Romeo , the Vedic Dog
Last winter , one of the colony stray dogs brought forth a litter of six pups. The mother knew I was a dog friendly person and brought her pups to my gate everyday. They were an interesting mix. There were specially two who were an interesting reddish chocolate colour , whom Marta my neighbour and I named ' Brownie' with utter lack of ingenuity. There were two who were black and yellow dogs common on Indian streets and there were two even commoner yellow dogs. One Brownie came under the wheels of a car to our infinite sorrow. The yellow ones migrated to other streets. Then there were three.
Brownie insisted at 6 am on accompanying me to the yoga class in the University. No matter how many times I brought him back to my house gate, giving him to the chowkidar to hold till I got away, I'd find a little brown ball scampering behind me.Not only would he not be able to cross Mall Road ,the big dogs of that territory growled menacingly So I would arrive and depart from the yoga class with little Brownie clutched under my arm along with the yoga mat. He sat quietly near my head while we went through the asanas. What the other sadhaks thought about the situation I don't know.
His black siblings however decided Brownie's monopoly of our gate must end. He was banished to the middle lanes. Fortunately two sisters who lived on those lanes liked dogs and fed them.
My ears took note ,after some days, of a voice calling " Romeo! Romeo! " around lunchtime everyday. Intrigued by this Shakespeare invocation, I peered out from the garden. It was a young girl with a bowl of milk and bread in her hand. " Who are you looking for ?" I asked. " Have you seen this little black dog with yellow spots ?" she says
That is how one of the black pups came to be called Romeo.He is strapping at one year old now and has taken charge of the gate efficiently.
Since the last three days i have begun to look at him with respect and admiration. No ordinary streetdog is he. The yellow round spots above his eyes mark him out as the ' four-eyed' vedic dog coming down to us from 3000 years ago.
If it hadn't been for Wendy Doniger's controversial book ," The Hindus ; An Alternative History", I would never have known from what a hoary and holy lineage our streetdog Romeo has descended .
In Chapter 6, " Sacrifice in the Brahmanas; 800 to 500 BCE", Doniger is describing the conclusion of the famous Aswamedha Yagna, horse sacrifice after conquest of territory so beloved of all Kshatriyas. Doniger is quite concerned about relationship between humans and animals in ancient India. The horse and the cow one expected, but the importance of dogs is surprising. The importance lies however not in reverence or love but in rituals to cast out evil!
The stallion which had led the conquering army ,is worshipped before it is sacrificed. A dog is offered to the horse as part of the rituals.
" Early in the ceremony the stallion stood in the water. Collateral relatives of the king and queen brought to the stallion a " four-eyed dog" ( probably a reference to the two eyes plus two round marks above the eyebrows that many dogs have to this day)" writes Doniger.
Romeo looks up at me with his four eyes ,the round yellow spots dancing,as i put before him my offering of a bowl of roti and milk with cheesy bits. In this Kali Yug, this descendant of ancient lineage, has to be content with these mundane offerings.