Mythical Origins: Tipra Beliefs on Earthquakes

By Pankaj Debbarma

December 2, 2023

At around 9 am today, Agartala experienced successive tremors, and the seismic activity extended to other parts of the state too, with the epicentre located in Bangladesh. Intrigued by this morning’s events, I delved into the fantastical stories and beliefs within traditional Tipra society surrounding the origin of earthquakes.

According to traditional Tipra beliefs, the earth is said to rest upon a colossal tortoise known as ‘Kaising.’ It is further believed that this tortoise sustains itself by consuming human excrement, a task facilitated by the black beetle (‘Kheramuk’). At times, the beetle, weary from its labour, falsely reports that there are no humans on earth. The earth-bearing tortoise, sceptical of this claim, then shakes the earth to verify the report.

The ensuing earthquake instils fear among the earth’s inhabitants, leading them to vocalize their existence with the affirming echoes of “we are present,” “we are here.” These reverberations reach the ears of the tortoise, prompting it to retaliate against the beetle for its deceptive report by striking it with a stone. Hence, the beetle’s head is believed to be flat as a consequence of this mythical retribution.

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