house steals food for the master of the house, and unless offended will cause him to grow rich.
CXLVIII. Marriage with Bongas.
There have been many cases of Santals marrying bonga girls. Not of course with formal marriage ceremonies but the marriage which results from merely living together.
In Darbar village near Silingi there are two men who married bonga. One of them was very fond of playing on the flute and his playing attracted a bonga girl who came to him looking like a human girl, while he was tending buffaloes. After the intimacy had lasted some time she invited him to visit her parents, so he went with her and she presented him to her father and mother as her husband. But he was very frightened at what he saw; for the seats in the house were great coiled up snakes and on one side a number of tigers and leopards were crouching. Directly he could get a word alone with his wife he begged her to come away but she insisted on his staying to dinner; so they had a meal of dried rice and curds and gur and afterwards he smoked a pipe with his bonga father-in-law and then he set off home with his bonga wife. They were given a quantity of dried rice and cakes to take with them when they left.
After seeing him home his wife left him; so he thought that he would share the provisions which he had brought with a friend of his; he fetched his friend but when they came to open the bundle in which the rice and cakes had been tied, they found nothing but meral leaves and cow dung cakes such as are used for fuel. This friend saw that the food must have been given by bongas and it was through the friend that the story became known.
In spite of this the young man never gave up his bonga wife until his family married him properly. She used to visit his house secretly, but would never eat food there; and during his connection with her all his affairs prospered, his flocks and herds increased and he became rich, but after he married he saw the bonga girl no more.
The adventures of the other young man of the same village were much the same. He made the acquaintance of a bonga girl thinking that she was some girl of the village, but she really inhabited a spring, on the margin of which grew many ahar flowers. One day she asked him to pick her some of the ahar flowers and while he was doing so she cast some sort of spell upon him and spirited him away into the pool. Under the water he found dry land and many habitations; they went on till they came to the bonga girl's house and there he too saw the snake seats and tigers and leopards.
He was hospitably entertained and stayed there about six months; one of his wife's brothers was assigned to him as his particular companion and they used to go out hunting together. They used tigers for hunting-dogs and their prey was men and women, whom the tigers killed, while the bonga took their flesh home and cooked it. One day when they were hunting the bonga pointed out to the young man a wood cutter in the jungle and told him to set the tiger on to "yonder peacock"; but he could not bring himself to commit murder; so he first shouted to attract the wood cutter's attention and then let the tiger loose; the wood cutter saw the animal coming and killed it with his axe as it sprang upon him.
His bonga father-in-law was so angry with him for having caused the death of the tiger, that he made his daughter take her husband back to the upper world again.
In spite of all he had seen the young man did not give up his bonga wife and every two or three months she used to spirit him away under the water: and now that man is a jan guru.
CXLIX. The Bonga Headman.
Sarjomghutu is a village about four miles from Barhait Bazar on the banks of the Badi river. On the river bank grows a large banyan tree. This village has no headman or paranic; any headman who is appointed invariably dies; so they have made a bonga who lives in the banyan tree their headman.
When any matter has to be decided, the villagers all meet at the banyan tree, where they have made their manjhi than; they take out a stool to the tree and invite the invisible headman to sit on it. Then they discuss the matter and themselves speak the answers which the headman is supposed to give. This goes on to the present day and there is no doubt that these same villagers sometimes offer human sacrifices, but they will never admit it, for it would bring them bad luck to speak about it.
The villagers get on very well with the bonga. If any of them has a wedding or a number of visitors at his house, and has not enough plates and dishes, he goes to the banyan tree and asks the headman to lend him some. Then he goes back to his house, and returning in a little while finds the plates and dishes waiting for him under the tree; and when he has finished with them he cleans them well and takes them back to the tree.
CL. Lakhan and the Bongas.
Once a young man named Lakhan was on a hunting party and he pursued a deer by himself and it led him a long chase until he was far from his companions; and when he was close behind it they came to a pool all overgrown with weeds and the deer jumped into the pool and Lakhan after it; and under the weeds he found himself on a dry high road and he followed the deer along this until it entered a house and he also entered. The people of the house asked him to sit down but the stool which was offered him was a coiled up snake, so he would not go near it; and he saw that they were bongas and was too frightened to speak. And in the cattle pen attached to the house he saw a great herd of deer.
Then a boy came running in and asked the mistress of the house who Lakhan was; she said that he had brought their kid home for them. Lakhan wanted to run away but he could not remember the road by which he had come. Two daughters of the house were there and they wanted their father to keep Lakhan as a son-in-law; but their father told them to catch him a kid and let him go; so they brought him a fawn and the two girls led him back and took him through the pool to the upper world: but on the way they put some enchantment on him, for two or three weeks later he went mad and in his madness he ran about from one place to another and one day he ran into the pool and was seen no more, and no one knows where he went or whether the two bonga maidens took him away.
CLI. The House Bonga.
Once upon a time there was a house bonga who lived in the house of the headman of a certain village; and it was a shocking thief; it used to steal every kind of grain and food, cooked and uncooked; out of the houses of the villagers. The villagers knew what was going on but could never catch it.
One evening however the bonga was coming along with a pot of boiled rice which it had stolen, when one of the villagers suddenly came upon it face to face; the bonga slunk into the hedge but the villager saw it clearly and flung his stick at it, whereupon the bonga got frightened and dropped the pot of rice on the ground so that it was smashed to pieces and fled. The villager pursued the bonga till he saw it enter the headman's house. Then he went home, intending the next morning to show the neighbours the spilt rice lying on the path; but when the morning came he found that the rice had been removed, so he kept quiet.
At midday he heard the headman's servants complaining that the rice which had been given them for breakfast was so dirty and muddy that some of them had not been able to eat it at all; then he asked how they were usually fed "Capitally," they answered "we get most varied meals, often with turmeric and pulse or vegetables added to the rice; but that is only for the morning meal; for supper we get only plain rice." "Now, I can tell you the reason of that" said the villager, "there is a greedy bonga in your house who goes stealing food at night and puts some of what he gets into your pots for your morning meal." "That's a fine story" said the servants: "No, it's true" said the villager, and told them how the evening before he had made the bonga drop the rice and how afterwards it had been scraped up off the ground; and when they heard this they believed him because they had found the mud in their food.
Some time afterwards the same man saw the bonga again at night making off with some heads of Indian corn; so he woke up a friend and they both took sticks and headed off the bonga, who threw down the Indian corn and ran away to the headman's house. Then they woke up the headman and told him that a thief had run into his house. So he lit a lamp and went in to look, and they could hear the bonga running about all over the house making a great clatter and trying to hide itself; but they could not see it. Then they took the headman to see the Indian corn which the bonga had dropped in its flight. The next day the villagers met and fined the headman for having the bonga in his house; and from that time the bonga did not steal in that village, and whenever the two men who had chased it visited the headman's house the bonga was heard making a great clatter as it rushed about trying to hide.
CLII. The Sarsagun Maiden.
There was once a Sarsagun girl who was going to be married; and a large party of her girl friends went to the jungle to pick leaves for the wedding. The Sarsagun girl persisted in going with them as usual though they begged her not to do so. As they picked the leaves they sang songs and choruses; so they worked and sang till they came to a tree covered with beautiful flowers; they all longed to adorn their hair with the flowers but the difficulty was that they had no comb or looking glass; at last one girl said that a bonga Kora lived close by who could supply them; thereupon there was a great dispute as to who should go to the bonga Kora and ask for a mirror and comb; each wanted the other to go; and in the end they made the Sarsagun girl go. She went to the bonga Kora and called "Bonga Kora give a me mirror and comb that we may adorn our hair with Mirjin flowers." The Bonga Kora pointed them out to her lying on a shelf and she took them away.
Then they had a gay time adorning their hair; but when they had finished not one of the girls would consent to take back the mirror and comb. The Sarsagun maiden urged that as she had brought them it was only fair that someone else should take them back; but they would not listen, so in the end she had to take them. The Bonga Kora pointed to a shelf for her to place them on but when she went to do so and was well inside his house he closed the door and shut her in. Her companions waited for her return till they were tired and then went home and told her mother what had happened. Then her father and brother went in search of her and coming to the Bonga Kora's home they sang:
"Daughter, you combed yourself with a one row comb Daughter, you put mirjin flowers in your hair Daughter, come hither to us."
But she only answered from within—
"He has shut me in with a stone, father He has closed the door upon me, father Do you and my mother go home again."
Then her eldest brother came and sang the same song and received the same answer; her mothers's brother and father's sister then came and sang, also in vain; so they all went home.
Just then the intended bridegroom with his party arrived at the village and were welcomed with refreshments and invited to camp under a tree; but while the bridegroom's party were taking their ease, the bride's relations were in a great to-do because the bride was missing; and when the matchmaker came and asked them to get the marriage ceremony over at once that the bridegroom might return, they had to take him into the house and tell him what had happened. The matchmaker went and told the bridegroom, who at once called his men to him and mounted his horse and rode off in a rage. Now it happened that the drummers attached to the procession had stopped just in front of the home of the Bonga Kora and were drumming away there; so when the bridegroom rode up to them his horse passed over the door of the Bonga Kora's home and stamped on it so hard that it flew open; standing just inside was the Sarsagun girl; at once the bridegroom pulled her out, placed her on his horse and rode off with her to his home.
CLIII. The Schoolboy and the Bonga.
There was once a boy who went every day to school and on his way home he used always to bathe in a certain tank. Every day he left his books and slate on the bank while he bathed and no one ever touched them. But one day while he was in the water a bonga maiden came out of the tank and took his books and slate with her under the water. When the boy had finished bathing he searched for them a long time in vain and then went home crying. When the midday meal was served he refused to eat anything unless his books were found: his father and mother promised to find them for him and so he ate a very little. When the meal was finished his father and mother went to the bonga maiden and besought her—singing
"Give daughter-in-law, give Give our boy his pen, give up his pen."
The bonga maiden sang in answer
"Let the owner of the pen Come himself and fetch it."
Then the boy's eldest brother and his wife went and sang
"Give, sister-in-law, give, Give our brother his pen: give up his pen."
The bonga maiden sing in answer
"Let the owner of the pen Come himself and fetch it"
Then the boy's maternal uncle and his wife went and sang the same song and received the same answer. So they told the boy that he must go himself.
When he reached the tank the bonga girl came up and held out his books to him; but when he went to take them she drew back and so she enticed him into the tank; but when once he was under the water he found he was in quite a dry and sandy place. There he stayed and was married to the bonga girl. After he had lived with her a long time he became homesick and longed to see his father and mother. So he told his bonga wife that he must go and visit them. "Then do not take your school books with you," said she; "perhaps you won't come back." "No, I will surely return," he answered; so she agreed to his going and said that she would sit on the door step and watch for his return; and he must promise to be very quick. She tied up some cakes and dried rice for him and also gave him back his school books.
She watched him go to his home and sat and watched for his return but he never came back. Evening came and night came but he did not return: then the bonga girl rose and went after him. She went through the garden and up to her husband's house in a flame of fire: and there she changed herself into a Karinangin snake and entering the house climbed on to the bed where the boy lay sleeping and climbed on to his breast and bit him.
"Rise mother, rise mother, The Karinangin snake Is biting me."
But no one heard him though he kept on calling: so he died and the bonga girl went away with his spirit.
CLIV. The Bonga's Cave.
There was once a young bonga who dwelt in a cave in the side of a hill in the jungle; and every day he placed on a flat stone outside, a pot of oil and a comb and a looking glass and some lamp black or vermilion; any woman who went to the jungle could see these things lying there; but they were never visible to a man. After a time the girls who went to the jungle began to use the comb and looking glass and to dress and oil their hair there; it became a regular custom for them to go first to the flat stone before collecting their firewood or leaves.
One day five girls went together to the jungle and after they had combed and dressed their hair it happened that one got left behind; and seeing her alone the bonga came out of the cave and creeping up quietly from behind threw his arms round her; and although she shouted to her friends for help he dragged her inside the cave. Her companions were just in time to see her disappear; and they begged and prayed the bonga to let the girl go for once; but the bonga answered from within that he would never let her go but was going to keep her as his wife; and he drew a stone door over the mouth of the cave. News of the misfortune was sent to the girl's parents and they came hastening to the place; and her mother began to sing:
"My daughter, you rubbed your hair with oil from a pot: My daughter, you combed your hair with a comb with one row of teeth; Come hither to me, my daughter."
And the girl sang from within the cave:
"Mother, he has shut me in with a stone With a stone door he has shut me in, mother Mother, you must go back home."
Then her father sang the same song and got the same answer; so they all went home. Then the girl's father's younger brother and his wife came and sang the song and received the same answer and then her mother's brother and father's sister came and then all her relations, but all in vain. Last of all came her brother riding on a horse and when he heard his sister's answer he turned his horse round and made it prance and kick until it kicked open the stone door of the cave; but this was of no avail for inside were inner doors which he could not open; so he also had to go home and leave his sister with the bonga.
The girl was not unhappy as the wife of the bonga and after a time she proposed to him they should go and pay a visit to her parents. So the next day they took some cakes and dried rice and set off; they were welcomed right warmly and pressed to stay the night. In the course of the afternoon the girl's mother chanced to look at the provisions which they had brought with them; and was surprised to see that in place of cakes was dried cowdung and instead of rice, leaves of the meral tree. The mother called her daughter in to look but the girl could give no explanation; all she knew was that she had put up cakes and dried rice at starting. Her father told them all to keep quiet about the matter lest there should be any unpleasantness and the bonga decline to come and visit them again.
Now the girl's brother had become great friends with his bonga brother-in-law and it was only natural that when the bonga and his wife set off home the next morning he should offer to accompany them part of the way. Off they started, the girl in front, then the bonga and then her brother; now the brother had hidden an axe under his cloth and as they were passing through some jungle he suddenly attacked the bonga from behind and cut off his head. Then he called to his sister that he had killed the bonga and bade her come back with him; so the two turned back and as they looked round this saw that the bonga's head was coming rolling after them. At this they started to run and ran as hard as they could until they got to the house and all the way the head came rolling after until it rolled right into the house. There was a fire burning on the hearth and they plucked up courage to take the head and throw it into the fire where it was burnt to ashes. That was the end of the bonga but eight or nine days later the girl's head began to ache and in spite of all medicines they applied it got worse and worse until in a short time she died. Then they knew that the bonga had taken her away and had not given her up.
CLV. The Bonga's Victim.
Once upon a time there were seven brothers and they had one sister. Every day they used to go out hunting leaving their wives and sister at home. One very hot day they had been hunting since dawn and began to feel very thirsty; so they searched for water but could find none. Then one of them climbed a tree and from its summit saw a beautiful pool of water close by: so he came down and they all went in the direction in which he had seen the water; but they could not find it anywhere; so another of the brothers climbed a tree and he called out that he could see the pool close by, but when he came down and led them in what he thought was the right direction he was equally unable to find the water; and so it went on; whenever they climbed a tree they could see the water close by, but when on the ground they could not find it; and all the time they were suffering tortures from thirst.
Then they saw that some bonga was deluding them and that they must offer some sacrifice to appease him.
At first they proposed to devote one of their wives to the bonga; but not one of the brothers was willing that his wife should be the victim; and they had no children to offer so at last they decided to dedicate their only sister as the sacrifice. Then they prayed "Ye who are keeping the water from us, listen; we dedicate to you our only sister; show us where the water is." No sooner had they said this than they saw a pool of water close beside them and hastened to it and quenched their thirst. Then they rested and began to discuss how they should sacrifice their sister; and at last they decided that as they had devoted her to the bonga because they wanted water, it would be best to cast her into the water; and they planned to go and work one day near a pond of theirs and make their sister bring their breakfast out to them and then drown her.
So they went home and two or three days later the eldest brother said that the time had come for the sacrifice; but the two youngest loved their sister very much and begged for a little delay. Out of pity the others agreed; but almost at once one of the brothers fell ill and was like to die. Medicines were tried but had no effect; then they called in an ojha and he told them that the bonga to whom they had made the vow while out hunting had caused the illness and that if they did not fulfil the vow their brother would die. Then they all went to the sick man's bedside and poured out water on the ground and swore that they would fulfil their vow; no sooner had they done so than the sick man was restored to health.
So the very next day they arranged to go and level the field near their pond and they told their wives to send their sister to them with their breakfast. When the time came the girl took out their breakfast and put it down by them and they sent her to draw water for them from the pond but when she put her water pot down to the surface it would not sink so as to let the water run in. The girl called out to her brothers that the pot would not fill; they told her to go a little further into the water; so she went in till the water was up to her thighs but still the pot would not fill: then they called to her to go in further and she went in waist deep but still it would not fill; then she went in up to her neck and still it would not fill; then she went in a little further and the water closed over her and she was drowned. At this sight the brothers threw away the food which she had brought and hastened home.
Some days later the body rose and floated to the bank and at the place where it lay a bamboo sprang up and grew and flourished. One day a Dome went to cut it down to make a flute of; as he raised his axe the voice of the girl spoke from within the bamboo "O Dome, do not cut high up; cut low down." The Dome looked about but could not see who it was who spoke; however he obeyed the voice and cut the bamboo close to the ground and made a flute of it. The sound of the flute was surpassingly sweet and the Dome used to play on it every day. One day he was playing on it at a friend's house and a Santal heard it and was so taken by its sweet tone that he came at night and stole it.
Having got possession of it he used to play on it constantly and always keep it by him. Every night the flute became a woman and the Santal found her in his house without knowing where she came from and used to spend the night talking to her but towards morning she used to go outside the house on some pretext and disappear. But one night as she was about to depart the Santal seized her and forced her to stay with him. Then she retained her human form but the flute was never seen afterwards; so they called the girl the Flute girl and she and the Santal were betrothed and soon afterwards married.
CLVI. Baijal and the Bonga.
Once upon a time there was a young man named Baijal and he was very skilful at playing on the bamboo flute. He played so sweetly that a bonga girl who heard him fell deeply in love with him and one day when Baijal was alone in the jungle she took the form of a pretty girl and pretended that she had come to the jungle to gather leaves. The two met and acquaintance soon became love and the two used to meet each other every day in the jungle. One day the bonga girl asked Baijal to come home with her; so they went to a pool of water and waded into it but when the water had risen to the calf of his leg Baijal suddenly found himself on a broad dry road which led to his mistress's house. When they reached it the bonga girl introduced Baijal to her father and brothers as her husband and told him not to be afraid of anything he saw; but he could not help feeling frightened, for the stools on which they sat were coiled-up snakes and the house dogs were tigers and leopards.
After he had been there three of four day his brothers-in-law one morning asked him to come out hunting pea fowl. He readily agreed and they all set out together. The Bongas asked Baijal to lead the dog but as the dog was a tiger he begged to be excused until they reached the jungle. So they hunted through the hills and valleys until they came to a clearing in which there was a man chopping up a tree. Then the bongas called to Baijal "There is a peacock feeding; take the dog; throw a stick and knock the bird over and then loose the dog at it." Baijal pretended not to understand and said that he could see no peacock; then they told him plainly that the man chopping the log was their game. Then he saw that he was meant to kill the man and not only so, but that he would have to eat the flesh afterwards. However he was afraid to refuse, so he took the tiger in the leash and went towards the clearing but instead of first throwing his stick at the man he merely let the tiger loose and cheered it on. The wood cutter heard the shout and looking round saw the tiger; grasping his axe he ran to meet it and as the animal sprang on him he smote it on the head and killed it. Then Baijal went back and told his brothers-in-law that the peacock had pecked their hound to death. They were very angry with him for not throwing his stick first but he explained that he thought that such a big dog as theirs would not need any help.
Two or three days later Baijal told his bonga wife to come home with him, so they set off with a bundle of provisions for the journey. When they had passed out through the pool Baijal opened the bundle to have something to eat but found that the bread had turned into cowdung fuel cakes; and the parched rice into meral leaves; so he threw them all away. However he would not give up the bonga girl and they used to meet daily and in the course of time two children were born to them. Whenever there was a dance in the village the bonga girl used to come to it. She would leave the two children on Baijal's bed and spend the whole night dancing with the other women of the village.
The time came when Baijal's parents arranged for his marriage, for they knew nothing of his bonga wife; and before the marriage the bonga made him promise that if he had a daughter he would name the child after her. Even when he was married he did not give up his bonga wife and used to meet her as before. One night she came with her children to a dance and after dancing some time said that she was tired and would go away; Baijal urged her not to go but to come with her children and live in his house along with his other wife. She would not agree and he tried to force her and shut the door of the house; but she and her children rose to the roof in a flash of light and disappeared over the top of the house wall and passed away from the village in a flame of fire. At this Baijal was so frightened that from that time he gave her up and never went near her again.
By and bye his wife bore him a daughter but they did not name the child after the bonga and the consequence was that it soon pined away and died. Two or three more were born but they also all died young because he had not named them after the bonga. At last he did give a daughter the right name and from that time his children lived.
CLVII. Ramai and the Bonga.
Once a bonga haunted the house of a certain man and became such a nuisance that the man had him exorcised and safely pegged down to the ground; and they fenced in the place where the bonga lay with thorns and put a large stone on the top of him. Just at the place was a clump of "Kite's claws" bushes and one day when the berries on the bushes were ripe, a certain cowherd named Ramai went to pick them and when he came round to the stone which covered the bonga he stood on it to pick the fruit and the bonga called out to him to get off the stone; Ramai looked about and seeing no one said "Who is that speaking?" and the voice said "I am buried under the stone; if you will take it off me I will give you whatever boon you ask"; Ramai said that he was afraid that the bonga would eat him but the bonga swore to do him no harm, so he lifted up the stone and the bonga came out and thanking Ramai told him to ask a boon.
Ramai asked for the power to see bongas and to understand the language of ants. "I will give you the power," said the bonga, "but you must tell no one about it, not even your wife; if you do you will lose the power and in that case you must not blame me," Then the bonga blew into his ear and he heard the speech of ants; and the bonga scratched the film of his eye balls with a thorn and he saw the bongas: and there were crowds of them living in villages like men. In December when we thresh the rice the bongas carry off half of it; but Ramai could see them and would drive them away and so was able to save his rice.
Once a young fellow of his own age was very ill; and his friends blew into his ears and partially brought him to his senses and he asked them to send for Ramai; so they called Ramai and he had just been milking his cows and came with the tethering rope in his hand; and when he entered the room he saw a bonga sitting on the sick man's chest and twisting his neck; so he flogged it with the rope till it ran away and he pursued it until it threw itself into a pool of water; and then the sick man recovered.
But Ramai soon lost his useful power; one day as he was eating his dinner he dropped some grains of rice and two ants fell to quarrelling over one grain and Ramai heard them abusing each other and was so amused that he laughed out loud.
His wife asked why he laughed and he said at nothing in particular, but she insisted on knowing and he said that it was at some scandal he had heard in the village; but she would not believe him and worried him until he told her that it was at the quarrel of the ants. Then she made him tell her how he gained the power to understand what they said: but from that moment he lost the powers which the bonga had conferred on him.
CLVIII. The Boundary Bonga.
There was once a man who owned a rich swampy rice field. Every year he used to sacrifice a pig to the boundary bonga before harvest; but nevertheless the bonga always reaped part of the crop. One year when the rice was ripening the man used to go and look at it every day. One evening after dusk as he was sitting quietly at the edge of the field he overheard the bonga and his wife talking. The bonga said that he was going to pay a visit to some friends but his wife begged him not to go because the rice was ripe and the farmer would be cutting it almost at once. However the bonga would not listen to her advice and set off on his journey.
The farmer saw that there was no time to be lost and the very next day he sacrificed the usual pig and reaped the whole of the crop. That evening when work was over he stayed and listened to hear whether the bonga had come back, but all was quiet. The next day he threshed the paddy and instead of twenty bushels as usual he found that he had got sixty bushels of rice, That evening he again went to the field and this time he found that the bonga had returned and was having a fine scolding from his wife, because he had let the farmer reap the whole crop. "Take your silly pig and your silly plate of flour from the sacrifice," screamed the bonga's wife, throwing them at her spouse, "that is all you have got; this is all because you would go away when I told you not to do it; how could I reap the crop with the children to look after? If you had stayed we might have got five bandis of rice from that field."
CLIX. The Bonga Exorcised.
A very poor man was once ploughing his field and as he ploughed the share caught fast in something. At first he thought that it was a root and tried to divide it with his axe; but as he could not cut it he looked closer and found that it was a copper chain. He followed the chain along and at either end he found a brass pot full of rupees. Delighted with his luck he wrapped the pots in his cloth and hurried home. Then he and his wife counted the money and buried it under the floor of their house.
From that time the man began to prosper; his crops were always good; and his cattle increased and multiplied; he had many children and they grew up strong and healthy and were married and had children of their own.
But after many years luck changed. The family was constantly ill and every year a child died. The jan guru who was consulted declared that a Kisar bonga was responsible for their misfortunes. He told the sons how their father had found the money in the ground and said that the bonga to whom the money belonged was responsible for their misfortunes and was named Mainomati.
He told them how to get rid of the bonga. They were to dig up the buried money and place it in bags; and load it on the back of a young heifer; and take five brass nails and four copper nails, and two rams. If the bonga was willing to leave the house the heifer would walk away to another village directly the bags were placed on its back; but if the bonga would not go the heifer would not move.
So they did as the Janguru advised and when the bags were placed on the heifer it walked away to a large peepul tree growing on the banks of a stream in another village and there it stopped. Then they sacrificed the rams and uttering vows over the nails drove them into the peepul tree and went home, turning the heifer loose. From that time their troubles ceased.
But that evening a man driving his cattle home saw a young woman nailed to the peepul tree; and not knowing that she was a bonga he released her and took her home and married her.
The legends and customary beliefs contained in this part are definitely connected with the Santals.
CLX. The Beginning of Things.
In the days of old, Thakur Baba had made everything very convenient for mankind and it was by our own fault that we made Thakur Baba angry so that he swore that we must spend labour in making things ready for use.
This is the story that I have heard.
When the Santals lived in Champa and the Kiskus were their kings, the Santals were very simple and religious and only worshipped Thakur. In those days the rice grew ready husked, and the cotton bushes bore cloth all ready woven and men did not have to pick the lice out of each others' hair; men's skulls grew loose and each man could lift off his own skull and clean it and then replace it. But all this was spoilt by the misdeeds of a serving girl of one of the Rajas. When she went into the field for purposes of nature she would at the same time pick and eat the rice that grew by her; and when she had made her hands dirty cleaning out a cow house she would wipe them on the cloth which she was wearing. Angered by these dirty habits Thakur Baba deprived men of the benefits which he had conferred upon them and the rice began to grow in a husk and the cotton plants only produced raw cotton and men's skulls became fixed so that they could not be removed.
In those old days too the sky was quite close to the earth and Thakur Baba used to come and visit men in their houses. So it was a saying among our forefathers "Do, not throw your dirty leaf plates near the front or back door and do not let your brass plates and dishes remain unwashed at night; for if Thakur Baba come along and see them so, he will not come into the house but will be angry and curse us." But one day a woman after finishing her meal threw the used leaf plate out of the door, and a gust of wind carried it up to the sky; this displeased Thakur Baba and he resolved no longer to dwell in the neighbourhood of men as they were so ill-mannered as to throw their dirty leaf plates at him and so he lifted the sky to its present height above the earth.
To this day men who have heard of this scold those who throw their refuse into the street and bid them heap it up in some out-of-the-way place.
The misdeeds of men at length made Thakur Baba so angry that he resolved to destroy them all. Now Thakur Baba is Sing Chando or the Sun, and the Moon is his wife: and at first there were as many stars by day as there are by night and they were all the children of the Sun and Moon who had divided them between them. So Sing Chando having resolved to destroy mankind blazed with a fierce heat till man and beast writhed under the torture of it. But when the Moon looked down and saw their sufferings she was filled with pity and thought how desolate the earth would be without a living being on it. So she hastened to Sing Chando and prayed him not to desolate the earth; but for all her beseeching the utmost that she could obtain was a promise from her Lord that he would spare one or two human beings to be the seed of a future race. So Sing Chando chose out a young man and a young woman and bade them go into a cave in a hill side and close the mouth of the cave with a raw hide and when they were safely inside he rained fire from heaven and killed every other living being on the earth.
Five days and five nights it rained fire and the man and woman in the cave sang—(to the Baha tune)
"Five days and five nights the fire will rain, ho! Five days and five nights, all night long, ho! Where will you two human beings stay? Where will you two take shelter? There is a hide, a hide: There is also a hill: There is also a cave in the rock! There will we two stay: There will we two take shelter."
When they came out of the cave the first thing they saw was a cow lying burnt to death with a karke tree fallen on the top of it and near it was lying a buffalo cow burnt to death; at the sight they sang:—
"The cow is glowing cinders, glowing cinders: The karke tree is burnt: The buffalo cow has fallen and has been burnt to ashes, to ashes."
And as they went on, they sang a similar lament over the remains of each living being as they saw it.
Although these two had been spared to raise up a new race, Ninda Chando, the Moon, feared that the Sun would again get angry with the new race and destroy it; and so she made a plan to trick him. She covered up all her children with a large basket and smeared her mouth and lips with red and going to Sing Chando told him that she had eaten up every one of her children and proposed that he should now eat up his. At first Sing Chando declined to believe her but she pointed to her lips and said that they were red with the blood of the children; so Sing Chando was convinced and agreed to eat up his children except two whom he would keep to play with. So they devoured all but two and the two that were saved are the morning and evening stars.
Thus Sing Chando was deprived of the power to again burn up the earth; but when that night Ninda Chando let out her own children from under the basket she warned them to beware of the wrath of their father when he found out the trick that had been played him. When Sing Chando saw Ninda Chando's children still alive he flew to her in a passion and the children at the sight of him scattered in all directions and that is why the stars are now spread all over the sky; at first they were all in one place. Although the stars escaped, Sing Chando could not restrain his wrath and cut Ninda Chando in two and that is why the Moon waxes and wanes; at first she was always full like the sun.
Some men say that the man and woman whom Thakur hid in the cave were Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Budhi and they had twelve sons and twelve daughters and mankind is descended from them and has increased and filled the earth; and that it was in that country that we were divided into twelve different races according to the food which our progenitors chose at a feast.
CLXI. Chando and His Wife.
Once upon a time Chando went to the hills to fashion a plough out of a log of wood; and his wife was left at home alone, Chando was so long in coming back that his wife grew impatient; so she made some mosquitos and sent them to worry him and drive him home. But Chando made some dragon-flies and they ate up the mosquitos and he went on with his work. His wife made various other animals and sent them out, but Chando destroyed them all. At last she made a tiger and sent it to frighten him home; but Chando took up a handful of chips from the log he was cutting and threw them at the tiger and they turned into wild dogs and chased the tiger away. Ever since that no tiger will face wild dogs.
Then Chando's wife shut up a locust in an iron pot and when Chando at last came home she asked him "Why have you been so long? Who is to give food and drink to all the living creatures if you don't attend to business." Chando answered that he had fed them all.
"No you have not, you have not fed the locust!"
"But I have" said Chando.
Then she took the lid off the iron pot and showed him the locust eating grass inside; and Chando had nothing to say.
CLXII. The Sikhar Raja.
Santals say that the Sikhar Raja was a bonga and this is the story they tell about him. A certain woman was with child but could not say by whom she was pregnant so she fled into the jungle and at the foot of a clump of bamboos gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl; and then went home leaving the children lying in the jungle. The children lay there crying very pitifully. Now a herd of wild bison was grazing in the jungle and they heard the crying and one of the cows went to see what was the matter and took pity on the children and suckled them. Every day she came three times and fed them; and under her care the children grew up strong and healthy. If any man came to hunt in the jungle the bison-cow used to attack him and drive him away; she used to bring the bows and arrows which the hunters threw away in their flight to the boy that he might learn how to shoot. And when any basket makers passed by the jungle on their way to market to sell their wares she used to charge out at them and then bring to the girl the winnowing fans and baskets they threw down in their fright, so that she might learn to sift rice.
Thus the children prospered; and the boy was named Harichand and he and his sister looked like gods. When they grew up they married each other and then the bison-cow left them. Then Thakur sent from heaven sixteen hundred gopinis and the gopinis said that Harichand and his wife should be king and queen in that land of Sikhar. Then they took counsel together as to where the royal fort should be. Three scribes sat down to study the books with Harichand and his wife in their midst; on the right sat the scribe Hikim, and on the left the scribe Bhuja and the scribe Jaganath opened the book to see where the fort should be; and all the gopinis sat round in a circle and sang while the book was read.
"Raja Harichand of the Sikhar stock, of Jhalamala, Where is his abode! Raja Harichand of the Sikhar stock, of Jhalamala, In the bamboo clump is his abode!"
"Raja Harichand of the Sikhar stock of Jhalamala In the banyan-tree field in his abode! Raja Harichand, of the Sikhar stock, of Jhalamala, In the brinjal corner is his abode."
And they found in the book that the fort should be in Pachet hill; then they sang in triumph:—
"It will not do, O Raja, to build a fort here: We will leave Paras and build a fort on Pachet hill: There in the happy Brinda forest."
Then they brought the Raja and Rani from the jungle to Pachet and on the top of the Pachet hill a stone fort sprang up for them; and all the country of Sikhar acknowledged their sway. After that the Santals made their way from Champa and dwelt in Sikhar and cleared all the jungle in it and abode there many years. They called the Sikhar Raja a bonga because no one knew his father or mother. Under Raja Harichand the Santals were very contented and happy, and when he celebrated the Chatar festival they used to sing this song, because they were so contented:—
"Harichand Raja was born of a bison-cow, Sirguja Rana was born of a snake."
CLXIII. The Origin of Tobacco.
This is the way that the chewing tobacco began. There was once a Brahmin girl whose relations did not give her in marriage and she died unmarried. After the body had been burned and the people had gone home, Chandu thought "Alas, I sent this woman into the world and she found favour with no one; well, I will confer a gift on her which will make men ask for her every day," So he sowed tobacco at the burning place and it grew up and flourished. And there was a boy of the cowherd caste who used to graze his cattle about that place; he saw his goats greedily eating the tobacco leaf and he wondered what the leaf was and tasted a bit but finding it bitter he spat it out. Some time after however he had tooth-ache and having tried many remedies in vain he bethought himself of the bitter tobacco and he chewed some of that and kept it in his mouth and found that it cured the tooth-ache; from that time he formed the habit of chewing it. One day he saw some burnt bones or lime and he picked up the powder and rubbed it between his fingers to see what it was and after doing so he ate some tobacco and found that the taste was improved, so from that time he always chewed lime with the tobacco. He recommended the leaf to other men who had tooth-ache and they formed the habit of chewing it too and called it tobacco; and then men who had no tooth-ache took to it; and acquired a craving for it. This is the way tobacco chewing began, as our forefathers say.
CLXIV. The Transmigration of Souls.
All the cats of Hindus have believed and believe, and the Santals also have said and say, that Thakur made the land and sky and sea and man and animals and insects and fish and the creation was complete and final: he made their kinds and castes once for all and did not alter them afterwards; and he fixed the time of growth and of dwelling in the body; and for the flowers to seed and he made at that time as many souls as was necessary and the same souls go on being incarnated sometimes in a human body and sometimes in the body of an animal; and so it is that many human beings really have the souls of animals; if a man has a man's soul he is of a gentle disposition; but if he gets the soul of a dog or cat then he is bad tempered and ready to quarrel with everyone; and the man with a frog's soul is silent and sulky and those who get tiger's souls when they start a quarrel never give up till they gain their point. There is a story which proves all this.
There was once a Brahman who had two wives and as he knew something of herbs and simples he used to leave his wives at home and go about the country as a quack doctor; but whenever he came home his two wives used to scold him and find fault with him for no reason at all till they made his life a burden. So he resolved to leave two such shrews and one day when they had been scolding as usual he put on the garb of a jogi and in spite of their protests went out into the world.
After journeying two or three days he came to a town in which a pestilence was raging and he sat down to rest under a tree on the outskirts. There he noticed that many corpses had been thrown out and he saw two vultures fly down to feed on the bodies; and the he-vulture said to his mate "Which corpse shall we eat first?" Now the Brahman somehow understood the language of the birds—but the mate returned no answer though the he-vulture kept on repeating the question; at last she said "Don't you see there is a man sitting at the foot of the tree?" Then they both approached the Brahman and asked why he was sitting in such a place and whether he was in distress; he told them that trouble had driven him from his home and that he was wandering about the world as chance led him, because the continual quarrelling of his two wives was more than he could bear. The vultures said "We will give you a means by which you may see your wives as they really are" and one of them pulled out a wing feather and told him when he went to any house begging to stick it behind his ear and then he would see what the people were really like; and they advised him to marry a woman who gave him alms with her hands. Then he got up and went away with the feather, leaving the birds to prey on the corpses.
When the Brahman came to a village to beg he saw by the aid of the feather, that some of the people were really cats and some were dogs and other animals and when they gave him alms they brought it in their teeth; then he made up his mind to go home and see what his wives really were; and he found that one was a bitch and one was a sow; and when they brought him water they carried the cup in their months; at this sight he left the house again in disgust, determined to marry any woman who offered him alms with her hands.
He wandered for days till at last the daughter of a Chamar, when he begged, brought him alms in her hands; and he at once determined to stay there and marry her at all costs; so he sat down and when the Chamar asked why he did not go away he said that he meant to marry the girl who had given him alms and live in his house as his son-in-law; the Chamar did all he could to remonstrate at such an extraordinary proposal as that a Brahman should destroy his caste by marrying a Chamar; the Brahman said that they might do what they liked to him but that he would not leave till he obtained his bride. So at last the Chamar called in his castefellows and relations to advise him whether he would be guilty of any sin in yielding to the proposal of the Brahman; and they called into council the principal villagers of all the other castes and after fully questioning the Chamar and the Brahman the judgment of the villagers was that the marriage should take place and they would take the responsibility. Then the Brahman was made to give a full account of himself and where he had come from, and when this was found to be true, the bride price was fixed and paid and the marriage took place and the Brahman became a Chamar.
CLXV. The Next World.
This is what the Santals say about the next world. After death men have a very hard time of it in the next world. Chando bonga makes them work terribly hard; the woman have to pound the fruit of the castor oil plant with a pestle; and from the seeds Chando bonga makes human beings. All day long they have to work; those women who have babies get a little respite on the excuse of suckling their babies; but those who have no children get no rest at all; and the men are allowed to break off to chew tobacco but those who have not learnt to chew have to work without stopping from morning to night. And this is the reason why Santals learn to chew tobacco when they are alive; for it is of no use to merely smoke a huka: in the next world we shall not be allowed to knock off work in order to smoke. In the next world also it is very difficult to get water to drink. There are frogs who stand on guard and drive away any who comes to the water to drink; and so when Satals die we send drinking vessels with them so that they may be able to run quickly to the water and fill the vessels and get away before they are stopped. And it is said that if a man during his lifetime has planted a peepul tree he gets abused for it in the next world and is told to go and pick the leaves out of the water which have fallen into it and are spoiling it and such a man is able to get water to drink while he is picking the leaves out of it; but whether this is all true I cannot say.
CLXVI. After Death.
When grown-up people die they become ancestral bongas and sacrifices are offered to them at the Flower and Sohrai festivals; and when children die they become bhuts. When a pregnant woman dies, they drive long thorns into the soles of the feet before the body is burned for such women become churins. The reason of this is that when the churin pursues any one the thorns may hurt her and prevent her from running fast: and so the man who is pursued may escape; for if the churin catches him she will lick all the flesh off his bones; they especially attack the belly and their tongues are very rough.
There was once a man who had been to get his ploughshare sharpened by the blacksmith and as he was on his way home it came on to rain, so he took shelter in a hollow tree. While he was waiting for the weather to clear he saw a churin coming along singing and she also came to take shelter in the same tree. Fortunately she pushed in backwards and the man took the ploughshare which was still nearly red hot and pressed it against her back; so she ran away screaming and he made good his escape in the other direction; otherwise he would assuredly have been licked to death.
CLXVII. Hares and Men.
In former days hares used to eat men and a man presented himself before Thakur and said "O Father, these hares do us much damage; they are little animals and hide under leaves and then spring out and eat us; big animals we can see coming and can save ourselves. Have pity on us and deliver us from these little animals," So Thakur summoned the chief of the hares and fixed a day for hearing the case; and when the man and the hare appeared he asked the hare whether they ate men and the hare denied it and asserted on the contrary that men ate hares; but the man when questioned denied that men killed hares. Then Thakur said "O hare and man, I have questioned you both and you give contradictory answers; and neither admits the charge; the matter shall be decided in this way; you, hare, shall watch a Kita tree and if within a year you see a leaf fall from the tree you shall be allowed to eat men; and you, man, shall watch a Korkot tree and if you see a leaf fall, then men shall be allowed to eat hares. Begin your watch to-day and this day next year bring me your leaves." So the man and the hare departed and each sat under a tree to see a leaf fall but they watched and watched in vain until on the last day of the year a korkot leaf fell and the man joyfully picked it up and took it to Thakur; and the hare failing to see a leaf fall bit off a leaf with its teeth and took it to Thakur. Then Thakur examined the two leaves and said to the hare, "This leaf did not fall of itself; see, the tip of the stalk is quite different from the stalk of the leaf this man has brought; you bit it off." And the hare was silent Then Thakur rubbed the legs of the hare with a ball of cleaned cotton and passed this sentence on him, that thenceforward he should skip about like a leaf blown by the wind and that men should hunt hares wherever they found them and kill and eat them, entrails and all.
And this is the reason why Santals do not clean the hares they kill, but eat them entrails and all.
CLXVIII. A Legend.
Once upon a time a woman was found to be with child by her own brother, so the two had to fly the country. In their flight they came to the Mustard Tank and Flower Lake, on the banks of which they prepared to cook their food. They boiled water and cooked rice in it; and then they boiled water to cook pulse to eat with the rice. But when the water was ready they found that they had forgotten to bring any pulse. While they were wondering what they could get to eat with their rice they saw a man of the fisher caste (Keot) coming along with his net on his shoulder. Then the woman sang—
"The son of a Keot is standing on the bank of the tank: The fish are jumping: the son of a Keot is catching the fish."
So the Keot caught them some fish, which they ate with their rice.
Then they went on and by the side of the road they saw a date palm the juice of which had been tapped; and they wished to drink the juice but they found that they had brought no drinking vessel with them. The woman looked about and saw near by a fan palm tree and she sang—
"The peepul's leaves go flicker, flicker: The banyan's leaves are thick and fleshy: Of the fan palm's leaf, brother, make a cup. And we will drink the juice of the date palm."
So her brother made a drinking vessel of a palm leaf and they drank the date juice and went on their way. At nightfall they rested at the foot of a Bael tree and fell into a drunken sleep from the date juice they had drunk.
As the woman lay senseless her child was born to her and no sooner was the child born than a bael fruit fell on to its head and split it into four pieces which flew apart and became four hills. From falling on the new-born child the bael fruit has ever since had a sticky juice and the tree is covered with thorns which are the hair of the child. In the morning the man and woman went on and came to a forest of Tarop trees and the woman wiped her bloody hands on the Tarop trees and so the Tarop tree ever since exudes a red juice like blood.
Next morning they went on and came to a spring and drank of its water and afterwards the woman bathed in it and the blood stained water flowed over all the country and so we see stagnant water covered with a red scum. Going on from there they reached a low lying flat and halted; almost at once they saw a thunder storm coming up from the South and West; and the woman sang—
"A storm as black as the so fruit, brother, Is coming, full of danger for us: Come let us flee to the homestead of the liquor seller."
But the brother answered—
"The liquor seller's house is an evil house: You only wish to go there for mischief."
So they stayed where they were and the lightning came and slew them both.
CLXIX. Pregnant Women.
Pregnant women are not allowed to go about alone outside the village; for there are bongas everywhere and some of them dislike the sight of pregnant women and kill them or cause the child to be born wry-necked.
A pregnant woman may not make a mud fireplace for if she does her child will be born with a hare-lip; nor may she chop vegetables during an eclipse or the same result will follow. She may not ride in a cart, for if she does the child will be always crying and will snore in its sleep; if she eats the flesh of field rats the child's body will be covered with hair and if she eats duck or goose flesh the child will be born with its fingers and toes webbed. Nor may a pregnant woman look on a funeral, for if she does her child will always sleep with its eyes half open.
CLXX. The Influence of the Moon.
If a child is born on the day before the new moon the following ceremony is observed. After bathing the child they place an old broom in the mother's arms instead of the child; then the mother takes the child and throws it out on the dung heap behind the house. The midwife then takes an old broom and an old winnowing fan and sweeps up a little rubbish on to the fan and takes it and throws it on the dung hill; there she sees the child and calls out. "Here is a child on the dung heap" then she pretends to sweep the child with the broom into the winnowing fan and lifts it up and carries it into the house; and asks the people of the house whether they will rear it. They ask what wages she will give them and she promises to give them a heifer when the child is grown up.
If this is not done the child will be unlucky when it grows up; if it is a boy, however often he may marry, his wife will die and so, if it is a girl, her husbands will die.
Another fact is that they always shave a child's head for the first two times during the same moon; if it is shaved first during one moon and then during the following moon; it will always have a headache once a month.
Similarly when they tie the knots in a string to fix the date of a wedding the wedding must take place in the lunar month in which the knots are tied or else the children born of the marriage will die.
CLXXI. Illegitimate Children.
If a woman has an illegitimate child and from fear or shame will not name its father the bastard is called a child of Chando. At its birth there is no assembly of the neighbours; its head is not ceremonially shaved and there is no narta ceremony. The midwife does what is necessary; and the child is admitted into no division of the tribe. If it is a boy it is called Chandu or Chandrai or sometimes Birbanta and if a girl Chandro or Chandmuni or perhaps Bonela. Sometimes after the child is born the mother will under seal of secrecy tell its father's name to her mother or the midwife; and then between themselves they will call the child by a name taken from the father's family but they will never tell it to anyone else. When the child grows up he is given some nickname and if he turns out well and is popular his name is often changed again and he is recognised as a Santal.
Often if a father will not acknowledge a child the mother will strangle it at birth and bury the body. Men who practise sorcery dig up the bones of such murdered infants and use them as rattles when doing their sorceries and are helped by them to deceive people.
CLXXII. The Dead.
Santals are very much afraid of burial grounds; for dead men become bongas and bongas eat men. If a man meet such a bonga in a burial ground it is of little use to fight for the bonga keeps on changing his shape. He may first appear as a man and then change into a leopard or a bear or a pig or a cat: very few escape when attacked by such a being.
It is said that the spirits of young children become bhuts and those of grown-up people bongas and those of pregnant women churins.
CLXXIII. Hunting Custom.
Formerly when the men went to a hunt the mistress of the house would not bathe all the time they were away and when the hunters returned she met them at the front door and washed their feet and welcomed them home. The wife of the dehri used to put a dish of water under her bed at night and if the water turned red like blood they believed that it was a sign that game had been killed.
The belief in witchcraft is very real to the present day among the Santals. All untimely deaths and illness which does not yield to treatment are attributed to the machinations of witches, and women are not unfrequently murdered in revenge for deaths which they are supposed to have caused, or to prevent the continuance of illness for which they are believed to be responsible.
The Santal writer in spite of his education is a firm believer in witchcraft, and details his own experiences. He has justification for his belief, for as was the case in Mediaeval Europe, women sometimes plead guilty to having caused death by witchcraft when there appears to be no adequate motive for a confession, which must involve them in the severest penalties.
Mr. Bodding is aware that Santal women do actually hold meetings at night at which mantras and songs are repeated, and at which they may believe they acquire uncanny powers; the exercise of such powers may also on occasion be assisted by the knowledge of vegetable poisons.
The witch may either herself cause death by 'eating,' or eating the liver of, her victim, or may cause her familiar "bonga" to attack the unfortunate. That witches eat the liver is an old idea in India mentioned by the Mughal historians.
The Jan guru is employed to detect who is the woman responsible for any particular misfortune. His usual method is to gaze on a leaf smeared with oil, in which as in a crystal he can doubtless imagine that shapes present themselves. The witch having been detected, she is liable to be beaten and maltreated until she withdraws her spells, and if this does not lead to the desired result she may be put to death.
The higher castes do not believe in witchcraft. If a man is ill they give him medicines and if he dies in spite of the medicine they do nothing further. But all the lower castes believe in witchcraft and know that it is a reality. The Santal women learnt the craft first from Marang Burn by playing a trick on him when he meant to teach their husbands. And now they take quite little girls out by night and teach them so that the craft may not die out.
We know of many cases to prove that witchcraft is a reality. Pirthi who lives in Pankha's house was once ill: and it was an aunt of his who was "eating" him. One night as he lay ill the witch came and bent over him to take out his liver: but he woke up just in time and saw her and catching her by the hair he shouted for the people in the house. They and the villagers came and took the woman into custody. When the Pargana questioned her she confessed everything and was punished.
Another time a boy lay ill and senseless. A cowherd who was driving cattle home at evening ran to the back of the house where the sick boy lay, after a cow which strayed there. There he found a woman in a state of possession (rum) he told the villagers what he had seen and they caught the woman and gave her a severe beating: whereupon the sick boy recovered. But about two months afterwards the cowherd suddenly fell down dead: and when they consulted a jan as to the reason he said that it was the witch who had been beaten who had done it.
CLXXV. Of Dains and Ojhas.
Once upon a time Marang Buru decided that he would teach men witchcraft. In those days there was a place at which men used to assemble to meet Marang Buru and hold council with him: but they only heard his voice and never saw his face. One day at the assembly when they had begun to tell Marang Buru of their troubles he fixed a day and told them to come to him on it, dressed all in their cleanest clothes and he would teach them witchcraft.
So the men all went home and told their wives to wash their clothes well against the fixed day, as they were going to Thakur to learn witchcraft. The women of course all began to discuss this new plan among themselves and the more they talked of it the less they liked it; it seemed to them that if the men were to get this new strange power it would make them more inclined to despise and bully women than ever; so they made a plot to get the better of their husbands. They arranged that each woman should brew some rice beer and offer it to her husband as he was starting to meet Marang Buru and beg him to drink some lest his return should be delayed. They foresaw that the men would not be able to resist the drink; and that having started they would go on till they were dead drunk: it would then be easy for the women to dress themselves like men and go off to Marang Buru and learn witchcraft in place of their husbands. So said, so done;—the women duly made their husbands drunk and then put on pagris and dhoties and stuck goats' beards on their faces and went off to Marang Buru to learn witchcraft. Marang Buru did not detect the imposition and according to his promise taught them all the incantations of witchcraft.
After the women had come home with their new knowledge their husbands gradually recovered their senses and bethought them of their appointment with Marang Buru. So they hurried off to the meeting place and asked him to teach them what he had promised. "Why, I taught it all to you this morning," answered Marang Buru, "what do you mean by coming to me again?" The men could not understand what he meant and protested that they had not been to him at all in the morning. "Then you must have told your wives what I was going to do!" This they could not deny: "I see," said Marang Buru "then they must have played a trick on you and learnt the mantras in your place," At this the men began to lament and begged that they might be taught also: but Marang Buru said that this was impossible; he could only teach them a very little; their wives had reaped the crop and they could only have the gleanings; so saying, he taught them the art of the ojha and in order that they might have the advantage of their wives in one respect and be able to overawe them he also taught them the craft of the jan and with that they had to be content. This is why only women are witches.
CLXXVI. Initiation into Witchcraft.
When girls are initiated into witchcraft they are taken away by force and made to lead tigers about. This makes them fearless. They are then taken to all the most powerful bongas in succession; and are taught to invoke them, as school boys are taught lessons, and to become possessed (rum). They are also taught mantras and songs and by degrees they cease to be afraid. The novice is made to come out of the house with a lamp in her hand and a broom tied round her waist; she is then conducted to the great bongas one of whom approves of her and when all have agreed she is married to that bonga. The bonga pays the usual brideprice and applies sindur to her forehead. After this she can also marry a man in the usual way and he also pays the bride price. When a girl has learnt everything she is made to take her degree (sid atang) by taking out a man's liver and cooking it with rice in a new pot; then she and the young woman who is initiating her, eat the feast together; a woman who has once eaten such a stew is completely proficient and can never forget what she has learnt.
This is the way in which girls learn witchcraft; and if any girl refuses to take the final step and will not eat men she is caused to go mad or die. Those however who have once eaten men have a craving for it.
Generally it is only women who are witches; but there are men who have learnt witchcraft and there are others who without being initiated have kept company with witches. For instance in Simra village there is Chortha who was once a servant of the Parganna. He says that the Parganna's wife used to take him out with her at night. The women used to sacrifice fowls and goats and make him skin them and cut them up: he had then to roast cakes of the flesh and give them to the Parganna's wife who distributed them among the other women.
Sometimes also witches take a man with them to their meetings to beat the drum: and sometimes if a man is very much in love with a girl he is allowed to go with them and is taught witchcraft. For instance there was a man who had a family of daughters and no son and so he engaged a man servant by the year to work for him.
After being some years in service this man servant one night was for some reason unusually late in letting the buffaloes out to graze, and while doing so he saw all the women of the household assembled out of doors; they came up to him and told him not to be afraid and promised to do him no harm provided he told no one what he had seen. Two or three days later the young women of the house invited him to go to a witches' meeting. He went but felt rather frightened the whole time; however nothing happened to him, so he got over his fear and after that he used to go with them quite willingly and learnt all about witchcraft. At last they told him that he must sid atang by "eating" a human being. He objected that he was an orphan and so there was no relation whom he could eat. This was a difficulty that seemed insurmountable; and he suggested that he should be excused the full course and taught only a little such as how to "eat" fowls. The women agreed but it was arranged that to deceive people he should go for two or three days and study with a jan guru and be initiated by him. Thus it would be thought that he learnt his magic from the guru but really he learnt it from the witches who taught him everything except how to "eat" human beings. He learnt how to make trees wither away and come to life again; and to make rain fall where he wished while any place he chose remained quite dry; he learnt to walk upon the surface of water without getting wet; he could exorcise hail so that none would touch his house though it fell all around. For a joke he could make stools stick fast to his friends when they sat on them; and anyone he scolded found himself unable to speak properly. All this we have seen him do; but it was no one's business to question him to find out how much he really knew.
Once at the shield and sword dance they cast a spell on a youth till his clothes fell off him in shreds and he was ashamed to dance. Then this servant had the pieces of cloth brought to him; and he covered them with his own cloth and mumbled some mantras and blew on it and the pieces joined together and the cloth was as good as ever. This we have seen ourselves.
He lived a long time with his master who found him a wife; but because his first child died he left the place and went to live near Amrahat where he is now.
Another case is Tipu of Mohulpahari. They say that an old witch Dukkia taught him to be an ojha. No one has dared to ask him whether he also learnt witchcraft from her but he himself admits that she taught him to be an ojha.
Although it is true that there are witches and that they "eat" men you will never see them except when you are alone.
The son-in-law of Surai of Karmatane village, named Khade, died from meeting witches; he told us all about it as he lay dying. He was coming home with some other men: they had all had a little too much to drink and so they got separated. Khade was coming along alone and had nearly reached his house when he saw a crowd of witches under a tree. He went up and asked who they were. Thereupon they turned on him and seized him and dragged him away towards Maluncha. There they did something to him and let him go. Next morning he was seized with purging and by mistake some of the witches' vengeance fell also on the other men and they were taken ill too. They however recovered, but Khade died. If you meet witches you die, but not of course if they take you with them of their own will and teach you their craft.
Girls are taught witchcraft when they are young and are married to a bonga husband. Afterwards when they marry a man they still go away and visit the bonga and when they do so they send in their place a bonga woman exactly like them in appearance and voice; so that the husband cannot tell that it is not his real wife. There is however a way of discovering the substitution; for if the man takes a brand from the fire and burns the woman with it, then if it is really a bonga and not his wife she will fly away in a flame of fire.
CLXXVIII. Witch Stories.
I will now tell you something I have seen with my own eyes. In the village of Dhubia next to mine the only son of the Paranik lay ill for a whole year. One day I went out to look at my rahar crop which was nearly ripe and as I stood under a mowah tree I heard a voice whispering. I stooped down to try and see through the rahar who was there but the crop was so thick that I could see nothing; so I climbed up the mowah tree to look. Glancing towards Dhubia village I saw the third daughter of the Paranik come out of her house and walk towards me. When about fifty yards from me she climbed a big rock and waited. Presently an old aunt of hers came out of the village and joined her. Then the old woman went back to her house and returned with a lota of water. Meanwhile the girl had come down from the rock and sat at its foot near a thicket of dhela trees. The old woman caused the girl to become possessed (rum) and they had some conversation which I could not hear, Then they poured out the water from the lota and went home.
On my way home I met a young fellow of the village and found that he had also seen what the two women did. We went together to the place and found the mark of the water spilled on the ground and two leaves which had been used as wrappers and one of which was smeared with vermilion and adwa rice had been scattered about. We decided to tell no one till we saw whether what had been done was meant to benefit or injure the sick boy. Fifteen days later the boy died: and when his parents consulted a jan he named a young woman of the village as the cause of the boy's death and she was taken and punished severely by the villagers.
It is plain that the boy's sister and aunt in order to save themselves caused the jan to see an innocent woman. I could not bring the boy back to life so it was useless for me to say anything, especially as the guilty women were of the Paranik's own family. This I saw myself in broad daylight.
Another thing that happened to me was this. I had been with the Headman to pay in the village rent. It was night when we returned and after leaving him I was going home alone. As I passed in front of a house a bright light suddenly shone from the cowshed; I looked round and saw a great crowd of women-witches standing there. I ran away by the garden at the back of the house until I reached a high road; then I stopped and looked round and saw that the witches were coming after me; and looking towards the hamlet where my house was I saw that witches were coming with a bright light from that direction also. When I found myself thus hemmed in I felt that my last hour had come but I ran on till I came to some jungle.
Looking back from there I saw that the two bands had joined together and were coming after me. I did not feel safe there for I knew that there were bongas in the jungle who might tell the witches where I was. So I ran on to the tola where an uncle and aunt of mine lived. As I ran down the street I saw two witches at the back of one of the houses. They were sitting down; one was in a state of possession (rum) and the other was opposite her holding a lamp. So I left the street and made my way through the fields till I Came to my uncle's house. I knocked and was admitted panting and breathless; my uncle and aunt went outside to see what it was that had scared me and they saw the witches with the two lights flashing and made haste to bolt the door. None of us slept for the rest of the night and in the morning I told them all that had happened.
Since that night I have been very frightened of witches and do not like to go out at night. It was lucky that the witches did not recognise me; otherwise I should not have lived. Ever since I have never stayed at home for long together; I go there for two or three months at a time and then go away and work elsewhere. I am too frightened to stay in my own village. Now all the old women who taught witchcraft are dead except one: when she goes I shall not be frightened any more. I shall be able to go home when I like. I have never told any one but my uncle and aunt what I saw until now that I have written it down.
So from my own experience I have no doubt about the existence of witches; I cannot say how they "eat" men, whether by magic or whether they order "bongas" to cause a certain man to die on a certain day. Some people say that when a witch is first initiated she is married to a bonga and if she wants to "eat" a man she orders her bonga husband to kill him and if he refuses she heaps abuse on him until he does.
CLXXIX. Witch Stories.
Young girls are taught witchcraft against their wills and if they refuse to "eat" their father or brother they die or go mad. There was a girl in my own village and she went out gathering herbs with another girl who was a witch. As usual they sang at their work and the witch girl sang songs the tune of which the other thought so pretty that she learnt them by heart. When she had learnt them the witch girl told her that they were witch songs and explained to her their meaning. The girl was very angry at having been taught them unawares but the witch girl assured her that she would never be able to forget the songs or their interpretation; then she assigned her to a bonga bridegroom and then told her to sid atang and all would be well with her otherwise she would have trouble.
When the girl learnt that she must sid atang by "eating" her father or brother or mother she began to make excuses; she could not kill her father for he was the support of the family; nor her only brother for he was wanted too at the Baha and Sohrai nor her mother who had reared her in childhood. The witch girl said that if she refused she would die; and she said that she would rather die than do what was required of her. Then the witch did something and the girl began to rave and talk gibberish and from that time was quite out of her senses. Ojhas tried to cure her in vain until at last one suggested that she should be taken to another village as the madness must be the work of witches living in her own village. So they took her away and the remedies then cured her. She stayed in her new home and was married there. A long time afterwards she went back to pay a visit to her father's house: but the day after she arrived her head began to ache and she fell ill and though her husband came and took her away she died the day after she reached her home.
There was another girl; her friends noticed that when she came home with them in the evening after planting rice she was very careful not to fall behind or be left alone and they used to laugh at her for being a coward. But one day she was gathering Indian corn with a friend and as they talked she said "You will all have lovely dancing at the Sohrai." "You!" said her friend: "won't you be there? Are you going away?" Then the girl began to cry and sobbed out that her mother had taught her witchcraft and married her to a bonga; and it was for fear of the bonga that she did not like to be alone in the dark; and because she had refused to "eat" anyone her mother intended to "eat" her and so she had no hope of living to see the Sohrai. Three days later the girl fell ill and died, and after her death her friend told how she had foreseen it.
CLXXX. Witch Stories.
In the village of Mohulpahari there was a youth named Jerba. He was servant to Bepin Teli of Tempa and often had to come home in the dark after his day's work. One night he was coming back very late and, before he saw where he was, suddenly came upon a crowd of witches standing under a hollow mowah tree at the foot of the field that the dhobie has taken. Just as he caught sight of them they seized hold of him and flung him down and did something which he could not remember—for he lost his senses when they threw him down. When he came to himself he managed to struggle free and run off. The witches pursued but failed to overtake him and he reached his home in a state of terror. The witches however had not finished with him for two or three days after they caused him to fall from a tree and break his arm. Ojhas were called in but their medicines did him no good. The arm mortified and maggots formed and in a few days Jerba himself told them that he would not recover; he told them how the witches chased him and that he had recognised them as women of his own village and shortly afterwards he became speechless and died.
My own brother-in-law lived at Mubundi. One night he and several other men were sitting up on the threshing-floor watching their rice. In the middle of the night they saw lights shining and flickering in the courtyard of my brother-in-law's house and he went to see what was the matter. When he got near, the lights went into the house: he went up quietly and as he looked in found the house full of women who extinguished the light directly they saw him and rushed out of the house. Then he asked my sister what the light was; but she could only stammer out "What light? I saw no light," so he struck her a blow and went back to the threshing-floor and told the others what he had seen. That night he would not tell them the names of the women he had seen; and before morning his right arm swelled and became very painful; the swelling quickly increased and by noon he lost consciousness and a few hours later he died.
CLXXXI. The Two Witches.
There were once a woman and her daughter-in-law who were both witches. One night during the annual Sohrai festival the men of the village were going from house to house singing and getting rice beer to drink; and one young man named Chandrai got so drunk that when they came to the house where the two witch-women lived he rolled himself under the shelf on which rice was stored and fell asleep. Next morning he came to his senses but he did not like to come out and show himself for fear of ridicule so he made up his mind to wait till a party came round singing again and then to slip out with them unperceived.
He lay waiting and presently all the men of the house went away to join in the danka dance; leaving the mistress of the house and her daughter-in-law alone. Presently, the two began to talk and the elder woman said "Well what with the pigs and the goats that have been sacrificed during this Sohrai we have had plenty of meat to eat lately and yet I don't feel as if I had had any." "That is so," answered her daughter-in-law; "fowls' and pig's flesh is very unsatisfying." "Then what are we to do?" rejoined the old woman, "I don't know unless you do for the father of your grandchild." When he heard this Chandrai shivered with fright and hid himself further under the rice shelf, for he saw that the two women must be witches.
That day was the day on which a bullock is tied to a post outside each house and at noon the husband of the younger witch began to dig a hole outside the house to receive the post. While he was working Chandrai heard the two women begin to talk again. "Now is your opportunity," said the younger woman, "while he is digging the hole." "But perhaps the ojha will be able to discover us," objected the other. "Oh we can prevent that by making the ojha see in the oiled leaf the faces of Rupi and Bindi—naming two girls of the village—and we can say that my husband had seduced them and then declined to marry them and that that was why they killed him." The old woman seemed to be satisfied, for she took up a hatchet and went out to where her son was digging the hole. She waited till he bent down to throw out the earth with his hands and then cut open his back and pulled out his liver and heart and brought them into the house. Her unfortunate son felt a spasm of pain when his mother struck him but he did not know what had hurt him and there was no visible wound. The two women then chopped up the liver and heart and cooked and ate them.
That night when the village youths came round to the house, singing, Chandrai slipped out with them unperceived and hastened home. Two or three days later the bewitched man became seriously ill; medicines and sacrifices did him no good; the ojhas were called in but could make nothing of the illness. The villagers were very angry with them for the failure and the headman told them that they must ascertain by means of the oiled leaf who had caused the illness, or it would be the worse for them. So the ojhas went through their ceremonies and after a time declared that the oiled leaf showed the faces of the two girls Rupi and Bindi; and that it was they who were eating up the sick man. So the two girls were sent for and questioned but they solemnly swore that they knew nothing about the matter. No one believed their protestations and the headman ordered that filth should be put into their mouths and that they should be well beaten to make them confess. However before any harm was done them Chandrai sprang up and called out to the headman: "You have proof that these girls are witches, but I will not let you beat them here. Let us take them to yonder open field; the token of their oath is there and we will make them first remove it. If we beat them first they will probably refuse to remove the oath." "How do you know about their oath?" asked the headman. "Never mind, I do know." The villagers were convinced by his confident manner and all went with the two girls to the open field.