All cosmogonic myths are outcomes of man’s ambitious attempts at a solution of the eternal mystery of creation. A myth may be defined as a story that serves to connect individuals to their cultures and to explain natural and supernatural phenomena, including the creation of the world and the origin of humans. Various endeavours to solve the eternal mystery of creation have given birth to many cosmogonic myths around the world and they make interesting reading. Many of these myths have some similarities despite huge geographical distances. I was reading cosmogonic myths of some Kolarian tribes and I found that they have some similarities with the biblical view of the creation of Adam and Eve!
The Kolarian tribes are believed to be one of the earliest settlers in the Indian subcontinent. Kolarians are Austroasiatic speakers. Genetic studies of Austroasiatic speakers suggest that the Austroasiatic language family may have arisen in India and spread east. Santhals, Mundas are two major Kolarian tribes. They inhabit mainly in the Indian state of Jharkhand as well as adjacent parts of Indian states of Assam, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and into parts of Bangladesh.
MYTH OF MUNDAS
At the beginning of Time, the face of the Earth was covered over with water. Sing-Bonga, the Great Spirit, brooded over the waters and the first beings that were born were a Horo (tortoise), a Karakom (crab) and a Lendad (earthworm). He commanded these first born of all animals to bring Him a lump of clay from the depth of the ancient water. The tortoise and the crab by turn tried to use their skill, but they failed. The persistent earthworm however succeeded in bringing Him a lump of clay. Sing-Bonga then made this Ote-Disum, beautiful land of ours. At His bidding, the earth brought forth the trees, plants, herbs, and creepers of many varieties. Sing-Bonga then filled the earth with birds and animals of all sorts and sizes. And then happened the most incredible creation of all. Out of the earth, He created a man and a woman, the first human beings. Then through the first pair, in whom sex urge was created due to the use of eely (rice beer), the world was populated. The bird Hur (Swan) laid an egg. And out of this egg came forth a boy and a girl, the first human beings. Hur bird is said to lay its egg secretly in a Jir or Jovi (marshy ground) and the common belief among the Mundas is that a Hur will not lay more than one egg in its lifetime.
MYTH OF SANTHALS
At first, there was only water, and the earth was under the water. Thakur-Jiu, the Supreme God, began by creating the creatures of the water like the crab, the crocodile, the alligator, the fish, the prawn, the earthworm, the tortoise and others. Then Thakur-Jiu made two humans out of earth and was about to breathe life into them when the Sin-Sadom (day-horse) came down and trampled them into pieces. So Thakur-Jiu decided to make two birds. He made two beautiful Has-Hasil birds (goose and gander) with material taken off His breast. The Has-Hasil birds flew about the sky and then alighted on Thakur-Jiu‘s hand. Then the Sin-Sadom came down again for a drink and left some froth on the water. Thakur-Jiu told the Has-Hasil birds to alight on the froth, but they asked for a firm place. So, Thakur-Jiu made earth with the help of the earthworm and the tortoise. The tortoise stood quietly on the water while the earthworm went down to bring up the earth. The earthworm ate the earth which was passed through his tail on to the tortoise‘s back. As the earth spread and became firm, Thakur-Jiu planted seeds in it and so land was made. Hasil (the female bird) laid two eggs. From those eggs two humans were born — a boy and a girl. When the birds faced difficulties to feed the first human beings, they offered supplication to the Thakur Jiu for providing food for the human beings. In this context of necessity Thakur Jiu created the whole universe for the well-being of humankind.
Apparently, these myths do not always have a causal link as they follow each other but not from each other. There are similar stories with some variations also widely accepted among the members of these tribes. The myths are passed down to the next generations through oral traditions.