The Feast : Lamkhunu Na Chakkouba
Fungawari Singbul by B. Jayantakumar Sharma

Translation by Bidyarani Thingujam *

Lamkhunu Na Chakkouba
An illustration of Folk tale 'Lamkhunu Na Chakkouba' by Sibananda Thokchom

Once upon a time, there lived a pigeon couple in a groove. According to his father's wish, the male pigeon thought of holding a feast for his father's four friends, the owl, the crow, the dove and the sparrow as these friends helped his father in many ways in the past.

Then the pigeon sends invitation to these elders to come to his house for a feast. The day came and the owl, crow, dove and the sparrow gets ready for the grand feast.

They arrived at the pigeon's house and the couple also arranged delicious foods at their best level. They prepared very nicely and all the delicacies were put into one by one and lo! The meal was ready to eat.

Then the male pigeon said with respect to the elders, "O Wise elders, today I invited you all for the feast not because I'm well-off but because my late father mentioned of you all on his deathbed.

He said in our worst times you had helped us. My father died before he could pay your kindness back. Father made me promise to call you all for a feast as a token of thanks for your kindness. Meal is ready, Gentlemen, please sit according to your seniority.

My father asked me to seek blessings from the eldest sitting at the head of the table, so I request the eldest among you to go in first and take the seat. Please enjoy the meal and help me fulfil my late father's wish".

After hearing the pigeon's words, the four birds stood still lost in thought. They were thinking who's supposed to go in first and take the seat because they weren't sure who was the oldest among them.

A whole lot of time went by while they looked at one another trying to figure out who is the eldest. The host pigeon kept on saying "Please, have a seat, gentlemen; it's getting late". But the difficult part was they weren't able to decide who should go in first. It was getting late and everyone was hungry.

Among them, the crow was the most hungry because he had been preparing for this feast since the past two, three days by starving himself. On top of that, the smell of all those delicious foods that lay in front made him jumped right in and he went ahead to take the first seat that was meant for the eldest.

On seeing that the 'dove' became furious, he confronted the crow then and a fight began. In the meantime, while the sparrow was making a futile attempt to take the first seat, the owl that seem to be lost in his nap woke up at the right time and they picked up another fight regarding the confusion as to who's the eldest.

The pigeon couple was at a loss thinking how to stop the fight and everything was a mess now. Not knowing what to do anymore, the pigeon couple went to summon all the birds of the forest. Once all the birds have gathered, the pigeon told them how the fight started.

After hearing what the pigeon has said, the vulture asked the crow, "Hey crow, why did you sit on the seat meant for the eldest without discussing with the others? By the way, how old are you"? The crow replied, "O brave vulture, listen to me please, if we consider age, we crows are very old. We have inhabited the Meitei lands since its first river was created.

It was me, the crow, who went to Nong-goubi, the bird, to give the news about the first river and it was because of my news that prevented Nong-goubi from drinking its water. After hearing what the crow has said, the vulture turned to the dove and asked him, "Hey dove, why you are angry at such an old crow for taking the first seat. Tell me how old are you?" Dove said calmly, "Listen to me dear Vulture; if we talk about age, crows are much younger than us. We have inhabited this land since the time of the first king "Nongda Lairen Pakhangba- our godly figure".

After having been convinced that the dove is older than the crow, the Vulture now asked the Sparrow, "Hey Sparrow, how old are you? Why were you angry when elders took the first seat?"

The Sparrow replied, "My brother Vulture, the crow and the dove are much younger than us sparrows. They can't even be compared with my age. When believed our creator Sanamahi Pakhangba finished creating the Earth, we Sparrows were among his first creations among other species.

After hearing what the Sparrow just said, all the birds present there were in awe. The Vulture thought, now that I have heard all the three birds, I think the Sparrow is the oldest.

Lastly, the Vulture turned to the Owl and said, "Are you dozing again, dear old friend Owl?" The Owl quickly replied, "What is it grandson Vulture?"

The Vulture told him, "Everyone is busy figuring out their age and who's the eldest among the four birds who came to attend the feast. I guess you missed out all the fuzz while you were dozing . So, can you tell now what your age is? "What?? What did you say?" the Owl asked indicating that he can't hear properly. The Vulture speak up louder, "How old are you, Mr. Owl?"

Owl said, "Don't call me Mister, call me Ipu(grandfather). You youngsters shouldn't forget your forefathers history". The Vulture replied, "All right then, from now on I will call you 'Ipu'.

So, how old are you 'Ipu'? Sparrow is saying that he is the oldest. What do you say"? The Owl replied, "It's been so many years that I can't even count anymore. That sparrow you are saying is far way younger than me. He must be great-great-great-great grandchild of my grand-children". All the other birds present there looked at each other on hearing his words.

Even the Vulture stared at the Owl with wide open eyes. The Owl continued, "Let me tell you how old I'm, my dear children. Atiya Guru Sidaba, the greatest of all Gods and father of Sanamahi, is my son-in-law. He calls me 'Iku' 'Iku' with love. After hearing him call me 'Iku', all the gods and goddesses started calling me "Guru Sidaba's 'Maku'(owl)". "Now, you tell me who is older, me or the Sparrow.

The name which was given to me that time is still unchanged. That's why I am saying if I try counting age wise, it's uncountable. If you didn't believe me still, then you better go and ask Atiya Guru Sidaba".

After hearing the Owl's story, all the birds kept silent and whispered among themselves, "By looks, by attitude, by personality, he does seems to be the oldest". After a while, when the whispering settles down, the Vulture spoke up, "Dear Ipu Owl, forgive me if I said anything wrong to you. Now, we all believe that you are the eldest among us all. Today I shall invite you for a feast at my home.

Please, ride on my back till my home". After having said this, the Vulture took the wise old Owl on his back and flew away along with the other birds. The pigeon couple stayed back still in awe and shock at what just happened.

As the saying goes, a good speaker always have the last word, the wise Owl becomes the eldest of the birds.

** From Manipur folk tale Book called "Fungawari Singbul" by B. Jayantakumar Sharma

* Bidyarani Thingujam is a regular contributor to
This article was posted on January 16 2017

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