The Beginning of Things

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

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.