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Lianchhiari and Chawngfianga – Margaret L.Pachuau

Jan 8, 2022 | Fiction | 0 comments

Adapted from a Mizo folklore

A long time ago, in the village of Dungtlang, there lived a beautiful young damsel, by the name of Lianchhiari. She was the daughter of the village chief. Lianchhiari was deeply in love with Chawngfianga, a young man from their village. Chawngfianga, however, could not reciprocate her love for him because he was a mere commoner. For, though Lianchhiari was inherently very attractive, many eligible young men did not have the courage to woo her because she was the daughter of the village chief; so she did not have many young men paying court to her.
And it so happened, that in the jhum cultivated by her father, there was a wide spreading banyan tree, whose branches had grown rather wild. Her father ound this to be a great obstacle in his path and so one fine day he declared,
“How I wish there was a young man to shear this wild banyan tree for me. If there were such a volunteer, I would be ready to even give him Lianchhiari’s hand in marriage.”
At this, Lianchhiari responded eagerly, “Father, please search for someone to prune the tree for you and if you do find a person aptly suited for the task, I shall even assist him.”
After saying thus, she proceeded to warn the young men of her village by declaring, “When my father arrives to announce that he is in search of someone to trim the wild banyan tree for him, all of you must rise in unison and declare that none but Chawngfianga will be able to do so.”
When Lianchhiari’s father arrived to convey the need of the hour, all the other young men of the village did as Lianchhiari had bidden them to, and they expressed their inability to do as he requested. While doing so, they also told him that only Chawngfianga was competent enough for the task. Thus, Lianchhiari got ready to help him in the chore and her father then went back to his jhum, accompanied by both Lianchhiari and Chawngfianga.
Chawngfianga was indeed very deft while shearing the banyan tree that had grown askew, and the branches fell, just like the vazar, a necklaced loving thrush in flight, very swiftly in the air. Lianchhiari’s father was very pleased with Chawngfianga, and he declared, “I have not come across anybody quite as skillful as this young man. I am truly satisfied, and I shall now make my way home. As for the both of you, do what you wish to make yourselves comfortable.”
Saying this, he went on his way.
Chawngfianga worked arduously at the task of pruning the tree. At length he finished his work. Realizing that he was ready to clamber down the tree, Lianchhiari conveniently positioned herself strategically below. At this, Chawngfianga requested, “Please step aside, I am about to leap.”
Yet she stubbornly refused to relent. In utter despair, and especially because his limbs were aching, by and by, Chawngfianga proceeded to jump off a little further away from where she stood. While doing this, the front portion of his garment brushed Lianchhiari’s face slightly and she fainted in pretense from the supposed impact. At this Chawngfianga queried in great consternation, “Are you hurt? It was an accident.”
And saying thus, he helped her to her feet. Now, this was exactly what she had wanted in the first place. Coyly, leaning upon Chawngfianga, she replied, “Oh no! It was my fault, and I am not hurt at all.”
Later both of them even partook of a meal. After they had eaten, Lianchhiari feigned a stomachache because she wanted Chawngfianga to carry her on his back. Chawngfianga obviously had no choice but to carry her in like manner. After a time, Lianchhiari requested that he bear her in front, across his body in a more seductive manner. Even as Chawngfianga complied, she further implored, “Hold me much lower down.”
Yet, as alluring as this suggestion was, Chawngfianga staunchly bore in mind that she was the daughter of a chief and so he did not dare to seduce her. In this manner, the both of them reached their village. Time passed and Lianchhiari’s father wanted to hold a feast. Various young men and women of the village gathered together in their house and cavorted round while at the chawng chen and partook of zu and all the while, they were in a gay and boisterous mood. Later that very night, Lianchhiari and Chawngfianga succumbed to the throes of love. The young lovers were lying in the enclosure where the goats were kept, by the wall alongside the verandah. Lianchhiari’s mother had gone to gather wood from the wood pile that was placed there and, in the darkness, she caught a glimpse of Lianchhiari’s fair thigh and she was startled. At first, she thought that it was a goat that had strayed from the herd; so she cried out and kicked at what she thought was an animal. Later she realized that it was only her daughter, nestled in the warm embrace of her lover Chawngfianga. Stunned at the sight, she could only utter, “Oh, it is only the both of you!” and quickly started for home.
The tale of their romantic liaison spread like wildfire, and very soon the entire village became aware of it. And as such even the proposed hunting of the gayal during the feast had to be postponed. The guests, whom they had invited for the purpose, too had to go back to their villages. At that instance, Lianchhiari in her embarrassment composed a song,
Alas, for our actions
We have brought
Dishonor and disgrace upon…
My father and his household
After her relationship with Chawngfianga was made public, both of them decided that it would be wise to get married. So, Chawngfianga’s parents decided to send a man by the name of Thura as the emissary to Lianchhiari’s house in order to finalize upon the impending wedding. When Thura arrived at the house, Lianchhiari’s parents warmly stated, “Since our daughter is so besotted by Chawngfianga, we will accept whatever is demanded by them.”
Thura then realized much to his surprise, that the chief was very amenable to the alliance. And alas, he was unable to overcome his jealousy! As soon as it dawned on him that Chawngfianga was most likely to get married to the beauteous Lianchhiari, he began to seek every possible manner in which to thwart the alliance. So, he went back to Chawngfianga’s family and narrated the event in a manner that was totally contrary and exaggerated by declaring, “Lianchhiari’s family have requested you to bring them a cat with horns.”
So skillful was he at playing the part of the sympathetic emissary that he even made an attempt to console Chawngfianga, “Lianchhiari and her kind are too big for the likes of us, why! Her father is greedy in matters concerning money, and in fact I am afraid you might die of the pressure one day.”
And even as he narrated these false statements to Chawngfianga’s family, Thura also cunningly managed to convey everything in a conflicting manner to Lianchhiari’s family. Lianchhiari’s father was most astonished over the turn of events and queried, “What on earth could have gone wrong, especially when we are ready to accept all their demands unconditionally. Why is it that both our families cannot come to a consensus? Could it be that we have been misconstrued?”
At length he suggested, “Let Chawngfianga himself come here, and I myself shall deliberate over the matter with him.”
The evil emissary Thura then conveyed the message in a manner that was totally contrary to the original intention, and he told Chawngfianga, “My worst fears have come true; Lianchhiari’s family have decided to take your lives. So flee as fast as you can in order to save yourselves.”
At that, Chawngfianga and his family hastily gathered their belonging and fearing for their lives fled the village of Dungtlang in great terror in the cover of the darkness. They finally sought refuge in the village of Chhingzawl. As soon as Lianchhiari realized that Chawngfianga and his family had departed from the village, she was deeply disheartened. Disenchanted, she visited the abandoned dwelling of Chawngfianga and came across the feathers of the chicken that they had used as a sacrificial offering. The feathers were strewn awry upon the floor, and in her grief and utter haplessness she cried,

In your absence
I traversed your abandoned hamlet
And what did I perceive?
Only feathers
Cruelly strewn…
Askew upon the ground
While doing so, she would writhe in agony upon the bare floor. After a while, she went to the top of the hill from where she could catch a glimpse of Chhingzawl village and would gaze at it for hours at a stretch. While doing so she would see the villagers at the bean game in their courtyard and this would make her grieve all the more. She would also see the flutter of the garments that could perhaps have belonged to Chawngfianga, and her yearning for him endured all the more, and she would be all the more engulfed in grief.
When atop the hillock I gaze
Chhingzawl…you remain hidden
Hasten away o tree
That hides the fair Chawngdanga
And legend denotes that even as Lianchhiari sung, her body and her spirit were wracked in grief, and the tall birch trees would bow over in sympathy. The arch formed by the trees would create the much-needed space for her to catch a better glimpse of Chawngfianga even as he ventured out in the streets of Chhingzawl. The sight of his countenance would make her lament once more in anguish. And in this manner she passed the time, engulfed in woe.
Chawngfianga too mourned over the fact that he could not marry Lianchhiari and in his grief he sung,
Perhaps it was the emissary that has undone us
And for his sake…
The fair damsel is not mine to hold
As soon as he heard the song, Thura the envious emissary decided to retaliate in self-defense,
The emissary was not at fault
It is but poverty
That has brought you ill
With the passage of time, Lianchhiari continued to remain engulfed in sorrow. She remained a loner and so abundant was her yearning for Chawngfianga that she remained unmarried, and sought not the companionship of any other men. However, after a time, Pawngsena, a young man of the village, expressed his desire to marry her. When the proposal was brought forth to her Lianchhiari stated, “I will marry him on the condition that he will not abhor even the mere mention of Chawngfianga’s name at any time.”
Pawngsena had no choice but to comply to this demand, for he was totally awed by her ethereal beauty. And so he proclaimed, “Ah! I shall embolden myself to tolerate her obsession.”
In a short while, they were married. After a time Lianchhiari bore him children and in the meantime, Chawngfianga too eventually got married and had children of his own. Despite all this, both Chawngfianga and Lianchhiari continued to kindle the sentiments that they cherished for each other. Eventually, there arrived a day when Chawngfianga’s children had to visit Lianchhiari’s village. They were to buy rice from her village, and they had brought an axe with them in order to exchange it for the rice. Upon catching sight of them, Lianchhiari realized that they were Chawngfianga’s children, and so she eagerly told them, “I shall buy your axe.”
Saying thus, she even arranged for their food and lodging in her own house. Later in the evening, she arranged for her son Vanpuia to wrestle with Chawngfianga’s son. When her son’s feet began to slip and give way, and when it was evident that he would soon lose his hold she would raise a rallying cry in support of his opponent, “Take heart…o son of Chawngdanga.”
And she ensured that Chawngfianga’s son won the wrestling bout. She was extremely partial towards him, and showered him with an affection than was far greater than the one she displayed towards her own son. When morning broke, she measured the rice that they were to take home with them and while doing so she ensured that she buried the axe amidst the rice. And thus, totally unaware of what had occurred, the children actually took back their axe. After a while, Chawngfianga himself came to Lianchhiari’s village to sell utensils. It was the time when they were in the midst of a family feast. Lianchhiari’s husband, Pawngsena could perceive Chawngfianga from a distance and upon recognizing him, he remarked with disdain, “Hey! Who could that man be?”
As soon as she heard the sardonic comment, Lianchhiari peered down from where she was seated and from afar, she urged the approaching figure of Chawngfianga to take heart, “Why don’t you declare with confidence that it is I Chawngdanga?”
She then went out and she asked him, “What brings you to our village?”
Chawngfianga replied, “A severe famine has befallen us, and I have come to sell utensils in order to acquire some rice.”
Lianchhiari then answered, “Ah…you have come at the time of feasting, so why don’t you partake of some zu?”
And she proceeded to take him by the hand and invited him into the house. Theyboth partook of the zu and they were delirious with ecstasy. The dusk was about to set soon, and their guests started for home. Caring not for anyone else the couple continued to drink the zu and as it was sucked through a bamboo tube from the same beer pot, very soon their faces were almost entwined as they would brush closer together with every sip.
Chawngfianga did not bother to search for a place to stay for the night. He was extremely contented to be where he was, by Lianchiari’s side, in her house. Eventually, all the guests left but both of them continued to delight and revel in each other’s company, as they drank zu, sometimes flicking the zu on each other’s faces playfully in wild abandon. Lianchhiari’s husband, Pawngsena watched all of this helplessly and after some time in deep dejection and utterly disgusted by the sight, he covered himself with his huge quilt. From time to time, he would peer from beneath the quilt to perceive the pair of lovers who naturally were totally oblivious of his presence. Unable to contain himself he finally asked Chawngfianga, “Were you and my wife ever lovers in youth?”
In response all that Chawngfianga said was, “Of course not, your wife was the daughter of a chief, I was but a lowly commoner. How could I have stood a chance?”
At that Lianchhiari retorted, “Hey…what are you afraid of? Why don’t you proclaim that I was but at your mercy, responding to your every whim and fancy?”
And enraptured by each other’s company they both stayed up the entire night. Of course, Pawngsena realized that sleep was impossible for him, and thus he stayed up the entire night wrapped in the folds of his quilt. Chawngfianga had not intended to stay for the entire day, yet because he was so enamored by Lianchhiari’s company he sang,
I did not intend to dwell
All night and day
Yet gracious lips
Have spun their charm on me
So I now intend to dwell
All night and day
Lianchhiari implored him to stay on the next day as well. Pawngsena was greatly angered but there was little that he could do because he was reminded of the fact that he had promised Lianchhiari that he would not be jealous over the matter of Chawngfianga, much before they were married. In dismay all he could do was to plead to Chawngfianga, “Friend, whatever you do, please do not sleep with my wife.”
In this manner, he had to staunchly endure the overwhelming display of affection between his wife and her erstwhile lover. Pawngsena passed away with the passage of time. After his death Lianchhiari discovered that her full grown gayal had gone missing, and after much search it still could not be found. She bewailed the loss and cried in anguish but upon hearing this her son Vanpuia declared, “More terrible than the loss of our gayal, is the fact that Chawngfianga and you were lovers in youth.”
Immediately Lianchhiari replied nonchalantly, “Ah…to think you would say thus, don’t you realize that many were the times I wished you were the son I bore with Chawngfianga!!”

Margaret L.Pachuau

Margaret L.Pachuau

Margaret L.Pachuau is an alumni of JNU New Delhi, and  Professor at the Department of English Mizoram University. She won the first prize for fiction in translation in a nation wide competition organized by Muse India, a literary e journal in 2008 for The Jackfruit Tree (Lamkhuang)by Vanneihtluanga,a Mizo writer.

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