Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tall people – then and now!

The following report says that tall people seem to do much better in life than others – though there are exceptions.

Reading this, I get reminded of the height of Rama – 96 inches (4 cubits) – as told by Hanuman in Sundhara khanda.

People were taller in those days. It used to be said that as Time progresses and Dharma declines, man also will become shorter. Man will have to climb a ladder to pluck the Brinjal.

May be this is a philosophical explanation for lack of Dharma. Dharma is signified by the planet Jupiter. A person born with Jupiter significance / lagna will look tall, respectable and of good frame of body. If more and more people are adharmic, perhaps it will come along with indications of Jupiter in affliction in the horoscope which might as well be reflected in their stature – of looking short - not tall as one, with Jupiter connection to his lagna will look.

Speaking on tallness, this is an important issue in Vaastu sastra in deciding the height of residential houses.

Height of man is known as "Purusha Pramana"

Purusha pramana is based on 3 categories of height of persons –

the utthama pramana of men 6'9" taller,

the madhyama pramana of height 6' and

athama pramana of 5'3".

This means there were people of more than 6 feet tall in those days. Compared to that today the average height of Indians is less.

Purusha pramana was helpful in deciding the height of houses. The practice was to build the places of residence on the basis of the height of the owner of the place, if not, the height of his first wife or if not, the height of the eldest son. The reason is obvious.

Based on the height of the owner coming under any of these three categories, the hasta pramana was decided for measurement of the height and breadth of the house and the rooms.

Usually this height that goes in the name of 'hasta' is one fifth of the total height measured from the foot of the person to the tip of the right ring finger of his hand that is stretched upwards.

There are other units also to decide the pramana of hasta. But the widely used one was this. The Hasta pramaana is of 3 types, Utthama, madhyama or athama hasta pramana. There is slight difference between all these three in the descending order from Utthama to Athama. The difference is due to the 3 different height categories of man.

It is said that king Prithviraj Chauhan closely missed Ghori when he aimed his shot at him. The king was blind and was in captivity at that time. He was tipped by his confidante who told him the distance from him to Ghori and the height at which he can aim at Ghori. Prithiviraj was known for his prowess in shooting. It is said that he missed his target as his arrow whistled past just above the head of Ghori.

There is another version that the king killed him just by identifying the direction from which Ghori spoke. Similar instance is found in King Dasharatha's life where the king shot the arrow at Shravan mistaking the noise made when he took water from the pond, to the sound of a deer drinking water. Practice of Dhanur Veda made such precision shots possible and it was a continuing skill for 1000s of years in this land.

Coming to the topic, the question is how Prithvi Raj missed Ghori. Did he make a wrong calculation of the distance from the tips given to him? No, I don't think so.

Prithviraj had already seen Ghori in the first war where he defeated him. So when his friend mentioned the distance and height, he must have calculated the height of the building on the basis of the height of the Sultan thinking that it was built by him.

Since it is said that he missed the target, it means the arrow had flown above Ghori's head. That means the house was built on a pramana of a lesser height than Ghori's! One reason could be that it was not the own house/ palace of Ghori - it must have been someone else's house / palace occupied by Ghori after defeating the person.

That person must have been of the purusha pramana of the category lower to Ghori's.

Thinking from this angle, it becomes increasingly clear that most buildings and palaces of the Mughals were indeed the ones captured from previous rulers of Hindustan and re-christened.

This also shows that the science of civil engineering in India is very old and was highly utilitarian keeping in tune with the requirements of the people for whom the structures were built. The Purusha pramana rules of Vaastu are proof that people of tall stature lived in those days!

- jayasree



Tall tales, in short!

We associate height with power and confidence, but are taller people always more successful?

They're not nicer. They're not prettier. They're not anything else. But they've sort of gotten a halo in society at this point," says Arianne Cohen, author of The Tall Book, in response to a question put to her about tall people across the world. She should know -- she's 6-foot-3 herself and fairly successful.

But Arianne herself says society's love affair with height is more pronounced for men than women. It could perhaps have to do with the fact that perceptions of idealism in women are functions more of relative proportion than outright vertical advantage.

If you'll excuse the verbose anthropology, you'll realize the premise is simple. Taller men are always perceived to be more powerful, either as a result of physical prowess or intelligence. We're not saying it's true (no one is), just that many believe it's the case.
Which is all that's needed to hand taller men an advantage.

Consider the findings of two recent studies.

An Australian study found that men who are 6-foot tall had annual incomes nearly AUS $1,000 dollars more than men who were two inches shorter.

Then there were four large US and UK studies led by Timothy Judge, a management professor at the University of Florida. Judge and his colleague concluded that someone who is seven inches taller -- for example, 6 feet versus 5 feet 5 inches -- would be expected to earn 5,525 dollars more per year.

While money isn't an absolute barometer of success, that's a debate for another day.

The question is -- why do we associate so much with height?

"It's a mix of awe and intimidation," says psychologist Praveen Jhunjhunwala,

"You see a tall person -- you either want to be them or want to see them fall. It's natural.

Plus, taller people are used to leading from a young age -- they are more easily picked for things in school like the sports teams or class representatives. It stands them in good stead all their lives."

But history is littered with great figures who were less than impressive in the height department. In fact, many would argue being short has worked to the advantage of many.


Amit said...

96 cubits = 144 feet. (from google)

That's huge. I too have heard that people were tall during that period. If that's so, imagine how big their palaces would have been. Ram has also been referred to as Bahu Bhuja, one with long arms.

And have you already mentioned in your blog, HIS dob ? I am a regular reader of your blog, but I guess i would have missed it.

I love history and believe we were such a great country until the muslims came. We have never attacked/ harmed anybody except tragically, fellow hindus.

Buddha is also considered as one of the 10 avataars of Lord Vishnu. But when during Taliban regime, the famous Buddha statues were being bombed and destroyed, the central govt. pretended not to see it. How can we be like that? I hope the govt. does something to bring remains of martyrs like Prithviraj Chauhan back home from Afghanistan

jayasree said...

Thanks Amit for pointing out the mistake in typing. It is 4 cubits which is equivalent to 96 inches. It is equal to 8 feet.

Usually in Samudrika lakshana, the description in in sets of 3, 4 and 5. The height is described in group of 4.

The verse in Valmiki Ramayana on this group of 4 about the looks of Rama mentions his height as 4 cubits.

The translation of the verse is given here.

Verse (5-35-18)

"He is undersized at four places (viz. the neck, membran virile, the back and the shanks). He is endowed with three spirals in the hair of his head. He has four lines at the root of his thumb (denoting his proficiency in the four Vedas). He has four lines on his forehead (indicating longevity). He is four cubits high (96 inches). He has four pairs of limbs (viz. the cheeks, arms, shanks and knees) equally matched."

jayasree said...

I have not written on Rama's date of birth. I intend to write on that sometime.

vishal said...

Hi amit you read it wrong the height mentioned the article is 96 inches ie 4 cubits where as you miread it as 96 cubits instead of inches, pl calculate again

jayasree said...

Amit did point out the mistake Mr Vishal. It was corrected.