Business

ON THE SYMBOLISM OF THREE-AND FOUR-FACED VISNU IMAGES

Description
The three - and four-faced Vishnu images have to be interpreted in the context of the avatara theology
Categories
Published
of 11
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Share
Transcript
   ADALBERT J. GAIL  ON THE SYMBOLISM OF THREE- AND FOUR-FACED VISNU  IMAGES:  A RECONSIDERATION OF EVIDENCE  Among the iconographic rules for making four-faced Visqu images in the Visnudhar-  mottarapurana (Vdh)1 three different types can be discerned:  According to Vdh III, 85, 1-42 the four vyuhas of Nardyana, i.e. Vdsudeva, Samkar- sana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha, are to be depicted in human form, all of them similar  to Vdsudeva the first; only the colours of the respective bodies and the weapons/emblems  differ from each other.  This text can be interpreted only in this way, that the rules refer evidently to four  separate figures which may be summarised as caturmurti.2 No Vaisnava images corres- ponding to these prescriptions have been found in North India up to now; in Nepal the situation is different. Here we do find four separate Vaisnava images grouped around a  lifiga-like block, in accordance with the Vdh-text.  One such block has been published by R.J. Thapa and later by Ernst and Rose  Waldschmidt.3 It is ascribed to the 18th cent. A.D. I would like to present another example  of this rare type, about two hundred years older in situ as the cult image of a Nepalese temple. The Carnarayan temple is the oldest one of the impressive series of temples on the western side of the Darbar Square at Patan, south of Kathmandu. As indicated by an inscription the temple was founded in 1565 by king Puramdharasimha and was equipped  with a caturvyuha image.4 The analysis of this image corresponds remarkably to Vdh III,  85, 31-4z, where the four vyuhas, as we noticed above, are treated as four different  anthropomorphic figures. Concerning Vdsudeva (fig. i) the text prescribes a slim figure with one head and four arms. The neck should be adorned by means of beautiful folds,  the feet should be set apart by a handbreath. He should wear a crown, ear-rings, bracelets  and a garland hanging down to the knees. Two of his hands carry lotus and conch, the  other two mace and discus; deviating from the text, these latter are not characterised as  ayudhapurusas (anthropomorphic weapons). The text prescribes the upavita as hanging  down to the navel; actually it hangs lower down. Side figures mentioned in the Vdh, i.e. Bhfidevi and others, are missing.  1 Ed. P. Shah, Third Khanda, vol. I, Gaekwad s Oriental Series No. CXXX, Baroda 1958. 2 Vdh III, 85, 42.  3 Ramesh J. Thapa, ed., Nepalese Art, Calcutta 1966, III, No. i i. Ernst und Rose Leonore Waldschmidt, Nepal, Kunst  aus dem Kmnigreich im Hamalaja, Essen 1967, Kat. Nr. zz, pl. zz. P. Pal, Vaisnava Iconology, Calcutta 1970, omits images  of this type in Chapter Three: Para and Vyiha Aspects (pp. 62-86).  4 Kathmandu Valley. The Preservation of Physical Environment and Cultural Heritage. A Protective Inventory, ed. C. Pruscha,  Vienna 1975, vol. 2, p. 164.  297   Samkarsana (fig. 2) should be shaped like Vdsudeva; in contradistinction his body  should be white and his garment blue. In place of mace and discus he should carry a pestle  (musala) and a plow. Pestle and plough have been distinctive emblems since the Kusdna  period. The figure of Pradyumna (fig. 3) is in keeping with Vdsudeva's, and holds the same symbols in the two lower hands, lotus (padma) and conch (saikha). The upper two hands hold bow and arrows in place of mace and discus.  Aniruddha (fig. 4) is also modelled on Vdsudeva, except that he holds up a discus-  shaped shield and an elongated sword.  As noted, changes in the attributes of the four figures occur in the upper hands, while  the unchanging lower hands maintain a continuity.  There can be no doubt, that the pratimdlaksana section of the Vdh (III), a northwest Indian text (Ka'mir) from about the 8th cent. A.D., served as the basis of this Nepalese  image manufactured 8oo00 years later. Whether there existed older cult-images of this type  in Nepal or in India cannot be verified at the time being. On the other hand our Nepalese  image is able to throw light on pictorial conceptions combined with the caturvyuha idea  as to be distinguished from three- and four-faced Vaikuntha images. After having described the Caturvyuhas in III, 85, I-42 the Vdh in short (verses 43-46)  outlines Visnu-Vaikuntha.s Putting together these remarks with Vdh III, 44, 10o-12 on the  same topic we can say that Visnu-Vaikuntha is imagined as one figure with eight arms and  four heads, including a boar- and a lion-face. This concept is in accordance with well  known four-faced Visnus from Ka'mir with the exception of the number of arms, which  is normally four (fig. 5ab).6  A fourth passage in the Vdh (III, 47) refers again to the four Vyuhas, which here, in  contradistinction to III, 8 5, should be united in one eight-armed figure, so that each of the  vyfha heads is able to carry two emblems (verses 8 and i i ff.). Here one could imagine  a figure not dissimilar to the unique caturvyfha Visnu from Mathurd, out of whose central  body three additional upper parts of human bodies evolve. Only one of them, representing  Samkarsana, has been preserved (fig. 6)7. The cup in Samkarsana's left hand indicates his  fancy for wine.8  In sum we learn from the Vdh, that Vaikuntha means an image with one body and four faces: partly anthropomorphic, partly theriomorphic (lion, boar). The Caturvyfihas, on the  5 Pal remarks: "Only in such late iconographic texts as the Devatdmurtiprakarana, the Rupamandana or the Apardjita  do we find the use of the name Vaikuntha." (A Brdhmanical Triad from Kashmir and Some Related Icons, in: Archives  of Asian Art, vol. XXVII, 1973-74, P. 36). The Vdh (III. Khanda from 8th cent.) mentions Vaikuntha in III, 85, 43. 6 Other Kashmir pieces collected by Maxwell, Transformational Aspects of Hindu Myth and Iconology: Viivarapa,  in: aarp, London IV, Dec. 1973, p. 7o0f.; in addition see Pal, Bronzes of Kashmir, Graz 1975, pls. 9,12. Maxwell's theory  that the two animal heads of the boar and the lion reinterpreted "Visnu's traditional hand-held attributes" (the  cosmogonic boar for the watery emblems of couch and lotus, the heroic lion for the military emblems of mace and disc) is opposed by the fact that the lotus is unknown as Visnu's emblem up to the 7th cent. A.D. and so cannot be taken as a traditional emblem (p. 64). 7 Photo from J.Ph. Vogel, La Sculpture de Mathura (Ars Asiatica XV), Paris et Bruxelles 1930o, pl. XXXIXa (wrongly  entitled 'Indra'). 8 Vide N.P. Joshi, Some Kusdna Passages in the Harivamsa, in: Indologen-Tagung 1971, ed. H. Hartel und V. Moeller, Wiesbaden 1973, p. 248.  2z98   other hand, are to be depicted in two ways: either as one human body with three additional  half-bodies carrying different weapons, or as four distinct figures. The Vaikuntha-named  figure is never interpreted as representing the Caturvyuhas, the Caturvyuhas are never  "united" with the term Vaikuntha.  This applies as well to the other available iconographic data. Above all we have to be aware of the fact, that all vyuha descriptions within the Vaisnava Pdficaritra-Samhitds  (home-literature of the vyuha doctrine ) unanimously speak of four distinct anthropomor- phic figures, each showing his respective emblems.9 Daniel Smith remarks that the vyuhas  are found as individual figures on the four sides of the vimdnas in the Dravidian area.10  We could be content with a clear formal distinction between Vaikuntha on the one  hand, the Caturvyuhas on the other hand. But that solution faces an obstacle in one verse  that has motivated many scholars of Indian religious art to mingle the two: to understand  the Vaikuntha figure as a representation of the four vyuhas.  According to the Pdficaritra doctrine the four also signify certain gunas, positive  principles, which are responsible for the process of creation." Vdh III, 47,9 makes use of  this doctrine: Vdsudeva stands for strength (bala), Samkarsana for knowledge (jfiana), Pradyumna for lordship (ai'varya), Aniruddha for potency (Sakti). In one other verse,  however, Vdh III, 85, 45, the gunas are identified with the heads of the Vaikuntha image  by declaring that the lion face represents jfiianavaktra, and the raudra (kipila) face aisvarya.  Thus in the Vdh the gunas serve as tertia comparationis for both the four vylhas and the  head of Vaikuntha, resulting in this homology (as already noticed by de Mallmann):12  East nra Vdsudeva bala  South nrsimha Samkarsana jfiiana  West kdpila Pradyumna aisvarya  North vardha Anruddha sakti  Ths homlogy resting on one vers  experts fromJN Banerea on to inte  but also all three-faced Vsnus (wth l  as representatives of the four vyhas.  Let m call into question ths inter i. Arepresentation of Vsnu whose h  mkes every unsophsticated spectato  9 H Danel Smth ASourcebook of Vaisnava Iconogr 1O Op cit., p ii6  11 FO Schrader, Introduction to the Pdicardtra and t  12 M Th de Mllmnn Les enseignemnts iconogra  13 JN Banerea, The Developmnt of Hndu Iconograp  of identification Pradyumna = boar face; Anrudd by jumping fromEast to South to North to Wst de Mllmnn loc. cit. RC Agrawla, Nrsimha-Va  1974, p I i; K Desai, Iconography of Vsnu, NewD  identity of Vaikuntha and Caturmrti for granted, as Vaikuntha in the MBh (e.g MBh XI, 326, 43, of Kashmr, pp 66 and 74, also subscribes to the m  299   ha- and Vardha-Avatdras. This impression is supported by the evidence, derived from  textual history, that not Matsya and Karma (as in the classical series), but Narasimha  and Vardha headed the oldest Avatdra-lists.14  2. In the whole Hindu mythology Samkarsana or Balardma stands for an incarnation,  human embodiment of the world-serpent Sesa, Visnu's couch between pralaya pratisarga. It can hardly be appreciated that Samkarsana should be represented by lion's head (as the above homology requires).  3. In India, outside the borders of Kashmir, the three-faced Visnu dominates with o  few exceptions, two of which must be influenced by the Kashmirian school itself.I1 two other exceptions present as fourth head in one case a horse's head (pointing to Hayagriva Avatdra) in the other a Cakrapurusa - both unfavourable for an interpre  tion in terms of the Caturvyaha doctrine.16  4. The three-faced Visnu image showing a central human head flanked by a boar's an  a lion's head is from an iconogenetic view the starting point for the so called Visvar  image. Both of these, in addition to the lion and boar heads, are sometimes enlarg by a Matsya and a Kurma figure, and in some cases even by a Hayagriva (emergin  from the central figure of Visnu), all of them Avatiras.17  5. If we take the three-faced image in terms of a threefold structure - that means a centr  Visnu flanked by his Narasimha- and Vardha-Avatdras - we can find this same conc tion in several other artistic surroundings:  a. The Visnu-temple at Eran (ancient Airikina) from ca. 500oo A.D. was flanked a Varaha- and a Narasimha-temple.18 b. One of the four door-lintels of a medieval Siva-temple in Ndchnd Kuthard depi Vardha in the upper left, Narasimha in the upper right corner. Originally, thi  door must have been part of a Visnu-temple erected in Gupta times (accordi  to W. Spink).19 Hypothetically we can say, that the Visnu image in the garbha ha of that Visnu-temple (now lost) was the point of reference of these two tin  Avatdra figures.  c. Several medieval Hindu temples embellish their (only) three devakosthas wi  three Vaisnava images: Visnu at the rear of the garbhagrha, Vardha and Narasim  on the north and south sides:  14 Epic and Purdnic references in A. Gail, Parajurama - Brahmane und Krieger, Wiesbaden 1977, p. 45 f.  15 D. Barrett, Sculptures of the Shdhi Period, in: Oriental Art n.s. Summer 1957, vol. III, no.2, p. 5 5, fig.slab (fro  Afghanistan). - B.C. Bhattacharya, Indian Images, Part I, 19z21, P1. IV; Maxwell, op. cit., p. 70, describes this piece "Visnu with lion and boar side-heads, accurately differentiated, and bearded rear mask with jatdbhdra; stone, h. 1  in (fragment), 9th century AD, discovered at Varanasi. The piece does not appear to have been exported from Kashmir; it is of North Indian Medieval style. - Tepa Collection, Varendra Research Society Museum, Rangpur,  Bangla Desh."  16 R.C. Agrawala, op. cit., p.5 and 18.  17 Testimonies collected by Maxwell, op. cit., and by the same author, The Deogarh Vibvaripa: A Structural Analysis,  in: aarp 8, pp. 8-23. 18 A. Cunningham, ASI, vol. X, pl. XXV. A double-cell structure (C-D) between the Visnu- and Narasimha-temple is, according to Cunningham, ibid. p. 88, connected with the Budha Gupta Pillar vis-a-vis. 19 Walter M. Spink, A Temple with Four Uchchakalpa (?) Doorways at Ndchnd Kuthard, in: Chhavi: Golden Jubilee  Volume, Bharat Kald Bhavan, Banares 1971, pp. 163-I165, Figs. 319-321. 300   WIT  it - ::  =Sw orrnoi, RF v  town,  SM,  _  1WMtt:  fli  ONO  M Ig  ANN  st"'.  SWAI'  Vn%100  I  ?F.;ppppp  n  *W  13  In  g?  ir 01.  YZIM  . :11 0 .0 9  goal an 1 &1  Fu2  M. gyns  P, IPA  r:  ..........  Is,  SAM  Fig. i Visudeva: front side of caturmurti image,  CdrnIrdyan temple, Patan, Nepal, 1i5 6 5 A.D.   v   ow  AM  ?.fl ox,  MIX-,  Fig. 2 Samkarsana: left side of caturmurti image (v. fig. I)   X" A  too.  ma  05  bm  V?m  ImIq  WW ?gxm  1?  WS  FIR two 7  XO.  4 oil"  . . . . . . . . . . . 1  TAN  slim:  Fig. 3 Pradyumna: back side of caturmirti image (v. fig. i)  iiiiiiiiiiiiii.........l  {iiiiiiiiiiiii~iii~iiiilliZ -  iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiAAiiii  Fig. 4 Aniruddha: right side of caturmurti image (v. fig.
Search
Tags
Related Search
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks
SAVE OUR EARTH

We need your sign to support Project to invent "SMART AND CONTROLLABLE REFLECTIVE BALLOONS" to cover the Sun and Save Our Earth.

More details...

Sign Now!

We are very appreciated for your Prompt Action!

x