Wangala: Thanksgiving to the God of Harvest Misi Saljong
Anne Clara Ghagra
In ancient days human beings used to live on wild yams, kochoos, and other edible tuberous roots. Rice, millet, corn, and other grains were then unknown. There was in the world a gigantic gorgeous Tree of Wealth, known as Gisil Bol Gitol Rikge Samol Jahphang Monol, which had twelve branches toward the east and twelve branches toward the west. Its different branches were filled with different kinds of fruits. One branch bore jeweled fruits of all sorts of mineral wealth, such as diamonds, gold, silver, valuable gongs, and all species of precious stones, while the other branches were heavily laden with fruits of different grains- rice, silk, cotton and so on.
One branch of this gigantic tree bore fruits of different colored rice- red, blue, yellow, green, purple, orange, white. There was a garden which covered by that rice called Giting Dinge Rane Dingje at Ah.jarek Chijapa in the country of Silchi Ringreram, Gitol Tingtotram, Do.katchi Nangroram, Rikgitok Nangsatram, Matma Ongtururam, Kitma Balgitoraram, Mongma Dangtoram, Matchu Kinma Onram, Udare Jakbri Mehgongma Kolatchi.
Interestingly, nobody was able to pluck the fruits of rice from this branch, even the gods and goddess such as Salgra and Susime found it difficult; for it appeared that the fruits could be plucked from beneath, while seen from above, while they seemed easy to be plucked from above, while viewed from below.
One day, some fruits of rice fell off the branch as the god of wind Jaru Meh.a Jabal Phante Okkhuangsi Jahpat-Chongsi and Mikka Temma Stil Rongma, the god of hail and storm together shook the fruits of the branch with their strong legs. But the gods of wind didn’t notice that and spent his time playing his flutes in the high mansions of Doh-olwak Doh-dikki. So goddess Ahning Noksik chining Nomindil Ahning Diperi Chining Dipera picked up the rice grains from the ground and sowed them in her own garden. Later the god Misi Apilpa Saljong Galapa, the wealthy god of the celestial, got some rice grains from Ahning Noksik and planted them in his fields. At that time god Misi Apilpa Saljong had a monopoly on all edible grains.
One day Misi Apilpa Saljong was going to the Anthi Racha Akhang Gitel market, on the way he met a man who was known as Ahni Apilpa Chini Galapa or Rasong. The man had a small hoe in his hand which he used to dig out yams and edible roots. Due to his labors, his clothes which were made with barks were shabby and tattered. And he was covered with mud from head to toe. When he saw Misi Apilpa Saljong, due to his shameful appearance he felt embarrassed and hid behind a big rock. But Misi Saljong asked him to come out and asked his name and to what clan he belonged. “My name is Ahni Apilpa Chini Galapa” answered the man timidly. Misi Saljong then befriends him and they sat on a big rock under a “Dongkreng” tree to have lunch.
Now Misi Saljong used to have white rice and fish as food, however, Ahni Apilpa didn’t know about such foods, he only ate coarse yams and roots. At the time of eating food, Misi Saljong asked him, “Don’t you ever clear jungles and cut down trees for jhum cultivation? Have you never sown paddy in your fields?” Ahni Apilpa told him that he has cleared jungle and cut down trees but never heard of paddy. So Misi Saljong took pity on him and shared his cooked rice with him. He then said,” When I get back home after the market is over, I will send you some paddy seeds for you. When you are blessed with the first fruits of the paddy harvest, remember me, my friend, and set aside some of the first-fruits of the harvest in my honor, do so every year”.
Misi Saljong fulfilled his promise by sending some paddy seeds to Ahni Apilpa as he returned home by one of his servants Nokkol Johsiksok. However this servant took with him some half-dried paddy seeds and gave those to Ahni Apilpa out of jealousy. Thus even Ahni Apilpa sowed and tended the seeds with great enthusiasm and diligence the seeds didn’t germinate. Becoming very angry, he seized Dimre, Choon, Bangshe, and Bangding, the celestial messengers of Misi Saljong, bound their limbs fast, bored their legs with chain. Misi Saljong then came down to earth and interceded for them saying, “The grief of my messengers has reached my ears. I could neither eat nor drink because of their woeful condition. My servant Nokkol Johsiksok is the guilty party. I will again send fresh seeds for you.”
So A’ani Apilpa generously released the messengers of Misi Saljong and with renewed zeal and interest, he sow them. When the first rains set in and the south winds commenced blowing, the seeds burst forth into lovely buds and gradually grew into sturdy plants. When it was time to reap the harvest then Krurangru Grikmesal Deokracha Degong Gitel the servent of Mattengke Mesewal plucked some grains off the stalks without the knowledge of Ahni Apilpa. In the meantime, Sugra Mantija went to Misi Saljong and deceitfully lied to him, saying: “See, Ahni Apilpa didn’t set aside some of the first-fruits of his harvest but has already begun to reap the harvest secretly.”
Being angry hearing the news Misi Saljong seized and kept in bondage Ahni Apil, Chini Gala, Ahni Dimre, Chini Bangshe, Ahni Choon, and Chini Bangding, who were the sons and messengers of Ahni Apilpa. Ahni Apilpa then went to Misi Saljong and ardently appealed to him, saying: “I have not yet plucked the grain of my fields. My family and I have never slighted you my friend, whom I implicitly trust. It was Krurangru Deokracha and Mattengke who secretly plucked the grains and represent me guilty in front of you. Pray, set my sons and servants free”. So Misi Saljong let free the prisoners. He and Ahni Apilpa settled their differences and renewed their bond.
When it was time to reap the harvest, Ahni Apilpa then set aside some portions of the first-fruits by burning incense and offering rice beer to Misi Apilpa Saljong saying: ” To you my friend, I offer these don’t be angry with me. Do you not shed tears at my gifts? My gratitude and love for you is deep and ineffable, my devotion unbounded, and my regard unutterable, oh the dweller in the heights of heaven. You have been kind and good to me beyond expectation. You made the shaky plants firm and nursed them throughout. Accept these first fruits before my family and I taste them”.
Thus did Ahni Apilpa perform the sacrificial ceremony of thanksgiving to Misi Saljong, offering his gifts on a small altar of flat stone at the foot of the main central pillar of his dwelling house amid burning incense. Misi Saljong was much pleased with the sacrificial gifts Ahni Apilpa offered the first-fruits from his fields on Mongre Hill in Achik Ahsong.
Misi Saljong then blessed him saying,” Let crop grow well in the future fields of this man and his descendants. Let this man and his descendants be blessed forever. Let this sacrificial offering be continued annually at this season when I come to visit the earth”.
From then Ahni Apilpa and his sons and daughters continued to carry on jhum cultivation year after year and faithfully performed thanksgiving offering for each paddy harvest, and thus they preserved the seeds of rice and other grains. He warned them never to neglect to pay adoration to the god of the firmament and of fertility, Misi Apilpa Saljong.
Ever since, the Achik, one of the descendants of Ahni Apilpa annually before the beginning of the jhum harvest performs offerings of the first-fruit with burning incense and rice beer.; which is now known as Chu Ruggala, Chachat So.a and Wangala. Read in Bengali.
Read more on folktales of the garos.
Read more on Festivals and Ceremonies of the Garos.
- Gisil Bol Gitol Rikge Samol Jahphang Monol: Literally, the Tree with Flinty Bole, the Mighty Majestic Sky-High Tree with its Vast Out-Spread Precious Overhanging Branches. Overshadowing the whole World, with its immense-Girthed
- Giting Dinge Rane Dingje: Literally, Dinge, the Mother Banyan Tree, Dingje, the Soft Steely-Voiced Queenly Being.
- jarek Chijapa: Literally, the Bottom-Edge of the Earth, the Vaulted-Foundation of Waters.
- Silchi Ringreram, Gitol Tingtotram, Do.katchi Nangroram, Rikgitok Nangsatram, Matma Ongtururam, Kitma Balgitoraram, Mongma Dangtoram, Matchu Kinma Onram, Udare Jakbri Mehgongma Kolatchi: Literally, the area of Land where the Spirit Silchi Used to Descend, where Shining Jewels used to issue forth; dripping by, where Beads of Jade lay hanging by, where the most precious Necklaces lay swinging by where huge herds of Buffaloes used to pass stampeding down, where the Kitma tree used to blossom upward profusely, where the Udare tree bud forth broad Leaves, four in number from each axis, where thirty-trunked Clumps of tree used to grow exuberant luxuriance, where myriads of Cows used to mass together and where vast numbers of Elephants used to assemble to play at Weight lifting.
- Jaru Meh.a Jabal Phante Okkhuangsi Jahpat-Chongsi: Literally, Jaru, the All-Sweeping Male, Jabal, he Purging-Bachelor, the Thin Hollow-Stomached one with Slender-Calved Legs. The Wind-Divinity is so called by the Garos because the trail of the gale, wind-storm, whirl-wind or cyclone is often visible in the jungles of Garo Hills, as if impressed by the slender legs of a mighty sweeping Giant and because its speed is such as if the Giant-Sweeper is running. Empty stomached.
- Ahning Noksik chining Nomindil Ahning Diperi Chining Dipera: Literally, One named Nosiksik, as a dweller of the subterranean region, and Nomindil, who is also called Dipera, as an underwater denizen, and also named Diperi as a Being of the underground The matriarchal head of the small bird, known as doh-amik, which the Garos believe to be the visible guardian of rice plants in paddy-fields.
- Misi Apilpa Saljong Galapa: Literally, as the Celestial Being, known as Apilpa, the Father of Apil, and named Galapa, the Father of Gala, as the Sun-Divinit
- Ahni Apilpa Chini Galapa: Literally, as a dweller of the terrestrial surface of the earth, known as Apilpa, the Father of Apil, and named Galapa, the Father of Gala, as an inhabitant by the waters.
- Nokkol Johsiksok: Literally, the Servant, who fried and stirred up ceaselessly, the Alien, who Fried and Served in a Frying-Pan to Waste.
- Krurangru Grikmesal Deokracha Degong Gitel: Literally, the Versatile, Dancer, named Krurangruru, who is Deok, the Brave and Degong, the Lord. The mythological name of the paddy-cutting squirrel common in Garo Hills.
- Mattengke Mesewal: Literally, the Rodent, who is the Rat carrying fire along with.
- Sugra Mantijing: The patriarchal head of the spider-like water-insect, which lies floating on water and which is always seen constantly and rapidly moving to and fro on the surface of the water at the same place.
This Folktale is shortly rewritten and reformed, taken from Dewansing Rongmuthu’s-The folktale of the Garo, 1960.