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Date of Publish: 2016-03-12

UP THE LADDER TO THE MOON

( A Garo folktale )

 

 

Once upon a time there lived a couple in a village. They had a little boy. He was very healthy.  As he was the only son, he was the apple of the couple’s eye.

One fine evening the little boy was sitting outside in the courtyard with his parents.  Up above the sky the moon was shining among the twinkling stars. He was fascinated by the beautiful sight of the glittering moon and he was staring at it for quite some time. Then he said to his parents “Oh, it is such a beautiful moon!  Father, please go up there and get the moon. Pease bring it to me.  I want to play with it.”

His father tried to explain to him that the moon stays far away in the sky, and that there was no path to reach there. The stubborn child, however, refused to listen to him. He even denied taking food unless the moon was brought to him. His mother too, getting annoyed over his constant whimper, said to her husband, “Oh, it is so annoying to listen to his whimper. Please, make a try to climb up to the moon and bring it to him. Why don’t you make a ladder and climb up.”

The father again tried his best to explain to his wife that it was not possible. But it was all in vain.  She was not at all ready to listen to him.

At last, he decided to build a strong ladder to climb up to the moon. He called his nephew and both of them collected as many bamboos as they could for the purpose.  

They started building a ladder in a bid to reach the moon. They first erected some bamboo posts strongly on the ground. As the uncle engaged himself in building the ladder, his nephew tried to help him by collecting bamboo from the forests. The ladder stood on the ground, grew taller aiming at the moon. One day the ladder crossed the clouds in the sky. Then the father thought - the moon was not far away! The thought made him happy.  He called his nephew, who was standing far below - “Oh, give me more bamboos! Give me more!”

His nephew and wife, standing below, could not hear properly what he had said. They thought he was saying, “I have reached the moon, remove the ladder.” The nephew brought an axe and cut the bamboos. The ladder crumbled making a deafening sound. The man fell off the ladder and died instantly.

His wife and nephew waited for him for many days. They still thought that he would come only after taking the moon for the child. The moon, however, used to be seen in the sky every day, as usual. At last they thought that he had started living with the moon in the sky.

The massive heap of the broken bamboo pieces the ladder created a hill. The Garo people call this hill Rangira.

 

This hill is situated on the south-west direction of Garo Hills.

 

 

Translated from Assamese into English by Ratna Bharali Talukdar

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)

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The Garos live mainly in Garo hills area of Meghalaya. A large section of Garo people also live in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura, West Bengal and in Bangladesh. 

Garos have distinguished language and culture. They call their language as Mande Ku Sik or language of men, and also Achik Ku Sik or language of hill men. They have different dialects  and cultural groups. They also have a beautiful legend which speaks how these dialects and cultural groups evolved long back.

“According to this legend, one Garo leader named Abong Noga and his wife Silme Do’ka left the plains of Assam along with their followers and settled the Nokrek hill, the highest peak in Garo hills where they become powerful and rich. However, at times drought and famine struck them and so he sent away his subjects to different parts of Garo hills with specific jobs to do for him, out of which sprang different dialectical and cultural groups”, as written by M. S. Sangma in a book titled “Growth and Development of Khasi and Garo Languages”.

They have different festivals. The most important, however, is the Wangala, which is celebrated during the months of October and November after harvesting is over.  In this festival both men are women take part in community dance, feast and merrymaking.  

This short-story was earlier published in Asom Deshar Sadhu. In this book, renowned writer of Assam late Prafulla Dutta Goswami has collected a number of folktales from different tribes and societies of Northeast India. This book was first published way back in 1955 by Sri Bhumi Publising Company of Kolkata.

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