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Viśvarūpa

Chapter 4


THE PAREL HEPTAD...

 

Despite 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 these:

1. Not one 'embodiment of the seven principal musical notes'24 - not even the ten-armed figure at the top-holds anything resembling a musical instrument.

 2. 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.

3. 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, colossal, exception.

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.

5. 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.

It 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 connection.

The most recent interpretation of the Pare1 sculpture is that advanced by D. C. Bhattacharyya,25 who bases his explanation upon Brahmāṇḍa purāṇa 22, 23 and 33, and upon Banerjea's formulation of Śuddha-Śaivism or Agamanta-Śaivism,26 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.

The 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

Although 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.

Secondly, 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.

They 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.

On 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 sarvarūpāḥ kumārakāḥ)31 born from the sides of Śiva in the Brahāṇḍa Purāṇa passage quoted by Bhattacharyya.

On 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.

No 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.

As 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.

Clearly 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.

 

3. TATAPURUṢA 

Pita-kalpa: Gāyatrī, born of Śiva, was yellow (Pīta); Śiva was yellow and assumed the minds of yogins through tapas. (Liṇga Purāṇa 1.23.13-17) 

 

4.AGHORA

Kṛṣṇa-kalpa: Śiva was black (Kṛṣṇa) and was called Kāla and Ghora; to those who know him, he is Śānta and Aghora; Gāyatrī, born of Śiva, was also black and called Brahmāṇī. (Liṇga Purāṇa 1.23.18-21)

2.VĀMADEVA 

Lohita-kalpa: Gāyatrī was red (lohita) like a cow and named Brahmāṇī; consequently, Śiva was also red and was called Vāmadeva (Liṇga Purāṇa 1.23.7-12)

1.SADYOJĀTA 

Śveta(-Varāha) kalpa: Śiva was white (śveta) and assumed the Sadyojāta form through his own penance. Gāyatrī, born of Śiva, was also white and was called Brahmāṇī. (Liṇga Purāṇa 1.23.2-6)

 

Fig.4.1 Liṅga purāṇa 1.23.. 1-30 set out upon a caturmukhaliṅga plan

  The first kalpa-emanation mentioned, the Śveta (whose personal name is Sadyojāta), is known in full as Śveta-Varāha-kalpa. This is the time period we inhabit. In the next chapter of the Purāṇa(24), it is simply referred to as the Varāha-kalpa. Now in this present kalpa, it is stated, in each of twenty-eight elapsed time-cycles of four yugas (i.e. mahāyugas), an incarnation of Śiva has been born (in the Dvāpara or at the transition from the Dvāpara to the Kali), each of whom has had four disciple sons. (This teaching is presented in Table 4.1.) I suggest that the yuga-system is here being presented as a reflection of the kalpa-system: this is, each four-yuga cycle is a scaled-down parallel to the birth of four elemental aspects (sons) of Śiva Viśvarūpa on the cosmic time-scale of kalpas explained in Chapter 23 of the Purāṇa. In other words, each whole mahāyuga (containing four yugas) is personified by each incarnation (the smaller equivalent of the great kalpa personified by Śiva Viśvarūpa), while the individual constituent four yugas are personified by the four disciple-sons of the incarnation (a miniature parallel to the four kalpas, born of Śiva Viśvarūpa).  Thus time is, in its greater and smaller divisions, fourfold.

This 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.


23 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 Sivaramamurti's interpretation.

24 Kramrisch, Presence of Śiva,p.461.

25 D. C. Bhattacharyya, Iconology of composite Images, New Delhi 1980,pp.53-55.

26 J.N. Banerjea, The Development of Hindu Iconography, Calcutta 1956, pp.452-3.

27 Bhattacharya, Iconology of Composite Images, p. 54.

28 R.G. Bhandarkar, Vaiṣṇavism, Śaivism and Minor Religious Systems, Strassburg, Berlin 1913, pp. 124-7.

29  Bhattacharya, Iconology of Composite Images, p. 55.

30 See P. Pal, 'An Addorsed Śaiva Image from Kashmir and Its Cultural Significance', Art International XXIV.5-6, January-February 1981,pp.40-3.

31 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.

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