by Dr. Chris Ballard, Australian National University 1

Details of the exact line of the two routes of dindi pongone between each of the major gebeanda are commonly known and said to be matched in each case by a sacred river which flows upstream from southwest to northeast. 2 These rivers are known most commonly as Tade and Girabo. A short section of one of the sacred rivers, the Girabo, runs (mostly upstream) along the following route between the gebeanda sites at Bebealia Puni and Mbibi Baite, beginning as the Dogayu river, which flows through the vast natural tunnel that constitutes the site of Bebealia Puni; from there it becomes the rivers Burne and Deme in the Yaluba valley, then the Girabo river at the Gelote gebeanda, before plunging beneath Haeapugua swamp, surfacing briefly in the swamp’s centre at Habodaya lake and then at the eastern margin of the swamp at Abago, where it enters under Lagali ridge and emerges again as the Wada river in the Tari basin.

The easternmost of the two routes of dindi pongone is initiated at a site known to Huli as Malaya (Frankel 1986:20) or Malea (Allen and Frankel 1991:97), which may correspond to the Onabasulu ritual site of Malaiya. Malaiya may be the site visited and mapped by Frankel (1986:20), though an ethnographer of the neighbouring Kaluli suggests that there are two sites of the same name, the more significant of which has not yet been located precisely (E.Schieffelin pers.comm.). The approximate location given on my map for Malaiya reflects that plotted by Schieffelin (1991: Map 5).

This eastern root extends from Dangi Tene to Harl Hibira, amongst bilingual Onabasulu/Huli speakers south of Komo, and then under the Lower Tagali river to Bebenite in the southern part of the Tari basin, before ending at the Tuandaga site amongst bilingual Huli/Enga speakers. The western route has its origins at the spectacular site of Bebealia Puni, where the Dogayu or Baia river plunges into a natural tunnel. From here, the root runs beneath the Gigira range to Gelote, on the Pureni side of Haeapugua basin, and then through the Paijaka plateau to the high-altitude site of Tai Yundiga and on to its terminus amongst Paiela-speakers at Mbibi Baite.

There are alternative interpretations of this portion of dindi pongone amongst Huli as well as their ethnographers. Yet there have been other regenerative ritual projects also associated with dindi pongone but founded on totally different cosmogonic myths. The major alternative cosmogonies trace the origins of the universe to different margins of Huli territory, including the Bebealia Puni site to the south and the site known to Huli as Hewari Gambeyani, on the Pori river, amongst Dona-speakers. Other ritual networks are similarly available, including the nogo bara tambugua routes which link the gebeanda at Irari and Gelote to ritual sites in Duna, and beyond to Oksapmin (N.Haley pers.comm. and N.Modjeska pers.comm.), and the baya horo track which runs from the Lebani valley towards Ambua (L.Goldman pers.comm.). These alternatives are not unrelated to dindi pongone, in intention or in symbolic detail, but none provides the apparent unity of purpose or geographic extent evident for dindi pongone, at least from the perspective of Huli. It is sufficient to note here, however, that Huli sacred geography comprised a multitude of strands and levels of understanding and that its presence was evident throughout the Huli landscape.

Sacred Huli Geography
  1. The Death of a Great Land: Ritual, History and Subsistence Revolution in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Volume 2. A thesis submitted for the degree Doctor of Philosophy, Australian National University, Canberra, 1995. Appendix B5. []
  2. This appendix expands upon the short account of the “root of the earth” (dindi pongone) given in B2.6. []