Tag Archives: “revered by Hindus”



by Pamela Constable
Washington Post
September 21, 1998

If you arrive at the Tughluqabad ruins even one minute after sunrise, you’re too late. Group leaders Hukka Singh and Ram Singh have already moved their troops out of the 13th-century fort and headed to a nearby military shooting range for breakfast.

The drill continues all day, with scheduled stops at various roadside banana stands and markets. Then, precisely at dusk, the group of wild rhesus monkeys lopes back to the ruins, scrambles up the parapets and starts settling down for the night amid the crumbling 700-year-old tombstones of King Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq and his family.

The monkeys of Tughluqabad are among the last of a breed that once roamed India’s forests by the millions. For much of this century, they were voraciously hunted and trapped for export, while their habitats were squeezed by urbanization. By 1983, according to animal activists, there were fewer than 200,000 left.

Today, despite a 1978 ban on exporting monkeys, thousands are still trapped each year for domestic medical and commercial research. They are widely used to test eye shadow and lipstick, rabies vaccines and birth control pills, as well as chemicals.

Yet many Indians revere the monkeys, and dozens of devotees come each day to Tughluqabad, just east of the old section of the capital, New Delhi, to feed the monkeys bread, nuts and bananas.

The visitors are worshipers of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god who is believed to bring strength and good luck. In the Ramayana, one of Hinduism’s great epics, Hanuman lifted a mountain to find a special herb that could save the life of his master, the god Rama.

“I come here for peace of mind,” said Ashook Jain, 38, a school principal who has been feeding the monkeys every day for 15 years. As he approached the ruins at dawn one recent day, he called out loudly, “Ough, ough,” and a dozen monkeys bounded down the walls. “These are bad times in India, and we need to have a powerful god on our side,” Jain said.

Just down the road, three men hopped off a motor scooter and began throwing bananas to another group of monkeys. They said they work in a shoe shop and make offerings on days when they are facing unusual business problems.

“Everyone has their favorite god, and the monkeys were our ancestors, too,” said the shop manager, Umesh Kumar, 23, as a chittering pack eagerly surrounded the scooter.

The Tughluqabad monkeys have full-time protectors, watchmen who sleep in the ruins and make sure no one harms them. They also have an influential champion in Iqbal Malik, a primatologist who spent years studying them. Often she took her son Vijay along, raising him, she said, “like a monkey mother, with lots of body contact but an instinctive sense of how much freedom to allow.”

Today Malik, 40, devotes most of her time to promoting animal rights, and she has arranged for thousands of urban monkeys to return and readapt to forest life. She also acknowledges that the monkeys can become a nuisance in densely populated areas.

“They get so used to being fed that they become aggressive. If you don’t feed them they will invade your house, raid your fridge, turn on your water tap,” she said. “If you try to kick them out, they may tear your clothes. They are extremely strong.”

They are also territorial. The five bands of Tughluqabad, totaling about 300 monkeys, have separate feeding areas and sleeping places. Within each band, members are highly sociable and respectful of rank, yet males often fight over food, choice sleeping places and females who defect to rival bands.

The monkeys also are spoiled rotten. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, which Hindu devotees say are auspicious times for making offerings to Hanuman, the Tughluqabad monkeys have been fed so many bananas and nuts by morning that they usually vanish to spend the rest of the day snoozing in the trees around the ruins.

“There is no point coming here those days,” cautioned Nanak Chand, a former watchman at Tughluqabad who used to sleep with monkeys curled around him and often returns to visit. “They won’t even bother to come down.”

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Mr Bedi goes for five. See also: “India’s Marauding Monkeys” (1993); “Romeo’s Monkey Business Drives Nurses Bananas” (1994); “Monkeys Mock Democracy” (1996); and “Monkeys Go To Jail” (1997).


by Rahul Bedi
The Australian
March 26, 1998

NEW DELHI: A pack of alcoholic monkeys create havoc on a daily basis in the Excise Department laboratory in New Delhi, guzzling liquor samples brought in for testing and going berserk when denied their daily drink quota.

Excise officials said that despite security, the pack of seven monkeys who have lived near the laboratory for years manage to get inside and get drunk on hundreds of liquor samples.

More than 100 police stations send moonshine seized from bootleggers to be tested at the laboratory, which also services scores of drug companies that send samples of alcohol-based substances used in medicines.

“Each monkey must have drunk hundreds of bottles by now,” a laboratory official said.

He said the monkeys became violent when unable to get a drink and moved into the office complex, ransacking and destroying everything in sight.

All attempts to deal effectively with menacing monkeys here and in several other places across India is hampered by the reverence with which they are held by Hindus, India’s majority community.

Hindu religious sentiment associates monkeys with Hanuman, the monkey god who was Lord Rama’s fearless and loyal assistant in his battle against Ravana, the evil god king of Sri Lanka .

There are thousands of Hanuman temples across India and every Tuesday is reserved for the worship of him.

Meanwhile, wildlife authorities in Patiala, a northern town in Punjab State, some 322km north of Delhi, where monkey business is rampant, have come up with a special jail for “criminal simians” who are incarcerated for varying periods before being declared “fit” enough to be “released” back into society.

There are an estimated 50,000 monkeys in Punjab, almost all wild, the largest number being in Patiala district. Their numbers have increased after monkey exports were banned in the late 1980s.

Led by ringleaders, usually the biggest and most vicious of the pack, monkey gangs chalk out their patch in crowded neighbourhoods across the State and terrorise everyone around.

Monkeys also menace Delhi’s corridors of power and spread mayhem on the campus of the nearby All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India’s flagship research institution.

Officials walk warily down passageways in the north and south blocks of the Indian government buildings — housing, among others, the prime minister’s office — looking apprehensively over their shoulders for fear of being set upon by marauding monkeys hiding in niches.

The animals chase doctors and nurses at the Institute of Medical Sciences and patients in post-operative wards sometimes surface from anaesthesia only to be greeted by grinning monkeys in their beds.

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by Rahul Bedi
South China Morning Post
April 2, 1994

NEW DELHI: A male monkey, christened Romeo because of his fondness for female nurses and patients, has struck terror into a north Indian hospital.

Victims of Romeo’s “passionate” attacks at SMGS hospital in Jammu say he makes his advances only when he sees a lone female.

When rebuffed, Romeo becomes enraged and bites his victims, who then need rabies vaccinations.

Among Romeo’s recent victims was a 10-year-old girl visiting the hospital, but he seems to prefer the nurses. He has bitten at least six over the past three months, waiting patiently for them in dark corridors before attacking.

Hospital security staff have tried to trap the monkey, who lives somewhere on the sprawling hospital campus, by offering him bananas laced with sedatives.

Romeo, however, has outwitted them so far, eating the “loaded” bananas and making off to his secret lair to sleep them off.

Hospital staff say they cannot shoot or kill Romeo because of the strong religious sentiments aroused whenever any serious plans are afoot to eliminate him.

Hindus associate monkeys with Hanuman, the mythical monkey god, among the most revered of Hindu gods. Hanuman is worshipped in thousands of temples dedicated to him across India, and his spirit is believed to live inside all monkeys.

Patients consider it propitious to feed a monkey, hoping Hanuman will hasten recovery. Even the suggestion of killing one fills them with dread.

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by Chris Lefkow
Herald Sun (Australia)
December 30, 1993

NEW DELHI: Iqbal Malik is determined to put an end to the monkey business going on within the Indian Government. The soft-spoken 35-year-old woman is not a corruption-buster, however, but a zoologist with a plan to rid government offices of file-shredding and food-snatching monkeys.

Monkeys, which are sacred to India’s Hindus, have taken over the grounds of a number of downtown buildings, and Ms Malik, who earned a doctorate in animal behavior from Delhi University, has been called in to help repel the invasion.

The simians can be seen frolicking on the lawns of South Block, where the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s office are located, grooming one another on window ledges or badgering passers-by for handouts.

They have also been spotted climbing the walls of the presidential palace and raiding fruit trees in the palace nursery.

Ms Malik says about 5000 monkeys have taken up residence in the Indian capital, living in groups of six to more than 20.

She blames widespread trapping of monkeys for export and experimentation during the 1960s and 1970s for pushing them out of their natural habitat and into the cities.

The monkeys living in downtown New Delhi are indeed a pampered bunch, fed regularly by office workers with bananas, apples, nuts and the remains of picnic lunches.

The monkeys are revered by Hindus as the avatar of the monkey-faced god Hanuman, a hero of the Ramayana epic.

“They’re considered as gods,” said Ms Malik. “But gods become pests in a very short span of time.”

“They pull your clothes and demand food. Many offices have broken windows, so they enter. They tear files, they look into files, like spies. They’re very curious.” Low-voltage electric fencing, shrubbery with thorns, chemical repellants, sterilisation and guard dogs are among the recommendations Ms Malik has made to caretakers trying to make official buildings “monkey-proof”.

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by D Anderson
The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
November 10, 1986

NEW DELHI: The authorities in the Himalayan foothills, where the British established their Indian summer capital at Simla during the Raj, have been forced to tackle some serious monkey business.

An extraordinary plan is now being prepared to trap and capture vicious mountain monkeys, which have begun to attack children and tourists in Simla.

The scheme is being handled at the political level in Simla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh state, after the bureaucracy rejected it as a “futile and dangerous” task which could even lead to death for anyone brave, or foolish, enough to try and catch the animals.

The crunch came in May when a male monkey attacked a school, bit 45 children, one fatally, and forced a virtual state of emergency.

The fatality served to make up the minds of the authorities.

On August 10 they decided to hire monkey-catchers from the desert state of Rajasthan to snare the animals at a price of $1 each and send them to areas uninhabited by human beings.

“We cannot kill them because the Indian Wildlife Act prohibits it,” Simla’s mayor, Adarsh Kumar, said.

More than 2000 monkey attacks causing injury and shock are reported in Simla annually, according to medical authorities.

The government says it is determined to go ahead with the scheme despite protests from the bureaucracy and fears of Hindu protests.

The monkey is revered by Hindus as a symbol of Hanuman, the monkey god.

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