Monthly Archives: October 2018

Yayati- The Empire Builder

Among the ancient rulers of India, the name of Yayati (6587 B.C. /5969 B.C.) * stands conspicuous as an empire builder and progenitor of various dynasties. Yayati the sixth in descendant from Manu was the son of Nahusha belonging to the lunar dynasty.

Soon after ascending the throne Yayati organised a very strong army and launched a campaign against the Asuras, defeated the Yakshas and made the Nagas accept his suzerainty. He conquered all territories west of Ayodhya and Kanyakubja and north-west as far as the River Sarasvathi as well as the countries west, south and south-west of Pratisthana (present Allahabad) which was his capital. He had the titles of Samrat and Sarvabhauma, both meaning Emperor. The Rigveda mentions Yayati as an ancient sacrificer and a seer of some hymns.

Jewel of the Lunar dynasty

Acclaimed as the ‘Jewel of the Lunar dynasty’, Yayati was a very powerful, popular and virtuous ruler and probably ruled for around fifty years. He had two chief queens, Sharmista, daughter of Asura king Vrishaparvan and Devayani, daughter of Sukracharya, the guru of the Asuras. Yayati had five sons, Yadu and Turvasa from Devayani and Druhyu, Anu and Puru from Sarmishta. Except Puru the youngest son, his other children who were impatient to rule revolted against Yayati but their revolt was put down by Yayati and the princesses were pardoned. Later Yayati declared Puru as his heir and he succeeded to his kingdom with capital at Pratisthana. Yadu got the region around south-west, Turvasa, the south-east, Druhyu the west and Anu the north of Puru’s territory. In this way five distinguished dynasties sprang up from the five sons of Yayati, all of whom are honoured in the Rigveda for their valour and munificent donations to the seers.

* See https://ithihas.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/date-of-mahabharatha-war/

Reference

  1. Akshoy Kumar Mazumdar- Early Hindu India, A Dynastic Study, Vol-I, Cosmo, New Delhi

  2. P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar- Advance History of India (Hindu Period), Madras, 1942.

  3. J. P .Mittal- History of Ancient India 7300 B.C.- 4250 B.C. (New Version), Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi.

Hanuman- The Hero of Vanaras

Ancient India was inhabited by Devas (Manavas), Asuras, Vanaras, Rakshasas, Yakshas, Nagas, Panis, Dasas, etc. All of them were human beings and claim descent from mythical Rishis. The Devas, Asuras (Daityas and Danavas) and Nagas were descendants from Rishi Marichi, while the Vanaras, Rakshasas and Yakshas were descendants from Rishi Pulastya. Hanuman famous for his strength, stamina and wisdom was born in a Vanara community and was a contemporary of Sri Rama, the ruler of Ayodhya. According to D.D.Kosambi, Hanuman was the popular god of the cultivating class long before he was incorporated in the Hindu pantheon and depicted as the faithful companion-servant of Sri Rama. Hanuman was born at Anjanadri mountain situated near Hampi in Koppal district of Karnataka. His father Kesari was a chieftain and his mother was Anjana. The Puranic literature contains many stories about the birth of Hanuman which are not only fanciful but also disgusting and can be overlooked.

Vanaras were Humans

The word Vanar originally meant ‘the dweller of the Vana (forest)’. The Jaina Ramayana calls the Vanaras as Vanaradhwajas or people having a monkey flag as they had monkey as their totem or emblem. Valmiki refers to three type of people during the Ramayana period, namely Manavas, Vanaras and Rakshasas; who were all highly civilised. The political, religious and social organisations of the Vanaras were of the same pattern as those of the Manavas. The Vanaras led a simple life and were strict vegetarians. A purely vegetarian diet is an indication of their spiritual progress and advanced culture. The Vanaras believed in the principle ‘Live and to Let Live’ and did not involve in conquest of territories belonging to other people. They fought only in self-defence.

The Vanaras are reputed to be knowers of policy and possession of wisdom and to be acquainted with asthras (spiritual weapons). In the Kishkindha kanda (chapter xxxiii verse six) they are described as wearing garlands and clothes. They had an enlightened system of government, made gifts to Brahmins and cremated their dead; all of these shows that they were humans.

In Ramayana Hanuman is referred as mahakapi, that is ‘great monkey’. Probably this epithet was given by the poet due to the over activeness character of Hanuman. “The poet of the Ramayana may have known that the Vanaras were men of the jungle country. But he has served the purpose of the fantastic and marvellous side of his story by depicting Sugriva as a real monkey and his Vanara army as consisting of not only all kinds of monkeys but also bears” says Narayan Aiyangar. According to B.C.Majumdar a clan called Makkals lived in Tamilnadu and this Dravidian term Makkala or Makkada could be easily transformed into Markata (monkey in Sanskrit) and probably the poet of Ramayana made monkey of them. These Makkals once occupied the high lands of Central India including Dandakarnya of Ramayana. Unfortunately, the Vanaras are depicted as monkeys and there is an urgent need to portray and carve Hanuman as a human being, which he was.

Paragon of wisdom, strength and devotion

Hanuman was a grammarian and knew the art of healing. The Ramayana says that no one equals him in the knowledge of sastras. Ramayana (Sundara Kanda) speaks of two varieties of Sanskrit which were in vogue at that time; one manushi Samskrita, the popular dialect and the Samskrita dvijatiriva, the language spoken by the cultured Brahmins, the shishtas and Hanuman was a cultured linguist and could speak in both varieties. Addressed variously as Anjaneya, Maruthi, Pavamana, Vayuputra, Ramabhakt, etc., Hanuman is considered to dispel fear, cure disease and give strength and stamina. To relieve children who easily get alarmed for trivial reasons or suffer from nightmares, yantras (talisman) of Hanuman are tied to their arm or around their neck. Hanuman is a bramachari and famous for maintaining strict continence. In all traditional gymnasiums called Vyayamashala, the portrait of Hanuman is hung and worshipped by all those who come there to exercise. Tulasidas wrote a devotional stotra (hymn) called Hanuman chalisa which is recited by devotees to obtain his (Hanuman’s) grace.

Helped Rama fight against Ravana

Hanuman was a close associate of Sugriva whose Vanara kingdom is identified with Rshyamuka mountains near Hampi. Hanuman along with Sugriva and other Vanaras helped Sri Rama in his fight against Ravana. Hanuman accompanied Sri Rama on his return journey to Ayodhya and spent rest of his days with him. In Madhva tradition Hanuman is highly revered and Madhvacharya, the propounder of Dwaita system of philosophy is believed to be the incarnation of Hanuman. Vyasaraya, the spiritual guru of Sri Krishnadevarya, the famous ruler of Vijayanagara is said to have installed about 700 statues of Hanuman in various parts of the Vijayanagara Empire to inspire people develop manly qualities; who at that time had become desperate due to the repeated aggressive attacks by the Muslim rulers of the Deccan.

Once upon a time the worship of Hanuman was limited to south India, but now he is worshipped all over India. In southern India Hanuman is so popular that even insignificant villages have his shrines. His heroism, strength and devotion was so much admired that even after their conversion to Islam ex-Hindus erected shrines for him. Inscriptional evidence prove that in Rayalaseema (Andra Pradesh) certain classes of Mussalmans worship Hanuman. In the forts manned by cheiftains shrines of Hanuman was built near the gates to infuse into the hearts of their fighting men the spirit of loyal attachment to their masters and indomitable heroism. In all temples dedicated to him, Hanuman is depicted as praying at the feet of Sri Rama or meditating under his favourite Parijata tree. In paintings he is depicted as flying by carrying a mountain in one hand or carrying Sri Rama and his brother Lakshmana on his shoulders.

Reference

  • Adya Ramachar- Anjaneya Vilasa, Sahitya Sanjeevini (Kannada work), Vardaraja Prakashan, 1997

  • F. E. Pargiter, Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Oxford University Press, London, 1922

  • Vettam Mani- Puranic Encyclopedia, Motilal Banarsidass, 1975,

  • B. V. Kamesvara Aiyar- Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Western Critics, QJMS, Vol XVI, April 1926

  • P. C. Dharma- Social Life in the Ramayana, QJMS, Vol XXVIII, July 1937

  • John Dowson- A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History and Literature, London, 1879

  • Chintaharan Chakravarti- Tradition about Vanaras and Rakshasas, The Indian Historical Quarterly, vol I, 1925, Caxton Publication, Delhi, p.781

  • Narayan Aiyangar- Essays on Indo Aryan Mythology, Madras, 1901

  • H. Krishna Sastri- South Indian Images of Gods and Goddesses, Madras Government Press, 1916

  • K.S.Ramaswamy Sastri- The Aryan Colonies of Kiskindha and Lanka, Indian Culture, vol-5, July 1938-April 1939, no- 1-4