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Chapter 4



7. It will have been noticed in stages 4 and 6 that the plan upon which the sculpture was based consists of two maṇḍalas which are related to each other in terms of both form and colour. I shall now attempt to reconstruct the dynamics of this symbolism as it pertains to the Śaiva doctrine of incarnation.

As shown in stage 4 (Figure 4.6) the upper half of the diagram is derived from a Caturmukhaliṅga when viewed from above with the faces projecting in the four cardinal directions and the shaft divided Into four concentric rings, each one unit greater than the preceding one in radius. The lower half is identically constructed, but with the projecting faces pointing toward the intermediate directions. Superimposing one half of the diagram upon the other would thus result in the completion of the outermost fifth ring.

The colour system of the rings (Figure 4.11) may be summarized as follows, listed as they appear from the centre outward:

In the upper squre

BLACK (Kṛṣṇa-kalpa; the colour of

Śiva's first emanation, Aghora)

YELLOWS (Pīta-kalpa;the colour of

Śiva's second emanation, Tatpuruṣa)

RED (Lohita-kalpa; the colour of Śiva's

third emanation, Vāmadeva)

WHITE (Śveta-kalpa; the colour of Śiva's

fourth and current emanation Sadyojāta)

In the lower square               

BLACK (Kali-yuga, compared to iron which

is regarded as black: kṛṣṇāyas)

RED (Dvāpara-yuga, compared to copper

which is red: tāmra, lohita)

WHITE (Tretā-yuga, compared to silver

which is whitish on colour: rajata)

GOLD (Kṛta-yuga, compared to gold, the

most precious metal of beautiful colour:

suvarṇa, hiraṇya)  

  Bounded by the fourth circle from the centre, these two time-cycle systems are held together in a potential state, like the powers of Śiva (time being one of them) contained within the featureless Liṅga. They become manifest individually, one at a time, from this core of potential, like the partial manifestations of Śiva as individual aspects projecting from the Caturmukhaliṅga. The distribution of the individual colour projections from the circle of potential in the u per square of the diagram follows the order of generation of Śiva's aspects or sons (starting with Aghora) each of whom has a particular colour. In the lower square, I have suggested that the Caturmukhaliṅga construct is to be seen as turned through 450, in a pradakṣiṇā or clockwise direction, so that the first of the yugas (the golden or yellow Kṛta) appears facing 450 higher than the black Aghora projection in the upper diagram, or in ritual terms facing the south-west. The silver-white second yuga, the Tretā, then faces the north-west, the red Dvāpara appears in the north-east, and the black Kali, finally, in the south-east.

Fig. 4.11 Meditational maṇḍala diagram underlying the sculpture  

When the two maṇḍalas are superimposed, therefore, the fifth ring, in which these individual colour projections appear, will consist of a white segment in the east (at the base of the composite ring), two adjacent black segments in the south-east and south, two adjacent segments of sold or yellow in the south-west and west, one white segment m the north-west, and two adjacent red segments in the north and north-east.

In order to understand the relationship between these two maṇḍalas, however, it is necessary first to examine their individual symbolic possibilities. The upper diagram can be used in two ways. By relating the colour of each projection to its inner ring of the same colour, a meditational circumambulation in the ritually correct clockwise direction starting from the black Aghora projection leads from the first kalpa in the centre outward to the white kalpa of Sadyojāta which is the current age, of which we inhabit the twenty-eighth mahāyuga in the Kali, when Lakulīśa is the incarnation who teaches the Śaiva salvation doctrine through his four disciple sons. Alternatively, an anti-clockwise circumambulation starting from the present age of Sadyojāta will lead back through those of Vāmadeva, Tatpuruṣa and Aghora to the source in Śiva Viśvarūpa; this is the sequence in which the kalpas are described in Liṅga Purāṇa 1.23, as demonstrated in the diagrammatic presentation of that text portion on page 204).

Similarly, the lower diagram can be followed in either direction. Starting with the golden projection of the Kṛta, one can proceed clockwise around the four projections to end in the black centre which is the present Kaliyuga of which Lakulīśa and his four disciples are the saviours on earth. An anticlockwise circumambulation, on the other hand, leads back from the present yuga to the golden Kṛta age.

I suggest that whichever direction is followed in one maṇḍalas should also be taken in the other. It is clear that clockwise circumambulation leads from the past to the present, anticlockwise from the present to the past, in both diagrams. Thus one can start from the present Kaliyuga in the lower diagram and proceed anticlockwise back through the yugas to the Kṛta, and so back further still into the current white kalpa of Sadyojāta in the upper diagram and thence continue anticlockwise back to the Dark Age of Aghora who: as eldest son of Śiva Viśvarūpa, stands next to the god himself. In view of the anticlockwise sequence of kalpas given in Liṅga Purāṇa 1.23, this might be taken as the correct way to interpret this dual maṇḍala; and certainly this meditational route leads the human aspirant from his present wretched circumstances in the Kaliyuga back through the mahāyuga of the current incarnation to the great kalpas and finally to union with the God of Time. But the system must also work in reverse in order to send down an incarnation to teach mankind the way back to God. For this descent, the two clock-wise routes are followed, from Aghora to Sadyojāta at the divine level to the Kṛta and successive yugas of the human time-cycle down to the present Kali.

The maṇḍala theory and diagrams, then, were sound; the problem of giving expression to this doctrine in the form of an image remained. The problem was solved by means of an intro-mediate planning stage which 1 feel sure the designers of this sculpture must have had in mind from the beginning. Given that the two halves of the diagram were based upon two Liṅga plans, the consistent means of providing a vertical ladder of descent for the incarnation, and of ascent for mortal devotees between the celestial upper and the terrestrial lower halves, was a third Liṅga. Clearly, it could not be based upon the Liṅga plans constituting the two parts of the diagram: such a Liṅga would far exceed in height the image itself. It was based upon two plans within the four-unit-wide central axis, to be seen enclosed by the square formed by lines 3 and 7, horizontal and vertical, at the centre of the upper and lower major squares (see projection 01 this plan in Figure 4.12). The base of this Liṅga, of square cross-section, rose seven units from the baseline to the top of its plan in the lower major square, on a level with the heart of the incarnation and the horizontally bent legs of the figures flying outward from him (figures A, AR and AL). Above this for six units, three below and three above the horizontal centre line, rose the transitional octagonal section. The points to be joined vertically to indicate the receding side-facets of the octagon are the intersections of the upper and lower limits of this portion of the shaft (level 7, upper and lower) with the diagonals in the corners of the two identical plans of this Liṅga (3 upper to 7 lower), these lines being sections of the diagonals projected from the corner diagonals of the major squares which formed the octagonal plan of the two major Liṅga -plans. The octagonal section ends at the base of the head of (B) Above this, the cylindrical shaft was continued upward on the margins of the central axis until they reached the periphery of the fifth circle in the upper major square, the curve of which was taken to indicate the top of the Liṅga. For the sake of clarity in Figure 4.12, showing this side-view of a Liṅga equal in height to the sculpture, I have isolated the Liṅga by erasing the guidelines around it to a distance of one unit.

The base, middle and top sections of the Liṅga profile constructed on the axis of the diagram are thus seven, six and seven units high respectively, with a constant width, or 'diameter' in the case of the top section, of four units. Its width to total height ratio is 1:5, the same as that between the smallest and largest circles in the two major squares. Looking now from this diagram to that showing the whole plan superimposed on the sculpture (Figure 4.10) and comparing them with (Figure 4.1 I), the manner in which the descent of the incarnation was symbolically conceived becomes apparent.  Śiva Viśvarūpa as Kālarudra (C) within the vertical Liṅga shaft emanated downward, from his navel at the centre of the upper maṇḍala, a figure who is seen descending as far as the baseline of that maṇḍala (B), through the white projection in the fifth ring which represents the current Śveta-kalpa in the person of Sadyojāta whom (B) thus represents. It is he who makes the descent from the upper square, realm of the kalpas, to the lower one where the yuga time-cycles operate, as intermediary between the God and the incarnation. This transition occurs mainly between the middle section of the vertical Liṅga which has eight sides, a fact which is taken as symbolic of the junction between the upper and lower four-faced Liṅga plans. The incarnation then descends between the gold and silver projections of the lower maṇḍala, coming to rest with the top of his head-the yogic sahasrārapadma point-at the very point of transition (the centre of the entire diagram), the ājṅā-cakra (point between his eye brows) on the outer rim of the golden circle of the Kṛta-yuga, the viśuddhi-cakra (in the throat) on its inner rim, and the anāhata-cakra (in the heart) on the inner rim of the silver Tretā-yuga circle. This is the base of the octagonal section of the central Liṅga profile. The head of the incarnation is between the gold and silver projections of the first two yugas while his body from the heart upward is immersed in their concentric rings. From the level of his heart downward, he is contained within the square base section of the central Liṅga profile, his navel (the maṇipura-cakra) on the inner rim of the red Dvāpara-yuga circle, at the transition between it and the black Kali, in the centre of which is located the mālādhāra-cakra (the level of the base of the spine and the genital organs). Below this level, his legs and feet descend and come to rest between the red projection of the Dvāpara-yuga and the black Kali-yuga projection. It is at this critical point in time that an incarnation of Śiva is repeatedly said, in Liṅga Purāṇa 1.24, to appear on earth (Kalau tasmin yugāntike, that is, 'in the Kali, at the end of that [Dvāpara-] yuga33). The three figures constituting the axis of the sculpture are thus superimposed upon a (meditational) Liṅga (Kuṣāṇa source no. 2.4). The planning diagram is thus charged with symbolism expressive of the Liṅga both as the two major time-cycle systems and as the axial continuum which joins them. It generates and informs with meaning the entire sculpture.

8. I have already mentioned that in my opinion the Parel relief was designed to stand behind a Caturmukhaliṅga to complement its kalpa symbolism and elaborate upon it by depicting the descent into this world, which is governed by the yuga system, of a periodic saviour who is an incarnation of Śiva Kālarudra. In view of the validity of the planning diagram of the sculpture, in practical as well as symbolic terms, it is quite possible that the vertical Liṅga profile, isolated in stage 7 as the validating symbolism behind the design of the vertical axis composed of (A), (B) and (C), was the actual measure of the Caturmukhaliṅga behind which the stele was to have stood in its own temple. As it appears in Figure 4.12, this Liṅga is, of course, the same height as the stele. But in practice the square base portion would have been buried in the floor of the shrine in accordance with normal installation procedures. This would lower the apex of the Liṅga by seven units, leaving the six units of the octagonal section within the pīṭha and the seven units of the cylindrical shaft standing above floor level. This colossal object would have risen to a height level with the base of the head of (B). (It may be noted that his curved shoulders-those of (A) and (C) being square-form an arc which would have coincided with the profile of the Liṅga dome.) His head-the head of Sadyojāta as I have identified him through the diagrams-- would then appear to rise directly from the apex of the Liṅga, the shaft of which would appear to be his body (Kuṣāṇa Source no. 4B) from which seem to spring (AR) and (AL) on a level with the profiles of Aghora-Bhairava and Vāmadeva-Urns; the face on the front of a Caturmukhaliṅga confronting the devotee on entering the shrine, is that of Sadyojāta, so that an immediate correspondence would have been visually established between the Liṅga and the stele. Rising above this face on the Liṅga itself would be the plain top section of the shaft; corresponding to this on the stele behind it above the face of figure (B), would rise (C), the god Śiva in human form, and identifying himself through his hand-held symbols (apart from the more or less obligatory bow and arrow, sword and shield) as the self-appointed controller of time who carries the same waterpot and displays the same teaching mudrā as do his human devotees and incarnations. The initial visual impact would have been most impressive and symbolically instructive. Only in the course of ritual circumambulation, however, would (A), the incarnation himself with his feet resting upon the sanctum floor, have been revealed behind the Liṅga: an idealized figure of a holy man, the same height as the average worshipper (about 175 centimetres), descended from the god and appearing where, from the eastern doorway of the sanctum, only the Liṅga had been seen. 

Fig. 4.12 Planning diagram. Parel J

A concluding comment on the unfinished state of the Parel sculpture might be made here. The installation of this relief behind a Caturmukhaliṅga of conventional post- Kuṣāṇa lconography would have imposed a specific doctrinal interpretation (that of the time and periodic incarnation teaching of Liṅga Purāṇa 1.23 and 24) upon the Liṅga, and I suggest that it was indeed for this purpose that the stele was designed, This might also explain the incomplete condition of the sculpture; it may well have been abandoned as too controversial an image to install in a Śaiva shrine, particularly in view of its imposing size. The large scale on which were conceived the stele, probably the Liṅga which was to have stood before it, and certainly the dimensions of the shrine required to house it, are equally likely causes of its abandonment. A minority cult image together with the architectural requirements of its temple, conceived on a grandiose scale, is almost inevitably doomed to fail as an economic proposition. It could be argued that the colossal Maheśamūrti relief in the great Śiva cave temple on Elephanta Island just off the coast succeeded where the Parel experiment did not, for this same reason. The Elephanta relief, clearly an exposition of the symbolism implicit in the plain Liṅga in the shrine (although they stand at the end of the north south and east--west axes of the temple respectively, rather than in immediate juxtaposition), expresses it in conventional terms. That is, the three-faced bust with its tall central jaṭābhāra is an anthropomorphic elaboration of the plain Liṅga which is the main ritual focus of the shrine, implying that the four faces of Śiva's primary emanations are to be conceived as originating from the Liṅga, which thus becomes in imagination a caturmukha construct expressive of the god's ability to extend beyond the confines of the featureless symbol which is his chief and most sacred manifestation. The Parel relief was an attempt to take this exposition one stage further by extending and specifying the interpretation to be placed upon a sculptured Liṅga with the four faces already represented. This was, apparently, one stage too far, and the project was abandoned as being heretical in the sense of narrow (foisting a particular doctrine upon the Liṅga which should, more conventionally, be regarded as a symbol of universality) and, perhaps, as being symbolically too complex-despite the clarity of its sculptural form-for general worship.

33 At verses 12, 55, 81, 111 and 118, for example; also dvāpare... yugāntike (vs 20), kalau tasmin (vs 17), etc.


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Oxford University Press 1988