Thursday, April 3, 2008

Chawngchilhi

Translated by Rini Tochhong

Once upon a time there was Chawngchilhi, who with her younger sister would go to their jhum to guard their rice plants from birds. Their father was greatly pleased with their work so everyday, he would pack for them a sumptuous lunch, enough for the both of them. Even so, the father noticed that the younger sister was getting thinner everyday and he was so greatly worried by this that one day he finally asked her why she was getting so thin even though he packed them lunch everyday. The younger sister would not come forth with a straight answer, and clearly embarrassed she said, “If I tell you the truth, I know for sure my sister would cane me, so I can’t speak the truth.”

Her father grew even more concerned and insisted that she speak the truth however undesirable it may be. The younger sister did not have any choice then, so she spoke - uncomfortably and highly embarrassed- she told the truth to her father. “My sister has a Serpent for her lover. She makes me call him in the day and when he comes, they would sleep together completely naked. I get so scared of this Serpent that I would run out of the house and am even unable to eat- this is why I have grown so thin.”

The father at once became angry and highly agitated over what the younger sister told him. He devised a plan to go to the field himself taking Chawngchilhi’s younger sister with him. Once they reached the field, he sent the sister to go call Chawngchilhi’s lover as she always did whenever Chawngchilhi desired to spend time with him. The sister went off and called the serpent:

“O Chawngchilhi’s beloved one,
My mother begs for you to come,
My father begs for you to come.”

As soon as the Serpent heard the younger sister’s call, he answered with his usual amorous reply:

“I am coming, quick as I can,
Combing my hair to look my best,
Wearing my turban to look my best,
To rest as if dead in your loving bosom.”

The Serpent majestically made his way to the farm house, expecting, as always, to spend time with Chawngchilhi but much contrary to his expectations, he found instead, Chawngchilhi’s father with a sharp dao. On finding that the sister had spoken true, he cut the serpent into pieces in great anger. He buried the pieces beneath the farm house and its genitals inside the stove. The next day Chawngchilhi went with her sister to the jhum and heard from the snake’s spirit that her father had killed it. Beneath the farm house, she found pieces of its flesh and inside the stove, she found the genitals. Being so in love with the snake as she was, she kept the genitals piece in her crotch and the sisters then set off for home. When they reached home, Chawngchilhi found her father lying at the foot of the door with his dao. She said, “Father, move away or I might spill dirt on you.” But her father was adamant and he said, “I don’t mind the dirt of my children” and he would not move. As Chawngchilhi stepped over him, she did spill the snake organ she had kept in her crotch. As the organ hit her father, he got up in anger and killed Chawngchilhi with the same dao he had used on the snake.

Now Chawngchilhi had become pregnant by her serpent lover and she was near delivery. When she was killed, several baby snakes made their way out of her body and started slithering towards the wilds. Her father did his best to kill all the baby snakes and managed to do so except for one which escaped his knife. This solitary snake grew large and dangerous, often devouring human beings in later days. It lived in a cave which came to be called ‘Rulchawm kua’, which can be seen to this day. In time, a new settlement grew in the area surrounding this cave and a village with the name ‘Rulchawm’ was thus born.