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Viśvarūpa

Chapter 2


THE 'CLASSICAL' PHASE...

Development in the Gupta Period 

 

The text makes no mention, however, of a form having twelve arms. Kumāra is said (Ibid., 3.71.4d-5) to have the peacock as his vāhana and to have four arms, holding in his hands the cockerel and the bell on the right, the Vaijayantī banner (patākā) and the spear (śakti) on the left. The peacock vāhana, absent from the Pawāya lintel image although attributed to six-faced Kumāra in the text, is denied to the other three forms of the god (na mayūragatāstathā: 3.71.6d); this is just the reverse of the iconography which is found in sculptures of the Gupta period, where single-headed sculptures are accompanied by the peacock,13 but not the unique six-headed version. The only correspondence between the Viṣṇudharmottara description quoted and the Pawāya sculpture lies in the six faces and the topknots mentioned in stanza 4ab. However, there is no possibility of this image representing any god other than Skanda Kārttikeya alias Kumāra: it Ins no Śaiva features, the five heads being clearly intended to represent six, no Vaiṣṇava iconographic traits, and has too many heads to be an icon of Brahmā.

A passage from the Mahābhārata concerning the birth of Skanda Kārttikeya, translated by O'Flaherty14 contains, what might be an early mythological basis for the four forms of the god mentioned in the iconographical extract from the Viṣṇudharmottara quoted above. The names appear to be connected with the first four days of his life.

The seed shed there, full of energy, engendered a son who was honoured by the sages as Skanda because he had been shed [skannam]. The Youth had six heads, twice that many ears, and twelve eyes, hands and feet; he had one neck and one body. On the second day he assumed a distinct form, on the third he became a child, and on the fourth he became Guha, with all his limbs developed.

There is no direct correspondence between the stages of the god's development described here, and the iconographical forms prescribed in the Viṣṇudharmottara, but the word translated as 'The Youth' in the Sanskrit is Kumāra, and it is under this name in both the epic and iconographical texts that the god is described as endowed with six heads. The epic description of The Youth, Kumāra, is indeed an accurate anatomical description of the figure on the Pawāya lintel, even in a detail such as the single neck; the Viṣṇudharmottara adds to this picture of his physical appearance the topknot of hair (śikhaṇḍaka), apart from the hand-held symbolical objects and the vāhana, which are not shown in the sculpture. It may be correct, therefore, to identify the Pawāya lintel sculpture as a Gupta conception of the Kumāra aspect of the god.

A further piece of evidence which supports this identification is the presence to the surviving proper right of the deity of three smaller, two-armed figures in human form. Despite the erosion, it is possible quite clearly to distinguish their postures. One is kneeling beside the god, the face level with his hip and the head directly beneath his lowest right forearm; the hands of this figure are held in front of the body, apparently extending an offering. Behind the latter figure is another, standing, whose hands are raised before the bowed head, apparently in an attitude of homage directed toward the god. The same posture is adopted by the third subsidiary figure who stands, as it seems, in the air, the feet almost resting upon the standing figure below, the head higher than those of the god, but inclined toward him. To judge by their postures these figures seem to be feminine.

If it is assumed-as I have assumed for the god's arm-that the two sides of this damaged icon were symmetrically balanced, another trio of female figures, similarly arranged, may originally have been present on the opposite, broken side of the sculpture. Such a composition, consisting of Kumāra surrounded by six females, suggests that the latter group represents the Kṛttikās, the star-goddess personifications of the supposed six members of the constellation Kārttika (Pleiades), who in mythology; are the foster-mothers of Kumāra, from whom he derives the matronymic Kārttikeya. It was in order to suckle all six mothers simultaneously that Skanda, or Kumāra, became six-headed.

 Viṣṇu 'Vaikuṇṭha' images

One of the two innovatory multiheaded image-types established in the Gupta period as part of the brahmanical pantheon was a form of Viṣṇu. Examination of the archaeological remains shows that the main figure of such an image was the four-armed standing Viṣṇu icon which had been virtually standardized in the Kuṣāṇa period. This figure was evidently perpetuated in the Gupta style with one major iconographical change: the primary weapons of the god, the mace (gadā) and disc (cakra), were each assigned a tutelary deity, namely Gadā-devī and Cakra-puruṣa (as seen in Plates 43 and 45).

The multiheaded type of this icon, which appears to have been invented during the Gupta period at Mathura, since the earliest remains of the type have been found there, had the additional face of a lion carved in relief at the junction of the neck with the proper right shoulder, and that of a boar in the corresponding position on the proper left. The sides on which these animal heads appeared were sometimes reversed (Plate 43), but only during the Gupta period and only at Mathura; elsewhere and in subsequent periods, the lion face is always found on the right and the boar face on the left.

In these sculputures, the side-heads are invariably found to be represented in relief upon the background or the śiraścakra never in the round. Had these icons been free-standing, some physical connection between the main Viṣṇu icon and the extra heads would have been necessary; in fact, close examination of the Mathura Museum sculptures reveals no anatomical connection (Plates 41 and 44). (The exception appears to be the boar's head in a terracotta plaque representing this form of the deity in a squatting posture: Plate 45). In the case of the boar's head, its angle of projection from (as it would seem) behind the main figure, gives only the impression of physical conjunction (Plate 44)) which I believe to be disproved by the complete absence of a neck joining the lion's head to Viṣṇu's body. The side-heads are, moreover, smaller than the human face which appears between them (Plates 40,42, and 43), a feature which was also characteristic of earlier Kuṣāṇa images, but they are presented in a totally different manner: the face of the lion is angled outward at about forty-live degrees from the plane of the backslab while that of the boar is invariably presented in profile and angled upward at an approximately forty-five degree angle from the horizontal (Plates 42 and 44). The reason for this difference, and indeed the sculptural origin of the icon type itself, is to be found in independent images of the Man-Lion (Nṛsiṃha) and Boar (Varāha) avatāras of Viṣṇu belonging to the Gupta period. These incarnations are most usually represented in the form of two-armed human bodies having the head either of the lion or of the boar (the fully theriomorphic Varāha being an exception). If three such sculptures of Nṛsimḥa, Viṣṇu, and Varāha15 were to be superimposed, the result would be an icon having the heads in virtually the same attitudes as those in which they appear in the three-headed type of image under discussion.

Some thirty-five years ago, much the same theory of coalescence was propounded by P. H. Pott16 with regard to the origin of complex Buddhist images.

  If we meet with the figure of a male deity with nine heads and eighteen hands, surrounded by eight subsidiary female figures, then there is no reason at all to doubt the origin of such a figure: it has been composed by joining nine separate figures into one with as many heads and arms as the separate figures had together.

In the case of the Vaiṣṇava figures, the ratio of beads to arms is not as neatly precise as in this formulation, there being only two pairs of arms to three heads. But the basic validity of the theory concerning 'multiplex figures', as Pott described such icons, is not undermined by this fact, for the separate figures of Nṛsimḥa and Varāha do not hold emblems different from those of the standard Viṣṇu image of the age, when they hold emblems at all. Indeed, the ratio is rarely as balanced as Pott suggests either in brahmanical or in Buddhist iconography: the remarkable and unique sixth-century rock-cut Avalokiteśvara relief in Cave 41 at Kanheri has the eleven heads with which one form of this Buddhist figure is canonically endowed, but only four arms.17

This Kanheri image (Plates 46 and 47), the earliest known formulation of the eleven-headed Avalokiteśvara image-type in a sculptured shrine in India, has iconographical relevance to these brahmanical icons. All eleven heads can be seen from the front; the three Ievels of three faces between the natural and the topmost heads do not stand for a triple set of four heads. The basic method of representing the heads of this Avalokiteśvara type did not change in subsequent images; even in free-standing icons, the divinity was to retain the stack of forward-facing heads, though in differing arrangements, as they appear in this early relief; which is thus not an abbreviated form of a divinity having more 'concealed' heads. It may be noted, further, that the side-heads of these triple sets, like the lion's head of the Mathura Vaiṣṇava sculptures, are angled outward at about forty-five degrees from the rock surface and are simply clustered together, showing no evidence at all of being anatomically connected to the main figure or to each other. The multiple heads, both of Avalokiteśvara and of the Vaiṣṇava images, are ranged in a purely formal grouping in order to express symbolically-not anatomically the manifold identity of the main divinity. To describe these figures as 'eleven-headed' or 'three-headed' is thus, strictly speaking, inaccurate. The Viṣṇu icon-type with the heads of the Alan-Lion and Boar avatāras in the nimbus is not a depiction of a tricephalous mythological dramatis persona in the way that Brahmā and Skanda-Kārttikeya are respectively four-headed and six-headed figures drawn straight from epic myth.

How are the Mathura sculptures to be interpreted? The question has apparently been settled, but I intend to challenge the accepted view.

Following clues left by B. C. Bhattacharya18 in 1921, it was J. N. Banerjea19 who lint brought forward an interpretation of multiheaded Viṣṇu images from Kashmir as visual expressions of Pāṅcarātra theology. These images, consisting of a Viṣṇu icon, with the Nṛsimḥa and Varāha faces disposed on the proper right and left of the central head respectively, as in certain of the Gupta-period Mathura sculptures, plus a demon-lie face, at the back, were shown to be related directly to certain śilpaśāstric passages the Viṣṇudharmottara which describe, or prescribe, the four-faced images in Pāṅcarātra terms. It must be stressed here that at no point does this text speak of a three-headed form of Viṣṇu.

In the following year, 1941, which saw the publication of his masterwork, Banerjea by implication subjected the Mathura sculptures to the same interpretation: 'Eight-armed images of this type are found in the Mārttaṇḍa temple, Kashmir, and a few four-armed ones were also recovered from Mathura and Banares.'20 As there are no remains of Viṣṇu sculptures having the two animal side-heads at Mathura in a style later than the Gupta, it is the images I am discussing here that Banerjea must have referred to.  Subsequent writers have persistently and uncritically referred to the Mathura sculptures as Vaikuṇṭha, the name by which, as Banerjea pointed out in 1940, the Viṣṇudharmottara calls the four-faced type of Viṣṇu.

      Pāṅcarātra cosmogonic theory, as discussed in Chapter 1 with regard to Sculpture 3 and 4, is expressed in terms of a fairly complicated system of feminine kośas and four masculine vyūhas, the latter being personified by Kṛṣṇa Vāsudeva and his three kinsmen. In the Viṣṇudharmottara each of these personifications is said to be represented, in the four-faced Viṣṇu icon-type, by one of the four countenances of this Vaikuṇṭha icon. (The text is cast in the form of a conversation between the enquiring kṣatriya, Vajra, and the expositor brāhmaṇa, Mārkaṇḍeya.)

 

mukhāś ca kāryāś catvāro bāhavo dviguṇāa tathā/

saumyaṃ tu vadanaṃ pūrvaṃ nārasiṃhaṃ tu dakṣiṇam//

kāpilaṃ paścimaṃ vaktraṃ tathā vārāham uttaram/

(3.44.11ab-12ab)

And four faces should be made, and arms twice as many.

The eastern (front) face [should be] gentle, the southern (right) that of Narasiṃha;

the western(rear) face, that of Kapila, and the northern (left),that of Varāha.

Continuing to the next chapter which contains Vaiṣṇava material, on reads:

balaṃ21 jñānaṃ tathaiśvaryaṃ śaktiś ca yadunandana/

vijṅeyaṃ devadevasya tasya vaktracatuṣṭayam//

vāsudevaś ca bhagavāṃs tathā saṅkarṣaṇaḥ prabhuḥ/

pradyumnaś cāniruddaś ca balādyāḥ parikīryitāḥ// (3.47.9-10)

Strength, knowledge, sovereignty and female-power, O Pride of the Yadus (i.e. Vajra) - [so] is the tetrad of faces of that god of gods to be understood;

and Lord Vāsudeva, Lord Saṅkarṣaṇa,

and Pradyumna and Anirudha are respectively known as strength etc.

 

Reinforcing this apportionment of positions, names and qualities to the four-faced image, one reads in a later chapter.

etate te rūpanirmāṇaṃ caturmūrter mayeritam//

ekamūrtidharaṃ kāryo vaikuṇṭhety abhiśabditaḥ/

caturmukhaḥ sa kartavyaḥ prāguktavadanaḥ prabhuḥ//

caturmūrtiḥ sa bhavati kṛte mukhacatuṣṭaye/

pūrvaṃ saumyavadanaṃ kāryaṃ yat tu mukhyatamaṃ viduḥ//

kartavyaṃ siṃhavaktrābhaṃ jñānavaktraṃ tu dakṣiṇam/

paścimaṃ vadanaṃ raudraṃ yat tad aiśvaryam ucyate//

(3.85.42cd-45)

This is the way to make the image of the four-bodied [god] declared by me to you:

he is to be made with one body [and] is addressed as 'Vaikuṇṭha';

The Lord with the aforesaid face is to be made four-fared-he becomes four-bodied when the tetrad of faces is made.

The eastern (front) is to be made a gentle face, which is known as the main one;

the southern (right) face of knowledge should be made in the likeness of a lion:

the western (rear) ferocious face is said to be that of sovereignty.

(Mention is not made in this passage of the boar's head on the north. or left, side.)

Taking these three extracts together, one is presented with a most incongruous set of equivalences which are best summarised thus (Figure 2.1).

  Figure 2.1

Western face

Kapila            3.44

Pradyumna  

sovereignty      3.47

ferocious

sovereignty      3.85

Southern face

Narasimha    3.44

Saṅkarṣaṇa 

knowledge    3.47

lion               3.85

knowledge 

Northern face

Varāha               3.44

Aniruddha          3.47

female-power 

 

 

Eastern face

gentle              3.44

Vāsudeva         3.47 

strength

gentle               3.85

main

Characterizing the face of the principal Viṣṇu figure as that of Vāsudeva, which is gentle, the main one and representative of strength, is understandable; but identification of the Nṛsiṃha side-face with the already iconographically defined Saṅkarṣaṇa (renowned for his drunkenness) representing knowledge, and of the Varāha side-head with Aniruddha and female-power (śakti) is difficult to grasp. (I leave unmentioned, for the moment, the rear face, of which, as I have remarked, there is no sign in the 'multi-headed' Viṣṇu images of the Gupta period.) Banerjea himself was thoroughly confused by this bizarre superimposition of identities and attribution of qualities to the avatāras.

It is curious that Saṃkarṣaṇa in whom jñāna is particularly manifest ...should have a lion-face, and Pradyumna in whom aiśvarya is the prominent guṇa, a boar- ace. Aniruddha's association with [the] frightful demoniacal face on the back of Viṣṇu Caturmūrti...22

The scholar's perplexity over the transmogrified physiognomy of Vāsudeva's kinsmen IS only compounded by the fact that he had misread his text, incorrectly correlating Pradyumna, instead of Aniruddha, with the Varāha and, in the subsequent sentence, Aniruddha, instead of Pradyumna, with the rear face. This mistake, trivial though it may be, appears to have, passed unchallenged by other scholars.

Of far greater importance is the erroneous identification of the three-faced Viṣṇu images under examination here with the Vaikuṇṭha described in the Viṣṇudharmottara. This identification has been accepted by most scholars since 1940, when Banerjea published his Lahore Congress paper, and has never to my knowledge been directly challenged. I accept the Vaikuṇṭha identification with regard to later derivative images made in Kashmir-although this has been challenged by one eminent scholar23 but not with regard to the original Gupta images of Mathura, for the following reasons.

First, the text upon the basis of which the Vaikuṇṭha identification is made is consistent to the point of dogmatism in assigning the Narasiṃha face to the proper right and the Varāha face to the proper left (or south and north respectively) of the main face of the Viṣṇu image. If there were any inconsistency in the sculpture, the sequence of identities and qualities attributed to the icon \would be disturbed and the carefully devised symbolical scheme would be meaningless, For Pāṅcarātra theology expresses the stages of the cosmogony in precise evolutionary phases using the personified vyūhas as symbols of the development of the multiplicity of existence in Its initial fourfold diversification. Yet at Mathura there are at least two Gupta examples (e.g. Plates 43 and 45) of the position of the side-heads being reversed, an iconographical blunder which would never have been allowed to stand as an expression of Pāṅcarātra theology if the dictates of the Viṣṇudharmottara were being followed in order to create a Vaikuṇṭha icon. Only in the post-Gupta period, and not at Mathura, did the position of the heads conform without exception to textual prescription.

Secondly, there is a fundamental objection to equating the vyūhas of Pāṅcarātra theory with the animal side-faces of the images: the four vyūhas, personified, by Vāsudeva and his kinsmen, are representations of cosmogonic phases belonging to the realm of theology, while the Narasiṃha and Varāha avatāras are post-creation figures belonging to the realm of mythology. To dictate, as the text undeniably does, that this equation be accepted, requires considerable sophistication of thought and imaginative powers. The relative positions of the avatāra side-heads were not iconographically fixed in the Gupta period, which is consistent with the fact, already mentioned, that the icon-Type was Gupta innovation. I suggest that a substantial period of time would be required for the images to become established and of fixed iconography before such definitive iconological interpretations as those of the Viṣṇudharmottara could be imposed upon them with any confidence. I have moreover already shown that the vyūhas cosmogonic theory was translatable into visual form in the preceding Kuṣāṇa period (sculpture 3, Plate I0), using, more appropriately, anthropomorphic figures of the deities representing the caturvyūhas in accordance with cosmogonical concepts of the Pāṅcarātra type. That in the Gupta period this tradition should have been ignored in the same sculptural school of Mathura and the animal-headed avatāras associated with the Viṣṇu image in order to represent the vyūhas, seems a most unlikely proposition.

Thirdly, if, for the sake of argument, one accepts this unreasonable proposition, one has to accept the fact that the Gupta iconologists were so sophisticated in their thinking that they were able to grasp the vyūha theory, translate it into visual terms using-for some unknown reason-avatāra imagery, and only by implication create, all at once and without precedent, a four-headed icon to symbolize the vyūha -tetrad, depicting only three of the aspects of an essentially quadruple concept. This, surely, is to presuppose too much. At least at the beginning of such an enterprise some explicitly four-sided or four-faced sculpture would have been invented,24 perhaps only later, as in the case of Brahmā, to be abbreviated to a three-faced relief when the fourth aspect could be taken for granted. The archaeological evidence shows that historically precisely the reverse was the case: four-faced Viṣṇu icons and four-sided Vaiṣṇava stelae occur in the post-Gupta period.25 In other words, the fourth aspect was a later (eighth-century Kashmiri) addition to a three-faced Gupta prototype invented at Mathura.

These images are in my view simply expressions of the avatāra doctrine, coalescing Viṣṇu and two of his most popular mythological incarnations, the Nṛsiṃha and the Varāha, which were worshipped individually, as is known from separate cult icons representing them26 Quite conceivably it was in an attempt to assert the predominance of Viṣṇu as the source of these figures, which were in origin the foci of strong, independent cults, that the 'three-headed' icon was introduced as a symbol of syncretism. It is even possible that the priesthood of the Viṣṇu-Kṛṣṇa cult crated this type of icon in the face of threats to the supremacy of Viṣṇu consisting of growing support for the Nṛsiṃha and Varāha cults.

This appears to be a far more reasonable interpretation of these images than the cumbersome and untenable Pāṅcarātra theory. This is not, after all, a complicated icon. It seems to have been hastily conceived and was certainly, in Mathura, a short-lived image-type. The avatāra side-beads could be changed from one side to the other of the central Viṣṇu face, demonstrating an absence of a fixed iconography and thus also of a firm theological basis. The name of Viṣṇu in this form is not recorded; it might possibly have been Vaikuṇṭha, but not in the strict Pāṅcarātra sense. What is iconographically significant about this innovation is that it was to be developed, in the post-Gupta period, after serving its transient sectarian purpose in Mathura, into the powerful four-faced Vaikuṇṭha icon of the Pāṅcarātra sect in Kashmir; and that it formed the sculptural basis for the most complex of all brahmanical images, namely that of Viśvarūpa, the Gupta origins of which I shall examine next.

 Vaiṣṇava sculpture of the Viśvarūpa type

The mythology concerning a figure known as Viśvarūpa is as old as the Ṛgveda and reached its climax in the Bhagavadgītā, in which this is one of the names of the vision of Kṛṣṇa as the omniform and omnipotent god which is beheld, with horror, by the demoralised Arjuna between the two armies on the battle-field of Kurukṣetra. The name is used in certain of the Purāṇas as an epithet of Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu, but among the Sanskrit texts which contain mythologies of the gods, the only full description of this revelatory manifestation of the Vaiṣṇava godhead is that given in the Gītā27. As far as is known, all 'prescriptions' of the śilpaśastric type-amounting in most cases to inconsistent and inaccurate descriptions with the verbs inflected in the optative-are later in date than the earliest attempts to represent Viṣṇu as Viśvarūpa in sculpture.28 The design of such an ambitious type of icon will be shown to be the combination of several iconographical techniques already devised by sculptors of other multiplex images, particularly in the Mathura region during the Kuṣāṇa period. But like the Vaikuṇṭha icon-type, the Viśvarūpa, a image as a sculptured object of worship was, to judge by the archaeological evidence, an invention of the Gupta period. The rest of this chapter will be devoted to an examination of two such Viśvarūpa image types.

A unique and somewhat enigmatic figure is carved in relief at the centre of a long lintel from Gaḍhwā in the Allahabad region of Uttar Pradesh29 (Plate 48). Certain individual feature of this broad composition were to be perpetuated in other, more complex multiple Vaiṣṇava images but the icon here, as depicted within the framework of the whole frieze, is the only one of its kind extant.

It is interesting to note the artistic context in which this iron appears.30 The lintel depicts a procession, or two processions, converging upon a central shrine, complete with adjoining dharmaśālā or hostel, in which the image is seen being worshipped. In other words, the image forms an integral part--as well as the compositional focus-of a narrative frieze, which apparently represents an actual pilgrimage made to a temple dedicated to a multiplex form of Viṣṇu, who is identifiable by the long vanamālā and the remains of flanking āyudhapuruṣas. (As far as is known, no such real temple survives in the geo-graphical area covered by this work; field research revealed that such cults are virtually extinct.) The only two figures which appear to he independent of the action in this long relief---although they are undoubtedly integral to the frieze in symbolic terms-are those of the sun and moon gods, the latter appearing seated with his śakti, at the extremities. Their association with the Viśvarūpa figure, both in the Gītā and in the sculpture, will become apparent as my examination of this type of image progresses. It should also be remarked that, although the two processions converging on the central figure are clearly peaceful-there is an obvious air of festivity about them-the enshrined image is depicted standing between two groups.  They proceed from different sources and in opposed directions, one group from the sun, the other from the moon. Viśvarūpa standing between two opposed factions is a persistent theme of both the mythology and the iconography. Since, however, this theme does not become apparent in sculpture until the post--Gupta phases in the development of the Viśvarūpa icon, discussion of this important feature will be deferred to Chapters 3 and 4.



13 Ibid., Plate 65.

14 W. D. O'Flaherty, Hindu Myths, A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit, Harmondsworth 1975, p.110.

15 See, for example, Harle, Gupta Sculpture, Plates 49,25 and 26.

16 P.H. Pott, India Antiqua, Leiden 1947, p.288.

17 Recorded by Burgess in J. Fergusson and J. Burgess, The cave Temple of India,1880, p.357 and plate LV, drawing 2;see also D. Mitra, Buddhist Monuments, Calcutta 1971, p.166.

18 B. C. Bhattacharya, Indian Images, Part I, 1921, pp.8-9 and plate IV.

19 Then spelling his name Jitendar Nath Banerjee, 'Mediaeval Visnu Images from Kashmir and Some Visnudharmottara Passages', Proceedings of the Indian History Congress (Lahore), 1940, pp.61 ff.

20 Banerjea, Hindu Iconography, p.409.

21 In the text, (critically edited by P. Shah, Viṣṇudharmottara-Purāṇa, Third Khaṇḍa, Gaekwad's Oriental Series No.CXXX, Baroda 1958), the reading as bālaṃ.

22 Banerjea, Hindu Iconography, p. 409.

23  P. Pal, 'A Brāmanical Triad from Kashmir and Some Related Icons',  AAA XXVII, 1973-74, p. 36. denies that the four-raced Viṣṇu image is referred to as Vaikuṇṭha in the Viṣṇudharmottara; tint this is not so can he seen at 3.85.43b - vaikuṇṭhety abhiśabditaḥ. Pal holds that the name Vaikuṇṭha occurs only in the Jayākhyasaṃhitā among the 'early' texts (ibid.). But the most prolific perpetrator of the false reasoning with regard to the Gupta Viṣṇu images with avatāra side-heads at Mathura is R. C. Agrawala, for example in his Nṛsiṃha-Varāha-Vishṇu Images and Some. Allied Problems', Lalit Kalā 16,1974, pp.11 ff: Agrawala knows of a reference to Viṣṇu Vaikuṇṭha in the Jayākhyasaṃhitā, 'a fifth century text', and so infers that 'the popularity of this particular sect of the Paṅcharātra cult was confied to Mathura and its vicinity during the Gupta period. On the other hand the centre of the cult appears to have shifted to Kashmir and Punjab Hills in the early emdiaeval period') p.13). The usually accepted date of the Jayākhya has been seriously challenged by K.V. Soundararajan, 'Kaustubha Prāsāda- New Light on Jayākhya Tantra' in Journal of the Oriental Institute XVII, 1 September 1961,p.79; Soundararajan would date the text to AD. 600-850, which would bring its description of four-faced Vaikuṇṭha   (Agrawala, Nṛsiṃha-Varāha- Vishṇu Images', note I ) within the same religious ambit as that of the Viṣṇudharmottara To think, with Agrawala, that 'None of the extant Gupta images of Vaikuṇṭha represent the Kapila or Raudra face since all of them are carved in relief,' is to stand history on its head; the Pāṅcarātra Vaikuṇṭha  was not known in Gupta times at Mathura and so its western (rear) aspect was of course not represented, never having been conceived.

24 D. Srinivasan, 'Early Vaiṣṇava Imagery Caturvyūha and Variant Forms', AAA XXXII, 1979, p. 41, illustrates a four-sided sculpture from Bhīṭā dated to the 2nd century B.C., comprising two addorsed figures with a disembodied head on either side between them, above a lion and a very small (?) boar standing on a pillar (Lucknow Museum no. 56.394). This is termed a 'Vaishnava Caturvyuha' on the basis of the Viṣṇudharmottara equivalences that I have translated. Interesting though the sculpture is, these vyūha/avtāra equivalences cannot seriously be considered to have existed between 800 and one thousand years before the date of the Viṣṇudharmottara which first formulated them. Nor is there any archaeological evidence to link the sculpture iconographically to those of Gupta Mathura.

25 Many four-faced Viṣṇu images appear in Kashmir from the 8th-12th centuries, expressing the vyūha iconographical symbolism of Viṣṇudharmottara3; some four-sided Vaiṣṇava stelae dating from the 7th century, with Viṣṇu and three avtāras on the sides, are known from Mathura (a fine example is in the Museum fūr Indische Kunst,Berlin) and elsewhere (another is in the State Museum, Gwalior).

26 See Harle, Gupta Sculpture, Plate12, the colossal Varāha shrine at Udayagiri; plate 24, the life-size Varāha with the body of a man; plate 25, the (originally) life-size  Nṛsiṃha at Eran; plate 112,the large cult-image of Nṛsiṃha, possibly from Mathura

27 The mythology is summarized by me in 'Transformational Aspects of Hindu Myth and Iconology: Viśvarūpa', AARP 4, December 1973, pp. 59-63 and p.73, Appendix 1.A.II.

28 I bid., p.69, Appendix 1.A.II.

29 State Museum, Lucknow, nos. B223a-c. The entire lintel is published by Harle, Gupta sculpture, plates 71-78 and notes, p.47.

30 See Harle, Gupta Sculpture, plates 71 and 72: the icon is at the extreme left of plate 72.

 

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Oxford University Press 1988