THE ŚAMALĀJī Viśvarūpa...
The multiplication of Kuṣāṇa type B images may have been invented here at Śamalājī in this early attempt to organize the many forms emanating from Viṣṇu. Figure 3.2 illustrates the kind of development in composition which seems to have taken place.
Stages in the development of multiple imagery
The further expansion of this third development within the same
sculpture is highly accomplished in its extension of the ramifying pattern
as a template by means of which to organize numerous figures into an
aesthetically acceptable - and symbolically significant - whole. Because
the Śamalājī image marks the perpetuation and development of Kuṣāṇa
multiform sculpture in western India - at a time when the Gupta school at
Mathura was all but ignoring it - the iconography of this Viśvarūpa type
is more complicated than that of any known later version. Following the Kuṣāṇa
technique of personifying the trunk and branches of a tree-like construct
(Source nos. 2A + 3A to C), there was little tendency towards the
abbreviation or coalescence of separate forms (the sole exception being
the already established triple-headed abbreviation of four-faced Brahmā).
Each figure in the Maṇḍala is
thus a distinct individual. Most
subsequent developments of the Viśvarūpa type elsewhere prototype (Plate
49), in displaying groups of virtually identical figure, plus a mere
handful of individuals about the heads of the main god.
In the nimbus of Śamalājī image, there are - and this is worth
repeating - twenty one figures, each with its own individuality, not
counting the vidyādharas.
the absence of a śilpaśāstra
of the same region and date as the image which might explain this dense
pattern of divinities, the identities of all the figures and their
interrelationships has until now remained obscure. I therefore intend to
attempt a comprehensive analysis and explanation of the image, in the form
of a reconstruction of the way in which the composition was probably
planned and the reasons for the method followed.
This reconstruction, cast in the form of a hypothetical 'śilpaśāstra',
is accompanied by Figures 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, and the indexed Key-Diagram
(Figure 3.1) of the figures in the nimbus. It is written in thirty-three
stages. References and comments are within square brackets; translation is
by me unless otherwise indicated.
Draw a vertical line down the centre of the back (A1 - A2). This is the
vertical axis of our composition. Divide this line into four equal parts
by describing two contiguous circles with their centres (B1, B2) on this
axis; the radius is one quarter of the axis and the point of contact
between the two circles is its centre (C). This line with its four
divisions we draw first, for it imitates the archetypal Skambha, pillar of
the universe, which contains the four cardinal directions of space, the
four Vedas, and all the gods. This knowledge is from the Atharvaveda:
catasraḥ pradiśo nāḍayas tiṣṭhanti prathamāḥ/
Whose main arteries stand as the four directions.
Fig. 3.3 Śamalajī nimbus. Complete planning diagram
ṛco apātakṣan yajur yasmād apākaṣan/
yasya lomāny atharvāṅgiraso mukham/
From whom they cut out the ṛk-verses,
whom they planed off the yajus,
fibres are the sāman-chants.
whose mouth is the atharvan-hymns.
yokṣaṃ bhuvanasya madhye
krāntaṃ salilasya pṛṣṭhe/
chrayante ya u ke ca devā
skandhaḥ parita iva śākhāḥ//
great spirit is extended [upward] in religious will,
the centre of the world, upon the water,
whatsoever gods [exist] attach themselves to him,
like branches around the trunk of a tree.
dodhāra dyāvāpṛthivī ubhe
dodhāra pradiśaḥ ṣaḍ urvīḥ
idaṃ viśvam bhuvanam ā viveśa//
Tree-Axis supports both heaven and earth,
Tree-Axis supports the broad atmosphere between,
Tree-Axis supports the six extensive directions:
Tree-Axis pervades this entire world.
first line is therefore sacred, being the axis in which all potential
expansion is held, and around which the sculpture will be planned.
2. Draw the horizontal centre line [D-D]-at right angles to the perpendicular through the centre point [C]. Now this second line is also sacred. It is more ancient than the Tree-Axis which rose through it, for it imitates the original cosmic horizon-the Transverse Cord-which was extended across primitive self-awareness born in primeval chaos: it polarized that awareness into upper and lower, so that there was direction, and the driving force toward creation arose. This was revealed to the poet-seers of the Ṛgveda:
āsīt tāmasā gūṭhām āgre
salilāṃ sārvam ā idām/
tād āgre sāmavartatādhi
rētaḥ prathamāṃ yād āsīt/
bāndhum āsati nīravindan
pratīsyā kavāyo manīṣā//
vītato raśmir eṣām
svid āsīd upāri svid āsīd upāri svid āsīt/
āsan mahimāna āsan
avāstāt prāyatiḥ parāstāt//
there was at first in darkness hidden;
universe was undistinguished water.
which in void and emptiness lay hidden
by power of fervour [topas] was developed.
for the first time there arose desire,
was the primal germ of mind, within it.
sages, searching in their heart, discovered
Nothing the connecting hand of Being.
straight across their cord was then extended:
then was there above? or what beneath it?
giving principles and powers existed;
the origin,-the striving upward.'22
the two major axes are drawn at the beginning of the plan as at the origin
of the universe. For our image is to represent the universe. After this,
draw the parallel top line [E-E] through the intersection of the lower
circle and the vertical axis [at Al] and similarly the base line [F-F]
through the intersection of the lower circle and the vertical
[at-A2]. As it was said, the Tree-Axis [Al-A2] supports the heaven
and the earth. The length of these horizontal lines will be determined as
our plan progress.
We shall next draw three triangles, in order to fix important points, by means of tangents, arcs and circles, on the vertical axis, in the following stages; each geometric phase proceeds from the last in logical sequence, interdependent, and upon this sequence we shall construct our image.
3. Draw two lines from the centre of the upper circle [B1]: tangential to the lower circle, down to the base line [Bl-G2 and Bl-H2], thus creating an equilateral triangle [B1-G2-H2]. Repeat this procedure from the centre of the lower circle [B2], so making an inverted equilateral triangle of equal dimensions [B2-G 1-H1]. The inclined sides of these two triangles intersect on the horizontal centre line [D-D].
Fig. 3.5 Augmented diagram for drawing the outline of the god
The sides of these two triangles are 12 units long. Using this measurement
as radius, mark off two points [J1 and J2] on the vertical axis by
describing two arcs, centred respectively on the base and apex of the axis
[A2 and A1], from one side of the base and top lines to the other [arcs j
1 and j2].
From the point on the vertical axis where the lower arc [J2] intersects it
[J1], draw two lines down to the base line at the points which mark the
base of the equilateral triangle [points G2 and H2 of triangle B1-G2-H2],
thus making an isosceles triangle [J1-G2-H2] the perpendicular height of
which is equal to the length of side of the equilateral triangle.
Similarly, draw an inverted isosceles triangle from the point on the axis
where it is intersected by the upper [arc J1, pointJ2, triangleJ2-G1- H1].
The inclined sides of the triangles intersect on the horizontal centre
The longer sides of these two triangles measure 13.5 units. Taking this
measurement as radius, mark off two further points [K1 and K2] on the
vertical axis by describing two more arcs, centred respectively on the
base and apex of the axis [A2 and A1], from one side of the base and top
lines to the other [arcs K1 and K2].
From the points on the vertical axis where these two arcs intersect it [K1
and K2], draw two more isosceles triangles on the same base [triangles
K1-G2-H2 and K2-G1-H1]. Again, the perpendicular bright of each is equal
to the longer sides 01 the preceding trio triangles, and their inclined
sides intersect on the horizontal centre line.
8. The longer side of these two triangles measure Ii units. With this measurement as radius, describe two more arcs, centred respectively on the base and apex of the vertical axis [A2 and A1], from one side of the base and top lines to the other [arcs m 1 and m2]. These arcs intersect the vertical axis at points which are 1 unit above the upper circle and 1 unit below the lower circle [M1 and M2]. (The intersections of the arcs with top line [m1] and with the base line [m2] should now be joined with vertical lines [m1/E-m2/F] as these points mark the furthest lateral extent of this geometric preparation for the design of the sculpture.)
Fig. 3.6 Drawing of the god within the tree within the egg
Now draw three overlapping circles centred on the vertical axis at its
centre [C] and at the apices of the first two isosceles triangles [J1 and
J2], where the axis is intersected by the first two arcs [arcs j1 and j2].
The radius of these circles should be the same as that of the first two by
which the axis was initially divided into four equal parts, namely 3.5
The central circle intersects the vertical axis at the apices of the first
two equilateral triangles [i.e. at the centres of the first two circles,
at B1 and B2]. The upper and lower circles intersect it 2 units below the
apex of the upright equilateral triangle and 2 units above the apex of the
inverted one. These two distances should be bisected by drawing a
horizontal line through the intersections of the perimeters of the upper
and lower overlapping circles with that of the central circle, thus
marking a point on the vertical axis 1 unit below the apex of the upright
equilateral triangle [N1] and 1 unit above that of the inverted triange [N2].
In both the upper and lower halves of the diagram, two oblique lines
should now be drawn. Starting from the extremities of the central
horizontal axis [D-D], each line should pass through the intersection of
the central circle and the upper or lower of the first two circles before
crossing the vertical axis, and continue through the intersection of the
central circle with the upper or lower secondary circle on the other side
of this axis. These lines intersect on the axis at two points [R1 in the
upper half, R2 in the lower] which are a half-unit closer to its centre
than the two preceding paints [N1 and N2]. [The lines are D-rc and D-rd in
the upper half, D-rc and D-rd in the lower.] Five points [R1 and R2, N1
and N2, B1 and B2, J1 and J2, and K1 and K2] have thus been marked within
the first 5 units from the apex and the base of the vertical axis. These
will mark the following points on the sculpture:
- centre of Śiva's face.
1 - centre of Brahmā's middle face.
- centre of Hayagrīva's forehead.
- centre of Hayagrīva's chest.
- centre of Hayagrīva's waistband.
sahasrāra-cakra on the top of the head of Viṣṇu (behind
the central crown).
- viśuddha-cakra on the body of
- anāhata-cakra on the body of Viṣṇu (heart).
- maṇipūraka-cakra on the body
of Viṣṇu (solar plexus).
- mūlādhāra-cakra on the body
of Viṣṇu (base of the trunk).
-junction of the pint of Viṣṇu 's robe and the centre of the nāgas'
the yogic, cakra see Plate 60.]
The third set of lines emanate from the intersections of the second arcs
with the top and base lines [k1 and k2, left and right] and pass through
the intersections of those arcs with the secondary upper and lower circles
on the opposite side of the axis. These lines intersect on the axis at the
points [B1 and B2] whew the apices of the two equilateral triangles and
the circumference of the central secondary circle also join it. The angle
of the lines from the perpendicular is in this case 400 [lines
k2-ba and k2-bb, k1-bc and k1-bd].
The fourth set of lines are drawn from the intersections of the third arcs
with the top and base lines [ml and m2, left and right] through the
intersections of the second arcs [k1 and k2] with the circumferences of
the upper and lower primary circles on the opposite side of the axis.
These lines intersect on the axis at the points WI and J2] where the
apices of the first two isosceles triangles and the first arcs [j1 and j2]
also join it. The angle of the lines from the perpendicular is equal to
that of the preceding set, namely 400 [lines m2-ja and m2-jb,
m1-jc and m1-jd].
A fifth set of lines, at 350 from the perpendicular, could be
drawn through the apices of the second two isosceles triangles
[at K I and k!2] by connecting the intersections of the third arcs
with the lines through the first points on the axis [R1 and R2] and.
diagonally opposite, the intersections of the opposed third arcs with the
circumferences of the two secondary circles outside the frame of the plan.
[These potential vectors are shown as broken lines in figures 3.3, 3.4,
3.5 and 36.1 There is no immediate purpose which such lines could serve,
for we are establishing these points [K1 and K2] as those of the source of
creation in the primeval waters at the base, and of the face of
destruction in the face of diva at the top. There is no development below
the former and none above the latter; beyond them there is nothing, and
these two points correspond because the one leads hack to the other in the
continuous cycle of generation and dissolution and preparation of the
universe. Therefore these lines are not drawn in preparation for marking
the Tree (for this has been our purchase to this stage: the interwoven
warp and weft--otam protam-on
which our image of the universe is to be made is now complete).
Translation of A. Kaegi, of which I am very fond, in The Rigveda: The
Oldest Literature of the Indans (Zūrich 1880) translated into English
by R. Arrowsmith, 1886, p. 90.
©Oxford University Press 1988