The Seven Brothers And The Bonga Girl

: Part I.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once upon a time there were seven brothers who lived all alone in

the jungle, far from human habitations. None of them was married

and they lived on the game they killed. It chanced that a bonga

maiden saw the youngest brother and fell deeply in love with him. So

one day when all the brothers were away hunting, she placed in their

house seven nicely cooked plates of rice.

When the brothers returned in the
evening from the chase, they were

astonished to find the rice waiting for them; all but the youngest said

that it must be some plot to kill them and refused to touch the food,

but the youngest wished to eat it. His brothers would not let him and

told him to throw the rice away; so he took it outside the house, but

instead of throwing it away, he ate up the whole seven plates full,

without letting his brothers know. But when they went to bed that

night, the youngest brother snored loudly, because he had eaten so

much, and thereby his brothers guessed that he had eaten the rice,

and they were very unhappy for they were sure that he was about to

die. However in the morning he was none the worse; so they went out

hunting as usual but the youngest brother suffered continually from

thirst, the result of overeating, and this convinced his brothers

that he had eaten the rice, though he denied it.

When they reached home that evening, they again found seven dishes of

rice placed ready for them. And that day the youngest brother and the

youngest but one ate; and the day after there was the rice again, and

the three youngest ate it. Then the eldest brother said: "To-morrow

I will stay behind and watch, and see who it is who brings the rice;

we have no servant, if I can catch the person who is so kind to us,

I will engage him as a cook for us, and we need have no more of this

mystery. Do you bring back my share of the game you shoot."

So the next morning the eldest brother stayed behind and hid himself

and watched. But he could not see the bonga, though she brought

the rice as usual; and when he told his brothers this, it was decided

that the second brother should stay behind the next day, and see if

he had better luck; and that day they all ate the rice, except the

eldest brother, who said that he would never eat it, until he knew

who brought it; so the next day the second brother watched but he

also could not see the bonga.

One by one all the brothers watched in vain, until only the youngest

one was left. Then they said to the youngest brother: "Now it is

your turn and if our friend does not show himself to you, we will

eat no more of his rice." So the next day the other brothers went

off to hunt and the youngest stayed at home; he did not trouble to

hide himself, but sat in the house making a bow. At noon he saw the

bonga girl coming with the rice on her head, but he took no notice

and pretended to be looking down at something. Then the bonga came

into the courtyard and put down the rice and looked about and said:

"I saw something like a man here, where has he got to?" and she

looked into the house and still the youngest brother kept silent;

then she spoke to him and asked whether he was ill, that he had not

gone hunting. He answered her that he was not ill, but had been left

to watch for the person who brought them rice every day. Thereupon

the bonga went outside and brought in the rice and putting it down,

said: "It is I who do it. Come, wash your hands and I will give you

your dinner," but he said: "First tell me what all this means," and

she said: "It means that I want to live with you." He objected. "How

can I marry you when my brothers are not married?" She answered that

if he married her, they would soon find wives for his brothers. Then

she urged him to eat, but he said that if he ate one plateful, his

brothers would question him, so the bonga girl went and brought an

extra dish and he ate that. And as they talked together, he soon fell

deeply in love with her, and promised to consult his brothers about

her living with them; but he saw a difficulty which would arise if

she married him, for his elder brothers would not care even to ask

her for water, and thus she would be really of very little use in the

house; so with some hesitation he proposed that she should marry the

eldest brother and then they could all talk freely to her; but the

girl would not agree to this and said that there would be no harm at

all in their talking to her, provided that they did not touch her,

and she would not mind giving his elder brothers water.

So they plighted their troth to each other, subject to the consent of

the brothers, and towards evening the bonga girl left, promising

to return on the morrow. When the brothers returned they discussed

the matter and agreed that the youngest should marry the girl,

provided that she promised to keep house for them. So the next day

the girl came back and stayed with them; and they found wives for

the other brothers, and got cattle and buffaloes and broke up land

for cultivation and though the brothers did not altogether give up

hunting, they became rich.

A certain jogi found out where they lived and once every year he came

to ask for alms; one year he came just after the bonga girl had

borne a child, so as she was doing no work, it was her sisters-in-law

who brought out food for the jogi. But at this he was displeased, and

said that he would only eat at the hands of the girl, who had given

him food the year before. They told him that she was in child-bed and

could not come out. Then he said: "Go and tell her that the Jhades Jogi

has come and wants her arm tassel." So she sent out her arm tassel

to him and he put it in his bag and got up and went away. Thereupon

the bonga girl arose and left her baby, and followed him, and never

came back. At evening the brothers returned from hunting, and heard

what had happened. They were very distressed and told their wives

to look after the baby while they went in pursuit. They followed as

hard as they could and caught up the Jogi on the banks of a river;

then they tried to shoot him, but their arrows were powerless against

him, and he by magic turned the seven brothers into stones.

So the Jogi carried off the woman to his home. He was a Raja in his

own country and he had a big garden; and an old woman who looked

after it used to make garlands every day and bring them to the Rani,

and the Rani used to pay their weight in silver for them. In the

course of time the child who was left behind grew up and when he

used to play with his fellows at pitch and toss and there was any

dispute about the game his playmates would say "Fatherless boy,

you want to cheat!" So he asked his aunts whether it was true that

he had no father and they told him that the Jhades jogi had carried

off his mother, and how his father and uncles had gone in pursuit and

had never returned. So the boy decided to go in search of his mother

and he set off, and first he met some goatherds and he sang to them:--

"Ho, Ho, goatherds

Have you seen the Jhades Jogi

On this road?"

But they could tell him nothing. And then he met some shepherd boys,

and he sang to them:--

"Ho, Ho, shepherds,

Have you seen the Jhades jogi

On this road?"

But they could tell him nothing. Then he met some boys tending

buffaloes and he sang;--

"Ho, ho, buffalo herds,

Have you seen the Jhades jogi

On this road?"

But they could tell him nothing. Then he came to a thorn bush, with

a number of rags fluttering on it, and he sang:--

"Ho, ho, plum bush,

Have you seen the Jhades jogi

On this road?"

And the plum tree said "The Jhades jogi brought your mother this way,

and I did my best to stop them. If you don't believe me see the rags as

a proof." And he put his hand on the tree and went on. And then he came

to a squirrel which was chattering in a banyan tree, and he sang:--

"Ho, ho, squirrel,

Have you seen the Jhades jogi

On this road?"

And the squirrel said "I have been calling you since yesterday. The

jogi brought your mother this way, go on and you will overtake

them. And your father and uncles also came this road." The boy was

cheered by this news and he put his hand on the squirrel's back and

said "You are a fine fellow to give me this clue" and the marks of

his fingers were imprinted on the squirrel and that is why squirrels

have striped backs to the present day.

Then he went on and came to a river and he decided to sit and have

his lunch there; he did not know that his father and uncles had been

turned into stones in that very place, but as he sat and ate, his eyes

were opened and he saw the stones weeping, and he recognised them,

and he dropt a little food on each that they might eat, and pursued

his way, until he came to the Jhades jogi's kingdom, and he went to

the old woman who kept the Jogi's garden and asked to be allowed to

stay with her and help her to make the garlands.

One day when he had made a garland, he tied to it a ring which had

belonged to his mother. So when the old woman took the garland to the

Rani, the Rani wondered why it weighed so heavy, and when she examined

it she saw her own ring. Then she asked the old woman who had tied the

ring there, and when she heard that a strange boy had come, she at

once ran to him and recognised her own son.

Then they planned how they could kill the Jhades jogi and escape! The

mother agreed to find out in what lay the life of the Jogi. So she

questioned him and worried him till he told her that his life lay in a

certain pumpkin vine. Then the boy went and cut down the pumpkin vine,

but the Jogi did not die; then the Rani worried and worried the Jogi

till he told her that his life lay in his sword; then the boy stole

the sword and burnt it in a fire of cowdung, but still the Jogi did not

die; then his mother again worried and plagued the Jogi till at last he

told her the truth and said "In the middle of the sea is a cotton tree,

and on the tree are two Bohmae birds; if they are killed I shall die."

So the boy set off to the sea and on the road he met three old

women and one had a stool stuck to her back, and one had a bundle of

thatching grass stuck on her head, and the third had her foot stuck

fast to a rice-pounder, and they asked him where he was going, and he

told them, "to visit the shrine of the Bohmae bird": then they asked

him to consult the oracle and find out how they could be freed from

the things which were stuck fast to them, and he promised to do so.

By-and-bye he came to the sea and was puzzled as to how he was to

cross it. As he walked up and down the shore he saw an alligator

rolling about in pain with a swollen stomach; and when it saw the boy

it said "I am like to die with this pain in my stomach, how can I be

cured?" and the boy proposed that it should take him to the cotton

tree in the midst of the sea and there they might learn a remedy from

the Bohmae birds. The alligator agreed, so the boy got on its back

and was taken across the water. Then the boy sat at the foot of the

cotton tree and sang:--

"Come down, Bohmae birds,

I wish to consult the oracle."

But the birds were frightened and flew to the top of the tree. But as

he went on singing, they became curious and came down and asked what

was the matter, and he said "There are three old woman and one has a

stool stuck to her and one a bundle of grass and one a rice pounder;

how are they to be freed?" And they said "The first old woman never

asked visitors to her house to take a seat; if she does so in future

she will get rid of the stool,"--and as they said this they came

nearer--"and the second old woman, if she saw anyone with straws

sticking in their hair never offered to take them out. If she does

so in future she will be freed," and as they said this they came

nearer still--"and the third old woman would not allow widows and

orphans to use her rice pounder: if she does so she will be freed:"

and as they said this they came quite near, and the boy seized them

and broke their wings, and as he did so the Jogi's arms were broken;

then he snapped off their legs, and as he did so the Jogi's legs were

broken; and the birds screamed and the Jogi howled.

Then the alligator carried the boy back, and by the time it reached

the shore it was cured of its pain. On his way back the boy told the

three old women of what the birds had said; and when he got to the

Jogi's palace he twisted off the heads of the Bohmae birds and then

the Jogi's head fell to the ground.

Then he started homewards with his mother, carrying the birds and

their heads; and the Jogi's head came rolling after them. But he saw

a blacksmith's fire burning by the side of the road and he threw the

birds into the fire and the Jogi's head rolled into the fire and was

burnt, and that was the end of him. When they came to the river where

his father and uncles were turned into stones, he bathed in the river,

and then put a cloth over the stones and they were restored to human

shape; and they rubbed their eyes and said "We must have slept a long

time" and were astonished when they heard how the Jogi had turned

them into stones. Then they all went home and lived happily ever after.