The great escape of Benglam: Legendary folklore depicting wit and wisdom

Published on September 21, 2003

By James Vaiphei

September 22, 2003: The Adventures of Benglam is one of the most exciting stories of Kuki folklores in Kuki Zalen’gam (Fatherland) that comprises of the Kuki inhabited northeastern Indian region, chittagong Hills Track of Bangladesh and the Kangmaiphaicham (kabaw valley) of Myanmar(Burma). The time when he dies is lost to the realm of history. Historians believed that he was the contemporary of Philo (Greek) and Confucius (Chinese), the antic wise men of the west and the east. He goes by various names such as, the name of PENGLAM to the Kuki-Chin, and CHHURA to the Kuki-Mizo.

The people during his days were headhunters whose might and value was judged from the numbers of head he could collect to do the front wall of his house. One who had taken the highest number of heads is regarded as a great soldier or warrior and placed highly in the power ring of the Village. He is the uncrowned king in the Village. As such, groups of warrior will always patrol their village and will always be on the lookout for their enemies who might have roamed in the forest by himself.

On one such day, BENGLAM had started out for his Jhum to see his crops. From a distance he could see that a smoke was coming up from his “BUK” (small hut), which was in the centre of his field, fearing that his enemies might be the one that made the fire, he hit upon a plan. He called out, “my Buk”, hello! My Buk, but there was no reply. Then he said “Arre! How is it? What happened to you my Buk? Why don’t you answer me as you did before?” His enemy, thinking that the Buk did not answer because of their presence decided to answer on the Buk’s behalf and called out “Hoi”(Yes) in unison.

As soon as he heard his enemies’ voices, he started running away. His enemies pursued him and come to a place where he hid under a big log lying in the corner of the field. The pursuers soon arrived at the spot where he was hiding. One amongst them branding a spear climbed onto the log and spearing the log said, “If Benglam were here, I would have speared him like this and like that”. Benglam was very much frightened, crying “Stop! Stop! You would really hurt me,” and he came out from his hiding and was immediately caught.

The enemies then discussed how they were to take prisoner home. Benglam, full of wit said, once we caught and led a prisoner by his nose. So, if you held me by my nose, I would not be able to run away. When they started to return home, Benglam pretended that he could not walk fast and within no time they were lagging far behind. Seeing his chance he blew his nose, jerked his head and was free again. The man who led him had his hand full of snot. While he was busy cleaning the snot, Benglam made a good escape.

When the warrior called his friends, Benglam was nowhere to be seen. Frustrated and angry, they resumed their search. At lunch hour they took rest under a shady tree and had their food. Benglam who was on that tree observed them and unconsciously spoke out, saying, “Hei! See, the smallest man is taking the biggest bite” (as among them the smallest man bite the biggest bone) and revealed his presence and was caught again.

This time we would not heed your suggestion, said the leader of the party. But all the same, they were very much worried. They did not know how to take in a live prisoner. Till this time they had only taken home the heads of a warrior they had killed in a fight. At last Benglam again suggested that he should be led the way they had once led a prisoner home by the elbow.

Fearing that he might escape again, the leader of the group took charge of him. When he tired to hold the folded elbow, Benglam hit him (with all his might) on his nose; blood oozed out from his nose and in the confusion that followed, Benglam disappeared from sight and went on his way.

The warriors promised themselves not to breathe a word of the day’s incident and did not trouble Benglam again for quite sometime. Seeing that his adventure with the warrior had ended, he went to seek adventure elsewhere.

Philosophical Insight:

It is the brain that matter never the color of the outward appearance-that make human being a genius.

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