Kachari Tradition – How the rivers were made

Once upon a time there lived a man and an old woman. And when they were quite old, the old woman said to her husband, “How shall these our children get food when we are gone?” So the old man travelled afar to the great god Kubera, the god of riches, and taking from him. seedlings of paddy, pulse, mustard, and gourds, journeyed for eight days and so reached his home. And after staying a couple of days he set forth to cultivate, taking dry food with him. And first he marked out a piece of rich land by placing boundaries on all four sides of it, and so came home. And again he set out another day with hoe and axe, and cut and burned the jungle, and cleaned the soil, and after worshipping on each side of his field on the east and on the west, on the north and on the south he struck one blow with his hoe on each side.

And when all was ready, the old man planted his seedlings of various sorts, and finally went home and rested. And so, as time went by, the old woman desired vehemently to see how the crops were getting on. But the old man said, “There is no water on the road, and if you grow athirst you will get no relief.” But she persisted and prevailed, and made her husband take her along. And as they went and were now quite close to her husband’s field, behold, the old woman began to be very thirsty. And the old man, being enraged, cried “What did I tell you? There is no water and yet you would come.” But she, being a woman, said “If you do not give me to drink I shall die. So water you must procure as best you can.” So the old man, seeing no other way, went to seek for water. And after long search, seeing a tank, he bound the old woman’s eyes with a cloth and dragged her to the water’s edge and said to her, “Drink if you will, but look not upon the tank.” Now the ducks and other water-fowl were playing in the water, and were making a merry noise, clacking and quacking. And, the old woman being curious, like all her sex, peeped at them. And, seeing them at their play, she too desired to be happy in her husband’s society, and, though he was very loth, prevailed with him. And so in due course there were born to them many sons and daughters. And then, in order to provide for their food, he journeyed to the Himalayas and digged a great tank, stocked with many kinds of fishes.

Now, one day the god Sri, the god of good luck, came that way with his white dog, a-hunting for deer and hares and tortoises. And when he came to the margin of the tank, behold he was very thirsty. But when he stooped to drink, the fishes said to him eagerly that he must grant them a boon in return for their water. To which he assented; and when he had satisfied his thirst, the fishes said, ” Take us to the great river Lohit(Brahmaputra).” So the god Sri tied them to his staff, and drew them after him, making runnels of water. And that is how the rivers were made. And the fishes in return gave him a pumpkin and a gourd. And, taking these with him to a friend’s house, his friend regaled him with rice-beer and pig’s flesh; and in the morning he gave his friend the pumpkin. But when his friend cut open the pumpkin, it contained nothing but pure silver. So he bade the god Sri stay another day, and brewed fresh beer and killed another pig, and when he was going away gave him a flitch of bacon to take with him. So the god Sri gave him also the gourd. But when he cut open the gourd, it contained nothing but pure gold. And so the god Sri journeyed to his home. And when he got there, he found that his little daughter was very ill. And that was because he had given away the presents which the fishes had made him. But the fishes took pity on him, and came to him in the guise of physicians, and told him that if he would worship and do sacrifice on the banks of rivers, then his daughter would be healed; which he did. And that is why we Kacharis worship rivers. And that is all.

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