As told by Durga Bai:
“There was once an election held to choose the king of the jungle. It was a tie between Mor (Peacock) and Ullu (Owl), but as it was unanimously decided that it the king of the jungle could not be Ullu the Owl, (who we believe to be quite foolish) , Mor the Peacock was chosen as the king of the jungle and he was to be crowned the very next morning . While Mor was getting dressed up for the occasion he got so carried away that he completely lost track of time. The animals patiently waited and waited, but when Mor still did not show up for the coronation, they make Ullu the king of the jungle instead.”
Story of the Peacock and the Lapwing
As told by Rajendra Shyam:
When Bada Dev created the world, it took seven days. Bada Dev created all the creatures of nature in the first three and a half days and the grains in the remaining three and a half days. He wanted to create a bird called Peacock, and so first he made all the parts – the head, feathers, tail, legs and crown separately. But another bird called the Lapwing saw all these parts and she decided that she would take the legs for herself. Sometime later Lapwing laid her eggs but then she suddenly became very fearful of the jungle, wind, water and sky, and she thought that if the sky were to fall down she could stop it by using her new legs. After all of this, Peacock danced in the monsoon and he admired his beauty, but when he looked down at his legs he felt unhappy because in all his beauty only his legs were ugly and this is why he is shown weeping in the painting.
Gond Stories about Death
(From The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh, by C. von Fürer-Haimendorf, 1979, George Allen & Unwin, London.)
The Carpenter and the Messengers of Death
The carpenter led them into the forest, he led them to the mahua tree and showed them the mahua tree with the carved door. Yama and his messengers said, “This is very fine work, what a clever man you are!” “Go in”, said the carpenter, “go in and see what is inside.” The messengers stepped over the threshold, Yama went inside, and the door closed. The carpenter returned to his house well pleased with himself.
“Oh that was nothing”, roared the carpenter. “That was twelve years ago. Ha ha ha! They are still there! If you don’t believe me, go and see for yourself. Just beyond the hill you’ll find a tall tree with a door, there they are.”
Quietly Bhagavan rose and made his way to the mahua tree. He opened the door and there he found Yama and his two messengers. Quite weak and thin they were; they were famished with hunger and very thirsty and their bodies were shriveled.
The Coming of Death - Muria, Palari, Bastar state
(From Myths of Middle India, by Verrier Elwin, 1949. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.)
At the beginning of the world men were very small. They ploughed with rats and had to pull down brinjals as if they were getting mangoes. The ground was so soft that you could fall down to the Lower World. In those days men could remove the tops of their heads, examine them for lice and put them back again. When the first men died, their neighbours took them out to burial but the corpses got up and came back and sat in front of their houses. When the neighbours came in they asked, "Where have you been?" "We have been out burying you".
"What sort of folk are you? We were just sleeping and you carried us here and there. when we awoke, we returned home!"
When Mahapurub heard of this, he wondered how he was to get lives for his kingdom. He thought, "I must stick the tops of their heads on; then they will certainly die." He ground flour, mixed it with water into a paste and hid it. Then he went to see the first man and woman. "What have you got inside your heads?" He asked. "Do show me".
They removed the tops of their heads and Mahapurub quickly smeared the edges with paste muttering, "Never come unstuck again".
When the first man and woman put the tops of their heads back, they stuck and soon afterwards people began to die. And now for fear that the dead might come back again to their houses, the neighbours burnt their bodies and they never returned to life.
(From The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh, by C. von Fürer-Haimendorf, 1979, George Allen & Unwin, London.)
(from The Muria and their Gotul, 264f)
Cats and Rats - Baiga, Baghmara Kawardha State
After their marriage, Parvati went to live in Mahdeo's house But Mahadeo was never to be found at home. He was always away on some business or other in the jungle. Twelve years and thirteen ages passed while Parvati remained lonely in the house. Then from the dirt of her body she made a tiger and sent it to frighten Mahadeo home. Mahadeo was making a plough and he threw the shavings of the wood at the tiger. They turned into wild dogs and chased it away. The tiger ran back, its tail tucked into its arse, and since it had been made of the dirt from Parvati's chest, it sprung on to her chest and hung there. At that time Parvati was cleaning an old blackened earthen pot and her hands were dirty. The dogs came chasing the tiger and tried to catch it. Parvati pushed them away with her hands and that is why the wild dog's face is black. To soothe the frightened tiger Parvati stroked its face with her fingers and the black lines can still be seen.
Mahadeo got hungry and at last came home for a meal. When the tiger saw him it again jumped onto Parvati's chest. Mahadeo picked up a long wooden spoon, put the handle into the fire and drew lines all over the tiger's body to punish it for coming to frighten him. Sometimes he put the bowl of the spoon into the fire and made round marks instead.
Then to punish Parvati for what she had done, Mahadeo took dirt from his body and made a rat and told it to eat the food in the house and even tear Parvati's own cloth. Having done this he went back to the jungle and continued making his plough.
When the rat began to be a great nuisance in the house, Parvati rubbed her thigh and from the dirt made a cat. That is why the cat's body is round like a woman's thigh and its head like a knee, and now directly a rat comes out a cat attacks it immediately.
Deer - Binjhwar, Dhaurabhata, Raipur District
Bhangarh Deo was always ailing; he went one day to Sisu Deo for medicine and advice from her winnowing fan. Sisu Deo said, "You must sacrifice an antelope in my name and then you will recover; otherwise you will die." Bhangarh Deo said, "And where will I get an antelope? I have never heard of such a creature." Sisu Deo said, "If you will pay me enough I will make one for you." Sisu Deo said, "Come after two days and I will have the antelope ready and you can take it away."
There was a harra tree and at its foot a little ash. Sisu Deo took the ash in his hand and muttered a charm - "By this charm let Dhodhi (Sisu's wife. They had quarrelled and she had gone down to her mother's house in the Lower World. But Sisu Deo still had power over her womb by his magic, and forced her to give brith to the antelope),give birth and let it come leaping and go to the back of the Baba's house." He got a keu root and made horns; he fixed a leaf for a tail and coloured it with harra juice and there was the antelope ready. He tied it by his house. After two days Bhangarh Deo came with money and bought the antelope and sacrificed it, and recovered.
Why Men and Animals no Longer Talk Together - Ahir - Panderwa, Bilaspur District
In the old days all the animals, cows, tigers, dogs, bears, goats and jackals used to graze together and talk with the Rawat who took them to the forest. For at that time men and animals could talk together freely.
On the Dumketi Kachhar hills, Kawar Rawat used to graze his herd of animals and daily he talked and laughed with them. One day when his wife was pregnant he wanted to go home early. He asked the cow, "Is your belly full yet? If it is, we will go home; if not, we will go further in the jungle." The cow said, "No, my belly is not full; I still am hungry." At home the Rawat's wife began to feel her pains and she sent a boy to call her husband.
"Come, your wife is in pain; there will be a child." The Rawat said to the herd, "Come brothers, let us go home. There will be a child." But they said, "Our bellies are not full. We wont go yet." Kawar Rawat took his stick and beat the cow so hard that still on one side of her body there is a hollow place and only one side is full. To the tigers and bears he said, "Go away into the jungle; I will graze you no more." To all the animals he said, "From today you will be dumb. I don't want to hear you talk again." He drove the bears and tigers into the jungle and took the cows home quickly, and that day there was a child in the house.
(Note: Even now rats are said to understand human speech. It was the custom in the Punjab that when people made rat-poison they declared that they were cooking food for the neighbours for if they were overheard the talk the rats were supposed to understand the word poison.)
Gond - Barratola, Mandla District
In Jhinjhgarh lived Korwasai Dewar the Baiga and his wife Andaro. They had a daughter whose name was Sukhnibai. Mahadeo came to serve for her as Lamsena and wrokd for five years in her house. But the Dewar and his wife did not give the boy propoer food to ear, with the result that he grew very thin.
When the five years service was completed, the Dewar and his wife said to Mahadeo, "Now go and call your relatives and we will celebrate your marriage". Mahadeo called for tigers, bears, snakes, scorpions and brought them in his marriage party. The Dewar had collected a great quantity of food and liquor and when he saw the animals and reptiles in Mahadeo's marriage party he was very angry, for he said, "Who will east the feast that I have prepared?" Then Mahadeo by his magic power caused the animals to say that they would drink the Baiga's liquor but the snakes and scorpions said, "We must have ganja".
The Baiga gave teh post of liquor to the bears and tigers to drink but he had no ganja and wondered how to get some. Finally he sent his wife to pick datura leaves and when she brought them to the house he rubbed and rubbed them till a drop of juice fell to the ground. From this drop was born the hemp plant. Then the Baiga got the water of twelve tanks and made a pipe as big as twelve threshing-floors. He mixed the datura leaves with the water and filled the pipe and gave it to the snakes and scorpions to drink. They soon became drunk and began to dance. As the snakes danced - in those days they went upright like men - their backs broke and ever since they have gone flat along the ground.
Gond - Dhanras, Uprora Zamindari
On the Hill of Peafowls Eggs was born the Saila dance and song. At first peacocks used to dance the Saila. Men went for wood and leaves and they saw the dance; they too were pleased; they joined the birds and all danced together. When the men had learnt how to do it, they went home and taught it in the villages. In the jungle, was a tall date palm; The peacocks used to dance round it. As the peacock has a tuft on its head and a fine tail, men too put tufts in their turbans and decorations on their buttocks. As the peacock dances looking back at its own beauty, so in the Saila men dance looking back at their shadows. The first Saila song was:
Khajrake tari nachat nachat hai manjura
Janamane ethai more jhaliya manjura.
Under the palm tree the peacock dances
It has taken birth, my long-tailed peacock.
But when men had learnt everything, the peacock stopped the Saila. For they were frightened, and the long-tailed peacocks said to me, "Make tufts of our tails and put them in your turbans and your Saila will never go wrong." They pulled out many feathers from their tails and gave them to the men to use in the Saila.
Gond - Bilhar, Bilaspur District
When men come in weary from their toil in the fields, they rest in all their eighty chambers and seventy-two veins. They sleep and the soul goes out to search for the wealth they have not found in the day. That is why sleep is given to men, for without it they would have no courage. In sleep, a man thinks he is wise and rich; he goes all over the world. Without sleep, he could not bear the work he has to do every day.
Muria - Berma, Bastar State
Long ago men could read the future in their dreams. An owl heard of it and said, "If men can see their dreams, they will never die." The owl waited till the gods were holding a Darbar and then fell with a bang into the midst of them. The gods said, "What is the matter?" The owl replied, "I have had a dream, and in that dream I was marrying a Raja's daughter. We had done eleven rounds of the Lagir; had it been twelve, she would have been mine; but I awoke and fell to the ground. Now I must marry this girl. What am I to do?"
The gods were concerned and said to one another, " How can a red-eyed bird marry a Raja's daughter?" The owl replied, "But all the world gets what it sees in dreams; how can it be that only my dreams are false?" At that the gods cursed men saying, "From now on, let all dreams be false".
Dhanwar – Barbhata, Uprora Zamindari
When the world would not remain steady, Mother Earth cause birds to be born. The first birds had four leg. But after then were born Mother Earth took two legs from each and set them below the earth like the pillars of a house. Resting on the legs of crores of birds the world became steady. (p34)
Gond – Patangarth, Mandla District
At the beginning there was nothing but water. On its surface floated a lotus flower on which sat Mahadeo. When he saw nothing but water he made a crow from the dirt of his body and sent it to find earth. The crow flew and flew till it came to reset on the claw of the great crab, Kakramal Ksahttri. When the crow said “Kao”, the crab exclaimed, “At last after many days I have got something to eat.” The crow replied, “Uncle, my father has sent me to you.” The crab said, “Nephew, why have you come? Tell me quickly.” The crow replied, “My father has sent me to get earth to make the world.”
Then the two of them went to Singardip. There Nal Raja and Nal Rani had earth. After searching for a long time, the crab and the cow went to Nal Raja and Nal Rani and began calling them aunt and uncle and asked for some earth as a loan. They promised to give it and said, “Take some food and then go your way.” Nal Rani prepared poison for the guests. When they had eaten, they became drunk and then unconscious. When they saw them safely asleep, Nal Raja and Nal Rani stole the earth and prepared to run away. But the crab awoke and caught them in its claws and squeezed the earth out of their mouths and gave it to the crow.
Then the crow took the earth to Mahadeo. Mahadeo made seven leaf-cups of lotus leaves and put a little earth in each. He stirred it up in each cup and called for Makramal Kshattri. He said to her, “Now spin your web over the face of the sea.” The spider prepared her web and Mahadeo put the seven cups of earth upon it and fanned them with a lotus leaf. With the breeze of his fanning, the earth was carried over the web and the seven kinds of earth were prepared – the black earth, the red earth, the milk earth, the barren earth, the gravel earth, virgin earth and swampy earth.
When all was ready, Mahadeo said to Bhimsen, “I have made the earth, but I do not know whether it is solid or no.” Bhimsen was pleased and said, “I will come and look.” As he went, his feet sank into the earth. But he lay down on the ground and rolled about, thus making mountains.” (p38)
Gond – Mangwani, Mandla District
Originally the sky was very near the earth. There was an old woman. Everyday she use to clean her courtyard. One day the sky was knocked against her back as she bent down to sweep. She was annoyed and pushed the sky up a bit with her broom. But the sky went right up up to where it is now. (p82)
Dewar – The Crab, Tendubhata, Raipur District
The crab is the grandson of Bhagavan. For twelve ages it did penance and at last Bhagavan gave it a blessing: “What I write, you can read, but no others. You are the Raja of the waters. “ In the old days, therefore, when there was nothing in the world but water the crab lived in the ocean. It killed everything that fell into the water. Bhagavan thought, “If I give my blessings to the crab, then when I am in trouble it will help me”. And when Bhagavan wanted to make the earth he could get no one to help him but the crab. When at last the earth was ready, Bhimsen was sent to level it, but the crab thought he was stealing it and ran to fight him. Across the path the spider had made its web. The crab was very angry. “Are you trying to trap me?” it shouted. And it put its foot on the spider. The spider cursed the crab. “You have trodden on me. Henceforth you will live under the earth. Unless you hide in your hole, you will die.”
The crab is the master of the earth and sees that on one steals it. When the earth was ready, Bhagavan gave Bhimsen the kingdom of water and the crab the kingdom of dry land. When no rain falls, the crab weeps and makes a humming noise. Bhimsen’s ears stand like those of a frightened horse at the sound and rain begins to fall.” (p153)
Gond – Taurbahara, Bindra-Nawagarh Zamindari
Formally the crab had a trunk like an elephant. But when Mahadeo cut off the head of Ganesh and Parvati was very angry, he cut off the crab’s trunk and put it on Ganesh instead. But this killed the crab. Parvati got angry again. “You are not content with ruining Ganesh: you must destroy the poor crab as well.” So Mahadeo said, “Crab, O brother crab, get up and live even without a head.” Up got the crab and in compensation Mahadeo made its back very strong. You can still see the marks of Mahadeo’s sword o the place where its head should be. (p154)
Gond – Barratola, Mandla District
In former times the crab had no claws. One day a Baigin went to the river to fish. Under a large stone she found a crab and caught it. As she was about to kill it the crab folded its hands and said, “Mother, don’t kill me; keep me in your house and I will make all arrangements for you.”
The woman took the crab home. A few days afterwards the Raja sent his servants to call the villagers to come to his fields to cut the crop. When they came to the Baigin’s house, she had neither husband nor son to send to the fields. But the crab said, “Don’t be afraid mother, I will go instead.” She went to the Agaria’s smithy and got him to make two small knives of iron. She fixed the knives in front of the crab’s body and by her magic ensured that it would be able to cut anything it desired.
The crab went to the Raja’s fields and cut a whole field by itself and piled up the grain. It returned to the Baigin’s house and she was pleased and sent it back to live in the river. (p154)
“Note: At first men and snakes lived together; they used to eat from the same kitchen and would visit each other’s houses for festivals and marriages. The snakes never bit men and men never killed the snakes.” (p168)
Agaria - The Elephant- Daldal, Mandla District
In a former age elephants used to fly. They had great wings. One day an elephant flew down to a lake and went in to drink water. There was a crocodile in the lake and when it heard the elephant splashing about, it wondered what this great creature was. It swam through the water and caught it by the leg.
The elephant tried to fly away but could not because of the crocodile which dragged it into deep water. They struggled together for twelve years and thirteen ages until the elephant called on Bhagavan for help. Bhagavan came and aw that the crocodile had torn the wings of the elephant and that the great creature was worn out and ready to die. Bhagavan pulled the noise and it became very long; he took it by the ears and they became very broad. Then he cut off what was left of the wings, for the elephants were always coming down from the sky and crashing on houses and cowsheds and ruining them. So Bhagavan said, “From now onwards elephants should not fly.” (p218)
Bhaina - Kenda Zamindari
At first birds could not fly; They used to walk or hop about. One day there was a Raja's wedding. Everyone was invited. Among the guests was a Baiga Guru and a Bhaina Gunia. They tried to prove which was the greater magician. First the Baiga turned the guests into horses and asses. But the Bhaina turned some into water, and some into fire. When they had been turned back into men, they came to the angry magicians and fell at their feet saying, "Trouble us no more; we have seen what great power you have."
The Baiga was going home. He saw many birds who had been invited to the wedding following him. Across the past he set bird-lime. A bird was caught in it and began to weep. The Bahina saw it and by his magic was caught in it and began to weep. The Bhaina saw it and by his magic gave the bird wings. it flew into the air and escaped the Baiga, who was very angry. But since that day birds have been able to fly. (p184)