Folktale : Story of Johar…

Do you know Johar – Milam has a story? It has been mentioned by historians like Charles A. Sherring (1906), Edwin T. Atkinson (1884). I heard the same story from my grandfather also. This pretty story is about the first advent of the Shaukas or Sokpas into Johar.

Juhar, Jibar or Jiwar is the old name of Juhar (Johar), and long before the present race of men came into the world there were two princes (principalities) in Juhar called Halduwa and Pingaluwa. The former extended from the snows to Mapa and the latter from Mapa to Laspa. The people of these countries are said to have been covered with hair even to their tongues. There was no pass open at that time to Hundes. High up on the cliffs near the source of the Gori glacier (different from Milam glacier) lived a huge bird (piru), whose wings when extended were able to cover the valley at Mapa and who lived on human beings. The bird fed on the hapless inhabitants of Halduwa and Pingaluwa until but a few families remained.

Sakya Lama lived at this time in a great cave near Laphkhel. Every morning the Lama used to leave his cave and come to Laphkhel, where he used to sit all day at his devotions, flying back at night to his cave. There was at that time in the service of the Lama a man to whom the Lama wished to do service and he called the man to him and said, ‘Go across the snowy mountains to the south and you will find a place called Juhar, where the piru has eaten up Halduwa and Pingaluwa, who lived there. I will give thee a bow and arrow with which thou shalt fight the Peru and kill it; go, take possession of and colonise Juhar.’

The man answered and said, ‘Thy servant will obey the voice of his master, but he knoweth not the way and who shall guide him.’ The Lama said, ‘Fear not, I will provide thee a guide, but take care that thou leave him not. Whatever shape he may assume, follow on and fear not; remember that he is thy guide.

‘The man and the guide set out together, and after a short time the guide took the form of a dog and the place was called after him Kingri. The man followed the dog and it became a stag, hence the name Dol-dunga; then the stag became a bear and the place was called Topi- dunga; and again a camel, hence the name Unta-dhura; then a tiger, hence the name Dung-udiyar; and finally a hare which lost itself in Pingaluwa’s country at Samgaon.

On looking about him the man saw nothing but the bones of the people who had been eaten by the Peru, and becoming alarmed fled and took refuge in a house which he found near. Here he found a very old woman covered with hair, and he inquired of her who she was and how the country had become desolate. She told him that she was the last surviving inhabitant of Pingaluwa and Halduwa’s country and added, ‘I have remained for the Peru’s food to-day and you have come to give him his dinner for tomorrow; well done of you.’

The man then told her the story of his master the Lama and showed her his bow and arrows and asked her what the capabilities of the country were. She told him that it produced ‘ua’ (Hordeum caleste) and ‘phaphar’ (Fagopyrum tataricum), that there were plenty of houses but no salt, and that they could not get to Hundes, where salt was to be had for the asking for it. Whilst thus engaged in conversation he suddenly heard a great whirr of wings and the bird appeared and seized the old woman and eat her up, nothing daunted the man, seized his bow and shot his arrows until he killed the bird.

Then he lighted a fire and said to himself, ‘I shall go back to the Lama and get some salt. I am pleased with this place, and this shall be a sign to me that if the valley is intended for me this fire shall not go out until I return, and if the valley is not to be mine then the fire shall die out.’ So saying he returned to the Lama by the way which he had come and told the Lama all that had befallen him. He found his old guide at Laphkhel in his proper shape and then asked the Lama for salt. ‘The Lama said, ‘There is plenty of salt in Hundes, but I will produce it for you here. ‘The Lama then took salt and sowed it over the land like grain and promised that the supply should be sufficient for the entire wants of the new settlement. Having thus spoken the Lama flew away to his cave and was never seen again, and to the present day the herbage here is so saturated with salt that there is sufficient for the Bhotiya flocks. The people still say that this salt is one of Sakya’s gifts, and when Buddhist priests visit the valley they ask for alms in the name of Sakya who gave the people salt.

When Sakya Lama flew away his servant returned to Juhar and there he found his fire still alight and accepting the omen resolved to remain in the valley. He collected a number of people called Sokas and established them near Milam and built a temple in honour of Sakya. In the time of Sonpati Soka, who lived at Madkot, the route to Hundes by the Madkuwa River which was used by the people of Athasi was opened and much gold was acquired by him. This route has since fallen into disuse owing to the accumulation of snow and the debris of avalanches.

These events occurred before the time of the Katyuri Rajas and in course of time the Sokas also disappeared. They were followed by the ancestors of the present Milamwals, who came from Tibet into the valley in this manner.

I don’t know how far it is true, but folktales have long history. It travels from generation to generation.

There are folktales in every community and children enjoy them listening from their grandparents.

See you soon with a new post. Take care.