After Death

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

When grown-up people die they become ancestral bongas and sacrifices are offered to them at the Flower and Sohrai festivals; and when children die they become bhuts. When a pregnant woman dies, they drive long thorns into the soles of the feet before the body is burned for such women become churins. The reason of this is that when the churin pursues any one the thorns may hurt her and prevent her from running fast: and so the man who is pursued may escape; for if the churin catches him she will lick all the flesh off his bones; they especially attack the belly and their tongues are very rough.

There was once a man who had been to get his ploughshare sharpened by the blacksmith and as he was on his way home it came on to rain, so he took shelter in a hollow tree. While he was waiting for the weather to clear he saw a churin coming along singing and she also came to take shelter in the same tree. Fortunately she pushed in backwards and the man took the ploughshare which was still nearly red hot and pressed it against her back; so she ran away screaming and he made good his escape in the other direction; otherwise he would assuredly have been licked to death.