(Last Updated on : 21/11/2014)
This Indian folktale is popular with the Lepcha tribe of Sikkim. The Lepchas are a people who came to inhabit Sikkim a long time ago. They settled down on the slopes of the great peak Kanchenjunga. The Lepchas call themselves Rong, which in their language means 'the people of the valley'.
Like all tribal people of the world, the Lepchas love stories. In winter they gather around a fire and tell stories about a variety of topics - the creation of the world, the origin of the Lepcha people, the seasons and other natural phenomena and, of course, ghosts and demons. This stoty is very old. It comes from the Lepchas who originally settled in Sikkim and has been handed down by word of mouth from one generation to another.
The Lepcha people live on the slopes of the great Kanchenjunga and look upon the peak with great awe. They believe that Kanchenjunga is the home of gods and spirits and therefore sacred. They also believe that, high up in the mountains behind the Kanchenjunga, there is a secret valley called Mayel. And in this valley live the ancestors of the Lepcha tribe. Hundreds of years have passes but these elders are still believed to be living at Mayel. And nobody can go there, for the way to Mayel is guarded by ferocious demons who will not let anyone through. Besides, the passage is blocked by a huge stone which cannot be removed by any man.
At one time these elders used to come down to the valley where the Lepchas live now. They mixed with the people and shared in their joys and sorrows. But they no longer do so because they feel that the new generations of Lepchas are not as good and pious as they should be. When the elders stopped coming, the Lepchas of the valley were very sad. They kept looking for their elders. For hundreds of years they looked but never found what they were looking for.
One day a brave young Lepcha was hunting in a remote forest when he came upon a stream. Floating down the stream was the branch of a tree. Instead of leaves it had beautiful blue-green needles, and the bark looked as though it was made of gold. The young man knew that there was no such tree growing in the valley. he thought that the branch must have come from Mayel and that it further meant that the tree lay somewhere upstream.
Leaving his bag of game on the forest floor and forgetting all about hunting, the young Lepcha began to climb up the mountain. He followed the path of the stream. So excited was he that he climbed for days and days but never got tired. In time he crossed the forest and a range of snow-covered mountains. After several more days he came to an open space at the heart of which lay a lake. Around the lake the young Lepcha saw a whole lot of white feathers and wondered to which bird they belonged. He pressed on and then, at long last, he reached a lush green valley surrounded by tall mountains. This was Mayel, the home of the Lepchas' ancestors.
The sun was already setting when the young man reached the first house in the valley. He knocked at the stout wooden door and an old woman opened it. She took him in and offered him a rug to sit on. Then she brought him some hot water to wash -his feet. Later, when he was rested, she served a simple but satisfying meal of roasted grain, fruit and milk. The old woman was soon joined by an old man and the young Lepcha learned that the old couple lived all by themselves in that house. lepcha learnt that the couple was childless.
The young Lepcha lay down on the rug and was soon fast asleep. He slept soundly till the sun rose again behind the mountain peaks. And then he was awakened by the sound of children at play. He got out of bed to find a little boy and girl running about the house. He thought they must be the neighbours' children and the old people had probably gone to work in the fields. But when he asked the children who they were, they laughed merrily and answered that they are the old couple. The young man was thoroughly confused.
The children informed him that his how their world worked. In the morning they are children. By midday they grow up into adults. In the evening they are old. But by the following morning they are children again. In this way they live on for ever.
The young Lepcha spent seven very happy days in the valley. He roamed around, enjoying the beautiful scenery. He saw a whole forest of trees with blue-green needles and golden bark. And morning and evening he saw large flocks of white birds winging their way across the sky. At the end of seven days the old woman told the young Lepcha that he must return to his world as no ordinary human was allowed to live in Mayel.
The old woman gave him the seeds of several different kinds of grain as gifts. She said that if those seeds are sown in the village then his people will always have plenty to eat. But they should be sown at a proper time. The young man asked that how will he know which is the great time. Just then a flock of white birds flew past them. The old woman smiled. She said that they would send a flock of white birds as a signal for the apt time.
The Lepchas believe that this is how they came to have food grains. To this day when they see flocks of white birds, they know it is time for them to sow their crops. Once the sowing is over, they begin to pray to their ancestors in Mayel to send them a good harvest.