This book contains the proceedings of the seminar on Creation myths in Different Oral Language of the North-East organized by the Department of Garo, North-Eastern Hill University, Tura Campus on 7th and 8th October 2010 at Tura, West Garo Hills, Meghalaya, sponsored by North-East Centre for Oral Literature (NECOL), Sahitya Akademi, Agartala, Tripura. The contents are the myths of the Karbis (Mikirs) of Assam, A.chiks (Garos) of Meghalaya, Mizos of Mizoram, Khasis of Meghalaya, Misings of Assam, Lepchas of north West Bengal (Darjeeling District) and Kokboroks of Tripura. Each of the myths have individuality in the sense that we find the world-view of the concerned tribe expressed through its own version of creation. Besides orality and impersonality these myths display some common features in the basic. The myths are sacred of the literature of the indigenous people. Through them we come to know some of their social systems and rituals still followed today. The study pays to understand and appreciate their culture.
This volume is outcome of a seminar organised by the North-East Centre for Oral Literature of the Sahitya Akademi at Tura on Creation Myths in Different Oral Languages of the North-East. If Was Organised in collaboration with the Department of Garo Language and Literature of North-Easter Hill University.
We discover from the papers in this collection that a variety of creation myths exists in the different tribes of the North East, though they have some core elements in common. All the myths of the seven tribes or group have been written by members who belong to those communities.
Caroline R. Marak is a retired professor and former Head of the Department Garo, North-Eastern Hill University, Tura, and is a well-known scholar and has written and edited several books.
Indian literature is vast with its immense varieties. Styles, forms and languages. But we generally are accustomed to consider the written literatures of the scheduled written languages only. In reality, the languages or their dialects spoken by the indigenous tribal people in India are very large and the literary compositions in most of the them survive only in the oral form. With the passage of time many of these oral languages as well as their literature are facing the threat of extinction. But the value of these oral literary works is immense.
Sahitya Akademi felt the need for documenting and publishing Indian oral literature in English translation. In order to fulfil this need, Sahitya Akademi has established the North-East Centre for Oral Literature, NECOL with is now operating from Agartala. The titles already brought out by the NECOL, agartala are on the literature on Bongcher (a small sub-tribe of Halam of Tripura), Mraima (Mogs Tripura), A'Chik (Garo of Meghalaya), Tenyidie (Naga of Nahgaland), Mising (of Assam), Chakma (of Tripura and Mizoram).
Wherever human habitation grows, a society develops. Lives and thoughts of the community are formed, regulated and Controlled by the society of that community and its evolving codes. In course of the growth, a rich store of cultural heritage also develops. One very important item of this heritage is the Genesis-myth. However isolated or small a community may be, nowhere does man live by bread alone. Once the need for subsistence and survival is met, the social psyche finds time to reach out into the world of imagination and spiritual speculations. It seeks to find out, even if imaginary, its identity. The search for the roots is also at the base of these Genesis-myths. North-East India has been called as 'a folk-lorist's paradise'. Genersis myths contribute to a great extent in the making of the oral literature. Like the Anthropological variety among the native residents of the region, there is a great variety of Creation-myths also.
The North-East Centre for Oral literature organized a two-day seminar at Tura on Creation-myths in the North-East, in collaboration with the Department of the Garo language and literature of North-Eastern Hill University. Prof. Caroline R. Marak took great initiative in the organization of the seminar. With the co-operation from veteran scholars like Prof. Tabu Taid, Prof. Saroj Chaudhuri, Prof. Sylvanus Lamare and a number of other scholars from almost all the states of the North-East, including Sikkim, four very fruitful sessions were held. About a dozen papers were presented. Prof. Marak has compiled this publication.
The paper are not only interesting by themselves, they also provide an insight into and the minds of the communities and into the world of their days as well. The states in the North-East have so many different communities, each having its own rich oral literature and Genesis myth. The North-East Centre for Oral Literature will continue in its effort of compiling and publishing them.
I hope this collection of oral literature by Prof. Caroline R. Marak will be appreciated by the lovers of literature and also by persons interested in these matters.
It has been a pleasant and rewarding experience to edit the proceedings of the seminar on Creation Myths in Different Oral Languages of the North-East Organized by the Department of Garo, North-East University, Tura Campus on 7th and 8th October 2010 at Tura, West Garo Hills, Meghalaya, sponsored by North-East Centre for Oral Literature (NECOL), Sahitya akademi, Agartala, Tripura. This book contains myths of seven tribes of the North-East India, those of the Karbis (Mikirs) of Assam, A.chiks (Garos) of Meghalaya, Mizos of Mizoram, Khasis of Meghalaya, Misings of Assam, Lepchas of North Begal (Darjeeling District) and Sikkim, Kokboroks of Tripura.
As Derrida has shown through his theory of deconstruction, a word is a sign that has many associated meanings which are the signified. Myth' is one sign that evokes an indefinite number of signifiers. Frye himself, in writing about myth, used the term in more than one sense.
Nevertheless, attempts at defining the term have been made by all the contributors. Angela Water Ingty has brought out a number of quotations on what is meant by myth, from different sources. Indirectly each one of the contributors has shown the characteristic features of the creation myth.
The present topic is the myth of creation or origin tales as some would put it. As we find in the seven papers on creation myths of different tribes, much variety can be seen, as each one differs from others in detail, though they have some core elements in common. All the myths of the seven tribes or groups have been written by members who belong to those communities.
"Mircea Eliade and Rudolf Otto held that myth is to be understood solely as a religious phenomenon." The truth of this statement is borne out by the papers on myths of the A.chiks (Garos),Lepchas, Khasis, Kokboroks and Misings. The creation myths of the Lepchas, A.chiks, Misings, Kokboroks suggest that the world, human beings and all the objects were created by the divine will.
Many myths explicitly say that the first human beings lived in close relationship with God, the creator. The Khasi myth says that human beings were living God in heaven, when some descended to the earth using a golden ladder. Straying from God resulted in the snapping of the ladder. According to the Lepcha myth, the first created man and woman were living in 'the village of eternity' before they broke the incest taboo and were thrown nine steps down to a world of toil and misery.
Etiological tales form a part of the creation myth, as found in the Mising tales of the moon, and the Lepcha tale of the blocked by the fall of the tree, the shelter of the devil. The Mizo tale of the Chhura explains why only a small portion of Mizoram is flat, and why some animals and birds behave as they do.
Angela Watre Ingty has traced the movement of the Karbi community in the recent past to their present homelands and their linguistic and ethnic affinities. Their oral literature includes a rich folklore and several versions of the Ramayana in its entirety.
In the Karbi creation myth, the spider helps to create the world; in the A.chik creation myth, the spider performs a similar task. The spider, working assiduously in the most trying circumstances when even the earth was yet to be made, becomes an archetypal symbol of the creator.
Lalthanfala Sailo has examined the origin of the name given by other communities and the British to Mizo people and has given the meaning of the term 'Mizo'. It is seen that the Mizos have both the myth of their origin and the legend of their migration from the Chin Hills of Myanmar in the recent past. The banyan tree planted by the Mizo forefathers at the time of their migration at Khampat Hill on the boundary of Mizoram and Myanmar has become a place of pilgrimage. The legend has elements of myth in it, as it says that Mizos emerged from a cave called Chhinlung in Myanmar, which cannot be found, and exist only in the mind of the people. This myth of the people emerging from rocks or caves located at different geographical areas is shared by other divisions of the Kuki-Chin group.
The archetypal event of darkness enveloping the world occurs in the Mizo story of Thimzing, a terrible time when the metamorphosis of human beings into different animals and birds took place. In the A'chik myth, the sun is overpowered by his human adversary when plants muni, a sleep-inducing herb on his pathway. The man taken revenge on the sun for ravishing his wife. These myth, of course, explain the phenomenon of the solareclipse. Pathian, the creator God is responsible for people issuing forth from the Chhinlung rock, but h does not allow an indefinite number of them, and 'shuts down' the stone.
Fameline K. Mara takes two oral poems from different sources to base her paper on A.chik creation myths. Each of them differs slightly from the other. She has combined the two versions to make a unified whole. She brings out the different stages in the earth's growth from infancy to adulthood, expressed through metaphors. Different gods are involved in raising and guarding the earth and creating the objects and gods in it. The other version of creation speaks of the formation of the earth's surface in several strata, the birth of vegetation and living objects. Man is not conceived as being born but as mad. Ba.bra, the God, created man of his own volition underneath the strata of land and water where no light nor air penetrated. The author brings out the imagery used by the bards to convey in concrete terms how they imagined the creation of the earth.
The paper includes the two poems in full in their original language, which have been translated into English by the editor.
Tabu Ram Taid begins with the information on the Arunachalese people known collectively as the Tanis, which covers a number of tribes including the Misings. The source of the creation myths are the a:bangs or chants by the priests called Mibus or Miris. The a:bangs are sacred poetry of t eMisings; these a:bangs have to be supplemented by those of the Adi Miris to make a complete creation mythology.
The art of the Mibus is acquired by the natural process of learning the chants and practising; but their skill and power are enhanced by their communion with supernatural being s in an unintelligible language.
The etiological tales of Karpunpuli and Tani and Taro brothers tell us of the origin of evil. The myth explains the meaning and origin of the indigenous fath Do:nyi Po:lo for 'Father Moon'. The Sun and the Moo are those primordial, celestial parents of the Tani people. The a:bangs of the Mising Miris narrate a continuous process of creation; the three distinct phases in the development are described in detail.
As Sylvanus Lamare tells us, the Khasi indigenous religion believes in the Supeme Being who is the source of and created objects, animate and inanimate. He gives two versions of the Khasi creation myth. The first one recorded by William Pryse is not given credence by the Khasis themselves. The second version, that of Ki Hynniew Trep Haynniew Skum is the version generally accepted by t community. According to this version, men have been a direct creation of the Supreme Begin and they lived with him in heaven. The golden ladder, descent, snapping of the ladder, all have symbolic significance.
In the creation myths of the Reang group of the Kokboroks, written by Bodhrai Debbarma, man originated from the collective will of many gods; they created him because they wanted him to worship them. The responsibility of creating the man was given to a goddess, who handed over the responsibility of hatching the stone eggs to a god.
The archetypal pattern of man emerging from stone, rocks or caves is founds repeated here. The rituals of the Reang marriage being practised today is traced to the marriage ceremony conducted for the progenitors by the god.
The myth of the Rupinis, another division of the Kokbroks discusses why the community worships Tanphang Roy, the god of the river Rupini. The author includes the legend of the origin of the Naotias, who came to settle in Tripura later than other groups.
Azuk Tamsang Lepcha condensed Lepcha creation myth of epic proportions into a few pages. It begins with the creation of Mount Kanchendzonga and the Earthquake King. The Muth says that the creator was concerned about a suitable place for men to live. He made soil on the Earthquake king, which became the earth. After making living creatures out of the elements, the creator God chose one among them for the purpose of making a human being and put the soul from the fresh snow of Mount Kanchendzonga into it. Thus was made first male.
We come to know why calculating sub-souls is important in the Lepcha funeral rituals, and why a woman has more sub-souls then men. The myth says that out of the nine souls of the first create man, the god took one to create a female to be a sister to him. Thus originates the belief that a Lepcha male has eight sub-sould and a female nine sub-souls.
The Lepchas trace their origin to the first created man and woman. The myth indicates the origin of evil in the world to typical human weaknesses such as carnal desires, Jealousy and injustice which breed other evils. The myth contains a sort of 'discourse' on the rights of the children.
The consequences of misdeeds are shown as a life of toil and misery and the birth of the forces of evil. One of the themes of this myth is the struggles between good and evil in which the whole community participates over a long period. Evil is finally vanquished, but it does not disappear, because it has grown up in 'the village of eternity'. It simply takes fight and disguises itself. From this evil is born the Lepcha tradition of the twelve-year cycle. Their clans originate from this struggle; the clan names have been conferred on each group according to the tasks they performed. This lineage continues to this day The act of instituting Lepcha priests and priests and priestesses originate from the effort to overthrow the devil, when God himself the first priest and the first priestess. This tradition is maintained to this day, priests and priestesses have to be born; there is no institution to train them.
The discovery of the spirit or fermented liquor is related to this struggle. The secret formula and materials for making it is stole and brought from below the earth from a sorceress. The fermented drink serves to boost the morale of the lepcha soldiers in their fight against the devil.
Etiological tales are attached to this story. Some animals, insects and even plants are said to have acquired their distinctive characteristics and qualities their distinctive characteristics and qualities after having tasted the original medicinal herbs. The origin of the two opposite effects of consuming the fermented drink is also revealed.
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