Rejected By Creationists, Monkey Embraces Polytheism

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A short lesson in the transmission of religious rituals:

Aping Hindu rituals to a T, a monkey appeared at an Orissa temple, prayed for an hour folding its hands in the traditional sign of respect, took prasad, put vermilion on its forehead—and then fled….

Said Aniruddha Behera, a village resident: "The monkey folded his hands, observed silence, put vermilion on his forehead and also took the prasad from the devotees."

"When we saw the monkey joining us we were surprised. We did not try to drive it out and it continued praying for nearly an hour amid hundreds of devotees," Behera told IANS.

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  1. AWESOME HEADLINE!!!!

  2. Kerry would have been w – huh? Did I get my threads mixed up?

  3. Agreed. The headline is superb.

  4. The monkey was later spotted in Kashmir, flinging poo at another monkey wearing a head scarf.

  5. joe, that’s hilarious.

    I wonder if a judge in Indiana will order the monkey to keep its offspring away from Hindu temples.

  6. At least he didn’t fling a koran into the loo. We don’t want the monkeys in head scarves to riot.

  7. There might be a profound anthropological/socio-biological insight to be gained here. I’m not kidding. I have no idea what it is, though.

  8. Is this behavior the origin of Hanuman, the Monkey God? Funny how the article doesn’t mention this avatar of Shiva.

    Kevin

  9. More like pantheism than polytheism, but either way, the story’s pretty funny. But I can’t say that I was surprised by the reaction of the homo sapien worshippers: I don’t think I’ve seen another place on the planet where large stray animals are as accepted a part of the public milieu as India.

    Stevo, the anthropological insight is that there’s an exceptional degree to which one of Thoreau’s famous quotes holds up: Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.

  10. It is a known scientific principle that, not only did we evolve from monkeys, but that the mere presence of monkeys can make any situation funny.

    There was episode of Lancelot Link where there was a U.N. meeting. It had chimps in kimonos, chimps in turbans, and one with a fez.

  11. But will the monkey vote for the BJP?

    P.S. Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp–one of my top five shows ever!

  12. A monkey that prays.

    Yet another example of humans passing on a dirty habit to our primate brethren.

    What’s next? Smoking?

    http://www.big-boys.com/articles/smokeape.html

  13. EVERYTHING’S BETTER WITH MONKEYS!!!!

  14. A friend and I had a chemically induced debate over what are funnier;

    monkeys or midgets?

    We ended in a stalemate.

    However, we both agreed that the funniest thing by far is a midget in a monkey suit.

  15. This story would be more informative if I knew what prasad is.

  16. This monkey’s deep religious faith qualifies it to sit on the federal bench. Or so say the Republicans.

    Oh, wait, it’s Hindu monkey, not a Christian monkey. Well, no doubt some BJP fundie named Ralpharan Reedachandran will nominate it to a court in India.

  17. “However, we both agreed that the funniest thing by far is a midget in a monkey suit.”

    I went to this cheap circus when I was in my early teens, and they had the world’s smallest elephant. It came out following the other elephants around, but it couldn’t keep up. After the other elephants left, it stood up on its hind legs, pulled a zipper and–whamo–a chimpanze jumped out of the elephant suit!

    …The chimpanze jumped up on a mini-motorcycle. It was real–it had a workin’ motor and everything, but the ringmaster had the monkey attached to him by a chord. The ringmaster had the chimp drive the mini-cycle around the inside of the ring; every once in a while, the ringmaster would give the chord a yank, and the chimp would tumble off the motorcycle. Every time the chimp fell off the bike, the ringmaster would whip the chimp until it got back up on the bike again!

    …The first time the ringmaster whipped the chimp, people started mumbling to themselves. The second time the ringmaster whipped it, people started gettin’ really vocal. By the last time the monkey got the whip, the audience was so angry I thought someone might run into the ring and stop the ringmaster.

    …That’s when the chimp stood on its hind legs, pulled a zipper, and–whamo–a midget jumped out of the monkey suit! …Everyone applauded and laughed at themselves.

    I guess the moral of the story is that the two-bit circus audiences of central Maryland in the early ’80s could get mad as hell seein’ a monkey get horse whipped, but, for some reason, whippin’ little people was considered good family entertainment.

  18. I thought the great anthropological insight here was that monkey see, monkey do.

  19. Jesus, Shultz, I don’t remember hearing about anything like that in Rockville. What part of central Maryland was this?

  20. Eric: Hinduism is polytheistic. If the monkey had stopped to pray at the Church of the Holy Cosmos, that would be pantheism.

    Shyoung: You took the words right out of my mouth.

  21. um, at the risk of appearing humorless, why would we assume that this is a reliable factual account? The story is full or red flags and stories of this sort (animals doing miraculous things, monsters and ghosts terrorizing people) are regularly forthcoming from India.

  22. why would we assume that this is a reliable factual account?

    We wouldn’t. It could very well be exaggerated, distorted, or utterly untrue. All standard caveats apply, no warranty of the facts is implied, all rights reserved, yadda yadda.

  23. “Jesus, Shultz, I don’t remember hearing about anything like that in Rockville. What part of central Maryland was this?”

    As I recall, it was in a tiny place just outside of Laurel.

  24. Ken,

    That sounds like the coolest circus ever!

    The only thing that I can even come close to matching that with is watching the Banana Derby at the Florida State Fair.

    The Banana Derby consisted of five spider monkeys in sombreros racing each other on burros.

    Funny, but it can’t beat a midget in a monkey suit in an elephant suit.

    bistami,

    I can buy this story as a form of monkey see monkey do. Like the smoking chimp, the furry little guy could just be mimicking what he sees humans do everyday. I’m sure aspects are exaggerated for effect, but I don’t think the whole story is BS.

    At least I hope it’s not for comedy’s sake.

  25. Ken — are you upset that postively the greatest moment anyone could ever hope for happened so early in your life? I mean, it’s really not going to get any better than a chimp jumping out of an elephant suit to ride a motorcycle around.

  26. “The monkey folded his hands, observed silence, put vermilion on his forehead and also took the prasad from the devotees.”

    If prasad is a chunk of food, I can easily imagine a monkey going through the little ritual in order to eat something.

  27. I don’t think I’ve seen another place on the planet where large stray animals are as accepted a part of the public milieu as India.

    The difference between Calcutta and New York is that the ratio of two legged to four legged large stray animals is closer to one in the latter.

  28. Hinduism is polytheistic. If the monkey had stopped to pray at the Church of the Holy Cosmos, that would be pantheism.

    I’ve always seen it as something in between, though more of the latter than the former. Most Hindus tend to reference God as a singular entity that they worship in different forms (or perhaps just a single form). And Hindu texts often refer to a single creator or Godhead that encompasses all life. Though the author of this article refers to the idea as panentheism rather than pantheism (I think it gets almost semantical beyond a certain point), he does shed some detail on the idea.

    The pantheist/panentheist element also helps explain how religions such as Buddhism and Jainism came to evolve out of Hinduism.

  29. The sad part about the praying monkey is that perhaps 80% of those who hear it will take it as evidence of the veracity of belief in the supernatural (gods, devils, whatever).

    The rest of us will have a good laugh because, hey, praying monkey.

  30. Aargh. I hate it when the formatting gets blown to hell. Here’s the link to the article again.

  31. Eric: At the risk of diving deeper into sematics, I have to disagree with the article’s statement that “Hindus were never polytheistic, in the sense that there are many equal Gods.” I’ve never regarded divine equality as part of the definition of polytheism — otherwise Zeus’s status as king would have made monotheists of the ancient Greeks.

  32. The definition of a god has pretty much to do with the fact that the ‘god’ can get away with breaking laws of nature (and physics) to some extent. There would obviously be a range of capabilities in any set of gods.

    Indeed, if all gods in a pantheon had identical capabilities/characteristics, who’s to say that they’re not all the same being anyway?

  33. Best Headline Ever!!

    The Banana Derby consisted of five spider monkeys in sombreros racing each other on burros.

    Funny, but it can’t beat a midget in a monkey suit in an elephant suit.

    It’s stories like these that make reading H&R all worthwhile to me. The only carnival story I can relate is this: When I was in highschool, I went to a haunted house carnival with my boyfriend at the time. In addition to seeing the haunted houses, there we paid about $10 admission (each) to see a side show featuring a giant, King-Kong-like “Monkey Woman” at his insistance. As we waited in line to view the purported freak of nature, he joked that it better not be a big fat lady in a gorilla suit. Sure enough, (thanks to the technology of cheap holograms) we wasted about 20 bucks to see a fat chick in an unconvincing gorilla suit….

    But to return to Ken’s story, it seems a little cruel that the audience would applaud the beating and voluntary humiliation of a little person. And yet funny at the same time. In a sick kind of way.

  34. Maybe society would be more accepting of midgets (or little people), if they would wear tiny elefant costumes more often. I know I certainly would.

  35. “But to return to Ken’s story, it seems a little cruel that the audience would applaud the beating and voluntary humiliation of a little person. And yet funny at the same time. In a sick kind of way.”

    …I rarely missed a freak show or cheapo circus that came to town. I forget the name of that elephant/chimp/midget circus, but if they ranked circuses by appeal to bourgeois sensibilities, that circus would have scored way south of Circus Vargas.

    There’s a book about a circus that’s a kick in the pants, “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn. It deals with a lot of stuff that’s sick and funny at the same time. At the beginning of the book I felt sorry for the circus freaks, but by the end I was thinkin’, “somebody kill them, kill ’em all!”

    It should be a movie. It has a feminist message; it says something interesting about our reactions to the grotesque. It’s fun.

  36. Ken writes: “I guess the moral of the story is that the two-bit circus audiences of central Maryland in the early ’80s could get mad as hell seein’ a monkey get horse whipped, but, for some reason, whippin’ little people was considered good family entertainment.”

    Also, there was apparently an epidemic of poor distance vision in central Maryland in the early ’80s.

    That said, I predict that Midgmonkaphant will become the trendy new Thanksgiving meal.

  37. The monkey never stopped moving Jon. It’s hard to get a good look like that.

  38. But what was inside the midget suit???

  39. “Indeed, if all gods in a pantheon had identical capabilities/characteristics, who’s to say that they’re not all the same being anyway?”

    Exactly!

    I took a class in Zoroasterism at UCLA not long ago, and when I asked about the different “aspects” of Ahura Mazda, they described them the same way that most Christians describe the trinity.

  40. I have to disagree with the article’s statement that “Hindus were never polytheistic, in the sense that there are many equal Gods.” I’ve never regarded divine equality as part of the definition of polytheism

    I’d disagree with it as well, and for the same reason. But clearly, the concept of all Gods being connected to a supreme Godhead that permeates life is noticeably different from the hierarchial polytheism that the Ancient Greeks (or Ancient Egyptians, for that matter) believed in, and closer to pantheistic thought.

    I think part of the reason for the ambiguity here is that Hinduism did start out as a traditional pagan/polytheistic faith, but gradually evolved into something different, with the end result being the coexistence of old and new elements.

  41. In essence “Prasad,” or “Prasada,” is an offering to the diety then utilized later by the worshipper as an item imbued with the diety’s blessing.

    You offer up some fruit, say, pray a little then it’s now blessed. Eat it and you conume the diety’s blessing.

    Try this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prasad

  42. “But will the monkey vote for the BJP?”

    I don’t know but I’ll vote for a PB&J!

  43. As I recall, it was in a tiny place just outside of Laurel.

    You said the magic word — Laurel. I believe every word of it now.

  44. Laurel’s a great little town!

    Convenient to D.C. but still in the country. …Far enough from Baltimore, but not too far from the Bay. Good people too.

  45. …oh, and it’s beautiful.

  46. Far enough from Baltimore

    What are we, contagious?

  47. Funniest thing I’ve read all month; the rejected monkey headline, I mean. Reality is indeed stranger than fiction.

    I guess the moral of the story is that the two-bit circus audiences of central Maryland in the early ’80s could get mad as hell seein’ a monkey get horse whipped, but, for some reason, whippin’ little people was considered good family entertainment.

    Not unlike the irony in an irony in this context of prayer being a filthy habit…but presumably meditation not.

  48. I dunno about y’all but if the animals are drawn to that one faith* (and I ain’t never heard of no monkey sitting down to a eucharist)I’m gonna convert.

    *The snakes are handled against their will

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