The Vyomavyāpin in the Pāśupata-tantra and a discursion on nine-fold Rudra-mantra-s

The Pāśupata-tantra is a poorly understood śaiva text that is believed to be affiliated with the Pāśupata tradition of Lakulīśa. While the colophons of some manuscripts present it as “Lakulīśa-pravartita-Pāśupata-tantram”, internally, it presents itself as a teaching of Nandin to the Bhārgava sage Dadhīci upon direction by Rudra himself. While we have seen a text going by this name in certain manuscript catalogs and seen fragmentary manuscripts of it, only recently was a nearly complete version of the text partially edited. This is not the place to go into a detailed discussion of the affinities and the provenance of the text, but we will make the below observations:
1. While a text going by this name has been mentioned by South Indian Vaiṣṇava polemicists, like Yāmuna, there is no evidence that they meant the text under discussion in this note.
2. The text as we have it can be confidently said to have been composed in South India, in the greater Drāviḍa country or its surroundings because: (i) It mentions the worship of Skanda with his two śakti-s named Devasenā and Devayānī. The latter is a unique feature of certain strands of the Southern Kaumāra cult. (ii) It mentions the worship of the god Śāstṛ, a southern ectype of the god Revanta, presented as the son of Rudra and Mohinī. (iii) Several of the manuscripts display typical Drāviḍa misspellings like “taha” for “daha”.
3. There may have been a transmission to Northeastern India, perhaps Vaṅga or its surroundings, due to some versions showing spelling errors typical of the Vāṅga-s, like the “v-b” confusion.
4. It is a late text (i.e., post-mantramārga) because it shows iconographic conventions typical of the period when the mantra-mārga was dominant: e.g., the mode of worship and depiction of Vināyaka, the Saptamātṛkā-s, the Rudra-parivāra and the pentacephalic Rudra (as opposed to the tricephalic and tetracephalic Rudra-s of the earlier Pāśupata-s). This point is important to the main topic of this note.
5. It is divided into four kāṇḍa-s: jñāna, caryā, kriyā, and yoga. Such a division is typical of various mantra-mārga texts in both the śaiva and vaiṣṇava traditions.
6. The main mantra-s it treats at length are the Pañcākṣarī, Pañcabrahma, Vyomavyāpin, Śivakavaca, Aghorāstra, Pāśupatāstra and multiple Rudra-gāyatrī-s. Additionally, it extensively uses Vaidika-mantra-s indicated by pratīka-s, suggesting that its practitioners were Veda-knowing brāhmaṇa-s.
7. It has an extensive account of the Bhuvanādhvan-s and the Rudra-s of various forms in each of them.

In conclusion, a brief examination of its contents suggests that it is a text that has been influenced by the mantramārga, in particular, the siddhānta-srotas. The main reasons for this conclusion are: (i) The repeated mention of the supreme Rudra as Sadāśiva enthroned on the Yogapīṭha. (ii) The mention of several tantra-s of Paśupati following a model reminiscent of the Saiddhānitka self-image. (iii) Primacy of the Īśāna face of the pentacephalic Rudra. However, we do think there is something to its affiliation with the Pāśupata tradition. In support of this, one may point to the extensive use of Vaidika mantra-s where the Siddhānta might use tāntrika alternatives and visualizations of the supreme Rudra rather distinct from the Siddhānta versions but overlapping with the fierce Bhairava-s of the other srotas-es (also see below). One possibility is that it is a Lakulāgama associated with the South Indian Kālāmukha-s

The Pāśupata-tantra is notable for providing a full uddhāra of the famed Vyomavyāpin mantra. This is thought to be a unique mantra of the saiddhāntika-s. For instance, the Mataṅgapārameśvara-tantra of that stream states its importance multiple times. In its kriyāpāda 1.60, it states that the Vyomavyāpin is the garbha from which all mantra-s arise — like the pañcabrahma, Caṇḍeśa, the Sāvitrī, Indrādi-mantra-s etc. In its vidyāpāda 7.31 onward, it sees the mantra as the devī who constitutes the body of Sadāśiva (c.f. similar metaphor used in the Bhairavasrotas for the goddess, e.g., by Abhinavagupta). A similar view is expressed in the Pāśupata-tantra; indeed, Nandin introduces it thus to Dadhīci:
sarvamantra-samāyuktam vyoma-vyāpinam avyayam ।
mantrāṇāṃ saptakoṭīnāṃ sāraṃ tat te vadāmy aham ॥
Comprised of all the mantra-s is the imperishable Vyomavyāpin.
I shall teach you that which is the essence of the seven crore mantra-s.

Given the above, one could argue that the Pāśupata-tantra borrowed this mantra from the saiddhāntika -s. However, we believe it emerged among the later Pāśupata-s (i.e., subsequent to their Vedic representatives) but prior to the branching off of the streams of the mantra-mārga, like the saiddhāntika-s. Our reasons for holding this view are: (i) Within the saiddhāntika tradition, the Vyomavyāpin is remarkable in showing a diversity of readings despite being a central mantra, as noted above. This suggests that it emerged in the pre-saiddhāntika mantraśāstra matrix. Hence, it had already diversified within the oral prayoga traditions from which the siddhāntāgama-s inherited alternative versions of it. (ii) In terms of its structure, it is more removed from the later bīja-rich mantra-s and closer to the mantra-s of the transitional mantraśāstra, viz., at the junction between the Vaidika- and the full-blown Tāntrika-mantramārga (e.g., some of the mantra-s to Rudra in the Atharvavedīya-pariśiṣṭa-s, Viṣṇumāyā and the bauddha Mahāmāyūrī-vidyā-rājñī). 3. Its dhyAna-s describe a 14- and 10- handed Rudra distinct from Sadāśiva, the devatā of the saiddhāntika version.

The core without the kavaca and Aghorāstra- sampuṭikaraṇa-s is said to follow the 14-handed dhyāna, which is the same as that for Pañcākṣarī:
vasiṣṭha ṛṣiḥ । gāyatrī chandaḥ । parameśvaro devatā ॥
śūlāhi-ṭaṅka-ghaṇṭāsi raṇaḍ ḍamarukaṃ kramāt ।
vajra-pāśāgny abhītiṃ ca dadhānaṃ kara-pallavaiḥ ॥
kapālam akṣamālāṃ ca śaktiṃ khaṭvāṅgam eva ca ।
evaṃ dhyātvā prabhuṃ divyaṃ tato yajanam ārabhet ॥

Vasiṣṭha is the seer, gāyatrī the meter, and Parameśvara the deity.
Having visualized the lord, in order, equipped with a trident, hatchet, bell, sword, a resounding two-headed drum, the vajra, a lasso, fire, the gesture of fearlessness, a skull, a rosary, a spear and a skull-topped brand in his blossom-like hands, the [votary] may begin his worship.

With the kavaca and astra, the dhyāna is the fierce five-headed 10-handed rudra:
kalpāntārkaṃ sahasrābhaṃ raktāktaṃ raktavāsasaṃ ।
daṃṣṭrā-karāla-saṃbhinnam pañcavaktram bhayaṅkaram ॥
keśaiś ca kapilair dīptaṃ jvālamālā-samākulam ।
ṭaṅkaṃ carma kapālaṃ ca cāpaṃ nāgaṃ ca vāmataḥ ॥
śūlaṃ khaḍgaṃ yugāntāgniṃ bāṇaṃ varadam eva hi ।
dakṣiṇaiḥ svabhujair dīptaṃ rudraṃ dhyātvā yajet prabhum ॥
Having visualized the blazing Rudra with the luminosity of a thousand suns at the end of the kalpa, smeared with gore, with red clothes, displaying terrifying fangs, five frightening faces, and tawny hair like a blazing garland of flames, holding in his left hands a hatchet, a shield, a skull, a bow, and a snake, and his right hands a trident, a sword, the eon-ending fire, an arrow and the gesture of boon-giving, he may worship the lord.

The core mantra (i.e., with the saṃdhi-s in the duplications and without the 5 initial praṇava-s, the terminal ṣaḍakṣarī, the hṛllekha-s, the haṃ-kāra (prāsada), kavaca and the astra typical of the Pāśupata version) is 365 syllables. The versions from most surviving saiddhāntika texts are typically in the range of 361-374. The pristine form in the Mataṅgapārameśvara-tantra has 361 by the same reckoning as above, suggesting that it might have come to 365 with the addition of a namo namaḥ after the terminal praṇava. We believe the Pāśupata-tantra version is close to the original as the old saiddhāntika text, the Niśvāsa-guhya, associates Rudra embodied by this mantra with the phrase “saṃvatsara-śarīriṇaḥ”, i.e., of the year as the body. This form would also be consistent with 9-fold maṇḍala taught by the Kashmirian mantravādin bhaṭṭa Rāmakaṇṭha-II and his southern successors. In his Vyomavyāpi-stava, referring to the 81 segments of the mantra (see below) and the nine-fold maṇḍala Rāmakaṇṭha says: ekāśītipadaṃ devaṃ nava-parvoktidarśanāt ॥ 8b. In this regard, it is also worth noting that the Mataṅgapārameśvara-tantra defines the devī of the form the Vyomavyāpin as having a body of 9 \times 9 = 81 segments. The same is also mentioned by Śrīkaṇṭha-sūri in his Ratnatrayaparīkṣa thus: ekāśītipadā devī vyomavyāpi-lakṣaṇā śaktiḥ । The count of 81 relates to a certain mapping that is specified in the saiddhāntika tradition to 15 classes of mantra-s. The number 15 is again likely to have temporal significance as the tithi-s of the lunar cycle. In the Pāsupata version, this division of the mantra into 81 segments mapping onto 15 sets of mantra-s goes thus:

(1) Aṅga-mantra-s (The body of Rudra): 1. oṃ 2. vyomavyāpine 3. vyomarūpāya 4. sarvavyāpine 5. śivāya (total: 5)
(2) Vidyeśvara-s: 6. anantāya 7. anāthāya 8. anāśritāya 9. dhruvāya 10. śāśvatāya 11. yogapīṭhādisaṃsthitāya 12. nityayogine 13. dhyānāhārāya (total: 8)
(3) Pañcākṣarī-vidyā (equated with the Rudra-gāyatrī by the saiddhāntika-s): 14. oṃ namaḥ śivāya (total: 1)
(4) Sāvitrī-vidyā: 15. sarvaprabhave (total: 1)
(5) Vidyeśvaropacāra: 16. śivāya (total: 1)
(6) Pañcabrahma-mantra-s: 17. īśāna-mūrdhnāya 18. tatpuruṣa-vaktrāya 19. aghora-hṛdayāya 20. vāmadeva-guhyāya 21. sadyojāta-mūrtaye (total: 5)
(7) Caṇḍeśvara: 22. oṃ namaḥ (total: 1)
(8) Caṇḍeśāṅgani (the body of Cāṇḍeśvara): 23. guhyādi-guhyāya 24. goptre 25. anidhanāya 26. sarvavidyādhipāya 27. jyotīrūpāya 28. parameśvaraparāya (total: 6)
(9) Caṇḍeśāsana: 29. acetanācetana (total: 1)
(10) Anantāsana: 30. vyomin \times 2 31. vyāpin \times 2 32. arūpin \times 2 33. prathama \times 2 34. tejas tejaḥ 35. jyotir jyotiḥ (total: 6)
(11) kesara-s (mantra-s of the 32-petaled lotus, likely corresponding to the syllables of the bahurūpī ṛk): 36. arūpa 37. anagne 38. adhūma 39. abhasma 40. anāde 41. nānā nānā 42. dhū dhū dhū dhū 43. oṃ bhūr 44. bhuvaḥ 45. svaḥ 46. anidhana 47. nidhanodbhava 48. 49. śiva 50. śarva 51. sarvapara 52. maheśvara 53. mahādeva 54. sadbhāveśvara 55. mahātejaḥ 56. yogādhipate 57. muñca muñca 58. pramatha pramatha 59. śiva śarva 60. bhavodbhava vidhya vidhya 61. vāmadeva 62. sarva-bhūta-sukhaprada 63. sarva-sāṃnidhyakara 64. brahmā-viṣṇu-rudra-para 65. anarcita \times 2 66. asaṃsthita \times 2 67. pūrvasthita \times 2 (total: 32)
(12) Kamala (center of the lotus throne): 68. sākṣin \times 2 (total: 1)
(13) Indrādi-devatā-s (the gods of the directional ogdoad): 69. turu \times 2 70. piṅga \times 2 71. pataṅga \times 2 72. jñāna \times 2 73. śabda \times 2 74. sūkṣma \times 2 75. śiva 76. śarva (total: 8)
(14) Vidyāṅga-s (the body of the goddess; corresponds to the 10-syllabled mantra known as the Vidyā in the early saiddhāntika text, the Niśvāsa-guhya-sūtra): 77. sarvada 78. oṃ namaḥ 79. śivāya oṃ 80. [hrīṃ] śivāya (total: 4)
(15) Vajra (the thunderbolt): [oṃ haṃ hrīṃ śivāya] oṃ [namo] namaḥ (total: 1)

This nine-fold nature implied in the original form of the Vyomavyāpin has ties with a similar nine-fold expression seen elsewhere in the śaiva world. Both the early Saiddhāntika (NGS) and Bhairava streams emphasize the importance of knowing the nine-fold form of Śiva known as Navātman and his mantra. The former states that japa of the Navātman-mantra over 10^5 times yields magical powers. Both the early saiddhāntika and Brahmayāmala traditions speak of the 9 observances (e.g., japa of specific mantra-s wearing clothes and turbans of various colors) that seem to map to the nine-fold structure of the Navātman-mantra. On the Bhairava side, in the root Dakṣiṇa-śaiva tradition, the Svacchanda-tantra teaches the Vidyārāja, which is called ekāśitipadāḥ (81 segmented, just like the Vyomavyāpin):

ekāśitipadā ye tu vidyārāje vyavasthitāḥ ।
padā varṇātmikās te ‘pi varnāḥ prāṇātmikāḥ smṛtāḥ ॥ ST 4.252

Abhinavagupta’s cousin, Kṣemarāja informs us that this Vidyārāja is none other than the Navātman mantra. However, in the maṇḍala taught in the Svacchanda-tantra, Navātman is not the central deity, but the eighth Bhairava in the parivāra around the central Svacchanda-bhairava. The said tantra informs us that manifestation of the bhuvanādhvan-s is encapsulated in the 81 segments of the Navātman-mantra, and its prayoga-s yield siddhi-s comparable to the saiddhāntika prayoga-s. In the Paścimāṃnāya, Navātman-bhairava is the primal deity and consort of the supreme goddess Kubjikā (also seen in the combined Dakṣiṇāṃnāya-Paścimāṃnāya tradition of the Saundaryalaharī) and his 9 \times 9-segmented mantra is taught. In the Pūrvāṃnāya (Trika), we see different formulations with Navātman-bhairava: (i) in the Siddhayogeśvarī-mata, he is the central deity of the maṇḍala of the kha-vyoman, known as the Kha-cakra-vyūha, where he is surrounded by a retinue of yoginī-s and vīra-s. (ii) in one formulation of the Tantrasadbhāva his 81 segmented Vidyārāja is presented similarly to that in the Svacchandatantra. (iii) In the classic formulation of the Tantrasadbhāva (followed by Abhinavagupta), there is an ascending series of Bhairavī-s and Bhairava-s starting with Aparā with Navātman-bhairava, Parāparā with Ratiśekhara-bhairava and Parā with Bhairava-sadbhāva. Notably, the visualization of the Rudra deity of the Vyomavyāpin conjoined with the kavaca and the astra in the Pāśupata-tantra is quite similar to that of Navātman in the Paścimāṃnāya.

Across these Bhairava traditions and certain saiddhāntika references (e.g., that of Aghoraśiva-deśika), a nine-fold composite bīja of Navātman is specified. It is given in multiple variant forms even within the same tradition, e.g., the Paścimāṃnāya. However, we see some geographical proclivities in terms of the preferred form in prayoga texts: r-h-k-ṣ-m-l-v-y-ūṃ = rhkṣmlvyūṃ (Kashmirian) or Śambhu form h-s-kṣ-m-l-v-r-y-ūṃ = hskṣmlvryūṃ / Śakti form: s-h-kṣ-m-l-v-r-y-īṃ = śkṣmlvryīṃ (Nepal, Vaṅga, South India). These 9 elements of the bīja are said to map onto 9 pada-s each yielding the 81 segments of the Vidyārāja alluded to in the Svacchandra-tantra and specified in the Dūtī-cakra (interestingly also associated with the god Viṣṇu manifesting as Ananta/the Saṃkarṣaṇa) of the Kubjikā-mata-tantra (14.62 onward). Therein, we get the below emanational series for the ekāśitipadāḥ of the Navātman mantra as: Viṣṇu \to (1) Ananta \to (2) Kapāla, (3) Caṇḍalokeśa/Caṇḍeśa, (4) Yogeśa, (5) Manonmana, (6) Hāṭakeśvara, (7) Kravyāda, (8) Mudreśa and (9) Diṅmaheśvara. Each of these 9 then emanates a set of 9 dūtī-s who comprise the body of Navātman:
Ananta \to (1..9) Bindukā, Bindugarbhā, Nādinī, Nādagarbhajā, Śaktī, Garbhinī, Parā, Garbhā and Arthacāriṇī.
Kapāla \to (10..18) Suprabuddhā, Prabuddhā, Caṇḍī, Muṇḍī, Kapālinī, Mṛtyuhantā, Virūpākṣī, Kapardinī, Kalanātmikā
Caṇḍeśa \to (19..27) Caṇḍamukhī, Caṇḍavegā, Manojavā, Caṇḍākṣī, Caṇḍanirghoṣā, Bhṛkuṭī, Caṇḍanāyikā, Caṇḍīśanāyikā.
Yogeśa \to (28..36) Vāgvatī, Vāk, Vāṇī, Bhimā, Citrarathā, Sudhī, Devamātā, Hiraṇyakā, Yogeśī.
Manonmana \to (37..45) Manovegā, Manodhykṣā, Mānasī, Mananāyikā, Manoharī, Manohlādī, Manaḥprīti, Maneśvarī, Manonmanī.
Hāṭakeśvara \to (46..54) Hiraṇyā, Suvarṇā, Kāñcanī, Hāṭakā, Rukmiṇī, Manasvī, Subhadrā, Jambukāyī, Bhaṭṭanī.
Kravayāda \to (55..63) Lambinī, Lambastanī, Śuśkā, Pūtanā, Mahānanā, Gajavaktrā, Mahānāsā, Vidyut, Kravyādanāyikā.
Mudreśa \to Vajriṇī, Śktikā, Daṇḍī, Khaḍginī, Pāśinī, Dhvajī, Gādī, Śūlinī, Padmī.
Diñmaheśvara \to Indrāṇī, Hutāśanī, Yāmyā, Nirṛtī, Vāruṇī, Vāyavī, Kauberī, Īśānī, Laukikeśvarī.
The 9 pada-s corresponding to Ananta are 9 repetitions of the composite Navātaman-bīja with the consonantal elements resolved with an `a’-vowel. The remaining 8 sets of 9 pada-s are derived by taking the 9, 8, 7…2 of the resolved consonantal elements from the above Navātaman as the first pada followed by 8 others in the form of their respective first consonantal element conjoined with the 8 bīja-s: āṃ, īṃ, ūṃ, ṝṃ, ḹṃ, aiṃ, auṃ, aḥ. Interestingly, given the association with Viṣṇu, the Kubjikāmata also teaches that the deity might be worshiped as Navātma-Viṣṇu, suggesting potential interaction with the Pāñcarātrika tradition (c.f. Navābja-Viṣṇu-maṇḍala). This reinforces the ancient connection between the worship of Ananta/the Saṃkarṣaṇa and the śaiva traditions that we have discussed before. More generally, it also parallels the “Rudraization” of ancient deities in the śaiva-mantramarga: one striking example is the worship of the ancient I-Ir deity Mitra as a Bhairava in the Mātṛcakra of the Paścimāṃnāya, which we hope to discuss in greater detail in a separate note.

Thus, from the above discussion, it might be concluded that a nine-fold form of Rudra was likely known to the pre-mantramārga śaiva-s that expressed itself in the form of two distinct mantra-s the Vyomavyāpin and the Navātman, which were added to the more ancient set of pañcabrahma-mantra-s. It is possible that such a nonadic conception of Rudra had ancient roots in the nine-fold manifestation of Rudra mentioned in the Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa of the Vājasaneyin-s: tāny etāny aṣṭāv agni [=rudra] -rūpāṇi । kumāro navamaḥ saivāgnis trivṛttā ॥. Both these 81-pada mantra-s continued to be important right from the beginning of the mantramārga. Interestingly, in the Paścimāṃnāya, the retinue of siddha-s worshiped in the cakra of Navātman first features Bhṛgu, the founder of the Atharvan tradition, followed by Lakulīśa. This illustrates a memory in this later śaiva stream of its roots in the Pāśupata tradition. Thus, it is not impossible that the Pāśupata-tantra, despite being influenced by the mantramārga retained a memory of the old presence of the Vyomavyāpin in the Pāśupata tradition.

There are other potentially archaic connections suggested by both these nine-fold mantra-s of Rudra: the Vyomavyāpin literally means that which pervades space. This immediately brings to mind the ancient Indo-European deity Vāyu who has one foot in the Rudra class. Indeed, in the Eastern-Iranic world the Rudra-class deity, while iconographically identical to the Indic expression, is centered on the cognate of Vāyu, Vayush Uparikairya. Even in the Indo-Aryan sphere, the Rudra-s in the atmosphere are placed with Vāyu. In the Vrātya texts of the Atharvaveda and the Sāmaveda, Rudra is described as the god who animates like Vāyu-Vāta: the verb used is sam-īr- which is also used for Vāyu-Mātariśvan. Navātman as the deity of the Kha-cakra-maṇḍala also implies his pervading of space. Remarkably, the Vyomavyāpin has a segment featuring a tetrad of the verbal root dhū of ancient IE provenance. It means to blow or to cause things to be agitated by being blown at. Elsewhere in the IE world, its cognates mean storm, breath, soul, and wafting of odors — all activities associated with Vāyu-Vāta. Thus, we posit that the Vyomavyāpin retains memories of the intimate link between the Rudra class and Vāyu seen in the Indo-Iranian borderlands.

The Vyomavyāpin with the kavaca and astra mantra-s as specified in the Pāśupata-tantra:

oṃ \times 5 haṃ oṃ namo vyomavyāpine vyomarūpāya sarvavyāpine śivāya anantāya anāthāya anāśritāya dhruvāya śāśvatāya yogapīṭhādisaṃsthitāya nityayogine dhyānāhārāya । oṃ namaḥ śivāya sarvaprabhave śivāya īśāna-mūrdhnāya tatpuruṣa-vaktrāya aghora-hṛdayāya vāmadeva-guhyāya sadyojāta-mūrtaye । oṃ namaḥ guhyādi-guhyāya goptre anidhanāya sarvavidyādhipāya jyotīrūpāya parameśvaraparāya । acetanācetana । vyomin \times 2 । vyāpin \times 2 । arūpin \times 2 । prathama \times 2 । tejas tejaḥ । jyotir jyotiḥ । arūpa । anagne । adhūma । abhasma । anāde । nānā nānā । dhū dhū dhū dhū । oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ । anidhana । nidhanodbhava । śiva । śarva । sarvapara । maheśvara । mahādeva । sadbhāveśvara । mahātejaḥ । yogādhipate muñca muñca pramatha pramatha । śiva । śarva । bhavodbhava vidhya vidhya । vāmadeva । sarva-bhūta-sukhaprada । sarva-sāṃnidhyakara । brahmā-viṣṇu-rudra-para । anarcita \times 2 । asaṃsthita \times 2 । pūrvasthita \times 2 । sākṣin \times 2 । turu \times 2 । piṅga \times 2 । pataṅga \times 2 । jñāna \times 2 । śabda \times 2 । sūkṣma \times 2 । śiva । śarva । sarvada । oṃ namaḥ । śivāya oṃ hrīṃ śivāya oṃ haṃ hrīṃ śivāya oṃ namo namaḥ ॥
oṃ namaḥ sarvātmane parāya parameśvarāya parāya yogāya । yogasambhavakara sadyobhavodbhava vāmadeva sarva-karma-praśamana sadāśiva namo ‘stu te svāhā । suśiva śiva namo brahmaśirase । śiva-hṛdaya-jvālini jvālinyai svāhā । oṃ śivātmakam mahātejaḥ sarvajñam prabhum avyayam । āvartayen mahāghoraṃ kavacaṃ piṅgalaṃ śubham । āyāhi piṅgalam mahākavacaṃ śivājñayā hṛdayam bandha । jvala ghūrṇa saṃsphura kiri śakti-vajradhara vajrapāśa vajraśarīra mama śarīram anupraviśya sarvaduṣṭān stambhaya huṃ phaṭ । oṃ jūṃ saḥ jyotīrūpāya namaḥ । oṃ prasphura ghora-ghoratara-tanu-rūpa caṭa daha vama bandha ghātaya huṃ phaṭ ॥

The core Vyomavyāpin as per the saiddhāntika text, the Mataṅgapārameśvara-tantra:

oṃ namo vyomavyāpine vyomarūpāya sarvavyāpine śivāya anantāya anāthāya anāśritāya dhruvāya śāśvatāya yogapīṭhasaṃsthitāya nityaṃ yogine dhyānāhārāya । oṃ namaḥ śivāya sarvaprabhave śivāya īśāna-mūrdhnāya tatpuruṣa-vaktrāya aghora-hṛdayāya vāmadeva-guhyāya sadyojāta-mūrtaye । oṃ namaḥ guhyāti-guhyāya goptre nidhanāya sarvavidyādhipāya jyotīrūpāya parameśvaraparāya । acetanācetana । vyomin \times 2 । vyāpin \times 2 । arūpin \times 2 । prathama \times 2 । tejas tejaḥ । jyotir jyotiḥ । arūpa । anagne । adhūma । abhasma । anāde । nā nā nā । dhū dhū dhū । oṃ bhūḥ । oṃ bhuvaḥ । oṃ svaḥ । anidhana । nidhana। nidhanodbhava । śiva । sarva । paramātman । maheśvara । mahādeva । sadbhāveśvara । mahātejaḥ । yogādhipate muñca muñca prathama prathama । śarva śarva । bhava bhava । bhavodbhava । sarva-bhūta-sukhaprada । sarva-sāṃnidhyakara । brahmā-viṣṇu-rudra-para । anarcita \times 2 । asaṃstuta \times 2 । pūrvasthita \times 2 । sākṣin \times 2 । turu \times 2 । piṅga \times 2 । pataṅga \times 2 । jñāna \times 2 । śabda \times 2 । sūkṣma \times 2 । śiva । śarva । sarvada । oṃ namo namaḥ । oṃ śivāya namo namaḥ । oṃ [namo namaḥ] ॥

A personal note
We first heard the Vyomavyāpin as a kid being recited by a mantrin in a temple of Rudra founded by the Kālāmukha-s in the Karṇāṭa country. He had recited the pañcabrahma-s and other incantations from the Yajurveda that we knew, but this one was entirely unfamiliar to us. As soon as we heard the words vyomin \times 2 । vyāpin \times 2 ।, we experienced a special gnosis of the pervasion of space by Rudra in two ways. We wondered what this mantra was — we could not find it in any of the manuals our grandfather, or we had at that time. By some coincidence a fortnight or so later we happened to lay our hands on N.R. Bhat’s edition of the Mataṅgapārameśvara in the library, and we saw it right there. Unfortunately, there was no access to a copying device there, and we did not have writing material at hand. Hence, it just remained that until we met R1’s father who gave us more information about its rahasya-s.

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Bhāskara-II’s polygons and an algebraic approximation for sines of pi by x

Unlike the Greeks, the Hindus were not particularly obsessed with constructions involving just a compass and a straightedge. Nevertheless, their pre-modern architecture and yantra-s from the tāntrika tradition indicate that they routinely constructed various regular polygons inscribed in circles. Of course, the common ones, namely the equilateral triangle, square, hexagon, and octagon are trivial, and the earliest preserved geometry of the Hindus is sufficient to construct these. The pentagon and its double the decagon are a bit more involved but are still constructible by the Greek compass and straightedge method; however, few have looked into how the Hindus might have constructed it. These aside, we do have multiple examples of yantra-s with heptagons and nonagons. A particularly striking example is the wide use of the nonagon in yantra-s (likely related to the early Śrīkula tradition of 9 yoginī-s and the division of the Vyomavyāpin mantra of the saiddhāntika-s) found at the Marundīśvara temple near Chennai. The kaula tradition of the Kubjikā-mata-tantra has a sūtra that mentions a yantra with multiple regular polygons relating to pacifying the seizure by Ṣaṣṭhī and others (trikoṇaṃ navakoṇaṃ ca ṣaṭkoṇaṃ maṇḍalākṛtiḥ |). The heptagon and the nonagon cannot be constructed using just a compass and a straightedge. To construct them precisely, one would require a means of accurately drawing conics (other than circles and straight lines) of particular specifications. While Archimedes invented a machine to draw ellipses, and examples of ellipses are occasionally encountered in early Hindu architecture, the technology for the easy generation of desired conics was unlikely to have been widely available to premodern architects. Hence, the Hindus should have constructed their regular polygons, including heptagons and nonagons through other means.

Polygon_SineFigure 1.

It is easy to see (Figure 1) that for a circle of diameter d the side s of an inscribed regular polygon of n sides is s=d\sin\left(\tfrac{\pi}{n}\right). Thus, if one does not insist on a compass and straightedge construction, one can easily draw any polygon as long as one has a sine table. The Hindus have had a long history of generating sine tables as well as algebraic functions that approximate the sine function to varying degrees of accuracy. Thus, one would expect that this was the most likely route they took. This still leaves us with the question of how exactly they did it in practice. A likely answer for this comes from Bhāskara-II’s Līlāvatī though this knowledge appears to have been lost in some parts of India in the late medieval period.

In Līlāvatī 206-209, Bhāskara gives a table for the sides of the inscribed polygons in three anuṣtubh-s (see below) followed by a numerical example (L 209). We have resolved the saṃdhi with a + for ease of reading the numbers:

tri-dvyaṅkāgni-nabhaś-chandrais tribāṇāṣṭayugāṣṭabhiḥ |
vedāgni-bāṇa-khāśvaiś ca kha-khābhrābhra-rasaiḥ kramāt || L 206

tri+dvi +aṅka +agni +nabhaś +candrais (103923)
tri +bāṇa +aṣṭa +yuga +aṣṭabhiḥ (84853) |
veda +agni +bāṇa +kha +aśvaiś (70534)
ca kha +kha +abhra +abhra +rasaiḥ (60000) kramāt ||

bāṇeṣu-nakha-bāṇaiś ca dvi-dvi-nandeṣu sāgaraiḥ |
ku-rāma-daśa-vedaiś ca vṛtta-vyāse samāhate || L 207

bāṇa +iṣu +nakha +bāṇaiś (52055) ca
dvi +dvi +nanda +iṣu +sāgaraiḥ (45922)
ku +rāma +daśa +vedaiś ca (41031)

kha-kha-khābhrārka saṃbhakte labhyante kramaśo bhujā |
vṛttāntar tryasra-pūrvāṇāṃ navāsrāntam pṛthak pṛthak || L 208

vṛtta-vyāse samāhate kha +kha +kha +abhra +arka (120000) saṃbhakte labhyante kramaśo bhujā
vṛtta-antar tri +asra-pūrvāṇām nava +asra-antam pṛthak pṛthak

Essentially, the above means that one should multiply the diameter of the circle with the numbers specified in the above table in verse form and divide them by 120000. This gives, in order, the sides of the inscribed regular polygons from a triangle to a nonagon. Thus, the ratios of these numbers provide rational approximations for \sin\left(\tfrac{\pi}{n}\right) for n=3..9. We compare these to the actual values in the below table:


These rational approximations provided by Bhāskara are best for a triangle, square, pentagon, hexagon and octagon. These are the angles for which he derives closed forms in his Jyotpatti (On the generation of sines) and correspond to the constructible polygons of the Greek tradition. The sines of the heptagonal and nonagonal angles which have no closed forms were obtained using serial interpolations or a sine-approximating function.

In terms of the latter, Bhāskara specifies a formula for the length of a cord corresponding to an arc in a Vasantalikā verse that can be used to obtain an algebraic function approximating \sin\left(\tfrac{\pi}{x}\right):
cāpona-nighna-paridhiḥ pratham-āhvayaḥ
syāt pañcāhataḥ paridhi-varga-caturtha-bhāgaḥ |
ādyonitena khalu tena bhajec catur-ghna
vyāsāhatam prathamam āptam iha jyakā syāt || L 210

cāpa +ūna-nighna-paridhiḥ prathama +āhvayaḥ
syāt pañca +āhatas paridhi-varga-caturtha-bhāgaḥ |
ādya +ūnitena khalu tena bhajet +catur +ghna-
vyāsa +āhatam prathamam āptam iha jyakā syāt ||

The circumference is reduced by the arc and multiplied by the arc: this is called the prathama.
One-fourth of the circumference squared is multiplied by 5
This is then reduced by the prathamā. The prathamā multiplied by 4
and the diameter should be divided by the above result. The fraction thus obtained is the chord.

Let the diameter of the circle be d, its circumference c, the length of the given arc a and y its chord. Then the above can be written in modern notation as:

y= \dfrac{4da(c-a)}{\frac{5c^2}{4}-a(c-a)} = \dfrac{16da(c-a)}{5c^2-4a(c-a)}

Now, the arc can be written as the x^{\mathrm{th}} fraction of the circumference, \therefore a=\tfrac{c}{x}. By plugging this into the above equation, we get:

y= \dfrac{16d\tfrac{c}{x}(c-\tfrac{c}{x})}{5c^2-4\tfrac{c}{x}(c-\tfrac{c}{x})}

This allows us to eliminate c and write


Thus, we get an algebraic function approximating y=\sin\left(\tfrac{\pi}{x}\right):


Figure 2.

In the below table we show the values of the polygon sines for n=3..9 generated by this formula and compare them with the earlier table provided by Bhāskara and the actual value:


We can see that the values from this function are more approximate than those provided by the table. Thus, it is clear that Bhāskara did not use this algebraic function to generate his table. However, the fact that he provides this formula after the table indicates that he meant this as an alternative method to get rational approximations for the polygonal sines. Such a method too could have been readily used by artists/artisans in their polygonal constructions in architecture and yantra preparation.

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Origins of the serpent cult and Bhāguri’s snake installation from the Sāmaveda tradition


Mathuran Nāga installations

From the few centuries preceding it down to the first few centuries of the Common Era we see numerous installations of snake deities, i.e., Nāga-s, at various archaeological sites throughout northern India (most famously at the holy city of Mathurā). Comparable, but usually smaller Nāga installations continue to this date in South India, usually in association with śaiva and kaumāra shrines. A related icon is that of the great Sātvatta Vaiṣṇava deity Balabhadra, who is depicted with a hooded snake canopy. Tradition holds that he was the incarnation or homomorph of the snake of Viṣṇu, often named Ananta. Given that Viṣṇu was the “time-god” par excellence, we hold that the snake imagery (the coils) associated with his bed is a metaphor for periodicities in time — diurnal, lunar, solar and precessional cycles. In this note, we explore the connections of these later manifestations of the serpentine cult with the Vedic roots of snake worship (Ahi Budhnya of the earliest Vedic tradition), with probable deeper Indo-European antecedents and broad Eurasiatic ramifications.


Saṃkarṣaṇa installations at Tumbavana (L) and Mathurā (R)

On one hand, we have the śrauta sarpa-sattra outlined in the Sāmaveda brāhmaṇa-s, which is modeled after a ritual supposed to have been performed by the Nāga-s to gain their venom. The sarpa-sattra in an inverted form, viz., the ritual of Janamejaya to destroy the Nāga-s who were responsible for his father’s death, is the frame story of the national epic the Mahābhārata. The core story of the Mahābhārata itself is permeated with simultaneous inter-generational conflicts and marriages between the Nāga-s and the Pāṇḍu-s. On the other hand, we have the gṛhya sarpabali that is enjoined in various gṛhyasūtra-s and certain vidhāna-s. The sarpabali or the offering to the snake deities is performed when the full moon occurs in Śravaṇā (the ecliptic division associated with the longitude of Altair). This bali usually coincides with the Indian Southwest Monsoon. Along with this bali the ritualist and his family sleep on a raised bed until the Āgrayaṇa ritual. This, along with the contents of the ritual, indicate that its primary function was protection from snakes that might enter houses during the monsoons due to the flooding of their lairs. While the rite is found in most gṛhyasūtra-s, that of the Hiraṇyakeśin school associated with the Taittirīyaka tradition gives a rather detailed account of the rite. At first, the ritualist makes oblations of unbroken grains, unbroken fried grains, coarsely ground grains, leaves and flowers of the Kimsuka tree to Agni Pārthiva, Vāyu Vibhumant, Sūrya Rohita and Viṣṇu Gaura:

namo .agnaye pārthivāya pārthivānām adhipataye svāhā । namo vāyave vibhumata āntarikṣāṇām adhipataye svāhā । namaḥ sūryāya rohitāya divyānām adhipataye svāhā । namo viṣṇave gaurāya diśyānām adhipataye svāhā ॥

After these oblations, the snakes of the earth (the real ones), the snakes of the atmosphere (lightning), the snakes of the heavens (Āśleṣā \approx the constellation of Hydra), and those of the directions (the serpent ogdoad) are worshiped with the famous Yajuṣ-es beginning with  namo astu sarpebhyaḥ … (TS followed by the bali incantations ye pārthivāḥ sarpāstebhya imaṃ baliṃ harāmi । ya āntarikṣāḥ । ye divyaḥ । ye diśyāḥ ॥

Following the bali, the ritualist goes thrice around his dwelling in a circle corresponding to the radius that he wishes to keep the snakes away from sprinkling water from a pot while uttering the below incantation (the Pāraskara-gṛhya-sūtra instead prescribes drawing a line with a white pigment):
apa śveta padā jahi pūrveṇa cāpareṇa ca । sapta ca mānuṣīr imās tisraś ca rājabandhavaiḥ । na vai śvetasyābhyācareṇāhir jaghāna kaṃ cana । śvetāya vaidarvāya namo namaḥ śvetāya vaidarvāya ॥
Smite away, O white one, with your foot, fore and hind, these seven women with the three of the king’s clan. No one indeed, in the roaming ground of the white one the snakes have ever killed.

In the above incantation, the king and his clan evidently refer to the Nāga king and his folks and the women to the Nāgakanya-s. The white one is described as having fore and hind feet. This implies that he is none other than the white snake-killing horse (Paidva) given to Pedu by the Aśvin-s:
yuvaṃ śvetam pedava indrajūtam ahihanam aśvinādattam aśvam । RV 1.118.9a
paidvo na hi tvam ahināmnāṃ hantā viśvasyāsi soma dasyoḥ ॥ RV 9.88.4c

However, it is notable that the Viṣṇu deity specific to this ritual is Viṣṇu Gaura, or the white one, paralleling the color of the horse. In this regard, we may also point to the role of Viṣṇu in the Aśvamedha rite. After the horse has successfully wandered for an year, the emperor undergoes consecration. In preparation for the sacrifice, the oblations known as Vaiśvadeva culminating in the pūrṇāhuti are offered over a period of seven days. On days one and two he offers to Ka Prajāpati; on day three to Aditi; on day four to Sarasvatī; on day five to Puṣan; day six to Tvaṣṭṛ Viśvakarman; on day 7 to Viṣṇu the with the purṇāhuti. As per the Taittirīya-śruti, two Viṣṇu deities are invoked in the rite in addition to the standalone Viṣṇu:
viṣṇave svāhā । viṣṇave nikhuryapāya svāhā । viṣṇave nibhūyapāya svāhā ॥

These peculiar names of the two Viṣṇu deities, Nikhuryapa and Nibhūyapa are rather enigmatic. Since they are unique to the Aśvamedha, we posit that Nikhuryapa could be Viṣṇu as the protector of the hoofs (khura: hoof), whereas Nibhūyapa could be Viṣṇu as the protector of the stallion which makes the herds increase. These equine associations of Viṣṇu in the Aśvamedha raise the possibility that the white snake-smiting horse was also associated with the White Viṣṇu of the ritual. Interestingly, the color the Saṃkarṣaṇa is also said to be white. Moreover, the later tradition starting from the Mahābharata preserves strong equine connections for Viṣṇu as Hayaśiras. Thus, in the least, one could say that the sarpabali ritual established an early connection between Viṣṇu and offerings to the snakes, which could have presaged its augmentation in the later tradition.

Other traditions associated with the Vedic sarpabali were also expanded in the later serpent cult. Evidence for this comes from an adaptation of the ritual found in the Yajurvidhāna-sūtra-s of the Vājasaneyin-s (YVS 15.8-11):
namo .astu sarpebhya iti ghṛta-pāyasaṃ nāgasthāne juhuyāt । suvarṇam udpadyate ॥ vṛṣṭyarthe śikhaṇḍyādīñ juhuyāt vṛṣṭir bhavati । atasī-puṣpair mahāvṛṣṭir bhavati ॥

The sarpa-yajuṣ is deployed with oblations of ghee and milk pudding in the locus of the Nāga-s in order to obtain gold. For rains he offers oblations of peacock feathers; for torrential rains, he offers flax flowers. Thus, in this vidhāna deployment of the sarpabali mantra, we see a reworking for obtaining gold (a connection already mentioned in the Mahābhārata 5.114.4 “vulgate”: he guards the wealth/gold generated by Agni for Kubera) and rain (a connection possibly going back to Ahi Budhnya in the Ṛgveda: RV 4.55.6; RV 7.34.16; Taittirīya-Saṃhitā in 1.8.14). The Yajurvidhāna-sūtra-s also describe a rite with a trident and a liṅga made of cow dung in the fire-shed using this mantra for the rain-making and fearlessness (namo .astu sarpebhya iti tisṛbhir arghyaṃ dadyād agnyāgāre gomaya-liṅgaṃ pratiṣṭhāpya pañcagavyena saṃsnāpya dakṣiṇataḥ śūlaṃ nikhanet । punaḥ sahasraṃ japet । suvarṇa-śataṃl labhet siddhaṃ । karmety ācakṣate vṛṣṭau śikhaṇḍān atasīpuṣpāṇi vā yuñjantīti । mahābhaye japed abhayaṃ bhavati ॥). Similarly, a rite using an iron trident is offered for the subjugation of nāga-s with a mantra to Agni (ajījana iti rahasyo mantra (RV 3.29.13) etena nāgā vaśam upayānti । lauhaṃ triśūlagṃ sahasrābhimantritaṃ kṛtvā dakṣiṇa-pādenākramya payo-dadhi-madhu-ghṛtair ayutaṃ hutvā vikṛta-rūpā striya uttiṣṭhanti । kim asmābhiḥ kartavyam iti bruvantyo abhirucikāmena tām ājñāpayet ॥). This later rite is developed further within the śaiva context in the Jayadrathayāmala-tantra. These objectives outlined in the Vidhāna were greatly expanded in early śaiva and bauddha traditions (also seen in the Indic-influenced Cīna dragon traditions). These themes are brought together rather dramatically in the story of the Drāviḍa mantravādin, the Nāga Mahāpadma residing in a Kashmirian lake, and the king Jayāpīḍa narrated by Kalhaṇa in the Rājataraṃgiṇī (4.593 onward).

However, the question remains as to whether the sarpabali of the old Gṛhya tradition had any connection with the installation of the images of Nāga and Saṃkarṣana seen at the archaeological sites. A potential transitional rite describing a Vaidika snake installation comes from a now apparently extinct Sāmaveda tradition, namely the Gautama school, which seems to have been practiced in some form in the Karṇāṭa country till around 1600-1700 CE. The Gautama-gṛhya-pariśiṣṭa furnishes a detailed Nāga-pratiṣṭha ritual attributed to Bhāguri (GGP 2.12):
-The ritual is to be performed on the 12th tithi of a śuklapakṣa when the moon is in a devanakṣatra (i.e., Northern half of the ecliptic) or during the northern course of the sun or on an auspicious nakṣatra.
-On the day before the installation rite, the ritualist brushes his teeth, takes a bath with water from a tīrtha (holy ford) and having performed the saṃkalpa for the installation, immerses the image in water.
-He chooses an ācārya who delights in right conduct and of peaceful temperament and performs the rite via his instruction.
-Having cleansed the spot for installation, the ācārya washes his feet, performs ācamana, and having seated himself, performs prāṇāyāma and saṃkalpa.
-He recites the puṇyāha incantations (hiraṇyavarṇāḥ…) and sprinkles the image with water. He recites the triple vyāhṛti-s and lustrates the image with the five bovine products.
-He washes the images with clean water utter āpo hi ṣṭha… (SV-Kauthuma 1837) and tarat sa mandī dhāvati… (SK-K 500, 1057)
-He utters oṃ and lustrates the image with water in which gold flakes, the shoots of dūrva grass and palaśa leaves have been placed. He offers flowers and dūrva grass at the feet of the image.
-He utters the sāvitrī or oṃ and cloaks the image with newly woven unwashed clothing.
-He offers special naivedya and recites svasti na indro… incantation. Thereafter, he immerses the image in a river while singing the Varuṇa-sāman.

-He rises the next day and performs his nityakarmāṇi, he proceeds with the ācārya and assistant ritualists (like in the śrauta ritual) to the place where he has immersed the image. There, they bring out the image while reciting praitu brahmaṇas patiḥ pra devy etu sūnṛtā ।…(SV-K 56). Then they install it at the designated spot and perform prāṇāyāma and saṃkalpa.
-They again lustrate the image with the five bovine products while reciting oṃ nāgāya namaḥ. Then they wash it with clean water and cloak it with a new dress. They decorate it with scented unguents and flowers.
-Then they perform nyāsa both of the self and the image thus: oṃ nāgāya namaḥ । hṛdayāya namaḥ । oṃ nāgāya namaḥ । śirase namaḥ । oṃ nāgāya namaḥ । śikhāyai namaḥ । oṃ nāgāya namaḥ । kavacāya namaḥ । oṃ nāgāya namaḥ । netratrayāya namaḥ । oṃ nāgāya namaḥ । astrāya namaḥ ।
Then he does a dhyāna of the serpentine deity:
sarpo raktas trinetraś ca dvibhujaḥ pītavastragaḥ ।
phaṇkoṭidharaḥ sūkṣmaḥ sarvābharaṇa-bhūṣitaḥ ॥

-He then measures out a droṇa of paddy, clean rice and sesame seeds and spreads them out one over the other. On them, he draws out an eight-petaled lotus and installs a pitcher on top of it.
-Inside the pitcher, he places five each of barks, shoots, soils, gemstones, bovine products, ambrosial sweets, scents, kinds of rice, medicinal herbs, and unguent powders.
-He drapes the pitcher with a new piece of cloth and invokes Nāgeśa in it:
oṃ bhūḥ । puruṣam āvāhayāmi । oṃ bhuvaḥ । śeṣam āvāhayāmi । ogṃ suvaḥ । anantam āvāhayāmi ॥
-He then provides the deity with the 16-fold sacraments uttering oṃ anantāya namaḥ for each.
-He then worships the deity with the following mantra:
āyātu bhagavān śeṣaḥ sarva-karma-sanātanaḥ ।
ananto mat priyārthāya mad anugraha-kāmyayā ॥

-The four brāhmaṇa ritual assistants and the ācārya touch the pitcher and recite āpo hi ṣṭha…
-Then they recite the Puruṣa hymn.
-Then they sing the following Sāman-s: Sarpa, Vāmadevya, Rathantara, Bṛhat, Jyeṣṭha and Bhāruṇḍa.
-Then they recite oṃ namo brahmaṇe…bṛhate karomi (Taittirīya āraṇyaka 2.13.1).

-To the west of the pitcher, the ācārya sets up a sthaṇḍila (fire altar). To the north of the altar, he collects twelve materials for the pradhānāhuti-s (main oblations) and offers them with the following incantations into the fire followed by a svāhā and the tyāga formula: idaṃ anantāya na mama ।
sadyojātam prapadyāmi…: samidh-s
vāmadevāya namo…: ghee
aghorebhyo ‘tha…: cooked rice
tat puruṣāya vidmahe…: fried rice
īśānaḥ sarvavidyānām…: saktu flour
oṃ nāgāya namaḥ: milk
hṛdayāya svāhā: barley
śirase svāhā: sesame
śikhāyai svāhā: sugarcane
kavacāya svāhā: banana
netra-trayāya svāhā: jackfruit
astrāya svāhā: mustard

-25 oblations are made of each item. Thereafter, he offers sesame 8 \times, 28 \times, 108 \times with oṃ bhūr-bhuvaḥ svaḥ svāhā ।.
-He then worships the serpentine deity with the below incantation calling on him to accept all the oblations:
tvām eva cādyam puruṣam purāṇam ।
sanātanam viśvadharaṃ yajāmahe ।
mad arpitaṃ sarvam aśeṣa-havyam
gṛhṇīṣva māṃ rakṣa jagannivāsa ॥

-Then he gives the brāhmaṇa-s their fees and sings the Vāmadevya sāman.
-Then to the singing of the Sarpasāman he lustrates the image of Nāgeśa with the contents of the pitcher, followed by the five bovine products, the five ambrosial sweets, curds, milk, coconut juice, whey, sugarcane juice and finally scented water.
-Then he recites the Mantra Brāhmaṇa 2.8.6, utters oṃ nāgāya namaḥ thrice, and offers pādya to the image.
-He recites annasya rāṣṭrir asi… (MB 2.8.9) and offers arghya.
-With yaśo .asi… (MB 2.29.16) he offers ācamana.
-With yaśaso yaśo .asi… (MB 2.8.11) he offers madhuparkam.
-With oṃ nāgāya namaḥ he successively offers, lower garments, an upavīta, upper garments, and ornaments.
-With gandhadvārāṃ durādarṣām… he offers scents.
-With īḍiṣvā… (SV-K 103) he offers incense.
-With pavamānaḥ… dyad (SV-K 484) he offers a lamp.
-The ācārya drapes the image with a new robe and also himself.
-With śukram asi jyotir asi tejo .asi (in TS 1.1.10) he takes up a golden needle. With viśvataścakṣur uta viśvatomukho viśvatobāhur uta viśvataspāt । (RV 10.81.3a) and uttering oṃ he activates the eyes of the image with the golden needle.
-He touches the heart of the image and recites the prāṇapratiṣṭha incantation invoking the goddess Anumati 28 \times to infuse the image with consciousness:
asunīte punar asmāsu cakṣuḥ
punaḥ prāṇam iha no dhehi bhogam ।
jyok paśyema sūryam uccarantam
anumate mṛḻayā naḥ svasti ॥ (RV 10.59.6)
-Maidens of good disposition display lamps to the image and a cow is led before it.
-The image is placed over a deposit of a gemstone, pearl, coral, gold and silver atop which a white cloth has been spread.
-Having decorated the image, the yajamāna worships the deity with the incantations: oṃ śeṣāya namaḥ । oṃ bhūdharāya namaḥ । om anantāya namaḥ ।
-He then offers naivedya of milk pudding, cooked rice, sesame rice, turmeric rice, apūpa cake, pūrikā bread, and the śarkarāḍhya sugar pastry. Thereafter, he offers betel leaves.

-Having given gifts to the ācārya and his assistant brāhmaṇa-s, he takes the image and has it permanently installed at a temple of Rudra or Viṣṇu, or under a pipal tree while reciting the mantras:
udgāteva śakune sāma gāyasi
brahmaputra iva savaneṣu śaṃsasi ।
vṛṣeva vājī śiśumatīr apītyā
sarvato naḥ śakune bhadram ā vada
viśvato naḥ śakune puṇyam ā vada ॥ (RV 2.43.2)

-He then worships the serpentine deity performing 12 namaskāra-s with the following incantations:
anantāya namaḥ । nāgāya namaḥ । puruṣāya namaḥ । sarpebhyo namaḥ । viśvadharāya namaḥ । śeṣāya namaḥ । viśvambharāya namaḥ । saṃkarṣaṇāya namaḥ । balabhadrāya namaḥ । takṣakāya namaḥ । vāsukaye namaḥ । śivapriyāya namaḥ ।

-He concludes by feeding 12 brāhmaṇa-s of good learning and character and educating children.
-He who does such a snake installation obtains 8 children, whatever he prays for, and the higher realms.

There are several notable points regarding this ritual:
-Its essential details, including the new mantra-s specifically spelt out in the text, closely relate to other iconic sthāpana rites specified in the late Vedic texts. These include: 1. The installation and worship of Skanda (AV Skandayāga and Dhūrtakalpa of the Bodhāyana-pariśiṣṭa); 2. The black goddess of the Night, Rātrī-devī (AV-pariśiṣṭa 6); 3. The Bhārgava Brahma-yāga (AV-par 19b), where an image of the god Brahman is installed; 4. Gośānti (AV-par 66), where an image of Rudra fashioned out of cow dung is installed in the midst of a maṇḍala for the protection of cattle. Similarly, a metal/stone image of Rudra is installed in the Bodhāyana-pariśiṣṭa and also deployed by the Vādhūla-s in their Vādhūlagṛhyāgama, a versified version of their Gṛhyasūtra-s  and pariśiṣṭa-s. 5. Installations of the images of Viṣṇu and Durgā according to the Bodhāyana-pariśiṣṭa-s. The former is also specified in the Vādhūla collection. Thus, it may be inferred that the Nāga-pratiṣṭha of the Gautama-gṛhya-pariśiṣṭa is of the same genre and likely the same temporal period marking the tail end of the Vedic age and the transition to the Tantro-Paurāṇic age.

-Here the character of the Nāga has evolved from that seen in the earlier gṛhya sarpabali. While the sarpa-s are venerated in the sarpa-yajuṣ they are also expelled by means of the white horse of Pedu and the perimeter of safety is established. However, in the Nāga-pratiṣṭha the snake deity is not just clearly positive but is also identified with the Puruṣa himself.

-The text presents an early example of the ṣoḍaśopacāra-pujā that was to become dominant in the Tantro-Paurāṇic iconic worship. It may also mark the earliest account of the eye-opening rite that became prominent in the later āgamika strand of the religion.

-Several mantra-s which are provided only by pratīka-s are missing in the Kauthuma-Rāṇāyanīya and Jaiminīya texts and their auxiliary mantra collections. This suggests that the Gautama Sāmavedin-s had their own auxiliary mantra collection that was distinct from the extant texts. It is conceivable that they had the pañcabrahma-mantra-s, which today are only found as a complete group in the Taittirīya and AV Mahānārāyaṇa texts.

-The text rather remarkably combines both śaiva and vaiṣṇava elements. The former is seen in the form of the pañcabrahma-mantra-s and the latter is seen in the form of the explicit identification of the serpentine deity with the Puruṣa and also Saṃkarṣaṇa/Balabhadra. Both these aspects persisted in the subsequent layers of the religion. The serpentine form remained a key aspect of the iconography of the Saṃkarṣaṇa and Ananta figure as the bed of Viṣṇu. The Nāgapratiṣṭha continued as a ritual with new śaiva accretions in the Saiddhāntika stream in Rudrālaya-s (e.g., the Raurava tantra). Notably, it was also continued with modifications in the Bauddha practice of the Mūlamantra-sūtra (where it is combined with the old rain-making ritual) that was preserved in a rather pristine form among the Chinese ritualists.

We see a convergence of philology and archaeology with respect to Nāga-pratiṣṭha-s, offset by 2-3 centuries, perhaps due to preservation bias. In the bauddha lore, we hear of the famous conflict between the Tathāgata and the Vaidika brāhmaṇa Urubilva Jaṭila Kāśyapa (Vinaya 1.25). The latter had evidently installed a Nāga in his fire-shed which the Tathāgatha is claimed to have subjugated. This would be consistent with some version of the rites as recorded in the Nāga-pratiṣṭha from the Sāmaveda tradition being in place by around the time of the Shākya. Alternatively, it could be an allusion to the snake deity Ahi Budhnya being stationed at the Gārhapatya fire altar upon the conclusion of rituals in it (upasthāna).  Subsequently, as noted above, by the Mauryan-Śuṅga age we see evidence for such installations and also images of Balabhadra in archaeology continuing down to the age of the Kuṣāṇa-s. Notably, both the early bauddha and jaina texts mention the worship of Balabhadra providing approximately coeval philological evidence for the same. Further, some of the early Pāśupata śaiva shrines like that of Bhogyavardhana (modern Bhokardhan in Maharashtra state) and Viṣṇukuṇḍin temple (at Devunigutta, Kothur, modern Andhra Pradesh) depict the Saṃkarṣaṇa suggesting further development of the potential links indicated by the use of the pañcabrahma-mantra-s in the installation of the snake.

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Two simple stotra-s, sectarian competition, and the Varāha episode from the archaic Skandapurāṇa

The Ur-Skandapurāṇa (SkP) or the “archaic” Skandapurāṇa ( \approx the Bhaṭṭārāi edition known as the Ambikā-khaṇḍa) is a Śaiva text with affinities to the Pāśupata branch of that tradition. Though it is aware of the mantra-mārga traditions like the Mātṛ-tantra-s and the Yāmala-tantra-s as being part of the Śaiva scriptural corpus, its emphasis on the Pāśupata-vrata makes it clear that the core affiliation of the text was with the Pāśupata-mata that later Śaiva tradition identified as Atimārga. Nevertheless, it shows imprints of a three-way struggle for dominance between the major Hindu sects — Śaiva, Kaumāra and Vaiṣṇava. As the Skandapurāṇa, the existence of a Kaumāra layer is unsurprising. However, in the text, as it has come down to us, the Kaumāra elements are largely subordinated to the “Vīra” (as in strongly sectarian)-Śaiva elements. The subordination of the Vaiṣṇava-mata is primarily directed against the great deeds of Viṣṇu in his Nṛsiṃha and Varāha forms. In this regard, the Ur-SkP has a rather unprecedented ordering of the Daitya dynasty and the corresponding incarnations of Viṣṇu:

Hiraṇyakaśipu \to Hiraṇyākṣa \to Andhaka \to Prahlāda \to Virocana \to Bali.

While Vipracitti is mentioned as assisting Hiraṇyākṣa in his battle with Viṣṇu, and being overthrown by the latter, it is not clear if he ever occupies the Daitya throne. The thus ordered Daitya-s are respectively slain by Viṣṇu as Nṛsiṃha; Viṣṇu as Varāha; Rudra; Viṣṇu (and Indra); Indra; Viṣṇu as Vāmana-Trivikrama. The main battle with Prahlāda as the Daitya emperor is situated in the episode of the churning of the World-ocean, during which Viṣṇu manifests as the gigantic turtle Kūrmā and also the bewitching female form Mohinī. As per the Ur-SkP, while Viṣṇu suppresses Prahlāda in an epic battle during this episode, he continues leading the Daitya-s in several further fights till Viṣṇu assisted by Indra destroys him. However, the Padmapurāṇa (13.186) places his slaying by Indra (an incident alluded to in the śruti itself) right in the episode of the churning of the World-ocean followed by the slaying of his son Virochana by Indra during the Tārakāmaya devāsura-yuddha. Correspondingly, in contrast to most other Purāṇa-s, in the Ur-SkP, the vibhava-s of Viṣṇu come in the order: Nṛsiṃha, Varāha, Kūrma/Mohinī, Vāmana/Trivikrama.

As we have seen before, Nṛsiṃha is shown as being subdued by Rudra in his dinosaurian Śarabha form after he has slain Hiraṇyakaśipu. The Ur-SkP has several parallels to the Vāmana-purāṇa, but in the latter, the Śarabha-Nṛsiṃha is given a Smārta resolution rather than a demonstration of Rudra-paratva. Upon being subdued by Śarabha, in the Ur-SkP, Nṛsiṃha is said to have recited the below stotra to Rudra. A votary who recites the stotra is said to attain the state of a gaṇa of Rudra.

The stotra to Śarabha by Nṛsiṃha:

namaḥ śarvāya rudrāya senānye sarvadāya ca ।
namaḥ parama-devāya brahmaṇe paramāya ca ॥54॥
kālāya yamarūpāya kāladaṇḍāya vai namaḥ ।
namaḥ kālānta-kartre ca kālākāla-harāya ca ॥55॥
namaḥ pinākahastāya raudra-bāṇa-dharāya ca ।
caṇḍāya vāmadevāya sarvayogeśvarāya ca ॥56॥
namo vidyādhipataye brahmaṇaḥ pataye namaḥ ।
namo ‘suravaraghnāya kālacakrāya vai namaḥ ॥57॥
saṃvartakāgni-cakrāya pralayāntakarāya ca ।
naranārāyaṇeśāya naranārāyaṇātmane ॥58॥
mamaiva varadātre ca sarvakāmapradāya ca ।
śarabhāya surūpāya vyāghra-carma-suvāsase ॥59॥
nandīśvara-gaṇeśāya gaṇānāṃ pataye namaḥ ।
indriyāṇāmatheśāya manasāṃ pataye namaḥ ॥60॥
namaḥ pradhānapataye surāṇāṃ pataye namaḥ ।
namo ‘stu bhāvapataye tattvānāṃ pataye namaḥ ॥61॥
carācarasya pataye bhūtānāṃ pataye namaḥ ।
trailokyapataye caiva lokānāṃ pataye namaḥ ॥62॥
yogadāya namo mahyaṃ tathaivaiśvaryadāya ca ।
avadhyatva-pradātre ca tathaivājayyadāya ca ॥63॥
bhagavaṃs tvatpratiṣṭho .asmi tvan niṣṭhas tvat parāyaṇaḥ ।
śaraṇaṃ tvāṃ prapanno .ahaṃ prasīda mama sarvadā ॥64॥

We shall discuss below some notable epithets used in this stotra:
1. The first three epithets: Śarva, Rudra and Senāni, betray the influence of the Śatarudrīya; this influence is seen in several later Śaiva stotra-s.
2. Parama-deva and brahman indicate the identification of Rudra with the supreme deity, keeping with the Pāśupata affiliation of the text.
3. kāla, yamarūpa, kālānta-kartṛ: These epithets associated with Yama and the end of time bring to mind the epithets in the opening mantra-s for liṅgasthāpanā: nidhanapati and nidhanapatāntika.
4. raudra-bāṇa-dhara: evidently a reference to the Pāśupatāstra.
5. Kālacakra: While Viṣṇu was the original time deity, within the Śaiva tradition, Rudra gradually began expanding into that domain. This is one of the early references to Rudra as the Kālacakra – a term that was to be used by the Vajrayāna bauddha-s for their eponymous Bhairava-like deity. On the Hindu side, the original Kālacakra-tantra was a saura text. We have philological and iconographic evidence for a prolonged interaction between the Saura-s and Śaiva-s. Interestingly, the Paśupata shrines at Kāmyakeśvara and Harṣanātha combine Śaiva and Saura elements. Most striking are two shrines near Kāmyakeśvara: Lakulīśa is shown on the lintel of the Saura temple, and Sūrya is shown on the lintel of the Rudrālaya. Thus, we posit that the syncretic or interacting Śaiva-Saura tradition influenced the emergence of the Bauddha deity Kālacakra.
6. Saṃvartakāgni-cakra: The fire of the dissolution of the universe — this is the epithet used for Navātman-bhairava in the Kaula Paścimāṃnāya tradition emerging from the Bhairavasrotas in the mantramārga. Indeed, the foundational sūtra-s of the Paścimāṃnāya are known as the Saṃvartāmaṇḍala-sūtra-s.
7. Nara-nārāyaṇeśa, Nara-nārāyaṇātman: The Nara-nārāyaṇa tradition is very prominent in the Mahābhārata and appears to be a quasi-humanized ectype of the Indra-Viṣṇū dyad of the Veda. This dyad, while important in the early Nārāyaṇīya Pāñcarātra of the Mahābhārata, faded away in the later Vaiṣṇava tradition. However, its presence here shows that this dyad was still important in the contemporaneous stream of the Vaiṣṇava tradition with which the Ur-SkP interacted (A tradition with connections to the Harivaṃśa; see below).
8. Vyāghra-carma-suvāsas: The wearer of the tiger-skin robe — an epithet related to Kṛttivāsas found in the Śatarudrīya.
9. Śarabha: While the whole stotra is to Śarabha there is little description of him in it beyond a single mention of his name.
10. Nandīśvara-gaṇeśa: The lord of the gaṇa Nandīśvara. This gaṇa’s association with Rudra goes back to the single mention in the Pratyaṅgirā-sūkta of the RV Khila (also seen in the AV saṃhitā-s). He subsequently rises to great prominence in the Saiddhāntika tradition. His presence here indicates that this was already presaged in the Pāśupata tradition.

After the Nṛsiṃha cycle, the Ur-SkP moves to the Varāha cycle. At the beginning of that cycle, the gods praise Viṣṇu with the below stotra to urge him to take on the Varāha Nandivardhana form which they constitute with their own bodies. The votary who recites it is said to become free of sins and sorrow.


The Viṣṇu Janārdana installed at the śaiva temple of Viśveśvara at Raghapura, Odisha.

namaḥ sarva-ripughnāya dānavāntakarāya ca ।
namo ‘jitāya devāya vaikuṇṭhāya mahātmane ॥15॥
namo nirdhūta-rajase namaḥ satyāya caiva ha ।
namaḥ sādhyāya devāya namo dhāmne suvedhase ॥16॥
namo yamāya devāya jayāya ca namo namaḥ ।
namaś cāditi-putrāya nara-nārāyaṇāya ca ॥17॥
namaḥ sumataye caiva namaś caivāstu viṣṇave ।
namo vāmanarūpāya kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyanāya ca ॥18॥
namo rāmāya rāmāya dattātreyāya vai namaḥ ।
namaste narasiṃhāya dhātre caiva namo namaḥ ॥19॥
namaḥ śakuni-hantre ca namo dāmodarāya ca ।
salile tapyamānāya nāgaśayyā-priyāya ca ॥20॥
namaḥ kapilarūpāya mahate puruṣāya ca ।
namo jīmūtarūpāya mahādeva-priyāya ca ॥21॥
namo rudrārdharūpāya tathomārupiṇe namaḥ ।
cakra-mudgara-hastāya maheśvara-gaṇāya ca ॥22॥
śipiviṣṭāya ca sadā namaḥ śrīvatsadhāriṇe ।
dhundhumārāya śūrāya madhukaiṭabhaghātine ॥23॥
caturbhujāya kṛṣṇāya ratna-kaustubha-dhāriṇe ।
trivikrama-viyat-sthāya pīta-vastra-suvāsase ॥24॥
namaḥ pura-vighātāya gadā-khaḍgogradhāriṇe ।
yogine yajamānāya bhṛgupatnī-pramāthine ॥25॥
vṛṣarūpāya satataṃ ādityānāṃ-varāya ca ।
cekitānāya dāntāya śauriṇe vṛṣṇibandhave ॥26॥
purāśvagrīva-nāśāya tathaivāsura-sūdine ।
namaste śārṅgadhanuṣe saubha-sālva-vighātine ॥27॥
namaste padmanābhāya brahmasatpatha-darśine ।
namo jayāya śarvāya rudra-datta-varāya ca ॥28॥
namaḥ sarveśvarāyaiva naṣṭa-dharma-pravartine ।
puruṣāya vareṇyāya namaste śatabāhave ।
tava prasādāt kṛcchrān vai tarāmaḥ puruṣottama ॥29॥

We discuss below some of the notable epithets found in this stotra:
1. Vaikuṇṭha: This distinctive epithet first appears in the Mahābhārata and is repeatedly used in the early Pāñcarātrika section of that text (parvan 12). There it appears as a name of the god both in Viṣṇusahasranāma and the 171-epithet early Pāñcarātrika mantra of Viṣṇu composed by Nārada. It also appears in a similar mantra in a stava composed by Kaśyapa in the Harivaṃśa. In later iconography, the epithet is usually taken to mean Viṣṇu caturātman with anthropomorphic, leonine, porcine and Kapilan heads. Viṣṇu is specifically addressed by this name in the Ur-SkP as he prepares to slay Hiraṇyākṣa with the cakra (see below).
2. Nirdhūta-rajas: One who has freed himself from the dust. The dust here might be seen as the particulate bonds — or the ātman bound to the evolutes of Prakṛti.
3. Sādhya deva: In the Puruṣa-sūkta we are enigmatically informed of an ancient class of deities known of the Sādhya-s alongside the deva-s — nothing more is said of the former. They appear episodically in various brāhmaṇa texts and are generally seen as a class of celestial deities. By making Viṣṇu a sādhya, the stotra expands his domain to include these obscure deities.
4. Yama deva: Interestingly, like Rudra, Viṣṇu too is identified with Yama.
5. Aditi-putra, Ādityānāṃ-vara: Viṣṇu membership in the Āditya class of deities is not just cemented, but he has risen to be the chief of them.
6. Vāmanarūpa, Trivikrama-viyat-stha, Nara-Nārāyaṇa, Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana, the two Rāma-s (Rāmacandra Aikṣvākava and Rama Bhārgava or the Saṃkarṣaṇa is unclear), Dattātreya, Narasiṃha, Kapila, Śaurin, Vṛṣṇibandhu, Kṛṣṇa, Saubha-Sālva-vighātin: The late daśāvatara has not yet crystallized, but the tendency in that direction is clear in the list. We have Narasiṃha, Vāmana, two Rāma-s, and Kṛṣṇa who figure in the classic lists. Varāha is specifically avoided because that incarnation is about to occur in the current narrative. Yet, anachronistically, there is a clear acknowledgment of the Sāttvata religion with the identification of Viṣṇu with Kṛṣṇa and various Kārṣṇi/Sāttvata epithets in the above list. These include the famous act of Kṛṣṇa Devakīputra, i.e., the killing of Sālva and the destruction of his airplane the Saubha. Some other incarnations that are widely accepted, but not in the classic list of 10, are also mentioned such as Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana and Dattātreya. This shows that the incarnational model pioneered by the Sāttvata religion had already been expanded to include a wider range of figures.
7. Śakuni-hantṛ: This epithet is peculiar because, at first sight, people take Śakuni to mean the eponymous prince of Gandhāra. However, this is not the case because that Śakuni was not killed by Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. The Harivaṃśa tells us that:
pūtanā śakunī bālye śiśunā stanapāyinā ।
stanapānepsunā pītā prāṇaiḥ saha durāsadā ॥ HV 65.26

rākṣasī nihatā raudrā śakunī-veṣadhāriṇī ।
pūtanā nāma ghorā sā mahākāyā mahābalā ।
viṣa-digdhaṃ stanaṃ kṣudrā prayacchantī mahātmane ॥ HV 96.31

Here, the mighty and terrible Pūtanā, whom Kṛṣṇa slew when he drank her milk as she tried to breast-feed him in his infancy with her poisoned breast, is described as Śakunī and a rākṣasī. Hence, the epithet Śakuni-hantṛ records this episode. We know from the Kaumāra tradition that Śakunī, Pūtanā and Revatī are the names of pediatric avicephalous Kaumāra goddesses who are invoked for freeing a child from various diseases. Indeed, this identification was known even in the HV in the ancient hymn to the transfunctional goddess, the Āryā-stuti:
śakunī pūtanā ca tvaṃ revatī ca sudāruṇā । HV (“appendix”) 1.8.39

Thus, the Pūtanā-Śakunī episode represents an example of ancient sectarian competition between the Kaumāra-s and the Sāttvata stream of the Vaiṣṇava-s who portray their hero as slaying the demonized Kaumāra avicephalous goddess and thus expanding into the domain of pediatric apotropaism that belongs to the god Skanda.

avicephalous_kaumAraAvicephalous and therocephalous Kaumāra goddesses from Kuśana age Mathurā

8. Cakra-mudgara-hasta, Śārṅgadhanuṣ, Gadā-khaḍgogradhārin: The principal traditional weapons of Viṣṇu are all mentioned, but the mudgara (war-hammer) is unusual.
9. Madhu-kaiṭabhaghātin, Dhundhumāra, Aśvagrīva-nāśa, Bhṛgupatnī-pramāthin: These epithets concern the ancient Asura/Asurī-s slain by Viṣṇu. Of these Dhundhu, the son of Madhu, is said to have caused landslides or earthquakes and was killed by the Ikśvāku hero Kuvalāśva, the son of Bṛhadaśva, into whom the tejas of Viṣṇu had entered (HV, chapter 9). It is possible that this epithet implies that the said king was seen as an incarnation of Viṣṇu (a parallel to the later Ikṣvāku incarnation as Rāma). In contrast to this more widespread legend, a parallel myth alluded to in the Liṅgapurāna suggests that Viṣṇu himself slew the Asura by acquiring the cakra from Rudra. The killing of Aśvagrīva is alluded to in both the Itihāsa-s and the later Purāṇa-s either connect it with the Pravargya-like tale of the beheading of Viṣṇu by the rebound of his bow or the Matsya incarnation. The ancestress of our clan, Paulomī, the wife of Bhṛgu, is said to have been an Asurī or a partisan of the Dānava-s. She was killed by Viṣṇu for aiding them — this is already known in the Rāmāyaṇa.
10. Rudrārdharūpa: An acknowledgment of the Harihara form. The first surviving icons of this form are known from the Kuṣāṇa age.
11. Jīmūtarūpa: Of the form of a cloud — this is an unusual name. It likely indicates the expansion of Viṣṇu into the domain of Parjanya via a specific myth found earlier in the Ur-SkP (chapter 31). There the personified Vedic ritual, Yajña, was designated by Brahman to do good to the world. He soon found himself possessing insufficient power to do that. Hence, he performed tapas and pleased Rudra. Rudra granted him the boon of becoming a cloud (Jīmūta) and delivering life-giving waters to the world. Before Rudra acquired his bull, Yajña as the cloud also became his vehicle – it is stated by becoming the abode of lightning (which as per the Veda is a manifestation of Rudra – 11 lightnings of the Yajurveda; also the name Aśani) he carried Rudra on his back. Given the Vedic incantation:  yajño vai viṣṇuḥ ।, the cloud is identified with Viṣṇu.
12. Vṛṣarūpa — In the Harivaṃśa, Vāsudeva slays a son of Bali named Kakudmin Vṛṣarūpa. However, here given that it is the name of Viṣṇu, it might imply an identification with Rudra’s bull, who was his next vehicle after Yajña as the cloud.
13. Umārūpin: This is an unusual identification that was to have a long life in the later tradition all the way to the late Śrikula system of Gopālasundarī and parallels the coupling of Mohinī and Rudra or the Harihara iconography.
14. Mahādeva-priya, Maheśvara-gaṇa, Rudra-datta-vara: In the Ur-SkP, Viṣṇu is not outright antagonistically demoted vis-a-vis Rudra. He is instead cast as a mighty god who is, however, second to Rudra. This is made clear by calling him dear to Mahādeva (or even equating him with Umā: the above epithet), while at the same time subordinating him as a gaṇa of the god and one receiving boons from Rudra.
15. Salile Tapyamāna: This is again a rather peculiar epithet because it applied to Rudra in the Ur-SkP and goes back to the Mahābhārata where it occurs in the stotra uttered by Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna to Rudra in order to obtain the Pāsupata missile. Thus, its application to Viṣṇu here might indicate his identification with Rudra. This idea of a deity heating the waters as part of the evolutionary process is an idea going back to the Veda. In the context of Rudra, it related to his liṅga form – i.e., Sthāṇu. That said, there are other clear links between Viṣṇu and the primordial waters – he is termed Nārāyaṇa – typically interpreted as the abode of the waters. Moreover, the same stotra also refers to him as Nāgaśayyā-priya – i.e., fond of this serpentine bed. Tradition unequivocally places this bed in the midst of the ocean. His Hayagrīva form is also mentioned in the Mahābhārata as dwelling in the waters consuming oblations (related to the ancient motif of the submarine equine fire). Thus, this epithet could specifically apply to that form.
In the Varāha cycle of this purāṇa, this sectarian tension plays out in the battle between the Daitya and Viṣṇu and the events that follow it. A brief synopsis of it is provided below:
-The gods formed the boar body for Viṣṇu with their own bodies. Thus, he advanced against the Daitya-s by diving into the ocean — an account is given of his encounter with various marine life, like different kinds of whales, sharks, fishes and molluscs. Visiting the various nether realms, he advanced to Rasātala where the Asura-s lived.
-There, a submarine Daitya guard Nala sighted Varāha and in fear rushed to inform his lord. But Varāha followed him and thus discovered the Asura stronghold.
-Prahlāda informed Hiraṇyākṣa that he had a bad dream that someone in a man-boar form might kill him.
-Hiraṇyākṣa says that he too had a dream in which Rudra asked him to surrender to Indra, give up his dominion, and come to dwell near him. The Daitya-s suggested that Hiraṇyākṣa not go to battle. Instead, they suggested that they would head out to the battle with Andhaka as their head. Vipracitti suggested that he would go himself to destroy the gods.
-Nala came in and informed the Asura-s that he had sighted a terrifying boar coming to attack them.
-Prahlāda urged Hiraṇyākṣa to take some action as he realized that the boar was none other than Viṣṇu who has come to destroy them with the aid of his māyā.
-Hiraṇyākṣa responded that he wished to avenge his brother’s death by killing Viṣṇu and offering his boar-head as a bali for Rudra.
-He sent forth his Asura troops to attack Varāha. At first, Varāha ignored them saying that he was just searching for his wife and the one who had kidnapped her. The Asura-s launched a massive attack on him, and he retaliated by demolishing them.
-Hearing of their defeat Hiraṇyākṣa asked the great Asura generals Prahlāda, Andhaka, Vipracitti, Dhundhu, Vyaṃsa and others to get ready to confront Varāha.

-Varāha made an anti-clockwise circuit of the Asura stronghold and stormed it via the southern gate. He destroyed the śataghni missiles fired from the gate and also the Kālacakra missiles that were hurled at him. The Asura-s made a great sally at him. He feigned a retreat and drew them out of their fortifications. However, the Asura-s realized his plan and attacked him from the rear. The deva-s in his body were able to detect this attack and oriented him towards the Asura-s attacking him from behind.
-Varāha challenged them to one-on-one duels. Andhaka agreed that it was the right thing to do. However, Prahlāda informed them that the vile Varāha was none other than the wicked Viṣṇu using his māyā because he was afraid to fight them with his own form. Then Prahlāda showered astra-s on him and asked the other Asura-s to join him in a combined attack.
-Varāha then smashed Prahlāda’s chariot and hammered him with his own standard on his head. The daitya retaliated with his mace, but it had no effect on Varāha.
-He then attacked fought Andhaka and Vipracitti in a great battle. In the end, he carried both like Garutmat carrying the elephant and the tortoise and hurled them down like bolts of lightning.
-He then destroyed and slew the divisions of the remaining Asura-s.
-Vipracitti returned to the battle having rearmed himself, but after a strong fight Varāha whirled him around and sent him crashing into the fortress of Hiraṇyākṣa.
-Hiraṇyākṣa alarmed by the noise went to check things out and found his general unconscious. After reviving him, the Daitya emperor asked him who could possibly defeat him. Vipracitti then told him that it was the invincible Varāha and perhaps it was similar to Nṛsiṃha who had earlier crushed them. He suggested that the Asura-s should abandon their stronghold and flee.
-Disregarding Vipracitti, Hiraṇyākṣa set out for battle himself. He is said to have been of the complexion of a heap of collyrium but with a blond beard and four fangs.
-His advance is described using two astronomical allegories: He is said to be like a great comet and Vipracitti who accompanies him is like a reflection of that comet. He is also described as being like the Sun, with Prahlāda, Andhaka and others surrounding him like the planets — an interesting heliocentric simile.

-Varāha scattered the other Daitya-s and Dānava-s and rushed at Hiraṇyākṣa, who, however, paralyzed him by piercing his joints with his arrows. The deva-s removed those arrows with magical incantations, and Varāha resumed the attack. This time he came close to striking the Asura’s car, but the Daitya’s charioteer steered it away, and Hiraṇyākṣa bound Varāha with the Nāgāstra.
-Then the Asura-s massed around him and tried to chop him up with their weapons. However, Garuḍa came to his aid and released him from the Nāgāstra. Thus revived, he smashed the Daitya-s and resumed his attack on Hiraṇyākṣa.
-The Daitya then pierced him in the heart with an astra causing him to faint. On regaining consciousness, he called on the deva-s to reinforce him, and they filled him with their tapas. Thus, he shone like seven suns, resembling Rudra preparing to destroy the worlds.
-Varāha then displayed several māyāvin tactics and overcoming the nāgāstra-s of the Asura king destroyed his chariot. He continued fighting on foot and struck Varāha with the Mohanāstra, which stunned the boar. The deva-s in his body countered it, and Varāha returned to the battle.
-Varāha uprooted a tree (axial mytheme) and struck the Asura lord on his head. The latter fell unconscious, and his bow with five arrows slipped from his hand. The other daitya-s and dānava-s wailed thinking he was dead and fell upon the boar with their weapons. Varāha simply swallowed all those weapons.
-As Varāha was engaged with the daitya-s, Hiraṇyākṣa recovered, and uttering the mantra rudrāya vai namaḥ ।, he hurled a mighty spear at his enemy. Varāha was struck in the heart by that and fell down as if dead.
-The sun then lost its luster, and the planets were on collision course. Brahman at that point invoked Rudra. Varāha rose up again, and the tejas of Rudra entered him. Pulling out the spear stuck in him, blazing like a thousand fires, he pierced Hiraṇyākṣa like Skanda striking Krauñca. However, the Asura was unfazed by that blow.
-The Daitya returned the blow with his sword, but Varāha felt no pain and struck the sword away with the back of his palm.

-Then the two engaged in a prolonged wrestling bout at the end of which an incorporeal voice told Varāha that he can kill the Daitya only with Rudra’s cakra.
-Invoking Rudra and calling the cakra that was born of the “waters” (an oblique reference to the Jalaṃdhara episode, where Rudra killed the Asura using a cakra that he drew from water: the whirlpool mytheme), Varāha assumed a gigantic form pervading the triple-world.
-Hiraṇyākṣa fought him with various astra-s and displays of māyā, but Varāha destroyed all of them with the cakra and finally cut off the Daitya’s giant head.
-Varāha then searched for Pṛthivī by destroying the parks and tanks of the Asura-s and uprooting mountains. Going south he uprooted Śaṅkha mountain and found her bound there, and guarded by dānava-s. He hurled the Śaṅkha mountain and slew the dānava-s and drove away the Nāga-s. He then seized the jewels of the Asura-s.


Pṛthivī clinging to Varāha’s tusk from Gupta age Udayagiri.

-He carried Pṛthivī clinging to his tusk even as Brahman had carried the former earth Vasudhā when he had assumed a boar form (It is notable that the Śaiva-s revived the memory of this old Vedic narrative of Prajāpati’s boar form probably to obliquely indicate that Viṣṇu’s Varāha form was only second to that of Brahman).
-He then handed over the triple-world to Indra and reaffirmed their eternal friendship.

-Varāha indicated that he wished to enjoy the pleasures of his boar form in fullness. Thousands of Apsaras-es become sows to consort with him even as the brāhmaṇa-s lauded him with their hymns.
-Mating with his wife in the form of the sow Citralekhā he birthed a lupine son known as Vṛka (Temples of Varāha as the father of the lupine Vṛka – Kokamukhasvāmin – seem to have been there in Nepal and from there transmitted to Bengal).
-Vṛka roved around the world with his pack eating various animals. Finally, he arrived at the forest of Skanda at Gaurīkūṭa with medicinal plants, minerals and gems. At that time Skanda was away visiting the Mandara mountain and had deputed his avicephalous or therocephalous gaṇa Kokavaktra (himself with a lupine head or with a cuckoo or waterfowl head) to guard his forest.
-Vṛka ravaged Kumāra’s forest. At first Kokavaktra tried to be good to him and told him that he was happy with his power. Kokavaktra asked Vṛka to stop and told him that he would repair the damage and put in a word with Skanda to make him a gaṇa.
-Vṛka refused and attacked the Skandapārṣada. After a fight, Kokavaktra knocked down Vṛka and bound him with pāśa-s (A rare reflex of the Germanic Fenris wolf motif in the Hindu world).
-When Skanda returned he sentenced Vṛka to be subject to Narakatrāsa-s by his gaṇa-s.
-Nārada informed Varāha about what had happened and told him that due to his childish arrogance, Skanda does not bow before the great god and has bound his lupine son.
-Infuriated, Varāha proceeded to fight Skanda. Skanda and his gaṇa-s neutralize the cakra and other weapons of Varāha. Finally, Guha pierced Varāha’s heart with his saṃvartikā spear. Viṣṇu at that point abandoned his Varāha body and resumed his usual form.


Skanda wearing the tusks of Varāha on his necklace, Gupta age.

-Viṣṇu then praised Rudra who conferred a boon to him. Viṣṇu asked him to teach him the Pāśupata-vrata. Rudra mounted his bull and went to Sumeru to teach Viṣṇu the said vrata.

Here we see a three-way competition between Śaiva-s, Vaiṣṇava-s and Kaumāra-s. The normally accommodating relationships between the Kaumāra-s and Vaiṣṇava-s (barring some conflicts as the Pūtanā case alluded to above), seem to have broken down probably under Śaiva influence. The incident of the defeat of Varāha by Kumāra is seen in both the South Indian Skandapurāṇa and the Ur-SkP, suggesting it was there in an ancestral SkP. It has some Gupta-Puṣyabhūti age iconographic representation in the form of Skanda wearing the tusks of the boar in his necklace. However, in this text, the Śaiva-s trump both of them with the final flourish of Viṣṇu ultimately asking Rudra to teach him the Pāśupata-vrata. We believe that the Varāha episode in the Ur-SkP is a genuine early version of this famous mytheme, but it was strategically tweaked at certain points by the Śaiva-s to downgrade Viṣṇu and exalt Rudra.

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The zombie obeys: a note on host manipulation by parasites and its ecological consequences

In 1858-59, as AR Wallace, one of the founders of the modern evolutionary theory, was exploring the Sulawesi Islands, he collected an ant, Polyrachis merops, that he sent over to England. Years later, the naturalist W Fawcett studying these ants collected by Wallace and others from South America, realized they were attacked by a fungus that is today known as Ophiocordyceps. In 1869 when Wallace learnt of mycologists discussing these insect-killing fungi, he was much surprised and even expressed doubt if it was a genuine fungus. However, those doubts of the great man aside, the fungus was to have a bright future as a beacon for studies on the manipulation of host behavior by parasites. It is today widely known that Ophiocordyceps fungi infect ants, such as the carpenter ants (of genus Camponotus) and spiny ants (Polyrachis), and alters their behavior making them leave their colonies and wander onto leaves. Here it makes them clamp down on the leaves in the canopy above the ant trails with their mandibles. They remain stuck there until the fungus kills them from within; then, the fungus grows out of them, often bursting out from their head, and sporulates. The spores rain down on the unsuspecting ants scurrying below on their trail; thus, the fungus infects a new set of victims. This peculiar adaptation has evidently evolved as part of the arms race to keep up with the emergence of hygiene in the ants – they regularly groom themselves, and when they find a corpse, they quickly break it down and take it out of their nest. Thus, by showering spores on them when they are on the trail, the hygienic practice of the ants is breached by the fungus.

Today we know that this behavioral manipulation of ants is not unique to Ophiocordyceps, an ascomycete, but is also evinced by the fungus Pandora that belongs to a distant lineage of insect-specialist fungi (Entomophthoromycota) in a distinct genus of ants, Formica. Even more remarkably, the same type of behavior is also induced in Formica ants by the trematode brain fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum which has a remarkably complex life cycle. It begins with sexual reproduction in the bile duct of a cow and excretion via its dung of fertilized eggs bearing developing embryos. The eggs are eaten by snails (e.g., genus Cochlicopa), where the worm emerges as miracidia larvae. The miracidia drill through the gut wall and enter the respiratory system of the snail, where they protect themselves from the host immunity by forming sporocysts. The snail extrudes them in slime balls through the respiratory pore, and they emerge as cercaria larvae from the sporocysts. These cercariae infect an ant when it feeds on the snail slime balls. In the ant, they develop into the next stage, the metacercariae, which start controlling their new host’s behavior and causes it to desert its colony and climb up leaves and clamp down on them with their mandibles. Once on the leaves, they might get eaten by cows to resume the cycle.

A parallel strategy has evolved in the parasitic insect, the myrmecolacid strepsipteran – here, the male takes formicid ants as hosts while the female takes locusts as their hosts. The male strepsipteran alters the ant’s behavior to again desert its colony and climb up leaves and hold on to them with its legs. The strepsipteran then emerges from the ant and flies off in search of the female. By leading the ant onto the leaves, he can better sense the female’s pheromones wafting in and also have a launchpad for his final flight to find his mate. On finding the infected locust from which the morphologically degenerate female protrudes out, he mates with her by piercing the brood-canal in her cephalothorax with his spiny tube-like sperm delivery organ, the aedeagus. Interestingly, we can also find this behavioral manipulation in a more general sense in baculoviruses, which cause the caterpillars they infect to “summit”, i.e., climb the outer branches of the trees and stay there. The virus then kills them and liquefies their corpses so that the virions are spread on the leaves allowing new caterpillars to consume them with their meal. The virus achieves this by a UDP-sugar glycosyltransferase enzyme that it encodes, which modifies the insect molting hormone ecdysteroid to inactivate it, and thus prevents it from molting on the trunk of the tree. Thus, a virus, two fungi, a fluke, and a strepsiteran insect, each with a distinct life cycle, have all evolved broadly convergent behavioral manipulations of their hosts to enhance their spread.

Rather remarkably, this broad strategic category of altering host behavior to favor transmission to a new host furnishes several other examples of channeling of convergent manipulations by evolutionarily distant parasites. One of the best known of these is the induction of erratic behavior leading to suicide by drowning in various insects and crustaceans by the nematomorph and mermithid nematode parasites that need to access water for the next stage of their development. In the case of the nematomorphs, like Paragordius varius, they induce their cricket/grasshopper host to jump into water and drown, allowing them to come out and mature in the aquatic environment and lay eggs. The larvae that hatch from the hosts then burrow into the guts of aquatic insect larvae, like mosquitoes, and form a cyst. This cyst survives into the adult of the mosquito that returns to land. On land, when the mosquitoes die, they might be eaten by crickets leading to the transmission to the new host. Similar suicide by drowning is driven by mermithid nematodes, such as Mermis nigrescens in the earwig Forficula auricularia and the ant Colobopsis, and by Thaumamermis zealandica in the crustacean sandhopper Bellorchestia quoyana. Here again, the drowning seems to allow the nematodes to ultimately access their secondary hosts in the form of aquatic larvae. In molecular terms, this suicidal behavior appears to be induced by the upregulation of Wnt proteins in the head of the infected orthopterans.


A conopid fly

Apart from manipulating host behavior to allow the parasite to reach a new host, there are several instances of convergent evolution of manipulations that alter the host behavior to make the parasite more secure. This was observed early on in the braconid parasitoid wasp Aphidius ervi, which may undergo two alternative larval programs, namely one of uninterrupted development to pupation and adulthood and the second involving a dormant phase known as the diapause. One of their hosts is the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum, into which they inject an egg. The emergent larva eats the aphid from within and leaves its bronzed exoskeleton as a puparium for the final stage of its development. If the wasp larva opts for a diapause program, they manipulate their host aphid to abandon the aphid colony and go either into a curled leaf or entirely leave the plant and go to an obscure site where they are “mummified”. In contrast, the larvae opting for uninterrupted development cause their host to leave the aphid colony and climb onto the upper surfaces of leaves prior to mummification. A comparable adaptation is seen in the case of the parasitoid conopid flies, such as Physocephala rufipes, which are morphological wasp mimics that target bumble bees. When the conopid fly comes upon a bumble bee foraging among the flowers, it attacks it and inserts its ovipositor between the abdominal cuticular sternites to deliver eggs into the bee. The fly larvae grow within the bee, feeding on it from within and altering its behavior. They cause it to desert the hive and limit their nectar collection activity. Finally, when the larva is close to pupation, it causes the bee to bury deep into the soil – evidently, here, it induces in workers a behavioral program that executes in the queen when it hibernates over winter. There the fly larva kills the bee and uses its exoskeleton as a puparium to overwinter and emerge in spring as an adult. Those flies which develop in such underground bee carcasses, on an average, develop better than those which end up killing their host above the ground, clearly indicating a fitness gain accrued from the manipulation of host behavior.


Reclinervellus nielseni larva manipulates Cyclosa argenteoalba

A related form of parasitic manipulation was discovered by the naturalists Takasuka et al. among spiders that spin webs in Japanese shrines. Here, the host spider Cyclosa argenteoalba weaves two kinds of webs — a normal orb web to catch prey and a resting web where it molts. The larva of the ichneumonid ectoparasitoid wasp Reclinervellus nielseni manipulates the spider host by injecting it with a toxic mixture. This causes the spider to make a version of the resting web with more threads so that it is better reinforced and also add decorations that reflect UV light allowing it to be avoided by birds or large insects in their flight. Thus, the wasp larva induces its host to create a resilient cocoon for it, where it pupates after killing the host. Since removing the ectoparasitoid larva causes the spider to return to its normal web-weaving, it is clear that the altered behavior is induced by molecules in the wasp’s venom. Another component of this venom also prevents the molting of the host spider. Notably, this behavioral manipulation has also convergently evolved in another ichneumonid ectoparasitoid Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga, which, on the evening it will kill its host, the spider Plesiometa argyra, alters its host’s behavior to spin a comparable cocoon web. However, in this case, rather than making the spider weave a resting web, the wasp toxin appears to induce it to repeat a subset of the early steps of normal orb construction while suppressing the remaining steps resulting in a cocoon for the larva.

The above classes of behavioral manipulations broadly fall under the rubric of host behavioral manipulation for reaching new hosts or for providing suitable “housing” for pupation or dormancy. A further class has been recognized in the form of manipulation to make the host provide policing services. A good example of this was described several years ago for the braconid parasitoid wasp Glyptapanteles sp., which lay their eggs in caterpillars of the geometrid moth Thyrinteina leucocerae. After developing within their host, they exit it by piercing its lateral body wall but do not kill it; instead, it heals from the trauma. One or two wasp larvae remain behind inside the caterpillar and apparently manipulate the latter to act as a bodyguard for the egressed larvae that start pupating. Under the remaining larvae’s influence, the caterpillar stops feeding, hangs around with the pupae, and shows behaviors not seen in uninfected caterpillars — it knocks off predators such as the bug Supputius and other hyperparasitoid wasps by violently swinging its head. However, it never matures into a moth and dies once it has done its policing job for the parasitoid. It appears that the 1-2 larvae that remain behind to manipulate the host sacrifice their own fitness for the sake of their egressed kin. Field studies in Brazil showed that this protection significantly increased the survival of the wasps supporting the adaptive nature of the behavior manipulation and its potential evolution under kin selection. In a dramatic lepidopteran on hymenopteran reversal, a convergent evolution of the bodyguard strategy is seen in the case of the caterpillars of the lycaenid butterfly Narathura japonica that intoxicates the workers of the ant Pristomyrmex punctatus with secretions from its dorsal nectary organ found in the abdomen. These reduce the locomotory activities of the ants by acting on their dopaminergic circuit, turning them into defensive bodyguards for the caterpillar. However, at least in the case of certain related lycaenid butterfly caterpillars and the ant Formica japonica, the former might also provide some benefit to the bodyguards in the form of a sucrose+amino acid shot from the dorsal nectary organ.

We started collecting and classifying such studies on host behavior manipulation starting in the first year of our university college. Sometime before that, we had made our first foray into the study of lysogenic bacteriophages that had made us aware of the advantages and changes they brought to their hosts when in the lysogenic state: they encoded toxins like the cholera toxin and the diphtheria toxin that enhanced the virulence and potentially the survival of their bacterial hosts. They also made their host resistant to other viruses that might attack it when they resided in lysogeny. It was around that time we also became aware that nearly all alcohol-fermenting yeasts like Saccharomyces cerevisiae and its relatives carried a double-stranded RNA virus, a totivirus (related to reoviruses, like the rotavirus), in their cells. We wondered if this too might confer some advantage on the yeast, like the lysogenic bacterial viruses. Subsequently, we also became aware that, indeed, certain totiviral systems of yeast might provide such an advantage. The best-known is the remarkable totivirus system of S.cerevisae centered on the benign helper virus L-A that encodes a RNA polymerase and a capsid protein gag. A further satellite virus, like ScV-M1, ScV-M2, or ScV-M28, which does not encode any replicative apparatus but just killer toxins, is a parasite on the L-A virus — it uses the L-A polymerase and coat to replicate and encapsidate itself. This killer virus produces a toxin that kills other yeasts which do not contain the killer virus. Thus, while it acts selfishly, it enhances the fitness of the yeast host by eliminating its competitors. More recently, it has become clear that the totiviruses might increase the virulence of their fungal hosts toward the hosts of the fungi — for example, related viruses enhance the virulence of the mammal-pathogenic Aspergillus fumigatus and Talaromyces marneffei. Similarly, totivirus of the kinetoplastid parasite Leishmania also makes it more inflammatory and turns it into a potentially more serious pathogen. Our early foray into understanding these interactions made us realize that the behavior manipulation by parasites spans the entire spectrum from the molecular to the macroscopic. It also made us think about whether the behavior manipulating repertoire of certain macro-parasites might include the selfish conferring of advantages to their hosts, just like lysogenic phages and fungal totiviruses.

As we were thinking about this possibility, by some coincidence, we had a new professor in college who had just completed his Ph.D. As part of that research, he found an example of this: the apicomplexan parasite Sarcocystis infects the heart muscles of hares and deer and makes them run slower. Thus, they are eaten by dholes, and the parasite is transmitted to their guts — the definitive hosts. He had evidence that a subset of the dhole pack might carry higher levels of the parasite and play a role in transmitting Sarcocystis to herbivores via their latrines — defecating in regions where the herbivores might feed. Thus, while a subset of the dholes might suffer fitness costs from bearing a higher parasite load, the pack might benefit (again via kin selection) from the parasite making their prey easier to catch. He also speculated that this strategy might have convergently evolved in certain parasitic flatworms. Studies by others had shown that other Sarcocystis species, which infect the brain and the muscles of rodents, make voles more prone to predation by kestrels or snakes, their definitive hosts. Hence, unlike the manifold largely fitness-negating behavior manipulations we considered earlier in this article, the case of Sarcocystis, like that of the lysogenic bacteriophages and domesticated totiviruses of fungi, might not be entirely negative. Rather they might be selfishly fitness-enhancing at one trophic level (definitive host predators) while being negative at another (intermediate host prey). After studying these cases, we learnt of Dawkins’ hypothesis of the extended phenotype that was well-supported by these cases. It also brought home to us the need to keep an eye open for molecular adaptations that might allow host-parasite interactions to feed into prey-predator interactions. We eventually were able to discover molecular weaponry of such interactions while studying the system of the nematode Heterorhabditis sp., the bioluminescent bacterium Photorhabdus and insect larvae. The bacterium is symbiotic with the worm Heterorhabditis, which attacks insect larvae and vomits the Photorhabdus that it carries in its gut on them. The bacterium then secretes a wide array of toxins that kill the insect, and the nematode feeds off the carcass.


The Toxoplasma gondii-wolf-puma system as illustrated by Meyer et al.

This finally brings us to a relative of Sarcocystis, another apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which illustrates the macroscopic ecological consequences of the multi-directional fitness consequences of interlocking host-parasite and prey-predator interactions. The best-studied aspect of this is the cat (Felis catus)-rodent cycle of Toxoplasma, where the rodents are the intermediate hosts and the cat the definitive host (where the parasite completes its sexual cycle). Here the parasite changes the neurotransmitter concentrations in the mice and rat brains to make them attracted to the odorants in feline urine — it is believed that the male rodents are induced by the parasite to experience sexual arousal to cat odorants. Needless to say, this draws the rodents towards the cats and makes them easier prey, thereby allowing the parasite to complete its cycle. More recent studies have found similar results with other cats. For example, in our close cousin, the chimpanzee, toxoplasmosis causes a morbid attraction towards leopard urine, thus, increasing their chances of being killed and eaten by one. Another study found that hyena cubs infected by Toxoplasma tend to lose their fear of lions and approach them more closely than uninfected ones. Thus, they tend to be killed more often by cats. These studies were capped up by the recent publication of a multi-year study on Toxoplasma’s role in the wolf-puma (cougar; Puma pumoides) interactions in North America. The authors found evidence that toxoplasmosis in wolves makes them greater risk-takers, thereby increasing their tendency to break off and found their own packs or become leaders of packs. They propose that this behavior brings them in contact with pumas that the wolves normally avoid. On one hand, this results in an increased propensity for them being infected by the parasite from puma feces, and on the other, it increases the propensity of Toxoplasma transmission to the cat, where the parasite completes its sexual cycle. Sarcocystis neurona, which resides in the neurons of its intermediate host, is proximally positioned to alter its behavior in ways similar to Toxoplasma but its ecological consequences remain poorly explored.

In each of the above cycles, the behavioral alterations of the intermediate host clearly advantage the parasite by increasing its probability of reaching the definitive host. Like with the Sarcocystis example, it is apparent that toxoplasmosis in the definitive host does not cause it to die — it seems to be a mild infection with no serious sequelae. Studies on domestic cats indicate that most infected with T. gondii show no signs of disease. In fact, it only seems to flare up as a serious condition if the cat is also infected by a retrovirus, like FIV or FeLV, which compromises its immune system. Thus, in balance, it is conceivable that Toxoplasma actually confers a fitness advantage to the cats by “bringing” prey to them. In rodents, chimpanzees and hyenas, the manipulation seems to obviously depress the fitness of the intermediate hosts. However, a closer look suggests that the picture might be more complex. The above study on the wolf-puma system suggests that, at least in some intermediate hosts, the manipulation by the parasite might not be entirely fitness-reducing. Studies on male rats suggest that Toxoplasma might make male rats more sexually active by increasing testosterone production. In domestic dogs, sheep, goats, rabbits, rats, and probably humans, there is evidence for Toxoplasma being sexually transmitted between mating partners and also to their progeny (congenital toxoplasmosis). Hence, it might also be similarly transmitted within a wolf pack via sex. This, taken together with the manipulation resulting in testosterone elevation, suggests that the parasite also attempts to increase its range within intermediate hosts via a sexual and congenital cycle. The testosterone effect with the behavioral changes suggests that it might not be all bad for the intermediate host — potentially contributing to their fitness via increased sexual activity. In the wolf example, behavioral changes, like pack founding and new territory acquisition, seem to have a positive effect on fitness too. Thus, the net balance of the fitness consequences of toxoplasmosis might be harder to evaluate, even for the intermediate host.

In parallel with the evidence from the extant chimpanzee, we have fossil evidence that the human lineage was prey for large felids: e.g., the Sterkfontein Paranthropus with leopard canine marks on its skull; the Olduvai OH 7 Homo habilis leg with leopard tooth marks (other hominins in the same site were eaten by crocodiles); the Dmanisi Homo georgicus skeletons were likely accumulated by a big cat such as Megantereon megantereon, Homotherium crenatidens or Panthera gombaszoegensi; the Asian Homo erectus eaten by a large cat at Zhoukoudian; the Cova Negra Homo neanderthalensis whose skull was punctured by a leopard; at least one of the Sima de los Huesos hominins, who were related to Neanderthals and maternally to Denisovans, was consumed by a large cat; tigers, lions, and leopards have been recorded as eating numerous humans in India and Africa until 100 years ago — this was likely a far more common occurrence in earlier times though we do not have good records for it. Thus, it can be said that for much of its history, the hominin clade was an intermediate host for Toxoplasma and transmitted it to cats that preyed on them. However, things changed as, with their growing brains, H. sapiens managed to turn the tables on the big cats and nearly exterminate them. Thus, today humans are practically dead-end hosts for Toxoplasma. This does not mean that the behavioral manipulations have ceased. There is some evidence that it might alter sexual behavior and aggression in both human males and females. There are correlational studies suggesting that it might foster entrepreneurial tendencies and road rage in human males and generally aggressive behavior and neuroticism in women. There is also evidence for association with personality disorders on the schizophrenia spectrum. In the past, some of these behaviors might have reduced the fear in humans and made them venture closer to big cats in the environment that then preyed on them. However, today a subset of these altered behaviors, like enhance entrepreneurship, might provide some fitness benefit.

It should be noted that today millions of humans are infected by Toxoplasma primarily due to their contact with domestic cats. Nevertheless, not all of them become more neurotic or entrepreneurs. This suggests that perhaps the strain that infects domestic cats does not affect its human host strongly. Moreover, it is likely that the humans who are more affected by the behavioral modifications induced by Toxoplasma have some genetic predisposition for the same. Nevertheless, even if a dead end for the parasite, we wonder if it might have played a role in human ecology with respect to cats. Cats were domesticated somewhere in West Asia during the Neolithic. It is generally believed that this was a symbiotic relationship because human settlements allowed for increased rodent populations, and the domestic cat could control them. Nevertheless, it needs to be considered if the infection of humans by Toxoplasma as a result of increased proximity with the proto-domestic cats resulted in some kind of behavioral alteration that made humans attracted to cats and increased their bonding. It is possible this goes back even deeper in the Paleolithic, where the attraction towards large cats provided the germs for the “man-cat” hybrid imagery that is widely seen across human cultures. This idea is worth considering because, unlike the domestic dog, which usually exhibits much greater emotional overlap with humans, the cat is a mostly aloof animal.

Other apicomplexan parasites also manipulate their hosts with potentially differential fitness consequences for their intermediate and definitive hosts. For instance, while the malarial parasite Plasmodium primarily resides in the gut (ookinete stage) and the salivary gland (sporozoites) of Anopheles mosquitoes, it manages to alter the host odorant response, which is localized to the antennae, such that the mosquito is more attracted towards vertebrate odors. It is not clear if the odorant manipulation is done by a few sporozoites that enter the brain or remain behind elsewhere in the mosquito to act on behalf of their kin. It is conceivable that this action might confer some fitness benefit for the mosquito in terms of getting it to a vertebrate host for a blood meal. A convergent evolution of this manipulation is suggested in the case of the kinetoplastid Trypanosoma cruzi, which appears to make its bug host Triatoma both more active and responsive to human odors. A complementary manipulation is mediated by the related apicomplexan, Hepatozoon, which has a complex life cycle alternating between Culex mosquitoes and a single vertebrate host like a frog or two vertebrate hosts like a frog followed by a snake which eats the former. Here, Hepatozoon manipulates its vertebrate hosts to make their smell more attractive to the mosquito. This adaptation has convergently evolved in the kinetoplastid parasite Leishmania, which makes their mammalian hosts’ smell more enticing to the sandfly. While we still poorly understand how these manipulations are achieved at the molecular level, the genomes of some of these apicomplexans show that they encode remarkable arrays of effectors that bear the signs of a long evolutionary history of meddling with host systems. This is providing glimmers of how these parasites might comprehensively hijack various host systems. However, the mechanisms of deployment and targets of the effectors of even well-known apicomplexan parasites still remain poorly understood.

The manipulation of host odors and behaviors brings us to the more general macro-ecological consequences of parasites that are also not clearly understood. Several researchers like Zahavi, Hamilton, Thornhill and Fincher have proposed hypotheses that are dependent on parasite load in a species. Both Zahavi’s handicap principle and Hamilton’s proposal regarding the strength of expression of secondary sexual characters derive from the idea that these are honest signals for a strong intrinsic immunity against parasites in the possessors (typically males) to their potential mates. Indeed, in support of Zahavi’s hypothesis, the high-ranked male mice with increased testosterone were more susceptible to the apicomplexan parasite Babesia microtii suggesting that maintenance of top-tier male behavior in the face of parasites needs a stronger intrinsic immunity. In contrast, Thornhill’s hypothesis suggests that societies with a higher parasite load tend to display behaviors that are more aligned with conservative/xenophobic tendencies, and those with lower parasite loads tend to develop more liberal/xenophilic tendencies — this generally matches the caricature of the left-liberal as a shabby and unkempt individual (e.g., their father Karl Marx himself). Given that genome-wide association studies in humans have uncovered linkages between political orientations and certain odorant receptors, one must also bring into the picture the possibility that odor manipulations by parasites might be at the heart of such connections — for example, an odorant receptor variant with the capacity to “smell” infection might trigger a xenophobic response. Similarly, behavior manipulations, such as increased xenophilia, might allow the parasite to spread. Thus, beyond the Thornhill hypothesis, one needs to consider the possibility of direct manipulation by parasites leading to certain political orientations. Indeed, one cannot avoid seeing parallels to the behavioral manipulations induced by memetic parasites such as West Asian monotheisms and their secular mutations. Therein, a multiplicity of behavioral consequences can be seen, ranging from a totivirus-fungus-type association to suicidal behavior induced by several parasites.

Some further reading:

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Chakkalal and Mundalal saw that Gannaram Dakiya, the owner of the little eatery, had taken a bit too much of an ethanolic beverage and had forgotten to lock the safe with his phone, cards and some cash. They broke into his shop and made away with those. As they were sneaking out, they were seen by Gannaram’s cook, who was washing vessels in the vicinity. However, he did not make much of their presence, as they were familiar idlers who lazed around near his stall, getting a free meal from the leftovers of Gannaram’s customers. When Gannaram returned to his mindfulness, he was shocked to discover his loss and cast about trying to find out who had robbed him. His cook was quick to point out that he had seen Chakkalal and Mundalal and suggested that it might be them. Gannaram soon assembled a band of fellow jāti-folks, some of whom were particularly rough, and set out in search of the two wastrels. They found the two wasted from the aftermath of a heavy celebratory libation and dope sourced with their ill-gotten gains and thrashed the hell out of them. Chakkalal died and Mundalal went comatose.

The election results had just been announced, and the incumbent government of Pratapa Simha had been narrowly beaten by a motley coalition of the Nīladrāpeya-dala, the Mārjani-dala, the Paṭṭa-dala, the SJWP, the Kangress-S and the IML. These disparate parties had been brought together in no small means by the funding coming from the Mahāmleccha, the other Pañcanetraka-s, and their vassal, the śūlapuruṣa-s. They had been laundered into the country by the various fronts set up by the traders Gregory Kun and Van Schwarzstein using the extensive legal cover provided by the liaison between their activists and the sympathetic supreme court judge Udup Sandha. They had long been working to overthrow what they called the fascistic government of Pratapa Simha. Thus, in the city of Ashmanvati, the activists had created a tense alliance of the Nīladrāpeya-dala, the SJWP and IML parties to see them past the finish line in what was once a stronghold of Pratapa Simha’s ruling party. In part, their catastrophic failure was a problem of their own making – they had long encouraged the Nīladrāpeya-s and those with inclinations aligned with the SJWP claiming it to be part of their attempt at building an electoral base for future successes. But on that day, the reality of their misguided attempts had been made plain.

The founder of the Nīladrāpeya-dala, while born a Hindu himself, sought the eradication of the Hindu Dharma, for which, as stated by the old Monier-Williams, he wished to start with the liquidation of the V1s. However, the most immediate enemies of the NDs were the service jāti-s that stood just above them in the hierarchy. Their recent electoral success had brought the powerful Nīladrāpeya politician Mhaisasur from Ashmanvati into the ruling circle. Chakkalal and Mundalal’s relatives now applied to their coethnic Mhaisasur, who had just been elected to power, to avenge their fate. He had earlier assembled a band of rowdies to slay some sādhu-s, an act that had gone unpunished by the Pratapa Simha government as part of their effort to woo the NDs. Buoyant in his power, Mhaisasur thought there was little anyone could do to stop him from taking the law into his own hands. Thus, he unleashed his goons to go postal on the jāti of Gannaram.

With the junior college exams behind her, Charuchitra and her mother traveled to several Viṣṇu shrines among the ancient hills. Having completed those pious visits, they took a bus to proceed to Somakhya’s city. There she was to join her cousin in taking a critical entrance exam for the best schools across the country. Due to the reservation policy for various jāti-s claiming a depressed status, there was no guarantee that a V1 girl like her could make it to the course of her choice in her own city. However, by taking this common entrance exam, where merit was still valued to a slightly greater degree, she could increase her chances for the same. Her parents fervently hoped that between the college and the common entrance tests, she would make it to a reasonable institution in their own city. As a backup, they were also hedging on Somakhya’s or Babhru’s city so that she could stay in the safety of one of her close clansfolk’s homes to complete her education.

As they were so caught up with her exams, they had hardly paid any attention to the news. Thus, largely ignorant of the unexpected electoral results, they were on the bus, which was to stop briefly at Ashmanvati and pick up a few passengers before proceeding to Somakhya’s city. Charuchitra’s mind was filled with expectant thoughts – Somakhya was the cousin she was closest to and had not seen him in a couple of years. She was also hoping that he might provide some key solutions for questions in the impending exam that had perplexed her – after all, Somakhya’s city and college were perhaps among the most competitive in the nation. Even as they were nearing Ashmanvati, the bus suddenly came to a halt. At first, they thought there might be an accident downstream, but ere long, the halt had already stretched to half an hour. The passengers began irately asking the driver and the conductor what was happening. Finally, the conductor announced that a major riot was underway in Ashmanvati, and they were waiting for their sources to give them the green light to enter. On hearing this, the anger turned into a wave of disquiet among the passengers. Charuchitra wanted to text her father and siblings, but her mother did not want to get her husband worried and pressed her not to do so.

After nearly 45 minutes, the bus finally got moving, and the driver said they would have to take a longer path through some sideroads in the town to avoid the mayhem. The passengers heaved a sigh of relief and relaxed into a misplaced sense of safety. This was soon shown to be false with a literal bang – a huge explosion had gone off somewhere in the vicinity rattling the panes of the bus. After briefly halting the bus and learning something on his phone, the driver quickly made a sharp about-turn and took yet another narrow road. As Charuchitra looked out of the window, she saw a plume of smoke rising from the street they were previously slated to enter. Before she could process that, a bigger horror confronted her sight — two women and a man, apparently dead, were lying sprawled on the side of the street. A ribbon of fresh blood trailed off the dead man’s neck even as the shop behind him was an inferno, copiously coughing out acrid fumes. As she shrieked in shock, her mother pulled Charuchitra to her side and calmly placed her hand over her eyes. As the bus paused again at the end of the street, she felt an adrenal rush and pushed her mother’s palm off her eyes, only to see them fall on a pile of burning tyres in the middle of the road. The bus made yet another sharp turn, and they now wriggled their way past the Kāśiliṅga temple in the town. As they turned around the temple, Charuchitra saw a ghastlier sight. A man in a garb that suggested he could be a temple officiant was lying on the footpath with his skull knocked in and a basket of flowers scattered beside him. His gore and brains were splattered on the white-crimson stripes of the temple compound wall while his eyes seemed to have been gouged out. Across his torso were splayed his blood-soaked garment and thread. At the end of the street, a large body of bearded men with no mustaches was marching brandishing swords, knives, staves, and the odd firearm, even as some were flying drones. Just then, a stone landed on the window beside her, sending a clatter through the bus. Charuchitra’s mother signaled her to duck down – as she did so, she turned to look at her mother, who, like her brother (Somakhya’s father), still retained a stoic mien. Seeing that, she felt a sudden change in her and slipped her hand into her handbag and gripped the punch knife, and caressed the multipurpose tactical stick her friend Indrasena had procured for her. She gave her mother a sneak peek into her bag and whispered: “if we have to go, we should take down at least one with us’’.

To their fortune, that did not come to pass as the driver finally found his way out of the riot-torn Ashmanvati. Charuchitra could not take her mind off the bloody sights she had just seen, and they kept reappearing before her eyes each time she would doze off, only to reawaken her. As she looked out, she now saw the more calming sights of the irrigated fields spreading out in front of the window, punctuated by the occasional derelict rustic house or granary – a far cry from the comforts of urban modernity she was familiar with. Unable to shake off the visions of Ashmanvati, she looked at her mother: “Mom, that was truly gruesome.’’ C.M: “Yes dear, those are indeed the marks of our age … or perhaps any age for that matter … for that is the nature of men.’’
C: “I find it very unfair that a temple sevaka, a V1, full of piety, should have been killed in that manner. At least a soldier signs up for that as part of his job, and we entrust our safety to his sacrifice. But why have the gods deserted the sevaka thus when he was proceeding to his duty?’’
C.M: “Our itihāsa-s have taught us lessons in that regard. In the first one, we learn how the princes of Ayodhyā, who were like an earthly Indra and Viṣṇu, had to spend 14 long years in the forest, full of suffering, for no fault of their own. In the second one, we hear of a similar trial for the Pāṇḍu-s – so tragedies happen to people though it seems they apparently do not deserve them.’’
C: “Why do you say “apparently’’? Do you suspect there is some hidden cause we do not know?’’
C.M: “I don’t know for sure if there is a meta-causality for a person’s fate or if it is just the probabilistic nature of things. As you know, our people believe that one is reborn again and again. Hence, if they cannot find a cause for a prasaṅga in this janman they project it into the previous one.”
C: “While that definitely satisfies our urge for completion of the causal chain of a prasaṅga, I have no way of knowing if it is true. Moreover, I don’t know what is the conversion table for the dharma of one species to another…’’
C.M: “That latter is something I definitely do not know. Given that a soothsayer said that in your last birth you were born as a cat and Somakhya as a rhinoceros, I really cannot say what karman-s in your non-human past janman-s yielded this human birth.’’

The rest of their journey, though somber, was eventless, and their disquiet eased a bit as they reached Somakhya’s house late that evening. Despite the traumatic sights, the fear of the impending exam turned Charuchitra’s mind entirely to it. The next day when Somakhya awoke, he found his cousin already all clean, prim and busy with her books. Somakhya on the contrary, was considering spending part of the day studying the wildlife in a dry well he and Lootika had located. Seeing his cousin so lost in her books, he slipped away on this venture. That evening he returned with Lootika and introduced her to his cousin, who seemed pretty happy that she had clocked a nearly uninterrupted study of eight hours that day.
Lootika: “Charu, if only we had your focus, we would probably rank among the greatest scientists of our age. Unfortunately, the great god Indra separates the guṇa-s among the folks.’’
C: “I’m shocked you guys did not even look at your books the whole of today, and now you are inviting me for a session of microscopic examination of your specimens! Thankfully, I’m pretty safe for the biology papers, I believe, thanks to our friend Indrasena. While younger than us, he has given such extensive notes that I could possibly write graduate-level exams with them.’’ Lootika smirked at Somakhya: “You should tell my sister Vrishchika that.’’
C: “My mom has stiffened me in statistics, but chemistry is the weakest link. I hope you shore me up a bit there.’’
S: “Actually, the chemistry is not really too stiff for this exam.’’
C: “That may be so for you. I want to ask you a bit about the basic electronic wave functions.’’
S: “We don’t have to solve any version of Schrödinger’s equation in 3D for this test. We just need to know how to deal with the radial distance wave functions and know the shapes of the orbitals by rote.’’
C: “Ah, there you are! That brings me straight to what I wanted. I was looking at questions collected from previous exams by our seniors and there was this one: Draw the radial wave probability distributions for the orbitals 1s to 3p and use it to explain why sp^3, sp^2, etc. hybridization happens. I know that these distributions have some weird humps but how do we get those shapes exactly?’’
S: “You get those shapes by solving Schrödinger’s equation for the wave functions of electrons at different excitation levels in a hypothetical atom. For this exam, all you need to know is the form of these wave functions. If x is the radial distance variable, we can write the shape of the wave functions thus. Of course, these are to be normalized by factors of \tfrac{Z}{\sqrt{\pi}}, where Z is the atomic number, and we set the Bohr radius a_0=1 But for our purposes just the shape matters:
f_{1s}\left(x\right)=e^{-x}\left\{0\le x\right\}
f_{2s}\left(x\right)=\left(2-x\right)e^{-\frac{x}{2}}\left\{0\le x\right\}
f_{2p}\left(x\right)=xe^{-\frac{x}{2}}\left\{0\le x\right\}
f_{3s}\left(x\right)=\frac{1}{6}\left(27-18x+2x^{2}\right)e^{-\frac{x}{3}}\left\{0\le x\right\}
f_{3p}\left(x\right)=\left(6x-x^{2}\right)e^{-\frac{x}{3}}\left\{0\le x\right\}

From these, you get the shape of the probability distributions as x^2f_{o}(x)^2, where o is your desired orbital. Lootika could you draw these out on your tablet for her? So all you need for this exam are the above 5 equations.’’


L: “As you can see from their plots, there is considerable overlap in the 2s and 2p which allows their hybridizations.’’
C: “No wonder you guys seem so relaxed! But I have a bunch of other questions and some puzzlers from the previous years’ math papers.’’
S & L: “Sure, let’s work them out!’’


The exams were over, and Charuchitra returned home with Somakhya and his friends Lootika and Sharvamanyu after dropping off the bike her uncle had rented for her. Somakhya and Charuchitra’s mothers accosted them and asked them about their prospects. They said they need to do a “post-match’’ analysis and they would let them know after that what their chances might be. Somakhya’s mother: “Lootika, call your mom right away and tell her you are here.’’ Lootika asked them to wait for her sister Vrishchika to come over: “My sis is way more systematic than I’m. She asked me to call her so that she can collect all the questions we remember and note them down!’’
C: “I fully commiserate, as I did the same with my seniors.’’
L: “Sharva and Vidrum got them for us from a bunch of seniors last week and we did a quick survey – definitely that helped as some of the notorious questions were the same as the previous years.’’
C: “I was impressed by your collection. That session you guys gave me has really boosted my hopes.’’
Shortly thereafter, Vrishchika sauntered in: “How did it go? Hope you’ll survived!’’.
L: “Forget about us; it will be your turn soon!’’; thus, they started giving Vrishchika whatever questions they remembered.
Vrishchika: “How many bonds are there between carbon and oxygen in Carbon Monoxide? What’s the answer here?’’
L: “Vrishchika, either pay attention in class this year or ask our sister Varoli; she’ll definitely give you the answer’’. However, Somakhya passed her a chit of paper with a drawing: “That should give you the answer.’’

They then started trying to recall the math questions. Sharvamanyu remembered the below problem:
What is the geometric figure defined by the convergence of the sum:

\displaystyle \sum_{j,k=0}^{\infty} x^j y^k

Charuchitra: “What answer did you guys get?”
Somakhya: “An area bounded by a square of side with length 2 defined by the diagonal points (\pm 1, \pm 1).’’
C: “Oh no! I put it down as a circle with radius 1; How foolish I have been.’’
S: “Charu, your mom will give you a shelling if she hears this!’’
C: “Without using a calculator, approximate \sqrt[3]{2} to 5 places after the decimal point.’’
Vr: “Ah, I think I can do that by setting up some expression for binomial expansion! But how do I break up \sqrt[3]{2}?’’
C: “You can use \tfrac{5}{4}\left(1+\tfrac{3}{125}\right)’’
Vr: “Yes! Should have thought of that!’’
Looking at the math questions they had given her, Vrishchika pointed to one: “What about this one: Show 1-1+1-1+1-1+1 \cdots=\tfrac{1}{2} — this is a ridiculous question – are they out of their senses? ’’
L: “Dear, it has an easy answer; go home and work it out. Ask our little sister Jhilleeka, she might solve this. You still need to fortify several lacunae.’’
Sharvamanyu: “How did you’ll answer this strange one? What is the first metallic acid? I wrote Permanganic acid.”
C: “I believe the correct answer is \textrm{Al(OH)}_3’’
Sh: “Hey, but that is Aluminium hydroxide, a base!’’
C: “yes but is amphoteric; Al still retains some of its homolog Boron’s tendencies. So it forms aluminates similar to borates in addition to behaving as a base. I too was puzzled by this question which had appeared in a previous year, but Somakhya had filled me in on this the other day.’’
Sh: “Hell! I will be losing that one.’’
Vrishchika suddenly felt that she was not really up to speed with the seniors. Looking at her sister, she felt like Bhīmasena before Karṇa. Her teachers and some others, like Somakhya’s mother, thought she was smarter than her sister Lootika based on her curricular performance, but now she could see what she sensed all along – it would take her much more effort to measure up to her sister. It was just that Lootika, like her friend Somakhya, did not invest much in curricular achievements. With these thoughts crowding her mind, she got up to return home with the questions she had gathered: “I think I really need to be spending some time gaming these exams. I’m not yet ready – you guys seem to be on top of it.’’
C: “Don’t worry, Vrishchika; when I was in your place, I was much worse off than you. It took me a whole two years of effort and the last-minute boost from bro Somakhya and your sis to feel relatively safe. I’m sure you will get there.’’
Vrishchika took a silent mental oath to strive with her studies to outdo her elder sister when her turn came.
Sh: “Don’t forget to pass on the math and physics questions to Abhirosha; she couldn’t make it as she is attending a preparatory course.’’
Vr: “Sure, I would.’’

They then tallied up their answers and made estimates of their total marks. Despite some slips here and there, at the end of the exercise, they felt confident that they would probably get enough to be admitted to the courses of their choice. Somakhya and Sharvamanyu then called Vidrum to check on him – he had to hurry to catch a train to his native village and was speeding away towards his destination: “I wish I could have joined you’ll for the postmortem, but I’m just glad it is all over. I could have gotten a more accurate measure of where I stand had I been with you all. In any case, I estimated my performance several times and feel I’d probably make the cut. But for now, I just need a break from all this – I hope to be sipping coconut and palm juices in my grandfather’s backyard soon. If I fail, I may as well continue as an agriculturist in my ancestral land. I just hope the mayhem from Ashmanvati does not spread to my village. See you later.’’ As the boys were talking to their friend, Lootika and Charuchitra were trying out decorative plaits on each other’s tresses.
S: “Girls, it seems you are rather gainfully employed, so we’ll leave you to that, and I will ride up with Sharva to his place, see him off and come back.’’

C: “No, there was something I have been wanting to talk to you’ll about. I just overheard you talking to your friend about Ashmanvati. I have been struggling to keep it out of my mind till the exams were over.’’
S: “You know, Charu and my aunt were passing through Ashmanvati en route here even as the violence broke out?’’
L: “Wow! Glad you made it safely.’’
C: “It was a very close brush. What I witnessed has been gnawing away at the back of my mind, but I have been pushing it away for I did not want it to come in the way of the exams.’’ Charuchitra then proceeded to tell them what she had seen.
Sh: “That sounds bad. While you were in the thick of the action, it seems you are not aware of what actually transpired in Ashmanvati.’’
C: “Apart from hearing that there was inter-caste violence, I did not have the time to follow the news over the past few days. But I can swear to you’ll that I saw a dreadful band of marūnmatta-s marching down the street!’’
Sh: “Yes, you are yet another witness to part of what really unfolded there. The news media has only been reporting a fight between a scheduled tribe and the “upper castes,” making it appear as if the V1s and V2s have been oppressing the former because their leader Mhaisasur got elected in the recent ill-fated elections. However, via social media, we know the reality – the original fight was between the former oil-presser service jāti and the scheduled tribe. Mhaisasur, from the latter, belongs to the Nīladrāpeya Dala, and was inspired by the ideology of the founder of his movement, aided and abetted by the foundation of the Mahāmleccha unmatta, Gregory Kun. Thus, he used it as an opportunity to attack the savarṇa-s, in addition to settling scores relating to the original fight. However, in the process, Mhaisasur either accidentally or wittingly attacked the men of his election ally, the IML leader, Shaikh Badi ad-Durubi bin Darboos. Ad-Durubi retaliated with a massive show of strength, and Mhaisasur’s gullet was bisected in the clash. Now the media has been blaming it on none other than you guys – the reactionary Brahminical forces as they would have it!”
C: “Wow, you seem to be politically really well informed despite the exam!’’
Sh: “You better be; as you just experienced, it could be a matter of life and death.’’
L: “Was ad-Durubi not in jail for attempting a bombing during the Ārdrā fair at the Kāśiliṅga temple?’’
S: “Indeed, but he was let off by the legal activism of the woman who became the candidate of the SJWP party with the aid of the judge Udup Sandha, who has now become the Chief Justice!’’
C: “The common man has to wait for ages to get a hearing in court. How did they pull it off for him? Something sounds fishy?’’
Sh: “Well, they have an endless credit line extended by Gregory Kun, who puts mahāmleccha presidents on the gaddi.’’

C: “Hmm… so, there is more to these recent developments than it meets the layperson’s eye. Our friend Indrasena had told me that we might be headed towards a major clash of men!’’
S: “Absolutely. As everywhere else, the parties like the SJWP have become wildly popular among the screen-addicted urban elite, seized by a disease of the mind the pañcanetraka-mleccha-s have exported to the H. By subscribing to their ways, the upper savarṇa elite, which has internalized the false guilt imputed to them by the mleccha-s, feels a certain sense of holiness. Using the said credit line from Kun, Schwarzstein, the Gulliame Glympton foundation, and the like, they have been extensively converting the deracinated H, who cannot distinguish Skanda from Vināyaka, to this secular self-loathing ideology. One can say that many a neuron in the head of the puruṣa is badly misfiring. This has also meant that Pratapa Simha’s government has had little chance to uphold the laws they enacted in face of the protests from the ND and the Paṭṭa-dala as they had no real public support from their base. This has only allowed those parties to pursue the agendas set for them by their puppeteers in Bahukṣālapura, Navyarkapura, Bhallūkapura and Gajalanḍapura. As I have told you before, the farther a group diverges from the Hindu dharma, the more its propensity to act towards destroying the Indian state. The end result of all this is paving the path for the marūnmatta, who is quite resistant to the memetic diseases spread by the mleccha! We are seeing the first steps in the enactment of that cycle whose natural conclusion will be a clash of men where H will have to pay an enormous human price either way – whether we survive or become extinct.’’
Sh: “And I tell you of the two options, I would rather choose to fight for survival, whatever it might take.’’
L: “If we don’t fight for the glorious tradition our ancestors founded on the steppe and extended all the way from there across Jambudvīpa to the eastern lands and the archipelago pointing towards the Pacific, then who will? The mleccha-s would rather see us as museum pieces, while the navyonmatta-s and marūnmatta-s would send us back to the soil!’’

C: “I wonder how we should place ourselves with respect to our predecessors in such a clash. We can look at former H attempts in what I see in its essence as the same battle. When we were nearly extinct, Vijayanagara allowed us to come back from the ashes. After a good run, they fell in their attempt, but they had laid the foundation for a new attempt in the form of the Marāṭhā-s. Maybe that attempt nearly made it – we can say they almost had a golden age, even if it might have lasted just a decade. Despite all the criticism launched at this attempt by its critics, there is little doubt a clear vision was there — the objective was to reach Gandhāra and sweep the marūnmatta-s and mleccha-s out of Jambudvīpa and demolish their disputed structures, restoring our prāsāda-s. Of course, mistakes were made, and some of those proved too costly, resulting in their ultimate fall to the Christian nation with superior cunning. But I would say that attempt of the Marāṭhā-s was not an entire failure – the country which we have today can be largely attributed to their effort. What we lost can be seen as the last triumphs of the monstrous Durr-e-Durran and the evil Mogol. But from what you say, it seems we are headed to play that cycle once more. But are we in a weaker state than our predecessors?’’

Sh: “I agree that there were touches of sheer brilliance in the Marahaṭṭa assault that seem rather out of the reach of our current stock. The great offensive against the Mogols in Feb-Jun of 1670 CE by the Mahārāja was among the greatest military efforts in recorded history, only to be rivaled by the great Khan of the Mongols or the Qara Khitai knocking down the Seljuks and Ghurids. In that great war, the Marahaṭṭa-s almost took one fort every six days from the Moslems, culminating in the bloodbath in June of 1670 when 4 strong forts were taken in the space of 9 days! The rājan followed this up by reverting the economic warfare to the Mogol territory through the sack of Surat and the rout of the army of Islam near Nashik in the autumn of that year. Would the H forces be able to pull off something like that today when the clash comes upon us?’’
C: “Sadly, such a clash will need much more than a little punch knife or a tactical rod.’’
Sh: “Of course, no one is calling on you to fight the mahāyuddha with a gravity knife. Moreover, don’t forget, Charuchitra, you’re a V1 girl and are to be playing a different role unless you are pushed against the wall. If things come to that dire pass, something is indeed better than nothing, and that punch knife might be the difference between life and death as long as you have learnt to wield it correctly in a real situation. I’m totally with you when you said that even if you fall, you should at least have the satisfaction of having taken one of your enemies with you. But given the grip of the mental disease H are under, you V1s have a lot of work to do in other domains – you need to be like the dog that awakened the legendary sleeping goat. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should not train in arms and keep your body functional in the event you have to join us V2s in the hard fighting, as it happened when Pratāpasiṃha of Citrakūṭa had to face the tyrant Ghāzi Akbar.’’

S: “Our true situation and how we got here needs a more careful assessment. Remember, it was not just the cunning of the Christian nation but, as Lootika and I would often remark, the fact that the less Christian among them were studying snails in the Western Ghats when the Marahaṭṭa did not know that they even existed until he was asked to collect them by his English overseer. It was that which culminated in a Maxwell and a Darwin around the time our people were desperately fighting them in the first war of independence. It took some time for the brawny Jute, the Saxon of flaxen mane and the belligerent Angle to get there; to rise and then fall before passing the spoils accrued by his collective race to his cousins in the New World in a confluence with the uparimarakata project. There is definitely something like “the character of a nation” that manifests even if the individuals who constitute it vanish into the sands of time. We see that character repeatedly express itself in various peoples – the fates of the Cīna, the Atiprāchya, the khaghanate of the Rūs have all played out as per their character. In the case of the H nation, one may ask why, despite their brilliance, did Vijayanagara and the Marahaṭṭa ultimately stumble? Hence, on one side, the character of our nation might imply that, as in the past, we would stumble when the crisis comes upon us. But we could also look at the positive side of it. I’d be the first to agree with you, Charu, that the large modern Indian state would not exist but for the Marahaṭṭa effort, even if the path to it was hardly direct. We share our Indo-European ancestry with many glorious peoples, almost all of whom were conquered by West Asian diseases of the mind, but we still perform the same rites as those of our ancestors on the steppe with the old, accented language. We could find some affirmation in the fact that we are still upholding the way of the gods. This is the only glimmer we have of the hope that we might eventually find a way out of the crisis as in the past. But this time around, there is a palpable sensation that we might have run out of our luck unless the crisis brings out something that we have not shown so far.’’
L: “All I’d say is that my biggest fear is the lack of an unrelenting attitude toward the enemy for that is exactly what their doctrine has for us.’’

Just then, Somakhya’s mother called Lootika: “Your mom wants to take you and your sisters for a garment offering ritual at the little shrine of Mahiṣamardinī that she has commissioned this evening. So she wants you to get home right away.’’
L: “I hope you’ll are coming too.’’
S.M: “No, dear, I had already accepted the invitation of a neighbor to take my sister-in-law to their place. In any case I’ll see your mom at the temple tomorrow for our purāṇa reading.’’
L: “But let Charu come along with me.’’
S.M: “How will she get to your place? You have come by bike, and she has given away the bike my husband had rented for her.’’
L: “She can use Somakhya’s. He said he’ll be doing some research this evening.’’
C.M: “It will be late when you are done. She doesn’t know the city well enough, and it would be risky for her to come back by herself in the dark.’’
L: “She could stay at my place and we’ll come back together tomorrow morning.’’
C.M: “No, my bhrātṛjāyā has not informed your mom about this, and that would be impolite.’’
L: “You’re being very formal but it is no big deal for my father to drop her off by ratha when we return along with Somakhya’s aśva.’’

Thus, after some haggling with the elders and assuring Somakhya that she would make sure that good care was taken of his bike, Lootika got to take Charuchitra along with her. After the garment rite at the little shrine, the four sisters persuaded their parents with some effort to get dinner from the main temple’s annakūṭa with vaṭaka-s, pāyasa-s and other delightful bhakṣaṇa-s. A little distance from the temple, they saw the statue of a warrior with a bow and a quiver by his waist. Charuchitra: “Who is this?’’ Lootika took her close to it and asked her to read the inscription below it. Saṃrāṭ Pṛthivīrāja Chāhamāna, the last Hindu emperor of Dilli; śaka 1244-1270; died at age 26 defending the dharma against Islam. Lootika: “Technically, that is not right as the Gujarati Khusroo, and the brave Hemacandra Vikramāditya sat on the throne of Dilli in brief H interregnums.’’ As Charuchitra was taking in the inscription, Lootika’s sisters decided to take some pictures of themselves sporting their new hair plaits and clips beside the statue and the brightly lit fountain next to it. Suddenly, Charuchitra felt the noise of the merry evening revelers, the patter of the fountain, the hum of the river beside the temple, and the racket of the birds roosting on the banks all die down. At that instant, she felt the spirit of the Saṃrāṭ of the long-gone past leap out from the statue, even as he is supposed to have done when he claimed his bride Saṃyogitā. She suddenly felt that her life was to soon take a different turn establishing a deeper connection to “the last Hindu emperor of Dilli’’ in more than one way. Then that mysterious affectation passed away even as it had come upon her. As she snapped out of it, she felt alarmed as Lootika, who was leaning on Charuchitra with her arm on her shoulder, remarked: “the spirit of the Saṃrāṭ lives on.’’ C: “What! Why do you say so?’’ L: “You know why and you will learn more soon.’’ Before she could press her any further, Lootika’s parents hurried them along to return home.

The next day Charuchitra went over to wake her cousin up with the intention of telling him about the strange incident by the statue. However, before she could get to it, Somakhya took her down the path of talking about the wars of the Chahamāna-s and Calukya-s with the Ghaznavids and Ghurids, and the battles of the latter with Seljuqs, Khwarazm Shahs and the Khitans. Lootika was to spend the whole day with them and joined them for breakfast. However, at the back of her mind, Charuchitra was still thinking about the apparition and other issues like her discussion with her mother on the bus. Thus, when they were done with breakfast, she returned to the topic with her cousin and his friend: “I ain’t pulling a fast one here. But I had a strange experience while standing before the statue of the Chahamāna.’’ Before she could go on, Lootika jumped in: “I believe you felt an apparition of the king manifest before your eyes accompanied by a suppression of other aural stimuli. The apparition seemed to connect somewhere within you, indicating a turn or a new path in your life’s course.’’
C: “I knew you were cognizant that I had experienced something out of the ordinary from your remarks immediately after it. But heavens! You seem to have exactly captured what I went through in the first person.’’ Charuchitra intently looked at her cousin to see if he was surprised – he seemed interested but not really surprised. C: “I must reiterate, we are not trying to set you up for some prank.’’
S: “I know Lootika likes pranks, but they are quite earthly.’’

C: “Lootika? Perchance, did you also experience the same?’’
L: “Not exactly. If you recall, I was leaning on your shoulder then. That allowed me to capture your experience.’’
C: “How is that even possible?’’
L: “Not something we can easily elaborate. Some people have that experience naturally on rare occasions. Others might be able to achieve something like that through hypnosis and yet others through mastery of certain prayoga-s. It is usually easier with physical contact or proximity. Given the environs, I probably would not have achieved that yesterday if I was not in contact with you. I was also fresh from a successful puraścaraṇa I had just performed beside the Mahiṣamardini shrine as the garment offering rite was being conducted.’’
C: “I can rationalize my own experience of the apparition as a purely internal process probably triggered by the rather grave discussion we had earlier that day and the experience I had on my journey. But is thought transference even possible – I see this as also potentially intersecting with the whole question of whether there could be reincarnation and whether thought, memory or karman transference could happen in that case?’’
L: “While there could be a connection running through all of them, we have to be careful and consider them case by case. First, both Somakhya and I can empirically attest to experience transference of two kinds: one is perception in distance of another person’s experience; viz., we do not experience it as the distant person has, but we get a sense of what that person has gone through. The second is a more direct type where we more or less see in the first person what the other person is experiencing. Because of the widespread auto- and objective ethnography supporting this across very different cultures, we tend to accept it as a genuine phenomenon. What we do not know is if this relates to the perception of phantoms of the living or the deceased, the possibility of reincarnation, and any transference which might occur during that process. Our hunch is that it is related to the former, as for the latter, we personally do not have enough empirical evidence to say anything definitive.’’

C: “But does this not go against our very understanding of the world?’’
S: “Yes, the world as we understand it today. But that does not mean we should deny and ignore what we can empirically arrive at. There are several phenomena that are just beyond the reach of a controlled study – they could have commonplace explanations that we do not know, or they could have other explanations relating to facts about the nature of existence that we do not know. Whatever the case, we do not shut ourselves off from the observations and the utility they might have in our lives.’’
C: “OK, but let us break this down. What are the limits of transference that we can currently infer from biology? Thought? memories?’’
S: “To the extent we understand these things, we can say that thought relates to the more dynamic processes within and between neurons. The “connectome,” i.e., the graph of neuronal linkages by itself, is not going to give you thought. Instead, that probably lies in the dynamics of that network, namely the neurotransmitter release at the synapses and the electrical conductance across the neurons – this is likely what constitutes the bulk of it. It is indeed very difficult to see how one could possibly transfer the signals corresponding to the neurotransmitter releases from one neural network to another. However, it is not impossible that there might be some way to sense and reproduce the patterns of electrical conductance, even if it seems out of the reach of our current understanding. Memory, while linked to the above processes, is a different thing in its essence. One class of theories seeks them in patterns of the connectome; however, we see this as only a preliminary step in the actual formation of memories. Based on the correlation between various neural phenotypes of genes encoding proteins involved in the epigenetic modification of chromatin proteins, like histones, and DNA, we believe that memory is hard coded in the form of such modifications. It is also possibly encoded via other epigenetic information purveyors like modifications of cytoplasmic proteins or RNA modifications.’’
L: “Indeed, there are some interesting experiments that suggest the potential transfer of memory in at least some organisms like snails and planaria. The latter are capable of rather remarkable feats of regeneration – if their head is cut off, they can make a new one. Interestingly, it was observed that their learning was transferred to the remaining body even after the original brain was cut off and regenerated. There are some studies that indicated that this transfer happened via RNA. In the snails, a similar transfer was observed via RNA, but the effect of the RNA appears to have been evinced via an epigenetic modification – i.e., methylation of DNA. We don’t know how airtight these experiments are, but, at least in invertebrates, memory transference seems likely and indicative of an epigenetic hard coding. Early studies claimed the same in rats, and it was attributed to a small peptide termed scotophobin, which was believed to transfer the memory of the fear of the dark. However, these experiments were not really reproducible. Thus, we can ultimately say that memory is very tangibly biochemically encoded – something we’ll understand better in the near future. Thought is more dynamic, and we are, to a degree, able to externally control it by electrical means but its experimental transference remains dubious.’’
S: “That said, I believe what we are able to empirically apprehend has a leg outside the domain of objective science in the more poorly understood realm of first-person experience.’’
C: “Well, given all I have seen in the past week and your prognosis for the future, I wonder if this experience forebodes something I need to fear – death or danger? I really don’t have a feel for where it will take me.’’
L: “Being a coparticipant, I can tell you that it is definitely going to mark a change in your path that might happen as early as the end of today. Perhaps it will even be rewarding and you might find your true calling.’’

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RV 10.78

RV 10.77 and 10.78 are similarly themed sūkta-s to the Marut-s by our ancient clansman Syūmaraśmi Bhārgava. He is mentioned twice by authors within the RV – in RV 1.112.16 by Kutsa Āṅgirasa and in RV 8.52.2 by Āyu Kāṇva. In the first instance, he is mentioned as being aided by the Aśvin-s, and in the second he is mentioned as performing a soma sacrifice where he made offerings to Indra. Of his two sūkta, we shall only consider 10.78 below. While the anukraṃani lists it as being composed of triṣṭubh-s and jagati-s, several ṛk-s do not conform to those meters (the syllable count is given in brackets). Instead, in several of them, one hemistich is triṣṭubh-like and the other is jagati-like. Some, like the first ṛk, conform to neither. It was perhaps an unusual meter that was lost in later Indo-Aryan tradition. It has been suggested that it might have been a mātra meter like those from the later register of the language.

viprāso na manmabhiḥ svādhyo
devāvyo na yajñaiḥ svapnasaḥ । (18)
rājāno na citrāḥ susaṃdṛśaḥ
kṣitīnāṃ na maryā arepasaḥ ॥ 1 (21)

Well-minded like vipra-s with mantra-thoughts,
wealthy like those seeking the gods with rituals,
beautiful in appearance like splendid kings,
spotless like the young warriors of the nations…

agnir na ye bhrājasā rukma-vakṣaso
vātāso na svayujaḥ sadya-ūtayaḥ । (24)
prajñātāro na jyeṣṭhāḥ sunītayaḥ
suśarmāṇo na somā ṛtaṃ yate ॥ 2 (23) (hypometrical jagati)

Who with golden ornaments on their chests blaze like Agni,
like winds with their own yokemates bring instant aid,
guides who like elders provide good council,
who provide good protection like soma offerings to seekers of the law…

vātāso na ye dhunayo jigatnavo
.agnīnāṃ na jihvā virokiṇaḥ । (21)
varmaṇvanto na yodhāḥ śimīvantaḥ
pitṝṇāṃ na śaṃsāḥ surātayaḥ ॥ 3 (21) (doubly hypometrical triṣṭubh)

Who like roaring winds move quickly,
like the tongues of fires shine forth brightly,
striving like armored warriors,
liberal like the ancestors at the ritual lauds…

rathānāṃ na ye .arāḥ sanābhayo
jigīvāṃso na śūrā abhidyavaḥ । (21)
vareyavo na maryā ghṛtapruṣo
.abhisvartāro arkaṃ na suṣṭubhaḥ ॥ 4 (21) (doubly hypometrical triṣṭubh)

Who, like the spokes of wheels, have the same nave (navel=source),
like conquering brave warriors facing heaven,
showering ghee like the young warriors wooing [their bride= Rodasī],
like chanters reciting the arka incantation…

aśvāso na ye jyeṣṭhāsa āśavo
didhiṣavo na rathyaḥ sudānavaḥ । (22) (triṣṭubh-like)
āpo na nimnair udabhir jigatnavo
viśvarūpā aṅgiraso na sāmabhiḥ ॥ 5 (24) (jagati-like)

Who are swift like the best horses,
good givers like the charioteers seeking a common bride [=Rodasī]
like waters constantly moving with dense moisture,
multiform like the Aṅgiras-es with their Saman-s…

grāvāṇo na sūrayaḥ sindhumātara
ādardirāso adrayo na viśvahā । (24) (jagati-like)
śiśūlā na krīḻayaḥ sumātaro
mahāgrāmo na yāmann uta tviṣā ॥ 6 (22) (triṣṭubh-like)

Liberal ones like soma-pressing stones, with the river as their mother,
repeatedly smashing everything like rocks,
playful like little children, they with a good mother,
move like a great troop imbued with impetuosity…

uṣasāṃ na ketavo adhvaraśriyaḥ
śubhaṃyavo nāñjibhir vy aśvitan । (22) (triṣṭubh-like)
sindhavo na yayiyo bhrājadṛṣṭayaḥ
parāvato na yojanāni mamire ॥ 7 (24) (jagati-like)

Imparting auspiciousness to the ritual like the rays of the dawns,
Shining forth with brilliance as if seeking auspiciousness,
rushing like rivers, with blazing spears,
as if they have measured out the yojana-s of the yonder realm…

subhāgān no devāḥ kṛṇutā suratnān
asmān stotṝn maruto vāvṛdhānāḥ । (23) (hypometrical jagati-like)
adhi stotrasya sakhyasya gāta
sanād dhi vo ratnadheyāni santi ॥ 8 (21) (hypometrical triṣṭubh-like)

O gods, make us the possessors of good shares and good gems,
us reciters of chants to you O Marut-s, who have been eulogized,
May you attend to our chant and friendship,
for indeed since ancient times the gifting of gems has been yours.

The sūkta has the structure of a riddle hymn, or a brahmodya, where the first 7 ṛk-s are a series of similes. There are a total of 28 similes using na as the comparator, one per foot, each presenting an attribute of the deities of the sūkta. This 4 x 7 pattern is perhaps an implicit acknowledgement of the 7-fold troops of the Marut-s. The sūkta finally culminates in the answer to the riddle in ṛk-8, where the name of the deities is revealed as the Marut-s. To cap it off, the pronoun naḥ (us) is used in the last ṛk. to pair with the comparator na found in the rest. Another striking feature of the sūkta is the repeated (12 times) use of words with the prefix su-, i.e., good or auspicious. Its count in each of the ṛk-s is provided below:
1 3
2 2
3 1
4 2
5 1
6 1
7 0
8 2
While the 7th does not feature such a word, it has two successive words, adhvaraśriyaḥ and śubhaṃyavaḥ, which respectively feature śrī and śubham, both of which imply auspiciousness. We suspect this is intentional, with the build-up of 6 ṛk-s with the su- prefix leading to ṛk-7, where the author reveals his purpose by stating that they confer auspiciousness to the ritual. He then concludes by returning to the su- prefix in ṛk-8 now that he has made apparent his intention in the previous one.

There are a few other notable features in this sūkta:
1. In ṛk-5 the Marut-s are compared to the Aṅgiras-es singing sāman-s. This brings to mind the riddle sūkta of father Manu, where the same metaphor is used for the Marut-s: arcanta eke mahi sāma manvata tena sūryam arocayan ।

2. There are several direct and suggestive “linkages” between the ṛk-s: 1 and 4 are linked by the word marya describing the Marut-s are young warriors. Ṛk-s 2 and 3 are linked by double similes comparing them to both Agni and the Vāta-s. The coupling of the Marut-s with Agni is an important feature of their membership in the Raudra-class, reflecting the duality of Agni and their father Rudra. This is presented in ritual in the form of the offerings accompanying the Agnimāruta-śastra (see RV 1.19). Their connection to the Vāta-s, is emphasized in the post-Vedic traditions starting with the Rāmāyaṇa – Māruti as the son of Vāyu-Vāta and the paurāṇika identification of the Marut-s with the winds. This potentially reflects a parallel early IE tradition (c.f., the Greek reflex of the sparkling or swift-moving wind-deity Aeolus/Aiolos with this 12 stormy children). On the other hand, the connection to Agni (and also Vāyu in the Southern Kaumāra tradition) is retained in the Kaumāra tradition of Skanda, the para-Marut. Further, the accouterments of the warrior (marya) also ṛk-s 2 and 3 – the first has śarman – implying a helmet and the second has varman – armor. Ṛk-4 refers to the arka and ṛk-5 to the sāman – this probably reflects the combination of the śastra and stotra recitation occurring in the soma offering to the Marut-s.

3. Ṛk-s 6 and 7 are linked by riverine similes. Ṛk-6 speaks of the matriline of the Marut-s – they are said to have good maternity, implying Pṛṣṇī. However, remarkably, they are also said to have the river as their mother. This is a rare phrase and in a non-metaphorical sense is only applied elsewhere in the RV to the other sons of Rudra, i.e., the Aśvin-s (RV 1.46.2: yā dasrā sindhu-mātarā manotarā rayīṇām ।). This strikingly parallels the birth of Skanda, often in a hexadic form, from the river in the later tradition. Notably, this motif also occurs in one of the narrations of the birth of Gaṇeśa, where he is born from the bathwater of Pārvatī cast into the Gaṅgā and drunk by the riverine elephant-headed goddess Mālinī (e.g., the Kashmirian mantravādin Jayaratha’s Haracaritacintāmaṇi). Further, like the hexad of Kumāra-s and the other Kumāraka-s born of Rudra, in this ṛk, the Marut-s are referred to as śiśūla-s (c.f., Śiśu, the red-eyed, fierce companion of Skanda in the Skandopākhyāna of the Mahābhārata). Hence, we postulate that even in the core Vedic tradition there was an association between Rudra’s progeny and the river mother. This could merely be a metaphor for Pṛṣṇī, given her atmospheric nebular connections or represent her terrestrial ectype in the form of a river. This riverine connection also extends to the aquatic goddess Saravatī, who is explicitly called the friend of the Marut-s (Marutsakhā in RV 7.96.2) and epithet otherwise only applied to one other goddess, i.e., Indrāṇī (RV 10.86.9).

4. Ṛk-s 4 and 5 are linked by the similes of the Marut-s wooing a bride – vareyavaḥ and didhiṣavaḥ. This is an allusion to their wooing of their common bride, Rodasī, who elsewhere in the RV is mentioned as riding in the chariot along with the Marut-s, gleaming like a beautiful lightning (RV 1.64.9) or the spears they bear (RV 1.167.3). This common wife of the Marut-s is reflected in the para-Marut Kaumāra tradition by the name of Skanda, Bhrātṛstrīkāma (AV pariśiṣṭha Skandayāga), i.e., an allusion to Ṣaṣṭhī as the shared wife of Skanda and Viśākha.

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The turning of the yugacakra

As the wheel turns, what goes up comes down and what is down comes up, again and again. There is a symmetry to the process in the downward and the upward movements, albeit in opposite directions. The old Hindus, right from the days of the śruti (e.g., the Asyavāmīya and the Vivāhasūkta), saw the passage of historical time as such a wheel; indeed, the Bhārata states:
kālacakraṃ jagaccakraṃ yugacakraṃ ca keśavaḥ ।
ātmayogena bhagavān parivartayate ‘niśam ॥
The lord Keśava, by the means of his own yoga, causes the wheel of time, the wheel of the world, and the wheel of the eon to turn constantly.

This triple mention of the wheel likely signifies the three cycles that enamored the old Hindus – the quotidian one, the annual one, and the great cycle of axial precession – the scale on which history occurs – the yugacakra. This wheel of time is worshiped as the supreme god Vāsudeva in early Vaiṣṇava thought and as a Bhairava-like figure, Kālacakra, in late vajrayāṇa bauddha thought. It is described thus:
āvartamānam ajaraṃ vivartanaṃ
ṣaṇ-ṇemikaṃ dvādaśāraṃ suparva ।
yasyedam āsye pariyāti viśvaṃ
tat kālacakraṃ nihitaṃ guhāyām ॥
Eternally turning forth and turning back,
with a six-sectored felly, twelve spokes, and a good linchpin
into whose mouth all existence rushes forth,
that wheel of time is stationed in the [secret] cave of existence.

In the days of yore, the upward turn was seen as the creative expansion or sarga, and the downward one as the decadent pratisarga. The followers of the nagna called the same utsarpiṇi and avasarpiṇi. However, the same “level”, i.e., distance from the lowest or highest point is attained both in the downward and the upward turn. This symmetry in the turn of history is perhaps what some closer to our times have termed the “rhyming of history”. It also relates to the Spenglerian conception of the unfolding of history. A unifying monarch or dynasty, who brings glory to his people and places them in history might be seen in the ascending turn. Likewise, in the descending turn as conditions are worsening people might fumble around for a great leader. A figure or a dynasty might arise to fill in that emptiness, but it is more like the helium flash of a dying star. Indeed, such a figure/dynasty might oversee the end of a civilization. The humble onlooker finds it difficult to tell the difference between the two figures respectively from the utsarpiṇi and avasarpiṇi turns because the timescale of history exceeds that of the mere mortal.

Many religions, both organic and pathological, and the ones in between have some form of millenarianism. This is implicitly related to the turning of the yugacakra, even in counter-religious traditions that have a rather linear view of history. In its simplest form, it may be seen as the expectation among the beholders that the cycle will imminently reach the low point and turn up again. In several versions of the millenarian narrative, it is superimposed onto a savior figure who turns the wheel past its lowest point. In early Indo-Aryan thought, it was expressed as the incarnation of the Vāsudeva to reestablish dharma when it has decayed: “ dharma-saṃsthāpanārthāya saṃbhavāmi yuge yuge ।’’. In the Iranian world, we have the Saoshyant who will come holding the weapon of Verethraghna to restore the Zoroastrian vision of the world. While at some point, both the Āryan branches might have believed that such a coming was at hand, they soon realized the “long arc of history’’ and placed these figures in the remote future. However, when the Iranian counter-religion infected the West Semitic world, the imminency of the coming of the savior figure or the upward turning of the wheel became the dominant theme in many counter-religions coming out of that substratum. Indeed, this lies at the heart of their secular mutations such as rudhironmāda and its subsequent mutations like navyonmāda.

Perhaps, it is a widespread human tendency to think that we live at the cusp of the upward turn of the giant wheel of history. Thus, in every age, there are reports of such a claim, even as some figures are hailed as or try to play the Saoshyant. The lay onlooker possibly hears this voice more prominently in some epochs than others. The current age is one where the rise in its loudness is perceptible. However, there are several distinct directions the expressions of this voice might take:
1. A diverse group of voices can be broadly classified as utopianists of the “techno-optimist’’ type. An extreme and well-known voice of this type is the American Kurzweil who believes that a technological singularity following on the lines of what John von Neumann originally envisaged is almost at hand. But there are several others who place their bets on more limited but directionally similar bets for the near future – the emergence of artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, the realization of quantum computational supremacy, and hyper-longevity/biological freedom/trans-humanism. While most of these see the current state of human biology, behavior, and economics as an impediment, or as defective or inferior in some way, their visions are (at least to us) quite unclear about how their techno-optimism would result in a superior world. Another version of this is a vision of techno-freedom wherein distributed network architectures spanning everything from property and currency to healthcare defeat the ability of traditional regimes to impose their power on the lesser mortals thus ushering in a state closer to utopia.
2. An alternative vision, related to the above, sees the future in interplanetary exploration – literally leaving the earth for potentially greener pastures. Most realistic proponents of this view still see this as more remote than the more immediate technological singularity postulated by those from the above camp. In their reckoning, once technological hyperintelligence is achieved, a superior physics might be discovered, allowing them to break free from the planetary constraints. Of course, they do not bother about the Fermi paradox or the possibility that the superior future physics tells us even more emphatically that interstellar travel is a no-go. It appears that most proponents of this view are nevertheless not extreme utopianists unlike many in the above group, rather, they see planetary escape more as a means for surviving a disaster or resource crunch on earth.
3. If the above visions are on the optimistic side, we also have those who prefer something more like a doomsday track. The most common movement of this type is centered on the possibility of anthropogenic climate change bringing an “end to the world’’. Its proponents seek to bring an end to climate change by acting as the savior figures and reversing the arrow of human industry, agriculture and animal husbandry. While the reality of climate change and its consequences are valid topics to debate, the activists pushing this cause are plainly millenarian.
4. Navyonmāda: This is the successor of the socialist millenarianism, a secular ekarākṣasonmāda, that started with the duṣṭadāḍhika and his śūlapuruṣa sidekick. We have extensively covered navyonmāda on these pages before and alluded to its classical utopian belief system. It has embedded within it a characteristic feature of millenarian ekarākṣasonmāda, in the form of trying to will “critical consciousness” into being by rejecting or inverting pratyakṣa truth, which then will result in the upward turn of the wheel leading to an utopia. In this regard, it also shares features with strands of techno-optimistic millenarianism in seeing biology as essentially bad or limiting. The jātivāda lineage within navyonmāda sees biology as fundamentally bad because it clashes with the samavāda central to its theology. However, ironically, in the process, it ends up reinforcing jātivāda through overpitching and creating “sacred” jāti-s (mostly kṛṣṇa-s and sometimes marūnmatta-s, who are not a jāti per se) that are different from those of its primary proponents (mostly yuropaka-s and mūlavātūla-s). The ṣaṇḍavāda lineage within navyonmāda, like the techno-optimists, sees biology as limiting and seeks to transcend it through interventions that bypass natural selection. This in part explains the enthusiastic alliance we see among the Mahāmleccha-s between tech and navyonmāda – the alliance that helped overthrow the Nāriñgapuruṣa and put Piṇḍaka on the āsandi. At least in the case of ṣaṇḍavādin-s, unlike their co-lineage, the samaguhyānveṣṭṛ-s, natural selection will mostly nullify their fitness in a single generation. Thus, biology would get better of them but not before they have ravaged society with their religion.

The inter-utopianist alliance between the navyonmatta-s and Big-Tech has resulted in this unmāda being deeply embedded among the Mahāmleccha-s. Further, by capturing the seat of power in the government, they have also come in control of the most powerful enforcement organizations in the world, the Mahāmlecchasenā and the spaśālaya-s. Thus, they are poised to bring misery to the world much like their predecessors, the marūnmatta-s and pretonmatta-s. Of the original unmāda-s, marūnmāda is rather resistant to penetration by navyonmāda or any of the many strands of millenarianism; some strands of the mūlarug and pretonmāda might also survive it. However, the Hindus are rather susceptible to some of these utopian movements, especially the most pernicious of them, navyonmāda. While we have been talking of this for ages, only now the general populace seems to be waking up to the fact that key centers of education in India have been captured by navyonmatta-s. Indeed, several families are reporting that their kids have succumbed to this disease from their exposure at educational institutions. Thus, as we have remarked several times on these pages, instead of the expected Satyayuga, the adoption of navyonmāda will bring immense harm to the H, who unlike the mūlasthāna of navyonmāda (the Mahāmleccha), lack the resources in terms of human capital, energy and mineral wealth, to weather the pandemic. Thus, like all utopian movements to date, we see the signs that the marriage of tech utopianism to navyonmāda will also bring misery to many.

There are two key lessons from biology that we have emphasized before on these pages. First, most innovation arises from conflict in biology. Likewise, most true innovation in human technology is downstream of conflict, and it will set off an arms race. Second, there is frequent regime change in the network hubs of a biological system over evolution. This is particularly well-illustrated where we first discovered it – the transcription factor-target gene networks. A similar dynamic plays out with technological hubs. As a result, there will necessarily be inequality – some players will amass immense resources and others will lose the resources they had. A combination of these two parallels to biology means that conflict and inequality of resource distribution will remain the way of the future. Indeed, some of the dramatic new technologies which excite the techno-optimists will create a profound gulf between the haves and the have-nots – a point that arouses the navyonmatta-s. For now, the two have cozied up into an alliance so that this aspect is ignored. In a purely tech-ascendant scenario, the programmer will try to be king. However, his ascendancy will directly clash with the reality-denying navyonmatta who insists on wrong answers for even the most basic operations like summation. Thus, their current coziness would eventually hit the point of a paradox where clashes between state power and a more democratic and/or meritocratic tech-derived power might start.

All this will play out against a backdrop that most techno-optimists apparently ignore – energy. The cognizant are well aware that we are living off a one-time bonanza of fossil fuels that have stored solar energy over a period of several millions of years. Once they are used up, there is no way to replenish them for that process would take millions of years. Thus, even as past civilizations have collapsed or downgraded from resource limitations, the current one too will go down the same path. The techno-optimists hope that the dawning of hyperintelligence with the technological singularity will solve this issue as the real end of fossil fuels is still some time into the future. Others hope that nuclear energy will keep the yugacakra turning. However, simple numerical considerations will show that even nuclear energy cannot sustain future growth on the same exponential track, which a biological species tends to follow whenever it comes upon a new resource. Importantly, the other material resources needed for tapping nuclear energy might place even more drastic limits on the density at which it becomes available. Thus, singularity or otherwise the energetic limitations necessarily imply that the downward turn of the yugacakra awaits us in the future (probably after the time of the people alive today). Some, like Hagens, have called this “the great simplification’’ – the idea that problem-solving mechanisms (tech) will falter from a paucity of cheap and readily available energy (vide Tainter) triggering a possible economic collapse. We suspect it will not be pretty by any stretch of imagination. We all know how wars were and are being fought over fossil fuels and the one who controls them holds the key to winning a long war. The current vassalage of old Europe to the American empire is a direct consequence of this. In the future, with other technologies, like nuclear energy, the same trend will continue for only a few nations have the wherewithal to harness this form of energy safely and efficiently.

Nevertheless, we shall end this note by going back to the idea that the same height is attained repeatedly on both the upward and downward turns of the wheel. Our conception of the yugacakra is a more fractal one – like a Fourier series, wheels turning within wheels. Thus, there are more local arcs of history that we can see and larger ones to which we tend to be blind. With respect to the local arc, we see some remarkable parallels in the turning of the wheel that happens on the order of a century. The most recognizable of these are: 1. the Wuhan corruption of 2019 and the Spanish flu of 1918 (yes, people were masking even then) 2. The great economic downturn we are entering and the Great Depression that started in 1929. 3. The rise of navyonmāda revolutions starting in late spring of 2020 in the USA and the European Marxian revolutions of 1917-1923. These Marxian revolutions laid the ground for major future conflicts even as navyonmāda is doing the same now. 4. The Occidental potentates baiting Russia into a major conflict in 2022 and the same with Japan in the 1930s. There are potentially more events one could align if one went back to doing a more careful analysis.

Given this alignment of events, are we on the cusp of a great war? Briefly, from a geopolitical viewpoint, it is easy to see that there is a fairly high probability of this happening: we continue to stick with our estimate of 15% for the near future while some others with no connection to our thinking or ideology have placed it as high as 20-25%. One thing is clear – the Rūs are by themselves not looking great. Their reliance on Iran for things like gas turbines and drones, the loss of most of their Jewish intellectuals, not quickly producing much tactical machinery to arm their mobilized troops, and bad demographics suggest that they might not have the substance for large-scale military operations. Even some Rūs nationalists are hoping for help from the Han (!) – a rather optimistic view in our opinion given their demographics and that the latter have made themselves even more hated than the Rus in Asia. Yet the Rūs have made some good strategic moves that have rattled the Euro-vassals of the Mahāmleccha. Thus, how far the Mahāmleccha can pursue their aim of destroying the Rus remains in balance as of now. Finally, when a nation is faced with an existential threat, then all stops will be pulled, and we still estimate that the Rūs might have a fight left in them in such a situation that can ultimately prove rather dangerous for the Mahāmleccha. A key to this is when greater disunity will emerge among the Mahāmleccha, who are currently fairly united against the Rūs. However, this will not be forever. We are already noticing irreconcilable differences emerging among the two mleccha-pakṣa-s on the ground that they might be unable to live with each other in the future. Our own model is that, like with some chaotic systems which we have discussed on these pages, the current conflict is not yet the maximal cycle. That might follow in the coming 3-7 years – then the possibility of the replay of the great wars that sandwiched the influenza epidemic of 1918 CE will be higher. Time will tell if there is any truth to this.

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A sampler of Ramanujan’s elementary results and their manifold ramifications

As we have remarked before, Ramanujan seemed as if channeling the world-conquering strides of Viṣṇu, when he single-handedly bridged the lacuna in Hindu mathematics from the days of the brāhmaṇa-s of the Cerapada to the modern era. Starting around the age of 16, he started recording his results in his now famous notebooks. Till that point, Ramanujan had access to only two primary educational sources: Plane trigonometry by Sydney Luxton Loney of Surrey and Synopsis of Pure Mathematics by George Shoobridge Carr of Middlesex which were used in the English educational system. The influence of Loney’s opening pages filled with essential formulae and Carr’s laconic presentations are writ large over the notebooks. It can be inferred that he had obtained many of the results while he was still at school, before the time he started writing them down in his notebooks. For instance, we hear that he had derived for himself the series expansions for trigonometric functions, which he only later learned to be common knowledge – the is said to have then thrown away that early discovery in embarrassment. His first three notebooks were largely completed over a period of six years during his youth in India, with only some entries recorded in the time he was in England. When in England, he mentions that he was only intending to publish his current research, rather than those in the notebooks, until the World War I came to an end. Much of the so called “Lost Notebook” appears to have been written down in the final year of his short but momentous life. Unfortunately, it is believed that several other unpublished works of Ramanujan were entirely lost. Given the time range covered in the notebooks, we do find several elementary results that gives non-mathematicians like us a glimpse into the great man’s mind. We provide below some discussion on a sampler of elementary results from his notebooks. The original entries of Ramanujan discussed in this note can be found in “Ramanujan’s Notebooks, Part I-IV” by Bruce Berndt; here we express them or their corollaries in our own way.

\pi and squaring of a circle
Ramanujan is well-known for his numerous approximations of \pi both in a paper he published on the subject and the various entries in his notebooks. One of those leads to an approximate squaring of the circle that is eminently suitable for a modern śrauta ritualist to construct an āhavanīya that is equal in area to the gārhapatya (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Approximate quadrature of the circle by Ramanujan’s formula

The said construction goes thus:
1. Divide the radius of the circle into 5 equal parts.
2. Extend the radius by 4 of these parts. This gives a segment of length \tfrac{9}{5}. Use that segment to construct a circle with diameter 1+\tfrac{9}{5}.
3. Apply the geometric mean theorem on that circle (Figure 1) to obtain a segment of length \sqrt{\tfrac{9}{5}}. Use that to construct a segment of length \tfrac{9}{5}+\sqrt{\tfrac{9}{5}}. With that segment construct a circle of diameter 1+ \tfrac{9}{5}+\sqrt{\tfrac{9}{5}} (Figure 1).
4. Apply the geometric mean theorem on that segment to obtain the side of the desired square.

One can see that this construction corresponds to Ramanujan’s approximation: \pi \approx \tfrac{9}{5}+\sqrt{\tfrac{9}{5}}. This is very close to Āryabhaṭa’s approximation: \pi \approx \tfrac{62832}{20000} = \tfrac{3927}{1250}. People have claimed that Āryabhaṭa arrived at his value by using polygons to approximate a circle. There is absolutely no evidence for this claim making one wonder if he had somehow arrived at a formula like that of Ramanujan. It remains unknown to me if Ramanujan had found some special connections relating to this value. The same value is also recommended as a correction to the very approximate Bronze Age values by Dvārakānātha Yajvan, a medieval śrauta ritualist and commentator on the Śulbasūtra of Baudhāyana. This value is somewhat less accurate than another ancient value 3\tfrac{16}{113} recorded by Vīrasena and in some Bhāskara-II manuscripts (Ramanujan also provides a construction for the quadrature using that approximation):

vyāsaṃ ṣoḍaśa-guṇitaṃ tri-rūpa-rūpair-bhaktam ।
vyāsaṃ triguṇitaṃ sūkṣmād api tad bhavet sūkṣmam ॥

The relationship between the reciprocals of odd numbers and \pi

4n-3 defines the alternate odd numbers: 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 37…
4n-1 defines the remaining odd numbers absent in the above sequence: 3, 7, 11, 15, 19, 23, 27, 31, 35, 39…
There is an interesting relationship between the reciprocals of these two sets of odd numbers and \pi:

\displaystyle \pi = 4\sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \left( \dfrac{1}{4n-3} - \dfrac{1}{4n-1}\right)

It is an interesting though not very efficient formula for \pi reaching 3.1 after 13 terms. This relationship can be obtained from the general cotangent relationship, which is valid for any number z (including the complex plane) that Ramanujan discovered for himself:

\displaystyle \pi\cot(\pi z) = \sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \left(\dfrac{1}{n-1+z} - \dfrac{1}{n-z}\right)

Remarkably, Ramanujan records this after a result related to the zeta function, which in turn implies the famous series for the digamma function \psi(x), i.e., the ratio of the derivative of the gamma function to the gamma function:

\displaystyle \psi(x+1)=\dfrac{\Gamma'(x+1)}{\Gamma(x+1)}=\sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \left(\dfrac{1}{n}-\dfrac{1}{n+x}\right) -\gamma

Here \gamma is Euler’s constant.

\sqrt{10}, cubes of triangular numbers and \pi


Figure 2. 10-\pi^2 

In old India (e.g., Brahmagupta and the Jaina Prajñāpti texts) we find \sqrt{10} as an approximation for \pi. This is interestingly close to the Egyptian approximation \left(\tfrac{16}{9}\right)^2. We can ask the converse question of how close is \pi^2 to 10 (Figure 2). Ramanujan discovered an interesting answer for this.

The triangular numbers, T_n, are the sums of successive integers up to n, i.e, T_n = \tfrac{n^2+n}{2}: 1, 3, 6, 10… Then,

\displaystyle 10-\pi^2 = \dfrac{1}{8}\sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \dfrac{1}{T_n^3}

Reciprocals of the cubes of odd numbers and \zeta(3)
The zeta function elicits an almost mystical experience in us — when you realize how it connects what were seen as disparate branches of mathematics you get a sense of the deep order in the Platonic realm. The function was first discovered by Euler in course of solving what was called the Basel problem. It was known (probably since antiquity) that the sum of the reciprocal of integers slowly diverges to \infty:

\displaystyle \sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \dfrac{1}{n} =\infty

This can be proved easily with a basic school level mathematics using the comparison test to the reciprocals of the powers of 2 bounding each interval of integer reciprocals (i.e., \tfrac{1}{3}>\tfrac{1}{4}; \tfrac{1}{5}, \tfrac{1}{6}, \tfrac{1}{7} > \tfrac{1}{1/8} so on). However, the question of the sum of the reciprocals of the squares of integers defied attempts of brilliant mathematicians, such as the Bernoulli clan (hence, the Basel problem), until it fell to Leonhard Euler in 1734 CE. Thus, the zeta function can be defined as a generalization of such sums for any number z on the complex plane:

\displaystyle \zeta(z) = \sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \dfrac{1}{n^z}

While Euler originally defined it for positive integers, it was generalized as above by Chebyshev on the real line and then by Bernhard Riemann on the complex plane. Thus, the Basel problem is essentially the value of the zeta function at 2, which Euler proved to be \zeta(2) = \tfrac{\pi^2}{6}. Euler subsequently established that the reciprocal of \zeta(2) gives the probability of two integers drawn at random from the interval between n_1 and n_2 being mutually prime (i.e., having GCD=1). This suggested the link between the zeta function and primality, and finally, three years after solving the Basel problem Euler showed the explicit link between prime numbers and the zeta function by his product formula:

\displaystyle \zeta(z) = \sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \dfrac{1}{n^z} = \prod_{p} \dfrac{1}{1-\dfrac{1}{p^z}},

where the product is over all primes.

From the subsequent work culminating in Riemann’s famous hypothesis, the relationship between the zeros of the zeta function and the prime number distribution became clear. Remarkably, Ramanujan discovered many aspects of the zeta function all by himself unaware of the developments in the west, such as those of Chebyshev and Riemann. Among other things, was his much-ridiculed result, where he provided the sum of integers (1+2+3+4…) as a finite negative number -\tfrac{1}{12} (found in his first notebook and communication with Godfrey H. Hardy) — this was essentially his auto-discovery of the value of \zeta(-1). He also discovered for himself the connection between the zeta function and prime numbers. He discovered that the zeta function displays an oscillatory behavior on the negative real line, taking the value 0 at all even negative numbers (-2, -4, -6…). He used these zeros to derive the distribution of primes, paralleling the work of Riemann. However, he overestimated the accuracy of his results for he was unaware of further zeros discovered by Riemann on the complex plane that he only learnt of from Hardy when he went to England. From his notebooks, we learn that during the Indian phase of his career, like Chebyshev, he also explored the values of the zeta function on the real line beyond 2. Thus, Ramanujan discovered a general formula, one of whose special cases is a series specifying \zeta(3) that is today sometimes called Apéry’s constant. After the days of Ramanujan, this constant has appeared in several areas of physics.

\displaystyle \zeta(3)=\dfrac{8}{7} \sum_{n=0}^{\infty} \dfrac{1}{(2k+1)^3}

Now, \zeta(3) is also the area under the below curve for positive x (Figure 3), thereby giving an alternative integral formula for the sum based on Ramanujan’s formula.

y= \dfrac{x^{2}}{2\left(e^{x}-1\right)}

Figure 3. \zeta(3)

However, Ramanujan’s formula more generally goes on to provide several other series that link the cubes of the reciprocals of numbers separated by 3 (1, 4, 7, 10…), 4 (1, 5, 9, 13…) so on which have the general form k_1 \pi^3+k_2 \zeta(3), where k_1, k_2 are constants specific to each sum:

\displaystyle \sum_{n=0}^{\infty} \dfrac{1}{(3k+1)^3} = \dfrac{1}{27}\left(\dfrac{2}{3\sqrt{3}}\pi^3+13\zeta(3)\right)

\displaystyle \sum_{n=0}^{\infty} \dfrac{1}{(4k+1)^3} = \dfrac{1}{16}\left(\dfrac{1}{4}\pi^3+7\zeta(3)\right)

We were puzzled by what might be the sum of the reciprocals of cubes of numbers separated by 5: 1, 6, 11, 16… Taking the limit as n \to \infty of the digamma derivative-based series formula we established that this can be expressed in a rather compact form with the tetragamma function, i.e., the second derivative of \psi(x) \Rightarrow \psi^{(2)}(x):

\displaystyle \sum_{n=0}^{\infty} \dfrac{1}{(5k+1)^3} = -\dfrac{1}{250} \psi^{(2)}\left(\dfrac{1}{5}\right) \approx 1.0059121444577

The Ramanujan primorial plus one fourth sequence
The prime numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 11… are denoted by p_1, p_2, p_3, p_4, p_5 \dots. By analogy to the factorial product, one can define the primorial as the product of successive primes:

\displaystyle p_n\# = \prod_{k=1}^{n} p_k

Ramanujan defines a sequence such that 2 \sqrt{p_n\# + \tfrac{1}{4}} is an odd integer. This holds for the below values of n:


It remains unknown to us if there is any further term in this sequence and if there is one, how many more exist?

Elementary results relating to powers of numbers
Ramanujan provides numerous elementary results relating to the sums of the powers of numbers that he likely derived when he was still in school. One of the simplest is the following, which, however, was apparently unknown until his discovery:
if ad=bc then for n=2, 4:
(a+b+c)^n+(b+c+d)^n+(a-d)^n = (c+d+a)^n +(d+a+b)^n+(b-c)^n

Thus, it is a parametrization that allows one to find six numbers such that the sum of the squares and the fourth powers respectively of the first 3 is equal to those of the last 3.

1 9 10 5 6 11
2 11 13 7 7 14
3 13 16 9 8 17
4 15 19 11 9 20
5 17 22 13 10 23
6 19 25 15 11 26
7 21 28 17 12 29
8 23 31 19 13 32
9 25 34 21 14 35
10 27 37 23 15 38
11 29 40 25 16 41
12 31 43 27 17 44

With this parametrization, we can obtain the above hexad where the first term is every positive integer; the second term is every odd integer starting with 9; the fourth term is every odd integer starting with 5; the fifth term is every positive integer starting with 6. The third and sixth terms are the sums of the previous two terms. The sum of the squares of the two triads constituting these hexads will be defined by: 14n^2 + 70n + 98; \; n=1, 2, 3 \dots The sum of the 4th powers is given by 98 (n^4+ 10 n^3 + 39 n^2+ 70 n +49 ).

The next problem in this genre is to find rational solutions to the indeterminate equations:
2w^2=x^4+y^4+z^4 \; ; \; 2w^4=x^4+y^4+z^4 \; ; \; 2w^6=x^4+y^4+z^4

Ramanujan gives parametrizations to solve such equations: if a+b+c=0 then,
2(ab+bc+ac)^2 = a^4 +b^4+c^4 \dots \S 1
2(ab+bc+ac)^4 = (a(b-c))^4+(b(c-a))^4+(c(a-b))^4 \dots \S 2
2(ab+bc+ac)^6 = (a^2b+b^2c+c^2a)^4+(ab^2+bc^2+ca^2)^4+(3abc)^4 \dots \S 3

The equation \S 1 is quite trivial. For the equation \S 2, using Ramanujan’s parametrization one can obtain several sets of tetrads. Below is an example where we take a to be successive integers starting from 0 and b to be 1 more than a:
a=0,1,2,3\dots; b=a+1

w x y z
1 0 1 1
7 5 3 8
19 16 5 21
37 33 7 40
61 56 9 65
91 85 11 96
127 120 13 133
169 161 15 176
217 208 17 225
271 261 19 280

For this tetrad, one sees that y is the sequence of odd numbers. w (first column) are the hex numbers, i.e., the centered hexagonal numbers given by the quadratic expression 3n^2+3n+1. The sequence defined by w also defines the maximum number of bounded areas you can obtain by drawing triangles on a plane: With 1 triangle you can obtain at most 1 bounded area; with 2 you can obtain at most 7 (hexastar); with 3 you obtain 19 and so on. x (second column) is the square star numbers (Figure 4), i.e., square numbers with triangular numbers on each side, given by the quadratic expression 3n^2+2n, while z (fourth column) are the square grid numbers given by the expression 3n^2-2n (Figure 5).

Figure 4. Square star numbers.

Figure 5. Square grid numbers.

Notably, these three columns are also linearities on the hexadic spiral (Figure 6).

Figure 6. The hexadic spiral. The 3 linearities in blue boxes correspond to 3 of the columns in the above parametrization

We can again use Ramanujan’s parametrization for \S 2 with a=1 and b as successive integers starting with 0. This yields the below sequence of tetrads:

w x y z
1 1 1 0
3 3 0 3
7 5 3 8
13 7 8 15
21 9 15 24
31 11 24 35
43 13 35 48
57 15 48 63
73 17 63 80
91 19 80 99

The sequence corresponding to w in this tetrad is specified by n^2 - n + 1. Remarkably, this sequence appears in multiple geometric contexts. One is the Euler (Venn) diagram problem. It is an analog of the problem of the maximum number of bounded areas obtained with triangles. What is the maximum number of bounded compartments you can represent using circles (Figure 7)? The answer is this sequence.

Figure 7. The Euler diagram problem.

A further geometric context relates to the sequence of triangles where one side is 1, the second side is 1, 2, 3 \dots and the angle between these two sides is \tfrac{\pi}{3}. Then the squares on the third sides of this sequence of triangles will have an area equal to the sequence w (Figure 8). In this tetrad x is the sequence of odd numbers, y takes the form n^2 - 2n and z is the same sequence as y offset by 1 in the backward direction. This sequence appears in the so-called Monty Hall problem discussed by Martin Gardner many years ago illustrating the difficulty of understanding probability even in simple problems.

Ramanujan_sequence_triangleFigure 8. The length of the third side of the 60-degree triangle problem.

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A catalog of attractors, repellors, cycles, and other oscillations of some common functional iterates

One of the reasons we became interested in functional iterates was from seeking an analogy for the effect of selective pressure on the mean values of a measurable biological trait in a population. Let us consider a biological trait under selection to have a mean value of x_n at a given point in time in a population. Under the selective pressure acting on it, in the next generation, it will become x_{n+1}. Thus, the selective pressure can be conceived as a function that brings about the transformation x_{n+1} = f(x_n). Thus, iterating this function with its prior value with give us the trajectory of the measure of the said trait in the population. While it might be difficult to establish the exact function f for a real-life biological trait under selection, we can imagine it as being any common function for a simplistic analogical model. This led us to the geometric representation of the process — the cobweb diagram.

FP_fig1_cobweb1Figure 1. Cobweb diagram for the functional iterates of f(x)=\tfrac{1+x}{2+x^2}

For example, let us take the function acting on x_n to be f(x)=\tfrac{1+x}{2+x^2} (Figure 1). We can see that the iterative application of this function on any starting x_0 (point B in Figure 1) eventually leads to convergence to a fixed point that can be determined by obtaining the intersection between f(x) and the line y=x. In this case, one can prove that it will be 0.6823278…, the only real root of the equation x^3+x-1=0. Thus, 0.6823278… can be described as the attracting fixed point or attractor of this functional iteration.


Figure 2. Cobweb diagram for the functional iterates of f(x)=\tfrac{1}{x}-x

Instead, consider the same process under the function f(x)=\tfrac{1}{x}-x (Figure 2). Here, we can show that there would be two points that emerge as a result of the intersection between f(x) and y=x: the two roots of the equation 2x^2-1=0, \pm \tfrac{1}{\sqrt{2}}. These two points draw the iterates towards themselves but the competition between them results in the outcome being chaos unless x_0 is exactly at one of them. Thus, these two fixed points can be described as repelling fixed points or repellors. Thus, exploring different simple functions, we realized that there can be three possible broad outcomes for functional iterates: (1) Convergence to an attractor; (2) Convergence to a cyclic attractor, where the endpoint is to cycle between 2 or more fixed points; (3) Chaotic oscillations driven by repellors. Hence, we conjectured that even in the evolutionary process under selection we will see these three outcomes. Convergence to an attractor is commonly observed when populations starting with different mean values of the trait are driven by selection to a similar endpoint. The cycle is less common but might be seen in situations like the coexistence of different morphs of males and females, each with a distinct mating strategy, e.g., in beetles, damselflies and lizards. Finally, the absence of convergence but chaotic wandering of the trait is less-appreciated but we believe is also manifested in nature. We shall see below that there are different forms of chaos and each of them might have rather different consequences.

One can find some of the fixed points or other consequences of functional iteration in certain mathematical volumes or online resources. However, we did not find any of those to be comprehensive enough for easy reference. Hence, we thought it would be useful to provide such a catalog covering a subset of the common functions we have explored. We provide these by stating the function and the consequence of the iteration (attractors, cycles or chaos with associated repellors), followed by comments in some cases. We omit trivial cases like \sin(x), which shows a gradual convergence to 0. The gradual convergence in cases like this is related to their limit as x\to 0; e.g., \lim_{x \to 0} \tfrac{\sin(x)}{x} =1. In the below catalog, \phi denotes the Golden Ratio and \phi' its reciprocal.

(1) Simple algebraic functions. Here the attractors or repellors can be easily determined by solving the polynomial equations defined by the difference equation specifying the map.
\sqrt{1+|x|}: \phi

1+\dfrac{1}{x}: \phi; This attractor also extends to the complex plane. For more discussion of this system see our earlier note.

2+\dfrac{1}{x}: 1+\sqrt{2}; This attractor also extends to the complex plane.

1+\dfrac{1}{2x}: \dfrac{1+\sqrt{3}}{2}

2+\dfrac{1}{2x}: 1+\sqrt{\frac{3}{2}}

\dfrac{1+x}{2+x}: \phi'

FP3_algebraic_mapFigure 3. Chaotic functional iterates of some simple algebraic functions

\dfrac{1}{x}-x: symmetric sawtooth chaos: \phi, \phi' are repellors.

x-\dfrac{1}{x}: sawtooth chaos: \phi, \phi' are repellors.

The two above systems (Figure 3, first two panels) show chaotic behavior with a peculiar pattern. In the first one, there are rapid oscillations giving an overall symmetric appearance. In the second one, there is a sharp rise to the local peak or valley followed by a slower, convex return towards 0. The profiles of these maps have a tooth-like appearance, though the first is constituted by oscillations fitting into a similar profile as the second.

2x^2-1 (Chebyshev 2): chaotic (-1,1)

4x^3 -3x (Chebyshev 3): chaotic (-1,1)

These next two functions are the Chebyshev polynomials 2 and 3, which show chaotic behavior if x_0 lies in the interval (-1,1). At -1,1 they remain stationary and beyond those they diverge. Despite the chaos, the values of the iterates show a characteristic U-shaped distribution, with the highest density close to the boundaries, -1, 1, and low densities throughout the middle of the interval (Figure 4). This type of distribution is typical of many chaotic iterates of polynomial functions, e.g., the famous logistic map.

FP4_cheb3_histFigure 4. Distribution of the functional iterates of 4x^3 -3x

(2) Circular trigonometric functions

FP5_cos_complexFigure 5. Number of iterations to convergence or divergence to \infty of iterates of \cos(x)

\cos(x): 0.73908513321516 (the solution of the equation x=\cos(x)) is the attractor for all real values. On the complex plane, other than those values in the white region (Figure 5), all values within a fractal boundary converge at different rates (indicated by coloring) to the same attractor.


Figure 6. Iterates of \tan(x) from different starting points.

\tan(x): chaotic (Figure 6). The oscillations are generally of low amplitude but are punctuated by rare “explosions” of huge amplitude (hence, shown in \mathrm{arcsinh} scale in the figure). See our earlier note on functions with comparable behavior. Such behavior is analogous to what have been termed Levy flights.

\sin(2x): 0.94774713351699

FP7_cos2x_histFigure 7. Distribution of the functional iterates of \cos(2x)

\cos(2x): chaotic. The iterates are contained in the interval (-1,1) with certain exclusion zones. The most prominent exclusion zone contains the primary repellor 0.514933264661… (solution of the equation x=\cos(2x); red point in Figure 7).In the negative part of real line, the exclusion begins at \cos(2) (purple point in Figure 7). The points of the other exclusions zones (black points) are more mysterious.

\tan(2x): chaotic

\sin(x)-\cos(x): -1.25872817749268

\sin(x)+\cos(x): 1.2587281774927

\cos(x)-\sin(x): bicycle: -0.83019851706782, 1.41279458572762; These attractors are also valid in the complex plane.

Figure 8. Functional iterates of 160801 starting points of \sec(x) in the complex plane

\sec(x): chaotic for both real and complex values. Interestingly, in the complex plane, the iterates show certain preferred regions of density that are symmetric about the real axis (Figure 8). The centers of these regions of density appear to be close to the multiple of \pi Figure 8; red points).

\cot(x): While it is chaotic on the real line, on the complex plane it converges to either \pm 1.1996786402577i depending on the initial point.

\csc(x): 1.1141571408719

FP9_cossquaredFigure 9. Regions of convergence or divergence to \infty of iterates of \cos^2(x). The light-yellow regions converge to the attractor indicated as a blue point

\cos^2(x): 0.6417143708 is the attractor for real starting points. In the complex plane all initial points withing the fractal boundary converge to the same attractor while the rest diverge (Figure 9).

FP10_cscsquaredxFigure 10. Regions of convergence of iterates of \csc^2(x) or divergence to \infty. The light yellow regions converge to the attractor indicated as a blue point

\csc^2(x): 1.17479617129 is the attractor for real starting points. In the complex plane all initial points withing the fractal boundary converge to the same attractor while the rest diverge (Figure 10).

\sec^2(x): chaotic

FP11_xbytanxFigure 11. Number of iterations of function \tfrac{x}{\tan(x)} for convergence or divergence to \infty

\dfrac{x}{\tan(x)}: The attractor on the real line is \dfrac{\pi}{4}. On the complex plane, the points within a fractal boundary (Figure 11) converge to the same point at different rates (the contours in Figure 11).

\sin(\cos(x)): 0.69481969073079

\tan(\sin(x)): 1.5570858155247

\sin(\tan(x)): -0.99990601241267

\sin(\sec(x)): 0.97678326638014

\cos(\sec(x)): 0.44604767999913 (root of the equation \cos(x)= \tfrac{1}{\arccos(x)}) it the attractor both on the real line and the complex plane.

\sin(\csc(x)): \pm 0.94403906661161 is the attractor both of the real line and the complex plane depending on the starting point defined by (root of the equation \sin(x)= \tfrac{1}{\arcsin(x)}

\tan(\cos(x)): bicycle: 0.013710961966803, 1.55708579436399; These values are remarkably close to but not identical to the solution of the equation \arccos(x)= \tan(\cos(x)), i.e., r=0.01371006057 and \arccos(r)=\tan(\cos(r))=1.55708583668. Thus, the sum of these two values is close to \tfrac{pi}{2}.

\cos(\tan(x)): bicycle: 0.013710102886935, 0.999906006233481; These values are remarkably close to but not identical to the solution of the equation \arccos(x)= \cos(\tan(x)), i.e., r=0.999906018592 and \arccos(r)=\cos(\tan(r))=0.01371006057.

\cos(\csc(x)): octocycle: 0.366798375086067, -0.938273127439933, 0.324922488718667, -0.999958528842272, 0.373119965761099, -0.921730305866654, 0.310327826505175, -0.991153343837468; this cycle appears to be associated with oscillations close to r=\arcsin(\tfrac{1}{\pi})=\mathrm{arccsc}(\pi)=0.323946106932 and \cos(\csc(r))=-1

(3) Hyperbolic trigonometric functions
\coth(x): converges to either \pm 1.19967864026 (solutions of the equation x= coth(x)) depending on the starting point.

\mathrm{sech}(x): 0.7650100

\dfrac{1}{\mathrm{arcsinh}(x)}: \pm 1.07293831517215 depending on the starting point.

(4) Exponential functions
e^{-x}: 0.5671433; remarkably this is \mathrm{W}(1), where \mathrm{W}(x) is the function discovered by the polymath Johann Heinrich Lambert, in the 1700s. This value can be computed using the below definite integral:

k= \displaystyle\int_{-\pi}^{\pi}\log\left(1+\dfrac{\sin(x)}{x}e^{\tfrac{x}{\tan(x)}}\right) dx

Then the fixed point of the exponential function, \textrm{F}(e^{-x})=\dfrac{k}{2\pi} \approx 0.5671433 \cdots latex

FP12_expdecay_complexFigure 12. Number of iterations for convergence of functional iterates of e^{-x} or divergence to \infty

In the complex plane, all points within the fractal boundary (Figure 12) converge to the same attractor at different rates or diverge to \infty (white regions).

2^{-x}: 0.64118574450499; comparable behavior as above in the complex plane. The closed form for this fixed point can be derived from the Lambert function: \textrm{W}(x):

\displaystyle \textrm{W}(x)=\dfrac{1}{2\pi}\int_{-\pi}^{\pi}\log\left(1+\frac{x\sin\left(t\right)}{t}e^{\frac{t}{\tan\left(t\right)}}\right)dt

Then the \textrm{FP}(2^{-x})= e^{-\textrm{W}(\log(2))}

e^{-\tan(x)}: 0.54522571736464

FP13_gaussianFigure 13. Number of iterations for convergence of functional iterates of e^{-x^2} or divergence to \infty

e^{-x^2}: the attractor 0.652918640419 is the solution to the equation x^2+\log(x)=0. We can again find a closed form for this fixed point using \textrm{W}(x):

\textrm{FP}(e^{-x^2})= e^{-\frac{\textrm{W}(2)}{2}}

In the complex plane, all points within the fractal boundary (Figure 13) converge to the same attractor at different rates or diverge to \infty (white regions). It is interesting to see that one of the convergence contours recapitulates the curve y=e^{-x^2} reflected about the real axis (Figure 13).

\dfrac{1}{e^x-x}: 0.7384324007018

\dfrac{1}{(e^x-x)^2}: 0.63654121332649

FP14_1bylogofxsquared_complexFigure 14. Number of iterations for convergence of functional iterates of \tfrac{1}{\log(x^2)}

\dfrac{1}{\log(x^2)}: This function is interesting in that it is chaotic on the real line with a repellor at 1.4215299358831… As the iterates approach 1 from below they are prone to negative explosions; if they do so from above, they undergo a positive explosion. The distribution of the iterates shows a preponderance of small values but when extreme values occur they are very large (explosions). Interestingly, in the complex plane, it converges to -0.32447650840966+0.31470495550992i (Figure 14). The number of iterations to convergence reveals a fractal pattern of interlocking circles.

While the fixed points can be determined by numerical solving the equations specifying them, the closed forms, if any, remain unknown for many of them. Finding if they exist would be a good exercise for the mathematically minded.

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The wink of the Gorgon and the twang of the Lyre

The discovery of the archetypal eclipsing binary Algol
The likes of Geminiano Montanari are hardly seen today. This remarkable Italian polymath aristocrat from the 1600s penetrated many realms of knowledge spanning law, medicine, astronomy, physics, biology and military technology. Having fled to Austria after a fight over a woman, he took doctoral degrees in law and medicine. As a result, he obtained a number of aristocratic patronages in return for services as a legal adviser, econometrician and military engineer. In course of these duties, he invented a megaphone to amplify sounds, worked on desilting of lagoons for the state of Venice, prepared a manual for artillery deployment, and composed a tract on fortifications. Like his junior contemporary Newton, he spent a while working as the officer of the mint. These duties also brought him in contact with astronomy and mathematics while interacting with aristocrats at Modena and as a result, he became absorbed in their study, eventually turning into a Galilean. However, he kept quiet about his thoughts on this matter in the initial period owing to the muzzle placed by the church on “things that were obvious” and the “claws of the padres.” This period also led him to go against the church doctrines by becoming an “eclectic corpuscularian”, i.e., atomist and he used the “atomistic” principles to explain physical phenomena, such as his observations on capillarity and the paradoxical strength and explosiveness of the peculiar glass structures known as Prince Rupert’s tears.

By the time Montanari was thirty, he was already an accomplished astronomer and eventually, went on to succeed the famous astronomer and mathematician Cassini of oval fame as the professor of astronomy at Bologna. He was remarkably productive in his thirties and started off by observing two comets in 1664 and 1665. It was through these observations that he presented clear empirical evidence for the first time in the west that these comets were farther from the earth than the moon and were part of the Galilean solar system (contra Aristotelian physics which saw them as atmospheric phenomena). His accurate observations of meteors led him to calculate their speed for the first time also. He also used that to estimate the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere. As a skilled optician, he also invented a telescope eyepiece with a micrometer grid to construct the first accurate map of the Moon. Montanari was also a friend of the noted biologist Marcello Malpighi and conducted pioneering work on blood transfusion in dogs, noting that in some animals it had a positive impact on their health, whereas it was not so in others. Like a lot of his work, this was largely forgotten and the proper understanding of this phenomenon lay in the distant future. In another foray into biology, he studied the role of temperature in the artificial incubation of chicken eggs.

In our opinion, one of Montanari’s most remarkable discoveries came in 1667 CE when he observed that the star \beta-Persei (Algol) had changed its brightness. In his own words:

“And if you look at the scary head of Medusa, you will see (and now without the danger of being petrified, unless the wonder makes you immobile) that the brightest star that shines there, surprised by frequent mutations, possesses the greatest luminosity only sometimes. I had already observed it for many years as of third magnitude. At the end of 1667, it declined to the fourth magnitude, in 1669 it recovered the original rays of the second magnitude, and in 1670 it passed a little over the fourth.”

We could say that this was the first clearly defined report on the variability of Algol. A couple of years earlier his fellow Italian, Pietro Cavina had noted that:

“The Head of Medusa was second [magnitude], agreeing with the ancient catalogs [evidently that of Ptolemaios] and globes and Aratus of Colonia, although Tycho, and other Moderns have placed it at the third [magnitude].”

It is not clear if this was somehow known to Montanari, but in any case, as far as we can tell, there was no evidence that Cavina recognized the variability as Montanari clearly did. He communicated his observations on stellar variability, which included a list of stars for which he had observed differences in magnitude with respect to Galileo’s observations and older catalogs, to the Royal Society in England. In this, he speculated that the different reports of the numbers of the bright Pleiades (6 or 7) might stem from their variability. While most of the differences he reported for the other stars were probably due to inaccurate magnitude determinations in the older catalogs, his observation of Algol was definitely a clear demonstration of stellar variability adding to the earlier discovery of Mira (o) Ceti by Fabricius in Germany. While Montanari got much praise for his observations on stellar variability at the Royal Society and his prolific observations of comets eventually led to a citation in The Principia of Newton, he seems to have been largely forgotten and the renewed study of the variability of Algol had to wait for more than a 100 years.

The rediscovery of Algol’s variability was due to another remarkable man, the farmer Johann Palitzsch, from Dresden (today’s Germany). Early on, he acquired a deep interest in botany, agricultural economics, astronomy and mathematics. As an autodidact, he amassed a vast collection of literature on these topics by writing down whole books by hand. As a farmer he was the first to introduce the New World crop, the potato, to his regions, and conducted regular meteorological observations, leading him to devise a lightning rod that came to be used in Dresden. Palitzsch reported his weather observations to the local mathematical and physical center at Dresden. This allowed him to access the latest literature on astronomy and inspired his own study. As a result, he beat the veteran Messier in recovering the Halley’s comet in 1758 CE (while observing Mira Ceti’s variability) and confirmed the eponymous English astronomer’s prediction regarding its orbital period. In 1761, he studied the solar transit of Venus and discovered that the planet had an atmosphere. Starting September 12th, 1783, Palitzsch carried a remarkable series of observations on Algol and showed that it varied from the 3rd to the 4th magnitude with a periodicity of 2 days 20 hours and 51-53 minutes (today’s period: 2 days 20 hrs and 48.9 minutes). These observations were communicated to the Royal Society in London by Count Hans Moritz von Brühl and were published as: “Observations on the Obscuration of the Star Algol, by Palitch, a Farmer. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 74, p. 4 (1784).” It is said that Palitzsch correctly inferred that this variability was likely due to an eclipse by a dark companion that was revolving around the star. We see this as a momentous event in modern astronomy – a rather remarkable accuracy of observation for a naked eye autodidact. We may conclude this account of Palitzsch’s great discovery by citing a translation of a copper engraving made in the Latin in his honor:

“Johann Georg Palitzsch, farmer in Prolitz near Dresden, the most diligent cultivator of his paternal farms, a preeminent astronomer, naturalist, botanist, almost in no science a stranger, a man who was his own teacher, pious, sincere, a sage in his whole life. Born on 11th of June 1723.”

However, the story of the rediscovery of Algol’s variability did not end there. As if an Über-mind was in action, coevally with Palitzsch, over in England, the young astronomer Edward Pigott decided to systematically observe stars that might vary in brightness. For this, he roped in his relative, the 18-year-old deaf John Goodricke, to whom he suggested Algol as a target. Goodricke noted that Algol was variable in brightness by observing the star from his window but had initial doubts that it might be a problem with his eyes or due to poor atmospheric conditions. However, using the conveniently located stars around Algol, Goodricke confirmed that it was indeed the star that was variable. He initially thought it might have a period of 17 days but after prolonged observations arrived at a period of 2 days, 20 hours and 45 minutes — close to what Palitzsch had independently reported. Both their observations were reported in back-to-back communications in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Goodricke, reasoned that unlike the previously favored star-spot hypothesis of Frenchman Bullialdus and his compatriot Newton for Mira Ceti, the variability of Algol was due to an eclipse by a planet:

“The opinion I suggest was, that the alteration of Algol’s brightness was maybe occasioned, by a Planet, of about half its size, revolving around him, and therefore does sometimes eclipse him partially.”

We do not exactly know what prompted Pigott to ask Goodricke to study Algol; however, it seems that after its variability was confirmed, he checked the older literature and realized that Montanari had described its variability though not its period. It is possible he was already aware of Montanari’s work in the first place and that prompted him to pay attention to the star. In any case, this story ended tragically — Goodricke was awarded the Copley medal for his momentous finding and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, but he died shortly thereafter due to pneumonia aggravated by the cold from exposure from his observation sessions. Before his death, at the age of 21, he had discovered the variability of Algol, \beta Lyrae and \delta Cephei. The former two will take the center-stage in this note, while the latter was covered in an earlier note. While Baronet Goodricke’s triumph and tragedy earned him his place in history, the farmer Palitzsch, despite recognition from his coethnics Wilhelm and John Herschel faded away into obscurity. His home and observatory were destroyed by Napoleon’s assault.

In 1787, an year after Goodricke’s death and an year before that of Palitzsch, the 19 year old Daniel Huber (in Basel) of the Bernoullian tradition generated the first light curve of Algol. Using this, he definitively demolished the star-spot theory for Algol and presented evidence that it had to vary due to an eclipsing mechanism with predictions regarding the form of the two components. However, this work of Huber, even like his work on least squares (preceding Gauss) was almost entirely forgotten. Thus, it took until 1889, when the German astronomer Hermann Vogel using the spectroscope and his discovery of spectral line shifts from the Doppler effect showed that Algol was a system of two stars that eclipsed each other. Together, with the light curve, he constructed the first physical model of this binary star system with his landmark publication “Spectroscopic observations on Algol.”

We began our observations on Algol starting in the 13th year of our life as Perseus appeared rather conveniently from our balcony and the air was still tolerably unpolluted. Its dramatic variability, like the wink of the Gorgon, has a profound impression on us. We wondered, given its repeated rediscovery, if its variability might have been known to the ancients. Indeed, some have suggested that the number of Gorgons — three — with two being immortal and one (Medusa) being mortal (slain by Perseus) might reflect the \approx 3 day period of Algol with the mortal Medusa representing the dimming of the star. The myth also has a reflection in that of the sisters of the Gorgon, the Graeae, who are described as three hags, who shared a single eye which they passed from one to another before it was seized by Perseus who desired to know the secret of the Hesperides from them. The seizure of that single eye has again been suggested to be an allusion to the three-day period and dimming of Algol in the language of myth. Some others have proposed that this knowledge might have been known to the Egyptians and that the Greeks probably inherited the myth from them. However, the Egyptian case seems even less direct and we remain entirely unconvinced.

After the Vedic age, the Hindus showed a singular character defect in the form of their negligence of the sky beyond the ecliptic (other than an occasional nod to Ursa Major). However, from the Vedic age, we have the sūkta of Skambha (world axis) from Atharvaveda (AV-vulgate 10.8), which pays some attention to the Northern sky. The ṛk 10.8.7 describes the rotation of the sky around the polar axis. In ṛk 10.8.8 we see the following:

pañcavāhī vahaty agram eṣāṃ praṣṭayo yuktā anusaṃvahanti ।
ayātam asya dadṛśe na yātaṃ paraṃ nedīyo .avaraṃ davīyaḥ ॥ AV-vul 10.8.8

This cryptic ṛk talks of the 5-horsed car, which is said to move in the front of the celestial wheel, with two flanking horses yoked to the remaining ones. The second hemistich might be interpreted as its circumpolar nature, as no path is seen untraveled. Hence, we interpret it as the constellation of Cassiopeia with its 5 main stars. In support of such an interpretation, it is juxtaposed in ṛk-9 with a clear mention of Ursa Major (also mentioned in ṛk 5 where the 7 stars of Ursa Major are juxtaposed with the 6 of the Pleiades; derived from Dirghatamas’ giant riddle sūkta in the Ṛgveda) described as an upward facing ladle:

tiryagbilaś camasa ūrdhvabudhnas tasmin yaśo nihitaṃ viśvarūpam ।
tad āsata ṛṣayaḥ sapta sākaṃ ye asya gopā mahato babhūvuḥ ॥  AV-vul 10.8.9

We believe that ṛk 11 again talks about another near polar constellation, which it curiously describes as shakes, flies and stands (3 verbs), breathing or non-breathing, and importantly which while manifesting, shuts its eye:

yad ejati patati yac ca tiṣṭhati prāṇad aprāṇan nimiṣac ca yad bhuvat ।
tad dādhāra pṛthivīṃ viśvarūpaṃ tat saṃbhūya bhavaty ekam eva ॥ AV-vul 10.8.11

Given the remaining near-polar constellations and other stellar allusions in the sūkta, this could be interpreted as the sole ancient Hindu allusion to Algol. However, we should state that we find this or the Greek allusion in the language of myth to be relatively weak evidence for the variability of Algol being known prior to the discovery of Montanari. While we have some direct ancient Greco-Roman allusions to new stars, e.g., the one supposedly seen by Hipparchus (remembered by Pliny the Elder) and one seen in the 130s during Hadrian’s reign, which was taken to be the ascent of his homoerotic companion Antinuous to the heavens, we do not have the same kind of direct testimony for Algol. Hence, while it is conceivable that there was some ancient knowledge of its variability with a roughly three-day period preserved in the language of myth, we believe that there was no direct testimony for that in any tradition.

A look at eclipsing binaries using modern data
Interestingly, two of the variables reported/discovered by Goodricke, Algol and \beta Lyrae, became the founding members of two major classes (respectively EA and EB) of eclipsing binaries in the traditional classification system. The third class EW, typified by W Ursae Majoris, was discovered much later. These traditionally defined classes were primarily based on the shape of the light curve and the period of variability. The most recognizable of these are the EA type binaries. We provide below (Figure 1) the mean light curve of Algol, the founder member of the EA class from the photometric data collected by NASA’s TESS mission as a phase diagram.

ecl.bin_AlgolFigure 1. Light curve of Algol as a phase diagram from TESS photometric data

The characteristic of EAs is the relatively sharp transitions from the eclipses. In the case of Algol, the secondary eclipse is relatively shallow. This indicates that one of the two stars in the binary system is bright while the other one is dim relative to it. Thus, when the dim star eclipses the bright star, there is the deep primary eclipse, whereas when the bright star eclipses its dim companion, there is the shallow secondary eclipse. In the case of Algol, the brighter star is of spectral type B8V of 3.7 M_\odot (solar masses) and 2.90 R_\odot (solar radii); the dimmer star is of spectral type K2IV of 0.81 M_\odot and 3.5 R_\odot. An approximate depiction of an Algol-like system is shown in Figure 2.

algolFigure 2. An Algol-like binary system

Figure 3 shows the TESS light curve of \beta Lyrae the founder member of the EB type. As this data has a bit of a break, we also present the TESS light curve for another well-known EB binary \delta Pictoris a \approx 4.72 magnitude star near Canopus.

ecl.bin_beta_Lyrecl.bin_Delta_PicFigure 3. Light curves of \beta Lyrae and \delta Pictoris as phase diagrams from TESS photometric data. The magnitudes automatically inferred from the fluxes are inaccurate in this case.

It is immediately apparent that the transitions between the eclipses are much smoother in the EB class. A closer look shows that \delta Pictoris (with a bit of sharpness) is in between the EAs and a full-fledged EB like \beta Lyrae with a smooth light curve. These curves provide a view into the geometry of this system, i.e., the distortion of the two components of the EBs by the massive tidal force they exert on each other. The sides of the stars which face each other are pulled towards the center of mass of the system by the gravitational force. However, the gravitational force declines as the inverse square law. Hence the opposite sides experience a correspondingly lower force and due to inertia move less towards the center of mass — the principle of tides. As a result, the binary stars get elongated into ellipsoids (Figure 4) and that geometry influences the luminous surface area presented by the system, resulting in smoother light curves.

beta_LyraeFigure 4. An \beta Lyrae-like binary system

Finally, we have the EW systems, the TESS photometric light curve of whose founder member W Ursae Majoris is provided below in Figure 5.

ecl.bin_W_UMaFigure 5. Light curve of W Ursae Majoris as a phase diagram from TESS photometric data.

Like the EB systems, the EW systems have smooth light curves with one eclipse almost immediately leading to the next. This indicates that the stars in this system too are likely geometrically distorted. However, they differ in having very short periods — e.g., W UMa has a period of just 0.3336 days (nearly exactly 8 hrs) and low amplitudes for the eclipses. This implies that the stars are really close together — so close that they are fused together (Figure 6).

WUrsaMajorisFigure 6. A W Ursae Majoris-like binary system

With these traditional types in place, we can take a brief look at some light curves of eclipsing binaries discovered by the high-quality photometry of the Kepler Telescope (Figure 7), whose original mission was to discover exoplanet transits (see below). We had participated in the crowd-sourced phase of the project and kept the light curves of stars we found interesting. However, the curves here are plotted from the official post-publication data release by Kirk et al.

ecl.bin.01_Kepler_EB_L.curvesFigure 7. The blue and red are the deconvolved and reconvolved fitted normalized fluxes.

The first 5 can be classified as being of Algoloid or EA type. Algol itself would be comparable to KIC 09366988 or KIC 12071006 (4 and 5 in the above plot), whereas the shape of KIC 09833618 (6 in above) is in between another EA star \lambda Tauri and the EB \delta Pictoris. In KIC 04365461, KIC 03542573 and KIC 05288543 (1, 2 and 3 in the above) the two eclipses are nearly the same or the secondary eclipse is in the least rather deep. This implies that both stars are comparable in luminosity. Stars 7..12 in Figure 7 show more EB- and EW-like smooth curves and/or short periods. Thus, the traditional classification is something of a spectrum. However, that there is some valid signal in this classification suggested by the period-amplitude diagram, where the amplitude is defined with respect to the deepest eclipse. We first drew this diagram for the 532,990 eclipsing binaries from the VSX catalog of variable stars in which the traditional classification is available for a large fraction (Figure 8). The EWs are clearly distinguished from the rest by the narrow band to the left that they occupy — mostly low in amplitude and short in period. The EAs are pretty much seen across amplitude and period range but are under-represented in the left band where the EWs dominate. They are also less frequent in the right zone with less than 1 mag amplitude but a long period (10-100 days). The EBs overlap with the central zone of the EAs but have a tighter amplitude distribution. They are also more common in the mid-amplitude-long period right zone where the EAs are somewhat under-represented. In fact, the EBs appear to form 3-4 overlapping populations.

ecl.bin_VSX_per.ampFigure 8. The period amplitude diagrams for the traditional types of eclipsing binaries in the VSX catalog.

We next plotted the same diagram for the 425,193 eclipsing binaries from the galactic bulge at the center of the Milky Way photometrically recorded by the Polish OGLE project (Figure 9). We see that the general shape of the period-amplitude plot is the same for both datasets indicating that this pattern is an intrinsic feature of eclipsing binaries that can be used for their classification. The OGLE stars were classified by Bodi and Hajdu on the basis of the shape of their light curves using locally linear embedding, an unsupervised dimensionality reducing classification method (first developed in the Kepler Project), which projects all the stars in the data as a one-dimensional curve. This allowed their classification by a single number the morphology parameter. As can be seen in Figure 7 (M is the morphology parameter for each of the depicted Kepler stars), when this parameter is less than \approx 0.62 then the stars are typically EAs. A morphology parameter greater than \approx 0.62 includes EBs and EWs, with those close to 1 being mostly EWs. The stars in the period-amplitude diagram in Figure 9 are colored according to their morphology parameter (Figure 9). One can see that it approximately recapitulates a separation between the EAs and the EWs+EBs. However, the EBs and EWs can only be separated to a degree based on the period axis.

ecl.bin_gbulge_per.ampFigure 9. The period amplitude diagram for the Milky Way galactic bulge colored by the morphology parameter (categories: 0 \le x \le 0.25 etc). The contours being 2D distribution densities

One of the major correlates of the morphology parameter is the period of the binary. When we plot a period-morphology diagram for the 2877 eclipsing binaries detected by the Kepler mission (Figure 10) we find that the period declines with the increasing morphology parameter and the majority of stars fall in a fairly narrow band. Only for morphology \ge 0.75, we start seeing the emergence of two populations belonging to distinct period bands.

ecl.bin_Kepler_per.morphFigure 10. Period-morphology plot for the Kepler eclipsing binaries (colored as above).

However, the selection of the Kepler stars was biased towards shorter periods. Hence, a similar plot for the much larger OGLE Milky Way bulge set shows a truer version of the period-morphology diagram (Figure 11). It largely recapitulates the Kepler plot for morphology \le 0.66. However, for values \ge 0.66 it shows an interesting trifurcation with 3 distinct bands corresponding to those with a period of 1 day or lesser; with a period of 10s of days; with a period in the 100 days range. Given that the morphology parameter captures the shape of the light curve, this trifurcation evidently reflects the separation between the EWs and the different populations of EBs in the traditional classification.

ecl.bin_bulge_per.morphFigure 11. Period-morphology plot for the OGLE galactic bulge eclipsing binaries (colored as above)

The histogram of the eclipsing binary systems from the OGLE data by the morphology parameter also presents some interesting features. First, the number of stars appears to non-linearly increase with morphology. This is potentially not entirely surprising, given that from the earthly viewpoint, the probability of eclipses occurring increases in very close or contact binary systems that are characterized by morphologies closer to 1. Second, remarkably, the histogram shows 6 distinct peaks, which indicate that there are apparently certain preferred types of geometry among these systems (Figure 12).

ecl.bin_bulge_morphdistFigure 12. Histogram of stars by morphology for the OGLE galactic bulge eclipsing binaries

The 6 peaks approximately occur at morphology values of 0.047, 0.43, 0.52, 0.74, 0.76, and 0.86. The first three of these would be squarely in Algoloid territory. The first and lowest peak would correspond to EAs with sharp, narrow and similarly deep minima. This would imply that one relatively rare but preferred type of geometry is of well-separated, similarly luminous small stars. The next two peaks would correspond to more conventional EAs with broader minima and a clearer distinction between the primary and secondary minimum. These would correspond to stars with clear distinct luminosities belong to different spectral classes as seen in the Algol system. The final sharp peak at around 0.86 is likely dominated by EWs with the two stars in contact. The closely spaced peaks at 0.74 and 0.76 are likely dominated by EBs with the lower peak potentially closer to \delta Pictoris like EBs and the higher one closer to \beta Lyrae itself.

These peaks in the distribution of morphologies suggest that there are some preferred evolutionary pathways among eclipsing binaries (or binaries more generally). To probe this more we looked at the spectral class/temperature data for eclipsing binaries. Unfortunately, this is not readily available for both the stars in the binary for bigger datasets. The only dataset that we found to be amenable for such an analysis was the Russian eclipsing binary catalog, which has 409 systems with spectral types for both components (Figure 13). This is a relatively measly set and skewed towards EAs: 56.6\% EAs; 13.1\% EBs; 15.7\% EWs (In the large VSX database roughly 75\% of the eclipsing binaries are EW).

ecl.bin_Rus_SpectypeFigure 13. Distribution of eclipsing binary systems by the spectral types of the two stars. The Wx category is a composite bin holding both Wolf-Rayet stars and hot white dwarfs.

In this dataset, the spectral type B-B pairs are the most common. Whereas only 10.5\% of the EAs in this set are B-B pairs, 28.2\% of the EBs are B-B pairs, suggesting that there is a greater propensity for \beta Lyrae type systems to be hot B-B pairs (Figure 4). That this is a genuine difference specific to the B spectral type is suggested by the observation that the spectral type A-A pairs are in similar proportions among both the EAs and EBs, respectively 8.3\% and 7.1\%. In contrast, the spectral type A-G/A-K pairs, which are another over-represented group are almost entirely EAs and constitute about 22\% of the EAs in the above plot. While the EWs are underrepresented in this set, we still find that 36\% of the EWs are spectral type G-G pairs and constitute a little over 58\% of such pairs in this set. Thus, it establishes that just as B-B pairs are a specialty of the \beta Lyrae, the G-G pairs are typical of W Ursae Majoris stars, whereas the Algols tend to be enriched in hot-cool pairs.

While the spectral classification of the individual stars is not available for the OGLE galactic bulge data, an intrinsic color (V-I) is available. Here, it seems that the V-I color was determined using filters equivalent to the Johnson 11-color system. Thus, one could plot period versus color to see if there might be any features of note (Figure 14).

ecl.bin_bulge_col.perFigure 14. Period versus color diagram for the galactic bulge eclipsing binaries. The stars in the ranges corresponding to the 6 peaks in the morphology distribution are colored distinctly.

One can see that the systems from the first morphology peak (i.e., those with sharp, narrow and similar eclipses) tend to have long periods and are concentrated in a V-I range that would approximately correspond to the G-K spectral types. We also see that the mid-morphology peaks (2, 3 in Figure 12), which are enriched in more typical EAs, tend to have a broader spread with much greater representation in the higher V-I range corresponding to the M spectral type. In the case of the subsequent two peaks (3, 4 in Figure 12), we see that they show an extension in the lower V-I range (\le 0.5), which indicates the inclusion of hotter stars. This seems consistent with this morphology range being enriched in EBs. The last morphology peak as a color profile similar to the first but at a lower period range. This would be consistent with it being primarily composed of EW stars, which in the Russian eclipsing binary dataset was enriched in G-G pairs.

Though Kepler used its own distinct broad bandpass filter, the effective temperature was calculated for the catalog of Kepler stars. We can use this temperature to study how the Kepler stars are distributed in a period versus temperature diagram — effectively a variant of the period-color diagram (Figure 15).

ecl.bin_Kepler_Per.TempFigure 15. Period versus effective temperature diagram for the Kepler eclipsing binaries. Stars in 3 distinct morphology bands which are over-represented in the Kepler data are colored distinctly.

Here, we notice that the low morphology parameter stars are again in the longer period range and occur in a relatively narrow temperature band (1st-3rd quartile range: 5937K-5219K) corresponding to G to early K spectral types. The stars over-represented in the middle of the morphology band, i.e., mainly conventional EAs, have a broader 1st-3rd quartile range of 6422K-5197K — from F to early K. Finally, those with a high morphology parameter have a 1st-3rd quartile range of 6590K-5426K, which is the F-G spectral range. This last group, which is enriched in the EW eclipsing binaries (periods less than a day), is notable in showing a fairly tight period-temperature relationship (Figure 15) that is most clearly visible in the temperatures corresponding to the F-K range. Evidently, this corresponds to the period-luminosity-color relationship that was uncovered for the EW stars in the 1990s by Rucinski. Thus EWs, which are rather numerous, can be used as a tool for statistical distance estimation.

Finally, we take a brief look at what the eclipsing binaries offer for our understanding of stellar evolution. For example, some obvious questions that emerge from the above observations are: 1) When we look at systems like Algol we have more massive and hotter stars which are in an earlier evolutionary state than their dimmer, cooler companions which are in a later stage of evolution. Why is this paradoxical situation observed, given that one would expect the more massive star to have evolved faster according to the usual stellar evolutionary trajectory? 2) Why do EW systems show a period-color/temperature relationship similar to pulsating variables like Cepheids?

To address the above, we need to take a closer look at the gravitational geometry of binary systems, i.e., the basics of the Euler-Lagrange gravitational potential curves (Figure 16). Let us consider a binary system with stellar masses m_1, m_2; \; m_1 \ge m_2 in the x-y plane with the origin in rectangular coordinates, (0,0), at the center of the more massive of the two stars. We then take the distance of the center of the less massive star from the more massive one a to be a unit distance. This yields its dimensionless coordinates as (1,0). Then the magnitude of the position vectors to a point on this x-y plane from the two stellar centers will be:



We define the stellar mass ratio: q=\dfrac{m_2}{m_1}

Then, the distance of the center of mass C of the two stars from the origin will be:

\dfrac{m_2}{m_1+m_2} =\dfrac{q}{1+q}

Thus, the coordinates of C would be (\dfrac{q}{1+q}, 0)

The gravitation potential \phi at a point on the x-y plane is specified thus:

\phi= -G\left (\dfrac{m_1}{s_1(x,y)} + \dfrac{m_2}{s_2(x,y)} + \dfrac{(m_1+m_2)r(x,y)^2}{2a^3} \right)

Here, G is the gravitational constant and the first two terms are the gravitational potentials from the two stars respectively. The third term is the centrifugal force, which needs to be accounted for as the two stars are revolving around their common center of mass C: here r(x,y) is the magnitude of the position vector from C and a is the distance between the centers of the two stars. Since we have already set a=1, i.e., taken it as the distance unit, and computed the coordinates of C, we write the equation of \phi after factoring out \dfrac{m_1+m_2}{2} in a dimensionless form in -G\dfrac{m_1+m_2}{2} units on the x-y plane as:


With this equation, we can plot the Lagrangian equipotential curves for k a given potential value (Figure 16):


Euler_LagrangeFigure 16. The Lagrangian equipotential curves for an Algol-like system with the five Lagrangian points.

The (x,y) for which the equipotential curve first takes on a real value, i.e., it appears as just two points, define the two Lagrangian points L_4, L_5. These can also be found using the equilateral triangle with the two stellar centers. From these two points, the equipotential curves expand as two disjoint lobes lying on either side of the X-axis. Finally, the two lobes intersect at a point on the X-axis to the left of the star with the larger mass. This point of intersection defines the point L_3 (Figure 16). The equipotential curves then become closed curves with two inflection points that advance towards each other. They finally meet on the X-axis to the right of the lower mass star. This point of intersection is the point L_2. After this, the curve becomes two loops, with an inner loop with two inflections and an outer loop that tends towards a circle (Figure 15). The inflections in the inner loop then intersect at a point on the X-axis between the two stars. This point is L_1. After this intersection, the curve becomes 3-looped, with two oval loops around the two stars and the outer loop surrounding both of them. At these points, L_1-.L_5, the gravitational forces exerted by the two stars cancel each other. Based on the potential equation one can derive an equation whose solution gives the x values for which the gravitational forces cancel each other yielding L_1, L_2, L_3 (Figure 16):


The inner loop of the equipotential curve defining L_1 has two lobes, one around each star, which are known as the Roche lobes. If the stars are far enough, such that each is within the Roche lobe then we have a detached binary. However, if they get close enough such that one of the stars occupies its Roche lobe then it becomes a semi-detached binary. In this case, gas from that star flows out via L_1 and falls on the more massive star. The residual escaped gas forms a disk around the more massive star of the system. This kind of mass transfer is seen in the case of Algol from the dimmer, distended K star, which fills its Roche lobe, to the B star. The differential evolution of the stars in such systems, contrary to what is expected from their mass, is believed to occur due to this mass transfer.

As the stars get closer together both stars might occupy their respective Roche lobes. This happens in the case of the EW systems which are believed to have evolved from detached/semi-detached eclipsing binaries with periods less than 2.24 days winding closer and closer together. Thus, these systems are known as contact systems, with the outflow from both stars forming a common envelope whose shape is defined by the infected inner loop of the equipotential curves (Figure 16). This contact will result in the formation of a single body with temperature equilibration. Thus, the radiating surface area (hence luminosity) of the EW stars will scale with their period given Kepler’s third law. As EWs are mostly in the main sequence on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram their period will also be related to their temperature/color. From the Kepler data (Figure 15) it appears possible that a loose version of such a relationship emerges first in the semi-detached systems with periods in the 2.25 days to just under a day range, which becomes tight in the contact systems represented by the EWs. Thus, remarkably, a subset of the eclipsing binaries has joined the pulsating stars as potential candles for measuring cosmological distances.

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Some poems

Below are some poems in English by our brother. He sends us his compositions in a much more transient medium making them hard to preserve or share. Hence, we decided to anthologize those we could recover and present them here as a record on the internet. Sometimes, they are accompanied by a bit of a “bhāṣya”, which we provide in the cases we were able to salvage it. We also provide some comments of our own.

The Beetle and the Milky Way
From thy curls flows the heavenly stream,
beacon to all creatures big and small;
A scarab scurries under that milky gleam,
homeward bound, rolling her ball.

Danger lurks in the inky dark shadows,
So, the straight path o’er the veldt is best,
But all cardinal points the night swallows;
Who now will guide Titibhā to her nest?

Mounting her ball, as little Titibhā dances,
Her dorsal eye catches the cosmic light —
From a million miles what are the chances
that she could glimpse so distant a sight?

Yet, before long emerge her larvae,
Under the haze of the Milky Way.

The poets “bhāṣya”: Gaṅgā emerges from Hara’s matted locks. In the first quatrain, I have imagined Akaśa-gaṅgā, the Milky Way, emerging from the cosmic body of Rudra. Now, scientists have found that some beetles called scarabs to navigate using the light of the Milky Way. In the dark, they roll their balls of dung away from the source. Second quatrain: This beetle lives in the veldt of southern Africa. After the beetle has collected its forage it must quickly travel in a straight line. If it does not, it risks going in circles and being eaten or its pile stolen by other beetles, or simply going back to the original pile where the competition from other beetles is intense. So, it is imperative that it must take the straight path. But at night, the darkness swallows all the cardinal points; there is no way for it to know where it is going. Third quatrain: Now the beetle does something very interesting. It mounts its ball of forage and does a little dance. As it does that, its eyes catch the Milky Way. Using that as a cue and the small differences in light, it holds a straight-line course. She then buries her eggs in the dung pile. This poem tries to express the awe of how even small creatures are capable of navigating using cosmic cues.
Comment: We had earlier talked about this and other vignettes concerning beetles in this note.

The goddess Ambikā
Mother, these ogres ne’er seem to learn;
Flushed with pride,
every new enterprise seems
to raise their hopes
Only to end in humiliation.

Poet’s Vision: “I see Ambika now seated upon her lion on the brow of a hillock, boisterously laughing, her lips reddened with wine, her roving eyes mocking them.”

When their chief tried to capture thee,
They hurl their best missiles at thee
And not one came within a yard of thee!
By your side glance,
what this really means,
I have truly known!

O Ambikā I see you now
seated upon your lion
on the brow of a hillock, boisterously laughing,
Your lips reddened with mead
and your reckless eyes mocking them.

Mater familias of three-eyed One,
Scimitar drawn, garlanded by heads,
swarthy as the nimbus on June’s first day,
Mother of the storm troop!

Comment: The last two quarters indicate her manifestation as Pṛṣṇi, the wife of Rudra, and the mother of the Marut-s.

The gods Saṃkarṣaṇa and the Vāsudeva manifest as the Nandakumāra-s
I saw two boys playing in the mead,
frolicking yearlings followed them everywhere,
drawn by their laughter,
with happy lowing to rapturous notes filling the bright glade.

One lad was fair as marble and wore bright blue,
marking the ground for boisterous play,
with his tiny plow;
The other boy, dark as marble, decked in yellow;

The whole world seemed
to be splashed with joy
They were themselves joy all pure —
like word and meaning tied forever.

Reading with the child
The best books were books with pictures:
lilac castles ‘n golden mornings,
pretty princesses with dainty glass shoes,
pining princes or ones in frogs;
brave seamen ‘n stormy seas,
for many a rainy evening.

Who’d need Andersen’s flying trunk
or Uderzo’s magic carpet
to travel to the farthest lands
fed by the undying well springs
of childhood’s imagination?

The best books were books with words:
Over proud citadels in verdant meads,
fluttered pennons proud ‘n royal hearts;
while dashing seamen braving wind-kissed surfs
‘n brazen buccaneers
leapt out of the pages,
ruffled by untamed gales,
beating upon windows frail.

Who’d need a flying trunk
or a magic carpet
when words could weave
Tabrizian tapestries with the silken threads
of youthful imagination?

O unputdownable novella,
your heart-pounding climax
had drowned the cock’s crow at dawn
but I can scarce recall your title now,
let alone the pretty pictures of castles
like the dreams of my youth, long faded now.

The best books were the books that whispered ‘n spoke:
Faintly at first:
like the tentative chirping of starlings
on spring’s first morn;
And then like the cuckoo’s full-throated ‘n raucous
at midsummer’s high noon.

As I closed my eyes to listen,
the years seemed to fall away!
Proud banners flew o’er the citadel again,
And to the beating of kettle drums marched my tin soldiers,
five and twenty in all,
and astride a dappled mare
tossing her rufous mane,
rode the spirit of story herself,
and even the swaggering buccaneers
with cutlasses drawn,
all came rushing into the mind’s glade
to watch their queen as she cantered.

I smiled.
Through childhood, boyhood, youth
and even in the somber twilight
my soul hadn’t changed;
Ever watching all go by and pass beyond the bend,
reliving the ages now with my own little reader,
who poked at the words
with her chubby dainty finger —
a little wand that turned them into pictures.

A quatrain to the god Kāma
O Madana!
The slender maids of the Kuntala country sweet n fair,
adorned with night flowering florets,
betwixt shy kanakāmbara blossoms trellised o’er their hair,
seem to sing thy triumph from upright turrets.

The visions of the god Viṣṇu
He has a slender waist,
And he’s blue all over;
All riches dwell in his chest —
Our world-strider ‘n soul-saver!

Who could imagine thee —
in the wee fry scooped up
in Satyavrata’s arghya;
Or, bearing mighty Mandara
or, in womanhood’s highest excellence,
ever keeping the greatest secrets
out of demonic reach;
Or, hiding within that pillar,
but the Mantrarāja’s knowers
have seen thee waiting to spring;
Or, crossing the wide ocean,
armed with mighty bow
hastening to the Aśoka grove —
“Aśoka” — coz there’s hope.

I know you were there in all those times.
How can I repay?
O Muses will ye carry these words of praise to Him.

Comment: the verses reflect the poet’s meditative visions of the god.

Blank verse benediction invoking Kumāra
Victory to the reed-born son of Gauri,
whose lance point cleft a hole in the looming darkness of Krauñca,
where birds of light and insight
now chirp and dart in joy;

Impelled by his grace,
may the spear of your intellect too
give us a window to peer
into the secrets of the cell and its denizens.

Who is the thief of life?
Night after night I lay awake,
beset by worry and fear
that your retinue should be near.
In every ache, malaise, and niggle
I heard your herald’s menacing bugle.

Small mercy – you didn’t come!
Yet, I felt my life was stolen
ere the fun had even begun.
So, I’ve come myself to your great hall
to settle the matter once and for all.

I took my courage from the little boy,
who’d waited three days at your gates
in the quest for the fount of eternal joy
unswerved by your treasure crates.
He now shines bright like the flame
you named after his own name [1].

All resplendent you seem
like the thunder cloud.
No offense do I mean,
but are you a thief?
On my way here I saw many a sight
that turned the blood cold in my veins —
Ten thousand pyres all alight
after unending pointless pains.

Heap upon heap of broken dreams,
Families left with no means,
Mangled bodies and minds,
hollowed out long before the end
Ghastly tragedies of all kinds
And wounds that none can mend.

Then I grew numb to it all
‘Tis all absurd as Sisyphus’ curse —
No matter what that downhill fall
in a meaningless universe
Tell me, what are you hoarding here sir?
I ask you squarely “are you a thief?”

Then spoke the resplendent Death,
resting his mace upon his shoulder
“I am no thief.”
It’s true I come when it’s my time.
Yet I did not commit this crime.

Long before were you robbed
by anxious thoughts all your own,
of future miseries — real only in your head
The present moment quietly slipped
like a rug beneath your feet tugged,

I was nowhere in the scene.
Yet you hardly lived these years passed
Why blame me sir?
Granted, sir, you’re not a thief.
Still, I have been robbed every night.
Who will return my precious days,
lost to worry and despair?
I do not have another life to spare.

Resplendent Death thought a bit
And then said: “I think there is One”
But He’s a thief too. [2]

“What? You’ll send me to another thief?”
Then he pointed to his chest mighty
You see this three-pronged scar of old?
I was once young and haughty
And paid dearly when hurled my stranglehold [3].

Perhaps only He can recover what you’ve lost
Hasten, sir. There’s no time.
He lives in the mountains.
Take the winding path.
up the snowy slopes.
The road goes beyond the great river’s womb.

Ignore the goblins and ghouls –
He keeps strange company.
On that path you must trudge,
You will then see his two boys playing [4].

And their mother knitting a shawl [5].
She is the great queen of all,
Yet she won him by austerity —
No greater love story for posterity.
“How will I know him?”

“You cannot mistake Him”
who wears the moon in his tiara.

1. An allusion to the journey of Naciketas the Gautama to the realm of Mṛtyu that is prominently mentioned in the literature of the Kaṭha-s. The final line in this verse alludes to the iṣṭi that is named after him.
2. Rudra is said to manifest as various criminals (e.g., taskara= thief) in the Śatarudrīya from Yajurveda-saṃhitā-s.
3. The conquest of Mṛtyu/Yama by Rudra — the liṅgasthāpanā-mantra “OM nidhanapatāntikāya namaḥ |” alludes to this.
4. Skanda and Vināyaka.
5. The motif of the goddess weaving time.

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The Kaumāra cycle in the Skandapurāṇa’s Śaṃkara-saṃhitā

Many khaṇḍa-s, māhātmya-s and saṃhitā-s attach themselves to the sprawling “Mega-Skandapurāṇa”. We use this term to distinguish it from the “Ur-Skandapurāṇa”, which was first published by Bhaṭṭārāi in the late 1980s and is now known to survive as three related recensions, one of which is represented by rather early manuscripts from Nepal. Of the texts associated with the “Mega-Skandapurāṇa”, the Śaṃkara-saṃhitā, remains relatively poorly known. It is unclear if there was a pan-Indian understanding of its constituent texts and if a complete version was ever extant in any part of the Indosphere. As far as we can tell, one of its khaṇda-s known as the Śivarahasya is preserved only in South India and is likely of South Indian origin. It was most likely composed in the Drāviḍa country; though one cannot entirely rule out the Southern Andhra country or parts of Southern Karṇāṭa as its original source. It was edited by a maternal śrauta-ritualist- and paurāṇika-clansman of ours in the 1950s-1960s. Upon completing its editing, he offered it to the shrine of Skanda housing the kuladevatā of our clan. The text as available still has some corruptions, several of which might have been introduced while typesetting. The Śivarahasya presents its relationship to the Mega-Skandapurāṇa thus:

teṣv api+idam muni-śreṣṭhāḥ skāndaṃ sukhadam uttamam ।
sarva-vedānta-sārasvaṃ pañcāśat khaṇḍamaṇḍitam ॥
ādyā sanatkumārīyā dvitīyā sūta-saṃhitā ।
brāhmī tu saṃhitā paścāt turīyā vaiṣṇavī matā ॥
pañcamī śāṃkarī-jñeyā saurī ṣaṣṭhī tu saṃhitā ।
ādyā tu pañca-pañcāśat sahasraiḥ ślokakair yutā ॥
dvitīyā saṃhitā viprāḥ ṣaṭsahasrair alaṃkṛtā ।
trisāhasrair yutā brāhmī pañcabhir vaiṣṇavī-yutā ॥
triṃśatbhiḥ śāṃkarīyuktā khaṇḍair dvādaśabhis tathā ।
ṣaṣṭhī tu saurī saṃyuktā sahasreṇaika kenasā ॥
grantha-lakṣair yutaṃ skāndaṃ pañcāśat khaṇḍa-maṇḍitam ।
tad adya sampravakṣyāmi yuṣmabhyaṃ vipra-puṃgavāḥ ॥
tat trayā saṃhitā proktā śāṃkarī veda-sammatā ।
triṃśat sahasrair granthānāṃ vistareṇa suvistṛtā ॥
ādau śiva-rahasyākhyaṃ khaṇḍam adya vadāmi vaḥ ।
tat trayodaśa-sāhasraiḥ saptakāṇḍair alaṃkṛtam ॥

The Mega-Skandapurāṇa is divided into 6 saṃhitā-s that have a total of 50 khaṇḍa-s among them. These are listed as follows with their corresponding verse counts: 1. Sanatkumāra: 55,000; 2. Sūta: 6000; 3. Brāhmī: 3000; 4. Vaiṣṇavī: 5000; 5. Śāṃkarī: 30,000; Saurī: 1000. Thus, the entire text is said to be of 100,000 verses. Within it, the Śaṃkara-saṃhitā (Śāṃkarī) is said to have 12 khaṇda-s of which the Śivarahasya of 13,000 verses is one. The Śivarahasya itself is divided into 7 kāṇḍa-s, which are: 1. Sambhava; 2. Āsura; 3. Māhendra; 4. Yuddha; 5. Deva; 6. Dakṣa; 7. Upadeśa.

The published Mega-Skandapurāṇa does not align precisely with this tradition and has 7 khaṇḍa-s: 1. Māheśvara; 2. Vaiṣṇava; 3. Brahma; 4. Kāśī; 5. Avanti; 6. Nāgara; 7. Prabhāsa. The Māheśvara-khaṇḍa in this compendium is not the same as the Śāṃkarī Samhitā under consideration in this discussion. However, they share many common themes that include the central thread gathered around the destruction of Dakṣa’s sacrifice, the marriage of Pārvatī and Rudra, the birth of Kumāra and the killing of Tāraka by him, the birth of Gaṇeśa, the Śivarātri ritual and the worship of Rudra at Aruṇācala. The tale of Skanda and the Tāraka war is repeated twice in the Māheśvara-khaṇḍa of the Mega-Skandapurāṇa.

The first 5 kāṇḍa-s and parts of 6 and 7 of the Śivarahasya in the Śāṃkarī Samhitā comprise a narration of the Kaumāra cycle partly modeled after the Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki. Much of the kāṇḍa-s 6 and 7 are primarily śaiva material relating to the observation of vrata-s and Śiva-dharma — these thematically overlap with the material in the Māheśvara-khaṇḍa of the Mega-Skandapurāṇa. The Kaumāra portions of the Śivarahasya were rendered in Tamil by the saiddhāntika guru Kāśyapaśiva in the medieval period as the Tamil Skandapurāṇa. His version has some differences from the extant Sanskrit text of the Śivarahasya — it is unclear if these differences are due to his reformulation of the narrative or because he was using a distinct recension of the text. A Telugu rendering of the text also exists but we do not have much familiarity with it. While the ancient versions of the Kaumāra cycle have the killing of the dānava/daitya Mahiṣa or Tāraka by the god Skanda as their centerpiece (Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata), this text presents an unusual version of it: after the initial section culminating in Tāraka’s killing, there are two extended sections dealing with the elder brothers of Tāraka. These culminate in the great battle in which Skanda slays these demons, Siṃhamukha and Śūrapadma, along with their vast horde of Asura-s. So far, we have not seen any record of these demons outside of South India. Long before Kāśyapaśiva’s Tamil rendering, Śūrapadma appears in the South Indian tradition as represented by the earliest surviving Tamil texts, such as the Puṟanānūṟu (Puṟanānūṟu 23, a poem probably roughly contemporaneous with the Kuṣāṇa age in the North given that it describes the early Pāṇḍya king Neṭuñceḻiyaṉ), and a subsequent Tamil poetic anthology, the Paripāṭal. This suggests that the South Indian tradition had a deep history of certain unique elements of Kaumāra mythology.

As far as archaeology goes, we know that there was an active Kaumāra tradition in the Andhra country starting from the Andhra empire down to their smaller successor states, such as the Ikṣvāku-s and Viṣṇukuṇḍin-s among others, which had Nāgārjunakoṇḍa, as one of its foci. In the Tamil country, clear-cut archaeological evidence for strong Kaumāra traditions can be seen from the Pallava period onward. We believe this temporal period stretching from the Andhra empire down to the rise of the Pallava-s overlaps with the period during which the Puṟanānūṟu and the later Paripāṭal were composed in the Tamil country. The Paripāṭal displays a distinctive combination of the worship of Viṣṇu with his Pāñcarātrika vyūha-s and Kumāra — this pattern is seen in the Northwest, i.e., Panjab/Gandhara, and in Mathura during the Śaka-Kuṣāṇa age. This was mirrored in the South Indian Maturai (approximately the same longitude as its Northern namesake Mathura), the cultic locus of the Paripāṭal. Thus, one could argue that the core Kaumāra tradition in the Tamil country was a transmission of this Mathuran tradition.

Apart from the references to Śūrapadma, the themes in the Paripāṭal, while clearly linked to the ancient Kaumāra narratives, such as those seen in the Mahābhārata, show certain unique archaisms which have not survived in the Sanskrit tradition. For example, in Paripāṭal-5 by Kaḍuvan Iḷaveyinanār we encounter an incorporation of the Paurāṇika Marut mytheme into the tale of the birth of Kumāra. Here, after a prolonged dalliance with Rudra, mirroring the Sanskrit sources, Pārvatī becomes pregnant with Kumāra. Then Indra, who had acquired a boon from Rudra, cut the developing embryo into pieces with his Vajra (the number seven is implied by the repeated mention of seven in this verse) — the Paurāṇika Marut-motif. Then the pieces were placed in the three ritual fires by the seven ṛṣi-s (allegorically identified in the text with the seven brightest stars of Ursa Major), who realized that they would form the future commander of the deva-s. The pieces were purified by Agni and placed in the wombs of six of the wives (Kṛttikā-s=Pleiades), barring Arundhatī, of the seven ṛṣi-s (c.f. archaic Mahābhārata version). Thus, this South Indian tradition preserves a memory of the connection between the Vedic Marut-s, who are the sons of Rudra, and Skanda that was largely forgotten elsewhere (except for the reference to Kumāra as leader of the seven Marut troops in the oldest version of the cycle in the Mahābhārata).

When we take the whole Kaumāra corpus, we have reason to suspect that the ancient version of the tradition was much richer and more polymorphic than what is seen in the later Sanskrit tradition. As a parallel, we could point to the Aindra mythology. The Veda alludes to many mythemes that were clearly common knowledge when the Ṛgveda was originally composed. Further, the epics point to a degree of para-Vedic polymorphism in the Aindra tradition. However, what survived of that tradition in the extant Paurāṇika corpus is relatively limited. Likewise, with the Kaumāra tradition, we see that the Mahābhārata preserves a rich mythology, which included the triumphs of the god over Mahiṣa, Tāraka, and hints at an even richer body of myth by mentioning in passing the overthrow of several other demons (e.g., Tripāda and Hradodhara) by Skanda. By the time of the composition of the extant Paurāṇika corpus, the Kaumāra myth of Mahiṣa was mostly forgotten, surviving only in the Vāmana-purāṇa. The Mahiṣa myth was instead transferred to Kumārī (Vindhyavāsinī section of Ur-Skandapurāṇa). She originally started off as the virgin goddess, a female counterpart of Kumāra, and was subsequently subsumed under the great transfunctional goddess, the Śakti of Rudra. Thereafter, Kumāra was only left with the Tāraka myth across much of the Sanskrit tradition. Hence, posit that at the zenith of the Kaumāra tradition there was a considerably larger and more polymorphic body of Kaumāra material. The vitality of this old Kaumāra tradition is seen in Mathura — based on the remains of images, we infer the existence of at least 33 Kaumāra shrines in Mathura during the Kuṣāṇa age. Thus, we propose that some of this original polymorphism in the tradition was preserved in the transmission to South India, even as the tradition in the Tamil country remained relatively isolated from the later transmissions from the North (e.g., the transmission of the Eastern Kaumāra Lodge from Vaṅga to Bellary in Karṇāṭa). Hence, we posit that the special emphasis on Śūrapadma was a remnant of this old transmission that did not make it into other Pauraṇika transmissions.

Some of those mythic elements strongly persisted in the Tamil country and found their way into the Śivarahasya narrative, which the evidence presented below indicates is a later text:
1) In the Śivarahasya, the gaṇeśvara Nandin is prominent. Our textual analysis (to be presented later) has revealed that this is a strong marker of a text influenced by the Saiddhāntika Śaiva tradition. There are several other allusions throughout the text that point to its affiliation with the Saiddhāntika rather than any other Śaiva school of the mantramārga or the atimārga. This would also explain why the saiddhāntika Kāśyapaśiva chose to render it Tamil. Whereas in North India (outside of Nepal) and Vañga, the rise of the Siddhānta resulted in considerable erosion of the Kaumāra tradition from the 700s of CE, in the Drāviḍa country, the strong Kaumāra tradition was co-opted and incorporated within a Saiddhāntika framework. For example, this is seen in the works of the great polymath Aghoraśiva-deśika, who in addition to his numerous Saiddhāntika treatises also composed a work on the sthāpanā of Kaumāra shrines. This places the Śivarahasya in a distinct stratum from the Paripāṭal era (and even perhaps the Tirumurukārruppaṭai period) when Siddhānta was dominant in the Tamil country.
2) Its narration of the birth of Kumāra omits the coitus of Rudra and Pārvatī, which indicates a “sanitization” of the sexual elements of that narrative, which, for example, are an important aspect of its presentation in the Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata, Śivapurāṇa and Kālidāsa’s Kumārasaṃbhava. This change in attitude again points to a relatively late date for Śivarahasya.
3) None of the early narrations of the Kaumāra cycle in the Iitihāsa-s or the Purāṇa-s attempt to model themselves after the Rāmāyaṇa. In fact, the Kumārākhyāna was seen as one of those old, independent mythic motifs of Hindu tradition that formed the basis of numerous retellings by different narrators, even as it was with the Rāmāyaṇa. Thus, the modeling of parts of the Śivarahasya, namely those concerning the war with Śurapadma and his clan (and possibly the arrangement in seven kāṇḍa-s), after the Rāmāyaṇa betrays a late “reconstruction” following the loss of continuity with the old Kaumāra Paurāṇika tradition.
4) The text acknowledges an already large Skandapurāṇa of the size of 100,000 verses. This implies that it comes from a period when the accretion of texts to form a mega-Skandapurāṇa was common knowledge.

While these elements point to a relatively late date for the Śivarahasya, we should point out that like all Paurāṇika corpora it does preserve several notable elements that have ancient roots going back to the Indo-European past. While the kāṇḍa-s 6 and 7 are dominated by the Śaiva material, its core is primarily a Kaumāra text intent on the aggrandizement of Skanda. Beyond the distinctive form of the Kaumāra cycle, there are multiple elements that indicate a southern locus for its immediate origin:
1) It presents a prominent role for the god Śāstṛ or Ārya as Hariharaputra. This transmogrified southern ectype of Revanta (commonly seen as Hariharaputra) was prominently worshiped at least since the time of the composition of the famous Tamil epic Śilpādhikāra.
2) It presents Vināyaka as elder to Skanda. While this is the position adopted by the text, its core Kaumāra narrative of the conquest of the demons still clearly indicates a tradition where Gaṇeśa was not yet born/in place.
3) The text describes two marriages of Skanda — one to Devasenā, seen across the Indosphere, and the other to Valli (related to the Dravidian term for tubers such as the tapioca and the sweet potato), that emerged in the Southern folk traditions and spread through the Southern zone of influence in the Indosphere.
4) The presence of the Kāverī-Agastya myth, which specifically points to the Drāviḍa country.
5) The staging ground of Kumāra in course of his campaign is called Śentīpura, which in the Tamil version of Kāśyapaśiva is identified as Tiruceñdūru, a major Kaumāra center, in the Drāviḍa country. It is already mentioned as a shrine of Skanda by the sea with a beautiful beach in Puṟanānūṟu 55.
6) The shrine of Aruṇācala in the Drāviḍa country is praised as an important Śaiva-kṣetra. Several other shrines in the Drāviḍa country as mentioned throughout the text, e.g., the Tyāgarāja and the Madhyārjuna shrines.

With this background, we shall briefly examine the contents of the Śivarahasya and a few of its notable points:
1) The Sambhava kāṇḍa
This section opens with a maṅgalācaraṇa seeking succor from Rudra, Umā, and their sons:
maṅgalaṃ diśatu me vināyako maṅgalaṃ diśatu me ṣaḍānanaḥ ।
maṅgalaṃ diśatu me maheśvarī maṅgalaṃ diśatu me maheśvaraḥ ॥

This is followed by short stotra-s with invocations of Gaṇeśa and Skanda by a set of 16 names each.
omkāra-nilayaṃ devaṃ gajavaktraṃ caturbhujam ।
picaṇḍilam ahaṃ vande sarvavighnopaśāntaye ॥
sumukhaś caikadantaś ca kapilo gajakaraṇakaḥ ।
lambodaraś ca vikaṭo vighnarājo vināyakaḥ ॥
dhūmaketur gaṇādhyakṣaḥ phālacandro gajānanaḥ ।
vakratuṇḍaḥ śūrpakarṇo herambaḥ skandapūrvajaḥ ॥

subrahmaṇyam praṇamyāhaṃ sarvajñaṃ sarvagaṃ sadā ॥
abhīpsitārtha siddhy arthaṃ pravakṣye nāma ṣoḍaśa ।
prathamo jñānaśaktyātmā dvitīyaḥ skanda eva ca ॥
agnibhūś ca tṛtīyaḥ syāt bāhuleyaś caturthakaḥ ।
gāṅgeyaḥ pañcamo vidyāt ṣaṣṭhaḥ śaravanodbhavaḥ ॥
saptamaḥ kārttikeyaḥ syāt kumāraḥ syād athāṣṭakaḥ ।
navamaḥ ṣaṇmukhaś caiva daśamaḥ kukkuṭa-dhvajaḥ ॥
ekādaśaḥ śaktidharo guho dvādaśa eva ca ।
trayodaśo brahmacārī ṣāṇmāturś caturdaśaḥ ॥
krauñcabhit pañcadaśakaḥ ṣoḍaśaḥ śikhivāhanaḥ ।
etat ṣoḍaśa nāmāni japet saṃyak sadādaram ॥

These stotra-s are popular in South India in Gaṇeśa- and Skanda-pūjā-s. However, it is notable that the names of Skanda do not mention Śūrapadma or Siṃhamukha; instead, they only utilize the pan-Indospheric Kaumāra material.

This is followed by the following topics:
-An account of the origin of the Purāṇa as narrated by the sūta, the student of Vyāsa, to the brāhmaṇa-s at Naimiśāraṇya and the nature of the Skandapurāṇa.
-An account of Kailāsa the abode of Rudra. This is followed the by usual Śaiva cycle of Pārvatī and her marriage that includes the below events.
-Kāma approaches Rudra who is in meditation.
-The incineration of Kāma by the fire from Rudra’s third eye.
-The lament of Rati.
-Rudra tests Pārvatī by appearing to her as an old man.
-Rudra reveals his true form to Pārvatī.
-Rudra sends the seven ṛṣi-s/stars of Ursa Major as his emissaries to seek the hand of Pārvatī in marriage.
-The construction of the marriage hall.
-The makeup and jewelry of Pārvatī.
-The gaṇeśvara Nandin leads the gods to the marriage of Rudra and Pārvatī.
-The names of the Rudra-s and an account of their vast hordes in the marriage procession. This is followed by an account of the retinue of Rudra. Below is a notable section of this text:
sahasrāṇāṃ sahasrāṇi ye rudrāḥ pṛthivīṣadaḥ ।
sahasra-yojane lakṣya-bhedinaḥ saśarāsanāḥ ॥
te rudrās tridaśa-śreṣṭhās trinetraṃ saṃsiṣevire ।
asmin mahati sindhau ye ye ‘ntarikṣe divi-sthitāḥ ॥
nīlagrīvās trinetrās te ‘saṃkhyātāś cāpurīśvaram ।
aghaḥ kṣamācarāś cānye sarve te nīlakandharāḥ ॥
girīśayo ‘stu kalyāṇaṃ siṣeviṣava āpire ।
vṛkṣeṣu piñjarā rudrāḥ nīlakaṇṭhā vilohitāḥ ॥
bhūtānāṃ cādhipatayo vikeśāś ca jaṭadharāḥ ।
sahasrair apy asaṃkhyātāḥ sāyudhāḥ prāpurīśvaram ॥
anneṣu ye vividhyanti janān pātreṣu bhuñjataḥ ।
ye pathāṃ pathi rakṣanti tīrthāni pracaranti ca ॥
ye rudrā dikṣu bhūyāṃsas tiṣṭhanti satataṃ ca te ।
gaurī-kalyāna-sevāyai giriśaṃ samupāśrayan ॥

Here the account of the hordes of Rudra is adapted from that of the great multitude of Rudra-s provided in the final anuvāka (11) of the Yajurvedic Śatarudrīya. Apart from these, a great retinue of goddesses and natural phenomena is said to accompany Rudra on his marriage procession. The bluish violet Viṣṇu is said to have joined them with his four forms, i.e., Pāñcarātrika vyūha-s, and was introduced by Nandin.

-Rudra enters the marriage hall and the marriage is concluded.
-Brahman and the other gods send Vāyu as their messenger to urge Rudra to produce a son with Pārvatī. However, Nandin turned him back asking him not the break the marital privacy of the deities.
-All the gods went to Kailāsa themselves and beseeched Rudra, whose half was occupied by Ambikā, to produce the promised son who would relieve them from the Asura-s.
-Rudra assumed a six-headed form blazing like a crore suns and enveloped the realms of the universe terrifying all beings. Then, from the third eye of each of his six heads, the upward seminal flow (ūrdhvaretas) exploded as six flashes of intense light that vaporized the directions (dudravaḥ sarvato diśaḥ). Terrified by this manifestation, all sought refuge in Rudra, praising him with hymns.
-He gathered back those six blazes and they came together as six pacified minute sparks. He then instructed Vāyu and Agni to take them to the arrow-reed forest on the banks of the Gaṅgā and vanished along with Ambikā. Thereafter, Vāyu and Agni, each getting tired after a while, with much effort bore the sparks to the Gaṅgā and deposited them there. The other gods eager to see what would happen also arrived there.
-The Marut-s with their joyful selves filled the quarters with a pleasant breeze (diśaḥ prasedur maruto vavuś ca sukhamātmanāṃ). Then, in the midst of a lotus in the arrow-reed forest, a six-headed, twelve-armed, two-footed divine boy took shape (note recurrence of the ancient motif of the birth of Agni in the lotus: Ṛgveda 6.16.13).
-Viṣṇu called upon the six Kṛttikā-s to nurse him. Instantaneously, becoming six separate kids he drank from their breasts.
-Even as the six flashes from Rudra were vaporizing the directions, Pārvatī too was startled and jumped away. As a consequence, the anklet fell from her feet and broke spilling the gems within it. Ambikā was reflected on those nine gems and appeared tenfold — herself and the 9 reflections. These became the Kālikā goddesses, who were fertilized by the rays emanating from Rudra and became pregnant.
-The droplets of the sweat of the startled goddess were also fertilized by Rudra. From them were born a 100,000 fierce gaṇa-s (who became the retinue of Skanda).
-Ambikā was displeased by seeing these goddesses pregnant and cursed them that they would have an unending and painful pregnancy. They went to Rudra seeking his aid and upon his counseling Ambikā released them from her curse and each gave birth to a mighty son of the complexion of their respective mothers.
-Goddesses and the corresponding sons were: Raktā (ruby) — Vīrabāhu; Taralā (pearl) — Vīrakesarin; Pauṣī (topaz) — Vīramahendra; Gomedā (garnet) — Vīramaheśvara; Vaiḍūryā (beryl) — Vīrapuraṃdara; Vajramaṇi (diamond) — Vīrarākṣasa; Marakatā (emerald) — Vīramārtāṇḍa; Pravālā (coral) — Vīrāntaka; Indranīlā (sapphire) — Vīradhīra. These nine Vīra-s became the companions of Skanda and were known as his brothers.
-Then Rudra told Ambikā that they have actually generated a mighty son and asked her to come along on his bull vehicle to see him.
-They set out with thousands upon thousands of Rudrakanyā-s, Mātṛ-s, gaṇa-s and the Marut-s.
-Then Umā hugged the six separate kids who became a single Ṣaṇmukha and fed him with her milk.

The narrative of the birth of Kumāra up to this point presents several interesting points:
1. There is a prominent role for Vāyu along with the usual Agni in the birth of Skanda. We believe that this is the survival of an ancient motif that is already seen in the Veda, where on rare occasions, apart from the usual Rudra, Vāyu is presented as the father of the Marut-s. This is not a mere slip, because in the Indo-Iranian world we see an overlap in the Rudra- and Vāyu class deities. On the Indian side that goes back to the worship of Rudra in the context of the rites of the Proto-Śaiva-s, the vrātya-s, and in the Eastern Iranian world in the character of the deity Vāyu Uparikairya, who is iconographically identical to the Hindu Rudra.
2. We see the subliminal presence of the Marut-s, even in this late reflex of the Kaumāra origin myth suggesting a long survival of this memory in the circles conversant with the Veda.
3. A variant of the “fertilizing sweat motif” attested in this myth presents the origin of the 100,000 Skanda-gaṇa-s from the sweat of Gaurī.
4. The Nava-vīra-s are a unique feature of the South India Kaumāra cycle. However, the number nine is also mentioned as the total of the Kaumāra-vīra-s even in one of the most ancient surviving variants of the Kaumāra cycle, which is seen in the Mahābhārata:
kākī ca halimā caiva rudrātha bṛhalī tathā ।
āryā palālā vai mitrā saptaitāḥ śiśumātaraḥ ॥
etāsāṃ vīrya-saṃpannaḥ śiśur nāmātidāruṇaḥ ।
skandaprasādajaḥ putro lohitākṣo bhayaṃkaraḥ ॥
eṣa vīrāṣṭakaḥ proktaḥ skandamātṛgaṇodbhavaḥ ।
chāga-vaktreṇa sahito navakaḥ parikīrtyate ॥
This account in the Mbh states that by the grace of Skanda, the 7 goddesses (Skandammātṛ-s), i.e., Kākī, etc., gave birth to the terrifying red-eyed deity Śiśu, who was called the eighth vīra. However, when Nejameṣa = Bhadraśākha with the head of a ram, generated by Agni is taken into account, Śiśu is said to be the ninth vīra. Then the question arises as to who were the remaining seven? From the preceding account in the Mbh we can infer that these were Viśākha and other Kumāraka-s who were emanated by Skanda when struck by Indra’s vajra. We believe that these vīra-s were ectypes of the Marut-s filtering down through later mythic overlays. It also appears likely that in the Śivarahasya, the most prominent of the nine vīra-s, Vīrabāhu, is essentially an ectype of Viśākha as the younger brother of Skanda. This connection to one of the oldest surviving versions of the Kaumāra cycle suggests that this aspect of the Southern tradition was a memory coming down from its ancient layer originally brought from the North.

-Thereafter Skanda displayed his childhood līlā-s, some of which bring out his roguish (dhūrta) aspects that are known from the oldest layers of the Kaumāra tradition. One notable set of such cosmic sports is expressed in beautiful Mandākrāntā verses:
jyotiś cakraṃ dhruva-kara-gataṃ vāta-raśmi-praṇaddhaṃ
chitvā bālaḥ prathita-mahimā svānugānāṃ karāgraiḥ ।
dikṣv aṣṭāsu svayam api dadhan dhārayan vyoma-gaṅgā
nakrān badhvā vyasṛjad abhisaṃbhāvya-pāthaḥ punastān ॥
The boy putting forth his greatness, having taken in his hands the self-moving ones (planets) split the reins of propellant force (wind ropes) which bind them to the polar rays around which the celestial wheel revolves. Giving to himself the eight quarters, he then took on the Celestial Gaṅgā (Milky Way); binding the crocodiles (the constellation of Scorpius) he released them again into the Sun.
paścād ūrdhvam mahar api janas tat tapaḥ satya-lokaṃ
gatvā gatvā tad adhi vasatīn viśva-sādhyāmarendrān ।
līlā-lolo nava ca kalayan vedhaso bhīmabhūtān
lokālokaṃ girim api mudā prāpa cikrīḍa bālaḥ ॥
Thereafter, he ascended upwards to the Mahar, Jana, Tapa and Satya realms [of the universe], and kept going on to the excellent dwellings of the Viśvedeva-s, Sādhya-s, the immortals and Indra. Making anew celestial fierce beings, joyfully attaining the boundaries of the universe (lokāloka mountain), the playfully sporting boy sported.

This displacement of the celestial bodies by Skanda already has a germ in the Mbh account: pracyutāḥ sahasā bhānti citrās tārāgaṇā iva ।. The celestial army of Indra attacked by Skanda is said to have been like the clusters of stars thrown off their orbit. Another notable point is a subtle astronomical allegory in the first verse. The constellation of Scorpius is called the nakra in Hindu tradition. Hence, we take the account of Skanda seizing the nakra-s and releasing them into the solar blaze as an allusion to the Kārttika month (when Skanda was born) when the Sun is opposite to the Kṛttikā-s in Scorpius.

-Alarmed by Skanda’s sports the gods fought him.
-Skanda defeated the gods and shows them his viśvarūpa (macranthropic) form.
The viśvarūpa of Skanda, while comparable to other viśvarūpa-s in the Itihāsa-purāṇa tradition, has some interesting cosmic verses:
tasmin tejasi te devā vaiśvarūpe jagat-trayam ।
koṭi-brahmāṇḍa-piṇḍānām mahā-vapuṣi romasu ॥
yūkāṇḍānīva koṭīni caikaikasmin sahasraśaḥ ।
tat-tad āvaraṇaiḥ sārdhaṃ tatratyair bhuvanair janaiḥ ॥
bhūtair bhavyair bhaviṣyadbhir brahma-viṣṇavādibhiḥ suraiḥ ।
jānu-pradeśa-mātre ‘sya dṛṣṭvā vismayam āgatāḥ ॥
In his radiance, were the gods of all forms and the triple world. In the hairs of his great body were the crores of spheres of galactic realms (brahmāṇḍa-piṇḍā-s). They were like the eggs of lice [of the hairs], in each one of the crores there were thousands of world-systems, each with its own set of orbits and local inhabitants of those worlds. Seeing the past, the present and the future, the Brahman, Viṣṇu and like of gods all coming only to the height of his knees, they reached bewilderment.

-Realizing who he was, the gods crowned Skanda as the commander of their army.
-The incident of the runaway sacrificial ram of Nārada. Skanda dispatched Vīrabāhu to capture it and bring it back. Skanda then took it as one of his vehicles. A homologous episode is found in the Ajopākhyāna of the Śivapurāṇa; there, instead of a ram, it is a goat. It may be noted that the Tamil allusion to this myth in the poem by the Saṅgam poet Maturai Nakkīranār (Tirumurukārruppaṭai 200-210) also records a caprine animal that might be interpreted as either a goat or a ram.

-Skanda chastised and imprisoned Brahman for his lack of gnosis of the praṇava.
-He then stationed himself at Kumāraparvata. At Rudra’s behest, Nandin tried to get him released, but Skanda warned Nandin that he might have him join Brahman and asked him to leave right away. Then Rudra and Umā finally made their son release Brahman and he taught Brahman the secrets of the praṇava, associating it with the Yajurvedic/Sāmavedic incantation  subrahmaṇyom । (the mantra used in the Soma ritual to invite Indra for the libation).
-Kumāra initiated the campaign against the Asura-s by marching against the fortress of Tāraka.
-Skanda sent Vīrabāhu to launch an attack on Tāraka and Krauñca (an asura who had assumed a mountainous form due to a curse of Agastya).
-Being informed by his spies of the assault, Tāraka sallied forth to meet the gaṇa-s led by the nine vīra-s. Fierce encounters took place between Vīrakesarin, Vīrabāhu and Tāraka. Vīrabāhu repelled Tāraka’s māyā with the Vīrabhadrāstra. Tāraka drew Vīrabāhu into a feigned retreat and traps him in the mountainous cavern of Krauñca, putting him to sleep. He then routed the gaṇa-s showering missiles on them. Tāraka is described as having an elephantine head.
-Skanda entered the field to rally his gaṇa-s with Vāyu as his charioteer. Skanda routed the Asura-s. Taraka said that while he is a foe of Indra and Viṣṇu, he had no enmity with Rudra. But Skanda pointed to his sins and crimes against the deva-s and attacked him. After a fierce fight, Skanda cut off his trunk and tusks and pierced his head. He fell unconscious but on getting up he hurled the Pāśupata missile at Skanda. Skanda caught it with his hand and took it for himself. Tāraka then asked Krauñca to aid him with his māyā. After repulsing their magic, Skanda finally killed both Tāraka and Krauñca with his śakti.
-Skanda took his station at Devagiri and gifted the Pāśupata missile he had caught to Vīrabāhu.
-Rājanīti section where the court suggested to Śūrapadma, who was enraged by the death of Tāraka, that they should avoid a confrontation with Rudra’s party.
-Skanda goes on a mostly Śaiva (apart from Kañci and Veṅkaṭācala, where Skanda is said to have run away when Umā did not give him the mango) pilgrimage.
-Skanda releases the Pārāśara-s from a curse they had gotten from their father due to their cruelty towards fishes in their youth.
-Skanda goes to Śentīpura.

The Sambhava-kāṇḍa ends here. We believe that the core of this kāṇḍa derives from an older Kaumāra tradition that was of pan-Indospheric distribution. The structure of the narrative is such that Śūrapadma and Siṃhamukha, who are unique to the Southern tradition, only have a minor role in it. The break in the narrative between the killing of Tāraka and Krauñca on one side of the remaining Asura-s on the other side supports that part as being an accretion to this archaic core.

2) The Asura-kāṇda. From here on the narrative starts paralleling the Rāmāyaṇa in several ways.
-Asurendra, the lord of the Asura-s and his wife Maṅgalakeśī birthed a daughter named Surasā. She became a student of Uśanas Kāvya and acquired the moniker Māyā due to her proficiency in Māyā. When she reached adulthood, Kāvya lamented the condition of the Asura-s due to their crushing defeats at the hands of Indra and Viṣṇu. He asked her to have sons of great might through Kaśyapa and have them learn the praxis of ritual from him.
-Seduced by the beauty of Surasā, Kaśyapa abandoned his austerities and cohabitated with her. From their coitus when they assumed celestial forms Śūrapadma was born. When they engaged in coitus as lions, Siṃhamukha with a leonine head was born. From their coitus as elephants Tāraka was born with an elephantine head. When they mated in the form of goats they birthed the demoness Ajāmukhī. Taking many other animal forms they birthed several other fierce Asura-s. From their sweat, during each intercourse, numerous other demons arose.
-Kaśyapa then taught his sons the Śaiva lore.
-Then abandoning Kaśyapa, Surasā took her sons away and instructed them to perform a great sacrifice to Rudra to gain boons from him.
-Having pleased Rudra with his mighty ritual, where Śūrapadma offered himself as the oblation, he obtained the boons of the overlordship of a 1008 galactic realms (aṣṭottara-sahasrāṇām aṇḍānāṃ sarvabhaumatām ।), overlordship over the gods with enormous equipment and wealth, an adamantine body, invulnerability and the Pāśupata missile. Rudra granted him and his brothers such boons with the condition that no force except that originating from Rudra himself could destroy them.
-Armed with these boons and blessed by Kāvya, the Asura-s attacked Kubera and conquered his realm, taking him prisoner.
-They then conquered the realms of the gods and subjugated them.
-Viṣṇu fought Tāraka for long but realizing his invulnerability from Rudra’s boons retreated after congratulating him.
-Śūrapadma then had Tvaṣṭṛ build great forts for himself and his brothers.

At this point the narrative takes detour into Agastya cycle.
-Ajāmukhī forced Durvāsas to engage in congress with her. As a result, she birthed two sons Ilvala and Vātāpi. They went to Durvāsas and asked him to transfer his tapas power to them. He refused but offered them an alternative boon. They remained adamant and got into an altercation with him. He escaped from the place with his magic after cursing them that someday Agastya will slay them.
-They obtained their peculiar boon of resurrection from Brahman.
-They slew many brāhmaṇa-s through their well-known goat trick.
-They were finally slain by Agastya, who digested Vātāpi and hurled the Pāśupata that he had obtained from Rudra at Ilvala slaying him.
-Śūrapadma tried to abduct Indrāṇī. The Asura-s caused a drought; as a consequence they dried up Indra’s gardens.
-With the aid of Vināyaka, Indra caused the Kāverī river to flow out of Agastya’s pot and water the gardens.
-After the churning of the ocean, Rudra wanted to engage in coitus with Mohinī, the alluring female form of Viṣṇu. Viṣṇu indicated that it was impossible. Rudra pointed out that Viṣṇu was actually one of his śakti-s and thus a valid female. They copulated beneath a Sāla tree in Northern Jambudvīpa. The sweat from their passionate intercourse gave rise to the Gaṇḍakī river. In it, the mollusks known as vajradanta-s gave rise to the Sālagrāman-s used in the worship of Viṣṇu.
-From their conjugation, the god Śāstṛ was born.
-Rudra placed Śāstṛ in charge of protecting Indrāṇī from abduction.
-Śāstṛ in turn brought in Mahākāla as the bodyguard for Indrāṇī.
-Ajāmukhī and her friend Durmukhī tried to abduct Indrāṇī for Śūrapadma. However, Mahākāla swung into action and chopped off their hands.
-Ajāmukhī complained to Śūrapadma of her dismemberment.
-Śūrapadma forced Brahman to heal her and Durmukhī.
-Śūrapadma’s son Bhānukopa seeking revenge attacked the realm of Indra.
-He fought a fierce battle with Jayanta, the son of Indra, and eventually took him prisoner.
-Unable to find Indra or Indrāṇī, Bhānukopa destroyed the realm of Indra.

3) The Vīramāhendra-kāṇḍa.
-Before attacking the fortress of Vīramāhendra, Skanda sent Vīrabāhu as a messenger to Śūrapadma to ask him to peacefully surrender, release the deva-s he had incarcerated and return their realms that he had occupied.
-Vīrabāhu went to the Gandhamādana mountain and prepared to fly to Vīramāhendra. He mounted the massif assuming a gigantic and fierce form and laughed terrifyingly (aṭṭahāsa). He felt like extending his arms so that he could crush the Asura-s fortifications and cities with his hands like an oil-press crushing sesame seeds.
-As he pressed on the mountain the surviving warriors of Tāraka who were hiding in the caves came forth and were crushed by Vīrabāhu.
-Thinking of his guru, Skanda, Vīrabāhu flew into the sky causing the world to quake as he sped through the welkin.
-As he arrived at Lankā, which was the capital of Śūrapadma’s general Vyālimukha (who was visiting his lord), he was challenged by his deputy Vīrasiṃha and his troops. After a quick fight, Vīrabāhu chopped off Vīrasiṃha’s arms and head with his sword.
-Vīrabāhu leapt on Lankā and pushed it under the ocean.
-Vīrabāhu was then attacked by Vyālimukha’s son Ativīra and his troops who emerged out of the water. Vīrabāhu cut down the daitya troops and took on Ativīra who fought with a cleaver obtained from Brahman. However, Skanda’s Vīra cut his head off.
-Flying a thousand yojana-s he reached Vīramāhendra. As he was wondering which might be the best gate to make an entrance he arrived at the southern gate. There, he was challenged by Gajāsya, a monstrous demon with a thousand trunks and two thousand arms. After a closen fight, Vīrabāhu chopped off his trunks and hands and slew him with a kick.
-Realizing that this fight would bring more Asuras into the fray, he used his magic to become minute and entered via the eastern gate.
-There he saw the enslaved gods and the dwellings of mighty demons.
-Kumāra appeared in the dreams of Jayanta and the gods who were being subject to indignities by the Asura-s. Skanda told them that he had already killed Tāraka and Krauñca and that he had sent Vīrabāhu as his emissary who would wreak havoc among the Asuras. He assured them that thereafter he himself would attack the Dānava stronghold and slaughter them.
-Vīrabāhu met Jayanta and the other imprisoned gods and told them that their sufferings were due to their siding with Dakṣa during his ritual. He assuaged them by stating that the spear-wielding god would destroy the Asura-s and relieve them shortly.
-Vīrabāhu audaciously appeared before Śūrapadma and intimated him of the conditions for his surrender placed to him by Skanda.
-Śūrapadma rejected the terms and sent his general Śatamukha to capture Vīrabāhu. A fierce battle broke out between them during which Vīrabāhu demolished 20,000 Asura fortifications. In the end, he slew Śatamukha by thrashing him.
-Taking a giant form he crushed many other Asura warriors.
-Uprooting a mountain he smashed the Asura city.
-After another fierce fight, Vīrabāhu slew Śūrapadma’s ten-headed son Vajrabāhu by chopping off his heads with his sword.
-As Vīrabāhu was flying away, the polycephalous Vyālimukha challenged him. Another fierce fight ensued and Vīrabāhu finally killed him by chopping off his heads.
-Returning to Śentīpura, Vīrabāhu bowed thrice to Skanda.
-The Asura-s rebuilt their capital demolished by Vīrabāhu and prepared to fight Skanda.
-Skanda built the fort of Hemakūṭa as the base for this attack on Vīramāhendra.
-Śūrapadma’s spies informed him that Kumāra was gearing for an attack on Vīramāhendrapura.
-He called his son Bhānukopa and asked him to attack Skanda and his troops right away as they had approached the Asura city and fortified themselves at Hemakūṭa.

4) The Yuddha-kāṇḍa.

ṣaṇmukhaṃ dvādaśa-bhujaṃ triṣaṇṇayana-paṅkajam । kumāraṃ sukumārāṅgaṃ kekī-vāhanam āśraye ॥

-Bhānukopa donned his armor and mounting his car sallied forth with numerous Asura heroes.
-Skanda sent heavily armed, ruby-colored Vīrabāhu at the head of the bhūtagaṇa-s to intercept him. Wielding a bow like the pināka of Rudra he sallied forth. The two armies met amidst a shower of arrows from warriors on both sides.
-The fight was evenly poised but eventually, the gaṇa-s of Skanda started gaining an upper hand as the bhūta commanders slew their Asura counterparts.
-Seeing his forces retreating from the assault of the bhūtagaṇa-s of Skanda, Bhānukopa rallied them back. Bending his bow to a circle he released an unending stream of arrows on them striking down many and causing the gaṇa-s to fall back. Seeing this, the gaṇa Ugra got close to Bhānukopa and attacked him with a rod. Bhānukopa destroyed that rod with his arrows and struck down the gaṇa with the Brahma-spear. Then the gaṇa Daṇḍin attacked Bhānukopa with a mountain and struck his chariot and driver. Bhānukopa furious felled Daṇḍin with a shower of arrows. Next, he fought the gaṇa Pinākin who had rushed at him and struck him down with a shower of thousand arrows. Thereafter, several other gaṇa-s mounted a massed attack on Bhānukopa who routed them with his unending shower of arrows.
-He then fought the navavīra-s of Skanda. Vīrasiṃha was struck down by the Nārāyaṇa weapon of Bhānukopa.
-Then Vīramārtāṇḍa attacked the Asura. He got close to Bhānukopa and broke his bow; however, Bhānukopa struck him down with his cleaver.
-Vīrarākṣasa next attacked him from close quarters and both fell to the ground. Bhānukopa recovered consciousness and mounting a fresh car resumed the battle. Five of the remaining Vīra-s surrounded him and fought a great bow-battle for a while. Striking some of them down and brushing aside the rest he rallied the Asura troops and marched straight at Vīrabāhu.
-They fought a terrific battle in which both lost their bows but taking up new bows resumed the assault. Vīrabāhu smashed Bhānukopa’s helmet but he donned a new one and continued. Finally, tiring from the fight, Bhānukopa swooned.
-Immediately, the Asura forces surrounded their hero to protect him even as the gaṇa-s recovering from his assault surged forward. By then Bhānukopa stood up and continued the battle with Vīrabāhu.
-Despite all his attempts he could not dispel Vīrabāhu’s showers of arrows. Hence, he deployed the Mohāstra, a missile that caused the gaṇa-s to be paralyzed and fall to the ground. Even Vīrabāhu was paralyzed in his car. Taking advantage of this Bhānukopa shot numerous arrows at Skanda’s forces drenching them in blood.
-Skanda seeing his gaṇa-s in dire danger fired the Amoha missle from Hemakūṭa. This destroyed the Mohāstra and revived all the gaṇa-s.
-Seeing the nullification of all his tactics, Bhānukopa retreated for the day deciding to resume the battle later.
-Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Śūrapadma himself decided to join the battle. He sallied forth along with Atiśūra, the son of Siṃhamukha and Asurendra, the son of Tāraka.
-Indra saw them and informed Skanda of the impending attack. Having saluted Indra, Skanda decided to lead his forces personally in the battle. Indra asked Vāyu to be Skanda’s charioteer.
-A great battle broke out between the gaṇa Ugra and Atiśūra. Atiśūra discharged numerous divine missiles at his adversary but they failed because Skanda provided immunity against those missiles to his follower. Finally, Atiśūra discharged the Pāśupata, but it did not harm its own party and returned to Mahādeva. Frustrated thus, he leapt out of his car and struck Ugra with a rod. However, Ugra survived that blow and snatched the weapon from the demon and pummeled him to death with it.
-Tāraka’s son Asurendra rushed to shore up the ranks after his cousin’s death. He faced the gaṇa-s Kanaka, Unmatta, Siṃha, Daṇḍaka, and Vijaya in fierce encounters, defeating each of them.
-Then Vīrabāhu flew in on his car and started showering arrows on the demon. After a prolonged encounter, Vīrabāhu smashed his enemy’s chariot. The two engaged in a great battle flying in the skies, with Asurendra wielding a rod and Vīrabāhu, a sword. The latter finally beheaded Asurendra.
-Seeing his nephews slain, Śūrapadma launched a fierce attack on the bhūtagaṇa-s. He was attached by the nine Skanda-vīra-s. Fierce fights took place between him and Vīrarākṣasa, Vīramahendra, Vīradhīra, and Vīramāheśvara in that order and he overcame all of them. Vīrabāhu then entered the fray to shore up his half-brothers. He deployed the Aindra and Vāruṇa, Brahma, Vaiṣṇava missiles on the demon and Śūrapadma countered those with his Māyāsurāstra. Then both deployed the Pāśupata missile but it returned back to the respective users. Then they both deployed śakti-s that neutralized each other. Finally, Śūrapadma struck Vīrabāhu on his chest with a daṇḍa.
-Seeing his champion’s discomfiture, Kārttikeya attacked Śūrapadma and a great fight ensued. Bending his bow Skanda fired a profusion of arrows at the Asura lord. They cut each other’s shafts in mid-flight. Śūrapadma hurled his śakti at Skanda, who cut it off with 14 arrows. Then Śūrapadma uttering a loud roar hurled a trident at Skanda who cut it off with four and the seven arrows thereafter. Then with another missile, Skanda smashed the helmet of Śūrapadma and destroyed his armor with further shafts.
-Thereafter, the six-headed son of Ambikā hurled a cakra and cut down the Asura hordes that accompanied Śūrapadma and the piśāca-s feasted on their corpses.
-Śūrapadma replenished his gear and returned to the fight. He tried deploying many divine missiles but they were all nullified by Kumāra with his śakti missile. Thus, on the brink of defeat, Śūrapadma vanished and flew back to his fortified city thinking he would return later to fight Kumāra.
-Skanda ordered his bhūtagaṇa-s to storm the fortifications of the Asura stronghold.
-The gaṇa-s launched a massive assault on the fortifications of Vīramāhendrapura. In course of this assault, they killed the demon Atighora.
-Bhānukopa sallied forth again to fight Vīrabāhu, this time armed with his grandmother Māyā’s Sammohana missile.
-After prolonged use of various missiles both tried to get better of the other with the Pāśupata. Both Pāśupata missiles neutralized each other.
-At this point, Bhānukopa deployed his grandmother’s Sammohana missile, which not only made Vīrabāhu but also the rest of the Skandapārṣada-s unconscious and hurled them into the ocean.
-Bhānukopa returned to this father to tell him of his great victory and promised him that he would head out the next day to slay Skanda.
-On receiving intelligence that his army had been drowned by Bhānukopa, the six-headed son of Rudra launched his śakti, which sped to the ocean, and, destroying the Sammohana weapon, led his forces out back to the Asura capital.
-The Skandapārṣada-s now launched a ferocious assault on the defenses of the city. The Asura Vyāghrāsya advanced to defend the fortifications. He was slain after a trident fight by the Skandagaṇa named Siṃha.
-As the Skandapārṣada-s demolished the defenses of Vīramāhendrapura, Vīrabāhu hurled the Āgneya and Vāyava missiles and set the city on fire.
-Śūrapadma’s men informed him of the reversal and the impending destruction of his city by the fires. He brought in the mahāpralaya clouds to douse the fires. As they were putting off the fires, Vīrabāhu struck back with the Vāḍava missile to vaporize the clouds. Seeing the havoc in his city, Śūrapadma wanted to head out himself to fight Skanda and his forces.
-Just then Śūrapadma’s son Hiraṇya came to him and told him that it might be prudent to surrender to the six-headed son of Rudra, reminding him that there was no one who could counter him and his dreadful gaṇa-s.
-Śūrapadma warned his son that he would kill him if continued speaking thus. Hiraṇya calmed him down and decided to enter the battlefield himself.
-Hirāṇya baffled the Skandapārṣada-s for a while with his display of māyā. Finally, his māyā was overcome by the Cetana missile shot by Vīrabāhu. Hirāṇya fought Vīrabāhu for a while but the latter cut his bow and smashed his car with his astra-s. Hirāṇya knew that he would be killed shortly. He also realized that nobody would be left to perform the funeral rites for his family once Skanda’s troops stormed the city. Hence, he took the form of a fish and vanished into the ocean.
-Śūrapadma’s son Agnimukha next took the command of the Asura forces and led them against the Skandagaṇa-s with a vast force of Asura-s. In the battle that followed, Vīrapuraṃdara slew the Asura-s Somakaṇṭaka and Megha with his arrows. After a pitched battle, Agnimukha slew seven of the Vīra-s, barring Vīrapuraṃdara and Vīrabāhu with the Pāśupata. Agnimukha the advanced on Vīrabāhu. After an even astra-fight, Agnimukha got Bhadrakālī to fight on his behalf. Vīrabāhu defeated her and she left saying no one could stop the Skandapārṣada-s. Then Agnimukha returned to the fight showering thousands of arrows. Vīrabāhu hurled the Vīrabhadrāstra which burst Agnimukha’s head.
-As Vīrapuraṃdara and Vīrabāhu were lamenting the fall of their brothers, the latter flared up and shot an arrow into Yamaloka engraved with the message that, he the younger brother of Kārttikeya, wanted Yama to release his seven half-brothers. Duly Yama released their ātman-s and they reanimated their bodies.
-A great battle next took place between three thousand Asura-s born of Śūrapadma and a thousand of the chief Skandapārṣada-s. The battle was evenly poised for a while, but the Asura-s started gaining the upper hand as their severed limbs were restored by a special gift they had obtained from Brahma. Hence, the gaṇa-s turned to Skanda, who appeared in their midst, and gave one of their leaders, Vijaya, the Bhairava missile. As he deployed it, one of three thousand Asura-s named Matta deployed the Māyāstra. However, the Bhairavāstra destroyed it and cut off the heads of all three thousand Asura-s.
-Next, Dharmakopa, another son of Śūrapadma advanced with his troops against the Vīra-s. His troops were destroyed by the Vīras-s even as Dharmakopa closed in on Vīrabāhu. After an exchange of missiles, Dharmakopa struck down Vīrabāhu’s charioteer. Then they engaged in a closen fight where Dharmakopa tried to strike Vīrabāhu with a rod and then a thunderbolt. Evading both, Vīrabāhu killed him with a kick.

-Bhānukopa received the news that while he thought he had won, the forces of Skanda had returned and wreaked enormous destruction on the Asura-s. He told his father perhaps it was a futile attempt, and they should surrender to Skanda. His father refused; hence, Bhānukopa set forth again to fight the Skandapārṣada-s. After a great fight Bhānukopa overthrew the bhūtagaṇa-s attacking him and rushed forward with a shower of arrows. Vīrabāhu bent his bow and destroyed the missiles hurled by Bhānukopa. Thereupon, Vīrabāhu hurled a śakti and struck Bhānukopa. However, recovering from the blow he resumed the fight. For a while, neither could get better of the other in their exchange of astra-s. Bhānukopa then baffled Vīrabāhu with his māyā powers. Vīrabāhu destroyed the māyā display with his own magic. As their fight raged on, Bhānukopa smashed Vīrabāhu’s chariot. But Vīrabāhu retaliated by breaking the Asura’s chariot and cutting his bow with his shafts. Finally, they closed in for a sword fight. Vīrabāhu chopped off the right hand of Bhānukopa but he took the sword in his left and continued. Vīrabāhu cutoff that hand too. Handless, he tried to deploy the Māyā missile but Vīrabāhu swept his head away with a blow from his sword.
-Śūrapadma on hearing of the death of his son fainted. He lamented much when he received his son’s mutilated body parts. He called his brother Siṃhamukha to come from his city of Āsurapura to join the fight. Shocked by the news of the defeat of the Asura-s, and the death of his sons and nephews, Siṃhamukha flew over from his city to aid his brother.
-Donning his armor, he set forth for battle with his great troop of Asura-s. Skanda called Vāyu to get his chariot ready. Vīrabāhu with his half-brothers wanted to lead the 100,000 Skandapārṣada-s to the encounter first. Skanda let him do so and a fierce fight ensued. Showering balls, arrows, axes, and plows on the gaṇa, the great lord of the Asura-s advanced. His demons fought several gaṇa-s in melee as they exploded each other’s weapon discharges to smithereens. Vīramārtāṇḍa used the Jñānāstra to counter the māyā being deployed by the demons. Siṃhamukha cut through the gaṇa ranks like a great mountain on the move. He put to flight the 100,000 Skandapārṣada-s with showers of missiles. He then proceeded to crush them as though one would crush mosquitoes. Seeing this, Vīrabāhu counter-attached showering thousands of arrows with his bow. The hundred sons of Siṃhamukha surrounded him and returned the showers of arrows. With his missiles, Vīrabāhu smashed their chariots and broke their bows. Then they rushed at him with their swords but Vīrabāhu slew all hundred with an arrow and his sword.

-Infuriated and saddened by this, Siṃhamukha rushed at Vīrabāhu. They ground each other’s missiles to dust and had a prolonged astra fight. Vīrabāhu slew his charioteer. Siṃhamukha hurled a gadā at him, but it burst on striking his adamantine form born of Rudra. Vīrabāhu then demolished the Asura’s car. He resumed the battle taking new cars over and over again and deploying thousands of bows. Vīrabāhu kept breaking them repeatedly. Seeing himself unable to get better of Skanda’s warrior, Siṃhamukha deployed the Māyāpāśa. The great lasso weapon immediately bound Vīrabāhu and the gaṇa-s who were on the field and hurled them atop the Udaya mountain in a state of paralysis. Sensing victory, Siṃhamukha roared loudly and thought that Skanda too had fled. However, his spies informed him that Skanda was still very much there with the remaining gaṇa-s at Hemakūṭa. Mātariśvan informed Skanda of the events and Siṃhamukha’s advance towards their fort.
-Mounting his car driven by Vāyu, Skanda led his forces into battle. In the battle that ensued the Asura-s began to retreat. At that point, Siṃhamukha assumed a gigantic form with two thousand arms. Grabbing all the gaṇa-s of Skanda he swallowed them. Śūrapadma’s spies informed him of his brother’s deeds and he ascended an observation turret to see the great form of his brother.
-Skanda then strung his bow and twanged the string causing the whole universe to resound and the Asura vehicles fell to the ground from the sound emanating from the bow twangs of the son of Umā. Siṃhamukha rushed at him to do battle. Kumāra fired a mighty missile that split open the firm belly of the demon and from the fissures through which blood was pouring out, some of the gaṇa-s who had been swallowed emerged forth. Stanching the slits in his belly with his many arms, the demon hurled a dreadful rod at Skanda. He split it up with four missiles, which then proceed the strike the demon on his forehead. Losing his strength, he lifted his hands off his belly and the remaining gaṇa-s too escaped.
-Skanda then fired a missile that proceeded to the Udaya mountain and destroyed the Māyāpāśa. Then turning into an airplane the missile brought Vīra-s and gaṇa-s back to the field and returned to the six-headed god’s quiver.
-To shore up their leader, the Asura-s who had retreated returned to attack Skanda upon hearing his terrifying roar. As they surrounded the god, he hurled thousands of projectiles and also attacked the demons with rods, swords, spears and axes. Vāyu maneuvered the car with great speed even as Skanda dispatched his missiles that lit up the entire universe like the Vaḍava fire. The great god pierced the many galactic realms with his weapons and rent asunder the limbs of the demons and shattered their vehicles. The cluster missiles shot by Skanda branched repeatedly giving rise to crores upon crores of arrows and penetrated all the galactic realms slaying numerous Dānava-s wherever they were. Seeing these weapons being fired by their commander, all the deva-s sang the praises of the son of Rudra.
-The whole field was filled with corpses of the demons. Wielding a thousand bows Siṃhamukha again attacked the commander of the deva-s.
-He then struck Vāyu on the chest with numerous arrows and the god fainted. But Skanda controlling his own car destroyed the Asura’s chariot with a hundred arrows. Then with a thousand arrows, the son of Mahādeva, cut down all the bows of the demon at once. Siṃhamukha hurled a trident at the god, who cut it down with fourteen arrows. Then he rushed at the god with a rod who powdered it with seven shafts. The demon then sent the death-dealing pāśa but Skanda cut it up with a thousand projectiles. Then he cut up the two thousand arms of the Asura. The great demon (termed māhāmada here) uttered a “mahākilikilārāva” and rushed at Skanda. The god sliced off his thousand heads with an equal number of arrows.
-Siṃhamukha regenerated his severed limbs and reentered the fray. Skanda let this happen eight times as part of his battle sport. Then he cut all his hands except for a pair and heads except for one. The demon roared that he would slay the god with just those and uprooted a mountain and rushed at his adversary. Kārttikeya rent asunder that mountain with a single arrow. The Asura now attacked him with a terrifying daṇḍa. Thereupon, Guha hurled his vajra which blazed up like several crores of suns. It destroyed that daṇḍa and striking the Asura on his chest annihilated him.
-Having bathed in the Celestial Gaṅgā Kārttikeya returned to the Hemakūṭa fort with his Vīra-s and gaṇa-s.

-Hearing of the death of his brother from his agents, Śūrapadma fell down from the observation turret he had mounted to witness the battle. Regaining his composure, he decided to himself lead the Asura-s in the war against Guha. He ordered all the surviving Asura-s from the numerous galactic realms that he controlled to come over and join him for the battle.
-Mounting his special battle car armed with all the divine missiles, with a great force of Dānava-s he headed out of his fortified city with their roars filling the whole universe.
-The gods called on their commander Skanda to enter the field against the evil demon. Worshiped by all the gods and his 100,009 Vīra-s, Skanda took up all his weapons and set forth for battle on the car driven by the god Vāyu:
ādāya paraśuṃ vajraṃ śūlaṃ śaktiṃ vibhīṣaṇāṃ ।
khaḍgaṃ kheṭaṃ bṛhac cakraṃ daṇḍaṃ musalam eva ca ॥
dhanuś-śarān mahāghorāṃs tomarāṇi varaṇy api ।
vinirgatya rathaṃ ramyaṃ vāyunā nītam agnibhūḥ ॥
āruroha surais sarvaiḥ pūjitaḥ puṣpa-vṛṣṭibhiḥ ।
nava-saṃkhyādhikair lakṣair vīrair api mahābalaiḥ ॥

-The other gods asked Viṣṇu if Kārttikeya might meet with success in the impending encounter. Viṣṇu assuaged their doubts saying that their troubles would end soon as Skanda would definitely triumph.
-As the battle was joined, Śūrapadma’s demons charged with a great shower of weapons. Skanda twanging his dreadful bow, which resounded like the flood at the end of the Kalpa, entered the field. He launched into an orgy of slaughter with his missiles reaching the limits of the universe. Wherever the demons went, his bolts cruised after them. Breaking through the walls of the galactic realms they entered whichever region the Asura-s flew to and slew them. Floods of blood and mountains of corpses of the Asura warriors started to pile all around.
-Furious, Śūrapadma joined the fray and laid low most of the Skandapārṣada-s with his terrifying missiles. Vīrabāhu rushed forth to engage him and cut his bow with his cleaver. But Śūrapadma punched with his fist and he fainted. Deciding not to kill him for he was just a messenger of Skanda, Śūrapadma seized by his feet and hurled him into the sky.
-He then charged at Skanda and engaged him in a fierce bow battle with the exchange of innumerable arrows. Finally, Śūrapadma struck down the flag of Skanda with a shower of arrows and blew his conch as a mark of victory. Skanda however quickly retaliated cutting and hurling Śūrapadma’s banner into the sea with seven shafts. Then, the thousand-headed gaṇa Bhānukampa blew on a thousand conchs and Viṣṇu too blew on his. Agni turned into the cock banner and went to adorn the car of Guha. The cock crowed loudly. All this created a terrifying din.
-Angered, Śūrapadma now turned to the gods were and attacked them with his weapons. Skanda followed him with Vāyu driving his car at top speed. Skanda protected the gods and attacked the demon with a shower of weapons. As the chariots of the two of them wheeled around in battle the whole universe to vibrated violently and whole mountains were reduced to atoms.
-Śūrapadma attacked his enemy with halāyudha-s, bhindipāla-s, kuliśa-s, tomara-s and paraśu-s. Then Skanda destroyed his vehicle completely with fourteen missiles.
-The demon then mounted the Indralokaratha (the space-station he had captured from the gods) and started tunneling into the various galactic realms he had conquered. However, he found the tunnels into them blocked by the arrows of Mahāsena and found that many of his demons were trapped in each one of them. He broke down the obstructions with his weapons and let out his demons. Those Asura-s came out and mounted a furious attack on Skanda. With his cakra, paraśu, daṇda and musala the son of Umā slaughtered them, and chasing them to each of the realms, he burnt them down with his weapons to a fine ash.
-The Asura then deployed the deadly Sarvasaṃhāraka-cakra, but Mahāsena sportingly captured it for himself. Next, he tried māyā tactics but Skanda easily overcame those with the Jñānāstra.
-Thus, defeated he finally went to his mother and asked if she might have a means of victory. She told him that she did not see a way out against the son of Rudra, but the only thing he could do is to get the Sudhāmandara mountain to revive the dead demons.
-He mounted a lion-vehicle and sent the Indralokaratha to bring the said mountain. The craft brought the Sudhāmandara to the field and the wind blowing from it started reanimating the dead demons. Seeing this, Skanda deployed the Pāśupata missile that started branching and emitting numerous Rudra-s, the Marut-s, Agni-s and vajra-s. These destroyed all the reanimated demons and also the vivifying mountain. Thereupon, the Asura sent the Indralokaratha to scoop up Vīrabahu and the remaining 100,008 troops of Skanda and stupefy them. Guha retaliated with a series of missiles that grounded the craft and brought it back to him. The gaṇa-s got out of it safely and the space-craft became the property of Skanda.
-Then the Asura injured Vāyu with his shafts and briefly Skanda’s chariot was out of control. But regaining control he cut the bow of the demon. Śūrapadma thereafter attacked him with the terrifying missile known as the Sarvasaṃhāraka-śūla. Skanda shot numerous arrows to destroy his lion-vehicle and then hurled the Ghora-kuliśa that neutralized the said śūla and brought it back to Skanda.
-The Asura assumed the form of a gigantic fierce bird and started pecking at Skanda’s car and blowing his gaṇa-s away with the blasts from his wings.
-Skanda then looked at Indra and the latter took the form of a peacock. Mounting the peacock Skanda and Indra fought the demon. Indra pecked him and clawed him in the form of the peacock, even as Skanda pierced him with many arrows. Śūrapadma dived in his bird form and broke Skanda’s bow, but Guha drew out his sword and hacked the bird-formed demon to pieces.
-The demon then took the form of the earth. Skanda taking a new bow drowned that earth-formed demon with the oceanic missile. The demon then took the form of the sea. With a hundred fiery missiles Skanda dried up that form. He successively took various forms, including the gods, but Skanda destroyed all of those with his missiles.
-Finally, to reveal that those forms of the demon were merely fictitious forms, Skanda assumed his macranthropic form with all existence and all the gods comprising his body — the planets and stars his feet; Varuṇa and Nirṛti his ankle joints; Indra and Jayanta his thighs; Yama and time his hips; the nāga-s and the ambrosia his genitals; the gods his ribs; Viṣṇu and Brahman his arms; the goddesses his fingers; Vāyu his nose; Rudra his head; the numerous galactic realms his hair follicles; the omkāra his forehead; the Veda his mouth; the Śaivāgama-s his tongue; the seven crores of mantra-s his lips; all knowledge his yajñopavīta.
-Seeing this macranthropic form of Kumāra, Śūrapadma had the doubt for the first time in his existence if after all this god might be undefeatable — many great Asura-s had fought him and many great missiles, which were previously infallible had been, used yet he triumphed over all of those. However, the demon brushed aside these feelings and assumed a gigantic form with numerous arms, heads and feet, and casting great darkness that enveloped the whole universe he rushed forward to eat Skanda and the other deva-s.
-Skanda immediately hurled his mighty śakti. Blazing like crores of suns it destroyed the overpowering darkness of the Asura and cruised after him. He dived into the sea of the fundament even as the śakti chased him there. The Dānava immediately became the “world-tree” — a giant mango tree stretching across the limits of the universe. Blazing like the trident of Rudra, the śakti split that tree in half. Śūrapadma assumed his own form and drawing his sword rushed at Skanda. The śakti struck him immediately and slew him.
-His remains were transformed into a peacock and a cock that respectively replaced Indra and Agni as the mount and the banner of Skanda, even as the two gods returned to their prior state. Thereafter, the gods praised Mahāsena for his glorious acts.
-Śūrapadma’s primary wife expired on hearing the news of his death and his son Hiraṇya who had hidden as a fish in the ocean performed the last rites of the dead demons with help of Uśanas Kāvya.

The final battle between Skanda and Śūrapadma has some mythic motifs of interest. First, the many transmogrifications of the demon in course of his battle with the god are reminiscent of the shamanic transformations. This motif is encountered in several distant traditions — most vividly in the folk Mongolian account of Chingiz Khan’s final fight with the Tangut emperor composed by his descendant Sagang Sechen (Also note the motif of the nine heroes of the Khan in that account). There, Khasar, the brother of the Khan (one of the nine heroes) plays a role similar to Vīrabāhu in destroying a witch who was guarding the Tangut capital and preventing the entry of Subetei. Khasar killed her with his arrows allowing the Mongols to storm it. Then the Khan and the Tangut lord fought a magical battle with both of them taking on many forms like a snake, Garuḍa, tiger, lion, and the like. Finally, the Khan took the form of Khormusta Khan Tengri (the great Mongol god) himself and put an end to the shape-shifting of the Tangut. Though he struck the Tangut with many arrows and swords he still could not kill him. ṭhe Tangut let slip the secret of his death in the form of a magical wootz steel sword hidden in his boot that the Khan seized and slew him. Thus, we suspect that the shape-shifting of Śūrapadma in the final battle is from an ancient shamanic layer of the Kaumāra tradition that is attested in the Saṅgam Tamil tradition (the muruka-veri, e.g., Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai 200-210).

Second, the final dive of Śūrapadma into the ocean and/or his transformation into a mango tree is a motif that has deep roots in Tamil Kaumāra tradition. It is mentioned in multiple Saṅgam texts such as: 1) Pattiṟṟupattu: here the Cēra king Neṭuñcēralātaṉ, who built a fleet to fight a naval battle with the Romans, is said to have destroyed his enemies even as Skanda cut down the tree of the Asura-s. 2) The Paripāṭal 18.1-4 mentions how Skanda pursued the demon into the deep ocean. Paripāṭal 5.1-4 mentions both his pursuit into the ocean and his destruction by the Skandaśakti in the form of a mango tree. 3) Tirumurukāṟṟupaṭai 45-46 mentions his pursuit into the ocean. Tirumurukāṟṟupaṭai 58-61 mentions his destruction in the form of the mango tree and also his centaur transmogrification, which is absent in the Purāṇa. We take these mythemes to be reflexes of the famous precessional myth — i.e., the shattering of the old world axis that is widespread across Hindu tradition and beyond. A variant of this myth is associated with the submerging of the old equinoctial constellation beneath the equator (the world ocean, e.g., the Varāha myth): thus, both of these are combined here in the final fight of Śūrapadma. Notably, both in the Pattiṟṟupattu and the Paripāṭal, Skanda is described as riding an elephant rather than a peacock in the final battle against Śūrapadma. This is probably an archaism as this elephant vehicle is mentioned in the ancient Kaumāra material found in the medical Kāśyapa-saṃhitā (129) as having been generated from Airāvata by Indra for Skanda.

5. The Deva Kāṇḍa.
-The rule of the gods is restored.
-Skanda is engaged to Indra’s daughter Devasenā.
-The marriage of Skanda and Devasenā.
-Skanda seeks the daughter of Viṣṇu born as Vallī in a sweet potato excavation among the pulinda hunter-gatherers.
-He appears as an old man to her. Gaṇeśa frightens her as an elephant, and she comes into the hands of Skanda in the form of the old man seeking help from the elephant.
-Vallī recognizes Skanda and starts a clandestine affair with him.
-When she elopes with Guha, the hunters, including Vallī’s brothers and father chase and attack Skanda, who strikes them down with his arrows.
-Kumāra revives the dead huntsmen and marries Vallī and returns to his abode with his two wives.
-The praise of emperor Mucukunda.
-Mucukunda installs the image of Rudra known as Tyāgarāja.

6. The Dakṣa-kāṇḍa
This section is mostly Śaiva material relating to the cycle of Dakṣa. One notable point is that here Rudra generates Vīrabhadra and Umā generates Bhadrakālī to destroy Dakṣa’s ritual. Notably, this parallels the Ur-Skandapurāṇa wherein Umā generates Bhadrakālī by rubbing her nose. There Rudra generates Haribhadra. This might indicate a connection to that ancient Skandapurāṇa version of the Dakṣa cycle. However, we may note that a similar situation is also seen in the Brahmapuraṇa ((39.51), where Rudra created the lion-formed Vīrabhadra, whereas Umā creates Bhadrakālī to accompany him. Further, interestingly, here as Vīrabhadra destroyed the male partisans of Dakṣa, Bhadrakālī destroyed the females of Dakṣa’s clan. This symmetry appears to be an ancient motif — in the Greek world we have Apollo kill the male Niobids while Artemis killed the female ones. Apart from the Dakṣa cycle, this kāṇḍa contains:
-The ṛṣi-s’ wives at Dārukavana run after Rudra. They attack him with various beings and he destroys them.
-The killing of Gajāsura by Rudra.
-Churning of the ocean and Rudra consumes the Hālāhala.
-The appearance of eleven crore Rudra-s at the Madhyārjuna shrine (Tiruvidaimarudur in the Drāviḍa country).
-The beheading of Brahman by Bhairava.
-Dharma becomes Rudra’s bull.
-Rudra destroys the universe and smears the residue as his ash.
-Rudra slays Jalandhara.
-The birth of Gaṇeśa.
-Jyotirliṅga-s and Aruṇācala.
-Paurāṇika geography.

7. Upadeśa-kāṇḍa
The only Kaumāra-related material in this kāṇḍa are: 1. The praise of Skanda’s peacock and chicken. 2. The “backstories” of the birth of Śurapadma, his mother and his clan. 3. The Skandaṣaṣṭhī festival.

The rest of this kāṇḍa is again largely Śaiva material pertaining to Śivadharma for lay devotees. Indeed, chapters in this section seem to self-identify as a Śiva-purāṇa. It begins with an account of the Rudra-gaṇa in Kailāsa. It contains several accounts of humble animals (including men like cora-s) attaining higher births from acts of Śaiva piety. Similarly, sinners who defile/steal from Śaiva shrines or take even things like lemons or bananas from them attain hell. The observance of key festivals of Rudra and the Bhairava-Vīrabhadra festival are laid out. Further, it gives the 1008 names of Rudra, the practice of Aṣṭāṅga-yoga, the theological principles of Siddhānta and the iconography of the twenty five images of Rudra that are displayed in Śaiva shrines.

It also contains accounts of: 1. Rudra destroying the Tripura-s. 2. Rudra slaying Andhaka. 3. The rise of the most terrible demon Bhaṇḍāsura. Rudra performs a fierce ritual, offering Brahman, Viṣṇu, Indra and other gods as samidh-s in a fire altar where he himself was the fire. From it arose the youthful goddess Tripurā who slew Bhaṇḍāsura. This minimal account lacks the details seen in the Lalitopākhyāna, where this myth takes the center-stage. 4. The killing of Mahiṣa by Durgā through the grace of Rudra as Kedāreśvara. 5. The killing of Raktabīja by Kālī and her dance with Rudra.

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Some notes on the runiform “Altaic” inscriptions and the early Turk Khaghanates: Orkhon and beyond

The early Turkic inscriptions from Mongolia and their discovery
On February 27th, 731 CE (17th day of the Year of the Sheep), Kül Tegin, the great hero of the second Gök Türk (Blue Turks) empire, passed away in his 47th year (literally flew away to the realm of Tengri). He was greatly mourned by his clansman — his elder brother, Bilge Khaghan, the ruler of the Turks, had his elegy inscribed on the now-famous Kül Tegin funerary stele. On the northern face of the stele, we read:
“My younger brother Kül Tegin passed away. I mourned. My bright eyes seemed unable to see and my sharp knowledge seemed unable to know. I mourned. Tengri arranges the lifespan. Humans are born to die. I mourned thus: when tears were running out of my eyes, I restrained them; when lamentation was coming out of my heart, I held it back. I thought [of him] deeply. [I feared] the eyes and eyelashes of the two shad-s (title of generals; derived via contraction from Old Iranic kshāyathiya= warrior via Sogdian xshedh= chief), of my brothers, my sons, my officials and my people were to be ruined [because of tears]. I mourned.” (translation based on Talat Tekin, Hao Chen and Denison Ross]

On November 1 of 731 CE, Bilge Khaghan held a grand funerary ritual for his brother. It is said to have been attended by several dignitaries from East and West. Again, the inscription on the northern face of the monument states:
“General Udar, representing the people of Khitan and Tatabi, came to attend the funeral feast and mourned. From the Chinese Khaghan came the secretary Likeŋ. He brought ten thousand pieces of silk, gold, silver and various things. From the Tibetan Khaghan came Bölün. From Sogdiana, Bercheker (i.e., Persia) and Bukhara in the sunset west came General Enik and Oghul Tarkan. From the On Ok, from my son [-in-law] the Türgish Khaghan, came Makarach and Oghuz Bilge, who were officials holding seals. From the Kirghiz Khaghan came Tardush Inanchu Chor. The shrine-builders, fresco-painters, memorial-builders and the nephew of the Chinese emperor, General Zhang, came.”

The artisans who arrived with General Zhang helped furnish the Kül Tegin marble stone under the direction of Toyghut Elteber and funerary inscriptions were composed by Yollugh Tegin, son of Kül Tegin’s sister. This funerary stele bearing these inscriptions was erected the following year on August 1, 732 CE and the posthumous title Inanchu Apa Yarghan Tarkhan was conferred on him (c.f. the conferment of a comparable posthumous title on prince Tolui, the younger brother of the second Mongol Khan, Ogodei). On the stele, the great acts of Kül Tegin in raising the floundering Turk empire are narrated in the words of his brother Bilge Khaghan in almost epic terms. At this juncture, it is worth mentioning that the Ashina clan of Turks from which the Blue Turks hailed were married into the Tang royal family. Despite denials in some modern Chinese quarters, Taizong himself likely had immediate Turkic and/or Mongolic ancestry. They had played a central role in raising Taizong to the apex — a time when Turkic fashion was the rage in China — Taizong himself took on the title of the Khaghan graced by Tengri and had a funerary monument with imitations of the Turko-Mongolic balbal stones. However, on the other hand, he pursued an aggressive policy to annex the Turkic khaganate to the Tang empire. The events described on the stele follow the destruction of the original Turkic Khaghanate by the Tang. Thus, Bilge Khaghan, while narrating the biography of his brother, first talks of how the divinities aided their father to salvage the Turks when the Tang emperor decided to exterminate them:
“Without thinking of how Turks had fulfilled their allegiance, [the Tang emperor] said: “I shall kill the Türk people! I shall leave them no descendants!” The Turks were perishing. [However], Tengri of the Turks above, along with the goddess Yer (Earth) of the Turks and the water deity held my father Elterish Khaghan and my mother Elbilge Khatun at the top of the sky and raised them up so that the Turks would not perish and would become a nation.”

After describing the numerous campaigns of his father on the steppes, Bilge Khaghan moves on to talk of the achievements of himself and Kül Tegin:
“I did not ascend the throne over a prosperous people. The people over whom I ascended the throne were without food inside and without clothes outside, bad and evil. I discussed this with my younger brother Kül Tegin. So that the name and fame of the people, for whom my father and uncle had striven, should not disappear. I neither slept at night nor sat down in the daytime by reason of the Turk nation. I, together with my younger brother Kül Tegin and the two shad-s, toiled to exhaustion. Having thus toiled, I prevented the united people from being like water and fire. The people who had gone elsewhere when I was ascending the throne came back again, exhausted, on foot and naked. In order to feed these people, I campaigned twelve times with a sizable army northwards against the Oghuz people, eastwards against the Khitan and Tatabi people, and southwards against the Chinese. I battled against them there. Then, as Tengri blessed [me]; because of my good fortune and fate, I revived and fed the dying people. I clothed the naked people, and made the poor people rich. I enlarged the small population and made my people superior to those who had a strong realm and a powerful khaghan.”

Giving the biography of Kül Tegin he says:
“When my father, the khaghan [Elterish], died, my younger brother Kül Tegin was only seven years old. Thanks to the kindness of my mother Khatun, like the goddess Umai, my younger brother Kül Tegin became a grown-up man. When [Kül Tegin] was sixteen years old, my uncle, the khaghan, was working hard for his realm and laws. [When Kül Tegin was seventeen years old,] we went on a campaign against the Sogdians in the Six Prefectures and destroyed them. The Chinese prince commander came with fifty thousand. We fought. Kül Tegin fiercely charged on foot. He caught the prince commander’s brother-in-law with his own armored hands. Still armored, he presented [the captive] to the khaghan. We wiped out that army there.”

After giving a long account of his many battles he concludes with the great act of Kül Tegin during the siege by the Oghuz Turks:
“The enemy Oghuz laid siege to [our] royal camp. On a white Ögsüz (horse caught on the steppe?) [horse], Kül Tegin speared nine men. He did not lose the royal camp. [Otherwise] my mother the Khatun, together with my [step-] mothers, aunts, sisters-in-law, princesses, and the [other] surviving [women] would have become slave-maids, or their corpses would have remained lying in the abandoned campsites and on the road. If it had not been for Kül Tegin, you would all have died!”


An Altai petroglyph showing the Turks on a campaign clad in lamellar armor. Above the deer one can faintly see the ibex, the animal on the tamgha of the Ashina clan.

The Kül Tegin funerary stele is one of the five famous early Turkic stelae that record the history and great deeds of key figures from the second Turkic Khaghanate. Kül Tegin stele and that of his brother Bilge Khaghan were erected in Khoshoo-Tsaidam, Central Mongolia, by the Orkhon River in the 730s of the CE. A third monument describing the deeds of Tonyukuk, the prime minister and commander of the Turkic army, also the father-in-law of Bilge Khaghan, was erected at Bain Tsokto near modern Ulaanbataar, in the Tuul River basin. Given that it mentions the deeds of Tonyukuk as though he were speaking, it is disputed if this was a funerary stele or merely an autobiographical record of the deeds of the prime minister. Tonyukuk was prime minister and commander through the reigns of the Khaghan-s Elterish, Qapaghan, Inal and Bilge, dying at an advanced age in 725-726 CE. A record in Chinese prepared for a remote descendant of Tonyukuk during the Chingizid period mentions that he lived for 120 years (see below). This was almost 6 centuries after his time; hence, it can only be taken to mean that there was a clear memory of this long life rather than an exact record of his lifespan. The deeds recorded on the stele are more or less till 716 CE. This might mean that the stele was erected then or in the year of his death. It is possible he was a semi-retired in his last years during the reign of his son-in-law and thus had no additional deeds to record after 716 CE. The fourth monument, the Ongi monument (now badly damaged), was located at the confluence of the Tarimal River and Ongi Rivers. This was erected by Īshbara Tamghan Tarkhan, a cousin of Bilge Khaghan, for his father Eletmish Yabghu who may have died in an intra-family battle in 716 CE between the supporters of Inal Khaghan and Kül Tegin, who was trying to seize the throne for his brother Bilge Khaghan. This stele was likely erected between 725-732 CE. The fifth is the funerary inscription of Īshbara Bilge Küli Chur, who also appears to have had the title of Chikhan Tonyukuk. He is said to have lived to a full 80 years and “grown old” during the reign of Elterish Khaghan. His stele mentions him killing “nine ferocious men”, probably while still in his teens. He is also recorded as “fighting the Chinese so many times that he gained much fame by virtue of his courage and manly qualities…” As a minister and general of the Turk Khaghan who grew old in the reign of Elterish Khaghan, he might have preceded the famous Tonyukuk as the highest minister. The Küli Chur inscription does not mention Bilge Khaghan or Kül Tegin, suggesting that stele bearing it was likely erected during the late 600s or early 700s of CE.


The Bain Tsokto stele with the Tonyukuk inscription

The discovery of these monuments was among the greatest moments in archaeology as they are the earliest substantial written records of the history and the deeds of the Turkic people in their own words. The German, Philip von Strahlenberg, fighting on behalf of the Swedes, was captured by the Russians in 1709 CE during the battle of Poltava. As a prisoner in Siberia, he carried out an extensive ethnographic and geographic survey of the eastern possessions of the Rus. In course of this exploration, he observed runiform inscriptions on stones in the upper course of the Yenisei River in Southern Siberia (see below) — his account was the first notice of the old Turkic inscriptions in the modern era. However, their script and contents remained mysterious to him and they were mostly ignored thereafter. More than a century later, the Finnish explorers in Siberia rediscovered them in 1887-1888 CE. An year later, the Russian-born Siberian separatist, Yadrintsev, heard from Mongol pastoralists of the presence of inscribed stelae by the Orkhon river — these were what later came to be known as the Kül Tegin and Bilge Khaghan monuments. In the 1890s, the Finnish explorers and the Germanized Russian, Vasily Radloff, along with Yadrintsev conducted further separate explorations of the Mongolian sites. In 1891 CE, some Mongols led Yadrintsev to the Ongi monument and he made a realistic drawing of the same, recording the inscribed stele and the several balbal stones erected beside it — an important record, given the subsequent damage it suffered. These explorations made it clear that the Yenisei, Orkhon and Ongi inscriptions were all in a similar runiform script recording an ancient language.

The key to breaking the mystery of these inscriptions was offered by the Kül Tegin monument, which had a subsidiary inscription in old Chinese. It contained the condolence letter written by the Tang emperor on being informed of Kül Tegin’s death — evidently, he saw him both as a worthy rival and some kind of “colleague” given the links the Tang had with the Turks. The German Sinologist Georg von der Gabelentz was able to immediately recognize based on the work of the Finnish exploration that the inscription on the stele honored a Turkic prince. He published a translation of the Chinese inscription albeit replete with errors. This led to the Danish scholar Vilhelm Thomsen deciphering the runiform inscription based on his knowledge of the Turkish language in late 1893 CE. On the Russian side, in the same year, their ambassador in Peking showed the inscription to the Ching scholar Shen Zengzhi who provided similar suggestions regarding its identity. Subsequently, Radloff made a better translation of the Chinese inscription with the help of the Ching ambassador to Moscow and published the Turkic runiform Orkhon inscriptions. These were followed by editions and translations by Thomson, Radloff, and others. In the following years, Aurel Stein discovered a Turkic book on omenology-based dice prognostication (Irk Bitig) written in the same runiform script along with two Chinese bauddha hymns, evidently based on Sanskrit originals, in the hall of the thousand Buddha-s at Dun Huang. This text, either from the 700s or 800s of the common era, offered a further body of old Turkic material in the same script. Since then, thousands of papers have been written on these old Turkic texts leading to much improved readings of them.

The preservation of this book hints that the script was not just used for inscriptions but also in books. The Irk Bitig is unique in preserving purely Turkic content even if its author was a bauddha Turk — he says he wrote it for his elder brother, the general Itachuk, in a vihāra after having listened to a bauddha guru. The dice omenology of the text relies on using three Indo-Iranian style dice with four faces each. Thus, one gets 4 \times 4 \times 4 =64 combinations and one combination with two corresponding omens giving a total of 65 readings. Such dice have been recovered in the pre-Turk Kuṣāṇa site at Khayrabad Tepe, Uzbekistan. It seems these omens are dreams — that leads to the question as to what function the roll of the dice played? We suspect there was a correspondence between the prognosis of the two — you either got a prognosis by the dice roll or if you had the corresponding dream. Alternatively, there was something coded in the omen that is lost to us. For example, the 6th omen reads thus with the corresponding dice roll:
\circ\circ\;\;\circ\circ\;\;\circ A bear and a boar met on a mountain pass. (In the fight) the bear’s belly was slit open (and) the boar’s tusks were broken, it says. Know thus: (The omen) is bad. (translation by Talat Tekin)
This omen reminds one of the statement regarding the dog and the hog in the Mahābharata; however, there it is good for the śvapāca. Another interesting point is the word üpgük = hoopoe in omen 21. While onomatopoeic, it seems like a cognate of the IE word for the bird suggesting an ancient “Nostratic” origin for it.

Imprints of the Ashina clan and the Blue Turks beyond the Khaghanate
The history of the steppes teaches us that great clans have deep impacts over time and space both at the genetic and the memetic level. This is well-known for the founding fathers of the Ārya-s, Chingiz Khan and the founder of the Tungusid Manchu empire. Was there any comparable impact of the Türk Khaghanate? A comprehensive genetic study by Yunusbayev of the impact of the Turkic expansion indicates that it is hard to assess the early signals of the Turkic expansion relative to the later ones where it was coupled with the expansion of Mongolic populations. Moreover, even though the Altaic monophyly looks increasingly unlikely, the Mongolic and Turkic peoples emerged from the same region and their languages show signs of prolonged interactions. This is also apparent in their genetics. In any case, the above study found the first signals for Turkic admixture outside the core Mongolian domain starting around 600-800 CE — this appears to correspond to the rise of the Blue Turk and Uighur Khaghanates.


A neighbor-joining tree based the single nucleotide polymorphism from ancient Central Asian samples indicting the relationship between Altaic groups speaking Turkic and Mongolic languages

On the philological side, there is strong evidence for the long-term persistence of the clan of Tonyukuk. To understand that, below we briefly recap the history of the fall of the second Blue Turk Khaghanate. On the Mongolian steppe, in 742-743 CE, three Turkic tribes, the Uighurs (originally from the region of the Selenge river), the Qarluks and the Basmyls, sensing the weakness of their Gök Türks overlords began asserting their independence. The Basmyls moved first to capture the Gök Türk capital and slay their Khaghan. The next year, the Uighurs and the Qarluks followed them to overthrow and destroy the Basmyls. The Uighurs then asserted themselves by driving the Qarluks towards Kazakhstan. Thereafter, the Uighurs moved on the remnants of the Blue Turk Khaghanate in a tacit alliance with the Chinese and beheaded their last Khaghan in 745 CE thereby erasing their empire off the eastern steppes. The Uighur lord declared himself the Khaghan under the title Qutlugh Bilge Köl Khaghan. The other branch of the Blue Turks descending from the first Khaghanate, Türgish, the “in-laws” of the second Khaghanate, had valiantly fought the Islamic Jihad and Chinese expansionism in Central Asia under their brilliant Khan Su-lu. When they encountered the Qarluks fleeing from the Uighur onslaught, they were in a weakened state from those struggles. After a prolonged fight lasting around 22 years, the Qarluks overthrew the Türgish, thus ending the line descending from the western branch of the first Turkic Khaghanate. With the old empire now gone, the famous clan of Tonyukuk, shifted their allegiance to the Uighur overlords of the Turkic world. It is notable that in this period the Kashmirian emperor Lalitāditya of the Kārkoṭa-s appointed a Turk (Cankuna) as his minister and general. We speculate that he too could have been a member of the Tonyukuk clan looking for new opportunities (though, one cannot rule out a high-ranked Türgish).

The story of the survival of the Tonyukuk clan goes back to the discovery of the earliest Turkic writings and its more recent re-investigation. In 1909 CE, a fragment of an old runiform manuscript from the period of Uighur ascendancy was procured in Khocho (Idiqutshahri). Radloff published the same the next year but he felt its contents were largely uninteresting. However, more recently, Erdal and Hao noted its parallels to another manuscript fragment from the same place in the Manichaean script that explicitly talks about the same events recorded by Tonyukuk on his stele — i.e., the revival of the Turk Khaghanate after its fall to the Chinese assault by Elterish Khaghan with his wise advice. Based on these parallels Erdal was able to interpret the contents of the first runiform manuscript as talking of the role played by Tonyukuk in the nomination and enthronement of Elterish Khaghan during the revival of the empire. Hao brought to light a work composed during the reign of the Chingizid rulers Temür Khan (son of Qubilai Khan) or his son Külük Khan that records the history of a remote descendant of Tonyukuk, Xie Wenzhi (name as recorded in Chinese), an Uighur official under the Mongols. The text states that:
1) Tonyukuk married his daughter to Bilge Khaghan.
2) After the death of Bilge Khaghan, his wife (i.e., daughter of Tonyukuk) led the Turks for some time.
3) After the conquest of Mongolia by the Uighurs, who were from the Selenge river (i.e., where three rivers join to form it), Tonyukuk’s descendants switched allegiance to them as their ministers.
4) The Uighurs saw the Tonyukukids as being “swift as falcons”.
5) The Uighurs of Khocho had a long tradition of worshiping the 20 deva-rāja-s and used Sanskrit in their liturgy.
6) Tonyukuk and Kül Tegin aided the Tang during the An Lushan convulsion in China. This is clearly an anachronistic and an ahistorical record. However, it suggests that possibly a descendant of Tonyukuk along with the Uighur Khaghan had aided the Tang during the rebellion of An Lushan and this was superimposed onto the founder Tonyukuk and Kül Tegin.
7) A certain Kezhipuer is mentioned as being a prominent minister from the Tonyukuk clan several generations after the An Lushan rebellion.

During the Chingizid Mongol rule of China, Xie Wenzhi, Xie Zhijian and other descendants of Tonyukuk were part of the elite and were prominent as scholars, artists and administrators. At the fall of the Mongol empire in China, some of these fled to Korea where they founded a prominent clan. Other members of the clan persisted under the Ming as ministers and officials in Liyang and Southeast China despite the nationalist backlash against the Mongols and their officials. Thus, the clan of Tonyukuk is a remarkable example of the human capital of a great founder lasting for over 700 years across Central Asia, China and Korea.

Looking backward in time, a major question is the provenance of the influential Ashina clan from which the Blue Turk Khaghanate, the Basmyls and the Qarluks arose. They were characterized by the famous ibex tamgha, which is seen on their inscriptions in runic script, both in Mongolia, along the Yenisei River and the Altai mountains. The clan also gave rise to Turkic elite that had intermarried with the Tang elite and conquered the western territories for the Tang emperor Taizong. It is also likely that the Ashina clan gave rise to other influential Turkic lineages of later Khaghanates like those of the Bulgars and the Khazar Khaghans. Their elite status seems to be repeatedly emphasized in their textual sources as they are distinguished from bodun — the Turkic word for the plebeians. Based on the Chinese sources one may infer that the Ashina clan might have been already present in the early Hun period of the Xiongnu Khaghanate. They were definitely present as vassals of the Rouran Hun Khaghanate and are mentioned in multiple Chinese sources as being their iron smiths. These sources also hint that the conflict between the Uighur branch of the Turks and Ashina clan might have begun in this period itself. In 546 CE, the Oghuz Turkic confederation, at whose head were the Uighurs, rebelled against their Mongolic Rouran Hun overlords. The Ashina clan is said to have aided the Huns in suppressing this revolt. However, it appears to have weakened the Rouran state and six years later, as the land thawed in the spring of 552 CE, the Ashina clan, which had risen in power from their recent exploits, overthrew their Hun overlords and drove them westwards from Mongolia. The leader of the Ashina clan declared himself the new Khaghan. Thus, there was a history of the Turkic peoples under early Mongolic rule that remains poorly understood. However, it may be reasonably inferred that there was already some diversification among them. We already see the Oghuz alliance with which the Uighurs were associated and the On Oq (10 arrows) alliance led by members of the Ashina clan. Indeed, the ethnogonic myths of the clan repeatedly mention the 10 sons of the founder, which is consistent with the On Oq having 10 sub-clans within it.

There has been a string of discordant theories regarding the origin of the Ashina clan. However, the majority of the plausible theories posit that the etymology of Ashina was not originally Turkic but Indo-European. Among the Indo-European etymologies, we have:
1) Beckwith proposed a Tocharian origin from Arśilas = noble kings. It is also related to one of the self-designations of the Tocharians for themselves (Ārśi). In further support of such a proposal, Golden noted the Turkic word for ox as öküz (note Kentum state) is likely derived from Tocharian B: oxso or Tocharian A: okās. While their probable homeland in the southern slopes of the Altai mountains would not be inconsistent with some late-surviving Tocharian imprint, there is no other evidence for a connection between the Turks and the Tocharian elite in the region.
2) Atwood proposed a similar root form, but with an Indo-Aryan etymology: ṛṣi > ārṣa > ārṣila. He notes the parallel rendering of ṛṣi as Arsilas in Greek. While an interesting proposal, it is odd that a ruling warrior clan would have such a typically brahminical etymology, unless, like certain Hindu dynasties, they sought to present ancestry from a ṛṣi.
3) Another Indo-Aryan etymology proposed by Klyashtornyj (along with proposals of Golden, Beckwith and Mair) is: Aśvin (one with a horse)>Ashina. A key point in this proposal is the status of the Wusun, who were an Indo-Iranian steppe people recorded in Chinese sources. Therein, the ethnogonic myth of the Wusun mentions that they believed that their ancestor was orphaned in an attack by the Huns (the first Khaghanate of the Huns, i.e., Chinese Xiongnu). This ancestor was then raised on the steppe by a female wolf and ravens. Multiple versions of the ethnogenesis of the Ashina clan of the Blue Turks also mention that their ancestress was a she-wolf and that they were feudatories of the Xiongnu first and the Rouran Huns thereafter (a version of this wolf motif was remembered long after the fall of the Turks to Mohammedanism by Gardīzī, the minister of the monstrous sultan Mahmud of Ghazna. He states that the Turks have sparse facial hair and a dog-like nature due to their ancestor, as per Abrahamistic tradition, Japeth, being fed wolf’s milk and ant eggs as a medicine. His teacher al Bīrūnī also records that ancestor of the Turks of Afghanistan was a long-haired dog-prince. Victor Mair proposes that wolf’s milk might have meant the slime mold Lycogala). The wolf motif is also found in the origin myth of the Uighur lineage of Turks (the Chinese sources mention their origins from the coitus of the ancestor wolf with the daughter of the Hun [Xiongnu] Khan). As per Golden, the Uighur Oghuznāma mentions “Blue Wolf” as being their war cry. The same pattern is again seen in the case of the Chingizid Mongols, where the male ancestor is the wolf. Thus, even though the wolf motif is widespread in the Turko-Mongol and Indo-European world (e.g., the founding of Rome), the Wusun and the Ashina clan share the female nurse/ancestress. Thus, the etymology of Wusun and Ashina is seen as deriving from a common root Aśvin. Beckwith correctly reasons that this group was likely a steppe Indo-Aryan remnant rather than Iranian, given the root form Aśva as opposed to Aspa (e.g., in steppe Iranian Arimaspa).
4) Finally, we have Bailey’s suggestion that it derives from steppe Iranian Śaka word āṣṣeiṇa for blue. This would match the Blue Turk appellation of the clan. However, we suspect that, while there might be something to this etymology, it is more likely an instance of retro-fitted etymologizing based on the Śaka word in one branch of the Ashina clan. There is no evidence that all branches of the clan called themselves Blue Turks.

Thus, we cautiously posit that the most likely origin of the Ashina clan was via the Turkification of an originally Indo-European (likely Indo-Aryan) steppe people that retained its elite status through multiple admixtures with East Asian groups that spoke a Turkic language. We suspect that this Turkification of the Ashina-s probably occurred over a prolonged period ranging from the Xiongnu Khaghanate all the way to the early Rouran period. Yet some imprints of the IE affinities can be gleaned even as they become more prominent on the historical landscape. It is likely that cremation was the primary funerary practice among the Ashina elite as opposed to the traditions of the Hunnic elite, linking them to an old IE tradition. In further support of a specific Indo-Aryan connection, we may point out that the names of the founding brothers of the Blue Turk Khaghanate Bümin and Ishtemi do not have an explicit Turkic etymology. However, Bümin can be transparently derived from Indo-Aryan Bhūmin (note Indic bodhisattva > early Mongolic bodi-satva on Khüis Tolgoi Brāhmī inscription) or Iranic Būmin = “the possessor of the land”. Similarly, the name Īśbara kept by multiple early Turkic Khans can be derived from Indo-Aryan Īśvara. However, the apparent decipherment of the Khüis Tolgoi, Bugut and the short Keregentas (Kazakhstan) Brāhmī inscriptions by Vovin, Maue and team suggest that there was Indic influence on the steppe which might have gone along with the missionary activity of the Bauddha-s (as opposed to remnants of steppe Indo-Aryans like the Wusun). One cannot rule out the role it might have had in transmitting Indic names and terms to the early Turkic and Mongolic groups. In the Khüis Tolgoi Brāhmī inscription we already encounter a Blue Turk Khaghan if Vovin’s reading is correct: Niri Khaghan türüg khaghan: Niri Khaghan, the Khaghan of the Turks. This would point to contact with Indic cultural elements early in their history.

In this regard, we would like to point out one further, more tenuous connection. The Chinese sources, like the Zhoushu mention that the Khaghan of the Turks performs a ritual at the ancestral cave in Ötükän mountain where Ashina was born from/suckled by the female wolf. Suishu further adds that on the eighth day of the 5th month the Turks perform a great sacrifice and send a ritualist into the cave to make offerings to their ancestors. Ethnological investigations have indicated that the Siberian Turks make offerings to the gods and ancestors with the incantation cök usually coupled with a formula. For example, Inan notes the following (in translation):

O my ancestor Kayra Khan, the Protector! cök! Here it is, offering to you Kayra Khan!
Cök! Here it is, offering to you! My mother (like fire) with thirty heads.
My old mother with forty heads; when I recite cök! Have mercy!

The latter two appear to be offerings to polycephalous female deities one of whom is associated with the fire (c.f. the Mongol fire goddess). Similarly, Anohin also recorded several formulae with offerings made with the cök incantation, including to the ancestor Kayra Khan.
Ak-it purul piske polush, cök! = Grey and white dog! help us! Cök!

Interestingly, Aydin found that this incantation found in modern Turkic formulae is already seen in several runiform Yenisei inscriptions from around the time of the Blue Turk Khaghanate and Erdal interpreted it (in our opinion correctly) as something that implies “I offer my sacrifice”. For example, we have: “Tengrim cök! bizke” = To Tengri cök!; [may he favor] us (in the Yenisei inscription cataloged as Tuba II [E 36], 2). In another Yenisei inscription, we encounter a similar formula invoking Tengri in the context of a holy rock and a cliff — perhaps a parallel to the cave offerings of the Blue Turks.

A closer examination of the known exemplars of the Turkic cök incantations reveals a parallel to the mantra incantations that end in svāhā, sometimes with an additional phrase reminiscent of idaṃ [devāya etc.] na mama. Zhang He noted (following the Song dynasty scholar Shen Kuo) that the “sai” incantation, which was usually present at the ends of the formulae deployed by the mysterious Chu kingdom (from 300 BCE or before) was likely originally svāhā or a derivative thereof (Chinese sa-po-he). The Chu kingdom is believed to have originally had a non-Cīna soma- and fire-sacrificing elite, likely of steppe Indo-Iranian origin who might have been absorbed by the Huns. Thus, it is not far-fetched to propose that the Turkic cök formula was also inspired by or derived from svāhā — something that would be compatible with the proposed Indo-Iranian roots of the elite Ashina clan.

The runiform scripts origins and spread beyond the “Orkhon” horizon
Shortly after his decipherment of the Turkic runiform inscriptions, Thomsen proposed that the runiform script was probably derived from Aramaic via Sogdian or additional Iranic intermediaries. This hypothesis came to be widely accepted in a manner parallel to the Aramaic hypothesis for the origin of the Indian Brāhmī script. However, it should be noted that some of the same problems confront the Aramaic hypothesis for both Brāhmī and runiform. Talat Tekin notes that the Orkhon inscriptions contain 38 characters and there are two additional characters that he takes to represent syllables in the Bain Tsokto stele of Tonyukuk. Of these, there are 4 vowel signs — something that Aramaic does not use. Brāhmī has an even more elaborate vowel system based on the Indo-Aryan grammatical tradition that is necessary to encode Indian languages — something which is unparalleled in the Aramaic family. The runiform script does not distinguish some long from short vowels and totally devotes 4 signs for these (/a, ä/; /i, ï/; /o, u/; /ö, ü/). 20 signs represent either a plain consonant or a/ä+consonant; e.g., at/ät. The remaining 16 signs represent various other consonants that are neutral with respect to the vowels, syllables like “ash” and sounds like ich, uk etc. Thus, the organization is quite unlike the Iranic scripts derived from Aramaic or old Aramaic itself. Now, we know that Aramaic was used in southern Central Asia within the Indosphere — e.g., Aśoka Maurya’s inscription in the northwest. There was also Kharoṣṭhī which appears to have represented a genuine Indian adaptation of Iranic administrative Aramaic with vowel diacritics for better encoding of Indo-Iranian languages. Thus, while Aramaic and Aramaic-inspired scripts were in vogue in Central Asia and India, directly deriving Brāhmī and runiform from Aramaic is not well-supported. Instead, both seem to be scripts that were probably inspired by the “presence of writing” rather than being direct adaptations of other scripts. In the Indian situation, the possibility of some memory of the Harappan signs (believed by most to be a script) is another factor, whereas in the Central Asian situation there were multiple local scripts, including possibly Aramaic, that could have provided some indirect influence.

With this background we may examine the actual situation on the ground. In Mongolia, the earliest inscriptions, Khüis Tolgoi and Bugut, which appear to go back to the Rouran Hun Khaghanate, are in Brāhmī. The Keregentas inscriptions indicate Brāhmī was in use over a wide part of the “Altaic” domain. We know that Brāhmī and its derivatives rapidly spread through central Asia concomitantly driving Kharoṣṭhī to extinction. Given its superior representation of vowels, it was evidently adaptable for non-Indo-Aryan languages and was likely seen as the script of choice when the second Hun Khaghanate sought to adopt one. Three of the faces of the Bugut stele have Sogdian inscriptions that appear to go back to the first Blue Turk Khaghanate. This suggests that after the overthrow of the Hun Khaghanate, the Turks decided to break from Brāhmī and adopt the Sogdian script. Apart from these inscriptions, there is the mysterious silver bowl which was discovered in 1969-70 during the excavation of a richly furnished grave at the Issyk Kurgan about 50 Km East of Almaty, Kazakhstan. The date of the grave remains contested but is believed to be at least as early as 150-200 BCE. The bowl contains a two-line inscription comprised of 25 or 26 characters. Many authors thought this was an early version of the Turkic runiform script. Ünal and Xursudjan instead understood it to be a version of the Aramaic script based on comparisons to Aśoka Maurya’s Aramaic inscriptions and the other mysterious Ai Khanum silver ingot inscription. Based on the Aramaic interpretation, it has been read by Ünal as having some clearly Indo-Iranian words. The first word is read as yuvan= youth in Indo-Iranian languages. The second word is read as zyād, which is interpreted as a version of shad, a word seen on the Orkhon inscriptions and again of Iranic provenance (i.e., chief or prince). In contrast, the remaining words are read as an early form of Mongolic, and Ünal links this script to the script-like markings found in some Xiongnu era graves. The proposed lower bound age of 150-200 BCE and location would be consistent with the first Hun Khaghanate of the Xiongnu. Thus, it would seem that the Huns initially adopted Aramaic, at least in the western reaches of their empire, probably via interactions with Iranic groups (supported by the loans in the proposed reading). While Ünal further thinks it provides an intermediate between Aramaic and the Turkic runiform script, there seems to be quite a temporal gap between the two with no evidence for the use of Aramaic (leaving aside Iranic descendants like Sogdian) in the region during the intervening period. Hence, we believe that the evidence for the Aramaic hypothesis for the origin of the runiform script still remains weak.


The Issyk silver bowl inscription

If we set aside the Issyk inscription, we are still left with the question as to when the runiform script started being used? An interesting clue in this regard comes from the recent discovery of bone plates used as a grip for a composite bow that were found in an Avar grave at Szeged-Kiskundorozsma, Hungary. These plates are inscribed with a runiform script that is related to but not identical to that used in the Eastern Turkic texts. The bone plates gave calibrated radiocarbon dates ranging from 660-770 CE, whereas thermoluminescence dating of a pot from the grave site gave a central date of 695 CE. These are in the general age range of the second Turkic Khaghanate’s inscriptions. These join a relatively small set of comparable short runiform inscriptions that have been found in Eastern Europe from the Avar horizon but without the secure dating of the above. All of these remain undeciphered. However, the recent discovery of several runiform inscriptions in the Altai has uncovered signs that are similar to those in these Eastern European exemplars. Further, we know that the Khazar Khaghanate also used a runiform script. At least one clear example of this found at the end of a letter written by a Jew has a short Khazar phrase (interpreted as “I have read”) in runiform (probably by a Turk in response) that can be read largely on the basis of the Eastern Turkic Khaghanate’s runiform script. Beyond this, there are several other short Khazar inscriptions that remain undeciphered — in part because the exact Khazar dialect of Turkic remains poorly understood, the inscriptions are short, and some signs are distinct from those of the Eastern runiform corpus. However, some of these signs overlap in form with those seen in the Eastern European inscriptions attributed to the Avars.


Mammoth bone runiform inscription from Yakutia — the northern reaches of the Turk domain

Recent genetic evidence has strongly established that the Avars are the remnants of the Rouran Hun Khaghanate that was overthrown by their Turk feudatories to establish the first Turk Khaghanate. Thus, it would be reasonable to propose that the script was invented in some form before the destruction of the Rouran Khaganate, most likely among the Turkic tribes. Given that the Rouran Huns themselves appear to have preferred Brāhmī, it is possible that this was a “national” script that Turks devised to specifically distinguish themselves and their language. However, it is likely that the script was also known to at least some of the Rouran Huns or Turkic groups allied to them that carried it west as they fled. Thus, in part, the inability to decipher the Eastern European Avar exemplars might come from the fact that they encode an early branch of the Mongolic language rather than a Turkic language (c.f. the Chingizid use of the Uighur script for Mongolian). In this regard, the case of the mysterious jug inscriptions can also be considered. Before the Bratsk Reservoir in Russia was flooded, six silver jugs were found on the Murujskij island by a fisherman before it went under. The form of these jugs is similar to the silver/gold jugs found at the funerary monuments of Bilge Khaghan and other members of his family. Only two of the Murujskij jugs survive and the bottom of one of them has an interesting inscription in the runiform script that can be completely transcribed on the basis of the Eastern Turkic runiform script like that seen on the Orkhon stelae. However, the transcription cannot be deciphered as Turkic (and so far as anything else). Nevertheless, the inscription is associated with the Ashina clan’s ibex tamgha (also seen on the second jug). This indicates that even though the jugs with the inscription are from the Turkic Khaghanate, the runiform script on them was used to encode a language other than Turkic. Recently, another inscription was found on a mammoth bone amulet far north in Yakutia, indicating the spread of the script and possibly the extent of the Turkic Khaghanate. Such a scenario of expansion and subsequent splintering of the Khaghanate would be consistent with: 1) the runiform script being adopted by languages unrelated to but geographically proximal to Turkic; 2) The divergence in form between different Turkic groups (e.g., those in the West which eventually gave rise to the Khazar version and those in the east which gave rise to the Uighur version); 3) Loss — once the Turks lost their self-identity as a nation and became satellites or vehicles of the Abrahamistic religions.



The mysterious Murujskij silver jug and runifrom inscription

Finally, we can say that as more inscriptions are found in Mongolia, the Yenisei and Altai we might still learn some poorly understood facets of early Turkic history. Recently (in 2017), a further monument with 14 pillars was discovered at Dongoin Shiree in Eastern Mongolia with several inscriptions and tamghas that are yet to be published in detail. The preliminary report by Japanese researchers indicates that it was the monument of the one of the shad-s of Bilge Khaghan, the yabhgu or viceroy of the eastern territories. With respect to the Yenisei inscriptions, Klyashtornyj has recently read evidence for some facets of the history of the Western Ashina Khaghans. For example, he believes that the branch of the Türgish who left the inscriptions found in Minusinsk basin near the lake of Altyn-köl were the predecessors of the Kirghiz Khaghans who eventually conquered the Uighur Khaghanate. One of the inscriptions mentions a certain general Chabysh Ton-tarqan from this clan — the name Chabysh seems to be an early attestation of the root of Chebyshev, the famous Russian mathematician who is supposed to have descended from a Chingizid Mongol chief. Another runiform funerary inscription from the Yenisei (Uibat VI) commemorates a certain hero named Tirig-beg who is said to have fought like a wild boar when the mighty Uighurs were overthrown. These complement the Suja inscription found in the early 1900s by the Finnish expedition in Northern Mongolia, which was commissioned by Boila Qutlugh-yargan who also participated in the great Kirghiz-Uighur clash of 840 CE. It is likely that this event and the subsequent Kirghiz invasion of the Chinese territories was what formed the core of their oral epic of the hero Manas.

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Vikīrṇā viṣayāḥ: India and the Rus

\S \star Our sleep was disturbed by a dream with a circulating motif whose exact story line, if any, was lost upon awakening. It started with a tall elderly man of West African ancestry playing cricket (batting) with the swagger of a young star at the peak of his career. Striking the ball along the ground or smashing it high into the stands he scored on with ease reminding one of the great black emperors of yore from the Caribbean. Then the dream entered the motif phase with the same man, rather paradoxically, in a classroom repeatedly explaining a single-peaked statistical distribution he claimed to have discovered — we tried hard to capture the equation of that distribution but failed at every repetition of the motif. This kind of REM sleep can be rather troubling, and we tossed and turned around before settling into another scene that seemed to have no connection to the above (unless of course, we forgot that snatch upon awakening). In this scene was an elderly Russian Jewish woman — we would estimate her age as being around 85-90 years — who sat on a chair with a table in front of it. Soon another bearded man appeared beside her — he seemed to be in his 60s but in great health. He exuded a profound ambivalence that strongly impressed upon us — while a part of him presented features consistent with a good character, the rest of him was filled with rapacity, cunning and a taskara spirit. He told the old woman in an unusual accent that seemed either German or Russian that we spoke German. The woman responded in a feeble voice: “Die beiden Grenadiere.” We then saw ourselves in the dream reading out the famous poem of Heinrich Heine:

Nach Frankreich zogen zwei Grenadier’,
Die waren in Russland gefangen.
Und als sie kamen ins deutsche Quartier,
Sie liessen die Köpfe hangen.

Two grenadiers were marching back to France
They had been held captive in Russia,
And when they reached German lands
They hung their heads in shame.

Da hörten sie beide die traurige Mär:
Dass Frankreich verloren gegangen,
Besiegt und geschlagen das tapfere Heer—
Und der Kaiser, der Kaiser gefangen.

For here they learnt the sorry tale
That France had been conquered in war,
Her valiant army beaten and shattered,
And the Emperor, the Emperor captured.

“Dann reitet mein Kaiser wohl über mein Grab,
Viel Schwerter klirren und blitzen;
Dann steig ich gewaffnet hervor aus dem Grab—
Den Kaiser, den Kaiser zu schützen!”

“That will be my Emperor riding by my grave;
Swords will be clashing and flashing;
And armed, I’ll rise up from the grave
To defend the Emperor, my Emperor!”

The old woman said: “Sollen wir mit Russland oder Frankreich sein, das war die Frage…” We either did not catch or forgot the rest of her words except for the very last: “Russen und die heidnischen Indianer”. We awoke soon thereafter and the memories of the rest of the dream were lost. It was the 100th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

\S \star There are two things have are remained fairly stable in the politics of our times: the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi and Galtonism. Much else of what concerns the Hindu nation develops around these two. The concluding words that we remembered from our dream brought to mind a clear parallel that has long existed but recently raised its head again in the H world. In our previous note, from shortly after the start of the current European war, we traced the path of the rise of the new mleccha religion, navyonmāda, and its role in the overthrow of the Nārīṅgapuruṣa and beyond. Indeed, any sane, politically aware heathen living in mahāmleccha-land will get of sense of how it might have been for the last heathens of the classical world as the frenzied followers of the śūlaprotapreta were starting to gain the upper hand in enforcing their cult. We observed that when it comes to the Rus, the navyonmatta backers of Vṛddhapiṇḍaka and their internal opponents among the mleccha-s, i.e., the more protapreta-aligned folks or some of the more secularized uparimarakata-s are quite aligned in their rhetoric. As we have noted several times on these pages, the mleccha-marūnmatta-yāśu overrides even the yauna-sambandha between the paśchima-mleccha alliance and the Rus. Briefly, the inclusion of the Turuṣka in the rotten soybean soup has its deep roots in the Crimean war against the Rus. This continued to the recent times in the form of the first Afghan war, the “soft underbelly strategy”, the Chechnyan war, and the support for the marūnmattātaṅka in Rus cities. Similarly, when it comes to the H both sides of the mleccha political spectrum are quite aligned. In the case of navyonmāda, given its natural attraction for marūnmāda, it usually proceeds via active fostering of the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi. In the case of the mleccha “right” and uparimarakata “classical liberals” or “neoconservatives” it proceeds either via support for the kīlitapreta-bhānaka-s or “enlightenment values” (e.g., the anti-H garbage spouted by the scientist Stuart Kauffman in a talk is just one example among the many from that group).

Both among the Rus and H there exist many who are truly in love with the mahāmleccha sphere (i.e., the pañcanetra-s) and identify closely with them. For the Rus the path of assimilation in the mahāmleccha mass is trivial but for the H it is formidable. Yet, the H have tried hard to do so. Among the Rus who managed to immigrate this process is mostly complete, but among those who could not, for one reason or another, different levels of yearning still exist. We could argue that even the pro-Rus elite, including Putin, wanted to be accepted as respectable members of the Occidental sphere; however, their being spurned resulted in a return to antipathy. Among the H who have immigrated and those who hold the hope to do the same, the yearning is more like that of a guy pining for a beautiful girl who does not cast a glance his way. Ironically, both the anti-Rus or anti-H policies of the Occident end up hurting those who are mostly friendly to them. However, the Indian situation is more complex. There is a sizable pro-mleccha class in India that finds work that is metaphorically not very different from that of the sepoys under the English tyrants. The Indian system and its deep penetration by the Occident, has meant that this class will actually aid the Occident in implementing any anti-H moves. It seems this class was largely eliminated or defanged among the Rus by Putin. Those of that class who were mūlavātūla-s have mostly left for their own or to the mahāmleccha lands. In contrast, the Indian equivalents of that class are going nowhere and the government neither has the awareness nor the courage to defang them as of now.

As we have again noted on these pages, the pañcanetra-s are master shadow warriors — their conquest of India and humiliation of the Cīna-s was a masterly exposition of the same. In the case of the Rus, when their marūnmatta allies failed to play the proxy role successfully they had to personally intervene in the form of the Crimean war. But even there, the core of the pañcanetra of the age (the English) lost fewer men while letting France to take the heaviest losses. Since the conclusion of the Crimean war, the (proto)pañcanetra has vigorously sought to obtain useful rentier states in the region that can do their bidding against the Rus. The current Ukrainian state was the fructification of this dream. In the subcontinent, when WW2 forced the English to retreat, following the usual doctrine of the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi, they created TSP as the rentier state to the keep the H in check. Though the English retreated, the mantle of pañcanetra power was now in the hands of the mahāmleccha-s, who continued that policy with respect to TSP. The people of the rentier state itself might suffer, but it will be kept afloat as long as it serves the purpose of the pañcanetra-s in the realist goals against the target state. As result, these rentier states are among the most corrupt systems in the world. So far, the mleccha-s seem to have a high tolerance for the blowback that comes from these volatile pets of theirs. The mahāmleccha-s even accepted an assault of the magnitude of 9/11 to keep TSP afloat. The blowback from Ukraine has been much less, but the role it has played in frauds and cybercrimes in mleccha-land going all the way to Vyādha-piṇḍaka is immense. It is possible in the future is brings in more terrorism with all the arms the mleccha-s have pumped into the state.

\S \star Given that the history of the current conflict goes back to at least the Crimean war, we cannot but help get to its essence: the pañcanetra-s and their vassals essentially wanted to fulfill the aims of that war, viz. degrade the Rus to the point that they are no longer a great power. This is essentially the basis for the expansion of the rotten soybeans confederation right into the land of the “Mother of all Russian cities”. A parallel to the H world cannot be missed — aiding TSP, that festering rump of the Mogol empire, to take over much of the pāñcanada, which was the mother of all the Indian cities was not very different. Thus, the Rus were confronted with an existential predicament: were they going to resist this encroachment of the Occident into their natural domain by means of a rentier state or were they going to back down with a whimper. Like the Hādi-śūlapuruṣa in the old days, Putin too desired to be accepted by the pañcanetra-backed West as a part of their world. However, as it became increasingly clear that the Occident had no such intention but the contrary, he decided to take back Crimea first, and try the strategy of a low-key war in the Donbas. That later strategy seemed to have worked poorly. Second, he probably sensed that the duṣṭa-Sora-bandhu in Danu-Apara-deśa might have more aggressive plans (likely backed by Sora himself, especially given that his anuyāyin-s have successfully taken control of the mahāmleccha government). Of course, the more cynical mahāmleccha-s think it might have been triggered by the realization of his impending mortality from a cancer — in a sense, he personally had nothing to lose in some big stakes gamble. However, we believe it is a very rational fork the Rus were confronted with and had to take one of the two paths mentioned above.

The expectations and the commentary on the conflict have been wild. The mleccha-s have been claiming exaggerated victories for duṣṭa-Sora-bandhu and his paradoxical allies from the Hādi-puruṣa-pakṣa On the other hand, many expected the Rus to overrun the Dānu-Apara-deśa within a month. However, that has not happened, and the fourth month of the conflict will soon dawn. This was the limit placed by the Rus nationalist Karlin as the boundary beyond which discontent might arise in Rus against their lord. Hence, many have shifted to the mahāmleccha view of things. However, as we had remarked earlier, neither of these paths should have been expected. Historically, the Rus have not shown overwhelming military dominance from the get-go and have tended to have spotty performance in battle (Crimean war, loss to Japan, Afghanistan). However, over time they have repeatedly shown the capacity to doggedly stick to and achieve their military goals. To reiterate, they initially floundered against both the Napoleonic French (Heine’s poem) and the Germans but they came back strongly on each occasion. Thus, their performance in the current war is consistent with this past. In our assessment, while they initially lost impetus, they have subsequently made steady progress. While you may not hear it in the Occidental media, there are clear indications of this: First, the Hādi-puruṣa-pakṣin-s, whose existence the Occident grudgingly accepted, appear to have faced heavy losses and many have been taken alive. These were some of the most committed fighters in the East of that deśa. Second, if one heard the latest interviews of the sora-bandhu with his backers in the Western press, one could hear between the lines that he is hard-pressed. Third, and importantly, the mahāmleccha-s are growing increasingly silent in their news coverage of the glorious wins of their Hādi-puruṣa-pakṣin allies. The mahāduṣṭa Cumbaka, even paradoxically noted that the Dānuka-s may have to cede territory to the Rus. We still do not know how far the Rus would advance. However, it is clear that the Rus-majority regions have now been or will be soon lost by the Dānuka-s despite the spectacular victories claimed on their behalf by the mahāmleccha-s. Will the Rus be able to hold on once their strongman lord attains Vaivasvata or will the mleccha-backed rump of the Kievans make a new advance to recover their losses? That remains to be seen.

Finally, it should be noted that for whatever inconvenience the sanctions of the mleccha-s have caused to the Rus, the mahā-mleccha economy itself is floundering under its navyonmatta leadership. In the end, any sane person would realize that as of today there is no way to maintain the comforts of a modern society without consuming liquid fossil fuels. Beyond being an energy source, they are also the industrial raw material for a wide range of products that are the quintessence of modern life. Indeed, the rout of Germany in WW2 was due to their limitations in accessing liquid fossil fuels. While they captured the French reserves and managed to obtain some from Romania after their eastward thrust, they simply could not match the Soviet supplies. Nor could they capture the Soviet oil fields. The Japanese initially secured their fuel supply after the conquest of the archipelago. However, the American fightback and defeat of the Japanese in the naval battle of Midway limited their safe transportation of fuel in face of the American assaults. After their rout in WW2 at the hands of the Rus in Manchuria, the Japanese decided to surrender to the mahāmleccha-s to save their sacerdotal monarch. Thus, they learnt the hard way that the key to maintaining a modern economy was to have a reliable and proximal fossil fuel supply. Hence, they decided to restore better relationships with the Rus to access oil via Sakhalin. The mahāmleccha-s are now pressurizing them to get off Rus fuel. However, the Japanese industrial leaders have correctly realized the serious negative impact this would have and called on their government to continue dealing with the Rus. The śūlapuruṣa-s too depend heavily on Rus fuel and could lose their preeminent status as the industrial powerhouse of continental Europe if they decide to go along with the mahāmleccha directives. We even suspect that the aṅglamleccha-uparimarakata alliance might be seeing this as a means to kill two birds with one stone — sink both their old enemies the śūlapuruṣa-s and the Rus. Hungary too, which knows well of the evil of duṣṭa-Sora, seems unwilling to sacrifice its comforts by going all out against the Rus. Thus, we remain skeptical as to whether the maṇḍala-dhvaja-s and śulapuruṣa-s would really decouple from the Rus. Moreover, so far the Rus scheme for ruble payments in return for fuel, grain and fertilizers continues despite the sanctions. Hence, we hold that the Occident has failed to achieve the victory it desired in its proxy war with the Rus. That said, we accept this conflict is far from over.

\S \star In late Hindu antiquity, H thinkers realized that the restoration of the dharma-raṣtra cannot occur without a decisive and complete victory over the ekarākṣasonmāda-s. This was presented metaphorically as the kali being brought to a close only upon the uccāṭana of the unmāda-s by Kalkin. The tāthāgata-s recognized the same even as their centers were being reduced to cinders by the bearded ruffians. The catastrophic first war of independence in 1857 CE was fought on fundamentally unsound foundations on the part of the H. After that they have not really fought for the reestablishment of the dharma state as they continued with the same or worse premises on which the 1857 effort was founded. Moreover, freedom came only because the English had already sucked India dry and for practical purposes, they lost the bigger war elsewhere as they had to cede their preeminence in the pañcanetra system to their mahāmleccha cousins. To add to the H woes, while they had freedom from the English tyrants, they had lost key tracts of their land to their old ekarākṣasa enemies, who had not yet been completely overthrown when the English struck. Thus, the H had merely kicked the can down the road in a world where few could act independently without being policed by the pañcanetra confederation and its vassals. The one power that gained the capacity to act with some independence via a combination of the old Galtonian bond and the mleccha rapacity for cheap manufactures was the Cīna-s, who too had become an enemy of the H. Thus, just like the Rus, the H too were presented with a fork on the road: either die with a whimper like a śvan strangled for a Yulin feast or attempt to regain the dharma state by the overthrow of the ekarākṣasa yoke on their necks. The latter path would mean fighting the combined power of the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi with the Hans potentially fishing in the troubled waters. The H leadership decided to simply postpone any confrontation of the question as it was too painful to even contemplate. Neither road was pleasant, and the human cost was going to be huge.

But nations without power do not have the choice of their battlefields. Even as we woke from the strange dream the news reached us that the Indian state had abjectly capitulated to the marūnmatta-s, with the mleccha-s and first responders cheering them on. The details of this need no elaboration as they are rather well known to all. Nevertheless, just for the historical record, we would simply say that, as is usual of them, the marūnmatta-s are baying for the head of a V_1 government official for speaking the truth about the rākṣasa-mata. There is nothing new in that, but the following are notable: 1) The Lāṭeśvara was brought into power with the hope that he would deal firmly with the marūnmatta-s, even as he did so when they burnt the H alive in his province. However, he meekly caved to the pressure from the West Asian marūnmatta hellholes even as his predecessor the nāmamātra-vājapeyin had done when the marūnmatta-s hijacked the Indian plane to occupied Gandhāra. Then the mistake was done of keeping those three ghāzi-s above the ground after their capture when they should have been promptly dispatched to one of Citragupta’s chambers (it seems the security forces have mostly learnt their lesson since). 2) Moreover, the capitulation of the Lāṭeśvara took place against the backdrop of the renewed ghāzi activity in Kaśyapa-deśa. Residual Vaṅga and Cerapada are tottering under regular marūnmatta assaults too. 3) Most galling thing was that the Lāṭeśvara’s government sent a message to the H that they were more concerned about their enemies who seek to annihilate them rather than the H themselves. 4) It is rather telling that the government even abdicated its mandate for law enforcement under the secular constitution to which they cleave – simple cut and dry cases of freedom of expression and incitement of violence – that could put the ruffianly marūnmatta-s in place (thankfully a couple of state leaders are following that in the least). One could go into any number of explanations (and few of them are entirely valid) of why the Lāṭeśvara capitulated but the bottom line is that the Indian government under electoral politics is too weak to confront the foes of the H. While one could raise parallels to the Mūlasthāna Sūrya temple hostage situation with the Pratihāra-s, a modern state aspiring great power status should have the means of countering such blackmail – they are quite obvious though they cannot be mentioned in public. Hence, the Lāṭeśvara and his court should have at least made that honest confession to the H people that they and probably their army are too weak to confront the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi; hence, they would need to capitulate.

We believe that, as with the Rus, the H have been taken to the fork in the road. The Lāṭeśvara, the only patriotic leader with a mass appeal, has shown the weakness of his position. This has cast serious doubt on his ability to take the H through the confrontation — rather he has stuck with the old practice of kicking the can down the road. The government’s hope is everything will be hunky-dory after some cycles of Freitag Eruptionen, but, make no mistake, the marūnmatta-s have sensed that the aging Lāṭeśa is no longer the man he was when he held sway in Lāṭa. If the V_1 woman is killed, then it will embolden them even further. They have won this round and will come back for more. Duṣṭa-sora and the navyonmatta-s also want to overthrow the Ānartapa — hence, their natural alliance will swing into action. They have already planted the deśī equivalent of the Dānu-apara’s sora-bandhu along with his band of uśnīśātatāyin-s. Sora and his agents have also succeeded in corrupting the judiciary along the lines of what they have done in mahāmleccha land. Hence, we believe that whether H like it or not they will find themselves on one or the other fork sooner than later and they may not even have a choice. The default endpoint would be that of a camel garroted by a marūnmatta.

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Alkaios’ hymn to the Dioskouroi: Hindu parallels

In this note we shall see how even a short “sūkta” of the yavana Alkaios to the Dioskouroi (individually named Kastor and Polydeukes), the Greek cognates of the Aśvin-s, offers several parallels to the Hindu tradition in the Veda. In the Veda, the Aśvin-s are the sons of Rudra hinting at his overlap with Dyaus (tvam agne rudra asuro mahodivaḥ | or bhuvanasya pitṛ). In the Greek and Roman traditions, they are the son of Zeus or Jupiter maintaining that old connection going back to the Proto-Indo-European tradition and probably beyond to prehistoric times. In Greece, the memory of their Rudrian character is recorded in a 600-500 BCE stele from Sellasia in the Spartan realm where Plestiadas, a pious votary of the deities, inscribed a verse stating that he erected it “out of fear of the fury of the Tyndarid twins (the Dioskouroi)”.

Figure 1. A denarius of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius showing the twin gods Castor and Pollux with the eagle of Jupiter between them. This iconography closely parallels that of their para-Vedic relatives Skanda and Viśākha. The stars above them signify their association with the constellation of Gemini — an ancient association also reflected in the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa.

deũté moi nãson Pélopos lípontes,
paĩdes íphthimoi Díos ēdè Lḗdas,
eùnóōi thúmōi prophánēte, Kástor
kaì Polúdeukes,
oì kát eùrēan khthóna kaì thálassan
paĩsan èrkhesth’ ṑkupódōn ep’ ìppōn,
rē̃a d’ anthrṓpois thanátō rúesthe
eúsdúgōn thrṓiskontes ep’ ákra náōn
pḗlothen lámproi próton’ ontrékhontes
argaléai d’ en núkti pháos phérontes
nãï melaínai;

Come to me all the way from Pelops’ island,
powerful sons of Zeus and Leda,
make your appearance with a kindly soul, Kastor
and Polydeukes!
You ride over the wide earth and the entire sea
on your quick-footed horses;
you rescue men with ease from death
due to freezing,
leaping from afar to the tops of their well-benched ships,
shining brightly as you run up the forestays;
to that in trouble in the night you bring light,
to the ship in darkness.

We shall now consider both linguistic and philological equivalences with Sanskrit usages:
• paĩdes = putra \to son; This occurs in the phrase “paĩdes íphthimoi Díos” \to the powerful sons of Zeus (and Leda). That parallels the phrase: divo napātā vṛṣaṇā: the manly offspring of Dyaus.
• We render thúmōi as soul. The thumos is a cognate of dhūma is Skt (= smoke/steam going back to PIE with same meaning). In Greek, one of its meanings, breath, is related to the original meaning, from which we get soul. The equation of soul and breath is also seen in H tradition: For instance, prāṇa is called the “soul”. The other Skt word ātman is related to an old IE word for breath (e.g., German Atem= breath).
• eùrēan khthóna \approx uruvyachasam pṛthivīm. The first word is an exact cognate of uru = wide. The khthóna= kṣmā (kṣa) \to earth;
• ṑkupódōn ep’ ìppōn parallels the phrase used for the Aśvin-s in RV 1.117.9 and RV 7.71.5: āśum aśvam: swift horse; podon = padam = foot; āśu = ōku \to swift; ippos = aśvaḥ \to horse. A comparable phrase is used by Gṛtsamada Śaunahotra in his spell for the chariot: āśavaḥ padyābhiḥ in RV 2.31.2: with swift steps/feet.
• rúesthe \approx rakṣathaḥ; c.f. rakṣethe dyubhir aktubhir hitam in RV 1.34.8: you protect through day and night. The protection at night is also mentioned in the Greek hymn(below).
• núkti = nakta (0-graded to aktā) = night; pháos = bhAs \to shine/light. phero > phérontes = bhara = to bear; náōn= nāvam \to boat. This protection offered to sailors by the Dioskouroi is mirrored in the marine rescue of Bhujyu stranded at sea that is mentioned in the śruti: yad aśvinā ūhathur bhujyum astaṃ śatāritrāṃ nāvam ātasthivāṃsam | RV1.116.5: when, Aśvin-s, you ferried Bhujyu to the shore after he mounted your ship of a hundred oars.

Figure 2. Castor and Pollux on a coin of the Roman republic with the ship on reverse.

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Some notes on the Indo-European aspects of the Anatolian tradition

This section is primarily for students of the old religion who approach it from the Indo-Aryan direction and tend to be less aware of the West Asian material. The Anatolian branch of “Indo-European” (in quotes because this appellation becomes inaccurate once Anatolian is brought into the picture; see below) has no living representatives. Modern linguists usually recognize 5 major branches: Hittite, Luwic, Palaic and Lydian, of which the Luwic dialect of Pisidian is the last attested from around 1-200 CE. In 1812 CE, Burckhardt discovered Anatolian monuments with strange hieroglyphic inscriptions in an unknown language. Eventually, this language was deciphered as Luwian. The archaeological excavations conducted by Winckler and Makridi at Boghazköy in 1906 CE led to the discovery of the erstwhile capital of the great Anatolian power, the Hittites. This site yielded a massive library of thousands of clay tablets in the cuneiform script originally developed for the Sumerian language. However, the language of these texts was clearly neither Sumerian nor Akkadian (a Semitic language that adopted the cuneiform script). In 1915 CE, Hrozny made a major breakthrough in the grammatical structure of the language by recognizing that it had vibhakti-s similar to old Indo-European (preserved in an archaic form in Sanskrit). These corresponded to sambodhana (vocative), prathamā (nominative), dvitīyā (accusative), tṛtīyā (instrumental), caturthī+saptamī (a common dative-locative), pañcamī (ablative), and ṣaṣṭhī (genitive). This finding led to the realization that the Hittite language might be an Indo-European one. In the following years, relatively easy texts were deciphered, and over time an increasing diversity of texts, spanning religion, politics and administration, were at least partially understood.

These developments have led to the unequivocal realization that Anatolian is a branch of the Indo-European family. However, its grammatical structures and linguistic features suggest that it was the earliest known branch of the “Indo-European family”; hence, the more correct term for the hypothesis describing the family would be Indo-Hittite. Linguistic phylogenetic analysis strongly suggests that the next branch to diverge from the stem was Tocharian. Archaeogenetic evidence is consistent with the progenitor of this branch corresponding to the Afanasievo Culture, which branched off from the early Indo-European Yamnaya Culture in the Caspian-Pontic region and rapidly moved eastwards by around 3300 BCE. On the western steppe, the remaining early Indo-Europeans interacted and admixed with the European farmers, represented by the Globular Amphora culture, to give rise to the clade that might be termed “core Indo-European”. These had begun rapidly splitting into the stems of the other major Indo-European lineages (e.g., Italo-Celtic, Greco-Armenian, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, and Indo-Iranian) latest by 3000 BCE. Over the next 1000 years, they launched several invasions radiating out of their homeland to cover much of mainland Eurasia. Together, these observations would mean that Hittites were not part of these Indo-European expansions but represent an early movement that happened prior to 3300 BCE.

So far, neither archaeogenetics nor archaeology has given any definitive clues regarding how the Anatolians reached their destination from the steppes. While both routes, via the Balkans and the Caucasus, have been proposed, there is currently sparse evidence in support of either scenario. Given that the above-mentioned branches of Anatolian are restricted to Anatolia and its immediate environs, the divergence likely happened in situ. Given the degree of their divergence, one may conservatively infer that they had arrived in the region sometime between 2800-2300 BCE, if not earlier. However, the actual records of Anatolian are later than that — Hittite words are first seen as loans in the records of Akkadian (an extinct Semitic language) businessmen operating in Anatolia from around 1900-1800 BCE. The Hittite kingdom emerged even later — only around 1700 BCE, with the names of their first great kings, Labarna I and Hattusili I, being recorded a little after that. This first kingdom of the Hittites lasted till around 1500 BCE. Between 1500-1380 BCE, the Hittite lands were dominated by Hurrian rulers, who were probably aided by Indo-Aryan warriors from the Sintashta-Andronovo expansion. In 1380 BCE, the Hittites made a comeback and waged war against the Hurrian state of the Mitanni led by an Indo-Aryan elite (e.g., their king *Sātavāja>Sattivaza), who were likely in an alliance with the Egyptians and had arisen to considerable power between 1600-1500 BCE. The treaty between Suppiluliuma I and Sattivaza is famous for listing the Indo-Aryan gods, Mitra, Varuṇa, Indra and the Nāsatya-s.

The aggressive military action of these new Hittite kings eventually led to the collapse of the Mitanni kingdom to their east; however, their growing power brought them new rivals, such as the Egyptians. The transport of Egyptian prisoners to their capital is suspected of having transmitted a disease. As the Hittites were weakened by the epidemic, which lasted 20 years, an alliance formed against them in western Anatolia led by the Arzawa, who spoke a distinct branch of Anatolian (Luwic or Lydian), several Hittite vassals and the Mycenaean Greeks. While the Hittites were wilting from the disease and the attack, they are believed to have used biological warfare by sending infected rams to the Arzawan alliance. In the aftermath of this event, the Hittites finally turned the tables on these rivals in the final phase of the reign of Mursili II. With this victory and the epidemic drawing to a close, the Hittites reached the climax of their power around 1300 BCE. However, this intensified their conflict with the imperial Egyptians — they fought a great chariot battle at Kadesh, but neither side could gain a decisive victory in the war. Thus, they settled for a marriage treaty in 1270 BCE. New enemies arose in the East in the form of the aggressive Assyrians, who had occupied the former Mitanni lands and waged destructive wars on the Hittites. In 1237 BCE, the Assyrians led by Shalmaneser I and Tukulti-Ninurta I defeated the Hittites in a major showdown at Nihriya, which was perhaps in the vicinity of the upper reaches of the Balih River. The Assyrian emperor Tukulti-Ninurta I then forced the Hittites to stop aiding the Kassites and conquered Babylon. While the Hittites continued to retain control over the Anatolian heartland, their power declined after this rout, and they were destroyed around 1170 BCE by unknown invaders. It is conceivable these invaders had some connection to an Iranic group (perhaps related to the Hakkari stelae) that came down from the steppes to the North.

The Anatolian languages were proximal to several distinct languages. When they arrived in Anatolia, they appear to have conquered a pre-Indo-European people, the Hattians, who spoke the Hattic language. This language might have descended from the ancestral language of the Anatolian farmers. Hattic influenced Hittite and was used alongside it. There are bilingual texts; for example, in one called “When the Storm-God thunders frightfully” following the ritual injunctions in Hittite, the ritualist is called to recite some Hattic incantations. Then there were the Urarto-Hurrian languages of unclear affinities that were spoken by the Hurrians. Several texts were translated from Hurrian into Hittite. The use of the cuneiform script and geographic proximity brought them in contact with the Sumerian language; Sumerian logograms were often used for Hittite words. To the East, the successors of the Sumerians, the Akkadians, who spoke an East Semitic language also influenced the Hittites and they deployed Akkadian logograms in their written language. To their south, their contacts with Egypt brought them into the sphere of Egyptian, a distant cousin of Semitic within the Afro-Asiatic family.

In addition to these local languages that preceded the presence of the Hittites in the region, there were the two core Indo-European languages that appeared in the locale as a result of their later expansions. To the West, the Greeks appear to have closely interacted with the Lydian and Luwian branches as part of the Arzawan alliance (probably the Greek memory of this event relates to the Trojan war that many believe relates to their attack on the Hittite province of Wilusha). To the East, the Hurrian state of the Mitanni had an Indo-Aryan elite, which appeared in the region by at least 1800 BCE (probably the western branch of the same Indo-Aryan group that conquered India). In the Kizzuwatna kingdom (today’s southern Turkey), which was allied with the Mittani before their conquest by the Hittites, we again find some of the kings or elites, such as Pariyawatri (<Paryavatri) and Śūnaśūra of likely had Indo-Aryan ancestry. Similarly, other Indo-Aryan (*Devātithi, *Subandhu, *Sumitra and *Suvardāta) and Iranic chiefs (Vidarṇa) were also operating in the Levant and Syria to the East and the Armenian states of Hayasa and Isuwa through the period of 14-1200 BCE. The direct contact with the Hittites is indicated by the Indo-Aryan loans seen in the famous equestrian manual of Kikkuli from the Hittite lands. Moreover, as suggested by Mayrhofer and Petrosyan, the theonym Akni found in a Hittite source and identified with the Sumerian Nergal/East Semitic Erra (fiery god; literally the scorcher) was most probably the Indo-Aryan Agni. Given the evidence for the Indo-Aryans in the Pontic steppes (Sindoi and Maeotians), it is not clear if they arrived in West Asia in a single invasion or multiply via the Caucasus (given their Armenian presence) from a base in the North.

Thus, in addition to their early divergence (usually linked to their retention of the laryngeals), their long presence in Anatolia with several neighboring cultures resulted in the Anatolian languages acquiring some peculiarities setting them apart from the rest of the Indo-Europeans. One example of this is the ergative formation (like Hindi and other Apabhramśa-s in India) that was probably acquired from Hattic. This influence also probably resulted in the loss of the feminine gender and the development of a new saptamī-like vibhakti, which has been termed the allative (could also be Semitic influence). Other simplifications are also seen in parallel with some of the later IE languages, such as the loss of the dual number and a reduced verb gradation — for instance, Hittite has a verbal distinction comparable to that between parasmaipada and atmanepada but does not have a true passive. Likewise, Hittite has only a single preterite and lacks the complex gradation of the past tense seen in the ancestral core IE. Moreover, most verbs conjugate comparably to Sanskrit asmi. Nevertheless, the Indo-European form is quite recognizable for several words. Below, we tabulate some well-known examples (it is not clear if the Hittite s was pronounced as s or ś; hence we simply render it as s):

Hittite Sanskrit Comment
ĕsmi asmi I am
ĕssi asi you are
eszi asti s/he is
asanzi santi they are
estu astu may he be (Skt loṭ: imperative)
asantu santu may they be (loṭ)
esun āsam was (Hittite preterite; Skt laṅ)
paah-si pāhi protect (loṭ)
dah-hi dhiye take
daskimi dedhīye take repeatedly (yaṅanta:
hartkas ṛkṣas bear (Ursus)
yugan yugam yoke
tāru dāru wood
nĕpis nabhas cloud
hastai asthi bone

The dynamics of the IE conquests were evidently related: 1) the mass of the mobilization in each of the invasions; 2) the density of the local populations and the resources they could command; 3) Potential military alliances with local groups. The core IE conquests in Asia and Europe can be loosely compared to those of the much later Chingizid Mongols — they were rapid and vast in their scale, often overthrowing and dominating deeply entrenched and densely populated agrarian centers. This evidently implies an effective military apparatus, even though we do not fully understand all its dimensions and how it was applied. In the first phase of the conquest of Europe, it is conceivable that a mixed economy combining some farming (probably related to the interaction with the Globular Amphora Culture) and mobile pastoralism provided the backbone for their military strategy. The latter evidently involved a degree of horse- and cattle-drawn transport. The second phase of the expansion, which also provided a new impetus throughout the rest of the IE world, was probably dependent on the invention of the spoked-wheel chariot and the breeding of superior horses by the Aryan branch. Both waves of core IE expansions were associated with either large scale replacement of the pre-IE populations (in places like Scandinavia or Central Asia) or the incorporation of the pre-IE populations (accompanied by admixture) within a new IE framework (e.g., Southern and Central Europe, India and East Asia). In contrast, the Anatolian conquest was apparently more gradual. This might reflect the fact that the Anatolians diverged at a relatively early stage before the more effective versions of the IE “military package” were in place. Moreover, they were potentially a smaller invading force entering a territory with long-established sedentary populations with aggressive military capabilities. Nevertheless, even the Anatolian version of the IE package was sufficient to allow their eventual dominance in the region.

Approaching the Anatolian tradition
Due to the above elements the Anatolian tradition, as it has come down to us, will necessarily be somewhat less recognizably IE in its form. This is also influenced by the workers in the field who are strongly affiliated with the study of West Asian and North African languages and traditions and have a strong Afro-Asiatic bias. While Sanskrit (starting with Hrozny) played an important role in the decipherment and apprehension of the Hittite language, the Hittitologists have paid less attention to Aryan philology in understanding the Anatolian tradition. Instead, there has been a much greater emphasis on interpreting Hittite tradition from an Afro-Asiatic perspective. There has also been a long-standing tendency of connecting the Hittite and the Greek tradition — the latest in this direction are the works of Archi, Bachvarova and Rutherford, who continue on the foundation laid by the earlier scholar Singer. This has also overlapped with the tendency to find West Asian or North African roots for various Greek traditions, even when obvious IE parallels exist — a misapprehension going back to Herodotus. While Bachvarova has correctly emphasized the need to turn to Aryan philology for understanding the later West Asian religious traditions, this aspect is quite under-appreciated in Anatolian studies, despite the repeated finding of a proximal, even if subtle, Indo-Aryan presence, in West Asia during the Hittite period.

A leader in Hittitology, Harry Hoffner, Jr, stated in the introduction to his landmark tome on Hittite mythology:

“The key to understanding any society is its living context. No amount of research into the events that transpired during its history, examination of its material remains, or analysis of its language can substitute for the intuitive understanding which comes from being a part of that era and society. Obviously, it is impossible for us to have this experience for any society of the past.”

We agree that this intuitive understanding is a key — no amount of linguistic palavering can substitute for it. While we do not belong to the Bronze Age steppe, we should emphasize that we are the only surviving practitioners of a reflex of the old IE religion quite close to its ancestral state. Thus, we are indeed in possession of a share of that intuitive understanding, which is key to the understanding of these texts. Hence, even though we are no Hittitologist, we believe that looking at the Anatolian texts with a comparative lens from an Aryan perspective is of considerable value in understanding that tradition and more generally the early IE religion. Before we move on with that, we must acknowledge that our presentation owes a debt to the translations and textual work by scholars such as C Watkins, I Singer, HA Hoffner Jr, B-J Collins, M Bachvarova, I Rutherford, JD Hawkins, J Puhvel, C Karasu and D Schwemer among many other contemporary and earlier ones. When we present their translations, we use the terms adopted them by such as “Sun God” or “Storm God”; however, it should be understood that the literal meaning of these translated terms does not carry the valence of the original deities hiding under those terms. However, we cannot do much in that regard as most of these terms stem from Sumerograms or Akkadograms whose actual Hittite equivalents might be unknown unless there are further attributes in the text.

How IE is the Anatolian tradition? We address this question by taking up many aspects of the religion as it has come down to us.

Thousands of gods
The first thing that strikes one about the Anatolian religion is that the Hittites have a large number of named gods, even by the standards of complete IE pantheons, like those of the Indo-Aryans. Now, there are three theological facets to this:

1) IE tradition acknowledges that there are a large number of gods, several thousands or more, even though only tens of them are actually named and distinctly recognized in ritual. Thus, in the Ṛgveda, Viśvāmitra states that:
trīṇi śatā trī sahasrāṇy agniṃ triṃśac ca devā nava cāsaparyan । RV 3.9.9

Thus, the number of gods is given as 3339 (also given in the Vaiśvadeva-nivid) — a number related to the synchronizing of the eclipse cycle and moon phase cycles. However, elsewhere in the RV, this number is given as 33 (with the corresponding goddesses):
patnīvatas triṃśataṃ trīṃś ca devān anuṣvadham ā vaha mādayasva । RV 3.6.9

This latter number is closer to the count of actually named gods. Hence, one could state that the thousand gods of the Hittites are merely a reflection of this. Indeed, we see a reference to a 1000 gods in a similar sense in a Hittite incantation against an imprecatory deployment (CTH 429.12):

“And you, O Sun-god, O Storm-god, O Patron-god, O [all] go[ds], with bow (and) arrow sho[ot the evil tongue], drive away the ev[il] tongues made [before the gods?]! And to the mar[iyani]-field we will take th[e]m, and bur[y] them there. And [let] them disappear from the sight of the gods: away from the Sun-god, the Storm-god, the Pa[tro]n-god, [a]nd from the Thousand Gods let them disappear.” Translation by Haroutunian.
Here, the 1000 gods appear to be a reference to the large number of unnamed gods — only three gods are explicitly named.

2) From the Indo-Aryan and Greek tradition we know that the same god might manifest as a distinctly named deity (devatā) specific to a particular incantation or a specific ritual. Thus, in the different Vedic rituals belonging to the ādhvaryava tradition of the Yajurveda the one god Indra might manifest as a multiplicity of deities, each specific to the ritual like: Indra Kṣetraṃjaya (for conquest of pastures); Indra Gharmavat (Pravargya); Indra Gharmavat Sūryavat (for prosperity); Indra Dātṛ (for amicability of subjects); Indra Punardātṛ (recovery of lost goods); Indra Prababhra (overthrow of rivals); Indra Vajrin (for abhicāra); Indra Vaimṛdha (victory in battle); Indra Indriyāvat (for attaining Indrian strength/senses); Indra Amhomuc (freedom from distress); Indra Manyumat (for performing a heroic deed in battle or capture of foes); Indra Manasvat (godly intelligence); Indra Prasahvan (when the yajamāna’s ritual cow might be seized by a raiding force or victory in Aśvamedha battles); Indra Vṛtrahan (if the new moon ritual is performed after the new moon time); Indra Marutvat; Mahendra; Indra Ṣoḍhaśin (in multiple rituals); Indra Sutrāman (Rājasūya and Sautrāmaṇi); Indra Arkavat; Indra Aśvamedhavat (if one is facing destruction or loss of power); Indra Svarāj (supremacy among rulers). This does not mean that there are 22 different gods but merely that the same god manifests as 22 devatā-s specific to the respective incantations and rites. Further, incantation-specific deification might be extended to items that are not gods, such as the soma-pounding stones or the ritual grass. A comparable tendency is also recorded in the Hittite tradition. In the above list of Indra devatā-s, those with the ancient Indo-European -vant/-mant suffixes are most common. This usage is also seen for other devatā-s (e.g., for Agni devatā-s we have Agni Anīkavat and Agni Tantumant) in the ādhvaryava tradition. We also observe similar theonyms of Hittite deities that we believe stem from a comparable principle. For instance, we have Inarawant (note parallelism to Vedic Indravant; see below), Assunawant (=endowed with excellence?) and Hasauwant (we believe this is a cognate of Skt asu-vant = endowed with life force; Prajāpati is called a related name Asumant in the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa).

3) In Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Germanic traditions we have the many names of a god — the 300 names of Rudra in the Śatarudrīya incantation and the names of Vāta-Vāyu in the Vāyavya incantation; the incantation of the 101 names of Dātar Ahura Mazdha in the Zoroastrian tradition; the 54 names of Odinn preserved in the Gylfaginning (totally the North Germanic kennings feature at least 207 names of Odinn). This was greatly expanded in the nāmāvali-s of the later Hindu tradition starting from the epics. Thus, one unacquainted with this ancient tendency and the equivalence of the names might mistake their multiplicity for an actual multiplicity of the gods.

From a historical viewpoint, the early Hittite texts contain fewer named gods than the later ones from close to their high point, where the list keeps growing in size. This can be seen as pantheonic accretion from associated cultures, with the addition of Hattian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian and even Indo-Aryan deities to the mix. However, this does not mean that the accretion proceeded without any identification or syncretism. One could say that a pathway for identification and syncretism was always latent in IE tradition. For example, far removed in space and time, we hear Odinn explain the multiplicity of his names in the Gylfaginning thus:

“It is truly a vast sum of knowledge to gather together and set forth fittingly. But it is briefest to tell you that most of his names have been given to him by reason of this chance: there being so many branches of tongues in the world, all peoples believed that it was needful for them to turn his name into their own tongue, by which they might the better invoke him and entreat him on their own behalf.”

When we take this into account, the Hittites probably had a relatively circumscribed pantheon of specifically recognized gods. The evidence for this comes from the Yazilikaya temple from 1300-1230 BCE. While the iconography and the name-markers of many of these deities are obviously Hattic, Hurrian or Semitic, their organization is unlike anything else in West Asia, indicating a Hittite organizing principle, which is likely of IE provenance. A total of over 80 reliefs are carved in two main chambers, A and B, of the rock-cut shrine. The more elaborate chamber A seems to have originally contained 64 figures (2 of which are largely lost), all or most of which can be identified as gods of the celestial Hittite pantheon. Chamber B with 12+3 figures and is identified with the nether world. Of these, the 12 gods seem to be identical to the 12 in chamber A and the remaining 3 are deities (apart from the Hittite king) which may also be represented in chamber A. Thus, conservatively, we may see the core Hittite pantheon as featuring 64 deities. In chamber A, the pantheon of gods and goddesses are shown as though in procession a towards the central deities, the Storm God and the Chief Goddess placed in the northern direction, from either side of the chamber. A pyramidal crag rises above these central gods — the site was evidently chosen to represent the mountain of the world axis. Chamber B in contrast represents the netherworld. One of the prominently displayed Chamber B deities is indicated by iconography related to the Sumerian Nergal, who was likely associated with Fire God (=Agni) on one hand the lord of the netherworld on the other (c.f., the Iranian relief from Parthian age Hatra where Nergal is syncretized with an Arabian netherworld deity (Zqyqa) and an Iranic deity and shown holding the tricephalic Kerberos in a manner similar to the Greek Herakles. Like Agni, he holds an axe — a characteristic IE feature).


Figure 1. The Yazilikaya pantheon from “Celestial Aspects of Hittite Religion: An Investigation of the Rock Sanctuary Yazılıkaya” by Zangger and Gautschy,  JSA 5.1 (2019) 5–38

Keeping with the world axis symbolism, as has been proposed before (e.g., Zangger et al., most recently), we agree that the organizing principle is astronomical, with symbolism likely derived from IE tradition. On the god side, the procession opens with 12 identically depicted gods — these have been identified with the deities of the 12 months of the year — a number also reflected in other IE traditions, like the Greek Dodecad of Olympians and the 12 Āditya-s of the para-Vedic Hindu tradition. RV 10.114.5 also mentions the offering of 12 soma cups, implying that they are for a count of 12 gods. The 28th and 29th figures of this pantheon are identified as the bulls of heaven (Hurris and Seris in Hurrian), who draw the chariot of the Storm God. These hold up a large lunar symbol; thus, they likely represent the point of the full moon and the duration of the lunar month (since both 28 and 29 hold up the moon symbol, it is likely that both the synodic and sidereal months are implied). This mapping of the gods with the lunar cycle is also seen in the Indo-Iranian world; hence, the Yazilikaya frieze is likely a depiction of the Hittite reflex of the same ancestral tradition. The goddess side of the procession opens with 18 or 19 female deities. Zangger et al propose that this corresponds to the 18/19 year eclipse/lunar cycle — this might again present a mapping related to the number of gods in the RV.

The Storm God
The Storm God of the Anatolians went by the name: Tarhunna (Hittite); Tarhuwant>Tarhunz (Luwian). His name is a cognate of the Sanskrit Tūrvant (e.g., applied to Indra: sanīḻebhiḥ śravasyāni tūrvan marutvān no bhavatv indra ūtī  । RV 1.100.5). Some have proposed that, while it has a clear IE etymology, it might have been adopted to mimic Taru the name of a functionally similar Hattian deity. However, we propose (also apparently favored by Schwemer) that it was transferred from IE to Hattic. We suspect that the Anatolian theonym has an etymological equivalence to the Germanic Indra-class deity. As the Indra-class deity of the Anatolian branch he was identified with a wide range of local, functionally similar deities of cities. In terms of the more widely distributed gods, we can see his identification with the Hurrian Teshub and Semitic (H)Adad. The Hittite exemplar in the Yazilikaya temple is not shown with prominent horns. However, elsewhere his Hittite images (e.g., Mursili III’s seal) and the Luwian depictions frequently show the characteristic bovine horns. While we cannot be sure where this iconographic convention originated, it is clear that it was already widespread across bronze age Eurasia, encompassing, the Bactria-Margiana complex in Central Asia, the Harappan civilization in India, and Mesopotamia and the Anatolian-Hurrian world in West Asia. The same iconography is also textually alluded to in the RV for Indra and other deities (Agni, Rudra), e.g., yas tigmaśṛṅgo vṛṣabho na bhīma ekaḥ kṛṣṭīś cyāvayati pra viśvāḥ ।. Hence, we can say that even if the specific features might have been local, the horned iconography for this deity was likely rather naturally adopted by the Anatolians as they might have had a certain “pre-adaptation” for the same from the ancestral IE tradition. He is also often shown standing on a bull, which is aligned with the frequent references to Indra as the bull. Indra was decoupled from this iconography in the later Hindu world; however, it persisted in association with Rudra who also shows that connection even in the śruti.


Figure 2 Anatolian and Mittani depictions of the Storm God

In terms of weapons, he is depicted as bearing a mace (comparable in form to the classic Indo-Iranian gadā) in the Yazilikaya temple and on the famous seal of the Hittite king Mursili III. A comparable mace is also held by the Hurrian Storm God from a seal from the early Mitanni realm. In this version, he also holds a spear and is shown trampling mountains, suggesting the possible influence of the Indo-Aryan Indra, the terror of the mountains. He also holds a spear while fighting the famous serpent demon in the Luwian site of Malitiya (Arslantepe). The Luwian versions from Malitiya and elsewhere, and the version from the Aleppo temple in Syria show him as holding a trident and sometimes also an axe in the other hand. The axe is reminiscent of one of the types seen on the Yamnaya anthropomorphic stelae suggesting potential IE influence. The trident on the other hand with its wavy prongs is a representation of the famous thunderbolt. We posit that both the mace and the trident are alternative visualizations of the same weapon — the cognate of the Aryan vajra. Some of these iconographic conventions first seen in the Anatolian exemplars persisted till much later in India (the trident-like vajra of Indra, the axe and the triśūla of Rudra) and the Roman empire (Jupiter the thunderer slaying the anguipedian = snake demon and Jupiter Dolichenus; see below). The repeated adoption of this iconographic convention by different IE branches supports an IE inspiration or, in the least a compatibility, following the ancient spread of the convention similar to the horned headgear of the deity. The version from the Aleppo temple also shows him bearing a sword on his belt in addition to the axe and trident. This is reminiscent of the later anthropomorphic stelae from IE sites on the steppes.

Both in Luwian iconography and Hittite mythological texts we have depictions of the Storm God slaying the serpent demon (Hittite: Illuyanka). This myth is found in every branch of IE; thus, it unambiguously belongs to the ancestral stratum of IE mythology. Its Hittite variants mention: 1) baiting of the serpent demon with food: A parallel is found in the Kaṭha Saṃhitā where Indra takes the form of a glob of honey to draw the serpent demon Śuṣṇa to eat it up. 2) At least one Hittite version states that the serpent demon has stolen the heart and the eyes of the Storm God, i.e., something essential for life. He has to then be tricked into giving those back. The Kaṭha Saṃhitā similarly implies Śuṣṇa had stolen the ambrosia (amṛta) of the gods. Indra takes it back by entering his maw in the form of a glob of honey. He then flies out with it in the form of an eagle (a famous IE myth). 3) A preserved Hittite myth mentions an eagle being sent to search for the vanished Storm God. However, a more direct depiction of their connection is seen on the seal of Mursili III, where an eagle is placed in front of the Storm God on his bullock cart (He is also shown holding the eagle on a silver rhyton; see below). Finally, one could also point to the reuse of the West Asian eagle wing symbol with a solar disc in IE contexts, like as the emblem above the Storm God on Luwian stelae.

Finally, the Hittites also preserved a myth of the disappearance of the sun resulting in paralyzing hahhimas (ice; cognate of Skt hima of PIE provenance). While one could imagine a winter frost in Anatolia, the concomitant “disappearance” of the sun is a motif specifically associated with more northern latitudes and is again seen across the IE world. Thus, the appearance of this myth in Anatolia is a clear sign of its IE provenance. In other IE traditions, the Indra-class deity recovers the sun, often doing battle with his vajra-like weapon against the demons, who have hidden the sun. While its details are poorly preserved, the Storm God is repeatedly mentioned in that Hittite text as confronting the freeze with other gods.

The consort and the sister of the Storm God and West Asian syncretism
The Yazilikaya temple pairs the Storm God with his consort who stands on a lion. This chief goddess of the Hittite pantheon is usually identified with the Hurrian deity Hebat and Hattic Wurusemu. We have a remarkable sūkta-like incantation (CTH 384) composed by the ritualist-princess Puduhepa (wife of king Hattusili III), the “rājarṣikā” among the Hittites:

1. O my lady, Sun Goddess of Arinna, lady of the Hatti lands,
2. Queen of the heaven and the earth!
3. Sun Goddess of Arinna, my lady, queen of all the lands!
4. In the Hatti land you take (for yourself) the name of the Sun Goddess of Arinna,
5. but besides (in the land) that you made the Cedar Land (Hurri),
6. you take (for yourself) the name of Hebat.
7. However I, Puduhepa, (am) your maid from the outset…
(translation from Karasu)

Thus, we see that Puduhepa identifies the Hittite Sun Goddess, the queen of heaven and earth (a dvandva like Dyāvāpṛthivī), with Hebat of the Hurrians. On the Hurrian side, we see no evidence for Hebat being the Sun Goddess. On the Semitic side, epithets comparable to those used for the Anatolian Sun Goddess are used in Akkadian for Shamash the solar god rather than for a goddess. However, in the IE world, we see multiple manifestations of the solar goddess (e.g., the whole Indo-Aryan marriage ritual is centered on her). Thus, we posit that the Sun Goddess was inherited from the Anatolian IE tradition, and Puduhepa identified her with Hebat, not due to solar connotations, but because she was the supreme female deity of the Hurrian tradition. Hence, it is probable that the Hittite interpretation of the consort of the Storm God corresponded to their Sun Goddess. In terms of her iconography, she rides the lion — this convention, like that of the horned headdress of the Storm God, has also spread widely across Eurasia encompassing BMAC, Sumeria and its Semitic successors, and Anatolia. A direct parallel can be seen in an Akkadian seal, where the consort of the Semitic Storm God rides in front of his cart on a lion hurling rain or lightning. In textual terms, the large felines (lion, tiger and leopard) are associated with the supreme mother goddess Aditi in the early Vedic layer of the Indo-Aryan tradition.


Figure 3. The consort of the Storm God and the mirror-wielding goddesses

The pairing of the bull-riding Storm God and the lion-riding goddess was an iconographic convention that traveled widely over space and time. In the East, it manifested in the iconography of Rudra and his consort Umā (Rudrāṇī) in India. In the West, it formed the basis of images of Jupiter Dolichenus in the Roman empire. Another Anatolian goddess, who rode a lion, was identified with the ancient goddess Kubaba of the Mesopotamian world. Here name is likely also behind the theonym Cybele, a later goddess from the region, who is iconographically comparable. Interestingly, she is associated with the Anatolian Rudra-class archer deity Santa (see below) in certain texts. Her distinctive feature in the Anatolian world is the mirror, which she shares with Rudrāṇī in India, Tapatī (Tabiti) in the steppe Iranic world, and Juno Regina Dolichena, the consort of Jupiter Dolichenus in the Roman empire. In the Far East, the mirror as an attribute of the goddess was also transferred to the Japanese solar goddess probably from a steppe Iranic source. This mirror iconography is primarily seen in the Luwian reflexes of the Anatolian religion (e.g., at Carchemish), where this goddess might have been identified or syncretized with the supreme Hittite goddess. Consistent with this, like her consort, she may be shown with the cow horns in some depictions. Indeed, such a Luwian pairing might have been the ultimate inspiration for the Dolichenian deities. Given that the mirror is not typical of Mesopotamian or North African goddesses, we posit that the mirror was probably acquired from an Aryan source relatively late in the development of the Anatolian religion. Nevertheless, its eventual wide adoption across the IE world suggests that it resonated with a deeply rooted solar aspect of the goddess.

Finally, we come to the third major Eurasian goddess called Innana in the Sumerian realm, Ishtar by their East Semitic successors (= West Semitic Ashtart) and Shaushka/Shaushga by the Hurrians. She was evidently functionally related to a comparable goddess from the BMAC in Central Asia and probably also to the horned pipal tree goddess of the Harappans. Right from her Sumerian manifestation, she is a transfunctional goddess associated with war, love and medicine. This transfunctionality made her easy to syncretize with high goddesses sharing some of these functionalities from across diverse traditions. Her transfunctionality is amply testified in the historical record: Her Hurrian iconography depicts her heavily armed, emphasizing her military nature. The Indo-Aryan Mitanni ruler Tushratta (<Tveṣaratha) sent such an image of hers with a maninnu necklace having the form of a “bed of her plant” to the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III perhaps to heal him of his illness — this exemplifies her healing aspect. Finally, the Hittite monarch Hattusili III writes that Shaushga led him to his future wife Puduhepa, the ritual expert, when he was returning from the Egyptian campaign as the commander of the Hittite army under his brother. He specifically mentions that the goddess brought them together in mutual love — exemplifying her sexual facet.


Figure 4. Shaushga and Ishtar. The drawing of Shaushga from the Aleppo is an accurate reproduction by Gestoso Singer in “Shaushka, the Traveling Goddess”, TdE 7 (2016)  43–58

In the Hittite realm, she is indicated by the Ishtar Akkadogram; hence, we do not know the actual form of her Anatolian name. However, we posit that the Hurrian Shaushga had already received influences from the Indo-Aryans in the region that might have also fed into her equation with a Hittite goddess. First, we have the maninnu necklace sent by Tushratta to the Pharaoh that may be etymologized on the basis of the IA word maṇi (amulet/bead/gem) potentially related to her healing power (c.f. Atharvavedic healing maṇi-s). Second, in Shaushga’s Syrian images (e.g., at the Aleppo temple; the other temple depicting her at Ain Dara was recently destroyed by the Turkish and their ISIS Khilafat allies) her iconography shows the following elements: 1) Horned head gear comparable to the Mesopotamian Ishtar. 2) two quivers on either shoulder — this has a Mesopotamian parallel in the form of the weapons rising from Ishtar’s shoulder in more than one depiction. We also have an image of an iconographically equivalent goddess which was stolen and possibly damaged by the Americans during their conquest of Iraq, which shows her with a similar quiver; however, we do not know its exact provenance; 3) She wields a mace which is seen in some Mesopotamian images or a vajra-like weapon; 4) Finally, she also bears an axe that is close in shape to the steppe axes from IE zone (also note Indo-Aryan personal name, Svadhiti = axe, recorded in the region from the Hittite period), such as those found on the anthropomorphic stelae and that borne by Tarhunz; hence, we suggest this element of Shaushga’s iconography was probably due to Indo-Aryan influence. Third, in the Hurrian-Mitanni realm, Shaushga was distinctively seen as the sister of gods starting with the Storm God. In the Indo-Aryan world, the important lunar goddess Sinīvālī is praised as the sister of the gods (and likely also her companion lunar goddesses Rākā, etc. They are probably the sisters of Indra mentioned in RV 4.22.7). This deity persists in later Hindu tradition as the mighty goddess Ekānaṃśā. Hence, the sisterly relationship of Shaushga to the gods could again be a configuration that developed either under Indo-Aryan influence or was an old IE feature coming from the Hittites. Even in the Mesopotamian tradition, in addition to Venus, Ishtar appears to be associated with the moon. Her bull-horn headgear might represent the same. This would have allowed for her easy syncretism with IE lunar goddesses.

Whether the Hittite Innara (Inara) is related to the Vedic Indra has been subject to some debate. The daughter of the Storm God named Inara is well known in the Hittite mythic tradition. A text coeval with the Yazilikaya names Inar(a) as the male god from the Hurrian land, suggesting that the knowledge of a male equivalent existed in the Anatolian world. Thus, Innarawant, which has been taken to mean strong/manly/majestic as a masculine theonym might tie the two together — Hittite often maintains homosemy between the base form and the old IE -vant augmentations. Keeping with the meaning of the name, the ritual in which the singular deity Innarawant is invoked is related to restoring the strength or manliness of the patron. This association calls to mind the Vedic term nṛmṇa (manly) used for Indra. It also reminds one of the ādhvaryava ritual invoking Indra Indrīyāvat for special strength. We list below some of the incantations and ritual actions relating to this theonym (CTH 393: “Anniwiyani’s Rituals”, transcribed and translated by B-J Collins in “Hittite Rituals from Arzawa and the Lower Land”; upper case are Sumerograms or Akkadograms):

\S 2 I take blue wool, red wool, barley, karsh-grain, and coriander and they roast them. One pitcher of beer, sixteen small thick breads, one goat, one puppy, fourteen pegs of poplar, two small NUNUZ-stones, fourteen small cups, and twelve small pitchers. They make all of the birds out of clay. Whichever bird the augurs observe, they do not omit any.
\S 3 As soon as night falls, she ties blue wool to the ritual patron—first to his feet, his hands, and his neck, his middle; to his bed (and) the four bedposts the first time. She [the auguress] ties (it) in the same way to his chariot, his bow, and his quiver.
\S 4 Afterwards she ties red wool in the same fashion. Then the roasted seeds, the thick breads, the implements of fired clay, the pegs, and the clay birds and the small pitchers she arranges in a pitcher. She places it under the bed on behalf of the ritual patron and it remains under the bed for him.
\S 5 At dawn they cut the blue and red wool off the ritual patron entirely and she places them in the basket. They bring a consecrated girl into the inner house, and they situate her in the entrance. She holds a bird of dough in her hand. The consecrated girl calls, “Go away Protective Deity Lulimi! Come in Protective Deity Innarawant!”
This is followed by dog and goat sacrifices to Innarawant.

One may note the following: 1. The blue and red threads — a close parallel is seen in the Veda in the form of the nīla-lohita threads — RV 10.85.28: an amulet in the marriage ritual. This practice is elaborated in the Śāṅkhāyana Gṛhyasūtra 1.12.8 which recommends tying an amulet of 3 maṇi-s (= gems) to the bride by her kinsfolk with blue-red wool or silk threads. Similarly, as per the Kauśikasūtra a blue-red thread is used with the mantra AV 8.8.24 in the battle ritual. 2. Āpastamba recommends that: sūtre vartmanor vyavastṛṇāty uttarayā nīlaṃ dakṣiṇasyāṃ lohitam uttarasyām । (To the ends of the [spokes of the] wheels [of the chariot by which the groom takes the bride is taken home] a blue thread is tied to the right wheel and a red thread to the left). The tying of the threads to the chariot again presents a parallel to the Hittite ritual. 3. The use of a chariot in the Hittite ritual for manliness is paralleled by the ritual prescribed by the Mānava Gṛhyasūtra 1.3.7 or the Vārāha Gṛhyasūtra 15.3.1 of the Maitrāyaṇīya-s for manly power: anu māyantu  devatā anu-brahma suvīryam । anu-kṣatraṃ tu yad balam anu mām aitu madyaśaḥ ॥ iti prāṅ abhiprayāya pradakṣiṇam āvartayati  । (VGs has upa in place of the particle anu; Tr: “May the deities come following (drive along with) me; may brahma power; good manliness, royal power and whatever is strong come to/follow me” reciting thus, facing east he drives his chariot in a clockwise circle).

The Hittite texts also show a plural form of the Innarawant — the Innarawantes deities — these accompany the fierce archer deity Santa/Sanda who is the bringer of epidemics. This is recorded in the ritual of Zarpiya, the physician of Kizzuwatna (CTH 757), in Hittite and Luwian that is performed when an epidemic strikes the land (which might be related to the great epidemic that swept through the Hittite empire). In that, the ritualists utter an incantation (translation based on those by Collins and Schwartz): “\S 11 O Santa (indicated by the Marduk Akkadogram) and the Innarawantes deities, do not approach my gate again.” The Luwian part of the text calls upon these gods to evidently eat the sacrificial sheep or cattle and not the men: “\S 17 Do not again approach this door in malice. Eat sheep and cows; do not eat a man, zaganin, tuwiniya.”. The Innarawantes accompanying Santa are rather notably described thus:

\S 8 They bring in one billy-goat and the master of the estate libates it with wine before the table for Santa. Then he holds out the bronze ax and recites: “Come Santa! Let the Innarawantes-deities come with you, (they) who are wearing blood-red (clothes), the mountain-dwellers, who are wrapped in the huprus garments;
\S 9 who are girt (?) with daggers, who hold strung bows and arrows. “Come and eat! We will swear (an oath to you)…”

In addition to an animal sacrifice, the ritual involves the offering of 9 libations of wine and 9 offerings of bread. Then 8 virgin boys are called in and one wears a goatskin cloak (c.f. cloak of the vrātya) and howls like a wolf. The others follow him, and they eat the sacrificial meat like wolves. This suggests that the total number of deities in this part of the ritual is 9 = 1 Santa + 8 Innarawantes.

Thus, the cast of the epidemic-associated archer deity Santa and his fierce Innarawantes companions brings to mind the Indo-Aryan Rudra and the Rudra-s or Marut-s. Some specific points include: 1) The term Innarawantes in the plural brings to mind the epithet of the Marut-s, Indravant:  ā rudrāsa indravantaḥ sajoṣaso hiraṇyarathāḥ suvitāya gantana । RV 5.57.1; 2) The Innarawantes are described as being like mountain-dwellers, an epithet used for the Marut-s in the RV: pra vo mahe matayo yantu viṣṇave marutvate girijā evayāmarut । RV 5.87.1; 3) The special mention of their garments in which they are wrapped reminds one of the RV epithets for the Marut-s focusing on their armor and their ornaments: varmaṇvanto na yodhāḥ śimīvantaḥ pitṝṇāṃ na śaṃsāḥ surātayaḥ । RV10.78.3; naitāvad anye maruto yatheme bhrājante rukmair āyudhais tanūbhiḥ । RV 7.57.3; 4) Their being heavily armed again matches the descriptions of the Marut-s: vāśīmanta ṛṣṭimanto manīṣiṇaḥ sudhanvāna iṣumanto niṣaṅgiṇaḥ । RV5.57.2; 5) More tenuously, the participation of 8 lupine youths in the ritual might be a mimicry of the Innarawantes. This brings to mind the repeated emphasis on the youth of the Marut-s in the Veda and the old count of 8 for the Rudra-s.

In conclusion, while the term Innarawant refers to both singular and plural deities we believe that the usage is consistent and reflective of an ancient connection inherited from a PIE tradition. We believe that in the singular form it reflects characteristics inherited from the archetypal Indrian deity and in the plural reflects the Rudrian archetype found in the Marut-s who show an intimate connection with the Indra-class.

Other Anatolian manifestations of the Archer deity
Santa is not the only manifestation of the archer deity in the Anatolian world. Collins points to the Hittite ritual text of the female ritualist Āllī (CTH 402) from the Arzawan locus for countering abhicāra that mentions an Archer deity likely associated with the Orion region of the sky. The opening incantation of the rite goes thus (Collins’ translation):

\S 4 “Then the wise woman speaks as follows: “O Sun God of the Hand, here are the sorcerous people! If a man has bewitched (lit. treated) this person, herewith he is carrying it (the sorcery) with (his own) back. May he take them back! He is carrying (var. May he carry) it with (his own) back!
\S 5 If however, a woman has bewitched him, you O Sun God know it, so it should be a headdress for her, and she is to put it on her head. May she take them back for herself! It should be a belt for her, and she is to gird herself; it should be for her a shoe, and she is to put it on!”

These incantations are followed by the invocation of the Hunter:
\S 8 The Sun God of the Hand and the (divine) Huntsman (are) in front. He (the Huntsman) has his bow [and] he has his [arr]ows. For his dogs let it be bread. [For] the [h]orses let it be fodder. And for the ritual patron [let it be] figurines of clay.” The wis[e woman] puts [them] (the ritual figurines) down.

This is followed by the winding of the blue-red wool (see above) around ritual figurines and their burial. The ritual figures are shown carrying “kursa-s”, which are thematically equivalent to valaga-packages in the Indo-Aryan world.

This is followed by the below ritual actions and incantations:
\S 21 She steps a little away from there, and at the side of the pit breaks one flatbread for the Dark Ones. Those who turn before the Huntsman, (for them) she (the wise woman) breaks a flatbread with the miyanit tongue. She breaks one flatbread for the dark earth; she breaks one flatbread for the Sun God and recites: “You must guard this!” She breaks one flatbread for the Sun God and places it on the ground. She libates beer before the gods. And she says: “You must keep this evil witchcraft fastened (in the earth)!”
\S 22 She steps back a little and breaks one flatbread for Ariya and places it to the right of the road. She libates beer and says: “You, seize this evil and do not let it go!” She breaks one flatbread for the crossroad and places it to the left of the road. She libates beer and says: “You, gods of the road — the evil — guard it! Do not let it return!”
\S 23 She steps forward a little and breaks one flatbread to the salawana-demons of the gate. She sets it down, libates beer, and recites: “Upward [ … ] may you always say good things! GALA-priests, [you] lock up the evil (words/things)!” She breaks a pitcher, and they enter the city.
\S 24 She puts kars-grain, passa-breads, a bow, and three arrows in a basket and places them under the bed. It remains under the bed (overnight). She ties a strip of wool to the head and foot of the bed.
\S 25 On the second day, when it becomes light, she takes the basket out from under the bed, waves it back and forth over the person, and speaks: “O Huntsman, you return the sorcery to the sorcerer! Let it be your cure!” She cuts the wool from the bed and places it in the basket.

In general terms, these incantations are notable for the following points: 1) It invokes a solar deity translated as “Sun God of the Hand” — this brings to mind the major Indo-Aryan solar deity Savitṛ whose hands are a prominent feature (c.f. Yajus incantation: devo vaḥ savitā hiraṇyapāṇiḥ pratigṛhṇātu ।; hiraṇyapāṇim ūtaye savitāram upa hvaye । RV 1.22.5 ). 2) Multiple incantations in this ritual have a resemblance to the Atharvan pratyaṇgirā incantations where the kṛtyā is sent back to the sender (e.g., the yāṃ kalpayanti… ṛk). 3) The statements, “you O Sun God know it” and “You must guard this!” are reminiscent of the Atharvan anti-kṛtyā incantation invoking the sun: sūrya iva divam āruhya vi kṛtyā bādhate vaśī । AV-vulgate 8.5.7 (Like the Sun ascended the heaven, blocks sorcery with might.) 4) Here again, we see the use of the blue-red threads; this is similar to the use of the nīla-lohita wool is used in the Indo-Aryan marriage ritual to block the kṛtyā (sorcery): nīlalohitaṃ bhavati kṛtyāsaktir vy ajyate ।AV-vulgate 14.1.26 (Tr: The sorcery becomes the blue-red thread; the sorcery which clings [to the bride] is driven off).

The most notable feature of this ritual is the invocation of the archer deity who goes by the epithet the “Huntsman”. We cautiously follow Collins in accepting Ariya as the likely name of the “Huntsman”, which, in turn, is related to the Greek Orion. The etymology of the Hittite Ariya and Greek Orion remains unclear. However, it is possible that both are related to the PIE root, which is behind forms such as: Hittite arāi (rise up); Tocharian A ar- (bring forth); Avestan ar- (set into motion) \to comparable to Sanskrit iyarti (liṭ form āra or bhāvakarman for arye; go forth); Greek ornūmi (set into motion); Latin orior (to proceed from source), orīgo (origin). Over a century ago, Lokamanya Tilak had boldly proposed that on the Indo-Aryan side the terms Āgrayaṇa or Agrahāyana might represent a cognate of Orion suggesting, just like Collins for Hittite, that “a” in Indo-Aryan can be seen as validly corresponding to the Greek “o”. While one could question the direct etymological homology of Āgrayaṇa and Orion, Tilak’s semantic equivalence might still be valid. The term Āgrayaṇa arose because Orion in the PIE days stood close to the equinoctial colure in the PIE days — it was the leader of the constellations even as Kṛttikā ( \sim Pleiades) was in the later times. Thus, the Orion/Ariya could have derived from the root related to the “origin” or the point from which the sun goes forth on its journey starting with the vernal equinox. Hence, it is even possible that the terms Āgrayaṇa or Agrahāyana were adopted as semantically appropriate homophones of an ancient word that was a cognate of Orion/Ariya. In this regard, we should point out that the constellation of Mṛgaśiras ( \sim Orion; see below) was apparently known by the name Āryikā in Sanskrit lexicographic manuscripts āryikāstu mṛgraśiraḥ śiraḥ sthāḥ pañca-tārakāḥ ।). However, this manuscript has not been published to confirm the reading (it was also recorded by German Indologist Albrecht Weber). If this reading is upheld, then it might represent the survival of a name of the constellation linking it to the Hittite and Greek versions.

The evidence from the Greek, Iranian, and Indo-Aryan sources suggest that the association of the Orion region of the sky with the Rudrian deities goes back to the ancestor of core IE. Even if the Ariya etymological link does not hold up, there are other features of the Hittite ritual which link the Huntsman to the Orion region of the sky and to the core IE archetype of the Rudra-class deity. Greek, Iranian and Indo-Aryan sources concur that this part of the sky was associated with dogs and an archer/hunter — this association is recapitulated in the Hittite incantation. Rudra is both specifically associated with dogs and is the hunter of the god Prajāpati ( \sim constellation of Orion), who may take the form of a deer. In the Greek tradition, Orion’s death is brought about by the Rudrian deities Artemis and/or Apollo. In one well-known narration of the myth, Apollo directs his sister Artemis to shoot Orion with an arrow. On a painted Greek pot, Apollo is shown killing Orion as he tries to assault Artemis. In other versions, Artemis shoots him down on her own or apparently kills him with a cakra; in yet another, either she or Apollo kills him with a scorpion (constellation of Scorpio) or a snake (depicted on Greek pottery).

There are further parallels between the Greek and Indo-Aryan traditions regarding Orion. The first relates to the myth wherein the goddess Eos and Orion were to join in a liaison. The gods objected to this and directed Artemis to shoot down Orion. This again presents a remarkable parallel to the Vedic tradition: The god Prajāpati was to join in an illicit incestuous liaison with the goddess Ushas (cognate of Eos). The enraged gods sent Rudra to slay Prajāpati, whose corpse is represented in the sky by the constellation of Orion. This cognate Greek and Indo-Aryan mytheme evidently preserves an astronomical allegory relating to the sun being in the vicinity of the constellation at the vernal equinox in ancient times. The other Greek-Hindu parallel relates to the myth of the blindness of Orion. Orion is said to have been blinded by Oinopion when he tried to assault a Pleiad. He then walks eastwards hoping to catch the rays of the sun so that it would cure his blindness. The Śāntikalpa of the Atharvan tradition invokes the constellation under the name the blind one (Andhakā):

āvāhayāmi varadām andhakāṃ śaśivallabhām ।
ehi me andhake devī mṛdu-karmasu śobhane ॥
I invoke the boon-granting consort of the Moon, the [goddess of the] Andhakā constellation. May the auspicious goddess of the Andhakā constellation come to me for the gentle rites.

This name for the constellation evidently comes from the “blindness” demon Andhaka who was killed by Rudra. Thus, the constellation of Orion is not identified with the Rudra-class deity himself/herself, but with the target of that deity in both Hindu and Greek traditions. Hence, we cannot automatically assume that the Huntsman of the Hittite ritual is the constellation of Orion, but rather the Rudra-class deity who is linked to that part of the sky. Both the Indian and Iranian branches of the Aryan tradition concur in identifying the Rudra-class deity with the adjacent star \alpha Canis Majoris (the brightest star as seen from the earth) while also identifying the asterism containing that star with a dog.

Beyond, the astronomical connection, even this relatively meager Hittite incantation offers several key connections to the Rudra-class deities in the Anatolian world and beyond: 1) As in the Hittite rite, Rudra-class deities are frequently invoked to repel/hurl back abhicāra in the Atharvan tradition (e.g., in the yāṃ kalpayanti sūkta and the bhavā-śarvīya offerings in the Mṛgāreṣṭi). 2) The horses of the Huntsman are specifically mentioned in addition to his dogs. This is mirrored in the incantation to invite Rudra to the ritual of the Īśāna-bali or Śūlagava, where his horses are specifically mentioned: ā tvā vahantu harayaḥ sucetasaḥ śvetair aśvaiḥ saha ketumadbhiḥ । vātājirair mama havyāya śarvom ॥ 3) In addition to the Huntsman, and the Sun-god of the Hand, the ritual invokes the Dark Ones (marwayanza) and the salawana demons. These two are also associated with another notable manifestation of the Archer God in the Anatolian world going by the name Runta (Dark Ones in CTH 433.2; salawana-demons in CTH 433.3). The epidemic-causing Archer God also receives another name, Iyarri, in Dandanku’s Arzawan plague ritual, where he is again accompanied by the Dark Ones. Finally, the Dark Ones are also mentioned together with Santa in a Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription. This suggests that Santa, Runta and Iyarri are all likely manifestations of the same Rudra-class deity, with the Dark Ones either being cognates of the Innarawantes of Zarpiya’s ritual or a group of beings possibly paralleling the Marut-s or the gaṇa-s or Rudra. In this regard, it might be noted that in some Kṛṣṇa-yajurveda traditions (e.g., Maitrāyaṇīya and Kaṭha) the constellation of Mṛgaśiras is assigned to the Marut-s. The association with the demons is also mirrored in Rudra being called the Asura (tvam agne rudro asuro mahodivaḥ । RV 2.1.6). Likewise, on the Greek side, Apollo is called a Titan in the incantation from the Magical Papyrus for the ritual that was performed at sunrise when the moon is in Gemini.

4) A key connection to the Rudra-class deities is seen in the injunction to make the beer and bread offering to the deity at crossroads. This has a close parallel in the autumnal, disease-curing Vedic Tryambaka-homa:

tānt sārdham pātryāṃ samudvāsya । anvāhārya-pacanād ulmukam ādāyodaṅ paretya juhoty; eṣā hy etasya devasya dik; pathi juhoti; pathā hi sa devaś carati; catuṣpathe juhoty; etad dha vā asya jāṃdhitam prajñātam avasānaṃ yac catuṣpathaṃ tasmāc catuṣpathe juhoti ॥ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa

Having collected all (the cakes from the potsherds) into one dish, and taken a fire-brand from the Anvāhārya-fire, he walks aside towards the north and offers — for that is the direction of the god (Rudra). He offers on a road — for on roads the god roves. He offers on a cross-road — for the cross-road, indeed, is known to be his customary haunt. This is why he offers on a cross-road.

This connection is also seen on the Greek side: The Apollo devatā, Apollo Agyieus (literally Apollo of the road), was worshiped as the manifestation of that deity associated with the road. Like the Hindu Rudra in the classical age, he tended to be worshiped aniconically in the form of liṅga-s. Further, the goddess Hecate, who likely emerged as an ectype of Artemis, is specifically associated with crossroads. 5) The use of a bow and three arrows in the ritual has a specific parallel in the ritual for the Rudra-class deity in the Indo-Aryan soma ritual. After the five-layered altar is piled in the somayāga, a major series of oblations are offered to Rudra with Yajuṣ-es and Sāman-s. In course of this, after the Śatarudrīya oblations are made, another is offered with the famous mantra “yo rudro agnau…” Then the sacrificer or another brāhmaṇa takes up a bow and three arrows and goes around the altar even as the incantation paying homage to Rudra to ransom the sacrificer from the god is recited. The Yajus texts explain it thus:

rudro vā eṣa yad agnis; tasya tisraḥ śaravyāḥ pratīcī tiraścy anūcī । in Taittirīya Saṃhitā 5.5.7
This fire is indeed him, Rudra. His missiles are three — one that comes straight on, one that strikes transversely, and one that follows up.

Indeed, this triplicity of Rudra’s arrow is explicitly connected with the slaying of Prajāpati (Orion) — he was pierced by the trikāṇḍa (tripartite or triple-headed) arrow standing for the 3 stars of Orion’s belt (Skt: Invakā-s) in Aitareya Brāhmaṇa 3.33 and:

atha yasmān nā mṛgaśīrṣa ādadhīta । prajāpater vā etac charīraṃ; yatra vā enaṃ tad āvedhyaṃs tad iṣuṇā trikāṇḍenety āhuḥ sa etac charīram ajahād; vāstu vai śarīram ayajñiyaṃ nirvīryaṃ tasmān na mṛgaśīrṣa ādadhīta ॥ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa
Now, on the other hand (it is argued) why one should not set up his fire under Mṛgaśīrṣa (Orion). This [constellation] is indeed Prajāpati’s body. Now, when they (the gods) on that occasion pierced him with what is called a tripartite arrow he abandoned that body. As that body is a mere husk, unfit for worship and sapless, he should therefore not set up his fires under Mṛgaśīrṣa.


Figure 5. Depictions of the Anatolian deity Runta

This finally brings us to a key association of the Rudra-class deities seen both in the Greek and Hindu worlds — the deer — often their target in their role as huntsmen-archers. This animal figures in the Anatolian world in the context of the archer deity going by the name Runta/(Ku)Runtiya, sometimes identified with Inar. As noted above, the iconographic correspondence and the association with the Dark Ones establishes the equivalence between Runta on one hand and on the other Santa and the Huntsman/Ariya of the above ritual. Runta is indicated by the stag-horn hieroglyph making his connection to that animal explicit. There are several notable depictions of this deity making his connection to the deer explicit:

1) In a scene depicted on an Anatolian silver rhyton, ritualists offer libations and bread to Runta standing on a stag with an aṅkuśa and the Storm God. Both gods hold eagles. The insignia of Runta, namely his quiver, two spears and the slain stag are also shown again separately.
2) In the Aleppo temple, he is shown in a procession of gods and goddesses (including the Shaushga image depicted above) holding a bow and a spear and is labeled prominently with the deer-horn hieroglyph.
3) At Yazilikaya temple Chamber A he is shown with what might be a bow and labeled again with a prominent deer-horn hieroglyph.
4) Altinyayla stele depicts him in the mountains standing on a stag with a bow and holding a stag antler even as a worshiper pours out a libation in front of him.
5) Collins also notes several seals from Nişantepe on which the same deity is similarly depicted.
6) These depictions also suggest that the deity holding a bow and spear behind the storm god on Mursili III’s seal is likely to be the same Archer God.

In conclusion, this web of connections and iconography establishes the deer-associated Archer/Hunter God of the Anatolians as the likely reflex of the Rudra-class deity inherited from the PIE tradition.

While Sanskrit and IE linguistics played a central role in the decipherment of the Anatolian language texts, the prevalent tendency has been to interpret the Anatolian religion quite independently of its IE background based on local West Asian and North African models. This is rather evident in the leading Hittitologist Hoffner’s tome on Hittite myths. While there is no doubt the Hittite religion was imbrued with elements from the West Asian substrata and neighbors, we hold that, with some diligence in the comparative method, one can pick out a clear IE “signal”. However, this signal might be complicated by the interactions with other IE groups such as the Indo-Aryans and Greeks who were also operating in the vicinity during the height of Anatolian power. More recently, workers such as Archi, Bachvarova, Rutherford and Collins admit the Greek connection and explore it further. However, they (to a degree, Bachvarova is an exception) tend to ignore the rest of the IE material, especially Indo-Iranian, when approaching this issue. Here, we present a preliminary redressal of that. We believe that it helps better understand the Anatolian religion and also helps reconstruct the ancestral IE tradition. We propose that while understanding the great diversity of names among Hittite deities we have to be guided by iconographic parallels and the principle of a god presenting as a multiplicity of devatā-s — an important feature of the ādhvaryava tradition within the Vedic layer (subsequently pervasive across traditions) of the Hindu religion. Thus, by the comparative method, we propose that this ādhvaryava tendency had roots in the PIE religion.

It also helps better understand some elements of the Anatolian religion, like the Rudra-class deities. The Hittitologist Archi noted several key features of the Anatolian archer deities and suggested that they inspired the Greek Apollo. Collins hinted at a possible pre-Greek origin for the Ariya/Orion tradition in the Anatolian locus. However, we think these are misapprehensions coming from ignoring the Indo-Iranian parallels. Orion region of the sky is indeed associated with the Rudra-class deity right from the early Indo-Iranian tradition. Once those connections are considered along with their Greek parallels, the Anatolian manifestations are best seen as a PIE inheritance. We are thus led to the conclusion that the association of the Orion region of the sky with the Rudra-class deity was probably a PIE tradition with ancient calendrical associations noted over a century ago by Tilak.

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The death of Miss Lizzie Willink

Late that spring, Somakhya and Lootika were visited by their mleccha friend Irmhild. Letting her sleep off the jet lag, they left for work. Given the good weather, Lootika returned early to check on their friend and go out with her prospecting spiders in the nearby woods for their work on endosymbionts. L: “Hope you had some good sleep and are all set to lead our battle-charge? Let me get you something to eat and we’ll head out when the sun goes down a bit. Somakhya and a student will join us in the woods.” Even as Lootika brought Irmhild some snacks, she said: “Restful, but strange. At least I can confess this to you without any embarrassment — After a while, I had a visitation from Lizzie — I’m sure you have heard of her from Somakhya and your folks. In any case, it may be a good sign given what we intend to do.” L: “Ah! they mentioned her in passing, but my recollection is they were not successful in getting her to say anything.” Ir: “I would not be so negative — I learned her name from that really exciting sitting they arranged.” L: “I’d like to hear it straight from your mouth — ain’t it interesting we never got to talk about that in length?”

Ir: “Sure. Taking the story back to the beginning — it relates to the start of my interest in arthropods — I may have been 12 or 13 then. One night, I had what seemed like a dream in which I felt the presence of a woman. I say felt because she was not visually very apparent though I could feel her touch clearly. She seemed very kind and stroked my hair gently in the manner of a parent — I felt her do that even today. Though I did not have much of a visual impression — just something shadowy — I had the very clear impression of her showing me shiny beetles, colorful spiders, mantids and cowrie shells in that dream. On waking from that dream, I was left with a profound curiosity for these little beasties and was driven to learn more about them. As you know, Lootika, it became my life’s work. From then on, she would occasionally drop in, in the form of a vague presence, mostly when I was wide awake. Sometimes she would just stroke my hair or kiss me; other times she would concretely tell me something — her visits often led me to discover something significant. For example, she came on the day I discovered the novel spider bacterial endosymbiont that I subsequently worked on with Somakhya and Indrasena. When we were working on that, the two came to collect some specimens from me at the museum. I can tell you precisely that it was a week before you joined Somakhya at his old place. That evening, I went with them and your sister Vrishchika for dinner. Given the things we got chatting about, it was for the first time I told anyone of the visitations from this shadowy woman — I used to be really scared to tell anyone about it. But your folks were totally cool with it. While interested, they did not seem alarmed that it was pathological. In fact, I specifically asked Vrishchika about that possibility and she just brushed it aside. Instead, she suggested that we make her manifest, and explained how they could do that.

After dinner, they applied one of those magical techniques you followers of the old religion possess and summoned her. I entered into some kind of a trance and they gave me a pen, hoping I’d take a dictation from her. I did take directions from the phantom lady, but there were hardly any words; instead, I had drawn out a beautiful, detailed image of a Madraspatanum mud dauber wasp. While I have a good hand, it was better than anything I had ever drawn. I had never been to India or seen that wasp before. I know that you and Somakhya had obtained an actinobacterium associated with it, but I know you’ll had not illustrated it in your paper. Hence, I believe it was truly a ghost drawing. Below the sketch, in my trance, I had written out the words: ‘Lizzie is really happy with your progress.’ I really do not have a close friend or family by the name of Lizzie; so I was puzzled. However, just before I came out of the trance, I saw a young woman sitting beside me who despite being a total stranger felt strangely familiar. She was clearly an apparition because she wore clothes from a bygone era — I’d say the 1800s. I would estimate her as being no older than in her early twenties. The white sleeve on one of her arms was soaked in blood and she seemed to bleed from one of her eyes that was clearly stabbed by something. I was utterly shocked by the ghastliness of her injuries that marred her otherwise stately appearance. That sight itself totally snapped me out of the trance. Even as that happened, I distinctly heard her say: ‘Dear child Irmhild, stay well.’ While this was in keeping with her maternal attitude towards me, I was surprised by the mismatch it had with her appearance as a young woman. I must remark her accent was clearly of a different era when the flavors of English had not diverged much. Neither Somakhya nor Indra felt anything, but Vrishchika said that she felt a bit of a presence. She also remarked having a mental impression at that point that she was a benevolent and protective phantom who was afraid of being bound. Hence, she said that they would not try a more active procedure to bind her. But I felt happy to have learnt her name and to have seen her for the first time. But that sight left me feeling a bit depressed as her injuries seemed really bad. I wonder if they were the cause of her untimely death and transition to phantomhood.”

Lootika agreed that it would be unwise to try anything aggressive with such a phantom: “I suspect she doesn’t want to make a visual impression as she does not want to scare you with that injured manifestation of hers.” Ir: “That makes sense. However, for some reason, I’ve been feeling a pressing curiosity to discover more about this mysterious Lizzie.” L: “I could try again to get her to speak.” Accordingly, Lootika performed a bhūtākarṣaṇa and waited to see if her friend might experience an āveśa. Irmhild suddenly stopped talking and after a couple of minutes asked for writing material. She slowly wrote out a few words and drew something. Seeing her remain in that state for some time doing nothing, Lootika sprinkled some water on her from her kamaṇḍalu and brought her out of it. Ir: “It looks as though she did not say much even this time, but this is interesting. I seem to have written just a single line though it felt as though I was writing quite a bit. It says: ‘Tombstone 66, Surat European cemetery.’ Lootika, what do you making of this drawing?” L: “Hmm… well, it looks like the map of the said cemetery. I’m sure she is referring to an old cemetery in a city in India, in a state known as Gujarat. Hence, we can look up the map and locate that grave if it still survives. But did you have any other sensation of her?”

Ir: “I must confess to being a bit shocked by her visual apparition again. She seemed very cheerful, but I could not take my eyes off another dab of blood on her collar. The strange thing was she sat just beside you and pointed to her neck and tried to say something that I could not hear. Lootika, did you experience something — you just did not seem to react?” L: “That is part of performing these procedures safely. While we draw in the ghosts, we shield ourselves from them for you never know what they might spring at you. These apparitions from the days of the English tyranny often have a particular hate for my people not unlike their modern counterparts — we have had more than one encounter with such phantoms that needed us to exert all our defenses. However, I too tend to believe this girl is a good phantom.” Ir: “Now the tales of your encounters only make me more curious about this Lizzie. Let us search for this place called Surat. Ain’t it strange she points to a place in India? Could it merely be a projection of me being with you guys?” L: “I think this is genuine. As for Surat, I can take you there on the map in a moment.” Soon Lootika was able to locate the likely cemetery in the satellite image and using the map Irmhild had drawn out they seemed to locate the stated grave. L: “At least that grave seems to be still there — apparently the cemetery is in the care of the Archaeological Survey. Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone in my immediate circle with associations with that city, else I could have gotten more direct information. Let us see if Somakhya or Vrishchika might give us some leads but now it is time for us to make our foray.”

The next day, Vrishchika and Indrasena came over for a visit and they got yarning about their days in graduate school and like. The topic soon moved to Irmhild’s phantom aide and Lootika told the rest of her latest attempt. As Irmhild’s curiosity remained unquenched, they told her that they could make another attempt with a planchette. Somakhya brought out a Roman letter board and smeared it with a bit of powdered borax: “We have rarely used this one but let us try.” Ir: “Wow! I’m really excited to try that out.” For objectivity, they had Irmhild sit out, while the remaining four operated the pointer. They asked her to silently ask the ghost the questions once she made an appearance. They performed the bhūtākarṣaṇa and waited, but for a while, no one appeared. Somakhya wondered if the ghost might need some comforts and made her an offering of madhuparka. That seemed to work, and she answered in the affirmative regarding her presence. Then Irmhild silently asked the phantom to say more about herself. The pointer moved with some assertiveness right away and she recorded the letters. After that one answer, the board seemed to rattle and Irmhild and Vrishchika said that they sensed her leaving. L: “I guess we should just let her be. She doesn’t seem to want to say much.” When they put the letters together and tried to parse them, they read: “Mr. Blyth’s papers. Zoological Survey. Madraspatanum.” Ir: “Now, what is that even supposed to mean?” In: “I presume she means that we’ll have to consult these papers of a certain Blyth. Who knows if they even survive… Nowadays, her Madraspatanum goes by the name Chennai.” Ir: “Since this is in your country, I guess you guys might be able to find something.” S: “We can try but something so far back in time can be notoriously difficult to track. We can keep inquiries going spanning the breadth of the land from Surat to Chennai, but Irmhild, I fear you won’t have an answer soon.”

All their initial inquires came to naught in the knotty tangle of the Byzantine bureaucracy surrounding the old records from that dark phase of Indian history. Sometime later, Irmhild called Somakhya and Lootika to ask if they could help with a course she was conducting. Before concluding the conversation, she asked if they had any new leads on her phantom visitor. She mentioned that when Indrasena and Vrishchika had visited her a little while back, they had tried the planchette once again and it had issued two words — “Krishnan” and “Charuchitra” — they were taken to be nonsense words, especially given that the second was merely the name of one of Somakhya’s cousins. Nevertheless, she preserved them wondering if it was after all a genuine clue. S: “Dear Spidery, what do you make of those. I have a feeling this is not nonsense.” L: “Why? Charuchitra is a historian. She might be able to find us something about that grave via her connections, But who is this Krishnan?” S: “Indeed. I believe this chap Krishnan is the fellow who maintains the annelid and mollusc collection at the Zoological Survey. Have you forgotten that we had once gone through a torturous series of inquiries to get him to show us their museum collection? Given that we did tarpaṇa to him on that occasion, he might prove helpful in accessing these Chennai archives if they still survive. Let us activate these connections and see if can give Irmhild something when we meet her.”

In the evening after the classes, Somakhya and Lootika were hanging out with Irmhild. L: “We have big news for you. We have unraveled the mystery of your phantom clanswoman!” Ir: “What? I cannot wait to hear what you have gotten! Why do you say clanswoman? I’m not aware of any such ancestor as far as our records go.” Somakhya: “From her story, we can say that she cannot be your direct ancestor, but you may have to search your family records for a collateral line which would feature her.” Lootika handed over a copy of the document found among the papers of Blyth that had an autobiography of the phantom. L:“Irmhild, given the inferred connection to your clan, I must warn you that parts might be difficult to read. Nevertheless, it seems to bring some closure and solace too.” It was preceded by the following prefatory note from Blyth:

I must now turn to a most singular experience while in my camp near Rayghur, a fort of the chieftain of the Morettos, who had fought our men with much distinction during the mutiny. LW, who had been deceased for nearly 2 years then, suddenly appeared before me in her phantom form on the evening of March 13th, 1872. It was the first and only time in my life I have had an auditory or visual hallucination — I certainly have never experienced anything so vivid and prolonged as this. I affirm that I am stout of heart and of a most unimaginative constitution — yet, this apparition felt as real as anything from this world. She commanded me to record the story of her life and inquired if I had fitted her grave at Surat with the most abominable Hindoo grotesques she desired. I felt in no position to disobey her command. Below, I record her words as I noted them before she vanished and have not attempted to insert any parenthetical notes regarding my own appearance in the third person in the narrative. I can vouch that whatever she said with regard to the events concerning me is entirely veridical.

The words of LW’s phantom:
I was born in what was to soon be the colony of Victoria in Australia where my father JW was then the military surgeon. I was the second of four siblings; my elder brother was Robert; my younger siblings were Edward and Minnie. It was a rough place as we started taking in convicts, but I have considerable gratitude for having spent my early youth there. An important consequence was that I became a skilled equestrian early in life. The second consequence came about when I rode out to the cliffs and discovered fossil shells of cowrie snails. I compared these to the cowries we have today and realized that those from the past were notably different. I began wondering — why had they vanished? From where did the ones we have today come? I asked my mother about this. She said that the Lord the God was unhappy with some of his ante-antediluvian creations and destroyed them in their entirety. But that did not answer how the ones we have today came into being — after all, had the Lord not finished his creation within the first seven days of existence? I got some answers when the naturalist Mr. Sowerby came visiting. He became interested in my collection and in return for them gave me some coins and lent me some books by Sir Lyell and Mr. Owen. I labored through them with much interest. Later I learnt that Mr. Sowerby described the fossil cowries I had found under his name. Shortly, thereafter I found a few more new giant cowries but my family left Australia for the Bombay Presidency in our Indian possessions. My parents insisted that I should go to finishing school and sent me back to England. I abhorred the regimental order of the finishing school and was most certainly amongst the worst of their pupils. Thankfully, my father’s friend, Dr. Parkinson, was rather kindly and took interest in my shells and introduced me to the latest intricacies of natural history. He helped me publish my discovery of the Australian fossil cowries as an appendix to his own tome on fossils.

Around that time, I witnessed a most dreadful apparition. It was a wet evening and after a meager supper, I was buried for a few hours in a tome published by Mr. Wallace. All of a sudden, I was roused from my reading by an unexpected knock on the dressing table. I looked up at the mirror and instead of seeing my reflection, I saw my brother Robert walk out of it. He appeared rather unwell and almost translucent. I feared I might be losing myself or having an attack of nerves. However, he spoke in a most assuring voice that calmed me. Then he said something that frightened me: “The promises of the church are mere platitudes. I neither see the angels nor the hear choir of God. But what the dark Hindoos worship is indeed the truth. I find myself in the retinue of the great god Seeva, who is none other than Dionysos. I’m at peace and so will you when your time comes.” It took me some time to process this apparition, and when I did so, I feared that my dear brother had passed away in distant India. My apprehensions were confirmed when the Indian mail finally arrived informing me of the tragedy. Robert had caught an ague whilst supervising the opium fields and perished as result far from his native land. I had completed finishing school but was gripped with melancholy and lost interest in my many suitors. Hence, I traveled to Switzerland to spend some time with my mother’s sister. Her family was to go to Cairo; I took that chance to take to the sea with them and return to my family in India.

As I disembarked the smooth-sailing Fairlie at Bombay, the warm air lifted my spirits. I felt a sudden sense of purpose and eagerly scanned the quay for my parents. I finally joined my father and his koelie Joognoo Raum Pondee who took care of my luggage. As we were returning to his post to the south of Bombay, a frightening riot had broken out among the natives. The tillers known as the Ryots wished to rid themselves of their debts and turned on their native bankers known as the Mawrwarees. The Bombay Army under Sir Rose, who had formerly played a pivotal role in crushing the Mutiny, along with some natives of the Scinde Division were deployed to put down the rowdy Ryots. Unfortunately, our convoy came upon a large band of hideous Ryots who were throatily screaming cries that could blanch the stoutest heart. I froze as they threw the bleeding corpse of a decapitated Mawrwaree on the path ahead of us. Our koelie Pondee suggested that we mount the horses that were conveyed by the Scindes and make our way home swiftly via the hills. However, he worried about my safe conveyance as the Ryots closed in. Everyone in our party heaved a sigh of relief when they learnt that I was a skilled equestrian. Thus, after quite an adventure I reached home with my father. Soon, I found myself pampered by more than one dashing suitor, but my mind-numbing job as the governess to the magistrate’s children abraded any joy I might have felt from the ample attention I was receiving.

Thankfully, Pondee, who also worked as a native assistant to Mr. Blyth, put in a word to him about my abilities as a naturalist. Ere long, I had an interview with Mr. Blyth and provided him a letter of reference from Dr. Parkinson. Thus, I became his assistant, and he suggested to me the most interesting possibility of systematically discovering and recording the mantids, hemipterans and coleopterans from the Western Ghats in the Bombay Presidency. I set out twice every week on my horse with Mr. Blyth or Edward and prospected the ravines and hills where the Alexander of the warlike Morettos had once held sway and fought the armies of the Mahometans. I found considerable success in discovering hexapods new to science. Following his advice, I started classifying the insects and increasingly saw the truth in the theories of Mr. Wallace and Mr. Darwin. I had intended to describe these observations together my mentor Mr. Blyth and had never felt happier before. Unfortunately, my mission met with an unexpected interruption as little Minnie caught a cold and went into decline. I helped my mother in nursing her. One day, when she had to be confined to the bed, I heard the peculiar blare of a strange instrument followed by a strange vocal song. I looked around — neither my mother nor my brother who were in the room with Minnie heard it; nor did Minnie herself. However, our maid, Pondee’s wife, and our native cook, Tauntia, affirmed hearing the same. Pondee’s wife informed me that a great disaster was impending — it was the conch-blare and the dolorous dirge of the Yum-doots — the agents of the Indian Hades who whisk souls away. The next day poor Minnie expired.

It took me a while to recover from my dear sister’s death, but now I returned with an even greater purpose to complete my survey of Insecta. One morning, Pondee informed me that during his prospecting rounds he had found a conglomeration of horned beetles near the Kulwunt eminence; however, he had failed to collect any. I was heading that way; hence, I took the directions from Pondee and set out with Mr. Blyth. On reaching the base of the Kulwunt, we forked onto our respective paths agreeing to meet at 2:00 PM in the afternoon. In my wandering, I came across an old derelict shrine of the Hindoos, which had within it a phallic emblem — a symbol of the god Seeva. In niches on the walls of the shrine were the images of his sons the gods Kaurtic with six heads, the Mars of Hindoos, and the Indian Janus, who bore the head of a pachyderm. Maybe I felt a bit of a swoon from the blazing Indian sun. I decided to drink some water and rest a bit at the platform of the shrine. I began thinking thus: after all, just as the cowries on the Australian cliffs and the terrible lizards of Mr. Owen had gone extinct, even religions had come and gone. Would that not explain why our ancestors had once cleaved to a religion, not unlike that of the natives. I was increasingly drawn to the view, as my brother’s ghost had said, that the religion of the Bible was utterly false and had been foisted on us by the blade of the sword, even as we Europeans have tried to impose it on the black natives. As I got up from my introspection to resume my prospecting, I felt some strange urge to place wildflowers on the images of the gods in the shrine.

Then, as I went to mount my horse, I saw a most dreadful apparition. I now know that it was a mātṛ from the retinue of the great god Rudra. That most frightful divine lady said to me that my allotted term of life was drawing to a close. I asked if I would be joining Minnie and Robert. She responded that due to my act of piety I would join her host and vanished. I brushed it aside as a mere hallucination from the heat and rode on towards the spot where Pondee had spotted the horned beetles going up a narrow path. In retrospect, I should have dismounted but, as the Hindoos say, who can escape what the god Bruhmah has written out for you? For some reason, my seasoned horse bolted and threw me off into the defile bristling with bamboos. I was severally skewered through my arm, neck and eye and could not extricate myself. However, Mr. Blyth heard my cry and was able to locate me after a search. He had to get Pondee along before he could finally get me down from my hellish impalement: by then, I had lost consciousness. Finally, I was taken home and my father started treating my wounds. After the initial treatment, I regained consciousness briefly and spoke once to bid my family, friends, and my suitor Captain Atkinson goodbye for the last time. Instructed them to decorate my tomb with the tridents and drums of the great god Seeva. Only my brother Edward assented but he too expired last year after being hit by a ball while playing cricket. My grieving parents left for England shortly thereafter. My life’s work will not see the light of the day. Hence, as I rejoice in the retinue of the great gods, I will aid a future member of my clan realize more of it than I did.

This was followed by a concluding note from Mr. Blyth:
I had no intention of fulfilling the delirious requests of the dying Ms. LW to place the symbols of the Hindoo Termagants and Baphomets on her tomb. I suspected that she had come under the evil influence of my assistant Pondee’s wife, who clouded her otherwise logical intellect with ghastly superstitions. However, this apparition near Rayghur filled me with such terror that I commissioned a blacksmith to make the needful auxiliaries and decided to fit them on poor Ms. LW’s tomb when I got a chance to visit Surat.

Somakhya: “Irmhild, here is a picture of her tomb. My cousin Charuchitra was able to obtain it via her connections to the Archaeological Survey. Evidently, Blyth never got to furnish it with the symbols of Rudra — he himself passed away a few months later with a fever following a cut to his thumb. The epitaph has not survived in its entirety, but it gives her name as Lizzie Willink — this matches the initials in Blyth’s account. Also note, while they did not furnish it with the tridents and the ḍamaru-s she wanted, they engraved a beautiful copy of one of the fossil cowries she discovered — it bears the unmistakable siphon and whorl peculiar to the Australian exemplar. No doubt she was able to grasp an evolutionary lesson from that. These indicate that the grave pertains to the very same person whose initials are in Blyth’s document.” Ir: “Tragic! The epitaph says that she was only 22 when she died. It now strikes me that the aunt she mentioned in her narrative must be a lineal ancestor of mine.”

[Any resemblance to real incidents or people should be taken as merely convergence in story creation under constraints]

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Indo-European expansions and iconography: revisiting the anthropomorphic stelae

Was there an early Indo-European iconography? The anthropomorphic stelae
There is no linguistic evidence for the presence of iconic or temple worship among the early Indo-Europeans. However, after their migrations, when they settled in the lands of sedentary peoples, they adopted a range of religious icons often stylistically influenced by local traditions. Nevertheless, there are some clear iconographic features of their deities and other divine entities that shine through these local styles (to be discussed in later notes). This suggests that, even if iconic worship was not the central focus of their religion, they had definitive visualizations for their deities that emerged early in IE tradition. Moreover, barring the Iranian counter-religion, most branches of IE people adopted iconic and temple worship in the later phases of their tradition. This observation, together with some of the textual features of the early iconic worship of Hindu deities (e.g., caitya-yāga and gṛhya-pariśiṣṭa-s), suggest that early IEans probably did have iconic worship on the steppes itself; it was just not a major expression of the religiosity of their elite.

The archaeology of the IEans was fraught with much confusion until archaeogenomic studies over the past decade greatly clarified the situation. Hence, we can now say with some confidence that we do have a body of archaeological records for early IEan iconography, even if we do not fully understand it. The earliest evidence for this comes from the Yamnaya horizon on Pontic–Caspian steppe that is associated with early IEans. The striking body of iconic images from this locus and time is comprised of the so-called anthropomorphic stelae (Figure 1). These stelae caught the attention of researchers right from the early work of Gimbutas and were subsequently discussed at length by Telegin and Mallory. While their iconographic content and functions continue to be debated, several authors, starting from Gimbutas, have proposed an IEan interpretation. Further, most of these authors have tended to explicitly or implicitly invoke Indo-Aryan themes (e.g., Vassilkov most recently) to provide the imagery with an IE interpretation.

Anthropomorphs1Figure 1. Examples Anthropomorphic stelae from different parts of Africa and Eurasia (2, 4, 6 from Vierzig).

That said, it should be noted that the basic form of these anthropomorphs is widely distributed across Eurasia starting from the chalcolithic-Bronze Age transition, with a core temporal window of 3500-1800 BCE. A survey by Vierzig indicates that apart from commonly occurring in the Yamnaya horizon, they are also densely present in the Northern Italy-Alpine region, Iberia and Sardinia. Moderate to sparse occurrences of such anthropomorphic stelae are also seen in France, Germany, the Italian and Greek peninsulas, Sicily, Caucasus and Northern Arabia (e.g., Hai’l and Tayma’ in modern Saudi and also probably Jordan — the Israeli exemplar). A miniature terracotta version was also reported by Sarianidi in Bactria (see below for more on this). In the East, they are found in the Dzungarian Basin associated with the Chemurchek Culture (2500–1700 BCE) that succeeded the Afanasievo, the Far Eastern offshoot of the Yamnaya. Another successor of the Afanasievo, to the north of the Chemurchek culture, is the Okunevo culture in the Minusinsk Basin. This culture shows some remarkable menhirs that seem to have been influenced in some features by the classic anthropomorphic stelae. These also share features with the stelae from Shimao (roughly 2300 BCE) and later expressions of this theme such as the deer stones of Mongolia (see below) and even the totemic structures in the North American horizon. Finally, we could also mention the menhirs from Dillo in South Ethiopia that might be seen as sharing some general features with the Eurasian stelae under consideration. However, their iconography is again too distinct to be included in this discussion. The distribution of the anthropomorphic stelae suggests that, like certain other iconographic conventions (e.g., the horned deity), this convention too spread widely, even if some versions might have a convergent origin. Thus, a priori, it cannot be identified with a specific culture, though specific versions of them might show a narrower cultural affinity (see below).

The typical anthropomorphic stele under consideration is a simplistic depiction of a human form — usually only a basic outline of the body. The minority of the stelae are furnished with more elaborate embellishments. Despite their simplicity, they display a certain unity that distinguishes most of them from the more divergent menhirs with human features. Further, across the above-mentioned zone, the better preserved and more elaborate versions display some common features: 1) The male figures (which tend to be the majority) are often shown as ithyphallic. This feature is shared by the Arabian, Yamnaya (and its western successors Corded Ware) and possibly at least some of the Iberian versions. 2) The figures often wear a belt around the waist reminiscent of the Iranic avyaṅga. This feature is definitely shared by exemplars from across the above-stated distribution zone. 3) The arms and legs when shown are always presented in a static manner, even when associated objects, like weapons, are depicted. 4) Across their distribution zone, the stelae are frequently but not always associated with graves (this is also true of the Ethiopian anthropomorphic menhirs of Dillo). Even the most elaborate early versions of these anthropomorphic stelae appear simpler than the coeval religious icons of Egypt, West Asia and possibly also the Harappans. Thus, we believe that the anthropomorphic stelae did not have their primary origin in the Egypt-West Asia-Harappan corridor but in the steppes or among the Early European Farmers or in the Caucasus.

Anthropomorphic stelae IE heartland and their dispersal
The early Arabian and steppe versions show sufficient divergence to suggest memetic diffusion rather than direct transmission via invading groups; however, from the time of the Yamnaya expansion onward there are specific features to suggest the presence of an iconographic convention governing their production that was likely transmitted by expanding IE groups. We will first consider this in the context of the Yamnaya artefacts and the western expansion of the IEans. It can be best understood by comparing some famous stelae namely: 1) the so-called Kernosovskiy and Federovsky (Poltava region) idols from what is today Ukraine. 2) The Natalivka stele, again from Ukraine. 3) Cioburciu stele from what is today Moldavia. 4) The Hamangia stele from what is today Romania. 5) The Floreşti Polus stele from interior Romania. All these stelae depict male figures that are unified by the presence of a common weapon the battle axe. Importantly, in the Kernosovskiy, Federovsky, Cioburciu, Hamangia and Floreşti Polus stelae at least one axe is secured via the waist belt of the anthropomorph. These stelae (barring Floreşti Polus: fragmented? and Natalivka: not clear), as well as several others from the Yamnaya horizon (Novoselovka, Svatovo, Kasperovka, Novocherkassk and Belogrudovka), are also unified by the depiction of the outlines of the feet (Skt: pādukā-s). The Kernosovskiy, Natalivka and Svatovo stelae from Ukraine display a bow as an additional weapon. The profile of the axe common to all these stelae is boat-shaped and corresponds to the battle axe seen in the western successor of the Yamnaya, viz., the Corded Ware culture. Such axes are frequently buried in the Corded Ware graves believed to belong to elite males. One of the ārya words for the axe is paraśu, which has cognates going back to proto-Indo-European. It is quite possible this type of axe was indeed known by that ancestral IE word. On the whole, these features support the IEan provenance and westward movement of this type of anthropomorphic stele into Europe.

Anthropomorphs2Figure 2. Yamnaya-associated stelae.

The Kernosovskiy idol depicts a second kind of axe with a distinct head profile. This may be compared to a recently reported massive metal axe, weighing just shy of a kilo and blade length of about 21 cm from the Abashevo culture (in the middle Volga and adjacent Ural region), which likely represented the Aryans before their southward expansion. The Ṛgveda mentions two distinct types of axes, the paraśu and the vāśī. The word vāśī does not appear to have cognates outside the Indo-Iranian branch among the IE languages. It is possible that the eastern movement of the Corded Ware-like cultures acquired a distinct type/word for axe from other local populations. But the presence of two distinct types of axes on the Kernosovskiy idol from the Yamnaya period suggests that a second type of axe might have been acquired even earlier but only used in certain descendant IE cultures.

Anthropomorphs3Figure 3. Chemurchek stelae. 1 and 2 from Kovalev. 3 from Betts and Jia.

Turning to the eastern transmission, we find that a bow held in a manner similar to the Yamnaya stelae is featured in at least three anthropomorphic stelae at Chemurchek sites (2750-1900 BCE). One of these (published by Kovalev) holds another weapon, which could be either an axe or an aṅkuśa paralleling the Yamnaya stelae. A similar axe or aṅkuśa is held without a bow in the hands of three other stelae from the Chemurchek culture and can be seen on the Belogrudovka stele in the Yamnaya group. One of the Chemurchek anthropomorphs holds something like a mace comparable to what is found on the Kernosovskiy idol. Until recently the affinities of the Chemurchek people were uncertain. However, the archaeogenetic study of Zhang et al provides some clarity in this regard. First, the eastern offshoot of the Yamnaya, the Afanasievo underwent local admixtures with the Tarim early Bronze Age population (the source population of the famous Tarim mummies) and to a smaller degree with the East Asian “Baikal Early Bronze Age” giving rise to the “Dzungarian Early BA1” population. Next, this mixed, again with the Tarim BA, and a Namazga/Anau-I chalcolithic-related population (Geoksyur) to give rise to the Chemurchek people. Thus, the genetic evidence supports an ultimate link between these cultures and the Yamnaya derived populations, suggesting that iconographic similarities in the eastern anthropomorphic stelae are related to the Indo-European movement to the east. In this scenario, a Chemurchek-related population rather than the Tarim mummies population likely gave rise to Tocharian languages. However, a wrinkle remains regarding the Afanasievo situation: while Mallory claims that stelae have been recovered in that horizon, we have found no evidence for such so far in the literature. This may point to greater diversity within the early Eastern extension of Yamnaya than previously appreciated (see below section).

Anthropomorphs4Figure 4. Okunevo and Shimao stelae. 1-4 Okunevo stelae (from Polyakov et al and Leontiev et al). 5 Shimao stelae (from Sun et al).

Before we leave the footprints of the Yamnaya expansion on the eastern anthropomorphic stelae, it would be remiss if we do not touch upon the Okunevo menhirs and the Shimao stelae. Like the Chemurchek culture, the Okunevo culture (2600-1700 BCE) represents a bronze age admixture between the IE and East Asian populations that arose from a comparable, but distinct, admixture of the Afanasievo with Tarim BA and Baikal BA populations, probably driven primarily by males. The Okunevo anthropomorphic stelae/menhirs share the general similarity of the round facial profiles with some of the Chemurchek stelae from the Kayinar Cemetery. However, beyond this they show much diversity and several striking and unique features, such as: 1) a halo of elements emanating from the faces, like rays, waves (often terminating in lunes) and dendritic structures. 2) A frequent motif featuring a central dyad of concentric circles surrounded by four cusps shaped like an astroid. 3) Peculiarly curved mouth on the anthropomorph. 4) Depictions of stylized animals like wolves and elk (both of which acquire mythic significance in the much later Turko-Mongol world). 5) Unlike the Yamnaya stelae they lack a belt. The earliest Okunevo specimens are close in form to the simplest versions of the Chemurchek stelae. Some of these early Okunevo versions also share a bovine motif with the Yamnaya stelae (e.g., Kernosovskiy). They acquire the greatest complexity in the middle Okunevo period with all the above-mentioned distinctive features. The first half of the middle Okunevo period is marked by the unusual tall menhirs (up to 5m tall) often depicting multiple anthropomorphic or theriomorphic faces. The Okunevo stelae/menhirs are distinguished from the Yamnaya and Chemurchek versions in almost entirely lacking weapons — we are aware of only a single exemplar from the middle Okunevo period where the anthropomorph is flanked by two tridents. To our knowledge, tridents are unknown in any of the other early steppe stelae.

We propose that the Afanasievo-like founder populations of Chemurchek and Okunevo were probably either the same or close, but distinct from other sampled Afanasievo groups that seem to have lost the ancestral stelae (contra Mallory?). This population introduced relatively simple stelae to founders of both these populations at the time of the admixture with local groups. The Chemurchek retained these in a largely conservative form, whereas Okunevo innovated upon it probably drawing on the mythemes coming from their Northeast Asian founder population with links to Siberia. This might explain the parallels between the later and the Inuit and American totems. The weaponless Okunevo stelae with exaggerated facial features and expressions are also mirrored in the iconography of the stelae from the early neolithic urban site from Shimao, Shanxi province of China (2250-1950 BCE). As these have no Chinese antecedents, it is quite possible that they were influenced by the contemporary IE-admixtured cultures to their north (a contact possibly also responsible for the dawn of the metal age in China). Currently, the archaeogenetic information from the Shimao is limited but suggests affinities to the Northern East Asian populations related to that contributing to the ethnogenesis of the Okunevo. Thus, it points, in the least, to a role for a similar population as that involved in the emergence of the Okunevo and the potential diffusion of iconographic elements.

Stelae associated with subsequent pulses of steppe expansions
We shall next survey the reflexes of the stele iconography associated with the later pulses of expansions from the steppes. The first of these was the Aryan expansion which is associated with the Sintashta culture and its successor Andronovo culture that spread out over the steppe. Based on the phylogeny of extant horses and the spread of chariotry through the old world, we believe that the Aryan expansion marked the second great IE wave from the steppes after the initial Yamnaya expansions. In cultural terms, this wave might have played a role in reinforcing old IE steppe traditions even among the earlier branches emanating from the first Yamnaya expansion — sort of an Aryanization of the earlier IEans. Archaeogenetics has established that, while the Aryans appeared at the BMAC horizon by around 2100 BCE, they did not carry any of that genetic admixture to India. After 1500 BCE we find both noticeable BMAC and East Asian admixture in the steppe Aryans of the Andronovo expansion. This East Asian admixture was also not carried into India. Further, these results indicate that: 1) The Aryan conquerors of India did not tarry much at the BMAC or only marginally skirted it as they entered the subcontinent. 2) In the subcontinent they underwent admixture with the Harappan people. The subsequent presence of individuals with both Aryan and Harappan ancestries back on the steppe in Central Asia (Narasimhan et al) suggests that the Indo-Aryans initially established a polity that spanned the Indian subcontinent and the steppe. 3) This should have happened between 2000-1500 BCE. After that, the Indo-Aryans remained in India and the connections with the central Asian steppes diminished. In contrast, the Aryans who remained on the steppe interacted and underwent admixture with the BMAC. We can say that this played a major role in the emergence of the Iranic tradition. The key marker for this is the camel — an important domesticate and cultural animal in the BMAC culture. While the camel is known by the cognate word (uṣṭra) in the Ṛgveda, it is neither prominent nor a part of human names (unlike the old IE horse names). In contrast, the camel is a common part of early Iranic names (Zarathuštra, Frašauštra, Vohūštra, Aravauštra) and is more frequently encountered in their early mythosphere as a holy animal (e.g., as an incarnation of the god Verethragna). This indicates that the counter-religion of Zoroastrianism developed in close proximity to the BMAC probably influenced by its substratum religion. Consistent with this, after 1500 BCE, we start observing increasing BMAC admixture among steppe Aryans along with East Asian admixture.