Folklore of the Santal Parganas | Annotated Tale

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Kora and His Sister

THERE were once seven brothers and they had one sister who was the youngest of the family. The six eldest brothers were married but no wife had been found for the youngest; for three years enquiries were made to try and find a suitable bride for him, but all in vain. At last the young man, whose name was Kora, told his parents and brothers not to trouble any more, as he would find a wife for himself; he intended to bring a flowering plant from the forest and plant it by the stand on which the watering pots were kept, and then he would marry any maiden who picked one of the flowers and put it in her hair.

               His father and mother approved of this proposal, so the next day he brought some sort of flowering plant and planted it by the water-pot stand. He charged all his family to be most careful that no one of his own relations picked the flower and also to warn any of the village girls who wanted to pick it, that if she did so and put it in her hair, she would thereby become his wife; but if, knowing this, anyone wished to do so, they were not to prevent her.

               The neighbours soon got to hear what the plant meant and used often to come and look at it, and Kora watched it growing, till after a time it produced a bud and then a beautiful and sweet-scented flower. All the village girls came to see the beautiful flower; and one day Kora's sister when she went to the water-stand to get some water to drink, caught hold of it and longed to pick it, it looked so pretty. Her mother saw what she was doing and scolded her for touching the forbidden flower, but the girl begged to see what it would look like in her hair; there could be no harm done if she pulled the whole plant up by its roots and put it in her hair and then replanted it; no one would know what had happened. In spite of her mother's remonstrances she insisted on doing this and having seen how the flower looked in her hair carefully replanted it.

               Soon afterwards Kora came home and went to see his flower; he knew at once that some one had worn it and called to his mother and asked who it was. She protested that she knew nothing about the matter, but Kora said that he could tell by the smell that it had been worn and then he showed that there was also a hair sticking to the flower. Then his mother admitted that in spite of all she could say, his sister had worn the flower and planted it again in the ground.

               When she saw that she was found out, the girl began to cry, but her father said that it was clearly fated that she and Kora should marry and this was the reason why they had been unable to find any other bride; so they must now arrange for the wedding. Accordingly rice was got ready and all the usual preparations made for a marriage. The unfortunate girl saw that flight was her only means of escape from such a fate, so one day she ran away; all she took with her was a pet parrot.

               For many days she travelled on and one day she stopped by a pool to bathe and as she rubbed her limbs she collected the scurf that she rubbed off her skin and put in on the ground in one place; then she went on with her bathing; but at the place where she had put the scurf of her skin, a palm tree sprang up and grew so rapidly, that, by the time she came out of the water, it had become a large tree.

               The girl was struck by this strange sight and at once thought that the tree would afford her a safe refuge; so she climbed up it with her parrot in her hand and when safely seated among the leaves she begged the palm tree to grow so tall that no one would be able to find her, and the tree grew till it reached an unusual height. So the girl stayed in the tree top and the parrot used to go every day and bring her food. Meanwhile her parents and brothers searched high and low for her for two or three days, for the wedding day was close at hand, but their search was of course in vain; and they concluded that the girl must have drowned herself in some river.

               Time passed and one day at noon, a Mahuli girl, who was taking her basket-ware to market, stopped to rest in the shade of the palm tree: and as she sat there, Kora's sister called to her from the top of the tree and asked her to give her a small winnowing fan in exchange for a bracelet The Mahuli girl told her to throw the bracelet down first. Kora's sister made no objection to this, and when she had got the bracelet, the Mahuli girl threw up a winnowing fan which soared right up to where Kora's sister was sitting. Before the Mahuli girl went on her way, Kora's sister made her promise never to let anyone see the bracelet whew she went about selling her baskets as otherwise it would be stolen from her; and secondly on no account to let it be known that there was anyone in the palm tree, on pain of death. The Mahuli girl kept her promise and whenever she went out selling baskets she used to keep her bracelet covered with her cloth.

               One day it chanced that she went to the house where Kora lived to sell her wares and they asked her why it was that she kept her arm covered; she told them that she had a sore on it; they wanted to see how big the sore was, but she refused to show it, saying that if she showed it she would die. They laughed at such a ridiculous story and at last forced her to show her arm, which of course was quite well; but they at once recognised the bracelet and asked where she had got it from. The Mahuli girl refused to tell them and said that if she did, she would die. "What a foolish girl you are" they objected "first you say you will die if you show us your arm and then if you tell us where you got this bracelet from; it belonged to our daughter whom we have lost, and so you must tell us! Come, we will give you a basket full of rice if you tell us." The Mahuli girl could not resist this offer, and when the basket of rice was produced, she told them where the palm tree was, in which Kora's sister was hiding. In all haste the father and mother went to the tree and found that it was much too high for them to climb: so they begged their daughter to come down and promised not to marry her to her brother; but she would not come down: then they sang:--

"You have made a palm tree from the scrapings of your skin     
And have climbed up into it, daughter!         
     Come daughter, come down."

                But she only answered:--

"Father and mother, why do you cry?     
I must spend my life here:     
"Do you return home."

                So they went home in despair.

               Then her sisters-in-law came in their turn and sang:--

"Palm tree, palm tree, give us back our sister:     
The brother and sister have got to be married."

                But she would not answer them nor come down from the tree, so they had to go home without her.

               Then all her other relations came and besought her to come down, but she would not listen to them. So they went away and invoked a storm to come to their aid. And a storm arose and cold rain fell, till the girl in the palm tree was soaked and shivering, and the wind blew and swayed the palm tree so that its top kept touching the ground. At last she could bear the cold and wet no more and, seizing an opportunity when the tree touched the ground, she slipped off. Her relations had made all the villagers promise on no account to let her into their houses; so when she went into the village and called out at house after house no one answered her or opened to her. Then she went to her own home and there also they refused to open to her.

               But Kora had lit a big fire in the cow house and sat by it warming himself, knowing that the girl would have to come to him; and as she could find no shelter elsewhere she had to go to his fire, and then she sat and warmed herself and thought "I fled for fear of this man and now I have come back to him; this is the end, I can no longer stay in this world; the people will not even let me into their houses. I have no wish to see them again."

               So she sat and thought, and when she was warmed, she lay down by the side of Kora; and he wore tied to his waist a nail-cutter; she unfastened this and cut her throat with it as she lay. Her death struggles aroused Kora, and he got up and saw the ground covered with her blood and he saw that she had killed herself with his nail-cutter; then he took counsel with himself and also cut his throat in the same way. In the morning the two corpses were found lying side by side, and it was seen that their blood refused to mingle but had flowed in opposite directions.

               So they took the bodies away to burn them and laid them on one pyre; and when the fire was lit, it was seen that the smoke from the two bodies rose separately into the air. Then all who saw it, said "We wished to marry brother and sister but Chando would not approve of it; see how their blood would not mingle though spilt on the same floor, and how the smoke from the pyre rises in two separate columns; it is plain that the marriage of brother and sister is wrong." From that time such manages have been discontinued.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Kora and His Sister
Tale Author/Editor: Bompas, Cecil Henry
Book Title: Folklore of the Santal Parganas
Book Author/Editor: Bompas, Cecil Henry
Publisher: David Nutt
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1909
Country of Origin: India
Classification: unclassified

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