The Boundary Bonga

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

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.”

(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.)