Last time we read about Hanuman vanquishing Mahiravan and analysed the myth for a better understanding. In the myth, we had mentioned about a character that Hanuman meets on his way to patala-loka, Makaradhwaj.
Makaradhwaj stops Hanuman as he is standing guard to the entrance to the patala-loka. He challenges Hanuman to a wrestling duel and says that he can enter only after defeating him in the duel. Hanuman agrees, but finds him a tough opponent. Hanuman is impressed by his strength, but at the end of a strong bout, defeats Makaradhwaj. After the duel, Hanuman asks him his name and wanted to know about his parents, who had given birth to such a strong child. Makardwaj said that he was the son of Hanuman!
Hanuman was puzzled, as he was a celibate and had never fathered a child. Makardwaj explained that after burning the city of Lanka with his tail, he had dipped himself in the sea. At that moment, a drop of his sweat fell in the water which was swallowed by a fish like reptile, makar. He was later found in the stomach of the animal and given to Mahiravan. Another version says that due to the intense heat generated in his body after burning Lanka, he took a dip in the sea and it was at this moment that he ejected his reproductive fluid which fell into the mouth of the reptile.
Seeing his tremendous strength, and since he was found in the stomach of a reptilian fish, he was named Makaradhwaj. Later he was entrusted with the task of guarding the fortress of Mahiravan. He did recognise his father, but he did not want to be accused of betraying Mahiravan, who had brought him up and trained him and had trusted him with an important task.
On losing his wrestling bout with Hanuman, he took Hanuman to the spot where Mahiravan was planning to sacrifice Ram and Lakshman. Later after killing Mahiravan, on the suggestion of Ram, Makardhwaj was made the king of the patala-loka, before they left the place.
The aspect of Makardhwaj is interesting. Hanuman, a known celibate fathering a son. This myth highlights the subject of supra-normal births, a subject by itself and a common factor in the study of mythology. Begetting a child from any body fluid was not an uncommon phenomenon in mythology. Many see this as yet another example of virgin birth while feminists could view this as a woman’s ultimate revenge on celibates!
Also, it is said that Makardhwaj had challenged Hanuman to a wrestling duel and had agreed to give him way, only if he defeated him in wrestling. This goes well with the image of Hanuman as the patron deity of wrestlers all over India, more so in the East.
The Jethwa community of Porbandar, Gujarat, claim their ancestry from Makardwhaj. According to them, they are the direct descendants of Jethi-dhwaja, the grandson of Makardhwaj. The Jethwas consider Hanuman to be their clan deity and the royal family even carries the image of Hanuman on their royal flag.
The Thai Ramayan or Ramakien as it is better known has a slightly different version to this story. According to this, when Ram was trying to build a bridge across the sea for the army to reach Lanka, the stones would simply disappear in the sea, when dropped. This was happening due to the fishes who were removing them, under the guidance of the mermaid Sovann Macha. Sovann Macha incidentally was a daughter of Ravan. Later when Hanuman explained to her that the real reason of building the bridge was to rescue Sita, Sovann Macha, agreed. In due course she fell in love with Hanuman and soon she gave birth to a child, half fish and half man, named Machanu (Makardhwaj). In the Ramakien, Hanuman was not a celibate rather he was quite a ladies-man! (This is Utkarsh Speaking: Part 3 – Thai Ramayana )
Later Machanu was left on the shores of the sea, where he was found by a demon who trained him in martial arts. He was entrusted with the task of guarding the lake to the otherworld.
Unlike the Indian version, Machanu is not aware of Hanuman being his father, when he challenges him to a duel, but that is just a minor difference. Needless to say, that Machanu has been depicted very colourfully, just like the entire Ramakien.
Pics courtesy - Wikipedia