The other vIra appears

All the vIra-s had been attacked by the prayoga-s of the ari-s as implied in their cryptic message on the phala-s of the nR^I trees. The jyeShTha vIra had then been tied down by a kAmini sent by the ari-prayoga. The third vIra despite his bhIma-like battle fury had been tied down by the dasyu-s, while the other vIra-s faced their own downward fates. As we were floundering in the battle with the mlechCha-s the thundering indra took us to victory. But then came the second round when we were bound in chains by the ari-s and placed in internment in ArAma and rAjakShetra. The great vIra was then beaten twice in battle, once at shishira-grAma due to the kAmini, and then when he reached sUrya-sthAna by another ari prayoga. Having lost his troops and kingdom, he was slipping into oblivion, when his guru’s prati-prayoga saved him the jaws of destruction. Then there was the other vIra who alone briefly understood the code which we conveyed: “If Doldrum is dead Dildrum is the king of the cats”. This vIra had taken a severe hammering from the prayoga-s, and smashed to bits, even as we were deep in the yuddha of mlechCha-varSha. The other vIra appeared in incognito briefly and conveyed to R that which lay under the code Jaimal and Patta. R relayed that to us, but it was too late, and we were capture by the ari-s and taken to ArAma. The third vIra who even deployed dUra-dR^iShTi on us then broke forth and became a conqueror. But we remained nervous that until the other vIra broke the prayoga of the ari-s our larger fate was sealed, especially if we fell fighting in battle. With that becoming more of a possibility we were concerned if there might ever be a “pratardana daivodAsi” to raise us like the kAshi rAjas.

But finally that vIra (‘inum’ nAma yoddhA) took to battle – it was a fierce encounter with the ari-s who smashed his first two prayoga-s. He was pushed back by some distance like the bold sAtyakI being pressed back by the vicious bhUrishravas. He had many mantra-s in his possession but had forgotten them like rAdheya at kurukShetra. But on the day of the deva-s he deployed that mighty mantra of his ancestors from the atharvA~ngirasa shruti, which due to our negligence we had failed to deploy. We sent the amAtya and the sachiva to aid him in war. They were intercepted by the ari-s and took a heavy shelling. Bereft of mantra-s and unable to call the deva-s to their aid and were crumbling on the raNA~NgaNa. Then they saw a cloud of dust appearing on the eastern horizon. It was the senA of the other vIra. Out of nowhere he appeared with the spirit of the bhR^igu spells were manifest in him. His prayoga was like a charm laid by R^ichIka or apnavAna himself or like an unstoppable mantra of chyavAna or syUmarashmI. The amAtya and the sachiva merged forces, and the ari-s were defeated and scattered by the other vIra not far away from maNGala-grAma. But we sent the signal: “king aryaman still needs his bhAga”.

Posted in Life

Early temples and iconic worship

It is nearly inconceivable for the average modern Hindu to imagine his religion as being aniconic. Worship at temples is an average Hindu’s major or only of religious activity, and it is not uncommon for practically every Hindu to keep some household images or pictures of deities. Yet, there is hardly any sign of temples or worship in temples in the vedic saMhitA-s, which are dominated by fire and soma rituals. Even in the itihAsa-s, while temples are mentioned several times, their description is not given much prominence. For example, in the rAmAyana (5.43.1-5) hanumAn is mentioned as breaking a large and lofty temple in lankA, but no other specific details of it are provided. The temple in the nikumbhilA grove in lankA is mentioned as a spot where meghanAda was to perform a fire rite for invincibility, but again hardly any details of this temple are mentioned. In the great bhArata too temples are mentioned, but are hardly prominent in its enormous bulk that otherwise covers an extraordinary diversity of topics. In itihAsas as a whole, references to temples, typically termed chaitya, are an incidental element in the context of describing holy tIrtha-s or urban centers (see below). The earliest available works in the dravidian languages, the tamiL puranAnuru and akanAnuru also do not display any notable dilation on temples, despite having several religious themes in them. The mAnava dharma shAstra and other early dharma works too are either silent or limited in their allusions to temples. In fact, the MDS recommends against brAhmaNa-s who earn their living as temple priests from being employed as a sacrificial invitees (3.152) or as recipients of brahminical donations (3.180).

Thus, it would appear that the foundational texts of the Hindu dharma, had few if any references to temples, and these played a relatively minor role in the early phase of the dharma. This is in striking contrast with the extant purANas and the modern Hindu culture where temples, temple construction, iconography and iconic installations play a prominent role. Thus, it almost appears that there was a major memetic shift in the Hindu worldview at some point in history which marked the transition to this more “modern” form of temple-centric worship.

Such a view is not inconsistent with archaeology: Even the highly urbanized Indus civilization and associated chalcolithic cultures of India (leaving aside the dispute of whether or not they had Aryan components), with a whole range of constructions and technologies, show little evidence of prominent temples comparable to those seen in medieval India or contemporary Egypt or Mesopotamia. Again, after the collapse of the urban Indus civilization, we find large classical temples emerging relatively late in course of the second urbanization of India. So what are the origins of temples in India? Related to this question is the parallel question: What were the origins of iconic worship in India?

Many branches of the Indo-European tree show signs for veneration of icons: Greeks, the syncretic Neoplatonic religion, Romans, Germanics, Balts and Slavs, Iranians and Indians. But not all Indo-European groups show evidence for large-scale temple construction right from inception: we find little evidence (as we saw above) amongst early Indians, early Balts or even Iranians. So it is not impossible that iconic worship of some kind was always there amongst Indo-Europeans from the ancestral period, but construction of public temples was potentially a convergent trait. We do hear zarathuShTra the founder of the Iranian cult of mAzdhayasna ranting and raving against icons:
kadA azem mUrthem ahya maghahya yA Angraya Karpanao urupayeinti
rendered in Sanskrit would be:
kadA aham mUrtim asya maghasya yA A~Ngirasa karpaNA ropayanti
When [ahurA-mAzdhA] can I uproot the idol from this assembly, that set up by the angra-s and the karpaNas?
That such icon-worship possibly persisted in conflict with the zarathuShTrian cult in the Iranian sphere is suggested in the boast of the Iranian emperor Xerxes (a follower of zarathuShTra’s cult): “I destroyed this temple of daevas”. As an aside it possible that the marriage and political relationships of these Iranians transmitted such iconoclastic memes to Afro-Asiatic cultures lying further west in the Middle East, which then formed a basic tenet of the Abrahamisms. In any case these observations would also support the contention that icon worship, even if not in temples, but in congregations or assemblies, like those mentioned by zarathuShTra as being set up by the a~Ngirasa-s, did exist among the early Indo-Iranians.

With this in mind we shall next seek traces of such icon worship and connections to the origin of Hindu temples if any.

chaitya: The earliest word used for temple in the Hindu world is chaitya. This word is encountered in the gR^ihya sUtra-s, AV parishiShTha-s, and itihAsa-s. Its etymology is simple: piled up, from the root chit to piling. Now, in the vedic language chit is often used in a specific sense, i.e. piling up of the fire altar or agni-chiti (as in agni-chayana) from bricks. This suggests that the word chaitya similar implied a piling up bricks to form a shrine. This is consistent with the observation that earliest temples of India are relatively simple piled brick structures. We also encounter the word chaitya vR^iksha to describe 4 species of large fig trees in the late vedic texts and itihAsa-s. From the earliest depictions to modern times we find these figs (most often ashvattha or audumbara) being shown with a platform of bricks piled around their base. This hints the form of the earliest public shrines in India: piled brick structures, perhaps even at the base of large fig species. Consistent with this, the sparseness of the description of chaitya-s in the itihAsa-s, makes it likely that the early chaitya-s were rather low-key structures rather than the grand temples of the purANa-s. In the MBh 3.125 (critical) it is mentioned by lomAsha to yudhiShThira that the tirtha on the Archika hill is a place where there are numerous (100s) chaitya-s for the 33 gods. Again in MBh 3.121 lomAsha mentions the chaityas on the banks of the narmada to be visited by the pANDu-s. Both the bhArata and the rAmAyana mention the presence of chaitya-s in graveyard using a very similar cliché as a part of a simile to describe something terrible.
MBh: shmashAna-chaitya-drumavad bhUShito.api bhaya~NkaraH |
Ram: shmashAna-chaitya pratimo bhUShito.api bhaya~NkaraH |
Even today graveyards often have temples of rudra. Another point of note is that in the MBh the term chaitya is often combined with yUpa: and the earth or a place is described as decorated by chaitya-s and yUpa-s (“chaityayUpA~NkitA bhUmi”). yUpa-s from shrauta rites were often left behind at the end of a yAga as a mark of their performance. Their linkage suggests that chaitya-s were possibly small shrines that might have been likewise associated with holy spots were rites were performed.

chaitya yAga: The gR^ihya-sUtra-s appear to be the earliest texts mentioning the term chaitya. An interesting instance is the mention of the rite termed the chaitya yAga in the AshvalAyana (1.12.1) and pAraskAra (3.11.10) gR^ihya sUtras. From what we can glean from these sUtra-s, the chaitya yAga involved making of fire oblations to the deity of the chaitya in the house of the worshiper. Then, before the final expiatory sviShTakR^it oblations, the worshiper offers food as bali to the deity of the chaitya. If the chaitya is far away the votary is advised to wrap two aliquots of the bali offering in a leaf and send it via an emissary to the chaitya. It specifically instructs that the votary gives the messenger food/payment, and if necessary a boat (that is if a river-crossing is involved) and weapons (if dangers are expected). At the face of it, the nikumbhilA rite of meghanAda in the rAmAyaNa might have been some form of a chaitya yAga. As we have discussed earlier the vaikhAnasa gR^ihya sUtra also mentions a rite at a shrine of kumAra in connection to a rite of travel for a young child. Hence, at least by the latter layers of the gR^ihya sUtra-s, there were public shrines that might be distant from where the votary is located. An enshrined deity may be worshiped using the standard vedic technique and the offerings (bali) from the rite may be carried to that deity in a specific shrine.

Early mentions of chaitya-s in nAstIka texts: To gain a perspective from outside of the AstIka stream within the dharma, we could turn to the two major nAstIka streams, whose origin was coeval with the latest layer of the vedic period. Their earliest texts, as well as the early biographies of their founders, the nirgrantha and shuddhodana-putra, mention several chaitya-s as being already present and worshiped by people. Both bauddha and jaina sources typically call them yakSha-chaitya, because of their wish to downgrade the ancestral Hindu deities relative to the founders of their cults. Yet it is clear that many of these were shrines of typical Hindus deities, whereas others of real yakSha-s. For example both bauddha and jaina sources mention a shrine of devI ShaShThI, the wife of kumAra being present at vishAla at the time of two nAstIka founders. The jaina sources also recall a chaitya of skanda at srAvastI in the days of mahAvIra and chaityas to gods like shUlapANI (rudra) and a large one of the yakSha pUrNabhadra (worshiped even today by jainas). The latter chaitya and that of ShaShThI were even visited by mahAvIra in his peregrinations. The graveyard chaitya might have also been behind the use of the term chetiya (a prAkR^ita form of chaitya) for the funerary relic shrines of the tathAgata and his successors worshiped by the bauddhas.

Thus, by the period of 600-450 BC already several chaitya-s to deities were in place throughout the urbanizing northern Gangetic belt. The available descriptions of such chaitya-s suggest that they were small to medium-sized constructions (usually brick) usually surrounded by groves of or under trees (typically figs). By the mauryan period described in the arthashAstra forts and cities had chaitya-s for a number of deva-s and devI-s like indra, ashvin-s, kumara, rudra, kubera, madirA and aparAjitA. A description of the chaitya of kaumArI suggests that it had multiple AvaraNa one inside the other and a circular arch. So we can see that between the time of the founders of the nAstIka-mata-s to the mauryan era the chaitya-s appear to have steadily increased in importance, becoming integral aspects of city life. However, there is still no hint that they were large structures like the classical Hindu temples.

Iconic worship of the late gR^ihya period and the rise of temple worship: Clues regarding the early forms of image worship come from specific references in what may be termed the late gR^ihya literature. These can be assigned to the later layer of gR^ihya sUtra literature because they do not appear to be conserved across all gR^ihya sUtra-s and are often found in what are called parishiShTa or sheSha sUtra-s. The most prominent examples of these are:
bodhAyana sheSha sUtra 2.13-15, viShNu-pratiShTha kalpa: gives the rite for the installation of an image of viShNu, its daily worship and its bathing.
vaikhAnasa smArta sUtra 4.10-12, viShNvarchana vidhi: gives a similar rite of installation and routine worship of an idol of viShNu.
bodhAyana sheSha sUtra 2.16-18, rudra-pratiShTha: kalpa gives the rite for the installation of an image of rudra, its daily worship and ablutions.
bodhAyana sheSha sUtra 4.2, dhUrta bali: mentions installation of an idol of kumAra in a maNTapa decorated with leaves.
atharva-veda parishiShTa, skanda yAga: mentions a very similar installation of a kumAra icon in a platform with leaf and mirror decorations.
The shAnti kalpa of the atharva-veda: mentions making images of the nava-graha-s their installation and detailed procedures of worship.
Key features of the majority of these installation rituals include: 1) The rites do not use prANa-pratiShTha mantras typical of the Agamic procedures 2) They might use an “eye-opening” rite using a golden needle with vedic mantra-s. 3) They do not use any classical tantric mantra-s of the Agama-s for the worship of the deity, instead using vedic and some new specific mantra-s specified by these gR^ihya texts.4) They always involve a vedic-styled homa with oblations made to the deity being installed.

This process epitomized by the vaikhAnasa viShNvarchana vidhi for the installation and worship of a small pratima of viShNu (6 a~Ngula-s in height), has been expanded by the later vaikhAnasa Agama-s for the installation of the viShNu idols in huge temples. Thus, we see a link between the gR^ihya image worship and the origins of the larger image worship in temples. However, in most streams except the vaikhAnasa-s, this shift to the large temples was closely linked to the rise of a new class of texts and rituals in place of the vedic ones – the Agamic texts. Thus, one might state with confidence the origin of the classical Agama-s as well as extant paurANic narratives are closely linked to the emergence of the large temples. It is not without reason that town-planning, civil constructions and the arts occupy the interest of early Agamas like devyAmata and purANa-s like viShNudharmottara.

Posted in Heathen thought, History

Arthur Avalon

Early on we realized that a Hindu needs to return the gaze on the Leukosphere and make it a topic of socio-anthropological studies. The Malhotran theory of U-turns, as we have seen in the past, is a frame-work that allows one to study this issue. The insightful but narcissistic Malhotra had postulated that the terminal U-turn is the most common path for every Indologist of the Leukosphere. Indologists have been a very influential element of the Leukosphere as far as Hindus go, making a careful study of them important. In the early era the Indologists concentrated largely on the Veda and early classical kAvya, and with a few exceptions ignored most other branches of Sanskrit culture. Given that the Hindu elite followed the white indologists to acquire their understanding of the texts they too tended to ignore these areas of Sanskrit culture. It is precisely this early indological influence that resulted in a few common ideas amongst the Hindu elite: It is not uncommon to hear an English-educated Hindu saying that that he keeps away from shady things like the tantra. It is not uncommon to hear such individual use the word “God” in the context of late vedic texts like upaniShad-s and rant against the ritualism of his culture while at the same time praising the “lofty” R^igvedic poetry.

Against this background one indologist stood apart – John Woodroffe aka Arthur Avalon. He is today ridiculed or ignored by the scholar western Sanskritists and by some Hindus, as well, as being a non-scholar. But I do feel the need to objectively examine him because he was one of the first white Indologists to experience the tantra and did contribute insightful pieces of thought. A detailed biography of Woodroffe has been written and I do not wish to rehash that, but just consider a few points:
To start with it is said that Woodroffe was pretty unsympathetic to Hindus. As a high court judge in Bengal he sided with the British officialdom against pro-Hindu judges like Fletcher to harass Hindu defendants who were arrested for conspiring to wage war on the Britons. But around the same time he was seen dressed like a Hindu in the Konarak temple. He also published the mahAnirvANa tantra shortly thereafter. Some feel that his covert pro-Hindu leanings were known to the British officialdom and just as Fletcher had faced pressure he was also under pressure and wanted to prove himself to be a respectable representative of the British system (as suggested by Hardinge congratulating him for this anti-Hindu judgment). But as his power in the court grew he seems to have grown more actively pro-Hindu. Strikingly in contrast to other Britons he said: “India is not a mere geographical expression … India is an Idea … a particular shakti, bhArata shakti”. His insight on some issues are rather remarkable for that time: “India is not the mere subject of academic talk, but is a living force. India is still feared where she is not loved. Why again? Precisely because she lives. Because she is potentially powerful to impose her ideas on the world”. In this brief statement Woodroffe encapsulated points missed by the Macaulayized Hindu elite after nearly a century.

This phase also saw him become more and more accommodating to Hindu nationalism and realized that the Indianess was essentially Hindu nationalism. In contradiction to his past stance he took a lenient attitude towards Hindu nationalists. He is said to have had an encounter with the female tantric ga~NgA-bai mahAtapsvinI mAtA – we do not know much of it but he definitely was a major patron of her school. ga~NgAbai was a R^igvedi smArta brAhmaNa woman from the karhATaka region of Maharashtra, the daughter of a peshva official. She was educated by her father in saMskR^ita (especially classical kAvya literature) as well as the use of weapons. In the war of 1857, at the age of 22, she led a unit of the Hindu army against the British in support of her co-ethnic lakShmibai of Jhansi. She fought personally against the division of the accursed Hugh Rose and upon destruction of the Hindu army escaped the British dragnet and made it to Nepal. There, in the jaya-vAgIshvarI shrine in the cave of the one of the greatest early female tantric guru-s, guhyasomA, she obtained the sarvAmnAya kramadIkSha. She then performed mantra-sAdhana for 32 years and came to Calcutta to found a school for women, the mahAkAlI pAThashAla. She had been considerably financially aided by the rAjA of Dharbhanga. The school was where Woodroffe voiced his pro-Hindu thoughts. His association with a smArta from the drAviDa country , who was a scholar in the siddhAnta tantras also needs further investigation.

He also realized the importance of the varNAshrama dharma as the foundation of the Hindu survival. Woodroffe defended the Hindus, in series of writings against the attack of his own co-ethnics like missionaries and William Archer who explained that the essence of India was: “Barbarian, barbarism, barbarous…” It is important to note that Woodroffe correctly diagnosed the danger to the Hindus both from Christian missionaries as well as the so called secularists like Archer, who like many modern indologists claimed to be a friend of India. He also correctly avoided the term ‘Hinduism’ instead consistently using the word bhArata-dharma.

Despite the gems in his writings and speeches we see that his colleagues saw him as a split personality or a fake. On one side he behaved like a prim-and-proper judge and scholarly indologist, and on the other side as a Hindu, wearing Hindu dress to European parties and seeing through the evils of Christian missionaries and secularists. Sunitikumar Chatterji accused Woodroffe of being a total fake not understanding any saMskR^ita and totally relying on his Bengali friends to help him with the deva-bhAShA. Chatterji felt he could not even read the devanAgarI script and that he was being taken for a ride by his Hindu informers. There is no evidence that Avalon was such a dud from other testimonials, where he was seen reading saMskR^ita texts in their original. His wife was originally very supportive and probably even instrumental in his inclination towards the Hindu world. But over time she found that they were generally ostracized by the European community in Calcutta for his strange ways (i.e. tantra sAdhana), wearing Hindu dress and inviting Hindus to parties at his house to eat and drink with Europeans. So she started making her Malhotran U-turn. She returned to England and kept urging him to return, which he eventually did. There she converted to the Catholic church and appears to have kept urging him to do likewise. He finally did so a year before his death perhaps completing his own Malhotran U-turn. So after all was Woodroffe just another Malhotran U-turner? I take a more sympathetic view of him – was an intelligent and insightful man, but definitely an easily influenced one, caught in mental chaos of the divergent pulls. There is some evidence based on his daughter’s testimony that his wife might have had mental problems, which might explain her U-turns and he being influenced was just dragged along. I am of the view that the period of lucidity in Woodroffe’s life was actually a consequence of his sAdhana, which opened his mind to clarity. But as he returned to England and the sAdhana declined he degenerated and returned the delusions of his old creed – the bhArata shakti had deserted him.

Posted in Heathen thought, History

Some musing on wars

I had never been a good student of recent military history. ekanetra or va~Nga paNDita could always fill in the gaping lacunae in my knowledge if required. In our youth ekanetra gave me such a gripping account of the battle of Stalingrad, fought between the Germans and the Russians, that I listened with rapt attention, filled with romaharshaNa a military narrative brings. ekanetra had then pointed out that many western observers felt it was one of the bloodiest of battles, and wondered if any of our battles had been bloodier (with the due normalization for time and age). ekanetra also wondered what the underlying basis for such fiercely fought wars… Germanics and Slavs have skirmished for centuries but I am not very sure if the two *peoples* themselves had a deep-rooted hate for each other. But in WW2, we know well that both were ideologically heavily charged under two dictators who matched each other in brutality and stupidity. But the great struggle definitely brought out some of the hallmark features of the core of the Germanic and Slavic people. Both were primarily land powers (unlike England whose might lay in the waters and the US whose power was in both waters and in the skies). So in a sense it was one of those last great conventional land wars at it is core.

The Germans were characterized by superior technological thinking (after all even the American space program depended on a German they captured in the war), a drive for perfection and an extremely methodical and pedantic approach to everything. The Russians were characterized by extraordinary tenacity, ability to take a lot of pain, and improvise with tremendous audacity. If one encounters epitomes from these two countries, even today, one still sees those qualities in them. The styles of work of these two peoples, even in matters like science, reflect these qualities they brought to battle. Historians debate about whether Russians were planning a preemptive strike on Germany under Zhukov’s plan or whether the Germans struck first. As this is not at all my forte I do not know what the reality was. But it does appear that the Russians were really not ready to meet a ferocious invasive force as that of the Germans – conducted with utter precision and technological superiority. But the Russian tenacity was the first step, holding on against all odds – something which appears to have been purely inspired by that sense of patriotic defense of ones land. The next step was where the Russian improvisation and audacity came into play. Out of limited resources and technological know-how they managed to raise a military force and deploy it around Stalingrad in a manner that can only compared to how Chingiz Khan strike on Bukhara. The important lesson again is that the prosecution of war depends a lot on the people and the kinds of leaders that come up within their systems.

Posted in History

A lost kaumAra mahAsthala

In the late 1800s our predecessor was returning to his home base after attending to secular business in the town of Guntur in the Andhra country on his horse. It was late evening and he had reached the eastern fringe of the village of Chebrolu. He decided to visit the temple of rudra known as bhImeshvara, which lay right on his path. Having paid his respects to the deva he wondered whether he should visit a smArta whom he knew in vicinity or simply spend the night in the open as the weather was excellent. As it was late and it felt it might not be appropriate to disturb the Brahmin he decided to sleep in the open on an elevation to the north east of the temple just at the boundary to the expanses of rice fields. It was here that in his dream he witnessed the kaumAra vidyA of 14 syllables with the intertwining of the square, the hexagon, the triangle and the bindu. He felt he was inside a kumAra gR^iha and the maNDala lay upon him. He saw an enormous shrine of kumAra with its spire pointing to the skies with a cock-banner fluttering atop it. The next day he went to visit the smArta who lived in the hamlet and asked him if there was once a kumara kShetra in the village. The brAhmaNa said that there were some tales of kumAra being worshiped there in the past, but he was not sure. Then obtaining some essentials from the brAhmaNa he returned to the mound and performed a subrahmaNya yAga as ordained in the guha-paddhati. The brAhmaNa from the village accompanied him and asked him after performance of the yAga to initiate him into a mantra. Our predecessor after some thought agreed and initiated him into the vidyA of the queen of the kula path with which one enchants all. He asked the brAhmaNa to keep worshiping the queen of the 3 kUTa-s and said that after 4 generations one in his line will attain eko-mAnuSha AnandaH and will automatically have a one-time siddhi of the kaulavidyA.


Armed with the records of Epigraphica Indica and MR Rao’s collection of inscriptions we note:
-In 1006 CE Bayalanambi the commander of the army of Western chAlukya king satyAshraya invaded the Vengi to conquer the choDa-Eastern chAlukyA combine. He destroyed the forts of Dannada and Enumandala and on his way he stopped at Chebrolu and made gifts to kumAra whose was the patron deity of the village.
-In 1076 goNkaya, the commander of the velanATi choDas, conferred ornaments to the image of kumAra and also that of rudra housed in the mUlasthAna-mahAdeva temple.
-In 1115 CE gaNDamAMbA the wife of the velanATi choDa ruler made gift to kumAra.
-In 1118 a certain sUrana from a family of temple artisans became a general in the army of the koNDapaDamaTi war-lord manda and conquered Vijayawada. He made several gifts to the temple of kumAra at Chebrolu.
-In 1145 CE a lamp tower was gifted by the koNDapaDamaTi war-lord bhImarAja to the kumAra temple, which had 300 staff involved in its upkeep and 300 for performance of dance dramas.
-In 1213 CE, gaNapati-deva who was return from the conquest of the south gifted the village to the commander of his army, jayasenApati, the author of a famous treatise on Hindu dance. jayasenApati repaired and whitewashed all the temples in the village. He erected a gold kalasha atop the kumAra shrine. He also covered the whole central image of kumAra with gold and made utsava-mUrti-s of kumAra and his wives senA and gajAyI. He built an enclosure around the temple, a maNDapa in front of it and gopura 3 stories high. He also built another maNDapa where the utsava-mUrti of kumAra and his wives would rest after the makara-shankarAnti festival and the hunting festival. He commissioned paintings in this maNDapa which depicted the heroic deeds of kumAra in the battles of devas and dAnavas. He also restored the li~Nga-s at mUlasthAna-mahAdeva and a forest shrine of rudra, repaired bhImeshvara and fortified the town. The inscription mentions that an astronomer and a physician were attached to the staff of the kumAra temple.
The rampage of the army of Islam under the Bahmanid sultan Muhammad ravaged the temples of this region and appears to have desecrated the kumAra temple.
-In 1553 CE the vijayanagaran governor devabhaktuni kondana reinstalled the temple of kumAra.

The great kumAra shrine of Chebrolu appears to have been built by the chAlukya king yuddhamalla. It no longer exists today. It appears to have been completely destroyed during the invasion of the Adilshahi army.

Posted in Heathen thought, History

On bats

Our residence in childhood was graced by a lamppost and a large audumbara tree, which at night gave us the chance to study both fast-flying insect-eating microbats and slower flying large-eyed megabats. The deliberate climbing movements of the large megabats and their glowing large eyes struck us as being sharply contrasting to the microbats with the high-pitched shrieks and little eyes. Like others, in my studies on chiropteran anatomy I thought they were related to primates. However, molecular phylogenies were to show that this was entirely erroneous. The bats were not a part of euarchontoglires, but a clade within the diverse laurasiatheres (pegasoferae; uniting carnivorans, perissodactyls and bats). Anatomy suggested that the microbats and megabats formed two distinct monophyletic clades. But the molecules showed that this idea too was wrong! The megabats are nested within microbats; in fact they were a sister group to the clade containing Craseonycteris, the smallest extant mammal! Since the beginning of the Mesozoic, when mammals got relegated to the nooks and corners of the world, most of mammal diversity was in the small-bodies forms. Thus, bats, like rodents, are among the most speciose clades of mammals – there are over 1100 different species according to current biodiversity studies. Due to the dinosaurian priority in the conquest of the air, bats were relegated to the nights, when most dinosaurs sleep in their roosts.

Microbats mainly live on insects, though some lineages have spawned a range of aerial predators: Myotis and Noctilio catch fishes, Chrotopterus and Megaderma hunts rodents and other small animals (including other small bats in the case of Megaderma), others like Trachops specialize in hunting frogs and yet others like the famous vampires suck blood. Molecular phylogenies have shown that such predatory behaviors have evolved independently on many occasions – like the fishers – Myotis belongs to the vespertilionid clade and Noctilio to the highly diverse Noctilionoid clade. Likewise Chrotopterus has emerged amongst the leaf-nosed bats, while Megaderma among the rhinolophoid microbats. Vampires which belong to the Noctilionoid clade are closely related to the insect eating leaf-nosed bats. While bats more or less lost their ability to move on the ground, the vampires re-invented a novel mode of running in a relative period. Many of the microbats also specialize in licking nectar from night-blooming flowers as means to supplement their insectivorous lifestyle. The megabats are mainly fruit- and flower- eaters. Thus, despite only having the nights for themselves, bats have evolved an interesting diversity that we generally tend to miss due to the difficulty in observing them.

However, the most dramatic feature of the bats is their ability to navigate their flight entirely through echo-location. This feature is seen in all microbats and a few megabats like Rousettus. These bats emit sounds or clicks with their tongue and with their sensitive ears and other acoustic surfaces on their faces receive echoes of these sounds. Speakman’s work had shown that echolocation is a very energy-draining process because of the high-pitched vocalizations involved. Bats are able to effectively use it only because vocalization is coupled with flight related lung-compression, so they in a sense pay the same price for flying and echo-location.

Molecular phylogenies have established that the bats come in two great clades: 1) The Yangochiroptera including three major clades of microbats: the vespertilionoids, the noctilionoids and the emballonuroids. 2) The Yinpterochiropterans including the megabats and the rhinolophoid microchiropterans. Thus echo-location was an ancestral trait for all extant bats and the microchiropteran condition was the primitive morphotype for all extant bats. The megabats, which do not need to hunt insects in the dark, have mostly lost this ability both to make ultra-sounds and receive them instead reverting to depending on large eyes. It is probably the high cost of echo-location that resulted in its loss when maneuverability became less important in the megabats.

It is light of these molecular results that we can now interpret better the early fossil record of bats including the dramatic recent report of an exquisitely preserved bat Onychonycteris from the end of the early Eocene (~52.5 Myr ago) by Simmons et al. A phylogeny, using the molecular results as a framework, suggests that Onychonycteris, Icaronycteris, Archaeonycteris, Hassianycteris, Palaeochiropteryx, and (Tanzanycteris) form successive ourgroups to the extant bats. Previously, at least six other bats from the Eocene have been studied in some details and found to be most probably echolocators: Icaronycteris, Archaeonycteris, Palaeochiropteryx, Hassianycteris, Tachypteron and Tanzanycteris. Thus, even in the early Eocene echolocation had fully evolved, and, indeed, the common ancestor of all modern bats appears to have emerged within an early radiation of Eocene microbats. However, Onychonycteris is different – it has a small cochlea and a stylohyal bone without the paddle-like expansion for supporting the sensitive ear. Thus it does not have the auditory apparatus requisite for echolocation. But in other respects it resembles the most primitive echolocating microbat Icaronycteris and other primitive Eocene forms. This makes it the most primitive bat found to date, before the origin of echolocation. Nevertheless, it had a calcar that supports the uropatagium. We know little of its eyes to determine whether like megabats it depended on vision to navigate. But it is clear that echolocation emerged rather rapidly in bats in short time interval. It also supports the argument that bats emerged in the North American continent and rapidly spread from there.

In contradiction to molecular estimates the current fossil record suggests that the bats arose in the Cenozoic after the K/T event. The molecular studies place their origins in the Cretaceous. One possibility is that flight arose only in the Cenozoic and there was a long cryptic history prior to that of arboreal insectivorous forms. Would we ever find any pre- Onychonycteris fossils?

Posted in Scientific ramblings

Thinking of kShemendra

The deva-bhASha is the language of the kavI-s right from the days of the hoary vipra-s from the misty past of the R^igveda saMhitA. In the galaxy of literature in the deva-vANI, which is filled with extraordinary luminaries, kShemendra from the crest of bhArata shines like Rigel on a clear winter night. He comes from that time, which produced a striking constellation of encyclopedic writers, just at the twilight of the Hindu sun. There was abhinavagupta the foremost of the tantrics of his era, king bhojadeva-paramAra and kShemendra. kShemendra represents the primeval spirit of the kavI, similar to that of the R^igvedic R^iShi-s.

On viShNu:
asheSha-vishva-vaichitrya-rachanAruchaye namaH |
mAyA-gahana-gUDAya nAnArUpAya viShNave ||
(dashAvatAra stutiH 1)
On kalki:
svachChanda-prochChalan-mlechCha-timirodbheda-sach-ChaviH |
karki-viShNuH prakAshAya prabhAtArka ivaastu vaH ||
(DS 12)

This from his work on the incarnations of viShNu from the period when he appeared to have became oriented towards the pA~ncharAtra tantra-s.

From his earlier work the kavi-kaNThAbharaNa we note that he was a practitioner of shrI-vidyA as he mentions the bAlA mantra and yantra. He says that poetry might come as a result of mantra siddhi (divya) or due to human effort and scholarly study. The route via siddhi is described as requiring the worship of sarasvati in the form of the mAtR^ikA chakra and deploying the bAlA mantra with the worship of the 3 associated devI-s.
OM svastya~NkaM stumaH siddhamantarAdyam-itiipsitaM |
udyadUrja-pradraM devyA R^R^IL^iL^I-nigahanaM ||

ekam-aishvarya-samyuktam-ojo-vardhanam-auShadhaM |
antarAntaH kalA-khaNDa-galad-dhana-sudhA~NkitaM ||

chandrochChalaj-jalaM proj-jhada-j~nAnaM TaTha-saMyutaM |
Dambara-prauDha-kiraNa-tathatAM dadhadunnataM ||

paraM phalapradaM baddha-mUlodbhava-mayaM vapuH |
ramyaM laghuvaram sharma varShat sarvasahaakSharaM ||

etAM namaH sarasvatyaI yaH kriyA-mAtR^ikAM japet |
kShemam-aindraM sa labhate bhavo.abhinava-vAgbhavaM ||

shvetAM sarasvatIM murdhni chandra-maNDala-madhyagAM |
akSharAbharaNA dhyAyed vA~NmayaamR^itavarShiNIM ||

trikoNa-yuga-madhye tu taDit-tulyAM pramodinIM |
svarga-mArgodgatAM dhyayet paramAm-amR^itavAhinIM ||

nirvikArAM nirAkArAM shaktiM dhyAyet parAtparAM |
eSha bIja-trayI vAchyA trayI vAk-kAma-mukti-sUH ||

kAvya-kriyech-Chaa~Nkura-mUla-bhumiM-anviShya vishrAnti-lavena mokShaH |
anyAvadhAne madanasya mokShas-tR^itIya-bIje sakale.asti mokShaH ||

By “trikoNa-yuga” kShemendra is alluding to the bAlA yantra with interlocked triangles. He specifies the bAlA mantra as “eSha bIja-trayI vAchyA trayI vAk-kAma-mukti-sUH” i.e. aiM klIM sauH ||
In kShemendra’s scheme the three devI-s associated with the three divisions of the bAlA mantra are the lighting-like pramodinI, the moon-like amR^itavAhinI and the formless shakti parAtparA. This formulation with the 3 devI-s appears to be a unique one that does not appear to survive in the extant bAlA deployments associated with the kAdimata. A parallel is, however, seen in the form of the triad of bAlA mantra-s known as the tri-hR^illekhA-s:
hrIM hrIM hrIM prauDha-tripure Arogyam-aishvaryaM dehi svAhA |
hrIM shrIM klIM tripurA madane sarvaM shubhaM sAdhaya svAhA |
hrIM shrIM klIM parAtpare tripure sarvepsitaM sAdhaya svAhA |

However, the idea of bAlA as a deity of wisdom continues in extant kAdimata tradition.

Finally, we come to kShemendra’s recommendation for the aspiring poet who wishes to achieve kavitva through human effort. This famous statement has been quoted numerous times by many people (like Andrew Schelling’s translation of Sanskrit poetry) but let me do it again in the original saMskR^ita.

KK 2.10-11
Aloka patra-lekhyAdau goShThI-prahasanaj~natA |
prekShA prANi-svabhavAnAM samudra-adristhitIkShaNaM ||

He [the aspiring kavi] should examine the form of leaves and their veins, know how to make people laugh, study the behavior of living organisms and observe the features of oceans and mountains.

ravIndu-tArA-kalanaM sarvartu-pari-bhAvanaM |
jana-saMghaabhigamanaM desha-bhAShopajIvanaM ||

The motion of the sun, moon and stars and all the seasons he should closely contemplate on. He should move among different peoples and states and [examine] their languages and occupations.

In KK 2.2-23 we find an entire gamut of recommendations for attainment of kavitvam. These start with the worship of vinAyaka and the yAga to sarasvatI and untiring effort to acquire the ability of discernment. They include, among other things, being in the company of great kavi-s and intellectual Arya-s and through them imbibing (kShemendra uses the Sanskrit word “chewing” or “tasting” like food) the meaning of great kAvya:
sahavAsaH kavi-varaIr-mahAkAvyaartha-charvaNaM |
AryatvaM sujanair-maitrI saumanasyaM suveShatA ||

He also mentions observing the skills of sculptors, warriors in battle, graveyards and forests, and hearing the sorrowful lamentations:
shilpinAM kaushala-prekSha vIra-yuddhAvalochanaM |
shoka-pralApa-shravaNaM shmashAnaaraNya darshanaM ||

Thus, in kShemendra we see the eternal naturalist, linguist and sociologist who is immersed in the study of the world around him. It after all encapsulates what it has always meant for one to be a kavI from the days of the RV – i.e. the philosophy of the kavI as a naturalist and observer. It is not without reason that kShemendra wants the aspiring kavI to be a scholar of astronomy, medicine, linguistics, kAmashAstra and other things – after all even the R^ig vedic vipra-s say “kavayo manIShAH”. It defines structure of the knowledge system which is followed by the erudite Hindu – many of the contradictions or paradoxes that haunt the Western mind are instead in harmony here.

Posted in Heathen thought, History