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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

/ Published by Simon L Infimate
Lalhmang was a great king. He had a vast kingdom with many slaves. One day he made a declaration among his councilors that he would ask several questions and whosoever could answer them correctly would be promoted as his chief councilor. The first question was: among animals, birds and any insects, which is the purest of all? One councilor said “deer”, another said “bird” and some other said, “Fish”. At that moment, one of the King’s cooks called Berbawr happened to pass by and also joined them, saying, “the purest of them all is fly.” Everyone laughed at Berbawr for his foolish answer.

According to the king, the one who said that fish was the purest of all living beings was correct and was to be made chief councilor. After sometime, Berbawr was bringing the king’s food and placed it before him. But as a fly sat on the food, he was taking it back and was about to throw it away. Shouting at him, the king chided, “Berbawr!” What the hell you are doing!? Why are you taking away my food without my order? Bring it back immediately.” Berbawr did so and the king had his food.

Next time, when the king was about to have his mean, Berbawr placed a fresh uncooked fish on the food. When the king saw it, he was so angry and shouted at Berbawr, “Why are you putting uncooked fish in my food? You have spoiled my food; take it back and bring a fresh one immediately.” As Berbawr brought a fresh food for the king, he said, “Sir, I realized now that you have detested fish much more than a fly. Yesterday, a fly sat on your food. I wanted to throw it away. But you did not allow me to do so. Today I put one fresh fish on your food and you do not want to have it. Do you now realize that among the animals, birds and insects, a fly is the purest of all?

The king was outwitted by Berbawr and he said, “Berbawr, I now realize that you are a very wise and intelligent man, I shall make you one of my councilors from today.” The king proposed another ordeal among his councilors, saying, “Whosoever can stand in the lake below up to one’s neck the whole night, will be made my chief councilor.” It was a winter night, each and every councilor jumped into the lake to try the ordeal, but alas! none of them except Berbawr was successful.

The next day, the king asked all his councilors whether they could carry out the ordeal. None but Berbawr kept mum. At last, Berbawr stood up and said, “Here I am”. But other councilors felt jealous of him and complained that his aunty made a big fire to dry her earthen pots on the hillock last night and the warmth of the big fire enabled him to stand in the lake the whole night.” Convinced of this allegation, the king could not promote Berbawr as the chief councilor.

Berbawr got angry and instructed one of the cooks to hang a pot of rice at the top end of a big bamboo and to make a small fire below it. The cook did as he was told to do. The king was very hungry and asked Berbawr to get his food ready. But Berbawr replied, “No Sir, the food is not ready yet.” The king was very angry and asked Berbawr to go to the cook and get his food ready immediately. Berbawr again said, “No, Sir, even the water is not yet boiling.” The king himself went to the cook and saw the pot of rice hanging at the top end of the big bamboo and the small burning fire on the ground below. He was very angry but the cook pleaded that he did as per the instruction from Berbawr. The king then turned to Berbawr saying, “Berbawr, don’t you know that I have the power to hang you and also to save you?” But Berbawr was not frightened to the least. He boldly said, “Sir, I do understand that you have such power. But remember this. Yesterday, I stood in the lake up to my neck the whole night and you were made to believe that the big fire which my aunty made in the hillock had sustained me to withstand the cold. Behold! The distance between the pot at the top end of the bamboo and the fire below is much nearer!” The king realized his mistake and said, “Berbawr, you are right, I forgive you.”

The next morning, the king ordered all his councilors to assemble at his palace. He told them the big fire on the hill could never give warmth to Berbawr in the lake below. He thus announced that Berbawr was being promoted as the chief councilor as he had promised.

The king now wanted to marry. He went out with Berbawr in search of the most beautiful woman of the world. They decided that the king should go to the western region and Berbawr to the eastern region.

Having wondered from place to place, the king one day came across two brothers fighting for a magic pot. The king stopped and asked, “Are you not brothers? Why are you fighting like that?” Then the two brothers replied, “This is a magic pot. Whatever you asked, it will give you. Out father had passed away and we do not know who should inherit the pot. So we are fighting for it.” The king said, “All right. Let me decide it. Both of you go down below the village. I shall roll down the pot and whoever catches it shall have it.” The two brothers accepted the proposal.

The king was rolling down a very big stone instead of the magic pot and the two brothers were crushed to death. The magic pot thus belonged to the king. As he went further, he entered into a very big town. The king of the town had a very beautiful daughter. He proclaimed that whoever could offer him whatever he asked within one week, would marry his daughter; but after having tried, if he failed, he would become the king’s slave.

When Lalhmang came to hear the king’s proclamation, he sent a messenger that he could offer the king whatever he asked within the stipulated time. Accordingly, Lalhmang was called to appear before the king and when he saw the king’s daughter, he felt that the princess was the most beautiful he had ever seen. He then solemnly affirmed that he would provide the king whatever he demanded within one week, failing which he would become his slave.

With the help of the magic pot, Lalhmang could provide the king’s demands instantly for the first six days. All the rooms of the king’s palace had become full with all kinds of treasures. Lalhmang’s joy knew now bounds because he was sure to marry the beautiful princess. But there was someone who knew that Lalhmang could provide such costly treasures only because of the magic pot. On the very night of the six day, the pot was stolen. One the seventh day, the king sent a word to Lalhmang, saying, “Today is the final and last day. Then you will marry my daughter.”

As usual, Lalhmang looked for his magic pot. But alas! the pot was no more! The whole day he was looking for the magic pot. The sun was about to set but he could not find his magic pot. With a heavy heart, he said to himself, “What a wretched man I am! I have been a great king in my kingdom, eating the choicest food and having innumerable slaves. Now I myself have to become a slave!”

The sun set. As Lalhmang failed to provide the king with the golden chair and fan, he became one of the slaves of the king as per their agreement.

On the other side, Berbawr had already travelled a very far distance, moving on towards the east. One day he came to a place where there was a very big sea surrounded by different kinds of wild beautiful flowers. He also saw one old man sitting along the bank of the sea. The old man said to Berbawr, “You, Manmasipa, where are you going?” “I am coming to look for a suitable partner for my boss, Lalhmang,” replied Berbawr. The old man said, “Go across this sea and you will see a mountain beyond which there is a big village. Enter the village and look for a suitable partner.” Berbawr replied, “How can I cross this sea? I have no wings to fly!” The old man said, “Don’t worry. Just sit on that big rock and the bridge will hold out over the sea for you.” Saying so, the old man began to chant a magic song. All of a sudden, a thick cloud was bubbling out of the sea and behold! The big serpent inside the sea came out, joined with one another and then stretched out to make a long bridge over the sea. The old man waved, “You, Manmasipa. Go over the bridge and cross the sea. When you come back here, you make a smoke out of the frankincense of beraw*.”

Berbawr crossed over the sea easily and soon saw the mountain as he was told. He went straight to the village. But to his utter surprise, nobody was there in the village. He was roaming along hither and thither in the village. It was going to be dark and he was quite perplexed.

After sometime, he chanced to see a fire at one house of the corner of the village. He went to the house and saw a very beautiful girl and her name was Chawnghnieng. The girl was so happy to see him and offered him delicious food and drinks. The girl asked Berbawr, “Where do you come from? Why do you come to this place” “I came from a far western region. I am the Chief Councillor of Lalhmang, a famous king. Now the king wants to marry and I am coming here to look for a beautiful girl for him.” The way Berbawr was speaking gave the girl the impression that he was a very wise and polite person. Insisted the girl, “Then, what about you? Are you married?” “No, not yet,” replied Berbawr. “Having come here to a far-off place like this just to search for the wife of someone else, it means that there must have been someone…for you!” “No, Never! I wish if there is someone who loves…” replied Berbawr with a smile. At that moment, Berbawr and Chawnghnieng fell in love, swearing never to forsake each other till date.

After meal Berbawr asked Chawnghnieng, “Why are you lone in this big village? What happened to the other folks?” “Yes, this indeed is a very big village. But there is a very wicked and fearful demoness. She walked across all the jhums and unfolded all the sesame plants and ate them up. Therefore, she is called Sibarnu (the one who eats up see-same). Likewise, she has killed and eaten all the other folks in the village. She said to me, “You are beautiful. So I shall spare you for some time. That is why I am alone now. Knowing not where to go, I am just waiting my fate,” replied Chawnghnieng. When Berbawr heard her pathetic and terrifying story, he really sympathized with her. As night was approaching, Chawnghnieng laid Berbawr at the corner of the house and covered him with a black cloth.

Sibarnu came home. The moment she entered her house, she was clearing her nose repeatedly, saying, “Hm! the smell of a human being.” Chawnghnieng immediately intervened, “What! I am a human being. So will you feel the smell of human being!” but Sibarnu protested, “This is not your smell. It is the smell of other human being.”

The next morning, Sibarnu said to Chawnghnieng, “I will not go to a far-off place. I shall come back soon.” On the previous occasions, whenever Sibarnu said she would come back soon, she used to spend a night outside. So Chawnghnieng easily made out what Sibarnu meant. No sooner had Sibarnu gone out, than she took out Berbawr from the corner of the house. When asked all about Sibarnu inquisitively, Chawnghnieng disclosed everything, saying, “Look at the pigeon above us. It is the soul of Sibarnu. The bow up there is her backbone and the gourd is her skull.” Soon they left Sibarnu’s house with the pigeon, the bow and the gourd in their hands.

When Sibarnu returned home, she came to know that Chawnghnieng had escaped with someone. She ran after them in full speed. When Berbawr broke the two wings of the pigeon, Sibarnu’s hand also broke. But by making one hillock for one step, she was still running after them. Berbawr then broke one leg of the pigeon, and Sibarnu’s leg also broke. Berbawr and Chawnghnieng now reached the big sea and made a smoke out of the frankincense of beraw. The smoke was curling up and reached the old man on the other side of the sea. The old man again chanted his magical song and the big serpents came out and joined one after another to make a long bridge over the wide sea and Berbawr and Chawnghnieng safely crossed the sea. At the same time, Sibarnu walked across the sea with one lef. Berbawr broke the other leg of the pigeon and Sibarnu’s other left also broke. In spite of her broken hands and legs, Sibarnu managed to swim in the sea. At this, Berbawr broke the bow and Sibarnu’s backbone was also broken. But still Sibarnu managed to swim in the sea. Then Berbawr broke the gourd into pieaces and Sibarnu’s skull was also completely broken and at last died in the sea.

Berbawr and Chawnghnieng feld secure because they could kill sibarnu. They then went to the old man, narrated their pathetic story right from the beginning. They also profusely thanked him for all his help and blessings. The old man once again blessed them, saying, “Berbawr, people will feel jealous of you because you wife is so beautiful and they may kill you. Therefore, pour this water of money into the water for her bath, then she will turn into a monkey.” Saying so, the old man filled the red gourd with the water of monkey and gave it to Berbawr. “When you are about to reach you village, pour this water again into the water for her bath, she will turn herself into a normal human being.” Saying so, the old man again filled the white gourd with living water and gave it to Berbawr. Bidding farewell to the old man, Berbawr and his wife went on a very long journey to return home. After some days, they reach the very place where Berbawr and his boss, Lalhmang had parted each other and the flower which they planted at the bypath had already faded away.

After many days’ journey, Berbawr and Chawnghnieng came to a very big town. Berbawr made an augury and came to know that his boss, Lalhmang was in the town as one of the slaves of the king. As Berbawr and his wife were about to enter the town, they saw a group of male-folk to fetch water from the pond. They were the slaves of the king. When asked for whom they were fetching water, they replied that the water was for the bath of the princess. Berbawr secretly poured the monkey’s water into their water-pot and told them that a very unusual incident would befall them soon.

When the princess had her bath, alas! All of a sudden, she turned into a monkey. The kinf and his councilors were at a loss what to do. They tried all kinds of sacrificial rites but of no avail. Out of despair, the king made a declaration throughout his kingdom that whosoever could cure the princess would marry her and in addition he would also give him half of his kingdom. All tried but failed. At last, one of the slaves said to the king, “When we went to fetch water, one vagabond ‘Vai’ said to us that that a very unusual incident would befall us soon in the palace. He would surely know how o cure the princess.” Berbawr was then summoned before the king. When asked whether he would be able to cure the princess, he told the king and his councilors to wait three days. One the third day, Berbawr came and entered the bathroom of the princess and emptied all the water in the pots and ordered the slaves to the fill the pots with fresh water. Berbawr secretly poured the living water into the pots and said, “Let the princess come and have her bath.” The moment the princess had her bath with the water, she was turned again into a normal human being, even much more beautiful than before. The king and the people were overwhelmed with joy. Giving his daughter to Berbawr, the king said, “As I have already promised, half of the kingdom will be yours. What else I have to give you? Feel free to ask for anything.” But Berbawr declined the king’s generous offers and preferred to take one of the king’s slaves.

The king made a big farewell feast for his daughter and invited all the important persons and chiefs within his kingdom. Berbawr and the princess were seated on the golden throne with the golden crown. Each and every tribe came and showed their folk dances. This merriment and feast continued for seven days. One the eve of their departure, berbawr had to choose one slave and selected Lalhmang. Lalhmang thought to himself, “Oh! Just to get beaten and to do all kinds of manual works.” For he did not know the man who had selected him was Berbawr, his chief councilor.

The king seated Berbawr on the male elephant and his daughter on the female elephant followed by ten horses carrying the costly treasures of the princess. On the way, Berbawr narrated all his adventures to Lalhmang, but the latter still did not recognize him. When they were nearing their capital, Berbawr asked Lalhmang to sit with the princess. Hesitant, lalhmang knelt down before Berbawr, saying, “My lord, have mercy on me, Please do not ask me to sit with the princess. Let me continue to walk on foot.” But Berbawr insisted, “Don’t feel shy. You are also a famous king. You must ride on the female elephant with the princess.” Then, Berbawr confessed that he was no other than Berbawr, his chief councilor. When Lalhmang came to know the truth, he could not control himself and tears were rolling down his cheeks. Turning to Berbawr, he knelt down again before him saying, “You are my rescuer. You are my god. How can I marry this beautiful princess? It is you who is to marry her!” Berbawr replied, “No, I have my own wife now.” Saying so, Berbawr asked Lalhmang and the queen to go ahead. As they reached the village pond, Berbawr bathed the monkey with the living water and the monkey turned again to the most beautiful woman, even more beautiful than the queen. As they entered the capital, every eye turned towards Chawnghnieng. In this way, Lalhmang and Berbawr lived happily again.


*Beraw- It is a name of a tree yielding a species of frankencense. Its exudation is used for fixing knives and choppers in their handles.

Source: Prof.(Dr.) Lal Dena,Hmar Folk Tales, Scholar Publishing House, New Delhi, 1995.

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