Part II The Birth, Life and Death of Lingo (5)

“Tell us,” said the seven sisters, who art thou? Tell us.” He said, “Thy father is my uncle, and thy mother is my aunt. “I am devout Lingo, the servant of God. I am Lingo. Here, O sisters! My arrow came to your house and fell; I have been in search of it for a long time. My four brothers are sitting in the jungle; and I have killed sixteen scores of deer;  they are also in the jungle, and my brothers are sitting near them. I have come here for fire: it is very late. My brothers must be expecting fire; they must have felt hunger, and thirsty they must have become; where will they get bread?” Thus said Lingo. Then the seven sisters, what did they begin to say ? “Hear, O brother, our word. Thou art a son to uncle, and we daughters to aunt. There is a good relation between you and us; how can you leave us? We will come along with you; therefore, don’t say No.” “If you like to come, be ready soon, and take the onward road,” said Lingo.

They took the bedding for their beds, and their clothes, and gave the arrow to Lingo; Lingo in the front, and they in the rear, began to tread the way. The brothers were sitting and looking, and saying, “ When will he come?” They beheld him from afar ; and said, “Hear, O brothers, our Lingo appears!” They arose and looked, and saw Lingo and behind him the seven sisters. They said, “ With whose daughters, or whose daughters-in-law is he coming ? Look, O brethren ! they are of good appearance. If Lingo gives them to us, we would make them our wives.” So said the brethren. Lingo came near and stood, and said, “Hear, O brethren, my word! These seven sisters are the daughters of our uncle; they have come; take out your knives, and give to them the liver of the deer.” They took out the livers: some brought faggots and enkindled fire; on its blaze they roasted flesh, and set it on the ground.

“Offer this liver in the name of God.” So said the four brothers. Lingo arose. They began to eat, while Lingo did not eat. Then he said, “Let the seven sisters quickly go back, their father will abuse them. Hear, O sisters! Go quickly, or else your mother will abuse you.” They replied, and said, “Hear, O Lingo! Thou who art called good, may we call you bad? We will not go, we will stay. Whither thou shalt go, thither we will follow thee.” The brethren said, “Hear, O Lingo, these seven sisters say well! Say thou to them, O brother, we will marry them. We will make them our wives. Hear, O Lingo, such is our word.” He said, “Take these as wives in marriage, and I shall be greatly pleased. Take them here in marriage, I will give you leave to make them your wives.”

They said, “If you see any one of them to be good-looking, you take her. If any be inferior, we will take her.” He said, “Hear my word, O brothers! I do not need this. I promised to give them to you; they are of no use to me.” So said Lingo, “If you marry them they will serve me. They will be my sisters-in-law. You are older, and I am younger. They can give me water and bread, and spread a bed for me: I will sleep on it. They can give me a bath; my clothes they will wash. They will be my sisters-in law, and like my mothers they shall be.” So said Lingo. When Lingo said they will be my mothers, the suspicion of the four vanished.

The four Gonds are enamoured with the stalwart daughters of Rikad Gawadi, and desire the saint to tie the marriage knot as speedily as possible. The three elder Gonds are to receive two damsels each, and the youngest, who has but recently escaped from the jaws of his prospective father-in-law, has to be content with one. They return to their village of Kachikopa Lahugad, where the marriage is celebrated according to Gond rites. They went to Lingo and asked him : “0 Lingo, marry us quickly. If you marry us, then they are seven sisters, and we are four brothers. Distribute to each of us a wife, 0 Lingo.” He said the three elder should marry two each, and the youngest, only one. Then said Lingo, “ Hear my word, O brethren! In this jungle and in this plain how can we make preparation; we have our town, namely, Kachikopa Lahugad; we will go there and make preparations for the marriage.” So said Lingo. When they heard this, they departed.

They walked in front, and the women walked behind. They came to their village Kachikopa Lahugad, and began to make preparations. There were no men or women; then Lingo brought water. He bathed them, boiled turmeric and gave them, and pounded saffron. He erected a bower, and tied garlands of leaves round it. He called the four brothers to sprinkle turmeric round about. He applied turmeric to the four brothers and the seven sisters. He said, “We cannot marry all at once. Hear, O brothers. Let us marry one set only first, and the rest shall work with us for that occasion. Then shall the marriage of the second set take place. Those who have been already married shall now help us in this marriage ceremony and soon.” This said Lingo; and the four consented to it. Thus ended the marriage.

The remainder of this portion of the Epic shows how the saintly Lingo, in the absence of the four Gonds who go on a hunting expedition, is subjected to the same temptation which befell the patriarch Joseph in the house of Potiphar. Lingo, like Joseph, rises superior to his temptation, but, unlike Joseph, he administers severe corporal punishment to his temptresses. They in revenge accuse him falsely to their husbands when they return, and the four Gonds in rage slay their benefactor. “Lingo has done good to us, and brought wives to our houses. But Lingo is without a wife, he thought of our good, but not of his own, so we will reckon him as our father. We will kill game, and bring flowers for Lingo. Let him sit in a swing.” So said the four brothers. Lingo sat in a swing, and the seven sisters swung the swing.

The four brothers took their bows and arrows and repaired to the jungle. After that, what happened? The seven sisters said within themselves, “Hear, 0 sisters. The Lingo is our husbands’ younger brother, and we are his sisters-in-law; we are at liberty to laugh with him; we can pull him by the hand, and we can make him to speak with us. Lingo does not laugh with us; he neither speaks nor looks towards us; he has closed his eyes; but he shall laugh, and we will play with him.” So saying some held his hand, and some his feet, and pulled him, but Lingo moved not his eyes; he did not speak or laugh with them. Then Lingo said to them, “Hear, O sisters! You have held my hands, and feet, and pulled them; but remember you are my sisters. You are my mothers; why do you deal so with me ? I am God’s servant. I don’t care though my life be sacrificed, but I will not speak with you, nor look at you, nor laugh with you.” So Said Lingo. Having heard this the eldest sister said, “Hear, O sisters. Lingo speaks not to us, looks not towards us.” They began to embrace him.

Then Lingo became angry: the anger ascended from the heel to his head. Thence descended into his eyes and down to his feet. Lingo looked before him but saw nothing, save a pestle for cleaning rice. He descended from his swing and took the pestle in his hand, and soundly flogged his sisters-in-law. As he was beating them, the seven sisters began to flee before him, like bellowing cows. Thence he returned, and having come to his swing, in a swing he slept. Thus these seven sisters had received a sound beating. They returned to their house, and having each one gone to her room. The seven sisters slept in seven places; and Lingo slept in a swing. Thus noontide came, and the time for the returning of the four brothers arrived. Some of them had killed an antelope, some a hare, some a peafowl. Some a quail; some brought flowers. They came into their house and set their burdens down, and said, “Let us go to our Lingo; we will give him flowers ; he may be expecting us.” They entered the house. They came near Lingo and stood, and saw him sleeping.  They said, “ There is no one here, Lingo is sleeping; our wives do not appear. Then we will come and awake Lingo.”

Thence they returned to their houses, and going to their rooms, they began to look. They, the women, were feigning sleep, and panting as if fear had come upon them. Then the husbands asked them, “Why are you sleeping ? And why don’t you swing Lingo?” They replied, “Hear our words, how Lingo, your brother, dealt with us. How long shall we hide this disgrace? He allows you to go to the jungle, and behind your back he shamefully maltreats us. Such is the conduct of this Lingo. We have kept quiet till today; now we will not stop quiet. We will go back to our father’s place. We will not stay here. Can one woman have two husbands?” The brethren said, “We told Lingo at the first that there were seven sisters, and that he might choose one from amongst them, and that we would marry the rest. But he said they are my sisters, they are my mothers. Thus said that sinner, wicked and ill-conducted, that Lingo. While we were hunting, he deceived us. We will take him to the jungle, and, having killed him, we will pull out his eyes.”

“Up to this day we have killed antelope and hares; but today we go to hunt Lingo, and after killing him we will take out his eyes. And we will play with them as with marbles; and then we will eat food and drink water.” Then they came to Lingo, and stood before him and said, “Rise, O Lingo, our youngest brother!” Lingo said, “Why brethren — why have you not brought the game and the flowers to me? And why have you come so soon?” They said, “There is a large animal, we hunted it hard, but it did not fall: it does not flee, it stands still only; we are tired of discharging our arrows at it.” Lingo arose from the swing and sat, and looked towards his brothers. “I will kill that animal.” So said Lingo. Lingo thence arose and came out of the house, and said. “Come, O brothers. Where is the animal ?” In front, Lingo and in rear the four brothers walked towards the jungle. “It is a very large animal,” said they; and saying thus, they searched for it among trees and grass.

Lingo went under a Char tree and sat. Then they said, “O brother! Sit here, and we will bring water.” So saying, yonder they went. Being amongst the trees they said among themselves, “Good Lingo is seated in the shade, this is the right time to effect our desire.” The four took four arrows and shot: one arrow hit the head, and the head split open; one hit the neck, and it bowed down; one hit the liver, and it was cleft. Thus Lingo breathed his last! The four brothers came up to Lingo and stood. And said, “Draw a knife, and we will take out his eyes.” They drew out a knife and took out his eyes, and said, “Cover him.” So they took some twigs and covered Lingo. Then they said, “We have killed Lingo, who was wicked.” They plucked some green leaves of the tree and made a cup of them, and placed in it the two eyes of Lingo, and one tied it to his waistband.

They walked towards their house, and at evening time they arrived home. One said, “Hear, O wives! Kindle fire quickly and light a lamp.” They drew the stalks of flax from the eaves of the house roof, and enkindled fire. One said, “It is a fine light, let us play at marbles.” They took out both the eyes, and said, “O seven sisters! You also join in play.” They brought the eyes, and placed one on the east side and the other on the west; and the brethren, sitting close, held the marbles between the joints of their fingers. Then began to play at marbles with the two eyes; and their game lasted an hour.

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

Image Attribution: The image above is sourced from Wikimedia Commons and based on a painting preserved by the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. It shows a Bhil couple hunting Blackbuck. The Bhils are not a Dravidian tribe. They live in Western and Central India. Like the Gonds, the bow and arrow were the chief weapon of the Bhils, when it came to hunting.

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