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Lersi and Zingthlo

Thursday, April 3, 2014

/ Published by Simon L Infimate
When the Hmar groups of people were settled in Shan State of Myanmar, there were great Chiefs among them. Some of the well-known ones were Lersi, Zingthlo and Luopui. Of them Lersi and Zingthlo were said to be brothers and after becoming Chiefs, they parted ways to rule over their own territories. Lersi ruled over territories in the south, and Zingthlo was the Chief in the northern territories. Lersi was known to be a very kind and simple man. He was also a righteous man and would mete out the same justice on the rich and the poor. His village had never suffered poverty and all the inhabitants were contented with their fair share of the riches and wealth. Whoever approached Lersi for his help would get the needed help and nobody ever leave him empty handed. Because of such kindness he was highly esteemed by all the people of his village. And even people of neighboring villages would often benefit from his benevolence. And because he was such a kind and righteous person, he also received much blessings and his fame was spreading by the days. He was also said to be a very successful person in agriculture. Whatever he grows he will reap a very good and plentiful harvest irrespective of where he grew the crops. He certainly appeared to be a man with the green thumb.

Because of his great success and wealth, it was said that he became a bit arrogant and offended the gods by sowing his own stool to see whether it will grow. It is said that the stool indeed had produced a plant which grew to the height of a house in one night. But because of his arrogance, the gods decided that the time had come for the prosperity to leave Lersi. It was decided that Lersi would lose his wealth the next occasion that he showed his arrogance by saying something offensive to the gods.

One day the gods sent many cockerels to his house. The cocks were crowing all over and no one could count their number. People were struck with the wonder and asked their Chiefs what the omen may signify. He simply said those were the poultry of the rich. At thise words the gods were not offended and he continued to be rich and to enjoy his wealth. In a similar way he was made more and more wealthy and each time he did not offend the gods. At last a great number of sparrows multiplied and came to the village of Lersi. The villagers once more approached their Chief to ask what the omen signified. This time, he was also baffled and looking at the activities of the sparrows, he said, “The birds certainly appear to be consumer of wealth”. With those words the gods decided that he had offended them, and began to drain his wealth. By the day and hour, his wealth began to decrease and he had become almost like an ordinary person in no time. He had a small daughter and he said to her, “Dear, it is certain that we aere becoming poor and your mother and I also may not live life for a long time. So after our death, try to earn your living by working in other’s house. Steal some things and your owner will sell you too others.. in this way, continue till you arrive there”. So saying, her parents sew special clothing in which beads of necklaces and other valuables were sewn in and were given to her. After a short while both the parents of the girl died and the little girl was left all alone.

As she became an orphan, she started living as her father had instructed her and began working as helper in different houses. She made sure that she was sold to other villages by committing theft till she indeed came to the very house of Zingthlo. She knew her uncle, but Zingthlo did not recognize the slave girl. She worked sincerely and never committed any theft in the house of her uncle, though she was reputed to be a thief. Her aunt tested her by keeping things deliberately exposed soo that she may steal them, but she would dutifully report the find to her aunt.

One autumn, Zingthlo performed the Inchawng ceremony. All the people of the village were invited and all remained in the village and no one went for work in the fields. However, since she was a slave girl, she was sent to the field to keep away the birds from the ripening grains. She requested her uncle that she be allowed to dance just one dance before she left for the field. It was refused at first, but after repeated request were made, she was allowed to take part in just one dance. With her torn and dirty clothes,, she began to dance and to sing songs. In the songs she recounted how she belonged to a wealthy family and how she had become poor after the death of her parents. Hearing her songs, her uncle recognized her as the very daughter of his brother Lersi. He got up from his seat and embraced the poor slave girl and accepted as his own his daughter from that day onwards.

Source: Vanlal T. Bapui, Oral Traditions of the Hmars,2011 (Assam Institute of Research for Tribals and Scheduled Castes, Guwahati)
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