The mahAmAyUrI-vidyA-rAj~nI

We had earlier mentioned how the mahAmAyUrI-vidyA-rAj~nI (MVR), an early kriyA tantra of the tAthAgata-s, is an important text to understand the evolutionary transition in the mantra-shAstra from the vaidika to the tAntrika state. Gathering texts that illustrate this transition is an important part of the study of the origins of the AgamashAstra. We were prompted to revisit the MVR when SRA, that purogava of the 4th varNa, sent us a copy of the shaiva-shAkta text termed the mahAvidyA-stotraM. He correctly noticed that it might be an early text with considerable bearing on the emergence of the vana-durgA system. We agree and feel that its core belongs to that basic old layer of texts going back to the transitional state (Hopefully at some point we will return to the discussion of this old layer of texts, including the mahAvidyA stotra, one of the earliest tAntrika pA~nchArAtrika mantra known as viShNumAya, the kaumAra and the mAta~NgI mantra-s of the aShTA~Nga saMgraha and kAshyapa saMhitA, mantra-s of the arthashAstra, and the links to the mantra-s of the uDDIsha tantra tradition among others).

Many people have an incorrect understanding of the tathAgata. They see him through the lenses of their own making – a pure philosopher disinterested in ritual, a proto-Marxist, a social reformer or simply a saint in the mold of a much later version. But he was in reality quite different – he saw himself as an insider to the vaidika tradition of the Arya-s who was redefining its structure, texts and worldview from within, albeit in a rather radical manner. As part of this activity he was on one hand a philosopher who debated with his rivals of mImAmsaka and other parivrAjaka traditions and on the other hand, like them, he too was mantravAdin. He sought to defeat them not just in philosophical debates but also emerge as a superior mantra-vAdin with more powerful mantra-s. This latter aspect is apparent in his battle with the brAhmaNa uruvela jaTila kAshyapa or the skull-tapping brAhmaNa va~NgIsha. While in his subversive philosophy departed even farther from the mainstream than the muNDaka upaniShat, it is likely that he was more conservative with his mantrashAstra. While the tathAgata probably subtly tried to encourage his own worship, in mantra practice for practical gains he still had to stick to the basics – this is in fact reflected in his advice to the councilors of the vR^iji gaNarAjya to continue their rituals as ordained to the deva-s and to the brAhmaNa-s to continue studying their veda. The MVR, coming early in the Sanskritic tradition of the tAthAgata-s, is in large part an adaptation of the Astika mantrashAstra. In this regard it tries to imitate both the proto-tAntrika as well as the late vaidika systems.

The revelation of the MVR by siddhArtha occurred at the jetavana grove in the outskirts of shravAsti when he was living in the vihAra built by his rich patron anAthapiNDaka, in the midst of a vast assembly of disciples and bodhisattva-s. He had been joined by a new disciple svAti who decided to procure some wood to fuel the sauna bath of the bhikShu-s known as the jentAka. While breaking a piece of dry wood a great black snake emerged and bit the thumb on his right foot. As a result he fell frothing from the mouth, with eyes rolling inwards and lost consciousness. Seeing him fallen thus Ananda, the cousin of the tathAgata, rushed to the buddha and told him about the fate of the young new bikShu. To revive him tathAgata revealed to Ananda the mantra-s known as the mahAmAyUrI-vidyA-rAj~nI.Not only is the MVR notable for its antiquity among the nAstika tantra-s, but also for its importance in the context of the spread of the mantrashAstra over Asia. In translation, the MVR acquired early popularity among the chInAcharya-s due to the efforts of kumArajIva. Then it went on further to Korea and Japan. In the west a peculiar phenomenon is observed – fragments of the MVR were absorbed within the syncretic Abrahamistic-Iranian framework of a strain of Manichaeism promulgated by the mAr ammO, the student of mani. Here the yakSha-s of the MVR are invoked in an amusingly eclectic company with deities such as mani, the Messiah yEsu and a farrago of other Abrahamistic angels that would certainly impress a modern Hindu moron svAmI. Not surprisingly, in this tradition mani himself was considered the bodhisattva maitreya. Thus, texts like the MVR might have had a key role in the introduction of tAntrika concepts to the Middle East.

Right in the beginning after the customary invocation of the tathagata, the saMgha, the dharma, the arhat-s and the bodhisattva-s headed by maitreya the MVR get to business by providing mantra-s to the actual deities required for its objectives. For example:

kAli karAli kumbhANDi shaMkhini kamalAkShi harIti harikeshi shrImati hari haripi~Ngale laMbe pralaMbe kAlapAshe kAlashodari yamadUti yamarAkShasi bhUtagrasani pratIchChatha mAM gandhaM puShpaM dhUpaM baliM cha dAsyAmi rakShatha mama sagaNa-parivArANAM sarva-satvAnAMsh cha sarva-bhayopadravebhyaH jIvatu varSha-shataM pashyatu sharadA-shataM sidhyantu me mantrapadAH svAhA ||
While the 17 female deities invoked in this formula in the typical Astika pa~nchopachAra style are considered to be rAkShasi-s by the nAstika-s, it is clear that they are a primitive form of the system of 17 kAli-s that was to come of its own much later in the kAlikula.

Then further ahead as the tathAgata begins convey the mantra-s to Ananda we encounter formulae such as:
rAtrau svasti divA svasti svasti madhyaMdine sthite |
svasti sarvaM aho-rAtraM sarvabuddhA dishantu me ||

This mantra is a clear example of the nAstika imitation of a vaidika mantra which is duly termed svastyayana so that it could take the place of the vaidika svastyayana (Also compare with the pada of the trita Aptya mantra in RV 10.7.1: svasti no divo agne pR^ithivyA; also note the inscription of the above nAstika mantra in a blue porcelain jar of the Xuande period from chIna).

Then after mantra-s to female deities with flourishes of onomatopoeic low complexity [e.g. oM (mili + tili + chulu + muhu + mulu+ hu + hulu + vA + pA + jAla) * 10] the tathagata gets on with the worship of snakes. Here the nAstika-s are drawing from an old template that is seen in the sarpa-bali of the vaidika tradition (e.g. mantra-s of Apastamba mantra pATha 2.17). Two prominent sarpa-s that are invoked in the MVR, dhR^itarAShTra and airAvata are also among the first to be invoked in the vaidika sarpa-bali. Likewise, another notable sarpa invoked in both the MVR and the sarpa-bali mantra-s is takShaka. The MVR sarpa section has a mantra:
pR^ithivIcharAsh cha ye nAgAs tathaiva jalanishritAH |
antarIkShacharA ye cha ye cha meru samAshritAH ||

This clearly appears to be a nAstika paraphrase of renowned vaidika sarpa-bali mantra (or its aitihAsika equivalent in the mahAbhArata):
namo .astu sarpebhyo ye ke ca pR^ithivIm anu |
ye antarikShe ye divi tebhyaH sarpebhyo namaH ||
ye .ado rocane divo ye vA sUryasya rashmiShu |
yeShAm apsu sadas kR^itaM tebhyaH sarpebhyo namaH ||

The below mantra from the MVR with the ma hiMsi also resembles similar vaidika formulae including those used in the initial fire ritual of the sarpa-bali:
mA me apAdakA hiMsyur mA me hiMsyur dvipAdakAH |
mA me chatuShpadA hiMsyur mA me hiMsyur bahupAdakAH ||

Furthermore, we could also connect the namaH formulae ending the MVR sarpa section to the shveta vaidarva namaH formulate at the end of the sarpa-bali (with the irregularities of nAstika saMskR^ita):
namo .astu muktAya namo .astu muktaye |
namo .astu shAntAya namo .astu shAntaye |
namo vimuktAya namo vimuktaye ||

This is followed by a group of low complexity mantra-s replete with onomatopoeic excesses that sound more like Gullah of the Carolinas (of course I mean this in half-jest). These are believed to stem from the peacock king who lives on the southern side of the Himalayas. Their possible emergence in the Tamil country is hinted by internal statement of “drAmiDA mantrapadAH” as well as specific of the mantra:

ili mitti tili mitti tili mili mitti tili mile mili tili mitti chili mili mili chili mili mili tili mili sutumbA tumbA suvacha chilikisiya bhinna meDi namo buddhAnAM chilikisi prAptamUle itihArA lohitamUle tumbA sutumbA kuTTi kunaTTi tila ku~nja naTTi aDakavAtyAyAM varShatu devo nava mAsAn dasha mAsAn iti ili mili kili mili keli mili ketumUle dudumbe sudumbe sudumoDe dalime santuvaTTe busavaTTe vusara vusara dhanavastrake narkalA narkalime khalime ghoShe rakhile iti sajjale tumbe sutumbe aTTe naTTe pranaTTe aNanaTTe anamAle varShatu devo navodakena sarvataH samantena nArAyaNi pArAyaNi haritAli kuntAli ili misti kili misti ili kili misti ili me sidhyantu drAmiDA mantrapadAH svAhA ||

[elements like kuTTi, aDakavAtyAyAM, aTTe etc could be of Dravidian origin]

After more of such mantra-s, the tathagata is said to expound the famous vidyA of mAta~NgI. This goddess emerges early in a mantra in the kAshyapa saMhitA of the medical tradition. Subsequently, she has a long history in the Astika world as uchChiShTha chaNDAlini, a deity in the dasha mahAvidyA system and also as the saMgIta-yoginI of the shrIkula system:
bale balkale mAta~Ngi chaNDali puruSha nichi nichi nigauri gandhAri chaNDAli mAta~Ngi mAlini hili hili Agati gati gauri gandhAri kauShThikA vachari vihAri hili hili ku~Nje svAhA ||
The phase “gauri gandhAri” also emerges in an early mantra of the pA~ncharAtrika-s, the viShNumAyA.

Then the tathAgata is said to launch into an enumeration of the yakShasenApati-s who govern the various tIrtha-sthala-s of jambudvIpa and provides one of the early expressions of the sacred geography of greater India, albeit through a nAstika lens. These yakShasenApati-s are in large part Astika temples and the specific deities housed in them. For example: vajrapANi (indra) was housed in a shrine in rAjagR^iha (Bihar); garuDa in vipula; maheshvara in the kirAta country; bR^ihaspati in shrAvasti; mahAkAla in vArANasi; viShNu in dvAraka; a famous kArttikeya shrine in rohitaka and another one of nejameSha at pA~NchAla; another indra at vaidisha; there was a lambodara (a vinAyaka?) in Orissa.

An onomatopoeic mantra attributed to indra from the MVR:
jalA jantule chApeTi jantule mathani ghaTani grasani hari hari shiri dyoti shire tataru tataru Nabati siMhA hA hA hA hA hA siMhe dhiti dhiti kuru kuru shabare vajre jyoti tuTa tuTasi baTa baTasi sili sili kapile kapilamUle hA hI hUm sarvaduShTa praduShTAnAM jaMbhana karomi hasta-pAdA~Nga-nigrahaM karomi saha tridashehi devehi DaTa~Ngini surapativarti vajra vajra vajra vajra vajra vajra vajrapataye svAhA ||

One point to note in the MVR is the set of mantra-s known as the daNDa parihAra mantra-s. These mantra-s invoke yakSha-s in the cardinal directions and call upon them to remove the daNDa-s bearing upon the beneficiary. The directional invocation follows an ancient pattern of mantra-s laid down in the veda wherein deities are invoked in different direction to protect the yajamAna. But the daNDa parihAra mentioned in the MVR is specifically related to the mantra-s to ward off the effects of various divine daNDa-s seen in the vanadurgA tradition and its precursors. Further the same set of mantra-s also talk about the performance of “sImAbandhaM” and “dharaNIbandhaM” which are also paralleled in the mantra-s of the vanadurgA tradition in the form of elaborate dig-bandha-s.

Another point of note in the MVR is the repelling of various toxins by means of the weapons of the gods. The structure of this mantra clearly indicates that it was acquired from the Astika world with superficial buddhification by adding certain elements:
[hataM viShaM nihataM viShaM buddha-tejohataM viShaM pratyeka-buddha-tejohataM viShaM arhat-tejohataM viShaM anAgAmi-tejohataM viShaM sakR^id-AgAmi-tejohataM viShaM srotApanna-tejohataM viShaM satya-vAdi-tejohataM viShaM] brahma-daNDa-tejohataM viShaM indra-vajra-tejohataM viShaM viShNu-chakra-tejohataM viShaM agni-tejohataM viShaM varuNa-pAsha-tejohataM viShaM asura-mAyA-hataM viShaM nAga-vidyA-hataM viShaM rudra-shUla-tejohataM viShaM skanda-shakti-tejohataM viShaM mahAmAyUrI-vidyA-hataM viShaM bhUmyA saMkrAmatu viShaM svastyayanaM bhavatu ||

The first part is clearly a nAstika header which lists the various bauddha entities whose luster is invoked to smite the venom, such as: 1) the buddha; 2) the pratyekabuddha or the self-taught buddha who wanders like a rhinoceros; 3) the arhat who destroys his bonds to the world and attains nirvANa upon death; 4) the anAgAmi who will reincarnate in a pure world and then attain nirvANa; 5) sakR^id-AgAmi who will be born once more on earth and then attain nirvANa upon death; 6) srotApanna who has broken three fetters recognized by the nAstika-s. These have been imposed upon the ancestral mantra that invokes various Astika devatA-s and their weapons to smite the venom.

Such adaptations of Astika material are rather common in the early nAstika tAntrika material. One example of interest is the vasudhArA dhAranI, which the tathAgata is supposed to have expounded as per mahAyAna tradition in koshAmbi. At its heart it is an adaptation of a lakShmI sAdhAna padded with a lot of nAstika periphrase:

mUlamantra: OM shriye shrIkari svAhA | om dhanakari dhAnyakari ratna-varShaNi svAhA ||
sAdhya-mantra: OM vasudhAre svAhA ||
hR^idayam: OM lakShmyai svAhA ||
upahR^idayam: OM lakShmI bhUtala-nivAsine svAhA | saM yathA daM OM yAnapAtrAvahe svAhA ||
mA dUragAminI anutpannAnAM dravyAnAm-utpAdini utpannAnAM dravyAnAM vR^iddhiMkari truTe 2 liTe 2 ita 2 AgachChAgachCha bhagavati mA vilambaM manorathaM me paripUraya ||
dashabhyo digbhyo yathodaka-dhArA paripUrayanti mahIM
yathA tamAMsi bhAskaro rashminA vidhyApayati chiraMtanAni
yathA shashI shItAMshunA niShpAdayaty auShadhIH ||

indro vaivasvatash-caiva varuNo dhanado yathA|
manonugAminI siddhiM cintayanti sadA nR^iNAm ||

tadyathA| suTa 2 khaTa 2 khiTi 2 khuTu 2 maru 2 mu~ncha 2 maru~ncha 2 tarpiNi 2 tarjani 2 dehi 2 dApaya 2 uttiShTa 2 hiraNya-suvarNaM pradApaya svAhA || annapAnAya svAhA | vasunipAtAya svAhA | gauH svAhA | surabhe svAhA | vasu svAhA| vasupataye svAhA ||
indrAya svAhA | yamAya svAhA | varuNAya svAhA | vaishravaNAya svAhA | digbhyo vidigbhyaH svAhA ||

Here the nAstika retains the typical Astika deva-s to be worshiped in the cardinal directions rather than deploying the mahArAja-s.

Another later example is seen in the Arya-sarva-tathAgatoShNISha-sitAta-patrA-nAmaparAjitA pratya~NgirA:
namo loke arhatAnAm | namaH srotApannAnAm | namaH sakR^id-AgAminAm | namo anAgAminAm | namo loke samyag-gatAnAm | namaH samyak-pratipannAnAm | namo devarShINAm | namo deva-brahmaNe | namo buddhAya | namo bhagavate rudrAya umA-sahitAya | namo varuNAya | namo bhagavate nArAyaNAya | mahA-pa~ncha-mudrA namaH namaskR^itAya | namo bhagavate nandikeshvara-mahAkAlAya | tripura-nagara-vidrAvaNa-karAya| avimuktika-kashmIra-mahA-shmashAna-nivAsitAya | namo mAtR^i-gaNa-sahitAya |

Here the nAstika mixes in the Astika devatA-s rudra, varuNa, nArAyaNa and specifically adapts a number of shaiva elements such as the pair of nandikeshvara and mahAkAla and also the epithets of rudra such as the destroyer of the tripura-s, the one who lives in the great graveyards of Kashi and Kashmir and one accompanied by the hosts of matR^i-s. Thus, the above examples show how the MVR displays an early phase of recycling of Astika material that continues along similar lines in the later phases of the nAstika development.Further, in addition to the devatA-s, we have several other elements of the Astika ‘pantheon’ also liberally incorporated in the MVR such as mAtR^ikA-s, R^iShi-s, pishAchI-s, rAkShasI-s and the like. In fact, the MVR list might be considered a survival of a relatively early version of a mAtR^ikA list from which the sapta-/aShTa- mAtR^ikA list crystallized. The MVR list, explicitly described as dvAdasha mAtaraH, goes thus:

brAhmI raudrI kaumArI vaiShNavI aindrI vArAhI kauverI vAruNI yAmyA vAyuvyA AgneyI mahAkAlI cheti |

We observe that the great epic and its appendix (including the AryA-stava-s and the accounts of ekAnaMshA) do not mention the 7/8 mAtaraH at all. This clearly suggests that as a defined group they emerged after the mahAbhArata and harivaMsha. However, it should be noted that the mahAbhArata has long lists of mAtR^ikA-s associated with skanda. Another list of 13 mAtR^ikA-s are mentioned in a gR^ihya ritual promulgated by the gobhila dharmashAstra of the sAmaveda tradition (1.11-12). Finally, we have an old list of goddess invoked in the ritual to the gnA-s and patnI-s in fr R^igveda:

uta gnA vyantu devapatnIr indrANy agnAyy ashvinI rAT |
A rodasI varuNAnI shR^iNotu vyantu devIr ya R^itur janInAm ||
(RV 5.46.8); See also (RV 1.22.12).

In the above mantra, the goddesses indrANi, agnAyi, ashvinI, rAT, rodasI (the wife of the marut-s) and varuNAnI are invoked. Thus, various lists of mAtaraH, especially as female versions of the deva-s, have a long tradition in the Hindu world going back to the RV itself. The MVR appears to preserve one such list that was current in the post-Vedic period but prior to the crystallization of the Pauranic 7/8 list. The MVR list includes, in addition to the female forms of the usual vedic deva-s, those of the trinity, kubera, kumAra and importantly varaha’s shakti as a distinct mAtR^i. In this respect it marks a step towards the emergence of the 7/8 mAtR^ikA list. It is from such a list, we suspect, that the 7/8 mAtR^ikA list arose by recombining the concept of the list of goddess with another old concept, i.e. the specific group of 7 goddesses. This latter concept is also is also seen multiply in the RV, e.g.:

sapta svasAro abhi mAtaraH shishuM navaM jaGYAnaM jenyaM vipashchitam | RV 9.86.36ab

Beyond the veda, this group of seven sister goddesses had a pervasive presence throughout jambudvIpa in the form of the sapta bhagini cult amongst others. By addition of the primary trans-functional Indo-European goddess to the group of 7 we get the typical number 8. The remaining 7 were then filled up with the goddess drawn from a list like that in the MVR as per their primacy in the Pauranic pantheon. Thus we get: the trans-functional goddess 1) chaNDikA/mahAlakShmI; the female forms of the trinity: 2) raudrI 3) vaiShNavI 4) brAhmI; the female form of kumAra: 5) kaumArI; the only representative from the old Vedic list, the female form of indra: 6)aindrI; the distinctive female deities emerging in list like that in the MVR: 7) vArAhI 8) chAmuNDA (=mAhAkAlI).

Another point of note in the MVR is the invocation of nakShatra-s. This pattern continues a tradition, which, as we have seen before, began in the vedic ritual of the nakShatreShTi. Thus, the tAthAgata-s have composed rough parallels to the nakShatra sUkta-s in their mantra material:
kR^ittikA rohiNI chaiva mR^igashirArdrA punarvasuH |
puShyo ma~Ngala-saMpanno .ashleShA bhavati saptamI ||
ity ete sapta-nakShatrAH pUrva-dvArikAsthitAH|
ye pUrvAM dishaM rakShanti paripAlayanti ||

Interestingly, a parallel nakShatra-sUkta was transmitted to the Mongols. In the ruins of the Olon Sueme site in Inner Mongolia (now aggrandized by the chIna-s) we find fragments of such hymns. An example translated from Mongolian by Walther Heissig:
Golden Suendi, who makes a single man into a hundred men …;
Star Buravabadara, who makes of one mare a thousand mares…;
Star Aslis, who makes a simple sheep into a thousand white sheep…;
Star Urukini, who makes a single head of cattle into a hundred red cattle…;
Star Aburad, who makes one single camel into ten black camels …;
Star Raradi, who from one vegetable makes nine fields…;
Star Molbar, who makes a poor man into a rich one ….

From behind the Mongolian we see faint echoes of their Indo-Aryan origin: Buravabadara= pUrva-bhadra/proShTa-pAda; Aslis= ashleSha; Aburad= amburAT (shatabhiShak?). This is also supported by the Mongol myth that the name of the mountain on which the polestar is anchored is supposed to be sumeru.

We finally come to two general issues raised by the MVR. The first of these is regarding the name itself – why is this venom-countering vidyA named after a peahen deity. In jambudvIpa, which abounds in venomous organisms, it has been long observed that several birds make a meal of these very venom producers. Of these the birds that are well-known to kill and feed on snakes and poisonous arthropods are the peacock and the crested serpent eagle. Not surprisingly both of them provide archetypes for the deities that are invoked to counter venom – mahAmayUrI and garuDa. The former has a long history in this regard that goes back to the sUkta-s of the RV and AV:
triH sapta mayUryaH sapta svasAro agruvaH |
tAste viShaM vi jabhrira udakaM kumbhinIriva ||
(RV 1.191.14)

Here not just the 21 peahens but also the 7 sister goddess are invoked to neutralize the venom. We believe that there is more to this mantra than meets the eye in the obvious sense.

adanti tvA pipIlikA vi vR^ishchanti mayUryaH |
sarve bhala bravAtha shArkoTam arasaM viSham ||
(AV-vulgate 7.56.7)

mayUro .atra vR^ishchikaM mayUraM vayaM vidmasi |
taM pari parijambhanaM vR^ishchika jambhanam asi ||
(AV-P 19.47.2)

yas tanuH pR^ithur vINA vadha iva prasarpati |
mayUraH kila te viShaM kR^ikavAkush cha jakShatu ||
(AV-P 20.38.3)

Here peahens (and ants in the first verse) are invoked to render the venom ineffectual or eat up either of two different kinds of scorpions, the sharkoTa and the vR^ishchika. In the last verse the peacock is invoked along with the Grey junglefowl to consume the poison.

Thus, the MVR preserves a post-Vedic layer of the long tradition of venom-countering vidyA-s that originated in the vedic period. This poison-countering mayUrI tradition (including other fowl, like the Grey junglefowl mention in the AV mantra) appears to have existed parallel to the more famous garuDa tradition. It is in this regard it may be noted that a mantra of ekAnaMshA from the barbarIkopAkhyAna (skanda mahApurANa) contains the epithet mahAmayUrI. Hence, we posit that behind the nAstika façade the MVR is at its core a text of the mayUrI tradition that was prevalent until around the 300s of the CE in Greater India. Early on the mayUrI tradition underwent syncreticism with the kaumAra tradition. Perhaps the roots for this connection go back its Vedic antecedents via the link to the seven sisters, who in their new number six reappear in the kaumAra system. In any case the peacock was taken up as the vehicle (mayUravAhana) and the Grey jungle fowl or its relative the Red fowl as the banner of kumAra (kR^ikavAku-dhvaja or kukkuTa-dhvaja) from the earliest layers of the kaumAra-shAsana. Indeed, this link is also seen in the nAstika mahAmAyurI deities as in male or female form their iconography is rather close to that of kumAra or kaumArI.

The second general issue is the geographic/ethnonym-based nature of deity names found in the MVR. The same names are also encountered in several Astika mantra-s:
gandhArI (from what is today Afghanistan); gaurI (from the Himalayas); drAviDI/ drAmiDI (from the Tamil country); shabarI/parNa-shabarI/ atharva-shabarI (from the forest of shabara tribes or the leaf-shabari); jAMgulI (from the jungle); mAta~NgI (from the elephants); chaNDAlI (from the outcastes). Such names have been interpreted in a very literal sense by several white indologists and their imitators. They have gone as far as to say that the mantra-shAstra originated from Dravidians, or due to western influence filtering through Afghanistan or from the “oppressed” forest tribes whose lands and holy spots were being “appropriated” by the “rapine” Hindus or that the outcastes like the chaNDAla-s were the pioneers of the tantra. Certainly both Astika and nAstika mantra-s have incorporated few elements of provincial languages like Tamil over the ages (as noted above). However, the above interpretations entirely miss the spirit of these words and deity names in the mantra-s. In fact, we may conclude that some of these white indologists and their shishya-s were specifically aiming at downgrading the mainstream Indo-Aryan culture and attempting to deny its creativity and accommodativeness by these claims. In reality we may observe that in the yajurveda itself we have rudra as being described as associated with various distant tribes such as niShAda-s, pu~njiShTha-s (tribal hunters) and other rapine tribes in the shatarudrIya. In the atharvaveda we have the discovery of new medicinal herbs being associated with forest tribes. So when these tribes are mentioned it is to illustrate the inclusive presence of a particular deity even in untamed zones beyond the “high civilization”. Since these tribes might discover medicinal plants in the forest, they have a close association with the antidotes for poisons providing the archetypes for deities like mAta~NgI, the various shabarI-s and jaMgulI who specialize in countering poison and curing disease. It should be noted that the deity atharva-shabarI is specifically derived from the archetype of the tribal girl (a kairAtikA kumAri) from a mountainous region, who is described as discovering medicinal substances in the atharvaveda:

kairAtikA kumArikA sakA khanati bheShajam |
hiraNyayIbhir abhribhir girInAm upa sAnuShu ||
AV-vulgate 10.4.14= AV-P 16.16.4

So it is not the origin of mantra-shAstra from the tribals, rather imagery of tribal elements providing archetypes for the Indo-Aryans in their mantra shAstra. However, it is quite clear that as the tribes and the Indo-Aryans interacted with regard to trade of forest products the former to acquired elements of the mantra-shAstra and develop their own imitations of it. In terms of the toponymic deity names, such as drAviDI and gandhArI the main objective is to capture the sacred geography of Greater India – both to indicate that a deity is present all over this region and also to specify that the deity is worshiped, perhaps in specific shrines, even in the border-zones (Afghanistan in the North and the Tamil country in the south) that are distant from the “middle country”. Such toponymic descriptions of deities might also be observed in the fire hymns of the Mongols where the fire is invoked as the one which is worshipped in India or in China.

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~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on May 10, 2010.


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