The character of Hanuman, Rama’s closest aide has become among the most popular characters of the Ramayana in recent years. His superhuman antics are well known and he has become a part of the popular culture today. However there are a few stories that are not as well-known. One such story was about Hanuman vanquishing Mahiravan in patala-lok (read here: On Mahiravan’s trail). On his way there he ran into an interesting character called Makaradhwaj. This is his story.
When Hanuman reached patala loka he found its entrance being guarded by Makaradhwaj. He stopped Hanuman and challenged him to a wrestling duel. Hanuman would be allowed to enter and says that he can enter only after defeating him in the duel. Hanuman agrees, but finds him a tough opponent. Hanuman is impressed by his strength, but at the end of a strong bout, defeats Makaradhwaj. After the duel, Hanuman asks him his name and wanted to know about his parents, who had given birth to such a strong child. Makardwaj said that he was the son of Hanuman!
Hanuman was puzzled, as he was a celibate and had never fathered a child. Makardwaj explained that after burning the city of Lanka with his tail, he had dipped himself in the sea. At that moment, a drop of his sweat fell in the water which was swallowed by a fish like reptile, makar. He was later found in the stomach of the animal and given to Mahiravan. Another version says that due to the intense heat generated in his body after burning Lanka, he took a dip in the sea and it was at this moment that he ejected his reproductive fluid which fell into the mouth of the reptile.
Seeing his tremendous strength, and since he was found in the stomach of a reptilian fish, he was named Makaradhwaj. Later he was entrusted with the task of guarding the fortress of Mahiravan. He did recognise his father, but he did not want to be accused of betraying Mahiravan, who had brought him up and trained him and had trusted him with an important task.
On losing his wrestling bout with Hanuman, he took Hanuman to the spot where Mahiravan was planning to sacrifice Ram and Lakshman. Later after killing Mahiravan, on the suggestion of Ram, Makardhwaj was made the king of the patala-loka, before they left the place.
The aspect of Makardhwaj is interesting. Hanuman, a known celibate fathering a son. This myth highlights the subject of supra-normal births, a subject by itself and a common factor in the study of mythology. Begetting a child from any body fluid was not an uncommon phenomenon in mythology. Many see this as yet another example of virgin birth while feminists could view this as a woman’s ultimate revenge on celibates!
Also, it is said that Makardhwaj had challenged Hanuman to a wrestling duel and had agreed to give him way, only if he defeated him in wrestling. This goes well with the image of Hanuman as the patron deity of wrestlers all over India, more so in the East.
The Jethwa community of Porbandar, Gujarat, claim their ancestry from Makardwhaj. According to them, they are the direct descendants of Jethi-dhwaja, the grandson of Makardhwaj. The Jethwas consider Hanuman to be their clan deity and the royal family even carries the image of Hanuman on their royal flag.
Story Collected by: Utkarsh Patel