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