Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, is an ideal many followers of the religion look to for guidance. He is viewed as the ideal combination of strength, heroism and assertiveness, symbolising the human virtues of self-control, faith and service to a cause. So to be viewed as an incarnation of such a deity is high praise indeed.
Chandre Oraon is an Indian tea picker, living in the Alipurduar district of Jalpaiguri, in West Bengal. But what has made Chandre famous here is something he was born with: a tail that springs from his back. Measuring at 14.5 inches (36 cm), the tail has led many in the area to believe he is an incarnation of Hanuman.
Hanuman, a divine, monkey-like deity, was an ardent devotee of Rama in Hinduism. Rama was an incarnation of Vishnu, the “preserver” in the Hindu trinity. Chandre was born on the festival of Rama Navami, the celebrated birthday of Rama, leading more people to believe he is truly a reincarnation of the monkey god.
Oraon, now 38 years old, is visited by large numbers of people to receive blessings, with some even reporting miraculous healings of illness and ailments after touching his tail. He has set up a shrine to honour Hanuman, on top of which is a red silk flag, the deity’s symbol, in which many come to visit and meet the man known to be the reincarnation of Hanuman.
But it didn’t always make him an object of devotion. “When I was young, kids in the village used to make fun of me and my tail,” he told Barcroft TV, “They used to laugh. They used to pull my tail just for fun”. Yet Chandre believes it is a part of him he cannot live without, and calls it “a gift by god”.
It didn’t help with his marriage prospects either, as he was rejected by 20 women due to the tail. At the time, he remarked: “I have decided to marry the woman who accepts me and my tail. Or else, I’ll remain a bachelor like Hanuman”. However, in 2007, he settled down with his wife, and now has a daughter named Radhika.
Not everyone in his town believes that he is Hanuman reborn, however. Bhushan Chakraborty, the local medical officer, dismissed these ideas when speaking to The Indian Express. “He climbs up trees, behaves like a monkey and is a strict vegetarian, but he is no god and his condition is just a congenital defect,” the doctor said.
The clinical explanation for the tail is that it is a rare case of the congenital malformation known as Spina Bifida, which develops as early as four weeks into pregnancy. Candre’s tail emerges from his lumbar region, which suggests it is caused by a split spine.
He has refused any operation to remove the appendix to the spine, and many of his followers are still devoted to the belief. “Many people come to meet me, some even from far off places,” Chandre said, “They feel that I am God Hanuman, my tail is good for me”.