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Viśvarūpa

Chapter 1


THE EXPERIMENTAL PHASE...

 

The ascending sequence of divinities below each of these maharṣis on the shaft of the column at Nānd may symbolize the progressive meditative states through which the devotee will pass, each one proceeding from the last, on his way to the liberation of the spirit. The column may, in short, be a visual model of the mental processes leading to mokṣa; simultaneously- this process in the individual being a microcosmic reflex of the macrocosm-the sculpture would also he a symbol of the cosmological process. Such a concept would appear to he more closely related to the function of the Vedic yūpa, the wooden stake or pole within the sacrificial enclosure, than to the phallic symbolism of the Śivaliṅga. These views will he sup-ported by he argument which follows, in my interpretation of the column.

Vertical series of similar superimposed dispositions appear not to have been continued as independent cult objects in the Gupta and post-Gupta periods. They were, however, perpetuated as integral elements of more complicated multihead icons which were first formulated in the Gupta period, especially the Vaiṣṇava iron type of Viśvarūpa. For this reason, their original religious significance must be investigated here in order to establish what exactly made them relevant to the later iconography of complex multiple images.

As the two sculptures of Type A just described are the only known examples of an independent cult object conceived as a vertical series of figures within the Kuṣāṇa period, it may be proposed that they are two versions of the same iconographical conception. The fragment in the Mathura Museum would then represent an earlier attempt to translate into sculptural form the concept which finds its fullest expression, as far as is known, in the Nānd column. The back of the Mathura Museum fragment is not carved at all, the relief is shallow, and the squatting posture of the figures on the front is more typical of archaic deities than of the later, fully developed icons which mostly-though not exclusively27 -represent the deity standing erect. The Nānd column, on the other hand, is sculpted nearly from top to bottom on all four sides in very high relief, and the principal figures on the main shaft are standing in contrast to those above them who adopt the squatting posture. The two sculptures may thus be regarded as representing the possible beginning and the zenith of a short-lived brahmanical iron type, the intermediate developmental phases of which have yet to be discovered.

If my opinion that such a sculpture does not represent a type of Śivaliṅga accepted, then an entirely different columnar concept has to be sought which would explain the form of these cult objects. The Mauryan pillars and yūpa-yaṣṭi or central pole of the Buddhist stūpa can have no direct bearing on this problem being plain columns with the only significant elements placed at the top; the shaft itself is not adorned with figures in either case. The reverse is true of the Nānd column.

The archaic concept of 'yūpa', the sacrificial stake of Vedic religion, however, can be presumed to be the archetype of any non-phallic, columnar construct serving a ritual purpose: there is no more ancient, man-made pillar-concept known in Indian religion. The most coherent and explicit development of this concept is that traceable to the central element in the cosmogonic theory of the oldest surviving Vaiṣṇava sect in India, the Pāṅcarātra. An examination of the oldest extant Sanskrit scriptures28 of this sect leads to the conclusion that some of its original literary imagery appears to have been translated into iconographic format Mathura and Nānd, in the Kuṣāṇa sculptures which are here categorized as Types A and B.

There exist numerous iconographical portions embedded in the large corpus of Pāṅcarātra literature29 which clearly relate to extant icon types, but the Kuṣāṇa images under discussion are not described in them. This fact reinforces the argument that the sculptures are only to be explained in terms of the metaphors employed to describe the cosmogonic process in the earlier strata of sectarian scripture, before the iconographical treatise (śilpa-śātra) became a distinct literary category within the wider context of the Purāṇas, Tantras and Agamas.

The central metaphor, in the Pāṅcarātra texts, is the Viśākha-yūpa. It represents the original unitary source and the secondary self-dividing source, in the form of a continuum, of the entire universe. It progresses but always at every stage overlaps, accounting for everything, without hiatus. The divisions of the source are vyūhas, 'pushings-apart', from the dividing secondary source, and they are personified as the kinsmen Vāsudeva, (Kṛṣṇa), his elder brother Saṅkarṣaṇa (Baladeva, Balarāma, Halāyudha), his son Pradyumna and grandson Aniruddha: members of the Sāttvata clan30 whose kinship and overlapping life spans symbolize the integrity and continuity of the cosmic process. In one of the earliest known31 Pāṅcarātra texts, the Sāttvata-saṃhitā32, the Viśākha-yūpa is described in detail as 'a great brilliant column divided into four sections. Each section is allocated to one of the Vyūhas deities, but also contains all four of them respectively occupying the four points of the compass. This symbolizes the uninterrupted continuity of Vyūhas through all the four states of consciousness33 ... These four deities Vāsudeva etc. being identical with God, each incorporates all four Vyūha deities and hence in each state all four are present the entire column thus represents the one and single deity34 This deity is 'the holy god, Viśākhayūpa'.35 The yūpa -concept has thus been transformed into a personal god, symbol of the continuum but made up of four quadruple stages, each constituent being a member of the related tetrad, repeated four times with one predominant at every stage.

If this imagery is visualized, it is clear that a horizontal series of anthropomorphic images could convey neither the overlapping sequence nor the presence of a group of four at each step in the progression. A free-standing vertical construct is essential. Perhaps the best modern object of comparison would he a telescope standing on end and gradually being extended section by section. And the nearest ancient Indian illustration of the metaphor is unquestionably the Nānd column. The four vertical stages are clearly represented, the fourth being distinctly separated from the other three. All the other elements are distinctly present: the four figures facing the four cardinal directions at every level; the overlapping of one figure by the next to represent the continuity of evolution; and a dominant figure at each stage distinguished by a halo. It is difficult to conceive of a more precise representation of the cosmogonic imagery of the Sāttvata-saṃhitā. It is proposed that the Nānd column, far from being a Śivaliṅga, is an icon of the Vaiṣṇava Pāṅcarātra god, Viśākhayūpa.

That the Viśākhayūpa was conceived primarily as a meditational image rather than as an icon is apparent from the earliest known Pāṅcarātra text to describe it fully, the Sāttvata-saṃhitā 36

It becomes apparent from this text that the notion was developed in order to provide the yogin with a representation of the indivisible and changeless creator God pervading the Vyūha-s as Antaryāmin so that he would be able to visualize that symbol for purposes of meditation... Counting all the manifestations of the Vyūha-s in all four sections of the Viśākha-yūpa we arrive at sixteen sub-divisions of the Viśākha yūpa. It may be claimed that these sub-divisions reflect the stage the adept has reached in his spiritual elevation from gross to subtle, while the Viśākha-yūpa encompasses all these stages. Practicing meditation the initiate gradually loses consciousness of the material world and rises higher and higher as it were into the region of pure creation till he reaches the summit, i.e. the transcendental state. The Viśākha-yūpa concept was necessary because the Pāṅcarātra strove to make its tenets explicit.37

It appears far more reasonable to regard the Nānd column as one such attempt by a Pāṅcarātra cult to express its salvation technique-which is virtually a reversal of its cosmogonic imagery-than as Śaiva cult-object.38

The three Kuṣāṇa sculptures of type B-those of a ramifying composition - (Plates 10-17) and two related pieces will now be dismissed. Three are fragments and consequently no definitive identifications can be made. Original interpretations will be suggested, however, where identifications offered by other writers appear inadequate. The most important point of discussion for the purposes of this study is the reason for the invention o f the ramifying composition, since this same composition in more complex form, is to occur in the iconography of later brahmanical multiple images. The points of contact between this experimental disposition of plural forms and its perpetuation in certain images of fixed iconography in the Gupta and post-Gupta periods require examination if the logic of progression in iconography is to be understood.

The first work to be examined here, assembled fragments of a stone sculpture, is an incomplete reconstruction of a multiple deity (Plates 10-13) which is housed in the Mathura Museum. It comprises four assembled fragments39 recovered from the Saptasamudri well at Mathura. They are assembled in the manner shown in Figure I. I. This was evidently intended to be a free-standing icon, being carved on all sides. The total height of the remains is 43.2 centimeters. The original composition appears, from the front, to have taken the form of a central male figure with a smaller figure rising in a curve from behind each shoulder and a third figure emerging vertically from the crown of the central deity. This is inferred from the actual remains which from the front present the following appearance (Plate 10).

A male figure, broken off below the abdomen, wears a short garland of leaves and flowers, armlets and quadruple bracelets which are incised with a vine pattern, and a plain necklace. Upon the head, a tall flat-topped crown of cylindrical shape, decorated with a repeated  'rosette enclosing an unopened bud'40 pattern edged with a narrow fringe-like margin41 and with a thin upper rim, is held in place42 by a thick head-band to which a flower is attached in front of the ears. Pendant ear-ornaments are broken away and the lobes of the ears are, unusually, pierced; the broken stonework on either side of the face which overlaps the garland extends down behind the ears from the head-band, suggesting that it originally represented long locks of hair43 falling upon the shoulders. This crowned figure appears on cursory inspection to be two-armed, the right raised in the abhayamudrā with the edge of the hand turned forward and backed by a floral pad44 while the left is lowered, the hand being turned palm-upward to support a now-broken object; but the addition of fragment 14.395 to the proper right (the junction is seen in Plate 12) clearly shows that there was a second hand on this side, the lingers of which can be seen curling over the top of a mace (Plates 10 and 12). A thickening of the left upper arm and a broken stump beneath the armlet Indicate that there was also a second arm on the other side (Plate 11). The lower part of the face has been somewhat damaged, but the round eyes, heavily lidded and pouched, still direct their fixed gaze Freehand sketch. Not to scale downward (Plate 10), while above the centre of the unbroken, sinuous line of the brows the circular ūrṇā45 is clearly represented.  

Fig 1.1 Diagram of Mathura Museum fragments 14-392-5, showing how the fragments are assembled, and the disposition of the tree on the back

Even in the absence of any sculptural signs of an original halo, the formal posture, the crown, ūrṇā and above all the multiplication of arms, provide ample evidence for the divine nature of this figure. The identity of the god is to be inferred from the presence of the large club or mace (gadā) which-along with the disc (cakra) which was almost certainly held in the missing second left hand of this icon-was the weapon typical of Viṣṇu in the Kuṣāṇa and all succeeding periods.

As it is relevant to the next stage in the description of this image, a particular observation may be made here concerning the manner of representation of the mace which appears immediately below the figure emerging from behind the right shoulder of the main god. The mace may therefore be symbolically related to the emergent figure. Its shaft is incised with over-lapping 'scales' pointing upward, suggestive of a natural palm-tree trunk rather than an ornamented artifact, although the separate head of the weapon is shown firmly bound in place with thick cord (Plates 10 and 12). This 'natural' club seems to be unique in Kuṣāṇa Vaiṣṇava iconography. Similar 'scales', though much larger in proportion to the trunk, are to be seen in the skillfully rendered sculpture of a fan-palm (tāla) from Pawāya, dating from the fourth or fifth century A.D.46 The fan-palm is one of the symbols of Balarāma or Baladeva (alias Saṅkarṣaṇa) in epic mythology: he is known by the epithet tāla-dhvaja, 'Having the Fan-Palm as his Banner' in the Mahābhārata.47 That sculpture and another from Besnagar are considered to be the capitals of pillars-tala-dhvaja in the nominal sense--representing Saṅkarṣaṇa.48 The tree is tapped for its intoxicating juice, which is drunk by the characteristically inebriate Saṅkarṣaṇa,49 anthropomorphic images of whom conventionally portray him holding a goblet among other symbols. Balarāma or Saṅkarṣaṇa, described in the next paragraph, is the brother of Kṛṣṇa50 who holds the club.

Emerging from-or merging with-the proper right shoulder of the central tour-armed god in the sculpture under discussion, appears a two-armed male figure (Plates 10 and 12). This figure is sculpted to a scale almost half that of the main deity, but the body is elongated, being stretched outward and upward away from the point of junction. Despite a certain exaggeration of some features - such as the disproportionately deep chest-this elongation of the torso is evidently an attempt at anatomical realism, given the posture which the figure is made to adopt, namely leaning sideways to its right with its right arm raised. The movement-and its direction-implied by this posture, which is as difficult to adopt physically as it is to portray artistically, will be important to the interpretation of the icon as a whole, which follows the present description of it. Behind this small figure, visible on either side, the stone is carved in a rounded and undulating shape; this background widens to enfold the head of the figure, above which level it is broken off. But the inside of this concavity is incised with slightly divergent vertical lines linked by curved horizontal lines, rather like crooked ladders. This had become the conventional method of representing the underside of a Nāga below its multiple heads; the height of its development, in the Gupta period, is perhaps best seen in the magnificent multiple serpent-head canopy curving over the head of Viṣṇu Śeṣaśāyyin in the southern wall panel of the Viṣṇu temple at Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh.51 The technique had been known from the time of the reliefs around the Bharhut stūpa, where the serpentine bodies and hoods of the Nāgarājas Erāpata and Muchulinda were similarly treated52 in the second century B.C. From the remains of the serpent-head canopy behind the side-figure of the icon under discussion, the number of serpent-heads appears to have been live. This serpent-backed figure wears a typical Kuṣāṇa turban-with-rosette of a type similar to that seen on the standing figures of the Nānd pillar and the head at the base of the Mathura Museum fragment (supra page 3); a triple headed necklace with pendant leaves, evidently from the same tree as those worn by the central god in his garland, in clusters of three; and a four-strand girdle about the waist. The right arm, although broken near the shoulder, was evidently raised above the head; and the left holds a thin-stemmed goblet, into which the eyes seem to direct their glance, in a natural manner under the chin, as if pausing between draughts. The multi-headed serpent and the cup of wine are among the traditional emblems of Saṅkarṣaṇa, whom this figure beyond question represents, as noted first by N.P. Joshi.53 Standing figures of Saṅkarṣaṇa of identical Iconography and posture-except for the curve of this outward leaning figure-are known to have become standardized iconographic forms within about a century of the creation of the present image in the Mathura area.54 From the broken projection of circular cross-section (Plate 11) above and toward the back of the left shoulder of the main four-armed god at the centre of this composition, it is only reasonable to suppose that another complementary figure was conjoined on that side.

A fourth figure, represented only from the chest upward and to a scale only slightly smaller than that of the main deity, is sculpted upon the flat top surface of the crown. It is set back from the front edge of the crown, leaving a narrow curved 'shelf' before it. The head of this figure is lost; he right arm, though severely damaged, appears to have been raised from the elbow, probably with the hand in the abhayamudrā. The left hand is lowered to the imaginary level of the hip, in fact the side of the crown within which one is thus made to conceive of the lower part of the body being concealed. Being familiar with standing icons of Bodhisattvas with their hands in exactly these positions, it is difficult for the modern archaeologist-and must have been impossible for the contemporary observer-not to gain the impression through this extremely clever overlapping device, that the apical figure stands within, or rises from the interior of the principal god below it. This figure wears a solid jewelled necklace and the upper part of a robe over the left shoulder and arm, the end being draped, in what appears to have been the stylish fashion of the time, over the wrist. R. C. Agrawala55 sees in the object held in the lowered left hand of this figure 'a double-pronged vajra-like object'. I feel sure it is simply the water flask which is held by the Kuṣāṇa Bodhisattva figures which this partial image so closely resembles.

The trunk, branches and fruits of a tree are sculpted in fairly high relief on the hack surface of the icon (Plate 13), its foliage being rendered by incised lines which are extended around the side of the image in places. It is clear that the leaves are of the same kind of those worn in the garland of the main deity and which hand from the necklace of the Balarāma or Saṅkarṣaṇa figure. The tree has been identified as the red-flowering aśoka,56 but this cannot be taken as definitive.57 A parrot or similar bird is shown seated upon one of the branches. So many Indian sculptures, in the Kuṣāṇa and earlier periods, are backed by trees, that the presence of a tree behind this icon need not have any particularly symbolic value. The correspondence between the form of the tree and the structure of the icon, however, may be noted here. The trunk rises directly behind the main four-armed god. One branch addorses the Balarāma figure and there is another ramification at the same level to the left, most probably to appear behind the missing figure which projected from the left shoulder of the god. There is a further bifurcation near the top, behind the headless figure at the probable apex of the composition. It is possible, given the likeness of posture between that of the headless apical figure and many Kuṣāṇa standing Bodhisattva sculptures, that like them it wore a turban with rosette as does the Balarāma figure.

I shall refer to the main, central figure as (A), the Saṅkarṣaṇa figure as (B), its missing counterpart on the left as (C), and the top figure as (D), as shown in Figure 1.1 on page 18.

Viewed from the front, the icon appears from the remains originally to have looked like a central four-armed god within whose body-at the shoulders and head-were implanted the lower anatomy of three smaller two-armed figures. What cannot be inferred from the remains alone are the posture-standing or seated-of the central figure (A), the iconography of the missing figure originally conjoined with the left shoulder (hypothetical (C), and the facial features of the apical (D), if indeed this was the final figure in the vertical axis of the whole icon.

From the comparative evidence of four-armed icons identified as Viṣṇu or the integrated [Vāsudeva-Kṛṣṇa + Viṣṇu + Nārāyaṇa] cult figure58 also dating from the Kuṣāṇa period and found in the Mathura area,59 it is clear that the principal figure (A) represents the same god. The mace is held, or rather supported at the top, in a similar manner in the simple icons and in this more complex sculpture, but lower, in order to permit figure (B) to appear unobstructed. As all the Kuṣāṇa Vaiṣṇava remains which are available for comparison, including the Nānd column, depict the god standing, it is most probable that in this icon the main figure (A) was also originally represented in the straight soma-bhaṅga posture. It will be proposed that there are specific reasons pertaining to cult history for the depiction of the main figure in the Musānagar relief panel (Plate 17), which is also of a ramifying composition, as a seated god. Comparison between the latter relief and the present sculpture would indicate, on the basis of their virtually identical composition, that the hypothetical (C) must indeed have emerged from the left shoulder of (A) in the same manner as (B).

The probable apical (D), although its head is broken off, has clear iconographic parallels in the standing Bodhisattva figures of the Kuṣāṇa period: the robe over the left shoulder and arm, the water flask held at waist level and the raised right hand are all features derived from contemporary Buddhist iconography. The necklace worn by this figure is unlike those of (A) and (B); also unlike them, no leaves or flowers are worn around the neck.

This direct borrowing of stock figures, with a minimum of detail altered, from Buddhist statuary-as evidenced in the icon under discussion by (B) and (D)--emphasizes the early formative character of this phase in brahmanical art. Originality appears to have lain at least as much in novel combinations of already existent figures as in innovatory details (such as the mace and disc of Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa, for example, which are added to a figure which might otherwise appear in a contemporary Buddhist frieze). It was compensation for an initial paucity of exclusive (non-Buddhist, non-Jaina) symbols that was one of the causes which contributed to the creation of multiple images in early brahmanical art.

The contemporary single brahmanical icons support this proposition as strongly as the multiple images under discussion. The early four-armed images of Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa in the Mathura region provide clear examples of the same tendency. These icons retain the original arms and hand-positions of Buddhist cult figures but superimpose an extra pair of hands to display the new cult symbols of mace and disc.60 The basic form remains that of a much older, non-brahmanical tradition. Similar, and the more striking in its bizarre appearance, is an early attempt to represent the lion as a brahmanical cult figure by adding a pair of human arms, the hands of which again wield the mace and disc, to an otherwise crude but naturalistic representation of a seated lion.61 It is apparent from these examples that multiplicity of limbs was not, in origin, a wholly new brahmanical conception introduced with a specific and fully formulated symbolical significance, but the result of the addition of limbs to already established, naturalistic art forms. The central figure (A) of the icon under discussion is one product of the same multiplicity-through-addition process: the originality of this image by itself lies almost entirely in its superadded pair of arms and hand-held symbols.

Multiplicity of whole figures in a single conjoint icon appears to he another expression of the same early 'conservatism'- as one might more positively characterize the result of a lack of a wide, systematized and flexible range of symbols through the manipulation of which the complicated concepts expressed by early multiple icons might have been expressed more succinctly. Here, as in the single icons, the original forms remain. Little changed, in spite of the radically different ideology which led to their conjunction in a unitary multiple icon. Experimentation in early brahmanical iconography consisted largely, at this Kuṣāṇa stage, of the ingenious manipulation-into horizontally juxtaposed and vertically and laterally conjoined groupings-of existing non-brahmanical images.

What we may see in the icon under discussion, from the art-historical point of view, is a new combination of Buddhist Indra, a Buddhist Nāga and a Bodhisattva, all clearly recognizable despite the brahmanical alterations to details of the appearance of (A) and (B). That brahmanical iconography of this kind was created out of the extant Buddhist iconography, and not vice-versa, is evident from the long anterior Buddhist art tradition as compared with the sudden brahmanical experimentation in modification and conjunction of the figures from that tradition. Bhattacharji62 suggests that 'during the early centuries A.D. there was brisk interchange of ideas which became operative both in Hindu and Buddhist mythology' and 'Vaiṣṇavism and Buddhism influenced each other in framing the Jātaka stories and moulding the avatāra-myths'. This may be true;63 what is certain is that the same guilds of sculptors who carried out Buddhist commissions also sculpted the experimental brahmanical icons which are under discussion here. And iconographical formulae dictating the form of scenes from Buddhist legend were freely disseminated among the artisan communities along the Gandhara-Mathura axis of the Kuṣāṇa empire, as comparisons between the iconography in the two different styles clearly shows.64 The resultant Buddhist motifs and artistic techniques acquire, under brahmanical direction, a totally new significance; and the manner in which such an abrupt shift in symbolical content was achieved by a rearrangement of the elements in the original Buddhist artistic formula is astonishing. The best comparative Buddhist work illustrative of this re-deployment of established motifs is a Gandhara panel,65 which contains, in four contiguous figures, the whole artistic basis upon which the quadruple brahmanical icon under discussion was created.



27 The squatting position, with knees wide apart, was retained for such goddesses as Hārītī, who were associated with children, the posture being probably connected with pregnancy or childbirth; a similar position of the legs, while the body was seated upon a throne or vāhana, was adopted by Kuṣāṇa sculpture of kings and the god Viṣṇu astride Garuḍa.

28 F. Otto Schrader, Introduction to the Pāṅcarātra Ahirbudhnya saṃhitā Adyar 1916,p.20, lists the twelve earlier and most authoritative Pāṅcarātra texts; the terminus ad quem of their composition is considered by Schrader to be the 8th century A.D.

29 The iconographical portions of a large number of extant Pāṅcarātra texts are collated by H. Daniel Smith, A Source-book of Vaiṣṇava Iconography according to Pāṅcarātrāgama Texts, Triplicane. Madras 1969.

30 Sāttvata or Vṛṣṇi heroes: the evidence concerning them and their role in early Vaiṣṇava theology is summarized by J. Gonda, in his 1969 Jordan Lecture series, published as Viṣṇuism and Śivaism, A Comparison, London 1970,pp.51-2 and pp. 48-61, passim.

31 Schrader, Pāṅcarātra, pp.19-21.

32 Sāttvata-saṃhitā, edited by P.B. Anathachariar, Conjeevaram 1902.

33 The states of turīya ('the fourth', transcendence), suṣupti ('deep sleep', utter unconsciousness), svapna ('dreaming'), and jāgrat ('waking'), symbolizing the gradual definition of reality in the process of creation, represented by Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha respectively.

34 S. Gupta, Lakṣmī Tantra, A Pāṅcarātra', Text, Translation and Notes, Leiden 1972,p.59, note 1.

35 Ibid., Chapter II, verse 15.

36 Ibid., notes 28 and 32.

37 S. Gupta, 'The Caturvyūha and the Viśākha-yūpa in the Pāṅcarātra', BV (ALB) 35.3-4 (1971), pp.198-9 and 203.

38 A distinct similarity is noted between this system and that still practised by the Balinese Śaiva priests in their Liṅgodbhava meditation technique whereby they elevate themselves mentally through a number of 'lotuses' containing mantras to self-identification with Śiva (C. Hooykaas, Sūrya Sevana, The Way to God of a Balinese Siva Priest, Amsterdam 1966). This I regard as corroborative evidence, indicating the persistence into the present day of a technique parallel to that of the Pāṅcarātra Vaiṣṇavas which I believe to be illustrated in the Nānd column; it does not, in my view, contradict my interpretation of the latter Kuṣāṇa sculpture but demonstrates, rather, the trans-sectarian employment yoga methods of considerable complexity from an early phase in Indian history. A similarity to the yogic conception of the human body as an axis punctuated by cakras, which is ascended by mental effort in the form of Kuṇḍalinī, is also noted as the microcosmic counterpart of Pāṅcarātra cosmology (P. H. Pott, Yoga en Yantra, Leiden 1946, translated R. Needham as Yoga and Yantra, The Hague 1966, Plate I and super-imposed diagram, text pp. 7-9 and passim). It is my argument that iconographical constructs based upon such concepts need not be regarded, as in the Nānd column by R. C. Agrawala, as Śiva images; the axial nature of such a system necessitates a vertical iconographical structure, whether as the Vaiṣṇavas yūpa expressed or the Śaiva liṅga, if it is to be made visible.

39 Mathura Museum nos. 14.392-5.

40 So described by V.S. Agrawala, Indian Art (A History of Indian Art from the Earliest Times up to the Third Century A.D.) Varanasi 1965, p.251.

41 Such crowns are discussed by U.P. Shah in BMPGB 12 (1955-56), pp.53ff.

42 Crowns of this type, as becomes apparent in Gupta sculpture, consisted of a curved facade, rather than a complete cylinder, fixed to the head by a band tied at the back. This is clearly demonstrated by J. C. Hark in Gupta Sculpture, Indian Sculpture  of the Fourth to the Sixth Centuries A.D., Oxford 1974, Plates 18, 19 and relevant Notes, p. 36

43 Compare Harle, Gupta Sculpture, Plate 19.

44 The 'pad May be considered a technical device, connecting the hand held away from the body to the whole sculpture and so strengthening it, rather than as a symbolical object.

45 ūrṇā: 'a circle of hair between the eyebrows', Minor-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p.221; a traditional sign of a man destined for greatness, inherited by this image from Buddhist and Jaina tradition, the whole group of such signs being known as the Mahā-puruṣa-lakṣṇas (G.Liebert, Iconographic Dictionary of the Indian Religions, Hinduism-Buddism-Jainism, Leiden 1976,p.312).

46 Harle, Gupta Sculpture, Plate 35 and Note, pp.40-1.

47 Minor-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p.445. 

48 Banerjea, Hindu Iconography, p.424 and footnote 2.

49 Ibid., pp.306,423,581 and 587:

50 Gonda, Viṣṇuism and Śivaism, pp. 51-61. Banerjea, Hindu Iconography, p.386. Evidence in the Mahābhārata is noted by Hopkins, Epic Mythology,pp. 206-7 ans 212.

51 One of the clearest Plates illustrating this detail is probably the Frontispiece to A. Danielou, Hindu Polytheism, London 1964.

52 V.S. Agrawala, Indian Art, p.135. A clear illustration of the Erāpatra relief from Bhrhut is published as Plate 19 in Jeannine Auboyer, Daily Life in Ancient India, London 1965.

53 N.P. Joshi, Mathura Sculptures, Mathura 1966, Plate 38; first suggested by R. C. Agrawala, VIJ3 (1965), p.109.

54 An excellent, though damaged example, dated to the 4th-5th century 62-3, H. Hartel, Indische Skulpturen I, Berlin, 1960; a Mathura example is published in K. Desai, Iconography of Viṣṇu (in Northern India, up to the Mediaeval Period), New Delhi 1973, fig.99.

55 Following the description of A. K. Coomaraswamy and V.S. Agrawala: R.C. Agarawala, 'Four-faced Śiva and Four faced Viṣṇu at Mathura', VIJ 3(1965), p.108.

56 Ibid., p.109.

57 An apparently identical tree, embraced by a lady or yakṣī, is represented in a pillar-relief from Bharhut of the 2nd century B.C.; this tree is identified by C. Sivaramamurti (Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India No.73: Sanskrit Literature and Art-Mirrors of Indian Culture, Calcutta 1954, reprinted New Delhi 1970) as the Kuravaka (Plate XIV.43 and caption, and text p.39) as distinct from the aśoka.  The Kuravaka is defined as red amaranth under Kurabaka (Minor-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p.293).

58 Banerjea, Hindu Mythology, p.386.

59 e.g., figs. 1,2,3,13, published by Desai in Iconography of Viṣṇu.

60 Banerjea, Hindu Mythology, p.400, describes one such image and notes the remark of V.S. Agrawala (JISOA 5,p.124 and Plate XIV.2) that it 'shows the transition from a Buddhist to a Brahmanical image.'

61 A.W. Khan, An Early Sculpture of Narasimha, Andhra Pradesh Government Archaeological Series No.16, Hyderabad 1964.

62 S. Bhattacharji, The Indian Theogony, A Comparative Study of Indian Mythology from the Vedas to the Purāṇas, Cambridge 1970, p. 307.

63 Jātaka scenes appear upon Buddhist monuments such as the Bharhut stūpa-railings (largely reconstructed in the Indian Museum, Calcutta) and the railing gateways at Sanchi, which date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.; the earliest depictions of figures which definitely represent Vaiṣṇava avatāras, however, do not appear until the Gupta period-figure (B) in the present sculpture, for example, I believe to illustrate the vyūha-doctrine of the cosmogonic process rather than the incarnation-doctrine which relates to the stages in the progress of the created world, not to the creation itself.

64 One of the most telling and relevant examples follows.

65 Freer Gallery of Art, no.49.9

 

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Oxford University Press 1988