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The Dance of Shiva

Om tryambaka yajmahe sugandhi pui-vardhanam urvrukam iva bandhann mtyormukya mmtt The above verse from Rigveda [7.59.12], known as the Mahamritunjaya or the Death-conquering Mantra is dedicated to Lord Shiv. Ironically, it is Shiva Himself who is revered as the harbinger of the final Destruction of the World! Who is Shiva? What are the origins of this mighty god in Hindu religion and what are the different facets of His personality? In this post, let us try to analyze this enigmatic god and learn what it means to be the Lord of Destruction.. Shiva, the Destroyer As mentioned in the Page {33 Devas} of this blog, Lord Shiv, along with Prajapati Brahma and Shri Hari Vishnu, forms a part of the highest echelons of the hierarchy amongst Gods known as the Trimurti. All three fit into the scheme of things perfectly with their respective roles being coplimentary to each other.

Brahma, the First in the Trinity, is the Creator and Master of all Divine Ceremonies. Vishnu, the Preserver god who incarnates to help mankind face the challenges posed whenever Evil forces become too dominant in the Universe. Shiva, destroys at the End of Time and thus sustains the endless rhythm of the Universe ensuring a continuous cycle of renewal and growth.

Mahadev-Shiv-Pashupati-Rudra

In their mistaken belief, some scholars argue that Shiva had a pre-Aryan origin because he was worshiped in the Indus Valley. But, as mentioned in the page { Hindu History} of the blog, the Aryan Civilization, if not earlier, was at the very least contemporary to the Indus-Saraswati Civilization and Vedic scriptures, more likely than not, reflect the literally aspect of the same. That the Mahabharat follows the Indus perception of Shiva again shows that the two developed same imagery and that this penultimate battle between Good and Evil occurred around the same time as the Indus-Saraswati Civilization! In an article titled {The Riddle of India's Ancient Past}, the French proto-historian Michel Danino believes there are strong links between Vedas and the Harappan culture. 'We find statues and seals depicting yogis and yogic postures, we find a Shiva-like deity, worship of a mother-goddess, fire altars, all of which are suggestive of Vedic culture. Harappan symbols include the Trishul, the Swastika, the Conch shell, the Peepal tree, all of which are central to Indian culture. The Rig-Veda itself is full of references to fortified cities and towns, to oceans, sailing, trade and industry, all of which are found in the Harappan civilization.' Pashupati Seal from Indus-Saraswati excavations

The Pashupati seal (2700 BCE) shows a three-headed figure sitting in a Yogic posture surrounded by animals, sometimes with an erect phallus, and more likely than not is an iconic representation of Shiva-Rudra. Exactly similar description arises in the Mahabharat, where the Lord is referred to as Trishira (having three heads); Digvasas (without clothes); Urddh-linga (with upward erect phallus), and Yogadhyaksha, or the Lord of Yoga. As you probably know from my other posts, I love to find out the similarities between the mythologies from different parts of the world. Keeping up with the tradition, I here share with you the image of the horned god Cernunnos worshiped in Europe around 1st century CE. The Horned Gods - Pashupati & Cernunnos

Just like Shiva, Cernunnos is believed to be the god of Nature and Fertililty and is still revered in Celtic mythology as the 'Lord of Animals' (quite similar to the Indus Pashupati!). Whatever the connection between the two, it is not easy to understand Shiva completely as He is described variously at various places with completely opposite attributes. In Yajurveda, the contrary attributes are referred to as Rudra, the terrifying and Shiva, the auspicious (Sanskrit Shiv = Shubh). Some scholars believe Rudra to be the older form which was merged later with a 'Non-Aryan' god Shiva or Pashupati in later times. But do the scriptures support such a hypothesis? Shiva, the Consummate Yogi

Rudra, the Destroyer of Creation

{Image courtesy - Devon ke dev, Mahadev}

Shiva or Rudra? The story of Rudra's birth is very interesting and is identically revealed in many Puranas. As I had earlier mentioned in the post {Creation by Brahma}, inspite of Brahma's efforts at populating the world, the early sons of Brahma chose to follow the path of Spirituality instead of procreation and Brahma was sorely disappointed. His first creations, the Sanat Kumars, in fact abhorred entering the Samsar Chakra so much that they continue living the form of 5 year old kids and never attain puberty! This, however, frustrated Brahma so much that from his forehead, (the region of the third eye) emerged a dark red/blue child bawling at the top of his voice. This angry baby was named Rudra (The Howler)! Rudra born from Brahma's Frown

However, Rudra, was more spiritually inclined than Brahma, and decided to follow the path of Tapas or Penance and thus entered samadhi in the Garbhodak Ocean. It was only after a lot of cajoling and praying by Brahma, that He agreed to help in procreation and manifested 10 more beings with the same appearance as him (Binary Fission?!?). These are the 11 Rudras, and Rig Veda [2.33], describes Shiv as the Father-of-All-Rudras. Thus, we see, that the scriptures find NO difference between Rudra and Shiva except that the first term encompasses eleven gods, the First and Foremost of whom is Lord Shiv. Therefore, the hypothesis that Shiva was a non-Aryan god who was merged with Rudra is baseless.

Lord Shiv with the Rudras

But Brahma got terrified of these three-eyed fierce forms! He requested Lord Shiv to create a more benign aspect of Himself and that is how Shakti was given a form.

Shiva and Shakti

Rudra, thus took the form of Ardhanarishwar and generated a female principle from His left half who was the Rudrani. Each of the 11 Rudras similarly obtained a consort thus providing Brahma some satisfaction of seeing his creations multiply. Shiva's consort Uma or Shakti is the primeval Goddess who also represents the Yogmaya of Lord Vishnu. Lord as Ardha-naarishwar

The festival of Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiv was married to Parvati, the final form of Uma who was earlier born as Daksha's daughter Sati. The union of Shiva and Shakti is represented symbolically in the form of the Lingam and the Yoni. It symbolizes Hieros-gamos or the 'Sacred Union' between God and the Goddess that gives birth to creation. It is yet another tribute to the ancient Indians'

acceptance of the sexual act as a natural phenomenon and one that needs to be worshiped and not abhorred. The same union is celebrated in Tibetan Tantrism where it is referred to as YabYum (Father-Mother). Shiva is depicted here as Yamantaka or End-of-Yama revealing the episode when He rescued Rishi Markandeya from Yamdev's noose literally at gun-point (Trident point if you please!). Yamantaka Shiva in Yab-Yum formation

Mahashivratri is also believed to be the night when Shiva appeared in the form of a Lingam of Fire and challenged the gods Brahma and Vishnu's contest for supremacy. That was the night Lord Vishnu's magnanimity came to fore while Brahma's cheating led to Shiva putting the curse that he would never be worshiped. We see now a reason why Shiva would have invoked belligerence in his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati. After all, Daksha was the eldest Manas-putra of Brahma and could not have taken kindly to this denigration of his father's position from the Headof-the-Trinity to its bottom! Perhaps, that was also the reason, that he balked at the idea of his most favored daughter Sati, falling in love with the man he so heartily despised!! Shiva with His beloved Sati in happier times

Sati did eventually marry Lord Shiv against her father's wishes and ultimately sacrificed herself in the Yagnya fire at Kankhal, Haridwar to protect her husband's honor. The story shows a completely new side of Shiva where the Supreme Master-of-Senses loses control and decides to take revenge by beheading Daksha! Mahadev's anger gives birth to Veerbhadra

Virbhadra, born from Shiva's locks beheads Daksha

This is what makes Shiva more relatable to us humans.. it shows that even at the highest level of spirituality, the bonds of affection may cause a person to slip and plunge into gloom or anger. Shiva carries the corpse of Sati on His shoulder lamenting His loss till Lord Vishnu uses His Chakra to disintegrate the body. Each part of the body falling on Earth provides a Divine foundation and thus are formed the 51 Shaktipeeths (Seats-ofEnergy)! While both Shiva and Shakti represent the Male and Female forms, their vehicles also represent their innate attributes. Shiva's vehicle Nandi, the bull, represents magnificence, virility and proud masculinity while Parvati's vehicle, the mountain Lion or Singh represents her Power or Shakti and the taming of animal instincts by the Mother Goddess. Archaeologically, we find this reflected in the Zebu bull seals of Indus-Saraswati Civilization (which may represent Nandi) and surprise, surprise, in a far-off valley in Turkey known as Yazili Kaya! The rock-cut friezes in these caves belong to 16th-17th century BCE and show a God Teshav riding a bull, while the accompanying Goddess Hakat rides a Lion and is accompanied by a young boy Kumarbi (Kumar Kartikeya?). Zebu Bull from Harrapan seals

Yazili Kaya rock-cut frieze with God on Bull and Goddess on Lion

The worship of Shiva and Shakti thus represents an ancient rite of recognizing the Universe as a balance of the Male and the Female, the Doer and the Energy, the Yin and the Yang and the Yab and the Yum. Similar Oneness-in-Duality is also seen in the combined form of Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Har) that depicts both deities as two faces of the same coin working hand-in-hand to ensure smooth functioning of the Universe. Hari-Hara the Divine combination of Shri Vishnu and Mahadev

The Abode of Shiva Mount Kailash is believed to be the abode of Shiv and Parvati. There are many mentions of it in the various Puranas and other scriptures like Ramayan and Mahabharat. The mountain is sacred for not only Hindus but also Buddhists, Jains and

followers

of

Bon

religion.

Satellite Image of Mt. Kailash with Mansarovar and Rakshas Taal

Catching a glimpse of the Holy Mountain

Jains worship the region as their First Tirthankar, Rishabhdev attained Nirvana here (Check the post {India and Bharat} for more on Adinath Rishabhdev). Tibetan Buddhists worship Mount Kailash as the home of the Buddha Demchok or Chakrasamvara, who represents supreme bliss. The followers of Bn religion credit the entire region, especially Kailash, as the seat of

all spiritual power. Indeed the area gives one a feeling of entering a more spiritual plane especially when you see mountain peaks like that of the Om Parvat. View of the Om Parvat en route to Mount Kailash

Inspite of numerous references to it, the readers might be surprised to know, that Kailash was not always the home of Shiva! Infact, some passages of the Shrimad Bhagvat Puraan state that the original abode of Sadashiv is at the boundary of this Universe at the Loka-aloka border! The Original Abode of Lord Shiv

These verses in the Vayu Puraan, Chapter 39 shed more light on the details of this place: [230] Beyond Brahmaloka and beneath the upper crust of the Cosmic Egg in between these two is Shivas city, his divine abode called MANOMAYA. [238] The city shines with scattered diamond dust. These worlds are lit from within, meaning their reality does not consist of reflected light, as does our material world.

[264-266] Lord Maheshwar [the transcendent Lord Shiv] of ten arms sports therein He is respected and diligently worshiped by the people moving about in aerial chariots.
This, then is the Original and Supreme abode of Shiva where He resides till the end of Creation and is visited by the other gods in their space-crafts {Check the post Lokas or Alien Planets for more on this topic}. Kailash may actually be the temporary home where the Lord comes for a small time, maybe as a summer-retreat! Shiva Family on Mount Kailash

This would also make sense, since geologically, the Himalayas (of which Mount Kailash is a part), did not rise up till about 5o million years ago! Since Hindu Timelines begin close to 155 Trillion years (the present age of Brahma), hence, obviously Lord Shiv would have had to live somewhere else before finally making Kailash His home!! Also, the Himalayas wont stay forever as the Pralaya or the End-of-the-World would destroy the World as we know it and Brahma would then remould it into a new shape.

At that time, Shiva would probably return to the abode known as Manomaya with His family and Kailash may or may not come into being again.

Naimittik Pralaya The destruction that takes place at the end of a daytime of Brahma is referred to as Naimittik, implying incidental or occasional opposed to Prakritik Pralaya that takes place at the end of Brahma's lifetime. {Check the post - Pralaya, the End of Days for more on this} The characteristic of this destruction is that the three worlds (Bhur, Bhuvah and Swarga) continue to exist but are made uninhabitable. The souls of individuals also continue to exist to be reincarnated in the next daytime of Brahma. The Shiv Purana [2.3.20.14-19] states that the fall off of the energy residing in the THIRD EYE of Shiva fell like lightning and Brahma had to take it to the ocean and keep it under check there else it could burn the entire creation! The energy thus released was stored underwater in the shape of a mare and is known as the Vadava {Check this link for details - On Wings of Fire}. The fire-mare resides under the ocean (Molten Earth's core?) and one of the myths calls her wife of Yama and hence a harbinger of Death. Vadava Fire hidden below the Oceans

Interestingly, the Pineal gland in Human beings is located at the region of the Third-Eye and has tissue similar to that of the normal functioning eye. Indeed the

gland in many vertebrates has cells similar to the photoreceptors of eye used for vision! Could it then be another vestigial organ that we humans possessed earlier but now has a very limited value?? Lord Shiv, then would be the most ancient progenitor of our race in whom the organ functions as it should! The Deep Seated Third Eye

Shiva, the only being with a Completely functional Pineal Gland?

Swayambhu Manu states alludes to this fire from Shiva's Eye again stating that in two cases Fire is born out of Water. One, at the time of Lightening and secondly, in the case of the under-water Vadava Mare. Brihadaranyak Upanishad [1.1.2] states

that the open mouth of this mare keeps releasing fire in the Sea from time to time, perhaps alluding to submarine eruptions common in the ocean floor! Submarine Volcanoes - Flames of the Vadava Fire?

Eruption of an Underwater Volcano

Normally, the fire is kept in check with the waters of the Global Ocean. But as Mahabharat verses [12.248.13-17] state, the end of the Day of Brahma is nigh that Rudra sparks off the fire again and this explosion from the mare's mouth in the Southern Ocean begins the process of Pralaya.

Vishnu Purana [1.7.24-40] also agrees that this destruction would begin with an underwater explosion that will take place in the Southern Ocean. It will be succeeded by a 100 year drought during which the seas, rivers, and streams will all be drained of water. The sun is replaced by seven suns (Sun will increase in size?), and the three world as well as the underworlds are burned bare of life. This then, is the Final Destiny of our planet and this is what we call Tandav, the Final Dance of Shiva. As each atom is created, another is destroyed and this continues forever in a cyclical manner. Lord Shiv who drinks the terrible poison Halahal to save all Life, also destroys Life-as-we-know-it in the form of Rudra. Shiva drinks poison to save Life yet also annihilates at the End of Time

I conclude this post with the invocation I started the post with as there is nothing better to pray for except getting out of this Samsara Chakra. This Mahashivratri, let us remember the Lord with our hearts and minds and pray for deliverance: Om tryambaka yajmahe sugandhi pui-vardhanam urvrukam iva bandhann mtyormukya mmtt OM, We worship Shiva, the Three-eyed fragrant Lord, Who nourishes and nurtures all beings, As is the ripened cucumber freed from its bondage (to the creeper), May He liberate us from Death and take us to Immortality. Aum Shanti: Shanti: Shanti: Posted by Vineet Aggarwal at 00:23 28 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook Links to this post Labels: The Dance of Shiva Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Saturday, January 12, 2013

Seventh Horse of the Sun


Suraj ka saatvaan ghoda..

Still remember this title from an obscure movie I had watched on Doordarshan as a kid. The movie went on to become a classic by Shyam Benegal and the phrase has always stayed in some corner of my mind.. What could it have meant, the '7th Horse of the Sun'?? For that matter, why have seven horses in the first place? In Hindu mythology, Surya travels through the sky on a seven-horse, twelve-spoked chariot, driven by Arun (the brother of Garud), with its arrival heralded by Usha, the goddess of Dawn. As the Sun begins its journey in the Northern Hemisphere (Uttarayan) again, lets try to decode the mysteries of Surya and his chariot in the current post. Surya on his chariot

A lot of people might think that this motion of the Sun mentioned in the scriptures refers to the apparent movement of Sun from East to West, but that's not the case Vedic texts clearly mention that the Sun revolves NOT around the Earth but around Mount Meru! If you check the post {Heaven at the North Pole} you will understand what it means.. Mount Meru points towards the Pole Star which, at the time scriptures were written, was a Star near the Galactic Center so effectively, scriptures indicate that our Sun revolves around the Galactic Center and NOT the Earth.. What an amazing insight!! Uttarayan reflects the apparent movement of the Sun towards the Northern Hemisphere heralding the decline of winter while causing the opposite effect in the Southern Hemisphere. Earth revolves around the Sun with a tilt of 23.45 degrees and because of this tilt, it appears that the Sun travels north and south of the equator.

Sankrant reflects the change of Season

This in turn causes seasons which are thus dependent on equinoxes and solstices and the festival of Makar Sankranti heralds the onset of a glorious Sun and end of the harsh winters. In many parts of the country, it is also harvest time so the celebrations take form of the regional variants like Lohri, Bihu and Pongal.

Adityas - The 12 Solar gods Oldest Vedic texts describe Surya alongwith 11 other brothers collectively known as the Adityas. Adityas form a group of solar deities and are so named because they are the sons of Kashyap and Aditi. They form the main body of the Hindu pantheon and are comprised of: Ansh Aryaman Bhaag Daksh Dhatri/Tvashtar Mitra (Due (Due (Ritual (Skill share), (Nobility), inheritance), skill), crafting), (Friendship),

in

Pushan/Ravi Savitra/Parjanya Surya/Vivasvan Varun Vaman

(Power (Social (Cosmic (Cosmic

of

(Prosperity), word), law), fate), law).

Earliest scriptures actually mention 8 or 9 of them but later in the Brahmanas the number is given as 12. It isn't difficult to understand that the 12 Adityas correspond to 12 months of the year! According to Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak's masterpiece called {Arctic Home of the Vedas}, the change in their number reflects the gradual migration of Arya rishis from near the Pole to the tropics after the Ice Age! As they migrated closer to the tropics, the number of months when Sun was up kept on increasing till they reached the Indian sub-continent. Interestingly, in Chinese mythology as well, there were originally ten suns in the sky, who were brothers and were supposed to emerge one at a time as commanded by the Jade Emperor. The 12 Adityas were also adopted into Japanese Buddhism as guardians of the monasteries covering the four main directions, four semi-directions, above, below and the Sun and Moon. They are known as Devas or Ten in Japan (which literally means Heaven or Celestial).

The 12 Japanese Adityas

A similar depiction is found on a rock-cut cave far away in Yazili Kaya in Turkey! This rock-cave has multiple depictions of Gods and Goddesses that resemble Hindu gods. The lower chamber in this cave shows a frieze with 12 gods carved onto it who were worshiped by the people known as Hittites. The 12 Adityas from Turkey

Moving westwards, it is also worthwhile to note that in most Indo-European religions, the gods worshiped were more or less the same. Thus, the Greeks called their Sun-god Helios while others named him Apollo. The Greek Sun-god Helios/Apollo

For the Romans, the cult of Sol Invictus or 'Undefeated Sun' was supreme. Roman Emperor Constantine adhered to it so much that even when he embraced Christianity, he changed the day of Sabbath from Friday to SUN-day!! Sol Invictus

During the heyday of the Roman Empire, there was also a grand festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) held on the Winter solstice on December 25th. This was a sort of 'Rebirth of the Sun' and the same date was later transferred to the 'Birth of Christ' even though Jesus was actually born on the 4th of January!! The worship of Surya was prevalent in other ancient civilizations of the world as well. Mayans (who scared the World with their 2012 Doomsday prophecy) called him Hunahpu. The Aztecs named him Tonatiuh, Japanese revered him as Chupkamui, and the Babylonians called him Aja. The Egyptians worshiped Sun in the form of Re/Ra. In Egyptian myths of the afterlife, Ra rides in an underground channel from west to east every night so that he can rise in the east the next morning. Egyptian Sun-god Re

In Vedas, Surya is considered in high esteem and is referred to as Surya Narayan and at various times, as the eye of Mitra or Varuna, the cosmic law-keepers. The same is reflected in Zoroastrianism where the Sun is described as the 'Eye of Ahura'.

In India of course different dynasties trace their lineages from the Sun with Shri Raam as a descendant of Surya, thus belonging to the Suryavansh or the Solar Dynasty. The Ramayan also declares Surya as the father of the Vanar King Sugriv just as the Mahabharat describes Karna, as the son of Kunti and Surya. Perhaps, amongst the Aryans, the blonde, blue-eyed lineages migrating from the Steppes represented the Descendants-of-the-Golden-Sun! Hindu Sun-god Surya

Surya has two wives Sangya and Chhaya (literally the shadow) and through them has the folowing children: Shani (Saturn), Yamraj (Lord-of-Death), Yamuna, Tapti, Ashwini Twins and the eldest of these Vaivasvat Manu, the First Man in the current Age or Manvantar. {For more on the First Man Manu/Adam check the following post - Manu, the First Man} However, this is NOT TO SAY that the ancient Indians thought of the Star called SUN as a demigod and did not understand its true significance! Various Hindu astronomical treatise describe the heavenly bodies as planets or Lokas ruled by different deities. Surya-Loka, abode of the Sun-God

The Shatapath Brahman [7.1.1.37] states that - This World (Earth) is verily spherical and while installing the Garhapataya altar the ritualists meditate on the same. Similarly, the shlokas [7.4.1.10] and [9.1.2.40] describe the Sun as spherical. The Surya-Siddhant [12.12-29] expressly states that the Universe itself is shaped like an oblong sphere!

The references to Surya's chariot, in a similar manner, can provide us not only information about the ancient Hindus' religious and cosmological beliefs but also about their Science and Astronomical acumen! (You can find the Sanskrit version at this link {Surya Siddhanta.pdf} and the English version here {Surya-Siddhanta English.pdf}).

Chariot of the Sun-God Various scriptures describe the Celestial chariot of the Sun. Rig Veda [1.35] says: Throughout the dusky firmament advancing, Laying to rest the immortal and the mortal, Borne in his golden chariot he cometh, Savitar, God who looks on every creature. While the Greek Apollo used to ride four-horse chariot, Vedic texts clearly mention Seven horses of Surya who are called - Gayatri, Brhati, Usnik, Jagati, Tristup, Anustup and Pankti. The Rig Veda [1.164.1-5] says: A seven-named horse draws the three naved wheel, Seven steeds draw the seven-wheeled chariot, Wise poets have spun a seven-strand tale, And glorified this Heavenly calf, the Sun. The immediate question that comes to mind is why SEVEN?? It was rare for Vedic chariots to have more than four horses. Even the chariot of Arjun driven by Krishna Himself had only four horses so why would the Chariot of the Sun have more than four? Most scholars believe the seven horses represent Seven days of the week. Ancient Indians were great astronomers and this could very well be true. However, I believe, the seven horses probably also represent the Seven colors of Sunlight! There are two reasons I believe this is the case - One, the seven horses/mares of Surya's chariot are ALL of DIFFERENT Colors; Secondly, many times, they are represented as One horse/mare with SEVEN HEADS! If this is not an allegory to White light splitting into seven colors, I don't know what is :o)

The seven horses of Surya?

Other scriptures talk in a similar vein and describe the chariot of the Sun-god in much detail. Although Arun-deva sits in front of the sun-god and is engaged in driving the chariot, he looks backward toward the sun-god. The chariot has a SINGLE wheel with 12 spokes and is yoked to seven horses. Sixty thousand saintly persons named Valkhilyas, each the size of a thumb, are located in front of the sun-god and offer him prayers. The Gandharvs and Pannags sing in front of him, Apsaras dance before the chariot while Nishachars and Yakshas follow and guard it. These seven groups of fourteen associates arrange the proper times for regular snow, heat and rain throughout the universe and are responsible for maintaining the Seasons on Earth!

Chariot of the Sun from a Tanjore painting

Not surprisingly, a similar description is found in the description of Greek/Roman Sun God Apollo's journey across the sky and I found a very similar picture depicting this journey through the Heavens.

The

Surya

Siddhant

further

states:

'The carriage of the sun-gods chariot is estimated to be 3,600,000 yojans [1 Yojan = 14.6 Km] long and one-fourth as wide. In his orbit, the sun-god traverses a distance of 95,100,000 yojans at the speed of 2,000 yojans and two krosas in a moment.' Scholars have used such references to calculate the speed of rotation of the Sun as well as its revolution! The Devi Bhagawat Puraan elaborates further in a description of Mount Meru and its surroundings: O Nrad! Mont Meru is situated towards the north of all the Dvpas and Varshas. So whenever any person sees the Sun rise he calls that side east. If the Sun travels in 15 (fifteen) Ghatiks, the distance from Indrapur to Yamapur, He is said to travel within that time a distance equal to 2 Kotis, 12 lakhs and 25000 Yojans (22695000 Yojans). Here, we also find the relevance of other aspects of the Sun's chariot. The SINGLE WHEEL of the chariot represents ONE YEAR or the Samvatsar while the 12 spokes represent 12 months! The THREE-naves of the wheel more likely than not represent the three points of an elliptical orbit! All these poetic allegories thus give a glimpse into the scientific acumen that the ancients had. The reference to Saturn (Shani) being the Son-of-Surya could even be a reference to the planet having been formed from a chunk of the gases escaped from Sun's own body mass! (Just like the Sun, Saturn and Jupiter are also gaseous giants unlike other planets of the Solar System).

Formation of the Solar System

Formation of Planets

Without the Sun, we wouldn't have existed.. not only because of the Solar energy it provides but the planets including Earth wouldn't have taken form without the gravitational power of the Sun! Our Earth is really tiny compared to the Sun and to share another interesting allegory, you would be surprised to know that the Sun-Earth distance is roughly 108 Sun diameters and the diameter of the Sun itself is 108 times that of Earth. The ancient Rishis and Magi of Hinduism quite possibly knew this relationship as most Gods/Goddesses have 108 names ascribed to them!! This Sankrant, let us bow to the sages of yore and their (literally) out-of-the-world insight while sending a prayer of thanks to the Sun-God who maintains our Solar System. Wishing everyone a Happy Uttarayan 2013 and a very Happy Lohri/Bihu/Maghi/Pongal and Makar Sankranti :o)

. Aum Shanti: Shanti: Shanti: .


Posted by Vineet Aggarwal at 11:25 18 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook Links to this post Labels: Seven Horses of Surya Location: Pune, Maharashtra, India
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rama - History behind the Legend


Aum Namah Raghukul-shiromani Kaushalya-nandan Dashrath-putra Shri Raam {I bow to Lord Rama, The Son-of Dashrath, Born-of-Kaushalya, Scion-of-the-Raghu clan}

Since the auspicious home-coming of Shri Raam (Deepawali) is nigh, I thought of writing a post on my favorite Lord. As recognized by the Supreme Court of India, the existence of Shri Raam can not be decided only by historical or scientific evidence, it is a matter of faith to millions of people.

Yet, it is my effort in this post to analyze the historical and literary evidence pertaining to Lord Raam just as we did in the post on Lord Krishna {Krishna - The Historical Enigma}. The primary source of life and journey of Shri Raam is the epic Ramayana composed by Maharishi Valmiki. The learned sage wanted to write an epic that would serve as an inspiration for generations to come, and highlight the ideals of human behavior in various roles assigned by the society. Devarishi Narad, the spiritual mendicant of the Heavens, suggested to him to write about the life and times of Shri Raam, the doyen of the Suryavanshi clan and the most beneficient ruler the land had ever seen. This acknowledgement is mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayan itself and is our first suggestion that the story was based on an actual historical figure. Ramayan itself declares that it belongs to the genre of Itihasa (History) and the only other two sacred books in that genre are the Mahabharat and the Harivamsha.

Other Literary Evidence for Rama Besides Valmiki Ramayan (4th century BCE), many other scriptures also attest to Shri Raam's existence. Vishnu Puraan declares Rama as Lord Vishnu's seventh incarnation, and the Bhagavat Puraan, recounts the story of Lord Rama in the 9th Skanda and counts him amongst the 24 major incarnations of the Vishnu Tattva.

The Epic Battle between Forces of Good and Evil

{Image courtesy - Grant Morrison's 18 Days} Mahabharat also mentions the story of Rama in the Aranyak Parva, Dron Parva and the Raam-opakhyan where its is narrated to the eldest Pandav, Yuddhishthir. Shri Raam Avatar also finds place in the Harivansh and the Agni Puraan. Not only these scriptures from Hindu literature, but Buddhist and Jain texts also record the story of Rama and mention it in their own respective styles: In Buddhism, Ramayan is present in the form of Dasarath Jatak, Dasrath Kathanak and Anamak Jatak, the first of which was composed in the 2nd century BCE. This version talks of Rama and Sita as siblings (which is a common symbolic imagery in early Buddhist literature to denote purity of a dynasty). In Jain literature, Ramayan exists as the Padma Charita, Charitra Puran, Padmachariyam etc. where, Rama, Lakshman and Ravan represent the Baladev, Vasudev and Prati-vasudev concepts of Jain mythology respectively. Keepin with the Jain tradition of non-violence, it is Lakshman who kills Ravan and due to the use of violence, both go to hell while Lord Rama (known as Padma) goes back to heaven. All these unrelated sources chronicling the life of Rama can not be false or fake.. There has to be SOME reason that ALL these diverse traditions decided to write

about

Shri

Raam

and

share

His

life

story!

However, even with all this literary evidence, we do not have much archaeologically to help us in our endeavor like we did for Krishna in the post {Krishna - The Historical Enigma}, and the reason for that will be clear soon enough! To illustrate my point, I share the following excerpts declaring the time of arrival of the 7th Avatar of lord Vishnu on our Planet: Treta yuge chaturvinshe ravane tapseh shakshyat | Ram dashrtathi prapiye sagane shakyamiyeewan || [Vayu Puraan 70.88] Chaturvinshe yuge chapi vishwamitra pure sare | Loke ram iti khyate tejsah bhaskaropam || [Harivansh 22.104] Chaturvinshe yuge vats tretayaam raghuvanshaje | Ramo naam bhavishyami chaturvhayu sanatane || [Brahmand Puraan 2.2.36.30]

On the basis of the given references it can be inferred that Shri Raam lived in the 24th Treta Yug. The Mahabharat further elaborates the exact timeline to the juncture of the Treta and the Dvapar Yugs: Sandho tu samanupraptre tretayaam dwaparisya cha | Ramo daasrathirbhutva bhavishami jagatpati || [Mahabharat 348.19] Now this is ground-breaking information people and I will tell you why! We are currently in the Kaliyuga of the 28th YUGA CYCLE of the 51 st Day of Brahma. Hence Lord Rama was born not just Two Yugs ago but TWO YUGS plus THREE CHATUR-YUGS before present!! THIS is why digging for archaeological data to corroborate the existence of Shri Raam would be futile. There is no way we could find any man-made artifacts after millenia as the scriptures put Shri Raam's period to be 18 million years ago! Even if we consider this duration to be in Deva Years, it comes to more than 40,000 years. {For relation between Deva and Human Years, check the page Kalchakra of this blog} For the same reason, 7323 BCE or 5114 BCE as the birth years of Shri Raam can not be correct. Even though the dates were arrived at through a thorough analysis of Lord Rama's birth charts and have a very sound basis but based on what scriptures

say,

we

have

to

make

correction

in

them.

These analyses done by Prof. Vartak and Pushkar Bhatnagar show that at a certain point in time, the planetary configuration mentioned at the time of Lord Rama's birth DID indeed exist and thus, the numerous astrological references in the Ramayan are not imaginary but refer to ACTUAL points in time.

Alignment of Stars at the time of Lord Rama's birth

A solution to the apparent mismatch of dates can be found if we realize that because of a phenomenon known as the 'Precession of Equinoxes', stars as visualized from Earth, regain the same positions every 26,000 years! Hence, this particular permutation of stars could belong to 5114 BCE + 26,000 or 26,000 years before that or the similar period before that or the one before and so on and so forth.. What is amazing is that even today the places related to Lord Rama, the stories, the Geographical co-ordinates of the cities mentioned etc. are still remembered in the Hindu tradition! Therefore, what we can still do is track and analyze this GEOGRAPHICAL evidence in the literary masterpiece of Ramayan and find out if they help us in our cause.

Ramayan - The Adi-kavya Numerous versions of Ramayan exist throughout the length and the breadth of the country and even outside its boundaries but the oldest of these is the Valmiki Ramayan and for our analysis, we will stick to the original as it is the most ancient and accurate one. Let me begin with a very interesting anachronism mentioned in this version of the Ramayan. Sundar Kanda [4.27.12] states that Hanuman, on entering Lanka, sees FOUR-TUSKED elephants guarding the palaces of Ravan. These elephants are tall and imposing and have been trained to protect Lanka from invaders. A similar account is given by Trijata, the ogress guarding Sita ji in Chapter 27 of the same Kanda when she dreams of Lord Rama coming to Sita's rescue riding an elephant high as a hill and bearing four-tusks. So what is so special about these accounts?? Well, fossil remains show that there were many steps in the evolution of the 'Modern Elephant' and there DID exist four-tusked ancestors of elephants in various shapes and sizes such as Trilophodon, Tetralophodon, Gomphotherium etc around 20 million years ago! How in the world could Rishi Valmiki have known about the four-tusked ancestors of the modern elephant unless he had seen them himself or was told about them by Narad???

Four-tusked elephants mentioned in Valmiki Ramayan lived millions of years ago!

This apparent anachronism, though not rock-solid evidence, is yet another point that puts us in a time frame closer to what the scriptures say. Let us now see what geographical evidence we can glean out of the masterpiece of Valmiki Ramayan that forms the foundation of cultural traditions right from India to the Far East and check whether the Ramayan contains accurate information or describes a make-believe land.

Geographical Evidence from Valmiki Ramayan Ramayan (Travels of Rama) itself indicates a Geographical journey. The story begins in Ayodhya (The-Unconquerable-City), the center of power for the ruling Suryavanshi/Solar Dynasty kings. Shri Raam's mother Kaushalya was from the kingdom called Koshala, which corresponds to the state of Chattisgarh of today. Sumitra was from Magadh (Bihar) while Kaikeyi was from above Gandhar, the kingdom called Kaikeya which is today's Waziristan.

The journey of Lord Rama to recover Sita ji covers the length and breadth of the country and Valmiki Ramayan is extremely correct Geographically.

Major Kingdoms of the sub-continent in Ramayan Times

The authenticity of Geography right from Gandhar to Sri Lanka can not be the result of imagination! Before being judgmental, we should remember that this was in a time when the modern means of transport/communication/internet etc. were not available. It has to be based on actual witnessing of these places by either the author or the one narrating the story to him, who in this case was Devarishi Narad.

Sites within India Let us begin with Shri Raam's birthplace Ayodhya which although in dispute because

of the political battle centered around it, can still yield a lot of information. To begin with, we have to answer the million dollar question - did an ancient temple exist at the disputed site in Ayodhya? Indeed, before the demolition of Babri Masjid, there had been excavations around the temple precinct which gave indications of not one but many older temple foundations existing there. The Imperial Gazetteer of Faizabad (1881) confirms the construction of three Moghul mosques at Ayodhya on the site of three celebrated shrines: Janmasthan, Swargadwar and Treta-ka-Thakur. Archaeological Survey of India tells us that Mir Khan (on Babar's orders) built the mosque at Janmasthan using many of its columns. The other two mosques were built later by Aurangzeb who was one step ahead of Babar in his zealotry. From 1975 to 1980, the Archaeological Survey of India had under the guidance of Prof. B.B. Lal, unearthed (literally) as many as 20 black stone pillars, 16 of which formed the base of the 'Janmasthan Masjid' as it was called colloquially even then. The pillars were much bigger in size than those of the mosque and clearly belonged to a much more grand structure.

Check out the man on the left as reference for the size of the pillars

On further stratigraphic and other evidence, Prof. Lal also found a door-jamb carved with Hindu icons and decorative motifs of yakshas, yakshis, kirtimukhas, purnaghattas, double lotus flowers etc. Excavation was resumed on July 2, 1992 by S.P. Gupta, Y.D. Sharma, K.M. Srivastava and other senior archaeologists barely six months before the demolition. Prof. Lal's southern trenches had missed a huge pit with 40 and odd sculptures just by 10 to 12 feet discovered by the team even though he DID get the pillar bases which others did not get later.

Excavations at Ram Janmabhoomi Sthal

The team found artifacts ranging from the 1st through the 12th century CE! These findings included religious sculpture, terracotta images from the Kushan period (100300 CE) and a statue of Lord Vishnu. They concluded that these and other fragments such as the amakalas, or the cogged-wheel crown of the spire belonged to a temple of the North Indian Nagara style of Temple architecture (900-1200 CE).

The most important finding is what is known as the Hari-Vishnu Inscription written in 12th century CE Devanagari script. Line 15 of this inscription clearly tells us that A beautiful temple of Vishnu-Hari, was built with heaps of stones and beautified with a golden spire unparalleled by any other temple built by earlier kings... This wonderful temple was built in the temple-city of Ayodhya situated in Saketamandala. Line 19 describes god Vishnu as destroying king Bali and the ten headed Dashanan, i.e., Ravan.

Hari-Vishnu Inscription from Babri Masjid excavation

Archaeology records at least two destructions: the FIRST in the 12th-13th century; the SECOND in the 16th. This agrees well with history and tradition that temple destructions followed the Ghori invasions (after 1192 AD) and again in 1528 by Babar who replaced temples at major Hindu pilgrimage sites with mosques. Moving on, Sita ji was discovered by Janak in Mithila which now lies in Nepal. It forms a region shared by both India and Nepal and gives birth to the language known as Maithili. The place where the Goddess was found by Raja Janak in a furrow is known as Sitamarhi, and is still revered along with the nearby pond called the Janaki kund. After their wedding, Shri Raam and Sita ji left for Ayodhya via Lumbini where we have an Ashoka Pillar from 249 BCE, with an inscription referring to the visits by both Rama and Buddha to Lumbini. When they were exiled, Lord Rama, Lakshman and Sita went to Shringverpur in Uttar Pradesh where they crossed the River Ganga. They lived on the Chitrakut hill where Bharat met and pleaded for their return. Thereafter, the three wandered

through Dandakaranya in Central India, described as a land of Rakshasas and tribals.

The Journey of Lord Rama

After spending some time there, they reached Nashik, near river Godavari, and the region throbs with sites related to the three Ayodhya-vasis. There is the place where they built their cottage known as Tapovan; Ramkund where Rama and Sita used to

bathe, Lakshmankund, for the younger brother's bathing area, and several other caves associated with their lives in the forest. Shri Raam, Lakshman and Sita ji inTapovan

The three then moved to Panchavati, from where Ravan, with the help of his uncle Mareech, was successful in abducting Sita ji. On the way to Lanka from Panchvati, Ravan was attacked by Jatayu but died a martyr's death. Sita ji dropped her valuables all along the way that were gathered by the Vanars below. Shri Raam and Lakshman then reached Kishkindha, near modern Hampi, where they first met Hanuman and then Sugriv, the exiled King of the Vanars. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Sugriv is described to have lived at Mount Rishyamukha on

the banks of river Pampa (Tungabhadra). Anjanadri, near Hospet, is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman (Anjaneya). Kishkindha, modern Hampi

The Vanar army led by Shri Raam, Sugreev, and Jambvant then reached Rameshwaram, where they built a bridge to Lanka from Dhanushkodi on the Rameshwaram Island to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. While parts of the RAMA-SETU are still visible, NASA had in the early part of this millenium photographed an underwater man-made bridge of shoals in the Palk Straits, connecting India to Lanka. Shri Rama Setu connecting Shri Lanka to the Indian mainland

The existence of Rama Setu had already been confirmed by several foreign travelers including the Venetian traveller Marco Polo (1254-1324), and British cartographers who prepared maps of the area in 1747, 1788 and 1804. The then Manual of the Administration of Madras Presidency mentions both the

names Adams Bridge and Rama Setu. It also says that the Setu was used for pedestrian traffic between India and Sri Lanka right until 1480 when a major cyclone destroyed it!!

The Bridge of Rama

Accurate dating of this bridge can help us in finding an answer but since different studies have come up with different dates, I prefer not to mention them here. Let us now shift our focus to Lanka and try to find out whether there is any geographical location matching with the descriptions in Valmiki Ramayan.

Sites in Sri Lanka Once Ravan had captured Sita ji, he brought her to the place today known as Weragantota in Lanka close to Mahiyangana town; and surprise surprise the meaning of this name in the Sinhalese language is a 'landing place for aircrafts'!! According to the depiction of Pushpak Viman (which Ravan had snatched from his half-brother Kuber), it resembled a huge peacock. In Sinhala it is called the Dhandu Monara (flying peacock) and it is believed that Ravan had an aircraft repair center at Gurulupotha where Sita ji was first brought and quite fittingly, the name means "parts of birds". Right next to it is the Sita Kottuwa jungle in which once stood the city of Lankapura. Ramayan sites in Sri Lanka

Ashok Vatika is the garden where Ravan is supposed to have held Sita ji captive and this is in the area of Sita Eliya, close to the popular hill station Nuwara Eliya. The Sita Pokuna is a barren area atop the Hakgala Rock Jungle where Sita ji was kept captive and the Sita Amman Kovil (Temple) is located here and I was fortunate enough to have paid it a visit last year :o) The Sita Amman Temple near Nuwara Eliya

About 50 Km from here is the Divrumpola Temple which is thought to be the place where Sita ji performed her Agni Pariksha. the name means 'a place for making a vow' and is seen inscribed in the moonstone guarding the Temple. The summit of the mountain next to the Frotoft Tea Estate in Pussallawa is the place where Hanuman is believed to have first set his foot on Lanka! This mountain known as Pawala Malai stands between Ravans capital city and the Ashok Vatika. The Sita tear pond is found en route by the chariot route, and is believed to have been formed by the tears of Sita devi. The forest is also colored with the famed Sita Flowers which are endemic to this area. The peculiarity of these flowers is the configuration of the petals, stamen and pistils, which resemble a human figure carrying a bow, and is said to represent Lord Rama.

Sita flowers

Ella, a small mountain near Bandarawela, boasts of three locations linked to the Ramayan where, local legend dictates, Ravana hid Sita. First there is the Ravana Ella Cave situated in the massive Ella Rock. Then there is Ravana Ella Falls and a nearby pool bored out of the rock by the gushing waters. The tunnels in the Ravan cave believed to have served as a quick means of transport through the hills and also as secret passages. Ravana Falls in Lanka

The Kelani River is mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayan and Vibhishans palace was said to be on the banks of this river. Vibhishan is still considered one of the four guardian deities of Sri Lanka, and temples for Vibishan are found throughout Sri Lanka unlike that of Ravan. There are many more spots connected to the Legend of Shri Raam and a complete list can be found at the following link - {Ramayana_sites_in_sri_lanka}. Ravan, the Lord of Lanka, a mighty warrior, a learned pandit, the master of Three Worlds, the posessor of Amrit, was ultimately defeated by the hands of Shri Raam because in his hubris, he desired what belonged to the Supreme Lord Vishnu Himself. He sacrificed the lives of his brother, his sons and his entire army just to pander to his ego. Despite all his knowledge and erudition, he was not able to get a grip on his desires and lust which ultimately led to his downfall.

Lord Rama ready to unleash the final arrow on Ravan

{Image courtesy - Ramayana 3392 A.D.} Outside India, the millenia old story of Rama is still sung by people all over Asia. While traveling to different countries in this part of the world, I have come across versions that are even older than the regional ones in India!!

In China, collection of Jatak stories relating to various events of Ramayana, belonging to 251 AD were compiled by Kang Seng Hua based on the Buddhist texts mentioned earlier. Kumardasa, who ruled Srilanka in 617 BCE wrote the text called Janakiharan which is the oldest Sanskrit literature available in Sri lanka. Oldest written version of Ramayana, in Nepal is from 1075 BCE. Yama Zatdaw in Myanmar is considered the National epic and is a Burmese version of the story of Rama which has again given theme to dance and art forms including tapestries and puppets.(In fact my Burmese friends even stressed that it is the true history of their land).

The retelling of Ramayana in Myanmar's National Epic

Hikayat Seri Rama in Malaysia makes Dashrath the great-grandson of Adam, the first man! (which is not too far from the truth as both Dashrath and Manu, the First Man were from the Suryavanshi/Solar dynasty!), In the Phra Lak Phra Lam of Laos, Buddha is regarded as an incarnation of Rama (again not completely false as both are incarnations of Lord Vishnu!). Reamker, is the most famous story of Khmer Literature of Cambodia and is the source of classical dance, theater, poetry and of course the famous

sculptures of Angkor Wat. Various rock inscriptions belonging to about 700 CE are also found in the Khmer region of Cambodia.

Ramayana depictions from Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Maradia Lawana in the Phillipines is based on the Ramayana, Ramakavaca in Bali is a major source of moral and spiritual guidance for the island and forms the basic story line of Balinese traditional dance, Kakawin Ramayana in Java, Indonesia (9th century CE) is a mixture of Sanskrit and Kawi languages and is the basis of traditional Indonesian ballet and performances that are famous the world over.

Indonesian Ramayan Ballet

Ramakien in Thailand is again considered the National epic and adds an element of incest to the story by making Sita the daughter of Ravan and Mandodari who is thrown away in the Sea as she is prophesied to bring destruction to Ravan's Kingdom!!

However, the abandoned baby Sita is found by Janak and grows up as his daughter only to be later abducted by Ravan and ultimately lead to the end of Ravan and his supremacy.

Thai Khon Dance based on the Ramayana

Notably, the capital of the Thai kings was also referred to as Ayutthaya the Thai version of Ayodhya! Even the current king in Thailand has the title of Rama IX.. never imagined travel to these parts of the world would open my eyes to the richness of our own heritage. This Diwali, let us once again remember the story of the great personality that has influenced generations of humans and has survived over millions of years. I conclude this Deepawali post with the closing lines of the poetic rendition of Ramayan by Romesh C. Dutta: "Mark my love," Rama told Sita, on the Pushpak car, As the home-bound couple, left behind the field of war, "Watch Lanka's proud city below on the triple crest, Like peaks of Kailash mansions where Immortals rest.

Mark the gory fields, where Vanars in their might, Fought the charging Rakshasas, in the gory fight, Where Indrajit and Kumbha-karna, Ravan and chieftains, Fell down in battle with their blood soaking the plains. See my love, around the island how the oceans roar, Hiding pearls among corals, strewing shells upon the shore, And the causeway mighty, monument of our fame, 'Rama's Bridge' to distant ages shall our deeds proclaim! See the rocky Kishkindha and her mountain-girdled town, Where I slayed Vali, and placed Sugriv on the throne, Watch the hill of Rishyamukh, where the Vanars first I met, Gave them word - Sugriv will be king ere the Sun had set. Watch the sacred Pampa by whose wild and echoing shore, I poured lamentations, when I saw my wife no more, And the woods of Janasthan where Jatayu fought and bled, From where the deceitful Ravan, with my trusting Sita fled. Dost thou mark, doe-eyed Sita, the cottage on river bank, Where in righteous penance, we laid down every plank, And the mighty Godavari, with Saint Agastya's home of love, Where holy men through holy duties sanctify the grove. Dost thou, o'er the Dandak forest, view the Chitrakut hill. Where the deathless bard Valmiki, lives in the crystal rill, Thither came the righteous Bharat and my army came, Longing to take us back to Suryavanshi's town of fame, Dost thou, devoted Sita, see the Yamuna in her might, Where in Bharadwaj's ashram passed we, a happy night, And the broad and ruddy Ganga sweeping in regal pride, Where forest-dweller Guha crossed us to the southern side. Joy! joy! gentle Sita! Fair Ayodhya looms above, Ancient seat of Raghuvansh, Our Hope and our Love, Bow, bow, to bright Ayodhya! Dark did our exile roam, But tonight our weary toil ends, in Suryavansh's ancient home!" Jai Shri Raam and Happy Diwali :o)

Let there be Light

. Aum Shanti: Shanti: Shanti: