A Legend of Santhal Pargana

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Once upon a time a woman was found to be with child by her own brother, so the two had to fly the country. In their flight they came to the Mustard Tank and Flower Lake, on the banks of which they prepared to cook their food. They boiled water and cooked rice in it; and then they boiled water to cook pulse to eat with the rice. But when the water was ready they found that they had forgotten to bring any pulse. While they were wondering what they could get to eat with their rice they saw a man of the fisher caste (Keot) coming along with his net on his shoulder. Then the woman sang—

“The son of a Keot is standing on the bank of the tank:

The fish are jumping: the son of a Keot is catching the fish.”

So the Keot caught them some fish, which they ate with their rice.

Then they went on and by the side of the road they saw a date palm the juice of which had been tapped; and they wished to drink the juice but they found that they had brought no drinking vessel with them. The woman looked about and saw near by a fan palm tree and she sang—

“The peepul’s leaves go flicker, flicker:

The banyan’s leaves are thick and fleshy:

Of the fan palm’s leaf, brother, make a cup.

And we will drink the juice of the date palm.”

So her brother made a drinking vessel of a palm leaf and they drank the date juice and went on their way. At nightfall they rested at the foot of a Bael tree and fell into a drunken sleep from the date juice they had drunk.

As the woman lay senseless her child was born to her and no sooner was the child born than a bael fruit fell on to its head and split it into four pieces which flew apart and became four hills. From falling on the new-born child the bael fruit has ever since had a sticky juice and the tree is covered with thorns which are the hair of the child. In the morning the man and woman went on and came to a forest of Tarop trees and the woman wiped her bloody hands on the Tarop trees and so the Tarop tree ever since exudes a red juice like blood.

Next morning they went on and came to a spring and drank of its water and afterwards the woman bathed in it and the blood stained water flowed over all the country and so we see stagnant water covered with a red scum. Going on from there they reached a low lying flat and halted; almost at once they saw a thunder storm coming up from the South and West; and the woman sang—

“A storm as black as the so fruit, brother,

Is coming, full of danger for us:

Come let us flee to the homestead of the liquor seller.”

But the brother answered—

“The liquor seller’s house is an evil house:

You only wish to go there for mischief.”

So they stayed where they were and the lightning came and slew them both.