The Bonga Exorcised

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

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.

(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.)