The Sikhar Raja

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Santals say that the Sikhar Raja was a bonga and this is the story they tell about him. A certain woman was with child but could not say by whom she was pregnant so she fled into the jungle and at the foot of a clump of bamboos gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl; and then went home leaving the children lying in the jungle. The children lay there crying very pitifully. Now a herd of wild bison was grazing in the jungle and they heard the crying and one of the cows went to see what was the matter and took pity on the children and suckled them. Every day she came three times and fed them; and under her care the children grew up strong and healthy. If any man came to hunt in the jungle the bison-cow used to attack him and drive him away; she used to bring the bows and arrows which the hunters threw away in their flight to the boy that he might learn how to shoot. And when any basket makers passed by the jungle on their way to market to sell their wares she used to charge out at them and then bring to the girl the winnowing fans and baskets they threw down in their fright, so that she might learn to sift rice.

Thus the children prospered; and the boy was named Harichand and he and his sister looked like gods. When they grew up they married each other and then the bison-cow left them. Then Thakur sent from heaven sixteen hundred gopinis and the gopinis said that Harichand and his wife should be king and queen in that land of Sikhar. Then they took counsel together as to where the royal fort should be. Three scribes sat down to study the books with Harichand and his wife in their midst; on the right sat the scribe Hikim, and on the left the scribe Bhuja and the scribe Jaganath opened the book to see where the fort should be; and all the gopinis sat round in a circle and sang while the book was read.

“Raja Harichand of the Sikhar stock, of Jhalamala,

Where is his abode!

Raja Harichand of the Sikhar stock, of Jhalamala,

In the bamboo clump is his abode!”

“Raja Harichand of the Sikhar stock of Jhalamala

In the banyan-tree field in his abode!

Raja Harichand, of the Sikhar stock, of Jhalamala,

In the brinjal corner is his abode.”

And they found in the book that the fort should be in Pachet hill; then they sang in triumph:—

“It will not do, O Raja, to build a fort here:

We will leave Paras and build a fort on Pachet hill:

There in the happy Brinda forest.”

Then they brought the Raja and Rani from the jungle to Pachet and on the top of the Pachet hill a stone fort sprang up for them; and all the country of Sikhar acknowledged their sway. After that the Santals made their way from Champa and dwelt in Sikhar and cleared all the jungle in it and abode there many years. They called the Sikhar Raja a bonga because no one knew his father or mother. Under Raja Harichand the Santals were very contented and happy, and when he celebrated the Chatar festival they used to sing this song, because they were so contented:—

“Harichand Raja was born of a bison-cow,

Sirguja Rana was born of a snake.”