Geek Sphinx from Thebes

Research article Written by London Swaminathan

Uploaded in London on  – 1 JANUARY 2020

Post No.7408

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pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.


Another interesting thing about the hymn is that it has the Greek Sphinx Riddle. Sangam Tamil literature verses and post Sangam Tamil Tirukkural reflects the views in the hymn. Bhagavad Gita also shared the same thoughts. Let me compare the riddle first.

Gigantic 187 feet tall Egyptian Sphinx is a famous edifice with a long history. It has been dated a monument from 2600 BCE. It has the face of a man and the body of a lion. Greeks had a different Sphinx with a feminine face and wings. We have such figures from 500 BCE.

In the Greek conception, sphinx is the monstrous daughter of Typhon and Echidna. The sphinx demanded human sacrifice from the Thebans every time her riddle concerning the three ages of man was unanswered. when Oedipus answered, she committed suicide. It was adopted as an emblem of wisdom.

Her riddle was ‘which animal  went on four, then two and finally three legs’; the answer being humanity- crawling baby, adult and old man with a stick. Oedipus gave the right reply.

Rig veda 10-117-8 says

“He with one foot surpasses Two foot; and Two foot leaves Three foot behind. Four foot comes at the call of

Two foot watching his herds and serving him where five met together.”

Probably the Greeks copied it like they copied the Sarama dog story in Hermes episode.

The explanation given by the Vedic commentators is

One foot – Sun (Aja Ekapada is another word for Sun)

Two Feet – human being;

Three foot – old person with a walking stick (staff);

Four feet – Dog and other animals.

Five foot – Many people who watch all these things.


Before this stanza, there are other stanzas illustrating very high thoughts. This is from the 10th Mandala of the Rig Veda.

Rig Veda 10-117-1

The gods have not ordained hunger to be our death; even to the well-fed man comes death in varied shape.

Here the poet Bitsu Angiras says that don’t condemn the begging people that they have to suffer like this because of their past sins. That is not right. Death is not only for the poor. Even well-fed rich men die.



The man with food in store, who when the needy comes in miserable case begging for food

Hardens his hear against him – though in the past he had made use of him- he surely finds  no one with sympathy.

Tamil poet Tiruvalluar says,

Wealth in the hands of a liberal person is like a useful tree bearing fruits in the middle of a town square – Kural 216

The man who is in the habit of sharing his food with others will never be afflicted with the dire disease called hunger – 227


10-117- 3

The man who is truly generous gives to the beggar  who approaches him. He puts himself at the service of the man and makes him a friend for times to come.



That man is not a friend who does not give of his own nourishment to his friend. Let the friend turn away from him. Let him find another man who gives freely.

Here also we can compare a couplet from Tirukkural-

Genuine friendship hastens to redress distress like the hand that picks up the garment quickly that slips –788


10-117- 5

Let the rich satisfy the poor and bend his eyes upon a longer path way.

Riches come now to one, now to another  like the wheels of the rolling chariot.

This simile of wheel is used by several ancient poets. Naladiyar , another moral book, also uses this wheel simile for ever moving wealth.

Longer pathway means that the rich also can face ups and downs in future and so he must look into it.



The foolish man wins food without labour; I speak the truth; it will bring ruin to him. He cultivates neither a friend nor a patron. All guilt is who he eats alone without sharing.

Lord Krishna illustrates this point in harsher terms. He says that who he eats aloe is a thief; he eats nothing but sin.

The good people who eat what is left from sacrifice are released from all sins but those wicked people who prepare food for their own sake – verily they eat sin – Bhagavad Gita 3-13

He who enjoys the god given gifts without giving to them/gods in return is verily a thief – 3-12

Tiruvalluvar also says,

Enjoying one’s food, sharing it with others, and sustaining other lives is held out as the highest virtue by learned sages – Kural 322

Here Valluvar echoes the Vedic sages.



A man gets food by ploughing the field; the legs that walk puts the road behind them. The priest who speaks is better than the one who does not speak. The friend who gives surpasses the one who does not.

Griffith comments on it,

Active exertion is necessary for success.

The speaking brahman priest – the priest who duly discharges his task of recitation for which he is engaged.



Already given in the Greek Riddle comparison (see above)



The two hands though same, do not do the same thing.

Two cows from the same mother do not give the same amount of milk

The strength and valour of the twins are not the same.

Two kinsmen do not give with the same generosity.

Griffith explains,

All men should be liberal; but we must not expect all to be equally generous.

Here we see the ways of the world beautifully explained.

The similes of twins, ploughing field give a pen picture of the agricultural society.


Last but not the least, we may compare this with the 2000 year old Tamil Sangam Poems.

A Pandya king by name Ilamperu Valuthi says that Tamils share everything that is eatable, even if its Amrta from the world of Indra. He adds that they would do anything that brings fame and name for one and never do anything wrong even if they are given the entire world.- See Puranaanuru verse-182

In another verse a philanthropist was praised as a ‘Doctor who cures the disease of Hunger’ by a Chola king – See Puram. Verse 173.

The thought of sharing and giving  is praised from the Rig Vedic days till today, from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari.


Sphinx in Egypt

Generosity: Stories and Quotations


Article No. 2000

Compiled  by London swaminathan

Date 17th July 2015

Time uploaded in London: 19-20


Aristotle, on being censured for giving alms to a bad man, answered: “I did not give it to the man, I gave it to humanity.”



There is a story about a hero of the Chinese rice-fields. During an earthquake and Tsunami, he saved his community by quick thinking. From his hill-top farm he saw the ocean swiftly withdrawn, like some prodigious animal crouching for leap, and knew the leap would be the huge tidal wave. He also saw that his neighbours working in low fields must be gathered to his hill or swept away. Without a second thought he set fire to his haystacks and furiously rang the temple bell.

His neighbours thought his farm on fire and rushed to help him. Then, from that safe hill they saw the swirl of waters over fields just forsaken – and knew their salvation and its cost. After wards the people of these rice-fields used to go to the temple to worship their neighbour’s spirit while he was alive.



In South India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, there are lot of Hero Stones, for those who save the community from wild animals or invading enemies. Each one has his name inscribed on it with his heroic deeds. Some of them have become temples of “Village Gods”.




On his death bed Governor Hogg of Texas (USA) requested that no monument be placed at his grave; but that instead, there be planted, “at my head a pecan tree, and at my feet an old fashioned walnut tree and when these trees shall bear, let the pecans and walnuts given out among the Plains people of Texas, so that they may plant them and make Texas a land of trees.”

His wishes were carried out. The first nuts were saved in 1926 and planted in nursery rows. And the same thing has been done each year. When the saplings are large enough to transplant they are distributed to schools and county boards.




“I am rich enough,” said Alexander Pope to Jonathan Swift, “and can afford to give away a hundred pounds a year. I would not crawl upon the earth without doing good. I will enjoy the pleasure of what I give by giving it alive and seeing another enjoy it. When I die I should be ashamed to have enough for a monument if a wanting friend was above ground.”

pope, book



A Tamil Muslim Miracle – posted by me on 2nd December 2013.

One of the anecdotes in Seethakkathi’s life may be compared with Popes anecdote:

During his tour, a poor man met Seethakathi and told him about the difficulty in getting his daughter married for want of money. When Seethakkathi came forward to give him money, the poor man told that he would take the money when the marriage was finalised. After sometimes Seethakathi died suddenly. The poor man came all the way to Keelakkarai to get the money for his daughter’s wedding, without knowing Seethakkathi’s demise. Town people gave him the bad news when he enquired about the whereabouts of Seethakathi.

The poor man felt very sad but yet wanted to pay his respects at his grave. When he went to Seethakkathi’s grave and paid his respects suddenly a hand protruded from below the grave. It was Seethakkathi’s hand and there was a pearl studded gold ring in one of his fingers! The man took it and thanked his philanthropy even after he died. This gave the popular Tamil phrase “Seththum Kodthaan Seethakkathi” meaning Seethakkathi gave even after his death!


Brahms (1)


An English lover of Brahms’ music willed him 1000 pounds (British Currency). When Joachim sent the news to Brahms, he replied:

“One can experience nothing more beautiful, nothing that does one more good, than what you have just told me. That a perfect stranger, who has, as far as I know, never even written me, should remember me thus, touches me most deeply and intimately. Once before I have had the inestimable joy of experiencing the like. All exterior honours are nothing in comparison.

As I do not need to ‘invest’ the money, I am enjoying it in the most agreeable manner, by taking pleasure in its distribution.”




The whole world is one family for the large hearted

-Pancatantra 5-38-7; Hitopadesa 1-71

The generous give and give, and misers cringe and cry!

–Kahavatratnakar, page 124

The selfless shirk not from sacrificing their lives for those in dire need.


Himself without any clothes, the beggar is passionate about giving charity!

—-Kahavatratnakar, Page 140