Actually the talk started when we started discussing the latest fad towards Buddhism. Someone said that the kind of Buddhism that flourished world over is not the puritan Buddhism which Buddha preached in his times to get rid of ritualistic and prejudiced Hinduism . This is because a normal person need symbols to worship, she argued . I casually commented that this is why in Hinduism many traits and virtues have been deity-fied . Hindus worship meaning behind their statues and the demarcation of virtues is so minute that there are many gods and goddesses functioning in a similar jurisdiction of virtues.
Just to illustrate the point I named Kuber and Laxmi- both of them are worshipped for wealth and money making . There is of course a slight difference between the two . Another colleague jumped in with the argument that the Gods and goddesses too have a hierarchical system . He claimed to be well aware of this as he has watched all mythical animation films with his 3 year old son . I tried arguing back that its not only hierarchy but also the genesis of a particular god. The gods worshipped today in what we loosely understand as Hinduism come from various streams. Some folk traditions, some Vedic gods modified to suit modern needs , even borrowed gods from other religions and of course historical persons turned into deities. If we take one God say Ganesha and start counting the myths associated with him we may find several weird and contradictory myths. But that is perhaps the beauty of myths. They touch you at some very basic level. Simple tales given status higher than that of a folktale and fables. Let us take Kuber for instance. I remember standing on the floating hotel of Kolkata (Floatel) a friend was looking at the banks of the river Ganges. It could have easily been converted into a tourist site –someone commented. There are ample number of businessmen in this Badabazar area itself who can invest in such a project-somebody else chipped in . This friend wisely commented that "well it is not the same thing to worship Laxmi and to worship Kuber. These seths of Badabazar are worshipper of Kuber- the guardian of money , they do not believe in creating wealth." Well, his comment may not be correct completely in that context but it certainly speaks a lot about the difference between the two deities.
Freshly curious about Kuber, I did the most natural thing of googling his name. The wikipeadia gave me the information I needed on this mythical, semi historical and common god between Hinduism and Buddhism.
Kuberin our myths is King of Yakshas.He is mentioned as guardian of directions. He is the Lokpal of the treasury of Indra.(That is why his statue in front of Reserve Bank of India) .He and the capital city of his kingdom Alkapuri is mentioned in Kalidasa’s Meghadutam too, if you remember . In Sanskrit literature this Alkapuri is taken to be in Kashmir and thus Kuber is rightly the keeper of North direction . Kubera is also the son of Sage Vishrava (hence he is also called Vaisravana) The banks of river Narmada is described as the birth place of Kubera, where his father Visravas, lived. It is also a territory of Gandharvas as the Mahabharata informs us. The same Kuber –in Buddhist tradition was a King of Lanka. He was banished from his kingdom by none other than Ravana –his younger brother , who succeeded him on the throne of Srilanka. So one can conclude that Kuber was a much traveled person – from Lanka he settled down to Himalayas .And why not- to facilitate his travels he owned the first aircraft –the pushpaka yan, which was later on notoriously used to abduct Seeeta . Now comes the connection between him and Laxmi, his house was supposed to be the abode of Adilaxmi – the deity of all riches. Kuber was so rich that he in south Indian traditions is also credited to have loaned money to Lord Vishnu, to meet his expenses of marrying Laxmi. (The myth also says that Vishnu is still paying the interest part only and is yet to pay the principal!)
Some of you may find it amusing , but to me these myths are captivating stuff. They speak so much about the imagination and fantasies of our ancient wise persons and common folks. Don't think that Hindus are the only ones who claim protection of 33 crore Gods and Goddesses The other day some one was telling me about deities/patron saints in Catholic traditions specially in Italy . It is a similar tradition like Hinduism and there are patron saints for horses, cancer patients, housewives and even for 'falsely accused'. Internet will give you comprehensive list of these saints and their functional jurisdictions.
Well, the discussion on the lunch table turned quite heated till finally one wise colleague (incidentally a Sikh gentleman) commented “ Perhaps that is why they made that movie-GODS MUST BE CRAZY!) and broke the divine contemplation . Later on someone quipped that had this discussion continued for few more minutes, disturbed by the fact that a group of auditors is discussing their jurisdiction , Gods would have sent down their organisational chart as reply to auditors' observations.