A Muria folk tale from Orissa retold from ‘When the World was Young’, by Verrier Elwin. The book is a fascinating collection of folktales from the tribal peoples of India. Elwin was a pioneering anthropologist; he spent his entire life getting to know the ways of life of the tribal peoples.
People around the world have different ways of explaining how the earth came to be the way it is: the sky above, the earth below. The Muria tribals of Bastar, in Madhya Pradesh, too, have their own story about it. And it is fascinating.
Some people believe that there was a time when the clouds and earth were husband and wife. They lived together. The Sun wasn’t there, and nor was the moon — just the earth and the cloud.
Humans at that time were very small in size. They had to be if they wanted to move around the earth. They were sandwiched by the clouds. They ploughed their fields not with the help of ox but with rats. If they wanted to pluck brinjals, they had to stand on tiptoe, just like we pluck mangoes from trees these days. Life was very tough. Their heads kept banging against the clouds every time they got up to walk. They were getting fed up.
One day, it finally happened. An old granny was sweeping her courtyard. As she moved her arm forward and back, her broom hit against the sky. That was it! Granny lost her temper and gave it a big push. The sky went up like a rocket and reached where it is today.
The humans heaved a sigh of relief. Now they could throw around their arms and grow tall!