November 5, 2007


Did the ancient Indians know evolution and the concept of the movement of life form from the more simple to the more complex? If the Dasavatar is anything to go by, they may as well have known.

  • Matsya - Fish: The basic life form to have developed in the seas. It is well known that the oceans of the world were the birth place of life. And the marine animals were the oldest life forms to have inhabited the world
  • Koorma - Tortoise: The amphibian life form. This is the evolution of the marine form that has come to check the possibility of living on land.
  • Varaha – Boar: A primitive land animal, which was can be likened to the first animals which began moving around the land.
  • Narasimha: Half man, half lion: This would have to be the carnivorous reptiles that roamed the earth, the reason being the fierceness that has been depicted. However, the question that arises is the presence of half man. I would think that it is an allusion to the fact that they are planning to introduce the human, which prompted the change. After all evolution is the slow change of a simpler life to a more complex one
  • Vamana – The pygmy: The pygmy, the man who was yet to develop from the monkey, the monkey that looked like a man, the chimpanzee, the orangutan
  • Parasurama – The truly physical man, likened to the Neanderthal man who was truly the precursor to the modern human being
  • Rama – Cro-Magnon Man. The reason that I call Rama as a Cro-Magnon man is the similarity between them in the use of bow and arrow. If I remember my anthropology right, Cro-Magnon man was the one who started the use of tools as a means of hunting. Thus the prowess of Rama as an archer seems to stem from that.
  • Balarama – The farmer: This is like the well known transition of man from the nomadic hunter to the land based farmer. After all the implement that was carried by Balarama was a plough to signify the farming nature
  • Krishna – The thinking man: Man transcended from being the manual labor that he was being an agriculturist to become one that used his head and began offering services. This is similar to Krishna in the fact that he was a master strategist and throughout the Mahabharata is shown to be offering services, be it a chariot driver, a messenger, a judge, etc. to the Pandavas and the Kauravas
  • Kalki: This is the modern man, the one that brings about destruction of the world, the Kali Yug, where mans greed is punished with extinction. This seems to be the direction we are heading wherein we are destroying the natural resources that are important for our survival on this planet. When the resources run out, this is not a case of if they will, it is a case of when, and human race will be exterminated.

The only bone of contention is the fact that in all of these avatars, there is human form of some sort. There is contact of the avatars with either the gods in human form, or sages, or asuras who have the human form albeit with dark skin, or humans themselves as seen in the last few avatars (starting from Narasimha). The only thing that I can think of that makes some sense is the fact that to introduce a concept as revolutionary as evolution, they had to make some compromises and one of them was to show that man was present forever. Except this one glaring mistake, if discounted, the entire story of Dasavatar shows the process of evolution as scripted by Darwin eons after the Dasavatar was wide spread in the country.


Prats said...

The concept of Dasavtar is indeed the Indian theory of evolution. The thought of mapping the Dasvatars to the Darwanian theory of evolution is a great thought. Sounds convincing though the thought of Kalki makes me disbelieve,are we heading towards. Hope not......

Aditya Rajaraman said...

@ Prateek
This was the result of having thought of this concept ages ago. The sad fact is that we humans do not need a god like Shiva the destroyer to cause havoc. Left to ourselves, we have enough malfeasance in ourselves to wreck havoc. All we have to do is look at the number of wars that have been fought over the last thousands of years, from the Ramayana to the latest Iraq and Afghan war

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