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
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
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