Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Legend of Tumpanga and Pial village (series)
(posted on Facebook 23rd Feb., 2017)
Not so far away from the easternmost slopes of the Lushai Hills in the East, across three streams and one big river, lies a village whose inhabitants are awfully indebted to the departed soul of a man who they fondly nicknamed Tumpanga; called after a ferocious wild bison species revered in the region for its unique built and distinctive survival instincts. Tumpanga is not a native of the village, he’s its adopted son. He was born in a village bordering Thailand in Burma about one thousand miles away from the village. He had done wonders for the village – real wonders which consequently courted wild envy from the surrounding villages.

The village is Pial - the name whose origin the village elders are recently interested anew and fighting about stupidly. The village wise man - an elderly man in his late seventies, living on the western slope of the hill housing the ‘Upas’ of the village - proclaimed that since it’s the first village created by the goddess Khuanu, so the word ‘piallei’ for earth or soil or land (as you would like to ascribe it) was shortened to ‘pial’ for the name of the village. “He’s absolutely wrong,” argued the village blacksmith whose inheritance of the bloodline of the once celebrated village priesthood, but now abolished, his only ‘valuable’ possession. According to the blacksmith, the village lies on the way to ‘Pialral’, a mystical home of the deaths, regularly followed by the departed souls of the Lushais. And so the village derived its name ‘Pial’ from the mystical abode ‘Pialral’.

The wildest ‘theory’ about the origin of the name of the village came from the village crier who proudly claimed that his ancestors had always been the proud confidants of the village chieftains, whosoever were the ruling clans, and so his version was right and final, and professedly passed down the generations, like an heirloom, in the family lineage. He said, “The land where the village now stands was once part of the eastern slope of the Lushai Hills. One day, a very large eagle flew down South from the northern mountains very very far away. On passing through the land of the Lushais, the bird decided to take a break from his long journey and rested on the branch of a very large tree. However, not only the tree and its truck, the landmass where the tree stood could not withstand the heavy weight of the eagle and so it skidded down eastward slowly… skidding and skidding until it reached a shallow land to stop the movement, and stand. That landmass which skidded down from the eastern slope of the Lushai Hills formed the mound on which the village now stands. Since the word ‘pial’ in Lushai means ‘to skid’ or ‘to break apart’, and since the village came up on the landmass from the ‘pial’ phenomenon and so was the name of the village Pial.” Even the way the word ‘pial’ sounds in his version is extraordinarily different… the tone down sliding like the skidding down of the landmass in his theory.

The village was popularly known as Chakkhai Kawn by the Lushai warriors. This was the village from where the Lushai warriors would pick up their requirements for their month-long hunting expeditions in the deep jungles south of the village, which they would repay back in terms of elephant tusks and smoked meats after their return from the hunting sojourns. This village was located exactly 20 hills northwest of the riverbank from where the legendary Lushai warrior Vanzika killed the ‘invincible’ four-tusked elephant. And so it was also colloquially called Tlang Sawmhnihna village.

The legend of the invincibility of the four-tusked elephant had ruled the hills and the jungles for about two decades, through traditional folklores and songs, until its most eventful slaughter in the hands of the bravest headhunter warrior of the Lushai Hills - some songs glorifying the monstrosity of the tusker, some songs vilifying the cruelty of the mammal. The four-tusked mammal had been terrorizing the jungle and the chiefdoms in the vicinity, displacing seven villages to flee and to resettle in at least as far away as 15 hills North, East or South from its (the mammal’s) home turf. Even the blood-thirsty ‘hlaiba’, the fiercest of the cat family in the jungle, solemnly migrated westward crossing the Lushai Hills, unable to tolerate the vindictiveness of the tusker.


*cont. of the story of the legendary Tumpanga of Pial village.
(posted on Facebook 2nd March, 2017)

Even thirty years after the death of the ‘four-tusked elephant slayer’ Vanzika, there was no such a man born to be claimed exceptionally brave as he’s in the whole of Lushai Hills. Brave men were there, but not a man with a mark of dominance in heroism and bravery as Vanzika. Not only that he killed the invincible animal, he had fought seven wars with the warmongering tribesmen of the East. The whole of Lushai Hills was peaceful after the Seventh War till the death of Vanzika, and it would be peaceful for another 15 years or so. The warmongering tribesmen of the East thought it’s better to ‘contain’ their warring instinct and hunger to kill than confronting the tribe that possessed a ‘pasaltha’ like Vanzika. That had culminated to ‘Sa-ui-tan’ (a non-aggression pact) for the next fifty years after the Seventh War, the most brutal of wars. Though it’s been thirty years after the demise of Vanzika, there had not been a single attack on the villages in the Lushai Hills… Even the marauding tribesmen of the East knew ‘Sa-ui-tan’ was always sacrosanct, and worthy of respect in all situations.

The Seventh War was the bloodiest of wars humans of the Lushai Hills had ever known. 387 headhunters lost their heads from both the warring sides – warriors of the Lushai Hills and the warmongering tribesmen of the East. This war was a story most passionately narrated by parents to their children bedtime. This war was the one which would later on inspire Tumpanga, the adopted son of Pial village, to become a warrior like Vanzika – the ‘four-tusked elephant slayer’. Legend had it that, after the war, the hills were so heavily soaked with the blood of the headhunters that all the fruit-bearing trees bore only blood-red fruits the next seven years.


Part III – Tumpanga & Pial village
(posted on Facebook 5th March, 2017)

The unexpected arrival of Tumpanga at Pial village was preceded by strange incidents and sightings of signs of bad omen. One week before his arrival, there were regular bellowing of deer near the ‘kawtchhuah’ on the northern side of the village, just after sunset. Men were not at peace hearing deer bellowing at odd hours because it was a common belief that the cry of the deer for three consecutive days, after sunset, surely harbingered death in the village.

It’s about a week after the sun had been ringed by something like a rainbow… in full circle. Previously, such rings were seen for a few moments or at length about half of the day; and rarely a full day sighting had been retold in generations. The unusual sighting lasted for almost a month – and continuously from sunrise to sunset every day. Such a rainbow-like ring was called ‘sar-zam’ in Lushai, and it’s a bad omen, a very bad omen. It’s strongly believed that someone’s going to die an unnatural death very soon. And the ‘bad omen’ didn’t appear for a day or two… it was sighted for more than 20 days! It unleashed a dominant fear and agony in the minds of the people – a fear that something of a disaster could struck the village very soon! If a day’s appearance of the ‘sar-zam’ could cause one unnatural death, how much damage could it unleash if it’s sighted for about 20 days…?

The most unusual one was the ‘irregular’ appearance of footprints, in the morning, near the village Zawlbuk (or bachelors’ barrack) – footprints on the dry path! And behold, the footprints were marked with eight toes each… the big toe, they said, was as large as the earrings of the mother of the village chief. The footprints started from the Zawlbuk and ended abruptly at about 20 steps… not a single print found anywhere else after that! These footprints haunted the village for about three weeks, but on irregular occasions whenever men were not on duty to catch hold of the culprit.

Part IV – Tumpanga & Pial village
(posted on Facebook 18th March, 2017)

The arrival of Tumpanga at Pial village was not grand, but spectacular. The event was awesomely bizarre. The night before, the sky was excruciatingly dark. The moon was not visible in the night sky thought it’s just two nights away from full moon. Mysteriously, seven stars were seen that night, and clearly visible… nothing else in the vast and dark expanse. The seven stars shone very brightly. They looked not silvery but rather pinkish, brightly pinkish. The seven stars posed a formation akin to a spear; like the spears used by the Lushai warriors for hunting, and in battles, known as ‘fei-ki-bar’. The spear struck east.

The morning, a big elk with a pair of large antlers was seen lazing near the eastern ‘kawtchhuah’ (entrance or outlet) of the village. This species of deer is known in Lushai as ‘sazuk’. A full grown sazuk can be as large as a lactating cow. The elk was not ordinary… there was a cloth suspended between the antlers like a hammock. People saw the elk, he didn’t show any timidity. They crept closer to him, he didn’t move. They were rather scared. How on earth could a hammock hang on the antlers of a deer? What on earth could be inside the hammock? Why on earth could the elk not fear of the human? There was no inclination on the minds of the people to chase or harm the elk either. They were baffled… and spontaneously mesmerized by the spectacularity of the event that unfolded.
A middle-aged woman moved closer to the elk, touched the forehead briefly, and peeked inside the cloth that hanged between the antlers. She was astonished! A baby was smiling at her. She lifted up the baby slowly and cradled him in her arms. The elk then made a slow retreat towards the forest unperturbed.

The baby wore a bracelet on the left wrist. The bracelet had an inscription which they could not decipher but understood the significance. They knew, from their various wild encounters in the East, babies of a martial tribe living in the land bordering Siam (Thailand) were subjected to rituals of hooping bracelets on the left wrists when they were two moons old. The bracelet would tear itself apart when the baby grew older. That was when a boy was regarded mature enough to go hunting. If a girl, she had attained a marriageable age. The miracle baby belonged to the martial tribe, they couldn’t deny.


Part  V – Tumpanga & Pial village
(posted on Facebook 25th March, 2017)

The miracle baby was adopted by the wife of a highly decorated hunter and warrior (or ‘Thangchhuahpa’) of the village. The couple was childless. The day after the baby arrived at the house, the warrior went out alone for hunting in the jungle north of the village. Even the most fearsome of hunters seldom went solo for hunting, if not for hunting in the periphery of the village. The Thangchhuahpa went alone, to delve deep in the jungle north of the village… the jungle well-known for the ferociousness of the topography and its wildlife alike. Very surprisingly, just three days later, he came back with a trophy of a highly ‘revered’ animal on his shoulders. It was the head of a wild bison known as ‘tumpang’ in Lushai. Three days was absolutely not ‘long’ enough to hunt and kill a rare and treasured animal like tumpang. But the Thangchhuahpa mysteriously did it. The last time the village celebrated the killing of a tumpang was about eight years ago, that too after a 13-days hunt deep in the jungle by a team of experienced and very well-endowed hunters led by the village chief himself.

The horns of the wild bison killed by the Thangchhuahpa were two ‘full-arms-stretch’ wide apart, and both were one ‘full-arms-stretch’ in length. Never had the village seen such large horns before, the chief of the village concurred. The village had seen, according to the elders, the tusks of the four-tusked elephant killed by the legendary warrior Vanzika on their way back to the Lushai Hills passing through the village from the jungle where it had been killed. The horns of the bison killed by the Thangchhuahpa were comparatively as large and as long as the four tusks of the famous ‘invincible’ four-tusked mammal, if not larger and longer.

In celebration of the great feat of the Thangchhuahpa, his adopted son - and the adopted son of the village – was christened ‘Tumpanga’.

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