Myths from Fiji and India

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Myths from Fiji and India

BEFORE men could take to cave drawing and writings, accounts of creation or how to explain nature were passed down to each generation in the form of stories. These collections of stories which are unique to each culture have become myths.

While no two myths from two different cultures are the same, there are rare cases where similarities in some way do exist.

Our island nation has its own myths and legends but a certain story from India has a very uncanny resemblance to Fiji’s very own story of creation.

This is the story of Degei, the snake god of Fiji and the Hindu mythical tale of how Lord Krishna as a child vanquished the poisonous serpent known as Kaliya.

The similarities in the two stories are that both mythical creatures talked about are humongous snakes, both the stories have another mythological creature which also happens to be a hawk.

Story of Kaliya

Kaliya, in Hindu tradition, was the name of a poisonous snake living in the Yamuna River, in Vrindavan.

According to the myth, the water of the Yamuna for four leagues all around Kaliya boiled and bubbled with poison. No bird or beast could go near and only one solitary kadamba tree grew on the river bank.

The proper home of Kaliya was Ramanik Dwip. The meaning of the word dwip is island.

Kaliya had been driven away from Ramanik Dwip by fear of Garuda, the foe of all serpents. Garuda in Hindu mythology was a large hawk/eagle-like humanoid creature who fed on snakes.

Garuda had been cursed by a sage dwelling at Vrindavan so he could not come to Vrindavan without meeting his death. Therefore Kaliya chose Vrindavan as his residence, knowing it was the only place where Garuda could not come.

Once Krishna and his friends were playing ball, and while playing Krishna climbed up the kadamba tree and hung over the river bank, the ball fell into the river and Krishna jumped after it. Kaliya rose up with his hundred and ten hoods vomiting poison and wrapped himself around Krishna’s body. Krishna became so huge that Kaliya had to release him.

So Krishna saved himself from every attack and sprang on to Kaliya’s head and assumed the weight of the whole universe, and danced on the serpent’s heads.

This was killing Kaliya and his wives prayed to Krishna with joined palms, worshipping Krishna and praying for their husband.

Kaliya surrendered to Krishna promising he would not harass anybody. So Krishna pardoned him and then let him leave the river and back to Ramanik Dwip. Some identify it as Fiji.

And many Hindus believe that Kaliya still lives in a lake in Nakauvadra.

Story of Degei

According to Fijian legend and stories compiled in the book Creation Myths of Fiji by John Black, in the beginning it was only water and twilight everywhere and only an island existed, the island of the Gods which floated somewhere at the edge of the world and could be visible when the sun rose.

Degei was alone and the only living creature was the female hawk named Turukawa.

Turukawa could not speak and the only thing she would do was to fly around Earth, until she started gathering leaves and grass creating a nest and finally two eggs were created.

The god Degei took the two eggs to his house where he made a bed for them and kept them warm with his body. When the eggs hatched, two tiny human beings came out, they were his children.

Once the first humans were born, they were transferred to a vesi tree where Degei built a shelter for them, fed them and taught them the secrets of nature. But he kept his children separate. He planted trees around them so they could find food, trees like banana trees, dalo and yams.

However, humans could only eat from the banana tree and not dalo and yams, because they did not know the art of fire.

Dalo and yams were the food of the gods.

When the first humans grew up they met each other and asked Degei to show them how to harness the power of the fire and how to eat the food of the gods, and so Degei taught them. And it was after a while that the first humans left Degei and went to live on their own and had their first children.

Degei wasn’t upset since he knew his children and their children would worship him as their god.

According to the legend, Degei then established the first village in Fiji, Viseisei Village. He himself is said to have gone into the mountain ranges of Nakauvadra where he is said to be living in a cave.

Both these stories are from different cultures and different places but have similarities nonetheless. And perhaps more of a reason why the stories of Fiji and its people remain interesting.

Myths they may be, but still very much interesting.

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