Rongmeikai and Langbung: A Manipuri Folktale

James Oinam *

Resurrection of Asangphi - An illustration
Resurrection of Asangphi
from the comic book 'Illustrated Folktales of Manipur', authored by Ksh. Subadani and drawn by Samson S. Meitei

Long time ago, there lived seven brothers who belonged to Rongmei clan. The youngest brother was called Rongmeikai.

One day when they went to their field to work, they found two large snakes. They were husband and wife.

The brothers surrounded the snakes and succeeded in killing the female snake but the male snake escaped.

The elder brothers asked the youngest, Rongmeikai, to take the dead snake to the watch-house they built near the field and cook it while they worked.

Rongmeikai took the snake to the watch-house, and chopped the snake into seven pieces, one for each of them.

Then in order to cook the snake, he went to fetch some water.

Meanwhile the male snake had followed him to the place.

On returning, from a distance, Rongmeikai saw the male snake had brought some bark of the tree called Langchi in his mouth.

From a safe hiding place Rongmeikai saw the male snake chew pieces of the bark and put them over the body parts of the dead female snake.

To his utter amazement, the pieces started joining and the female snake came back to life! Then the two left the place together. Rongmeikai was too dazed to do anything.

After some time the brothers returned from their hard day's work. They were tired and hungry.

When Rongmeikai told them what happened, they beat him up, breaking his legs, because they thought Rongmeikai was lying.

Unable to walk, Rongmeikai pleaded to leave him near the Langchi tree. They put him near the tree and left for their home.

Rongmeikai took as much bark from the tree as he could and wrapped them in his cloth.

Then he applied some to his injured legs. His legs became alright.

'There is no point in going back home,' Rongmeikai thought. So he left his village to seek his own fortune.

On the way, he found a dead dog by the roadside. Rongmeikai wanted to test his magic potion.

So he sprinkled some Langchi bark over the carcass. The dog springed to life again and started following Rongmeikai.

Rongmeikai decided keep him as his pet and named him 'Langbung'. When it became dark, he asked an old woman he met on the way to give him shelter in her house for the night.

The woman was much obliged as she lived alone. In the middle of the night, they were woken by sound of wails from the neighbourhood.

A young girl had died suddenly even though she was not too sick.

Rongmeikai asked the woman to enquire to the parents that if he revived their daughter what would they give him in return.

The woman came back and told him that they were ready to give their daughter in marriage and property as reward.

Rongmeikai took some Langchi with him and asked all of them to leave him alone with the girl inside the house for some time.

While alone with her, he applied the potion on the girl. The girl sneezed and was resurrected from death as if she had woken up from a slumber.

The happy parents got them married and gave them a house to live.

The fame of Rongmeikai spread wide as a magic healer. He revived all the injured and dead brought to him.

He kept the Langchi barks locked secretly in a trunk. No one, including his wife Asangphi, knew about it.

One day when he had gone to his field with his dog Langbung, the curious wife opened the trunk and found the barks.

'These are all so damp,' said she and put them outside to dry in the sun.

The sun and the moon gods took this opportunity and took away the barks to the sky, while the wife watched helplessly.

On returning, the wife told him the terrible news.

Rongmeikai decided to build a ladder to the heaven to take back the magic barks.

For this, he asked for help from all the animals. But he did not invite the weevils.

They felt dishonoured and decided to teach Rongmeikai a lesson.

Rongmeikai asked Langbung to climb first while he fetched his arms to fight the sun and the moon gods.

Meanwhile the weevils damaged the legs of the ladder. Langbung climbed to the heaven, but when it was the turn for Rongmeikai, the ladder started shaking and Rongmeikai fell down.

In this way, Rongmeikai could no longer revive the dead.

Langbung never forgot the injustice meted out to his master and kept chasing the sun and the moon gods.

Whenever there was an eclipse, people believed Langbung had swallowed them.

It is said, the Kabui would shout, 'Shi, Langbung tao-tao.'

And the Meeteis would shout, 'Tharo-tharo.'
(They mean 'drop-drop' and 'Put it down, put it down'.)

Source: English translation of the story 'Rongmeikai Amashung Langbung'
from the comic book 'Illustrated Folktales of Manipur',
authored by Ksh. Subadani and
drawn by Samson S. Meitei,
published by Lingthoingambi Publications, Imphal
in December 2010.

* James Oinam wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on February 02, 2018.

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