Merry Valhalla

May 18, 2024by Rajeev Hora0

Why do I get a feeling that valiant heroes are getting scarcer these days?

The song “Laga Chunari Mein Daag” sung by the legendary singer, Manna Day is an extremely melodious and deeply philosophical composition. The metaphorical ‘chunari’ is the soul,  ‘daag’ refers to sin and the word ‘ghar’ is used for God’s abode upstairs.

Essentially, the quintessential human is being regretful about the soul (chunari) getting stained because of materialistic desires and inappropriate deeds. The vows of inner purity and love which were taken before coming to this world have long been forgotten due to the lure of worldly pleasures. Man is unable to remove the stains when the time has come to go back to his original home and face God (babul or father).

The beauty about the song is the instantaneous connect that it creates with the listener. Presenting a zoomed-out perspective of our time on this earth, it non-accusingly uplifts the soul towards making the best use of the remainder of our lives. Much like an errant child who expects to be forgiven by his ever-loving parents, each one of us hopes for similar redemption after faltering.

Working towards a better tomorrow by excelling in the present is a belief not entirely unique to our culture. In Norse mythology also, Valhalla is the banquet hall where the Viking God, Odin plays host to the souls of the valiant warriors who have died a courageous death in battle. Such emancipated and deserving souls are called Einherjar.

The heroic Einherjar souls are searched out from the battlefield by Odin’s warrior-like pretty maidens, the Valkyries. They are brought to Valhalla meaning the ‘hall of the slain’, which is the largest building in the heavenly home of the Gods. Legend says that the hall is so huge that it has 500-600 doors and each door being so wide that almost 800 warriors can pass through it abreast.

With rafters (beams) made of spears and roof tiles made from shields, the ambience is that of overflowing sweaty masculinity. The Valhalla is not quite the Christian belief of eternal reward, the heaven. It is more of a base camp where the Einherjar (souls) rest and feast on a never-ending supply of food and drinks. It is all about deafening merrymaking and noisy carousing on the banquet tables.

Each daybreak, Odin gathers his champion souls, clad in chain mail armour and takes them out for practice fights. The idea is to prepare them for the last and final battle, Ragnarok. The brave Einherjar thoroughly enjoy these sessions and miraculously recover, even if they were grievously wounded or killed. Once again, an analogical similarity to our belief of ‘immortality of the soul’.

The feasting and gulping down of the mead in gay abandon recommences on return to the banquet hall after these hectic sessions. Incidentally, the boar stew, food and ale never run short, an ultimate delight for the logisticians. This pattern of fighting and lavish revelry repeats until the beginning of Ragnarök, the ultimate great battle between the Gods and the powers of evil.

The crowing of the cock Gullinkambi marks the start of this much awaited clash. The Einherjar on the side of the Gods and their cowardly counterparts on the side of the monsters and the giants.

The expected result of the Ragnarök is however not on expected lines. Many Gods including Odin, are destined to perish in Ragnarök which entails a series of natural disasters as well. Catastrophic events including burning of the world and underwater submersion of vast tracts of land are doomed to happen. Scarily, it reminds you of impending global warming! One sees shades of Pralayahere, a well-known end of the world’ concept in Hindu eschatology.

Only two humans, Líf and Lífþrasir, survive the mammoth destruction by hiding in the woods. These two survivors consume the morning dew for sustenance, and from their descendants, the world would be repopulated. Well, something on the lines of Adam and Eve.

The Vikings were a warrior race and in their religion, stories of Valhalla played an important role in motivating the soldiers. There was no other better place to strive for than Valhalla.  The concept was somewhat similar to Veergati” as we understand in our culture. Warriors who did not die valiantly in battle went to the murky, miserable underworld.

The Times They Are a-Changin’ indeed. Why do I get a feeling that valiant heroes are getting scarcer these days? Or are they just being outnumbered badly in the Kalyuga? Not surprising as one doesn’t have to die gallantly anymore to go to Valhalla.

By the way, a fancy ‘bar cum night club’ in Ghaziabad has been named ‘Valhalla’. The spirit is flowing endlessly but the spirit of Valhalla is sadly missing. Undeserving pleasure gives no joy, I guess. And adding salt to injury, a glass of beer costs 300 Rupees!

Not quite expensive though, if it washes the stains away so easily!

Blissfully merry,
Horax (Casper)

Postscript: I was surprised to read a few days back that it is considered auspicious to die on the day of Akshay Tritya. Generally, people who have lived a pure, righteous and unblemished life all along are blessed with this opportunity. The festival is meant to rejoice good beginnings. Surely, death is considered nothing but a new beginning in most folklore.

First published at on 18/05/24

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