The iconography of kumAra according to the sanatkumAra-prashna

•August 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

We had earlier discussed vidyA-s of the various specialized mUrti-s of kArttikeya and their visualizations. Continuing with that discussion we shall now look at the mUrti-s of the god as described by the kaumArAgama known as the sanatkumAra prashna. The prashna series of kaumAragama-s are comparable to the core saMhitA-s of the vaikhAnasa-s with respect to providing the main scaffold for the temple rituals of skanda. The major ones known to the kaumAra ritual experts are the agastya prashna, the kaushika prashna and sanatkumAra prashna. Of these sanatkumAra prashna is preserved in reasonably good manuscripts. The sharavanabhava paTala of the sanatkumAra prashna outlines 16 icons of kumAra:

1) j~nAna shakti
black-colored garments; a garland of white arka flowers; golden jeweled crown; 4 hands with shakti, vajra, cock, skull-topped rod, white yaj~nopavIta.

2) skanda
cloud-colored garment, wearing gem-set ornaments and a flower garland, seated in padmAsana, hair in the form of a shikhA; smoky complexion; 3 eyes and 4 hands holding cock and vajra in right and left, the other two hands respectively showing abhaya and varada.

3) agnijAta
Of white and black complexion, with 2 heads and 8 hands holding sruva, akShamAla, sword, svastika mudra (in right hands) and cock, shield, vajra, ghee bowl (in left hands); performing vedic rites.

4) saubheya
red lotus complexion; 4 heads, 8 eyes, 8 arms and seated on a lotus; left leg bent and placed on right leg. Holds shakti, hibiscus, flower arrows, abhaya mudra (right hands) and vajra, sugar-cane bow, and varada mudras (left hands).

5) gA~Ngeya
scarlet complexion like fresh pomegranate flower; wearing a karaNDa makuTa (a turban with net-like weaving), gem-set ear-rings and a blue lotus garland; mounted on a gharial; One head with 3 eyes and 4 hands holding an axe and water pot (right) and cock and sacrificial fire drill (in left hands)

6) sharavanabhava
complexion of rising sun; wearing golden hued clothes; mounted on a lion; one head with curly locks and 3 eyes and 6 hands holding flower arrows and sugar-cane bow, sword and shield, vajra and cock banner in the respective pairs of right and left hands.

7) kArtikeya
complexion of the rising sun, garment of variegated colors, riding on a peacock, one head with a wreath of bilva leaves, 3 eyes with 10 hands holding shakti, trident, arrow, a~NkuSha and abhaya mudra (right), a tomara missile with launcher, lasso, conch vajra and vIra mudra (left)

8) kumAra
two lotus flowers adoring the ears; wearing a crown; 1 head, 4 hands holding shakti and vajra (right) and abhaya and vara (left); accompanied by varuNa and vAyu.

9) ShaNmukha
Attired with several jewels and all garments of yellow silk; dazzling ear-studs; 6 heads and 12 hands; riding a peacock; holding shakti, vajra, sword, chakra, lasso, abhaya mudras, cock, bow, shield, and a cudgel. Embracing two wives gajAyI (jayA) and gajavallI (vijayA) on left and right.

gajAyI: complexion of rising sun, right hand holding a lily, wearing a garland of mandAra flowers.
gajavallI: black in color; left hand holding a lotus, crown; wearing a jeweled bra on her firm breasts; blazing ear studs.

10) tArakAri
riding a bull; wearing a braided jaTa, holding trident, hatchet, sword, abhaya mudra (right hands) and a lasso, a paiShAcha (?), shield and varada mudra (left).

11) senAnI
Of black complexion; with a shikha; one head with 3 eyes; having a merciful face; smeared with sweet-smelling unguents; holding a conch and chakra and displaying abhaya and varada mudras.

12) guha
White garments; merciful face; 3 eyes; golden gem-set crown; 4 arms with trident, vajra, abhaya and varada mudras. Accompanied on the left side by his wife jayAyI.

13) brahmachAri
crimson complexion; 3 eyes and two hands with cudgel in the right and vajra in the left. Standing with legs held slightly bent on a gem-set lotus foot rest. Wearing the marks of a brahmachAri like shikha, yaj~nopavIta, mau~nji girdle and kaupIna.

14) shivadeha
1 head wearing karaNDa makuTa; 6 hands holding a shakti, vajra, flag japAmAla abhaya and varada mudras; mounted on a peacock.

15) krau~nchaddhAri (?)
Seated on a lion-throne with a peacock vAhana; 3 eyes and 4 hands holding a flag, cudgel, abhaya and varada mudras. Beside him are seated his two wives jayAyI and vijayA on left and right respectively. He is shown demolishing the krau~ncha mountain.

16) shikhivAhana
With complexion of a pink lotus wearing deep blue (indra-nIla) garments; 1 head with 3 eyes and with 4 arms bearing lasso, a~Nkusha, abhaya and varada mudras; having hair in a top knot that appears blazing like fire, with peacock vAhana.

In one type of kumAra temple the icon in the central shrine is recommended to be j~nAna shakti, in the eastern sub-shrine is skanda; south – saubheya; south-west- gA~Ngeya; west- a sub-shrine with two icons of sharavanabhava and ShaNmukha; in the north-west kArtikeya, kumAra and tArakAri; in the northern sub-shrine- senAnI, guha and shivadeha; In the north east- krau~nchaddhAri, shikhivAhana and brahmachAri.

Text also mentions the following division of offerings made at a kumArAlaya: brAhmaNa-s: recitation of vedic formulae and hymns; kShatriya-s: offer fowl; vaishya-s offer camphor and rock-sugar; shUdra-s offer fruits and flowers during the kR^ittkA festival.

The fall of the nakShatra-darshA

•August 16, 2007 • Leave a Comment

We were coming out of the house of boredom with Blackie and those who were to be washed away by the flow of dvAdashAnta, like the enemies of sudAsa on the paruShNi. We saw dIrghadanta hrasvaroman, kulu~nchaputra and bR^indAputra moving in the opposite direction. Blackie asked with characteristic doubt : “O brAhmaNa which is the right path ?” We said: O kR^iShNa-tvacha your path lies in the yonder region, near the shrine where the awful tusked son of ambikA sleeps.”
Verily Blackie never moved much from that place.


ST and Mis-creant where contending fiercely with she who is named after ruru’s wife. But that nakShatra-darshA was one of the fiercest warriors, verily an Amazon with a sharp bow. Scorched by her arrows ST and Mis-creant fled in different directions. In one encounter she even overthrew the 3rd vIra. The third vIra wounded thus was fleeing, even as his sachiva was struck by a prayoga of trailokya stambhinI. Can a woman be such a great warrior ? We asked in wonderment seeing the arrows she rained on the armies of brave archers. Even as we were watching thus, ekanetra calmly declared with much certainty: “She will fall much like shveta and uttara in battle. She will not attain eko-mAnuSha AnandaH like that other nakShatra-darsha.”

Soon enough, a mlechCha hero struck her down with his a~NkuSha and put an end to her string of victories. ekanetra smiled to ST and said go convey the news to the rest. We were touched to see our co-ethnic fall in battle, and wanted to go to her aid. But wise ekanetra smiled and said: “I too feel somewhat like you do. But let her be. She has been an enemy of the dharma in her moha. So let us not shed tears for her, despite that closeness we might feel.”

ekanetra then smiled and added: “One day she will laugh and we will be crying. Glory is like a falcon that sits on his shoulder today and on that one there tommorow. So the Iranian of yore had said.”


We felt like Dattaji Shinde on the northern plain;
by the perverse khANDavans our men lay slain;
in the clasp of the foes our capital in waste had lain;
our offerings have the gods decided to spurn?

bIja saMpuTikaraNas of the kumAra vidyA and related mantras

•August 15, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The great kaumAra tAntrika, rAmAnuja deshika collected several kaumAra vidyA-s into two compendiums the subrahmaNya kalpa (SK) and the kumAra-tantra sAra (KTS). These contains fragments of the older kaumAra mUla tantras that might be partly or entirely lost. These old mUla tantra-s include: 1) gauhAsphandA 2) analakAntha 3) viShachChadA 4) shaishava 5) mayUrashikhA 6) ramanodbhava 7) varadA 8) lIlotpatamAlikA. The main information in this regard comes from 2 relatively good paper and pen transcripts prepared from the palm leaf originals of the SK and KTS in my possession.

One of the important elements from the great mayUrashikhA are the bIja sampuTikaraNa-s for the kumAra vidyA-s. The mantroddhAra-s are given for the following forms:
aShTavarga dvitIyA yat skanda bIjam idaM paraM |
ShaShThAnala samopetaM bindunAda samAyutaM |
mUla-mantram idam j~neyaM sarva kAmArtha siddhidaM||
[OM sUM skandAya namaH |– iti mUla mantraH]

ShaT vargasya dvitIyam cha ShaShTha-svara samanvitaM |
chaturdasha svarantasya bindu-nAda samAyutaM |
subrahmaNya chaturtham namo .antaM praNavAdikaM |
[OM sUM sauM subrahmaNyAya namaH |]

dvitIya varga prathamam chaiva ShaShThAnala samAyutaM |
kavarga prathamaM chaiva pa~nchama-svara samanvitaM |
kumAra mantram idam syAt bindunAda samanvitaM ||
[OM kUM kaM kumArAya namaH |]

aShTavarga dvitIyantu pa~nchama svara saMyutaM |
svAmin guhAya mantrAnte namo .antaM praNavAdikaM |
bindu-nAda samAyuktaM sarva kAmArtha siddhidaM ||
[OM suM svAmin guhAya namaH |]

saptavarga pa~nchAntaM chaturtha svara-saMyutaM |
sharavanabhavaM bindu-nAda samAyutaM |
svanAmAdyakSharaM chaiva namontaM praNavAdikaM ||
[OM shIM shaM sharavana-bhavAya namaH |]

aShTavarga tR^itIyantu mAyAgni samanvitaM |
tasya vargAd imam chaiva bindu-nAda samAyutaM |
idaM bIjaM vijAnIyAt ShaNmukhAya namo .antakaM ||
[OM hrIM ShaM ShaNmukhAya namaH]

Then the pa~ncha brahmA combinations are provided:
OM saM sadyojAtAya namaH | [sadyojAtaM …]
OM siM vAmadevAya namaH | [vAmadevAya namo…]
OM suM aghorAya namaH | [aghorebhyot …]
OM seM tatpuruShAya namaH | [tatpuruShAya …]
OM sAM IshAna-mUrdhne namaH| [IshAna sarva …]

Then the ShaN-mUrti mantras:
OM suM subrahmaNyAya namaH | OM kuM kumArAya namaH | OM haM harasUnave namaH | OM suM surAgrajAya namaH | OM seM senApataye namaH | OM suM sureshAya namaH ||

Then the shaktyuta mUrti ShaDakSharI vidyA-s:
OM jagadbhuve namaH | OM vachadbhuve namaH | OM vishvabhuve namaH | OM rudrabhuve namaH | OM brahMabhuve namaH | OM bhuvotbhuve namaH ||

kaumAra vashIkaraNAdi vidyA:
OM shrIM hrIM klIM suM vaM yaM sarva-lokaM me vashamAnaya ShaNmukhAya mayUravAhanAya sarva-rAja bhaya vinAshAya sarva deva-senAdhipataye sarva shatrunAshAya sUM subrahmaNyAya namaH |

homa mantra:
OM sharavanabhava hrIM svAhA ||

Battles raging on many fronts

•August 12, 2007 • Leave a Comment

On the front of jIva-sUtra parama padAratha we had faced a terrible defeat due to the mechanisms of our current bhrAtR^ivya and old sudAnu. However, our romAka allies gave us a chance to strike through the gap. We ably aided by our best vIra-s on the battlefront broke through the gap and won a victory that for years we had yearned for. We also took the fortress of jIvasUtra kendra. Aided by our able senAdhyakSha we broke through the defenses of the lohita-dhara and sharkara-dhara and conquered them. But on yet another front we were pursued by the terrible kR^ityA-s of dhUmAvatI and rakta-jyeShThA. We tried to flee to gaja-laNDa-pura and from there to kAmasetu. Yet, the kR^ityA-s pursued us like a malarial infestation persisting in a victim. Still gripped by the kR^ityA, like the atri durvAsa being pursued by the chakra, we went before the younger brother of indra, who strides triply to crush the prahlAdIyas. The wielder of the chakra, who prowls like the dreaded lion in the mountains, revealed to us the prayoga of the haridra-lepa. With that we brought into control the attack of the kR^ityA powered by rakta-jyeShThA. But the fury of the other one pursued us even into our fortress– thus our last defense had been penetrated, like the vItahavya horsemen and chariots raiding kAshI. For several hours she remained on our path until we fled to the young yoddha-s fortification to evade the kR^ityA.


It almost appeared that Fourier functioned beneath his grave. Seeing that the third hero had achieved extraordinary feats in battle and had sacked piles of wealth, the partisans of the dead engineer of maNgalagrAma decided to launch an attack on the un-guarded sachiva of the 3rd hero. “The hammer of the crane” it is called or trailokya-stambhinI — normally fatal. But our amAtya using a dUra-dR^iShTi prayoga saw clearly that the terrifying vidyA was on its way. Our amAtya selflessly tried to intercept and sent forth a peculiar ulka-prayoga charged by the frightful vighna. As the texts say ” the devadatta’s hands, legs and then speech depart from him when a stambhinI-vidyA hits him” so it transpired. It looked as though he was being borne to vaivasvata. But then the counter-prayoga brought him back. Our sachiva and the amAtya of the third hero then combined to save the victim from destruction. But for the dUra-dR^iShTi prayoga he could have been history by now.

maruts as "para-skanda" and other elements of their mythology

•July 25, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Many deities undergo drastic changes when they move across the veda-purANa transition: Some lose status: e.g. indra; others lose status and change character e.g. varuNa; others rise to exalted heights e.g. viShNu and rudra. But their mythology is still rooted in large part in their vedic antecedents. The marut-s are one of the most important deities of the veda-s, praised by all clans of R^iShi-s in various hymns and rituals. But the maruts not only fade away greatly, they but also undergo a drastic shift in mythology. In the purANa-s the marut-s are minor deities and are actually called sons of the mother demoness diti, whose fetus indra cut up into seven pieces. Perhaps, this is a misinterpretation of the vedic term sudAnava (good-giver) as su-dAnava (the good demon). The maruts are reduced to mere winds in classical Sanskrit, often used in singular as a synonym of vAyu, a very different vedic deity. This synonymy is seen right from the rAmAyaNa, where hanumAn, while inheriting many features of the vedic maruts, is described as the son of vAyu/marut. As result of this, the maruts are thoroughly misunderstood by the common Hindu and their true nature remains shrouded. One point, while apparently rather obvious, is quite completely ignored by most students of the veda and mythology as far as I can see (The learned vaishya Prithvi Kumar Agrawala being a possible exception): this is the relationship of marut-s with skanda. Hence, I have decided to briefly outline the obvious:

1) skanda and maruts are sons of rudra
skanda is also termed the son of agni. rudra and agni are closely associated in the veda– if two distinct deities are ever strongly identified with each other in the veda, agni and rudra form that pair. In at least 2 mantras agni is said to have fathered the maruts: RV 1.71.8 and 6.3.8. In the shatapata brAhmaNa one of the manifestation of agni as rudra is termed kumAra (an epithet of skanda).
2) skanda’s mother is a river (ga~NgA) and the maruts are described as having a river for their mother (e.g. “sindhu-mAtaraH” RV 10.78.6).
3) skanda is described as being born as six distinct but identical children and united to form one body with six heads. The maruts are described as being all of the same age and identical to each other. In different mantras in the RV and AV they are described a many individuals united together (RV 8.20.1/21, AV13.4.8). skanda also preserves a degree of his multiplicity by existing with his identically formed brothers shAkha, vishAkha and nejamesha.
4) The youthfulness of skanda is emphasized: he described as being a playful child or a youth (bAla or kumAra). The maruts are also described as young playful children (shishu in RV 10.78.6; 7.56.16). Incidentally the term shishu is used in one of the earliest versions of the kumara story to describe an emanation of skanda (MBH 3.227 in Vulgate).
5) The primary weapon of skanda is the spear (shakti is the preferred epic term) and he is also depicted with a vajra. The primary weapon of the maruts is the spear (the preferred vedic term is R^iShTi) and they also use the lighting (vidyut) or vajra. Both skanda and the maruts are also occasionally depicted as archers.
6) Both skanda and the maruts are war gods par excellence. skanda is the victorious commander of the deva army, and the lord of shardhas, pArShadA-s or gaNas. The maruts are the one set of deities most commonly termed as gaNa-s/shardha, and in the veda are the constituents as well as leaders of the deva senA, leading it to a demolishing victory (RV 10.103.8 “devasenānām abhi-bhañjatīnām jáyantīnām marúto yantu ágram”).
7) skanda shatters the krau~ncha mountain with his spear and splinters the peaks of the shveta parvata by striking it with his deadly mace (MBH 3.224 in Vulgate). The maruts are frequently described as shattering mountains in their fury (RV 1.85.10 “chid-bibidhur vi parvataM” or RV 5.52.9 “ádrim bhindanti ójasA”)
8) skanda is described as born atop a mountain and seated atop a hill shortly after his birth (e.g. MBH 3.224 in Vulgate). The marut-s are also described as born on a mountain (“girijAH” RV 5.87.1) and dwelling atop a mountain (“mArutaM gaNaM giriShTAM” RV 8.94.12)
9) The maruts as archetypal “storm gods” are associated with roaring noises of thunder — their roars are said to terrify the denizens of the worlds. They are also described as making loud noises by blowing on organs termed vANa-s and bhR^imi-s (“dhamanto vANaM” RV 1.85. 10, “bhR^imim dhamanto” RV 2.34.1) . In the earliest version of the kaumAra myth a comparable aspect of skanda is described. He is mentioned as making a loud noise like a mass of thunder clouds, and repeatedly roaring and yelling terrifying war cries that frightened everyone. He is also mentioned blowing into a conch and making a frightful noise (MBH 3.224 in Vulgate).
10)The marut-s brightness is repeatedly mentioned and they are compared with agni in multiple places, and also said to be bright as the sun (svabhAnavaH, RV 1.37.2). They are also described as being bright like the lightning (ahi-bhAnavaH: snake-light=lightning or vidyut RV 1.172.1, 5.54.2). vidyut in the RV is mainly used as an epithet of the marut-s. This aspect is particularly highlighted in the early version of the skanda cycle where he is described as being bright as the sun, and agni (MBH 3.226, also 9.46). Specifically, he is also described as being like flashes of lightning from a mass of ruddy clouds (MBH3.224).
11) skanda is closely associated with indra, and is even described as his son-in-law marrying his daugther deva-senA, and skanda calls himself a servant of indra in the earliest version of the kaumara myth (MBH 3.228). In the veda, maruts are the closest companions of indra.
12) kumAra can be roguish (hence called dhUrta) and cause harm and disease with his agents. The maruts likewise can cause harm (RV 1.39.8, 1.171.1, 7.58.5) and are invoked to keep harm away.
13) The relatively infrequent verbal root skand, from which skanda is derived, the RV occurs in connection with the marut-s as “skandanti” (RV 5.52.3).
14) The marut-s are described as having a common wife, the goddess rodasI of the veda. In the earliest kaumara rituals associated with the atharvanic tradition, skanda is described as having a common wife with his brothers.

The final, very significant element of this connection comes from a conversation between rudra and skanda in the oldest version of the kaumAra myth (MBH 3.230 in Vulgate):
athaabravIn mahAsenaM mahAdevo bR^ihad vachaH | saptamaM mAruta skandhaM rakShanityam-atandritaH ||
And then mahAdeva said these weighty words to mahAsena: “You must watchfully command the seven-fold troops of maruts.”

skandovAcha: saptamaM mAruta skandhaM pAlayiShyAmy-ahaM prabho| yad-anyad-api me kAryam deva tad-vada mAchiraM ||
skanda replied, “Very well, my lord! I shall command the seven-fold marut troops. Now tell me quickly if there is any other task of the devas to be done.”

Hence, at least in the earliest kaumAra cycle, kArttikeya was specifically seen as the leader of the seven-fold marut troops (7 fold as described in the RV: sapta me sapta śākina; RV 5.52.17).

Thus, we see that there are many specific similarities between the later deity skanda and the maruts suggesting an evolutionary relationship between the two. However, unlike brahmA and prajapati, the marut-skanda connection is not ancestor-descendent. They appear to exist as paralogs, with the marut-s under going degeneration and a functional shift. How do we explain this?
To answer this we take a detour:
If we go farther afield in the Indo-European world we encounter two skanda-like deities: Ares of the Greeks and Mars (*Martis as in Dio Marti – god Mars) of the Romans. skanda and these deities share some iconographic similarity: depicted as vigorous youths and holding a spear in hand. One could object that these are generic features of war gods, but they do have deeper connections between them. As per the tradition of the AshvalAyana-s the graha-s are associated with pratyadhi-devatA-s and the pratyadhi-devatA for maNgala (Mars) is skanda. Further, the shiva purANa preserves a tale that occurs just before the kumAra saMbhava section that describes the birth of maNgala (Mars) as a son of shiva (SP 3.10, rudreshvara saMhitA, pArvati kANDa). This myth appears to be a paralogous version of the kumAra cycle — Mars is born from drops of shiva’s tear/sweat falling to the earth and his iconographic characteristics are described as similar to those of skanda. While there is a prevalent view that the word Mars had an Etruscan origin, this is erroneous because of the homology of the deities Ares and Mars (the Greeks had no Etruscan contact). In this regard the early Indologists Kühn and Müller were correct in astutely observing that Martis, Ares (0-grade) and marut are likely to be derived from the same ancestral Indo-European root. Thus, these deities were derived from a common ancestral deity present even in the early Indo-European period.

We note that skanda preserves some primitive features with Martis and Ares the cognates from other other IE cultures, but has specific similarities with the vedic maruts. Hence, we argue that skanda did not directly descend from the maruts in the late vedic period, but was a homolog of the maruts in a para-vedic culture. This para-vedic culture merged with the Hindu mainstream in the late vedic period, and thus brought in skanda as a paralog of the maruts in the Hindu world. We also suspect that in this para-vedic culture the maruts were mainly winds and this induced the trivialization of the vedic maruts in the epic/paurANic period. Who were these para-vedic people? Some Indologists of perverse understanding might push them to the historical Kushana-s. This view is incorrect, for skanda’s presence definitely preceded the coming of Kushana-s among the Indians as suggested by numerous early texts. Instead, we suspect that this people were associated with the late vedic period, and probably corresponded to the “pANDava-s” of the bhArata who inserted themselves into kuru-pa~nchAla realm.

vaimAnika shAstra

•July 23, 2007 • Leave a Comment

As kids we had a fascination for the vaimAnika shAstra. Our companions dvipakSha-kesha and kalashajA were endlessly fascinated by it. Later it almost became a refrain of ridicule used to deride Hindus who were sympathetic towards the knowledge of their ancients. It was used a strawman to argue that every claim of traditional Hindu knowledge was a hoax. Goaded by R and N we were keen to find out the reality about this unusual and notorious text. Our initial investigations several years ago the on vaimAknika shAstra led us to an edition of it by GR Josyer (This text has now been made available from the Sacred Texts Site). We were given a clue in the early 2000’s by a knowledgeable Hindu author named Vishal Agrawal that a second transcript of it existed in the Royal library of Baroda. However, he was unable to furnish any further details, saying merely he had read so somewhere. Following on this with R and N we discovered a second earlier publication of the same text by the Arya Samaj of Dayanand and obtained a copy of it. Not surprisingly the Arya Samaj claimed that it was a proof for Dayanand’s assertion that all knowledge lay in the vedas. However, an examination of the Arya samaj edition shows that it was not based on Josyer’s transcript, but based on the Baroda transcript.

Thus, we have have the following history of the transcripts:
1) As per Josyer we learn that the smArta paNDita, subbarAya shAstrI was a learned, poor brAhmaNa from South India. He claimed to have “seen” an lost text titled the vaimAnika shAstra, fragment of the yantra sarvasva by bhAradvAja and began dictating it. A certain veMkaTAchala sharman copied this down in notebooks between 1918-1923. Eventually Josyer, a saMskR^ita paNDita from Mysore got hold of these notebooks and published it with a translation in 1973.
2) A transcript of the text was made from an unknown source in 1918 and deposited in the Baroda Royal library.
3) Transcripts from Pune (I do not know where they are currently housed, but photographed by Arya Samaj and stored with them) have the marking “transcribed by go. veMkaTAchala sharman in 19/8/1919 and 3/6/1919” on them. The latter two transcripts were used in making the Arya Samaj edition of which Josyer seems to be blissfully unaware.

Now all the confirmed transcripts, while widely distributed over peninsular India, appear to date roughly from 1918 earliest. These point to a common source, which could be either subbarAya shAstrI or someone from whom he obtained it in turn. We may note that the around WWI the importance of air force and aviation was on the rise and catching popular imagination. It is possible that subbarAya shAstrI, a traditional Hindu, might have seen the parallel between the newly invented airplanes and the descriptions of vimAnas in old Hindu lore. So this might have inspired him to think in terms of a shAstra that Hindus might have had to make those vimAnas described in their lore. Josyer also mentions that subbarAya shAstrI had friend named sUryanArAyaNa rao who had some interest in physics. This man published some journal on scientific topics in which subbarAya shAstrI wrote. It is not surprising if they developed an interest in airplanes and the like together, with rao providing shAstrI some rudimentary ideas about physics.

Some points of note:
Even though it is termed a shAstra in reality it is structured unlike any traditional shAstra. While composed in shloka meter it actually contains sUtra-s attributed to bharadvAja and a commentary on the sUtras by a certain bodhAnanda. The sUtra-s themselves are very vague with most specificity coming from the commentary part. This is not true of genuine sUtras (e.g shrauta sUtra-s or darshana mUla sUtra-s), which while laconic are not entirely obscure. The bodhAnanda vR^itti part is laden with citations of many texts, the most important of which are never mentioned in any other Hindu work and are not found in manuscript form anywhere in India. Examples of these are: vimAna-chandrikA, vAlmIki gaNita, vyomayAna-tantra, yantra-kalpa, yAna-bindu, kheta-yAna pradIpikA, vyomayAnArka-prakAsha, amshu-bodhini, yantra-a~NgopasamhAra, R^ik-hR^idaya etc. This is the main point which makes the whole vaimAnika a work of fiction rather than anything even close to a genuine piece of traditional knowledge. The invocation of shiva at the beginning and subsequent description of shiva as the founder of vaimanika vidya, suggests that shiva was the author’s personal devatA.

The text is aware of tAntric prayoga-s for the purpose of flights, such as guTika-s and pAduka-s, which have a long history in India. But it does not detail any such prayoga-s other than mentioning a few by name like ChinnamastA, bhairavI and bhuvaneshvarI. The author was clearly familiar to a certain extent with tAntric practices. The text does not have any principles of aerodynamics or physics, but is of a descriptive kind with long lists and enumerations. The author seems to follow the tantra and purANa-s in a general sense in listing ingredients for vimAna making. In one place in describing the extraction of metal he lists: gUnjA, ka~Njala, tajadabhanga, ku~njara, and kara~Nja, prANa-kshara, hingoo,parpaTa, ghoNTikA, jaTA-mAmsI vidArA~Ngini, and matsyAkShi as plant material with which the metal is heated. The author has a vivid imagination enumerating devices like cameras and solar power, but not really providing constructional details in many cases. All in all these issues make it a piece of Hindu science fiction, albeit finding expression in a peculiar fashion as a shAstra.

Dinosauromorphs and the beginnings of dinosaurs

•July 21, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The crocodilians and birds are the only the surviving representatives of the two great lineages of archosaurs that diverged in the Triassic. The “crocodile line” (depending on definition pseudosuchians or crurotarsans) appear to have undergone the first great adaptive radiation in the Triassic spawning an enormous diversity of predatory and herbivorous forms that mimicked the dinosaurs and later crocodylomorphs in many ways. By the Jurassic, the only survivors of the crocodile line were the crocodylomorphs, which radiated throughout the Mesozoic into a diverse array of forms — both terrestrial and aquatic (freshwater and marine) predators and some herbivorous forms. On the other hand was the “dinosaur-line” (typically defined as ornithodirans) which included the pterosaurs, dinosauromorphs and dinosaurs. They too arose in the Triassic but were marginal in their ecological role to start with. But in course of of the Mesozoic, beginning from the Jurassic saw the meteoric rise of dinosaurs replacing all the older archosaurs and other amniotes as the dominant terrestrial vertebrates. There are several unclear issues concerning this macro-evolutionary phenomenon: 1) Are the pterosaurs really related to dinosaurs to exclusion of other archosauromorphs? 2) How did the dinosaurs replace the earlier dominant Triassic faunas? 3) What was the diversity of the closest sister group of the dinosaurs– the dinosauromorphs ?

The dinosauromorphs are a fascinating group of archosaurs that are critical to the understanding of the origin of dinosaurs. Colloquially we are using the term here to include only non-dinosaurian dinosauromorphs. The first bona fide dinosauromorph to be studied was Lagerpeton from South America described by Alfred Romer. Subsequently Sereno named Marasuchus. The earlier described Scleromochlus has also been suspected to be a dinosauromorph, though Benton believed it might be closer to the pterosaurs. Both Lagerpeton and Marasuchus had been described as small predators with a generalized morphology from which the more specialized dinosaurs emerged later. However, in the past few years the diversity and spread of dinosauromorphs is better understood. This is largely due to several new fossils: 1) The exquisite fossils of Silesaurus from Poland. 2) Sacisaurus from Brazil. 3) Most recently Dromomeron from New Mexico.

An analysis by Irmis et al of Dromomeron and several other forms from the Late Triassic Chinle formation suggests the following: 1) There was a wide spread and diversity of dinosauromorphs over the world. Dromomeron was found to be closest to Lagerpeton and another form unfortunately named Eucoelophysis to be a sister taxon on Silesaurus. The later two are likely to have been herbivores similar to the ornithischians 2) They coexisted with basal theropod dinosaurs like Coelophysis and even more primitive basal saurischians like Chindesaurus, a Herrerasaurid. 3) The appear to have persisted with dinosaurs from the Carnian through the Norian epochs of the Late Triassic period. A parallel analysis by Irmis, Nesbitt and co has shown that the North American late Triassic was bereft of ornithischians, though there were many pseudosuchians that imitated the former. In a parallel analysis of Eocursor a very primitive ornithischian from the Norian of South Africa, by Butler et al also suggested that the great radiation of ornithischians was only after the Triassic. Based on this it is proposed that the replacement of dinosauromorphs by dinosaurs was gradual an asynchronous in different parts of the globe. It is also implied that at least in North America that the dinosauromorphs like Eucoelophysis and “crocodile-line” archosaurs like Revueltosaurus might have occupied the niches related to herbivory in place of the ornithischians.

However, there is a suggestion by Langer et al that the notch and anterior structure of the dentary in the Silesaurus and Sachisaurus like forms might be the precursor of the predentary, a synapomorphy of the ornithischians. This raises the possibility that after all these forms might represent very primitive ornithischians (?).

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