The Food Chain

November 18, 2008

I found a great bookshop in Kathmandu, and after motoring through a (sometimes sketchy) Nepalise print of Frankenstein, I splashed out on a Penguin book called The Laws Of Manu. I was vaguely familiar with some facets of Hinduism, but wanting to teach myself more I thought this book would give me some constructive insight and background, and whilst being immersed in a Hindu/Buddhist culture, would help the information resonate.

Shortly after beginning to read the fascinating and lengthy introduction, I was travelling from Kathmandu to Royal Chitwan National Park: a huge 1000km square safari park 30km north of the border between Nepal and India. It is home to elephants, rhino, Bengal tigers, leopards, crocodiles, kingfishers and hundreds of other animals and so the reality of a natural foodchain surrounded me.

Briefly predating Manu in India was the Vedic society. Their core principles were based directly on a foodchain, which provided a violent code of living and worship: water and plants formed the basis on which animals survive; humans survive on animals; and above humans, the gods, who survive on the sacrifices (human or otherwise) offered by humans. Much Vedic thought, along with many other belief systems, was eventually subsumed by The Laws of Manu, though the foodchain concept can still be found in modern Hinduism (and is a common phrase elsewhere) in the saying “there is always a bigger fish”.

This particular background to Manu proved more pertinent to me than I’d imagined. Whilst staying in the safari park I took a jungle walk with a reckless guide who led us unwittingly into the territory of a young leopard whose mother was out of sight but (inevitably) close by. It became immediately apparent that we were part of a foodchain, and possibly the first thing on the menu. We backed away and walked in the opposite direction. My breathing was quick and I sensed myself moving on adrenaline alone.

I survived unharmed but that foodchain concept is burned into my mind…

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3 Responses to “The Food Chain”

  1. thorsten sideb0ard Says:

    yar! great to see an update and hear some stories! scary leopard story!

  2. max Says:

    Interesting. How did Vedic thoughtsystems deal with the reality of animals above humans in the foodchain? Or at least next to them, hiding behind rocks … ?

  3. matski Says:

    Yes, their system starts to crumble when you start including the big meat eating animals. Maybe they just pretended they didn’t exist…


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