THE PAREL HEPTAD...
all the words printed by various scholars extolling its aesthetic
qualities, only one straightforward interpretation of it has been
published, namely that the sculpture depicts Śiva saptasvaramaya,
who is Composed of the Seven (Musical) Notes.23
This theory might appear to derive some support from the fart that at
least three of the small guṇas
on the base are depicted playing musical instruments. The arguments
against this interpretation, which is advanced by C. Sivaramamurti, are
Not one 'embodiment of the seven principal musical notes'24
- not even the ten-armed figure at the top-holds anything resembling a
None of the seven major figures is depicted in a dancing posture, which
might have lent some weight to the concept of an image of Śiva as
embodiment of the musical scale.
The very idea of a musical note being personified as an ṛṣi
or a divinity is unknown in Hindu iconography unless this is the sole,
4. If the number of literary references to a deity in a particular form is an index of its popularity, the Saptasvaramaya epithet of Śiva shows it to be a very rare form indeed, unlikely to find expression in sculpture as an object of worship.
Finally, diminutive figures of musicians are often represented
accompanying images of Śiva dancing and, as a dancer, he may well be said
to embody sacred music and ritual chant; but, as I have remarked, none of
the seven figures above the guṇa
musicians in this image is dancing-the little 'orchestra' seems to be
singing the praises of the main multiple figure (or perhaps only those of
(A) to whom two of the musicians raise their eyes), not generating the
notes which the seven figures embody.
is, surely, impossible to regard the trio of players seated on the base of
the sculpture, with their grotesque faces set upon baby-like bodies, as
the serious exponents of a musical system which requires personification
by such a solemn heptad of conjoined figures rising from their midst;
there is a comical contrast between the figures on the plinth and those
constituting the main image, rather than a serious musicological
most recent interpretation of the Pare1 sculpture is that advanced by D.
who bases his explanation upon Brahmāṇḍa
purāṇa 22, 23 and 33, and upon Banerjea's formulation of Śuddha-Śaivism
which Bhattacharyya terms Śivasiddhānta,27
although Banerjea does not in fact use this word in his famous work at the
place cited by Bhattacharyya. To avert confusion, I might point out that
the system meant by the two scholars is that treated by Bhandarkar28
under the simple heading of 'The Śaiva System', a concise three-page
definition which goes unacknowledged by both writers.
conclusion reached by Bhattacharyya is that (A), (B) and (C) represent the
Āgamantin/Śivasiddhāntin principles of pāśa, paśu and pati
respectively, while the side-figures (AR), (AL), (BR) and (BL),
'represent the four offsprings that Śiva begets in each of the kalpas.
These four are the doubtless personifications of the four padas of the Śivasiddhānto system:
vidyā, kriyā, yoga, and caryā.29
similar in approach to my own method of interpretation, which follows, the
implications of Bhattacharyya's theory make it difficult to accept. In the
first place, it is hard to conceive of the principle 'pāśa'
(the 'fetter' which binds the soul of man to material existence) being
personified as a yogin-like (A), well
proportioned, meditative, with jaṭakalāpa
and kamaṇḍalu. 'Pati', the
lord as Śiva, and 'pāśu', the
individual soul held back from union with the god by 'pāśa',
might be represented in the forms of a god and a man respectively, But
to suggest that an anthropomorphic figure such as (A) in the Parel
sculpture is the embodiment of 'pāśa' is to go too far. Pāśa'
consists of the stain (mala)
which blinds the soul, of the continuously growing conditioning consequent
upon action (karman), of the
cause of material existence and dissolution and recreation (māyā), and of the rodhaśakti
or blocking force of Śiva himself which, by controlling the preceding
three, necessarily and in a sense paradoxically blocks or hinders the
unification of the soul with Śiva. These factors, which in aggregate
constitute pāśa, do not lend
themselves to personification in the form of a religious sculpture
intended for a ritual setting within a temple.
the four emergent side-figures cannot logically be conceived of as 'the
four offsprings that Śiva begets in each of the kalpas' and simultaneously as the 'personification of the four padas
of the Śivasiddhānta system'. For Śiva's offspring are, according to
Bhattachayya's Brahāṇḍa Purāṇa text,
named Jaṭin, Muṇḍin, Śikhaṇḍin and Ardhamuṇḍa; these are, clearly,
descriptive names which refer only to the heads of the four Sony and mean
'He Having a jaṭā Hairstyle',
'He Having a Shaven Head', 'He Having a Tuft of Hair', and 'He Who Is Half
Shaven-Headed', respectively. As all four side-figures in the Parel
sculpture have luxuriant heads of hair, three of these identities can
hardly be applied to them.
do seem to be applicable, however, to Caturmukhaliṇgas of Kuṣāṇa type30
(bearing in mind that the four sons are differentiated by the appearance
of their heads alone). For example,
the cluster of four Kuṣāṇa Caturmukhaliṇgas illustrated in Plates
18-22 show such distinctions: the face on side B (Plate 19) might well be
termed Muṇḍin, as it has 'snail shell' curls around the front of the
scalp while the pate is bald, and the name Jaṭin would apply to the face
on side C (Plate 20) while the bristling hair of the moustached face on
side D (Plate 21) might be described as Ardhamuṇḍa (half-cropped). The
relationship between the sons of Śiva born in successive kalpas
and the faces of a Caturmukhaliṇga is a point I shall explore further
in my own interpretation. If, as I propose, these, kalpa-offspring
of Śiva are indeed represented by the four faces of a Caturmukhaliṇga,
then it is not only by their hairstyles that they can be differentiated:
the expressions on the four faces also differ-markedly so in post- Kuṣāṇa
sculpture-but the faces of the side figures in the Pare1 relief are very
much alike, having none of the distinguishing characteristics of the
separate faces of con-temporary Caturmukhaliṇgas, or of the side-faces of
reliefs based upon them, such as the colossal example in the cave temple
on Elephanta Island, just off the Bombay coast.
these grounds alone Bhattacharyya's identification of the Parel
side-figures as the four different sons of Śiva listed in Brahāṇḍa Purāṇa 22.53-5 might be rejected. But to equate them
with the four padas of Śivasiddhānta
compounds the confusion. For these are the four steps or stages through
which a Śuddha-Śaiva approaches union with Śiva: from knowing the basic
tenets of the system and its mantras
to initiation and the practice of worship, followed by meditation
techniques and then purification and preparation for death and the merging
of the soul with Śiva. They might well be personified as four individuals
on the various levels of an ascent to union with the divine; but the side
figures of the Pare1 image are paired off on only two levels and do not
seem to show a four-stage ascent. Certainly it must he illogical to equate
such human aspirants with the divine all-formed youths (divyāḥ
born from the sides of Śiva in the Brahāṇḍa
Purāṇa passage quoted by Bhattacharyya.
these grounds, it is impossible to accept this scholar's interpretation
without suspending a belief in the internal logic which governs the
iconography of all multiple images which have so far been examined.
scholar, to my knowledge, has attempted an explanation of this image from
the point of view of its probable ritual function and intended position in
a shrine. Regarded in this light, a new interpretation of its iconography
and a theory of its very raison
d'etre become possible. What follows is necessarily a hypothetical
reconstruction; it is bound to be theoretical, as there is no known
iconographical text which describes such a sculpture and the Parel image
itself was, moreover, never completed or installed in a ritual setting.
The following theory seeks to explain the unique form of this image more
fully and logically than any of the foregoing interpretations which are
also, of course, speculative.
my text upon which to base an iconological interpretation, I take the Liṇga
Purāṇa. This text has passages
which are similar in content to those quoted or cited by Bhattacharyya,
but which, to judge by their terminology, constitute a later version of
the same doctrine as that contained in the Brahāṇḍa
Purāṇa. Thus Liṇga Purāṇa32
1, Chapter 23, speaks of separate manifestations of Śiva in four
consecutive kalpas, followed by
his universal form in a fifth kalpa. The names by which he is variously known in these periods are
those of the fivefold Śiva whose aspects are related to five elements
which proceed from the gross (earth) to the subtle (ether, or space) in Viṣṇudharmottara 3.48.1-8
(see above, pp. 58-60), but with the fifth aspect termed Viśvarūpa
instead of īśāna. These names are given in the order Sadyojāta, Vāmadeva,
Tatpuruṣa, Aghora; the preeminent fifth, the source of these four (the Liṇga
itself in visual terms) is then named Viśvarūpa. It is said that this
fifth and universal form is the father of the preceding four and that as
they are the sons of Śiva- Viśvarūpa, all creation is fourfold. I
present the text here in diagrammatic form (Figure 4.l), to demonstrate
its relationship to the Caturmukhaliṇga.
the distribution of the emanatory aspects in the sequence given in the
text, when set out in accordance with the conventional plan of a
four-faced Liṇga, shows that the Purāṇa
passage has listed them in an order which runs counter to the usual
ritual sequence: instead of proceeding pradakṣiṇa
or clock-wise, the names run anti-clockwise round the Liṇga (here termed
Viśvarūpa). This can scarcely be considered accidental; I shall come to
the significance of this reversal presently.
Liṅga purāṇa 1.23.. 1-30 set out upon a caturmukhaliṅga plan
parallelism between kalpa and yuga
and their personifications serves the purpose of bringing the enormity of
cosmic time and its ruler, Śiva as Kālarudra, down to a scale which
involves man: the most recent incarnation was Lakuli or Lakulīśa, still
widely venerated in north India, during the 28th cycle of four yugas
within the current kalpa. The
relevance to mankind of this periodic incarnation doctrine (fully
expounded in Liṇga Purāṇa 1.24))
is brought home by naming the place on earth of most of the incarnations,
their janmasthānas. The
birthplace of Lakulīśa, is well known-it is Kāyāvatāra, also called Kāyāvarohaṇa,
modem Karvan in Gujarat. Other famous janmasthānas
mentioned include Prabhāsa and Vārāṇasī.
Turning back now to Chapter 23 in the Purāṇa, it becomes clear why the sequence of the elemental aspects of Śiva, appearing in the cosmic time-scale of kalpas within which the yuga-based periodicity of incarnation is contained, is not presented there in the usual pradakṣiṇā order, but anti-clockwise, as noted above. This is not a ritual circumambulatory progression around the Liṇga but a chronological retrogression from the 'last-born' (sadyojāta) son to the first-born (Aghora), and thus back to the source (Śiva-Viśvarūpa) in the Liṇga. By reading the text in this way, the most recent incarnation and the mahāyuga which he personifies can be traced back through 27 preceding mahāyugas to the beginning of the current kalpa in Sadyojāta and thence back further still, kalpa by kalpa, to the Origin, the Viśvarūpa or Omniform Beginning, which is the eternal axis of every time-cycle. As it stands, the text portion consisting of Liṇga Purāṇa 1.23-4 is a whole. It traces, in theological as opposed to ritual order, the Śaiva conception of perpetual divine incarnation. This perpetuation assumes the form of time-periods emanating from one central or axial source, as a father might generate four sons at regular intervals; each of these in turn generates a total of 250 grandsons (the number of mahāyugas in a kalpa) until his span is ended, whereupon the next generates a further 250, and so forth until the youngest of the four sons (Sadyojāta) is reached. He has so far generated twenty-eight grandsons; and each of these has in turn generated four great-grandsons in the form of the yugas, which make up the lifespan of each of the twenty-eight mahāyuga -incarnations out of the 250 which will constitute the total progeny of Sadyojāta.
C. Sivaramamurti, Indian Sculpture, New Delhi 1961,p.58; the same scholar repeats this
theory in The Art of India
(Paris 1974), New York 1977, p.176, Kramrisch, Presence of Śiva,p.461, note 31, states of the Parel sculpture:
'This aspect of Śiva has as yet not been accounted for iconographically';
in the however, she seems by her terminology to have accepted
Kramrisch, Presence of Śiva,p.461.
D. C. Bhattacharyya, Iconology of composite Images, New Delhi 1980,pp.53-55.
J.N. Banerjea, The Development of Hindu Iconography, Calcutta 1956, pp.452-3.
Bhattacharya, Iconology of Composite Images, p. 54.
R.G. Bhandarkar, Vaiṣṇavism, Śaivism and Minor Religious Systems, Strassburg,
Berlin 1913, pp. 124-7.
Iconology of Composite Images,
See P. Pal, 'An Addorsed Śaiva Image from Kashmir and Its Cultural
Significance', Art International
XXIV.5-6, January-February 1981,pp.40-3.
As quoted by Bhattacharyya, Iconology
of Composite Images, p.54.
32 In addition to the Sanskrit text, I have consulted a translation of this Purāṇa: The Liṅga- Purāṇa, Translated by a Board of Scholars, ed. J. L. Shastri (Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology Series, vols. 5 and 6), Delhi 1973.
©Oxford University Press 1988