The tribal folklore of our country has an assortment of myths and folktales explaining the organisation of the world and its creation. The stories differ from region to region and even within a community, like the Gonds for instance, stories change when they move from one part of the country to another. This is a story from Odisha which is also home to the Gond community, apart from central India and Andhra Pradesh.

The story goes that Mahadeo divided the earth into seven parts in seven lotus leaves and threw them in the ocean. Each lotus leaf became an island. But who would step on these islands? What if they sank into water? So Mahadeo ordered Bhima to take the first step. But no sooner had Bhima put his foot on a leaf, his leg sank. This meant that there was still work to be done; meanwhile from the mud that was thrown up when Bhima put his foot in, a mountain was created. Mahadeo created seven kinds of herbs on this mountain and gave the first six to Parvati his wife. But the seventh herb he kept from her.

Then Mahadeo went to Kadali Jharia to make a wooden plough. This is a forest with plenty of water and banana trees and herbs. Bhima followed him. Left to herself, Parvati grew curious. She could not understand why Mahadeo had kept the seventh herb from her. So she ate it, but was afraid of becoming pregnant. So she created a tiger from the dirt of her body and sent him to meet Mahadeo.

The tiger bounded off to the forest where Mahadeo was making a plough. The tiger hid in a bush and tried to frighten Mahadeo who, unperturbed, threw some wooden particles from the plough that he was making and said, “Oh Kokua, chase the tiger and eat him”. Kokua are wild dogs and it is said that even today the tiger is afraid of them. Meanwhile the wooden particles became dogs and chased the tiger who fled to Parvati who was busy washing her utensils. Since she washed utensils like all women do with ash, her hands were covered in them when the kokua came running after the tiger. To stop the tiger from being killed, Parvati held the kokua’s face in her hands that were black with ash and so from that day on, the wild dogs have a black face.

Mahadeo realized that Parvati was pregnant. So he went to Nirakar and expressed his dismay and doubt at this but Nirakar said he was wrong to feel like that. If Parvati did not give birth to children how would the universe come to be, what would happen to the world? So Mahadeo went home to his wife. Meanwhile, she had given birth to thousands of children both handsome and ugly. Out of shame she buried the ugly children under the trees and brought up handsome children on her lap. Mahadeo divided the children into many clans, castes etc. The first son of Parvati and Mahadeo was the Gond.

Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta
Text Source: Gond oral tradition in Odisha by Dr Mahendra Kumar Mishra
Location: Odisha