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Saturday, April 1, 2017

“மந்திபாய் வடவேங்கடமாமலை" ~ monkeys of Holy Tirumala


Hills are rich in flora and fauna..the holy Seven Hills are supreme, being the abode of Lord Venkateswara.  There is so much of greenery on the way exhibiting its abundance of wealthy nature.  Thirumangai Mannan talks of Thirumala as being surrounded by  trees, creepers, fragrant flowers, springs.  Thiruppanazhwaar calls it “மந்திபாய் வடவேங்கடமாமலை வானவர்கள் சந்திசெய்ய நின்றான்” .. .. .. PoigaiAlwar excels in stating, the kuravas [vagabond tribes] threw manikkam (a big gem stone) at the rampaging elephants, the serpents mistook them for lightning, were scared and rushed to their anthills in the holy Thiruvengadam the heavenly abode of divine.

ஊரும் வரியரவம் ஒண்குறவர் மால்யானை,
பேரஎறிந்த பெருமணியை, - காருடைய
மின்னென்று புற்றடையும் வேங்கடமே, மேலசுரர்
எம் என்னும் மாலது இடம்.

Well this is no religious post ~ but one on ‘monkeys’ !!India has wide range of destinations with diversity among the region and habitats such as forests, grasslands, wetlands and deserts. The bio diversity of India support variety of flora and fauna and the monkeys are one of them. Monkeys are considered very intelligent ~ may not be much liked ones, due to the nuisance and trouble it can create… though commonly known as monkeys, understand that there are hundreds of species … the ape is considered our ancestor.  Most have tails and live on trees.  Chennai is not known to be haunted  by monkeys …

I have been visiting Thirumala and about a couple of decades ago, there existed in huge number of simian population  inHoly Thirumala ~ not any longer !  Monkeys often cause trouble, tormenting people and then can be quite fearsome – the other day while ascending Sholinghur temple was scared beyond a point with hundreds of monkeys chasing pilgrims and snatching any eatable / baggage they had.  In those days, Thirumala had a different look – so many choultries situate around the temple tank and some of them infront of the main gopuram too.  There was the beautiful 1000 pillared mantap – all gone in the garb of decongesting!  - in and around all these areas, there were so many monkeys, many atop the temple rath too. 


Where all they have gone ? – some say that they were caught by trained monkey catchers and left elsewhere ! – exported ?- the ones that I have seen in Thirumala, Sholinghur, the other day in an Office complex at Guindy and even in Triplicane were all common monkeys -  the rhesus macaque (Macacamulatta), one of the best-known species. 

In my recent sojourn to holy Thirumala, on the footpath saw this monkey with black face, more virulent and  threatening than the common monkey – perhaps a langur !  Langurs, are largely gray (some more yellowish), with a black face and ears. Found more in  north, gray langurs have their tail tips looping towards their head during a casual walk.   Gray langurs or Hanuman langurs, the most widespread langurs of the Indian Subcontinent, are a group of Old World monkeys constituting the entirety of the genus Semnopithecus. Gray langurs are large and fairly terrestrial, inhabiting forest, open lightly wooded habitats, and urban areas on the Indian subcontinent.


Had read earlier that the growing monkey menace in the national Capital has forced hospitality establishments, lush farmhouses and even gated housing communities in tony localities to employ langurs to keep primates away from their premises.The langur is listed under Schedule-II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and under the IPC animal cannot be owned, traded, bought, sold or hired out. Any violation of this law entails a three-year jail term or a fine or both. Langurs tied to a long rope and prodded to chase away monkey hordes was once a common sight in Delhi buildings and most government building; but  in 2012, the Ministry of Environment and Forests wrote to all departments to tell them that owning, buying or hiring out of langurs was an offence punishable under the law.

Interesting!! 

There are many parables speaking high of intelligence and perseverance of monkeys.  There are also some on their behavioural aspects.  One theory goes that a group of monkeys were kept in a cage and up over there bunch of bananas were hung ~ when they climbed a pole for reaching their favourite food – either an electric shock or cool water gushing was given – the monkeys attempted initially a few times – everytime they got the punishment… after sometime, one of the monkeys was taken out and in its place, a new one introduced – when the new one tried to reach out for the food, the experienced ones dragged it and prevented it.  slowly the monkeys were replaced one after the other ~ and at one stage, all were new ones – none had any experience of pain in reaching out for the bananas.  Yet they got attuned that reaching out for bananas is not good for them.  Not sure, how true it is !! – but this could be true with man too.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd Mar 2o17.

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