Forget Justice Sharma's peacock's tears comments, our mythology is replete with sexless births
Everyone likes to go out on a high. Perhaps that's what was playing on the mind of Justice Mahesh Chand Sharma on Wednesday, his last day as a Rajasthan High Court judge.
While disposing off an inoccuous petition he first declared that the cow should be made India's national animal. Then he went on about how peacocks don't have sex. “Peahens just drink the tears of a pecock to get pregnant,” he said.
Social media of course cracked up and our national bird started trending, but Sharma isn't the first one to have given us such pearls of evolutionary wisdom.
A few months after taking over as prime minister, Narendra Modi had waxed eloquent about how India was scientifically advanced in the days of yore. Referring to the Mahabharata, he had said Karna's birth was a feat of genetic science as he was not born from his mother's womb.
He could have been inspired by Dina Nath Batra, whose book Tejomay Bharat had a customised message for Modi. Batra, who enjoys a handsome following among the Hindutva brigade, had argued that Gandhari giving birth to a 100 sons involved stem cell research.
Indian mythology is actually replete with such strange birth stories, which can now provide a happy grazing field for all those bhakts looking to 'revolutionise' biology. Take a look:
A saint and a bowl of pudding
Ramayana may hold a great sway over the subcontinent and beyond, but at the root of the great epic is such a story of a 'holy' birth.
When Dasharatha, the famed king of Ayodhya, remained childless for long he conducted a yagna with the help of Sage Rishyasringa. As the rituals progressed, Agni, the god of fire, lept up from the sacrificial fireplace and handed over a bowl of payasa (rice pudding) to the sage.
He asked Dasaratha's three wives – Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi – to have the payasa. Once they did, all three concieved and thus were born Rama, Bharat, Lakshmana and Shatrughna.
A plough and a furrow
Rama's wife Sita wasn't born naturally either. According to Valmiki's epic, Janaka, the king of Mithila, found her as a child in a furrow while ploughing a field as part of a yagna.
A drop of sweat
Some versions of the Ramayana tell the tale of how Hanuman wanted to cool off after burning Ravana's Lanka. He went to take a dip in the sea and a drop of his sweat fell into the mouth of a great fish-cum-reptile, which gave birth to Makardhwaja – part Makara (an aquatic animal) and part Vanara (an ape).
The son of sun
Much more than Ramayana, Mahabharata is a treasure trove of such stories. Kunti, the wife of Pandu, once received a boon from Sage Durvasa that she would be able to invoke any god of her choice and bear their child. Her life was never the same again.
A curious Kunti wanted to try out the boon and ended up with the son of Surya, the sungod. He was named Karna, but an unwed Kunti decided to abandon him.
The five brothers
Kunti's divine power came in handy later, after her marriage to Pandu, the prince of Hastinapur. Pandu was cursed by Sage Kindama as he shot with arrows the sage and his wife while they – hold your breath – had taken the form of deer to mate! The curse meant Pandu couldn't have sex with his wives Kunti and Madri.
Eventually Kunti used her boon to get three sons:
* Yudhistira from Yama, the god of death and Dharma
* Bhima from Vayu, the god of wind
* Arjun from Indra, the king of the Devas
She also let Madri use the power, who invoked the Ashwini brothers and had two sons – Nakula and Sahadeva.
The 100 brothers and a sister
Unlike Kunti, Gandhari – the wife of Pandu's elder brother Dhritarashtra – conceived naturally, but gave birth to only a lump of flesh. Sage Veda Vyasa stepped in at this point to ensure Gandhari doesn't go childless. He divided the lump into 101 parts and incubated them in earthen pots. Thus came into being Duryodhana and his 99 brothers and their sister Dushala.
Twins out of fire
Draupadi, wife to the Pandavas, and her brother Dhristadyumna were born to Drupada, when the king of Panchala organised a yagna to get a son to defeat friend-turned-foe Drona.
A sage and a vessel
In Vicky Donor, Ayushman Khurrana would routinely be handed a container to “do the needful” by Annu Kapoor. Something similar happened to sage Bharadwaja. He saw a beautiful apsara bathing and couldn't control himself. The sage then collected his reproductive fluid in a droona – a vessel made of leaves – and from that was born Drona, the teacher of the Kauravas and Pandavas, reverred till this day.
Another sage and some weed
Sage Shardwana, meanwhile, was busy doing penance to please the gods to become an unbeatabe archer. This psyched off Indra who sent Janapadi, again an apsara to lure the him. Sharadwana was distracted and dropped some semen on a bunch of weeds, from which were born a boy and a girl – Kripa and Kripi.
Kripa later became the chief priest of Hastinapur while Kripi married Drona.
A mango / 2
The king of Magadha took the penance route to get a son. When a sage gave him a magic mango to help him, the king divided the fruit into two and gave it his two queens. They each delivered half a baby, dead.
The king had given up hope, but a rakshashi called Jara saw what was going on and joined the two halves , bringing the baby to life. He was named Jarasandha, in honour of Jara, and grew up to be a mighty king.
India doesn't have a monopoly over such stories. The most well-known instance perhaps would be the 'virgin birth' of Jesus.
From Assyrians to the Aztecs, many ancient civilisations are replete with such tales. They have been passed on generation by generation to the modern times.
But in post-truth India, thanks to the likes of the honourable justice and PM, the line between fact and fiction is getting eerily blurred.