Centuries ago, nobody knows if this happened in B.C. or in A.D., a giant making an escape from a thick jungle entered a forest quite close to a city ruled by a brave king. Several people who made their living through the forest produce encountered the giant and panicked. Only a few narrowly escaping from the grinding yellow teeth of the giant reported the matter to their king. The angry king sent a team of brave-hearts either to kill the predator or negotiate with it. Unfortunately none of the team members returned from the forest.
The king, who always looked for adventures, jumped into the fray. The giant, astounded to see the king coming all alone towards it, thought he was not worth eating. Perhaps a brave man’s flesh tastes bitter!
“Hei, giant! Go away. Do not eat my people,” said the king. The giant replied, “If that’s the case, then give me work. I work very hard and fast too”. The king mistook the giant for a docile creature. He commanded it to break all the mountains in his kingdom into small stones and with that convert all the mud roads into stone roads.
Happy at heart the king reached his palace. But before he could change dress, the giant appeared before the balcony of the king’s chamber and in its thunderous voice said that the assigned work was completed. Shocked the king ran out to see if it was true. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He then ordered the giant to water all the dry lands by baling out water from a deep well. That work too was done in a jiffy.
“More work…Or allow me to eat at least four people every day”. The giant made its demand and thereby put the king in a fix. He rushed to the palace and sought the help of his queen. She immediately pulled out a long hair from her head and gave it to her husband and whispered into his ear what he should tell the giant.
The king took the hair to the giant and told it to split the hair into three, lengthwise. The giant smiled and took the long hair into his hand and began to work on it. By midnight the king moved to his balcony only to see the giant still struggling with the hair. The clever queen motioned her husband to come back to bed to celebrate the defeat of the giant. And by sunrise the giant left the kingdom once and for all, perhaps out of shame.
That is the power of hair. It can crown you and make you look beautiful; it can also bid goodbye to your head and give pension to your comb. It can remain pitch black on your head if it wants and give you a youthful look; it can also turn grey if it wants and make people call you ‘uncle’ and sometimes even ‘grandpa’. We can never underestimate the power of hair.
You know the story of Samson, the muscleman and his wife Delilah of the Old Testament. Delilah had her husband’s head shaved off when he was in an inebriated mood, for she found out from him that he had all his powers embedded in his hair. But poor woman perhaps forgot that hair was bound to grow. And when it grew, she and the Philistines who connived with her had their fatal day along with the blinded Samson who pulled down the entire building with his hair power.
Pisir-aandaiyar, a Tamil poet of the Sangam Period, had a bushy head that betrayed no grey hair. When asked how it was possible for him to maintain such black hair at that ripe old age (remember the hair dye was waiting to be invented) he spoke of his affectionate wife, dutiful kids and servants who helped him before he sought their help. Because he was happy at heart his head full of black hair was also happy and made no attempt to cross floors (Purananuru: verse 191)
Now we know the answer why we Indians shave our heads in our places of worship as an offering to the deity residing in it. There is a saying in Tamil: uyiraikoduthasamikkimayiraikodu, which in translation would read: “Offer the Lord your hair for giving you back your life”. Well, nothing is more powerful than hair, if you can read between the lines.
Power corrupts, no matter how we understand it. And Power, according to Mahatma Gandhi is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by art of love. A Tamil folktale tells us how Power based on both works: A middle aged man had a middle aged wife. The latter found out that her husband had a young concubine. In order to make him look much older she started pulling out a few black hairs from his head every night. And the concubine to make him look younger pulled out a few grey hair every day. And you know what happened to his head after a few days.
He-ho! That’s the power of hair.