wtf mahadev?
July 6, 2009 10:45 PM   Subscribe

Some taxis (in Vancouver, perhaps elsewhere too?) have Mahadev stencilled on the back bumper. What the heck is that about, mefites?
posted by bellbellbell to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know either, but I've been meaning to ask this as well. I see them everywhere now.
posted by cgg at 10:53 PM on July 6, 2009

Mahadev means the "Great God" in Hindi or Sanskrit. It refers to the most powerful God in the Hindu hierarchy, "Shiva".

I am presuming the taxi drivers are Hindu immigrants, and have stenciled their god's name on their taxi.
posted by tusharj at 10:59 PM on July 6, 2009

"Maha" means "great" and can be found in maharaja (great ruler) and mahayana (great(er) vehicle)

Dev is an interesting word. This might be pop etymology but Dev in the old sanskrit has meanings to shine, and is related to the sanskrit Dyaus Pita -- Sky Father. Dyaus is probably where Zeus came from, referred to as Zeus pater, where the Romans got Jove pater, or . . . Jupiter!

So, Mahadev can mean the god Jupiter looking at the word roots.
posted by @troy at 11:32 PM on July 6, 2009

You see this in all its myriad forms pretty much wherever you go in the world.

Here in Africa, you usually have 2 typical "types" of taxis - the normal taxi services that you call to give you a ride to the airport, etc. - primarily used by foreigners, expats, business types, etc.. These are more expensive - similar to western rates, and generally considered safer. They have various types of religious paraphernalia affixed to the back sometimes but its usually minimal if any at all.

The other type of taxi is the much more prevalent "minibus taxi" that is used for daily transport by most nationals / local folk. They are much more affordable to the common man, usually less than $0.25 to $0.50 USD equivalent to get around town, depending on the country in question. They are cheap because they strip the inside of these vans out and weld in nothing but bench seating, and then they cram as many people into them as they possibly can, usually in the range of 18-20 people, all sitting on top of each other.

They have different names in almost each country - in Ghana they're called "tro-tros", here in East Africa they're called "matatus." Whatever the name, they are usually literally covered in religious wording ("JESUS IS THE ANSWER," "EMMANUEL IS MY COPILOT" etc.). Many times its splayed across half of the windshield, if the rest of the usable vehicle space is taken up. They are primarily Christian but you often see Muslim paraphernalia as well, especially as you move northward.

I once had a taxi driver pick me up at the airport, and in the course of our drive I found out that he was formerly a matatu driver, so I began asking him questions about it. Its quite a fascinating industry - the drivers don't own their vans, they lease them on a daily rate from the bosses who do own them. The driver has to get a certain number of passengers each day to meet his quota to pay off the boss, and what he makes above that he splits between himself and the kid he pays to manage the fairs / door. The whole racket is "administrated" or "regulated" for lack of more accurate terms by the local criminal gang here in Nairobi. When they get in a tiff with police for one reason or another, they can literally shut all of the matatus down, thus shutting down business in the city. If the drivers try to run their routes, they run the risk of being shot or even burned alive in their vans.

Due to the need to meet quota, many of the drivers are hopped up on speed much of the time to stay awake long enough to make some cash so they can eat, buy more speed, etc.. Hence they generally drive like complete idiots, very often even when they are sober as well. Deathly speeds, weaving in and out of any perceived hole in the traffic. The newspaper columns have a special section next to the obituaries that list the incidents of matatu accidents resulting in deaths the previous day. When these things get in accidents, crammed with 20 people, a lot of people can die. There are insurance companies that sell commuters' life insurance, even.

So, anyway, I ask him about the religious material on the matatus. He didn't have an exact answer, but he speculated that since the average matatu driver runs a number of very legitimate risks of meeting his Maker whilst in the course of his job, they like to have their van dedicated to their particular brand of god so that he will be well pleased when they drive up to the pearly gates, etc..

So, that may be one motivation for the trend.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:11 AM on July 7, 2009 [11 favorites]

A simpler answer: Mahadev is a common Indian surname. Maybe someone called Mahadev owns a fleet of taxis, and has had them stencilled for easy identification. Plenty of taxis have the depot or fleet owner's name on the back.
posted by embrangled at 1:05 AM on July 7, 2009

fairsfares / door
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:17 AM on July 7, 2009

and is related to the sanskrit Dyaus Pita -- Sky Father. Dyaus is probably where Zeus came from, referred to as Zeus pater, where the Romans got Jove pater, or . . . Jupiter!

Actually, all these gods' names come from the patriarch of the reconstructed proto-Indo-European pantheon, whose name in the reconstructed proto-Indo-European language was "*Dyēus ph2ter", or sky father. So they all have a very ancient common origin.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:46 AM on July 7, 2009

Why don't you just ask one of the Taxi drivers?
posted by wfrgms at 7:44 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Google indicates that Bonny's Taxi, Ltd. of Burnaby had contracted with Mahadev Metal Works & Fabrication to perform WAT (wheelchair-accessible taxi) conversions. Furthermore, that document suggests that they have a backlog of work. To me, it sounds like if you see a wheelchair-accessible taxi in Vancouver, there's a good chance that Mahadev Metal Works & Fabrication did it.
posted by mhum at 9:39 AM on July 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think mhum might have it. At least that sounds like a plausible answer to me, but I'm not the OP. The stencil is very uniform in size/location/font, almost like a company marking, but on the back bumper. It's too consistent to be a collection of one-offs on individual taxis, unless everybody's buying a stencil from the same place. I also think (but can't be 100% sure) that the markings span multiple cab companies.
posted by cgg at 10:58 AM on July 7, 2009

mhum is on it. It's a local Sikh firm that does conversions for taxis and rebuilds truck bodies.

My Vancouver question is what are the Red licence plates you see some cars wearing?
posted by fingerbang at 11:01 AM on July 7, 2009

Red license plates are prob foreign diplomatic licenses.
posted by x46 at 12:14 PM on July 7, 2009

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