Hunting The Stag Lapalang

: Folk-tales Of The Khasis

Once upon a time there lived with its dam on the Plains of Sylhet

a young deer whose fame has come down through the ages in Khasi

folk-lore. The story of the Stag Lapalang, as he was called, continues

to fascinate generation after generation of Khasi youths, and the

merry cowboys, as they sit in groups on the wild hill-sides watching

their flocks, love to relate the oft-told tale and to describe what

they consider the
ost famous hunt in history.

The Stag Lapalang was the noblest young animal of his race that

had ever been seen in the forest and was the pride of his mother's

heart. She watched over him with a love not surpassed by the love of

a human mother, keeping him jealously at her side, guarding him from

all harm.

As he grew older the young stag, conscious of his own matchless grace

and splendid strength, began to feel dissatisfied with the narrow

confines and limited scope of the forest where they lived and to

weary of his mother's constant warnings and counsels. He longed to

explore the world and to put his mettle to the test.

His mother had been very indulgent to him all his life and had allowed

him to have much of his own way, so there was no restraining him when

he expressed his determination to go up to the Khasi Hills to seek

begonia leaves to eat. His mother entreated and warned him, but all

in vain. He insisted on going, and she watched him sorrowfully as

with stately strides and lifted head he went away from his forest home.

Matters went well with the Stag Lapalang at first; he found on the

hills plenty of begonia leaves and delicious grass to eat, and he

revelled in the freedom of the cool heights. But one day he was seen

by some village boys, who immediately gave the alarm, and men soon

hurried to the chase: the hunting-cry rang from village to village

and echoed from crag to crag. The hunting instincts of the Khasis

were roused and men poured forth from every village and hamlet. Oxen

were forgotten at the plough; loads were thrown down and scattered;

nothing mattered for the moment but the wild exciting chase over

hill and valley. Louder sounded the hunting cry, farther it echoed

from crag to crag, still wilder grew the chase. From hill to hill

and from glen to glen came the hunters, with arrows and spears and

staves and swords, hot in pursuit of the Stag Lapalang. He was swift,

he was young, he was strong--for days he eluded his pursuers and kept

them at bay; but he was only one unarmed creature against a thousand

armed men. His fall was inevitable, and one day on the slopes of the

Shillong mountain he was surrounded, and after a brave and desperate

struggle for his life, the noble young animal died with a thousand

arrows quivering in his body.

The lonely mother on the Plains of Sylhet became uneasy at the delay

of the return of the Stag Lapalang, and when she heard the echoes

of the hunting-cry from the hills her anxiety became more than she

could endure. Full of dread misgivings, she set out in quest of her

wanderer, but when she reached the Khasi hills, she was told that

he had been hunted to death on the slopes of Shillong, and the news

broke her heart.

Staggering under the weight of her sorrow, she traversed the rugged

paths through the wildwoods, seeking her dead offspring, and as she

went her loud heartrending cries were heard throughout the country,

arresting every ear. Women, sitting on their hearths, heard it and

swooned from the pain of it, and the children hid their faces in

dismay; men at work in the fields heard it and bowed their heads and

writhed with the anguish of it. Not a shout was raised for a signal

at sight of that stricken mother, not a hand was lifted to molest her,

and when the huntsmen on the slopes of Shillong heard that bitter cry

their shouts of triumph froze upon their lips, and they broke their

arrows in shivers.

Never before was heard a lamentation so mournful, so plaintive, so full

of sorrow and anguish and misery, as the lament of the mother of the

Stag Lapalang as she sought him in death on the slopes of Shillong. The

Ancient Khasis were so impressed by this demonstration of deep love and

devotion that they felt their own manner of mourning for their dead

to be very inferior and orderless, and without meaning. Henceforth

they resolved that they also would mourn their departed ones in this

devotional way, and many of the formulas used in Khasi lamentations

in the present day are those attributed to the mother of the Stag

Lapalang when she found him hunted to death on the slopes of Shillong

hundreds and hundreds of years ago.