Every community has its own unique tale narrating the beginning of humankind. As young children, we yearned for tales that endlessly piqued our curiosities for more fascinating narratives. The creation myth, or origin myth, is one such tale of wonder and myriad possibilities. Adam and Eve’s story is not unbeknownst to most of us, but do you know about Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Budhi?
A myth is usually a story about the genesis of the Earth, the power inherent in elemental forces, and the peculiar habits of nature and its animals. It typically ends with the creation of people for whom the Earth is molded from scratch. For folklorists, myth is, thus, about the creation of the world and how it came to be.
The origin myth of a community informs the customs, institutions and taboos of its people. Likewise, it explains the basis of social relations and kinship patterns. Like all major societies, Santals, too, have their own origin myth. One such origin myth is the story of Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Budhi.
Millions of years ago, the universe was submerged in water. The gods and goddesses in heaven decided to rescue the earth. For 12 years, several deities, including Marang Buru, Jaaher Ayo, Lita, and Gonsaye, deliberated upon the subject of the creation of the earth and decided to request Baba Thakur (the Supreme God) to aid with the endeavour. They also requested for humans to be placed on this earth. Baba Thakur agreed.
Baba Thakur would sit upon kush karam leaves every day to take a bath. During one such bath, he created two geese using the roots of the sirom tree and gave them life. He then created a karam tree for the geese, on which they built a nest for themselves. They laid two eggs from which two humans took birth. However, the earth had not been created yet for the survival of these two humans, so Baba Thakur summoned Marang Buru, asking him to make earth suitable for the humans to live on.
First, Baba Thakur asked Marang Buru to find horo raj (tortoise) upon whose back land would be created. The tortoise was found, but he demanded something in return for offering his back. So, Thakur promised him his daughter and half the territory. The tortoise assented and considered himself lucky to have been given this opportunity. On Baba Thakur’s command, the tortoise’s legs were tied with a gold chain.
Next, Marang Buru summoned kari naagin (the Ultimate Snake) and he placed the its body atop the tortoise’s shell in a coiled fashion. A gold plate was placed on top of the snake’s body, upon which the earth was to be created. After this, the mud would have to be collected from paatal (lowest level of universe) and placed on the gold plate. Marang Buru sent for the prawn and asked him to carry out the task of bringing this mud. But the prawn failed.
Baba Thakur enquired of Marang Buru: who could complete the task now that the prawn had failed? Marang Buru opined that the crab could be sent to pataal to retrieve mud. The crab agreed to the request but he also failed. Baba Thakur, beginning to worry, asked whether it was even possible to complete this task. This time, Marang suggested that the earthworm could be appointed for the quest. The earthworm went to pataal and succeeded in grabbing the mud with his mouth, which he excreted on the gold plate on top of the snake at the tortoise’s back. Thus, the earth was created.
Now, Baba Thakur ordered Marang to get some particular trees and grass to decorate the earth. The two humans who were born to the geese for whom the earth was created were placed here. This place was called Hihiri Pipiri. They were fed from the trees and grass. After nine days, they were named Pilchu Haram (male) and Pilchu Budhi (female).
And this is how the first Santals came into existence.