Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Earthquakes, Gods, Bulls and Mosquito Buzz

Kashmir Earthquake 1900 by Captain Benson
In one hand she held a steel glass and with the other,praying in whispers to gods, she was sprinkling the cemented ground with water. With the spring of childhood in my feets, I didn't realize it was earthquake. It was my first earthquake and I had witnessed my aunty perform an old ritual. She was pacifying the angry gods. This was the day that I believed I had seen a UFO but now I believe it must have been just a CEMA tubelight fitted lamppost.

An early western visitor to Kashmir wrote a strange scene he witnessed in a village somewhere in Kashmir. There had been an earthquake that had turned one of the nearby village springs into a hot spring. When this news reached the village, the visitor noticed that the pandits of the village left for the spring with their batte deechas, big metallic pot with rice gains and placing them in the hot water proceeded to prepare race. Rice was going to absorb the furious energy of the gods. And bellies were going to have a fill.

As I retold the incident, I was informed that Kashmiri Muslims believed that the earthquakes were caused when the celestial bull that holds the earth on its horns is irritated by a (must be) celestial mosquito.

Following this lead I came an interesting belief from Judaic world.

Verrier Elwin, an early authority on Indian tribal people, in his book Myths of Middle (1949) wrote:

The traditional Hindu view of earthquakes is that Varaha, the board incarnation of Vishnu who supports the earth, is shifting the burden of the world from one tusk to another.

In Sylhet [now in Bangladesh] the Hindus say that below the earth is a tortoise; upon this a serpent and upon this an elephant. Should anyone of them move, there is an earthquake. The ordinary Mussalman of the same area is said to believe that the earth rests on the horns of the bull which has a mosquito at its side.

This Muslim belief finds its origins in Judaism.

Howard Schwartz tells the story in his book Tree of souls: the mythology of Judaism (2007)
Once, when Aaron the Priest, brother of Moses, was offering sacrifices on Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement], the bull sprang up from beneath his hands and covered a cow. When that calf was born, it was stronger than any other. Before a year was out, the calf had grown bigger than the whole world. God then took the world and stuck it on one horn of that bull. And the bull holds up the worlds on his horn, for this is God's wish. But when people sin, their sins make the world heavier, and the burden of the bull grows that much greater. Then the bull grows tired of its burden, and tosses the world from one horn to the other. That is when earthquake take place, and everything is uncertain until the world stands secure on a single horn.

May be the mosquito buzz part was the Indian touch.

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