Iconography of varAhamihira
varAhamihira was a Hindu encyclopedist who lived in the 500s of the CE era. He may have descended from a family of shAkadvIpI brAhmaNas, as suggested by the mihira epithet in his name combined with varAha. This is also suggested by his tendencies for solar-system worship which appears to have been a trait of the shAkadvIpI brAhmaNas or Iranian Hindu brahmins. He covers an extraordinary range of topics in his encyclopedic works ranging from astronomy, mathematics, rituals, yavana jAtaka-s, augury, sooth-saying of various kinds, and worship of Hindu gods through idols. In the same breadth he introduces some of the best known trigonometric formulae like (sinx)^2 + (cosx)^2 = 1; the double angle expansions like cos2*x=1-2*(sinx)^2; the factorial and its relationship to combinations, as well as the basics of Hindu iconography. Thus, it is not suprising when we find trigonometry mensuration and agamic issues pertain to idols being linked even the works of the later day nambUtiri mathematician and tAntrika Chennas Narayanan Nambutiripad.
In his bR^ihat saMhitA he gives a succinct section on construction of icons of gods, which gives a good picture of what was the iconographic situation around, 500-600 CE, the culmination of the gupta period. Many of these topics are dealt with in great detail in the purANas and Agamas of the various streams, but varAhamihira’s account appears to give a summary of what was popular, such that it can be compared with surviving temples of the period, like the glorious Udayagiri complex.
The deities who were iconographically depicted in varAhamihira’s times were:
1)rAma the son of dasharatha; 2) bali the son of virochana, the asura. 3) viShNu with 8 arms etc 4) balabhadra or the saMkarShaNa 5) sAmba 6) pradyumna 7) ekAnaMshA (3-7 appear to represent a vaiShNava set parallel to the set expounded in the iconographic chapters of the pA~ncharAtra tantras) 8)4-headed brahmA 9) kumAra or skanda 10) indra 11) rudra, holding uma by his side 12) the buddha 13) the naked jain ascetic 14) sUrya 16) li~Nga 17) revanta 18) yama 19) varuNa 20) kubera 21) vinAyaka 22) sapta-mAtR^ika
Appended below are the relevant verses along with some notes and my translation (the text follows the one provided freely by Indologist Michio Yano and one published by obscure press in the drAviDa country of which the title pages are worn off):
57.30 dasharatha-tanayo rAmo balish cha vairochaniH shataM viMsham
57.30 dvAdasha-hAnyA sheShAH pravara-sama-nyUna-parimANAH
rAma, son of dasharatha, and bali, son of virochana, should be made 120 [digits tall]. The heights of other images, i.e. large, medium and small, are less by 12 digits in succession (108, 96 and 84).
57.31 kAryo aShTabhujo bhagavAMsh chatur-bhujo dvibhuja eva vA viShNuH
57.31 shrIvatsa-a~Nkita-vakShAH kaustubha-maNi-bhUShita-uraskaH
The idols of viShNu must be made with eight, four or two arms. His chest is marked with the shrIvatsa and is adorned with the Kaustubha gem.
57.32 atasI-kusuma-shyAmaH pIta-ambara-nivasanaH prasanna-mukhaH
57.32 kuNDala-kirITa-dhArI pIna-gala-uraHsthala-aMsa-bhujaH
He colored like a deep colored flax flower (deep blue), with yellow robes, having a calm and happy face. He wears ear-rings, a crown and has a muscular neck, chest, shoulders and arms.
57.33 khaDga-gadA-shara-pANir dakShiNataH shAntidash chaturtha-karaH
57.33 vAma-kareShu cha kArmuka-kheTaka-chakrANi sha~Nkhash cha
[In the eight handed form] the four on the right side must have the sword, mace, arrow and the peace-giving mudra. The four left hands have a bow, shield, discus and conch.
57.34 atha cha chaturbhujam ichChati shAntida eko gadA-dharash cha-anyaH
57.34 dakShiNa-pArshve hy evaM vAme sha~Nkhash cha chakraM cha
In case a four armed idol is desired, the two hands on the right side will bear the peace mudra (=abhaya) and a mace. On the left he bears a conch and discus.
57.35 dvibhujasya tu shAnti-karo dakShiNa-hasto aparash cha sha~Nkha-dharaH
57.35 evaM viShNoH pratimA kartavyA bhUtim ichChadbhiH
If a two armed idol is made then the right hand has the shanti-mudra and the left holds a conch. Thus, the image of the viShNu is to be made when wealth is desired
57.36 baladevo hala-pANir mada-vibhrama-lochanash cha kartavyaH
57.36 bibhrat kuNDalam ekaM sha~Nkha-indu-mR^iNAla-gaura-tanuH
baladeva should be with a hala in his hand, with his eyes intoxicated with beer. He should be shown wearing a single ear-ring, his body being as white as conch, the moon and lotus.
57.37 ekAnaMshA kAryA devI baladeva-kR^iShNayor madhye
57.37 kaTi-saMsthita-vAma-karA sarojam itareNa cha-udvahatI
The goddess ekAnamshA should be placed between baladeva and kR^iShNa. Her left hand is placed on the hip and the other hand holds a lotus.
57.38 kAryA chaturbhujA yA vAma-karAbhyAM sa-pustakaM kamalam
57.38 dvAbhyAM dakShiNa-pArshve varam arthiShv akSha-sUtraM cha
If she is made with four arms, then her left hands hold a book and a lotus. Her two right hands show the boon-giving mudra to the votaries and a rosary.
57.39 vAmo atha vA-aShTa-bhujAyAH kamaNDalush chApam ambujaM shAstram
57.39 vara-shara-darpaNa-yuktAH savya-bhujAH sa-akSha-sUtrAsh cha
[If in the] eight armed form, in the left hands she has a kamaNDalu, a bow, a lotus, and a book. In the right ones, boon-giving mudra, an arrow, a mirror and a rosary.
57.40 shAmbash cha gadA-hastaH pradyumnash chApa-bhR^it surUpash cha
57.40 anayoH striyau cha kArye kheTaka-nistriMsha-dhAriNyau
shAmba should be made with a mace in his hand; pradyumna, is shown in a handsome form, with a bow in his hand. Their wives are also made with sword and shields in their hands.
57.41 brahmA kamaNDalu-karash chatur-mukhaH paNkaja-Asana-sthash cha
57.41 skandaH kumAra-rUpaH shakti-dharo barhiketush cha
brahmA is made with four faces, a kamaNDalu in his hand and seated on a lotus. skanda is made as a youth, holding a spear in his hand and with peacock feathers.
57.42 shukla-chatur-viShANo dvipo mahendrasya vajra-pANitvam
57.42 tiryag lalATa-saMsthaM tR^itIyam api lochanaM chihnam
The great indra is [made] with a white, four tusked elephant, and a thunderbolt in his hand. He should also be show with the mark of a third eye placed horizontally on the forehead.
57.43 shambhoH shirasi-indukalA vR^iSha-dhvajo akShi cha tR^itIyam api cha-Urdhvam
57.43 shUlaM dhanuH pinAkaM vAma-ardhe vA girisutA-ardham
shiva [is made] with the cresent moon on the head, and a bull-banner, as also the third eye, placed vertically on the forehead. He has a trident in one hand and a pinAka bow in the other. He may be shown as having the daughter of the mountains for his left half.
57.44 padma-a~Nkita-kara-charaNaH prasanna-mUrtiH sunIla-keshash cha
57.44 padmAsana-upaviShTaH pitA-iva jagato bhavati buddhaH
His hands and feet are marked with lotuses, he is of happy form and good black hair. Thus the buddha is depicted in the padmAsana pose, showing a fatherly attitude to the world.
57.45 AjAnu-lamba-bAhuH shrIvatsa-a~NkaH prashAnta-mUrtish cha
57.45 dig-vAsAs taruNo rUpavAMsh cha kAryo arhatAM devaH
His idol [is shown] with long arms reaching to knees, with the shrivatsa mark and of serene appearance. Thus is the god of the arhats [jainas] made as a space-clad, handsome youth.
57.46 nAsA-lalATa-ja~Ngha-Uru-gaNDa-vakShAMsi cha-unnatAni raveH
57.46 kuryAd udIchya-veShaM gUDhaM pAdAd uro yAvat
ravi should be shown with a prominent nose, forehead, calves, thighs, cheeks and chest. He should be made with the dress of northerners, covering the feet and chest entirely.
57.47 bibhrANaH sva-kara-ruhe pANibhyAM pa~Nkaje mukuTa-dhArI
57.47 kuNDala-bhUShita-vadanaH pralamba-hAro .aviya~Nga-vR^itaH
He holds two lotus sprouts in his hands and wears a crown. His face is decorated with ear-rings, he bears a long necklace and is girdled with an Iranian sacred-thread.
57.48 kamala-udara-dyuti-mukhaH ka~nchuka-guptaH smita-prasanna-mukhaH
57.48 ratna-ujjvala-prabhA-maNDalash cha kartuH shubhakaro arkaH
His face is lustrous as the inner surface of the lotus petal, he covered with a leather jacket and face is happy and smiling. He has a halo with the bright glitter of gems, such a depiction of the sun is beneficient to the maker.
57.49 saumyA tu hasta-mAtrA vasudA hasta-dvaya-uchChritA pratimA
57.49 kShema-subhikShAya bhavet tri-chatur-hasta-pramANA yA
An image just one cubit [in height] is good, an idol two cubits (hands) in height gives weath. An idol 3 and 4 cubits in height respectively confer well-being and abundance of food.
57.50 nR^ipa-bhayam atya~NgAyAM hIna-a~NgAyAm akalyatA kartuH
57.50 shAta-udaryAM kShud-bhayam artha-vinAshaH kR^isha-a~NgAyAm
If the image has extra limbs [than prescribed] the maker suffers the wrath of kings, while lack of [appropriate] limbs causes illness.
57.51 maraNaM tu sakShatAyAM shastra-nipAtena nirdishet kartuH
57.51 vAma-avanatA patnIM dakShiNa-vinatA hinasty AyuH
If the idol is split the maker will die by injury from weapons. If the left side is dented then the maker’s wife suffers, if the right side is dented the maker life is shortened.
57.52 andhatvam Urdhva-dR^iShTyA karoti chintAm adhomukhI dR^iShTiH
57.52 sarva-pratimAsv evaM shubha-ashubhaM bhAskara-ukta-samam
If [the idol’s] eyes look upwards it causes blindness, if it looks downwards it causes worries. These [precautions are applicable ]to both the images of other gods as well as the sun.
57.53 li~Ngasya vR^itta-paradhiM dairghyeNa-AsUtrya tat tridhA vibhajet
57.53 mUle tach chaturasraM madhye tv aShTAshriM vR^ittam ataH
The circumference of the li~Nga is equal to its height and its [height] is divided into three equal parts. The root [lowest part] should be quadrilateral, the middle part is octagonal and the uppermost one, cylindrical.
57.54 chaturasram avani-khAte madhyaM kAryaM tu piNDikA-shvabhre
57.54 dR^ishya-uchChrAyeNa samA samantataH piNDikA shvabhrAt
The quadrilaterial part should be buried in the earth, the middle one, in the cavity of the pedestal; and the width of the pedestal around the cavity must be equal to the visible height of the li~Nga (1/3 of circumference).
57.55 kR^isha-dIrghaM deshaghnaM pArshva-vihInaM purasya nAshaya
57.55 yasya kShataM bhaved mastake vinAshAya tal-li~Ngam
[A li~Nga] made thin and tall will destroy the country, one without [with defective] sides with destroy forts. One with a crack in the top part will cause destruction.
57.56 mAtR^i-gaNaH kartavyaH sva-nAma-deva-anurUpa-kR^ita-chihnaH
57.56 revanto ashva-ArUDho mR^igayA-krIDA-Adi-parivAraH
The band of goddesses (7/8 mAtR^ikA-s) are made with the form and insignia of the gods whose names they bear [1) brAhmi, 2) vaiShNavI, 3) mAheshvarI, 4) kaumArI, 5) aindrI, 6) vArAhI 7) chAmuNDA /8) mahAlakShmI/]. revanta (the Sun’s son) should be shown seated on horseback with his attendants as hunters and acrobats.
57.57 daNDI yamo mahiShago haMsa-ArUDhash cha pAshabhR^id varuNaH
57.57 nara-vAhanaH kubero vAma-kirITI bR^ihat-kukShiH
The rod wielding yamA should be shown riding a water-buffalo and varuNa mounted on a swan, with a noose in his hand. The man-borne kubera has a beautiful crown and is pot-bellied.
57.58 pramathAdhipo gajamukhaH pralamba-jaTharaH kuThAradhArI syAt
57.58 ekaviShANo bibhran mUlakakandaM sunIladalakandam
The lord of the pramathas with an elephant head and a pot-belly holds an axe. He has a single tusk and holds a radish bulb with deeply colored leaves and root.