Hanuman’s Seat

Business 11 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, May 06, 2011

Hanuman, the monkey-god, is much adored by people for his strength that is combined with simplicity. Despite his great power he always sits at the feet of Ram, never demanding a higher seat. And yet, at one time, Hanuman did claim a higher seat. This was at Ravan’s court.

When Hanuman made his leap across the sea to the island-kingdom of Lanka in search of Ram’s wife, Sita, who had been abducted by the demon-king, Ravan, he allowed himself to be caught by Ravan’s guards so that he could meet Ravan in person and deliver a message. “I am a messenger,” he told Ravan, “Treat me as a messenger. Give me a seat to sit.” Ravan laughed and his guards mocked the audacious monkey. “Sit on your tail if you are so desperate to sit!” they shouted.

In response Hanuman elongated his tail, then coiled it around to create a column, and jumped on top of it. Hanuman thus created a seat that towered over Ravan’s. He who always sat at Ram’s feet went out of his way to sit on top of Ravan’s head.

Sometimes the simplest of people are forced by circumstances to pull rank and dominate those around them. If the culture at office is that of Ram’s, then everyone is happy to sit at each other’s feet. But if the culture at the office is that of Ravan’s, then everybody fights to sit on top of each other.

In the old office, no one really cared who sat in open cubicles and who sat inside cabins. The boss preferred sitting in an open cubicle, because he liked it, not to demonstrate ‘simplicity’. For confidential meetings, he took one of the manager’s cabins. The managers did not feel awkward about sitting in cabins while the boss sat outside. The boss did not care about where he sat. It was an office where results and outcomes and delivery mattered more than pecking orders. Mr. Negi enjoyed his cabin a lot because he liked the privacy and the silence. His boss understood that and no one begrudged his liking.

Then the company exchanged hands. A new boss came to town. The old office had to be redesigned to make room for more people. The new boss kept talking about the egalitarian nature of open offices and cubes. And everyone agreed that it made sense to sit in an open office. But then, a few cabins were seen rising in the corners. “For senior management,” said the boss. When seats were allocated, it was clear that the ‘senior management’ referred to favorites! Mr. Negi got very annoyed. Suddenly he wanted a cabin more than anything else. He demanded it. So did other managers, managers who until then were happy sitting anywhere. The office now is a war zone with battles fought over cabins and cubicles, their location (is it closer to the toilet or the exit door? Is it closer to where the boss sits? Is it far away from the coffee machine?). Every one is sitting on the head of the boss, and no one is bothered about the results.

  • Rudresh

    Nice article, however I had heard it was “Angadh” who sat on his tail-seat above the Ravan,s when he went as a messanger of peace before the start of war and after Ram’s Vanar sena crossed over the bridge to Lanka.

    • hari krishna gupta

      No Rudresh
      I was Hunuman only after this incident only Ravana fired hunumans tail and further human kept land on fire by his burning tail.

      • Giriraj Bhatia

        I agree with Rudresh.

        It was indeed Angad who was sent by Ram. There is this Angad Ravan Samvad which happens in Ravan’s Court.

        Hanuman was caught by Ravan’s soldiers and to punish him he asked his soldiers to burn his tail.

        At that moment he started elongating his tail.

        Well, the thought is important not the finer details.

        • Devdutt

          the wise never consider their knowledge to be absolute or complete or exclusive…..allow for other versions always….check http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/temples/6068.htm….and http://kathakanchiki.wordpress.com/other-stories/hanumans-tail-throne/

        • Anjaneya

          It was not Angad, it was Hanuman. As a matter of fact, it is when Hanuman sat atop his coiled tail that Ravan got humiliated and ordered that it be burnt!

          What Angad did when he went as a messenger to Ravan’s court was to plant his feet firmly on the ground and challenge everyone present there to uproot his leg from the ground, which nobody could do (Angad was blessed with this capability which he put to good use to drill sense into the asurs, but alas, war was destined to happen as per each characters’s past karma!)

  • rajesh k naik

    truly said, its real world.


  • Very nice piece Devdutt.The equating of old times court & new times office was fantastic and pretty much relevant too.Bravo.

    • Hitesh

      Agreed.. Too good

  • Satish Gundawar

    Human’s territorial behaviour… very familiar and seen!!!

  • Pradeep Pandey

    excellent comparison….

  • Anil

    Completely agree with Devdutt ji’s reply to Rudresh’s original comment. :) Knowledge only grows when one is willing to admit that there might be more…..