Part II The Birth, Life and Death of Lingo (1)

The Gond race is embowelled in the earth. Only four Gonds remain outside. Bhagawan, the high god, had promised the goddess Parvati, Mahadeva’s wife, to rescue them from their incarceration. This is the state of things when the second part of the poem begins. Amid the same scenes of silence and solitude, described for us in the opening lines of the Epic, there stood a flower tree called Dati. By the decree of Bhagawan from one of the flowers of this tree was to spring one “without father or mother ” who was to be the teacher and civiliser of the Gonds, and eventually their deliverer from Mahadeo’s cruel incarceration. His name is Lingo . Though he appears throughout the poem in the character of a Hindu saint, the name is said to be of Gond origin. Sometimes he is called Bhan (Gondi for devotee) and sometimes Pariur (Gondi for saint).

In one passage Lingo is spoken of as a pure and sinless being. “Lingo was a perfect man; water may be stained, but he had no stain whatever.” Then care fell to Bhagawan (god), there was a tree. It was blossoming. Then, said he, “One of its flowers shall conceive.” By God’s doing, clouds and winds were loosened. A cloud like a fan arose ; thunder roared, and lightning flashed. The flower burst, clouds opened, and darkness fell; the day was hid. A heap of turmeric fell at the fourth watch of the night. In the morning, when clouds resounded with thunder, the flower opened. And burst, and Lingo was born, and he sprang, and fell into the heap of turmeric. Then the clouds cleared, and at the dawn Lingo began to cry. Thereat, care fell upon God; the (face of Lingo) began to dry amidst the powder.

But by God’s doing, there was a fig tree, on which was honey. The honey burst, and a small drop fell into his mouth. Thus the juice continued to fall, and his mouth began to suck. It was noon, and wind blew, when Lingo began to grow. He leapt into a swing, and began to swing, when day was set Lingo arose with haste, and sat in a cradle swinging. Lingo was a perfect man ; water may be stained but he had no stain whatever. There was a diamond on his navel, and sandal wood mark on his forehead. He was a divine  saint. He became two years old. He played in turmeric, and slept in a swing. Thus  days rolled away.

He became nine years old; he was ordered not to eat anything from off the jungle trees, or thickets. Lingo’s childhood and youth were spent Pan-like in absolute solitude. He craved for the society of other men like himself. Filled with this desire he set out on a journey which led him to Kachikopa Lahugad — “The Iron Valley — the Red Hills,” an admirable description of many of the hills of the Satpuras — with their red rocks abounding in manganese ore. Here he sees for the first time his fellow-men, who turn out to be the four surviving Gonds. Lingo, in his mind, said, “Here is no person to be seen; man does not appear, neither are there any animals. There appears none like me; I will go where I can see someone like myself.” Having said so, one day he arose and went on straight. He ascended a needle-like hill; there he saw a Mundita tree; below was a tree named Kidsadita; it blossomed.

He went thither, and having seen flowers, he smelled them. He went a little beyond, upon a precipitous hill, and climbed a tree. Then he looked around and saw smoke arising from Kachikopa Lahugad. “What is this?” said he; “I must go and see it.” He ascended, and saw the smoke. The four brothers quickly brought their game, and began to roast it; they began to eat it raw or cooked. In the meantime Lingo went there. They saw him and stood up; he stood also; neither spoke to the other. The four then began to say within themselves,“We are four brothers, and he will be the fifth brother. Let us call him. We will go and bring him.” Then they went. They came to the place where he was. “Who art thou?” asked they of Lingo. Lingo said, “I am Saint Lingo; I have a knot of hair on my head.”

The four brothers said, “Come to our house.” They took him home. Some game was lying there. Then follows an amusing description of Lingo joining these four Gonds in their favourite pastime of hunting. The hunt is for an animal “without a liver,” which, needless to say, was never found. Lingo said, “What is this?” They said, “It is game that we have brought.” “What kind of game is this?” Lingo asked. They said, “It is a pig.” He said, “ Give me its liver.” There was no liver there. Then they said, “Hear, O brother, we have killed an animal without liver!” Then Lingo said, “Let me see an animal without liver.” Then care fell upon them. “Where shall we show him an animal without a liver?” said they. One said, “Hear my word! He is a little fellow, we are big men; we will take him to the jungle among large stones. Among thorns in thickets and caves we will roam; he will get tired, and will sit down; he will be thirsty and hungry, then he will propose to return.”

With Lingo they, with bow and arrow in their hands, went by the jungle road. Onward they went, and saw an antelope. Lingo said, “Kill it!” It had a liver. Then came a sambhar, “Kill ye it!” It had a liver. A hare came, and he said,“Kill ye it!” It had a liver. Thus the devout Lingo did not tire. These four brothers were tired. For water they thirsted. On a steep they ascended to look for water; but no water appeared, so they descended from the hill. Thus they came to a thick jungle of Anjun trees where thorny plants blocked the road. They came and stood. A little water appeared. They plucked Palas (Butia) leaves, and made them into a trough; they drank water with it, and were much refreshed. Lingo said, “What are you doing sitting there?” They said, “We cannot find an animal without a liver.”

Note: Excerpt from ‘Story of Gondwana’ by the Right Reverand Eyre Chatterton (Bishop of Nagpur).

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons shows the illustration of a Turmeric Plant from ‘Flora medica, oder, Abbildung der wichtigsten officinellen Pflanzen’. Turmeric is not only one of the major ingredients of South Asian cooking but also figures prominently in the region’s religious and cultural traditions. The painting dates back to 1831. ‘Flora medica, oder, Abbildung der wichtigsten officinellen Pflanzen’ was authored by the famous German botanist David Nathaniel Friedrich Dietrich (1800-1888).