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Saturday, May 7, 2022

monkeys at Thirumala Tirupathi

Long ago, communication was by telex !  .. .. a Russian ship Captain visited Kakinada and wanted a monkey as a pet – so, the support Office sent a message to their supply office stating ‘Russian Captain like monkey’ ! 

No monkey business this post is – monkey business would mean a silly act, a behavior that is not acceptable or is dishonest.  In 1931 a comedy film, by Marx Brothers was released – with storyline of stowaways on board an Ocean liner ! 

Monkeys and apes are both primates, which means they’re both part of the human family tree. As distinguished relatives, we should probably be able to tell them apart. But when you look at a gibbon or a marmoset, how do you know which is a monkey and which is an ape? The quickest way to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape is by the presence or absence of a tail. Almost all monkeys have tails; apes do not. Their bodies are different in other ways too: monkeys are generally smaller and narrow-chested, while apes are larger and have broad chests and shoulder joints that allow them to swing through trees (while some monkeys also have this ability, most of them are built for running across branches rather than swinging). Many people think of a monkey as a cute, brown, fuzzy primate that uses vines to swing from tree to tree. But - there are actually more than 250 different species of monkeys in the world. 

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” .. .. .. Poigai Alwar extolls 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.  

A post on the monkeys of Thirumala rather than the holy Thirumala itself.   A few years ago,  Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams,  announced that Lord Hanuman’s birthplace was Anjanadri, a hillock at Japali Theertham located about 5 km from north of the hill temple. The announcement, on ‘Ram Navami’ day, was made by a TTD constituted committee of scholars from different fields led by Prof Muralidhara Sharma, Vice-Chancellor of National Sanskrit University here, in the presence of Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit. A booklet with ‘epigraphical, scientific and mythological evidence’, projecting Anjanadri, one of the seven hills at Tirumala, as the birthplace of Lord Hanuman was released by Muralidhara Sharma on the occasion.  

To His followers, there have been different versions on where Lord Hanuman was born.  Some state, Hanuman as being born in a cave in Anjan village in Gumla district of Jharkhand while some others claim his birthplace as Maharashtra’s Anjaneri hills near Nashik.  .. .. the Holy Thirumala Tirupathi is located on Venkatadri hill, the seventh and Narayanadri, Seshadri and Garudadri are among the other hills of Tirumala. Hanuman is also hailed as ‘Vayuputra’ and as son of Anjana Devi who did ‘tapas’ in the one of the seven hills of Tirumala and it was named after her as ‘Anjanadri.’  

ஊரும் வரியரவம் ஒண்குறவர் மால்யானை,

பேரஎறிந்த பெருமணியை, - காருடைய

மின்னென்று புற்றடையும் வேங்கடமே, மேலசுரர்

எம் என்னும் மாலது இடம்.  

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  in Holy 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. A few decades ago, a massive drive was launched and monkeys were flushed out of the hills of Thirumala.  

In my recent sojourn to holy Thirumala, on the footpath saw this monkey with black face, more virulent and  threatening than the common monkey – 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 called  Hanuman langurs, are the most widespread langurs of the Indian Subcontinent. Gray langurs are large and fairly terrestrial, inhabiting forest, open lightly wooded habitats, and urban areas on the Indian subcontinent.  

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.  

Interesting !  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
7th May 2022. 

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