Village Folk-tales of Ceylon Volume 1
Story 21 - Nagul-munnā
While those two were living there they spoke together,
“Friend, while we two are remaining in this way matters are not going on properly.”
At the time when they spoke thus, Mun-aeṭa Guruwā replied to Nagul-Munnā’s talk, and said,
“It is good, friend. If that be so let us two cut a chena.”
Having spoken thus, the two persons went to the chena jungle, and there being no watch-hut there, built one ; and taking supplies week by week, began to chop down the bushes while they were living at the house in the jungle. Having chopped down the jungle, and burnt it, and sown the chena, the millet plants grew to a very large size.
When the two persons were at the watch-hut they remained talking one night for a long time, and said,
“Tomorrow we must, go to the village to bring back supplies.”
After talking thus, they went to sleep, both of them.
During the time while they were sleeping, Mun-aeṭa Guruwā’s clothes caught fire. Then Nagul-Munnā awoke, and jumped down to the ground, and ran away. Mun-aeṭa Guruwā was burnt in the shed and died. On account of his being killed, through fear of being charged with causing his death, Nagul-Munnā bounded off into the jungle, and did not return to the village.
That day the relatives of those people who were in the village, thinking,
“Nagul-Munnā and Mun-aeṭa Guruwā will be coming to fetch supplies,”
The two having gone and looked, and seen that the watch-hut had been burnt, spoke together concerning it:
“Both these men have been burnt and died. Let us go back to the village.”
So they returned.
Nagul-Munnā, who sprang into the jungle that night, having come home during the night of the following day, spoke to his wife, who was in the house.
The woman, thinking that he had died, was frightened at his speech, and cried out,
“Nagul-Munnā has been born as a Yakā, and having come here is doing something to me.”
At that cry the men of the village came running ; when they looked he was not there, having run off through fear of being seized.
In that manner he came on two days. The woman, being afraid, did not open the door. On the third day he arose, and hid himself at the tank near the village. While he was there, a tom-tom beater having gone to a devil-dance, came bringing a bit of cooked rice, and a box containing his mask and decorations.
As he was coming along bringing them, this Nagul-Munnā having seen him, went and beat the tom-tom beater, and taking the bit of cooked rice and the box of devil-dancer’s things, bounded into the jungle. Having sprung into the jungle, and eaten the bit of rice, he unfastened the box of devil-dancer’s goods, and taking the things in it, dressed himself in them, putting the jingling bracelets  on his arms and the jingling anklets  on his legs.
There was a large mask in it. Taking it, and tying it on his face, he went to the village when it became night, and having gone to a house there, broke the neck of a calf that was tied near it, and sprang into the rice-field near by.
Having made a noise by shaking the jingling bracelets, and given three cries,
“Hū, Hū, Hū,”
“If you do not give a leaf-cup of rice and a young coconut at dawn, and at night a leaf-cup of rice and a young coconut, I will kill all the cattle and men that are in your village, and having drunk their blood, go away.”
“Let us fetch a sooth-sayer to seize that Yakā.”
After having said concerning it,
“It is good,”
they fetched a doctor (Vedā).
When the doctor went to the tank to catch that Yakā, Nagul-Munnā came, and seizing that doctor, cut his bathing cloth, and having taken him to the place where he was staying, killed him, and trampled on his bathing cloth. Through the seizing and killing of the doctor, the men of the village became afraid to a still greater degree.
After that, having talked about bringing another soothsayer they fetched one. In the same manner, when he went to the tank the Yakā killed the sooth-sayer. At that deed the men of the village became more afraid still.
Having' fetched a Sannyāsi (a Hindu religious mendicant) from Jaffna, they went to him, and told him to seize the Yakā. That man said,
“It is good”;
and having gone to the aforesaid tank to look for him, the Yakā was in a tree. So the sooth-sayer repeated incantations to cause the Yakā to descend. The Yakā did not descend.
After that, because he did not descend, that person got to know that he was a man, and on his calling “Hū,” to the men of the village the men came. Afterwards, seizing Nagul-Munnā, who was in the tree, they went to the village.
Because Mun-aeṭa Guruwā had died, the relatives of Mun-aeṭa Guruwā came for their [legal] action against him.
Saying that he had cheated them, and eaten food wrongly obtained from them, the men of the village came for their action.
Because he had stolen the rice and the box with tom-tom beater’s things in it, the tom-tom beater came for his action.
Saying that he killed the first sooth-sayer, his people came for their action.
The second sooth-sayer’s people also in the same way came for their action.
1 For his killing the calf the owner came for his action.
“Becau.se my wife told me to cut the chena together with Mun-aeṭa Guruwā, and through my cutting the chena with him, this happened,”
killed his own wife.
Then, while he was going for his trial a bear bit that man on the way, and he died.
In The Orientalist, vol. iii, p. 31, there is a nearly similar story of a tom-tom beater who was supposed to be burnt in his watch hut. In reality, it was a beggar who was burnt. The man being afraid of being charged with murdering him, got hid in the jungle. He came to his, house at night, but was supposed to be the Mala upan Yakā, “the evil spirit bom from the dead,” and was refused admittance by his wife, who gave an alarm. As men were coming on hearing it, he ran off.
On another night when he came, his wife assailed him with a volley of invectives, as demon-scarers ; so carrying off his dancing paraphernalia, he again retired, and afterwards robbed travellers, and frightened the people till they threatened to leave the district. The King offered a handsome reward for his apprehension, but he tied up a Kattadiyā or devil priest who came to exorcise him. In the end he was captured by a Buddhist monk, taken before the King, and after relating his adventures,-appears to have been allowed to go unpunished.
In the Jātaka story No. 257 (vol. ii, p. 209), there is an account of four actions brought against one man on the same day. It is a folk-tale in Ceylon also.
Article published on