Seeing God as a Child
One can see an expression of the Indian love for children in the manner in which they have idolized even their gods in the form of a child.
We thus see portrayals of Shiva as Bala Shiva, Rama as Bala Rama, Krishna as Bala Krishna, Ganesha as Bala Ganapathy, Karthikeya as Bala Muruga and Hanuman as Bala Hanuman.
Bala Ganapathy Bala Rama
Indian legends, the Purana are replete with enjoyable stories of the acts of various divinities in their child like form, some among these divinities being Tattva, cosmic principles and some others being historic personages.
The history epic, Valmiki’s Ramayana contains portrayals of Lord Rama and His brothers as ideal children. Through the behavior and life of these historic and ideal children, the Ramayana conveys the message of obligations of brotherhood, obedience to parents and obeisance to teachers. It celebrates childhood as the budding point for all qualities displayed in later adulthood.
The other history epic, Vyasa’s Mahabharata, through the lives of the five Pandava and the 100 Kaurava brothers, brings to focus competitive spirit amongst children. It showcases how impressions both positive and negative, formed during childhood can assume far greater proportions and cause great impacts to society in years to follow. It alerts us of the propensity of children to retain impressions and emotions well into their lives.
Purana dealing with tattva divinities such as Ganesha, Kartikeya have portrayed them symbolically in child like forms and through symbolic stories of symbolic acts of these divinities, have conveyed principles of the cosmos, of mankind, of mind, of intellect and of ego to help elevate man’s thinking and behavior.
Yet other Purana have immortalized some of the children of long bygone eras, in the saga of the land for generations that have followed in the last many millennia. The story of the boy Sravana’s devotion to his parents, the story of Markandeya’s unshakeable faith in the divinity Shiva, even in the face of death are known to most, through the land, even in this day.
The Purana legends have also showcased scientific possibilities involving children and their upbringing. We thus have legends showcasing the ability of the foetus to grasp happenings and sounds outside the womb. The story of Prahalada showcases how he imbibed devotion towards Narayana while in his mother’s womb and carried it forth as a little boy. The story of Ashtavakra again highlights how Ashtavakra imbibed the Upanishad while in his mother’s womb and used it later to help his father in times of need. Yet again, the story of Abhimanyu reiterates how a child starts gaining knowledge right from the time it is in the womb of its mother.
The legend of Dhruva symbolically narrates the scientific phenomenon of precession of the earth and its effect on the pole star seen in the skies. It is a beautiful way in which the principles of astronomy have been woven into a simple legend.
Srimad Bhagavatham contains many anecdotes on the pranks played by Lord Krishna, His brother Balarama and their gang of friends, Gopa and Gopi. This text highlights the qualities of innocence as well as impishness in children. It celebrates children for the adorable and affable beings that they are.
Seeing God in a Child
Children by nature are mischievous. To be mischievous is an innate quality of children.
Krishna’s precocious pranks are part of the rich folklore of this land.
Krishna, His pranks and His lovable, playful ways, set the trend for how people regarded children, in the land of India across millennia.
This land, by culture, for the last 5,100 years since the times of Krishna, has viewed children as a replica of Krishna and has relished their pranks as they would Krishna’s. The mischief of children has rarely been associated with punishment and reprimanding. It has instead been eulogized and happily expressed as an imitation of Krishna.
Given this ethos, when elders admonish their children for their harmless pranks, it is not stern and wrathful. It has in it an admiration for their innocence and a tolerance with an understanding that by nature, children are given to their ways of pranks.
A culture that gives space for children to grow up with their mischief also automatically gives them the space to grow out of their mischief as a part of the transition from childhood to adolescence.
Holding Children in High Esteem
It is no wonder that various political, religious as well as social leaders have focused specially on the children in the society. They have not only showered affection on them, but they have also invested time and effort in grooming the children in society, in morals, ethics and values. We thus have in many languages, simple couplets composed specially for inculcating good conduct and values in children. These couplets served as the nursery rhymes in this civilization much before the British replaced them with theirs.
Children’s day celebrations are a facet of the high esteem in which this civilization holds the development of its children. Classic examples of this commitment, even till a couple of centuries ago, can be seen from the quote of Brigadier General Alexander Walker of East India Company from 1780 to 1810.
Dedicating November 14th, the birth anniversary of prominent leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who was close to children, as Children’s Day, is a representative gesture of the high esteem in which children have been held through the ages.
Nehru with children
It is a day for us to recognize the value of children, the values in children and the values that have to be taken to the children for the development of a valued society.
It is a day to rededicate ourselves to the cause and joys of children.