Category Archives: b. Saivism

Siva (Erotic Nature)

Siva at South Indian Temple

Siva’s name has been derived from the Dravidian term for “red” and can also be translated as “auspicious” (Rodrigues 296). He is believed to have shared common characteristics with the Vedic god Rudra who was known to have a “shining exterior and a dark interior” (O’Flahertry 1969b:1). Along with sharing some characteristics with Rudra, Siva is also thought to share characteristics with the Vedic gods Indra and Agni because Indra is thought to be the phallic god of fertility and Agni is believed to be the god of heat [Agni is accurately referred to as the god of fire, however, Siva uses heat as energy therefore “heat” is used in this case to characterize Agni instead of fire (O’Flaherty 1969b:3)]. Siva is regarded as the destroyer (Clooney and Long 2). Therefore, by encompassing the features of a destroyer, Siva is identified as part of the trimurti or the Hindu Trinity [on the trimurti see Woodburne 1925. The trimurti is also comprised of Brahma (the Creator) and Visnu (the Preserver)]. As the destroyer, Siva is often depicted in images as being dressed in animal skins with long matted hair from which the goddess Ganga flows (Rodrigues 296).

According to the Puranic myths, Siva is an intense ascetic generating tremendous inner heat to the point where ash is said to be flowing through him (Rodrigues 296) [the Puranas are a composition of many “Sanskrit verses dealing with every subject under the Indian sun” (O’Flaherty 1973: 1)]. Along with having ash flow through him, Siva has been able to create tapas through his extreme yogic practices. Tapas can be defined as a potentially destructive or creative heat that can be derived through severe ascetic practices (O’Flaherty 1969a: 301)]. The Puranic myths of Siva, however, reveal that Siva in fact displays dualistic characteristics (Rodrigues 296). Along with being an ascetic, Siva is also revealed to be an erotic lover (Rodrigues 296 and O’Flaherty 1973: 5). However, since Siva is most commonly depicted as an ascetic, this article will focus on Siva as the erotic lover.

A common value in Hinduism is renouncing from all material and pleasurable things and surrendering to God (Rodrigues 155). On the other hand, begetting offspring as a householder in order to ensure that one’s lineage is carried on is also a crucial element of Hinduism. Clearly attending to both of these requirements is unattainable. Consequently, a compromise between the two has to be made and according to the Puranic myths, Siva does just that (O’Flaherty 1969a: 301).

Siva is referred to as being “ithyphallic “because he is often depicted with an erect phallus (Rodrigues 296). This erection is in fact the result of his “creative power.” Thus Siva is often worshiped by devotees in the form of the phallus (linga) (Rodrigues 296). The erect phallus typically symbolizes chastity and not eroticism because Siva is able to retain his semen. This ensures that there will be future creation. (O’Flaherty, 1969a: 311).

Siva embodies two types of heat according to O’Flaherty (1969b:5). One is tapas and the other is kama – the heat of desire [the Vedic god Agni is often personified as Kama]. Many myths about Siva are a combination of tapas and kama (O’Flaherty 1973: 90). It is said that Siva was the enemy of Kama because Kama was the opposite force of Siva. In one variation of a Puranic myth, it was said that the sage Himalaya attempted to coerce Siva to marry his daughter

Parvati, and Siva responded by saying that an ascetic, or a yogi should never come into contact with a woman because it conflicts with his chastity (O’Flaherty 1973: 141, 1969: 309). Another Purana says that in order for Siva to marry, Kama shot arrows into Siva’s heart that caused him to develop a desire for Parvati and this then lead to the many lustful feelings that Siva began to develop (O’Flaherty 1973: 145).

A very common myth surrounds Siva in the Pine Forest; however there are innumerable variations of this myth. In the Pine Forest, lived seven sages and their wives (O’Flaherty 1973: 172). Siva entered this forest naked with an erect phallus (O’Flaherty 1973: 172). There are many variations as to why Siva had entered the forest with an erect phallus, but in order to accent his eroticism, only one will be examined. It has been said that Siva entered the forest in guise of an ascetic when in fact he was truly aroused by the wives (O’Flaherty 1973: 173). O’Flaherty (1973: 173) wrote that Siva had entered the forest naked because he was not being sexually satisfied by his wife Parvati and therefore he wanted to seduce the wives. A similar version outlines that upon noticing that Siva was arousing the seven wives, the sages announced that Siva’s penis was to fall off (O’Flaherty 1973: 178). After the penis had fallen off, it began to burn everything in sight. The gods then asked Parvati to take the form of a vagina to hold the penis in place so it could be worshiped by all, and this in turn lead to the formation of the linga [for an in-depth look into the curse made upon Siva see O’Flaherty 1980]. These examples demonstrate that Siva is in fact highly erotic, and the use of the phallus is eminently prominent (O’Flaherty 1973, 1980).

Another Purana tells the myth of Siva seducing Mohini. Visnu had taken the form of a beautiful woman named Mohini in order to retrieve the soma (am intoxicating plant (Rodrigues 67)) from the demons (O’Flaherty 1973: 228). After retrieving the nectar, Visnu was approached by Siva and Parvati, and Siva had asked Visnu to show him the disguise of Mohini. Upon showing him the disguise, Siva became aroused and by embracing Mohini, his semen fell to the ground (O’Flaherty 1973: 228). It seems evident that Siva is not ashamed or withdrawn about his sexuality even with the presence of his wife.

Having an erotic god would seem like a problem because brahmacarya (celibacy) plays a large role in the lives of many Hindus [On the role that brahmacarya plays, see Rodrigues 132). It has been theorized that Siva is worshiped by Hindus all around the world because he is able to occupy contradictory roles (O’Flaherty 1973: 3). Siva is able to remain chaste in order for world creation to carry on and he is also able to play the role of the erotic lover to demonstrate that everyone has sexual urges and finding the right balance in between is the key. Even though Siva’s roles are truly contradictory, he is still seen as “whole” to his devotees (O’Flaherty1969a:301).

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REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Clooney, Fred W. And J. Bruce Long (1983) “Introduction to the Religious Experience in Saiva

Thought and Literature” in Experiencing Shiva, edited by F. Clooney and J. Bruce Long,

Missouri: South Asia Books.

O’Flaherty, Wendy D. (1969a) “Asceticism and Sexuality in the Mythology of Siva: Part 1.”

History of Religions 8: 300-337.

O’Flaherty, Wendy D. (1969b) “Asceticism and Sexuality in the Mythology of Siva: Part 2.”

History of Religions 9: 1-41.

O’Flaherty, Wendy D. (1973) Siva: The Erotic Ascetic. London: Oxford University Press.

O’Flaherty, Wendy D. (1980) “Dionysus and Siva: Parallel Patterns in Two Pairs of Myths.”

History of Religions 20: 81-111.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism: The eBook. An Online Introduction. Journal of Buddhist

Ethics Online Books.

Woodburne, A.S. (1925) “The Idea of God in Hinduism” Journal of Religion 5: 52-66.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Rudra

Indra

Agni

Trimurti

Asceticism

Tapas

Linga

Kama

Pine Forest myths

Puranas

Daksa

Ithyphallic


Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.lotussculpture.com/siva1.htm

http://www.1stholistic.com/Prayer/Hindu/hol_Hindu-Shiva.htm

http://www.siamese-dream.com/page/siam1/CTGY/article-hindu-gods-shiva

http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/deities/shiva.htm

http://arf.noemata.net/1996-2002/575.html

http://atheism.about.com/library/world/AJ/bl_IndiaShiva.htm

http://india30.tripod.com/linga.htm

Article written by: Ashika Singh (April 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

Mahasivaratri (Great Night of Siva Festival)

Maha Sivaratri is a Hindu festival of devotion to the diety Siva. It is celebrated by Hindus who worship Siva as their primary deity. Maha Sivaratri mans “the Great Night of Siva” and it is the fourteenth lunar night (Chaturdasi) of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Phalgun. This typically falls between February and March. There are a number of myths regarding the origin of Sivaratri and most of the stories can be found in the Puranas.

Siva has been worshiped in India since ancient times. He has been worshiped in the form of the Sivalinga or jyorti-linga symbolically representing the jyoti or flame of fire. “Siva is the one of the highest gods of the Hindu pantheon” (Mukherji, 35). Although Siva is known as a destroyer he has numerous other characteristics. His names include Mahadeva, “The Great God” and the name Siva means auspicious God. “Among the Hindu triumvirate, Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver and Shiva is considered the destroyer (Thakur and Roa, 01).

The date of origin of Mahasivaratri is as anonymous as the origin of the Hinduism. The word Sivaratri appears in the Mahabharata and in certain Puranas such as Garuda, Padma, Skanda and Agni Puranas (Welbon and Glenn, 192).

According to the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, which is believed to be apocryphal, the Sivaratri vow was put into the Bhishma’s mouth. “Bhishma was the octogenarian leader of the Kuru forces in the great battle of Kurukshetra.” “According to the legend thus put into the mouth of the dying hero, the fast of Sivaratri was first publicly observed by King Chitra Bhanu” who was the king ruling over the whole of Jambu-Dwipa(ancient name of India) (Mukherji, 39).

As King Chitra Bhanu was on a holy fast on the day of Sivaratri, one of his sages, Ashta-Bakra came on a visit and questioned his abstaining. He told Ashta-Bakra that in his previous life he was a hunter by the name Suswar. He made his living by hunting and killing animals and selling them in the markets to feed his family. On one occasion as he wandered through the forest, he failed to realize that darkness had rolled around and he was unable to go back home. In order to shelter himself he climbed up the bilva (wood-apple) tree. He had hunted a deer that day but he could not take it home to feed his family. He thought of his hungry family and wept. His tears along with the leaves of the bilva tree landed on the linga (Lord Siva). Lord Siva regarded this as an offering from one of his devotees. The next morning as he returned home he bought some food by selling the deer that he hunted in the previous day. A stranger appeared at his doorstep and begged for food before he could eat any himself. Suswar then fed the stranger before he was going to break his own fast. Unknowingly Suswar accomplished the proper observance that Sivaratri requires, a day of fasting and serving food to a Brahman. Suswar lived many years without any idea of the spiritual gain that he attained by accomplishing the Sivaratri Vrata (Ascetic observance on the Night of Siva). When the afterlife came, he learned that he had been blessed and was rewarded with a grand life. According to the Mahabharata, Suswar lived in Siva loka(realm of Siva) for thousands of years and also lived in Indra loka or (realm of Indra)- the heaven, and Brahma loka or (realm of Brahma) the higher heaven. Finally he was promoted to Vaikunda-the realm of the highest heaven (Mukherji, 43).

In the Puranic accounts, Siva married the golden Parvati and tells her that this day is remarkably valued him. Therefore, those who perform the prescribed ascetic observance on this day will be freed from all sins. According to the myths of the Siva Purana, the gods Vishnu and Brahma wanted to know who between them the superior power was. This let them to fight each other Siva intervened as a jyoti (Flame of fire) to make them realize the futility of their fight (Thakur and Roa, 01).

According to another legend in the Siva Purana, during Samudra Manthan(the churning of the ocean) by the Asuras and the Devas, Halalak (a highly toxic poison) came out from the ocean and it was capable of destroying the entire creation. Visnu advised the Devas and the Asuras to prey to Siva for their lives. Siva drank the poison and it lodged in his throat; thus Lord Siva is known as Nilakantha (the Blue Throated). In order to dissipate the poison Siva had to stay awake the whole night.The Devas and Asuras prayed the whole night in the vigil. Pleased with their devotion, Nilakantha declared that whoever worshiped him on that day would have their wishes fulfilled.

Celebration of Mahasivaratri

The celebration of Sivaratri differs from place to place, and actual practices also differ depending on the circumstances (Welbon and Yocum 203). For example, in Chennai (Madras) people usually limit themselves to fasting, keeping awake, and listening to stories of Mahasivaratri. However in other places such as Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh Mahasivaratri is celebrated as their royal family festival and their rites of worship are more elaborate (Thakur and Roa, 04). “In certain parts of India people still drink a concoction called bhang, prepared by pouring water over hemp leaves and adding almonds, rose leaves, opium etc (Welbon and Yocum, 204)”. They believe that this is the favourite beverage of Siva.

On Sivaratri day, devotees awake at sunrise and purify them with a bath in the Ganga River or in the sacred water at their local temple. Purification is not only for their body, but also it involves a mental, moral, and spiritually by cleansing by calming certain qualities within them (Manohar 200). During the day devotees will fast; the types of fasting differ from person to person according to their circumstances. Some devotees will fast the whole day and others will get one light meal (vegetarian food mostly fruits and milk). They may spend their day repeating mantra (japa of Om namo sivaya) and Meditation. At night they conduct a Vigil and rites such as offering bilva (wood apple) leaves, water, and milk. The rituals involved abhiseka (bath to the Sivalinga), and offering of Puspa (flower), dhupa (incense), dipa (flame), naivedya (food). The next day devotees must entertain a stranger or guest with offerings of food and gift. This is said to accomplish the custom of Mahasivaratri and devotees believe they will receive blessing from Siva himself.

Fasting, Vigil, and Puja

Fasting, vigil, and puja (Prayer) are the most important religious observance among the devotees of Sivaratri. In order to achieve the successful outcome of Sivaratri, the devotees must prepare themselves physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually by cultivation of certain merits such as ten set of injunction in the Kalanirnaya of Madhva(Patmury, 1994);

1. Ahimsa (non-violent), it is a rule of conduct that prevent the killing or injuring of living beings. “It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences (Wikipedia)”.

2. Satya (Truthfulness) which includes refraining from false witness. It is a term of power due to its purity and meaning.

3. Akrodha (freedom from anger) keeping the mind free from feelings of anger, jealous and hatred (Patmury, 1994).

4. Bramacarya (Celibacy) is true love of God, its include being celibacy in mind. Body and mind should wander from though of God (Patmury, 1994).

5. Daya (compassion) is being sympathy. It means ‘suffering in the suffering of all beings’

6. Ksama (forbearance) is being patience, forgiveness or quietude.

7. Santatman (calmness of mind) is being peacefulness and surrender to the God. Accepting happy and pain equally or accepting victory and defeat equally.

8. Krodhahina (Devoid of fits of passion) mind and thoughts completely focuses on God.

9. Tapas (Austerities) fasting, wakefulness, and concentration (Patmury, 1994).

10. “Drohahina (free from malice) destroying all corrupting influences (Patmury, 1994)”.

According to Sivapurana (a legend of Siva), Upavasa (fasting the whole day) is the most important worship of deity Siva, and there is a special significance of the six essential items are used in the worship of Siva in the festival of Sivaratri puja.

1. Ritual bathing of Sivalinga with water, milk, honey, and bilva (wood apple) leaves.

2. The vermilion paste applied on the Sivalinga

3. Offering of fruits symbolizes long life and indulgence of desires.

4. Burning of incents sticks surrender the wealth.

5. The lighting of the lamp symbolizes attainment of knowledge

6. Offering of betel leaves marks satisfaction with worldly pleasures.

“The fasting and keeping vigilare symbolic of the control of the senses so that they may be restrained from wandering in search of deluding objects (Patmury, 1994)”. Keeping vigil also means waiting for the self-revelation of the Lord. It is also means that awaken from the darkness. Awake from the darkness is believed to be the attainment of self- realization (Atman).

Conclusion

Mahasivaratri unifies the many different life and experience in the life of Hindus, not only in the community but also in the relationship between God and worshippers. As we know, in the Hindu tradition, Brahmin worships the God representing the entire community of worshipers. Though, in the festival of Sivaratri all men and women gain permission to perform the ritual rites from the brahmins regardless of their class or caste system. It symbolizes that all human being are equal. Further, by undergoing preliminary purification rites of physical and spiritual purification with “holy water” and “sacred mantras” the relationship between god and devotees even become closer. Man became a giver and God become a receiver of devotees’ offerings, which open up the channels of power and mutual relatedness between God and Men. The channel between God and men blocked the selfish desire and false notation. Finally, the miserable forces of sin and guilt are destroyed by the production of auspicious forces.

The festival of Sivaratri begins with the grave vow and accomplishes with the prayers, request for compassion and thanks giving. Devotees of Siva believe that pure love of God is a way of achieving moksa (self-realization).

According to J.H.M. Yinger’s definition of religion, “Religion, then, can be defined as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with these ultimate problems of human life. It expresses their refusal to capitulate to death, to give up in the face of frustration, to allow hostility to tear apart their human association… the quality of view implies two things: first a belief that evil, pain, bewilderment and injustice are fundamental factors of existence; and second, a conviction that man can ultimately be saved from these facts (Patmury, 1994)”.

According to the Hindus believe, as a destroyer, deity Siva destroys the bad sins, and provide welfare for the worshipers who accomplish the vow of the Sivaratri; thus, devotees live more peaceful, more loving with giving and sharing. Therefore, celebrating the festival of Mahasivaratri helps human lives become more peaceful and joyful, and it leads to have a healthful life, which means festivals are not only the believes of particular society, they are the way of life to being part of the world.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Welbon, Guy and Yocum, Glenn (1982) Studies on Religion in South India and Sri Lanka, Volume 1: Religious festivals in South India and Sri Lanka. lucknow: Perm Printing Press.

Mukherji, A.C (1989) Hindu Fasts and feasts .New Dhelhi: India. Efficient offset Printers.

Thakur, Anita and Rao, Nalini (2000) Maha Sivaratri: A Study in South Asian Woman’s forum

Vanlaltlani, T and Patmury, Joseph (1994) Sivaratri: An Indian festival of Repentance. Doing theology with the festivals and customs of Asia, Singapore. pp 59-68

WEBSITES RELATED TO THE TOPIC

http://www.rudraksha-ratna.com/mahasivaratri.html

http://hinduismhome.com.shop/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=61

http://www.baps.org/festivals/Shivaratri/index.htm

http://www.dlshq.org/religions/shivaratri.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/maha_Shivaratri

http://www.mahashivratri.org/mahashivratri-festival.html

http://www.4to40.com/festivals/index.asp?id=71&celebrate=Linga_Purana

Written by Saga Perinpasivam (Spring 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

Trika Saivism

Trika Saivism is a sect that developed in Kashmir around 8th-9th century, but it is not certain that it had its origins there. Prior to the 8th century, Kashmir has been an important Buddhist cultural center. In this region, many Asian religions intersected and impacted each other over the years. Political expansion and cultural consolidation made Kashmir fertile for Saivism in the 8th and 9th century. Saivism in the area was reconsolidated and took two main directions: one led by Vasagupta, focusing on the “vibration” of Siva and his consciousness; and the other, led by Somananta dealing with the idea of “recognition”. These two traditions taken together are referred to as Trika. In the 10th and 11th centuries, right before Kashmir came under the influence of Muslims, Trika Saivism reached its peak under Abhinavagupta. (see Larson* 372-3)

As its name indicates, the god that is worshiped in this religious philosophy is Siva. Although Kashmir Saivism is often equated with the Trika School, there are actually several Siva schools that developed in Kashmir. (see Benard 372). Trika is a school of monistic idealism, which refers to Consciousness being the one and only reality. It teaches that one can find Siva’s omnipresence at the intersection between any two states of awareness, no matter how opposite they appear to be. The concept of Siva as Consciousness is a critique of Advaita Vedanta and other Vedic traditions. It draws from teachings from srutis such as the Bhairava Tantra [tantras on meditation], the Siva Sutras [also known as Mahesvara Sutras, revealed to Panini by Siva in his sleep; probably one of the most important texts of Kashmir Saivism] and Gitartha Samgraha [this translation of Bhagavat Gita helps explain its external meaning and the effects it has on the individual’s inner well-being]. The primary god in Trika Saivism is Paramasiva, which means “Supreme Auspiciousness”, which also has an active and creative

side, named Sakti. Siva, through his many functions, liberates polluted souls by making them pure and able to achieve moksa. (see Good 281).

Eastern sages focus on certain crucial functions of consciousness: sustenance, reabsorption, creation, concealment and revelation.Absolute Consciousness or Siva is interpreted as active and dynamic, rather than a passive and non-interfering entity, such as found in Buddhism or other philosophical systems. For instance, the positive outcome that Siva has on our consciousness and livelihood , contrasts with the concepts of “emptiness” and “illusion” found in Buddhist metaphysics. Kashmir Saivism expands on the two concepts of “vibration” and “recognition”. Siva resonates through all of our activities and we must eventually “recognize that our nature and the whole world is nothing else than the Absolute Consciousness or Siva(see Larson 259). Abhinavagupta taught that Absolute Consciousness or Siva is reflected in our every action and leads to a fuller and more concrete understanding of the meaning of our life. In context, the Advaita school uses language to move one towards a more abstract understanding of consciousness (see Larson* 383)

Vasagupta wrote out the Kashmiri philosophies a few centuries after Sankara formed his Advaita Vedanta school. Although both are non-dualist and similar at a first glance, after a closer examination we can find several key distinctions. Trika Saivism focuses on the Absolute as all encompassing beings (i.e, Siva), rather than on Brahman which is uncharacterizable. They also perceive everyday experiences as real, not as maya or illusion, as according to Advaita Vedanta. The textual authorities in Trika Saivism are the Saiva Agamas, not the triad of the Vedanta Sutras, the Upanisads and the Bhagavagita, like in the case of Sankara’s school. Because Kashmir Saivism is a non-dualist school, they focus more on internalized contemplation and not as much on external dsplays of devotion (see Davis 425).

The founder of Trika Saivism was Vasugupta and the most influential teacher was Abhinavagupta whose writings include the Tantraloka. These were only some of the sages who developed the “Philosophy of Recognition”, also known as the Pratyabhijna Darsana. They perceive Siva not as the destroyer god, as he is known by most people, but as a presence that is within all of us and in everything we do. According to Abhinavagupta, the main reason for human suffering is our own ignorance, which is not an “illusion” as it is understood in Buddhism and Vedanta teachings. Trika Saivas refer to ignorance as incomplete knowledge. We need to expand our consciousness to understand the cause for our ignorance in order to surpass it. Once a person gains insight and is one with Siva, only then can he or she achieve moksa, or ultimate liberation. This is liberation not only from the world, but also from one’s own limited nature, freeing one to reflect the intentions of Siva through their own actions. In order to gain universal knowledge and leave behind one’s selfish nature, Abhinavagupta offers four paths together with certain tantric rituals that accompany these(see Wulff 675-6).

The Tantraloka expands on all three branches of non-dual Kashmir Saivism: Agama, Spanda and Pratyabhijna, but in a synthesized form. Although Vasagupta played the key role in developing the basic tenents of Trika, his follower, Abhinavagupta is generally recognized as the more influential figure in Kashmir Saivism. Though centuries of development, the non-dualist Kashmir Saivism increasingly focused on Siva, rather than all the other deities in the Hindu pantheon. Research does not uncover a linear progression of Siva groups, making it difficult to trace their historical development.

There have been no rituals or traditions found in any form of text left behind from these Saiviste groups. The only inscriptions left behind have been the ones on temples or the Siva symbol itself, seen as a influential and frightful figure.

Although it rejected the world view of other influential traditions at the time, such as Buddhism, for example, Trika still incorporated some aspects into its rituals or beliefs. Many of the texts that they drew their concepts from were dualistic, so Trika reinterpreted them in a non-dualistic manner and then incorporated them into Saivism.

In Kashmir, there was more than one form of Saivism. Among these were: Trika, Kula and Krama. Trika and Kaula are Siva-oriented, whereas Krama is Sakti oriented. Kula and Krama are both tantric systems giving them a mystical aspect and making Saivism be understood as monistic. To them the subject of reality relative, hence taking a dualistic or non-dualistic stance is irrelevant. Kula and Trika seek immediate self-realization which make it harder to achieve, according to Krama supporters.

Trika Saivism originally was a cremation cult, with monistic basis which appealed to the Brahmans and they reinterpreted it in a non-dualistic way according to Hindu main traditions.


REFERENCES

Davis, Richard (1990) The Doctrine of Vibration: An Analysis of the Doctrines and Practices of Kashmir Shaivism”. History of Religion

Good, Anthony (2002) “Congealing Divinity: Time, Worship and Kinship in Souoth Indian Hinduism”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Larson, Gerald James (1976) “The Aesthetic (Rasasvada) and the Religious ( Brahmasvada) in Abhinavagupta’s Kashmir Saivism”. Philosophy East and West

Larson, Gerald James(1997) “Kashmir Saivism: The Central Philosophy of Tantrism”. Philosophy East and West.

Wulff, Donna M. (1986) “Religion in a New Mode: The Convergence of the Aesthetic and the Religious in Medieval India”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

Related Topics for Further Investigation:

Advaita school

Sankara

Bhairava Tantras

Somananta

Abhinavagupta

Websites related to topic

http://www.lorinroche.com/page13/page13.html

http://www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/IDD714/

Written by Ana Mosoi (Spring 2008) who is solely responsible for its content

Skanda (The God of War)

Skanda (Karttikeya), 5th century, Gupta Period (Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi)
Skanda (Karttikeya), 5th century, Gupta Period (Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi)

Also known as Kumara, Subrahmanya, and Murukan, Skanda “has been hunter, warrior, philosopher… He is teacher… He is the eternal child as old as time itself” (Clothey 2005b:1). Obeyesekere writes that Skanda is viewed as possessed of having six faces, twelve arms, and riding a peacock (382). Throughout Skanda’s history, he has been worshipped for several different reasons. He has been worshipped “as a god of hill and hunt… and avenger of ananku and cur, malevolent spirits of the hills” (Clothey 2005a:6240). During the Cankami period of Tamil India “Murukan was known … as the lord of the hunt” (Clothey 2005b:36). According to Clothey, he has also been worshiped in South India as the son of Siva (Clothey 2005a:6240). Through this several other deities related to vegetation and hunting embodied the name Murukan (Clothey 2005b:36). Clothey also writes that the name Murukan has become commercialized with an array of different industries using his name, for songs and films (Clothey 2005b:1).

Kartikeya

Skanda’s origin comes from several different epics, most prominently from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The story of Skanda in the Mahabharata is quite long and can be summarized as follows. Indra, god of lightning and thunder and general of the devas, rescued a damsel named Devasena, who wanted a husband that could protect her. Indra felt the Agni, god of fire, had the ability to generate a son suitable to be Devasena’s husband. Agni went to Brahma, the creator god, for his help. While with Brahma and through the aid of seven rsis, seers, thought to compose the Vedas, Agni fell in love with the rsis wives. Svaha, a nymph, loved Agni. She tricked him by assuming the form of six of the rsis wives. After each session of intercourse with Agni, Svaha turned into a garuda bird and carried his semen to Mt. Sveta, where she deposited it into a golden pot, in a place covered with sara reeds. Kumara (Skanda) was born and was strong enough for battle within six days. The gods fearing Kumara would become more powerful than Indra, enticed Indra to slay him. Indra, trying to slay Kumara with his vajra [thunderbolt], managed to only cut off a portion of Kumara’s right side. Through this side of Kumara, Visakha was born bearing a sakti [lance], which causes Indra to surrender. The gods are pleased with how fearless Kumara was. Through the same piece of Kumara that Visakha was born, several more children were then born coming forth to serve Skanda’s army (Clothey 2005b:51-53).

Clothey writes that “Skanda thus comes to be known as a father, and persons wishing children are exhorted to worship him” (Clothey 2005b:52). The story continues with Skanda declaring Svaha to be his mother, and with Brahma’s advice, identifies Rudra “the howler” as his father. Rudra along with Indra, Varuna, the god of the heavens and water, and Yama, the god of death, come to welcome Kumara in a procession. As Kumara is leaving a Deva – Asura, god and demon, battle begins. Mahisa, the chief of the Asuras was causing the Devas to flee, and is about to crush Rudra’s chariot when Kumara comes to his aid and kills Mahisa with his sakti. This story also shows events in a span of Skanda’s life. He is conceived on the first day, visible on the second day, takes form of a child on third day, grows limbs and becomes the general of the army on the fourth day. He bears Siva’s bow, and is regarded by the devas as the one to save their cosmos on the fourth day, and he takes his emblems of war on the sixth day (Clothey 2005b:51-53). This is one account of the origin of Skanda. The author Vyasa, is represented to be the composer of the Mahabharata.

Another foundation of Skanda’s beginning comes from Valmiki’s Ramayana. Valmiki tells the story to Rama and Laksmana, two young princes. His telling of the story encourages the young princes to heroic aspirations (Clothey 2005b:53). The summary of the story is as follows. Rudra marries Uma, daughter of Mt. Himavat. One hundred years pass and no son is born to them. The devas like it this way, and fearing that a son born to Rudra would be more powerful then them, they plead with Rudra to not have a son. Rudra’s seed however remains on the ground. Dhara, the earth, can bear his sons. Because of this, the devas ask Agni and Vayu, the wind god, to enter Rudra’s seed. Through Rudra’s seed Mt. Sveta is created, and on Mt. Sveta, in the forest, Kumara is born (Clothey 2005b:53-54).

A variation to the story above, also in the Ramayana, begins with Rudra retiring as the general of the army. With no one left to lead, Brahma asks Agni to give his seed, along with the waters of the Ganga River to Uma to bear a son. Unable to contain the power of the waters a flood of golden seed escapes from Uma. This golden flood turns everything in its path into gold. In a golden forest Kumara is born (Clothey 2005b:53-54).

The Ramayana epic also tells how those who worship Skanda will “attain long life, happiness in the family, and ultimate union with the god” (Clothey 2005b:54). How Skanda received some of his names is also recorded in this epic. One of his names Gangeya was given to him because he came from the Ganges water. He gets the name Karttikeya because he was raised by the Krttikas (Clothey 2005b:54).

One of the books of the Mahabharata depicts who Skanda would embrace as a father. Vyasa writes that Rudra, Parvati, she of the mountain, Agni, and Ganga each claim to be Skanda’s parent. In order to embrace all these gods Skanda assumes four forms: Sakha, Visakha, Naigamaya and Skanda. Sakha embraces Ganga, Naigamaya to Agni, Visakha to Parvati, and Skanda to Rudra. The devas give Skanda gifts. He receives a dart and banner from Indra, an army of 30,000 warriors from Siva, a cloth from Uma, a garland from Visnu, along with several other gifts from other gods (Clothey 2005b:55). These accounts of Skanda in the epics are but a few of the rich and varied myths telling of Skanda origins.

The worshipers of Skanda in Tamil India celebrate a festival in October or November called Skanda-Sasti. It is celebrated for seven days reenacting the six day cycle of the gods vocation. Sasti is the sixth day of the lunar cycle, representing the sixth day of the god. Sasti is also important because according to the myth of Skanda, he is born on the night of a new moon. Sasti is also the name of Skanda’s wife. She is known “as the giver of lingering (yapya) disease” (Clothey 2005a:242). Clothey writes that the event takes place through “rhythmical patterns” (Clothey 2005a:242). Some of these patterns are repeated daily. Priests preside over each ritual on each day of worship. One such ritual is the lighting of oil lamps. These lamps represents the “the emergence of the god and the cosmos from primordial darkness” (Clothey 2005a:244). Another daily ritual is the reciting of Skanda’s 1,008 different names. Reciting his names reenacts the words that were uttered at the beginning, thus bringing the divinity of Skanda into current time. One of the high points in the festival is the ornamenting the sacred symbol of Skanda. This is known as vastram. The next step is adorning the symbol. This can be done through offerings of song, holy ash or vermillion. These rhythmical steps occur once to twice a day during the Skanda-Sasti festival.

Skanda is the most popular deity in Tamil Nadu , a state in South India. “Three of the six busiest and wealthiest temples in Tamil Nadu are dedicated to Murukan” (Clothey 2005b:1). Gananath Obeyesekere conducted research in Tamil Nadu which shows that the Skanda deity is the most popular in that area. He found that a total of 1,956 of 2,670 worshipers went to the Skanda shrines over the next three most popular shrines (Obeyesekere 379). Obeyesekere’s research also shows that “for every one person visiting the Visnu and Pattini shrines there are five and six persons respectively, visiting the Skanda shrine” in Tamil India (Obeyesekere 379). His research shows that the popularity of Skanda has been on the rise, and continues to rise.

References and Further Recommended Readings

Clothey, Fred (1969) Skanda-Sasti: a Festival in Tamil India. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Obeyesekere, Gananath (1977) Social Change and the Deities: Rise of the Kataragama Cult in Modern Sri Lanka. London: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

Clothey, Fred (1987 and 2005a) Murukan. Detroit, Macmillan Reference USA

Clothey, Fred (2005b) The Many Faces of Murukan. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.

Related Research topics for Further Investigation

Agni

Mahisa

Skanda-Sasti

Indra

Uma

Rudra

Mahabharata

Ramayana

Varuna

Vayu

Yama

Websites Related to the Topic

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murukan

http://www.murugan.org/

http://www.highgatehillmurugan.org/

http://www.dlshq.org/download/shanmukha.htm

http://kataragama.org/

http://www.kaumaram.com/contents.html

http://www.palanitemples.com/

Written by Matt Marchesin (Spring 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

Ganesa (Myths on his Elephant Head)

Ganesa, also known as Ganapati, is the infamous elephant headed deity that is worshipped throughout the Hindu religion. The worship of Ganesa extends from outside of the temple into the household, where he is a substantial figure (see Chennakesavan 94). Along with his one tusked elephant head is his short, chubby, childlike body with four arms, which all add to his distinct and popular appearance. His life and character are established within the Puranas and are dated back as far as 300 C.E (Brown 2). Ganesa’s head is his most well known feature, with numerous stories on how it came to be, and what it represents. It is noted that Ganesa’s head represents atman and his body represents maya which signifies the existence of human beings (Canadian Press).There are Puranic stories that declare he was born with his elephant head.However, that would defeat the purpose of the many myths explaining how he obtained his head.Along with those myths are others on why an elephant head was chosen.It is the numerous possibilities that add to Ganesa’s maturing cult.The most famous stories of where his head came from deal with: birth, doorstep guarding, battle, laughter and gloating.

The most well known myth is a story from the Siva Purana.It begins with Parvati wanting a son, but Siva not wanting to have one with her because of his asceticism.So Parvati created herself a son by rubbing scented oil mixed with powder all over her body. Then Ganesa appeared.Once Ganesa was born, Parvati used him as a doorkeeper while she was bathing and instructed him not to let anyone in the house.When her husband Siva came home and saw a mysterious little boy guarding his house refusing to let him, he engaged Ganesa in a fight and decapitated him.When Parvati came outside after her bath and saw her son lying on the ground headless, she was furious with Siva. She then informed Siva that he was their son.After Siva had realized what he had done, he promised Parvati he would find a new head for Ganesa from the first thing that came by – which so happened to be an elephant.He then decapitated the elephant and attached the head to the lifeless body of their son and brought him back to life (Brown 76-77).The myth where Ganesa is decapitated by Siva is the most widely-told version of how he came to acquire his unique elephant head (Brown 3).

There are many myths of why an elephant head was chosen over many other possibilities. There is also speculation of which elephant head it was that was given to Siva and Parvati’s son. Some speculate that the head is from Indra’s elephant, Airavata. In other versions there was an elephant that had just finished copulating as well as an elephant that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (Brown 77).The elephant is viewed as a wise animal with a remarkable memory.They are also known to have loyal and trustworthy attributes (Chennakesavan 95).It is believed that by choosing the elephant head for Ganesa, he would be associated with such dignified traits. These qualities would add to his popularity.

Another myth closely related to the first one outlined, is Siva decapitating Ganesa in a battle.The difference in this myth from the previous one is that this time Ganesa is not guarding his mother’s doorstep.Instead, he is riding around on his elephant.After Siva has decapitated Ganesa and his elephant in a gruelling battle, Parvati comes outside and notices what just took place.She informs him that he has killed her son, and asks Siva to bring Ganesa back to life.Siva does so by placing the head of Ganesa’s elephant on his body (see Brown 77).Like the previous myth Siva is unaware that Ganesa is Parvati’s son because he was created without a husband – vinayaka (see Brown 75).

Contrary to Siva’s asceticism in the previous myths, Siva and Parvati found themselves making love to try to conceive a child of their own.Parvati wanted to have a son who would be the spitting image of Krsna.While the two were in the middle of intercourse, Visnu appears as a beggar, interrupts their moment and then vanishes.It is at this moment Siva spills his semen all over the bed, and it does not go inside Parvati.Then Visnu reappears and mixes himself amidst Siva’s sperm. He then becomes a baby boy – who turns out to be Ganesa (Brown 76).Ganesa was born with the head of a human, and although it is not stated in this myth how his head came to be, there are many more stories on how he may have obtained it.For instance, after Ganesa was born, Parvati may have taken him to other Gods to show him off.A God like Sani.

The most interesting myth is the story of Parvati wanting to show off her son to Sani.Parvati was unaware that Sani was cursed with a medusa-like stare.She insisted that he should take a look at her beautiful new baby boy.Sani’s curse consisted of reducing anything to ashes that he lays his eyes upon. Since he knew what would happen he tried to resist looking at Ganesa in order to protect the beautiful baby.After much encouragement from Parvati to look at the child, Sani did so timidly with one eye open in hopes of not harming the baby.Ganesa’s head was then reduced to ashes.As Parvati stood there in awe, Visnu flew off to the northwest mountains and found two elephants that had just finished copulating.He cut off the head of one of the elephants and brought it back to Parvati where it was placed it on Ganesa’s body (Grimes 70).

In another version, Siva creates his son Ganesa by his own uncontrollable laughter. After a while Siva becomes jealous of his son and is afraid that he might woo all the ladies. Siva is also worried that he might win Parvati’s heart as well. Once he sees that Parvati is falling in love with Ganesa, he places a curse on him (Grimes 70). Siva’s curse ensures that Ganesa would be unattractive to women, making it easier for Siva not to be jealous, and for Parvati’s heart to remain only to him. Ganesa then becomes elephant headed, grows a chubby belly and has to wear a necklace of disgusting serpents from his neck. It was not for long that Siva was able to prevent Ganesa from being near the ladies. When Ganesa grew older, he wound up marrying Prajapati’s daughters – Buddhi/Rddhi and Siddhi (see Brown 115-119).

Ganesa Statue (7-8th century), Cham Museum of Sculpture, Danang, Vietnam

Within the Skanda Purana there is a very unusual story on how Ganesa’s head was obtained. It begins by Ganesa’s embodiment of a headless child who is speaking with a sage, Narada. This conversation is from the book Ganapati: Song of the Self by John Grimes; it can be found on page seventy.

Narada begins by telling Ganesa “If you have taken this incarnation in order to reveal righteousness, then quickly reveal to all the head that destroys sorrow; and bring joy to the hearts of all Gods.” Ganesa replies to the sage by reminding him of a blessing that he had given to King Mahesa ‘Your liberation will come through birth in the womb of an elephant, accomplished by Siva’s hand’. Ganesa then goes on to say “all this has now come to pass and this one in the womb has a lovely head, honoured by Siva. And he is the one whose head will complete my incarnation”.

After this conversation had taken place, Ganesa informed Narada of how he became headless.He began by explaining when he was in Parvati’s womb the demon Sindura changed to the form of a breeze, entered her womb, and cut off his head.This event happened in the eight month of his natal life.Ganesa then carries on telling Narada that Mahesa has an elephant head and that he is going to kill him.It was when Mahesa was killed that Ganesa acquired his elephant head (see Grimes 70).

There are many stories on how Ganesa was born, how he lost his head and then where his new head came from.There is also much speculation on why an elephant was chosen over many other things in the world, including the head of another person. The uncertainty of one profound myth being the reason for his head adds to Ganesa’s character.It is these exciting stories that make Ganesa so popular with the Hindus.Ganesa will remain one of the most loved and worshipped household deities within the Hindu religion.

REFERENCES & RECOMMENDED READINGS

Brown, Robert L (1991) Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God. Albany: State University of New York

Bühnemann, A (2003) The Worship of Mahaganapati. Kant Publications

Canadian Press Newswire (2004) Hindus around the world are getting ready to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of the god of success. Canadian Press Toronto

<www.proquest.umi.com.darius.uleth.ca> ID# 701269181>

Chennakesavan, S (1980) A Critical Study of Hinduism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass

Courtright, Paul (1985) Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. New York: Oxford University Press

Dhavalikar, MK (1991) Ganesa: Myth and Reality. Albany: State University of New York Press

Getty Alice (1936) Ganesa: A Monograph on the Elephant-Faced God. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Getty, Alice (1988) The Gods of Northern Buddhism: Their History and Iconography. Dover Publications

Grimes, John (1995) Ganapati: Song of the Self. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Krishan, Yuvrai (1996) Is the Fight Between Siva and Ganesa an Episode of Oedipal Conflict? Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan

Pathak, A (1998) Ganesa Birth Story: Pain Led on Orissan Doors. New Delhi: Ramanand Vidva Rhawan

Related Topics


Airavata

Buddhi

Ganapati

Indra

Krsna

Mahesa

Narada

Parvati

Prakrti

Puranas

Rddhi

Sani

Siddhi

Siva

Siva Purana

Skanda Purana

Vijnesvara

Vinayaka

Visnu


Related Websites to this Topic

http://www.exoticindiaart.com/ganesha.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganesh

http://www.msu.edu/user/grimesj/ganesha.html

http://hinduism.about.com/library/weekly/aa083000a.htm

http://www.sanatansociety.org/hindu_gods_and_goddesses/ganesha.htm

http://www.indiaprofile.com/religion-culture/ganesha.htm

Written by Jessica Thiedemann (Spring 2006), who is solely responsible for its content.