Singi Bonga’s special gift

Once upon a time Singi Bonga – the creator of the world – decided to make the earth.

With it he also created men and women, birds and animals, fields and trees.

Along with them he created the singi, or sun.

The singi, named after his own self, was the most important creation of all.

It gave everyone light and warmth.

It helped plants and crops grow. It made flowers bloom and fruits ripen. It made the fields and meadows green. It brought on the rain.

There was enough food for everyone. So everyone was happy.

Singi Bonga smiled and was satisfied.

The singi shone brightly all day long. It never set. So there was only day and no night. People worked until they were too tired to work anymore. There was no set time for work or a fixed time for rest. Everyone worked whenever they liked, went to sleep whenever they felt like it and ate whenever they were hungry.

One day Singi Bonga came to visit the earth. He saw the horo, or men, working in the fields.

“When did you plough this field?” he asked one of them. “Today,” replied the man. “When did you dig that pit?” “Today,” said the next man. “And when did you make that garden?”

“Today, of course,” said the third man, surprised. “Why do you ask? There is only today! Whatever happened, has happened today. How can it be anything else?”

Singi Bonga moved on. He saw a woman with a child.

“When was this boy born?” he asked the mother. “Today,” said the woman.

“And your daughter who looks much older – when was she born?”

“Today,” said the woman again. “Why do you ask?”

This time Singi Bonga was not surprised. He understood why they kept saying “today” to every question asked.

The people had no sense of time because there were no days and nights, no division in time. It was just one l…ong day!

Singi Bonga decided to do something about it. He called the singi and said, “You must set in the evening and rise again in the morning. Then the people will not work when it is dark and know that it is the time for sleeping. When you rise again, they will know that it is another day. A different day.”

The singi agreed to do as he said. When it was evening, the sun set as it had been asked to do. And the whole world went dark. The people did not understand what had happened. Or why it was dark. They were frightened and ran here and there. Some of them fell down. Some fell into ditches and hurt themselves. Children fell from trees where they had been playing. The women knocked their vessels in the dark and broke them. Nobody knew what to do.

Finally their leader called out and said, “Lie down and rest, all of you. You can do nothing in this darkness.” So night became a time for resting. They got up again when the sun rose in the sky and there was light once again.

By and large the people were happier. No more did they remain working till they dropped down. They had to stop when it got dark and they could see nothing. So they got regular hours of rest and felt much better.

But there was one big problem. Since they could see nothing after sunset, they often fell down. Of course, there were the ipil, or stars. But the light of the stars was not enough. They fell into ditches. They fell into holes. They banged against trees and knocked against people. They could not see where things were kept, and broke things. It became quite chaotic!

Then Singi Bonga visited them once again. “Well,” he asked, “are things any better, now that you have day and night? Do you feel better after resting all night?”

“Oh yes!” they told him. “We feel better in the morning, But we cannot see when it is dark. So we get hurt. And lose things. And break things. It is really very difficult after it gets dark Can’t we have the singi at night, too? It is so difficult to do without light.”

“No,” said the creator, “You can’t have the singi. He has to set every evening like I said. But I shall give you something else. Something with less light. You will be able to see but you will not be able to work. You will have a nice, soothing glow which will make things easier and stop you from getting into accidents. You’ll have the chandu.”

And then he created the moon. It rose in the sky and shone softly. People could see, but the light did not hurt their eyes. Or stop them from sleeping. It was a happy life with the singi in the day and chandu at night! And that is how the moon was created!

By Swapna Dutta

Chandamama March 2003

This beautiful folktale is from the present-day Jharkhand, and has its origins among the Munda, one of India’s largest scheduled tribes.

Images above: India postage issued a set of four postage stamps on traditional masks of India, including of sun and moon, in 1974. Images courtesy