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Dukhu And His Bonga Wife






Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once upon a time there was a man named Bhagrit who had two sons named
Lukhu and Dukhu; and Lukhu used to work in the fields, while Dukhu
herded the buffaloes. In summer Dukhu used to take his buffaloes to
drink and rest at a pool in the bed of a dry river.

Now in the pool lived a bonga girl and she fell in love with
Dukhu. So one day as he was sitting on the bank she appeared to
him in the guise of a human maiden. She went up to him and began to
talk, and soon they became great friends and agreed to meet at the
same place every day. As the girl was beautiful Dukhu fell deeply in
love with her and resolved to marry her, not knowing that she was a
bonga. One day the bonga-girl asked Dukhu to come home with her to
dinner, as he had stayed too late to go to his own house; but he said
he was too shy to do so, as her parents knew nothing about him. The
bonga-girl said "Oh no, I have told my people all about our love,
but if you won't come with me, stay here till I fetch you some rice;
it is too late for you to go home now; by the time you come back, the
buffaloes will have wandered off for their afternoon grazing." So Dukhu
agreed to wait while she brought the rice, and she got up and moved
away and disappeared behind some bushes, but a minute later Dukhu saw
her come smiling towards him with a pot of rice on her head; though
how she had fetched it so quickly he could not make out. She came to
him and put it down and told him to wash his hands and come and eat
his dinner. Dukhu asked her whether she had had her own dinner and she
said that she would go back and have that later. Then he proposed that
she should eat part of what she had brought; and she said that she
would do so, if he did not want it all. Dukhu resolved to test her,
for it would be a proof of true love, if she ate what he left over. So
after eating half the rice he said that he was satisfied and when she
found that Dukhu would eat no more she took what was left; then he was
satisfied that she really loved him and they began to talk of getting
married, and he told her that there would be no difficulty about it,
as his elder brother Lukhu was already married.

Then Dukhu asked the bonga to take him to her house to see her
parents, so one day she led him into the pool and as he went in, the
water never came above his ankles; and somehow they passed along a
broad road until they came to the bonga girl's house, and this was
full of tigers and leopards and snakes. At the sight of them Dukhu was
too frightened to speak; the bonga said that she would not let them
touch him and offered him a large coiled-up snake to sit on; but he
would not sit down till she came and sat by his side. Then the bonga
father and mother asked their daughter whether this was her husband,
and when she said "yes" they came and made obeisance to him.

After they had had their dinner she took him back and he knew that
she was a bonga; but still he could not give her up. After this
the bonga girl brought Dukhu his dinner every day on the bank of
the river, and he never went home for his midday-meal at all. His
brother's wife asked him why he did not come home and he said that
he did not get hungry and was content with some buffalo's milk; but
she did not believe him and resolved to watch and see who brought
him his dinner, but though she went and watched every day she only
saw him sitting alone, and the bonga girl was invisible to her. But
one day she saw him disappear into the pool, and come out again.

When she told this at home, Dukhu's father, Bhagrit, got very angry
and decided to find out who made Dukhu disappear into the pool. He
resolved to bale out the water and find out what was at the bottom. So
he sent for men with baling baskets and began to divide off the water
with dams, but out of the water a voice was heard, singing;--


"Do not dam the water, father,
Do not dam the water, father,
Your daughter-in-law, the Ginduri fish is dying."


At this sound the workmen were frightened and stopped; but Bhagrit
made them go on, saying that whatever happened should be on his
head. And when the dams were finished, they began to bale out the
water; thereupon a voice sang:--


"Do not bale the water, father,
Do not bale the water, father.
Your daughter-in-law, the Ginduri fish is dying."


But they paid no attention and baled the water dry, and at the bottom
of the pool they found an enormous fish, for the bonga girl had
turned into a fish. And they went to kill it, but the fish sang:--


"Do not hit me, father,
Do not hit me, father,
Your daughter-in-law, the Ginduri fish is dying."


Nevertheless they killed it and dragged it on to the bank. Then they
began to cut it up, and as they did so, it sang:--


"Do not cut me, father,
Do not cut me, father,
Your daughter-in-law, the Ginduri fish, is dying."


Nevertheless they cut it up, and Bhagrit divided the pieces among the
workmen, but they were too frightened to take any and preferred to
take the smaller fishes as their share. So he told Lukhu's wife to take
up the pieces and wash them: and as she did so the song was heard:--


"Do not wash me, sister,
Do not wash me, sister,
The Ginduri fish is dying."


And she was very frightened, but her father made her wash them and
then they took home the pieces and lit a fire and ground spices and
turmeric and heated oil and made ready to cook the fish. Then the
fish sang again:--


"Do not cook me, sister,
Do not cook me, sister,
The Ginduri fish, sister, is dying.'


But she nevertheless put the pieces into the pot to boil, when lo and
behold, out of the pot jumped the pretty bonga girl. Then Bhagrit
said to his neighbours.--"You see by my persistence I have got a
daughter-in-law"--and she was duly married to Dukhu. At the wedding
the bonga girl said "Listen, Father and all of you: I tell you and
I tell my husband--however much we quarrel let not my husband strike
me on the head, let him beat me on the body, I shall not mind; but
on the day that he hits me on the head: I shall depart for good."

After the marriage the family became very prosperous and their
crops flourished and every one liked the bonga girl; but between
her and her husband there were constant quarrels and their friends
could not stop them. One day it happened that Dukhu smacked her
on the head. Then the bonga girl began to cry and called her
father-in-law and mother-in-law and said "Father, listen, the father
of your grandson has turned me out, you must do your work yourselves
to-day;" then she took her child on her hip and left the house; and
they ran after her and begged her to return, but she would not heed;
and they tried to snatch the child from her but she would not give
it up, and went away and was seen no more.





Next: The Monkey Husband

Previous: The Stolen Treasure



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