The Legend Of Ka Panshandi The Lazy Tortoise

: Folk-tales Of The Khasis

Once upon a time there lived a young tortoise near a large pool. She

was very ill-favoured and ugly in appearance and very foolish,

as well as being of a lazy disposition, and, like all lazy people,

she was slovenly and dirty in her habits. Her name was Ka Panshandi.

The pool near which she lived being very clear, the stars and other

heavenly bodies often gazed into it to behold their own images. At

the reflection of countless shining, blinking stars would

be visible in the placid waters till the pool looked like a little

part of the sky. At such times Ka Panshandi took immense delight in

plunging into the pool, darting backwards and forwards and twirling

round the bright silvery spots with great glee and contentment.

Among those who came frequently to gaze at themselves in the pool was

U Lurmangkhara, the brightest of all the stars; he began to notice

the playful gambols of Ka Panshandi in the water and to admire her

twirling motions. He lived so far away that he could not see her

ugliness, nor could he know that she was lazy and foolish. All he

knew was that she exposed herself nightly to the chilly waters of

the pool in order (as he thought) to have the pleasure of being near

the images of the stars, which was very flattering to his vanity. If

she was so strongly attracted by their images, he thought to himself,

how much more would she adore the real live stars if she were brought

into contact with them.

U Lurmangkhara fell deeply in love with her, and determined to go

down to the earth to marry her and to endow her with all his wealth,

for he was very rich and had always lived in great splendour.

When his relations and friends heard of his purpose, they were much

disturbed, and they came to remonstrate with him against what they

considered to be a very rash and risky step--to go to a foreign land

to make his home and to mate with an unknown consort whose habits and

outlook on life might be altogether alien to him. But U Lurmangkhara

would listen to no counsel. Persons in love never take heed of other

people's advice. Down to the earth he came, and there married Ka

Panshandi and endowed her with all his wealth.

When Ka Panshandi found herself a rich wife, having unexpectedly won

one of the noblest husbands in the world, her vanity knew no bounds,

and she grew more indolent and idle than ever. Her house was squalid,

and she minded not when even her own body was daubed with mud, and

she felt no shame to see her husband's meals served off unscoured

platters. U Lurmangkhara was very disappointed; being patient and

gentle, he tried by kind words to teach his wife to amend her ways,

but it was of no avail. Gradually he grew discontented and spoke

angrily to her, but she remained as callous and as indifferent as

ever, for it is easier to turn even a thief from stealing than to

induce a sluggard to renounce his sloth. He threatened to leave her,

her neighbours also repeatedly warned her that she would lose her good

husband unless she altered her ways, but she remained as unconcerned

as ever. At last, driven to despair, U Lurmangkhara gathered together

all his wealth and went back to his home in the sky.

Ka Panshandi was filled with remorse and grief when she found that

her husband had departed. She called piteously after him, promising

to reform if he would only return, but it was too late. He never came

back, and she was left to her squalor and her shame.

To this day Ka Panshandi is still hoping to see U Lurmangkhara coming

back to the earth, and she is seen crawling about mournfully, with

her neck outstretched towards the sky in expectation of his coming,

but there is no sign of his return, and her life is dull and joyless.

After these events Ka Panshandi's name became a mockery and a proverb

in the land; ballads were sung setting forth her fate as a warning

to lazy and thriftless wives. To the present day a forsaken wife who

entertains hope of her husband's return is likened by the Khasis to

Ka Panshandi in her expectant attitude with her head lifted above

her shell: "Ka Panshandi dem-lor-khah."