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Life Essence

Gurung Folktale

Life Essence

Gurung Folktale

Once upon a time, in a village, there lived two friends named Hongsahro and Puchukyahala. Together, they cultivated Barley in the fields. Due to their hard work, the land became lush with the crop, and it seemed that they would soon have a good harvest.  The two friends were overjoyed to see that their toil had paid off. It was almost time for the Barley to ripen. However, their joy soon turned into worry when they noticed that each night some of the ripened Barley would disappear from the fields. They realized that someone had been stealing their crops at night. The thief had to be apprehended!

At night, the two of them hid near the fields. Hongsahro climbed a tree at the top of a river and sat down. Puchukyahala climbed a tree at the bottom of the river and waited.  At midnight a woman appeared. Since it was a moonlit night, they saw the woman well. Both of them ran from their respective places and reached the place where the woman was preparing to steal their crop.

Hongsahro shouted, ‘Who are you? Are you the one who has been stealing our Barley?’

 ‘You are a thief who eats what others have earned by sweating. We will not let you go.’, added Puchukyahala.

She calmly replied, ‘I do not have a single piece of land to cultivate. I stole your crops because I would die without food. I am helpless. What should I do?’

In the moonlit night, as the friends looked at her intently, they realized that the woman before them was extremely beautiful.  They were both fascinated by her speech and beauty. Mesmerized by her beauty, the friends forgot about their purpose and quickly proposed marriage to the woman.

She smiled and asked, ‘Yes. But whom should I marry? ‘

As Puchukyahala was already married, Hongsahro said, “I am the one who will marry you.” The woman agreed, and Hongsahro took her home.

Honsaharo’s marital life was good for some time, but after a year, his health started to deteriorate rapidly. Every week, he kept thinner and weaker until he became so thin that he was almost unrecognizable. He remained sick most of the time. One day, Puchukyahala went to see him. Puchukyahala was shocked and saddened to see that his friend had become extremely feeble. The two talked for a long time.

Honsahro said, ‘I cannot eat the food. It seems flavorless and I get no taste from it. I think I am going to die.’

‘Do not worry. Let us go to the Pachyu Shaman who will find a solution.’ said Puchuyahala.

Then two went to a well-known Pachyu Shaman named Kraholu. The Shaman did some ritualistic divination and said, ‘She is a ghost, and her name is Sabru. She eats the entire flavor of the food before giving it to Honsahro. That is why Hongsahro gets no taste or nutrition from his food. She has plans to make Honsaharo a ghost, like herself, gradually.’

After hearing from the Shaman, the two of them took the woman to the top of a high cliff.  There, while pretending to look at the lice in the woman’s hair, Honsahro pushed her off the cliff. However, her hand caught on to a large rock, and she dangled in the middle of the cliff.  Then she revealed her true form, jumped, and hid in the abyss. A few days after this incident, Hongsahro became very sick.

Puchukyahala, seeing the miserable condition of his friend, went everywhere to cure him. But when he could not be healed, he went to the Pachyu Shaman again. The Shaman told him that the ‘life essence’ of Hongsahro had been taken away by Sabru to the underworld. The Shaman then prepared a ritual. Among all the necessary items such as rice grains, meat, fish, milk, alcohol, pure water, he prepared nine knots on a string. The Shaman started his chants and summoned the life essence of Hongsahro. The life essence of Hongsahro became free, as the Shaman tied the string around the hand of Hongsahro, and his body healed immediately. Puchukyahala also put his hand on his head and greeted his friend. Hongsahro soon recovered completely and started spending his days happily.