Category Archives: L. Hindu Arts, Architecture and Culture

Rasa Theory

Rasa [the academic study is referred to as rasa theory], is an ancient concept of aesthetics discussed in the text, the Natyasastra, which dates to approximately the 4th or 5th century CE (Gnoli XIV). “Sastra” in Hindu philosophy refers to the first text or treatise written on any subject (Scheherazaad 337); the person generally credited for the Natyasastra is the legendary, Bharata Muni (Higgins 44). Many philosophers have contributed ideas to the theories in aesthetics including Dandin, Bhatta Lollata, Sanuka, and Bhatta Nayaka. The ideas of all these philosophers have been passed down through the writings of the philosopher Abhinavagupta (Gnoli XXXV).

Abhinavagupta was born in the latter half of the 10th century in Kashmir (Gnoli XXXV), and he produced two well-known texts. He wrote the Abhinavabharati (commentary on the Natyasastra), and a commentary on the Dhvanyaloka (a text written by 9th century, Anandavardhana) (Gnoli XXXV). The Dhvanyaloka is translated to “Light of Resonance,” which discusses the metaphorical powers of language (Gnoli XXVII). Anandavardhana discusses the difference between everyday language and poetic language; suggesting the worth in poetic words—they lose their meaning when interchanged with other words (Gnoli XXIX). The Sanskrit word, dhvani, synonymous with “resonance” in this context (Gnoli XXIX), is also often referred to as “suggestion” in reference to rasa (Higgins 47). In Abhinavagupta’s commentary on the Dhvanyaloka, he suggests that “admitting that a sentence can have several meanings is thus a fallacy.” However, he conveys that poetics is in a different realm where once a person has realized the words, they become an “object of aesthetic experience” and it is unnecessary to apply the regular conditions of understanding everyday language (Gnoli XXVIII).

By looking at earlier philosophers like Bhatta Lollata of the 9th century, we see some contradictions to what Bharata describes about rasa in the Natyasastra. Lollata was most likely a Saivite (worshipper of Siva) mystic, who felt rasa was something experienced by both the character and the actor playing the role (Gnoli XVIII). Using the Ramayana, he describes that the character of Rama first feels the rasa and then subsequently any actor who plays the character of Rama also feels the rasa (Arjunwadkar 83). Lollata described that rasa is a “permanent mental state” (a sthayin) that exists at its most extreme form; used with Determinants, Consequents, and Transitory Mental States (Gnoli XVIII). Following Lollata, the philosopher Sanuka had highly controversial ideas of rasa compared to Abhinavagupta. Sanuka proposed an imitation theory: within a performance, rasa involved an actor emulating a specific mental emotion. He suggested that the audience did not make a distinction amongst the character being played and the actor; therefore, they always remained naïve to this artificiality (Gnoli XIX).

Another very important theorist in the conception of rasa theory is Bhatta Nayaka, who is also Kashmiri, from the 10th century (Gnoli XX). Nayaka is recognized as forming two ideas: bhavakatva and bhojakatva. Bhavakatva is the idea of “generalization” (sadharanikarana) that essentially rids the spectator from the consciousness of their individuality and universalizes the experiences of the character in the play or in spoken poetry (Arjunwadkar 87). The bhojakatva is the experience of the audience savouring the generalized rasa in a mind frame that is entirely separate from the regular cognitive processes and one that leads to pure joy (Arjunwadkar 87). Nayaka describes how certain experiences of everyday life have a way of impacting us that brings us grief and sorrow. However, in the theatre domain the ability to see them in the generalized form allows one to take pleasure in feeling these emotions (Gnoli XXII- XXIII). When Bharata talks about this concept of generalization, he suggests that one experiences a suspension of their ego in the process (Chaudhury 149). Nayaka suggests that a rasa is a “fruition” (bhoga), where one evades their consciousness and enters the realm of pure bliss that is associated with Brahman (Gnoli XXIV). Nayaka makes the correlation between religious schools of thought and rasa, suggesting they both come from the same foundation: a person can be released from their thoughts of everyday life (Gnoli XXVI). It is noted, by Abhinavagupta, that rasa is something that exists only in the world of drama, while the permanent emotions (sthayins) occur in real life. These emotional states exist instinctually, but become the experience of rasa once the permanent emotion undergoes a transformation into the universalized form separate from oneself or their counterparts (Arjunwadkar 90).

The Natyasastra is a detailed text that examines the workings of theatre, and discusses how different mental states translate into the artistic plane (Gnoli XIV). From the text, rasa arises, which literally means “taste” (Chaudhury 147) which develops into an idea of how an audience experiences these dramatic works.  The Natyasastra can be compared to Western concepts of aesthetics by comparing it to the work of Aristotle in his text, Poetics (Higgins 44). Both have a focus on action: Aristotle is concerned with the actions of the character in the play, whereas Bharata is concerned with the actions of the person who is playing the character. Bharata focuses on gestures and body movements that align with one of the four religious goals in Hinduism, dharma (Higgins 44). Both Aristotle and Bharata focus on the unity of the audience and actor, but Aristotle discusses the unity in connection to the plot line, while Bharata confers over a unity with establishing an emotion in the audience (Higgins 44).

The discussion of rasa is complex, in that many other terms are used to explain it. There are eight emotional states called bhavas or sthayibhavas, these states exist instinctually in every person either from experience or “inherited instincts” (Gnoli XVI).  Sthayibhavas are more fundamental emotions of a piece, as opposed to bhavas that can be viewed as a general way to describe emotions within aesthetics (Rangacharya 55 as cited in Scheherazaad 338). The eight bhavas are as follows: “Delight (rati), Laughter (hasa), Sorrow (soka), Anger (krodha), Heroism (utsaha), Fear (bhaya), Disgust (jugupsa), and Wonder (vismaya)” (Gnoli XV). Bharata acknowledges that there are many other emotional states that exist in association with these permanent ones; he suggests thirty-six impermanent states (Gnoli XVI). Paired up with these bhavas or sthayibhavas are the eight rasas, that are not experienced in real life but are exposed by an actor or a poet (Gnoli XVI). The rasas are as follows: “the Erotic (srngara), the Comic (hasya), the Pathetic (karuna), the Furious (raudra), the Heroic (vira), the Terrible (bhayanaka), the Odious (bibhatsa), and the Marvellous[sic] (adbhuta)” (Gnoli XVI). A ninth rasa, the Quietistic (santa) and paired bhava, Serenity (sama), were later added to the list, not without some controversy amongst other thinkers though (Gnoli XVI).  Once an actor has experienced an emotion, their goal is to facilitate the translation of this bhava into a rasa, through their performance.

When a dramatist portrays these rasas on the stage and not in real life they are categorized in three ways, which are essentially sub-emotions used during the performance: vibhava, anubhava, and vyabicaribhava. Vibhavas or “Determinants”, are the actual contextual causes for the emotion, these stimuli can be an object or a situation (Higgins 45). The anubhavas, meaning the “Consequents,” are any of the ways the character represents these states through gesture and action, or involuntary bodily functions, like sweating (Higgins 45). Finally, the vyabicaribhava, translated to “Transitory Mental States,” are fleeting emotional states that lead to an underlying atmosphere in the play (Higgins 45). The suitable combination of these sub-emotions within the play leads to rasa (Scheherazaad 338). When these rasas appear onstage, the audience (rasikas) (see Arjunwadkar 81) have an experience of enjoyment. Bharata uses a metaphor to compare people who can appreciate and savour the many spices and ingredients of a dish to the process of people experiencing rasa. He likens this savouring of the dish to an actor depicting the various bhavas with use of their body movements, variation in voice, spontaneous reactions, and the achievement of pleasure (Higgins 46).  In the Natyasastra, Bharata does make a point to distinguish a long list of stipulations for which type of spectators can experience rasa. Amongst the list, there is a high importance on class and status, and a well-versed knowledge of cultural and artistic practices, with an ability to analyze (Higgins 46). Along with these requirements, many who have interpreted Bharata’s work say that it is crucial for the rasika to have a high empathetic capability to experience the rasas (Higgins 47). He reiterates that rasa occurs cognitively as “a perception without obstacles and consisting in a relish” (Gnoli 62).

Within the text of the Natyasastra, Bharata gives ways an actor will go about this entire process, by listing the various phases that accompany a certain rasa. He uses the example of the ways a woman on stage, through erotic love, produces insanity: “one should sometime[sic] look with a steadfast gaze, sometimes heave a deep sigh, sometimes be absorbed with oneself and sometimes weep at the [usual] time for recreation” (N.S., XXVII.50-58 523 as cited in Higgins 47). Abhinavagupta, in concurrence with Anandavardhana, emphasizes the importance of the use of dhvani or “suggestion” for communicating rasa through emotional meaning (Higgins 47). He also describes how a spectator will have remnants in their memories of emotions that will allow them to experience the rasa, using the example (Higgins 48) of a grandparent’s ability to remember their own childhood, allowing them to be empathetic with their grandchild’s emotional experiences. This idea, touched on previously, is the idea of generalization that facilitates rasa. The ninth rasa added later in history, as Abhinavagupta and some others may agree with, is the suggested end goal for the other eight rasas. Abhinavagupta advocates that the experience of tranquility is equivalent with moksa. This religious idea can be traced back to his Saivite roots, with the concept of “seeing one’s individual consciousness as a play of the universal consciousness” (Higgins 50). This discussion around the ninth rasa led to some debate on which sthayibhava would correspond with it; Abhinavagupta said “Knowledge of the Self” would be the associated sthayibhava. However, Abhinavagupta was careful to make the distinction that moksa is a constant experience while santarasa is an aesthetic expression that ends when the performance does (Higgins 50). Other scholars, Susan L. Schwartz for example, have considered that to fully understand rasa, one must be aware of the religious context of Indian classical art forms, as the spiritual aspect exists in all of them (Scheherazaad 341).

Rasa exists in many art sectors of Indian classical traditions, including dance. Those in the classical dance world, Aziz Esmail for instance, have attested that spirituality is embodied in the culture that lends itself to the production of rasa in dance and those who experience it; ritual practice is built into every step of the dance-making process (Scheherazaad 342). The training and practice involved with Indian classical dance, Odissi abhinaya dance for example, is very complex and in depth. The dancer must learn the philosophical literature of the poems, along with physical mastery over their body to be able to convey story, energy, and meaning appropriately (Scheherazaad 344). The demonstration of rasa within the performance realm in India has experienced a shift. Some scholars make an argument using modern Bollywood dance as an example to suggest that globalization throughout the years has led to a shift from a commonly displayed sringara (rasa of erotic desire) to a focus on material consumption (Chakravorty 223).  Rasa theory is about the union of the audience with the actor on stage; through this traditional interaction, a relationship between the two parties was meant to form with emotions being shared. With this occurring change, new films and dances are being cycled through media platforms for purpose of commodity, and “repeat value” (Chakravorty 218). It has been suggested that not all, but many, dance studios within urban centres in India have a detached sense of embodiment as the industry becomes more commercialized; the bodies are no longer rooted in a cultural artistic form but only represent the newly expressed commodity focused society (Chakravorty 222).

 

REFERENCES

Arjunwadkar, K. S. (1984) “The Rasa Theory and The Darsanas.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 65 no.1: 81-100. Accessed February 5, 2017. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uleth.ca/stable/41693108.

Chakravorty, Pallabi (2009) “Moved to Dance: Remix, Rasa, and a New India.” Visual Anthropology 22 no.2-3: 211-28. Accessed February 3, 2017. doi: 10.1080/08949460902748113.

Chaudhury, Pravas J. (1952) “The Theory of Rasa.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 11 no. 2: 147-50. Accessed February 3, 2017. doi:10.2307/426040.

Scheherazaad, Cooper (2013) “The Alchemy of Rasa in the Performer-Spectator Interaction.” NTQ – New Theatre Quarterly 29 no. 4: 336-48. Accessed February 3, 2017. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1466359549?accountid=12063.

Gnoli, Raniero (1985) The Aesthetic Experience According to Abhinavagupta. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office.

Higgins, Kathleen M. (2007) “An Alchemy of Emotion: Rasa and Aesthetic Breakthroughs.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 65 no.1: 43-54. Accessed February 3, 2017. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uleth.ca/stable/4622209.

 

FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

 

Dace, Wallace (1963) “The Concept of ‘Rasa’ in Sanskrit Dramatic Theory.” Educational Theatre Journal 115 no.2: 249-54. Accessed February 5, 2017. https://search.proquest.com/docview/740714367?accountid=12063.

Patankar, R. B. (1980) “Does the ‘Rasa’ Theory Have Any Modern Relevance?” Philosophy East and West 30 no.3: 293-303. Accessed February 26, 2017. doi:10.2307/1399189.

Sundararajan, Louise (2010) “Two Flavors of Aesthetic Tasting: Rasa and Savoring A Cross-Cultural Study with Implications for Psychology of Emotion.” Review of General Psychology 14 no. 1: 22-30. Accessed February 26, 2017. doi:10.1037/a0018122.

Sundaram, Dheepa (2014) “Aesthetics as Resistance: Rasa, Dhvani, and Empire in Tamil ‘Protest’ Theater.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. [need an Interlibrary Loan Request]

Timalsina, Sthaneshwar (2007) “Metaphor, Rasa, and Dhvani: Suggested Meaning in Tantric Esotericism.” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 19 no. 1-2:134-62. Accessed February 23, 2017. doi:10.1163/157006807X224404.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Natyasastra

Dandin

Bhatta Lollata

Sanuka

Bhatta Nayaka

Bharata Natyam (classical Indian dance)

Tantrics

Sivaite

Odissi (classical Indian dance)

Bharata Muni

Dhvani (Vyanjana)

           

Related Websites to Rasa Theory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rasa_(aesthetics)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_aesthetics

http://literarism.blogspot.ca/2015/04/theory-of-rasa.html

http://www.academia.edu/1648222/Rasa_Theory

http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195113075.001.0001/acref-9780195113075-e-0287

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhinavagupta

http://www.svabhinava.org/abhinava/krishnamoorthyk/krishnamoorthyaesthetics.pdf

 

This article was written by: Sydney Murdoch (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.

Antal: The Tamil-Poet Saint

Antal was a Tamil saint who occupied a unique position amongst the twelve Alvars (saints) because she was the only woman Alvar of Vaisnavism. Before she was given the name “Antal”, she was known as “Goda” (‘Go’ means the ‘earth’ and ‘da’ means ‘given by’) and in Tamil she was named “Kodai” (one who has beautiful hair) (Sundarsanchar 15). Antal was also known for having a powerful love connection towards the god Visnu, and has composed the greatest Tamil works of Thiruppavai and Nachiar Thirumozhi. They are recited by the devotees during the month of Margashira (Maghshar) in Srivaishnava mandirs (Dehejia 4). The first 1,000 verses contain songs by Vishnuchitta Alvar and his adopted daughter, Antal (Antal means ‘One who attracts’). Srivilliputtur was the birth place of Antal and in that same area, there is a temple dedicated to her (Dehejia 5-7).  Legend goes that Antal was the incarnation of the goddess Sri Bhudevi (goddess earth) and was understood that the goddess “asked as a boon of Visnu, to be born on earth as his greatest devotees” (Deheijia 7). Therefore, a priest named Vishnuchitta from the Srivilliputtur temple found a young infant girl in his garden and decided to adopt her. In many places in India, particularly in Tamilnadu, Antal is treated as a saint and form of Goddess.

The Tamil word, Alvar means one who has drowned or lost himself in the sea of the divine being (Dehejia 1). Between the fifth and ninth century in the Tamil-speaking region of South India, these twelve saints revitalized the Indian religious milieu, sparking the renewal of devotional worship throughout the subcontinent. They were the earliest proponents from the bhakti movement which was a form of worship that emerged in medieval India (Chabria and Shankar 13). Traveling from temple to temple and from site to site, they composed exceedingly beautiful poetry to their Divine beloved Visnu as an expression of their love to him. Anyone can see why their poetry was so attractive; at once both impassioned and philosophical, their words cut across all barriers of class and inviting everyone to be part of their faith. In doing so, they sculpted a new religious heritage of intensely emotional bhakti which are still felt today in the Indian religious life. Among the twelve Alvars was Vishnuchitta who spent his time mostly tending to the flower garden and serving the Lord Vatapatrasayi at Srivilliputtur Temple. He later became known as “Periyalwar” (Sundarsanchar 10-11). Antal, whose life and poetry are celebrated every December to January, is the most visible contributor to this heritage.

According to legends that have developed around her, Antal was discovered under a tulsi bush (holy basil) in the temple garden of Srivilliputtur by the devouted Brahmin Visnucitta. Having no family of his own, he considered it as being a sign from God and named her Kotai which meant “she of the fragrant tresses” (Dehejia 1). Since her foster-father was known to be a great Alvar, he used to worship God in the Srivilliputtur temple by showing Visnu great love and affection. Vishnuchitta lived in villaputtur which was a town near Madurai, his duties included acquiring flowers for the worship of the Lord at the local temple. Therefore, Antal grew up in an atmosphere of love and devotion. Vishnuchitta cherished her in every respect, singing songs to her about his beloved Krsna, teaching her all the stories and philosophy he knew, and sharing with her his love of Tamil poetry (Dehijia 7). The love he had for his Lord, intensified further in his daughter and before long, a great love for the Lord was awoken in her heart (Dehejia 7-8). Even as a child, Kodai made up her mind to marry none but the Lord Ranganatha and refused to think of any human being in similar terms.

As she began growing into her teenage years, Antal developed a great attachment and longing for the Lord. She imagined what it would be like to be his bride, playing the role of his beloved, and enjoying his presence (Chabria and Shankar 9-10). She began craving for him deeply. Unknown to her father, she adorned herself daily with the flower garland which he prepared for the Lord at the temple. After admiring her reflection and thinking of herself as his ideal bride, Antal would put the garland back for Vishnuchhitta to take to offer it to the Krsna. One day, Antal put on the garment and said “This is offered to God” (Sundarsanchar 20). Her father witnessed this and was shocked for he considered this as a great violation. He remonstrated her for this act and threw away the garland. Therefore, Vishnuchitta had to perform the evening puja without an offering to the Lord. On that night, Lord Krsna appeared in his dream and asked him why he discarded Antal’s garland instead of offering it to him. The Lord told him that he missed the scent of her garland. He told Vishnuchitta that he yearned for the smell of Andal’s body in the flowers and that he preferred them that way. “Periyalwar, the garland worn by your daughter has the sweet fragrance of her devotion and purity; that is the garland I love” (Sundarsanchar 22). Overcome with emotion, Vishnuchitta awoke and cried tears of joy because his daughter found a bridegroom. Her spiritual greatness was such that the Lord himself wished to share her presence. From that day on, “she won Periyalwar by her qualities and indeed became Antal (one who attracts)” (Sundarsanchar 23). She was also known as “Soodi Koduthra Sudarkodi, maiden, shining bright as a golden creeper, who offered garlands after wearing them” (Chabria and Shankar 20). This last name that was given to her, refers to the event of her wearing the garlands.

Antal blossomed into a beautiful young woman as she came of marriageable age. When asked to marry, however, she stubbornly refused, saying that she would only agree to marry Srirankam, the Lord at the great temple. Vishnuchitta became extremely anxious, wondering what was to become of his daughter. Until one night, Lord Srirankam appeared in his dream and Visnu assured him that he would accept Andal as his bride (Dehejia 8). Vishnuchitta once again was filled with joy because his beloved daughter would attain her goal. However, at the same time he was sad because he had to let her go. It is said that Visnu himself made all the wedding preparations and arrangements for Antal’s journey to Srirankam, including the fanfare of a royal marriage party. Antal waited with excited anticipation as the wedding party approached the Lord’s shrine. As they entered the temple, she jumped out of the palanquin, unable to restrain herself any longer. Running onto the sanctum, she embraced the feet of the lord and disappeared in a mysterious way (Sundarsanchar 30-32). The marriage ceremony initiated by Antal’s gift of the garland, closed with a formal wedding. At the end of her story, she passes from a normal human being, into “a deity to be worshipped” (Sundarsanchar 32).

Antal composed two works throughout her life, both works display a literary and religious maturity far beyond her years. Her first work is the Thiruppavai, a collection of thirty verses in which Antal imagines herself to be a gopi (cowherdess) during the incarnation of Lord Krsna (Dehjia 14). There are beautiful descriptions of the water lilies unfolding, the buffaloes grazing, and the maidens calling out to each other and over to Krsna to come and join them. Antal yearns to serve him and achieve happiness not just in this birth, but for all eternity. The second is the Nacciyar Thirumozhi. This poem fully reveals Antal’s intense longing for Vishnuchitta, the divine beloved and describes how she uses certain methods to achieve the union with Krsna. In one verse, she prays to the god of love to help unite with her lover and another verse illustrates how she refuses to marry any other human being other than the Lord (Sudansanchar 33-35). “It is clear from both the Thiruppavai and the Nacciyar Thirumozhi that Antal’s chosen god is Krsna the cowherd Lord” (Dehejia 14).

 

Antal is now one of the best love poet-saints of the Tamils, she was present in all Sri Vaisnava temples in India and elsewhere next to her Lord as she always desired. There is a beautiful temple dedicated to her in Srivilliputtur, by the side of the garden where she was found as a child (Dehjejia 6). Her life epitomized ideas of devotion, feminism and empowerment during that century. “Antal Utsava (celebrations) in Srivilliputtur is like a grand religious fair. The women of the place participate in the festival with pride. Antal is like a precious jewel among women” (Sundarsanchar 54). Antal continues to be praised as a heroine and saint with the flowers of that garden. To this day, the Lord is presented with the garland that was worn by her. The impact of these works on the daily religious life of South India, has been tremendous; people are never tired of listening to the Thiruppavai. The poem itself is recited with great religious passion by women, men and children of all ages, particularly in Tamil Nadu. The daily services in most Vaisnava temples and householders recite these poems. Antal showed the people how to present God’s grace with a true longing for desire and devotion to him. She emphasized that everyone should submit themselves before the Lord like a lover (Sundarsanchar 51-52). In her hymns, Antal has incorporated all the essence of four Vedas, Puranas and all spiritual knowledge about God Thiruppavai is recited during the sacred month of Margashira (also known as Marzazhi in Tamil), that is in the auspicious month of Dhanurmasam (Chabria and Shankar 24-25). Dhanurmasam is considered so holy and sacred that during this month, no Vedic Hindu marriages take place as everyone want to devote all their energy and time in the Holy name of the Lord Sri Narayana. “The vow was undertaken by the young unmarried girls who, throughout the month, bathed at dawn in cold waters of river or pond to secure the blessing of a happy married life” (Dehejia 17). Even though the hymns in the Thiruppavai are only 30 in number, they contain the full knowledge of the Lord. Most of all, Antal is remembered for her poetry, in which she often discovers autobiographical notes about her love for her Lord.

 

References and Further Recommended Readings

Chabria, P.S., and Ravi Shankar (2016) The Autobiography of a Goddess. New Dehli: Zubaan Books

Dehejia, Vidya (1990) Antal and Her Path of Love: Poems of a Woman Saint from South India. Albany: SUNY Press.

Simha, s.n.l. (1987). Andal: Tiruppavai and Nachiya Tirumozhi. Bombay: Ananthacharya Indological Institute.

Srinivasa, Reddy (2010). Giver of Worn Garland. New Dehli: Penguin.

Sundarsanchar, Jaggu (2010) Andal. Association of American Publishers: Litent ePublishing

Venkatesan, Archana (2010) The Secret Garland: Andal’s Tirruppavai and Nacciya Tirmoli. New York: Oxford University Press.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Alvars

Bhu Devi

Visnucitta

Srivilliputtar

Krsna

Tiruppavai

Nacciya Tirumoli

Kotai

Devotees

Periyalwar

Vaisnava Temples

Visnu

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.tamilselvi.com/Srivilliputhur-Andal-Temple.html

http://navrangindia.blogspot.ca/2015/12/historical-andal-temple-tamil-nadu.html

http://godharangan.blogspot.ca/2010/12/bride-is-born-wind-swayed-trees-in.html

http://namadwaarsg.org/who-is-andal-and-why-is-she-worshipped-with-lord-krishna-during-margazhi-chapter-3/

http://tamilnadu-favtourism.blogspot.ca/2015/09/srivilliputhur-andal-kovil.html

https://tamilandvedas.com/tag/andal/

 

Article written by: Ruth Melara (February 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Kathasaritsagara

The Kathasaritsagara, also known under the title of “Ocean of the Streams of Story,” is a compilation of individual fables that, collectively, make up the whole of the Kathasaritsagara. The individual accredited with compiling the Kathasaritsagara, as the exact origins of the individual fables are unknown, was an eleventh century Kashmire Brahmin by the name of Somadeva Bhatta. (Haase 531; Franke 316). The collection falls under the category of Indian art called kavya; individuals who utilized kavya art forms “display their skill…by presenting well-known subjects in a refined and sophisticated poetical form” (Franke 316). It is noted by several sources, and within the prefaces of such translators as C.H. Tawney’s 1880 English version of the Kathasaritsagara, that the work was compiled for the entertainment of a queen by the name of Suryamati, the wife of a king named Anantadeva of Kashmir (Haase 531-532; Franke 316). It is also believed that in addition to simple entertainment, the Kathasaritsagara was compiled with the intention of providing the queen with a form of distraction and comfort from several hardships that were experienced in the family, particularly surrounding her husband and son (Franke 316). The hardships were characterized by the hatred and animosity that existed between Suryamati’s husband, Anantadeva, and their son (Franke 316). Unfortunately, the animosity between Anantadeva and Suryamati’s son eventually led to Anantadeva commiting the act of suicide (Franke 316).

Over the years since the Kathasaritsagara was first compiled, the work has been translated and edited, in whole or in part, from the original Sanskrit versions into languages such as German, English, and Persian. Each translation and editation of the Kathasaritsagara holds its own merits and backstories.

Several known editors and translators have worked versions of the Kathasaritsagara into English variations. One such translator of the work is Sir Richard Francis Burton. Specifically, Sir Richard Francis Burton worked with one of the fables in the Kathasaritsagara in order to translate that particular piece into English. The fable that Burton translated is entitled Vetalapanchavinsati, however, it is also known through its translated names of “Tales of a Vampire, Vikram and the Vampire,” as well as “Tales of Indian Devilry” (Haase 532; Burton 1868). An easily accessible version of Burton’s work can be found online (Burton 1868).

Another popular English version of the Kathasaritsagara was translated by C.H. Tawney in the year of 1880. Tawney’s translation has resulted in the entirety of the Kathasaritsagara being available to audiences in the English language. Within his version, C.H. Tawney provides an index, glossary, as well as commentary. The commentary that C.H. Tawney provides can be found at the bottom of several of the pages, some of which includes comparisons of the fables present in the Kathasaritsagara to others. C.H. Tawney’s translation of the Kathasaritsagara is available online, but it is broken into two volumes (Haase 532; Penzer 3). An edited version of Tawney’s translation by N.M Penzer contains ten volumes (Haase 532; Penzer 3).

One particular German version of the Kathasaritsagara, was translated by an individual by the name of Hermann Brechams. His version of the Kathasaritsagara is noted by Donald Haase, in his work “The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales.” The German version that has been translated by Breckhams is available online, similarly to other translated versions of the work (Breckhams 1862). A noted Sanskrit version of the text has been edited by two men, known as Pandit Durgaprasad and his son, Kashinath Pandurang Parab. Another edited version, in Sanskrit, of the Kathasaritsagara was completed by Brockhaus; The two versions are compared for their differences by Speyer (Speyer 61-75). A copy of the Sanskrit version, of the Kathasaritsagara, Pandit Durgaprasad and Kashinath Pandurang Parab’s translation is available to audiences online (Parab & Durgaprasad 1930; Speyer 61).

The Persian version of the Kathasaritsagara was translated from Sanskrit into Persian for the Mughal emperor, Akbar (Franke 313). The translation likely was inspired upon the visit of Akbar to Srinagar in the year of 1589 (Franke 313). It is suspected that during his visit to Srinagar that Akbar became introduced to the Kathasaritsagara, and then ordered its translation into the Persian language (Franke 313). One well-known version of the Kathasaritsagara that was translated for Akbar contained illustrations in addition to the translation of the collection (Franke 313). Unfortunately, one cannot find a whole copy of such a manuscript anymore, at least not of that concerning the translations that had been created for Akbar (Franke 313-315). The reason that one cannot find a whole manuscript from Akbar’s time in Persian is due to the fact that it was disassembled; what is left of the manuscript can be found in portions (Franke 313-315). Some of the illustrations that are believed to have originated from the manuscript, created for Akbar, are now in private collections and in the collections or available to be viewed through museums (Franke 313-315). Museums that currently have some of the illustrations from the manuscript in their collections includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Franke 313-315; The Metropolitan Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art). The Metropolitan Museum currently portrays two of their acquired illustrations from the Kathasaritsagara in their online collection (The Metropolitan Museum). The Los Angeles County Museum of Art displays three illustrations from the Kathasaritsagara (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).

The Kathasaritsagara, as a collection of fables, adheres to the general role that stories categorized under the term of fables follows. Fables are categorized separately from other forms of literature due to the fact that fables are meant to serve a specific purpose aside from that of providing entertainment or information. As stated by H.J. Blackham, “A fable takes or invents representative material offered to reflection.” (Blackham 224) Therefore, the overall purpose of fables can be understood as a way in which to provide readers and audiences with narratives that allow for the reader to gain insight to utilize within the context of different situations in their lives. The Kathasaritsagara begins by laying a foundation story under which many of the fables carry on in separate stories that are able to be connected, similarly to that of a series. Each individual story provides audiences with a message or lesson to be passed on for the individual to apply into the lives of the audience members.

The Kathasaritsagara is divided into eighteen separate books; the Kathapitha, Kathamukha, Lavanaka, Naravahanadattajanana, Chaturdarika, Madanamanchuka, Ratnaprabha, Suryaprabha, Alankaravati, Saktiyasas, Vela, Sasankavati, Madiravati, Pancha, Mahabhisheka, Suratamanjari, Padmavati, and Vishamasila (Tawney 1). Each of the eighteen books have their own set of chapters. Several chapters within each of the books are capable of standing alone, with the addition of the chapters also having the capability of acting as fables. Within the first book of the Kathasaritsagara, the Kathapitha, each of the individual chapters provides an independent story that is still linked to the main story of the book. The individual chapters are situated and presented to the audience in such a way that each one is capable of portraying a lesson or motif to the audience and reader. The capability of the chapters to stand as individual narratives, that are capable of portraying lessons and motifs that can be applied to one’s life as is dictated under the categorization of fables (Blackham 224), is a great characteristic of the Kathasaritsagara that one can and should analyze.

The ability for one to be able to categorize many of the stories within the work as being capable of being categorized as a collection of fables is evident as soon as the first book within the Kathasaritsagara, the Kathapitha. In the case of the first book, the primary story is told in the first chapter where the goddess Parvati harshly punishes Pushpadanta as well as a Gana Malyavan who attempted to intercede on behalf of Pushpadanta (Tawney 4-5). The punishment was that the two pramathas would be cursed to be mortals until such a time that they would be able to complete two separate, yet interceding tasks (Tawney 4-5). As time passes, Parvati comes to regret her harsh punishment that had been born out of quick anger and jealousy (Tawney 5). The first chapter of the first book acts as both an introduction to what the whole of the book’s chapters’ plots are based upon. The first book in itself is also capable of acting as a standalone story with its own motif and lesson. As a fable, the first chapter of the Kathapitha provides audiences with a story in which one can discern the disadvantages associated with several actions including quick temperament and eavesdropping. The third chapter, in the Kathapitha, as well as other chapters in the Kathapitha, share a similar function of acting as a fable, however, unlike the initial chapter of the book, it has a story that can act independently or, as it is within the Kathasaritsagara, as a continuation of the book. Pushpadanta encounters the Gana Malyavan, who had attempted to intercede on his behalf, thus allowing for the completion of half of the curse’s cure followed by the beginning of the second half through the telling of several stories (Tawney 4-5, 11-16). The main story within the chapter is centered around a character named Putraka and his family. The motif of the fable is centered around the advantages of living in virtue despite the unvirtuous, greedy, and evil acts of others. The story begins by describing how Putraka’s parents and two sets of aunts and uncles came to meet, followed by the abandonment of his mother and aunts by their husbands in the time of a famine (Tawney 11). The virtue of the three women in regards towards the care of Putraka as well as their loyalty of austerities and duty towards their husbands, despite their abandonment, led to good fortunes and blessings from the god Siva (Tawney 11-12). Putraka eventually welcomed his father and uncles back into the family, after he had become king. His uncles and father, however, were not satisfied with the wealth and power that they obtained from their relationship to Putraka – they lusted after more. The three men arranged for a group of assassins to kill Putraka upon a visitation to a temple, of which Putraka was able to dissuade by persuading the assassins to accept payment for his life. Once the deal was struck, Putraka left his kingdom. Despite the careful planning of the three men and the actions of Putraka to leave the kingdom quietly as if he had indeed been assassinated, his father and uncles were put to death for their treason against Putraka (Tawney 12-13). During his flight from the kingdom, that had been his home, Putraka came across two men fighting over a series of inheritance. The men were greedy, and so Putraka was able to trick them by proclaiming that the two men commit to a race, the winner of which would win all three items. The men agreed to the plan and left the items in Putraka’s presence, once the men were out of sight, Putraka took the pieces of inheritance the men were fighting over for himself (Tawney 13-15). In another kingdom, he fell in love with a daughter of the kingdom’s king (Tawney 15-16). The two of them escaped the kingdom after the king discovered their romance (Tawney 15-16). With the inheritance that Putraka came to possess from the two fighting men, he and his new wife created a kingdom of their own (Tawney 16).

The portrayal of the Kathasaritsagara, as a collection of fables, continues on into the third book, the Lavanaka. Within this book, some of the stories portray that although pieces of literature are capable of offering guidance in the form of a fable, it is up to the individual to apply the lesson portrayed properly within the context of their life’s situations. A great example is shown in the first chapter in the third book. A great example is shown in the first chapter in the third book. Within the chapter, the main story introduced is that two ministers of a kingdom by the names of, Yaugandharayana and Rumanvat, meet to discuss the progress of the kingdom under the rule of their king (Tawney 101). It is believed that the king does not pose enough personal involvement in the growth and development of the kingdom, but rather in personal pleasures (Tawney 101). Both provide different points of view about how to address the subject intellectually and practically. Yaugandharayana and Rumanvat each support their cases through the utilization of different stories or fables (Tawney 101-104). Yaugandharayana made the claim that they should report to the king of a neighboring kingdom that the queen of their king, Vasavadatta, as dead in order to get the neighboring king’s daughter’s hand in marriage (Tawney 101). Yaugandharayana’s hope was that through the successful implementation of the deception, the kingdom would ultimately end up gaining an ally (Tawney 101). The reasoning behind Yaugandharayanana’s hope of a new, strong ally in the opposite kingdom is that the kingdoms, as one, would be able to conquer all of the kingdoms on earth with the aid of the neighboring king’s large, strong armies (Tawney 101). With the conquering of the world’s kingdoms, Yaugandharayanana portrays that the promotion of the growth of the kingdom would be accomplished and his king would have achieved his duty (Tawney 101). Yaugandharayana claimed that his plan would act similarly to the actions and rewards of the characters in the story that he presents as evidence that his idea is a good one (Tawney 101-102). Within the story that Yaugandharayana provided, a king who submitted to a rival king after being bested had come to develop an illness (Tawney 102). The illness was determined to have been derived from the mental applications on the king’s psyche from his submission to the rival king (Tawney 102). In order to cure the king, a physician informed him that his wife had dead. Later, upon hearing that his queen was alive, the king comes to prosper once more in glory (Tawney 102). Rumanvat presents this story as an example for his argument against Yaugandharayana (Tawney 102). Rumanvat presents his example as a way to express how he believes that Yaugandharayana’s plan of deception against the two kingdoms will ultimately lead to the eventual ruin of many individuals, himself and Yaugandharayana in particular (Tawney 102). The story that Rumanvat chooses to illustrate his point against the use of deceit for gain is focused around a character identified to be a deceitful ascetic (Tawney 102-104). Within the fable, the ascetic utilized his position to trick a merchant so that he would believe that his beautiful daughter was inauspicious (Tawney 103). Specifically, the ascetic proclaimed that the daughter’s inauspicious nature would ultimately lead to the death of her entire family (Tawney 103). The ascetic further claimed that the only way that the merchant could hope to save the family was to place his daughter into a basket with a lit lamp on a river, and send her a drift in the dead of night, a request to which the merchant adhered to (Tawney 103). On the prescribed night of the merchant’s daughter’s sending off on the river, the ascetic sent his followers to retrieve the daughter’s basket (Tawney 103). The ascetic sent his followers off without informing them of the events that led up to the task, or the contents of the basket, so that he could secretly claim the daughter for himself (Tawney 103). Before the followers could retrieve the basket, however, a good prince happened upon the basket as it drifted down the river, and married the daughter that evening (Tawney 103). The prince had the basket replaced in the river, with an occupant of a vicious monkey, which mutilated the ascetic upon his gaining of the basket – marking him in shame and humiliation in light of his deceit while those around him are happy (Tawney 103-104).

 

 

 

 

 

References and Further Recommended Reading

 

Blackham, H.J. (2013) The Fable as Literature. Sydney: Bloomsbury.

 

Breckhamms, Hermin (1862) Kathasaritsagara: Die Marchensammlung des Somadeva. Leipzig: F.A Brochaus.

https://archive.org/details/kathasaritsagar00brocgoog.

 

Burton, Richard (1868) “Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Indian Devilry” Fraser’s Magazine: 407-761.

http://www.burtoniana.org/minor/by-year/1860-1869/burton-1868-frasers-vikram.pdf.

 

Durgaprasad, Pandit and Kashinath Pandurang Parab (1930) Kathasaritsagara (Original Text): 4th Edition of Nirnay Sugar Press. Bombay: Nirnay Sugar Press.

https://archive.org/details/KathaSaritSagaraOriginalText.

 

Franke, Heike (2010) “Akbar’s “Kathasaritsagara”: The Translator and Illustrations of An Imperial Manuscript” Muqarnas vol. 27: 313-356.

http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uleth.ca/stable/25769701.

 

Haase, Donald (2007) The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales. London: Greenwood Publishing Group.

https://books.google.ca/books?id=w9KEk9wQPjkC&pg=PA4&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=2#v=onepage&q=Kathasaritsagara&f=false.

 

Los Angeles County Art Museum (2017)  https://collections.lacma.org/node/239260.

 

Penzer, N.M. (1928) The Ocean of Story Being C.H. Tawny’s Translation of Somadeva’s Kathasaritsagara (or Ocean of Streams of Story) vol. 10. London: Chas J. Sawyer Ltd., Grafton House.

https://petervas.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/oceanofstory10.pdf

 

Speyer, Jacob Samuel (1908) Studies about the Kathasaritsagara. Amsterdam: Johannes Muller.

https://archive.org/details/04847469.82663.emory.edu.

 

Tawny,C.H., (1880) Kathasaritsagara vol.1. Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press.

https://archive.org/stream/kathsaritsga01somauoft#page/n3/mode/2up.

 

The Metropolitan Museum (2000-2017) http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/457054

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Kathapitha

Kathamukha

Lavanaka

Naravahanadattajanana

Chaturdarika

Madanamanchuka

Ratnaprabha

Suryaprabha

Alankaravati

Saktiyasas

Vela

Sasankavati

Madiravati

Pancha

Mahabhisheka

Suratamanjari

Padmavati

Vishamasila

Siva

Kavya

Pramathas

Parvati

Fables

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/457054

https://collections.lacma.org/node/239260

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathasaritsagara

 

Article written by: Victoria Jean Layton (Spring 2017), who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lila: Divine Play

The definition of lila is “sport” or “play” in Sanskrit. It represents the idea of joyous and unnecessary creativity (Sax 13). The first appearance as a theological term was in the Vedanta Sutra in approximately the third century C.E. (Sax 14). Theological terms arose before mythology was written to explain it, in such texts as the Bhagavad Gita and the Harivamsa Purana composed 300 C.E. (Sax 15). The Vaisnava tradition, particularly the Krsna cult, was the leader in elaborating on lila and its doctrine (Sax 14).

In Hinduism, the gods embody the principles that teach its followers about enlightenment. These gods are believed to be complete, with no needs or desires. To resemble the gods, one must stop acting from necessity and act outside of cause and effect (Kinsley xi). They act outside of maya, or illusion and cosmic ignorance, as maya is the collection of illusive ideas which create a world that is false. The creative process and action of lila is real, and the creation is a manifestation of the true nature of God (Sax 15). Lila is associated with ananda (bliss) in freedom and spontaneity (Olson 165). For the self, this could represent support and appreciation of joy in living, or can be used as the idea to experience tragedies as part of the play of the gods (Sax 15). Maya-lila is the concept that creation is continuous, ceaseless cycles of creation and destruction. There are multiple realities, they are transformable, with blurred definitions between divine play and non-play. It permeates art and religion for the privileged upper classes who intertwine the serious, real aspects of life with creativity, such as switching male and female gender roles (Schechner 35). This cycle is permanent as the maya illusion of necessary work consistently interacts with the lila sport of divine play (Kinsley xii).

All Vedanta schools accept the Vedanta Sutra with different perspectives; by doing so, they also accept the teaching of divine sportiveness in different ways. In the Advaita Vedanta illusionist school, lila is provisional as reality does not exist, and the unenlightened must understand maya to find enlightenment. They would cease any form of creativity and commit themselves to the practice of maya. The followers against this illusionist cosmology would accept and maintain their creative skill. In the Bhagavad Gita, God acts to assist and preserve the world in a righteous way. Thinkers of the Caitanya school disagree, and believe that God acts in sport without thinking of benefiting his creation; therefore the feeling of pleasure is an effect of God’s nature. In other Vaisnava circles, sportive and supportive acts have the same motivation because they are both acts of lila not tied to any form of desire (Sax 15). Brahman must not have had a motive for creating the universe if it is all- sufficient, and since its personal desires are fulfilled, it created the universe from sport (Kinsley 2). In the bhakti cult, the saints and devotees are revered for their “uselessness” in society, acting unproductively and disorderly without the capacity to look after themselves (Kinsley xii). The devotees are not bound by social conventions and follow inclinations that are sometimes disrespectful (Olson 173). “To be an intimate associate of God able to play with him by participating in his lila is the highest possible perfection of human existence” (Bryant 115). The sakta (root sakti, divine feminine power) devotee believes the world in its confusion and fluctuations is the sport of the gods, and ascetics refuse to take part in the cosmic dance (Kinsley 18).

Dualistic schools of Sankhya or Vaisnavism often sees pleasure in worldly life as not divine (Morey 73). Sri Aurobindo Ghose, in his study of the non-dualistic Integral advaita tradition, shows his understanding of lila as the way in which Brahman creates itself in pleasure to see its followers share in the manifestations of the world (Morey 75). In a nondualist perspective of lila, nothing exists outside of the creative energies of Brahman, though many manifestation cycles of creation and destruction happen independently within Brahman (Morey 76). Sri Aurobindo does not believe Atman (the self) is Brahman (the Absolute) with only a few select humans who can glimpse the divine, but a blissful ananda Brahman would allow self-knowledge to bring people closer to the truth, a higher existence of lila. Brahman does not keep humans forcefully in a state of illusion for their lifetimes, however it gives people the ability to choose the qualities which they will further manifest in themselves (Morey 75). To Sri Aurobindo, lila is superior to maya, in this case maya is the “consciousness of Brahman,” and lila “involves the transformation of maya toward the realization of its true nature,” to liberation or moksa (Morey 77). The Being-Conciousness-Bliss, Sachchidananda, evolves through lila at every level of the divine play, the goal of realization never absent, brings humanity closer to Sachchidananda (Morey 80). In this Integral Yoga perspective, this advaita (non-dualism) has three states of being in the individual, universal and transcendental realms (Morey 75).

Multiple epics work to teach these concepts to followers using different manifestations. There is the the story of Visnu creating the world while dreaming asleep on the cosmic serpent Ananta. This dream where the lotus that grows from the navel of Visnu creates Brahma, then Brahma in turn creates the world illustrates lila. In this way, creation is a purposeless, effortless reflex in the mind that happens in the play of the Lord of the Universe with matter; Visnu with Prakrti (Kinsley 3). Lila is used as a metaphor for the appearance of Brahman, the one reality, as prakrti (matter) in the world (Butler 3). In the Mahabharata, Siva treats the universe as his marble ball, or malleable plaything. The dancing god creates the world, and then through his dancing, destroys it (Kinsley 6). Worshippers see Siva, also called Nataraja the Lord of Dancers, as a violent and dangerous deity who dances to create, sustain, and destroy the world (Sax 14). Rudra, the howler who is an avatara (incarnation) of Siva is an untamed free spirit, not bound by rules, with his madness characterized as irresponsible yet playful (Kinsley 28). This is related to his interactions with Kali. She is portrayed as a wild woman who saves severed heads for her own pleasure: a destroyer who maintains cosmic balance (Kinsley 19).

Through cosmic creation and popular devotion, the epic of Krsna combines these senses of lila into one form (Butler 6). Devotion to divine play is one method that leads to salvation (Sax 19). Krsna plays pranks by disobeying his family and stealing butter (Kinsley 64). His playful battles are imaginative when he runs sportively through the forests of Vrndavana recklessly killing demons in front of his friends. Krsna possesses beauty, relating to play as an end in itself, ornamental and existing without purpose (Kinsley 74). The beauty assists his sportive nature in myths dedicated to him seducing women, yet is not an instrumental necessity because of his playful character. It is also related to kama (desire) in its sexual overtones (Butler 6). Krsna steals the clothes of the gopis (cowherd girls) who are bathing in the river, and when they come to him naked wanting their clothes returned, he sings, plays his flute, and dances the rasa-lila (circle dance) to try and seduce them with the illusion maya of pleasure, (Olson 167).

Krsna’s incarnation has two main motives in the text, the Bhagavad Gita: the “official” motive of protecting the righteous by removing demonic military power and saving the earth. The “unofficial” motive is to attract souls lost in samsara (rebirth) to remove attachment to indulgences and the cycle of karma (actions good or bad), then search for the beauty of lila in God (Bryant 116). Bhakti-yoga involves immersing the senses and thoughts with objects connected with Krsna’s lila, as outlined by Patanjali (Bryant 117). Krsna’s avataras themselves demonstrate the playful nature of the gods in their appearances on earth (Kinsley 17). His lilaavataras (pastime –avataras, forms taken from sport) come in numerous incarnations (Knapp 504). He came in the form of Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise), Lord Varaha, and Lord Rama, etc. to play in an earthly form (Knapp 508).

There is also play in drama and aesthetics. There is the creative, original-maker type of lila that create new forms of art beyond the works of previous artists, and there are interpreters who are intermediaries that communicate its meaning to the audience (Butler 9). Performances in Vrndavana are a type of less regulated play; with creative characters telling stories simultaneously interpreted by professional declaimers in a way that engages the audience (Sax 17). The rasa-lila is the tradition of aesthetic religious theatre for bhakti (religious devotion) purposes (Thielemann 8). Lila as a genre of drama is a popular cultural event for celebrating Krsna, such as the performance of the ram-lila (Hawley 57).

The concept of lila, divine play, reiterates key elements in understanding the nature of the gods in Hinduism, as well as provides a place for the process of creativity in religious thought. Different schools of religion and philosophers debate the topic of lila, manifesting a modern interpretation. The epics portray the deities to be part of the teachings of lila, as passed down for many generations. Lila is practiced in performance arts to bring additional meaning to the principle of play; widely accessible with the playful integration of different concepts. The ideas and stories surrounding lila impact the beliefs and practices of Hindus and their worldview of existence.

 

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Bryant, Edwin F. (2007) Krishna: A Sourcebook. New York: Oxford University Press.

Butler, John F. (1960) “Creation, Art and Lila.” Philosophy East and West 10#1 (April): 3-12

Hawley, John S. and Vasudha Narayanan (2006) The Life of Hinduism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kinsley, David R. (1979) The Divine Player: A Study of Krsna Lila. Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.

Knapp, Steven (2005) The Heart of Hinduism: The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination. Lincoln: iUniverse Inc.

Morey, Matthew W. (2012) “Sri Aurobindo’s Lila: the Nature of Divine Play According to Integral Advaita.Integral Review, Vol. 8, No. 1 (July): 68-84.

Olson, Carl (2007) The Many Colors of Hinduism: A Thematic-historical Introduction. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Sax, William S. (1995) The Gods at Play: Lila in South Asia. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schechner, Richard (2003) The Future of Ritual: Writings on Culture and Performance. New York: Routledge.

Thielemann, Selina (2000) Singing the Praises Divine: Music in the Hindu Tradition. New Delhi: APH Publishing.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Advaita

Ananda

Ananta

Bhagavad Gita

Bhakti

Brahman

Kama

Karma

Krsna

Mahabharata

Maya

Prakrti

Sachchidananda

Samsara

Siva

Sri Aurobindo

Vedanta Sutra

Visnu

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lila_(Hinduism)

https://hampedia.org/images/e/e7/Division_III_Thesis—We_Are_The_Imagination_of_Ourselves.pdf

http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Leela

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/ask/what-is-the-aim-or-purpose-of-gods-creation.asp

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/000842987500400202

https://nithinsridhar.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/the-two-aspects-of-creation-maya-and-lila/

http://www.vsmpantnagar.org/files/Jnana-Yoga-by-Swami-Vivekananda.pdf

This article was written by: Sharra Fullersmith (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.

 

 

 

Vrindavan (Vrndavana)

India is a country with a varied and rich mythology. Vrindavan (aka Vrndavana) is located in Northern India around fifteen kilometres from Mathura and is considered to be one of the seven holiest cities for Hindus (Haberman, 272). The city features many sacred land and water features such as the Yamuna River, sacred groves (vanas), ponds (kundas) and ghats (holy steps leading down to a river) (Luthy, 4). It is also referred to as Vrindavan or Vrindivana city. The name Vrindavan is derived from ‘Vrinda’ which is another name for the sacred tulsi (i.e. basil) plant. It is one of the most holy cities within the Hindu tradition and is commonly known as the “The City of Temples” with allegedly five thousand in total.

Major religious routes within the forests of Vrindavan were first established in the sixteenth century based on the Sanksrit text Vraj Bhakti Vilasa written by Narayan Bhatt (Shah, 41). Bhatt is responsible for mapping out a large portion of the religious sites that are worshipped to this day. Bhatt more specifically mapped out the place-names found within the Puranas onto the physical terrain where these sites are found (Ghosh, 193) Pilgrimages are religious and cultural phenomena that are important features the Hindu religion. In the Hindu religion, a pilgrimage is referred to as a tirtha yatra and is a liminal process that establishes participation in the spiritual realm (Singh &Haigh, 783). A pilgrimage has been defined as a journey resulting from religious causes, externally to a holy site, and internally for spiritual purposes and internal understanding (Barber, 1). Today, pilgrimage is defined differently, as a traditional religious or modern secular journey (Collins-Kreiner, 440). For example, the Krsna Balrama Madir Temple, established in 1975 by His Divine Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, has now become Vrindavan’s most popular temple and has one of the highest standards of deity worship and cleanliness. It has become one of the most popular temples and Hare Krsna devotees can be found here throughout the year (Jacobsen, 143).

Vrindavan is one of the most important places of pilgrimage for devotees of Krsna as the city is well-known as the forested region where the deity Krsna grew up as a humble cowherd (go-pala). The city itself is said to be where Krsna spent his childhood and many say that he still resides within the city itself.  It is located in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. The area of Vrindavan is described in the Puranas as the childhood home of the deity Krsna. This mythologized place was located geographically when the Bengali Saint Caitanya travelled there to rediscover Krsna’s childhood home where he then experienced visions of the deity in the uninhabited forest (jangala) which is now modern day Vrindavan (Ghosh, 194). Caitanya and his followers began to construct temples in the holy city that can still be found today. For example, the Madan Mohan Temple is the oldest temple in Vrndavan today and is closely associated with Caitanya.

Mathura (just outside of Vrindavan) is a little town and a major place of pilgrimage on the banks of the Yamuna River. It attracts about a half of a million pilgrims each year, especially during major festivals such as Krsna Janmastami, Holi, and Radhastami. These journeys are made to sacred places as an act of religious devotion (Nash, 101). Pilgrimage sites are places that people consider sacred and maintain their sanctity by visiting them regularly and relating them into their religious framework (Eck, 8). In India more than one hundred million people visit around two thousand major pilgrimage sites annually (Shinde, 449). During ritualized pilgrimages individuals travel to a sacred place and perform rituals considered necessary to appease the sacred object in that place. These ritual acts of worship acts by pilgrims (individual and collective) of worship and rituals are regarded as part of their normal their religious duties (Shinde, 450). Pilgrimages are crucial in the Hindu religion in order for an individual to engage all of the senses when to experiencing the sacred sites Vrindavan has to offer. The believer “sees” the sacred sights (temples, churches, relics, icons, monuments), he/she “hears” the sacred sounds (church and temple bells, drum beats, chanting, singing, the call to prayer), “touches” the sacred artifacts (icons, deities, texts), “eats” special food (such as consecrated food); and “smells” specific aromas (incense, fresh flowers) (Eck, 9). All of these experiences vary depending on the individual’s participation in the religious culture developed around the pilgrimage site itself (Shinde, 451).

Although there are thousands of temples erected within Vrindavan there are a few that stand out. Since the establishment in the fifteenth century, Vrindavan has continued to be a center for devotional pilgrimages dedicated to the deity Krsna. Vrindavan is a place for pilgrims to visit Krsna temples, participate in worship and rituals, listen to narration of stories from the religious epics of Krsna, and perform poetry, art, dance, song, and drama dedicated to Krsna’s glory (Shinde, 452). For example, these everyday rituals involve dressing the idol in finery and darshan, communal singing of hymns, and food offerings to the deity depending on the temple of worship. Today you can find a live video stream of the Sri Sri Krsna Balarama Mandir which has now become one of the most popular and visited temples in the world.

Vrindavan is also a major site for Vaisnava groups. For example, widows (mostly from Bengal) have been congregating in Vrindavan for years to live out the rest of their lives. In India, social mores inhibit women from remarrying and they are shunned because they are viewed as inauspicious. Nilakantha Braja (The Blue-necked God) written by Assamese writer Indira Goswami highlights the plights of the widows who reside in the sacred city by depicting the despicable and undignified life and death experiences of these women. Known as the Radheyshamis (widows who sing devotional songs in temples for a pittance) these widows sing bhajans (hymns) in order to accumulate money to survive (Bhushan, 138). Whether young or old, widowed women leave behind their colorful saris, jewelry, and even shave their heads if they are part of the more conservative Hindu traditions (Jamadar, Melkeri, & Holkar, 57). Although these women are not forced to die in ritual sati (burning themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre) they are still expected to mourn until their own deaths. Therefore, these women find refuge in Vrindavan where they lead miserable lives surviving by begging and singing hymns in praise of Gods (Pande, 209).

Today, the city of Vrindavan has become more of a tourist attraction than a pilgrimage site. Pilgrimages, themselves, are being transformed into mere sightseeing tours and can now be more accurately labeled as ‘religious tourism’ (Shinde, 184). Annually, Vrindavan receives more than six million visitors, who are no longer visiting strictly for religious reasons (Shinde, 448). Places that were once Hindu holy sites may be accessed with a simple search on Google where the best flight deals and top places to visit are a click away. However, some temples remain constant to modern Hindus such as the Banke-Bihari Temple which is considered to be the most popular shrine and is associated with Swami Haridas and Nimbarka. Another is Nidhi Van Temple where Krsna and Radha are said to come out after midnight and indulge in raas-leela (dance found in the Puranas) and then rest in the Rang Mahal Temple which is decorated daily for the two deities.

In conclusion, Vrindavan is gaining popularity due to its numerous temples. Construction and development are ongoing which includes temples, guest houses, and apartments. Simply wandering around Vrindavan allows one to see the vast beauty of the holy city and share vicariously in the myths of Krsna.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READINGS

Barber, R. (1993) Pilgrimages. London: The Boydell Press.

Bhushan, Ravi. (2014) “Estranged Identity: The Problem of Hindu Widows in Indira Goswami’s Nilakantha Braja.” Labyrinth: An International Refereed Journal of Postmodern Studies 5 #2:138-141.

Collins-Kreiner, N. (2010) “Researching pilgrimage: Continuity and transformations.” Annals of tourism research, 37(2): 440-456.

Eck, D. L. (1981) “Darsan: Seeing the divine image in India.” Chambersberg, PA: Anima Books: 8-9.

Ghosh, P. (2002) “Tales, tanks, and temples:the creation of a sacred center in seventeenth-century Bengal,” Asian Folklore, 61 #2:193-222.

Haberman, D. (1994) Journey through the Twelve Forests: An encounter with Krsna. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Luthy, T. (2016) “Few people know that Krishna was the first environmentalist”. Political Ecology of Tourism: Community, power and the environment.

Jacobsen, K. A. (2015) “Book review: Modern Hindu Personalism: The History, Life, and Thought of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, written by Ferdinando Sardella.” Numen, 62(1): 143-146.

Jamadar, C., Melkeri, S. P., & Holkar, A. (2015) “Quality of Life among Widows”. #1: 57-68.

Mostafanezhad, M., Norum, R., Shelton, E. J., & Thompson-Carr, A. (2016) “Political Ecology of Tourism: Community, Power and the Environment”. Routledge: #2.

Pande, Rekha (2015) “Widows Of Vrindavan-Feminisation Of Old Age In India.” Pakistan Journal of Gender Studies Vol. 10: 209-223.

Shah, B. (2006) “The Pilgrimage of the Groves: Reconstructing the Meaning of a Sixteenth-Century Hindu Landscape”. Arnoldia: 39-41.

Shinde, K. A. (2015) “Religious tourism and religious tolerance: insights from pilgrimage sites in India.” Tourism Review, 70(3): 179-196.

Shinde, K. A. (2011) ““This is a religious environment”: Sacred space, environmental discourse, and environmental behavior at a Hindu pilgrimage site in India””. Space and Culture. 14: 448-463.

Shinde, K. A. (2008) “The environment of pilgrimage in the sacred site of Vrindavan, India.” PhD diss., Monash University: 449-451.

Shinde, K. A. (2007) “Case study 6: Visiting sacred sites in India: Religious tourism or pilgrimage.” Religious tourism and pilgrimage festivals management: An international perspective: 184-197.

Singh, R. P., & Haigh, M. J. (2015) “Hindu Pilgrimages: The Contemporary Scene.” The Changing World Religion Map: 783-801

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Banke-Bihari Temple

Bhagauata Purana

bhahjans

Chaintanya

dham

ghats

go-pala

Hare Krsna

Holi

jangala

Janmashtami

kundas

Krsna Balrama Madir Temple

Madan Mohan Temple

Mathura

Nimbarka

Nidhi Van

Nilakantha Braya

raas-leela

Radhahtami

Radheyshamis

Rang Mahal

sati

Sri Sri Krsna Balarama Madir Temple

Swami Haridas

tirtha yatra

tulsi

vaisnava

vanas

Vraj Bhakti Vilasa

Yamuna River

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.vrindavan-dham.com/vrindavana/ (Sri Vrindavan Dham, 2016).

http://daily.bhaskar.com/news/JM-a-secretive-place-in-vrindavan-where-radha-krishna-indulge-in-raas-leela-every-n-4874572-PHO.html?seq=5 (Daily Bhaskar, 2016).

http://hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/concepts/mathura.asp (Hindu Website, 2016).

http://www.stephen-knapp.com/vrindavana_the_holy_land_of_lord_krishna.htm (Vrindavana: The Holy Land of Lord Krsna, 2009).

http://www.krishna.com/vrindavan (Krishna.com, 2016).

 

Article written by: Lindsay Tymchyna (April 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

 

 

 

Bhavabhuti

Although there is no accurate date for when Bhavabhuti actually lived, as Sanskrit authors did not give away any telling information about their personal lives or the age in which they lived, there are many indicators in other Sanskrit literature giving reference to the time when Bhavabhuti flourished (Mirashi 1). The playwright is referenced multiple times in the Rajatarangini (a historical chronical of early India). These verses describe Bhavabhuti as a colleague of Vakpatiraja in the Court of Yasovarman (Mirashi 3), both of which flourished in the early 8th century. In addition, Vamana cites illustrations from Bhavabhuti’s works in 800 CE, from which historians concluded that Bhavabhuti’s work must have been famous prior to this time (Mirashi 9). Through the use of these crucial markers, most historians have approximated that Bhavabhuti lived and did the majority of his dramatic work in the first quarter of the 8th century C.E., specifically from 700 – 730 CE (Mirashi 3).

Bhavabhuti was born to a learned priestly family of Brahmins in Vidarbha, which resulted in a vast knowledge of both language and philosophy (Bhat 155). In the prologue of his play Malati-Madhava, he claimed to have been conversant in Vyakarana, Mimamsa, and Nyaya, besides having extensive expertise in the Vedas, Sankhya, and Yoga (Ramanathan 1). The fact that Bhavabhuti was well-educated was not lost on him, for he references himself as Srikanthapadalanchanah, which means “adorned with rich learning” (Ramanathan 1). Following this reference, historians believe it is unlikely that Bhavabhuti’s name was actually that which was written on his work. The manuscript for Malati-Madhava references the author as a disciple of Kumarila named Umbekacarya. Bhavabhuti’s family surname was Udumbara, so historians believe the name Umbekacarya may have been derived from there (Bhavabhuti 1967: 5).

Because Bhavabhuti was born into the Brahmin caste, he was expected to follow tradition and attempt to strengthen his family’s name. However, he chose not to carry on the rituals and traditions of his family and focused instead on drama. Being a writer in early India was in itself viewed badly as it did not focus on religious traditions set out for individuals, but Bhavabhuti’s association with actors (who were regarded as low-class citizens) as he began writing greatly upset his family (Bhat 155). Vidarbha, and Padmaputa in general, was not a prosperous area and so Bhavabhuti left Vidarbha, where he had grown up, to seek fortune in North India (Mirashi 17). He travelled to Padmavati and resided there for a few years, though he staged his plays at Kalapriya, a city north of Padmavati. Because Bhavabhuti held his plays away from the city and not in the royal court, he did not receive royal patronage there (Mirashi 18). However, King Yasovarman of Kanauj heard of Bhavabhuti’s work as his fame became widespread, resulting in Bhavabhuti becoming Poet Laureate at his court (Mirashi 19).

Although known almost exclusively for his three plays, Mahaviracarita, Malati-Madhava, and Uttara Rama Carita, it is possible that Bhavabhuti had written other pieces. Quotes in Sargadhara’s Paddhati and Gadadharabhatta’s Rasikajibana demonstrate that Bhavabhuti may have had other works that are lost or have yet to be discovered (Bhavabhuti 1967: 8). It is not possible to comment on unknown works, and thus analysts only credit Bhavabhuti for the plays that are commonly known. Though his writing does not contain any humor, he possesses a lyrical element that dominates throughout every play (Bhavabhuti 1967: 13). His mastery of multiple languages resulted in the use of very high-level speech, which, criticized by analysts as “pretentious”, was not at all suited to efficiently convey inner thought or to please audiences viewing the play (Bhavabhuti 1967: 13).

Mahaviracarita is believed to have been Bhavabhuti’s first play, though there is contention over this statement by some historians. The style, ideas, and plot conception lead many to believe that this was his first piece of work, Bhavabhuti’s outline seemed to many Sanskrit literature critics to “need finishing” (Ramanathan 2), and was the mark of an inexperienced writer. Mahaviracarita is based on the early life of Rama, from boyhood to his return to Ayodhya after the Lanka war and his wife Sita’s rescue (Bhavabhuti 1967: 10). Bhavabhuti relied heavily on Valmiki’s Ramayana for a significant portion of the theme, and even copied verses from the Ramayana into Mahaviracarita (Bhavabhuti 1967: 146). This play is known as virarastradhana, where the main sentiment evoked is bravery and/or heroism. Mahaviracarita is available in eleven northern manuscripts and seven southern, however, Viraraghava (the original commentator) wrote that the original book consisted up to only Act V. Most scholars concur that the rest of the play was written by an author that was not Bhavabhuti, but reasoning for this is unclear (Ramanathan 2).

Malati-Madhava is commonly known as Bhavabhuti’s second play, though there is minor contention as to whether this may have been the first play. The theme of love present in this play often arrives in a Sanskrit writer’s works before themes such as heroism, resulting in a theory among some historians that this Malati-Madhava could have been his first completed piece (Bhavabhuti 1967: 9). The play is based on a folktale of Brhatkatha and focuses primarily on the love story of Malati and Madhava. Malati’s love-torment for Madhava grows unbearable, for she is betrothed to Nandana by her father due to the King’s insistence. Her desire for a love marriage directly contradicts the need Malati has to please her family through an arranged marriage (Bhavabhuti 1967: 17). These conflicting desires result in Malati’s childhood friend marrying Nandana while she carries out a secret love marriage to Madhava (Bhavabhuti 1967: 20).

Malati-Madhava consists of 10 acts and multiple prakari, which are small incidents that assist with the progress of the play (Bhavabhuti 1967: 1). The earliest and, according to critics, most crucial prakari in Malati-Madhava is the conversation between Kamandaki and Malati as Madhava overhears, for this first alerts Madhava to the mutual feelings shared by the couple (Bhavabhuti 1967: 33). This play belongs to a division of dramatic compositions called prakarana; the subject matter of a prakarana must be drawn from worldly life and must be a work of pure invention.  Bhavabhuti’s theme of love throughout Malati-Madhava fulfills the requirements of a prakarana (Bhavabhuti 1967: 31).

Bhavabhuti’s Uttara Rama Carita is widely known as his “masterpiece” (Bhavabhuti 1967:10). In this piece, Bhavabhuti chose to focus on one particular incident: Sita’s banishment, and Rama’s feelings throughout the event. Bhavabhuti attempts to depict karuna (pathos) and finds more success and applause in doing so than almost any other poet of classic India (Bhavabhuti 1967: 11). The portrayal of both Rama’s ruthless heart in banishing his wife and tender heart as he weeps for her gained audience approval that had been lacking in much of his previous work (Ramanathan 3). In addition to the use of karuna, the tone of Uttara Rama Carita is lofty but without any obscenity or humor: there is not a single work in all of Sanskrit literature that is completely free of these two elements (Bhavabhuti 1895: 11). Due to a “positive rule” in Sanskrit literature prohibiting tragedy in said literature, the ending of Uttara Rama Carita was adapted so that Bhavabhuti’s work could be shared with the public. Whereas the original story concluded with tragedy, the modern ending shows a happy reunion of Rama, Sita, and their two sons, which added to critical acclaim of his final known work (Bhavabhuti 1895: 7).

Each of Bhavabhuti’s three plays has different main themes, though the concept of love maintains a constant presence in every one. In both Uttara Rama Carita and Malati-Madhava (and briefly in the beginning acts of Mahaviracarita) Bhavabhuti emphasizes the concept of love, specifically monogamous relationships. Bhavabhuti flourished in a period in which polygamy was gaining popularity but expressed monogamy in high regards (Ambardekar 80). Bhavabhuti uses the concept of “love at first sight” in both Mahaviracarita and Malati-Madhava when Rama and Sita meet, and when Malati first sees Madhava (Ambardekar 83). An expert of high-level speech, Bhavabhuti goes beyond simply portraying a couple in love by also describing the afflictions associated with love in Malati-Madhava, feelings such as despair, disappointment, and frustration (Ambardekar 83).

Despite serious events often covered in Sanskrit drama, playwrights of the time would use simple diction mixed with sections of entertainment for the sole purpose of entertaining an audience. In contrast, Bhavabhuti’s work was completely serious. Though he used themes of love, Bhavabhuti did not include lighthearted conversation or thought, but instead used a serious tone and philosophized on the concept of love itself (Bhat 154). As previously mentioned, Bhavabhuti had mastered a high-level writing style that would only be understood by well-educated classes, which, combined with a consistently solemn tone, was ill-received by audiences and critics alike. The harshest criticism, however, came from Bhavabhuti’s relatives and residents of his native Padmapura, who disapprove of Bhavabhuti’s journey into the dramatic arts and his abandonment of the prestige and tradition of his family (Bhat 156). While most early Sanskrit writers used the prologue of their plays to introduce themselves and the play itself, Bhavabhuti’s introductions (specifically Mahaviracarita and Malati-Madhava) replied to the critics themselves. It is unclear why Bhavabhuti chose to reply to negative criticism in the prologues of his first two works, but this unusual introduction did not occur in Uttara Rama Charita (Bhat 152). Despite harsh criticism of Bhavabhuti’s non-traditional style of writing, modern critics applaud his unique works and view him as one of the best playwrights of early India.

 

References and Further Recommended Reading:

Ambardekar, R.R. (1978) “Bhavabhuti’s Concept of Love.” Indian Literature. 21:2-16. Accessed February 1, 2016. doi: http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.alu.talonline.ca/stable/23334393.

Bhat, G.K. (1979) “The Detractors of Bhavabhuti.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 60. Accessed February 2, 2016. doi: http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.alu.talonline.ca/stable/41692300.

Bhavabhuti (1895) Uttara Rama Charita with Sanscrit Commentary. Translated by Vinayak Sadashiv Patvardhan. Nagpur: Nyaya Sudha Press.

Bhavabhuti (1967) Malatimadhava: With the Commentary of Jagaddha. Translated  by M.R. Kale. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Mirashi, Vasudev Vishnu (1974) Bhavabhuti. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Nandi, Tapasvi (1996) Bhavabhuti and Sanskrit Literary Criticism. Bhandarkar: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Accessed February 21, 2016. doi: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41702167

Ramanathan, C. (1985) Bhavabhuti: a Brief Sketch of Life and Works. Bangalore: W Q Judge Press.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Rajatarangini

Vakpatiraja

Kalidasa

Brahmins

Padmaputa

Padmavati

Yasovarman

Kumarila

Mahaviracarita

Rama

Virarastradhana

Malati-Madhava

prakari

Prakarana

Uttara Rama Carita

Sita

Karuna

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Bhavabhuti

http://www.britannica.com/topic/Rajatarangini

http://www.enotes.com/topics/bhavabh-ti

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavabhuti

http://www.indianetzone.com/28/bhavabhuti_indian_scholar.htm

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/42445900.cms

 

 

Article written by: Ashley Steenbergen (February 2016) who is solely responsible for its content

Pattadakal Temples

In the Indian state of Karnataka lies the sacred village of Pattadakal, or Kisuvolal as it used to be called, and its 10 temples, constructed from the 6th to the 9th century. Pattadakal was once the place of anointment for the early Chalukya kings of Badami, and it served as their secondary capital. The Malaprabha river flows north near the old city (Annigeri 2). The people of India believe that rivers that flow north are sacred due to the fact that they are rare as most rivers in India flow to the east or the west. The surrounding mountains provided an abundant amount of sandstone to build the temples, and there are several lingas around the village that give a sense that it used to be a large place for Siva worship. Pattadakal is a marvellous masterpiece where the architectural styles of North and South India are blended (Annigeri 6). The influence between the mixing of the northern and southern styles resulted in a different adaptation of ideas. Unfortunately, tracing the development of the northern style is quite difficult as a large quantity of Nagara style temples were destroyed during periods of warfare. They are still distinguished by the tall, convex shape of the tower above the hall of the temples (Dallapiccola 1) . Architects such as Gunda and Revadi Ovajja graced Pattadakal with the construction of temples and sculptors such as Chengamma, Pullappan and Deva-arya decorated the temples with their magnificent sculptures (Annigeri 6).

The biggest of the temples at Pattadakal is the Virupaksha Temple (formerly known as Lokesvara). It was constructed between 733 and 745 CE by queen Lokamahadevi to celebrate the three victories of her husband and early Chalukya ruler, Vikramaditya II, over his rival, the Pallavas of Kanchipuram (Kadambi 266). Along with commemorating his victories, the temple also shows a sense of rajadharma (duties and obligations of a king) and moksadharma (liberation of the soul). The Virupaksha temple was modelled after the Kailasanatha temple (formerly known as the Rajasimhesvara temple) at Kanchi, the town that the king had just conquered. The Virupaksha temple was built by the architect Gunda along with others, such as Sarvasiddhi Achari and Baladeva in a Dravidian (South) style of architecture. The Virupaksha Temple has a nandi mantapa (open pavilion with roof) which Cummings argues is a shrine to the queen (as stated in Kadambi 267). Inside this pavilion resides a sculpture of Nandi (bull) in black stone (Annigeri 14). Her assumptions are proven by the two royal portraits on the temple. One of Lokamahadevi, which shows her standing on a lion throne while holding an elephant-staff in her left hand. The other picture is of the other wife of the king, Trailokyamahadevi. Coincidentally, these two queens were also sisters (Kadambi 267). The pillars of the great hall are covered in episodes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata (Annigeri 15). On the outer wall to the south, there are sculptures of Ravana killing Jatayu and Siva seated in Kailasa. On the north porch, there is an eight-armed Siva who is dancing on the demon Apasmarapurusha (Annigeri 20). Covering the rest of the outer walls are sculptures of Siva, Lakulisa, Nataraja, Lingodbhavamurti, Visnu with a conch and fruit, and more (Annigeri 20). On the ceiling of the eastern porch you can see the god Surya standing in a horse-drawn chariot, with seven horses and a lotus flower in each hand (Annigeri 15). In the shrine is the linga of Virupaksha that was worshipped (Annigeri 18).

Almost simultaneously, the Mallikarjuna temple (formerly known as Trailokesvara) was built in around 740 CE by his younger queen Trailokyamahadevi, who was also the sister of the main queen (Annigeri 25).  It was built to celebrate the victories against Kanchi, just like her sister’s temple. The two temples are very close in architecture and some of the sculptures are in identical locations on the temple (Annigeri 25). There are two Saiva Dvaraplas at the entrance to the hall and  an image of Visnu riding Garuda is on the door frame. Even with the depiction of Visnu, it can still be concluded that the temple is dedicated to Siva (Annigeri 26). The stories that are told along the walls are that of the domestic life, clothing and religious practices of the early Chalukyan era. The great victories of Krsna are depicted along the pillars of the great hall. These include Krsna holding up a mountain, killing the demons Kesi, who was in the form of a horse, and killing Kharasura who was in the disguise as a donkey (Annigeri 28). In the shrine lies a linga with a large lotus flower carved in the wall over the linga, and sculptures of Siva and Parvati all over the ceiling of the shrine (Annigeri 30).

The temple of Sangamesvara (originally known as Vijayesvara) was built by King Vijayaditya to praise the god Vijayesvara (Siva) (Annigeri 34).  There is no date on the inscription but since the King Vijayaditya reigned from 696-733 CE, we can assume it was built during that time period (Bolar 38). On the pillars in the hall are several inscriptions relating to the building of the temple. The first one speaks of how “peggade-Poleyachchi of Mahadevigeri gave 51 gadyanas for the making of this pillar” (Bolar 38). The second one explains that the pillar was donated by an individual named “Vidyasiva” (Bolar 38). The third pillar  tells how “a courtesan of this temple named Chalabbe, donated 3 pillars to the temple” (Bolar 38). The fourth pillar says that Motibodamma donated two pillars sculpted by the sculptor Paka (Bolar 38). There is an inscribed slab standing in the hall belonging to King Kirtivarma II of the Calukyas of Badami dated 754 CE which states that Jnanasivacarya granted land as a provision “for the studies of those who attend the rites of the god” (Bolar 101). The architecture of the temple is quite plain and does not have any of the great sculptures on its walls. There are big sculptures of Visnu, Varaha, Siva with Nandi and Gajasurantaka on the outside of the walls that were never finished due to some unforeseen reason (Annigeri 34). What the temple lacks in design, it makes up for in size as it has three shrines, a walkway around the main shrine and the great hall. What was once worshiped in the shrine is now a broken linga (Annigeri 34).

The Kasivisvesvara Temple was built in the Nagara (northern) style of architecture using sand-stone blocks in the 8th century CE (Annigeri 31). Interestingly enough, there happens to be miniature temples sculpted into the outer wall in a Dravidian or South Indian style of architecture in an attempt to combine the two types of work (Annigeri 32). The temple is divided into two different parts, the hall or mantapa, and the shrine and the ante-chamber or sukanasi. In the shrine there is a black stone linga in the centre (Annigeri 32). On the ceiling of the mantapa is depicted Siva, Parvati with a child in her arms, Nandi, four hybrid creatures, swans and dwarfish garland carriers (Annigeri 33). On the pillars, many stories from the Bhagavata and Sivapuranas are told. One of these such stories is the wedding scene of Siva and Parvati, where other gods have attended (Annigeri 33).

To the left and a few yards away, lies the Galaganatha Temple with its very tall structure. Having been built in the North Indian style (Nagara) in the 8th century CE, it is quite different from the Virupaksha, Mallikarjuna and Sangamesvara which are all built in the South Indian style (Dravidian) (Annigeri 37). In the shrine is a linga in black stone and a sculpture of Nataraja on the door. With age, the wall to the south has been destroyed, but it was possible to conclude their method of constructing walls, which was to lay them on each other without any cementing agent (Annigeri 38). Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this temple is the sculpture of Siva as Andhakasura. The sculpture has eight hands, one with a sword, one with a trident in the body of a demon, one with a shield, and another with a trident, and the rest placed in different poses (Annigeri 39).

The Jambulinga Temple is very small now and has no ceiling. There was once a bigger hall, but it is now in ruins. There once was sculpture of Siva and Visnu, but time has worn them down. It seems to have been built around the same time as the Galaganatha Temple (Annigeri 39).

The Chandrasekhara Temple is quite plain and has been dated to around 750 CE (Annigeri 37). It has a preserved Dvarapalas on the side of the door with a visible trident-like decoration behind his head.

The Kadasiddhesvara Temple has seen better days. It is almost impossible to determine to which god or goddess the temple was dedicated. The only evidence we have is Harihara with four hands carrying an axe, a conch and cloth on the outer wall and, an image of Siva with a serpent and a trident and Parvati and Nandi on the door frame (Annigeri 40). Again, the hall has no roof and there is a Dvarapala who stands on both sides of the door. The other gods depicted around the temple are Brahma, Visnu, Ganga, Yamuna and Ardhanarisvara (Annigeri 40).

The temple of Papanatha is situated only a few yards from the river Malaprabha. It is accepted that it was constructed at around 680 CE (Annigeri 41). This temple does not reflect the advanced architecture of the Virupaksha temple and has very weird proportions. The temple is 90ft. in length but has a very short vertical structure. The improper spacing in the temple has convinced scholars that the temple was built in the early stages of the art of temple building. Contrary to that, the inscription states that the same sculptors that worked on the Virupaksha temple worked on Papanatha, so we are led to believe that the temple could not have been built more than 30-40 years before Virupaksha (Annigeri 41). The temple was not originally dedicated to Siva this time, but dedicated to Visnu or Surya. Scholars have come to his conclusion because there is a image of Surya on the west outer wall, and the image of Nandi was placed in the hall at a later date, after the temple was constructed. But there are some scholars who say that the temple was still dedicated to Siva from the start (Annigeri 42). Even though the temple is one of the oldest, it is still decorated with images of couples and gods and stories of the ages.

The Old Jain Temple, built in the 9th century CE, consists of a second shrine on top of the main shrine that houses two Jaina sculptures. The temple is very simple with a few exceptions like the makaratorana on the doorframe of the shrine door (Annigeri 47). There is a single inscription on a pillar that tells the story of how Jnanasivacharya came from his home in the north of India to live in the Sangamesvara temple. This illustrates the religious ties between North India and Karnataka during the period of the Calukyas of Badami (Annigeri 48).

The temples at Pattadakal, depict a wide assortment of deities in the Hindu pantheon. The site at Pattadakal shows a great amount of history in its walls and tells a great story that has been solidified with the hard work of the architects and sculptors that made the temples possible. The combination of the Dravidian and the Nagara style of architecture is distinctive. Present generations can view the style advancements in temple building as they developed from the oldest temple to the newest. In 1987, Pattadakal was included in the list of World Heritage Sites. Today, for a small entrance fee, an individual can enter the grounds of the temples to look around or to give worship to the deities. The temples have become a very popular tourist destination.

 

References

Annigeri, A. (1961) A Guide to the Pattadakal Temples. Dharwad: Kannada Research Institute.

Bolar, Varija (2010) Temples of Karnataka: An Epigraphical Study (from the earliest to 1050 A.D.). New Delhi: Roadworthy Publications (P) Ltd.

Dallapiccola, Anna (2002) Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend. London: Thames & Hudson.

Kadambi, Hemanth (2015) “Cathleen Cummings, “Decoding a Hindu Temple: Royalty and Religion in the Iconographic Program of the Virupaksha Temple”, Pattadakal”. South Asian Studies, Vol. 31, No.2: 266-268.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

The caves of Badami

Temples of Aihole

The Calukyas of Badami

Temples at Mahakuta

 

Websites Related to the Temples of Pattadakal

http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/pattadakal.html 

http://portal.unesco.org/geography/en/files/10641/12282854465ASI_Dharwad.pdf/ASI%2BDharwad.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pattadakal

 

Article written by: Rebecca Scott (February 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

Dadu Dayal

Dadu Dayal is known as the saint of compassion. Dayal, meaning compassionate or merciful, is in part from where Dadu’s title as the saint of compassion stems (Gold 184). His compassionate actions and religious teachings earned him the title after death (Gold 184). The other reason for his title is from his divine birth and mysterious origins leading to the creation of his religious panth (Shomer and MeLeod 183). There are mysterious circumstances surrounding his birth and his unordinary beginning to life is very similar to other northern Indian saints such as Kabir and Nanak (Gold 221). Dadu Dayal was born in 1544 CE in Ahmedabad and lived in Narayana in the state of Rajasthan till his death in 1603 CE (Heehs 371). Dadu’s major religious teachings surrounded self-realization and japa along with the goal of unification of the divergent faiths (Sen 100). Dadu along with Kabir, Namdev, Nanak and Radias are considered the back bone of the Northern Indian Saint tradition (Zelliot 254). Dadu is the founder of the Dadu-Panth and is renowned for both his ability to compose hymns and his religious teachings. The main area in which his panth is presently established is Narayana in Rajasthan and is run by a disciple in the lineage of Dadu (Shomer and MeLeod 184). The Dadu-Panth has changed in contemporary times by adapting to the changing societal patterns and norms allowing it to maintain influence in its major centre (Shomer and MeLeod 184).

Rajasthan, a state in northern India, is where Dadu was born, lived and established his religious panth (Sen 100). Born in Ahmedabad in 1544 CE Dadu has several stories surrounding his mysterious birth (Shomer and MeLeod 182). The Dadu-Panth mostly recognizes the story in which Dadu was found in and taken from Sabarmati River near Ahmedabad (Gold 93). He was then raised by a brahmin family and received initiation from an old sadhu and that in his early adult life he worked as a cotton carder before beginning his religious journey (Heehs 371).The second most accepted within the panth is the story that he was born to a dhuni-woman which means a women of the river and was abandoned and was raised in a merchant family and pursued a career as a cotton carder until later becoming interested in religious life (Shomer and MeLeod 183). A cotton carder cleans and processes the raw cotton into lose strands to then later be further processed (Shomer and MeLeod 183). Most scholars, however, think that Dadu came from a Muslim family. This fact was concealed or changed to him being raised by a brahmin family or that he was adopted after being found in the river by a brahmin family (Sen 100). Although these origins are similar in nature, key differences are the source of much debate between scholars and followers (Shomer and MeLeod 189). One story describes Dadu’s divine birth to a woman and another his divine appearance upon the bank of a river. Many scholars theorize that the reason there are two conflicting accounts of his origins stems from the fourteenth verse of the Grantha Sadha Mahima (Shomer and MeLeod 185). The fourteenth verse can be translated in one of two ways, the first being “Dadu was born in the womb of a dhuni-woman” the second being “Dadu was found in a river” (Shomer and MeLeod 185). All tell the tale that his religious interest stemmed from a feeling of exclusion from the strict caste system and Vedic teachings (Shomer and MeLeod 6). In all accounts he was a cotton carder by trade and his renunciation and rise to religious power was not widely accepted by the Hindu caste system (Olson 182). His low caste birth but higher class upbringing made him an ideal teacher in the sant parampara tradition (Shomer and MeLeod 6). Like Kabir, one of his greatest influences was that he was born into a low class but with great religious knowledge which allowed him to form  his own opinions and beliefs outside of the strict Hindu tradition (Sen 101). Dadu died in 1603 at the age of fifty nine in Narayana city in Rajasthan. It is rarely speculated how Dadu died but some texts say he ascended to heaven from his shrine in Narayana when his work was done (Oman 133). In the same fashion as Kabir many sources speculate that his body miraculously disappeared after his death (Olson 182). Although his origins are mysterious he is only referred to under one incarnation unlike Kabir who in his panth is theorized to have appeared before (Gold 95).

Dadu’s religious teachings stemmed from his inability to find roots in the Vedas (Gold 49). Even though he was a man of great knowledge and devotion he struggled with some of the ideas and concepts within the Vedic teachings (Gold 49). In Dadu’s religious panth he rejected the concept that the Vedas held ultimate knowledge (Gold 49). In turn he believed in the power of self-realization and inner experience for achieving moksa (Heehs 371). Dadu believed that to fulfill this realization followers must surrender their lives entirely to god and subsequently reject their egotism (Kumar and Ram 99). He also rejected the class system and its social and religious conventions (Kumar and Ram 98). Dadu identifies himself as a house holder and believed that this stage was ideal for achieving self and spiritual realization (Kumar and Ram 100). Dadu encouraged his disciples to write in Hindi and to translate Sanskrit texts into Hindi to further the accessibility of these texts to everyone (Kumar and Ram 100). This he hoped would further his ideal of uniting the divided faiths.

The Dadu-Panth which was founded by Dadu himself, is a part of the Northern Indian sant parampara tradition (Gold 14). Its epicenter is located at its main temple in Narayana in Rajasthan (Hawley and Juergensmeyer 179). The Dadu-Panth is closely linked to Kabir’s Satguru Kabir panth and the Sikh tradition (Ralham 60).  In the Dadu-Panth Kabir is held in a revered position and his influence is noted in the Dadu-Panth text (Ralham 60).  In panth traditions the founder is often revered as the real guru, where as in the Dadu-Panth it is Dadu’s book of teachings and hymns, the Dadubani, and the Ram Mantra which receives the most attention (Gold 105). The repeated recitation of the Ram Mantra in considered a form of japa in the Dadu-Panth (Sen 100). Dadu did not initially seek to begin a panth but to expand his own concept of religious life (Gold 93). Dadu prohibited the eating of meat and all violence, but did not prohibit his disciples from marrying or still holding businesses in the world (Shomer and MeLeod 188). His disciples were allowed to pursue their religious life along with their social life within society to create a balance (Shomer and MeLeod 188). Dadu’s poetic aphorisms and devotional hymns were collected by his disciples and arranged in to a 5,000 verse bani (classical Indian music genre) titled the Dadubani (Gold 94). The book is revered as a sacramental object and a hand written copy is the most divine object within the panth (Gold 95).

The main center of the Dadu-Panth is still located in Narayana in Rajasthan where majority of followers in this panth live (Hawley and Juergensmeyer 179). Though the influence has dwindled through time the panth still is quite powerful within the area. The panth still holds some socioreligous roles in Narayana and surrounding area (Shomer and MeLeod 184). The panth has allowed makanvale (house-dwelling monks) to have wives and children unofficially (Hawley and Juergensmeyer 204). This breaks away from the tradition of monastic celibacy, previously seen as favorable within the panth, although it was never strictly upheld (Hawley and Juergensmeyer 204). The temple in Narayana is where Dadu was laid to rest in 1603 CE (Gold 94). Over time this site has been up kept by the lineage of Dadu’s disciples (Gold 95). In the present day an annual festival is held in Narayana on the anniversary of Dadu’s birth which is said to fall on the eighth day of the bright half of Phalgun (Shomer and MeLeod 186). The eighth day of Phalgun, which is the twelfth month in the Hindu calendar, falls in the end of February or beginning of March in the Gregorian calendar (Shomer and MeLeod 187). Though Dadu is not considered to have an important role in the Sikh tradition he is still respected as a great poet in his own right (Duggal 212). There is a story about Guru Gobind Singh in the Sikh tradition commenting on Dadu’s poetry and the Guru bowed his bow in front of a great shrine to Dadu out of respect (Duggal 213).

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Duggal, K. S. (1980) the Sikh Gurus: Their Lives and Teachings. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd.

Gold, Daniel (1987) The Lord as Guru: Hindi Sants in the North Indian Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hawley, J. S. and M. Juergensmeyer (trans) (2004) Songs of the Saints of India. New York: Oxford University Press.

Heehs, Peter (Eds) (2006) Indian Religions: the Spiritual Traditions of South Asia- An Anthology. New Delhi: Pauls Press.

Kumar, R. and S. Ram (2008) Hindu Saints and Mysticism. New Delhi: Crescent Publishing Corporation.

Olson, Carl (2015) Indian Asceticism: power, Violence and Play. New York: Oxford University Press.

Oman, John Campbell (1984) the Mystics, Ascetics and Saints of India: a study of Sadhuism, with an accounts of the Yogis, Sanyasis, Bairagis, and other Strange Hindu Sectarians. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.

Ralham, O. P. (2004) Great Saints of India Vol. 2: Kabir the Apostle of Hindu-Muslim Unity. New Delhi: Anmol Publication Pvt. Ltd.

Sen, K. M. (1961) Hinduism. London: Cox and Wyman Ltd.

Shomer, K. and W. H. MeLeod (Eds) (1987) The Sants: Studies in a devotional Tradition of India. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Zelliot, E. and R. Mokashi-Punekar (Eds) (2005) Untouchable Saints: an Indian Phenomenon. New Delhi: Lordson Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

 

Related topics for further reading

Japa

Ram mantra

DaduBani

Bani

Grantha Sadha Mahima

Sant parampara

Kabir

Satguru Kabir Panth

Namdev

Nanak

Radias

Sikh Tradition

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

https://medium.com/sant-mat-meditation-and-spirituality/sant-dadu-dayal-the-poet-mystic-of-rajasthan-in-the-tradition-of-kabir-ba4b63a4ecbc#.q3tjm8ewd

http://ignca.nic.in/nl003204.htm

https://astrodevam.com/festivals-of-india-dadu-dayal-jayanti.html

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Dadu-Hindu-saint

 

Article written by: Brienne Leclaire (March 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Sacred Lotus Symbol

The lotus is an iconic flower, originating in Southern Asia, which has claimed a place as a prominent symbol in ancient history, remaining as such today. It is through a combination of religious and symbolic connotations, nutritional and medicinal applications, and sheer aesthetics and laudability in its natural life cycle that have facilitated the lotus’s significance. While there are many species of lotus flowers across Asia, the Hindus’ Sacred Lotus is scientifically known as the Nelumbo nucifera. This perennial flower grows in the muddy waters of shallow pools throughout Asia (Kew n.d.). It possesses a unique nanostructure of its leaves which provides an uncanny self-cleaning ability, allowing the flowers to emerge from the mud without tarnish (Kew n.d.). This natural trait has facilitated symbolic reference towards the flower; rising out of the mud, untouched by the filth, resonated with ancient thinkers, philosophers, and religious peoples. Furthermore, beyond its life cycle, the lotus holds many unique properties which benefit human nutrition and health. Studies have found that this ancient plant, consumed throughout Asia, is highly nutritious and retains a number of medicinal properties from gastrointestinal regulation to bad breath remedy to insomnia reduction (Zhang et al 323,324). The relevance to health and wellness worked well with the divine reference in ancient Vedic scripture, where the lotus gained connections to the gods, to build the foundations of an icon.

Even as far back as the holy sruti texts of the Rgveda, the lotus finds its home in Hinduism’s spiritual origins. One translation of the Rgveda expresses the first mention of the lotus in the form of a metaphor (RV 5.LXVIII.7-9). The verse seems to describe a well wish for an unproblematic delivery of a child. One interpretation is that the metaphor of the wind ruffling the lotuses evokes auspiciousness in regard to the delivery (Garzilli 295). The lotus also appears in connection to the birth of Agni in Rgveda hymn XVI (Garzilli 300). There Agni is recognized as one of the two most worshipped gods of the scripture alongside Indra, God of Thunder. This initial reference to birth and divinity can be seen as a starting point for the symbolism of the lotus in later literature and practice. Although its presence in the sacred text elevates it to a status of divinity, its connection with the gods does not end with Agni and the Rgveda; rather it appears again and again throughout Hindu scripture.

Laksmi is the consort of Visnu, one of the most renowned gods in the Hindu pantheon, and she appears in each of Visnu’s reincarnations as his wife, should he have one. She is seen by the followers of Visnu as the “mother of the world” (Kapoor 1083), and maintains a close connection with the lotus, having her abode within the flowers themselves (Mahabharata LXVI). The Hindus Encyclopedia of Hinduism details the story of her birth: from the great churning of the sea, Laksmi was brought forth inhabiting the lotus and was “…covered in ornaments and bearing every auspicious sign…” (Kapoor 1083). She held lotus flowers in each hand and was called the Goddess Padma, meaning Lotus. Laksmi holds many names and many titles, just as the sacred flower does; she is the goddess of wealth, auspiciousness, fortune and luck. The auspiciousness of the lotus may be due in part to the connection between the flower and the great goddess of luck. Indeed, followers of Vaisnavism, one of the main sects of Hindusim, hold Laksmi in high regard, believing she is the very power of Visnu to govern and protect the universe (Encyclopedia of Asian History 1988). As the goddess of the Lotus, this symbol becomes specifically significant to the Vaisnavas, although its significance is by no means confined to them.

Beyond the auspiciousness and fortune of the lotus in its connection to Laksmi, the creator god Brahma ties in early references of the lotus to the concept of rebirth. Though there are many stories regarding the origins or birth of Brahma, one depicts the god being born on a lotus flower from the navel of Visnu, the great unifying principle (Coulter and Turner 105-106). In fact, it is common for Hindu gods and goddesses to be depicted sitting on a lotus throne, as a gesture of divinity, purity, and a power (Lee and Nadeau 69). Even beyond its connection to the creator god, the lotus is one of Visnu’s four attributes, standing as a symbol of creation (Timalsina 70). Furthermore, the sacred plant and deity, Soma, is believed, by some, to be the Sacred Lotus (MacDonald 150-152). Referenced in the Rgveda, (RV 8. XLVIII.3-4,11) Soma is deified, worshipped, and even expressed as offering immortality.  There are numerous theories on the true identity of Soma and the Lotus would indeed be a likely candidate with its medicinal properties and previously established connection to the divine.

Each of the factors mentioned have played a role in the Sacred Lotus becoming an icon of Hinduism. The flower’s natural life cycle and biological properties make it both admirable and valuable. Its presence in the Vedas and its connection to popular deities, including its potential identity as a deity (i.e. Soma), make it sacred and spiritual; these aspects, and more, have elevated the wild flower of Asia to an icon of the Hindu faith. And yet, beyond its religious connotations, the sacred symbol of the lotus has spread, with the Hindu tradition, into the very culture of India.

In Indian art and architecture there are 8 symbols of auspiciousness. Among other key symbols like the conch shell (sankha) and the wheel (cakra), the lotus (padma) is incorporated into Indian art, bearing powerful symbolism in regard to divinity, purity, and auspiciousness (Gupta 30). Throughout numerous temples and shrines erected to worship various gods such as Siva and Surya are stone carvings, motifs, and statues accents by the image of the lotus (Harle 139, 144). Beyond the presence of lotus imagery, there is a further, subtle connection between Hindu architecture and the lotus in the very structure of Hindu temples. Rising up in tiered domes, or buds, the temples are said to resemble Mount Meru, a sacred cosmic center in Indian religions (Gupta 30). The mountain itself holds extensive symbolic reference to the cosmic lotus, standing as point of origins of creation and divinity (Mabbett 71,72). The intertwining of lotus imagery and symbolism into such a vast range of concepts as mountains to temples to health to the divine creates a picture of the depth of the symbol’s place in Hinduism.

As the powerful symbolism of the lotus transcends the centuries, it ultimately finds its place in the modern day as an icon for businesses, a symbol of peace or tranquility, a reference to Indian religion, and more contemporarily so, as an image of a movement sweeping Indian politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a popular political party in contemporary India with a unique platform of defining “. . . Indian culture in terms of Hindu Values. . .” (Britannica 2014). The party poses the lotus as their logo, utilizing the religious symbol to gain the favor of Hindus (Malik and Singh 321). For the Hindu population, standing behind a banner bearing the Sacred Lotus of India, a central icon in the ancient tradition, may mean standing behind Hindutva, or Hindu national identity, embodied in the sacred meaning of the lotus. This connection between the divine flower and the national identity of India reveals just how deep the roots of the lotus symbol are. Even before the rise of the BJP party, the lotus held the title of national flower for its sacred symbolism, according to the Government of India (Government of India 2016). The connection between the Indian subcontinent and the lotus, beyond any single faith, expresses the significance of the flower even beyond its place as a religion icon.

To this day, the lotus stands as a symbol related not only to Hinduism, but also to numerous other religions, historical and modern alike. The lotus appears historically in ancient Egyptian religion where it held connections to birth, including that of the sun god, Ra (Renggli 220), and was used as an apparent hallucinogen (Sayin 291). Buddhists adopted symbolic meanings of the lotus very similar to the Hindus, viewing it as a representation of one’s personal journey through the muddy waters of samsara towards blossoming, pure and perfect, into Nirvana (Prasophigchana 103-104). The lotus is also representative of enlightenment through the idea that those who have attained it will rise above the world like a lotus rises above the muck and filth. Jains also view the lotus as a sacred symbol of purity and power. Within the tradition are 14 auspicious dreams and eight auspicious marks, the lotus claiming a place in both lists (Fischer and Jain 22). The Jains also maintain the portrayal of their founders (tirthankaras) as seated or standing on lotus blossoms, as seen Hinduism with respect to their gods (Lee and Nadeau 69). As the religions of India spread across the globe, the iconic image of the lotus continued to diversify and grow, maintaining its significance while transforming with the times. From the Rgveda to Indian Politics, the sacred flower of Hinduism has certainly left its mark on history and continues to do so today.

Bibliography

Coulter, C.R. and Turner, Patricia (2000) “Brahma.” Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities pg 105-106. North Carolina: MacFarland & Company Inc. Publishers.

Brittanica (2014) Bharatiya Janata Party. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.  http://www.britannica.com/topic/Bharatiya-Janata-Party

Fischer, Eberhard and Jain, Jyotindra (1978) Jaina Iconography. Part 12: 22. Leiden: Brill

Garzilli, Enrica (2003) “The Flowers of Rgveda Hymns: Lotus in V.78.7, X.184.2, X.107.10, VI.16.13, and VII.33.11, VI.61.2, VIII.1.33, X.142.8. Indo-Iranian Journal. Volume 46, Issue 4: 293-314. Dordretch: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Government of India (2015) “National Symbols.” National Portal of India. New Delhi: National Informatics Center.  http://india.gov.in/india-glance/national-symbols

Gupta, Swarajya Prakash (2002) Elements of Indian Art. 29-30. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld Ltd.

Harle, J.C. (1994) The Arts and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Kapoor, Subodh (2000) “Laksmi.” The Hindus Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Volume 3. Edited by Subodh Kapoor. 1083-1087. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.

Kapoor, Subodh (2000) “Symbolism.” The Hindus Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Edited by Subodh Kapoor. Volume 4: 1171-1714.  New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.

Kew (n.d.) “Nelumbo nucifera.”  Kew: Royal Botanical Gardens. Surrey: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/nelumbo-nucifera-sacred-lotus

Lee, Jonathan H.X. and Nadeau, Kathleen M. (2011) Enclypedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife. Edited by Jonathan H.X. Lee and Kathleen Nadeau. Volume 1: 22. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Mabbett, I.W. (1983) “The Symbolism of Mount Meru.” Chicago Journals. Volume 23, Issue 1: 64-83. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Macdonald, Andrew (2004) “A Botanical Perspective on the Identity of Soma (Nelumbo Nucifera Gaertn.) Based on Scriptural and Iconographic Records.” Economic Botany. Volume 58: 147-150. Texas: Economic Botany.

Mahabharata. “SECTION LXVI. Sambhava Parva.” Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (1883-96). http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01067.htm

Malik, Yogendra K. and Singh, V. B.  (1992) “Bharatiya Janata Party: An Alternative to the Congress (I)?” Asian Survey. Vol. 32, Issue 4: 318-336. DOI: 10.2307/2645149

Prasopchigchana, Sarunya (2011) “Symbolic Representation in Buddhism.” International Journal on Humanistic Ideology. Volume 4, Issue 2: 101-111. Cluj-Napoca: International Journal on Humanistic Ideology.

Renggli, Franz (2002) “The Sunrise as The Birth Of A Baby: The Prenatal Key to Egyptian Mythology.” Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health. Volume 16, Issue 3: 215-235. Forestville: Association for Pre & Perinatal Psychology and Health.

Rgveda. “HYMN LXXVIII. Aśvins.” Translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith (1896). http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/rv05078.htm

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism the Ebook. Pennsylvania: Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Sayin, H. Umit (2014) “The Consumption of Psychoactive Plants During Religious Rituals.” Neuroquantology. Volume 12, Issue 2: 276-296. Bornova Izmir: Nova Science Publishers.  DOI: 10.14704/nq.2014.12.2.753

Timalsina, Sthaneshwar (2012) “Reconstructing the Tantric Body: Elements of the Symbolism of Body in the Monistic Kaula and Trika Tantric Traditions.” International Journal of Hindu Studies. Volume 19, Issue 1: 57-91

_____ (1988)”Vaishnavism.” Encyclopedia of Asian History. Charles Scribner’s Sons (1988). World History in Context.

Zhang, Yi , et al, (2015) “Nutritional composition, physiological functions and processing of lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.) seeds: a review.” Phytochemisrty Reviews. Volume 14, Issue 3: 321-334. Netherlands: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/s11101-015-9401-9

 

Recommended areas of Research:

Padma (Sanskrit word for Lotus)

8 symbols of auspiciousness

Visnu & Laksmi

Mount Meru

Soma

Nelumbo nucifera

 

Useful Websites:

Sacred-texts.com

http://ic.galegroup.com.ezproxy.alu.talonline.ca/ic/whic/home?u=leth89164&p=WHIC

 

Useful Books:

The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent by James C. Harle

Elements of Indian Art by Swarajya Prakash Gupta

 

 

Article written by: Jessica Knoop (April 2016) who is solely responsible for its contents.

 

Cidambaram Temple

Cidambaram Temple, also known as the Thillai Natarajah Temple is a sixteen hectare temple complex (Smith 4) located in the center of the city of Cidambaram in Tamil Nadu in south-eastern India, and was built and expanded between the 10th and 14th centuries. The official name of the temple is Sabhanayaka (Lord of the Hall) temple (Cush, Robinson, and York 143). This temple venerates Siva as Nataraja (Lord of Dance) in Sanskrit or Thillai Koothan in Tamil (Spencer).

The temple is famous for the veneration a 3 foot tall bronze statue of Siva (Srinivasan 433) in a dancing position and the local myth that inspired the depiction and the worship of Siva in that form in Cidambaram. The statue is meant to be used as an utsava murti (processional image) in festivals (Cush, Robinson, and York 366), but is usually located in an inner gold-roofed sanctum called the Cit-Sabha or Hall of Consciousness (Srinivasan 433, Smith 5). Siva is also represented in the form of a traditional lingam, and in the form of an empty alcove representing akasa (ether, space, or sky) and transcendence (Srinivasan 433). It is said that the Cit-Sabha embodies Siva as well (Ferro-Luzzi 516). Other deities worshipped at the temple include Sivakamasundari, Ganesa, and Visnu among other deities connected with Siva. The depictions of each deity can be found in alcoves and ambulatories around the edges of the temple.

This temple is one of five temples in south India dedicated to Siva which each represent elements and the supposed geographic locations where Siva has appeared and performed miracles. These temples collectively are called the Panca Bhuta Sthalam, (Spencer 233, Isaac 16, Dey 49) and Cidambaram temple represents the element of akasa.

 

Temple History

The Nataraja temple at Cidambaram was built in the 10th century during the reign of Cola ruler Vira Cola Raja and is among some of the oldest temples in south India (Sullivan 58). Cidambaram temple has been the center for the worship of Siva in a dancing form since the seventh century (Smith 1), however the depiction of Siva as Nataraja was popularized by the Saiva Siddhanta school of orthodox bhakti Saivites sometime later (Cush, Robinson, and York 799).

Cola rulers through the 10th to the 13th centuries considered Siva, especially as Nataraja, to be their family deity and sponsored massive expansions of the Cidambaram temple complex and other Saivite temple complexes in south India. Along with the level of temple construction and renovation, they also made efforts to increase the scale and organization of worship at these temples (Davis 16). Vikrama and his military minister Naralokaviran are credited with renovating and adorning the Cidambaram temple, as well as sponsoring and developing services and facilities to encourage patronage and worship such as grand festivals, lit processional walkways, ocean pavilions, etc. with the goal to secure the Cidambaram Nataraja temple as the capital of Saivite worship in south India (Davis 19).

Cidambaram temple is sometimes simply referred to as “the temple”, and the entire city is sometimes referred to as a temple in literature (Spencer 240). Historically in the Saivite temple culture throughout south India, the main keepers and collectors of information were travelling saint-poets called nayanmars (Spencer 234), who were advocates of bhakti (devotionalism), and whose Tamil (Sullivan 195) devotional hymns are still sung today (Sullivan 211). However, there were multiple schools of thought in place in the area in medieval times who each would have a variation on thought and their own canon. For example, the accepted canon for Saiva Siddhanta philosophy was the Agamas (Srinivasan 432). Numerous nayanmars are remembered and venerated at the temple, and their poems have been passed down orally through generations. Recently, the process has begun of writing the poems and stories down for posterity. The veneration of priests, saints, and poets at Cidambaram is hierarchical with more well-known figures such as Umapati Sivacarya who wrote the poem Kuncitanghristava or “The Hymn of Praise to Nataraja’s Curved Foot” (Ferro-Luzzi 515) being remembered and praised more often than lesser saints which included women and Dalits (Spencer 235). The lineages of Saivite saints, priests, and teachers is hard to decipher because of a patchy record and an initiatory re-naming tradition (Davis 9).

 

Temple Mythology

Cidambaram is considered the center of the universe (Smith 2), as well as the place where Siva first performed the anandatandava, or dance of bliss (Srinivasan 432, Smith 1), in the presence of his consort Sivakamasundari, and three sages who were awaiting his arrival in Cidambaram while worshipping a lingam (Cush, Robinson, and York 143). Cidambaram is said to be the sky temple in the series of five temples in south India which represent elemental forms of Siva, the Panca Bhuta Sthalam (Dey 49). Each temple in this collection of temples is said to have a connected story of Siva appearing at that location in the presence of devotees to perform a miracle in a new form. At Cidambaram the miracle was the anandatandava and the form that Siva assumed was that of Nataraja or Lord of Dance (Smith 1). The traditional lingam which would usually stand in the inner sanctum of the temple, the Cit-Sabha, is replaced in this temple by a bronze statue of Siva performing the dance (Cush, Robinson, and York 143). The representation of the figure of Siva performing the anandatandava is steeped in symbolism.

The speed of the dance is said to determine whether it will be creative or destructive, with a slower pace being creative and a faster pace being destructive (Cush, Robinson, and York 143). Siva as Nataraja is depicted with 4 hands, each having a specific meaning. The hand raised up in the abhaya-mudra (Cush, Robinson, and York 799) represents refuge, while the downward-pointing hand represents escape from samsara shown by the surrounding ring of fire (Cush, Robinson, and York 160). The other two hands hold a drum used for keeping time while dancing and a ball of fire, which each represent creation and destruction; fire can be creative in a Vedic sense by creating favor from the gods and the drum can be interpreted as destructive by marking the passage of time (Smith 1, Cush, Robinson, and York 160, Sullivan 148). In the 14th century in Cidambaram, the priest Umapati Sivacarya devoted a poem to the depiction of Siva in anandatandava entitled Kuncitanghristava, “The Hymn of Praise to Nataraja’s Curved Foot” (Ferro-Luzzi 515), the foot on the statue of Siva as Nataraja is said to grant anugraha (blessing) and salvation (Ferro-Luzzi 516). Siva’s other foot steps on a smaller person or demon named Apasmarapurusa in Sanskrit or Muyalaka in Tamil (Nayagam 120) which represents ignorance (Smith 1).

 

Temple Structure

The style of southern Indian temples is distinct from northern Indian temples. In the southern style, the gopuram (main towers) are raised high above the gates of the temple and set into the walls that encircle the inner sanctuaries, the walls are usually highly decorated and ornate (Sullivan 227). Cidambaram temple is one of the largest in south India, with the gopurams measured at 49 meters high (Sullivan 58).

The walls of the Cidambaram temple have been decorated with depictions of 108 Bharata Natyam (traditional Indian dance) poses (Cush, Robinson, and York 160). This style of classical dance is said to have originated in the surrounding area of Tamil Nadu and especially within Saivite temple culture (Tiruvalluvar 1201), and the temple also boasts a large performing arts hall shaped like a chariot called the Nrtta Sabha (Sullivan 58).

The Cidambaram temple is also set apart by the golden roof of the Cit-Sabha, extensive processional routes, and lamped walkways all added on by Cola rulers (Davis 19). Cit-Sabha, the innermost hall or sanctum of the temple contains three alcoves, the main alcove contains the three foot tall bronze statue of Siva Nataraja, with the other two alcoves containing the stone lingam usually representative of Siva and an empty space representative of Siva as the element akasa (Srinivasan 433). Several shrines to other deities are featured in the temple, most of whom have some connection to Siva in Hindu literature (Sullivan 58). All of the elemental Saivite temples are built in the same southern style but differ in their decorations and size.

 

Festivals

The main festival at temples dedicated to Siva is Mahasivaratri (Great Night of Siva) or simply Sivaratri (Sullivan 211). This festival is held yearly on the thirteenth night and fourteenth day in the dark half of Phalguna, the month that takes place in February to March in the Gregorian calendar (Sullivan 130). The festival is widely popular and devotees of many different deities attend. The festival consists of a night vigil at the temple which involves devotional hymns, darsana (auspicious viewing) of images of Siva either in statue or lingam form and highly decorated (Sullivan 130), and puja offerings which include sandalwood paste, flower petals, bilva and bel leaves, milk, curd, ghee, honey, rose water, and vermillion paste (Dwivedi 30, Sullivan 130). A drink made of cannabis, milk, and almonds is also said to be consumed at this festival (Dwivedi 30). The second day of the festival is a celebratory day reserved for feasting rather than solemn worship (Sullivan 130). The Mahasivaratri has many origin stories including Parvati venerating a lingam in Siva’s absence, a hunter accidentally venerating a lingam when out in the wilderness, and the gods Brahma and Visnu finding a pillar of fire which is revealed to be Siva in a different form (Dwivedi 72).

Other festivals include occasional processional temple festivals called mahotsava or brahmotsava in Sanskrit and tiruvila in Tamil. These festivals can last up to two weeks and involve the use of utsava murti (processional images) of deities used in festivals and temple rites (Cush, Robinson, and York 366). The icons are dressed in finery like silk, flowers, and gold ornaments and led down the streets either on the shoulders of followers, or pulled in chariots by devotees holding hemp ropes. There are also animals and musicians involved in these parades, which stop occasionally along the procession to allow people to view the gods and make offerings to them which is seen as very auspicious (Davis 15). Bronze figures and accompanying inscriptions show that this form of festival worship has been taking place in south India since at least the 9th century (Davis 16).

This festival takes place in Cidambaram as well with the obvious addition of the Nataraja statue. Other differences in the Cidambaram mahotsavas are the length and scale of the festival which is always very long, around fifteen days, and features two parades each day with the deities riding on different vahanas (vehicles). This culminates in the ratha-yatra where the deities are paraded on chariots which are much like individual moving shrines (Davis 15). At the beginning of any festival period devoted primarily to Siva, the temple flag is raised with the image of a bull on it which represents Siva’s vahana Nandi (Davis 30). Another practice which sets Cidambaram apart is the practice of applying a black balm to the statues, priests, servants, and lay people in hierarchical order if the festival is venerating Nataraja (Davis 51).

 

Staff and Important Persons

Important persons connected to the temple include the Saiva Siddhanta school of orthodox bhakti Saivites who popularized the veneration of Siva as Nataraja, as well as the other numerous lesser-known philosophical schools which helped inform the literature in medieval south India (Cush, Robinson, and York 799). Also of great importance were the travelling saint-poets called nayanmars (Spencer 234), whose Tamil devotional Saivite hymns recorded the mythology and chronology of the area and whose stories were passed down orally and are still told and sung today creating a rich illustration of the history of the area (Sullivan 211). Some of these poets became priests or teachers or gained fame from their writing which creates a useful image of the social landscape of the time.

The temple staff at Cidambaram are called diksitars because they undergo the initiatory process of diksa. This process involves numerous rites to be performed at different prescribed times before the initiate is accepted. The nitya-karman are the daily rites and show Saivite piety if they are done on one’s own behalf (atmartha), this category includes the nityapuja (veneration of a lingam), nityahoma (a small fire sacrifice), and suryapuja (sun worship). Daily rituals need to be completed before other rituals, they are the prerequisites. Naimittikarman, or occasional rites include pavitrosava and damanotsava and they are the prerequisites for the last set of rituals. The last set of rituals, on completion, marks the initiation of a diksitar as part of the Saivite community and released of earthly bondage. These rituals are therefore held in high regard as transformative. The initiate is consecrated as either a sadhakadiksa (mantra-adept), or as an acaryadiksa (priest) through a series of upanayana-like rituals including a mock cremation on the receiving of a special mantra (Davis 7).

 

References

Aghorasiva (1157) A Priest’s Guide to the Great Festival. Translation and notes by Richard H. Davis (2010) New York: Oxford University Press.

Cush, Denise, and Catherine Robinson, and Michael York (2008) Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Routledge.

Dey, Nando L. (1979) The Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval India. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.

Dwivedi, Anil K. (2007) Encyclopedia of Indian Customs & Rituals. New Delhi: Anmol Publications.

Ferro-Luzzi, Gabriella E. (1996) “Reviewed Work: The Dance of Siva. Religion, Art and Poetry in South India by David Smith” East and West 46:515–17. Accessed February 5, 2016. http://www.jstor.org/stable/29757302.

Isaac, Eric (1960) “Religion, Landscape, and Space” Landscape 9:14-18.

Nayagam, X.S. Thani (1970). Tamil Culture and Civilization. London: Asia Publishing House.

Smith, David (1996) The Dance of Siva: Religion, Art and Poetry in South India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spencer, George W. (1970) “The Sacred Geography of the Tamil Shaivite Hymns.” Numen 17:232–44. Accessed February 5, 2016. doi:10.2307/3269705.

Srinivasan, Sharada (2004) “Shiva as ‘cosmic dancer’: On Pallava origins for the Nataraja bronze.” World Archaeology 36:432-450. Accessed February 5, 2016. doi:10.1080/1468936042000282726821.

Sullivan, Bruce M. (1997) Historical Dictionary of Hinduism. Lanham: Scarecrow Press.

Tiruvalluvar (2000). The Handbook of Tamil Culture and Heritage. Chicago: International Tamil Language Foundation.

 

Related Topics

  • Bhakti
  • Diksa
  • Bharata Natyam
  • Saivitism
  • Viasnavism
  • Cola Dynasy
  • Tamil Poetry
  • Poet-saints
  • South Indian Architecture
  • Processional Festivals

 

Related Websites

http://www.chidambaramnataraja.org/

http://templenet.com/Tamilnadu/panchabhoota.html

http://www.religiousportal.com/Pancha_Bhoota_Temples.html

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/39328

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/south-asia/hindu-art/a/shiva-as-lord-of-the-dance-nataraja

Article written by: Katherine Christianson (March 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.