On my previous blog, I told you the story of how the tiger finally met his end, leaving Ka Nam to finally live in peace.
But could she, really?
A week after Ka Sngi, the Sun, gave her a roof over her head in a dilapidated shed in her garden, Ka Nam wanted to explore the countryside. Ka Sngi's brother, U Bnai (the Moon), happened to see for a second her without the toad skin and was struck by her loveliness. That triggered a chain of bitter events that led to the lunar and solar eclipses!
Ka Nam at the River
One bright and sunny day when the sky was clear with not a speck of cloud, Ka Nam strolled along the undulating hills and rolling meadows of the heavens' countryside. Soon she came to a stream and rested on its banks, admiring the beauty of the limpid waters calmly flowing by.
The clear currents gently coursing over smooth rocks, and the languidly swimming fish seemed inviting enough reason for Ka Nam to decide to go for a swim. She took off her toad skin and clothes and jumped into the water and swam and swam to her heart's content.
After a long while, she thought she'd had enough swimming and emerged from the water. She put her clothes back on and, as her hair was still wet, she stretched out on a rock, to let her luxuriant mane sprawl on to dry. Just then, U Bnai happened to come walking by, and Ka Nam quickly put on her toad skin and sat up. U Bnai stopped in his tracks, dumbfounded. Awhile ago he thought he saw a beautiful maiden with lovely hair and now this ugly toad was sitting on a rock! He shook his head with disbelief and went along his way, totally confused.
U Bnai Enamoured by Ka Nam!
U Bnai was already smitten by Ka Nam's beauty even though he saw but a glimpse of her face. He went to his sister, Ka Sngi, and confided in her that he wanted to marry Ka Nam.
Ka Sngi rebuked him sharply. How he, the celestial Moon, could imagine marrying an ugly toad, she asked. Better forget about the idea and get along with his duties, she ordered him.
But U Bnai, obsessed as he was, waited for a chance to catch her unawares.
U Bnai Stalks Ka Nam
A day came when Ka Nam again went to the river to bathe and wash her clothes. The day was bright and cloudless, a perfect day for a swim too. U Bnai followed her from a distance and hid behind some rocks. Ka Nam was unaware someone was watching her and went on with her business. The water was so enticing and soothing; she swam further into mid-river. That was when U Bnai came out stealthily from hiding, whisked the toad skin and threw it in a ditch some distance away.
A few minutes later, Ka Nam came out of the water, dried and dressed and then laid on the rock to dry her hair. That done, she sat up and reached for her toad skin, but to her alarm, it was nowhere to be found. As she looked around frantically for it, U Bnai emerged from behind the rocks and caught her by her hand. A startled Ka Nam struggled to free herself, but he was too strong for her. She was pinned down helplessly, and there was nothing else she could do except scream her lungs out for help.
Her cries brought the celestial beings into the scene. What they witnessed made them fall aghast with disbelief. Here was the celestial U Bnai, stooping as low as to try to molest an earth woman.
U Lurshai, the morning star, who was also there then decided to bring U Bnai to trial at the dorbar, the assembly of elders and citizens to discuss and decide about important state matters including justice.
U Bnai Pronounced Guilty
The deliberations went on throughout the day. Evening came and still, they could not reach a verdict. After sundown, Ka Sngi came into the dorbarhouse, bringing with her a bagful of ashes. She spat on her brother's face, threw the ashes on his brow, and severely upbraided him on his shameful act.
'You have brought dishonour to the mortal woman and the celestial clans as well' she said. 'As my brother, you should have been an example of impeccable behaviour, especially to the poor and downtrodden. Instead, you have brought disgrace and discredit. So, as per law, you must pay a heavy bai-kait bai-mynrain (the price for outraging a woman's modesty).
The dorbar was in agreement with Ka Sngi's pronouncements. U Bnai asked for forgiveness from the dorbar, saying that he would be powerless without Ka Sngi's favour.
Ka Sngi said, 'Since he cannot pay, the spit mark I left on his brow will remain a dark blotch on him forever, reminding him of the evil deed he has done!'
'From this day onwards', Ka Sngi continued, 'Whenever he passes by this river, the toad skin that he had hidden will spring up and stick on him like glue. When that happens, the khun bynriew (children of men) will beat their drums and shout in taunting glee at him for all generations to come'.
The dorbar finally came to an agreement and pronounced the verdict.
The Moon's Eclipse and the Blotch on his Face
And so, from that day onwards, when the Moon passes by the river, the toad skin jumps and sticks on him like glue, and the khun bynriew bring out their drums or anything that produces sound. As they beat the drums, they shout and clamour as if to mock at the Moon for the dishonourable act he committed on their fellow human being.
Till today, when that phase happens, the Moon's surface darkens bit by bit, sometimes partially and sometimes fully, as if swallowed by something, till its light vanished in plain sight for a while. The world calls the phenomenon' lunar eclipse', but the Khasis call it 'bam hynroh U Bnai' because ka hynroh (the toad) has gobbled up (bam) the Moon with the toad skin that sticks on him, blocking out his light!
And do you notice, when the Moon is full, the dark grey stain on its face? That's the mark Ka Sngi left on the Moon's brow and face when she spat on him and threw ashes on his brow!
After the heavenly dorbar's verdict, Ka Sngi questioned Ka Nam thoroughly about her life and came to know her entire story. She no longer allowed her to live in the ramshackle shed; instead, she gave her a place in her palace to live happily ever after.
But for U Bnai that was the day he lost his brilliance. Everyone in the heavens began shunning him. He went about carrying with him the stigma of not only shame but blame as well. He no longer dared show his face except at night and even then his light was very faint. Till this day, U Bnai walks with no one but his mother, Ka Ram-ew, this earth of ours.
The Moon takes Revenge on the Sun
U Bnai hadn't forgotten the ignominy he suffered. 'It is Ka Sngi, my own sister, who has brought shame to me in front of everyone in the dorbar,' he said. 'I will risk everything to have my revenge,' he vowed.
He then went to U Pyrthat, the Thunder, who he found was sharpening his sword.
'Uncle Pyrthat', he called out, 'where are you going to do a mastieh (festive sword dance) with that sword?'
'No, no,' answered the Thunder, 'the sword has rusted and blunted away because of disuse and so I'm cleaning and sharpening it. But what brings you here?'
'Oh, I've come to you', replied U Bnai, 'to borrow your sword to practice so I can dance the mastieh when the festival comes'.
U Pyrthat suspected nothing about U Bnai's real intentions and readily lent him the sword.
U Bnai returned home and started sharpening the sword till it became razor-sharp. Then he swung it about, dancing the mastieh.
The next morning as the day broke, he took the sword and hurried straight to Ka Sngi's palace and quietly waited at the door. Soon Ka Sngi woke up, freshened herself, washed her face and braided her hair as on any normal day, with nothing in suspect.
She went to a window that opened out to her garden and leant forward to admire the flowers. That was the chance U Bnai was waiting for. He quickly went over to where she stood and, with one stroke, smote her face and scampered away as fast as he could.
'That's the price you pay for meddling in others' affairs' said U Bnai as he ran.
Ka Sngi screamed in pain and dropped to the floor, blood streaming like a river. Immediately, her sister, Ka Lyer (the wind) rushed to their mother, Ka Ram-ew and told her everything that happened. Ka Ram-ew gave her some herbs to apply on the wound, but she grieved deeply at the enmity, lack of love and the dishonour her children brought her family.
Eclipse of the Sun
And so, for a time, Ka Sngi remained hidden, covered in darkness. That was the time she was lying in pain after U Bnai struck her with the sword. The Khasis call that phenomenon 'bam hynroh ka sngi' or the solar eclipse.
And, do you ever wonder why lightning never appears in sunlight? That's because U Pyrthat, after that incident, never dared to display his sword in the presence of Ka Sngi lest she confiscates it because that was the sword her brother, U Bnai, used to cut her face.
Well, I hope you liked the story. It didn't end here, of course. Because even when Ka Ram-ew, the old mother, died of grief, still her children the Sun, the Moon, the Wind, the Water and the youngest, Fire, kept on bickering even today!
Maybe you can tell us what lessons you think these stories teach us?