January-March 2002 issue
& the Witch
Uncle M.K. Raina
long ago, across the high snow peaked mountains, was a Village called
Kolur. Kolur was situated at the foot of a small hill. A mountain stream
‘Hapatara’ flowed near by. Hapatara had knee-deep water during the summer
months, which would generally freeze at the top during harsh cold winters.
Stones and boulders in the Hapatara, covered with snow during winter, presented
a frightful sight to the village children, who could not play in its waters
like they would, during the Summer. Come rains, and this small stream
would get transformed into a turbulent river, carrying with it, boulders,
big and small, uprooted trees and logs of wood from the upper reaches.
Elders in the Village believed that the flood waters also brought with
it, evil spirits.
village was situated on the left bank of Hapatara, and most of it would
get inundated during rains because of floods. There was no inhabitation
on the other side of the stream. The bank on this side of the stream was
covered with thorny bushes, to provide a security barrier, to both the
villagers and the cattle. Villagers would not venture on this side of the
stream unless it was imperative. This area was a vast stretch of low-lying
land, covered with wild vegetation and stagnant waters. Beyond it, was
a very deep ravine and a high, snow peaked mountain called ‘Vismainag’.
Vismainag was densely covered with vegetation consisting of numerous herbs
and poisonous plants. During the winter months, especially on the Amavasya
night , people would hear heart ripping screams emanating from the Vismainag.
Villagers would not dare to venture near this mountain, because many, who
did in the past did not return back. Across Vismainag, they had heard
from their forefathers, was a fort, which was inhabited by a witch. It
was said that the witch had two long horns, and her eyes were flashing.
It was believed, the witch would get hold of anyone coming that way and
chant mantras to squeeze their souls out. The souls were put into a glass
jar and the dead bodies tied to the tall trees in her courtyard. Villagers
believed that all these people would be resurrected by an angel, who would
one day descend from the heavens.
was no proof to support these myths and beliefs, but for some episodes
reported by the villagers. Five years ago, a strange incident took place.
The brown horse of a village elder, Samang, turned violent while looking
at the mountain, and crossed over to that side of Hapatara, never to return
back. Samang said he saw a white robed lady, almost five times the size
of a normal human being, riding on the horse back and waving with her long
outstretched arms, atop the mountain.
another tragic episode, corroborating the existence of a witch, took place:
One day, in early spring, Charu and his friends Ketak and Gulu were playing
hide and seek on the banks of Hapatara. During the course of play, Guloo
hid himself behind a large boulder in the middle of the stream. Ketak and Charu, looked for him. Not finding him around on the bank, they quietly
stepped into the waters of Hapatara. A couple of boys, were enjoying the
game while seating by the riverside. To their dismay, dark clouds
moving across the Vismainag engulfed the Sun momentarily. A strong
hailstorm followed, giving the boys no time to come out of the stream.
Charu and Ketak held each other’s hand firmly and managed to come out and
take shelter under a big cliff. But Gulu was not to be seen. Charu and
Ketak called out to him, at their best but to no avail. After some time,
the sky cleared and it was bright and sunny once again, but Gulu was not
around. Charu and Ketak went into the stream again, looked at all the possible
hideouts, but there was no trace of Gulu.
friends, weeping bitterly, decided to return home and break the tragic
news. On their way back they heard strange sounds from across the stream.
They turned around to look and saw the water in the pond under a big tree,
with serpentine like branches, splashing by itself. Terror stricken, they
lied down on the sands and watched the scene. They first saw an out stretched
arm rising out of the waters, then a giant sized body, of a woman in white
robes. She had Gulu tightly clutched in her left hand as she walked towards
Vismainag. Gulu remained motionless, as if under a spell. Soon the woman
was out of sight.
and Ketak, terrified by the sight, ran homewards. They related the incident
to one another, to make sure they were not daydreaming. Charu had noticed
Gulu looking back while passing over the mountain but Ketak had not. Charu
was sure, he had noticed two horns on the Witch’s head and had also heard
Gulu calling him for help.
passed by, yet, Charu could not help thinking about Gulu. What would the
witch have done to him? Would she have taken out his soul and tied
him to a tree? or Would she have eaten him alive? were some questions which
sent a shiver down his spine. Ketak was not in his senses ever since that
day. Village elders were helpless. No one dared to go to Vismainag and
look out for Gulu. Even Gulu’s parents were scared.
summer again. Charu was depressed. He went to Gulu’s home to meet
his parents. Gulu’s parents were glad to see him, for, in him they saw
a glimpse of their beloved son. They gave Charu, an earthen doll that belonged
to Gulu as a token of their love. Charu showered a lot of love on the doll,
as if it were Gulu himself. In a state of emotional turmoil he went near
the stream and called out to his friend repeatedly. His calls echoed
back. Exhausted, he fell asleep with the doll in his arms.
dreamt, he was mounted on a horseback and flying in the air. He could see
the village below. He flew over the jungles, over the snow capped mountains
and rivers and over the dark and rainy clouds. As he looked below, he saw
a number of small children playing in the waters of a lake. Water in the
lake was clear and sky blue in colour. He descended a little and watched
closely. He saw some children dragging a boy. The boy was trying
to free himself from their hold but they would not let him go. They forced
him to dive into the water, but he managed to free himself. He ran and
sat under a tree, wailing. The boy, with his watery eyes looked at the
sky. Charu dismounted from his horse back and came closer to wailing
boy. He looked up, murmured something and hung his head down. Charu asked
him why he was wailing? The boy replied, “I have lost my friend while we
were playing in the lake. Will you help me to find him?” Both of them
then mounted the horseback. The horse entered into the waters of the lake
and reached its bottom. They saw a small boy tied to a large shell, with
an iron chain. His eyes were sore. He looked at them and screamed for help.
The shell had to be broken into two to free the boy but they did not have
the means. Before Charu could think, he heard a loud roar, the like
of which he had never heard before. They saw a Rakshasa (Demon), sitting
on a huge diamond throne, at some distance behind the shell. There were
more than a dozen of demon servants serving him. The boys were scared.
Rakshasa lifted his long magic wand and shot it at Charu. It came with
a thundering sound, circling and swimming through the water. Charu bent
his head and the wand hit the shell in the middle, which broke into two.
The boy was freed but Charu fell down unconscious, as one of the pieces
had hit him.
woke up, and looked around. Finding himself still on the bank of Hapatara
holding the earthen doll in his arms, he felt baffled. Was this a signal
from the gods that Gulu was alive, and in trouble, needing help. That very
moment Charu vowed that he would not rest till he found his friend
and liberated him.