Story of the Elephant Legged God

Cyril Mukalel
After two days of hectic travel by foot through mountainous tropical forest, Guna and his Mother Kamala reached the village of Kosavi before sunset. Animal sacrifices and prayers to thank the God for Guna’s return ended immediately. Soon the mountains echoed to the rhythm from a myriad of drums and horns. Plumes of smoke swirled over the mountains from burning camphor and frankincense to welcome their new leader, their Messiah!

The village of Kosavi is an isolated plateau located in the middle of the picturesque Western Ghats mountain ranges in Southern India. For several centuries, no one knew that such a place existed. To villagers on other sides of the mountain ranges, someone living in the middle of the thick forest amongst dangerous wild animals and aggressive cobras was unthinkable. Not even the bravest and the most adventurous hunters had dared to set foot in the dangerous forest so far away from their villages.
Thus, this Kosavi community sustained itself independently and far from every other civilization. The Kosavians had developed acres of farmland that grew rice and vegetables in surplus. The forest streams never ran out of fish, nor did the valleys got short of wild game for them to feed on.

But the villagers lived from generation to generation in superstition and ignorance under the influence of a lineage of wicked village priests. The village priest had the final say on everything. His decisions were unquestionable. Through his scare tactics, the present priest even curbed the influence of Swami, the wise old man among the locals.
“Going near him will make you possessed. He is the messenger of evil.” That is what he said about Swami. But the people of Kosavi sought Swami’s advice secretly. They knew he was the only one who could predict eclipses and storms accurately. The Village Priest hated him as Swami questioned his malicious practices and decisions that were based on selfish motives.

The whole village market was scattered with thousands of boulders of varying size. Guna strode slowly, moving one foot at a time towards the largest of those. He struggled to climb, lift his massive leg and feet that looked like giant sea turtles with five heads. But the people watched him with reverence and respect as he climbed. His supersized leg had several small and big growths hanging down like the thousand-breasted demon goddess of the jungle. The red and black marks on the growths resembled the human skull necklace around the neck of the Goddess.
Some villagers moved close to offer him help in climbing. They even thought, touching his stuffed skin bags would bring blessings to them and to their offspring. Guna looked back and signaled by an ominous look to warn them to stay away. They witnessed the intense anger still in him for the horrible deeds the villagers did to him and to his mother.

Like an angry king, Guna proclaimed, “Elephantiasis that is what the doctor from the city said. A parasitic worm from a mosquito bite caused this swelling! I have not been cursed! And I am not possessed by demons!”
Now villagers bowed their heads in shame. One by one, they kneeled before him on the rough and rocky village square. Tears rolled down their cheeks and fell on the ground to wash away the guilt of misdeeds done through serving the wicked priest.

This surprising event and the Godlike persona came upon Guna after going through incredible suffering and pain induced by the cruel village priest. The animosity of the village priest towards Guna and his mother had started some years ago. Guna’s father Shiva was one of the greatest hunters of the Kosavi. His eyes were as intense as burning coal. No animal could withstand for more than a few seconds a stare from Shiva before they would turn and run away. But then Shiva disappeared during a hunting trip. After three days, some hunters found his headless body near the Sivagiri Hills on the banks of Periyar River.

“It was the callous Chempuli, the malevolent big cat. Only he has the wicked brain to trick and kill a hunter like Shiva. He is dangerous and dead set on eating human flesh,” Said the soft-spoken Swami who knew so well the forest and its dwellers.
“No! It’s the Mountain Goddess who sucked his blood and fed him to the beasts. He crossed into her divine territory where no human is allowed,” Priest said as he shivered with anger. “And the only way to please her is to make the widow and her child my slaves.” He then laughed as violently as the roaring wild wind.

That night Guna and his mother grabbed all their belongings and fled. They tramped through the thick forest to find a place where they could live peacefully. After a time, they reached a land late at night from which they could hear the roar of the ocean and could breathe in the calmness of a fresh breeze. They slept under a tree.
When they woke up in the morning, they saw tiny lakes and wetlands everywhere. The good villagers there offered them shelter. The villagers were in fact happy to see the new migrants moving in. People had been leaving the place, in fear of a frightening pandemic disease presently affecting the villagers, something which resulted in the people there suffering enormous swelling of their limbs, an affliction that never went away. The choice seemed to be running away or living in fear.

After a few months of living in the marshy land, Guna’s feet started swelling until it looked like an elephant’s feet. Frightened Kamala told her son “Maybe this land is not for us. Even if we must struggle, we should return to our old village.” And soon they began the long journey back to Kosavi.
As they approached the village Priest saw them and started yelling. “The cursed ones are here! The ones who scorned the Mountain Goddess. Stone them to death!” After the wise man Swami mediated, he agreed on reducing the punishment. Guna must live on top of the balding mountains having no shade from sunshine or protection from rain. During day time, he should roll big boulders to the top of the mountain. His mother was sentenced to feed them by begging leftovers from the villagers.
His feet bulging day by day, Guna ignored hot sun and pelting rain and continued to push the stones one by one up to the top of the mountain.

Now as the days passed by, village children started to disappear. Villagers were led to suspect that it was the widow and her son was behind these disappearances. Villagers took turns and secretly watched Guna and his mother. And in doing so, they witnessed the truth.
One evening, some villagers watching saw a tiger coming from the forest by the Bolding Mountain pass. And in a few hours, the village priest’s only son disappeared. The village priest, in trying to save his child, lost his own leg to the tiger.

The frightened villagers ran to Swami for help. He knew only someone who can see the tiger from the hill can help to scare the tiger away. He used that opportunity to help Guna and his mother.

“The true God is punishing you for listening to the wicked priest,” he told them, “and for praying to the evil Mountain Goddess. Repent and pray for mercy. Plead for the widow and her son to forgive you”

The villagers went up to cry for help from Guna on the mountain, pleading to him for mercy. He ignored them and kept stroking his blemished elephant leg.
But that evening, when the sun hid behind the faraway tall trees, Guna waited patiently on the hill for the tiger’s arrival. When it was close to midnight and in the darkness, he saw two shiny eyes coming from the forest. He waited for the tiger to be right below where he stood; and at the perfect moment, he began pushing down the mighty boulders one by one. The panicked tiger paused for a moment to look at the direction of attack, and then turned back to race. But the heavy rocks moved more rapidly than his legs and crushed the big cat to death.

Meanwhile the villagers heard what sounded like the mountain come crashing down on them in the night, and they ran for their lives. But the next day, when they came back to see their losses, they couldn’t believe their eyes. The lifeless tiger lay beneath a boulder. And Swami, who had not left the village the night before, was smiling when he came forward.
“Guna is our savior!” he told the people. “He saved us from the anger of God. He has now gone to the big city to find a doctor to check his leg. Let us pray until he returns -and celebrate when he is back.”

The villagers lived happily ever after under Guna, the elephant-legged village chief. If you ever get a chance to visit the village of Kosavi do not miss it. You will see a temple for Lord Guna on top of the hill. Join the happy villagers and devotees to take part in the ritual of rolling big boulders to the top of the mountain to please God Guna. The God with the elephant leg! And of course no tiger dared to come down from the forest to Kosavi village ever again!


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