The legend of u Ran Niangti: A porter who became a conqueror
Traditionally; Pnar people too observe certain kind of taboos, there are taboos which are general canon which forbids the whole community from indulging in certain act, and still there are taboos which are rules for certain clan only. One such taboo is the regulation which prohibits the Niangti clan from eating potatoes in any way or form. Yes anybody who is from a Niangti Clan is forbid from eating potato and it is all in the legend of Ran Niangti.
Ran Niangti was a Youngman from Jowai, nothing much is known about his early life but one thing that is certain is the fact that he is a kind of rebel, who lived by his own understanding and would not easily obey anybody’s order. During his time; trade between the Pnars on the hill portion of erstwhile Jaintia Kingdom and the plain of now Bangladesh was at its peak. So; he must also be a smart man that unlike his contemporary he did not end as a farmer but venture on the new available occupation by becoming a porter. In those days when the only means of communication is by walking, he earned his livelihood carrying goods for the traders from both Jowai and Jaintiapur. Obviously carrying goods to and from the hills to the plain is no cakewalk so, he must be a strong and a healthy man too.
His daily life usually started ‘at the first crow of a rooster’ and walk along with the traders the whole day with the heavy load over his head towards his destination. If they start from Jowai, by midday they will reach Myrkein and have their lunch then proceeds towards Syndai, at time they stay overnight at Syndai and start early towards Jaintiapur which was the seat of the erstwhile Jaintia Kindom. On returning back most of the time they will stay overnight at Jarain and proceeds the next day to Jowai. After climbing the Myntdu hill on reaching Jowai they were greeted by their relatives and friends at a place which is till now called Khlieh-lam-cha at Khimusniang. The Monolith in the area was a resting place for the travelers to lay their goods and have a cup of tea after a long arduous journey.
During those days the journey from Jowai to Jaintiapur must also be an interesting journey too. Throughout the trail on the way from Jowai to Jaintiapur one will find in many places, a collection of monoliths known as Kor shongthait in local parlance which literarily means resting place. One of the remnants of such place is located at Thlumuwi where there is also a stone bridge across the river. The trail also has many monoliths which act like a compass pointing the right direction to the travelers.
Once while doing his usual job of carrying goods, on reaching one resting place like any other porter on the trail; he too laid his load on the resting stones and rested for a while. He took out his pipe from a bag he carry on his shoulder which include everything that he need a can full of tobacco, many pieces of kwai, a smoke pipe, two pieces of flint stone with a dried local herbs called turiem to capture the spark from the flint stone and lit his smoke. He then took out a knife and made himself a piece of kwai, lit his smoke and went backwoods to relieve himself from nature call. When he returned back to his utter surprise he was greeted by angry people who accused him of stealing a bag of potatoes which they had laid on the resting stones. Ran was taken to the palace at Jaintiapur for trial and in spite of pleading innocent he was pronounced guilty as charged.
Throughout the trial Ran maintained his innocent and since he was convicted for the crime of stealing a bag of potatoes which he did not, out of anger Ran cursed the potatoes that landed him in jail. Since it was the potatoes that put him in the goal, he vowed and declared that his Clan and the generation to come should not consume potatoes in any form. Since then it becomes a taboo for anybody from the Niangti clan to eat potatoes and till date they are forbidden from eating potatoes in any way or form.
While he was in the custody of the King in Jaintiapur, certain enemy invaded the Jaintia Kingdom from one of its frontier; the Jaintia Kingdom has suffered a loss and the King was at his wits end. Ran on hearing the King’s trouble he requested the King to allow him to fight the enemy, but Ran was a mere porter he was never a military. Ran pleaded with the King to allow him proves his innocent and allegiance to the Kingdom. The King agreed to allow Ran to fight against the enemy but he has to prove himself first whether he has the blessing of the gods of not.
Since he was a mere porter, he has to proved himself whether he is fit for the job, the King summon a huge crowd on his courtyard to witness the trial if Ran can really fight the enemies. He was first given an ordinary sword to test his mantle; Ran took the sword and broke it to pieces simply by waving it in the air. Then another better sword was brought and that was also broken to pieces easily by Ran, then the King thought Ran is ready for the final trial. The King summon his priest to open the room where he kept the divine sword, he then summon some military from his army and ordered them to bring the divine sword to the fore. It took several men to carry the Diving Sword called “Ka wait Kokopati” to the King’s courtyard. The King indicated to Ran to give it a try and Ran took the huge sword and was happy with it, but that was not the final test. The King then summon another group of people to bring a huge banana tree, he then ordered Ran to use the divine sword and cut the banana tree into two pieces. Ran mightily cut the banana tree into two pieces but lo and behold hidden inside the banana tree was a huge iron rod which Ran was able to cut to pieces. After the completion of the final test the King believed that Ran has the divine blessing to protect the Kingdom, and ordered him to lead the army.
Ran not only protected the Kingdom from the invasion of another tribal King but he also conquered many more places and extended the territory of Jaintia Kingdom to far off land. The Pnar of Jaintia believes that once the Kingdom of the King extended up to Khanapara. Legends have it that on reaching the place now known as Khanapara near Guwahati, Ran was tired and he went to a huge banyan tree and tried to release the sword from his hand but he cannot. Blood dripping from the divine sword was like a clue which made the sword stuck to his clench fist, on reaching the banyan tree he mightily struck the sword in the middle of the tree and was slowly able to release his hand from it. While he struck the sword on the tree he also uttered these words “Yow ioh u Khanapara.” That everybody may know,” it is believed that Jaintia Kingdom once extended up to Khanapara. It is also believed that the sword remained inside the huge banyan tree and since then the place is known as Khanapara.