Sometime in the fifties or sixties, the old stone bridge over the river at the other end of the village, which is single traffic only, was replaced by a larger one. The old bridge was left in situ and it’s stretch of road became a long lay-by. There’s a modest field sandwiched between the two roads on one side of the river and a tiny picnic area on the other.
The river is at the bottom of a valley and the new road goes straight down and up it, which means that you usually pick up quite a bit of speed. I don’t know whether I was going slower than normal, or was being particularly observant, but the other day on the way home from work I just caught a fleeting glimpse of ‘something’ in one of the trees in the picnic spot. The next day I made a special effort to look and realised it was a statue of some sort, so the following day I stopped off to have a closer look …
Unfortunately the picnic spot has suffered over the years – the benches seem to have disappeared, there is litter everywhere and nature is taking over. I began to wish I’d gone home to change, it wasn’t easy walking in there in a skirt and court shoes! However I love what I found ….
The statue was a group of Hindu gods, Vishnu in his incarnation as Rama (blueish figure centre) his wife Sita (an incarnation of Lakshmi) in red, his brother Lakshman to his right and Hanuman the monkey god kneeling. The little metal plaque has the ohm symbol and ‘Vardaan’ which can be interpreted as ‘a boon’ or ‘a favour’, or perhaps in a wider sense as ‘a blessing’
"Both teller and listener shall be treasurers of wisdom for Rama’s tale is mysterious." Indian saying.
The story of Rama is told in many legends and songs across India and South Asia, and is known as the Ramayana. There are versions by many poets, in 400AD, Valmiki wrote 24,000 verses in his epic poem and arranged them into seven books, inventing a new metre called the sloka which has influenced all subsequent Indian poetry. There is a simple (and shorter!) version of the myth here which was written for teachers. The story reveals the origin of Divali, the Festival of Lights, as after their adventures the group are guided home by the lamps people lit and left on their doorsteps. To this day people place lights in their windows at the darkest time to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, into their homes.
Now what the statue is doing up a tree overlooking the main road I don’t know! But I’m really glad it’s there!