[GIF of CH Tarima's Paidrigin]

CH Tarima's Paidrigin
Photo by Jane Howard

The Legend of the Birman Cat

Santal Nile River Isis

[GIF of Santal Nile River Isis]

Beautiful and affectionate, the Birman is a cat of mystery and legend.

It is said that many years ago, these cats were kept as temple companions by priests in northen Burma and southern Tibet. According to the legend, the original temple cats were pure white and had golden eyes.

One day, raiders attacked the temple and mortally wounded the high priest as he knelt praying before an icon of a golden goddess with sapphire eyes, named Tsun-Kyan-Kse. As the priest lay dying, his faithful cat, Sinh, came to comfort him.

At the moment of the priest's death, Sinh cast his gaze upon the golden goddess. The soul of the priest was transferred to Sinh's body. Sinh carried his master's soul until it was ready to ascend to heaven.

When the priest's soul was transferred to Sinh, the cat was magically transformed. Sinh's golden eyes became blue to match the sapphire eyes of the goddess. Sinh's white coat became golden as the icon. Sinh's ears, face, tail and legs became dark to match the earth. Where Sinh's paws touched his master's body, they stayed white, denoting purity.

The next morning all of the other temple cats were transformed in the same manner as Sinh. It is said that whenever a sacred cat died in the temple of Lao-Tsun, the soul of a priest would accompany it on its journey to the hereafter.

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Last modified: Sunday, January 21, 1996