Khasi: The Leap of Ka Likai

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

The Leap of Ka Likai

“The Leap of Ka Likai” is the name given to a beautiful waterfall on the Khasi Hills, a few miles to the west of Cherrapoonjee, which, at certain points, is visible from great distances, while the roar and the echoes of its waters are to be heard for miles. The view is one of exceptional beauty, and many visitors are attracted to see it. The clear chattering stream is seen emerging from its wild mountain home, dashing over the high precipice into the shadows of a deep gorge, flinging upwards, as it falls, clouds of tremulous spray, which wreathe and coil around majestic rocks, creating countless small rainbows which dance and quiver in a maze of palms and ferns and blossoming shrubs.

The place is so remote and so still, as if every sound had been awed into a hush, except the thunderous boom of the torrent with its distant echoes moaning and shrieking like a spirit in anguish, that the whole locality seems weird and uncanny, suggestive of terrible possibilities. This, probably, accounts for the gruesome tradition amongst the Khasis which has been associated with this waterfall from time immemorial. It runs as follows:

Once upon a time there lived a young married woman called Ka Likai, in the village of Rangjirteh, on the hill above the Falls. She and her husband lived very happily together and rejoiced in the possession of a baby girl of great beauty. The young husband died when the child was still a babe, and from that time Ka Likai’s whole heart became wrapped up in the child.

She found it very hard to earn enough money to maintain them both, so she was persuaded to marry again, thinking to have her own burden lightened and to obtain more comforts for her child.

The new husband was a selfish and a somewhat brutal man; he was exceedingly jealous of his little step-daughter, because his wife paid her so much attention, and when he found that he had been accepted as a husband by Ka Likai merely for the benefit of the child, he was so mortified that he grew to hate her and determined to do her some mischief.

He became sulky in the home and refused to go out to work, but he forced his wife to go every day and, during her absence, he bullied and ill-treated the child. One day Ka Likai had to go on a long journey to carry iron ore, and this gave the cruel stepfather the opportunity he sought to carry out his evil purpose, and he killed the child. So depraved had he become and so demoniacal was his hatred that he determined to inflict even a worse horror upon his wife; he took portions of the body and cooked them against the mother’s return and waited in silence for her coming.

When Ka Likai reached her home in the evening, she was surprised to find her husband in a seemingly kinder mood than he had shown for a long time, having cooked her supper and set it ready for her, with unusual consideration. She noticed the absence of the child, and immediately asked where she was, but the man’s plausible answer that she had just gone out to play dispelled every misgiving, and she sat down to eat without a suspicion of evil.

After finishing her supper, she drew forward the betel-nut basket to prepare betel and pan to chew, according to custom after a meal. It happened that one of the hands of the murdered girl had been left by the stepfather in this basket, and the mother at once saw and recognised it. She wildly demanded the meaning of the awful discovery, whereupon the man confessed his crime and also told her how she herself had eaten of the flesh of her own child.

The terrible and overwhelming revelation took away the mother’s reason. She rose distractedly, and, running to the edge of the precipice, threw herself into the abyss. Ever since then the Falls have been called “The Leap of Ka Likai,” and the doleful moans of their echoes are said to be the echoes of Ka Likai’s anguished cries.

To this day, when widows with children are contemplating second marriages, they are cautioned to be careful and to use judgement with the warning “Remember Ka Likai.”

(700 words)

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