Folklore of the Santal Parganas | Annotated Tale

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Birluri and Birbanta

BIRLURI was of the Goala caste and Birbanta of the oilman's caste. And this is the story of their fight.

               Birluri was very rich, with great herds of cattle and buffaloes but Birbanta's wealth consisted in tanks and ponds. Birluri used every day to water his cattle at Birbanta's ponds: and this made Birbanta very angry: he felt it an injustice that though Birluri was so rich he would not dig his own ponds: so he sent word that Birluri must stop watering his cattle or he would be killed. Birluri answered the messengers that he was quite ready to fight Birbanta: for though Birbanta had made the tanks, it was God who had made the water in them and so he considered that his cattle had a perfect right to drink the water. When Birbanta heard this he fell into a rage and vowed that he would not let the cattle drink, but would kill every living thing that went down to the water. From that day he let no one drink from his tanks: when women went to draw water he used to smash their water pots and put the rims round their necks like necklaces: all wild birds and animals he shot: and the cattle and buffaloes he cut down with his axe: and at last he proceeded to kill any human beings who went there.

               When the Raja of the country heard this he was very angry and bade his sipahis search for some one strong enough to overcome and kill Birbanta: and he promised as a reward the hand of one of his daughters and half his kingdom. So the sipahis made proclamation all through the country and at last Birluri heard of it and volunteered to fight Birbanta. Then the Raja fixed a day for the fight, so that all the country might know and Birbanta also have due warning.

               Both the combatants made ready for the fray: Birbanta was armed with a sword and a shield like a cart wheel and was skilful at sword play, while Birluri's weapon was the quarter-staff. The day arrived and Birluri girded up his loins and set out, twirling his staff round his head. Now his father and mother were both dead; but on the road his mother met him in the guise of an old woman, so that he did not recognise her. She greeted him and asked where he was going and when she heard that it was to fight Birbanta she said "My son, you are very strong: but if he asks for water do not give it him, for if you do, he will assuredly kill you: but when he throws away his sword, do you make haste and take it and slay him with it." So saying she went on her way and when Birluri came within a kos of the fighting place he began to twirl his staff and he made such a cloud of dust that it became dark as night and in the darkness the staff gleamed like lightning.

               When Birbanta saw this he rose up and shouted "Here comes my enemy: I will fight my best and we will see who will conquer" and when he saw Birluri armed only with a quarter-staff he felt sure that he would not be overcome by such a weapon: so he grasped his sword and took his shield on his arm and went out to the fight The fray was fast and furious: Birbanta hacked and hacked with his sword but Birluri caught all the blows on his quarterstaff and took no injury. At last the end of the staff was hacked off leaving a sharp point: then Birluri transfixed Birbanta with the pointed end and Birbanta faltered: again he thrust him through and Birbanta acknowledged himself defeated, saying "My life is yours: let me drink some water at your hands before you kill me." So Birluri agreed to a truce and they stopped fighting. Then Birluri cut down a palm tree and dipped it into Birbanta's tank and holding out the end to Birbanta told him to suck it. Birbanta refused to take it and asked him to give him water in his hands: but Birluri remembered his mother's warning and refused. Then Birbanta in despair threw away his sword and shield and Birluri snatched up the sword and smote off his head: and this is the song of victory which Birluri sang.--

"Birbanta stopped the ghat for the golden oxen--     
The dust is raised up to heaven!     
Birbanta sat by the ghat of the oxen--     
The lightning is flashing in the sky!     
He has made an embankment: he has made a tank:     
But the water he collected in it, has become his enemy!"

                Then Birluri was taken to the Raja and married to one of the Raja's daughters and given one half of the Raja's kingdom.

               After a time Birluri told his wife that they must go back to his home to look after the large herds of cattle which he had left behind him. But his wife laughed at him and would not believe that he owned so much property: then Birluri said that if she would not go with him he would call the cattle to come to him: so he called them all by name and the great herd came running to the Raja's palace and filled the whole barn yard and as there was no room for them to stay there, they went away into the jungle and became wild cattle.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Birluri and Birbanta
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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