Becoming Lord Hanuman
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When I reached the little akhara (gymnasia) which is lost in the fields near Sakalhida, a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, I first saw this pelhwan (Indian wrestler) who was outside with a gada.
A gada is a large round rock fixed to the end of a meter-long bamboo staff which is lifted and swung for exercise.
It may weigh as little as five or as much as fifty to sixty kilograms.
In the Ramayana and Mahabharata the gada is often mentioned as a weapon.
In popular religious art and iconography Hanuman is almost never depicted without one.
It is not only the symbol of his strength but also of his countenance.
The gada he carries is highly decorated and made of gold.
At championship bouts wrestlers are awarded gadas made of silver.
The gada is, then, clearly the mark of a wrestler’s prowess.
Given the preponderance of phallic symbols in the akhara and the gada’s general shape it is evident that swinging a gada has clear symbolic overtones of sexual potency and virility.
Each time the gada is swung it is brought to a balanced position, erect from the wrestler’s waist.
The phallic aspect of the gada is also evidenced by its association with snakes.
In the Harivamsa Akrura dives into the serpent world where he sees Ananta asleep on top of a mace…
In shape a gada resembles the churning stick used to make butter and buttermilk.
A parallel between churning and sexual energy has been drawn above.
By swinging the gada one might say that a wrestler is churning his body to increase his store of semen.
(“The Wrestler’s Body: Identity and Ideology in North India” by Joseph S. Alter)
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