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Lakhan And The Wild Buffaloes

Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once upon a time there was the only son of a widow, who used to tend
the sheep and goats of a Raja and his name was Lakhan. One day he
harnessed one of the goats to a plough and ploughed up a piece of high
land and sowed hemp there. The crop grew finely, but one night a herd
of wild buffaloes came and ate it all up; at this Lakhan resolved to
pursue the buffaloes and shoot them.

His mother did all she could to dissuade him but he made up a bundle
of provisions, and set off on his journey with a stick, and a bow
and arrows, and a flute made of the castor oil plant. He tracked the
buffaloes for some days and one evening he came to the house of an
old witch (hutibudhi) and he went up to it and asked the witch if he
might sleep there. She answered "My house is rough and dirty, but
you can choose a corner to sleep in; I can give you nothing more,
as I have not a morsel of food in the house." "Then," said he,
"I must go to bed hungry" and he lay down supperless.

In the middle of the night the witch began to gnaw at Lakhan's bow
and he heard her gnawing and called out "What are you munching? Give
me at bit," but she answered that it was only a little pulse which
she had gleaned from the fields and she had finished it. So Lakhan
said no more; but during the night the witch bit his bow to pieces
and when he saw this in the morning, he was very unhappy; for it was
useless to find the bison, if he had nothing to shoot them with.

So he went home and had an iron bow and arrows made by a blacksmith,
and then started off again. As before he came to the witch's house
and arranged to sleep there; and in the night the witch tried to
bite the bow to pieces, and Lakhan heard her crunching it and asked
her what she was eating: she said it was only a little grain which
she had gleaned. In the morning he found the bow all right, but the
witch's jaws were badly swollen. Lakhan laughed at her and asked what
was the matter and she said that she had toothache.

So Lakhan went on his way rejoicing and at last reached the place
where the wild buffaloes rested at night; he waited there and while he
waited he swept away all the droppings and made the place clean, and
then climbed up into a tree. At evening great herds of buffaloes came
to the place and they were so many that Lakhan was afraid to shoot. So
he stayed there, and every day he used to sweep the place clean, while
the buffaloes were away, and at night time hid himself in the tree.

The buffaloes determined to find out who their benefactor was, and they
chose an old cow to stay behind and watch. The next day the old cow
pretended that she was too weak to rise, and was left behind when the
herd went out to graze. Lakhan thought that she was too old to do him
any harm, so, although she was there, he got down from the tree and
cleaned up the place as usual, and even swept quite close up to the
old cow buffalo. In the evening the other buffaloes came back and the
old cow told them that it was a human being who swept their resting
place clean; and when they promised not to hurt him, she pointed out
the tree where Lakhan was. Then the buffaloes told him to come down
and swore not to kill him but to support him and keep him as their
servant. They told him to make a leaf bowl and they filled this with
their milk, as much as he could drink, and they arranged that he should
stay at the sleeping place and keep it clean, and when he wanted milk
he was to play on his flute and they would come at the sound.

So every noon he used to blow the flute and the cows came, running
and gave him more milk than he wanted so that he used even to bathe
himself in milk, and this made his hair grow very long.

One day a parrot belonging to a Raja saw him drying his long hair
in the sun and the parrot went to the Raja and told him that he had
found a husband for the Raja's daughter, with beautiful long hair;
but that no one could go near where he lived because of the wild
buffaloes; however the parrot undertook to bring him with the help
of a tame crow of the Raja's: so the crow and the parrot flew off to
the jungle, and they decided that the best way to entice Lakhan away,
was to carry off his flute. So when the cows gave him milk at noon and
he put down his flute, the crow seized it in his beak and flew away to
the top of a tree. When Lakhan missed the flute and saw the crow with
it, he began to throw stones but the crow flew off with it, keeping
just out of range; the crow flew from tree to tree and seemed to be
always just about to drop the flute and in this way enticed Lakhan on,
till they came to the Raja's palace and Lakhan followed the crow right
inside and they shut the door on him and made him marry the princess.

After some time his wife's brothers began to talk rudely about
him saying "I suppose this fellow is some poor orphan, without any
relations" and when Lakhan heard this he said that if they wanted
to see his cattle and buffaloes they must make a yard for them. So
the Raja gave orders for a large cattle yard to be made, and when it
was ready Lakhan took his flute and put his wife on the roof of the
palace and he himself climbed a tree and blew on the flute. Then the
wild buffaloes came running at the sound and gored to death every
one they met, and Lakhan and his wife became Raja and Rani.

Next: The Boy With The Stag

Previous: The Monkey Husband

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