Hunchibili - Angami Naga Folk Tale
Once upon a time, a wild boar – the king of pigs - entered into a paddy field of a village and started ravaging it. This made the villagers angry. They came out and began to chase the wild boar. While chasing, a village boy wounded him with his bow and arrow. The wounded boar, somehow managed to escape, ran fast and vanished into a mountain gorge. The village boy, however, did not stop and continued to search for it, following the trail of bloods which the wounded wild boar had left. Finally, the village boy reached a cave of the mountain.
He looked into the cave. There he saw a God, who was sitting inside. The God asked him- “who are you? What do you want? Are you the same person who wounded the boar?” The village boy was frightened. Out of fear, he even did not mention about the wild boar. Instead, he said, “Oh! God, I am here only to ask for your daughter’s hand.” Thus, the boy gently expressed his desire to marry the God’s daughter.
This made the God in the cave happy. He asked the boy to choose either of his two daughters whoever he likes. The boy stared at both the daughters of the God for some time. The first one was unattractive, but she was wearing nice clothes. The second one was stunningly beautiful, but she was wearing worn out and filthy dresses. He preferred the second one. He married her immediately and carried her in a bamboo basket to his home.
Reaching home he kept the basket near a hole that drains waste water of the house. Then he went out to tell his friends and relatives about his marriage. Because, according to their custom a bride is to be taken inside the home only in presence of friends and relatives. After he had left, Hunchibili- an ugly and wicked woman reached that place. She removed the lid of the basket and saw the beautiful girl. An evil thought came to her mind at once. She pulled the girl out of the basket, dragged her and threw her into a river flowing by the village. Then she herself got into the basket and tied the lid.
The village boy reached home after some time along with his friends and relatives. He removed the cover of the basket so that everybody could see his beautiful bride. But alas! She was not there. Instead, an ugly woman came out of it. His friends and relatives started to laugh and said, “Oh, you said you have brought a beautiful girl. But what an ugly woman she is!” The village boy failed to understand what went wrong. Confused though, he finally decided to marry Hunchibili.
The beautiful girl, whom Hunchibili had thrown into the river, finally became a beautiful bamboo tree. In the course of time, tender bamboo soot sprouted from the original tree. One day the young boy cut the tender bamboo soot and started preparing a curry with it. As the curry was boiling, the cut bamboo soot and started to wail - Hunchibili la la la law! Hunchibili la la la la! This frightened him so much that he threw away the curry to the backyard of the house.
After some days, a beautiful orange tree grew on the place where the curry was thrown. Seeing the beautiful orange tree the village boy was very pleased. The tree started growing. One day he saw a beautiful orange on the tree. To his surprise, the village boy noticed that the orange comes nearer whenever he reaches the tree, but goes away if Hunchibili reaches there.
One day he plucked the orange and kept it inside a basket. Then he completely forgot about it.
Then, something unusual began to happen. Whenever, the village boy went out with Hunchibili to work in the paddy-field, a girl would come out of the orange and clean his bed nicely. Then she would throw garbage, dirt and cow dung on the bed of Hunchibili. This was happening every day. This made the village boy confused and curious at the same time. He asked all his neighbours, and came to know that none of them had done that. One day he decided to stay at home to find out the truth. Thus, he was hiding inside. At noon, after Hunchibili had gone out to collect firewood, he saw a beautiful girl coming out of the basket and cleaning his bed and throwing garbage, dirt and cow dung on Hunchibili’s bed. To his sheer delight, he found that the girl was actually the daughter of the cave God, whom he had carried on a basket long ago.
As the girl had tried to enter into the basket after completing the work he caught her and asked her what had actually happened to her. The girl narrated everything --how Hunchibili- the wicked woman had thrown her into the river and how she had later turned into an orange tree.
The village boy was so angry that he took out his dao, sharpened it, and waited for Hunchibili to return. After some time Hunchibili reached home with a head-load of firewood and asked him to help her to keep the firewood properly. He came out, killed her with his dao. An arum plant got soaked with her blood and turned red. Since then people believe that whenever a male person sees a red-arum plant, he loses his cool.
( Translated from Assamese by Ratna Bharali Talukdar. The Assamese version of the folktale has been taken from Jajajatiya Sadhu, a collection of tribal folk tales of the North-East, compiled and edited by Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, and Published by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi)
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)
About the Angami Nagas-
Angami Naga is a colourful tribe of Nagaland. They live on the hills of Nagaland. They are agriculturists but also known for their unique craft of wood and bamboo. They has expertise on terrace cultivation where the grow wet-rice. The most important festival of the Angami Nagas is called Sekrenyi, which spans for 10 days and is celebrated in the month of Kezei, according to Angami Calendar. The festival begins on February 26. The great Angami Nagas have four main divisions - The Southern Angami living in south part of Kohima located on the foothills of Mount Japfu, the Western Angami who live in the western part of Kohima, the Northern Angami living in the northern part of Kohima and Chakhro Angami.