A Tale of the Afterlife

The tribe of Yohans took great pride in their traditions as most indigenous communities do. They lived in an interior segment of North East India and preferred seclusion from the other hill tribes in the region. One of the reasons for this has been their strong focus on the afterlife, which many times preceded even the calling of their present life.

Their village bordered the marshy inlet of the Great Lake that has since as long as the inhabitants remember, witnessed a unique phenomenon. On certain days of the year, balls of light have shot up from the lake and disappeared into the night. The Yohans have always believed that the Great Lake has been home to their ancestors and a sacred water body. They cremated the dead, but made a small idol of the deceased and immersed it with the ashes in the lake. Along with it they also immersed miniature replicas of clay utensils, bed, everything one needed at home. According to them, their ancestors carried out their everyday activities at the bottom of the lake. And when these lights appeared, the souls finally got freedom from their watery world and merged with the infinite.


The village potter, Sham, who created these little idols, was devastated when his little son died due to a mysterious illness. He crafted with loving care the tiny idol of the boy and all the things the child liked. After completing the last rites and submerging the idol, he started spending hours at the lake every night worried about his son at the bottom of the lake. He kept praying for the boy’s soul to merge with God at the earliest.

Sham was sure that whenever the lights appeared, he would know which was his son. More than seven months passed, then one night he saw a small ball of light emerge from the lake along with a few larger ones. His heart skipped a beat as it hovered over the water, and as Sham went near the water’s edge, it seemed to flicker in front of him, before disappearing. It was only then that the grieving father’s heart found a closure, sure that his son was being taken care of by the supreme God.

While science would explain the lights on the lake as phosphine gas bubbles, for the Yohans it is a matter of faith. Which is the greater truth? That which the heart seeks to believe, of course.

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