Indian Mythologies

By Raghbir & Doris Dhillon

October 9, 2005. My wife Doris, a retired teacher, and I were reading the morning newspaper in our living room. She popped her head out of the paper and said, "Horrible! More than eighty thousand people killed by the earthquake in Pakistan. Do you know what causes them?"

"Certainly, I do."

"Tell me about it," she said with a smile.

"It is our Indian mythological explanation."

"Well, myth means any fictitious or unscientific account. Anyhow, I would love to hear your story."

"Mother Cow supports the earth on one horn. When she gets tired, she shifts the earth to the other horn, and that causes the earthquake," I said.

She chuckled. "Mister smart, the earth satellites have shown that there is no cow supporting the earth. Do you believe in this mythology?"

"No, but millions in India still do."


"Old, orthodox Hindus don't believe in the existence of the satellites."

"A fascinating mythology. Indians do make good stories."

"Certainly, we have a mythology for everything."

"What is their concoction for tsunamis?"

"Tsunamis are caused by the gods: They churn the oceans to produce a goddess who can wash the sins of the world. As she shoots out of the ocean, ocean water rises up with her and creates a tsunami."

"Well, how are the hurricanes generated?"

"I have forgotten the name of the god who blows out his candle and it forms hurricanes and tornados. Can I tell you how Kashmir, where the earthquake took place, was created?"

She chuckled, "Go ahead, I'll finish the paper later."

"There used to be a big lake there, and it was taken over by demons which tortured and killed people. The gods sent a bird, which brought a stone in its beak and dropped it at this place. The stone turned into the mighty Himalayan Mountain and buried the demons."

"I would love to hear more of your Indian mythologies."

"There are thousands. I, however, know only a few. Let me describe what I remember: When the solar eclipse occurred, we went to the sacred Ganges River and prayed with tears in our eyes. The priests had told us that two demons, Ragu and Kato, had come to grab the sun in their net, and we must pray hard; otherwise, we will lose the sun," I said. "Well, tomorrow we are going to visit India for fifteen days, and you will come across more of our mythologies.

Air India brought us to New Delhi. We had planned to visit Taj Mahal, so we hired a taxi. After travelling two hours over the overcrowded, dusty, noisy, and bumpy road, the taxi crawled into Agra City. There it had to move at a snail's speed for fifteen minutes to reach the entrance to Taj Mahal. I looked out of the car window and found the place packed with swarming, polyglot crowds. The cycle rickshas, scooter rickshaws, taxies, buses, and horse buggies were squirming along, constantly blowing their horns or bells. The flowers in Taj Mahal gardens were struggling to mute the smell of smoke, dust, and garbage. Beggars, with stretched palms, were chasing the tourists, and the placid Brahmin cows, loaded with garlands, were meandering through the crowd. The tour guides, holding flags high in the air, were escorting their groups, and the hawkers, with their loud shibboleths, were adding to the cacophonous din.

Our taxi stopped, and several guides dashed to us with their cards. I selected one who could speak fluent English. He was an erudite, old man who was wearing a white dhoti and matching Gandhi cap. I read his card: "Professor Ram Lal M.A."

"Welcome to Taj Mahal, the most perfect structure ever built by man. I'll show you around and provide you with its historical background," the guide said.

He took us through a huge red marble arched entrance, and I saw the breathtaking marble structure. I was awestruck by its grandeur and ethereal beauty. The sun's rays were dancing and shimmering over the huge white marble dome which was guarded by four glimmering, sky-kissing minarets. We walked along the whispering pools of fountains on a path leading to the mausoleum.

He gestured toward the tomb and said, "This is the costliest and most beautiful grave-container in the world."

"When was it constructed?" Doris asked.

"Emperor Shah Jahan, after the death of his wife, Mumtaz-i-Mahal, started it in 1632, and it was completed in 1653. For more than twenty-one years, twenty thousand men worked on this project."

It was mind boggling to imagine those men working in this limited space, hauling, chiseling, grinding, and polishing marble stones.

We walked to the steps of the platform, and he said, "All the structures rest upon this mammoth, square platform which is made with red marble." Then pointing to the main dome, he continued, "That dome is seventy feet in diameter and stands 120 feet above the marble dais which is 186 feet square."

Doris and I admired the inlay work in the marble walls, and he told us that these were passages from the Koran. He took us around the tomb and showed us the four minarets protecting each corner. When we stopped near one minaret, he took out a piece of paper and tried to insert it in the junction between two stones.
He failed and said, "Look, this is thinner than paper; it is a great engineering accomplishment. Unlike the Pyramids of Egypt, which have large rectangular stones with big joints, these 133-feet tall, circular minarets are conical and each stone is curved and has a different shape, and it perfectly fits with others with hair-thin joints."

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