by Mineke Schipper, Humanity’s End as a New Beginning: World Disasters in Myths
4. From Beginning to End
(Ahom, South Asia)
In the beginning there were no gods and no people. The water of the ocean embraced the void. There was no air yet, there were no animals, no rulers, no countries and no living beings yet. Nor did the sun, the moon and the stars exist. There was neither earth nor heaven.
There was only one omnipotent being, the Great God who remained suspended in the sky like a swarm of bees in a hive. He had no head, no mouth to speak and no legs to walk. He resembled a lump of flesh hanging in the sky. God wondered who would want to praise his name as long as he would look the way he looked now. He began to think of changing his shape. The Ahom Creator worked on his own appearance and began to look more familiar, more humanlike. In the meantime he brought order into the universe and made the earth habitable.
A long time passed before, suddenly, God opened his eyes and looked around. Nothing was attractive and charming. From his breast God created a deity, Khun Thiw Kham, who humbly knelt down before him and waited with joined palms for orders. This deity found nothing to lean on or to sit on. There was nothing yet, no rising sun nor shining daylight.
God then created the earth, a tortoise to support the earth, and a large serpent which encircled the tortoise. The serpent had eight hoods which he spread to eight directions. Then God created a Goddess for his wife, they copulated and the Goddess laid four eggs. When the eggs burst, four sons came out. (Ahom, South Asia)
God gave necessary instructions to the beings. He said to his eldest son: “I give you the sovereignty of the earth.” To his second son he said: “I make you the chief of one hundred thousand serpents living in the water.” Then God said to his third son: “I put you in charge of eight million thunderclaps.” God said to his youngest son: “You will stay with me to help me create the world in case it is destroyed.” Having thus instructed his sons, God rose up.
Time passed and when the Almighty looked down from his golden throne in the highest heaven he saw that things went wrong in the world. None of his descendants reigned on the earth anymore and the countries were in complete disorder.
The heat emanated by the sun increased, so much so that all the water on earth dried up causing massive death. The earth became hard and cracked and finally masses of boiling water rose from beneath the dry surface, killing all remaining life except for an old man whose name was Thaw Lip Ling, and a cow. They saved themselves in a stone boat floating on the hot water. The flood carried this boat to the north-east, to Mount Iba. The gods sent down fire to take away the stench of rotting corpses. Thaw Lip Ling saved himself by killing the cow and hiding inside. In the cow’s body he found a gourd’s seed. Later he planted this seed, and a huge plant emerged with branches in four directions. The northern branch died from cold, the southern from heat, the western branch drowned. Only the eastern branch thrived and developed into a gigantic gourd containing all kinds of life. A flash of lightning was sent down to open the gourd, but the creatures within begged to be spared. Finally Thaw Lip Ling offered to sacrifice himself. He was sitting at the point where the flower had died off from the gourd, and allowed lightning to hit and kill him, and only then life could escape from the opened gourd. The humans who emerged divided into various peoples who still worship Thaw Lip Ling who sacrificed his life for all.