Lakhan and the Bongas

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

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.

(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.)