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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

/ Published by Simon L Infimate
Rengte was the son of a chief. He was a hard-working and powerful man. He had only one sister. He had a jhum very near to the village. He went to the jhum every day to work. One day his father asked him why he used to come late every evening. Rengte replied that he did so because just at sunset a peacock appeared in the jhum with a flower of gold on its head and he used to chase it. His father became very excited and said, “In that case, you call our village-crier to inform all the villagers to assemble at the outskirt of the village. Let us surround the peacock and whoever misses the chance to catch it will be singularly responsible to catch it later.” Rengte did as his father instructed. One the following day, all the villagers assembled at the appointed place and proceeded in a body to the jungle. They formed a big circle and surrounded the peacock. The peacock ran amuck and escaped just in front of the chief. So the chief was caught in his own trap. He was thus singularly responsible to catch the peacock. So, he gave a chase alone for many days. At last, the peacock ran into a thick and dark bush. As he was entering the bush, he could see nothing and could not move about freely. So, the peacock caught him, pulled off his skin and ate him up.

The peacock put on the skin and went to the village. He entered the chief’s house and said, “Rengte, I am your father returning from the jungle, give me food to eat.” Rengte said to himself, “His appearance assembled my father, but not his voice.” So, he suspected him. However, he gave him food. While he was eating, Rengte went to the house of his neighbor widow and narrated the events. The widow said, “Rengte, if you want to prove him, do like this: take a bunch of banana from your basket and give it to him. If he is your father, he will peel it off and give it back to you and only when you eat it, he will also eat it. And then, you go to your garden and take one sugarcane. Give it to him, and if he is your father, he will cut it into two and he will give you back the sweeter portion.” Rengte did as instructed. He gave a bunch of banana to him. He ate up the whole bunch without giving back any to Rengte. He then went to the garden, took sugarcane and gave it to him. He took the whole lot and did not give back any to Rengte. Thus, he proved that the man was not his father.


Rengte prepared to fly away with his winged horse. He consulted the widow. They widow said, “When you fly over our village, you may feel nostalgic and shed tears. But be careful not to let the tears drop on your horse. So, you better take a vessel for your tears.” Rengte and his sister sat on the winged horse and started flying. As they were flying over their village, they grew sentimental and wept bitterly and one drop of their tears fell on the horse. The horse dived down to the ground. As they touched the ground the peacock appeared and fought with the horse. After fighting bitter, the peacock left. The horse said to Rengte, “Look around my body, if there is any wound or injury, I may not survive long because the peacock is poisonous.” He looked around, and saw there was a small injury on the side of the wing. The horse knew that his end was near. He said to Rengte, “My end is near. When I die, all kinds of living beings will come and claim my body. But don’t give it to any but to two brothers who will come to you hand in hand. They will be your Gods who will help you in all your difficulties.” Saying this, the horse died. All creatures came and claimed the body but Rengte refused them all. At last, two brothers came hand in hand. They were Uipa and Phingpa. He gave them the body.


Though Rengte and the peacock were arch enemies, the former’s sister fell in love with the peacock. But Rengte stood in the way of their marriage. So, she cleverly plotted to kill her brother. She pretended and said, “Brother, I have acute stomach-pain and I will be cured if I take the eggs of a bird which is having its nest on the tall tree over that big river.” He carefully climbed the big tree, took the eggs and gave it to her. She took it but it was of no avail. Later, she said that she would be alright if only she took the flesh of the cub of a bear. Rengte prepared for the hunt. His sister requested him to fire a warning shot at the outskirt of the village on his return. With great risk he hunted down the bear’s cub and returned home. He fired a shot before he entered the village. She took the flesh of the cub but it was of no avail. She again said, “If only I take the flesh of the cub of a tigress. I shall be cured, but fire a shot before you enter the village.” He went to the think jungle and at the risk of his life, he hunted down the cub of the tigress. At the outskirt of the village, she fired a shot. She took the flesh of the cub complained that she had not yet recovered. She said again, “If only I can eat that orange on the brow of the big elephant down there, I will be cured.” Rengte took with him a bunch of banana and gave it to the elephant and as he stretched out his hand to grasp the orange, it fell down and rolled down injto the big river below. With the help of the elephant he could dry the river but the demoness of the river took the orange. But Rengte managed to take the orange and the baby of the demoness and ran home a fast as he could. His sister ate it but complained that it was of no avail. Rengte was utterly disappointed and helpless. He did not know what more to do for her.


The baby of the demoness said, “Grandpa, please take me back to my mother and I will tell you some secret.” Rengte replied, “Alright, I will take you back home, and tell me the secret.” “You are very foolish,” said the baby. “Your sister is in love with the peacock and plotted to kill you. She asked you to collect the eggs from a tall tree that you may fall down and die. She asked you to kill the cub of the bear and the tiger so that you may be killed. She asked you to do the impossible that you may die. She asked you to fire a shot at the outskirt of the village so that the peacock may have time to leave your house before you arrive home. Whenever you are out, the peacock comes to your house and enjoys with her.”

Rengte got very angry at this and prepared for a showdown with the peacock. He called his sister to him and said, “I will go hunting and I will fire a shot at the outskirt of our village. Please keep our home tidily.” He went to the jungle in search of Uipa and Phingpa for help. So, the three returned home but did not fire a warning shot. Uipa was standing by the side-door and Phingpa by the window. Rengte fired the shot at the main down. The peacock, all of a sudden jumped towards the window and was caught. They beat him black and blue and let him off half-dead. Uipa and Phingpa said to Rengte, “We shall be your gods, we shall hung a piece of brass on your loin-cloth and whenever you are in need of help, you shall touch it, and we shall appear before you in a moment.” So, he did as instructed. The peacock was extremely angry with Rengte and was ready to kill him if he had the chance to do so. So, one day he chased Rengte in the jungle. He was running after him and was about to catch him. When Rengte touched his brass, Uipa and Phingpa appeared before him and caught hold of the peacock and proposed to Rengte, “Rengte, shall we kill him this time? Rengte nodded and they killed him. When his sister knew that her lover has killed by her own brother, she was more determined to take revenge. One morning, she was going to carry water. While she was away, Rengte made his own dummy and laid it on his bed and he was hiding in the corner of the house. She was returning with bamboo pipes filled with water. She was standing by the door and said, “Rengte, help me bring down the bamboo pipes.” But the dummy did not move. She shouted again and again but of no avail. At last she helped herself. She took and axe and struck at the head of the dummy thinking it to be her brother. At this Rengte could not control himself and struck her down.


Rengte then lived in peace. He had seven wives and all kinds of domestic animals. But to his great sorrow, all were barren and could not produce any issue. At last, he took with him a big cock for a sacrifice to Vanhrit, and set out to the abode of the god. On the way, he came across wild plaintain who asked him where he was going. He replied, “I have seven wives and many domestic animals. But they were all barren. So I am going to offer prayer to Vanhrit.” Plaintain said, “I too have the same problem. I’m at the top of the barren hill and I am unproductive. Do offer intercession for me.” “Yes, I’ll do,” said Rengte. As he was proceeding, a big tree trunk was lying across his path who said, “Rengte, where are you going?” He replied, “I have seven wives and many domestic animals. But they were all barren. So I am going to offer prayer to Vanhrit.” “In that case, please do pray for me because till now no rodents came under me.” “Yes, I’ll do,” said he as he proceeded. As he was crossing the river, the river said, “Rengte, where are you going?” “I am going to offer sacrifice to Vanhrit. I have seven wives and many animals. But all are barren.” “In that case, please make intercession for me, because no marine life is to be found in me.” “Yes, I’ll do,” said Rengte and he continued to proceed. As he was going along, he came across a bamboo who said, “Rengte, where are you going?” “I’m going to Vanhrit to offer prayer because my seven wives and animals are all barren”, said Rengte. “In that case, do offer prayer for me also, because whenever the wind blows, I break into pieces”, said the bamboo.

Rengte was climbing the highland rocks and precipitated to reach the abode of the God. At long last, he stood with trembling and fear before Vanhrit. Vanhrit took the cock from the hand of Rengte and caused it to crow in four directions. “Alright, Rengte, tell me what you want”, said Vanhrit. “I have seven wives and all kinds of domestic animals, but all are barren. I’m so disappointed that I come to offer prayer to you. On my way I met with wild plaintain who complained of her barrenness and asked me to intercede for her. I met a river also and complained that he didn’t have any marine life and asked me to intercede for him. I met a fallen tree trunk who said there was no rodent seeking shelter under him. There is also bamboo who breaks down into pieces whenever there is a storm. He asked me to intercede for him also,” said Rengte. “I’ll grant all your prayers,” said Vanhrit. “You transplant the plaintain from the hilltop to the plain below and it will bear fruits. Tie with string the bamboo about a feet apart. Throw some under the tree trunk.” Vanhrit also prepared some betelnut and said, “Take this betelnut for each one of your wife and then specially prepared one for your favourite wife. Also, take this bottle of water for all your animals except she-goat. Give the she-goat a pea-leaf.” But remember, two of your sons will be mine.” Rengte nodded and returned. He transplanted the plaintain to the plain and bore fruit. He threw some bamboo leaves to the river and they turned into fish. He put broken wood under the fallen tree and they turned into rodents. He tied knots to the bamboo and turned into knots. He gave the water to all his animals and they could conceive. He gave betelnuts to all his wives and they could conceive.


His most favourite wife conceived and the date of delivery was approaching near. Kulsamnu (a demoness) was watching closely to eat up the baby as soon as it saw the light of the day. The time came and Rengte’s favourite wide delivered twin male babies. As the two babies grew up, they wanted to do away with Kulsamnu. So, they hunted her to her forest. She ran into a thick jungle and they lost her. They returned home but lost the way. They asked Kawngkawirit couple which were perching on the branch of the tree above them about the way. They simply replied, we are enjoying our conjugal life like this. Don’t disturb us.” They were very much annoyed with the reply and cursed, “From now on, spend the rest of your conjugal life quarrelling.” So, the bird couple quarreled till today. As the proceeded on, they met Sahram (otter) eating fish on the rock and asked him if he could show them the way. He replied, “I’m not concerned about anybody but my fish.” They were very much annoyed with the curt reply and cursed him saying, “From now on, whenever you eat fish, let the bone be stuck in your throat.” It is said that since then whenever an otter eats fish, the bone gets stuck in his throat.

As they proceeded on, they met with the kingfisher picking up fish in the river and enquired, “Dear kingfisher, could you tell me the way to Kulsamnu’s place?” “Alright” said he, “Go on up the river, and you will come across a fountain with a group of maidens drawing water and they will tell you the whereabouts of Kulsamnu.” They were very happy with the reply and said, “Dear kingfisher, from now one, may you pick up fish at regular interval all along the river.” As they proceeded on up the river, they met with a group of maidens drawing water from the fountain. The maidens showed them the way to village. Their father Rengte was celebrating their birthday. They killed pigs and were very busy cooking in the open air. “What is the name of the baby you were celebrating?” they asked. One cook said, “Don’t ask me such silly question, while I’m busy cooking.” They were irked at the reply and said, “From now on, you shall be allergic to bloodstain.” So, till today some people are blood allergic.

As they were cooking meat in the open air, Vanhrit came in the form of a hungry dog and started eating the meat. The cooks raised a hue and cry and beat the dog. The dog was unusual dog and could withstand their beating. The whole villagers expressed their wonder about it. At last they cautioned Rengte, “Rengte, be careful about this dog for it is not an ordinary dog. You may have committed something wrong and this dog has come for your punishment.” Rengte at once knew it was Vanhrit, his god. He saluted him and bowed down at his feet. Vanhrit then said, “Rengte, I have blessed you so much and at the time of my blessing, I told you that two of your sons should be mine. Don’t you remember?” “Oh! I can recall the incident. I don’t have anything to say. Take two of my sons whom you like most,” said Rengte. “Alright, call together all your sons”, ordered Vanhrit. Rengte called together all his sons and dressed neatly except his two dear sons, Khena and Rama. Vanhrit inspected all the beautifully dressed young men but was not satisfied. As he looked around he saw two boys shabbily dressed hiding under a big bamboo basket. He said, “I don’t deserve these handsome and nearly dressed young men, I shall have the two dirty boys sitting under those basket.” So, he took away the two wonder-working boys. Rengte was very sorry for his great loss.


Vanhrit took the two boys Khena and Rama to his abode. As they were to set out, he said. “Shall we go the round about way which is relatively calm and peaceful or the short-cut way which is perilous?” They replied, “Why should we not face danger since we are men?” In that case, I’ll turn into a cock and carry me in your pocket,” said he. They agreed and did as requested. As they went along, they saw a huge centipede blocking their path. It ate all plants and green leaves around it. It tried to eat them up. At this, the two boys drew their bows and shot it like anything. It could bear the pain no longer and cried, “Sir, I repent of my sins, please tell me how I should be.” “From now on you should contract yourself into a minimum size,” they ordered. So, till today, centipede is a small insect.

As they proceeded on along their perilous path, they met a huge poisonous wasp. It had eaten up all that around it and tried to eat them also. They drew their bows and shot it like anything. The wasp cried in pain and said, “Sir, I have done wrong, please tell me how I should be.” “From now on, turn yourself into a small insect,” they ordered. So, it is said that till today, wasp became a small insect.

As they proceeded along, a huge python blocked their path. It ate up all plants around it and tried to catch hold of them. They shot it with their bows and it cried with pain saying, “Sir, tell me how I am to be.” “Who tells you to be such a huge creature? From now on, turn into a normal size”, they ordered. So, it turned into a normal size.


After passing through all conceivable dangers and perils, they at last reached the abode of Vanhrit, their mentor. The wife of Vanhrit was a cannibal. At death of night, she was approaching to the bed of the two sleeping boys. As she got nearer and nearer she saw their bows and arrows quivering. So, she dared not get near them. She went back to bed and fell asleep. In her dreams she saw a man standing before her, saying “You shall have a child who will turn against you.”

In the morning, they heard a deer crying next to the mountain. The two boys hunted it down and made morning food out of it. A baby girl was born to Vanhrit’s wide shortly. She said to herself, “Will this girl baby turn against him?” when the two boys saw the baby, they stole her and ran away with her. They named her Tuizuor. She grew up into a lovely maiden and Kherna married her. As they moved about in the forest, they crossed a river. Rama saw the white thigh of Tuizuor from behind. He said to himself, “My eyes are evil eyes because I see the white things of my brother’s wife.” So, he plucked out his eyes. He became blind and could not follow Khena and Tuizuor. After a long time, when they looked back, Rama was no more. So, they retraced their path and recovered him just by the bank of the river. Khena asked him the reason of his deformity. Rama told him. Khena said, “What’s the harm of seeing the thighs of your brother’s wife?” So, he fixed the eye-ball into the socket and became once again what it was before. As they wanted about, they came to a lovely forest and decided to settle there. As they roamed about the virgin forest, they saw a very beautiful spotted deer licking water in the running brook. The spotted deer attracted the eyes of Tuizuor and she said to her husband, “If you can catch that deer alive, I will make you a colourful spotted cloth in the pattern of the spotted skin.” Khena was very excited and started chasing it. But the deer was very unusual and ran at a speed just above the speed of Khena. Khena was hopefully running after it quite oblivious of the passage of time. Weeks, months and years rolled by but the deer looked like a mirage.

One year passed and Tuizuor asked Rama to enquire about Khena. But the latter refused, saying, “It’s too short a time to enquire about him.” Two years passed, she asked him to enquire about his brother. But Rama answered in the way. Three years passed, Khena did not yet return home. Tuizuor was full of premonition and asked Rama to enquire about him. At last, he set out in search of his brother in the forest. Before he left home, he locked all the windows and doors from outside while Tuizuor was sleeping fast inside. He reached a river and made some incantation. He also plucked some fresh leaves. He went down the ridge of a hill-lock and saw a dove cooing. He asked, “Dove, do you know where my brother is? “Yes”, replied the dove. “You go down this mountain ridge and you will see where you brother is sleeping.” As he went along, he saw many other birds. He asked them his brother’s whereabout. But none could tell him. At last, he sat down under a tree with his head hanging in sorrow. Meanwhile, the same dove came and said, “You Manmasipa, why are you sorry? Come on, I shall tell you where your brother is.” So, the dove was taking him to his brother after covering a long distance. Khena was lying in the thick jungle in a bare skeleton. A bamboo was sprouting out of his chest. Rama cut in one stroke the bamboo and the water inside was sprinkling over the skeleton. Slowly flesh was forming up in the skeleton and became a mere dead body. He fanned the face with the fresh leaves he carried with him. Khena became alive one again. Rama then said, “Hi, man, why are you sleeping so long? Get up.” So saying, he caught hold of his hand and raised him up.


Zawngrengte was watching them from a gooseberry tree from above and said to himself, “Brothers love each other like that, but in my case my brother has turned me out in the jungle like this”, and wept bitterly. The tear fell down over Khena and he said, “Rama, are you weeping?” “Why should I weep?” replied Rama. As they looked above, they saw Zawngrengte weeping on the branch of gooseberry tree above them. “Ah! That monkey was spitting at us.” So saying, they shot with their arrows but missed him. They shot him so much so that all the leaves of the gooseberry were pierced into pieces. It is said that till today gooseberry leaves are full of small holes. Zawngrengte told them that they could not hit him as long as he was on the branch of the tree. He further told them that it was not his saliva but his tears which fell down as he wept, because he saw how they loved each other as brothers should while his brother was so bitter to him. When they heard this, they felt pity for him and wanted to help him. They requested him to climb down. They further asked him to bring his brother to them and challenge him for a fight in front of them. Zawngrengte brought his brother to them and challenged him for a show down. A bitter first at last left him again. Zawngrengte was very angry with them and charged, “Why didn’t you help me as you promised?” They replied that they were ready to help him but they could not make out who was who because they looked so alike. So, they didn’t know what to do. They said, “You bring your brother here again and paste a small brass-plate in your buttock by which we can recognize you.” So, he brought his brother again and they fought once again. This time, they could distinguish him from his brother. They thus killed his brother.


After passing through a long perilous path, they at last reached home. But Tuizuor was no more. However, one cow was there in the house. They asked him about her. She replied that one Lusaripa (Seven headed demon) had taken her away. They were dead tired and had to prepare their meal themselves. There was no water also. So, zawngrengte volunteered to draw water from the river below. While he was away they chanced upon a house-brewed liquor and they sipped it. Part of it they shared with Zawngrengte. Zawngrengte was intoxicated and started dancing using the bamboo pipe for carrying water as a drum. At last the pipe broke and he could not draw water. He feared Khena and Rama for his deeds and remained in the river. At last, Rama went down to enquire about him and asked him why he was so late. Zawngrengte replied that he broke the water pipe and feared their rebuke. So, he dared not come back. “That’s a small thing”, said Rama. So, they went back home. They had a hearty meal and at night they put their heads together as who should go to rescues Tuizuor. At last Zawngrengte volunteered himself for the rescue work.

Zawngrengte set out for the long and dangerous journey. At last he reached the Lusaripa’s village. He had a very big orange garden. One by one Zawngrengte uprooted the orange trees and finished all in no time. All the villagers were on the lookout for the man behind it. At last all eyes were on Zawngrengte who was also the only guest of the village. So, they started beating him right and left. He said, “I’ll not die with your beating. If you want to kill me, our oil over me and set fire on my body.” They did as advised. But as soon as he was on fire, he started jumping from one house to another setting fire wherever he ran. In no time the whole village was on fire. Lusaripa came out to the open air to see what was happening. Zawngrengte took the chance, entered Lusaripa’s house and ran away with Tuizuor.


Lusaripa had a magic bow and arrows. H said, “I will shoot at the lap of Khena and he will die before sunrise.” He shot his arrow in the air which travelled a long distance until it hit the predetermined target. All of a sudden Khena found his lap shot through by an arrow. he was in a serious pain. He was to die before sunrise according to the curse of Lusaripa. Tuizuor knew that the only medicine was found in the garden of Lusaripa which was a herbal plant. Meanwhile, Zawngrengte flew to the horizon at the sunrise-point and blocked the sunrise. Tuizuor went to Lusaripa’s village in the guise of an old woman to steal the herb. She stole the herb and dashed back home. They administered the herb and he was cured. Khena hit Lusaripa back with a poisonous arrow by which h was to die before sunset. Lusaripa sustained the injury but was sure that h could b cured by a herb in his garden before sunset. He was not in a hurry to apply it because sunset was still far off. Just before sunset his wife entered the garden to get the herb; but to her utter surprise, it was no more. So, he was sure to die. At his death bed he called his sons together and said, “I’m to die now in the hands of Khena. He is our enemy, and you must revenge my death.” So saying, he passed away.


They called all their relatives who lived deep inside the earth. They came with their bows and arrows and doused their body with grease so that arrows could not hit them. They surrounded Khema and Rama and arrested them. They took them inside the earth through earth-crack. When Zawngrengte knew it, he also entered the earth-crack to rescue them. Khena and Rama were put at the altar for sacrifice with their hands tied behind their back. Zawngrengte appeared on the scene and scared away the priest and brought Khena and Rama back home safely.


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