In the village of Sholingur in Tamil Nadu, is a temple dedicated to the Hindu monkey god Hanuman. The temple is on top of a small hill. In and around the hill in the thick forest live a group of monkeys. All they do is scare people and create trouble — even when people worship them as symbols of Hanuman. And there’s a story behind why they create trouble.…
The story goes back a long time. In the village lived an old couple. The old woman would make delicious sweets every day and take them to the market where her husband sat at a stall and sold them.
The old woman’s sweets were so popular that whoever came to the temple specially stopped at the old man’s stall to buy her sweets.
One day, on her way to the market, the old woman tripped over a rock and fell. The basketful of sweets that she was carrying fell too. The sweets scattered on the ground.
The old woman sank to the ground and wailed loudly in Tamil, “Aieeow! vambu velaiku vaindu vanthene!” (Look at this trouble I bought!). She started walking back home to get another fresh batch of sweets.
She did not know but she was being watched by a monkey. As soon as she left, the monkey swung down from the tree branch he was sitting upon and came to examine the sweets.
He picked up a sweet and smelt it. His eyes lit up. Food! It made his mouth water as he hadn’t had breakfast. He tucked into the sweet and found it to be delicious.
He gobbled up two more. Looking around furtively, he stuffed five more in his mouth before the gang arrived for their share. He grabbed another two for good measure and hurried up the tree. Whatever it was that the woman had called it was very tasty.
Then he remembered that the old woman had called it “trouble”. For when the sweets had fallen she had wailed, “Oh look at the trouble I bought!”
He decided to go to the market and buy some more of that “trouble”. He took the old woman’s half broken basket and went to the market.
And whom should he bump into but the old man, who was waiting for his wife to turn up with the sweets. There was already a big crowd of people near his stall waiting for the sweets to arrive.
Ordinarily the old man would not have given the monkey a second glance. He knew monkeys were curious animals. But he saw the half broken basket that the animal was dragging and recognised it as his wife’s. Now he was very worried. Whatever happened to her?
He hurried after the monkey who was looking at everything wide-eyed. He didn’t know where trouble was sold but he was determined to find out.
Suddenly he saw the old man who was coming behind him. “Hey man! I wish to buy some trouble.”
The old man was puzzled. What did the monkey mean by wishing to “buy trouble?” He asked the monkey to explain.
“An old woman dropped this basket and said ‘Oh god! Look at this trouble I bought’. I had some and it tasted delicious and I want to buy some more.”
The old man thought and thought. At last he put two and two together. Then he looked at the monkey and asked, “Do you know what trouble is?”
Hungry and anxious to get away with his treasure before his pals looked out from nearby trees, he said tersely, “Yes! Give me all and double quick, you fool.”
The old man gave a lopsided grin at the monkey. He told the monkey to wait while he went in and packed some trouble for him. He soon came out dragging a large jute bag. The bag was tied at the mouth. He gave it to the monkey and reverently folded his hands together in prayer.
Ignoring the old man, the monkey took the bag, threw it across his shoulder and scampered away. The weight of the bag was killing, he was bent double, but the thought of the mouthwatering delicacies inside kept him going.
Soon he was out of the village.
Tired of carrying the bag he decided to rest a while. He could not resist the thought of eating some trouble there and then.
With renewed energy he wiped the drool from his mouth and undid the strings that tied the bag. As the strings fell away, two gaping mouths with ferocious teeth and savage growls leapt out.
The monkey did not wait to investigate whom the mouth and claws belonged to. His heart was already in his mouth. With a leap higher than any he had taken in his life, he managed to barely reach the branch of the nearest tree.
As the monkey leapt up, the two dogs that had been released from the bag, jumped high to catch him. One of the dogs managed to get hold of the monkey’s tail that was still hanging down, and neatly snipped it off.
Howling in pain the monkey climbed higher and higher until the dogs were mere specks down below.
To this day, monkeys stay up in the trees and stay far away from trouble, but also try to create trouble for humans – even when they are worshipped.