Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Aboriginal Beliefs Connected With Uluru (Ayer's Rock) Kunia & Liru

All parts of the rock of Uluru was believed to have been created in the Dreamtime by about 10 Dreamtime spirit people. Most of the southern face was created by the battle between the Liru (poisonous snakes) and the Kunia (carpet snakes). Minor parts of the southern face were created by 2 other totemic creatures, Linga (sand-lizard) and Metalungana (sleepy-lizard). The northwestern corner and most of the northern face were created by the activities of the Mala (hare-wallaby) people. Parts of this section of the rock was created by a number of other Dreamtime creatures, Linga (sand-lizard), Tjinderi-tjinderiba (willy-wagtail woman) and her children, the Yulanya. Kulpunya (the spirit dingo) who destroyed most of the Mala men and their families. Lunba (kingfisher woman, who tried to protect them.

The formation of the western face has 3 other totemic beings associated with it. Kandju (sand-lizard), the creator of the Kandju soak and the surrounding topography. Itjari-tjari (marsupial mole), created a number of caves and potholes on the surface of the western side. The camps of the man and woman, Kaldidi, were transformed into a boulder pile on the southwestern corner.

The Carpet-snakes, Kunia (Kunyia), and the Venemous snakes, Liru

During the creation (tjukurapa) times many of the Woma (Aspidites ramsayi), the non-venomous snakes, and Kunia (the carpet-snake Liasis childreni) lived at Pugabuga, an unlocalised place to the east of Mt Conner. Pugabuga would probably be a water body of some sort, as snake beings, especially non-venomous species, from the dreamtime are almost always associated with water.

After a while, the snake people became dissatisfied with the surroundings at Pugabuga and travelled west. When they arrived at Maratjara, a spring near the deserted station, Lyndavale, the snakes divided into 2 parties. The Woma, who now live only in the sandhill country, stayed near Maratjara. The Kunia continued on until they  came to a large, flat sandhill in the centre of which was Uluru water. Others, mostly old people, women and children stayed at either the southeastern corner, or in Tjukiki Gorge on the south side.

Those Kunia people were transformed into natural features at the end of the creation period. The Kunia women sitting in their camp became large boulders in Tjukiki Gorge. Their wooden carrying dish became a tall conical slab of rock at the head of the gorge. Their pubic hairs became the low bushes on the floor of the gorge, and their camp fire became Kapi Tjukiki, the Rockhole. The Kunia women were transformed into the larger boulders on the southeastern corner of the rock, and the smaller boulders their children. The camps of the women are now large caves and the camps of their children are the small caves.

A long boulder on the plain around Uluru was a Kunia woman and smaller boulder her children. An old Kunia woman and old Kunia men lying asleep in the sun became another long boulder. The deep ridges on the sides of Uluru were once the tracks made by the carpet-snake people as they travelled to and from the Uluru Waterhole. The gutters on the sides of the rock were the beard of the old men.  The caves in the face of the cliff were places where the Kunia people had camped. Smaller circular depressions on the summit of Uluru were the places where one or another of the carpet-snake people rested during tjukurapa in what was then the soft sand of Uluru. At that time things were going well at Uluru, every day the women gathered yams, grass seeds and fruit and the men hunted kangaroos, emus and wallabies and other animals.

At the same time as the carpet-snake people were living at Uluru, a party of young and old venomous snake-men, the Liru, led by Kulikudjeri, were travelling around the Pitjantjatjara country, causing a lot of trouble with the other spirit beings. The Liru came from the west and made their camp on the southern end of Katajuta. The huge dome near Mt Olga, the highest point of Katajuta, was the camp of the old Liru snakes, and a group of lower domes to the east were the camps of the young snakes. The black water stains and the vertical red and green lichen on the face of the 1500 ft high rock face were the body decorations of the old Liru men. After a while the younger snake-men wanted to cause more trouble so left the camp at Katajuta and went to Uluru to attack and kill the harmless carpet snakes, leaving the older Liru men in the camp at Katajuta.

The young Liru men approached Uluru from the southwest carrying spears, spear throwers, stone knives and wooden clubs. the desert oaks on the sandhills are the metamorphosed bodies of these men. The Liru men gathered on 2 stony pavements about 400 m from Uluru. The men on the nearest pavement attacked the carpet-snake people camped at Uluru water. The tracks of these attacking men were transformed into the deep gutters on the southwestern face of Uluru. The Kunia men and women living on the southern side of Uluru quickly retreated to the east when the men on the second pavement threw their spears at them. At the close of the creation period the holes in the soft sand where these spears landed were transformed into potholes on the face of a vertical cliff and the rocks at its base.

There is a large split boulder on the southeast side. In time, a Kunia woman, Minma Bulari (Minma = married woman), gave birth to a child at this place. The boulder has been hollowed out into a small cave about 9 ft (3 m) in diameter. There is a smaller cavity within this cave that has a small entrance leading to the larger cave. In Tjukurapa times the cavity was Bulari's womb, and its opening was the woman's vagina and vulva. The lighter marks at the opening and on the pavement are the knee-marks of the woman who assisted with the birth. The infant became the irregularly shaped rock near the mouth of the cave, and Bulari's carrying dish is a hollowed boulder nearby. After the birth, Bulari's body contracted so rapidly after the birth that she split open, as mud in a waterhole does when it dries.

There is a shallow cave to the east of the Bulari stone with a number of aboriginal paintings on the walls. The 2 irregularly-shaped stones in front of the cave were Bulari sitting on the ground with the infant resting between her knees. Pregnant women now try to give birth in the cave in the belief that the snake-woman, Bulari, will assist them have a easy delivery.

As the Liru men approached her camp, Bulari picked up her baby and walked towards them spitting out a lot of arukwita, the spirit of disease and death. The arukwita killed many of them, those that weren't killed continued approaching her while shouting insults and threats to her and the other carpet-snake people. Bulari retreated towards Mutitjilda gorge. Caves high on the cliff face on the southern side of Uluru are the open mouths of the shouting Liru men. A large square boulder behind Bulari's camp is the body of the leader of the Liru men.

Kulikudjeri, the leader of the Liru fought Ingridi, a young man who was the son of the Kunia woman at Mutitjilds Gorge. They stood face to face and gashed each others legs with their stone knives. The western face of Mutitjildi Gorge is the transformed body of Kulikudjeri, the 2 long vertical fissured are the cuts made on his leg by the stone knife of Ingridi, the longer one when the knife was sharp and the shorter one when the knife point had broken. Though wounded, Kulikudjeri continued fighting until he gashed the leg of Ingridi so badly that he bled to death. The bleeding carpet snake man crawled to the east then returned and made his way to the Mutitjilda water where he rested. He became delirious from blood loss and pain and crawled to the right. The track he made is now the stream that flows into Mutitjilda water. 3 rockholes mark the place where he died high on the side of the rock. The water in Mutitjilda and the rock holes was the blood of Ingridi. It was believed that if Kuka-kuka" was shouted loudly from the head of the gorge the spirit of Ingridi, which was believed to reside in the upper rockhole, could be enticed to send water to Mutitjilda waterhole below.

The people of the Aboriginal tribes living in the area have dreamtime stories about every nook and cranny of the rock. One story is about the Windulka (mulga-seed men), who came from the Petermann Ranges. By coincidence, the story told by geologists is that it was sediment from the erosion of the then much higher Petermann Ranges that were consolidated to form the rock of the future Uluru hundreds of millions of years ago. 

  1. Mala the hare-wallabies and Kurpaanga the spirit dingo
  2. Kandju and Linga, the lizard men - Pitjantjatjara-Yankuntjatjara, of central Australia
  3. Lunkana, the sleepy lizard men  - Pitjantjatjara-Yankuntjatjara, of central Australia
  4. Willy Wagtail Woman - Pitjantjatjara-Yankuntjatjara, of central Australia
  5. Wanambi- the mythical snake - Pitjantjatjara-Yankuntjatjara, of central Australia
  6. Mythology of Katatjuta 'the place of many heads'


Sources & Further reading

  1. Australian Dreaming: 40,000 Years of Aboriginal History, Ed. Jennifer Isaacs, New Holland Publishers
  2. Charles P. Mountford, Ayre's Rock, Its People, Their Beliefs and their Art, Angus & Robertson, 1966



Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 30/09/2011
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