Khasi: U Biskurom

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

U Biskurom

In the beginning of time, mankind were very ignorant and did their work with great trouble and labour, for they had no tools and did not understand the way to make them. The Great God saw their difficulty from heaven, and He sent one of the heavenly beings down to the earth, in the likeness of a young man, to teach them. The name of this young man was U Biskurom. He was very noble to look at, and none of the sons of mankind could compare with him; he was also very gentle and good.

He taught mankind many useful crafts. From him they learned to know the value of metals and the way to smelt iron and to make tools, but mankind were very slow to learn and liked better to muddle in their own old way than to follow the directions given them by U Biskurom, so he had to stay such a long time on the earth that he forgot the way back to heaven. He was, however, so patient and painstaking that at last they learned to make good tools and to use them.

Seeing that U Biskurom excelled them in finishing his instruments and that he could do double their work in a day, mankind took advantage of his gentleness. They used him to save trouble to themselves and often  demanded work from him that it was impossible for him to do, and when he failed to satisfy them, they grew angry and abusive.

One day they made a clay image and called upon U Biskurom to make it alive; when he told them that he had not learnt how to produce life, they abused him and threatened to imprison him until he complied with their request.

When U Biskurom saw that they would not listen to reason, he told them that if they wanted him to impart life to their images, they must let him go back to heaven to gain the necessary knowledge. Upon this mankind took counsel together what to do. Some feared that if they let him go away he would never return. Others (the majority, however) thought that as the knowledge of how to impart life would be so valuable, it was worth risking a good deal to obtain it, so mankind decided to release U Biskurom.

As he had forgotten the road along which he came to the earth, it was necessary for U Biskurom to invent some means whereby he could go up to heaven, so he told mankind to twine a long piece of string and to make a strong kite on which he could ascend to the sky. So mankind twined a long string and made a strong kite, and U Biskurom rode upon it to the sky.

When they said, “Perhaps if we let you go you will not come back,” he told them not to let go of the string so that if he was not allowed to come back, he could write the knowledge on the kite and send it down to them. This satisfied them and they let him go.

When U Biskurom reached heaven, the Great God told him that he could not go back to the earth because He had seen how mankind had ill-treated him and because of their ingratitude and their unholy ambition  to impart life. So U Biskurom wrote upon the kite and sent it down to the earth.

When mankind saw the kite descending, a great throng came together to read the directions for imparting life, but to their chagrin there was not one among them able to decipher the writing. They consulted together what to do for they were very angry with U Biskurom, and they decided to send a great shout to heaven which would cause such a volley that the concussion would kill U Biskurom.

U Biskurom laughed when he saw their folly, and in order to make them still more foolish, he caused some drops of blood to fall down from heaven, and when mankind saw these drops of blood, they concluded that he had been killed by the force of their great shout.

Because of their ingratitude and their uplifted pride mankind have remained in great ignorance, and all the knowledge they possess is very imperfect and gained at great labour and expense.

(700 words)

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