Gumda The Hero

: Santal Folk Tales

There was once a certain fatherless lad named Gumda. His occupation

was to tend the raja's goats. He, and his mother lived in a small house

at the end of the street in which the raja's palace was situated. The

raja's mahout was in the habit of taking his elephant along that

street, and every time it passed, it rubbed itself against the wall

of Gumda's house. One day at noon it so happened that Gumda was at

home when th
elephant was being taken to the tank to drink, and as

usual he rubbed his side against the house as he passed. Gumda was

incensed with the elephant for thus destroying his house, and coming

out quickly, said to the mahout, "What although it is the raja's

elephant! I could take hold of any person's elephant by the trunk,

and throw it across seven seas." The elephant understood what Gumda

had said, and he refused to go down into the water, and would not even

drink. On being brought home he would not eat his grain, nor would he

so much as look at water. He continued thus so long that he began to

grow lean and weak. The mahout knew that it was Gumda's curse that had

so affected his charge. The raja one day noticing the altered condition

of his elephant, said to the mahout, "Why has the elephant become

so emaciated?" The mahout replied, "Oh! raja, one day at noon Gumda

abused him. He said, 'If you were not the raja's elephant, I would

take you by the trunk and throw you across seven seas.' 'Every day,'

he said, 'he rubs himself against my house.' Since then the elephant

has refused his food and water." The raja, on hearing this, commanded

that Gumda be brought before him. The messenger found him at home,

and brought him into the presence of the raja who asked him, "Is it

true, Gumda, that you said you would throw the elephant as you would

a stone?" Gumda replied, "Yes, it is quite true that I said so. The

elephant every time it passes along the street rubs itself against

the wall of my house, and being angry, I said these words. Now, do

with me whatsoever you please." The raja marvelled greatly on hearing

Gumda's reply, and addressing him said, "Now my lad, prove your words,

for prove them you must. If you succeed in thus throwing an elephant,

I shall present you with a large estate." The raja appointed the tenth

day following as that on which Gumda should wrestle with the elephant;

and he, after receiving permission from the raja, returned home.

The raja in the interval caused proclamation to be made to all his

subjects, ordering them to be present on the day when Gumda was to

meet the elephant in mortal combat. On the morning of the appointed

day Gumda was found baking bread. As he did not appear punctually

in the arena, the raja sent a messenger to bring him. On arriving

at Gumda's house, he found him baking bread. He said to him, "Come

along, the raja has asked for you." Gumda said, "Wait a little till I

partake of some refreshment." He invited the messenger to be seated,

and he also sat down as if to eat, but instead of eating the bread,

he began to throw it at the man, and continued doing so until he had

buried him under eight maunds of loaves. The poor fellow cried out,

"Oh Gumda, come and release me, of a truth I am almost crushed to

death under this heap of bread." He removed the bread from above him,

and he immediately returned to the raja. As he was leaving the house

he saw 12 maunds of cooked rice, evidently intended for Gumda's

dinner. Coming into the presence of the raja he said, "Oh! raja,

I saw in Gumda's house twelve maunds of cooked rice, and he threw a

loaf of bread weighing eight maunds at me, which almost crushed me

to death. It is quite possible that he may win."

At length Gumda came bringing with him a sledge hammer weighing

twelve maunds, and a shield of the same weight. The contest was to

take place on a plain sufficiently large to accommodate an immense

number of spectators.

Then the fight began. The two combatants attacked each other so

furiously that they raised such a cloud of dust as to completely

conceal them from the onlookers. The elephant could not long sustain

the unequal combat, and when he was beaten, Gumda seized him by the

trunk, and threw him over the seas. Owing to the darkness caused by

the clouds of dust, none of the thousands present noticed the elephant

as he went, flying over their heads high up in the air.

When the dust subsided, Gumda was found sitting alone, the elephant

was nowhere to be seen. The raja called the victor to him, and said,

"What have you done with the elephant?" Gumda replied "I flung him

early in the forenoon over seven seas." Hearing his answer and not

seeing the elephant, they all marvelled greatly.

The raja then said to Gumda, "Well, you have thrown the elephant

somewhere. You must now go in search of its bones." Gumda went home

and said to his mother, "Make up a parcel of food for me, I am going

to find the elephant's bones." She complied with his request and he

set out.

As he hurried along intent upon his quest, he found a man fishing with

a Palmyra palm tree as a rod, and a full grown elephant as a bait. On

seeing him Gumda exclaimed, "You are indeed a great hero." The man

replied, "I am no hero, the widow's son Gumda is the great hero, for

did not he fling the raja's elephant across seven seas?" Gumda said,

"I am he." The fisherman said," I will go with you." Gumda replied,

"Come along!"

As Gumda and his attendant went on their way, they came to a field in

which a number of men were hoeing, and their master, to shield them

from the heat of the sun, stood holding over them, as an umbrella,

a large Pepul tree. [10] Gumda seeing him said, "You are a hero

and no mistake." The man replied, "No indeed, I am no hero. Gumda,

the widow's son, threw the raja's elephant across seven seas. He is

the hero." Gumda said, "I am he." "Then," said the man, "I also will

go with you." "Follow me," said Gumda, and the three proceeded on

their way.

As they journeyed they fell in with two men, who were raising water

from a tank for irrigating purposes by merely singing. When Gumda

saw them, he exclaimed, "You two are heroes indeed." They answered,

"What do you see heroic in us? There is one hero, Gumda by name, he

threw a raja's elephant across seven seas." Gumda said, "I am he." The

men exclaimed, "We also will follow you." Gumda said, "Follow." And

the five men went forth to search for the elephant's bones.

On and on they went until they reached the sea, which they crossed,

and entered the primeval forest beyond. Selecting a suitable place

they encamped, and began the search for the elephant's bones. The

first day the fisherman was left in the camp to cook the food,

while the others went out into the forest. Near by a certain jugi

raja resided in a cave in a rock. He came to the camp just as the

food was cooked, and said to the fisherman, "Give me some rice to

eat." He declined, and the jugi raja then said, "Will you give me

rice, or will you fight with me?" He replied, "I have prepared this

food with difficulty and prefer fighting to giving it up." So they

fought, and the jugi raja was victor. He laid a heavy stone on the

breast of the cook, and then devoured all the food. There had been

twelve maunds of rice prepared, and he left none. After a long time

he released his victim, and then went his way. Being released the

fisherman set about preparing more food, but before it was ready,

his companions returned and seeing the pot still on the fire, they

enquired why he had not made haste with his cooking. He replied,

"I have not been idle, I have spent all the time in cooking." He did

not tell them about the jugi raja having been at the camp.

The next day another of the company remained as cook, while the

others went out to search in the forest for the elephant's bones. The

jugi raja again visited the camp, and the scene of the previous day

was re-enacted. But he also did not speak of the visit of the jugi

raja to the others when they returned. In this way the jugi raja

encountered each in turn till only Gumda was left, and he remained

in the camp to cook. When he had got the rice cooked, the jugi raja

made his appearance and said, "Will you fight with me, or will you

give up the food?" Gumda replied, "I will not give you the food. I

have spent much time in cooking it, and when those who have gone in

search of the elephant's bones return, what shall I set before them,

if I give it to you now? You have played this trick every day, and

have put my companions to much trouble, but to-day we have met." So

they fought. Gumda overpowered the jugi raja, and killed him with the

stone he used to put upon the breast of those whom he vanquished. He

then espoused the jugi raja's wife, and took possession of his

kingdom. Gumda's companions held him in great awe, because each in

turn had been conquered by the jugi raja, but Gumda had experienced

little difficulty in putting him to death.

Gumda became raja of that country, and when he had settled his affairs,

he sent for his mother to come and reside with him. The raja, whom

Gumda had previously served, sought his friendship, and withdrew his

command to Gumda to search for the elephant's bones until he found

them. The prowess of Gumda caused him to deprecate his anger. He said,

"If I offend him, he will kill me as he did the jugi raja, and take

my wife and kingdom, as he did his."