Hefty Deity

Shri Hanuman, who should have been riding the airway from the Himalaya to the Sri Lankan coast on a search and rescue mission, today stands perplexed at a busy north-Delhi intersection. Sita's distress is forgotten as the 175 foot brick-and-cement figure straddles the Pusa Road roundabout next to Karol Bagh, unused even after all these years to the traffic.

It is actually a statue, this humongous figure, a gigantic equivalent to the 'monkey god' images that sprouted all over north India along with the rising tide of political Hindutva in the early 1990s. Work began on the Karol Bagh Hanuman in 1991, but immediately the structure was encased in bamboo scaffolding as a design flaw was discovered which could have sent him crashing to the ground in undeserved ignominy.

And so there he has stood all these years, the scaffolding taken off only when the termite-weakened bamboo has had to be replaced.

Recently, some more scaffolding was added. Suraj Kumar, trustee of the temple that lies at the statue's base, says stronger buttresses were required so that the arms of Shri Hanuman, weighing 400 kilos each, could be attached to the body. All these years, he had been without the upper limbs.

At its base, the structure straddles the cavernous mouth of a demon that you enter by walking on what seems to be the tongue. Inside are a variety of deities, including Shiva, Kali and Krishna. A Sai Baba was also found. There are two stories to the temple and the legs of the deity start their journey upwards from the second floor.

While Shri Hanuman remains ensnared by scaffolding, a Delhi Metro line has come up right under his chin. The line is to become operational in a few months, and there is no saying what the train's rumbling reverberations will do to the hefty deity. If we were he, we would be praying to Lord Ram.

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Himal Southasian