Thailand: the Mermaid Queen
Our story begins with our hero, Hanuman intent on rescuing the kidnapped wife of a friend. In order to reach the abductee, Hanuman must build a causeway across a stretch of water. Despite his best efforts, the rocks he and his men throw into the water seem to disappear overnight.
Hanuman investigates and discovers a group of merpeople carrying the rocks away.
The leader of the merfolk is the princess, Suvannamaccha.
Hanuman is entranced. He woos Suvannamaccha and discovers that she is acting on the orders of her father to demolish the causeway. Impassioned, Hanuman explains why building the causeway is important to him, as it is the only hope to rescue his abducted friend.
Suvannamaccha is moved; she orders her people desist in their disruption. The causeway is completed and Hanuman must continue on his mission. The couple part as lovers. Nine months later, unbeknownst to Hanuman, Suvannamaccha gives birth to Macchanu, who, once fully grown, battles his father, recognising him in the last instance before a death-dealing blow. A merman in his own right, he is the guardian of an important entrance to the netherworld (located in a pond).
I love this story! I love that Suvannamaccha is a valued, trusted leader among her people. I love that, when she and Hanuman become lovers, it is mutual and they are equals. I love how Hanuman appeals to Suvannamaccha conscience and empathy, by explaining why he seeks to build the causeway. Suvannamaccha is not forced. She is not ordered, nor is she condescended to or tricked. As a leader, she is given a choice. Hanuman trusts her implicitly and gives her all the facts, allowing her to come to her own decision.
And, in a true show of her power, she decides to not follow orders that have been given to her under false pretences. She does the right thing although, presumably the choice is not an easy one and their may be consequences for her and her people.
Another touching aspect of this story is that she and Hanuman part as lovers. They both have different lives and part ways amicably to be true to their natures and responsibilities. Circumstance means they cannot stay together. She is a mermaid and he is not. He does not try to force her to remain on land and she does not drag him to the depths. Instead, they each remain in their respective elements, even though that means being parted.
Suvannamaccha raises her son to both know (recognise his father in battle) and respect him. In some versions of the tale Hanuman and Macchanu are equally matched and neither can defeat the other. In others, they recognise each other and cease fighting right before a fatal blow. In either case, they are both men of honour who are reunited after many years.
Thailand is a beautiful country. It is a land of turquoise waters, mysterious islands and tropical fish. It is a place of ancient culture, Buddhist temples and amazing food.
In my time in Phuket, I spent days on end snorkelling, canoeing, shopping and eating delicious curries with my sister and my cousin. Thailand is a beautiful place, but also one where inhumanity in many things from the sex tourism industry, to animal cruelty, exist on the periphery.
Suvannamaccha was a leader. She was loyal to her father, but she had one greater loyalty still - and that was to doing what was right.
It was not orders or threats or manipulations that moved her. It was truth. Once what was hidden became seen, she did what any good leader should do. She made a change, for the better. Perhaps she risked her father’s ire for doing so. Perhaps punishment awaited her. But she did it anyway.
As women, Suvannamaccha calls on us to speak our own truth. She urges us to be leaders. Leaders lead by example. They make hard choices. And they do what is right, rather than what is easy or popular.
Perhaps there has been something bothering you... something small and personal, or some special cause to fight for. Perhaps you have been struggling with a hard decision; two impossible choices, or a choice between what is popular verses what is easy.
Suvannamaccha encourages you to have empathy, and to follow your intuition to do what you feel is right.
It was in Thailand I was first confronted with something that was not right, in a way I had never experienced before. I did the usual tourist things - saw the sights, went snorkelling at Phi Phi island and rode elephants through the jungle.
It was the last experience that changed tourism for me forever. Seeing how the elephants were mistreated, I was faced with an ugly side of tourism. I realised that, as a tourist, what I ignored I condoned. And worse; I was voting with my money. By paying to ride an elephant, I was essentially funding exploitative practices to continue.
I made a vow to be more like Suvannamaccha - to listen, to understand how my actions (or in-actions) may help or harm others and to do what was right, even if that is hard. This has meant doing things like adopting a vegan diet, being an advocate for the rights of those who don’t have a voice, and being a conscious consumer. At times, it has meant missing out on doing something that I perceive as unethical. It has meant being unpopular. It has also meant having to go against the opinions of people I care about, to live up to my truth.
Suvannamaccha calls you now to do the same. You are strong and you can make a difference!
What is your truth and how do you live it?