Category Archives: f. Worship Rituals and Festivals

Siva Nataraja Bronzes (Origins)

Shiva (Siva) Nataraja: Re-examining the Origins of Nataraja Bronzes

Bronze masterpiece of Siva Nataraja (King of the Dance). 11th century CE, Government Museum, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

One of the most recognizable Hindu icons, both inside and outside India, is the standardized depiction of Shiva Nataraja (Shiva king of dance) seen in places as far apart as Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu and the CERN nuclear research center in Geneva, Switzerland. This particular standardization of Shiva Nataraja seems to have arisen under the rule of the Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi, as the first fully three dimensional stone carvings in this style appeared during her reign, though questions have been raised about earlier origins (Srinivasan, 434). This standardized form is distinctive and easily recognizable in several ways. First, this particular style of Shiva Nataraja is distinct from not only depictions of other deities, but also other depictions of Shiva as cosmic dancer, by the raised left leg held high across the body at the level of the hip with the foot at knee level (Srinivasan, 433). The supporting right leg, and indeed all the limbs save the lower left arm, are deeply bent giving an appearance of movement paused in a single frame (Kaimal, 392-3). Though held straight, the left arm does faintly bend at the wrist and the hand is held in a relaxed gesture known as gajahasta or “elephant hand” (Kaimal, 393). His lower right hand is held, just above the wrist of the lower left, in abhayamudra, a gesture of fearlessness seen frequently in Indian and Indian-influenced art (Kaimal, 393). The two upper arms hold a damaru drum (right) and a flame (left) (Srinivasan, 433). The foot of the supporting right leg rests on a dwaf, Apasmara, the demon of ignorance (Srinivasan, 433). Finally, in the bronzes, though not in the stone depictions commissioned by queen Sembiyan Mahadevi, Shiva is surrounded by a ring of flames (Srinivasan, 433). The popularity of this image has far outlasted the Chola dynasty, and inspired many speculative interpretations of the iconography present.

Detail of a Siva Nataraja or Natesa (Lord of the Dance) image, with his four arms holding the drum and fire, and displaying the fear-not (abhaya) mudra and the gajahasta (elephant hand) mudra.

Origin of the Image

It is generally accepted that the style of bronze Nataraja we see today originated, or at least rose to prominence, during the reign of queen Sembiyan Mahadevi of the Chola dynasty during the tenth century (Dehejia, 209). Mahadevi was a great patroness of the arts, she commissioned numerous pieces of art and even engaged in the refurbishment of several brick temples, rebuilding them in stone (Dehejia, 209). Mahadevi made the job of archeologists in our own time somewhat easier by re-inscribing previous information about donations and patrons in the temples she refurbished, providing a rich historical record (Dehejia, 209). Notable in regard to the Nataraja image is that it seems to have appeared first in bronzes and stone carvings during her refurbishments (Dehejia, 209). While the similarity of these Nataraja images to present depictions in this style is undeniable, the peculiar raised foot and four armed form being present, doubts have been raised recently about a definitively Chola origin (Srinivasan, 432).

There are certainly examples of images and sculptures which could have contributed to the present Nataraja image exemplified at sites like Chidambaram and CERN, so a pre-Chola origin is not out of the question. One of the earliest possible ancestors of the Chola-era Nataraja is a stone figure from the Harappan civilization, which shares the raised leg posture with the Chola-Nataraja (Dehejia, 32). Granted, a single oddity from a civilization that died thousands of years before the Chola rose is a tenuous connection at best, but Srinivasan points to numerous other examples which may indicate a continuous line of artistic evolution culminating in the Nataraja images we see today.

One of Srinivasan’s suggested precursors is a Satavahana statue, of Shiva as Lakulisa the ascetic, from Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India, the statue is dated to around the first or second century B.C.E. (Srinivasan, 434). What is remarkable about this statue is that, already as early as the first or second century B.C.E., we see the theme of Shiva trampling a dwarf which appears not only in Chola-era Nataraja images but in Pallava depictions as well (Srinivasan, 434).

The Pallava dynasty, in fact, is where Srinivasan asserts that the image of Shiva Nataraja we are familiar with today rose to prominence. Prior to the Chola overthrow of their dynasty around 850 C.E., the Pallavas ruled in the Tamil regions of south India from about 550 C.E., themselves having risen from the older Andhra dynasty (Srinivasan, 434-5). When the Pallava king Mahendravarman Pallavan converted from Jainism to Shaivism a burst of Hindu art in stone was produced (Srinivasan, 435). We can surmise that these stone icons were probably a distinctly Pallava innovation in the Tamil region by inscriptions at Mamallapuram praising Mahendravarman for building in “neither brick, nor timber, nor mortar.” (Srinivasan, 435).

What is interesting about these Pallavan stone icons is that the depictions of Nataraja among them show the four-armed Shiva with the raised leg and dwarf, of which there are no prior examples outside the Tamil region in stone or metal (Srinivasan, 435). Examples of Shiva Nataraja from outside the Pallava-controlled Tamil region show Shiva in the chatura tandava posture with both feet touching the ground and knees splayed outward, as opposed to the bhujangatrasita karana posture in which one leg is raised at hip level across the body which we see in the Chola bronzes (Srinivasan, 435). In addition, the dwarf is not present in any of these chatura tandava examples (srinivasan, 435). The number of arms also differs from the four-armed depictions seen in the Pallava and Chola examples, we see eight arms in Gupta examples from the Sirpur region of central India dating to the fifth century, and sixteen arms in a Chalukyan example from Badami in south-west India dated to the sixth century (Srinivasan, 435).

The earliest clear approximation of the Chola style Nataraja we see is on a Pallava pilaster from a cave temple at Siyamangalam, dated to the seventh century (Srinivasan, 436). This icon stands in the bhujangatrasita karana posture, although with the right leg raised, his lower right hand is in abhaya mudra with his upper right hand holding a lamp or bowl with a flame (Srinivasan, 435-6). This statue does differ additionally from the Chola examples in that its lower left arm extends out away from the body rather than across the body, though it retains the gajahasta gesture (Srinivasan, 435-6). Furthermore, the upper left hand holds an ax and the dwarf is not present under the foot of the supporting leg (Srinivasan, 435-6). This is paralleled in an eighth century cave painting from Ellora in Maharashtra, attributed to the Rashtrakuta dynasty, as well another Pallava stone icon in the Tirukkadaimudi Mahadeva temple in Tirucchinampundi (Srinivasan, 436).

While evidence seems to suggest that, in the cave temples constructed by Mahendravarman stucco and wood images are most likely to have been the norm, a seventh century verse by the poet Appar mentions Shiva’s “sweet golden foot raised in dance”, so we can not rule out bronze processional icons (Srinivasan, 436). In addition, the mention of Shiva holding a drum in the image worshipped at Tillai (now Chidambaram) from the same seventh century verses by Appar seems to indicate that this aspect of the standardized Nataraja icon was already incorporated during the Pallava dynasty (Srinivasan, 436).

Hindu bronzes have not often been attributed to the Pallavas, due largely to a lack of inscriptions on the bronzes themselves, however there is no definite way to date solid metal artifacts with any known method (Srinivasan, 436-8). What we can do, however, is group metal artifacts by shared ore sources based on lead isotope content (Srinivasan, 437). There are some metal artifacts which have been attributed to the Pallavas, for instance a bronze of Shiva dancing in the urdhvajanu pose found in Kuram (Srinivasan, 440). This bronze is attributable to the Pallavas in part because of the forward facing dwarf, as opposed to the sideways facing dwarf in the Chola Natarajas, in addition it shares a metallurgical profile with other artifacts from the reign of Paramesvaravarman Pallavan I (Srinivasan, 440).

This Pallava metallugical profile becomes interesting in regard to two Nataraja bronzes previously attributed to the Chola dynasty, which share the lead isotope content of the Pallava bronzes and the left legged bhujangatrasita karana posture and four armed form of the Chola bronzes, with the hands of each arm bearing the same gestures and implements (Srinivasan, 440). The first, from Kunniyur, differs from Chola images in that it lacks the flying locks of hair found in the Chola bronzes, though the ring of fire is surprisingly present, a date around 850 C.E. is suggested (Srinivasan, 440-1). The second, a small bronze from the British Museum, differs in several ways; the raised leg does not cross the body, the dwarf faces forward, and both the flying locks and circle of flame are not present (Srinivasan, 440-1). This second bronze has been dated to around 800 C.E., making it the oldest known Pallava bronze of Shiva Nataraja (Srinivasana, 440-1). This may indicate that the ring of flame was the latest addition to the Nataraja icon.

It may be that these two Pallava images show an evolution from wood carvings of Shiva Nataraja due to their compactness and lack of flowing locks, both indicative of the limits of wood’s tensile strength, we see these same limits in modern wood carvings of Nataraja (Srinivasan, 440). This may explain the increasingly flared out and circular nature of the icon in Chola times as the tensile strength of bronze was understood to allow for these stylistic changes.

These issues of tensile strength may also indicate that properly three dimensional stone carvings of this style of Nataraja came later than the bronzes and were, in fact, modelled on pre-existing bronzes. We see the emergence of three dimensional stone Natarajas in this style during the reign of Sembiyan Mahadevi, and these images bear the signs of a struggle to represent the style found in the bronzes in a medium with lesser tensile strength (Srinivasan, 441). For instance, in the stone Nataraja from Manavalesvarar temple at Tiruvelvikudi, we see a strut disguised as clothing supporting the lifted leg and crossed left arm to allow for a more expansive image which would make more sense in a bronze casting (Srinivasan, 441-2). The lifted leg of an eleventh century Chola sculpture at the Gangaikondachalapuram temple is propped up by a rough basal strut, while in several other examples the lifted leg is completely broken off (Srinivasan, 442). These struts may even have been inspired by the runners which facilitate lost-wax casting, though they are usually removed from the finished product (Srinivasan, 442). All of this seems to indicate that the style of Nataraja statue attributed to the Chola dynasty was already well developed as such, and likely in bronze, during the Pallava dynasty.

Iconographic Interpretation

An influential, and enduring, interpretation of the Nataraja icon was offered close to one hundred years ago by Ananda Coomaraswamy in “the Dance of Shiva” (Kaimal, 390). While Coomaraswamy’s interpretation is certainly compelling, and likely responsible for the popularity of the Nataraja icon in the west and its interpretation by Western scholars for the last hundred or so years, there is some reason to doubt its accuracy in reflecting the way that the Pallavas and Cholas interpreted this icon when they developed it (Kaimal, 391). Kaimal offers three fairly compelling reasons for questioning Coomaraswamy’s interpretation. First, the question of if it is even possible to properly recover the original meaning of these objects, given the fragmentary evidence from medieval India (Kaimal, 391). Second, Kaimal questions whether a single interpretation is sufficient, noting that objects of art take on different meanings during different times and in fact live multiple symbolic ‘lives’ (Kaimal, 391). Finally, Kaimal draws attention to the fact that Coomaraswamy based his interpretation on texts written several centuries after this style of Nataraja rose to prominence (Kaimal, 391). On this last point, Kaimal also reminds us that there is no simple equivalence between text and sculpture, both mediums have their own “spheres of eloquence” which do not always overlap entirely (Kaimal, 391).

Kaimal is cautious not to completely reject Coomaraswamy’s interpretation however, as it does reflect the significance of the icon to devotees in the thirteenth century and later (Kaimal, 392). While elements of the thirteenth century interpretation could have, and in all likelihood did, derive from earlier interpretations, Kaimal offers three different interpretations which may reflect the meaning of this icon for devotees in the tenth century and possibly earlier (Kaimal, 392). The first interpretation, that Nataraja was used as a kind of emblem of the Chola dynasty is certainly compelling and well argued by Kaimal. Though, while it could serve as the subject of a book in its own right, this interpretation does not tell us much about the symbols within the icon or their origin, which are the primary foci of this paper.

Kaimal’s second interpretation deals with the origin, or synthesis, of this Nataraja icon in Chidambaram (previously Tillai). When Appar wrote about Tillai in the seventh century, it was already an ancient and well established center of many sects, including sects devoted to Vinshnu and the goddess (Kaimal, 391). Kaimal points to earlier interpretations of Nataraja from Tillai which see the tandavam as a dance much more associated with Shiva’s destructive aspects than with the lofty philosophical interpretation of Coomaraswamy (Kaimal, 401).

Many of the less obvious symbols built into the Tamil Nataraja sculptures do indeed point to an association with the destructive aspects of the creative cycle, and many of these symbols appear on depictions of other wrathful aspects of Shiva all over India (Kaimal, 401). For instance, the skull often present in the hair of Nataraja icons and the serpents which encircle his limbs often receive special emphasis in images of Shiva’s destructive aspects, such as the ‘enraged’ face on the giant three-faced Shiva at Elephanta (Kaimal, 402). These often indicate Shiva as Aghora, associated with cremation grounds and destructive ecstasy, as well as drawing an association with similarly adorned goddesses such as Kali, Chamunda, and Nishumbhasudani (Kaimal, 401). These wrathful goddesses also share the characteristics of deeply bent supporting legs and multiple arms splaying out in an explosive and energetic fashion (Kaimal, 402). That these symbols were present in earlier forms of Shiva and other gods/goddesses may indicate that they were redeployed to allow this icon to participate in a symbolic conversation which was already ongoing, and this interpretation would fit nicely with a gradual evolution of the form from the Pallava dynasty through the Chola standardization (Kaimal, 404).

The association with goddesses is interesting in regard to another possible origin of the icon. One of the origin myths laid down in the Chidambaramahatmya, a tenth century text reflecting the Sanskritization of the Tamil cult at Tillai into a pan-Indic cult, tells of a dance competition in which the goddess already resident at Tillai, Tillai Amman, resented Shiva’s encroachment and challenged him to a dance competition (Kaimal, 407). Shiva won the competition by taking a raised leg posture, which modesty prevented the virginal goddess from copying (Kaimal, 407). This loss split the goddess in two, the wrathful virginal aspect retreated to a shrine outside the temple walls, while her benign aspect became Shiva’s wife and remained in the temple where her worship continued. This may reflect an earlier tradition being replaced by, or syncretized into, a more pan-Indic cult rooted in Upanishadic Hinduism rather than the local Tamil culture. This Sanskritization of a local cult may reflect political or social changes brought about as a result of empires growing larger and larger which had to unify disparate belief systems without abolishing them.

Another myth, also presented in the Chidambaramahatmya support the hypothesis that symbols present in the Nataraja icon derive from earlier cults which where absorbed in, and Sanskritized by, the Nataraja cult. The “Pine Forest myth” relates the story of Shiva visiting several sages who were living in a pine forest to punish them for their devotional inadequacies (Kaimal, 406). Shiva arrives in the form of a nude and mirthful ascetic, Bhikshatana, who was sexually irresistible to the wives of the sages, he was accompanied by Vishnu in his female form, Mohini, who proved distracting to the sages themselves (Kaimal, 406). When the sages realized their humiliation they became infuriated and attacked Shiva with various objects which he incorporated into his dance (Kaimal, 406). After incorporating the objects hurled at him by the sages, Shiva’s dance intensified until it encompassed all of creation (Kaimal, 406). As the sages saw this dance they became enlightened by the cosmic proportions of Shiva’s true form and instituted the worship of Shiva in an aniconic form as the linga, which we see carried on at Chidambaram today (Kaimal, 406).

It is the particular items thrown at Shiva, and their incorporation into his dance, which interest us here. The items were: a skull, which Shiva wears in his hair; serpents, which adorn Shiva’s limbs and hair; a dwarf, which he tramples underfoot; a tiger, to which are attributed the shredded appearance of Shiva’s flowing garment; and the fire and drum which we see in Shiva’s two upper arms as well as the flaming ring within which he dances (Kaimal, 406). It certainly is not out of the question to see this legend as a possible reference to earlier Tamil cults, represented by the items, being displaced by and absorbed into the cult of Shiva as a pan-Indic god. This interpretation would further support the idea of a unification of disparate local cults as the empire grew to incorporate, and accommodate, more cultural groups. This is by no means the last word on the origins of the Nataraja icon, but it may indicate that a reappraisal is in order.

Works Cited

Dehejia, Vidya. Indian Art. Phaidon, 2011, London.

Kaimal, Padma. “Shiva Nataraja: Shifting Meanings of an Icon” in The Art Bulletin, 81, 3. College Art Association, 2009, New York.

Srinivasan, Sharada. “Cosmic Dancer: On Pallava Origins for the Nataraja Bronze” in World Archaeology, Vol. 36, No. 3. Taylor & Francis, 2004, Abingdon.

Article written by Logan Page (Dec. 2018), who is solely responsible for its content.

Abhiseka/Abhisheka (Consecration)

Abhisheka (Abhiseka) means the ritual arts of consecration (Rodrigues 345). The term Abhisheka occurs many times in the Atharva Veda and not in the Rig Veda or Sama Veda. It is a ceremonial anointing, sprinkling, and baptizing of a person (Kapoor 3), and may be performed during religious practices such as puja.  It is also performed on daily basis at houses or during visits to the temple. The Agamas Shastras gives the basis and method of how this rite should be completed.  In this scripture, there are steps given how rituals such as Abhisheka should be performed.

The Abhisheka ceremony is a bath or sprinkling of water. It is the procedure of giving a ceremonial bath to a king during his coronation (Murdhabhiseka), to a Tantrik devotee during the several stages of his initiation (Saktabhiseka, Mahabhiseka), or to an icon (Bimbabhiseka) (Ramachandra Rao 52).   There are very little data shown of this practice performed by common maharajas or kings.  The Kausika Sutra of the Atharva Veda distinguishes the Abhisheka of a simple king (Ekaraja) from that of a higher (Varsiyas) (Kapoor 4).  Many details about the performance of Abhisheka is taken from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Agni-Purana, and Manasara. At the time of their composition, this ceremony had undergone multiple modifications, even though it was a special priestly ceremony.  There were two different Abhisheka performed by Yudhisthira in the Mahabharata: first, Sabha, which is led by successful expeditions in all directions and celebrated as part of a rajasuya in the presence of minor kings. The second one is performed as a follow up of the conclusion of the great war (Kapoor 4).  Abhisheka was also performed for some ministers of state or counselors of royal rank.

An animal that is sacred in Hinduism is a cow. It said that all 33-crores of gods and goddesses are present in a cow. Therefore, it is worshipped and the ingredients for Abhisheka are also derived from a cow. When performing the Abhisheka of a deity during puja or on a daily basis there are various materials that may be used, However, the main materials that must be present during Abhisheka are water from a river, ocean, mountains or rain along with Pancamrta. Pancamrta is made of five ingredients including milk, curds, ghee (clarified butter), honey and sugar. The way to bathe a deity is with rich ingredients that are sign of purity. Each ingredient in Pancamrta is linked to the five elements and senses. Milk is associated with the element water and the sense taste. Curd is associated with earth and touch, ghee with fire and sight, honey with ether and hearing, and sugar with air and smell (A Practical Guide to Understanding Hindu Abhishekam).  In the scientific world, it has found that ingredients of pancamrata help remove toxins from the body. This ritual of Abhisheka is performed on many occasions such as Adhivasa (installation), Pratistha (when its installed) and , Netronmilana, when eyes are delineated, Arcana: when  its formally worshipped, Pravitra: when it is purified after a defilement, Yatra:when the processional image is about to return to the temple after sojourn around the town or at avabhrta: when the festival is undertaken  for the icon completed (Ramachandra Rao 52).

There are many festivals in Hinduism that are associated with worshipping a deity. On every festival or occasions, Abhisheka of a deity can be performed with a different material. For example, during a special ceremony of Durgapuja, ingredients are added along with pancamrta including pure water, water in a conch, water from a sacred river, water in which sandal paste (gandha) is mixed, cow urine, cow dung, water in which kusa grass is immersed, dew water (sisirodaka), water from flowers (puspoodaka), sugar-cane juice (iksurasa), coconut water (phalodaka), eight kinds of mud (astamrttika) hot water and water form eight jars specially consecrated (kalasa). There are also regional and limited differences in the ingredients used for ritual baths given to a deity (Ramchandra Rao 52).

There are other ways of performing the ceremony which also can be varied, such as using a plate is taken with thousand holes held over a deity’s head. Water is poured into it so that it creates a water fall called Sahsra-Dhara (thousand streams). In some daily based Abhisheka, water is made to tickle down continuously up the Siva-linga. When Abhisheka is being performed, mantras are chanted in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an ancient language that is said to be a language of the gods as its every syllable carries with it potent vibrations which are capable of uplifting and energizing. Sanskrit is used in order to create an ambiance which will please the deity that has graced us with his presence (A Practical Guide to Understanding Hindu Abhishekam).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Unknown (2018) “A Practical Guide to Understanding Hindu Abhishekam.” Bhakti Marga UK. Accessed October 6, 2018.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism-The Ebook. Toronto: Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd

Snehashree Bhat (2016) “Importance Of Abhishekam In Hindu Religion.” Most Inside. Accessed October 8, 2018.

Unknown (2007) “Why temple?” Yoga magazine. Accessed October, 8 2018.

Subodh Kapoor (2000) The Hindus Encyclopedia of Hinduism 1 volume A-C. Published by Rani Kapoor. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.

Prof. S.K. Ramachandra Rao (2003) Encyclopedia of Indian Iconography volume 1. Delhi: Shri Satguru Publications.

Related Topics for further investigation

Rig Veda

Atharva Veda

Soma Veda

Temple

Ramayana

Mahabharata

Agamas Shastra

Kausika Sutra

Rajsuya

Linga

Noteworthy websites Related to the Topic

https://bhaktimarga.co.uk/deities-abhishek/

https://www.mostinside.com/abhishekam-importance/

https://www.mostinside.com/science-behind-visiting-temples-praying-god/

https://web.archive.org/web/20070610190751/http://www.yogamag.net/archives/1993/3may93/temples.shtml

 

Article written by: Rutu Prajapati (October 2018) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Lingaraj Temple in Odisha

View of the Lingaraja Temple, Bhubhaneswar, Odisha, dedicated to Siva.

It is undeniable that the Lingaraj temple was historically significant to Hindu tradition, and it continues to prevail today as a cultural icon. From its vast architecture both inside and out, to the detailed sculptures of the deities, the temple draws pilgrims in from across India to worship. Built during the Somavamsis era, this temple features Kalinga architecture prominent in its depictions of Harihara throughout the compound. The separate portrayals of Siva and Visnu, their vehicles, and their gatekeepers, are captivating and detailed. Within the temple, the Mallia and Badu both have very important jobs in the function of the worships and in the presentation of the deity. The Lingaraj temple also plays a very important part in the festival of Sivaratri as devotees go to the temple to offer food and recite passages from different Hindu texts. Ultimately, the Lingaraj temple is the home to many important aspects of Hindu practice, and has a detailed history of its development and role in modern day Hindu tradition.

For two hundred years, from the ninth century to the early twelfth century, Somavamsis (often referred to as Panduvamsis) were in political power over Odisha (Sahoo 14886-14887). This era brought together Kalinga, Utkala, Kondoga, and Kosala which gave rise to one of the most unique cultures in India and resulted in an increase in the richness and development of architecture and art. Identifying with the Kshatriya, who claimed that they descended from either the Sun or the Moon, the Somavamis were said to be a part of the Chandra, the family of the Moon (Sahoo 14886-14887). When they rose to power, they became very important for bringing culture, religion, and many different types of art to Odisha. As a result, Kalinga style developed substantially during this era. Many of said Kalinga style sculptures, art, and architecture can be found in the capital of Odisha known as Bhubaneswar. However, among them, the Lingaraj temple, standing tall above the rest at one-hundred and eighty feet, is the center of attention (Sahoo 14886-14887).

Built in the eleventh century between 1025 and 1065 CE first, although some argue the sixth century, the Lingaraj temple began construction under Yayati II and finished under Udyota Kesari. It is enclosed by a large wall (five-hundred and twenty feet by four-hundred and sixty-five feet) and has four parts (deul): vimana (main sanctum), jagamohana or mukhasala (assembly hall), natamandapa (“dancing hall”), and bhogamandapa (“hall of offering”) (Sahoo 14892-14893). Three gates provided entryways to the courtyard from the north, south and east; the east entrance was the primary gate. The vimana and the jagamohana were built first, with later constructions of the natamandira and then bhoga-mandapa (Shodhganga 2 237).

The vimana was built in pancaratha, meaning it has five pagas or rathas (“cart” or “chariot”), were rounded, and continued their shape to the bisama (top of the temple) (Shodhganga 2 235-244). Within the vimana there are five sections called the bada (vertical walls of the temple). These five sections of the bada are also divided by five to create the pabhaga (mouldings). The first three pabhaga create different levels in the bada which had sculptures and art, designs of flowers, and carvings. Depending on the level, different designs are featured on each creating uniqueness on each of the stories within the temple. The other two pabhagas are situated on top of each other, the bottom one being thinner. All of the pabhaga create the shape of a pilaster inside the bada (Shodhganga 2 235-244).

The assembly hall (mukhasala) was built against the main sanctum (vinama), with two windows facing north and south. The south window has been changed to an entrance, although it is unknown exactly why this happened. The most likely explanation is that when the natamandapa (dancing hall) was built the initial door was covered, so a new opening was needed. Furthermore, the later two of the four sections of the temple, the natamanpada and bhogamandapa (hall of offering), were built using different stone and materials to build the sculptures, thus making them more detailed and adding the unique architecture found within the Lingaraj temple (Unknown 242-243).

The main architecture in the Lingaraj temple is called Kalinga architecture, which originated in eighth century CE, and possesses multiple distinctive phases of development including: pre-Kalingan, formative, transitional, mature, and decline (Bhuyan 40-42). Similarly, it also has three groupings, Rekhadeula (tallest building with a mountain peak), Pidhadeula (square shaped with a pyramid shaped roof), and Khakharadeula (rectangular with a shortened roof). Kalinga style has features similar to the Nagara of Northern India, the Dravida of South India, and the Vesara. Kalinga temples also have copious amounts of sculptures. These sculptures are mostly of humans, animals, or icons, and often feature scrolls, mystical figures, plants and flowers in great detail. Often in Odisha the Kalinga temples feature very plain insides, with a great deal of pillars; the outside is where the majority of the detail is found (Bhuyan 40-42).

Throughout the temple, images and sculptures of Visnu and Siva are depicted as Harihara, the form of Visnu and Siva together as one equal god where they are worshipped as Hari (Visnu) and Hara (Siva). Although mainly dedicated to Siva, the Lingaraj temple worships the two gods as equals; thus, each gate into Lingaraj delineate the gatekeepers of the deva. This is shown by the portrayals of Jaya and Vijaya on one gate for Visnu, Nandi and Bhrkuti on the other for Siva. Seen amongst many of the other structures outside the temples is the depiction of the vehicles of Siva, Nandi, and Visnu, Garuda, next to Harihara sitting in dvibhanga pose (Mishra 147). According to some, Nandi, a bull, is named after Aanandi: “a realized soul is full of bliss” (Shodhganga 3 138). Therefore, when Siva is shown with Nandi, it is important because it is depicting the vehicle as blissful and always with his god. In addition, his large neck and body, and strong horns show his strength (Shodhganga 3 138).  Garuda, on the other hand, has two wings and is bending backwards. In this specific display, the vehicle is also highly decorated, and is said to be powerful and strong (Mohanty 1022-1023). Furthermore, there are many portrayals of the nayikas (heroines), known for their gracefulness, elegance, and beauty. They are depicted clutching a tree branch, taking off jewelry such as an anklet, and taking care of an injured bird (Shodhganga 2 243).

The Lingaraj temple is a very important aspect of festivals and ceremonies for the Hindu people. One of the many that is dedicated to the lord Siva is called Sivaratri. This festival is celebrated sometime in February/March, and is a day when devotees bring holy water to Siva temples where they bathe to cleanse their souls (Shodhganga 3 153). This day also includes fasting, bathing in the morning, and is followed by dressing in clean clothes before beginning their journey to the temples. Sivaratri is celebrated by men and women; however, it is more auspicious for women since it is the day that Siva’s wife Parvati prayed and fasted to hopefully keep evil spirits away from him (Shodhganga 3 153). Thus, women who are married pray for their sons’ and husbands’ well-being, and women who are not married pray to one day have a husband who is similar to Siva.  On this day, the devotees pray to Siva and recite “Om Nama Shivaya” (Shodhganga 3 153).

The night of Sivaratri is different because the night is divided into four quarters (yama) in which the devotees perform Vrata (penance) (Vepachedu 1-2). To achieve penance, there is a different offering to Siva in each yama. First, they worship Siva with the lotus flower, and offer him pongali. Pongali consists of a rice and mung bean cooked in milk. During this quarter of the night, they recite the Rg Veda until the end of first quarter. During the second quarter of the night, they repeat the Yajurveda, and offer Tulasi leaves and payasam which is rice turned to a liquid when cooked in milk.  Next, they say the Samaveda, and offer bael leaves and foods with sesame flour. Finally, devotees recite the Arthaveda and offer to Siva the lotus flower and a simple food. Once morning arrives, the foods offered to Siva can be consumed by the devotees (Vepachedu 1-2).

The Mallia are a caste of temple servants who are found only in Kapileswar. With a population of one-thousand and twenty-eight people, they are the largest population in the village (Freeman 125-126). In the village of Kapileswar, they are considered “high caste,” but their status overall is unsettled. Even though they do not have any hereditary services at the Lingaraj temple, they are a part of the community of worshippers because Kapileswar is within the sacred boundaries of Bhubaneswar (Freeman 125-126). It is said in Hindu mythology that these sacred boundaries are marked by four branches of a mango tree, where the trunk reaches the heavens. The Mallia are also part of this sacred community, because the Lingaraj temple is devoted to Siva and Kapileswar temple is dedicated to Dewan who is the advisor to Lingaraj. Therefore, there is a yearly ritual to worship when Lingaraj’s deputy visits the Kapileswar temple (Freeman 125-126).

The Mallia also work at the Lingaraj temple because the Kapileswar temple does not have very many devotees that visit. In addition, Lingaraj temple priests employ Mallia to bring in more pilgrims, offer them housing and provide them with food. Because Brahmin cooks are able to cook food and sell it to the worshippers, many Brahmins have left Kapileswar in search of employment at a larger temple because they have the hereditary right to cook at Lingaraj (Freeman 4). This has led to conflict and termination of work duties in Kapileswar as Mallias heavily rely on Brahmins for food (Freeman 125-126).

Grounds of Lingaraja Temple Complex in Bhubhaneswar, Odisha.

There is also a caste known as the Badu within the Lingaraj temple who serve within the temple, but are not Brahmin (Mahapatra 96-108). The Badu (sometimes “Batu”) credit themselves as the initial servants of this temple and claim their lineage to Badu. While Badu was journeying to Ekamravana to pray to Lingaraj, he was captivated by the beauty of a woman. They copulated with one other, which resulted in Badu being late for the scheduled worship time. He begged Parvati to forgive him, and when she did she gave him the upanayana (sacred thread) and made him her servant. The woman that Badu was intimate with had a son, creating the Badu lineage (Mahapatra 96-108).

Each Badu male goes through three rituals: ear piercing (Kanaphoda), marriage, and God-touching (Mahapatra 96-108). Kanaphoda rite happens when the Badu boy turns twelve. He and his caste brothers are invited to a meal, and through the day he wears a thread around his neck. In modern day rituals, he is accompanied by musicians as they wander through the servant areas of the Lingaraj temple. In the Badu tradition, a marriage rite is performed during the night. This is one of the many reasons why it is believed that they are not Brahmins because Brahmin marriage happens during the day (Mahapatra 96-108).

Other reasons that the Badu are not considered Brahmins include that they wear the thread around the neck, unlike the Brahmins who wear it on the left shoulder (Mahapatra 96-108). Another difference is how the Badu and the Brahmin refer to their family members. A Badu calls his father “Bapa,” older sister “Apa,” and older brother “Bhai.” In contrast, the Brahmin call their father “Nana,” older sister “Nani,” and older brother “Bhaina.” Badu, because of hereditary right, are not allowed in the kitchen of the temple, whereas Brahmins are given the right because of hereditary allowance (Mahapatra 96-108). Another aspect of the marriage rite for Badus is that even those who are not wealthy spend copious amounts of money on their weddings and the meals provided, so much to the extent that they will sell property to pay for the wedding (Mahapatra 96-108).

Finally, God-touching is the rite that gives the Badu male the certification to perform worship to the Lord Siva within the temple (Mahapatra 96-108). They start the day dressing in new clothes provided by the family, and the priest dresses in new clothes as well. The meal is eaten by the caste members and the servants who are working in the temple at that time (Mahapatra 96-108).

In the Lingaraj temple, the Badu are responsible for five services: Paliabadu, Pharaka, Pochha, Pahada, and Khataseja (Mahapatra 99, 103). Paharaka and Paliabadu are the two most important of the daily rituals because they involve the protection of the deity both day and night. The Paliabadu guards are responsible for the presentation of Lord Siva and other deities, such as cleansing, clothing, and decorating with flowers and leaves. They are also given the task of bathing the other most important linga. The Paharaka guards the deity at night. The role of the Khataseja is to make the bed for the deity before the closing of the temple. The Pochha dries the deity with a cloth after cleansing, and the Pahada is at the entrance throughout the food offering times (Mahapatra 99, 103).

Ultimately, the Lingaraj temple provides unique historical and cultural significance to the city of Odisha and to the Hindu tradition.

 

Bibliography

Bhuyan, Ramakanta (2017) “Evolution of Kalingan Style of Temple – A Study” Vol. 1:12 pg. 39-44. Odissa: Behampur University.

Freeman, James M. (1971) “Occupational Changes Among Hindu Temple Servants” Indian Anthropologist Vol. 1:1, pg. 1-13.

Freeman, James M. (1975) “Religious Change in a Hindu Pilgrimage Center” Review of Religious Research Vol. 16:2, pg. 124-133.

Mahapatra, Manamohan (1973) “The Badu: A Service-Caste at the Lingaraj Temple at Bhubaneswar” Contribution to Asian Studies Vol. 3, pg. 96-108.

Mishra, Kishore Ch. (2000) “Religious Syncretism and the Jagannath Cult in Orissa” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 61:1, pg. 144-151.

Mohanty, Prafulla Kumar (2010) “Garuda Images of Orissa – An Iconographic Study” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 70, pg. 1018-1027.

Sahoo, Abhijit (2015) Contribution of the Somavamsis to the Odishan Culture: A Critical Analysis. Bhubaneswar: KIIT School of Social Sciences.

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/82003/8/08_chapter%203.pdf.

Shodhganga 1. “Chapter III – Symbology of the Weapons and Vehicles of the Little Mothers” pg. 106-141.

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/128730/10/10_chapter%204.pdf.

Shodhganga 2. “Chapter IV – Temples of Bhubaneswar” pg. 236-243.

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/175579/12/12_chapter5.pdf.

Shodhganga 3. “Chapter V – Pujas and Festivals of the Shiva and Vishnu Temples” pg. 122-157.

Vepachedu, Sreenivasarao (2004) “Maha Shivaratri” Mana Sanskriti (Our Culture) Vol. 74:2 pg. 1-8.

 

Related Research Topics:

Somavamsis

Siva

Visnu

Deva

Devi

Sivaratri

Kapileswar

Bhubaneswar

Kalinga Style Architecture

Mallia

Badu

Yayati II

Nandi

Bhrukti

Garuda

Jaya

Vijaya

Harihara

 

Related Websites:

Architecture of Lingaraj Temple

https://www.mahashivratri.org/shiva-temples/lingaraj-temple.html

Meaning of Shivaratri

The early history of the Somavamsis

 

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

Puja

The devotional rite of puja is regarded as highly significant in the Hindu tradition, as the core Hindu ritual (Fuller 57). Through the practice of worship, individuals demonstrate their adoration and reverence towards one or more deity’s images; this act is pleasing to the gods and goddesses in Hinduism. Regardless of the type of puja conducted, temple, home, or festival worship, all share similar fundamental structures and goals of respectful honouring. This widespread rite of worship is fundamentally performed by Hindus across all castes and classes. It is conducted in temples by Brahmin priests or at home by laypeople, allowing all to actively practice their religion. Faithful puja dismisses the hierarchy between the Divine and the individual, resulting in the primary ambition of spiritually unification.

 

Overview of Puja

In Hinduism, suffering, despair, and societal complications are believed to be the result of unfaithful and untimely worship (Fuller 69). Deity worship is often performed to achieve protection and prosperity for one’s household, community, or region, and it is believed to bring about blessings, grace, and divine virtue. The response of the deities is solely based on their own discretion and will, as one’s devotion may influence the deities but does not offer any guarantees. For some, the act of puja is solely an act of loving devotion (bhakti), where they do not expect or hope for anything in return (Rodrigues 2006: 233; Fuller 70-71). Worshiping with the heart of personal gain is generally frowned upon, yet commonly practiced.

The meanings attached to offerings and practices of puja are also often viewed differently by the various schools of Hinduism; primarily, two perspectives are taken. First is the idea that deities are self-sufficient and are not in need of being washed and fed, etc. However, the sense of reverential honoring expresses the worshiper’s devotion. This practice of hospitality towards the gods and goddesses as though they were dependent on the offerings is pleasing to the divine. The second perspective is that the deities are wholly dependent on the offerings and practices making these actions necessary for their persistence. This perspective displays the interdependence of the deities and people on one another (Fuller 69-71).

Overall, both perceptions install the ideology that divinities are gratified by the ritual pious acts of ceremonial practices and services (upacaras) that make up puja. Symbolized by the camphor flame, the unity and identity of the deity and worshiper is one of the most sought-after goals of puja (Fuller 82), eliminating hierarchical separation between them. Taken together, the significance of puja is to create a relationship among the god or goddess and the individual. This may be done in the anticipation that their sanctified acts of tribute will promote security and favour from the deity.

 

Practices of Puja (Upacaras)

Puja is performed as an act of reverence towards the deities whose power is housed within iconographic pictures, statues, or symbols of the particular divine being. Each image containing the spiritual manifestation of the deity (murti) is specialized according to proportion, form, and features, and are typically man-made out of bronze, stone, clay, glass, or printed ink photographs. Within the rite of puja, the power of the deity is ritually consecrated into the image before the procession of the upacaras commence. This is done because the image itself is empty until employed with the power. The object of worship is not the image itself but the sacred power of the god or goddess.

The puja ritual varies greatly in terms of simplicity, size, and occasion. Regardless, all puja upacaras have the same general structure, involving a standard total of sixteen (sodasa), ten (dasa), or five (panca) upacara which are grouped into four phases (Rodrigues 2003: 253; Fuller 67). These services are accompanied by 16 verses of the Sukta and/or other additional Vedic mantras. To begin, the deity is summoned and installed within the murti. This phase consecrates the image making it divine. Next is the offering of a seat and water for the washing of the feet, head, mouth, and body. Third, the image is bathed, outfitted, decorated (with flowers), given the sacred thread, wafted with incense, illuminated by a lamp, and given offerings of food. This phase is commonly known as the heart of the ritual, where the image is glorified and adorned. Lastly, the deity is displayed signs of respect (such as the namaskara gesture) and is dismissed (in temples and homes this action does not take place once the puja is complete) (Rodrigues 2006: 228). Other additional acts of worship such as signing, dancing, prayer, and the chanting of mantras may accompany puja (Fuller 63). The upacara practice is seldomly completed in full and may only consist of a single camphor flame offering, known as arati, and a single food offering. Although partial practice is considered less good, synecdochally the entire ritual is produced since the overall structure and connotation of puja is maintained. Puja is specialized for each different deity based on their preference of offerings; offerings are also altered based on the means an individual has accessing materials due to their placement in society (Buhnemann 66). Unlike Vedic sacrifices, puja is inclusive to all, regardless of their gender and class, allowing for women to participate also (Michaels 2016: 9). This act of worship displays one’s hospitality and adoration for the deity, treating them like royal guests given their utmost respect.

 

Temple Worship

Temple worship is the process in which Hindus pay homage to certain deities permanently housed in a sacred temple space, such as the main shrine. The images within temples are usually immoveable (mula murti) and made of bronze or stone (Fuller 58). Within larger temples puja is conducted frequently (daily), where as lesser temples may perform puja semi-frequently (weekly) (Fuller 62). Devotees stand before a deity’s murti, particularly in temples, to perform/engage in darsana, meaning “vision.” Darsana is the process of going to see the deity and be seen by the deity, thus absorbing some of their power through an intimate union and gaining a promising blessing. Many individuals attend temples in the mornings, just after the deity has been awoken to enhance their fruits of darsana (Fuller 59).

 Puja begins in the morning with an elaborate ceremony to wake the murti, conducted by a Brahmin priest (purohita) known as a Pujari (the one who performs the ritual), on behalf of all (Buhnemann 56; Fuller 62 ). The appropriate offerings are made, and the god or goddess is bathed. The water poured over the Divine is considered sacred and can then be used as a prasada (blessing) by devotees throughout the day (Rodrigues 2006: 230). The priest’s ignition of the flame (dipa) and passing it before the murti is known as arati, and is the climax of the ritual. The boisterous sounds of bells, drums, and cymbals can be heard within the temple neighbourhood, marking this segment of the worship rite. Subsequently, the flame is passed amongst the devotees, allowing them to cleanse themselves of their sins with the consecrated smoke, which is done by wafting the smoke over their bodies. With the conclusion of arati, worshipers are invited to make their offerings (typically purchased at the entrance) through the officiant following the washing of their hands and removal of shoes (Rodrigues 2006: 231).

In certain temples, puja involves the participation of various ministrants in addition to the Pujari: the Benare (one who recites mantras), the Haridas (one who recites the aratis), the Paricarak (Pujari’s assistant), the Dingre (one who places the mirror), the Divte (one who transfers the torch), and the Dange (the mace carrier) (Buhnemann 63). In the afternoon the deity may be given a period of rest, in which the inner sanctum is temporarily closed (Rodrigues 2006: 231). Otherwise, rituals take place throughout the day, until the deity is put to sleep later in the evening, around 11 p.m. which entails another prominent puja. In sum, temple worship communally gathers large crowds of devotees. These individuals are free to participate in their own individualistic worship of expressing prayers and performing gestures towards the particular deity, as well as engage in the devotional ritual of puja.

 

Home Worship

Worship conducted in the home, although very different in terms of scale and simplicity compared to temple worship, maintains a similar structure and intent overall. Home worship takes place before a home shrine in which many icons are present, and the principle image is centrally placed (Jhala 106). The permanent installation of the divine within one’s home shrine can be done by a priest or by one’s self through frequent acts of service and adoration which eventually invoke the deity. Home shrines include various icons that were either gifted, inherited or bought, and which may symbolize or picture different deities, vehicles, gurus, and ancestors (Jhala 109). The arrangement and collection of these icons illustrates the vast network and history of the Hindu family, bringing about awareness of their collective interdependence and relationships with the deities and others.

The wealth of an individual’s family dictates the elaboration of the shrine. The wealthiest of families may have their own small temple or various shrine rooms within their home. They may also invite Brahmin priests into their home and pay them to perform the puja rituals daily (Rodrigues 2006: 228). More commonly, laypeople of any class/caste preform the ritual upacaras on their own, although only the upper three castes may recite Vedic literature. Similar to temple worship, home puja is characteristically performed daily in the morning, but depending on the family’s schedule and degree of personal pollution due to deaths, childbirths, and menstruation, puja can be postponed, shortened, or prolonged (Jhala 117).

The Pujari in home worship is usually the head of the household or the most significant member of the family. Once the ritual is complete, the rest of the family is invited into the shrine room to bow and present their gifts (Buhnemann 56). However, the idea that puja can be taken jointly rather than individually is controversial since some believe it is a personal formality, to be done privately by all (Jhala 123). Prior to taking part in puja, it is customary to bathe in order to purify oneself before entering the shrine room. The shrine usually consists of a cabinet symbolizing a temple, a shelf, or a lowered table flooded with adorned images and icons. Directly across from the shrine on the ground is a gadi, which is a large cushion, that the Pujari is to be seated cross legged on during the ritual (Jhala 111). Furthermore, the upacaras of puja are to be performed on the favoured principal deity. The doors of the cabinet are opened during the puja and then shut when it has ended.

 

Festival Worship

Separate from temple worship and home worship where the deity’s power is fixed within the image, festival worship involves the installation of the deity, veneration and worship, and release of the deity with each extravagant devotional event (Buhnemann 191-200). The movable images involved in festive pujas are known as utsava murti, which are either cast of bronze or made of painted clay (Fuller 58). A good example of festival worship is the Durga Puja, an elaborate festival which admires the Great Goddess Devi (i.e. Durga), the aggregate of all goddesses who possesses an immense array of attributes.

The commemoration begins on the sixth day of the larger festival, Navaratra (Rodrigues 2003: 37). The purohita who acts as the Pujari, prepares for the ritual through a series of preliminary obligations, concluding with a hymn. Moving forward, the Durga Puja commences the awakening of the Great Goddess through the bodhana rite. This process fixes the Goddess’ power (sakti) into a clay jar, topped with a coconut, swathed in a sari, and anointed with sandalwood paste (Rodrigues 2003: 38-39). Followed by the transformation/purification process, the technique of Kundalini Yoga is used to arouse Devi. The adhivasanam ritual of anointing takes place next, accompanied by procedures that eventually install the Goddess’ sakti into a clay figurine. Ritual bathing of Durga enveloped in numerous forms follows the next day as part of the Mahasaptami (Great Seventh) rite. As the Mahasaptami is drawn to completion, the Great Goddess Durga is filled with “life,” taking up her dwelling within as a living icon and marking her full arrival (Rodrigues 2003: 46-50).

Similar to conventional puja, the next portion of the service is the sixteen upacara where Durga is showered with extravagant devotional offerings of honor. The bathing rites (Mahasaptami) are then repeated in a process known as the Mahastami (Great Eighth). There after, the Sandhi Puja occurs between the eight and ninth lunar day when the Goddess is presented a blood sacrifice (a goat’s head) whilst another series of the elaborated sixteen step practice is conducted; this marks the pinnacle of the Durga Puja. Once again, a variation of the Mahasaptami rite, labelled the Mahanavami, is performed with the inclusion of homa a Fire Oblation ritual. Finally, to conclude the Durga Puja, one last ten-part ritual is held dismissing Devi (Vijaya Dasami). Her clay image is then immersed in the Ganga signifying the Great Goddess’ ultimate departure. Through this illustration of festival worship, comparisons and contrasts between daily puja and occasional puja are exemplified in terms of the structure, simplicity, and magnitude of the worship ritual.

 

Final Remarks

The devotional practice of puja is central to Hindu worship. Through the acts of deity adoration and respect, an individual expresses their devoutness to unify themselves with the Divine. Essential to puja, the power of the deity is invoked into an image, transforming it into murti, thus allowing for darsana and worship to take place. Another fundamental characteristic to puja, regardless of its size, is the demonstration of revealing one’s reverence to a deity through the use of offerings. These two processes of installation and veneration characterize the core elements of upacara within puja. Additionally, specific to festival worship the release of the deity also follows. Puja’s universality allows for it to be performed on a small and simple scale within the home by laypeople, or also on a massive and elaborate scale in temples or during festivals by qualified priests. Although the magnitude, amplification, and occasion vary, the structure and meaning of puja remains constant.

 

References and Further Reading

Buhnemann, Gudrun (1998) Puja: A Study in Smarta Ritual. Vienna: Institut fur Indologie der  Universitat Wein.

Eck, Diana (1981) Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. Chambersburg: Anima Books.

Ciraulo, Jonathan M. (2013) “The divine image: Hindu murti and Byzantine iconography.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 48: 505-522. Accessed October 28, 2018.

Fuller, Christopher J. (2003) The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India.   Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hawley, John S., and Donna Wulff (1996) Devi: goddess of India. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Jhala, Jayasinhji (2000) “Puja, Pujari, and Prabhu: Religious Worship in the Hindu Home.” Visual Anthropology 13:103-128. Accessed October 28, 2018.   doi:10.1080/08949468.2000.9966793

Michaels, Axel (2004) Hinduism: Past and Present. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

______ (2016) Homo Ritualis: Hindu Ritual and Its Significance for Ritual Theory. New   York:   Oxford University Press.

Prasad, Birendra N. (2011) Monasteries, shrines, and society: Buddhist and Brahmanical  religious institutions in India in their socio-economic context. New Delhi: Manak Publications.

Rodrigues, Hillary P. (2003) Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess: Liturgy of the Durga Puja      with Interpretations. Albany: State University of New York Press.

______ (2006) Introducing Hinduism. New York: Routledge.

Yelle, Robert A. (2003) Explaining mantras: ritual, rhetoric, and the dream of a natural language in Hindu tantra. E-Book: Routledge.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation:

Darsana

Durga Puja

Devi

Arati

Murti

Hindu Shrines

Upacara

Pujari

Bhakti

Great Seventh

Great Eighth

Great Ninth

Vijaya Dasami

Sakti

Homa

Adhivasanam

Bodhana

Kundalini Yoga

Caste/Class System

Mantras

 

 Noteworthy Websites:

https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/what-is-puja-495215

https://www.hinduwebsite.com/puja.asp

http://svaroopa.org/puja

http://static.amritapuja.org/what_is_puja.html

http://www.durga-puja.org/

https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/clips/zh2hyrd

This article was written by: Hailey Rausch (Fall 2018), who is entirely responsible for its content.

The Kanphata Yogis

 The Kanphata Yogis refers to a monastic order of Hindu renouncers, found predominantly throughout India and Nepal, who worship the god Siva. They are also known as the Darsanis, Gorakhnathi or Natha Yogis. The name Kanphata refers to the split through the hollow of their ears and Darsani refer to the large earrings they wear through these holes, their most distinctive feature. Gorakhnathi or Nath refers instead to their supposed founder, Gorakhnath, who is also credited as the founder of Hatha Yoga. Though he is said to be the author of a large number of books it is more likely that he authored only a few and other followers of his have since added to the collection. (Bouillier 2018:18-26).

Gorakhnath takes on both the roles of founder and deity in the Kanphata Yogi order. On the one hand he is a Guru praised for his purity and asceticism, and on the other he is said to be a being born through the miraculous power of Siva and is also a form of Siva (Bouillier 2018:14). The mythology surrounding Gorakhnath’s upbringing is extensive and not all of the stories agree on all points. One popular story is that a barren woman was given ashes from Siva to eat. Instead she threw them into a heap of cow dung and 12 years later upon searching the heap of dung, a 12 year old boy was found within it. The boy was then accepted as a pupil by the mighty guru, Matsyendranath, who named the child Gorakhnath meaning filth or lord of cattle (Briggs 182). His relationship to his Guru was complicated as he acted at times as a pupil and at times as an instructor or even savior of his master, saving his master from temptations of the flesh and other worldly influences (Bhattacharyya 285). In these ways the followers of Gorakhnath through legend and mythology deify him and simultaneously establish his teachings as being directly from the Gods. Actual historical data surrounding his birth, life, and death are however largely hypothetical and many scholars disagree on the date and location of his birth (Bouillier 2013:158). In the books accredited to his authorship, he appears to have borrowed inspiration from Jainism and from Vajrayana Buddhism, both in the strong focus on the obtainment of supernatural powers, through Yogic meditation, and on the incorporation of tantric doctrines into their core ideals (Bhattacharyya 285, Briggs 259, 274-276). Examples of this focus are found in the Gorakh-bani (Sayings of Gorakh), in which their quest for superhuman powers and immortality or divinity is explained (Bouillier 2013:161). Supernatural powers are considered a gratuity, rather than the actual end goal of Hatha Yoga, which is to reach mukti or enlightenment. The ordered discipline of yoga serves as a vehicle to assist or aid the Yogi as he or she endeavors in this quest (Briggs 2, 262-265).

Kanphata Yogis take their heritage from the Himalayan foothills and share common ancestry with the Siddhas in Tibetan Buddhism, as Gorakhnath is identified as Luipada by the Buddhist texts (Bhattacharyya 284-285). A rift in the teachings between the followers of Gorakhnath and the Siddhas is illustrated in the account of Gorakhnath saving his master from lust and sensual pleasures, and so doing, changing the guidelines for his followers from the overtly sexual tantric practices of his predecessors to a chaste focus in the internal development of oneself (Bouillier 2018:16-17).  There is however a large focus on the maintenance of one’s body physically and spiritually, sexual practice of any kind is forbidden (Bouillier 2018:301-302). Many members of the tradition try to keep as far away from women as possible (Bhattacharyya 287-288), though some women, mostly widows, do join the order (Briggs 4-5).

Heavy focus is also placed upon the large earrings that they wear through the hollows of their ears. Some explain that the split through the cartilage of the ear is done in such a place as to cut through a mystical channel, thus assisting the bearer in their path to enlightenment (Briggs 6). Strict care is placed on the Yogi to protect their ears after the split has been made. There are some indications that, in the past, if one of the Yogis had the earring pulled out or their ear was mutilated in some other way that they would either be killed outright or be buried alive, though more recently banishment is a more common punishment (Briggs 8-9). These earrings, or mudra, are traditionally made of clay, but as these are easily broken they can be substituted for rings made of antler, horn, wood, precious metals, or shells. Kanphata Yogis also differ from orthodox Hindus also in their death rituals, namely that they bury their dead rather than cremate them. This practice is substantiated by the legendary dispute between Muslims and Hindus over who were masters of the earth. In response to this dispute Gorakhnath sat on the ground and called on it to yield to him, the earth then opened up and he sank below the surface (Briggs 39-40).

Kanphata Yogis and their supernatural powers have also played a part in the development of various kingdoms in the areas of Northern and Western India as well as Nepal. In Nepal in particular, a powerful Yogi is credited with using supernatural powers to assist the king of a small nation to unify the Nepalese area under one crown (Bouillier 1991:154-156). Similar stories can be found throughout India, and each Nath Monastery will generally have its own myths about the supernatural powers of the founding Yogi. These supernatural powers include controlling the weather, changing the physical size of the Yogi, exorcism, healing, the power of flight, necromantic powers, and psychic or telekinetic abilities to name a few (Briggs 271). These stories of supernatural powers gave the yogis a certain notoriety among both commoners and nobility, causing them to be warily honored lest they curse the public just as in the story of Gorakhnath’s visit to Kathmandu when he caused a drought to befall the people as punishment for receiving him poorly (Bouillier 2018:16).

Modern Day Kanphata Yogis exist largely in monasteries throughout India and South-East Asia or very occasionally as wandering ascetics and renouncers. Disciples known as Aughars rather than Yogis are inducted into the order of monastics through several stages of discipleship (Briggs 7-11). Contrary to what their name may suggest many Kanphata Yogis do not actively practice yoga (Briggs 251). They possess no official cannon of texts but instead cite a mishmash of books with varied and dubious authorship, including many texts that are nearly identical but with different titles or authors (Bouillier 2018:18-26, Briggs 252-257). Exact knowledge of the contents of these texts are also not largely stressed, but focus seems to be more on an oral tradition of legends and secret techniques which are passed down from Guru to Aughar (Briggs 7-10,251). That is not to say that the Kanphata Yogis are without modernization as they have formed the Pan-Indian Nath Yogi Association, and in some ways attempted to organize themselves by the 12 panths or branches of their order. There are currently more than 12 branches in existence but this number likely refers to an original division rather than a current one (Bouillier 2018:54-56).

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Bhattacharyya, Narendra Nath (1982) History of the Tantric Religion. New Delhi: Manohar Publications.

Bouillier, Véronique (1991) “Growth and decay of a Kanphata Yogi monastery in south-west Nepal” The Indian Economic and Social History Review 28,2: 151-170

Bouillier, Véronique (2013) “A Survey of Current Researches on India’s Nath Yogis” Religion Compass Vol 7 #5 (May): 157-168

Bouillier, Véronique (2018) Monastic Wanderers: Nath Yogi Ascetics in Modern South Asia. New York: Routledge.

Briggs, George W. (1938) Gorakhnath and the Kanphata Yogis. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Jacobsen, K.A. (2012) Yoga Powers. Extraordinary Capacities Attained through Meditation and Concentration. Leiden: Brill.

White, D.G. (1996) The Alchemical Body. Siddha tradition in Medieval India. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

 

This article was written by Christopher J Boehmer (Fall 2018), who is entirely responsible for its content.

The Durga Puja

Durga Puja is an annual festival that celebrates the Great Goddess, better known as Durga. Although the true origin of the worship of Durga is still unknown, today’s form of the Durga Puja festival can be dated back to the 16th century, during the Mughal era (Banerjee 31). During this time, the mythical figure of Rama and his worship of Durga in the Ramayana were brought to the center of attention. The Ramayana says that Rama wanted to destroy the evil demon, Ravana, but needed aid because he was not strong enough to kill the demon on his own. By worshipping Durga, she provided him with the strength he needed to win against Ravana (Ghosha 14). This epic brought a large amount of influence to Raja Udaynarayan and he held the first Durga Puja to show his strength against the Mughals. Although many historians believe that he was not successful against the Mughals, the festival began to spread and quickly became one of the most important festivals (Banerjee 31-32). Many believe that the reason this epic had such a great influence was due to the resistance many kingdoms, on the Indian sub-continent, had against Mughal rule (Rodrigues 19). This epic also changed the time when the festival was to be held. It is said that Rama worshipped the Great Goddess during the autumn instead of the spring months, done by King Suratha (Banerjee 2). Therefore Raja Udaynarayan held the festival in autumn in the16th century causing the festival to be held in the autumn month of Asvina, during the nine-day Navaratri festival, today.

Puja, a form of devotional worship, is normally only performed for one or two days; the Durga Puja spans over a four-five day period (Banerjee 18). During this period, many complex rituals are held in the worship of Durga. The Great Goddess is not a particular goddess but is a single supreme form of divine femininity. This causes the Great Goddess to have many names; for example the most popular names used are Devi, Ma, or Sakti (Rodrigues 17). Therefore, all goddesses are worshipped during this time and every temple that houses a goddess is lively and closely attended too. Expensive home pujas are also put within each home for personal worship. Clay images (murti) and temporary shrines (pandals) are even more closely attended to and observed at this time because they are the focal points for worship (Rodrigues 10). Many pujas, forms of worship, are needed each day during this festival for ritual worship. Each day has a different assortment or food, cloth and puja items, such as flowers, iron, shells, or bark. These items are needed each day to invoke the Great Goddess her for aid among the people and the community.

This time is also known as an important to restore old items and relationships; it is an important time built on caring for others, sharing when one is in need, and keeping a strong bond with family members (Banerjee 61). Many married daughters are able to come home to their parents and spend time with their families; most women live with their husband’s family, once they are married, due to Hindu tradition (Rodrigues 28). Much time is spent worshipping the Great Goddess hoping to invoke her upon the things that not only a single person needs but also the things others and the community is in need of. One of the most important figures during these rituals is the purohita, the central role to the entirety of the pujas (Rodrigues 29). The purohita prepares and purifies water (jala suddhi), flowers (puspa suddhi), his seat (asana suddhi), and the elements (bhuta suddhi) as his preliminary duties in preparing for the rituals to come (Rodrigues 38). The purohita uses this purification ritual to create a link with the divine nature and enables the Great Goddess to manifest in the purohita; he then transfers her into different abodes (Rodrigues 277). This creates a strong bond between the Great Goddess and the people observing and worshipping her.

Another sacred ritual is that of an animal sacrifice in order to keep cosmic stability. This ritual is used as a re-enactment of the battle between Durga and Mahisa in which the cosmos was regulated by Durga once she slayed the beast (Kinsley 112). In today’s Durga Puja, blood sacrifice is disappearing and many communities are substituting fruits, such as melons, for animals. Even though melons are used, Hindus go to great lengths to change the melons, such as put vermilion paste and effigy on them, to ensure it represents a blood sacrifice. Blood sacrifice is also representative of the most important food offering to the Great Goddess. Even though true blood is not always spilt, it is meant to symbolically represent the beheading of Mahisa (Rodrigues 278).

As Durga Puja spans over four to five days during the Navaratri festival, it adds two very different central roles to the Great Goddess and why she is being worshipped at this time. This most popular depiction of Durga is that of a strong warrior, wielding many weapons and is victorious over evil. One of the most popular legends that this depiction arises from is of Durga battling the powerful buffalo-headed demon, Mahisa, to regulate the cosmos, which she comes out victorious by killing him. This depiction causes many people to associate the worship of Durga with military success and victory of good over evil. Military success is also attributed to the month of Asvina itself because it occurs at the end of the rainy season, in which the season of warfare begins. During this season of warfare, the worship of weapons, ayudha-puja, and the worship as Aparajita are conducted. The ayudha-puja takes place in the temples of Devi and is done by soldiers and military rulers, as it marks the beginning of military campaigns. Durga is also worshipped as Aparajita, she who is invincible, to invoke the power of Durga that cannot be conquered or controlled to ensure military success among the people (Rodrigues 290). Durga in all forms in representative of formidable power and how it is to be wielded; to battle adversity and conquer what is in the way of ones path to succession (Rodrigues 289).

Durga is symbolically represented in many different forms; the most important of these forms are the jar (ghata), the cluster of nine plants (navapatrika), the clay image, and the virgin girl (kumari). The jar (ghata) is the most recognizable of these forms and Devi’s embodiment in the jar resembles a pregnant woman. The jar is composed of two natural elements, the earth and the divine waters; these elements have been associated with the Great Goddess for a long period of time. This natural element within the jar and the representation of the pregnant woman symbolize Durga as the form of the mother of creation and she is giving birth to the cosmos. Other elements, such as flowers, earth, fruit, water, and fragrant paste, are placed around or on this form of Durga to be served as the beauty of nature that comes from creation (Rodrigues 262). Next, the cluster of nine plants (navapatrika) and a wood-apple tree branch, to serve as the breasts of the Great Goddess, are placed with the jar for worship within the house. Where as the wood-apple branch symbolizes Durga herself, the cluster of plants represents the different aspect of the Great Goddess and the feminine identity. These aspects incorporate different goddesses and their symbols as aspects of the Great Goddess such as the Nim tree and the Tulasi plant that serve as an embodiment of goddesses (Rodrigues 264).

The most striking and influential of these forms is the clay image. The clay image is the Great Goddess as a young and beautiful goddess. She has a strong and beautiful body that showcases the femininity of her character but she also wields the weapons of the male gods with her ten arms to exemplify her unconquerable power. In the clay image is also the human form of Mahisa as Durga impales him with her spear (Rodrigues 265). A large amount of blood is also portrayed in this image and shows the importance the blood sacrifice and to re-enact the spilling of the evil blood. Ganesa and Kartikeya are also presented within the clay image as aspects of the Great Goddess. Ganesa is worshipped as the Lord of Obstacles and Kartikeya is worshipped as the divine warrior. These aspects put together are representative of Durga as a strong warrior that is a great obstacle that stands in the way of her opponents (Rodrigues 266). This clay image in very complex and represents the whole of the different aspects of Durga. The last form of Durga is served as a virgin girl. Any pure, young girl can serve as this form of Durga and is used as a vehicle for the manifestation of Durga in human form. The use of a virgin girl is also linked to the blood sacrifice and gathering of women. During this time, women of all ages, including married daughters, come together to celebrate this festival. This showcases all the stages of a woman, from a virgin girl, to a young married woman, to an older mother or grandmother. The blood sacrifice is also representative of the stages in a woman’s life as well. Whereas a young virgin girl represents youth, the blood sacrifice also represents the fertility to come into the girl’s life, as she grows older. This is represented by Durga during the virgin girl embodiment as well as she is a young beautiful girl that causes the flow of blood (Rodrigues 297).

These rituals create a bond with Durga, the divine, and the people. As Durga embodies these different forms it creates a high level of devotional worship among the devotees. The embodiment of a virgin girl creates a strong link between the Great Goddess and the people because they recognize Durga as a daughter and someone they have a strong relationship with (Banerjee 87). This festival also brings families together once again to celebrate fertility, power, and success together. The Durga Puja is one of the few festivals that adjust to the changing times and but also keeps and passes down the sacred rituals to ensure the festival remains.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Banerjee, Sudeshna (2004) Durga Puja: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Rupa and Co, Calcutta.

Ghosha, Pratapachandra (1871) Durga Puja: With Notes and Illustrations. Calcutta: Hindoo Patriot Pres.

Kinsley, David (1987) Hindu Goddesses. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Rodrigues, Hilary Peter (2003) Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess: The Liturgy of the Durga Puja with Interpretations. Albany: State University of New York Press.

RELATED TOPICS FOR FUTHER INVESTIGATION

Durga

Devi

Sakti

Puja

Rama

Ramayana

Ravana

Ganesa

Kartikeya

NOTEWORTHY WESITES RELATED TO THE TOPIC

http://www.durga-puja.org

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

https://www.thoughtco.com/ten-days-with-the-mother-goddess-1770197

Article written by: Kaitlynn Poworoznyk (March 2017) who is solely responsible for this content.

Rangoli

Rangoli is an art of decorating floors using various colored powders. It is considered that Rangoli has been practiced for eras, and has been modified throughout, yet its significance has been the same throughout. It is a living tradition in India and is practiced mostly by womenfolk. This form of art is believed to have survived even before it found its place in Hindu literature. The origin of this art is yet vague, but some of the scholars have dated it back to about 2000 years (Gode 241). The very first evidence found in Hindu literature is between 50-400 CE in the Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana; which is mentioned as tndulkusumvlidikara (Gode 241). This floor art has had stability not only in Indian domestic lives but religious lives as well. Rangoli is an art that represents an energy field in religious context (Correa 92-113).

Rangoli is not only for the ecstasy of gods and the ruling deities, but also for beauty per Usinara. Usinaras are the middle country (Madyadesa) dwellers (Majumdar 248). It is said that the sage Narada gave a new kind of classification of these arts from the viewpoint of places and where the depictions are situated. They are classified in three different ways: of the floor (bhauma), of the wall (kudya), and of the top (urdhvaka) (ceiling). They again get classified into two more categories from another stance, permanent (zazvatika) and temporary (tatkalika, ksanika). The Rangoli that is still prominent in India is the floor or ksanika Rangoli (Gode 236).

Disciplines that explore the notions of this nonmanifest world are religion, philosophy, and arts (Correa 92-113). Rangoli is an sacred art that beautifies houses, brings positive vibrations, and peaceful feelings. The recurrence, proportion, balance, and liveliness, are few of the principles of this form of art. Rangoli is related to the method of Tantric design known as the Mandala. These designs are symbols of secret philosophical religious meanings (Dohmen 129-139). Different figures and arrangements within the design are associated with different aspects of human life. Circular designs within the diagrams evoke a sense of eternity of time, the unfolding of life, and the heart or the wheel (Das 2008).

Rangoli symbolizes auspiciousness and good luck in Hindu dharma. In ancient times, this sacred and versatile form of art was made to welcome gods and goddesses during special occasions. Durai (77) discloses the practice of Rangoli, about a century ago in the Madras Presidency. Madras is known as Chennai in present day India. According to Durai, these geometric diagrams are known as Kolam in Madras. They are typically made by Hindu women, every morning. To make a Kolam they use white rice powder. Lines and dots are connected in the process of making a Kolam, except when a death befalls in the family. Rangoli is made during the events such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and festivals such as Divali, Sankranti, Navaratra, Nagapancami, Tulsi Vrata, and Sravan Sukla Pancami. It is a gesture of hospitality and openness for the visiting guests, be it a human being or heavenly being. This attractive and decorative art is made with different materials such as, colored powders, rice flour, sand, sugar, or flower petals. The designs vary for everyday practice and special occasions. It can be plain and small for daily practice, and colorful and elaborate for festive events (Durai 77).

Different parts of India have different names associated with this form of floor art. It is known as Rangoli in Maharastra, Kolam in South India, Aripana in Bihar, Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh, Alpana in Bengal, and the list goes on. In Sanskrit, ‘Rang’ means color and ‘Avali’ means row, so Rangoli literally means ‘rows of colors’ (Gode 226). Alpana derieves from Sanskrit word alimpana which means ‘to plaster’ or ‘to coat with’ which is eminent in Bengal. Alpana is traditionally made of powdered rice. In modern days, the materials used to make Alpana have changed but some Hindu orthodox families still practice this traditional way of using powered rice. The powdered rice is mixed with water to make a paste, and small piece of cloth is used to design Alpana. Themes of Alpana typically consist of stars, sun, moon, plough, owl, rice stem, etc. Kolam is typically practiced in Tamil Nadu and South India using rice flour as well. Very famous designs of Kolam are Hridaya-Kamalam Kolam (Praghosa 2008). To precisely complete these projects one needs a lot of patience. That is why the dots and lines in the Kolam are believed to symbolize hurdles, hardships, and struggles that human beings face in life. And the finished project denotes that if humans, bravely, patiently, and serenely, face all the struggles and hardships, then they can get through life easily and peacefully. Kolam/Rangoli is made every morning at the thresholds of the houses to keep the negative vibes away and maintain positive and happy vibes throughout the day. The rice dust sprinkled on the ground, in the form of Rangoli, is not wasted, but considered to be a generous way to offer back to the nature, so the smallest of the creatures also get their feed. It is said to be one of the most prevalent methods of visual arts practiced in modern Tamil Nadu, because of the sheer magnitude of practitioners involved in making Kolam (Dohmen 92-113).

One of the most important Hindu festivals is Divali. Divali is known as the festival of lights and is associated with vibrant and vivid colors. Colorful fireworks across the villages, towns and cities; candle light around the houses; making of various sweets in excessive amount; exchanging gifts; and making elaborate and vibrant Rangolis, are associated with this festival. The principal deity Laksmi is present in the atmosphere during Divali. She is known as the goddess of wealth, good luck, and prosperity. She visits the homes that are well cleaned, well-lit, and beautifully decorated. Every Hindu household performs Laksmi Puja (act of worship) on the third day of Divali. As per the Hindu lunar calendar, this five-day festival falls on the new moon day on the month of Asvin (October or November). Various Rangolis such as goddess Laksmi’s footprints, eight petal lotuses known as ‘Ashtadal-kamal’ in Andhra Pradesh, eight pointed star known as ‘Hridaya-kalam’ in Tamil Nadu, and thousands of designs in Gujarat only, are made during Diwali. Diwali is thought to be inadequate without Rangoli. It is a welcoming gesture to the Goddess and the homecoming guests. The ritual of welcoming the guests is known to bring good luck and bliss to the family.

The festival that falls in the first fortnight of January is Sankranthi (Makara-Sankramanam), and during this festival, young Telugu girls of Andhra Pradesh compete with their peers to make the latest and elaborate Muggulu designs in their courtyard. In Andhra Pradesh, the floor decoration technique is known as Muggu or Muggulu in plural. People of all castes make Muggulu on their respective thresholds, after cleaning the surface with water and cow-dung. Colored Muggulu is made for special occasions and during the worship of gods and goddesses. Muggulu is drawn to honor the Sankranti Purusa, also known as Bali (Gode 243-246). Gode (1947) also discusses about Tamil girls, who enthusiastically bet with each other to draw the most widespread and intricate Kolam in the village (235). Even though these arts and designs are beautiful, they are ksanik, meaning temporary.

Due to colonization, and the influence of innovation and modernization, the Indian traditions and practices are perceived to be vanishing. Dohmen (135) provides understanding on Tamil editors that have tried to preserve Kolam by publishing the designs in their editions. Dohmen states, “These design magazine editors have taken on the circulation, innovation and preservation of traditional designs” (Dohmen 134). India is a mix of diverse cultures, languages and philosophies. Informing the youngsters about Indian values and socio-historical relations is the most influential way to preserve the heritage. Adir and Bhaskaran, in their research, suggest that children learn from very early age, so involving them in activities like making Rangoli, can be one of the many ways to preserve this art. They suggest that the kids who learn to make Rangoli when they are young can develop the skill of creative problem-solving. Since Rangoli is a collectively made project, they need to work together to determine the colors and shapes choices. Rangoli is a great means of socializing. It also requires eye-hand coordination and fine muscle control which can be an invaluable asset for children when they grow up (Adir and Bhaskaran 48-52, 54-55). Teachers and parents can use a variety of materials such as, crayons, markers, colored pencils, and chalks for outdoors (Guhin 2013).

Rangolis enlighten the ‘nature of the cosmos’. Rangoli is not just an idea, but symbolizes an energy field. The midpoint of a Rangoli signifies “shunya (the absolute void) as well as bindu (the world seed and the source of all energy)”. The midpoint is placed as Brahman, the primary source, in all the Rangolis. When the cycles of reincarnation are finally ended, according to Hinduism, the atman (the distinct soul) is free from each of us and goes to Brahman (to the center of this energy field) (Correa 92-113). Sacred does not only mean religious but primordial as well. The minutiae detail of Rangoli have various symbols and meanings associated with them. “The greatest of all the geometric depictions of cosmic order used as aids for meditation, this ecstasy is depicted as the interpenetrations of nine triangles, four facing upward and five downward, together symbolizing the union of Siva and Sakti” (Correa 92-113). This method of art has been practiced for centuries and it is considered to represent an energy field in religious context (Correa 1989). This form of floor art is still prominent in India and in Hindu countries around the world.

 

References and further recommended readings

Adair, Jennifer Keys, and Lilly Bhaskaran (2010) “Meditation, Rangoli, and Eating on the Floor:Practices from an Urban Preschool in Bangalore, India.” YC Young Children 65, no. 65:48-55. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uleth.ca/stable/42730667.

Correa, Charles (1989) “The Public, the Private, and the Sacred.” Daedalus 118: 92-113. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uleth.ca/stable/20025266.

Das, Praghosa (2008) “Sacred geometry, Rangolis, Mandalas and Yantras” http://www.dandavats.com/?p=6628

Dohmen, Renate (2001) “Happy Homes and the Indian Nation: Women’s Designs in Post-Colonial Tamil Nadu.” Journal of Design History 14: 129-39. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3527134.

Gode, P. K. (1947) “History of the Rangavalli (Rangoli) Art – Between C. A. D. 50 and 1900.”

Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 28: 226-46. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uleth.ca/stable/44028067.

 

Guhin, Paula (2013) “Rangoli: An Indian Art Activity Book.” https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Rangoli: An Indian Art Activity Book.a0352230655 (accessed February 27 2017)

Durai, G. H.(1929) “60. Preliminary Note on Geometrical Diagrams (Kolam) from the Madras Presidency.” Man 29: 77. Doi:10.2307/2790112.

Majumdar, R. C. (1951) “The History and Culture of Indian People: The Vedic Age.” G. Allen 8 Unwin, 1951 1: 248, 252. https://books.google.ca/books?id=G7kKAQAAIAAJ&dq=Usinaras&source=gbs_book_other_versions&hl=en&authuser=1

Related topics for further investigations

Shankranti

Sravan Sukla Purnima

Nagapancami

Tulsi Vrata

Swosthani Vrata

Bhai-Dooj

Diwali

Laxmi Pujan

Importance of Cow in Hindu Dharma

Vasant Pancami

Holi

Importance of Tulsi

Noteworthy websites

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/4605/7/07_chapter%201.pdf

http://forumforhinduawakening.org/dharma/blog/importance-of-rangoli/

https://www.hindujagruti.org/hinduism/art-and-spirituality/rangoli-designs

http://www.indiaparenting.com/indian-culture/70_1565/significance-of-rangolis-during-diwali.html

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

http://www.culturalindia.net/indian-art/rangoli/alpana.html

http://www.homemanagementinfo.com/tag/significance-of-rangoli/

http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uleth.ca/docview/1830256984?pq-origsite=summon

http://guruprasad.net/posts/why-do-indians-draw-rangoli-scientific-reason/

http://www.dandavats.com/?p=6628

http://www.diwalifestival.org/the-tradition-of-rangoli.html

http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/cultur/inde/indact4e.shtml

http://www.vrindavana.net/academy/usinaras/

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

Rangoli/Kolam

The origin of Rangoli dates back to many centuries ago and is an important part of Indian festivals. Rangoli is a design that is drawn on the ground with colored powder sometimes even with colored rice. Since Rangoli is mentioned in the Epics, it probably originated from before they were composed. The tradition is said to have come from the story of Chitralakshana. [The son of the highest priestly son dies and is said to be drawn and as the painting is completed the priestly son comes to life] (Dhawan 1). During the beginning of this tradition, it is said in the epic Ramayana after the return of Lord Rama from his exile he was showered with love by the art of Rangoli (Rao 1)

In Hinduism anything that has a deep meaning to it, is taken very seriously among the older generations, such as art of Rangoli. It is not only just used for making the courtyard look pretty but also to avoid the evil spirits from entering the house. This is the reason why most Rangoli designs are made very intricate and detailed. Spirits and negative vibes that are surrounding the house to get intertwined in the intricacy of the design (Ashu 1). The designs are the first thing people see when they enter the house. It allows them to bring more positivity into the house after seeing the Rangoli. The traditional Rangoli were more symmetrical because it was pleasing to look at. Different types of shapes are included when making Rangoli, such as certain religious flowers, drawings of gods, and many other things that have some sort of significance. Mostly white was used in the traditional Rangoli as it was a sense of peacefulness and calmness. Rangoli is made during Diwali (festival of lights) to welcome the Goddess Laksmi (Goddess of wealth). During every festival or any special occasion, the women of the house make the Rangoli. They wake up early as it takes hours for them to complete. The designs are only made once the front yard is fully cleaned with water, as it is a way for the women to cleanse their mind and have a sense of calmness.

In traditional Rangoli making powdered color was not used but colors that were available naturally were used such as haldi, vermillion, and rice flour. Natural powders were used so that birds and other insects would have food. The principle of ‘Vasudaiva kutumbaka’ in Sanatana Dharma (Hindusim) meaning ‘the whole world is one big family’ (Sankar 1) is a reason why rice flower and such natural powders were used, so that the insects could feed off of them. Each color has a significant meaning behind it and is different in different parts in India. Now color that has dye in it is mainly used to attract more people and make it look more vibrant and realistic. Modern Rangoli is more focused towards the creativity of it rather then the spiritual aspect of it.

In southern India, there is myth about Lord Thirumal getting married in the Margazhi month, a time of the month that is said to be very auspicious. During this month, the girls get up before sunrise to start drawing Kolams [Rangoli is called kolam in southern India] to welcome the God of Thirumal (Dhawan 1). Going around a dot pattern makes Kolams.

During the month of January the Pongal kolam is made, in which the drawing is left undone until the next day so that they can join them with the neighboring houses.

More then just a design, Kolams is also used for mathematical ideas. They are very particular in using symmetry while making the designs and some even have a pattern that repeats several times. Some kolam are drawn using repetition of patterns in various angles Ascher (57-63). Symbols such as letters or numbers are used to explain the step-by-step way they are made.

Where Kolams are made up of more lines and have a geometrical pattern to them, Rangoli is made with vibrant colors and have many different designs. Each have there own significance and are used in different parts of India. Rangoli requires more intricate work than Kolams. Kolam is used more so in the southern part of India and Rangoli in northern part.

There are many different types of kolam designs; the most popular ones are the line and pulli Kolams. Line Kolams are free handed and are just geometrical lines. Pulli Kolams are designs where the dots are made in a certain sequence and lines are drawn to connect the dots. The pulli kolam has two different ways of making the design, one of which is connecting the dots and the other are twisted chains that are made around the dots Ascher (57-63). One other kind of kolam, called the snake kolam, different from any other Kolam, since it is drawn continuously and ends off where it began.

Rangoli is used in all of India whether it is for making drawing or used for special occasions. It has been passed down from centuries ago and is now being used in different ways and has even moved its way to a different side of it, the mathematical aspect. In the most recent years is when computer scientists have seen the usage of mathematical concepts being incorporated into the designs. As this tradition is passed down to future generations, the meaning and importance will slowly change as well. Slowly the designs will be improved by adding innovative aspects which differ from the past generations.. Rangoli’s is used upon arrivals of guests, family gatherings, and even when there are no special occasions. This allows women to get together and calm their minds down from the household work and provide them with a sense of relaxation from the tedious lifestyle. It is a way to express your happiness and allow others to enjoy the beautiful colors and designs made.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Sankar, Gayatri (2011) “Significance of Rangoli.” http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/diwali-2011/significance-of-rangoli_98667.html

Dhawan, Ashu (2015) “Why do we draw Rangoli? Significance & Importance!” Retrieved from http://hindutva.info/why-do-we-draw-rangoli-significance-importance/

Subramanian, Ram (2014) “Kolam: A Tradition Combining Art and Geometry to Form Colorful Patterns.” Retrieved from http://tamilnadu.com/arts/kolam.html

Ascher, Marcia (2002) “The Kolam Tradition: A Tradition of Figure-drawing in Southern India Expresses Mathematical Ideas and Has Attracted the Attention of Computer Science.” American Scientist 90, no.1: 56-63.

http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uleth.ca/stable/27857597?Search=yes&resultItemClick=true&searchText=kolam&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3Fwc%3Doff%26Query%3Dkolam%2B%26acc%3Don%26so%3Drel%26hp%3D25%26prq%3Dkolam%2Btradition%26amp%3D%26amp%3D%26amp%3D%26amp%3D%26amp%3D%26amp%3D%26fc%3Doff&seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents

Rao, Venkata V (2006) “What is the origin of Rangoli?” Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/What-is-the-origin-of-rangoli/articleshow/411395.cms

Hopkins, Dwight N (2001) Religions/Globalizations: Theories and Cases. Durham and London Duke University Press

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Rangoli

Pulli kolam

Line kolam

Margazhi

Ramayana

Lord Thirumal

Pongal kolam

Diwali

Snake kolam

Haldi

Vermillion

Goddess Lakshmi

Symmetry

This article was written by: Preet Parmar (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for this content. ab

Hindu Monasteries (Matha)

Hindu monasteries or mathas are any residential monastic establishments or educational centre for renouncers or sannyasis; even though, the ideal monk is classified as a wanderer. A matha can also refer to a single hut with only one ascetic or a large community of ascetics and their disciplines and students. They were founded by Sankara, a great teacher, in the 8th century. The original four mathas were strategically placed in India to be used as bulwarks for the missionaries and centres for Sankara’s ten religious groups: on the east coast, in Puri, the Govardhana matha for the Aranyakas and the Vana orders; in the Himalayas, near Badrinath, the Jyotih matha for the Giri, Parvaya, and Sagara orders; on the west coast, in Dvaraka, the Sarada matha for the Tirtha and Asrama orders; and lastly, in south India the Srngeri matha for the Bharati, Puri, and Sarasvati orders (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Later a fifth matha arose in Kancipuram, near Madras, called the Saradaptha matha (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Each matha that was founded by Sankara is led by either a teacher or a spiritual leader also known as a Sankaracarya or a Jagadguru. Individual mathas and their history are directly associated with the succession of its spiritual leader; therefore each matha operates completely independent to any other matha. Typically, the current Sankaracarya appoints one of his followers to become the new spiritual leader in the event of his passing; however, issues can arise if no successor was named and the Sankaracarya passes away unexpectedly. Eventually gurus were even given the responsibility of providing social and economic services to the community. Each Sankaracarya has their own set of followers and their goal is to meet their own religious needs such as “focus on ritual activity and devotional worship rather than renunciation or meditative realization of non-dual brahman” (Fort 613).

There are several important initiations rites to the ascetic life. According Miller and Wertz the first being that after one has determined they want to enter the ascetic life they need to acquire a guru who is willing to take them as his discipline (84). The guru can either be an ascetic from one’s village, a religious teacher or in some cases an uncle (Miller and Wertz 84). Then the discipline must cut all his family ties by performing death ceremonies with his parents (Miller and Wertz 85). After the death ceremony the discipline will no longer be allowed to perform any household services (Miller and Wertz 85). The head ascetic of a monastery will then administer a ritual called diksa (Miller and Wertz 84). The head ascetic must be a man who has already performed his last vows of renunciation (Miller and Wertz 84). The two forms of diksa are when the guru administers the ritual to a lay disciple and the other is only given to ascetic disciples (Miller and Wertz 84). This recognizes the “would be” ascetic and that he is permanently separating himself from his former life (Miller and Wertz 84). Finally, the discipline must acquire a religious name that ends with his sub-order’s name (Miller and Wertz 84). After performing these basic initiation rites a man can enter the ascetic life.

According to Guru Saccinananda the main function of a matha is to give ethical advice and moral teachings to the disciples in hopes of creating “honest, peace-loving, independent, moral, and well behaved” people (Miller and Wertz 25). However, according to Saccinananda several other functions are “to provide education in Sanskrit, to feed guests, to give money to the poor, shelter to the helpless, and the burial to the dead who have no family’ (Miller and Wertz 25). He also claimed that there are ten daily practices that are basic steps to liberation. The first is that the discipline must get up before sunrise each morning (Miller and Wertz 26). The second is that they must pay respect every morning and evening to the sun God Savitri (Miller and Wertz 26). The third is each day while bathing the discipline must recite sacred mantras or verses to a deity of their choice (Miller and Wertz 26). The fourth is that they must perform daily sacrificial fire offerings and yoga postures (Miller and Wertz 26). The fifth is that they must service all their guests (Miller and Wertz 26). The sixth is that the funeral offerings to one’s ancestors must be performed at noon (Miller and Wertz 26). The seventh is that they must take sacred food in the  afternoon and before each evening (Miller and Wertz 26). The eighth is that each evening the disciples’ deity of choice must be worshipped (Miller and Wertz 26). The ninth is that each evening before they go to bed they must perform meditation for the welfare of humanity (Miller and Wertz 26). Lastly, they are only allowed to sleep from the hours of 11pm to 4pm (Miller and Wertz 26).

According to Jagadananda, in a Hindu matha, there a ten precepts of ethical behaviour that one must follow. The first is that you must act kind towards a harsh and unpleasant man and by doing so you have the ability to change him (Miller and Wertz 34). The second is that even if others do not like you that does not mean you have to dislike them back. Eventually these people will lose their power and someday feel bad for their negative actions (Miller and Wertz 34). The third is that you need to ensure you are using the appropriate dialogue when conversing with others as this is a main factor when determining if they will be an enemy or a friend (Miller and Wertz 35). The fourth is that you must respect others when it is their turn to talk as everyone was created equally and by God (Miller and Wertz 35). The fifth is that you should not be disrespectful to people in lower classes as you might be born into that class or position on your next rebirth (Miller and Wertz 35). The sixth is that only ignorant men are prejudiced to one’s caste and skin colour (Miller and Wertz 35). The seventh is that you must consider your “superiors as well wishers and your inferiors as blessed” (Miller and Wertz 35). The eighth is that you need to be independent but also care for your parents needs at the same time as they were the ones who made you into the man you are by giving up their money, time and resources (Miller and Wertz 35). The ninth, is that when you pray to a deity you should be praying for the greatness and happiness of humanity  and not for yourself; the deity will only listen and respond to a man who is concerned about the welfare of others (Miller and Wertz 35). Lastly, “do not grasp onto things” or be materialistic; Brahman, the Vedic creator god, is always around and is everywhere in the universe (Miller and Wertz 35).

Even though numerous mathas have been established over the years as either additions to other institutions or by an individual guru, the original four mathas created by Sankara are still the main ones. Srngeri, Dvaraka, Badrinath and Puri are special and are also known as the amnaya mathas as they are connected with the four Vedas, the matching Upanisad Mahavakyas and Sankara’s four main followers (Sundaresan 110). The most famous and influential matha is Srngeri, in Karnataka State, in South Asia. It is also known as the centre of the Sankaran Vedanta tradition and was originally used as a place to stay and study for samnyasins. In the Srngeri matha the samnyasins who reside there highly regard the Vivekacudamani (Sawai 22).  However, since the fourteenth century it became a place for pilgrimage, worship and philosophical study (Fort 613). The main goddess that is now worshipped at Srngeri is Sri Sarada (Fort 613). The lay adherents of the Vedic tradition or smartas also now visit Srngeri for advice and boons from the Sankaracaryas (Fort 613).

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Fort, Andrew (1994) The Faith of Ascetics and Lay Smartas: A Study of the Sankaran Tradition of Srngeri. Journal of Asian Studies 53.2: 613. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

Isaeva, Natalia (1993) Shankara and Indian Philosophy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Web. 5 Feb 2016.

Matha (2016) Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web. 07 Feb. <http://www.britannica.com/topic/matha>.

Miller, David M., and Dorothy C. Wertz (1976) Hindu monastic life: The monks and monasteries of Bhubaneswar. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP. Web. 5 Feb 2016.

Prasad, Leela (2006) Text, Tradition, and Imagination: Evoking the Normative in Everyday Hindu Life. Numen 53.1: 1–47. Web. 5 Feb 2016.

Sawai, Yoshitsugu (1987) The Nature of Faith in the Sankaran Vedanta Tradition. Numen 34.1: 18–44. Web. 5 Feb 2016.

Sears, Tamara (2008) Constructing the Guru: Ritual Authority and Architectural Space in Medieval India. The Art Bulletin 90.1: 7–31. Web.7 Feb 2016.

Shankara (2016) Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web. 07 Feb. 2016 <http://www.britannica.com/biography/Shankara>.

Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (2000) Conflicting Hagiographies and History: The Place of Sankaravijaya Texts in Advaita Tradition. International Journal of Hindu Studies 4.2: 109–184. Web. 7 Feb 2016.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Sankara

Guru

Samnyasin

Smarta tradition

Jadadguru

Advaita Tradition

Srngeri matha

Amnaya mathas

Sankaracarya

Diska

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

https://www.himalayanacademy.com/monastery/about

http://indiafacts.org/the-hindu-matha-a-introduction/

http://indology.info/papers/sundaresan/shank-jyot-ascii/

http://www.sringeri.net/history/sri-adi-shankaracharya

http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/sringeri.htm

http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/sankara-life.html

 

Article written by: Hailey McLean (March 2016) who is solely responsible for the content

 

 

 

The Kula Ritual

An important text that has been used to fully introduce the Kula ritual is Dupuche’s book entitled: Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual: As Elaborated in Chapter 29 of the Tantraloka (2003). The Kula ritual is cited within the Tantraloka and therefore falls within tantric Saivism, particularly the Trika Saivism sect (Dupuche 8). Research of Abhinavagupta and his contributions to Trika Saivism is an important part of fully grasping what the Kula ritual includes and the ideologies that are related to it. Abhinavagupta wrote the Tantraloka, which is still an extremely important treatise within the Tantric tradition (Rodrigues 283). It is essential to note that Abhinavagupta did not fully reject the Vedic tradition, however his work is not considered to belong to Hindu orthodox work (Dupuche 8). The orthodox Vedic traditions emphasize living a pure life and then has a host of items, actions, foods, etc. that would be considered impure. The Kula ritual does not have a preference for purity or impurity. Dupuche’s even states that it “uses forbidden foods and forbidden women” (Dupuche 9).

Overall, the general idea and structure of the Kula Ritual is the ‘secret ceremony.’ It is shrouded in mystery, but at the very root of the Kula ritual; it is the worship of Perfect Beings. Dupuche describes Perfect Beings as: beings that “occupy a place midway between gods and mankind” (Dupuche 80). He further explains that these beings enjoy siddhi and try to lead others to the same state (Dupuche 80). A paper written by Karel Werner tries to explain the complicated and confusing factor of the Kula Ritual. The writer continues to suggest the “aim of the Kula Ritual is to overcome every day common dualisms” (Werner 117). Tantric tradition seeks to go beyond dualisms, which equivocate to spiritual ignorance (Rodrigues 399).  Werner goes on to explain that another overarching theme of the Kula Ritual the idea of finding one’s true self (Werner 117). The ritual has various separating factors that include: qualified and unqualified persons, men and women, niracara and sacara, pure and impure, and initiated and not initiated persons.

The elaboration of those that are qualified to practice the Kula ritual and those who are unqualified simply fall under the categories of disciple and guru or simple layperson. The category seems rather arbitrary because it implies that anyone who wishes to practice the Kula ritual would simply need to search for a guru and become his disciple. Only those that have a specific “seed” that are related to the Kula tradition may be considered qualified. Since the “seed transmission” is implied to the transfer of semen, it implies that only men can be considered a qualified, initiated guru. Abhinavagupta lists “six qualified gurus” and “six unqualified gurus” (Dupuche 74). He further goes on to dichotomize the transmission of seed and the transmittance of vibrating power of Siva. The transmission of seed is the transfer of semen (Dupuche 74). Those who do not have potent seed are seen as not functioning and therefore do not have disciples and must remain celibate. Those that do have proper functioning seed are qualified to practice the Kula tradition. Even so, the Kula ritual allows for both male and female practitioners. To understand how women are seen within the Kula ritual, one needs to be aware of how niracara and sacara are related to religious philosophy. The term niracara speaks toward those who are not attached to any ritual and the term sacara defines those who are attached to or emphasize ritual practice. Many of the qualified women that are part of the Kula ritual are considered to be niracara and therefore should be seen and treated as goddesses (Dupuche 77). The ‘officiate’ of the ritual is the guru, typically male, and because of his role with the ritual he is seen as the sacara aspect of it.

Abhinavagupta composed Tantraloka 29 in eight different sub-topics. The Tantraloka is a text that is found within the Saivism sect. It outlines a series of rituals and practices. However, Tantraloka 29 discusses the topic of the Kula Ritual. It explains specific rituals that an individual who practices the Kula ritual abides by. These topics are grouped under rituals for those who are initiated and rituals for those who are not initiated. However, as a prelude to the sub-topics there are preliminary rituals. “The Essence [of the Kula ritual procedure]” (Dupuche 70) is an important subsection within the prelude. The section has been speculated to truly be the essence of the Kula ritual as it is the opening of the Tantraloka 29 and sets the tone for the entirety of the chapter. The structure is ultimately laid out in three categories: daily, occasional, and optional rituals (Dupuche 85). Daily rituals, as with many other religions, are set to happen every day at the same time. Occasional rituals are performed during certain and specific events. Optional rituals happen at times when the practitioner chooses. While there are clearly defined rituals for the initiated and not initiated, the sub-topics are not evenly distributed. However, before the start of the categorized sub-topics there is an Opening Ritual that is involved. There stands to be four sub-topics that are involved with the initiated rituals and three sub-topics that are involved with the not initiated.

The opening ritual is a separated ritual that also serves as an introduction to procedure of the chapter (Dupuche 93). The mechanics of a ritual is important- and Abhinavagupta goes through it quite comprehensively. Similarly to the Vedic traditions, purity is an important part of ritual. So, to mirror certain practices one must bathe prior to the start of the ritual. The practitioner is also required to cleanse instruments that are to be used in the ritual. He mentions that after cleansing procedures, two important stages take place (Dupuche 94). The first step that a practitioner must come to is an achieved state of bliss that is called a “state of Bhairava” (Dupuche 94) and “sprinkles himself… with droplets taken from the vessel” (Dupuche 94). The droplets may be related to alcohol (wine). A further continuation of the opening ritual starts to deviate from the Vedic traditions. Many rituals within the Vedic traditions are done in the public eye. In contrast, the Kula Opening Ritual is meant to be private- to never be seen in public, to avoid societal influences may contribute to. However, while the ritual is not meant to be in public, it is also not meant to in the private space that is considered the home (Dupuche 94).

There are three great mantras used within the Opening Ritual. As previously mentioned there is a strong tie between external manifestation and the state of Bhairava. The three mantras are used as a “form of bath the external sort of which is discounted in the Kula rituals” (Dupuche 100). A keystone of the opening ritual is the filling of the Vessel. The practitioner is responsible for filling the vessel with various forbidden items such as: wine, meat, and sexual fluid (Dupuche 101). The items lead to bliss, which is considered to be one of the highest realities (Dupuche 101). However, the bliss that is mentioned within the document is related to consciousness. Within the literature, there is great implication that sacrifice is an act that is a manifested within the individual’s consciousness. Dupuche supports this claim by stating “[t]hree inter-related internal acts may be considered here since they are the essential method of all the Kula sacrifices,” and that “[i]t brings into reality the object which exists only as a desire” (Dupuche 102). By participating in the Opening ritual, the practitioner realizes his state as Bhairava and is now able to engage in Sacrifices (Dupuche 104). Within his text, Dupuche highlights the sacrifices one, two, and three. Dupuche quickly brushes over each subject. Sacrifice one is considered to be the “external celebration of splendor of consciousness” (Dupuche 105).

Sub-topic three is part number two of the rituals for the initiated. It is entitled “the Ritual of Adoration.” Sub-topic three and Sacrifice two are closely related. Sacrifice two is related to the dualism of the term sakti. It relies on the idea and philosophy that sakti is the female principle and is the principle that is seen as responsible for all activity in the world. Due to the nature of the tantric tradition, one may assume that the term refers to an actual woman. However, within Dupuche’s text, he explicitly states, “it does not refer to an actual woman” but rather “is based on the “internal sakti.” The Ritual of Adoration is concerned with sacred sites (pitha) and four stages of Krama (Dupuche 113). The sacred sites that are being referred to correspond to the sites on the practitioner’s own body, and note external landmarks, rooms, etc. These pitha correspond to spaces on the “sexual dimensions on the body” and the pitha symbolize the “sacred union of ‘the faculty and its object’ (Dupuche 115). The four stages of Krama include: emanation, maintenance, reabsorption, and a section entitled “Nameless.” The first step (emanation) is considered the “installation of the sites” (Dupuche 116). It ensures that these sacred sites are defined. The male reabsorption starts from his hands and slowly moves down his body and ends in his toes. The nine women that are to be included within the ritual are to be considered ritually impure within the classical Vedic traditions (Dupuche 117).

Sub-topic four is entitled: The Ritual with the Sexual Partner. There are two defined sub-sections. The main sections within this particular sub-topic are participants and the ritual. Within the Vedic tradition, brahmacaya is the student phase that promotes celibacy. Within the Tantraloka 29, Abhinavagupta describes brahman as “the bliss between Siva and sakti” (Dupuche 125). There are elements of sub-topic four that have been focused upon within Tantraloka 28. One of the key elements of Tantraloka 28 is the circle sacrifice. The circle sacrifice within the context of the Tantraloka 29 refers to the “theatrical aspect of the gathering” (Dupuche 129). This circle ritual aspect also advocates for consent of all those involved, as well as searching for the true interpretation of sakti. The ritual has three emissions that include: emanation, reabsorption, and blending. The emanation of the ritual has three trajectories in which can be viewed as subsections of emanation. The first trajectory is “Emphasis on Action” in summations focuses on the erotic nature of the Kula ritual and tries to explain the bond between bliss, Siva, and sakti. The second trajectory is Emphasis on Knowledge. This section goes on to explain differentiated though “leads to absorption and the emission of the fluid” (Dupuche 138).  The final trajectory is entitled “Emphasis on the sakti.” This section starts with defining the important of sakti and the “immediacy of her impact” (Dupuche 139). It further goes on to state that sakti goes beyond the other two trajectories and is much more complex. As a closing statement to the third trajectory, Abhinavagupta state that “sexual fluid… results from consciousness” (Dupuche 140). After the three trajectories that are housed under the first emission are explained, the second and third emissions are briefly summarized. Reabsorption (the second emission) explains the “a human of flesh and blood” reach a state of bliss, rest, and then ultimately fall into a state of non-bliss. At this point of time the circle ritual that is described above is stopped. The final emission, the “Union” or “Blending.” There are various sexual connotations and it seems that the over-all reason for such emissions is to conceive a child that would be the counterpart of Rudra (Dupuche 147).

The last ritual for those that have been initiated is “The Ritual of the Secret Teaching” or sub-topic five. The fifth sub-topic focuses on sacrifices four, five, and six. Sacrifice four is based on the body, the fifth on the Subtle-breath (prana), and the sixth is based on the mind. In a way it does make sense that all three of these sacrifices are closely related to one another. Within sacrifice four, Abhinavagupta explains that human bodies are akin to the mandala (Dupuche 148). The fifth explains that the satiation that is found within the third sacrifice also satiates the fifth sacrifice (Dupuche 149). Lastly, the sixth sacrifice is simply stated that at the highest level it is consciousness that has been obtained (Dupuche 150).

The next three sub-topics are considered to be rituals for those that need to be initiated. The first of these three is sub-topic six. There are two types of initiation: Ordinary Initiation and Initiation as the Son. After the two types of initiation are explained, Abhinavagupta goes on to explain a section entitled “On the Son who Desires Enjoyment.” The reason for ordinary initiation does not focus on the “external events” but rather focuses on the reabsorption of energy (Dupuche 154). It also is the search for the balance between liberation and sexual pleasures. It is the first step toward being initiated as a Son. After one goes through ordinary initiation, one may be able to initiate as a son. This proves to be the next step toward becoming a master within the rituals. In order to be initiated as a son one must be able to be “brought to liberation and only then can he be properly receive the enjoyment which penetration procures” (Dupuche 158). However, as this is only initiation into the Kula ritual, the initiate focuses on himself rather than the sexual aspect of the ritual (Dupuche 162). Sub-topic seven simply discusses anointing the adept and the master (Dupuche 164). Finally Sub-topic eight focuses on the penetration. This form of penetration concerns breaking through various bondages that a person find himself naturally in.

The Kula ritual is a ritual and tradition that is shrouded within a lot of mystery and secrecy. It is split between two groups of people: Those who are already initiated and those who still have yet to initiate into the ritual. There are various sexual themes that are associated with the ritual.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Basu, Srishchandra (2004) The Esoteric Philosophy of The Tantras. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.

Dupuche, John R. (2003) Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual: As Elaborated in Chapter 29 of the Tantraloka. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.

Muller-Ortega, Paul E. (1997) The Triadic Heart of Siva. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications.

Rodrigues, Hillary. (2006) Introducing Hinduism. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Sastri, Gaurinath (2002) Rituals and Practice of Tantra Vol. I. India: Cosmo Publications.

Sastri, Gaurinath (2002) Rituals and Practice of Tantra Vol. II. India: Cosmo Publications.

Werner, Karel. (2005) “Review of Books.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 15#1 (April): 116-118.

 

Related topics for further investigation

Tantraloka

Tantraloka 29

Abhinavagupta

Savism

Siva

Tantra

Esoteric

Hairava

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

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

http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/back-to-the-basics-understanding-jati-varna-gotra-and-kula/

http://interfaithashram.com/2015/10/25/abhinavagupta-the-kula-ritual-as-elaborated-in-chapter-29-of-the-tantraloka-2003-551-pp/

 

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