Thursday, November 14, 2013

A man taller than a mountain

I have recently come across a book of this name by Shri Subhash

Gatade. Initially I thought that it was the tale of some Mr. Long lording

over other over midgets. While his/her exercising might have been

helpful in elongating him the basic drive lies in his derivative factors.

However, on going through I found that the hero of the book is some

midget like us. He is even not endowed with circumstances like

wholesome food and facilities for shooting of his length. In fact,

he is almost a bonded labor working for a landlord in the remote,

undeveloped parts of India-Bihar. Born of a similar semi-slave family he

was condemned to remain a midget for all his life which he actually also


But our Puranic tale of Waman is not just to underline the inherent

strength of the divine over demonic. The being midget of Waman

Avtar is more symbolic than real. In fact, the struggle of the alleged

midget over Asur Bali and his final triumph over him banishing him out

of earth ,couched in terms of height is more symbolic. When Shivaji

mounted attacks on the mighty Mughal forces-the ganimi attacks—with

just a batch of the Mawlas and finally driving them out were nothing

short of miracles. His almost invisibility in attacks has been likened as

the depradations of rats hiding in the holes in the mountain.It is not for

nothing that he has been considered as an avatar of Shiva.

Shivaji is comparatively nearer to us in time. However, it is not that

we were not required to struggle to maintain ourselves in the ancient

past also. In fact, the monthly publication Purusharth’published from

Badoda in the 30s had contained an interesting and more practical

interpretation of the Amruit Manthan. It had stated that this was a

symbolic representation of a maritime adventure of the gods and

rakhsas together. They had jointly undertaken a maritime adventure

across unknown waters. The heavy churning noise said to be that of

the Mandar mountain used as a churner is suggestive of such a noise

which a ship made across seas. The findings of the fourteen jewels is

suggestive of new findings on the say. The airawat, the seven trunks

elephant of Indra, the flying horse etc. are symbolic of the findings

on the way. The initial coming up of halhal poison in indicative of

unknown diseases the navigators might have faced initially. And the

final finding of the Amrut is symbolic of new life they were awarded

after this laborious journey across unknown lands and waters. The

clash which ensued over the distribution of the Amrut among the gods

and demons is symbolic of similar struggles with subsequent similar

adventurers in history.

The same Purusharth magazine had given interesting version of the

Ramayan episode of Hanuman crossing into Shri Lanka in search of

Seetaji. The Sanskrit word plu-plo-plawati used is used to indicate the

way in which Hanuman crossed into Lanka across the sea. Interestingly

this word also means ‘to swim across’. The magazine had hazarded a

guess that Hanuman had actually swam across. Now the gap between

the Southernmost tip of India and Northernmost tip of ShriLanka is

no more than the width of the English channel between France and

England and Purusarth had hazarded a guess that Hanuman could

have swam across. The English channel has been crossed both waysa

number of times. Even the explanation that India and Shri Lanka could

have been joined together by a mountain range (TheAdam’s Bridge)

is there. In fact, proposals for the removal of the undersea remnants

of this mountain to free the waterway for maritime use are also under

consideration. I do not remember where but a guess had been hazarded

that perhaps the Brahmi Vanaspati for which Hanuman had undertaken

the South-North flight was a implied compliment to him for locating

the plant in the mountains of Shri Lanka itself. I understand that for the

purpose of attracting tourist traffic Shri Lanka has installed a replica of

Dronagiri there together with Brahmi Vanaspati.

We have a symbolic tale of a Titvi, a bird which built and builds its nest

on sea shore in the sand. Once the nest of one of them ,along with its

bird lings was swept away in the sea waters. Apparently the nest has

been built beyond the line symbolically laid down by the Sage Agtastya

for the ocean beyond which it could not come forward. This is indicative

of the possibility that such lines had been mentally drawn for their

own safety by the humans but which the Sage has been credited with.

The story of Vishnu who was delayed in his journey for delivering his

devotee from a demon as his vehicle Garuda, who was the king of ther

Birds, was busy in emptying the ocean for recovering the nest was not

available immediately. To save his name and the situation Vishnu is

reported to have not only made the ocean to give up the nest swallowed

by it but also laid down a boundary line to give up the nest swallowed by

it but also laid down a boundary line beyond which it should not come

on land.

There are similar stories of the Midget challenging the Mighty elsewhere

also.The tale of an old man in China tells about one who had two

mountains blocking his way out of his house. One fine morning he

called out both of his sons and the three together set down to dismantle

the mountains with the help of the hammer and the chisel. The gods are

reported to have looked pityingly at them and tried to persuade them

away from it but when they refused the gods themselves took it upon

thekselves and picked up both the mountains and dumped them far


Yet another similar tale is told about one more town in China. The

villagers of Matigu had to travel for hours and hours to reach the nearest

city Shiyan on account of the intervening mountain between them. Many

had even lost their limbs and even lives while negotiating the distance.

The villagers got together with their old hammers and chisels. They

prayed gods but never waited for them to come to help them but within

five years they made out a passable way through the mountain.

Subhash Gatade’s book referred to above contains the story of the

actual exploits of a man Dashrath Maanzi in Bihar who had actually

brought down a mountain, symbolically on its knees, to make way for

his villagers to go across it to Vazirpur which is the nearest place where

a public hospital is there.

A mountain stands stolidly between them and the people required to go

across facing all the hurdles had to tread a distance of 80 kms. Dashrath

Maanzi was among the bonded laborers of the local landlord from

generation to generations. There could ,of course, be no hopes that the

local landlords would do anything to facilitate the journey across. As for

themselves they had all the facilities at their command to carry their old

on shoulders across the mountains. For the Maanzis (who as aforesaid

almost the bonded laborers of the landlords) no such facilities were

available. Let alone medical help when Dashrath’s father died and he

had to procure earthen pots for the formalities to be completed on the

fourteenth day of the death he had to make four trips since the earthen

pots broke on the way. Yet more disturbing tragedkes were that when

his wife got ill he could not afford to take her to Vazikrpur for treatment

and finally lost her. Earlier when his son got his foot burnt accidently he

could not afford to provide good medical help to him even after taking

him to Vazirpur. In fact, it led to the amputation of one of the child’s leg

making him permanently lame. That was his personal tragedy but there

were many similar tragedies in the village.

After grieving for some days for his son’s fate Dashrath had willy-nilly

to move out at the summons of the landlord. But that proved the turning

point. The same evening he repaired to the mountain with his hammer

and chisel and starting breaking it. Initially the people felt that this was

because of the shock in the family. However, even after days and even

months Dashrath did not seem desist from it they felt intrigued. They

tried to persuade him away from it. But he would quietly listen to their

advices and then resume his khut-khut-khut. His undivided loyalty to the

job persuaded some people to help him.They would occasionally come

to assist him. A pot for contributions was kept and sometimes it was

possible to secure even paid help for some time but such occasions were

few and far between

Finally a road could be dug across the mountain which reduced the

distance from 80 kms to just 14 kms. The road is strong enough for

allowing heavier traffic. When Dashrath Maanzi got ill he could be

taken to the hospital at Vazirpur and from their to Patna and finally the

AIIMS Delhi. When he dies despite all this he was given a royal burial

at a place near the route he had dug across the mountain.

1 comment:

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