The greatest temple of shiva
We converged on this issue via a peculiar way –We were blessed after many years to enjoy the sUpa-kalA of ST. For our tongues, which are dead as that of the prince of shrI-lanka in the Indian pleasure house, it was a like water for a man in the desert (of course we were reminded of the same simile in the R^ivedic mantra RV10.4.1). In course of enjoying her superlative efforts, I was educating ST on the vagaries of Hindu history, when she brought to my attention a verse by the great Octavio Paz, the ex-ambassador of Mexico:
Down at the foot of the sublime sculptures,
Disfigured by the Mohammedans and the Portuguese,
The multitude has left its litter,
Tiffin for the crows and the curs.
I damn it to a thousand reincarnations,
Each on a muck-heap
While those others,
Can be carved, in living flesh, for aeons,
In the hell for defacers of statues.
-Sunday on Elephanta
ST: “One of the greatest works of art of ours but when was it made and who made it ?”
To me it was greatest temple of the terrible rudra. Unfortunately it lies vandalized by Christian terrorists filled with brains rotting from the Abrahamistic mental disease. Truly the words of the venerable Celsus comes to mind: ‘…Christians are like a synod of worms on a dunghill, croaking and squeaking, “For our sakes was the world created.”‘
In this regard an example of the stinking Christian intra-cranial decay is vividly illustrated by the comment of the Portuguese vandal Antonio Bocarro: “There is also a large and deep tank of water without which the heathens of the East never build their pagodas; because among their other abominations they believe that water purifies and cleanses them” [!]
To me the greatness of the temple of shrI-pUrI mainly lies in the fact that it is one of the few temples that is literally a purANa in rock. It helps us reconstruct the history of the pAshupatas, and predecessors of the kAlAmukha-s of later days. To me on seeing the glory of shiva on rock the words came to mind:
daMShTrA-karAlaM divi nR^ityamAnaM hutAsha-vaktraM jvalanArka-rUpaM |
sahasra-pAdAkShi-shirobhi yuktaM bhavantam-ekaM praNamAmi rudraM ||
namo.astu somAya sumadhyamAya namo.astu devAya hiraNyabAho |
namo.agni-chandrArka-vilochanAya namo.ambikAyAH pataye mR^iDAya ||
From the evidence of the copper coins of kR^iShNa-rAja that appear to have been used as a payment for the workers on the island of shrI-pUrI it seems the cave-temple of shiva was excavated during the reign of the early kalachuri-s a branch of the haihaya clan between 525 to 575 of CE. The chief sponsors seem to have been the kings kR^iShNa-rAja and sha~Nkara-gaNa. The main idol other than the garbhAgR^iha which houses the li~Nga is 3-headed maheshvara mUrti. This triadic representation is suggestive of the lAkulIsha pAshupatas because they clearly emphasize the triadic nature of rudra: the pAshupata sUtras state that rudra manifests as R^iShi, vipra and mahat. It also provides another triad as which rudra manifests: vAmadeva, jyeShTha and rudra. vAmadeva generates various kArya-s; jyeShTha is the supreme being or the sole existence; rudra is one who unites the universe with destruction. It is precisely this triad of the ancient para-vedic pAshupata sUtra-s that is represented by the splendid mahesha-mUrti in the central southern niche of shrI-pUri caves. The important point to note here is that even though the pAshupatas use the pentadic mantras of sadyojAta etc their shiva is essentially triadic. It is in the mantra-mArga that the pa~ncha-brahma is the central theme, especially as outlined in the siddhAnta thought. This connection is further strengthened by the presence of an image of the holy lakulIsha, the founder of the of the pAshupata lineage, in the north-eastern-most niche of the temple. This shows that the early kalachuris were patrons of the lAkulIsha lineage of pAshupata-s rather than classical mantra mArga shaivas. It was only their late descendants after the 800s who made the shift to the mantra-mArga of the matta-mayUra branch of siddhAnta shaivas.
We have been able to piece together some of the history of the shrI-pUrI [Elephanta] Island that has some bearing on the spread of the pAshupata sect of the shaiva-s, their cultural contributions and the parallel rise of the mantra-mArga shaivas, especially the siddhAnta-shaivas.
The early kalachuri dynasty came to a dismal end in the first half of the 600s of CE after they faced a dual attack from the rising chAlukya-s and remnants of the old maurya-s that had established themselves in Konkans (their descendant chandra-rao more of Javali in the Konkans was killed by Shivaji to finally end the dynasty). The mauryan ruler in a naval campaign took over the island of shrI-pUrI from from the kalachuris during the reign of buddharAja, even as the chalukya general ma~Ngalesha invaded the northern realm of the kalachuri-s and conquered it. However, the maurya-s could not hold on to the island as the next chAlukya king, the mighty pulakeshi II defeated the maurya-s by griping them from both sides via a naval and land attack. The Aihole inscription poetically describes this [translation from Epigraphica Indica vol 6 modified by me based on the original]:
“In the Konkanas the impetuous waves of the forces lead by [pulakeshi] swiftly swept away the rising wavelets of pools- the mauryas. When radiant like the destroyer of tripura he besieged pUrI, the shrI of the western sea, with hundreds of ships in appearance like arrays of rutting elephants, the sky, dark-blue as a young blue-water lily and covered with rows of massive clouds, resembled the sea, and the sea was like the sky.”
Before the mid-750s of CE the mauryas appeared to have reappeared to control shrI-pUri and the surrounding Konkans perhaps as a nominal feudatory of the chAlukya-s and then some what independently. Around the mid-700s a large Moslem attacking fleet overwhelmed the maurya defenses of the island of shrI pUrI and occupied it, but the chalukya king of Gujarat, pulakeshirAja sent a naval expedition to destroy the Moslems. This is alluded to in an allegorical form in the late book of the shiva purANa termed the koTi-rudra saMhitA. Here a vaishya going to the island of shrI pUrI was captured by the rAkShasas and imprisoned with other worshipers of shiva. These rAkShasas are said to greatly harass the people and the vaishya invokes shiva who comes and gives him the pAshupatAstra. Using this he kills the rAkShasas. Then a king vIrasena the son of mahAsena is said to liberate the island after receiving weapons from shiva to kill the mlechChas in naval expedition.
The maurya-s appear to have held their ground in the island despite these historical tremors albeit as subordinates of more powerful rulers of the mainland. We have an inscription from 1069 CE that states that govinda-rAja the maurya ruler was a vassal of the yAdava ruler seunachandra II and probably administered the island for the yadava overlord. It may have also been held by them for the Kalyani chAlukya-s for a while there after. At some point after the conquest of Konkans by Mahmud Gavan and Adil Shah from the Vijayanagara rulers it seems to have been taken over by the Mohammedans who inflicted some damage to it. Subsequently it was taken from them by the Christian vandals who fired cannons on to the cave to demolish most sculptures. The early European visitors record that the icons were vividly painted and that there were several paintings in the caves like those at Ajantha. This suggest that it had survived in reasonable condition till then.
The dispersal of the kalachuri-s seem to have taken the pAshupata-s in two directions : 1) northwards to West-central India, where the kalchuri-s appear to have survived for while till the great kalachuri king kokalla revived them in the 800s of CE. Another northern branch also established a strong hold in saryUpAra in Gorakhpur. In course of their dispersal the pAshupata-s probably moved with them and found new patrons in western India in the form of the guhilot rAjputs- the prince bappa rAval (first half of the 700s of CE) was initially disciple of a lAkulIsha guru of the harita lineage. He subsequently became a disciple of the lineage of matsyendra and was initiated into the mantra-mArga. This dispersal along with that of the maurya-s to valabhi appears to have resulted in the spread of the pAshupatas throughout western India where they established many famous centers of pashupata learning like aNahilapAtaka in Gujarat. 2) A second branch of the kalachuri-s dispersed to the south where they were initially vassals of the Kalyani chAlukyas in Karnataka. They eventually overthrew the chAlukyas and became rulers themselves and allowed the grand revival of the lAkulIsha pAshupata sect in the form of the great kAlAmukhas. This revival was further supported by further influx of fleeing pAshupata-s from the north especially Kashmir and possibly aNahilapAtaka during the Islamic depredations. The kalachuri reign in the south was eventually overthrown due to a degraded shaiva movement in the form the vIrashaiva-s, whose rise was in part favored by the general shaiva fervor cultivated by the kAlAmukhas.
The mantramArga shaiva-s appear to have initially existed symbiotically with the pAshupata lineages as suggested by the subscription to a similar mythological base (tirumular’s mythology) and mUla mantra collection (pa~nchAkShari and pa~ncha-brahma) as well as association with shAkta temples (A pAshupata inscription from the gupta era, 374 CE, shows that the pAshupatAcharya lokodadhi established a shakti temple in madhya pradesh). However, the mantramArga-s developed their hallmark, the elaborate mantra-prayoga, which they extensively used to aid royal disciples in gaining power. This feature is also shared with the pAshupatAcharya-s who deployed royal atharva vedic rites and performed a similar role in Mewar. Examples of associations in the rise of major dynasties are:
pAshupata-s: guhadatta (guhilot) dynasty which gave rise to the shishodia clan with luminaries like the mahArANa-s Bappa Raval, kumbha, Sanga and Pratap. Even till recently the Chittor ruling family visited the shiva temple with the image of lakulIsha and worships it every Monday.
dakiShNa-srotas(bhairava tantras):A bhairavAchArya performed tantric rites in a shmashAna explicitly for the establishment of the dynasty of puShpabhUti that spawned the great king harshavardhana.
vAma-srotas (tumburu tantras): The brAhmaNa hiraNyadAman performed the rites as per the vAma-srotas for the rise of jayavarman-II the founder of the Angkor empire centered in Cambodia.
Urdhvasrotas (siddhAnta tantras): The various AchAryas of the Urdhvasrotas performed major rites for the kings of the shilahara, chola, rAShTrakUTa, chAlukya, paramAra and bhUpAla dynasties. Their rites have been implicated the rise of the paramAra-s and the revival of the kalachuri-s and their highly aggressive king gA~Ngeya deva. gA~Ngeyadeva’s Acharya of the Urdhvasrotas performed rites for him to liberate the temples of Kangra and retaliate against the Mohammedan attack on Varanasi by Ahmed Niyaltegin, the general of Mahmud Ghaznavi. When other Hindu kings were watching bewildered, gA~Ngeyadeva and his valiant son karNa single-handed attacked the Moslems in Kangra and drove them out.
pUrva-srotas (garuDa-tantras): prayoga-s performed by this were used by the malla rulers in Nepal in their ascent. These prayogas are comparable to those of pR^ithivi-nAryaNa of Nepal of a later era.
In cultural terms the spread of the pAshupata-s appears to have played an important role in the preservation of classical Hindu theater- the nATya of bharata and tANDya [These two appear to be depicted in the shrI-pUrI naTarAja panel]. Looking at the depictions in the shrI-pUrI caves we find the following : 1) lakulIsha 2) naTarAja, with umA, vinAyaka, skanda, 3) andhakAsura vadha, 4) rAvaNa shaking kailAsa, 5) the marriage of pArvatI and rudra, 6) sporting of sati and rudra on kailAsa, 7) ardhanArIshvara, 8) the taming of ga~NgA and 9) the mahesha-mUrtI. There is also a separate set of icons of the 8 mAtR^ikA-s with gaNapati and vIrabhadra flanking them. Other icons associated with shiva include indra, viShNu, brahmA, bhR^i~Ngin and nandin. These depictions are all indicative of the post-kAlidAsa period (rise of vinAyaka as major deity) and is consistent with the descriptions of the core “story sections” of the shiva purANa (excluding the late book like koTirudra saMhitA). It is likely that the core shiva purANa composed during the gupta period was comprised of the story sections corresponding to the rudra-saMhitA and the rudreshvara saMhitA-s of the modern shiva purANA, which were probably combined with ritual material on the pa~nchAkSharI, li~Nga-sthApana, bhasma-vidhi, rudrAkSha and deva-yajana. Based on the comparative analysis with other purANas, the mahAbhArata and and vedic brAhmaNas it is clear that there was an earlier body of shaiva tales that consisted of:
1) defeat of the brAhmaNa-s of dArukavana 2) origin of li~Nga 3) shiva’s marriage with sati and destruction of dakSha’s sacrifice 4) the marriage of shiva and pArvatI. 5) birth of kumAra 6) destruction of tripura 7) killing of andhaka 8) killing of gajAsura 9) Drinking of the hAlahala. Perhaps some additional material on jalandhara or sha~Nkhachuda was also present with this set. This set was probably present during the shu~Nga times which was the template for kAlidasa’s work. It is not clear if they were a floating mass of stories distributed amongst various then current purANas or already collected into a saMhitA. In any case this body served as the base for the core shiva-purANa of gupta times during which vinAyaka was inserted after the ancient skanda tale.