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Marriage With Bongas

Category: Part IV

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There have been many cases of Santals marrying bonga girls. Not of
course with formal marriage ceremonies but the marriage which results
from merely living together.

In Darbar village near Silingi there are two men who married
bonga. One of them was very fond of playing on the flute and his
playing attracted a bonga girl who came to him looking like a human
girl, while he was tending buffaloes. After the intimacy had lasted
some time she invited him to visit her parents, so he went with her
and she presented him to her father and mother as her husband. But he
was very frightened at what he saw; for the seats in the house were
great coiled up snakes and on one side a number of tigers and leopards
were crouching. Directly he could get a word alone with his wife he
begged her to come away but she insisted on his staying to dinner;
so they had a meal of dried rice and curds and gur and afterwards
he smoked a pipe with his bonga father-in-law and then he set off
home with his bonga wife. They were given a quantity of dried rice
and cakes to take with them when they left.

After seeing him home his wife left him; so he thought that he would
share the provisions which he had brought with a friend of his; he
fetched his friend but when they came to open the bundle in which
the rice and cakes had been tied, they found nothing but meral
leaves and cow dung cakes such as are used for fuel. This friend saw
that the food must have been given by bongas and it was through
the friend that the story became known.

In spite of this the young man never gave up his bonga wife until
his family married him properly. She used to visit his house secretly,
but would never eat food there; and during his connection with her
all his affairs prospered, his flocks and herds increased and he
became rich, but after he married he saw the bonga girl no more.

The adventures of the other young man of the same village were much
the same. He made the acquaintance of a bonga girl thinking that
she was some girl of the village, but she really inhabited a spring,
on the margin of which grew many ahar flowers. One day she asked
him to pick her some of the ahar flowers and while he was doing
so she cast some sort of spell upon him and spirited him away into
the pool. Under the water he found dry land and many habitations;
they went on till they came to the bonga girl's house and there he
too saw the snake seats and tigers and leopards.

He was hospitably entertained and stayed there about six months;
one of his wife's brothers was assigned to him as his particular
companion and they used to go out hunting together. They used tigers
for hunting-dogs and their prey was men and women, whom the tigers
killed, while the bonga took their flesh home and cooked it. One
day when they were hunting the bonga pointed out to the young
man a wood cutter in the jungle and told him to set the tiger on to
"yonder peacock"; but he could not bring himself to commit murder;
so he first shouted to attract the wood cutter's attention and then
let the tiger loose; the wood cutter saw the animal coming and killed
it with his axe as it sprang upon him.

His bonga father-in-law was so angry with him for having caused
the death of the tiger, that he made his daughter take her husband
back to the upper world again.

In spite of all he had seen the young man did not give up his bonga
wife and every two or three months she used to spirit him away under
the water: and now that man is a jan guru.

Next: The Bonga Headman

Previous: The Winning Of A Bride

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