Hinduism is very colorful because of all the saints, fairies, and mystical creatures. To the devoted Hindus, all gods seem to be real living beings that once existed or even do exist today in one form or another. For the atheists, they are mere fiction. For me, they are neither. I believe religion and science are separate entities. While science is driven by logic (brains), religion is driven by faith (heart). When all logic fails, I tend to lean towards religion, not because I believe god will come and help but because halting for a bit and praying helps me calm down, gather my senses, and tackle the issue with a clear mind. Besides, I need something powerful in front of which I can remain humble.
Hinduism like any other ancient religion is just an amalgam of philosophy, experiments, and experiences that have been passed down the generations in written or oral form. However, twists and turns have been added in course of time and thus has resulted in its current form. One of my favourite characters in Hinduism is the Hanuman of Ramayana. Hanuman is believed to be “the monkey god”, an incarnation of Shiva, the mightiest of the Holy Trinity. The mighty Hanuman as a child is believed to have swallowed the sun and later became Rama’s dearest. He is believed to have set Lanka on fire and played a significant role in Rama’s army to defeat Ravana of Lanka who had terrorized the entire world.
Did Hanuman really exist or was he just a creation of Balmiki’s mind? If he was just a creation of Balmiki’s mind, why did he choose a monkey for such divine purpose to assist Rama? Hindu religion does offer other even surprising examples of animals serving gods. For example, the heaviest gods of all, Ganesha rides on a mouse. But mouse does not serve any real purpose in any of the stories. So, instead of picking an army of tigers and panthers to defeat a demonic army who had conquered the entire universe, why would anyone pick monkeys? What if monkeys did help Rama on his quest?
When I say monkeys, I do not mean the mischievous Rhesus monkeys that terrorize the pilgrims in Hindu temples. I mean Homo erectus. Recently, Homo erectus fossils were found in Narmada valley (Madhya Pradesh) in India that dated about 0.2-0.7mya. But it was of a short adult (size of modern African Pygmies). The clavicle bone found suggests “a short and stocky Middle Pleistocene hominid with a mediolaterally narrow and anteroposteriorly deep thorax and with well-developed shoulder and neck musculature. Notwithstanding the great variability in clavicle size and shape due to ethnicity, sex and laterality, it is still quite likely that tropical condition in Central India during the Middle Pleistocene favoured a relatively short and stocky hominid” (Sankhyan AR.). However, “the Narmada calvaria possesses some unique anatomical features, perhaps because the specimen reflects the incoherent classificatory condition of the genus Homo” (Kennedy KA, Sonakia A, Chiment J, Verma KK).
Could it be possible that there were Homo erectus in India that co-existed with the modern humans? It is possible that early humans encountered these archaic humans and told stories to their kids. The stories became myths then myths became legends. May be there were year old legends that Valmiki had heard of, those of monkey men that with lots of hair, projected mouth, and looking like monkeys. May be Valmiki resurrected this age old legend as Hanuman and his people that extended from South of India to Indonesia, which strikingly was also the range of Homo erectus! Just a thought.