Part III The Revival of Lingo and the Delivery of the Gonds from Bondage

The third scene of the drama opens in the Upper World. Bhagawan, the great god, who represents Bura Deo, the chief god of the Gond Pantheon, sits in his court and all the minor gods, including two of the Gond gods, Pharsa Pen, and Rayetal his wife, sit near him. They are in a state of consternation. Lingo, beloved of the gods, is dead, and they know not where his body is. The saints, or Rishis, will not, or cannot, assist them to find it. At length Bhagawan, in rage, rouses himself, and having made unpleasant remarks about everyone, performs certain ablutions; after which he created a wonderful bird, and named it Kagesur, a word apparently of Hindu origin. This bird is sent forth to search everywhere for Lingo.

At length he discovers Lingo’s body in the neighbourhood of Kachikopa Lahugad. There it lies, smashed by the cruel Gonds, and without eyes. Bhagawan takes nectar, and gives it to the superhuman Gond ancestor Kurtao Sabal, and bids him sprinkle it on the liver, belly, and head of his body. He does so and Lingo revives. What did god (Bhagawan) do now? Rayetal, Pharsa Pen, what did they in the upper world? In the courts of the god all the minor divinities sat. God spake to them, “Hear, O friends, can you tell in what world the body of Lingo is fallen? Will any of you trace it and go on this errand?” They made the preparation of betel-nut, and threw it before the saints.

God said, “Take this up, and come and tell me.” But none of the saints took it up. Then God became angry, and began to reproach them. God arose, and with a potful of water washed his hands and feet. After washing, he, from the substance of his body created a crow, and sprinkled water of ambrosia on it, and thus made it alive, and named it Kagesur; and held it in his hand. And said, “Go to the jungle and make a search between hills, glen, lanes; amongst trees, in rivers and water.”

Thence the crow departed, and roamed over the upper world. But did not find the body of Lingo anywhere; thence he came to the lower world and began his search. When it came to the Jungle of Kachikopa Lahugad, it searched in the valleys there. Its sight fell on the twigs, it came to them and sat, and searched the twigs. It saw Lingo lying there looking as if smashed,  and without eyes. This the crow observed, and flew away and came to the Upper World. Perching on God’s hand, it sat. God asked it, “Where have you seen him?” It said, “I came to the jungle of Kachikopa Lahugad, I saw a man there in a cave.”

When God heard this he became silent, and understood the truth of it; and then said, “It was in that very jungle that Lingo was born from a flower of the tree. And has never been there since.” He took nectar from out of his fingers, and called Kurtao Sabal, and said to him. “Take this and sprinkle on the liver, belly, and head of the body,” Thus, the crow in front, and Kurtao Sabal behind, went to Kachikopa Lahugad. Kurtao Sabal said, “Hear, O crow. Here is my Lingo.”

Ambrosia was brought, and dropped into his mouth, and sprinkled over his head and body: then Lingo’s head began to unite. And his flesh became warm. Lingo rose. Lingo seems either to have been ignorant as to the cause of his death, or to have been full of the spirit of forgiveness. He asks for his four brothers and learns of their fiendish wickedness. Not deterred by this he announces his intention of now going to the rescue of the Gond race, who are imprisoned in Dhawalgiri by Bhagawan. Lingo sat up. Looking towards the crow, he said, “I was fast asleep. Where are my brothers? I see only a man and a crow, and I don’t see my brothers.”

After this Kurtao Sabal replied, “Where are your brothers? You were dead, your body was lying here; we came and restored you to life; the brothers you inquire about have killed you, and gone away.” Then said Kurtao Sabal, “What do you say to going? ” Lingo addressing the crow, said — “I will go to my sixteen scores of Gonds. I will go and see them, and speak to them.” He starts on his journey. Night overtakes  him and he ascends a tree where he remains till daybreak. The crow and Kurtao Sabal started in one direction. And Lingo took another road.

Lingo, while crossing the mountains and jungle, was benighted. Then Lingo said, “I will stay here alone; tigers and bears may devour me.” He went to a large Niroor tree. When he climbed to the top, the night came on: wild cocks crowed, peacocks cried, antelopes were afraid. And bears wagged their heads, jackals yelled, and the jungle resounded. At midnight Lingo saw the Moon, and said to himself: “The day is approaching, and while the Stars are still visible, I will ask them about my Gonds.”

At the third watch of the night, the cock crowed: the morning star appeared, the sky became red. Lingo descends from his tree at daybreak and asks the Sun where his Gonds are. The Sun  cannot tell. He asks the Moon. She, too, is ignorant. Lingo, descending from the tree, ran towards the Sun and saluted him; and said, “I want to know where my sixteen scores of Gonds are?” The Sun said, “I am engaged in the service of God during the four watches of the day, and have not seen your Gonds.” Lingo went to the Moon, saluted, and asked her if she knew anything about his sixteen scores of Gonds. The Moon replied: “I travel all night, and during the day am engaged in the service of God; therefore I know not.”

He asks one Kumayat — apparently a Hindu Rishi, who, after speaking most unpleasantly about the Gonds, gives him the information he desires. Lingo then went to black Kumayat, saluted him, and asked him, “Where are my sixteen scores of Gonds?,” He replied: “Hear, Lingo: Mention about anyone but Gonds. The Gonds are foolish like the ass, they eat cats, mice, and bandicoots; they also eat pigs and buffaloes; they are of such a bad caste. Why do you ask me about them? At the source of the Jumna river, on the Dhawalagiri mountain, Mahadeva has caught the Gonds, and has confined them in a cave, and shut its mouth with a stone of sixteen cubits long. Bhasmasur the giant has been appointed to guard it, and watch the place.”

Lingo then underwent a severe penance for twelve months; and having acquired a large amount of merit, proceeds to interview Mahadeva. Much as he desires it, Mahadeva cannot refuse Lingo and at length promises to release them. After hearing this Lingo set out, and walked night and day. Making devotion. After twelve months had expired, the term of his devotion was complete. When the golden seat of Mahadeva began to shake (from the effect of Lingo’s devotion), then Mahadeva said, “What devotee has come to Dhawalagiri and has performed devotions to me, rendering me under obligation to him?” As he was wondering and searching he went towards Lingo, stood at a distance, and recognised him. Lingo did not shake his head, or lift his foot, or open his eyes.

His flesh was constraied; his bones only remained. Thus Lingo was found on the thorns. Whereupon Mahadeva said “What do you ask for? Ask what you wish, and it will be granted.” Lingo replied: “I want nothing but my sixteen scores of Gonds.” Mahadeva replied: “Make no mention of Gonds; but for any kingdom, or for any amount of money which you can enjoy, and remember me.” Thus said Mahadeva: to which Lingo did not agree. On his again asking for the Gonds, Mahadeva disappeared, and consented to give them to him, saying : “Hear, Lingo. Your Gonds are below the earth, take them away.” Lingo rose, saluted him, and went on. After this Narayan said: “ Hear, Mahadeva: all these Gonds were well concealed and were forgotten; if they were dead, it would be a pleasure to me. If they come out alive from below the earth, they will act as usual: they will eat buffaloes, birds, such as pigeons, crows, and eagles, and vultures. They will alight here and there; smells will arise, bones will be scattered, and make the earth look very bad. The respect for mount Dhawalagiri will be lost.”

Mahadeva, hearing this, replied: “Hear, Narayan, I have passed my word. I have erred, but will not change my word.” Narayan the high god hears of Mahadeva’s promise and is much upset by it. He pictures the dirt and disorder which will arise in Dhawalagiri once the Gonds are released. He will only consent to the Gond’s release if Lingo brings him as an offering the young of the black-bird Bindo for an offering. This magical bird lived by the sea-shore. It and its mate lived luxuriously on the brains of elephants, camels and other animals. Its deadly foe was a sea-serpent called Bhournag, which had repeatedly rifled its nest, and destroyed seven broods of its young. This fable, it is believed, is of Hindu origin, and some think it refers to the bird Garuda of Hindu mythology, which was a remorseless enemy of the serpent race.

Narayan then addressed Lingo, “Hear, Lingo. Bring me the young ones of the black -bird Bindo for an offering; after that you may take the Gonds away.” Lingo went and reached the sea, where there was nothing but water visible; and on the shore he saw the young ones of the black -bird. The parent bird had gone to the jungle. This bird was such, that for food it killed the elephant, and ate its eyes; and breaking its head, brought the brains for the young ones to eat. There had been seven broods, at seven different times; but they had been devoured by a sea-serpent, called the Bhournag. Lingo went near. Lingo goes and slays the mighty snake. The parents return and, not knowing what Lingo has done, are about to kill him, as he sleeps. The young birds tell them of his powers, and in gratitude they agree to take their young to Mahadeva.

After seeing the young ones, he said to himself: “If I take them in the absence of their parents, I shall be called a thief; I will therefore take them in the presence of the parents, and will be true to my name.” He slept near the young birds with comfort. A large snake, as thick as the trunk of the Itumna tree appeared. With a hood as large as a basket for winnowing corn. This serpent, called the Bhournag, came out of the water to eat the young ones. The young ones were terrified on seeing the serpent, and began to cry. Lingo, taking an arrow, and fixing it in his bow, shot the serpent, and then cut it into seven pieces, which he immediately brought and laid at the head of his bed, and covered them up. Then the male and female of the black -bird returned from the jungle. They brought the carcass of some camels and some elephants, together with some eyes and lips of elephants as food for their young ones.

But the young ones refused to eat; when the female said to the male: “Notwithstanding my having had seven times, I am like a barren she-buffalo; if these young ones are spared I shall be like a mother of children. What evil eye has been cast on my young ones, that they do not eat!” The male bird, alighting from the tree, saw a white object lying below, where was Lingo. He then exclaimed: “Here is a man, and that is why our young ones do not eat. Let us kill him and extract his brains; our young ones will then take their food.” Hearing this, the young ones said: “You have brought food for us but how shall we eat it? You are our parents, you leave us alone, and go away to the jungle; who is there to protect us?

“The serpent came to eat us. This man whom you see, has saved our lives. Give him first to eat, we will then take our food; unless he eats, we will not eat.” After hearing what the young ones said. The mother flew down from the tree, and coming near Lingo, and lifting up the cloth with which he had covered himself saw the seven pieces of the Bhournag serpent. Seeing this she began to exclaim: “This is the serpent that has always eaten my young ones, and rendered me childless! Had this man not been here it would have devoured these also.” Addressing Lingo, she said: ” Rise, father — rise, brother; who are you, and where have you come from? You have saved the lives of our young ones, and you have become our grandfather. Whatever you say, we will listen to it.”

He said: “O bird, I am a devotee, a worshipper of the Deity.” “Tell us,” the bird said, “What has brought you here.” Lingo replied, “I want your young ones.” On hearing this the bird began to cry bitterly. And, opening her eyes, she said: “I would give you anything except my young ones.” Lingo said: “I will take your young ones merely to show them to Mahadeva.” In reply to this, the black Bindo said: “If Mahadeva wants us, I am ready to go.” Saying this, the female bird carried the young ones on one wing. And Lingo on the other. The male Bindo then said, “Hear, me. Lingo; you will feel the effects of the sun, why then should I remain here?” The female Bindo then flew towards the sea. The male Bindo flying over her, and using his wings as a shelter for Lingo. It was six months’ journey to the residence of Mahadeva; but starting in the morning they alighted at midday in the courtyard of Mahadeva.

Narayan, seeing them from the door, went to Mahadeva and said: “Here is Lingo and the black Bindo birds which he has brought.” Mahadeva then released the Gonds. Mahadeva exclaimed : “O Narayan! I foresaw this, and you would not believe me when I told you that Lingo would bring the bird.” Mahadeva then said: “ Hear, Lingo: I give you back your sixteen scores of Gonds; take them, and go away.” Lingo then saluted Mahadeva and went to the cave, and taking the name of the great god. And ‘that of the god Rayetal, he made Bhasmasur, the giant, to walk in front of him. Reaching the cave, he lifted up the stone, sixteen cubits long, and laid it aside. The Gonds coming out of the cave and seeing Lingo, cried, “We have no one but you.” Mahadeva gave flour of wheat to some, flour of millet to others. And rice to others. The Gonds went to the river, and began preparing their food. Some of the Gonds said that they had been confined and punished severely. On hearing this. Lingo said: “You are now at the river, cook and eat, and then complain.”

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 shows an illustration of  the House Crow (Corvus splendens) from ‘Nouveau recueil de planches coloriées d’oiseaux’ (dating back to 1838). The book was published in France between 1820 and 1839 by Coenraad Jacob Temminck (a Dutch aristocrat) and Meiffren Laugier de Chartrouse (a French ornithologist) and contained hundreds of colour plates of bird species from across the world. In the Gond epic, it is a crow that locates and revives the dead Lingo.