Valakhilyas: 60,000 thumb-sized ascetics protect humanity (Tamil)


Please find the article: Valakhilyas: 60,000 thumb-sized ascetics protect humanity in Tamil below

சூரியனுடன் சுற்றி வரும் குள்ள முனிவர்கள் யார்

Valakhilyas: 60,000 thumb-sized ascetics who protect Humanity

By S Swaminathan

The ozone layer protects us from the Sun

60,000 Ascetics are protecting us from ultra violet radiation!

Jonathan Swift has taken the idea of Lilliputians for his novel Gulliver’s Travels from Valakhilyas!!

Valakhilyas are thumb sized ascetics accompanying the sun in its every day travel in the sky. They are protecting the humanity by taking all the extra heat and act like the ozone layer. They are 60,000 in number they are shining like brilliant lights because of their severe penance. They used to hang upside down in the trees while doing penance—these are some of the interesting facts that are found in the Vedas, the epics and the mythologies. Tamil literature adds more details about these strange kinds of ascetics.

Valakhilya hymns, eleven in number, are the appendix of the eighth Mandala of the Rig Veda. But famous commentators like Sayana rejected them as interpolations. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata have a lot of references to the Valakhilya Rishis. They may be considered the forerunners of English folklore: ‘Tom Thumb’ and the Lilliputians of the famous satirical novel Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. English newspapers and magazines were publishing a lot of stories about India in the 1700s.

Ancient Sangam Tamil literature refers to Valakhilyas in Puranaanuru (verse 43), Tirumurugatrup patai (lines 16-109), post Sangam book Silappadikaram (Vettuvavari 15) and in the poems of middle age poet Arunagirinathar.

Valakhilyas were born to Kratu and Kriya. Once Kasyapa did a Yagna (fire sacrifice) to beget children. He invited all the Devas and Rishis to help him in the task. Everybody readily agreed. Mighty Indra, the King of Heaven, brought wood for the ceremony. Valakhilyas were emaciated due to severe penance. They were hardly able to lift anything but leaves. Even when they were moving leaves like ants, they fell into rain water puddles, because they were so tiny. It amused Indra and he laughed loudly. Valakhilyas were very much offended. They made a vow to do a separate yagna to create another Indra. When Indra listened to their vows he was afraid and ran to Kasyapa to explain what had happened.

Kasyapa lent a patient ear, but warned that he could not stop the powerful Valakhilyas. But he gave an assurance to Indra that he would find a compromise. When he met Valakhilyas he requested them to drop the yagna to create a new Indra. He also assured them that whoever they create will be the Indra of the birds and Valakhilyas agreed to this new plan.

After the yagna Valakhilya’s prasad (food offering) was given to Vinata, one of the two wives of Kasyapa. She gave birth to two children Aruna and the most powerful golden-hued eagle, Garuda. Long after this Garuda flew to Indraloka to get Amrita and defeated Indra. The Second wife of Kasyapa Kadru gave birth to the Nagas or the Snake race. Garuda on his way back sat on the tree where Valakhilyas were doing penance. The tree broke into many branches, but Garuda lifted all the ascetics with the branch and put them in a safe place.

The Rig Veda says that they sprang from the hairs of Prajapati Brahma. They are the guards of the Chariot of the Sun. They are also called the Kharwas. The Vishnu Purana describes them as pious, chaste and resplendent as the rays of the sun.

Tamil literature is very clear in saying that the main task of the short and smart ascetics is to prevent human beings from being scorched. So they absorb the excess heat from the sun by travelling in front of him. Tamil books also add they were in turn given energy by Lord Skanda and Goddess Durga. Even the hunters in the forest pray to Durga for this. Another Tamil poet compares the sacrifice of the Valakhilyas to the sacrifice of the Emperor Sibi who gave his flesh to an eagle to save a pigeon. The famous story of Sibi was referred to in four Sangam Tamil books. Sibi was praised as the forefather of the famous and powerful Tamil Chola dynasty. The food of Valakhilyas is only wind.

Another story in the Hindu mythology is that the sun has to fight a set of demons called Mandokarunar on a day to day basis for survival. Valakhilyas stand beside the Sun in battle. We don’t know whether there is scientific basis for this story. Mandokarunar maybe a reference to the dangers of solar flares or magnetic storms. In any case, it is crystal clear that the Valakhilyas act as the ozone layer to protect us from harmful ultraviolet rays. Too much ultraviolet rays will cause us skin cancer and other health problems.

We must be grateful to the authors of the Vedas, Puranas, Epics and Tamil commentators Nachinarkiniyar and Adirarku Nallar for creating awareness about the dangers of ultra violet radiation. In western countries people are warned to use special creams whenever they sun bathe.


Tamil Article: Solar Eclipse in Tamil and Sanskrit Literature

Please see below for my latest article on Solar eclipses in Tamil and Sanskrit Literature in Tamil

புறநானூற்றில் சூரியகிரஹணம்

Do our Dreams Have Meaning?

by S Swaminathan


Maya Devi dreaming

Every one of us dreams at night. Most of them are without any meaning. We couldn’t even remember them the next morning. But now and then we read in newspapers or our ancient scriptures about some dreams becoming prophetic. What is the truth?

A devote Hindu knows the importance of good sleep. He prays for it in the Rudram – Chamakam of Yajur Veda. Every day, Brahmins pray to God three times a day to not give them “dus swapna” (nightmares). Ref. Adyano deva savita:,Sandhyavandana Mantra.

Western psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud interpreted dreams as wish fulfilment (nightmares being failed dreams prompted by fears of repressed impulses). In short western psychologists saw them as suppressed desires, feelings and wishes. According to the scientists, dreams occupy one fifth of our sleep and they happen during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) period of sleep. REM sleep means that the cortex of the brain is about as active as during waking hours.

Hindus don’t agree with western views. We see more meaning in dreams. We think they are telling you what is going to happen to you – like winning the lottery or becoming ill or some misfortune to our near and dear. But not all the dreams are interpreted in this way. Hindus have analysed the status of the mind better than modern scientists. All our religious literature speaks of Jagrat (waking) Swapna (dream) Sushupti (deep sleep) and Turiya (an experience of pure consciousness beyond the three stages of sleep – there is no English word for it).

Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh who himself was a doctor turned ascetic explains dreams in a beautiful way in his book The Philosophy of Dreams ( It is available free of cost on the Divine Life Society website):

Every dream presentation has a meaning. A dream is like a letter written in an unknown language. To a man who does not know Chinese, a letter written in that language is a meaningless scroll. But to one who knows that language it is full of most valuable information. It may be the letter calls for immediate action; or it may contain words of consultation to one suffering from dejection. It may be a letter of threat or it may speak of love. These meanings are there only to one who would care to attend to the letter and would try to decipher it. But alas! How few of us try to understand these messages from the deep unseen ocean of our own Consciousness!”

Dreams in Vedic Literature

We have references to dreams in the Rig Veda, Kaushitaki Brahmana, Chandogya Upanishad and other classical Sanskrit literature. They treated dreams as prophetic- conveying some message of the future. For instance, the Chandogya Upanishad (V 2-8-9) says seeing a woman in a dream means a previous sacrifice (fire ceremony) was successful. But it gives conditions for such dreams. Kaushitaki Brahmana says seeing a man in black with black teeth is not a good omen. Some people even receive messages in dreams. Rishi Viswamitra received mantra upadesa from Lord Siva in his dream. Advocate of Vishistadvaita Sri Ramanuja believed that the dreams are caused by the Lord.

Andal, a great Tamil Vaishnavite woman saint saw Lord Vishnu marrying her in a dream. She sang about her dream in beautiful Tamil verses known as Varanam Ayiram. This is sung in all Tamil Vaishnavite weddings.

Before great men were born, the women had strange dreams. We see this in the birth of Jain saint Vartaman Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda and several saints. Bhuvaneswari Devi, mother of Swami Vivekananda dreamt of Siva agreeing to be born as her son. Being a great devotee of Lord Vireswara Siva of Varanasi, she gave the name

Vireswara to her son. Later it was changed to Narendra and then to Vivekananda.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s parents experienced supernatural incidents, visions before his birth. His father Khudiram had a dream in Gaya in which Lord Gadadhara said that he would be born as his son. Chandramani Devi is said to have had a vision of light entering her womb from Shiva’s temple.

Gauthama Siddhartha’s mother Maya Devi and King Sudhdhodana were trying for a baby for twenty years after their marriage. One day she had a dream of a white elephant with a lotus flower in it’s trunk going around her three times and entering her womb. Before this she dreamt of bathing in a lake in the Himalayas. She was carried away to the lake by four angels in her dream.

Mother of Mahavira Trishala had 16 auspicious dreams before his birth. When King Sidhdharth consulted his astrologers they told him that there were 72 auspicious dreams according to the books on dreams and the king was going to get a son who will rule a spiritual empire. Trishala saw

1.       A white elephant

2.       A lion

3.       The Goddess Gaja Lakshmi

4.       Moon

5.       Two jumping fishes

6.       Sun

7.       Lake full of lotus flowers

8.       Ocean of milk

9.       A celestial palace

10.   A throne of rubies and diamonds

11.   A celestial king

12.   A garland

13.   A white bull

14.   Fragrant Mandara flowers

15.   A tall vase with gems and

16.   A white elephant entering her.

Seeing an elephant in a dream is considered auspicious. In most of the cases of divine births, we see a light entering or elephant entering the mother’s body.

Messages from the Departed souls

The previous Head of Madurai Adheenam (Saiva Mutt) who died several years ago did a lot of research about communicating with dead people. He has narrated several incidents where departed souls appeared in dreams to warn people about coming dangers.

When Vallabhacharya was born prematurely without life signs, his mother left him under a tree. When she came home with all the sadness, she dreamt of Krishna saying to her that he was born as a child to her. She ran back to the tree where the boy was alive and kicking with a divine fire protecting him. All of these stories impart some knowledge about dreams to those who have an interest in their interpretation.

Swami Vivekananda also narrated a strange dream about Jesus Christ to his disciples. Read it in his own words:

“I had a curious dream on my return voyage to England. While our ship was passing through the Mediterranean sea, in my sleep, an old and venerable looking person, Rishi-like in appearance, stood before me and said: I am one of the ancient order of Theraputtas which had its origin in the teaching of the Indian Rishis.
 The truths and ideals preached by us have been given out by Christians as taught by Jesus: but for the matter of that there was no such personality by the name of Jesus ever born. Various evidences testifying to this fact will be brought to light by excavating here. By excavating which place can those proofs and relics you speak of be found? I asked. The hoary-headed one pointing to a locality of Turkey, said, see here.
 Immediately after, I woke up, and at once rushed to the upper deck and asked the captain, ‘what neighbourhood is the ship in just now?’. ’Look yonder’, the captain replied, ’there is Turkey and the island of Crete’.”

Svapnavasava datta (Dream of Vasavadatta) is a famous drama by ancient Sanskrit playwright Bhasa.

The hero of the story is presented with an exact painting of a girl he had previously seen in a dream in the court of King Udayanan. Indians do not miss any opportunity to use a dream as the basis of their novels, dramas and films.

Mathematical Genius Ramanujan

Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan said that he received his inspiration and mathematical solutions in his dreams. He attributed this to the Goddess at Namakkal. He said:

“While asleep I had an unusual experience. There was a red screen formed by flowing blood as it were. I was observing it. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. I became all attention. That hand wrote a number of results in elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing”

The most famous Tamil epic Silappadikaram narrated the vivid dreams of Kovalan and Kannaki, the hero and the heroine in great detail.

Tamil Bhakti literature (5th to 9th centuries) has a lot of references to dreams. 2000 year old Tamil Sangam literature talks of animals dreaming – a concept which modern research at MIT and other scientific institutions recently confirmed.

Finally, I will leave you with a list of great people who attributed their discoveries or inventions to strange dreams:

1.       F.A. Kekule: saw the structure of Benzene in his dream and revealed it to the world

2.       Abraham Lincoln: dreamt of his assassination just before his death and told his friends

3.       Otto Loewi: won the Nobel prize for Science having discovered the chemical transmission of nerve impulses in a dream

4.       Paul McCartney: He got his tune for the ‘Yesterday‘ in a dream

5.       Mary Shelley: the idea for Frankenstein came to her in a dream

6.       Elias Howe: invented the sewing machine from a dream

7.       Stephen King: the famous novelist’s plots came from his dreams

Have sweet dreams!


Tamil article: The Age of Tamil Race

Click the title below for my Tamil article about The Age of Tamil Race


தமிழ் இனத்தின் வயது என்ன

The Tortoise Mystery: Can we live for 300 years?

By S Swaminathan

Giant Tortoise

The holy book of Hindus, the Bhagavad Gita and the Tamil ethics book, Tirukkural, both use the tortoise as an example of self control. Among the vertebrates that live on land, the tortoise is the longest living animal. Records speak of tortoises living for over 250 years. Unconfirmed reports say that they live for up to 350 years. But lower organisms in the sea like sponges and clams live for over 400 years.

Why did Lord Krishna and the Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar (author of Tirukkural) use the tortoise as an example? What is the message they wanted to convey through this example or simile?

Here is the sloka from the Gita:

“When, like the tortoise which withdraws its limbs on all sides, he (a sage) withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, then his wisdom becomes steady” (Chapter 2-58)

Here is the couplet from Tirukkural:

“If a man learns to control his five senses in one birth as the tortoise, that power will stand by him in his seven future births.”  (Kural 126)

Neither of these explicitly mentions long life but we may think that they used it to mean the outward shell and the limbs withdrawn in to it. Actually they knew the secret of the tortoise’s long life: its breathing rate. It breathes only three to four times every minute, whereas human beings breathe at least 15 times every minute.

Another Tamil saint Tirumular was very clear in saying that a person can live 1000 years – longer than a tortoise – by yogic practices. (Tirumantira 2264 & 2304).

Manu Smrithi (VII-105) and Vaishnavite Tamil Book Divya Prabandham (2360) also refer to the tortoise in this context. Our forefathers, who were keen observers of nature, knew very well that the tortoise is the longest living vertebrate. Otherwise they wouldn’t talk about seven births or living longer than a tortoise.

Tirumular who sang Tirumantiram was said to have lived for 3000 years. But we did not know whether he lived with his physical body or not.

Man’s life span is 100 years according to the Hindu Vedas. Brahmins recite the Vedas asking for 100 years of healthy life in their daily ritual called Sandhyavandhanam (Pasyema saradas satham, jeevema saradas satham,nandhama aradas satham etc.) When we were born, we were given a certain number of years, which can also be expressed as a certain number of breaths. The quicker we spend our breaths, the sooner we die. But the saints spend very little of their breath and live longer.

If a man breaths 15 times a minute (or 18 times as per the western calculation) he will breathe 900 times in an hour and 21,600 in a day.  If you slow down the breathing rate by yoga (Pranayama) techniques, you live longer. It is like our money deposited in a bank. The quicker you spend it, the sooner you become a pauper. Yoga technique teaches you to reduce the breathing rate. To emphasize this point, a Chola king put 21,600 golden tiles in the roof of the famous Chidambaram Nataraja Temple in Tamil Nadu. He used 72,000 nails to fix the golden tiles. Tirumular, the great Siddha, in his Tirumantiram explains this calculation clearly.

Look what Paramahamsa Yogananda (An Autobiography of a Yogi) says about breathing: “The restless monkey breathes at the rate of 32 times a minute, in contrast to man’s average 18 times. The elephant, tortoise, snake and other animals noted for their longevity have a respiratory rate which is less than man’s. The tortoise for instance, who may attain the age of 300 years, breathes only 4 times per minute.”

Dogs breathe 40 to 50 times per minute and live up to 25 years only.

Let us do an interesting sum before we finish:

We believe that we can live for 100 years by breathing 15 times a minute.

If one breathes 18 times a minute one’s age will decrease to 83 1/3 years.

If a person breathes only 2 times every minute one can live for 750 years.

If one breaths only once every minute, one can live for 1500 years.

If one stops breathing, and slows their metabolic activity, one can live longer. But this is only possible for Yogis. They did it by reciting the Pranava mantra AUM. We read about bears, rabbits and other animals going in to hibernation for six months during winter. In short they temporarily become “Yogis “. Our ancient literature talk about devas and demons doing penance for thousands of years. Though we may think that it was an exaggeration, we knew that ant hills grew around the saints during their meditation implying the passage of time. The famous saint who wrote the Ramayana was ‘Valmiki’ meaning ’ant hill’. There was another poet with the same name in Sangam Tamil literature.

Sex and the breathing

Modern research shows that a man spends 200 calories and breathes 30 times a minute during sex -twice the rate of normal breathing. An average man ejaculates semen 5000 times during his life time. But our Yogis, being celibate, saved energy on that count as well.  But Hinduism never prohibited sex for an ordinary man; only Yogis lived that way.  Sangam Tamil book Tirumurukatru patai speaks of priests who observed celibacy for 48 years. It is crystal clear that our forefathers knew the secret of longevity.

The tortoise is one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. The Chinese, Mongolians, Koreans, Vietnamese and other South East Asians also respect the tortoise and the turtle for various other reasons.


Follow me on Twitter @Swami_48 and find me on Facebook.

Double Headed Eagle: Sumerian-Indian Connection

By S Swaminathan

Double-Headed bird found in Alaja Huyuk, Turkey, 14th C BC

There are striking similarities between the Indian and Sumerian civilizations. One of them is the use of the Double Headed Eagle as a royal symbol. From 3800 BC until today this mythical bird is used as a symbol of royalty. Russia and other Eastern European countries use it on their currency notes and national flags. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh praise the mighty strength of this bird in coins, sculptures and literature. The Panchatantra used the story of double headed bird, also known as Ganda Berunda bird, to emphasize unity. Ancient Cankam (Sangam) Tamil literature used this bird in their love poetry. Devotional poets of India like Ekanath also used this bird as a simile.

Sumerians considered this bird the symbol of God Ninurta of Lagash. They thought it had divine power. We can trace the history of this mythical bird from the Sumerian days. A cylindrical seal shows the double headed eagle from 3800 BC. Later, the Hittite empire which had its capital in Bogazkoy (in Modern Turkey) used it in several monuments. Even today we can see the monuments displaying this symbol in huge sculptures in Hattusa and Yazilikaya. Bogazkoy was the place where a tablet with the names of the Vedic Gods: Indra, Mitra, Nasatya and Varuna was discovered. The tablet was dated 1380 BC. This establishes the Indian connection of the region.

Even the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire used this symbol. This Hindu symbol was used by the Christians.

In Sanskrit literature – the Panchatantra (book of fables) has a story about Ganda Berunda bird. It says that the bird had two heads but one stomach. In the story, one head wanted to drink Amrita (ambrosia) but the other head went for poison. Ultimately, the head that drank the poison made the bird die. The moral of the story is that disunity is dangerous.

Sculpture in Keladi Temple, Karnataka

Tamil literature, dated two thousand years old, mentions it in three places. In Akananuru, poet Kapilar (verse 12) compares this double-headed, single-bellied bird to two people in love. Though there were two physical bodies, they have one life. Nallanthuvanar also used this simile in Paripatal (Verse 8-72). But another Tamil poet Maruthan Ilanagan in Kalithokai (verse 89) used this bird in the form of two fighting heads, like the Panchatantra story. It shows that Indians from one end of the land to the other knew this bird very well. Thakadur Yaththirai is a lost Tamil book, but excerpts are available as quotes in other works. These quotes compared the fight between two kings Athiyaman and Peruncheral Irumporai to the double headed bird fighting with itself. (Ref. Purath thirattu verse 785).


The Bird that lifts elephants

The most imaginative story of the bird comes from the Vijayanagar Empire. Gold Coins issued by Achyuta Raya (1530-1542) show the Ganda Berunda bird lifting an elephant in each of its beaks. Its power is legendary. Other coins show each head holding a snake. Before Achyuta Raya Devaraya II (1422-1446) issued coins with the bird’s name in Deva Nagari script.

Jain Stupa at Sirkap, Taxila is the most ancient Ganda Berunda monument in India. We can see this mythical bird sculptures in Srisailam, Keladi, Koramangala, Belur and the medieval art of Sri Lanka.


Achyuta Gold coin with the bird

Recently even dances were choreographed showing the magical strength of the bird. Dasara Flower Show in Mysore had a 10 foot flower decoration of the bird to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the bird symbol in Karnataka.

The Wodeyar family of Mysore use this as their royal emblem. Later the Government of Karnataka used it as the emblem of the state. There are stories connecting this bird with the Narasimha (Man-Lion) avatara of Vishnu.

Eastern European country Albania has this bird in its national flag. Several countries issued stamps and coins as well. Russian Roubles and Kopeks had this bird.


National flag of Albania

In the Eastern Province Erzurum of Turkey, a huge double headed eagle is being erected in 2011 which is visible from space. Turkey gives so much importance to this legendary bird.

An ancient monument of Turkey shows this bird lifting two hares on its beaks. But the imagination of Indians made it a dinosaur lifting two elephants on its beaks!

Follow me on Twitter @Swami_48 and find me on Facebook.

When Animals worship God, Why not Men?

When Animals worship God, Why not Men?

Parrots recite the Vedas.
Dog follows Yudhistra to heaven.
Squirrel helps to build Rama Setu.
Gajendra, the elephant called on Vishnu for help.
Dogs inspire Adi Shankaracharya.
Four dogs come as four Vedas to Somasi Nayanar Yagna.
In Madurai pigs, swallow and heron were given moksha by Lord Shiva.
Cows bathed Shiva lingas with milk in several Indian towns.
Recently in Ratlam (Madhya Pradesh) monkeys listened to Ramayana.
Very recently In Tamil Nadu snakes and goats did Puja to statues of gods.
What are all these? Are these Panchatantra stories or Aesop fables? or
Are Walt Disney’s films on nature? If you read more you can judge it yourself.
Indian Tamil and Sanskrit literature are full of animal stories. They say that if a just king rules the country deer and tiger will drink water from the same river without showing enmity. They go one step forward and say that animals when pregnant get more affection even from their natural enemies. Snakes open their hoods to protect pregnant frogs from scorching sun. Such is the love and affection they show one toward another.
Western newspapers don’t lag behind in such stories. Within the last quarter of 2011 three such stories about parrots appeared in London publications. A pet parrot alerted its owner when his pet dog gave birth prematurely. But for the timely intervention of the bird many of the cubs would have died. Another parrot betrayed its owner during illicit intimacy by calling his wife’s name. A third parrot helped to catch a burglar, because even after it was stolen it was repeating its original owner’s name and identified him in the pet shop.
But Indian literature goes well beyond these anecdotes in time. We have the great Bhagavatham story of Elephant Gajendra calling Lord Vishnu to rescue it from the near fatal grip of a crocodile. This was beautifully sculpted 1500 years ago in the Deogarh temple. (My article about mysterious messengerstalks about a cobra giving shelter to a frog).
Look at the pictures now:
Monkey blessing Rama katha exponents in Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh, India (Monkey attending Rama katha is available on You Tube).

Elephant Gajendra calling Vishnu, 5th century AD (1500 old statue).
When the intellectual giant and the greatest Indian philosopher Adi Shankaracharya at a tender age went to challenge the mightiest figure of his days Mandanamishra on the banks of the river Narmada, he was laughed at and ridiculed by the women of the village who came to get water from the river. When they heard from a youth like Shankara that he came to discuss philosophical subjects with Mandanamishra and wanted to know where his house was, they giggled. But they were so intelligent that they replied to him in Sanskrit poetry. They asked him to go to a house where the parrots were reciting the Vedas and discussing Upanishad philosophy. The story takes very interesting turns at every stage. But I will stop with the parrots (those who wanted to read the story in English must go to Osho’s website, and those who wanted to read it in Tamil must go to Kanchi Shankaracharya’s Tamil lectures).
Thepperumanallur, Tamil Nadu, India- snake worships Lord Shiva.
On 16th January 2010 there was a solar eclipse. When the priest of Thepperumanallur in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu opened the temple, he saw a snake on top of the Shivalingam statue. It slowly went to the holy Bilva tree and brought the bilva leaves and put them on the head of Lord Shiva. It did it three times. Hundreds of villagers and photographers rushed to the temple and quietly watched the wonderful ceremony. The priest explained that solar eclipse is a holy occasion and people who do puja at that time get more punya.
Erode, Tamil Nadu, India – Goat worships Nagadeva statue with Tulsi (basil Leaves)
On 17th November 2011 when the Ayyappa devotees started their 40 day fasting (vrata) they all wore garlands and did Puja. A goat also took the holy basil leaves and did puja to the Nagadeva statues. Hundreds of devotees watched this with great reverence and curiosity. Popular Tamil Daily Dinamalar had published these incidents and they were read by millions.
People who have read Ramayana and Mahabharata knew about the little animals (read my story -Two LittleAnimals) When Adi Shankara was walking along a narrow street, a person of low caste came in the opposite direction. When Shankara, with all arrogance, asked him to move out of his path he asked a great philosophical question whether the body or soul should move out of his path. This opened Shankara’s eyes and awakened a greater fire in him. He realised that the man who came as an ugly uneducated person was nothing but God and the four dogs that accompanied him were four Vedas.
The same thing happened in the Soma yagna conducted by a great Tamil devotee called Somasimara Nayanar. When an untouchable came in drunken state with four dogs looking for his lost animals, all the Brahmins chased him away. But the great Nayanar realised that it was nothing but Shiva who came with four Vedas as dogs. Shiva showed him his real form and blessed him. It happened in the eighth century. The story appears in great detail in Periya Puranam in Tamil. Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh has translated it in to English.
Madurai Meenakshi Temple (Please go to The Wonder that is Meenakshi Temple) is full of animal stories. People were all reborn as animals and blessed by Lord Shiva. All these stories were given in greater details in the Tiruvilaiyadal Purana which is available in Sanskrit and English.
A lot of holy places and temples in India claim that the places were discovered when cows spontaneously showered milk in those spots.
Tamil Nadu (South India) is full of legends about temples. Most of the towns are associated with animals in one way or another. Just to mention a few Tiruanaika near Trichy in Tamil Nadu became famous because a spider and an elephant worshipped Shiva there. According to the local legend the spider was reborn as a famous Chola king and built many temples for Shiva. Tiruverumbur (ants worshipped), Tirukkazuku Kundram (eagles worshipped) and Vaitheeswaran Koil (Eagles Jatayu and Sampati worshipped).
So many places in India are associated with animals worshipping God and it is a good topic for further research.

The Mysterious Vedic Homa Bird: Does It Exist?

By S Swaminathan

The Emblem of Iran Air is the Homa Bird

There is a very interesting story about a mythological ‘Home Bird’ in Oriental literature.

Though Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said that it was a bird mentioned in the Vedas, there are no references to such a bird in Vedic literature. But there are indirect references elsewhere. Before going in to those details, let us first look at the interesting story. The Homa bird lives in the air, breeds in the air, lays eggs in the air, but before the eggs reach the surface of the earth they are hatched in the air and the baby bird flies upward to join its mother. This is the story told by the great saint. Is there any such bird in the world that fits this description? “No” is the categorical reply from ornithologists.

But Ramakrishna pointed to Narendra (later Swami Vivekananda) and compared him to a Homa bird. The meaning is very clear. Like some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, some are born with spiritual treasure. Before they settle into a mundane life they go up the spiritual ladder and become God-men. This is what happened in the case of Adi Shankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda and the great Tamil saint Thiru Gnana Sambandhar. Even when they were teenagers they realised God and taught the world. They were like Homa birds. They never touched the surface of the earth like us. They were always high- up in the sky.

Sri Ramakrishna said: “When they grow a little older they feel the awakening of inner consciousness and go directly toward God. They come to the world only to teach others. They never care for anything of the world. They are never attached to women and gold.”

Is there a Homa bird? The ornithologists (those who study birds) say the Wandering Albatross doesn’t return to land for six years at a time; it uses the ocean water as its surface. Swifts always land on trees but not on the ground because of their weak legs. Arctic Terns fly nonstop for seven days and travel 11000 miles – literally from one pole to the other. Certain birds live most of the time in water or on top of the trees and so literally they don’t “land” on earth for several years. They come to ground only when they lay eggs. But what we understand about today’s 9000 different kinds of birds may not be complete. In our own times we lost several bird species like the Dodo. So once upon a time there might have been a Homa bird in the world.

We have indirect references to the Homa bird in Persian literature. The Persian poets, Turkish poets and Sufi poets praise them as divine birds. If it flies over someone’s head, that person will become a king, they wrote. They described it as bird of paradise.

Though Iran is a Muslim country it has Homa bird as its emblem (please see the picture) for its airlines. The Homa bird in ancient Iranian monuments looks like an eagle or Garuda. There are lot of references about eagles bringing the divine Soma plant from the mountains in our Vedic literature. The English letters S and H change place in Greek and Persian. For example – they named those living on the banks of the river Sindhu as Hindus. Another example is the number Six (Shashti) becomes Hexa in Greek. In the same way, it may be the case that what we called the Soma bird is the mythical Homa bird. Whatever said in the Vedas is repeated in the Persian Zoroastrian literature. Moreover, Hindu literature also associates the Garuda bird (eagle) with Amrita (ambrosia).

Tippusultan and the Homa bird

When Tippusultan of Mysore was defeated by the British army his enormous wealth was plundered and looted. Some was sent to Britain. Other treasures were broken in to pieces and distributed to its troops. Tippusultan’s golden throne had a Homa bird encrusted with beautiful and expensive gem stones. A British auction house sold it some time ago naming it as the bird of paradise. “Tippu’s throne was eight feet in length, by five in width [and] was raised four feet from the earth. It had tiger legs. It was made up of gold and silver. Arabic sentences, chiefly from the Koran, decorated it. The canopy was made of pearls. The central part of the roof was surmounted by the MOST CURIOUS AND COSTLY FIGURE OF THE HUMAH (the fabulous royal bird of the East) formed of solid gold nearly the size of a pigeon, and covered over with the most valuable jewellery”.

Sufi teacher Inayat Khan describes the bird in beautiful words: “Its true meaning is that when a person’s thoughts so evolve that they break all limitations, then he becomes a king. “

The bird is described as a phoenix that comes to life even after it is consumed by fire. All of these concepts are metaphorical. If we apply it to great men and their teachings, it makes more sense. India is full of such Homa birds/Great men and women.


A bust of the mythical Homa Bird


Please visit my blogs: and

Follow me on Twitter @Swami_48 and find me on Facebook.

Two Little Animals that Inspired Indians

By S Swaminathan




There are two stories of little animals in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. They have been inspiring us for thousands of years. Let us hear the first story in the words of Swami Vivekananda:

Be like the humble Squirrel

 “The monkeys removed whole hills, placed them in the sea and covered them with stones and trees, thus making a huge embankment. A little squirrel, so it is said, was there rolling himself in the sand and running backwards and forwards on to the bridge and shaking himself. Thus in his small way he was working for the bridge of Rama by putting in sand. The monkeys laughed; for they were bringing whole mountains, whole forests, and huge loads of sand for the bridge— so they laughed at the little squirrel rolling in the sand and then shaking himself. But Rama saw it and remarked: “Blessed be the little squirrel; he is doing his work to the best of his ability, and he is therefore quite as great as the greatest of you.” Then he gently stroked the squirrel on the back, and the marks of Rama’s fingers, running lengthways, are seen on the squirrel’s back to this day.” Now, the squirrel knows that the effort of building a bridge across the ocean is an effort that is on a gigantic scale. It also knows that compared to that its own contribution is very small. But it did not remain idle assuming that its contribution would not be of much significance. It wanted to contribute to the work with all its might. This is what we have to learn. Working like that squirrel according to once own capacity is the way to build a complete personality. Be ready to shoulder responsibility.

Swami Vivekananda narrated this story while delivering a lecture on Ramayana

The story teaches us some important virtues:

  • Little drops of water make the mighty ocean
  • No work is too small
  • Learn to appreciate sincere work even if it comes from the lowest ranks
  • Ignore other people’s discouraging remarks and carry on with your job
  • Quality of work is more valued than the quantity of work

A Vaishnavaite Saint’s praise for the squirrel

There were 12 great Vishnu devotees (Alvars) in Tamil Nadu who composed 4000 hymns in Tamil on Lord Vishnu. One of the earliest of the twelve Alvars is Tirumazisai Alvar. He composed his poems 1500 years ago in which he said he was not like the famous squirrel. Here is the translation:

“ I am not like the little squirrel ,which

As the monkeys shoved and heaved the mountains

So spontaneously dipped in the water:

With its wet fur rolled, it on the sand

And ran back in to the waves of the sea

Concentrating only on building the bridge

But my heart is hard as the trees, I grieve that

Even my heart did not desire to serve the Lord of the Rangam”

-Tirumaalai 27

This hymn proves that the Ramayana squirrel has been inspiring people for thousands of years.

Mahabharata Mongoose

There is another interesting story in the Mahabharata about a mongoose:

It is the story of a poor Brahmin who lived with his wife, son and daughter in law. The Brahmin used to beg for food. Sometimes the family went without food for several days. One day they got some food after a long period of starvation. Though they were poor, they never forgot to do the rituals like yagna. So the Brahmin dedicated one fourth of the food to the Gods and divided the other part in to four equal portions. Just before they started eating, a beggar came and asked for food saying that he was very hungry. The Brahmin gave his portion first. When he asked for more and more food each one gave his or her portion of food as well. When his stomach was full he went to wash his hands. At that time a mongoose was running across and the water fell on one part of its body. That part became golden in colour. The Brahmin revealed his true identity as Brahma, one of the Hindu Trinity. When he offered them a boon, all the family members refused to accept it saying it was part of their duty to show hospitality to any guest. Brahma, very much pleased with them, sent them straight to heaven.

Several years after this incident, the eldest of the five Pandavas, Dharma performed a Rajasuya Yagna in Indraprastha. It was a grand success and everyone praised the Pandavas sky high. But the mongoose whose body partly turned golden went there and challenged them. It said, “ Look I rolled on the water of the Rajasuya Yagna. But my body did not turn fully gold. When I went to a greater Yagna in Krita Yuga, my body turned partly gold than I was told the other part would also turn in to gold when an equally great Yagna was performed. Dharma was humbled by the mongoose challenge. At last the mongoose requested Lord Krishna to bless it and Krishna readily obliged the mongoose. Pandava’s Yagna was performed in the Dwapara Yuga (third of the four yugas).

Moral of the story: The values change from Yuga to Yuga. The people’s approach was 100 percent perfect during the Krita Yuga or Golden Age. During Dwapara Yuga it was only 50 percent perfect. The Brahmins in the Golden Age refused to take any credit for the charity they did. But the Pandavas made a big show of their charity. The second point is that giving food to the needy is equal to a great Yagna like Rajasuyam. Don’t feel proud for everything you do. There is always someone out in the world who can outsmart you. So be humble.

An Anonymous English poem about the squirrel (the last four lines are mine)

“Whisky, frisky, Whisky

Hippity hop;

Up he goes

To the tree top

Whirly, twirly,

Round and round,

Down he scampers

To the ground

Furly, curly

What a tail !

Tall as a feather

Broad as a sail!

Where’s his supper?

In the shell

Snappity, crackity

Out it fell”

“Ramayana or Mahabharata

Every where you are

And inspire to perspire

And persevere for ever”

Please send feedback and comments to: Followme on Twitter @Swami_48.

Please visit my blogs: and