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  • Writer's pictureMohit Ahuja

Disability and How Mythology has Failed Us

Trigger Warning: This is a personal perspective not meant to hurt or ridicule any religious sentiments.

I come from a Punjabi Hindu middle-class-family. Like a lot of my counterparts, I grew up hearing tales of mythology and learning about religion and our gods from television shows like Mahabharata and Ramayana. Those were the years when a lot of 80s kids like me were growing up and it was through these basic modes of entertainment and knowledge that our foundation was laid, one that would affect our perspective for the rest of our lives.

Now, technically speaking, there are 2 sides to these mythological stories. The first is the one that is written in holy scriptures and books. This version is limited to scholars and priests and I assume only 4-5% of the total population would read these in detail and understand what is written. However, there is a second side to this coin, the tales of folklore that have been passed on from one generation to another. There’s a strong chance that your grandparents narrated these stories to you that they heard from their grandparents who heard them from their grandparents.

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with this version or any religion for that matter, but I for one, am a person who likes logic more than anything else. Yes, there are a few things that are beyond explanation, but there has to be a place where one draws a line in the narrative.

A few years back, much before the thought of this blog had even occurred, I read a set of 3 books from an author named Amish Tripathi. They’re together called, “”The Shiva Trilogy”.

Unlike any god or mythology-related book I have read before, these books woke up the bookworm in me and before long, I had finished all 3 of them. Soon after, my father was reading them, followed by my sisters and then my nieces.

The very first thing I loved about the book is that it presents Shiva as a mere mortal, just like you and me. He has his mood swings, he has his highs and lows and like many of us, at so many moments through his journey he’s filled with self-doubt.

Rewinding a few years into my childhood again, we were shown on television that Ganesha, Shiva’s son was originally born with a human head. It was after he angered Shiva, his own father, that Shiva beheaded him, completely unaware that this is his son. And then, as damage correction, when he could not find the head he had just chopped off, he replaced Ganesha’s head with that of a baby elephant. What magic!

I have two problems with this story. First, what god in his true godliness would behead a child? And secondly, the whole angle of Ganesha’s head being replaced by that of a baby elephant is a tad too far fetched.

On the contrary, in the Shiva Trilogy, there is a group of people named Nagas. These are people born with deformities. They are outcasts who live in hiding because people fear them and how they look. They are also feared for their unmatched strength and valor where they use their deformities to their advantage. Ganesha, according to the same book, is also a Naga. He was born with elongated ears and an elongated almost droopy nose, resembling that of an elephant.

Ganesha was hidden from Parvati since birth as her father Daksha, the king, felt ashamed that a child with deformity is born of royalty. And, in fact, to keep this a secret, he gets Parvati’s first husband secretly assassinated, pinning the blame of this “goof-up” on him. But obviously, when Shiva meets Ganesha for the first time, he is not aware of who Ganesha is and somewhere down the line, Ganesha has to prove his identity. In fact, the meaning of Ganesha’s name is “lord of the people” and that is how he is known amongst the Nagas.

By the way, the same book also talks about Kali, Parvati’s sister, who also has been estranged since birth, again thanks to their father Daksha. Kali was born with a dark complexion and a deformity where an extra set of arms grew out of her back, making her look like she had multiple arms. Kali has quite a temper and is an avid warrior, hence making people fear her more than anyone else.

As I said earlier, I don’t know if this is the true story or the one that has been shown on television or written in books for centuries. Honestly, who knows?

It is all just make-believe, isn’t it?

So just think about the entire lineage of us humans, your and my ancestors who for ages have passed down these stories to us. Just think of that one person in your life who is labeled day in and day out as disabled, handicapped, mentally retarded, divyang and what not.

Think about how the perspective would have changed if when these stories were passed down generations, you would have thought that a Naga, a warrior was born in your home? Would you have, even if it was for a microsecond, looked at the situation differently?

I have seen a lot of families with what I call, superhumans, deal with the situation like warriors. The parents are brave every single day and are ready to die if they have to, to save the integrity of their different child. In fact, I have heard a lot of parents (including mine) say that they will be happy if the special child leaves the world before them. It would be a peaceful win that would ensure the parents die with no mental or emotional baggage.

Take a minute and think where else have you heard similar statements?

Let me give a few hints. You must’ve heard parents of soldiers who died in war say such things. You must have heard families of common people say such things when that common person who left before their time did so because they were trying to protect someone, fight for what was right.

Quite frankly, I salute the parents taking up this challenge of raising a different child with open arms. But, wouldn’t the journey be a tad easier if we as a society celebrated being different? Wouldn’t it be better if the Nagas lived proudly amongst us and were accepted as a part of the society as much as you and me?

What God you follow, what book you read and what story you want to believe is completely your choice. I am nobody to question that. I bow my head at a temple, a mosque, a church and a gurudwara with the same faith, seeking the same answers.

And, as I said before, the whole idea of this article is not to ridicule anyone but to share a personal perspective. You are free to disagree.

However, as I rest my case, there’s another little thing that I picked up from the same book and I’d like to share that with you to conclude.

As Shiva is expected to lead a war, he being a mere mortal starts questioning himself. He wonders what he could say to those thousands of men looking up to him, hoping that he, the Neelkanth, would work his magic and help them win the war.

It is in that moment that he shouts out a slogan that has stuck with me ever since I read it.

“Har Har Mahadev. All of us are Mahadevs. All of us are Gods. The most beautiful temple, the most magnificent masjid, the most majestic gurudwara, all live in our hearts.”

And because I shall always remember that, I bow down to you, my warrior friends.

Har Har Mahadev.

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Paras Rana
Paras Rana
Apr 25

Such a lovely message! Being kind and accepting each other's differences makes us all better.


Archana Dhingra
Archana Dhingra
Apr 12

This blog is so will written and the way you have connected the superhuman to the nagas is so empowering. I loved it. Keep it up

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