Well, all of us at one point of time or the other have been shouted at, using the sleeping giant kumbakarna as an example. Its always tough to wake up in the mornings, that too when you are a kid and the evenings are too long and the mornings are too short. But seeing this freeze of the story sculpted into stone in far off Indonesia jolted me wide awake.
Lets brush up our memories of the story from Ramayana, Ravana’s mighty brother, the giant Kumbakarna, sleeps for 6 months at a time. Well, this was actually not a curse but a boon which he himself sought ( ok with some nimble work by Indra).
Having born to mixed parents ( mother was a demon and father a high born), the children are advised by their mother to seek the blessings of Brahma, the creator. So all four, Ravana, kumbakarna, Surpanka and Vibeeshana undertake a stiff penance.
Ravana performs intense penance , lasting several years. Pleased with his austerity, Brahma appears and offers him a boon. Ravana asks for immortality, which Brahma refuses saying everyone has to die someday. Ravana then askes for absolute invulnerability and supremacy before gods and heavenly spirits, other demons, serpents and wild beasts. Contemptuous of mortal men, he did not ask for protection from them. Brahma granted him these boons, and additionally gave him great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and sorcery.
Next, its the turn of Kumbakarna, who is already a giant, and Indra the Lord of devas is scared stiff, that any boon would make him invincible. So he seeks the help of the Goddess of Learning, Saraswathi, who at the appropriate moment holds his tongue back. So instead of asking for endless life, he asks for endless sleep. Brahma too glady obliges by granting him this boon. The others are shell shocked and plead with Brahma, that such a boon is akin to death, so he modifies it a bit – saying he will sleep for 6 months and be awake for 6 months. However, he cautions that if he is woken up in the 6 month hibernation, he would become vulnerable.
Ok, now the story spans a few years, the main events of Ramayana are over and we are nearing the climax. Ravana fights Rama – and the brilliance of Rama’s archery makes him loose his divine weapons, chariot and Crowns, and he is left, unarmed, on the battlefield. Rama humbles him more by telling him to go back and come tomorrow with arms.
Smitten by this insult, Ravana commits a blunder by asking his troops to wake up Kumbakarana. Now this is what is depicted on the sculpture. The mountain like colossal figure of the sleeping giant, with soldiers using spears and swords to prod him, one horsemen is riding on him ( see the brilliance of the sculptor – he depicts the previous horse and rider, tired and getting off – towards the left) – we also have an elephant trumpeting into his ear and another demon blowing a conch into his ear.
Guess, my folks didn’t have to go through all this to wake me up.
Image courtesy: http://oldsite.library.upenn.edu/etext/sasia/aiis/architecture/prambanan/