Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Did Hanumana Really Burn Down Lanka - Part 1

In a previous post, I have talked about how the Vanaras in Valmiki Ramayana were actually a Human Tribe, and not a tribe of Monkeys[8].  In that post, I have asserted that the tail of the Vanaras was actually their male sex organ (i.e. penis), since the word “लाङ्गूलम्”, which was translated by the translators as “tail”, also means “penis”. This is supported by the fact that only male Vanaras were described as having this लाङ्गूलम्, not the female Vanaras!
However, one objection that almost every person acquainted with Ramayana would raise is that if Hanumana was a normal human being, how would he have burned down Lanka? How can a normal human being sustain burning of their penis for such a long time to burn down an entire city? Also, how is it logical to burn down an entire city with a small flame? These are absolutely valid questions and to answer this question, I have dedicated two posts. In the first post, I will address the flaws in the claim that Hanumana burned down Lanka, using textual evidence. I will also provide an alternative to what actually happened in Lanka, following Hanumana's capture by Ravana. Then, in the second post, I will address some plausible issues with my claims, and attempt to resolve them, using textual evidence from Valmiki Ramayana.
Lets start off after Hanumana was captured by Indrajita and brought to Ravana's Sabha. Hanumana regains consciousness from Indrajita's brahmastra and gets angry that he was captured. He then sees the handsome Ravana seated in the Sabha, and the beauty of that sight diverts Hanumana's attention from the pain of his capture by Indrajita. Seeing Ravana, Hanumana was in awe of his beauty and prowess. Soon after this, Ravana's minister Prahasta asks Hanumana to give his introduction. So Hanaumana does, and introduces himself as a messenger of Rama. He also provokes Ravana by telling him that he should return Seetha, lest he will be killed by Rama. After this provocation, an enraged Ravana orders that Hanumana be killed:
स सौष्ठव उपेतम् अदीन वादिनः |
कपेः निशम्य अप्रतिमो अप्रियम् वचः |
दश आननः कोप विवृत्त लोचनः |
समादिशत् तस्य वधम् महाकपेः || ५-५१-४६
Hearing those unpleasant words endowed with extreme skillfulness and which were spoken without fear from Hanuma, that unequalled Ravana ordered for the killing of that Hanuma.
Sundara Kanda Section 51[1]
Vibhishana sees this and decides to save Hanumana's life. He talks Ravana out of killing Hanumana by saying that the killing of a “messenger” is prohibited according to the scriptures and other punishments can be used on a messenger, such as deformation of limbs, striking with a whip, shaving the head, and impressing marks on the body:
प्रसीद लङ्केश्वर राक्षसेन्द्र |
धर्मार्थयुक्तम् वचनम् शृणुष्व |
दूतानवध्यान् समयेषु राजन् |
सर्वेषु सर्वत्र वदन्ति सन्तः || ५-५२-१३
"O king of demons! O lord of Lanka! Be gracious enough. Hear my words endowed with righteousness and significance. O king! Sages say that messengers should not be killed at all places and at all times."
असंशयम् शत्रुः अयम् प्रवृद्धः |
कृतम् हि अनेन अप्रियम् अप्रमेयम् |
न दूत वध्याम् प्रवदन्ति सन्तो |
दूतस्य दृष्टा बहवो हि दण्डाः || ५-५२-१४
"There is no doubt that this enemy is arrogant. He has created an unlimited displeasure to us. But, sages do not talk about the killing of an envoy There are indeed severeal punishments, intended for an envoy."
वैरूप्याम् अन्गेषु कश अभिघातो |
मौण्ड्यम् तथा लक्ष्मण सम्निपातः |
एतान् हि दूते प्रवदन्ति दण्डान् |
वधः तु दूतस्य न नः श्रुतो अपि || ५-५२-१५
"Some of the punishments to an envoy are-deforming the body parts, striking with a whip, shaving the head and impressing marks on the body. Indeed, we have not heard at any time of killing a messenger."
Sundara Kanda Section 52[2]
After much convincing, Ravana agrees to give Hanumana another punishment. The new punishment given to Hanumana is to have his tail burned in the cross roads of Lanka, in the presence of all the civilians of Lanka. I had earlier in this post mentioned that the translation of "tail" is incorrect and should instead be "penis". I will come to that later on in this post. For now, I am retaining the translation of "tail" for the simplicity of the argument:
तस्य तत् वचनम् श्रुत्वा दशग्रीवो महाबलः |
देश काल हितम् वाक्यम् भ्रातुः उत्तमम् अब्रवीत् || ५-५३-१
Hearing those words, which were aprropriate for that place and time, spoken by that high-souled Vibhishana, his brother, Ravana spoke the following words in reply:
सम्यग् उक्तम् हि भवता दूत वध्या विगर्हिता |
अवश्यम् तु वधात् अन्यः क्रियताम् अस्य निग्रहः || ५-५३-२
"You have spoken well indeed that killing of an envoy is forbidden. Another punishment other than killing needs be certainly meted out to him."
कपीनाम् किल लान्गूलम् इष्टम् भवति भूषणम् |
तत् अस्य दीप्यताम् शीघ्रम् तेन दग्धेन गच्छतु || ५-५३-३
"It is said that a tail is possibly a beloved ornament for the monkeys. Let his tail be burn immediately. Let him go with a burnt tail."
ततः पश्यन्तु इमम् दीनम् अन्ग वैरूप्य कर्शितम् |
समित्रा ज्ञातयः सर्वे बान्धवाः ससुहृज् जनाः || ५-५३-४
"Let all his relatives together with his friends, kinsmen and amicable persons then see him miserably injured with his deformed body part."
आज्ञापयत् राक्षस इन्द्रः पुरम् सर्वम् सचत्वरम् |
लान्गूलेन प्रदीप्तेन रक्षोभिः परिणीयताम् || ५-५३-५
Ravana ordered that let the monkey be carried around with his burning tail by the demons in the entire city around its cross-roads."
Sundara Kanda Section 53[3]
Keep these verses in mind as I will later refer back to them… However, the major point here, is that if we go by the translation of लाङ्गूलम् as "tail", Ravana ordered Hanumana’s tail to be burned. But this does not make any sense from a logical perspective as the purpose of Ravana changing his punishment from giving death to burning Hanumana's tail was to prevent him from acquiring the sin of murdering a messenger. Did Ravana not know that by burning a body part, it would lead to the death of the individual? There is clearly a loophole here in the text. I will refer to this later on… But lets just continue with the flow of the text for now…
The new punishment that Ravana pronounces is that Hanumana be carried to the crossroads of Lanka, and his tail be burned then, in the midst of all the civilians. Ravana’s guards follow the order, and take him to the crossroads. Hanumana, however, allows them to do so, as he wants to see the specifications of the fort of Lanka, which could not have been seen earlier when he entered Lanka, as his entry into Lanka was made at night time, in the dark. To allow for himself to note the specifications of the Lanka fort in detail, he would have needed to reach the exit of the Lanka fort. So he played along with the guards and went willingly with them all across Lanka:
रात्रौ न हि सुदृष्टा मे दुर्ग कर्म विधानतः |
अवश्यम् एव द्रष्टव्या मया लन्का निशा क्षये || ५-५३-१५
"Lanka was not indeed observed well as to the particulars of specifications of the fort, when it was seen by me during the night. Surely, it is to be seen by me during the day-time."
कामम् बन्धैः च मे भूयः पुच्छस्य उद्दीपनेन च |
पीडाम् कुर्वन्तु रक्षांसि न मे अस्ति मनसः श्रमः || ५-५३-१६
"Let the demons tie me down of again and torment me as they wish, by burning my tail. There will be no travail to my mind."
ततः ते सम्वृत आकारम् सत्त्ववन्तम् महाकपिम् |
परिगृह्य ययुः हृष्टा राक्षसाः कपि कुन्जरम् || ५-५३-१७
Then, those delighted demons went, seizing Hanuma, who concealed all types of his feelings, who was strong and foremost among monkeys.
शन्ख भेरी निनादैः तैः घोषयन्तः स्व कर्मभिः |
राक्षसाः क्रूर कर्माणः चारयन्ति स्म ताम् पुरीम् || ५-५३-१८
Sounding couches and kettle-drums and proclaining the acts of Hanuma like his damaging of the pleasure-garden, the demons performing terrible deeds, dragged Hanuma through out that city.
अन्वीयमानो रक्षोभिर्ययौ सुखमरिंदमः |
हनुमान् चारयामास राक्षसानाम् महापुरीम् || ५-५३-१९
Accompanied by demons, Hanuma the annihilator of enemies, went happily and roamed about in that great city of demons.
अथ अपश्यत् विमानानि विचित्राणि महाकपिः |
सम्वृतान् भूमि भागान् च सुविभक्तान् च चत्वरान् || ५-५३-२०
Then, Hanuma saw some wonderful house some wrapped up plots of land and well parted cross ways.
वीथीश्च गृहसम्बाधाः कपिः शृङ्गटकानि च |
तथा रथ्योपरथ्याश्च तथैव गृहकान्तरान् || ५-५३-२१
गृहांश्च मेघसम्काशान् ददर्श पवनात्मजः |
Hanuma, the son of wind-god, saw streets congested with dwellings, places where several roads meet, high-ways as also approach-roads, small inner apartments and palaces appearing in multitudes, like clouds.
Sundara Kanda Section 53[4]
Upon reaching the gate of Lanka's fort, Hanumana took a rod and killed the guards that were parading him across the city. This could have been done easily, as the gate of the fort was relatively secluded from the rest of the demons:
पुर द्वारम् ततः श्रीमान् शैल शृन्गम् इव उन्नतम् || ५-५३-४०
विभक्त रक्षः सम्बाधम् आससाद अनिल आत्मजः |
Then, the glorious Hanuma like a mountain-peak, approached the city-gate, which was looking high and stood secluded from the crowds of demons.
स भूत्वा शैल सम्काशः क्षणेन पुनः आत्मवान् || ५-५३-४१
ह्रस्वताम् परमाम् प्राप्तो बन्धनानि अवशातयत् |
That prudent Hanuma assumed the form of a mountain and immediately within a moment, assumed an exceedingly short form, thus becoming free from his tethers.
विमुक्तः च अभवत् श्रीमान् पुनः पर्वत सम्निभः || ५-५३-४२
वीक्षमाणः च ददृशे परिघम् तोरण आश्रितम् |
The glorious Hanuma, having been free from his bonds, again assumed the form equal to a mountain and while looking around, found and iron rod belonging to the arched door-way.
स तम् गृह्य महाबाहुः काल आयस परिष्कृतम् || ५-५३-४३
रक्षिणः तान् पुनः सर्वान् सूदयामास मारुतिः |
That long-armed Hanuma, again taking that rod made of iron, killed all those guards.
Sundara Kanda Section 53[5]
So as we can see from the text above, Hanumana reaches the gate of Lanka’s fort, which had demons in scarcity, and then kills the guards. So his purpose was accomplished. He wanted to see the specifications of the fort, which he saw. So, it would be logical that he would then leave Lanka and cross the ocean, now that his plan of noting the specifications of the Lanka fort was accomplished.
But NO. The text then has verses in the next 3 sections (Sundara Kanda Sections 54-56) where Hanumana does the following:
  1. Re-enters Lanka and burns down the buildings. The fire is described as so great that it stretches from Southern Lanka, where Seetha was held captive, to Northern Lanka.
  2. This generates worry in Hanumana whether Seetha is still alive. So Hanumana goes to Southern Lanka to check on her. He sees that she is alive, and then departs from Lanka.
There are a few problems with this. When Hanumana’s plan was to just see Lanka’s fort specifications, which he successfully did, why would he risk being captured again by going and engaging in a war with the demons? He had already measured the prowess of the warriors in Ravana’s army when he destroyed the Ashoka Grove and provoked the warrior in Ravana’s army to attack him. There was no need to attack the army again. Furthermore, if there was a burning Vanara in the sky, wouldn’t it have been an easy target for Lanka’s best warriors to shoot down Hanumana with his arrows? Indrajit and Ravana were both better warriors than Hanumana. Shooting arrows, with the intention of killing, at a Vanara leaping in the air would not be hard for them, right? But we do not hear of any of Ravana’s main warriors at all, when Hanumana was burning down Lanka. Where were they then? Why did they not chase down Hanumana? Why would they let an enemy easily burn down Lanka, just like that? What about the guards and police patrol in the city of Lanka. What were they doing then? As you can see, there are many loopholes in this story.
Yet another loophole is that if the fire was raging so much that it burned down everything from Southern to Northern Lanka, why were the Rakshasiis in the Ashoka Grove not dead? Why did the fire not kill Trijata? We all know of Trijata’s speech to Seetha in Yuddha Kanda, when she pacified Seetha who thought her husband Rama was dead from Indrajita's arrows, right? So, Trijata escaped the fire in Lanka. How would this be possible, considering its deadly nature, as described in Sundara Kanda Sections 54–56?
Furthermore, if the city of Lanka was burned down, it would be in ashes by the time Rama and Lakshmana reached it. But much to the contrary, when the two descendants of Ikshvaku reached the city, it was initially described by them to be a very beautiful city:
निविष्टा तत्र शिखरे लन्का रावण पालिता || ६-३९-२०
दशयोजनविस्तीर्णा विंशद्योजनमायता |
Lanka, ruled by Ravana, with a breadth of eighty mile and a length of one hundred sixty miles, was located on the apex of the mountain there.
सा पुरी गोपुरैर् उच्चैः पाण्डुर अम्बुद सम्निभैः |
कान्चनेन च सालेन राजतेन च शोभिता || ६-३९-२१
The city of Lanka looked beautiful with its towering City-gates resembling white clouds as well as with golden and silver ramparts.
प्रासादैश् च विमानैश् च लन्का परम भूषिता |
घनैर् इव आतप अपाये मध्यमम् वैष्णवम् पदम् || ६-३९-२२
The city of Lanka, greatly adorned by palaces and seven storied mansions, looked like the sky with clouds at the end of a summer and as a region of Vishnu between earth and heaven.
तस्याम् स्तम्भ सहस्रेण प्रासादः समलम्कृतः |
कैलास शिखर आकारो दृश्यते खम् इव उल्लिखन् || ६-३९-२३
चैत्यः स राक्षस इन्द्रस्य बभूव पुर भूषणम् |
शतेन रक्षसाम् नित्यम् यः समग्रेण रक्ष्यते || ६-३९-२४
A palace, duly graced with a thousand pillars, which looked like a peak of Mount Kailasa was three in the City of Lanka, which was always the City of Lanka, which was always protected by a complete army of demons. The palace seemed to be scraping the skies and was to be seen as an ornament to the City of Ravana.
मनोज्ञाम् काञ्चनवतीम् सर्वतैरुपशोभिताम् |
नानाधातुविचित्रैश्च उद्यानैरुपशोभिताम् || ६-३९-२५
नानाविहगसम्घष्टाम् नानामृगनिषेविताम् |
नानाकुसुमसंपन्नाम् नानाराक्षससेविताम् || ६-३९-२६
ताम् समृद्धाम् समृद्ध अर्थो लक्ष्मीवाम्ल् लक्ष्मण अग्रजः |
रावणस्य पुरीम् रामो ददर्श सह वानरैः || ६-३९-२७
The glorious Rama the elder brother of Lakshmana along with monkeys saw that charming golden city of Ravana, graced with mountains picturesque with various minerals, splendid with gardens reechoing with songs of birds of every kind, frequented by varieties of deer, richly endowed with various kinds of flowers, inhabited by demons of every degree and duly flourishing, having increased its wealth.
ताम् महागृहसम्बाधां दृष्ट्वा लक्ष्मणपूर्वजः |
नगरीं त्रिदिवप्रख्यां विस्मयं प्राप वीर्यवान् ६-३९-२८
Beholding that City, which looks like heaven and crammed with huge palaces, the valiant Rama the elder brother of Lakshmana was seized with astonishment.
ताम् रत्न पूर्णाम् बहु सम्विधानाम् |
प्रासाद मालाभिर् अलम्कृताम् च |
पुरीम् महा यन्त्र कवाट मुख्याम् |
ददर्श रामो महता बलेन || ६-३९-२९
Rama with his great army saw that City, full of precious gems, having all kinds of facilities, adorned with rows of mansions, having excellent doors with huge mechanical appliances and with a large armed forces protecting the City.
Yuddha Kanda Section 39[6]
Does this look like the description of a city burned down to ashes? No, right? It looks like Lanka was a very prosperous city when Rama and Lakshmana arrived to conquer it. There is no way that it could have been burned down to ashes a while back by Hanumana. Had the city of Lanka actually been burned down, it would many taken many decades to repair it and bring it back to its former glory. We have to remember that this was an ancient society, with less advancements compared to the modern society we have today! So, it logically follows that the repair of the entire city would have taken much, much longer than it would have taken today. It would have likely taken a minimum of 40-50 years for a proper repairment of the city, or possibly even longer. Since Ravana did not have this kind of time available between Hanumana's arrival in Lanka and Rama's attack on Lanka, it seems like the burning of Lanka was a later addition to the Ramayana. Sundara Kanda Sections 54-56 were likely added in the epic by pro-Hanumana poets, that wanted to exaggerate Hanumana's prowess, in the period where people started to worship him as a god.
What likely happened is that after reaching the gates of Lanka’s fort, Hanumana examined the specifications of the fort, in case he needed to report it to Rama. After doing that, Hanumana killed the guards employed by Ravana and then fled from the city. This is supported by Hanumana’s speech to Rama, after returning to the Kishkindha Forest and telling the latter that he found Seetha in Lanka:
ते मया सम्क्रमा भग्नाः परिखाः च अवपूरिताः |
दग्धा च नगरी लंका प्राकाराः च अवसादिताः || ६-३-२९
"Those bridges were broken by me and the moats were filled up (with the wreckage). The city of Lanka was tormented by me and the defensive walls were pulled down.
अङ्गदो द्विविदो मैन्दो जाम्बवान् पनसो नलः || ६-३-३१
नीलः सेना पतिः चैव बल शेषेण किम् तव |
प्लवमाना हि गत्वा ताम् रावणस्य महापुरीम् || ६-३-३२
सप्रकाराम् सभवनाम् आनयिष्यन्ति मैथिलीम् |
"Oh, Rama! What is the use for the rest of the forces to you? Angada, Divida, Mainda, Jambavan, Panasa, Anala and Nila the commander-in-chief alone, by reaching that great city of Ravana leaping and storming Lanka with its protective walls and buildings, will recover Seetha."
Yuddha Kanda Section 3[7]
In the first verse, Hanumana tells Rama that the defensive walls were pulled down and that he tormented the city. He does not give any details on the burning of Lanka. He then says, in the next two verses, that the Vanara army will storm the buildings of Lanka. However, in Sundara Kanda, it says the buildings in Lanka were burned by Hanumana. Had Hanumana actually burned those buildings, there would be no need to storm them when attacking Lanka, as they would have just been a pile of ashes, with nil defences left in them. This is yet another piece of evidence that the city was not burned by Hanumana. Instead, Hanumana says that the defensive walls, along with the moats were destroyed. This destruction makes sense with the flow of events, and likely happened after Hanumana killed his gaurds. After killing the guards, Hanumana probably spent some time to destroy the exterior walls of the Lanka fort and moats, and then fled from the city of Lanka back towards the Vindhya Mountain range, where he met his fellow Vanaras.
This shows that Sundara Kanda Sections 54–56 are later interpolations, and that Lanka was not actually burned.
However, we are left at the same problem as earlier! If Hanumana’s tail was not physically burned, then what was the punishment meted out to him by Ravana? For that, I would advise everyone to take a look at a blog post[8] I wrote earlier, that describes that the Vanaras were actually humans and not monkeys. Their sanskrit word “लाङ्गूलम्” was translated by the translators as “tail”, but it also means “penis”. The translation of “penis” makes more sense, as only the male Vanaras were described as having this लाङ्गूलम्. There is no description of any लाङ्गूलम् for the female Vanaras, like Tara, in the Ramayana.
So, that being said, lets see one of the verses that I earlier mentioned, when Ravana was giving punishment to Hanumana:
"Let all his relatives together with his friends, kinsmen and amicable persons then see him miserably injured with his deformed body part."
Sundara Kanda Section 53[9]
As we can see from the text above, Ravana wanted to “deform” the limbs of Hanumana. If we consider लाङ्गूलम् as being Hanumana’s penis, instead of his tail, the punishment starts to make some more sense. Ravana wanted to deform that limb of Hanumana. In other words, as was the practice in many ancient societies[10], he wanted the penis of Hanumana to be physically severed as a punishment to Hanumana. However, the question arises of why Ravana wanted to severe the penis of Hanumana. Why could he have not severed Hanumana's arms, or legs? My answer to this will be given in more detail in the next post. However, for now, keep in mind that the "penis" symbolizes prowess, and virility. Ravana wanted to conquer this prowess and virility of Hanumana by severing his penis. That is also why Hanumana got enraged at hearing of his new punishment that was decided by Ravana. More details about this decision of Ravana will be given in the Part 2 of "Did Hanumana Really Burn Down Lanka".
From the details mentioned in this post, a general conclusion can be made regarding what transpired from the point of Hanumana being captured by Indrajita to him leaving Lanka. The major events are summarized in point form below:

  1. Indrajita captures Hanumana by making him unconscious using his brahmastra, and then brings Hanumana to Ravana's Sabha. Upon regaining consciousness, Hanumana is enraged at his capture.
  2. Ravana's minister Prahasta asks Hanumana about the cause for the destruction he caused in Lanka, and his identity. Hanumana gives his identity and tells Ravana to return Seetha. An enraged Ravana gives death penalty to Hanumana.
  3. Vibhishana tells Ravana that a messenger should not be slain, hence Ravana changes Hanumana's punishment to being paraded through the crossroads in Lanka, and then having his penis severed, and thrown out of Lanka.
  4. Hanumana initially gets enraged at hearing this, but decides to play along and willingly goes with the guards all across Lanka. He planned that when he is taken to the gate of the Lanka fort, he will inspect it for details, then kill the guards and exit Lanka.
  5. Hanumana does just that. Upon reaching the gate of the Lanka fort, he kills off the guards. Then he causes some damage to the exterior walls of the Lanka fort, the moats, and the bridges. Note that the guards would have just severed Hanumana's penis, and then thrown him out of the entrance of Lanka. But prior to them being able to take action, Hanumana killed them off.
  6. After doing all this damage, he quickly escapes from Lanka and swims the ocean, back to the Vindhya Mountain range where he meets his fellow Vanaras and tells them about his exploits in Lanka. He was able to escape from the entrance of the fort as there were very few demon guards in the area. It was a relatively secluded place.
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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Were the Vanaras of Ramayana Humans or Chimps?

In Valmiki Ramayana, the Vanaras are described as a tribe that assisted Rama in conquering the King of Lanka, Ravana. Due to TV shows where the Vanaras are depicted as a tribe of Chimps, many people take it for granted that the Vanaras were a tribe of Chimps. For this reason, it is nearly impossible for a modern Hindu to imagine a Ramayana without a loyal army of Chimps (i.e. Vanaras) aiding Rama. For this reason, some Hindus date the Ramayana to dates as early as 2 million BCE, when there was no human civilization. I guess blind faith allows people to reject logic and reason and enter the world of fantasies where the only authentic source of information is that from their religious texts. No?
However, is this really the case? Were the Vanaras really Chimps, as commonly believed? This post will attempt to refute the claims that the Vanaras were a tribe of Chimps, and show that they were instead a tribe of Humans. To do so, the Southern Recession of Valmiki Ramayana will be analyzed.
I have come across many Hindus that have claimed that the Vanaras were Chimps, whereas others have said that due to longer tails, the Vanaras must have been the common ancestors of Humans and Chimps. I refuse to believe such claims, because it is not scientifically possible for the common ancestor of Humans and Chimps to have the kind of intelligence that was showed by the tribe of Vanaras in the Ramayana. Have we come across any tribe of pre-Human/Chimp Apes that were able to converse in Human language or had intelligence of the level that a Human would? The answer is NO. Research has found that Mature Apes have less intelligence than even 2.5 year old Human Toddlers[1]. The researchers found the 2.5 year old Human Toddlers to perform better than the Apes in Social Cognition, which was defined by Cognitive Scientist Joesph Call as thinking based on interaction with others.
In Ramayana, the Vanaras did not possess Social Cognition inferior to 2.5 year old Human Toddlers. For example, how can we forget the way Hanumana decided to enter Lanka at night so he does not get caught by the Rakshasas? How can we forget how Hanumana was overly conscious of Ravana and hid from him to prevent being caught prior to finding Seetha in Lanka? How can we forget the way Hanumana introduced himself to Seetha, by praising Rama and narrating Rama’s life story, so that Seetha does not react in a negative way upon first seeing him? Had Seetha reacted in a negative way by screaming, the Rakshasii protectors of Seetha would have captured Hanumana prior to Hanumana interacting properly with Seetha and taking her message to convey to Rama! Furthermore, how can we forget the decision of Hanumana to assess Ravana’s army strength by destroying the Ashoka Grove and provoking Ravana’s army to attack him? How can we forget the decision of the Vanaras to burn the palace of Ravana in the war, and thereby force the Rakshasa warriors to leave their defenses (in an attempt to save their lives from the fire) and fight the Vanaras in open, without the protection of their great palace? These decisions reflect intelligence greater than that of a 2.5 year old infant. For these reasons, calling the Vanara tribe a common ancestor of Humans and Chimps is incorrect. It is also very insulting to any Human tribe to call them animals!
The intelligence of the aformentioned decisions of the Vanaras suggest that they were indeed human. Furthermore, the Vanaras could speak Human Language, which is not possible for Apes to speak as their vocal cords cannot close fully, thereby resulting in less control over the tongue and lower jaw[2]. This again suggests that the Vanaras were Humans and not Apes. So the Vanaras were a human tribe. The tribe name Vanara means forest dwellers, is derived from the two Sanskrit words Vana and Nara:
Vana = Forest
Nara = Men
Vana + Nara = Forest Men/Forest Dweller
That being said, many Hindus might find an obvious problem with this conclusion, as the Vanaras in Ramayana were described as having a tail. How can Humans have tails? Well one thing to keep in mind is that only male Vanaras had tails, not the female Vanaras. This should get us thinking on what the “Vanara tail” could in fact mean or represent.
Most of the time in the epic, whenever tail is mentioned, the Sanskrit word used is लाङ्गूलम् (laaGguulam), which means both “penis” and “tail”. The translators often translate it as tail, and are unable to explain why the female Vanaras lack this “tail” (लाङ्गूलम्). However, if we translate it as penis, it makes thing alot less complicated. It is not possible for females to have this “male sex organ”, hence the females were not described in the epic as having this लाङ्गूलम्. At other times in the epic, the word पुच्छम् was used. Although it can be translated as “tail”, it also means “last or extreme end”. This second translation fits in with the translation of “penis” as the penis is an extremity of the human body.
This suggests that the so-called “tail” of the Vanaras was actually their penis. That is why female Vanaras don’t have this body part. Furthermore, in my reading of Valmiki Ramayana, I have never came across of Vanaras wearing a lower body garment. For example, when Hanumana is crossing the sea to reach Lanka, Valmiki says:
स्फिग्देशेनाभिताम्रेण रराज स महाकपिः।।5.1.63।।
महता दारितेनेव गिरिर्गैरिकधातुना।
The great monkey with copperred buttocks (other parts being dark) looked splendid like a cleft mountain with a huge deposit of minerals shining red.
Sundara Kanda Section 1[3]
We can see in the verse above how the color of Hanumana’s buttocks are described. The poet would only be able to describe this if Hanumana’s bare buttocks were uncovered and visible to see. This suggests that Hanumana was not wearing a lower garment. That also explains why Valmiki was able to describe Hanumana’s penis (लाङ्गूलम्) in that section:
आनुपूर्व्येण वृत्तं च लाङ्गूलं लोमभिश्चितम्।
उत्पतिष्यन् विचिक्षेप पक्षिराज इवोरगम्।।5.1.33।।
Like the king of birds Garuda would shake a serpent, he shook his tail covered with hair in order to take off.
Sundara Kanda Section 1[4]
The only time I remember when the Vanaras wore a lower garment was the fight between Vali and Sugriva, where the former lost his life.[5]In that fight, there is no mention of any penis (लाङ्गूलम्), most likely because the loincloth the two Vanaras tied, covered that body part. Furthermore, how is it possible to tie a loincloth, tight enough for a hand to hand encounter, that holds a long body part such as a tail? This is another hint that the लाङ्गूलम् of the Vanaras was their penis, not their tail.
In Valmiki Ramayana, it is also mentioned that the लाङ्गूलम् (penis) of the Vanaras was very long. So then the question arises of how we can explain their long length. My explanation for this is that the “long length” that is emphasized is a figure of speech, a hyperbole, employed by the poet to show the manly vigor, and virility (वीर्य) of the male Vanaras. In this case, the penis, the male sex organ is a representation of manliness, and a longer one can be taken to represent intensified manly vigor and virility. Ravana’s attempt to deform this लाङ्गूलम् (penis), via burning, was an attempt to suppress Hanumana’s manly vigor and virility he had earlier shown in terrorizing the Ashoka Grove and raping Rakshasa tribe females in Lanka.
This is not the first time exaggerations have been used in epics. For example, the physical strength of warriors such as Bhima has been exaggerated to that of 10 000 elephants in an attempt to show Bhima’s manly prowess.
One final point I would like to address is that sometimes the word “कपि” is used to describe Hanumana. कपि is a sanskrit word meaning monkey/ape. So this is an obvious discrepancy, right?
We have to keep in mind that the poet of Valmiki Ramayana was a person that lived his life in North India, and had most likely never seen the Southern region of India, including the Vanara tribes in Kishkindha. His description is therefore based on accounts by people that have visited those tribes. The description of the Vanara tribe would be of a tribe that roams naked and whose mannerisms differ greatly from the Aryan norm. For that reason, such a tribe would have been depicted as animal-like, hence the use of the word कपि (monkey/ape) to describe its members. That is also why these Aryan poets have depicted Naga (meaning “naked”) tribes as snakes, and Rakshasa tribes as cannibalistic demons. This is simply propaganda by the Aryans, or to put it bluntly, “pure racism”. Rama grew up in this Aryan-centric society and hence inherited this racism. This can explain his extreme aggression towards the Rakshasas and his sub-human treatment of them. It also explains why he justified the killing of Vali by likening him to an animal that a kshatriya has the right to hunt, both with and without deceit.
That being said, if we separate the racism of the poet, and the pre-concieved notions of the translators of the epic (of Vanaras being monkeys), we would notice that the Vanaras were infact a tribe of forest dwellers, with different culture than the Aryan Culture. That explains how they “shamelessly” went around naked in public, something that the Aryans abhorred. They also had a matriarchal system of inheritance, which was quite different than what was common up in the North.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Mahabharatha and Ramayana — History or Mythology?

Mahabharatha and Ramayana are both works of prose/poetry, and are hence subject to exaggerations as figures of speech. However, the problem arises when one takes figures of speech such as personification and pathetic fallacy literally. When one does that, it converts a beautifully written work of prose/poetry into an illogical sounding text, thereby adding the connotation “mythology” to it. In this post, I intend to show that Mahabharatha and Ramayana are indeed history by looking at contemporary works that are considered historical and analyzing what they say about the Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Do they say these epics are historical or fictional?
However, prior to doing so, I will discuss some of the flaws in the more common arguments presented by Hindus about Ramayana and Mahabharatha being history!
Flawed Arguments About Mahabharatha and Ramayana Being Historical Records
In my opinion, Ramayana and Mahabharata actually took place. However, if we are looking for evidence, it will be hard to find it. Some people use astronomical references in the epics to come to a single date when the epics took place. However, this is not conclusive, as it just tells us the date when the epic was written. It however, does not tell us whether the epic actually took place in real life. What I mean to say is that a date of 1500 BCE for one epic would suggest that the person who wrote the epic lived around 1500 BCE. But it does not clarify whether or not the person writing the epic wrote a work of fiction or non-fiction. Likewise, others have pointed out from research that the floura and fauna at the time of the epics corresponded to an specific ancient period in history. All this suggests is that the poets who wrote the epics lived in that ancient period of time. Whether they wrote the epic as a work of fiction or non-fiction is still unclear. Then we also have those who think that nuclear weapons were used in the Kurukshetra war and weapons like brahmastra were nuclear weapons. They then try to find evidence of nuclear explosions in sites like Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, and then try to connect the dots and conclude that Mahabharatha took place at those sites and that the damage there is due to the brahmastra. However, those people have to read the epic more carefully. Below is a description of the damage caused by the brahmastra:
Thus assailed on all sides by the foremost of Pandava warriors, Karna invoked into existence the brahmastra and filled all the points of the compass with arrows. The heroic Karna then, like unto a blazing fire having shafts for its scorching flame, careered in battle, burning that forest of Pandavas troops.
Seeing that weapon thus destroyed, the Vrishni hero, addressing Arjuna, said, "Shoot high weapons, O Partha! The son of Radha baffles thy shafts." With proper mantras, Arjuna then fixed the brahmastra on his string, and shrouding all the points of the compass with arrows, Partha struck Karna (with many) arrows.
As we can see here, brahmastra if considered to be a weapon is some sort of weapon/device that allows a warrior to show numerous arrows in all direction at a rapid speed. In my opinion, the brahmastra is a symbolic weapon. It simply symbolizes the rapid speed at which a warrior fires arrows in all directions. When the warrior is in the momentum and fires arrows rapidly in all directions, he is said to have invoked the brahmastra. Then we have the Agneya Astra, which emitted fire on all sides and caused massive destruction. Here is a description of the destruction caused by it:
The valiant Aswatthaman, then, staying resolutely on his car, touched water and invoked the Agneya weapon incapable of being resisted by the very gods. Aiming at all his visible and invisible foes, the preceptor's son, that slayer of hostile heroes, inspired with mantras a blazing shaft possessed of the effulgence of a smokeless fire, and let it off on all sides, filled with rage. Dense showers of arrows then issued from it in the welkin. Endued with fiery flames, those arrows encompassed Partha on all sides.
From this description, the Agneya Astra seems like a dense shower of arrows that emits fire. This Agneya Astra was therefore simply arrows that were dipped in inflammable material, such that once set on fire by the warrior and released, it would seem that they were emitting fire. That is supported by this passage from Udyoga Parva:
And furnished with timber and planks for repairing the damages their cars might sustain in the press of battle, with large quivers borne on cars, with tiger-skins and other stiff leather for enveloping the sides of cars, with barbed javelins to be hurled by the hand, with quivers borne on the backs of steeds and elephants, with long-handled spears of iron and missiles, with quivers borne on the backs of foot-soldiers with heavy clubs of woods, with flagstaffs and banners, with long heavy shafts shot from bows, with diverse kinds of nooses and lassoes, with armour of various kinds, with short-pointed clubs of wood, with oil, treacle, and sand, with earthen pots filled withpoisonous snakes, with pulverised lac and other inflammable matter, with short spears furnished with tinkling bells, with diverse weapons of iron, and machines, for hurling hot treacle, water, and stones, with whistling clubs of hard wood, with wax and heavy mallets, with clubs of wood having iron spikes, with plough-poles and poisoned darts, with long syringes for pouring warm treacle and planks of cane, with battle-axes and forked lances with spiked gauntlets, with axes and pointed iron-spikes, with cars having their sides covered with skins of tigers, and leopards, with sharp-edged circular planks of wood, with horns, with javelins and various other weapons of attack, with axes of the kutharaspecies, and spades, with cloths steeped in oil, and with clarified butter, the divisions of Duryodhana, glittering with robes embroidered with gold and decked with various kinds of jewels and gems and consisting of warriors endued with handsome persons, blazed forth like fire.
This passage gives rise to the possibility that the inflammable material from the earthen pots was used to generate the fire from the well known weapons like the Agneya Astra. If we also read the rest of this passage, it would be obvious that the weapons used were rather primitive, such as javelins, spears, clubs, axes, mallets, stones, etc… This just confirms that there was no way nuclear weapons could be used back in Mahabharatha times!
That being said, most of the arguments given by people who claim that there is evidence that Mahabharatha and Ramayana did exist is infact flawed.
A More Logical Way to Approach this Problem!
The ways to actually determine if the Mahabharatha and Ramayana happened with certainty would be to analyze historical records, if any, of those kingdoms that were conquered by the Vedic Aryans in the Kurukshetra and Lankan wars. In the Kurukshetra war, most of the Mleecha, Yavana, Rakshasa, and other non-Vedic kings and tribes were slaughtered, hence any look for historical records from those kingdoms would be pointless! Likewise, Lanka was devastated after the war in Ramayana, hence the Lankan records of the destruction would be scarce. Hence, the best option would be to search for oral records of any war. Although historical records may have not been made, or either destroyed due to external factors, the oral tradition would ensure that history would be propagated from one generation to the next. In modern day Sri Lanka, the oral tradition has kept the story of Ravana and Seetha alive. There are places in Sri Lanka that are said to correspond to the epic. For example, it was said that Weragantota was the place where Seetha lived in Lanka, and Gurulupotha was where Ravana’s Vimanas were repaired (Places: Weragantota by Kaviru Gunaratne on Uncovering the True Pearl of the Indian Ocean…). This oral tradition suggests very strongly that Ramayana was a true event.
Kautilya’s Arthashastra
Valmiki Ramayana and Vyasa Mahabharatha, the most ancient versions of the epics, were found by scholars to be composed around 400 BCE to 400 CE. The earliest form of the epics were composed around 400 BCE, and they underwent many changes till they reached their final form in 400 CE. On the other hand Kautilya’s Arthashatra was composed around 400 BCE to 200 CE. Its earliest form was composed around 400 BCE by Kautilya, and it underwent changes till it reached its final form by 200 CE. This means that it was initially composed around the same time as the epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Hence, if Mahabharatha and Ramayana were merely works of fiction, Kautilya would have noticed that, as he lived around the time of the poet(s) who composed the earliest forms of the two epics. For example, it is not too hard for me living in the 21st century to realize whether or not a poem written in the 21st century depicts reality or is a fictional work. I can check if there is an oral tradition or previous records that show that the poem deals with a historical event by interacting with the poet and looking at his/her sources. Similarly, it would not have been hard for Kautilya to do the same and realize whether or not the epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana are fictional works or not. Hence, one way of approaching the problem of whether or not Mahabharatha and Ramayana actually took place is to scan Kautilya’s Arthashastra for references to Mahabharatha and Ramayana and see if Mahabharatha and Ramayana are described as being historical records or mythology in the Arthashastra. Below is a link to access the Arthashastra:
In Chapter VI of Arthashastra (page 16), Kautilya says:
In this passage, Kautilya mentions Duryodhana, Dvaipayana, and the Vrishnis who were from Mahabharatha, and Ravana, Vatapi, and Agastya, who were from Ramayana. He gives us no hint in this text that these were fictional characters or that Mahabharatha or Ramayana were works of fiction. He addresses these characters as “kings”, instead of “mythological kings”, thereby suggesting that these people were actual historical figures, not a figment of the poet’s imagination!
Then, in Chapter 3 (page 476), Kautilya says:
This passage again mentions Duryodhana, Nala, and Yuddhistira, all of whom were mentioned in Mahabharatha. Furthermore, a phrase from the second paragraph reads “it is well known from the history of Nala and Yudhistira”. The fact that the passage uses the word history implies that Mahabharatha was an actual historical event, not simply a poem that is a work of fiction.
For those that still are not ready to accept that the epics were a work of history and raise the point that it is not logically possible for Gods (Devas) to be a part of history, they should first look at my previous post: Shiva A Pre-Vedic God, Vishnu A Post-Vedic God. In that post, I provide a reference from Mahabharatha that the Devas were not actually God, but instead a tribe of humans that lived in territories North of India.
Furthermore, in Chapter IV (page 73) of Arthashastra, Kautilya says:
We can all agree that Kautilya was a historical figure, and his Arthashastra provided details for a historical kingdom, not a mythological one. Then why does he talk about the apartments of Devas and guardian dieties in the kingdom? The logical answer is that these Devas were prominent humans in the kingdom and hence respected by giving them the title of Deva. Since a large portion of Arthashastra is influenced by Mahabharatha, we can apply the same logic to Mahabharatha. The Devas were tribes of humans that were respected with the title of God (Deva) due to the reverence of the Vedic People for them.
From these passages of the Arthashastra, it should be evident that Kautilya, who lived around the same period of the poets that composed the Mahabharatha, knew that Mahabharatha was history, and not mythology.
Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra
The Kamasutra of Vatsyayana was also composed in the same period as the Arthashastra, from 400 BCE to 200 CE, with its earliest form around 400 BCE. Hence, Vatsyayana lived in the same period as Kautilya and the composers of the epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana. This means that he would have known whether these epics were actually history or merely a work of fiction. A look at the Kamasutra may therefore indicate whether Vatsyayana considered the epics as history or fiction. Hence, it is important to look at some passages from the Kamasutra. The Kamasutra can be accessed in the link below:
A passage from page 24–25 of the Kamasutra reads:
It is notorious, moreover, that many men who have given themselves up to pleasure alone, have been ruined along with their families and relations. Thus, king Dandakya, of the Bhoja dynasty, carried off a Brahman's daughter with evil intent, and was eventually ruined and lost his kingdom. Indra, too, having violated the chastity of Ahalya, was made to suffer for it. In a like manner the mighty Kichaka, who tried to seduce Draupadi, and Ravana, who attempted to gain over Sita, were punished for their crimes. These and many others fell by reason of their pleasures
In this passage, Kichaka, Draupadi, Indra, Ahalya, Ravana and Seetha are mentioned. However, Vatsyayana does not mention that they are mythological characters, thereby implying that the kings and dynasties mentioned in the above passage were real. Hence, according to the Kamasutra as well, which was composed around the same time as the epics, Mahabharatha and Ramayana were not mythologies. Instead, they were history. This supports the view presented in Kautilya’s Arthashastra, and therefore suggests that the chances of Mahabharatha and Ramayana being actual history are great!

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