The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Handful of Thought

Jagannath & elder brother & sister-Source Wiki
A Handful of Thought

A curious child may like to know why gods and goddesses have more than two hands. Are they not inconvenient, like the sixth finger of his friend in his neighbourhood? Could the all powerful Gods not arrange something more convenient for them? He may not feel as curious to question why Ravan the demon king of Srilanka should have ten heads, for with one head or ten, the poor demon is destined to be killed by Ram who has only one head. This perhaps intends to prove, once for all, that having one head is always better than ten. But then Gods are deathless and they are not to be killed. And unlike human beings they do not fight among themselves till one has not finally finished his opponent. Human contests may not end in draw but all the divine contests are so very harmless—just so-so, like our leg-pulling or nicknaming. To quote a line of the famous poet T S Eliot: Not with a bang but whimper. So the gods and goddesses are denied of the opportunity to end their plight with their death, whether it is natural one or otherwise.

So, if gods and goddesses are not to die and still have more than two hands, is it going to do them any good? Or is it to make their lives miserable? Even if inconvenient, it is certain that they have to live with their problem all eternity. Say like Vasuki Nag the serpent god holding the weight of the earth on his hood. A little easing or shaking on his part, it is sure to cause earthquake. So, living with four or more hands should be definitely painful. A child’s question is not to be rejected as silly; here he is not the father of nation alone; he is the father of divinedom. He only has the empathy to articulate the agony of divine entities: If not painful then what else is it?

Then the child is told stories from Panchatantra. In that treatise, birds and beasts talk among themselves, and they talk to human beings too. The child believes—or at least by that time has learnt how to suspend his disbelief—and starts enjoying the stories. Then a story comes [ मुर्ख कुविंद: कथा ] where a weaver gets option from the tree god to ask him for anything as boon. He runs to—yes, you are right—he runs his wife who prevails upon him to ask for two heads. The tree god grants him the boon. Now the boon-rich and double-headed weaver comes back but before he could reach home, people kill him mistaking him for a demon. Tut-tut! The poor weaver! Even a boon from god and advice from wife could not save him! So the child, after listening to the weaver’s catastrophe, revisits his old question: what would happen to gods and goddesses who have more than two hands? And to those who have more heads than one?

As an aside, let’s consider since when had these multi-headed god been existing in our religio-physical domain? Evidence suggests that such a multi-headed god existed in Rig Veda, say in Purush Sukta mantra. [सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात्। स भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वा अत्यतिष्ठद्दशांगुलम्।।] This simply means: A thousand-headed Purusha, with a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet on every side pervading earth, he fills a space ten fingers wide.

There is one solace though. The gods and goddesses have hands that are in even numbers, say four, ten, twelve etc. but never in odd. Does anyone know of a god with either three or five or seven hands? Only Vaman, one of the ten avatars of lord Vishnu, had to bring into existence his third foot so that he could trample Bali the great giver. Let me quote from Jayadev’s Dashavatar:
छलयसि विक्रमणे बलिमद्भुतवामन .
पदनखनीरजनितजनपावन ..
केशव धृतवामनरूप जय जगदीश हरे ..
Translated: O Kesava (Vishnu) ! In the form of the Dwarf (Vamana) You cleverly deceived the King of the world, Bali. Cleanser of the people through the sweat of your toenails. Praise be to Jagadish! Lord of the universe !

Well, this was just an exception. Without very much dwelling on this exception, the child goes on to learn about symmetry or to say it more scientifically, diametrical symmetry.

Then again another question: We’ve gods with four hands and what about a god that has four legs? There’s nobody to answer that. Of course there are quadrupeds around gods and goddesses but they are their transports, not gods in themselves. Say for example, bull, mouse, lion and so on.

Since humans have only one head and as such they can do one thing at a time. That’s something good. Then the child finds the shopkeeper talking to somebody on phone while he takes money from the customer counting it coin by coin. There is no mistake; he cannot be short-changed by anybody. Then the child thinks shopkeepers have two heads—one seen and the other hidden.

Like those sixth fingers all extra limbs are not bad always. A certain film star in the past had groomed her special facial appeal through an extra row of teeth! Does anyone need to be reminded about who that film star of special facial appeal is? Has he then forgotten our dear old Mousumi Chatterjee of Bollywood? Aha! Now I’m reminded of a famous saying that I heard in Kerala: “Look, he’s born with an extra bone and the bone is in his tongue.” What do they really mean by that? The person with an extra bone in his tongue is stronger or what? Yes, he’s no doubt strong but it is so because his extra bone in tongue makes him a bit quarrelsome. Be warned. 

But there is one god, nay at least a set of two gods and one goddess that do not posses even the minimum of two hands each. Can one guess it? Yes, that’s right. They are Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their younger sister Subhadra. And poor they! Each one has a couple of half hands. Have a darshan of the lord at Puri and like the difference. जगन्नाथ स्वामी नयन पथगामी भवतु में ।   

Now that handy gadgets are abounding, it is high time that we had more than two hands. Keeping a cell phone in pocket is said to be hazardous and one is advised to carry it in hand. Then if he or she is forgetful, he is advised to carry his key in hand. Well, one never knows about weather. And one should always carry an umbrella in hand. Then what about specs? Putting on specs all the while leaves an ugly mark on nose. Besides, it unnecessarily proclaims that a bespectacled fellow is an old fellow. So, one should carry his specs in hand. And for all these, one needs more than two hands. One hand is occupied by cell phone and the other by specs. Then he needs another for holding his car key. What about the vanity bag? A vanity bag cannot be a shoulder bag, never. And then what about the cigarette pack and the lighter? He should also carry umbrella and walking stick. Thus one needs four or more than four hands, say like lord Vishnu who has to carry conch, cutting wheel, mace and lotus. He needs to carry them as they are a must for his identity! No Aadhar Card for Vishnu.

The rules of evolution decided that human beings shed their tails that they used to have as primates. The giraffe got a neck that was long enough to reach trees and enable it to graze. So nature must be already on its job to arrange something like that so that humans get more than two hands to take care of their gadgets! If gods and goddesses so easily carry the load of four or more hands, then why not human beings? But one should wait for that because nobody can accelerate the process of evolution, at least not at this stage of scientific development!    
A. N. Nanda

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Blogger NS said...

Dear Sir,
The thoughtful article of “A Handful of Thought” stuffed with information of rationalistic approach. In that series I wish to add that the Lord Siva is having “ Third Eye” and HE uses it at the time of maximum anger to burn the opponents. The Goddess Madurai Meenakshi had extra breast which disappeared at the moment SHE saw Lord SIVA. These are available in our puranas .
The theory of evolution and the battle of survival is nothing but based on requirement of livelihood.
Many information about our myths and faiths are questionable but some truths might not have evidences and proof.
A good article to read and think.
Thanking you Sir,
------------ N.Subramanian Tirupur

3:33 AM  
Blogger A_N_Nanda said...

Thank you NS for sharing your thought about the article. It was just to highlight the amusing aspect of Indian myth that I rambled into it. There's nothing to question if we go into the spiritual essence of it...and that is the domain of spiritual gurus. Mine is just a peripheral view of things, only to cull some humour from it. It's like the smile one gets seeing one's grandpa's coat--Lo! How unfashionable was he! One doesn't bear any ill-will against one's grandpa just by saying that his coat was not trendy!
Thank you for dropping by my blog once again. Oh yes, you've drawn a few apt mythological parallels too. That enhances the informative value of my post.

6:16 AM  

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