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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Beauty and the Beast???

CHAWNGVUNGI AND SAWNGKHARA
(CHAWNGVUNGI LEH SAWNGKHARA- MIZO THAWNTHU {1964})
Once upon a time in a village, there was a beautiful girl by the name of Chawngvungi. She came of a good family for her father was a man of standing in their village. There was also a young man called Sawngkhara who regularly courted her. But Chawngvungi found Sawngkhara ugly and repulsive, and would give him no attention even when he called. But Sawngkhara had a magic potion called ‘Zawlaidi’ which he decided to use on Chawngvungi because he was deeply in love with her while she wouldn’t give him a second glance. He applied the potion to Chawngvungi’s waist band as she was weaving on the loom and stopped calling on her for three days. In that time, Sawngkhara’s Zawlaidi had worked and Chawngvungi began to so long for him that she could no longer get on with her work. She could only hang on to her loom without weaving, and when friends called her to gather wood, she could not bring herself to go out with them.

Chawngvungi’s mother became immensely worried and she cried,
“Chawngi, your friends go forth to gather wood,
Else sit at home and work their looms,
For whom are you pining that you sit idle?”

To this Chawngvungi would reply,
“Oh mother, my friends they go and gather wood,
Or sit at home and work their looms,
Pining for Sawnga I lie limp upon my looms.”

Then on the third night, Sawngkhara made his way to Chawngi’s house and shouted for her,
“Chawngi, open the door for me,
It is I, Chawnga, come to call on you.”
Chawngvungi’s mother was not keen to see the man and shouted back, “Let the son of a Bawmzo go sleep at the Suar.”
To this Sawngkhara replied,
“Ka pi, My mother a Bawmzo she may be,
But my father, he be the famed Hauchema.”

Chawngvungi’s mother had no reply and therefore sent her daughter to open the door. The ‘rick rack’ of the opening door could be heard as soon as the words left the mother’s mouth. Since she was so displeased to see Sawngkhara, he did not stay long that night.

The following day, Chawngvungi and her mother went to their field to farm. There Sawngkhara had turned himself into a little bird that could be heard singing “Chawngler, Chawngler” from across the valley. When she heard this Chawngvungi said,
“Hark Mother! Even the birds across the valley sing
‘Chawngler, Chawngler’
Let us be gone mother let us go home.”

Her mother quickly retorted, “They say no such thing, all I hear is ‘Di ngai, Di ngai’ and continued with her work. But since Chawngvungi could not bring herself to be of any help, they finally did go home and this went on for three days together.

In the nights when Sawngkhara would visit Chawngvungi, he would always find the door locked by her mother and he started to worry. He finally decided to use the Zawlaidi on her as well and applied some on the broom she was to use. From that time on, she too was infatuated with Sawngkhara and looked forward to his visits. As soon as the sound of his footsteps reached their sumhmun, she would quickly send Chawngvungi to open the door, which the girl did most enthusiastically.

In time, Sawngkhara’s family sent emissaries to ask for Chawngi’s hand in marriage. It could have been that her mother was jealous for she insisted on being given the family ‘Darhuai’ as bride-price for her daughter. Though Sawngkhara’s family had great misgivings about parting with their ‘Darhuai’, their pleas fell on deaf ears and they finally gave it away as a price for Chawngvungi’s hand, for her mother would accept nothing else.

As they were leaving for Sawngkhara’s village, Chawngvungi said to her mother, “Mother, if the leaves of our banyan tree droop, say to yourself, ‘My Chawngvungi is sick’; if the branches turn dry and break, know that I have died, and come running in tears.” In her turn, Chawngvungi’s mother replied, “Go mourn Sawngkhara and come back soon.” Having heard this exchange, Sawngkhara’s mother quickly retorted, “Chawngi’s mother, we’re not taking her to mourn Chawnga, we’re taking her to bear sons and daughters.”

In a little while from then, not long after Chawngi bore a son, she became greatly ill and died soon after. Her mother, observing the banyan tree, soon learnt of Chawngi’s death and came in tears, claiming her daughter’s body. She and Sawngkhara’s family began fighting for Chawngvungi’s body and cried their songs of mourning in derision. Chawngi’s mother cried,
“Chawngi, Chawngi, didn’t I tell you
‘Go mourn Sawnga and come back soon,
Chawngi, Chawngi.”

To this cry of lamentation, Sawngkhara’s mother came up with her own cry,
“Chawngi, o dear expensive Chawngvungi,
We offered brass and necklaces
But your mother, rejecting asked for the ‘Darhuai’
Chawngi, o dear expensive Chawngvungi.”
Sawngkhara’s sisters also joined the mourners crying,
“Ka pi, we never brought her home to mourn Sawnga,
We brought her home to bear him sons, we brought her home to bear him daughters
Chawngi, Dear expensive Chawngvungi.”

In the midst of all this, Sawngkhara held his infant son and cried, “Chawngi, get up, your son Liantea cries in hunger”, and he could not be consoled. When his friends saw him in such a state, they thought it best to take him out for a while for they were afraid he might die from crying so much. Decided upon such a course of action, they took him hunting to Lentlang.

Even the hunting trip could not raise Sawngkhara’s spirit, for he saw Chawngvungi’s face in the flowers there and so longed for her that he would pluck the flowers and keep them. And when they came back from their trip, he was told that Chawngi’s mother had run off with her body. Sawnga immediately set off after her with the hope of reclaiming his wife’s body. On the way, Chawngi’s mother had washed her body in a stream and there he found her nail which had been broken off. This broken nail he took with him and returned home. It is said that he performed the ‘Kuang ur’ over that broken nail for three long years.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sichangneii- a Mizo 'Swan Lady' tale

Once upon a time there was a bachelor who would get up each morning to fetch water from the village pond. But before him, someone always managed to dirty the water he was to fetch, and yet he had no clue as to who that might be. An old woman once said to him, “I know who dirties your water. Sichangneii and her sister fly down from the sky every morning thus leaving the water dirty. You should one day wait up for them and catch her to make her your bride, for they are immensely beautiful. But even if you are to catch them, do so from behind. If you approach them from the front their beauty will dazzle you and you won’t be able to catch them.” So the next morning, this man got up with the first crow of the cock and lay in wait for the sisters. Sichangneii and her sister did fly down for their bath. So great was their beauty, the pool of water positively sparkled on their approach. When he saw this, the man quickly jumped down on one, but he missed her and they flew off towards the sky again. The nest morning, he again lay in wait and this time succeeded in catching one. He caught Sichangneii, the elder of the sisters and took her home where he pulled off her wings and hid them inside a phulraw thei which he kept on the rapchungsang. Then he made Sichangneii his wife.

In course of time, the couple were blessed with seven beautiful sons whom they named Kaptheia, Dotheia, Haitheia, Chhintheia, Mantheia, and the youngest was called Tlumtea. The couple had a field but since they had seven healthy sons who needed care, they had to take turns- while one went to the field, the other would stay home and look after the children. When it was the father’s turn to stay home, he would bring their mother’s wings out and put one on each of them and they would dance with glee. On their mother’s turns, they would just sit at home and be bored with nothing to do. One day when they were with their mother, Tlumtea blurted out, “Mother, when Father is at home, he puts on us wings of some sort and we would always dance with glee.”

Now the father had warned his children against saying anything to their father so the elder sons tried to cover up by saying, “Hah!! He is lying through his teeth!” But their mother pursued and asked Tlumtea, “Tell me where your father keeps those wings” and Tlumtea was quick to reply, “There in that box on the rapchungsang.” Then she sent Tlumtea to get the box for her and she put on her wings again and stood at the door asking her sons, “Children do I look nice?” the elder sons quickly said, “Not at all, you look shameless, come inside quickly before anyone sees you.” But Tlumtea in his innocence said, “No way, Mother, you look beautiful.” Then she jumped outwards near their verandah railing and asked the same question again. Her sons gave the same reply and when Tlumtea again said she looked beautiful, she suddenly took off and flew back to the sky. When their father got home from the fields, he asked his children where their mother was and he was told everything that had happened. At this the father said, “Then with your mother gone, I am going to kill myself, let me til mu chhu keh”. The elder sons tried to stop him but Tlumtea in his curiosity said, “No, Father just do it!” the father did so, and on Tlumtea’s urging did the same to the other side also. He was then writhing in pain but Tlumtea did not understand. So he danced in delight shouting, “Father is dancing!” hammering their water bottle to keep the beat. In a little while, their father died and they were left orphans.

The brothers began to worry and they said to Entheia, “You have the strongest eyes, look and see if you can find Mother.” He looked and looked and finally saw his mother at her home in the skies buh deng rice. Then Kaptheia took aim and struck an arrow right at the side of their mother’s sum. Seeing this, their mother threw a rope down for them and they all climbed up to the skies. In their mother’s house also lived her brother who hated the seven brothers, and he was also a cannibal. He had a plan to kill them all by felling a tree and letting it fall on all the brothers. So one day he took them out, felled a tree near to its breaking point and sat them down beneath the tree to eat their lunch. As soon as they were settled, he made an excuse and left them to cut the tree so it might fall on the brothers. But Dotheia took charge and kept the tree at bay while Haitheia shoved it sideways so it couldn’t hit them on its fall. When their uncle came back, he was surprised and said, “Oh! Children, I thought you’d all have died!” to which the brothers deridingly said, “We don’t want to die just yet, you white-calfed wretch of a man”. Another day he took them all to burn their jhum land with another plan to kill them. As soon as they reached, he commanded them to stay right in the middle and eat their lunch while he went down to gather crabs from the nearby stream. But what he actually did was burn the jhum and since the brothers were right in the middle of the fire, they began to worry. They called on Haitheia and he started digging a pit into which they all ran in. then Chhintheia closed the pit. When the fire died down, the cannibal uncle came up and with satisfaction looked at the burnt jhum saying, “Aha! These must be their skulls all burnt to ashes!” and started picking up the ashes and eating them as he came. But when he reached the place where he had left them, he found them all safe and happily eating. In embarrassment he said, “There, children, you are all still safe, I thought you would have died of the fire”. The brothers again derided him and said, “We don’t want to die just yet, you white-calfed wretch of a man”. They narrated the entire incident to their mother on reaching home that evening. Their mother, worried for her sons’ lives said, “This man is a cannibal and I’m afraid he might really kill you and eat you all up one day. Its best that you return to earth now and go set up a trap for animals at Mual sarih”. The brothers obeyed their mother and went back to earth.
On setting up a trap following their mother’s instructions, they were extremely successful and often had to carry meat in their wooden baskets. One day, as they sat down to eat their meat at the leikapui, they said, “these meat our mother and father will never eat” and started feeling melancholic. In their longing, they looked up towards the skies where their mother lived and just then, their mother threw down the waist from cleaning her rice and they were all blinded. They continued to pick up their meat even in their blind state and distribute it among themselves. At those times, a Chawmnu often picked up a share and the brothers began to worry that they did not get their fair share. So one day Tlumtea was distributing their shares and as he did so, he would ask, “Now whose hand is this?” and his brothers would reply, “It is mine”. When he came to the Chawmnu’s hand, he got no answer and he immediately knew this hand did not belong to any of them. He suddenly caught hold of the hand, picked up the creature and crushed it atop a hardened rock nearby. The impact of the blow tore open the Chawmnu’s head and its brain spilled all over the place. Some of the spill landed on Tlumtea’s eyes and his eyes could make out some of the sights. Learning that this was medicine for blinded eyes, he put some more on his eyes and now he could see clearly. He then put some on all of his brothers’ eyes and they could all see again.

From then on they decide to farm a field and they would stay nights at their farmhouse and take turns cooking their food. The first turn was Kaptheis’s, the eldest. When he was done with the cooking, a Chawmnu came and threatened, “Kapthei, would you prefer I take you or the food you’ve cooked?” Kaptheia naturally feared for his life and said, “Obviously the food instead of my life” and the Chawmnu took all the food he had cooked. Now when his brothers came back to eat, they had to wait till the food was cooked again and ready to be eaten. This happened with all six brothers till it was Tlumtea’s turn to do the cooking. He, in his turn, weaved a large bamboo basket as he did his cooking. The Chawmnu came again and asked her usual question to which Tlumtea also gave the same reply. But when she made a move to eat the food, Tlumtea said, “Just wait a little while, it is not fully cooked yet, why don’t you sit down for a while?” The Chawmnu sat down near where Tlumtea was weaving and asked him why he was weaving such a large basket. Tlumtea replied, “It is the coop for a great big cock that we have, almost as large as you. If you would fit in, our cock would naturally fir, wont you please get in so I can try it on for size?” As soon as the Chawmnu was inside, Tlumtea quickly sealed the basket and she was trapped inside. He said, “I’ll take you home with me for the children would love to play with you.” The Chawmnu was worried, she said, “Tlumte, allow me to buy myself out. I will give you knives, hreipui, arrows, tuthlawh, mithuns and wives-one each for every brother.” To this Tlumtea agreed and the Chawmnu gave him all immediately except for the mithuns which he was told to collect at a later date.

When his brothers came home, he proudly declared he had cooked food without them having to wait for it to be cooked again. But as they sat down to eat, he asked, “Would you prefer to eat now, or would you rather we distributed knives amongst ourselves?” To this his brothers replied, “Should there be knives, by all means, distribute them.” Tlumtea did so, and it was the same for all the other things which he had received from the Chawmnu, up to their wives. Now Tlumtea had cleverly blackened the face of the most beautiful maiden and he got her as his wife since his elder brothers had not chosen her. When their work was done, he said, “Now let us see whose wife is most beautiful, let them wash their faces clean.” When they did so, they found that Tlumtea had got the most beautiful of the maidens. He told his brothers that all their gifts had come from the Chawmnu and that he had also been promised mithuns at a later date.

In a while, the brothers went off to collect the promised mithuns, and while they were gone, the Chawmnu came near their house burning logs for coal and called out to their wives, “Give me water to drink”. The wife of the eldest went with water and the Chawmnu quickly ate her up. She called for water again and when one wife went to give her, she quickly ate her up and this happened to all the wives of the six olde brothers. But Tlumtea’s wife was in labour at the time and she had borne a son, she managed to get up with great difficulty to offer water when the Chawmnu caught hold of her hand and took her home. The child she had just delivered and left somehow grew up on its own without much care.

When the child had grown, he got to thinking, “Haven’t my fathers left a single paper money-I wish I could take it when I go in search of mother!” and he searched the house and found a single paper money under the table.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Thlanrawkpa Khuangchawi- a Mizo oral tale

THLANRAWKPA KHUANGCHAWI
In a time many ages ago, Thlanrawkpa was to hold the Khuangchawi ceremony for which he invited all the living beings on earth. As preparation for the feast, food, meat and rice beer were made on a very large scale. The house was renovated and the fields were levelled to hold the many guests who had been invited.
When the guests arrived, Thlanrawkpa gave names to each of the creatures who attended based on their peculiar qualities. A hen came up from the mud and she was named ‘Chirhi’ (mud) but as time passed, “chiri chiri” became the common address for the hen. Then there came a Zuhrei who was named ‘Zurei’ for he took so long in brewing beer (Zu- beer, rei- long). This name also became modified to the now common ‘Zuhrei’. There was a cat that came walking along a small bamboo rod at which they wondered, “Look at how tight the walk is!” and they named it ‘Zawhte’ (Small walk). The squirrel came sauntering in an even narrower walk over a rope and when they saw this, they cried, this walk is even tighter!” and they named the animal ‘Theihlei’ (even more able) which in course of time was amended to the modern ‘Thehlei’ for squirrel. These and many other creatures came, they were all named and together they roamed at Thlanrawkpa’s large field while he encouraged them to make friends with everyone. Following his advice, the Sakhi (deer) and the sakuh (porcupine) made friends and danced to a song they made up out of a combination of their names. When the two started dancing a Tangkawng wanted to join them and his name was also added to the song. The trio’s merry dance made the Varihaw want to join them and his name was also added to the song. They happily danced to the beat of their song in great joy.
The following day was the start of the Khuangchawi and the thingdim people feasted at the father-in-law’s house practising their dance moves the whole night. They approached the dancing ground the following day in great merry-making and there was great merry-making in the air. One could see pig dung with feathers swaying, and there was cock dung moving to the beat of the bamboo rat’s drum. The Zuhrei came with feathers on its hair and when they saw her dance, they appreciated it in song,
“Watch the Zuhrei with flowers on her hair,
Beauty she has and grace is hers.” The Buipui became jealous and joined the show with flowers on its head but the song it inspired was completely different:
“Watch the Buipui with flowers on its head,
There is no beauty, there is no grace.” At this the Buipui was so greatly angered it suddenly made off with the drum and hid itself in a deep cave. The dancers were disturbed for they could not dance without the drum so they sent a hen to ask for the drum but the Buipui was adamant. So they decided to flood the cave and at this, the Buipui got scared and threw the drum out hitting the hen right at the knees. It is said that this was how the hen got its knees overturned.
With the drum back, they proceeded to dance again and at the lead was the Sahuai (Loris). But the sun, which they had requested not to shine, could no longer stop himself, consumed as he was with the desire to watch the dancers. As the sun came up from the horizon, the Sahuai did its best to stop its rise for if the sun did shine, the dung that were dancing would dry up and the changpat would tire quickly. But the sun could not be stopped for long and as it made its way up, the dung quickly dried up and the changpat tired and the dancing stopped. So greatly angered was the Sahuai at this that he vowed to be at war with the sun for always. To this day, the Sahuai refuses to look at the sun, even if you hold its head up, you will find that it always has its eyes closed.
Evening came and it was time for Saveichawi and everyone stood in queue to get their food. With their left hands they took the meat and rice beer with their right. The lizard was a sly creature. On one line he turned a red gullet and on the other a black. On both lines he would say, “I’m a guest, I haven’t yet got the left hand meat’ and thus was served twice. From this came the popular proverb, ‘Lehlama awr dum, lehlama awr sen.’ At that time when everyone was feasting with great glee, an owl somehow did not get the meat and was sitting by the door greatly displeased. The Zuhrei, full in the stomach mistook the owl’s displeasure for something else and passing by said, “Look at the owl full to his brim!” This angered the owl so much he ran after the Zuhrei, right up to the mouth of its burrow. It sat at the mouth but the Zuhrei, clever creature that it is, made a Hrultun on the other side and escaped the owl’s watchful vigil. From this incident came the word ‘Chhimbudawi’. Then there was the hen who was a widow at the time of the Khuangchawi. The Sanghar wooed the hen and finally succeeded in sleeping with her. Then the Sanghar boasted about his feat and a court was held before Thlanrawkpa. The hen was lost for words and was so upset she could only cry while the Sanghar was smug and continued to show off. The saying ‘Arpuia lungchhia, Sanghara lunglawm’ originated from this episode.
The time came for the guests to leave and Thlanrawkpa put on a disguise and awaited his guests on their way to find out if his guests would show any appreciation. The first creature to come by in a great hurry was a bullock and Thlanrawkpa stooped him to ask whether he had enjoyed the Khuangchawi. The cow in a foul mood replied, “That Thlanrawkpa! Says he’s holding a Khuangchawi but where did we find gratification, or enough to fill our stomachs!” On hearing this Thlanrawkpa said, “You ungrateful creature, because you have not appreciated what Thlanrawkpa did, you will forever work under harsh conditions to fill your stomach.” Then there came a crab and Thlanrawkpa asked the same question to which it replied, “May Thlanrawkpa live forever! Grand was the Khuangchawi and filled our we to satisfaction!” Thlanrawkpa was greatly pleased with this answer and pronounced, “For your show of gratefulness, you will eat from this day from what defecate and live in comfort.” Now the crab was not pleased with this but Thlanrawkpa explained that the fish would jump to eat his defecation and the crab could in turn catch the fish for its food. Pleased with this boon the crab went on its way.
Then came a Paite and a Tuikuk on their way home. They too were gratified at the Khuangchawi and Thlanrawkpa gifted them both a special blade for splitting bamboos. This is why, it is said, that to this day, the Paite and the Tuikuk at better skilled at crafts than is the Mizo. Finally there came a Mizo and a Vai singing of their great joy at the Khuangchawi. Thlanrawkpa was pleased to hear them and gifted the Mizo with a leather parchment while to the Vai he gave a Laisuih (ordinary paper). He said, “Keep these with great care for within it is food and riches and all the knowledge you can find.” The Mizo, still drunk with rice beer, simply kept his gift in a Sum from where a dog picked it up ran off with it. The Vai on the other hand kept it safely, and willed it to his children as well. This is why the Vai have greater knowledge and riches. But since Thlanrawkpa had given a gift of higher quality to the Mizo, this gift lives on and is evident in that the Mizo always excels when put to similar tasks with a Vai.
To all his guests, Thlanrawkpa gave the message, “All my dear subjects, I know you all wish for me to have a long life, and I shall have one. Should anything happen to me and I should die, there is above you in the heavens your caretaker ‘Pu Vana’. If you should require help for any of your problems, just throw your dices up and ask him to take care of you and he shall always help.”

mizogurl came from chhinlung!!!

lemme introduce the Mizo people to you- not so much from History books as from what the folk have preserved and believed over the years-
The Mizo[1] people trace their origin to Chhinlung, a crevice within the earth literally meaning ‘closed stone’. Based on the rich oral tradition that has been passed on from father to son through many generations, they believe their forefathers emerged from this fissure in couples to populate the earth. The oral tradition, in the absence of a written language, had given the Mizo his identity, origin and history. The language of the people, also called ‘Mizo’, is what was originally the Duhlian dialect of the dominant Mizo sub-tribe known as the ‘Lusei’ or ‘Lushai’ clan. Capt. T.H.Lewin[2] assigns the name ‘Dzo’ to the tribes inhabiting the hills east of the Chittagong district in Lower Bengal, for whom the term ‘Kuki’ is applied by the inhabitants of the plains. Although the term ‘Kuki’ was frequently used in referring to the inhabitants of present Mizoram (formerly called Lushai Hills), this term was replaced by ‘Lushai’ after the Expedition of 1871-72. This was in its turn replaced by the generic term ‘Mizo’ since 1950. (Chatterjee 1) The various clans and sub-tribes have now come to be included under the term ‘Mizo’. Capt. Lewin found the Lushai dialect to be common and understood by all the ‘Dzo’ tribes, it being “the clan tongue of the great family from which all the chiefs are said to have sprung” (3). The creation of this common dialect is credited to a Sailo chief called Lallula around 1740 AD (Thanga, 17). This dialect did not have a known written form till the advent of the Christian missionaries who framed the Mizo ‘A Aw B’ or the Mizo alphabet in the 19th century. Oral folk tradition tells a different story asserting that the Mizo had been gifted the art of writing or a script in the form of a leather parchment. However, this gift was lost when a dog ate it because the Mizo had been careless with its safekeeping (Zawla,K. 5). Whatever be the truth, the fact remains that the British colonizers found the language of their subjects without a written form in the early years of their encounter. This did not mean, however, that the Mizo did not satisfy their literary inclinations. Their literature, though oral, found expression in the art of telling stories, legends, parables and a rich body of songs, which are now preserved as the folklore of the Mizo people.
[1] The Mizo people are the people inhabiting Mizoram and spread over other hill states in North East India.
[2] Capt. Thomas Herbert Lewin was the Deputy Commissioner of Chittagong Hills