60,000 Ascetics are protecting us from ultra violet radiation!
Jonathan Swift has taken the idea of Lilliputians for his novel Gulliver’s Travels from Valakhilyas!!
Valakhilyas are thumb sized ascetics accompanying the sun in its every day travel in the sky. They are protecting the humanity by taking all the extra heat and act like the ozone layer. They are 60,000 in number they are shining like brilliant lights because of their severe penance. They used to hang upside down in the trees while doing penance—these are some of the interesting facts that are found in the Vedas, the epics and the mythologies. Tamil literature adds more details about these strange kinds of ascetics.
Valakhilya hymns, eleven in number, are the appendix of the eighth Mandala of the Rig Veda. But famous commentators like Sayana rejected them as interpolations. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata have a lot of references to the Valakhilya Rishis. They may be considered the forerunners of English folklore: ‘Tom Thumb’ and the Lilliputians of the famous satirical novel Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. English newspapers and magazines were publishing a lot of stories about India in the 1700s.
Ancient Sangam Tamil literature refers to Valakhilyas in Puranaanuru (verse 43), Tirumurugatrup patai (lines 16-109), post Sangam book Silappadikaram (Vettuvavari 15) and in the poems of middle age poet Arunagirinathar.
Valakhilyas were born to Kratu and Kriya. Once Kasyapa did a Yagna (fire sacrifice) to beget children. He invited all the Devas and Rishis to help him in the task. Everybody readily agreed. Mighty Indra, the King of Heaven, brought wood for the ceremony. Valakhilyas were emaciated due to severe penance. They were hardly able to lift anything but leaves. Even when they were moving leaves like ants, they fell into rain water puddles, because they were so tiny. It amused Indra and he laughed loudly. Valakhilyas were very much offended. They made a vow to do a separate yagna to create another Indra. When Indra listened to their vows he was afraid and ran to Kasyapa to explain what had happened.
Kasyapa lent a patient ear, but warned that he could not stop the powerful Valakhilyas. But he gave an assurance to Indra that he would find a compromise. When he met Valakhilyas he requested them to drop the yagna to create a new Indra. He also assured them that whoever they create will be the Indra of the birds and Valakhilyas agreed to this new plan.
After the yagna Valakhilya’s prasad (food offering) was given to Vinata, one of the two wives of Kasyapa. She gave birth to two children Aruna and the most powerful golden-hued eagle, Garuda. Long after this Garuda flew to Indraloka to get Amrita and defeated Indra. The Second wife of Kasyapa Kadru gave birth to the Nagas or the Snake race. Garuda on his way back sat on the tree where Valakhilyas were doing penance. The tree broke into many branches, but Garuda lifted all the ascetics with the branch and put them in a safe place.
The Rig Veda says that they sprang from the hairs of Prajapati Brahma. They are the guards of the Chariot of the Sun. They are also called the Kharwas. The Vishnu Purana describes them as pious, chaste and resplendent as the rays of the sun.
Tamil literature is very clear in saying that the main task of the short and smart ascetics is to prevent human beings from being scorched. So they absorb the excess heat from the sun by travelling in front of him. Tamil books also add they were in turn given energy by Lord Skanda and Goddess Durga. Even the hunters in the forest pray to Durga for this. Another Tamil poet compares the sacrifice of the Valakhilyas to the sacrifice of the Emperor Sibi who gave his flesh to an eagle to save a pigeon. The famous story of Sibi was referred to in four Sangam Tamil books. Sibi was praised as the forefather of the famous and powerful Tamil Chola dynasty. The food of Valakhilyas is only wind.
Another story in the Hindu mythology is that the sun has to fight a set of demons called Mandokarunar on a day to day basis for survival. Valakhilyas stand beside the Sun in battle. We don’t know whether there is scientific basis for this story. Mandokarunar maybe a reference to the dangers of solar flares or magnetic storms. In any case, it is crystal clear that the Valakhilyas act as the ozone layer to protect us from harmful ultraviolet rays. Too much ultraviolet rays will cause us skin cancer and other health problems.
We must be grateful to the authors of the Vedas, Puranas, Epics and Tamil commentators Nachinarkiniyar and Adirarku Nallar for creating awareness about the dangers of ultra violet radiation. In western countries people are warned to use special creams whenever they sun bathe.