Folklore of the Santal Parganas | Annotated Tale

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Dukhu and His Bonga Wife

ONCE upon a time there was a man named Bhagrit who had two sons named Lukhu and Dukhu; and Lukhu used to work in the fields, while Dukhu herded the buffaloes. In summer Dukhu used to take his buffaloes to drink and rest at a pool in the bed of a dry river.

               Now in the pool lived a bonga girl and she fell in love with Dukhu. So one day as he was sitting on the bank she appeared to him in the guise of a human maiden. She went up to him and began to talk, and soon they became great friends and agreed to meet at the same place every day. As the girl was beautiful Dukhu fell deeply in love with her and resolved to marry her, not knowing that she was a bonga. One day the bonga-girl asked Dukhu to come home with her to dinner, as he had stayed too late to go to his own house; but he said he was too shy to do so, as her parents knew nothing about him. The bonga-girl said "Oh no, I have told my people all about our love, but if you won't come with me, stay here till I fetch you some rice; it is too late for you to go home now; by the time you come back, the buffaloes will have wandered off for their afternoon grazing." So Dukhu agreed to wait while she brought the rice, and she got up and moved away and disappeared behind some bushes, but a minute later Dukhu saw her come smiling towards him with a pot of rice on her head; though how she had fetched it so quickly he could not make out. She came to him and put it down and told him to wash his hands and come and eat his dinner. Dukhu asked her whether she had had her own dinner and she said that she would go back and have that later. Then he proposed that she should eat part of what she had brought; and she said that she would do so, if he did not want it all. Dukhu resolved to test her, for it would be a proof of true love, if she ate what he left over. So after eating half the rice he said that he was satisfied and when she found that Dukhu would eat no more she took what was left; then he was satisfied that she really loved him and they began to talk of getting married, and he told her that there would be no difficulty about it, as his elder brother Lukhu was already married.

               Then Dukhu asked the bonga to take him to her house to see her parents, so one day she led him into the pool and as he went in, the water never came above his ankles; and somehow they passed along a broad road until they came to the bonga girl's house, and this was full of tigers and leopards and snakes. At the sight of them Dukhu was too frightened to speak; the bonga said that she would not let them touch him and offered him a large coiled-up snake to sit on; but he would not sit down till she came and sat by his side. Then the bonga father and mother asked their daughter whether this was her husband, and when she said "yes" they came and made obeisance to him.

               After they had had their dinner she took him back and he knew that she was a bonga; but still he could not give her up. After this the bonga girl brought Dukhu his dinner every day on the bank of the river, and he never went home for his midday-meal at all. His brother's wife asked him why he did not come home and he said that he did not get hungry and was content with some buffalo's milk; but she did not believe him and resolved to watch and see who brought him his dinner, but though she went and watched every day she only saw him sitting alone, and the bonga girl was invisible to her. But one day she saw him disappear into the pool, and come out again.

               When she told this at home, Dukhu's father, Bhagrit, got very angry and decided to find out who made Dukhu disappear into the pool. He resolved to bale out the water and find out what was at the bottom. So he sent for men with baling baskets and began to divide off the water with dams, but out of the water a voice was heard, singing;--

"Do not dam the water, father,     
Do not dam the water, father,     
Your daughter-in-law, the Ginduri fish is dying."

                At this sound the workmen were frightened and stopped; but Bhagrit made them go on, saying that whatever happened should be on his head. And when the dams were finished, they began to bale out the water; thereupon a voice sang:--

"Do not bale the water, father,     
Do not bale the water, father.     
Your daughter-in-law, the Ginduri fish is dying."

                But they paid no attention and baled the water dry, and at the bottom of the pool they found an enormous fish, for the bonga girl had turned into a fish. And they went to kill it, but the fish sang:--

"Do not hit me, father,     
Do not hit me, father,     
Your daughter-in-law, the Ginduri fish is dying."

                Nevertheless they killed it and dragged it on to the bank. Then they began to cut it up, and as they did so, it sang:--

"Do not cut me, father,     
Do not cut me, father,     
Your daughter-in-law, the Ginduri fish, is dying."

                Nevertheless they cut it up, and Bhagrit divided the pieces among the workmen, but they were too frightened to take any and preferred to take the smaller fishes as their share. So he told Lukhu's wife to take up the pieces and wash them: and as she did so the song was heard:--

"Do not wash me, sister,     
Do not wash me, sister,     
The Ginduri fish is dying."

                And she was very frightened, but her father made her wash them and then they took home the pieces and lit a fire and ground spices and turmeric and heated oil and made ready to cook the fish. Then the fish sang again:--

"Do not cook me, sister,     
Do not cook me, sister,     
The Ginduri fish, sister, is dying.'

                But she nevertheless put the pieces into the pot to boil, when lo and behold, out of the pot jumped the pretty bonga girl. Then Bhagrit said to his neighbours.--"You see by my persistence I have got a daughter-in-law"--and she was duly married to Dukhu. At the wedding the bonga girl said "Listen, Father and all of you: I tell you and I tell my husband--however much we quarrel let not my husband strike me on the head, let him beat me on the body, I shall not mind; but on the day that he hits me on the head: I shall depart for good."

               After the marriage the family became very prosperous and their crops flourished and every one liked the bonga girl; but between her and her husband there were constant quarrels and their friends could not stop them. One day it happened that Dukhu smacked her on the head. Then the bonga girl began to cry and called her father-in-law and mother-in-law and said "Father, listen, the father of your grandson has turned me out, you must do your work yourselves to-day;" then she took her child on her hip and left the house; and they ran after her and begged her to return, but she would not heed; and they tried to snatch the child from her but she would not give it up, and went away and was seen no more.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Dukhu and His Bonga Wife
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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