Some discursion on skanda tantra-s and bAlagraha-s


Over the years we have been collecting several observations on the kaumAra sect, its texts and evolution on this site. While all this would be worth synthesizing, that would need much greater effort. We identify 3 basic phases in the development of mantra-mArga kaumAra shAsana: 1) The earliest phase appearing in the late vedic period characterized by the celebrated nejameSha mantra of the R^igveda khila, the skanda yAga and dhUrta-bali of the AV and YV traditions, and the ShaShThI sUkta of the maitrAyaNIya tradition. 2) The middle phase comprising of the origin of the early tantric system of the kaumAra shAsana and its development through the gupta period and beyond. This is an extended phase with texts like the ShaNmukha kalpa at the earlier end, skanda-sadbhAva in the middle and subrahmaNya kalpa in the later end. 3) The symbiosis with the Urdhvasrotas of the shaiva shAsana, a phase which was mainly prevalent in South India. We have evidence and reasons to believe that the phase 2 of the evolution of mantra-mArga kaumAra shAsana had considerable role in fertilizing or providing seeds for the development of several other streams, such as the shaiva shAsana and the tAntrIka stream in the nAstIka realm. In this context three main points of interest emerge:
1) The absorption and integration of the early kaumAra elements into: 1.1) bhUta tantras of the shaiva realm, 1.2) the system of deities in kaula streams like those of the pashchimAMnAya and 1.3) the vaiShNava pA~ncharAtra tantra-s as the deity viShvaksena.
2) The absorption of kaumAra elements into the bauddha shAsana (we had earlier given a brief illustration of this using the mantra-s and maNDala-s of the ma~njushrI mUla kalpa). This parallels the earlier absorption of kumAra as the bauddha “missionary” amongst the deva-s beginning from the janavasabha sutta of the dIghanikhAya of the Pali canon. Of particular interest in the current context is also the early development of the deity vajrakumAra in the nAstIka realm. His original association appears to be with the mahAyoga tantra-s of the bauddha-s, but he seems to have been marginalized with the ascendancy of the yogottara and yoginI-tantra-s amongst them. We have some evidence that Indian mantravAdin-s translated his prayoga-s into chIna-bhAShA in the early 700s of CE and these were extensively used in abhichAra-s of the nAstIka-s. One such text the vajrakumAra tantra in Chinese translation of the original Sanskrit is of great importance. This Chinese text in many places even fails to add the ‘vajra-‘ prefix and simply calls him kumAra and uses derivative of kaumAra mantra-s. A critical rite is prescribed on a day in the kArttika mAsa to vajrakumAra just as in the case of kumAra. vajrakumAra’s AvaraNa devata-s include a notable collection of pishAchI-s who are avicephalous or therocephalous just like the skandamAtR^i-s in the AvaraNa of kArttikeya. One of the attendants of vajrakumAra is a roguish devI called rematI who sits a seat of a flayed skin of a child and is the ruler of the diseases of children. Thus, she is an ortholog of the revatI of the kaumAra tantra-s. The shakti of vajrakumAra is dIptachakrA-devI who is very similar in all features to devasenA. Interestingly, vajrakumAra is called the great son and the japa mAlA used in his rite is made of rudrAkSha-s with 6 faces. Thus, it is very clear that the bauddha vajrakumAra tantra-s, like key parts of the ma~njushrI mUla kalpa arose as adaptations of kaumAra works, even as the yoginI tantra-s of the nAstIka-s are derived from their shaiva counterparts. Likewise the early development of the deity mahAmAyUrI also appears to have been fertilized by kaumAra elements pertaining to his shakti ShaShThI.

3) The kaumAra shAsana’s development from the beginning was closely linked to pediatrics in traditional hindu medicine. The link to childbirth and diseases of children is seen in the late vedic layer. E.g.: 1) the nejameSha mantra of the RV khila (child birth); 2) the formulae for relief from kumAra graha-s in pAraskAra gR^ihyasUtra (1.16.24); It continues in the mahAbhArata: 3) The extensive discussion of kumAra graha-s in the vana parvan narrative of the skandopAkhyAna (Vulgate 3.229); 4) skanda- graha-s and mAtR^i-s in the shalya parvan (Vulgate 7.44-46); finally we also see an inheritance of these elements by the nAstIka-s followers of the nirgrantha in the tale of his nativity: 5) jaina kalpasUtra (2.22 onwards). Here, the nirgrantha’s followers, in a typical anti-brahminical rant, state how originally the nirgrantha was an embryo in the womb of his biological mother devAnandA, a brAhmaNa woman of the jAlandharAyaNa gotra. But because nirgrantha tIrthaMkara-s are never born in brahminical wombs indra, but in ikShvAku, yAdava or at least a rich kShatriya families, indra summoned hariNegameShin, the commander-in-chief of the deva armies, and asked him to transfer the embryo of the nagna to a kShatriya womb. The commander of the gods flew to bhArata-varSha like a comet and on the 83rd day after conception extracted the embryo out of devAnandA’s womb when the moon was in uttara-phalguni. He then removed the “brahminical atoms” of he embryo and replaced them with “clean atoms” he had collected on the way. Then he transferred the embryo of the future vardhamAna to the womb of his surrogate mother trishalA a kShatriya (See picture above). He then took the embryo in her womb and placed in that of devAnandA and flying thousands of yojana-s in each leap he reached indra’s abode to inform him of the successful transfer. The jaina neminAtha charita (NC 7) provides a comparable narrative of how harinaigameShin gave kR^iShNa a son via satyabhAmA upon his extensive propitiation.

These jaina narratives strikingly parallel the implication of nejameSha mantra-s of the RV-khila and their associated rituals in different vedic traditions:

nejameSha parA pata suputraH punar A pata |
asyai me putrakAmAyai garbham A dhehI yaH pumAn ||
yathA iyam pR^ithivI mahyy uttAnA garbham Adadhe |
evam tam garbham Adhehi dashame mAsi sUtave ||
viSNosh shraiSThyena rUpeNa asyAm nAryAm gavInyAm |
pumAmsam putram Adhehi dashame mAsi sUtave ||

O nejameSha fly away and fly back bringing a good son to my wife here, who desires a son, give an embryo, a male one.
Just as the wide earth stretched out conceives the embryo, so give that embryo that is born in the tenth month.
Place a male child, with viShNu’s great form, to be born in the tenth month into the womb of this woman.

In R^igvedic tradition (AshvalAyana and shAkhAyana) they are used in the rite of simnatonnayana. In the taittirIyaka tradition of the yajur veda they are deployed by the male before having sex with his wife if they desire a son (Apastamba gR^ihya 8.13). In the maitrAyaNIya and kaTha traditions of the yajurveda these mantra-s are deployed in the putrakAma rites. If a man desires a son then for a whole year he performs the ShaDAhutaM or the 6 fold oblations to nejameSha at the beginning of each lunar pakSha using these mantra-s and 6 ghee oblations. If this fails, then he performs the rite of the naijameSha sthAlIpAka by making a sthAlIpAka and offering it to the god just as in the ShaDAhutaM ritual.

In traditional Hindu medicine pediatrics is sometimes termed k[a]umAra tantra. This leads question as to whether the eponymy with the tantra-s of the kaumAra shAsana is merely incidental or if there is a genuine connection. A clear link to the kaumAra system is present in the classical medical saMhitA of sushruta in the uttara tantra section. Another major early medical work, the kAshyapa tantra, as we have shown before, also incorporates a large amount of kaumAra material. An examination of the uttara tantra of sushruta is of considerable interest in this regard: chapters 27-37 of the uttara tantra are called kumAra tantra. Chapter 27 of the uttara tantra provides an overview of the graha-s. They are listed as: 1) skanda 2) skandApasmAra 3) shakunI 4) revatI 5) pUtanA 6) andhapUtanA 7) shItapUtanA 8) mukhamaNDikA and 9) naigameSha. The prescriptions for countering their effects in UT 27.18-21 are predominantly dependent on mantra-s and rituals, suggesting a link to a tantric tradition. The subsequent chapters take this up in greater detail: Chapter 28 deals with the seizure by skanda. In addition to medications using different oShadhi-s, we observe that 28.8 prescribes offering of a bell and a skanda bali of a good kukkuTa. Then having had nocturnal baths on 3 nights on the 4th there is a treatment with rice and barley. A daily skanda homa is prescribed to be performed by the pediatrician (28.9-14): The fire is lit using the gAyatrI and vyAhR^iti-s and oblations are made to skanda using the following anuShTubh mantras:
tapasAM tejasaM chaiva yashasaM vapuShAM tatha |
vidhAtA yo.avyayo devaH sa te skandaH prasIdatu ||
graha-senApatir-devo devasenApatir-vibhuH |
devasenA-ripuharaH pAtu tvAM bhagavAN guhaH || + svAhA
deva-devasya mahataH pAvakasya cha yaH sutaH |
ga~NgomA-kR^ittikAnAM cha sa te sharma prayachChatu ||+svAhA
raktamAlyAmbaraH shrImAn rakta-chandanabhUShitaH |
raktadivya-vapur-devaH pAtu tvAM krau~nchasUdanaH ||+svAhA

The chapter 29 deals with skandApasmAra and identifies this seizure with viShAkha. Other a series of drugs a naivedyam of meat, blood and rice offering under a banyan tree and a bath at a cross-road are recommended. The mantra used in the ritual is given as:
skandApasmAra-saMj~no yaH skandasya dayitaH sakhA |
viShAkha-saMj~nshcha shisho shivo.astu vikR^itAnanaH ||

Likewise both drugs and mantra-s are prescribed for all other seizures in the subsequent chapters.
E.g. mukhamaNDikA mantra:
ala~NkR^itA rUpavatI subhagA kAmarUpiNI |
goShTha-madhyAlayaratA pAtu tvAM mukhamaNDikA ||

The goddess is conceived as being in the middle of a cowshed, which is incidentally the site for her for bali.
E.g. naigameSha mantra:
ajAnanash-chalAkShibhrUH kAmarUpI mahAyashAH |
bAlaM bAla-pitA devo naigameSho.abhirakShatu ||

His bali is made under a banyan tree on a ShaShThi day.

The concluding chapter of the kumAra tantra section of sushruta contains the tale of kumAra saMbhavaM similar to that in the vana parvan of the mahAbhArata to explain graha-s. They are described as being generated by the kR^ittikA-s, umA, agni and rudra to protect the new-born kumAra in the sharavana even though he was protected by his own tejas. There of course seems to be an interpolation (UT 37.10) where the author tries to reconcile the benevolent and roguish tendencies of skanda in a clumsy way.

In charaka (shArIra sthAna, chapter 8) too we find a mantra to kArttikeya that is whispered into the ear of the woman in the context of protecting the child at birth:
kShitir-jalaM viyat-tejo vAyur-viShNuH prajApatiH |
sagarbhAM tvAM sadA pAntu vaishalyaM cha dishantu te ||
prasUShva tvam avikliShTamavikliShTA shubhAnane |
kArttikeyad-dyutiM putraM kArttikeyAbhi-rakShitaM |
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But hardly any graha material or mantra-s pertaining to them is found in charaka. In fact charaka’s chapter is paralleled to a large extent by sushruta’s own shArIra sthAna chapter 10, where graha-s are mentioned only in passing and a reference is made to the uttara tantra for further details. The classics of Ayurveda do contain several invocations and recommendations for mantra prayoga-s (much to the delight of modern “rationalists” who are keen to show Ayurveda as rubbish). Yet, when one scans even the uttara tantra alone for mantra prayoga-s one finds that they are relatively low with the exception of two sections, namely the kumAra tantra and the bhutavidyA (which is clearly related to the bhUta tantra-s of the paschima srotas of the shaiva tantra-s). These observations would suggest that though there was a general practice to invoke skanda in the context of child birth (seen in the even earlier vedic elements or charaka’s single mantra), the kumAra tantra is a special mantra- and ritual- rich accretion to the Hindu medical tradition.

The much latter aShTA~Nga saMgraha of vAgbhaTa the son of simhagupta, the last of the big three in Hindu medicine (i.e. it clearly comes after charaka and sushruta because it recognizes several elements of full-blown bauddha mantra-shAstra like mahAmAyUrI, AryAparNashabarI and AryAparAjitA) also preserves similar mantra material in its kaumAra tantra in the uttarasthAna. In fact the aShTA~nga saMgraha provides much more old material in this regard than the kumAra tantra of sushruta, including certain graha-s who are not mentioned in sushruta but definitely existed even before: for example, the shva-graha (uttarasthAna 6.26). This kerberomorphic graha already appears in the mantra used in the pAraskAra gR^ihya sUtra on occasion of a kumAra affliction. While the aShTA~Nga saMgraha has a greater proclivity towards mantra prayoga that charaka or sushruta (for example it even alludes to a shAstA mantra but does not give it in sUtra sthAna 3.119), two of the most mantra-rich sections of this text are the kaumAra tantra and bhUta vidyA sections of the uttara sthAna. The aShTA~Nga saMgraha not only preserves what is found in sushruta’s kumAra tantra but much more additional old kaumAra mantra-s and rituals. We also find that such kaumAra material independently occurs in the other ancient medical treatise the kAshyapa tantra. All the above observations taken together, it is less likely that this well-developed material was built up by the kAshyapa tantra and the aShTA~nga saMgraha from a core represented by the sushruta saMhitA. Instead, it is likely that sushruta, KT and the aShTA~Nga saMgraha were drawing from a common source containing such material. This source we believe were the texts of the early kaumAra tantra of the kaumAra shAsana (beginning of phase 2 in the above note evolutionary scheme for the kaumAra shAsana).

In support of this we shall in the future present an analysis of 3 texts namely, the aShTA~Nga saMgraha, fragments of a text that appears to be a lost kaumAra tantra and a much later kaumAra tantra from the drAviDa country.

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