Category Archives: Hinduism

Rama’s bridge

Part of a series of entries retelling Hindu legends about different Gods in my own words. While there are over 330 million Hindu Gods, I’ll just tell stories I encounter. 

Rama (avatar of Lord Vishnu) was travelling through India to Lanka with his army of ape men in order to rescue his wife Sita who had been abducted by the Demon Lord Ravenna.

They travelled for a long time, overcoming many obstacles, before reaching the Indian coast line. They could see across the ocean the land of Lanka, where Sita was being held. Now, Hanuman had no problems. With one leap he jumped across the wide gap, but realised halfway through that noone was following him – the distance was too far.

So he came back, to find an incredibly frustrated Rama – he was starting to get annoyed at all the obstacles between him and his wife. After a heated discussion, Rama swiftly pulled out his bow and and an arrow gifted to him by Lord Brahma, and threatened to shoot it into the ocean. This arrow would dry up all the water that it touches, allowing the army to pass.

Before Rama had a chance to shoot the arrow, there was a great churning in the ocean and the ocean-God appeared, begging Rama not to shoot the arrow, and dry up the ocean. Promising to assist the army in crossing to Lanka, he managed to calm Rama down. However, because he had already vowed to shoot the arrow, he needed an alternative place to shoot it. So the ocean-God asked him to shoot it north, where a group of robbers and thieves were using the ocean’s waters there to make mischief. So Rama shot it there, and it is now known as the desert of Malwar in Rajasthan.

Thus, the ocean allowed the monkey army to build a bridge across it to Lanka, by throwing boulders into the ocean and constructing a bridge across these pillars. It took the army three days to build it, and on the fourth day they all crossed into Lanka.

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Now, the really interesting thing about this story is that even today there is evidence of a bridge like structure joining India and Sri Lanka.

Here it is on Google Maps:

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Scientifically it is defined as a 30 km long series of limestone shoals, formed either by seismic activity or sediment deposits from the ocean.

In 2007 there was controversy  about a proposed canal project aiming to dredge the bridge, in order to create a shorter path for ships travelling around India and Sri Lanka. There were protests across India by various Hindu groups, who tried to highlight the spiritual significance of the site. The debate that raged around the issue is very interesting: an example of science versus religion. Scientists were asked to comment on the religious importance of the site, and the ‘evidence’ used to prove the truth of the Hindu text Ramayana was challenged.

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Hanuman saves the day

Part of a series of entries retelling Hindu legends about different Gods in my own words. While there are over 330 million Hindu Gods, I’ll just tell stories I encounter. This entry is the second of the stories regarding Hanuman, the Monkey God.

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Hanuman was helping Lord Rama (incarnation of Vishnu) find his wife Sita who had been kidnapped by the demon king Ravana, and taken to (Sri) Lanka.

There was a great battle between Lord Rama’s army and Ravana’s army of Rakshasas (demons), during which Lord Rama’s army was destroyed. As they lay dying and dead on the battlefield, someone told Hanuman to go to the Himalayas to collect some magical herbs to bring them back to life.

So, without asking questions, Hanuman flies off to the Himalayas. However, once he reaches he realises that he doesn’t actually know what he is looking for.

So, like a boss, he picks up the mountain and carries it back to Lanka with him. As he gets closer, the perfume from the herbs on the mountain revive Rama and his army, so Hanuman returns the mountain to its rightful place.

Hanuman’s first day

Part of a series of entries retelling Hindu legends about different Gods in my own words. While there are over 330 million Hindu Gods, I’ll just tell stories that I encounter. This entry is the first of the stories regarding Hanuman, the Monkey God.

Hanuman and the Sun

Hanuman was born in a cave, high on a mountain top. He was born feeling quite hungry, so he crawled to the entrance of the cave to look for food. The first thing he saw was the Sun, high in the sky, and he thought that it was a very ripe, delicious looking mango. So, he jumped after it, and flew towards it, wanting to eat it all up.

Indra, Lord of Heaven, saw Hanuman getting closer and closer to the Sun, and was scared for the Sun. So he threw a lightning bolt at Hanuman, knocking him back to Earth.

Vayu, the Lord of Wind and Hanuman’s father, saw this, and was angry. So, he retreated from Earth, taking all the air with him. Everything on Earth started to suffocate because of the lack of air, so the Indra and Brahma the Creator went to Vayu to apologise: in order to appease him they promised that his son would be invincible, immortal and super powerful.

Hanu means ‘jaw’ in sanskrit, and refers to the mark that was left on his face by Indra’s lightning bolt.

Ganesha’s insatiable appetite

Part of a series of entries retelling Hindu legends about different Gods in my own words. While there are over 330 million Hindu gods, I’ll just tell stories that I encounter, or stories about particular gods that fascinate me. This is the final of a four part retelling of legends concerning Ganesha.

One day, Kubera, the god of wealth, invited Lord Shiva to a feast in his wonderful city of Alakapuri, so that he could show off his immense amount of wealth. Shiva replied:

I cannot come, but you can invite my son Ganesha. I warn you though, he has a voracious appetite!

Arrogantly, Kubera felt that he could satisfy even the most insatiable appetite with his opulence, so he took the small child Ganesha into his city, and sat him down before a great banquet. Such opulence had never been seen, there were hundreds of guests and thousands of dishes placed in front of them.

However, Ganesha gulped them all down: he ate all the dishes, without leaving any food for any of the other guests.

The kitchens tried to keep up with his appetite, but were unable to provide the food fast enough. Eventually, they ran out of ingredients with which to make more dishes. His appetite unsatisfied, Ganesha began to devour everything else in front of him: the decorations, the table, the furniture, the chandelier. Kubera begged Ganesha to stop, and leave the rest of the palace. Ganesha replied:

I am hungry! If you do not give me something else to eat, I will eat you as well!

Panicking, Kubera raced to Lord Shiva, to ask him for help in stopping Ganesha from devouring everything. Shiva smiled, and gave him a hand full of roasted rice:

You gave Ganesha a feast with pride and arrogance, to show off your wealth. This will never satisfy him. If you give him anything, even a handful of rice, with a clean mind and a pure heart, you will satisfy him.

By the time Kubera reached his city again, Ganesha had almost completely consumed it. Kubera prostrated himself before Ganesha and humbly offered him the handful of rice. With that gesture, Ganesha’s appetite was finally satisfied.

 

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Photo taken by author: Rama Temple, Hampi, Karnataka, August 2012

Ganesha and the Moon

Part of a series of entries retelling Hindu legends about different Gods in my own words. While there are over 330 million Hindu gods, I’ll just tell stories that I encounter, or stories about particular gods that fascinate me. This is part three of a four part retelling of legends concerning Ganesha.

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Ganesha and the Moon

Ganesha is offered sweets by his devotees. Everyone knows that Ganesha loves sweet things. One day, he was offered a particularly large amount of sweets, and he ate them all up – until he was so full he was almost bursting at the seams. After filling himself with sweets, Ganesha got on his mouse and started riding back home. However, it was sunset, and in the darkness the mouse stumbled over a snake, tossing Ganesha to the ground.

He’d eaten so much that day that his stomach burst, and the sweets tumbled everywhere. So he collected them all back up, put them back into his open belly, and picked up the snake and used it as a belt to hold everything in.

At this time Chandra the Moon shone brightly every night. Shining down on these events, Chandra burst out laughing. This annoyed Ganesha, who felt offended that the Moon was laughing at him. So he broke off his right tusk and threw it at the Moon’s face, cursing her so that she would disappear from the night’s sky.

The empty night sky upset everyone on Earth: young lovers lamented and bewailed, old people grumbled. They could not get used to the empty night sky. The gods found the night sky unbearable as well, so they came to Ganesha to ask him to remove the curse, and restore Chandra to her rightful place.

Ganesha being the indulgent character that he is, granted their wish. However he was still hurt by the Moon’s laughter, so he decided that she should not be allowed to shine every night as she previously did. He decided that she would wax and wane and not see the events of every night on Earth.

The night every month that the Moon is invisible, known as amasvaya, is considered an inauspicious day. If you look for the moon in the sky on this day, you gain bad luck: the only way to get rid of this bad luck apparently is to throw stones at your neighbours house, to dispel Ganesha’s annoyance. I’m not sure how effective this would be though!

Birth of Ganesh

Part of a series of entries retelling Hindu legends about different Gods in my own words. While there are over 330 million Hindu gods, I’ll just tell stories that I encounter, or stories about particular gods that fascinate me. This is the second part of a four part retelling of legends concerning Ganesha.

There are many stories about Ganesha’s birth and how he got his elephant head, but this one is the most popular.

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Parvati was staying alone in her palace because Lord Shiva was away on business. She had a problem: she wanted to bathe but there were a lot of creeps around and she was scared they would creep on her and watch.

So to solve this, she used her sandalwood and perfumes to create a statue of a little boy, and then used her power to give the statue life. The boy was very strong, and very charming, and she ordered him to stand guard at her door and not let anyone enter. He obediently sat down in the middle of the doorway blocking it.

While she was bathing, Shiva returned early to surprise her. However, he was stopped at the door by the little boy. Shiva tried to explain that he lived there however, the kid acted very unchildlike and actually followed his mother’s orders. Shiva became frustrated and enraged, and very sensibly cut the boy’s head off with his sword.

Parvati came out from her bathroom soon after this, and when she saw the body of the little boy, she started crying. She told Shiva to fix it and bring him back to life… Or else!

Guilt ridden, Shiva tried to retrieve the boy’s head, but they were unable to find it. It had rolled away and was nowhere to be seen. So he made them go down to Earth and bring back the head of the first animal that they saw. It just so happened to be an elephant: so Shiva fixed the head to the boys body and brought him back to life.

Shiva and Parvati adopted the boy and named him Ganesha: meaning Lord of all Groups (or communities).

Here is an animation of the story for kids (warning: its a bit slooooooooowww):

Ganesha’s wisdom

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Part one of a series of entries retelling Hindu legends about different Gods in my own words. While there are over 330 million Hindu gods, I’ll just tell stories that I encounter, or stories about particular gods that fascinate me. This entry, and the next three after this will be about Ganesha.

A Hindu legend about Ganesha. Probably one of my favourites about this popularly worshipped God. Now keep in mind that I have rephrased it in my own words, with the utmost respect for the lessons contained within it.

Ganesha’s Wisdom

Shiva and Parvati had two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya.

One day, the parents presented their sons with a competition. The prize was a fruit containing the nectar of Supreme Knowledge and Immortality. The competition? The sons had to race each other: running around the world three times, with the winner getting the fruit.

Now, it wasn’t really a fair competition. Kartikeya is the embodiment of perfection, and a war god. His companion is a peacock. So he jumped right on his peacock and took off, around the world, stopping at every sacred place along the way worshipping the Gods and asking for blessing.

Ganesh on the other hand, is a rather portly being, with a huge Indian paunch and a large elephant head. His companion is a mouse. Thus, he knew that he would not be able to beat his brother.

However, he turned around to his parents, and showing signs of deep devotion, he walked around them three times.

Just after he had finished this, Kartikeya arrived back after his third turn around the Earth. He started celebrating, thinking that he had won: after all, his brother had not even moved from that place.

However, wishing to understand his actions, Parvati and Shiva asked Ganesha why he had not even tried to race. To which he replied:

I am your son, and to me, you both make up my whole world. Why should I go any further to win the contest?

Thus, Ganesha won the race.