Tripura has a rich oral tradition where folktales explain the ways of the world. From why the sky is so far up to how the rivers came to be formed through an act of sacrifice, there are stories about many aspects of our day to day life. Today I wish to share a story that has been told to me by my brother Nemo Debbarma as to how a bowl of hot porridge helped a king win a war. He heard this story from his grandmother:
In the days when the old wind blew there lived a king who lost every battle he fought. He went to different places and took suggestions from many wise persons about how to win an armed battle. However, none of the advice he received worked and he kept losing one battle after another. Finally, one day when he lost again, he ran away into a nearby forest and took shelter in the home of a widow. The widow who lived with her little son, welcomed the king as a guest and allowed him to stay with them.
The king spent his days helping the widow in the jhum and in the evening he played with the widow’s son. After many months had passed in hard labour, the small team managed to harvest a good crop. After a long time, there were plenty of grains in the house and so the widow decided to prepare a feast for everyone. She made some porridge along with other items.
At dinner time she served the piping hot porridge to the king and her son. Her small son immediately placed his fingers in the middle of the porridge to scoop it into his mouth. However, as the porridge was very hot, he cried out in pain as it had scalded his fingers. The widow hurried to the boy, comforted him, and said, “Who told you to eat like this? Watch me and learn.” She then showed her son that one should start eating from the sides where the porridge is cooler and work their way to the middle.
Watching the mother and son, the king realized at the moment what was wrong with his war tactic. He lost all his battles because he always tried to attack the middle of the enemy and thereby ended up being surrounded by them.
Next day, the king took leave of the widow and her son and went back to his kingdom to gather his army. He encouraged them to fight for him one last time and told them his new war tactic in which they would attack the enemy from the sides and weaken them. He went to battle with his enemies and managed to defeat them this time. After the victory he returned to the jungle and rewarded the widow and her son with many gifts.
Finally, from that time onwards the king never lost any battle because he became stronger and more clever. In ancient times when kings fought wars, they would always attack on the middle rung of the enemy army. This story suggests that this tactic changed over time as a battle cannot be won solely on the basis of physical strength. A king must have wit and shrewdness in order to be a victor at war.
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.