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Gajendra Thakur

The Maithili Short story 'Mahisbar Brahmanak Gaam' by Gajendra Thakur was translated into English by the author himself.


The Cattle Grazer Brahmin Village (Mahisbar Brahmanak Gaam)


One thousand heads, thousand mouths, thousand types of gossip, all true and un...


The Shudras have come out of the feet and so has the earth.


Garh Narikel, a village. Cattle-grazer Brahmins predominantly inhabit it.


Ponds and trees are all around this village. In this village one...two...three and one more, four ponds exist.

Exactly it is not so. There are three more ponds in this village. One is in the northern direction of the north pond, popularly known as the gigantic pond. People say that some monster dug this pond in just one night. But even after digging it for the whole night, the monster could not install the central sacred wooden pole in the middle of the pond. As the monster was in a hurry so he left the shoe of his one leg there beside the mound and left the place. For many years that huge shoe remained there but again after many years, during the flood, that too got lost. So, the only evidence that was there vanished. This pond is far away from the village, so no relation between this village could be established with the Chhatha festival. Yes, but this pond is mentioned during the ceremony of the sacred thread. Distinct types of fish reside in this pond. There is never a dearth of fish here. No need has ever been felt for putting seeds of fish (small fishes) into this pond. There is an annual fish-catching festival and barring the southern quarter of the village, the whole village gets its daily share of fish for at least one month.

In the southern direction of the south pond, there is a pond called the Buchiya (in the name of a person) pond. It is also far from the village, but there is a sacred wooden pole installed in the centre of this pond. When this central sacred wooden pole was being installed a big ceremony was thrown by the great-great-grandfather of Zamindar, Piyar Bachcha (yellow boy). He had organized a grand great feast. This pond is far far away from the village and in all directions of this pond, there are fields only. People rarely come here to take a bath. Here too there is an annual fish-catching ceremony, but that is only for this southern quarter of the village. There are many things attached to this pond. During Durga Pooja goddess Durga proceeds to her husband's place, on the last day of the festivities. On that day, the idol of the goddess Durga is immersed in this pond. Not the men, but yes, the women weep bitterly at the time of immersion of Durga. The idol of Durgaji is not made in this village, no question of it being constructed in the southern quarter of the village. But it is immersed in this pond. This idol of Durga is made and worshipped in the neighbouring Garh Tola (small village). The Garh Narikel people are mischievous ones. Till the sixth day of the Durga festival, the idol of Durgaji remains covered. Only the artist can see her because if he does not then how the idol is constructed? Any other people, however, would become blind if they see the Durga before being unveiled. Yes, but after the ceremony of Belnoti- when the eye of Durga is placed out of an invited wood-apple fruit, the idol of Durga is unveiled and then only the people can see it. And from that day the actual festival begins. If the idol of Durga is made in this village many people would become blind before the sixth day of the festival. The neighbouring village is not a less mischievous one, it is only the degree. In the name of the festival, all of them become disciplined. In the name of their village, the suffix is added, tola (quarter of a village) suffix. But that does not make it a quarter of a village; it is a full-fledged village. Garh Tola village is also inhabited by the cattle grazing Brahmins. In mischievousness, there is always competition between these two villages. If you pass through the Garh Tola village, the lads sitting in front of the verandas of their houses beside the road would often pass comments on you. But the naughty boys of Garh Narikel will consciously go through that village. But the disciplined ones pass through the road beside this Buchiya pond. Although the route is circuitous; it is safe, do not mind.

There is one more pond in this village.

Towards the eastern side of the village, to control these two rivers Kamla and Balan, two dams were built. One is in the north-south direction, adjacent to the village and towards the eastern direction. If you move forward towards that dam, you will find the Kamla River, and then her brother the Balan River. And further towards the eastern direction, you will find another dam in the north-south direction. And between these two enclosures lies the Balli pond- in the name of a zamindar. Near this pond was a large football field. Due to siltation and due to some wrongdoing by the zamindar, this pond and that field got merged in the name of chakbandi (bringing together lands of one person at one place through mutual- often forced- exchange). The government had emphasized the chakbandi for some unknown reason, perhaps because it increases food production. The land owned by the Surju Bhai, filled with cattle dung and therefore very fertile, merged with Yellow Boy (Piyar Bachcha)'s land due to this chakbandi. In between the dams, there is a grazing field called Bauwa Chauri, used by the herder to graze their cattle. The cattle grazers come here, play here, and swim in the Kamla River. Sometimes they let their body flow in the Kamla River and sometimes they swim against the stream of the river. Between the dams, there is one-quarter of the village, the quarters of milkmen. Earlier it was part of the village but now their voter list has been shifted to Jhanjharpur Bazaar. Long long ago, at the village school, there was a voting booth. These people were not allowed to vote at that booth, now it is the other way around.

Some of the graduates of Bauwa Chauri- as they are called jocularly- work in Delhi and Mumbai and some of them work in Saudia (Saudi Arab and Middle East). Some of them are security guards and some of them have started a firm that deals in security guard services.

In the village there are many mango orchards; the big orchard, the Kharhori (near to the habitations) where new trees had been planted, the Bhorha (near the abandoned course of a river) orchard; and the orchards over the mounds of the ponds. Earlier in Kharhori, there was agricultural land only. But once a person planted trees on his land it brought a shadow to other people's land. So, the other people's production of paddy diminished. For some time, he talked about the mischievousness of his neighbour, but he had to plant mango trees too in his land later.

There is also an orchard of rose apples, all the sky-high trees there. The Pepper trees are all around, at the village deity's place and the school compound; you will find the root of the pepper tree here and the branches of the roots all around the place.



Beside the village, roads are trees of wild betel nuts, many types of shrubs used to clean teeth, the bamboo plantation, several types of flowers and thorns, and the sensitive plant, everywhere in all the orchards. Over the broad mango branches, the guards put their beds and slept. But there is only one banyan tree, beside the black metal road near the quarters of Muslims.

The lands are of diverse types. The land between the river dams and the sandy land is now being called the other-side land by the people. A creeper tricosanthes dioica, the watermelon, musk melon, sweet root; the cultivation of all these is done here. If you want to buy the cheapest land, then come here. But after the flood recedes, you will find the shape and size of the boundaries of your land changed. If in one year, after the flood, the shape and size of the boundary diminish, there is no need of inciting any quarrel, as the goddess Kamla River might increase the area the very next year. The cultivation of paddy is also in existence. But that is often by chance, in some year even after sowing thrice it would be swiped away by the flood every time, but in some years the goddess Kamla River would fill so much fertile mud that whatever per Katha production you are expecting, it would produce even more than that.

If you have a good budget, then buy the land near the habitations or the white teak trees. Here people are buying land more for residence than for cultivation.

The land near the Dakahi pond is called Barhamottar. In the old days, some might have received this free land from the King. In the old days, it is heard, these lands had good production, but now a day these remain always filled with water. The paddy seeds are thrown (different from the usual method of sowing the saplings, it, however, results in less production) and paddy is cultivated in this manner in these lands.

The big plots, near the roads, near the Bhorha (besides the abandoned river course) and near the Purnaha (in the midfield) are used for cultivation. Besides some people have started cultivation on the curved land of the village enclosure near the dams. In geography books terrace cultivation is said to be practised only on hills, here you will find terrace cultivation in plains on fabricated hills.

The weeping sound of people, whose milk-giving buffalo just died, can be heard often. The magical obsession can also be seen. Often some mischievous lads throw flowers and unbroken rice, worshipped by a magic man or woman, during the night at somebody's gate. It often leads to a string of abuses by the offended household, who thinks that some bad omen is going to grip their family. But the people have come to understand now that it remains the work of some naughty boys.

Agriculture-fishing-animal husbandry-based cattle grazer Brahmin dominated village is surrounded by literate (although a thief quarter also exists in this literate village), not that much literate; and a subdued and calm village (subdued and calm village=where people acquiesce to pressure). However, neighbourhood thieves do not dare to do theft in this village. If you have a social relationship in this village then all the old disputes in respect of land would stand settled. Ordinary people get transformed into strong ones, with a social relationship established through a marriage relationship. After the relationship, the weak ones turn into ones who have a say in society. From this village, the arms-wielding trouble shooters visit far-off places for settling disputes. These troubleshooters settle the disputes of relatives and forcibly capture election booths. The rate of land in this village is Rupees twenty-five thousand per Katha (1/20th of a bigha) but the same type of land in a neighbouring village is available at a cheaper rate, say at Rupees ten thousand per Katha. The highlands in this village are cheaper because one cannot irrigate them with rainwater. But after these dams were built, the cost of land for those monkey-shaped people also increased. Earlier the mediators of marriage, even after seeing that a boy is getting his share of only ten Katha in comparison to monkey-shaped people's village boy getting one bigha, preferred boy of this village for marriage. Because in the village of those monkeys shaped people, subsistence is not possible even if the boy has ten bighas of land as his share. But the key to luck has now been unfolded to them; when the flood comes their highlands get irrigated. Monkey shaped...you did not understand? The orchards of that village are inhabited by monkeys, and the people of that village also look yellowish, the same as the monkeys! Monkeyish (yellow-like monkeys)! And nobody liked the job of a teacher, so all these monkey-shaped village people became teachers. And now look at the salary of the teachers. All monkey-shaped people, when they come out, wearing Dhoti (loincloth) then people of this village get crazy out of envy.


However, the Durga worship did not begin in this village. The submissive-village people also started it. If we try, how it is not possible? We did organise Ramlila (acts of Lord Ram performed by a theatre troupe), is it a fact or not? But look, the roads started smelling of people's urine. We are lucky that Durga Pooja is not celebrated in this village. One will have to bring one's daughters during the celebration time, and the cohesion that these villagers have among themselves would break the party politics related to the Pooja brings.

The village is, however, of cattle-grazing Brahmins.

Among the Brahmins of the village are Indrakant Mishra, Raman Kishor Jha and Arun Jha. On the day of the Sukhrati festival (on the next day of the Deepawali festival, the festival of Hindus of Mithila) if you ever see the sport played by the buffalos of these cattle grazer Brahmins, you will lose interest in the game of polo. The pig purchased from the Dom caste of Samiya village is placed before the buffalos, drunk with cannabis drink. The cattle grazers who are sitting over the buffalo in the Central portion of the animal is an amazing scene to watch. In this village, there are other castes too.

Between the dams, on the high mound is the quarter of milkmen. Even during the flood this quarter of the village is never touched by flood water. Transportation during those days is by boat. The rowers of the boat inside Kamla are not the people from the fishing community but those from the milkman caste. They receive grain from the villagers for their services. Yes, but people of other villages are charged in cash for the services.

There is one Muslim quarter in the village, they are in the vegetable business, but they do not grow vegetables but only sell them. In that quarter lives Mohammad Shamsul. His son lives in Saudia. This quarter is near the black metal road on the outskirts of the village. The people of this quarter of the village have registered their names in the voter list of the adjacent village. Near that quarters are four families of the Dom caste. The reason for enrolling themselves in the voter list of an adjacent village by these people is the same as it was for the people of milkman's quarter. But the villages are not made up of the voter list. So, these two quarters are still a part of this village. The necessity of Dom caste in festivals is well known. The Dom Caste makes all types of articles from bamboo, like the one for storage of grains and articles, and the bamboo fans. A Muslim quarter is also in the village. They are required, particularly for meat for the marriage party or the guests. The head of the poor animal is taken by the Durga Pooja Committee after the holy sacrifice ceremony for goddess Durga is over. In the off-season, the Muslims cut half the throat of the castrated he-goat. But after cutting the meat, they take the head and the skins in place of their wages. When these cattle grazer Brahmins sing the devotional songs in front of the Hanumanji temple and perform twenty-four-hour non-stop worship at the temple, those drums which are used during the ceremony are made of those skins.

And again, there is Dhanukh-Toli. Bhagwandutt Mandal and Adhiklal Mandal are from the quarters of the Dhanukh caste. Earlier those people carried the gifts to other villages carrying a special bamboo stick on their shoulders, having two strings on the two sides. But now this work is undertaken by the people from the Dusadh caste also. Agriculture is the avocation of people from the Dhanukh quarters and Dusadh quarters. Yes, earlier these people worked as workers, but now they work on a co-sharing basis. In times of strife, there is not a single month when you will not find ladies from these quarters of the village wielding blackened earthen utensils and displaying these to the cattle grazer Brahmins. These people may be said to practice animal husbandry, as far as the rearing of a she-goat and an uncastrated he-goat is concerned, the latter is used for sacrifice to the goddess Durga. Some of them have begun keeping one ox and turn by turn these people do plough and other agriculture work by coupling their oxen together.

Even though it consists of only three houses, the small quarters of washermen have become a separate quarter of the village. The clothes of even Marwaris (businesspeople originally from Rajasthan settled here) of Jhanjharpur town are cleaned here. The cattle grazer Brahmins go to marriage parties wearing these flashy full pants, these are not their own, these are costly clothes of those Marwaris and lent by the washermen. The washermen give these clothes on rent for two days, the clothes of the Marwaris.

Korail, Budhan and Domi Safi are washermen. Domi Safi is now Domi Das, he practices the sect of Saint Kabir now.

A quarter of barbers also consist of just three families. Jayaram Thakur, Lakshmi Thakur and Maley Thakur, all barbers are talkative. With them always remains the list of annual donations that each family must give to these families of barbers in place of the services that these barbers provide throughout the year. They are always on the run, to claim their labour, whenever a person comes to the village from town. Whoever comes during Durga Pooja from their far-off working place, must pay their due before their return to their workplace. Earlier, these barbers went from one corridor of the village to another for haircutting. But now whoever wants a shave of his head or face will have to go to the barber's house. Yes, but if it is the marriage of a son then they go to the corridor of the bridegroom to shave the people who are going to attend the marriage party, but he sits in one place only. Whoever is there should remain in line. It should not be like that one is coming now, and another is coming after a while. Now one from each of the family of barbers has started a saloon at Jhanjharpur. A saloon is a plastic cover placed over the bamboo pillars beside the railway track. The use of nail-pairer is almost extinct. The individuals should cut the nail themselves. During the period of condolence, after the death of a person belonging to the same clan, the wife of the barber would cut the nail of the lady, only that. And while shaving a beard with a sharpened razor, if blood comes out, it would be not due to the wrong movement of the razor but as it would be because there was some blister there on the face. No dear, this razor using the topaz safety blade is for my Jhanjharpur saloon.

There are other quarters of the village, of leather tanners. Mukhdev Ram and Kapildev Ram are prominent among them. Earlier they were residing outside the boundary of the village, beyond the bamboo plantations. But now the bamboo had been cut extensively, so it has thinned. The habitation of people has extended up to these quarters of the leather tanners. The construction of new buildings and the placement of bricks here and there is a normal scene. Announcing with the drum to ward off evil spirits or to announce something, and to play drum and pipes are the works undertaken by them. If cattle die, till it is lifted by them, people are in the grip of condolence of death; people can neither eat nor bath.

Among the carpenters, the most respected in the village Garh Narikel is the family of Joginder Thakur. But when the titular head of the carpenters comes from the far-off village, then the intelligence of Joginder Thakur goes dim, and he utters only yes on both righteous and unrighteous utterances. Joginder has three sons, Bihari, Arjun and Shivanarayan. All are engaged in woodwork, but Bihari does ironwork too; and Arjun has become cycle-mechanic, side by side. He does all the work from minor repairs of rickshaws as well as bicycles and repairs punctured tubes. He has discovered the making of a cricket ball made of the root of bamboo; he has discovered a wooden circular plate to run through a crooked spike of iron wire; and many more games. So, when people say, look, if you read and write you would get a job; this exception should change their views. Look at Shivnarayan, how innovative he is, he makes many things even out of useless inappropriate wood. But the hand skill of Bihari is nowhere to be found, distinct types of cuts, vertical, horizontal, crooked, and oblique cuts, he is an expert in all.

Shivnarayan discovers, but Bihari replicates those discoveries in a better way. In villages, there is no copyright available to a discoverer. On hardwood the saw and other implements of Shivnarayan get blunt, but Bihari gets out of it, not knowing how! He makes something out of weak wood and sells those in the market. For sawing a plank if a big saw is not available, he even saws the plank using the smallest available saw. He delineates the sturdy wood from the weak wood meticulously and dexterously.

Jagdish Mile is known for the holy cloth manufacturing, which is offered to the goddess. His wife is very skilled.

Bhola Pandit is a potter, he moulds and makes earthen vessels, and he makes earthen birds and earthen animals for the children too. In the making of earthen utensils, he is unparalleled.

Satyanarayan Yadav is the Raut Sir. Now the nomenclature has changed from milkman to Yadav Sir. From the trade of milk to agriculture and to filling the village road with earthwork, all these are in his hands.

Basu Chaupal is from Khatbe Caste, he carries gifts to other villages, and gifts include fish. He sells fish in the fish market.

Chalittar Sahu and Laddulal Sahu, both are sweet manufacturers, they arranged for a temporary shop during the Durga Pooja festival. During jovial festivities or the feast related to death or death anniversaries, he gets a contract for the preparation of vegetable dishes.

Shiv Narayan Mahto is from the Suri caste, a business class.

Laxmi Das is from the Tatma community, a thread-weaving caste.

Lal Kumar Roy is from Kurmi Caste.

Bhola Paswan and Mukesh Paswan are from Dusadh Caste, earlier the milk business was held by them, but not now.

Satyanarayan Kamti is from the Keot caste, they were stationed at the farmhouses of the Darbhanga Raj. Ramdeo Bhandari is from the Bhandari caste, this caste is a type of Keot caste, and they managed the Kitchen of Darbhanga Raj.

Kapileshwar Raut and Ramavtar Raut are from the Barai caste, they do ancestral betel-leaf business.

From the Dom caste is Bodha Malik, from the Koir caste is Dukhan Mahto, from the Bhumihar caste is Radhamohan Roy; and from the goldsmith caste, is Ashok Thakur.

Among the oil business community are Ramchandra Sao, Bauku Sao and Kari Sao.

From the fisher caste, is Jibachh Mukhiya. In Dakahi pond, once a year is held the fish catching fair. The fisher put the big net into the pond; a whole quarter of the fishers come to the pond for one whole month. Earlier the fair was extended for more than one month but now due to the scarcity of fish, it goes hardly over twenty days. Then the head of the fisher announces- Now the big fishes are no more in this pond. If we fish through the big net, none could be entrapped. But if we fish through the delicate small nets, all the small fish would get caught. And then you will have to sow fish seeds into this pond.

During those fifteen to twenty days, there remains a festival-like atmosphere in the village. This becomes an excuse for the cleanliness of the pond. From early morning from four AM till noon, fish are caught. And till the afternoon all the villagers- except the southern quarters of the village- are given their share. All the people, the representatives from different quarters, take their share and return to their respective quarters. All the families obtain their shares out of the share of their quarters. How many shares are there out of the quarter's share, sometimes it gives cause for strife. Till she was alive, one did not talk to one's widow aunt, but after her death people remember their aunt. Maybe while she was alive, her desire to offer some share to her daughter might have been stalled by the nephew and he might have obtained a thumb impression of her dead aunt that becomes immaterial now. On this count, strife ensues, and only the wrestler whom people out of love call wrestler uncle, receives that kind of share, nobody else. It does not matter whether this widow, of wrestler uncle's courtyard, died a long twenty years ago.

There is one more speciality of Dakahi pond. Inside this pond tortoises and fishes grow in number, on their own. Beside the pond, many types of roots and lichens are found. The cattle grazer boys eat the sweet roots.

Buchkan Saday is from Mushhar caste. Near the Dakahi pond, there are many small water bodies, and the swampy ground may be seen around it. From there the Mushhar caste people dig the roots and eat them. In the year 1967 when most of the ponds dried, even then this big Dakahi pond did not completely dry up, although the area of the pond diminished dramatically. The Prime Minister had come here during those days, and she was shown how the Mushahar caste was surviving during those days, eating these roots.

These are the people who are having a say in the village of Garh Narikel.

But the village is known as Cattle Grazer Brahmin's village.


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