Man Rips, Woman Sews – A Folk Tale From South India


Ranga was waiting in the central hall for the maanthreekar (a priest specializing in arcane mantra’s and spells) to take his bath at the well in the back of his house.

His mother pulled him hurriedly to the front porch and asked him in a low voice:

‘Ranga, is this man genuine? These days so many charlatans are in business.’

‘Amma, have no doubts. And don’t say such words about this maanthreekar . He is from Palakkadu, highly recommended. I got to him after searching heaven and earth. Never known to fail. No one ever escaped from his spells, I hear.’

‘And is all this necessary, you think? He’s your uncle.’

‘You tell me, Amma. We’ve made all reasonable efforts, He doesn’t understand. He has caused us untold trouble, In fact I consider him largely responsible for our father’s death. And now he is threatening violence against his own sister’s family. Police is in his pocket. Frankly I don’t know what else to do to keep him out of our way and get what is due to us legitimately.’

‘Yes, I know, you’ve tried. Fool, he is. And manni (sister-in-law) is fanning the fire instead of putting some sense into his head. He thinks I’m instigating you against him.’

‘Amma. This will put an end to all of that.’

‘What’s going to happen, Ranga? I’m worried.’

‘The maanthreekar is going to perform a shatrumjaya homam (a ritual to overcome adversaries) now in our house. When the homam finishes, he would give us a figurine baked in the fire of the homam. Here comes the tricky part. We have to take this figurine and bury it in a property owned by him.’

‘How are you going to do that? His house and lands are fenced off and heavily guarded round the clock as a matter of routine.’

‘You’re right. Even in the normal course, it is impossible for an outsider to walk into any of those places. Now he would be doubly alert. It’s harvest time.’


‘That really got us worried. And the maanthreekar cautioned the figurine should be buried in the house or lands belonging to the target within a couple of hours of taking it out of the fire.’


‘We got a fortuitous break. Your brother is buying some land – a paddy growing parcel – on the far-side of the railway track. Sitapuram mirasdar is consolidating his holdings and selling off these outlying parcels. In fact only yesterday they had been to the sub-registrar’s office in Trichy to register the sale-deed. Your brother is taking physical possession the day after, marked as auspicious for him by his gurukkal (priest and guide). Today, it is still with the mirasdar and is not guarded and we’re burying the figurine in that land. I’ve checked with the maanthreekar – he has okayed it since it has become his land technically since yesterday. ‘

‘What’ll happen to Subbu? ’

‘Don’t know. I’ve told the maanthreekar everything – whatever he did and is doing to us. He’s going to make sure there’s no more trouble from your dear brother. May be he will fall down from the staircase and break his neck? Or, taken round the village gored on its horns by a stray bull. He could even contract leprosy and limbs falling off It all depends on the mantra’s the maanthreekar chants into the figurine during the homam.’

‘Please don’t say such horrible things. Won’t it aggravate the hostilities between the families to a irreconcilable level?’

Before he could respond, the maanthreekar called out from the courtyard:

‘Ranga, we need to get started with the homam or we’ll miss the horai (auspicious time). If you’ll come over here and perform the sankalpa (formal submission to start)Also can you ask your wife to fetch the dough from the kitchen for making the figurine?’

Havan Sticks
So the maanthreekar commenced the homam with Ranga seated properly on his side. The consecrated fire was kindled in the specially prepared kunda (a hollowed platform) by placing samiths (sticks) and generously ladling ghee on to the samiths. The chanting of arcane mantra’s, crackling of the dry samiths, the devouring fire, rising smoke…the menace in the air was palpable.

An hour into the ritual, the maanthreekar asked Ranga and his wife to get some fresh cow-dung for applying to the figurine.

Accordingly Ranga left his mother behind and proceeded to the cow-shed at the back of the house.

It took longer than usual to complete the maanthreekar ’s bidding.

His return interrupted some serious conversation his mother was engaged in with the maanthreekar. He was immediately worried if she had in any way offended the man by questioning his authenticity. He looked up apprehensively to see if the holy man showed any signs of unhappiness or anger. Luckily for him, and quite strangely there was even a hint of a smile on the placid face.

So the homam continued from where it was paused

And when it was all over, the manthreekar received a generous dakshina (honorarium for his services) and took leave of them not before reassuring them the results would show within twenty-four hours of depositing the figurine in its place.

The figurine was carefully retrieved from the kunda once the fire had died out completely and taken to the Sitapuram mirasdar’s field. There was no one around as the standing cane was already harvested and only the stumps remained. A small pit was dug in the middle and the figurine was buried as per the instructions.

While Ranga slept peacefully, his wife and his mother remained awake long into the night.
The morning dawned and it was like any other day. They went about their usual ways betraying no signs of any expectancies or restlessness.

It was just after noon when there was a commotion in the front of the house. They dropped whatever they were doing and rushed to the porch.

Ranga’s heart sank when he saw Subbu standing in front of the house though not attempting to enter, apparently no harm done with all his limbs about him. Was he carrying weapons? Didn’t seem so unless they were concealed.

While Ranga stood gathering his wits about him, Subbu lunged forward towards his sister. Before anyone could as much as wink, he fell at her the feet and piteously cried for her forgiveness. He confessed to his unsavory actions against his only dear sister and her family. And, vowed to make amends and more.

Ranga and his wife stood still for a long time till Subbu, back on his legs, moved forward to grasp Ranga’s hands.

Amidst these first moments of unagenda’ed rapprochement, no one caught the lady mumbling apologies for her disbelief at first and thanking the maanthreekar for dousing the fire in deference to her wishes.

End .
Credits: and


4 Responses to Man Rips, Woman Sews – A Folk Tale From South India

  1. very good one Raghu, even though i believe those who try to practice black magic on others should be prosecuted 🙂


  2. S R Kannan says:

    Thanks. A breadth of fresh air after seeing all the evil scheming in our serials.


    • tskraghu says:

      Looking at the scheming and counter-scheming that go on, they seem to have a team of v good story tellers imagination never running dry:-) The one flaw is they depend on you not to remember the earlier episodes.


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