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Seven Brothers And Their Sister

Source: Santal Folk Tales

In a certain village there lived seven brothers and a sister. Their
family was wealthy. Their father was dead. The brothers agreed to dig
a tank so that whatever happened their name would continue. So they
began the work, but although they dug deep they found no water. Then
they said to each other, "Why is there no water?" While they were
speaking thus among themselves a jugi gosae on his rounds, came to
the tank in the hope of finding water, but he was disappointed. The
seven brothers on seeing the jugi gosae went and sat down near him,
and said, "We have been working for many days, and have dug so deep,
still we have not reached water. You, who are a jugi gosae, tell us
why water does not come." He replied, "Unless you give a gift you
will never get water." They enquired, "What should we give." The jugi
gosae replied, "Not gold, or silver, or an elephant, or a horse, but
you have a sister?" They said, "Yes, we have one sister." He replied,
"Then make a gift of her to the spirit of the tank." The girl was
betrothed, and her family had received the amount that had been fixed
as her price. The brothers argued thus, "We have laboured so long
to make a name for ourselves, but have not found water, so where is
our name? If we do not sacrifice our sister we shall never obtain the
fulfilment of our wishes, let us all agree to it." So they all said,
"Agreed," but the youngest did not fully approve of their design.

In the evening they said to their mother, "Let our sister wash her
clothes, dress her hair, and put on all her ornaments to-morrow when
she brings us our breakfast to the tank." They did not, however,
enlighten their mother as to why they desired their sister to be so
careful with her toilet.

The following day the mother addressed her daughter as follows,
"Oh! my daughter, your brothers yesterday said to me, let the
daughter, when she brings us our breakfast come with clean clothes,
her hair dressed and all her ornaments on. So as it is nearly time,
go and dress, and put on all your ornaments, and take your brothers'
breakfast to where they are working." She complied with her mother's
order, and set out for the tank, dressed in her best with all her
ornaments on, carrying boiled rice in a new basket.

When she arrived at the tank her brothers said to her, "Oh! daughter,
set down the basket under yonder tree." She did so, and the brothers
came to where she was. They then said to her, "Go bring us water from
the tank to drink." She took her water-pot under her arm, and went
into the tank, but did not at once find water. Presently, however, she
saw the sheen of water in the centre, and went to fill her pitcher,
but she could not do so, as the water rose so rapidly. The tank was
soon full to the brim, and the girl was drowned.

The brothers having seen their sister perish, went home. Their
mother enquired, "Oh! my sons, where is the daughter?" They replied,
"We have given her to the tank. A certain jugi gosae said to us,
'Unless you offer up your sister you will never get water'." On
hearing this she loudly wailed the loss of her daughter. Her sons
strove to mitigate her grief by saying, "Look mother, we undertook
the excavation of the tank to perpetuate our name, and to gain the
fruit of a meritorious work. And unless there be water in the tank
for men and cattle to drink, where is the perpetuation of our name? By
our offering up the daughter the tank is full to overflowing. So the
cattle can now quench their thirst, and travellers, when they encamp
near by and drink the water, will say, 'The excavators of this tank
deserve the thanks of all. We, and others who pass by are recipients
of their bounty. Their merit is indeed great'." In this way with many
such like arguments they sought to allay their mother's grief.

Right in the centre of the tank, where the girl was drowned, there
sprang up an Upel flower the purple, sheen of which filled the beholder
with delight.

It has already been stated that the girl had been betrothed, and that
her family had received the money for her. The day appointed for the
marriage arrived, and the bridegroom's party with drums, elephants and
horses, set out for the bride's house. On arrival they were informed
that she had left her home, and that all efforts to trace her had
proved fruitless. So they returned home greatly disappointed. It so
happened that their way lay past the tank in which the girl had been
sacrificed, and the bridegroom, from his palki, saw the Upel flower
in the centre. As he wished to possess himself of it, he ordered his
bearers to set down the palki, and stepping out prepared to swim out
to pluck the flower. His companions tried to dissuade him, but as he
insisted he was permitted to enter the water. He swam to within a short
distance of the flower, but as he stretched out his hand to pluck it,
the Upel flower, moving away, said, "Chi! Chi! Chi! Chi! You may be
either a Dom or a Hadi, do not touch me." The bridegroom replied,
"Not so. Are not we two one?" He made another effort to seize the
flower, but it again moved away, saying, "Chi! Chi! Chi! Chi! you
may be a Dom or a Hadi, so do not touch me." To which he replied,
"Not so. You and I are one." He swam after it again, but the flower
eluded his grasp, and said, "Chi! Chi! Chi! Chi! You may be a Dom,
or you may be a Hadi, so do not touch me." He said, "Not so. You and
I are bride and bridegroom for ever." Then the Upel flower allowed
itself to be plucked, and the bridegroom returned to his company
bearing it with him.

He entered his palki and the cortege started. They had not proceeded
far before the bearers were convinced that the palki was increasing
in weight. They said, "How is it that it is now so heavy? A short
time ago it was light." So they pushed aside the panel, and beheld
the bride and bridegroom sitting side by side. The marriage party on
hearing the glad news rejoiced exceedingly. They beat drums, shouted,
danced, and fired off guns. Thus they proceeded on their homeward way.

When the bridegroom's family heard the noise, they said, one to the
other "Sister, they have arrived." Then they went forth to meet the
bridegroom, and brought them in with great rejoicing. The bride was
she who had been the Upel flower, and was exceedingly beautiful. In
form she was both human and divine. The village people, as well as
the marriage guests, when they saw her, exclaimed, "What a beautiful
bride! She is the fairest bride that we have seen. She has no
peer." Thus they all praised her beauty.

It so happened that in the meantime the mother and brothers of the
girl had become poor. They were reduced to such straits as to be
compelled to sell firewood for a living. So one day the brothers
went to the bridegroom's village with firewood for sale. They offered
it to one and another, but no one would buy. At last some one said,
"Take it to the house in which the marriage party is assembled. They
may require it." So the brothers went there, and asked, "Will you buy
firewood?" They replied, "Yes. We will take it." Some one informed the
bride, that some men from somewhere had brought firewood for sale. So
she went out, and at once recognised her brothers, and said to them,
"Put down your loads," and when they had done so she placed beds
for them to sit on, and brought them water; but they did not know
that she was their sister, as she was so greatly changed. Then she
gave them vessels of oil, and said, "Go bathe, for you will dine
here to-day." So they took the oil, and went to bathe, but they
were so hungry that they drank the oil on the way. So they bathed,
and returned to the house. She then brought them water to wash their
hands, and they sat down in a row to eat. The bride gave her youngest
brother food on a brass plate, because he had not approved of what
had been done to her, but to the others she gave it on leaf plates.

They had only eaten one handful of rice when the girl placed herself
in front of them, and putting a hand upon her head, began to weep
bitterly. She exclaimed, "Oh! my brothers, you had no pity upon me. You
threw me away as an offering to the tank. You saw me lost, and then
went home." When the brothers heard this they felt as if their breasts
were torn open. If they looked up to heaven, heaven was high. Then
they saw an axe which they seized, and with it they struck the ground
with all their might. It opened like the mouth of a large tiger,
and the brothers plunged in. The girl caught the youngest brother by
the hair to pull him up, but it came away in her hand, and they all
disappeared into the bowels of the earth, which closed over them.

The girl held the hair in her hand and wept over it. She then planted
it, and from it sprang the hair like Bachkom [22] grass, and from
that time Bachkom grass grows in the jungles.

The sister had pity on her youngest brother because he did not join
heartily with the others in causing her death. So she tried to rescue
him from the fate which was about to overtake him, but in this she
failed, and he suffered for the sins of his brothers.

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