In China, the rat is the first of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, associated with creativity, intelligence, honesty, ambition and generosity.
In India, Hindus revere rats as the unlikely steed of Ganesha, the elephant god of good luck, prosperity and success. Rats represent foresight and prudence, as well as darkness (in the sense of “nighttime” rather than evil) and the sense of smell.
“It is a sin to kill the companion of our God” [Amita Roy, of Vasant Kunj, New Delhi].
According to one story, Lord Shiva once held a contest to see which of his sons could circle the universe the fastest. Swift-footed Kumari, god of war, set off to race around everything that was; but tubby, slow-moving Ganesh consulted his rat, who told him to circle his parents and then tell them they were the universe. It was for this piece of theological insight/blatant flattery that Shiva granted Ganesha the title “Lord of Auspicious Beginnings”.
‘Mooshika’ (The name for Ganesha’s rat accomplice ) reminds his master remembers of the little things as well as the large, down to the smallest atom: and guards of the Wishing Jewel: a magical gem that granted its owner’s every whim, and introduced greed to humanity, spurring Ganesha to place it in the rat’s stewardship, since the wishes of a rat – sleep, food, sex, companionship and safety – are seen as natural and harmless.
The facts behind the myths
In ‘real life’ rats are known to take care of injured and sick rats , make happy “laughter” sounds when they play and succumb to peer-pressure, e.g. they’ll choose to eat unpalatable food if other rats are eating it.
Rats have their own bio sat nav, once they learn a navigation route, won’t forget it. handy when you’re Ganesha’s taxi driver 😉
When it comes to misconception and underrated intelligence, a rat shares a pig’s woe – they are actually extremely clean animals and less likely than cats and dogs to carry parasites and viruses (plagues aside), spending most of their day grooming themselves and each-other.
Buy a card or print of my rat drawing and other animals of the Chinese zodiac
or just have a browse through my other animal drawings
What i didn’t know about elephant rides
My research for this lead me to my next post about Elephants and the ‘crushing’ practices behind the elephant ride..