Khasi: Ka Panshandi, the Lazy Tortoise

This story is part of the Khasi Folktales unit. Story source: Folk-Tales of the Khasis by Mrs. K. U. Rafy (1920).

The Legend of Ka Panshandi, the Lazy Tortoise

Once upon a time, there lived a young tortoise near a large pool. She was very ill-favoured and ugly in appearance and very foolish, as well as being of a lazy disposition, and, like all lazy people, she was slovenly and dirty in her habits. Her name was Ka Panshandi.

The pool near which she lived being very clear, the stars and other heavenly bodies often gazed into it to behold their own images. At times the reflection of countless shining, blinking stars would be visible in the placid waters till the pool looked like a little part of the sky. At such times Ka Panshandi took immense delight in plunging into the pool, darting backwards and forwards and twirling round the bright silvery spots with great glee and contentment.

Among those who came frequently to gaze at themselves in the pool was U Lurmangkhara, the brightest of all the stars; he began to notice the playful gambols of Ka Panshandi in the water and to admire her twirling motions. He lived so far away that he could not see her ugliness, nor could he know that she was lazy and foolish. All he knew was that she exposed herself nightly to the chilly waters of the pool in order (as he thought) to have the pleasure of being near the images of the stars, which was very flattering to his vanity. If she was so strongly attracted by their images, he thought to himself, how much more would she adore the real live stars if she were brought into contact with them.

U Lurmangkhara fell deeply in love with her, and determined to go down to the earth to marry her and to endow her with all his wealth, for he was very rich and had always lived in great splendour.

When his relations and friends heard of his purpose, they were much disturbed, and they came to remonstrate with him against what they considered to be a very rash and risky step — to go to a foreign land to make his home and to mate with an unknown consort whose habits and outlook on life might be altogether alien to him. But U Lurmangkhara would listen to no counsel. Persons in love never take heed of other people’s advice. Down to the earth he came, and there married Ka Panshandi and endowed her with all his wealth.

When Ka Panshandi found herself a rich wife, having unexpectedly won one of the noblest husbands in the world, her vanity knew no bounds, and she grew more indolent and idle than ever. Her house was squalid, and she minded not when even her own body was daubed with mud, and she felt no shame to see her husband’s meals served off unscoured platters.

U Lurmangkhara was very disappointed; being patient and gentle, he tried by kind words to teach his wife to amend her ways, but it was of no avail. Gradually he grew discontented and spoke angrily to her, but she remained as callous and as indifferent as ever, for it is easier to turn even a thief from stealing than to induce a sluggard to renounce his sloth. He threatened to leave her, her neighbours also repeatedly warned her that she would lose her good husband unless she altered her ways, but she remained as unconcerned as ever. At last, driven to despair, U Lurmangkhara gathered together all his wealth and went back to his home in the sky.

Ka Panshandi was filled with remorse and grief when she found that her husband had departed. She called piteously after him, promising to reform if he would only return, but it was too late. He never came back, and she was left to her squalor and her shame.

To this day Ka Panshandi is still hoping to see U Lurmangkhara coming back to the earth, and she is seen crawling about mournfully, with her neck outstretched towards the sky in expectation of his coming, but there is no sign of his return, and her life is dull and joyless.

After these events Ka Panshandi’s name became a mockery and a proverb in the land; ballads were sung setting forth her fate as a warning to lazy and thriftless wives. To the present day a forsaken wife who entertains hope of her husband’s return is likened by the Khasis to Ka Panshandi in her expectant attitude with her head lifted above her shell: “Ka Panshandi dem-lor-khah.”

(700 words)

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