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Viśvarūpa

Chapter 3


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.

Fig.3.2 Stages in the development of multiple imagery

Note:  The two Kuṣāṇa stages were probably coeval; they were experimental developments within the same cultural matrix, not necessarily chronological progressions

   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.

In 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.

1. 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:

yasya catasraḥ pradiśo nāḍayas tiṣṭhanti prathamāḥ/

[AV.10.7.16ab]

Whose main arteries stand as the four directions.

Fig. 3.3 Śamalajī nimbus. Complete planning diagram

 

 

yasmād ṛco apātakṣan yajur yasmād apākaṣan/

sāmāni yasya lomāny atharvāṅgiraso mukham/

[AV.10.7.20]

    From whom they cut out the ṛk-verses,

from whom they planed off the yajus,

Whose fibres are the sāman-chants.

whose mouth is the atharvan-hymns.

mahad yokṣaṃ bhuvanasya madhye

tapasi krāntaṃ salilasya pṛṣṭhe/

tasmin chrayante ya u ke ca devā

vṛkṣasya skandhaḥ parita iva śākhāḥ//

[AK 10.7.38]

The great spirit is extended [upward] in religious will,

at the centre of the world, upon the water,

And whatsoever gods [exist] attach themselves to him,

like branches around the trunk of a tree.

skambho dodhāra dyāvāpṛthivī  ubhe ime

skombho dadhāroru-antarikṣam/

skambho dodhāra pradiśaḥ ṣaḍ urvīḥ

skambha idaṃ viśvam bhuvanam ā viveśa//

[AV 10.7.3.5]

The Tree-Axis supports both heaven and earth,

the Tree-Axis supports the broad atmosphere between,

The Tree-Axis supports the six extensive directions:

the Tree-Axis pervades this entire world.

This 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:

Fig. 3.4 Drawing of the tree within the egg

 

 tāma āsīt tāmasā gūṭhām āgre

'praketāṃ salilāṃ sārvam ā idām/

tucchyēnābhvāpihitaṃ yād āsīt

tāpasas tāan mahinājāyatāikam//

kāmas tād āgre sāmavartatādhi

mānaso rētaḥ prathamāṃ yād āsīt/

satō bāndhum āsati nīravindan

hṛdī pratīsyā kavāyo manīṣā//

tiraścīno vītato raśmir eṣām

adhāḥ svid āsīd upāri svid āsīd upāri svid āsīt/

retodhā āsan mahimāna āsan

svadhā avāstāt prāyatiḥ parāstāt//

[RV.10.129.3-5]

'Darkness there was at first in darkness hidden;

This universe was undistinguished water.

That which in void and emptiness lay hidden

Alone by power of fervour [topas] was developed.

Then for the first time there arose desire,

Which was the primal germ of mind, within it.

And sages, searching in their heart, discovered

In Nothing the connecting hand of Being.

And straight across their cord was then extended:

What then was there above? or what beneath it?

Life giving principles and powers existed;

Below the origin,-the striving upward.'22

So 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

 

4. 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].

5. 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 line.

6. 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].

7. 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

 

9. 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 units.

10. 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].

11. 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:

K1 - centre of Śiva's face.

J 1 - centre of Brahmā's middle face.

B1 - centre of Hayagrīva's forehead.

N1 - centre of Hayagrīva's chest.

R1 - centre of Hayagrīva's waistband.

(C-  sahasrāra-cakra on the top of the head of Viṣṇu (behind the central crown).

R2 - viśuddha-cakra on the body of Viṣṇu (throat).

N2 - anāhata-cakra on the body of Viṣṇu (heart).

B2 - maṇipūraka-cakra on the body of Viṣṇu (solar plexus).

J2 - mūlādhāra-cakra on the body of Viṣṇu (base of the trunk).

K2 -junction of the pint of Viṣṇu 's robe and the centre of the nāgas' intertwined bodies.

[For the yogic, cakra see Plate 60.]

  12. The first lines important to the sculptor for the organization of the elements of the image have now been drawn [D-ra and D-rb, D-rc and D-rd, in section 11] after the first ten preparatory stages of the geometric framework. Sow the second set of significant lines should be drawn. These should, in each quarter of the basic plan, pass through the triple intersection of the primary circle, the secondary upper or lower circle and the first arc marking on the vertical axis the length of side of the equilateral triangle raised to the perpendicular [arcsj1 and j2]; each line should pass through this point and the point on the axis marked in Stage 10 [N1 and N2]. These lines commence at the top or base line and intersect on the horizontal centreline [lines na-Sb and nb-Sa in the upper half, nb-Sb and na-Sa in the lower]. The angle of these lines from the vertical is 300.

13. 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].

14. 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]. 

15. 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).



22 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.

 

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Oxford University Press 1988