Santal Folk Tales by of the Santal Mission | Annotated Tale

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Seven Brothers and Their Sister

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 [1] 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.



[1] Ischœmum agustifolium, Hack.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Seven Brothers and Their Sister
Tale Author/Editor: Campbell, A.
Book Title: Santal Folk Tales by of the Santal Mission
Book Author/Editor: Campbell, A.
Publisher: Santal Mission Press
Publication City: Pokhuria
Year of Publication: 1891
Country of Origin: India
Classification: unclassified

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