Folklore of the Santal Parganas | Annotated Tale

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Lakhan and the Wild Buffaloes

ONCE upon a time there was the only son of a widow, who used to tend the sheep and goats of a Raja and his name was Lakhan. One day he harnessed one of the goats to a plough and ploughed up a piece of high land and sowed hemp there. The crop grew finely, but one night a herd of wild buffaloes came and ate it all up; at this Lakhan resolved to pursue the buffaloes and shoot them.

               His mother did all she could to dissuade him but he made up a bundle of provisions, and set off on his journey with a stick, and a bow and arrows, and a flute made of the castor oil plant. He tracked the buffaloes for some days and one evening he came to the house of an old witch (hutibudhi) and he went up to it and asked the witch if he might sleep there. She answered "My house is rough and dirty, but you can choose a corner to sleep in; I can give you nothing more, as I have not a morsel of food in the house." "Then," said he, "I must go to bed hungry" and he lay down supperless.

               In the middle of the night the witch began to gnaw at Lakhan's bow and he heard her gnawing and called out "What are you munching? Give me at bit," but she answered that it was only a little pulse which she had gleaned from the fields and she had finished it. So Lakhan said no more; but during the night the witch bit his bow to pieces and when he saw this in the morning, he was very unhappy; for it was useless to find the bison, if he had nothing to shoot them with.

               So he went home and had an iron bow and arrows made by a blacksmith, and then started off again. As before he came to the witch's house and arranged to sleep there; and in the night the witch tried to bite the bow to pieces, and Lakhan heard her crunching it and asked her what she was eating: she said it was only a little grain which she had gleaned. In the morning he found the bow all right, but the witch's jaws were badly swollen. Lakhan laughed at her and asked what was the matter and she said that she had toothache.

               So Lakhan went on his way rejoicing and at last reached the place where the wild buffaloes rested at night; he waited there and while he waited he swept away all the droppings and made the place clean, and then climbed up into a tree. At evening great herds of buffaloes came to the place and they were so many that Lakhan was afraid to shoot. So he stayed there, and every day he used to sweep the place clean, while the buffaloes were away, and at night time hid himself in the tree.

               The buffaloes determined to find out who their benefactor was, and they chose an old cow to stay behind and watch. The next day the old cow pretended that she was too weak to rise, and was left behind when the herd went out to graze. Lakhan thought that she was too old to do him any harm, so, although she was there, he got down from the tree and cleaned up the place as usual, and even swept quite close up to the old cow buffalo. In the evening the other buffaloes came back and the old cow told them that it was a human being who swept their resting place clean; and when they promised not to hurt him, she pointed out the tree where Lakhan was. Then the buffaloes told him to come down and swore not to kill him but to support him and keep him as their servant. They told him to make a leaf bowl and they filled this with their milk, as much as he could drink, and they arranged that he should stay at the sleeping place and keep it clean, and when he wanted milk he was to play on his flute and they would come at the sound.

               So every noon he used to blow the flute and the cows came, running and gave him more milk than he wanted so that he used even to bathe himself in milk, and this made his hair grow very long.

               One day a parrot belonging to a Raja saw him drying his long hair in the sun and the parrot went to the Raja and told him that he had found a husband for the Raja's daughter, with beautiful long hair; but that no one could go near where he lived because of the wild buffaloes; however the parrot undertook to bring him with the help of a tame crow of the Raja's: so the crow and the parrot flew off to the jungle, and they decided that the best way to entice Lakhan away, was to carry off his flute. So when the cows gave him milk at noon and he put down his flute, the crow seized it in his beak and flew away to the top of a tree. When Lakhan missed the flute and saw the crow with it, he began to throw stones but the crow flew off with it, keeping just out of range; the crow flew from tree to tree and seemed to be always just about to drop the flute and in this way enticed Lakhan on, till they came to the Raja's palace and Lakhan followed the crow right inside and they shut the door on him and made him marry the princess.

               After some time his wife's brothers began to talk rudely about him saying "I suppose this fellow is some poor orphan, without any relations" and when Lakhan heard this he said that if they wanted to see his cattle and buffaloes they must make a yard for them. So the Raja gave orders for a large cattle yard to be made, and when it was ready Lakhan took his flute and put his wife on the roof of the palace and he himself climbed a tree and blew on the flute. Then the wild buffaloes came running at the sound and gored to death every one they met, and Lakhan and his wife became Raja and Rani.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Lakhan and the Wild Buffaloes
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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