Evil spirits in the pond

by Samia Tamrin Ahmed

Beweg dich. Ein Heft über Sport (Ausgabe I/2014)


A black soft-shelled turtle, also known as the bostami turtle. Photo: Kundu & Kulendra Ch Das/Assam Univ. & Mizoram Univ./India

In Bangladesh, you may be taken to a water basin and asked to feed 300 turtles with bananas or chapati bread. The largest living population of the extremely rare black soft-shelled turtle is kept in an artificial pond. It belongs to the temple of St. Bayazid Bostami, a Sufi, who is said to have come from Iran to Bangladesh in the 9th century, which is why the animals are also called "bostami turtles" or "mazari", which means something along the lines of "temple inhabitants". They can grow up to one meter in size and are olive green or brownish black. Originally they lived in the Brahmaputra River, which has its source in the Himalayas.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists them as an extinct species, but recently some wild specimens have been sighted in Assam, India. Legend has it that the black soft-shelled turtle are descendants of evil spirits that once infuriated the holy Bostami. In response, he transformed them and condemned them to an eternity in the pool. The guardians of the temple are devoted to the population of turtles. No one is allowed to harm or take an animal, not even for scientific purposes. Only feeding is allowed and people believe that a wish will come true if the turtles take the food you offer - so make sure that they are hungry when you visit them.

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