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Posts Tagged ‘Hanuman’

It is not often you find miniatures in the upper reaches of a Gopura. So we were pleasantly surprised to find a rare depiction from the Mahabharatha in the Tirukkurungudi Temple’s Gopura.

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Fortunately, the renovation work was in full swing and the strong casuraina poles held our weight and me and Arvind ( who braved his vertigo) climbed up to get to see the beauties.

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We had already captured a very unique depiction of Garuda in this set, but this one was rarest of the rare.

Thanks again to the Amar Chitra Katha memoirs, we knew the plot by heart, but never had seen the theme sculpted in stone.

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Had always imagined that this was part of folklore or atleast a later addition to the Epic.

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You can clearly see the depiction of Hanuman as a `mere’ monkey sitting there nonchalantly as a proud Bhima uses his mace to clear the lowly tail - as though it is some twig.

Decided to give it a re read on stumbling on this depiction.

They reached Kulinda, the kingdom of Subahu, on the Himalayas. They accepted the honors rendered to them by that king and rested there awhile. Later on, they went to the charming forest of Narayanasrama and halted there.

One day, a breeze that blew from the northeast wafted a beautiful flower near Draupadi. Draupadi took it in her hands and was so charmed with its fragrance and beauty that she showed it rapturously to Bhima.

“Come and see this flower. What a sweet fragrance! How charming! I shall hand this over to Yudhishthira. Bring some flowers of this kind. We should grow this plant in our Kamyaka forest.” Draupadi ran to give the flower to Yudhishthira.

Anxious to please his beloved Draupadi, Bhima went in quest of that plant. He went alone in the direction from which the fragrance seemed to be borne by the breeze, without wasting a thought on the wild beasts that crossed his path.

He presently came to a garden of plantain trees at the foot of a mountain, and there he saw a huge monkey shining like blazing fire, which lay right across his path blocking it.

He tried to frighten the animal out of his way by shouting at it. It only half opened its eyes lazily and drawled: “I am indisposed and so I am lying here. Why lid you wake me? You are a wise human being and I am mere animal. It is proper that the rational man should show mercy to animals as interior creatures. I am afraid you are ignorant of right and wrong. Who are you? Whither are you bound? It is not possible to go further along this mountain path which is the path of the gods. Men cannot cross this limit. Eat what you like of the fruits of this place and if you are wise, go back in peace.”

Bhima, unused to being taken so lightly, grew angry and shouted: “Who are you, yourself, you monkey, that indulges in such tall talk? I am a kshatriya hero, a descendant of the Kuru race and a son of Kunti. Know that I am the son of the Wind god. Now move away from the path or stop me at your peril.”

Hearing these words the monkey merely smiled and said: “I am, as you say, a monkey, but you will come to destruction if you try to force a way.”

Bhima said: “I do not want your advice and it is no concern of yours if I go to destruction. Get up and move out of the way or I will make you.”

The monkey replied: “I have no strength to stand up, being but a very old monkey. If you have to go at any cost, jump over me.”

Bhima said: “Nothing could be easier but the scriptures forbid it. Otherwise I should jump over you and the mountain in one bound, like Hanuman crossing the ocean.”

The monkey remarked as though in surprise: “O best of men, who is that Hanuman who crossed the ocean? If you know his story, enlighten me.”

Bhima roared and said: “Have you not heard of Hanuman, my elder brother, who crossed the ocean, a hundred yojanas in breadth, to seek and find Sita, the wife of Rama? I am equal to him in strength and heroism. Well, that is enough talk, now get up and make way and do not provoke me to do you some harm.”

The monkey answered: “O mighty hero, be patient. Be gentle as you are strong, and have mercy on the old and weak. I have no strength to rise up as I am decrepit with age. Since you have scruples in jumping over me, kindly move aside my tail and make a path for yourself.”

Proud of his immense strength, Bhima thought to pull the monkey out of the way by its tail. But, to his amazement he could not move it in the least, though he exerted all his strength.

He set his jaws and strained every muscle till the very sinews cracked and he was covered with perspiration. But, still, could not move that tail the least, a little bit up or down or sideways. In shame, he bent down his head, and then asked in a chastened mood:

“Who are you? Forgive me and reveal to me whether you are a Siddha, god or Gandharva.” Bhima like most strong men, was all respect when he saw one stronger than himself, and spoke like a pupil addressing his master.

Hanuman replied: “O mighty-armed Pandava, know that I am your brother, even that Hanuman, the son of the Wind god, whom you mentioned a little while ago. If you go on this path, which is the road to the spirit-world where the Yakshas and the Rakshasas abide, you will meet with danger and that is why I stop you. No man can go beyond this and live. But here is the stream with its depths where you can find the Saugandhika plant you came to seek.”

Bhima was transported with delight: “I count myself the most fortunate of men in that I have been blessed to meet my brother. I wish to see the form in which you crossed the ocean,” and he prostrated before Hanuman.

Hanuman smiled and began to increase the size of his body and stood forth firmly to the world like a mountain seeming to fill the landscape.

Bhima was thrilled at actually seeing that divine form of this elder brother, the mere description of which had till then filled him with wonder. He covered his eyes, unable to bear the dazzling light radiating from that figure.

Hanuman said: “Bhima, in the presence of my enemies, my body can grow still more.” And Hanuman contracted his body, resuming his former size. He tenderly embraced Bhimasena.

Bhagavan Vyasa says that Bhima felt completely refreshed and became much stronger than before by the embrace of Hanuman.

Hanuman said: “O hero, go to your abode. Think of me whenever you are in need. I felt the same delight when I embraced you that I had in times of yore when I was fortunate enough to touch the divine body of Sri Rama. Ask any boon that you like.”

Bhima said: “Blessed are the Pandavas for I have had the good fortune to see you. Inspired with your strength we are sure to conquer our enemies.”

Hanuman gave this parting blessing to his brother:

“While you roar like a lion in the battlefield, my voice shall join yours and strike terror into the hearts of your enemies. I shall be present on the flag of the chariot of your brother Arjuna. You will be victorious.”

Hanuman pointed out to Bhima the stream nearby, where grew the Saugandhika flowers he had come to seek.

This put Bhima at once in mind of Draupadi who was waiting for his return, and he collected the flowers and returned to her without delay.

and thus did Hanuman came to occupy the banner of Arjuna in the great battle.

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Hanuman’s characterisation is every child’s delight and stories abound of his antics. There multitude of such short stories are attempts to paint a mental picture in the minds of readers of his sharp wit matching with his superhuman strength.

Today, we are going to see one such interesting legend. Thanks to Sri. KK uncle’s chance posting of a visit to Varaheeswarar temple at Thamal (is inbetween Vellore and Kanchi) and a picture from Sri. ArvindhanNeelakantan’s Flickr album of a sculpture from Munchirai Sivan Temple, Kanyakumari district, we see today two versions of one story.

The crux of the story is simple, faced with an equally hardy opponent, Hanuman uses his sharp with and tact to get himself disentangled from a potentially long drawn battle.

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The story is that of Hanuman Vs Surasa.

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Having brought up on healthy dose of Amar Chitra Katha ( our tribute to Uncle Pai - we salute you for bringing us hours and hours of fun+knowledge), lets for once go through the core text to read what happened.

Time is of the essence as Hanuman attempts to jump across to Lanka is search of Sita, at the foothills of Mount Mahendra. Aided by the wise Jambavan, Hanuman realises his true strength and leaps across. Enroute, the demi gods test his skills.

You can follow the whole episode in verse and detailed text

Thereafter, Devas together with Gandharvas, Siddhas and great sages spoke thus to Surasa, the mother of Nagas, equal to the Sun in brilliance. “This glorious son of Vayu, going by the name of Hanuma is flying over the ocean. You obtain a horrible mountain like demonic appearance and make a face with fearful tusks, red-brown eyes and as vast as the sky, and create an obstacle to Him for an instant. We are desiring to find out if by His strength and also courage and intelligence He can win over you or obtain sorrow.”

That Goddess Surasa, thus spoken to by Devas and also being respected by them, wearing a horrible disfigured appearance of a demon in the middle of the ocean which caused fear to all, and stopping Hanuma who was flying, spoke these words. “O best among Vanaras! You have been given by Devas as my food. I will eat you. Enter inside my mouth.”

mama bhakshaH pradishhTastvamiishvarairvaanararshhabha |
ahaM tvaa bhakshayishhyaami pravishedaM mamaananam || 5-1-151

Thus spoken to by Surasa, the glorious Hanuma, with a happy face and with folded hands, spoke these words to Surasa. “The son of Dasaratha, with the name of Rama entered the forest of Dandaka together with His brother Lakshmana and wife Seetha. When that Sri Rama, with a bitter enmity towards Rakshasas, was diverted in another task, His famed wife Seetha had been taken away by Ravana. I am going for Rama’s sake as a messenger to find Her presence. O subject of Sri Rama! You are suited to help Rama. Otherwise after seeing Seetha and informing that to Sri Rama who makes Seetha without troubles, I will obtain your mouth. I am promising truthfully to you.”

Thus being spoken to by Hanuma, Surasa with power to take desired form, spoke thus: “No one can overcome me. This is my boon.” Mother of Nagas, Surasa, desiring to know the strength of Hanuma, spoke these words on seeing Him going away.

“O best among Vanaras! You are bound to go only after entering my mouth. This boon had been given to me long ago by Brahma.” - speaking thus, with quickness she opened her wide mouth and stood before Hanuma. Then Hanuman speaking thus to Surasa, became angry and became ten yojanas long and ten yojanas wide.

Seeing Hanuma, who looked like a cloud, being ten yojanas long, Surasa also made her mouth twenty yojanas long. Thereafter, Hanuma got angry and became thirty yojanas long. Surasa made her mouth forty yojanas high. The courageous Hanuma then became fifty yojanas high. Thereafter, Hanuma got angry and became thirty yojanas long. Surasa made her mouth forty yojanas high. The courageous Hanuma then became fifty yojanas high.

Surasa then made her mouth sixty yojanas long. The mighty Hanuma in the same fashion, became seventy yojanas high. Surasa made her mouth eighty yojanas high. The mountain-like Hanuma then became ninety yojanas high. The great wise Hanuma seeing that mouth with a long tongue which was horrible and equal to hell being opened by Surasa, greatly reduced His own body and became the size of a thumb.

The glorious Hanuma with great speed, quickly entered Surasa’s mouth and came out of it and standing in the sky spoke these words to Surasa. “O daughter of Daksha! I indeed entered your mouth. My regards to you. I will now go where Seetha is. Your boon also came true.”

so.abhipatyaashu tadvaktraM nishhpatya cha mahaajavaH |
antarikshe sthitaH shriimaanidaM vachanamabraviit || 5-1-168

Seeing that Vanara being released from her mouth like the moon from the mouth of Rahu, goddess Surasa spoke these words assuming her normal form. “O gentle Hanuma! Go according to your comfort to achieve the desired task. Bring Seetha together with the great Sri Rama.”

Seeing that third very difficult task of Hanuma, all the creatures then praised Hanuma saying “Good! Good!”. That Hanuma, equal to Garuda in speed, neared the ocean which is the abode of Varuna, entered the sky and went in His original path.

So, lets go back to the two depictions. The one from Thammai first.

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It is a brilliant depiction of showing the action of Hanuman diving in almost perpendicular. For people unaware of the story, they are bound to think that the Demoness is swallowing someone. But the ’sculpture moment’ in this work is the depiciton of the tail of Hanuman!

Coming to the Munchirai depiction

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Here, he is shown as entering through the mouth and existing through the ear. Considering that such an act is bound to leave Surasa injured it can only be called an error or we may have to give the benefit of doubt to the sculptor for trying out a local variation of the Surasa story.

Sometimes inorder to win some you have to shrink !

( I have been searching for a similar depiction in Sucindram temple. I hope viewers can check and contribute this rare sculpture on their next visit)

Some other contemporary depictions of this found on the net

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http://www.kidsgen.com/fables_and_fairytales/indian_mythology_stories/hanuman_meets_surasa.htm
http://www.hinducounciluk.org/newsite/circulardet.asp?rec=84

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