A narrative on the kAlAmukha-s: implications for the bhairava-srotas

We had earlier briefly considered the kAlAmukha-s on these pages. While once prominent in both the north and south of the country, their last occurrences are recorded only in the south (though they clearly acknowledge their connections to the northern branches). While the kAlAmukha institutions received a devastating blow from the army of Islam’s rampage through south India under genocidal Ghazis, such as Khalji and Tughlaq, we know from inscriptional evidence that few Acharya-s of the system survived into the early years of the vijayanagara empire. Unfortunately, some time after this period they became extinct and with them vanished their major ritual manual the kAlAmukha-mahAtantra. A few fragments of this tradition have nevertheless survived in the Alur town of the karNATa country, where the kAlAmukha-s were once at pinnacle of their glory. These fragments include a text from the vijayanagaran capital that narrates an unusual version of the old tale of the competition between kumAra and vinAyaka in the context of the origin of the kAlAmukha tradition. Typically, this tale is used as device to downgrade the more ancient deity kumAra and prop up the emerging deity gaNesha within the shaiva hierarchy. But here it is resolved amicably. This, to us, suggests a link to the dominance of the old kaumAra tapovana-s of dakShiNaugha which appear to have been a major force in the Bellary region before the Mohammedan terror intruded upon these regions. The tale goes thus:

“In the long past rudra had narrated to his son kumAra the kAlAmukha lore. When rudra was holding court on his mountain abode, a devI known as sevitA, who was the mistress of the forest of nandana trees, appeared and offered a fruit of the kalpavR^ikSha tree to him, after having saluted him and his wife. rudra gave it to aMbikA and in turn kumAra and vinAyaka wished to have the same. To have some fun, umA smilingly asked kumAra and gaNapati to go round the world and said that she would give it to the one who returned first. kumAra mounted his peacock and went racing around the world. But vinAyaka was off to a slow start and instead went around umA and rudra. They were surprised at his action and he explained that they were the origin of the world as the puruSha and prakR^iti and thereby comprise the whole world; by going around them he said he has completed his task. Just them kumAra completed his circuit of the world and arrived there. Pleased with the energy of kumAra and the cunning of gaNesha, umA cut the fruit and gave each of them a half. Two muhUrta-s later, mahAkAla, a gaNa of kumAra appeared there. He too had gone around the universe as he was keen to provide service for his lord, kumAra. But since kumAra was flying at a blistering pace and he was going unaided it took him a longer to complete the journey. rudra noticed this and was struck by his loyalty to his leader. So rudra asked kumAra to give him mahAkAla and appointed him as one of his bhUtagaNeshvara-s beside nandin and vIrabhadra. Then one day kumAra revealed to him the kAlAmukha-mAhAtantraM. Thereafter, mahAkAla taught it to the deva-s and they imparted it to the muni-s. The students of these muni-s transmitted it to the earthlings as the aghorasAra, and thus kAlAmukha tradition was promulgated.”

In bharadvAja’s narration of it it began with the mantra:
namaH shivAya devAya harAya paramAtmane rudraya kAlakAlAya kAlakaNThAya shambhave ||

Continued …

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