The Buru (Bura) is a mythical cryptid that features in the origin legends of the Apatani (Tanw) of the Ziro (Silo) valley in the Eastern Himalayan Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh, India.
Professor Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf was the first anthropologist to visit their remote communities in 1944.
According to the Apatani, when their ancestors first arrived, the Ziro valley was a swamp inhabited by the mythical Buru. But they settled in the valley because it was suitable for paddy rice production.
They established their communities in the valley after killing all the Buru and draining the swamp.
The Buru was an alleged reptilian cryptid native to Central Asia.
Buru is an Apatani or Nisi (Nyishi) word that may have been inspired by the bellow of the legendary beast, according to George M. Eberhart in Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology (Volume 2).
The Apatani and Nisi languages belong to the Sino-Tibetan or Trans-Himalayan family of languages spoken across Central and Eastern Asia.
Apatani oral traditions describe the Buru as a reptilian creature similar to a crocodile in appearance. It had a cylindrical and elongated body about 11-14 feet long, an upper body with a blue-black color interspersed with lighter blotches, and a whitish underside.
The creature had an elongated head and snout about 20 inches long and a neck about 3 feet long. The top and sides of the head had hardened plates for protection, according to some traditions.
The Buru had a pair of canine teeth in the upper and lower jaws and a row of less pointed teeth behind. It also had a forked tongue consistent with its supposed reptilian nature.
The cryptid beast had spines along its back, sides, and tail. It had short stumpy legs ending in sharp claws and a tail about 3-4 feet long that narrowed toward the distal end.
The creature was an aquatic cryptid that lived in swamps, bogs, marshes, springs, and lakes in and around the Ziro Valley of Arunachal Pradesh, India.
It could live permanently submerged in water or mud, occasionally emerging to capture and drag prey–human or animal–underwater.
It made a characteristic loud bellowing noise.
Based on native descriptions, cryptozoologists, such as Tim Dinsdale, suggested it might have been a previously unknown species of crocodile (genus Crocodylus) or alligator (genus Alligator).
Others, such as Ralph Izzard, proposed they were a type of dinosaur that survived the Cretaceous Period of dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago.
A few cryptozoologists, including Roy Mackal, proposed they might have been monitor lizards (Varanus varius) or a variety of komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis).
However, the claim that the Buru was an aquatic animal that could live permanently underwater led cryptozoologists, such as Karl Shuker, to suggest it might have been a species similar to lungfish (order Dipnoi) or a type of bony tongue fish (order Osteoglossiformes), such as the South American Pirarucu (Arapaima gigas) or the silver arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum).
There are several versions of the Buru story in the Apatani oral tradition. Some traditions identify it as having been a single mythical beast, while others claim there was a population of Burus occupying the Ziro valley.
In his book Himalayan Tribal Tales: Oral Tradition and Culture in the Apatani Valley (2008), Blackburn recorded a version of the legend that suggested only one Buru lived in the swamps:
When the Apatani ancestors first arrived in the Ziro Valley region, there weren’t rivers, springs, or fields. There was only a swamp that covered the entire valley.
A mysterious monster lived in the swamp at the time.
The Apatani could not cultivate the land because of the Buru. They tried to clear the swamp and kill the monster, but it began burrowing deep inside the mud to protect itself.
Expecting an attack, the Apatani fled in terror. Two mythical heroes represented as brass plates (myamya) came to their rescue.
The myamya came from the household of a member of the community. One myamya was male and the other female.
The heroic pair went to the swamp to fight the Buru. During the battle, the Buru killed the female myamya. Enraged, the male overpowered it and cut off its head.
After the battle, the male myamya returned home. The landlord was not in the house when he returned.
Still enraged by the loss of his partner, he attacked the landlord’s son and chopped off his head. When the landlord returned, he picked up a pestle and attacked the brass plate. The brass plate fled to a bamboo grove. While running through a thicket, a stem injured his eye.
According to Apatani narrators, the incident explained why Apatani ritual brass plates have one “damaged eye.” It also explained why Apatani priests use a ritual brass plate to cure eye and skin diseases.
Other versions of the legend suggest that the Apatani arrived in the Ziro Valley to find the swamp infested with several reptilian creatures instead of one.
The beasts prevented the ancestors from cultivating the land, so they killed all the Buru and drained the swamp.
Another story said the Apatani exterminated the Buru after a man found a baby Buru and tried to capture it. The baby Buru’s mother attacked the man and killed him.
Fearing further attacks, the Apatani drained the swamps and killed all the Buru.
The survivors escaped to nearby lakes or springs.
Sightings and Tales
Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf
Professor Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, an anthropologist, was one of the first Westerners to learn about the legend of the Buru.
He spent months living with the Apatani and studying their culture when he visited their plateau communities in the 1940s.
There hadn’t been reported sightings for many years at the time the anthropologist visited the Apatani in 1947. But the natives told him stories about the alleged fierce creatures.
Eberhart reported that two Europeans, James Philip Mills and Charles Stonor, also documented the Buru myths of the Apatani (1945-1946).
According to some traditions, after the Apatani drained the swamps, some Buru survivors hid in local springs. People who went to the springs to draw water reported sightings.
According to the villagers, the last sighting that occurred years before Western scholars and explorers visited the communities involved a young woman who went to the springs to draw water. She returned home in fright to report the sighting.
Alarmed villagers went to the spring, filled it in, and killed the remaining Burus.
Stonor and an adventurous journalist, Ralph Izzard, went in search of live Burus in 1948. Izzard later published details of their expedition in his book, The Hunt for the Buru (1951). The book contains accounts of the oral traditions of the Apatani.
The search for living Burus took Stonor and Izzard to a swampy area in the hills of Dafla (Daphla) on the border of western Arunachal and Assam. But they returned without spotting the legendary creature.
Since the Apatani traditions identify the spots where the ancestors killed the Buru, some cryptozoologists believe it might be possible to recover the remains of the beasts and confirm that they existed.
|Buru, Bura, Buro, Bra
|Lake Monster, Monster
|Lake, Marsh, River, Swamp
Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, Volume 2, George M. Eberhart (2002).
Himalayan Tribal Tales: Oral Tradition and Culture in the Apatani Valley, Stuart H. Blackburn, 2008.
The Hunt for the Buru, Ralph Izzard, 1951.
The Apa Tanis and Their Neighbours: A Primitive Civilization of the Eastern Himalayas by Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf, 2004 (originally published in 1962).
Extraordinary Animals Worldwide, Karl Shuker, 1991.
The Leviathans, Tim Dinsdale, 1976.
Searching for Hidden Animals: An Inquiry into Zoological Mysteries, Roy P. Mackal, 1983.
https://hasp.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/journals/iqas/article/view/9310, “The Mystery of the Buru: From Indigenous Ontology to Post-modern Fairy Tale, Stefano Beggiora, 2018,” accessed on January 24, 2023.