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The 'most prolific cannibal'

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HE was someone people feared when cannibalism was rife.

People used to hide their children when they heard the beating of a lali.

The beat signalled that the country's and later the world's greatest cannibal was hungry.

He was said to have had a group of men working with and for him.

It involved the beating of the lali to signal their chief was hungry and capturing people and cutting them up. From the highlands of Rakiraki, the beat was said to have been heard in places quite far away.

While the exact year or years of his reign cannot be ascertained, it was in the 19th century when tribal war was going on.

According to the Wikipedia, Udre Udre holds the Guinness World Record for "most prolific cannibal".

The name Udre Udre still stirs fear in people even though he is said to have died and is resting in Rakiraki.

From stories passed down generations, Udre Udre was from Draqara in the Nakauvadra mountain range. It was the time when tribal war was going on and people were killed, cleaned and eaten beside a river — a spot known as Kanakana Bridge.

The place is about one kilometre from Buka Village, which was re-established in 1990 after the original village was ruined in 1819.

From Draqara, Udre Udre was said to have moved to the mountains at Dakudaku near Vatusekiyasawa, which is about a 20-minute drive from Rakiraki Town.

Epeli Bukadogo of Vatusekiyasawa Village said people did not know much about Udre Udre until he moved from Draqara.

"They split because of the tribal war and Udre Udre and his people moved to Korolevu and some went to Lovoni," he said.

"When Udre Udre and his group settled at Korolevu, they used to beat the lali from the top of the hill and it could be heard as far as Yaqara.

"From what I was told by my forefathers, the beating of the lali meant Udre Udre was looking for someone to eat.

"People used to hide their children, who even went and hid themselves when they heard the beating echoing through the mountains.

"He would go for those who were fat and healthy, even children. If he wanted to eat someone, he would just get that person."

Mr Bukadogo said Udre Udre killed his victims by smashing their heads on a sharp stone. He said Udre Udre had a confinement area made of mangroves near where Rakiraki Town is now.

According to the Wikipedia, Udre Udre reportedly ate between 872 and 999 people.

It said: "He kept a stone for each body he ate. The stones were reportedly placed alongside his tomb in Rakiraki.

"According to Udre Udre's son, the chiefs of Rakiraki would go to the battlefield along with Udre Udre and they would each give him every body part of their victims, especially the head, preserving what he couldn't eat in one sitting for consumption later."

Mr Bukadogo said from the records available and stories passed down by his forefathers, Udre Udre ate 999 people.

He said the victims' body parts were shared by Udre Udre and his group of men.

"The place where he lived with his group on the mountain at Dakudaku was protected on three sides by stone walls.

"Udre Udre was someone who people feared at that time. He must have come when the first people to set foot on Fiji arrived by boat in Rakiraki."

Mr Bukadogo said from whatever documents he has, there is nothing stating how Udre Udre died.

He, however, believes the world's greatest cannibal was laid to rest next to the Kings Road, about 10 minutes drive out of Rakiraki Town towards Tavua.

Also, Mr Bukadogo said some parts of the stone walls where Udre Udre lived were still visible.

Various websites say Udre Udre was aiming to eat 1000 people to become immortal but he could not achieve it.

However, Mr Bukadogo said he was unaware what made Udre Udre become the world's biggest cannibal.

Mr Bukadogo said cannibalism in Fiji started at Bukulu in the Nakauvadra range. Stories passed down the generations reveal that the tribal war started in the Nakauvadra mountain range, which also resulted in the rise in cannibalism. And some stories suggest cannibalism could have been on the rise because of the shortage of food at that time.

Whatever the reason may have been, the fact remains that Udre Udre holds the world record as far as cannibalism is concerned.