A Tale of the creation of spiders
(a Rabha folktale)
Long ago a very poor family lived in a village. The only means they had to survive was to beg. They had two grown up daughters who were extremely beautiful. Their beauty was even told to fascinate the gods.
The pathetic condition that they were in moved the Gaon-burha (A Village Elder) of the village who took the younger daughter as a maid to do domestic works at his home. His family was way too impressed at her work. Her enthusiasm in household chores got her married off to their middle son. Two years would pass after their marriage but they would hardly have any sign of having a kid. On the other hand although she was quite efficient in other works, she was unskilled in weaving. All in all the circumstances landed her in trouble and the in-laws turned really hostile towards her. As the in-laws chose her themselves for their son to marry they could not utter a word on her face nor could they just send her off their house forever. They kept on mulling over what to do with her. Eventually the mother started manipulating her son saying how bad she was so the son would abandon her. The son loved his wife with all his heart. He was utterly perplexed what to do- if he should embrace his wife or listen to his mother. Finally he decided that he would kill himself, but failed to do that too. Albeit reluctant he had to listen to his mother.
One fine day, as planned by his mother the son took his wife to a distant hill saying they would fetch some wild-banana leaves. Then he asked her to sit on a rock by the stream near a thick forest by the time he fetched the leaves. Instead of doing so he took his way home. By and by the sun set and it was getting dark. The poor wife kept on waiting on her husband only to find he never turned up again. Crestfallen as she was took shelter in a nearby cave covered by thick creepers. The place was surrounded by wild beasts all around. She was perhaps fortunate that nothing could harm her.
“O dear Lord! Why do I have to see this? All that destiny had for me is this? So much sorrow..so much pain..?” Her heart-breaking cry deeply hurt even the plants, creepers, insects of the forest. But no one could help her.
After sometime she heard a voice but could not see any appearance, she was not sure if it was a human. “Don’t cry my dear! They will never come again to take you from here, you must live here for the rest of your life”, she clearly heard the voice. She looked around but no one was there. She started crying again and condemned her own luck. All that she had was her clothes and without food and water she just kept lying there. As time passed by, she became a wild-spider. (Sing sing prang)
Her elder sister was also unsklled in weaving just like her. Hence she was abandoned by her husband and was left at her own parents’ home bearing all scolding and pain. She started picking up threads at a corner outside with all sorrow being unable to weave and thus became a spider. Their inability to weave made them just hang in their after-lives as spiders as if they keep preparing the warp for weaving all time.
The Rabhas still believe that all domestic and wild spiders in its web are none but the two sisters once abandoned by their dear ones.
The children still sing in unison whenever they see spiders-
“We are two sisters
With love we live
We make a home
Where we keep on
Pulling threads all day.
Sing sing sing grang
Who sit to weave?”
Illustrations - Utpal Talukdar.
(Utpal Talukdar is an illustrator and a cartoonist. He has completed several projects of children literature with National Book Trust of India. He is a reciepient of Parag Kumar Das Journalism Award)
Translation from Assamese – Daisy Barman
(Daisy Barman is a scribbler and translator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )
The Rabhas are one of the most important plains tribe of Assam with a distinctive culture and religion. In Assam, they mostly live in Kamrup and Goalpara districts. Baikho is their mail festival. They has a very strong tradition of oral literature. They have various dance forms including farkanti, hamjhar, bahurangi, bogejari, sathar, khokchi etc. This folktale has been picked up from Juji Budini Sastar,- a collection of Rabha folktales, originally written in Rabha by Lakh Kanta Phenan, edited and translated into Assamese by Dr. Upen Rabha Hakasam. The book is published by Directorate of Assam Institute of Research for Tribal and Schedule Caste, Guwahati.
Drawn by Little Das, Class V, Simlitola English Academy
Drawn by Sagarika Medhi, Class II, Simlitola English Academy