The present treatise generally incorporates the matter about Indian Gods and Goddesses. The Iconographical representation of the Indian Gods and Goddesses, as glimpsed from the Archaeological findings and temple architecture is one aspect and the literary evidences found in our vast Indian lterature of Vedic, Epic and Puranic period is the other aspect of the book. Both these aspects delineated in this book give us perfect picture and historical development of Indian Mythology of Gods and Goddesses. The literary and textual material, when illustrated with the iconographical representations becomes more relevant and complete. The subject-matter is nicely and systematically arranged here and historical sequence is well maintained by narrating the Vedic, Epic and Puranic deities. The Mythological concept of Trimurti (Brahma, Visnu, Siva) as depicted in the Epics and Puranas is elaborately discussed in the work. Not only the Hindu, but also Jain and Buddhist Mythology are separately treated in this book. Thus, the book is a kind of Encyclopedia on Indian Mythology, since it has covered almost all the aspects of it. A number of illustrations/figures of Indian Mythological images presented in this book really enhance the value of the book.
Besides the general Index, a Glossary of the technical terms is also appended in the work. Hence, this book would be immensely useful to the students as well as researchers to know and understand the real mystery of the gods and goddesses of Indian Culture, Art and Literature.
After Graduation (B.A. Hons. in Sanskrit) from Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, and Post-graduation and M. Phil., degrees from Kurukshetra University, he obtained Ph.D. Degree in Vedic Studies from Punjab University, Chandigarh. In addition to these, Dr Panda is also qualified in other Indological branches, like: .Buddhism, Kashmir Saivism, Indian Philosophy, etc.
As an ardent scholar and a successful researcher of Indology, he has contributed a number of learned Re-search papers, and has written and edited some valuable books, viz.
Perspectives of Indian Thought; Upadesasahasrl (Ed.); Kalatattvakosa Lexicon, Vols. V and VI (Ed.); Saundaryalahari (Critically Edited); Safikhyakarika (Rev. and Ed.); Mahdvamsa (Rev. and Ed.), Aspects of Veddnta (Ed.), Essays on the Gita (Ed.), Life of Gautama Buddha (Compiled and Ed.) Gods and Goddess in Indian Arts and Literature, Mdnasdra (Revised and Ed.), etc.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce the world of scholars, this book on Indian Mythology, by Dr Narasingha Charan Panda, Associate Professor, Vishveshvaranandhu Vedic Institute, Punjab University, Hoshiarpur, and Punjab. Dr. Panda is actively engaged in varied Research work and has to his credit numerous research publications in the form of many books and numerous articles, published in reputed journals. The present book is one more addition to his already published books.
The present book incorporates matter about Indian gods and goddesses. It deals appropriately with two aspects of Art and Literature. The Iconographical representation of eh Indian Gods and Goddesses, as glimpsed form the Archaeological findings and temple-architecture is one aspect and the literary evidences found in our vast Indian literature of Vedic, Epic and Pauranic period is the other aspect of the book. Both these aspects delineated in this book give us perfect picture and historical development on Gods and Goddesses in Indian Art and Literature. The literary and textual material, when illustrated with the Iconographical representations becomes more relevant and complete.
The subject-matter is nicely and systematically arranged here in sixteen separate chapters, giving sequence is well-maintained by narrating the Vedic, Epic and Pauranic deities. Indians have been worshipping trees, animals, rivers, mountains also as equally adorable. The Mythology of Siva, Sakti and Visnu . krsna are also separately elucidated. Not only the Hindu, but also Jain and Buddhist Mythology is specifically treated in this book of rightly entitled- Gods and Goddesses in Indian Art and Literature. Thus, the book is a kid of Encyclopedia on India Mythology, since it has covered almost all the aspects of it. Te different figures of Indian Mythological images presented in this book, really enhance the value of the book. I am sure that it will be well-received by the lovers of Indian Culture, Art and Literature.
India is a sacred land of the Vedas. The great seers, poets, priests, thinkers, and religious teachers have purified this land by contributing their religious teachings, advices, views and intuitive wisdom, since time immemorial. Their valuable teachings are now preserved in the form of sacred and religious documents of our Indian culture and traditional, viz. Vedas, Upanisads, Dharmasastras, Reamayana, Mahabharata, Gita, etc. These religious texts really provide proper guidance to all human beings irrespective their castes and creeds for better living in the society. That is why, we have a great respect for these sacred texts, full of varieties of traditional as well as scientific knowledge and religious beliefs/facts. So in order to understand Indian culture and tradition one has to go through these basic religious texts properly.
The Vedas believe in God (isvara). So in the early Vedic literature there are numerous gods representing different aspects of natural phenomena. With the development of the Upanisadic concept of Brahman, the infrastructure of the concept of an Absolute, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent god was established. However, the relation between the infinite, pure, conscious, eternal and changeless Brahman and the finite, material, impermanent and imperfect world was not settled. The Carvakas say that the existence of God is a myth. God cannot be perceived. The world is made by the automatic combination of the material elements and not by God. There is no necessity of God. The Jainas do not believe in God and the Tirthankaras, to whom all the godly power like omniscience and omnipotence belong, take the place of God. The Buddhist Vaibhasikas and Sautrantikas hold that if God was the sole cause, the universe would have been created in its totality at one and at the same time. But it is seen that creatures came into existence not simultaneously but successively, some from wombs, some from buds and so on. The other two Buddhist schools have totally nihilistic approach. Dharmakirti (Yogacara) says that an eternal God cannot be regarded as a ca8use of this world. If the opponent (Naiyayika, etc.) is so fond of taking an inactive and inefficient entity like God to be the cause of this world, he should better hold a dry trunk of a tree as the cause of this universe. If God is eternal so He cannot change. And unless He changes, He cannot be a cause.
According to Samkhyam the existence of God cannot be proved in any way. They say we need not admit God to explain the world; for Prakrti is the adequate cause of the world as a whole. God as eternal and unchanging spirit cannot be the creator of world; for to produce any effect the cause must change and transform itself into the effect (Smamkhya-karika, 67-68; Samkhya-sutra, I.92-95,III.56-57). Some of the Samkhya commentators, however, try to show that the system admits the existence of God as Supreme-Purusa who is witness, but not for the creator of world.
The Yoga system olds that God is the highest object of contemplation for concentration and self-realization. He is the perfect being unaffected by affliction, deed, result of action or the latent impressions thereof (klesakarmavipaksayairapara-mrstah purusavisesa isvarah-Yogasutra, I.24). The Yoga argues for the existence of God on following ground: (1) the testimony of scriptures speaks of existence of God. (2) The law of continuity as applied to degrees of knowledge and power points to the existence of God. (3) The association and dissociation of Purusa and Prakrit can be possible only by the intervention of isvara (Yogasutra-Bhasya, I.23-39, II. 1ff., III.45).
The Mimamsa believes in the law of karma, in unseen power (apurva) an ultimate authority of the eternal authorless Veda. God is ruled out as an unnecessary hypothesis though some later Mimamsakas try to bring the concept to believe in God. But in general this system does not believe in God, who created this world.
The Vedanta system of Sankara believes in isvara, who is known as Saguna Brahma, the cause of this Universe. When Brahman reflected in or conditioned by maya is called isvara, who is also known as apara- Brahman, the source of all names and forms (Brahmasutra- Sankarabhasya, I.2. 22) and the object of devotion.
The Nyaya system believes in the existence of God and tried to justify the concept of isvara of on following reasons: Karyayojana-dhuryadeh-padatpratyayatah-sruteh/ vakyat-samkhya- visesasca sadhyo-visvovidavyayah (Nyaya-Kusumanjali, V.1). The world is an effect and hence it must have an efficient cause. This intelligent agent is isvara. The world is sustained and destroyed by God’s will. Unintelligent adrsta cannot do this. Besides, God is the creator/author of Veda, and also it rightly testifies to the existence of God. According to Nyaya-sustra (IV.1. 19), God is the main cause of this universe because we find fruitlessness in the actions of men. The Vaisesika follow the Nyaya theory of God.
However, it is clear that the Vedas, Upanishads and the six systems of India Philosophy some way or the other, believe in the existence of God, isvara or Brahman as the Highest Authority or the Supreme Reality of this universe.
The Regvedic deities embody cosmic forces. The Sun god Surya traverses the sky and dispels darkness. Indra or rain-god covers the firmament with a serried mass of lighting-clouds and give rain. Vayu or the wind-god covers the earth and sky. Varuna is the source and guardian of the order of the cosmos. Agni or the god of sacrificial fire carries holy offerings from the domestic altar to the celestial realm. All these deities represent invisible cosmic presences having no local habitation like their worshippers themselves. Among the Vedic deities Indra, Agni, Surya, and Prthivi are found represented in many later sculptures. The worship of these ancient deities was linked through the centuries with the great vedic hymns and invocations and the Vedic ceremonial of oblation. Especially the cult of Agni, ever present in the fire of the domestic altar, persisted through the ages. The holy oblations in every hearth and home have a dual purpose in India; the flames lead the sacrifice with his gifts to the invisible celestial realm, and also appease the forces of evil in the realm of death and destruction.
In course of time, the vedic nature-worship has been superseded by the cult of Brahama, Visnu and Siva (Trimurti), and it is in the Epic period that we find for the first time the incarnations of Lord Visnu (Matsya , Jumar, Varaha, Vaman, Narasingha, Rama, Balarama, Parsurama, Buddha and Kalki), who has come to be looked upon as the Supreme Deity. New gods and goddesses unknown to the Vedas has arisen, and Vedic gods have either been forgotten or reduced to a subordinate position. However, the concept Trimurit is very old and even popular today. A source of confusion to the students of India Mythology at first appears in the many names by which one and the same Supreme Divinity may be known. The most important of the name identifies are: for Lord Siva: Mahadeva,Hara, Sankara, Natarja, etc; and for Lord Visnu: Hari, Narayana, Govinda, Madhava, Kesava, Jagannatha, Rama, Krsna,etc. A familiarly with these names is gradually acquired, and it is realized that the different names refer to as many aspects of one Supreme Being. For the gods possess a many fold consciousness, and by decisional tier attributes appear and act in many places and many forms at one and the same time. It will have been observed that every God, whether isvara or deva, has a feminine counterpart or aspect. These wives are the Saktis or Powers without whom there could be no creation or evolution. For example, the Sakti of Siva is Devi, whose other names are: Sati, Uma, Durga, Candi, Kali, etc.; it is She who is worshipped by many millions as Mother, and all these worshippers speak of God as
She. The great sex-distinction pervads the whole universe, and the psychology of sex is everywhere the same: all things that are male form of Siva, all that are female are from Uma. Distinct from isvara, are the devas, viz. Indra, Agni, Varuna, Yama, old personified cosmic powers who alone were worshipped in the Vedic days, before the emergence of Siva and Visnu.
However, in the pre-vedic, post Vedic as well as in the Puraninc period, People were used to worship Nature (Prakrti) or Super Natural Powers (Saktis) like: Trees, Plants, Rivers and Animals as their lovable deities to obtain various desirable fruits or boons from them.
Science and religion have been inter-related since ancient times an d, therefore, some trees, plants and animals have continued to be worshipped or have been associated with religion several climes. Man is fully conscious of the fact that the trees, plants and animals have greatly contributed to the welfare of human life and society.
As per Tree worship is concerned, a long hymn (X.97) of the Rgveda is devoted to the worshipping of trees and plants with special reference to their healing properties. In the Atharvaveda or Bahma Veda, the trees and plants are also mentioned with special reference to their healing properties and their capacity of warding of the demons (raksasas). In the Rgveda, the cult of trees is well recognized. Therefore, the trees were implored to bestow for good offspring, various worldly amenities and also for long life without any disease. The names of different trees (Vrksas) found in the vedic Literature are: Asvattha, Udumbaa, Karkandhu, Khadira, Nyagrodha,Palasa, Pippala, Bilva, Sami, Salmali, etc. At the time of Vedic Sacrifice the woods, leaves, fruits and flowers of the trees are needed. So, before cutting the trees or sakhas of the trees, the priest used to worship the trees with chanting the Vedic mantras. Besides, for making utensils used in the sacrifice and yupa, etc., the necessity of the woods of the trees is essential.
In the post-Vedic literature we find traces of tree worship, as the trees are regarded to be incarnations or symbols of the gods or deities. Many conjectures have been prevalent regarding the origin of tree worship among the idolatrous people. The reason may be simple enough. Was it not most natural that the persons who worshipped many different objects should offer homage to trees or Vanspatis pre-eminently valuable as a source and basis of material wealth? They are, therefore, worshipped as gods to show the high value they contain in them. Besides, trees, are also worshipped as they are associated with various Hindu mythologies. To understand man, it is essential that one must understand the world of trees or vrksas. Man may be isolated man from the tree world. However, the relationship between man and trees is based on religion. Everything is consecrated at the altar of religion.
There is a ling list of sacred trees, which are associated with the Hindu religion. Hence, in the Rgveda, the cult of trees and, above all, the forest trees is well recognized.
In Buddhism, Asvattha or Pippla (Ficus Religisa) is known as the Bodhi Tree (Bodhi Vrksa) of Gautama Buddha. This Bodhi Tree is being worshipped by the royal persons and common citizens. The Banyan Tree (Ficus Indica) is known as the Bodhi Tree of kasyapa Buddha. The Udumbara Tree (Ficus Glomerata), is also known as the Bodhi Tree of the Buddha kanakamuni. The sala Tree (Acacia Robusta) is the Bodhi Tree of the Buddha Visvaghu. Similarly, Slirsa Tree (Acacia Sirisa) is also known as the Bodhi Tree of Buddha Krakuchchanda . All these sacred Trees are fortunately inscribed with the names of their respective Buddha’s in the Bharhut Sculptures. This way, Asvattha tree is frequently depicted on Buddhist shrines. A common form of depicting the Asvattha tree in Buddhist shrine is by showing Gautama Buddha sitting under the tree either in Dhyana-mudra (meditating pose), . Bhumisparsa-mudra (touching the earth) as a sign that the earth is a witness, or in a pose of giving benediction.
The plant Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum) has been worshipped by the Hindus, since time immemorial. They regard it as the most sacred plant. Tulasi commands respect, adoration and worship all over the world. Mystical properties were also attributed to this plant by the ancient people of Italy and Greece. The importance of Tulasi plant is described in the Puranas and other literary texts. According to the Puranas, this plant is regadrded as the incarnation of Devi Lakshmi. She is known as mother also. Hence, she is called Tulasi Mata. Worshippers of Tulasi are granted children, wealth and happiness. The lady who worships Devi Tulasi is always blessed with the long life of husband, longevity, prosperity, fortune and wealth. Daily worshipping of Tulasi blows off the impending calamities and rubs out the stains of sins. Besides, its plant is a known as a medicinal plant and cures many common and uncommon diseases.
Animal worship is very common in the religious history of the ancient world. One of the earliest stages of the growth of religious ideas and cults was the stage when human-beings conceived of the animal world as superior to them. This was due to the obvious deficiency of human-beings in earliest stages of civilization. Men not equipped with scientific knowledge were weaker than the animal world and attributed the spirit of the Devine to it, giving rise to rise to various forms of animal worship, viz. Bull worship, cow worship, Snake worship, etc. Of all forms of animal worship, the worship of serpents (Naga) became most popular throughout the length and breadth of the ancient world. The wide diffusion of Naga worship is explicable by the fact that serpents occur in every part of the world and are also uncanniest of all animals. They naturally became the appropriate symbol for the early people to express their ideas of divinity. Many indeed believe that the snake worship was the earliest religion prevalent among all men in all parts of the world, its general diffusion being partially accounted for by the fact that serpents are indigenous in almost every region where civilization arose. I India, it came to be associated with Vaisnavism, Saivism and many other cults, apart from its existence as an independent cult.
Rivers are also treated as deities in the Vedic period. Right from the Rgvedic times downwards to the post-Vedic and Puraninc times, Sanskrit literature is replete with vivid descriptions of the rivers and venerations the poets had for them. The rivers are not regarded as merely a flowing mass of waters, but as life-bestowing, life-nurturing, and life protecting Divine Mothers. They are implored for protection. They are sources of plenitude and they are prayed to grant people nourishment and delight. Many are the rivers mentioned in the Rgvedic hymns. Of these, the Saraswati and the Sindhu are cited most. The Drsadvati is mentioned along with Saraswati in several places, while there are only occasional references to the Ganga and Yamuna.
In addition to these, a number of Mountains were also worshipped by the people in the Vedic and post-vedic period, Citrakuta, Kailasa, Gandhaardana, Mandara, Himalaya, Brahmagiri, Vindhya Amarakantaka, etc.
During the Epic period, the worship of various gods and goddesses were very common and even popular in the society. One of the important religious aspects of the epics is the exaltation of the gods, Brahama, Visnu and Siva (practically the later two) over others. The other gods including the chief Vedic deities are acknowledged only formally. The deities have been adorned with a personal character with more or less fixed attributes and residences. Though possessed of godly supremacy they live like mortals with wives and children, the familiar characteristics and personalities of the deities made them attractive to the masses. As for the reasons why Buahma, Visnnu an d Siva became Supreme, it may be stated that Brahma is the personalized form of the Upanisadic Brahman, and could not be easily forgotten. Visnu was treated as the personification of the sacrifice since the Brahmana period and ultimately came to be humanized as Rama, krsna; and siva with his dual character both as a malevolent and benevolent deity. The popular traits attributed to him have swayed the emotion of Indian people since earliest times.
Among the various indigenous beliefs and practices that have entered into the Neo-Brahmanic faith is the worship of the Linga, etc. Linga worship was a proto-historic practice in India and it was affiliated to Brahmanism or Brahmanic Saivism in Epic times. Whatever might have been its original significance, Neo-Brahmanism or Hinduism (of the Epic Puraninc tradition) has clothed it with sober and lofty ideas. In the Epic-Puranic tradition, Linga is known as Purana and Yoni represents Prakrti (Devi), male and female energies necessary for creation. This way, it can be said that the Epics and Puranas were devoted mainly to popularize the worship of personal gods and deities, the Dharmasastras and Sastras were written to preserve the popularity of the Vedic practices.
The present treatise “Gods and Goddesses in Indian Art and Literature” is divided into sixteen chapters. This work generally incorporates matter about Gods and Goddesses in Indian Art and Literature. The Iconographical representation of the Indian Gods and Goddesses, as glimpsed from the Archaeological findings and temple architecture is one aspect and the literary evidences found in our vast Indian literature of Vedic, Epic and Puranic period is the other aspect of the book. Bothe these aspects delineated in this book give us perfect picture and historical development of Indian Mythology of Gods and Goddesses. The literary and textual material, when illustrated with the iconographical representations becomes more relevant and complete. The subject-matter is nicely and systematically arranged here and historical sequence is well maintained by narrating the Vedic, Epic and Puranic deities. The Mythological concept of Trimurti (Brahma, Visnu, Siva) as depicted in Epics and Puranas is elaborately discussed in the work. Not only the Hindu , but also Jain and Buddhist Mythology are separately treated in this book. Thus, the book is a kind of Encyclopedia on Indian Mythology, since it has covered almost all the aspects of it. A number of illustrations/ figures of Indian Mythological images presented in this book really enhance the value of the work.
Besides the general Index, a Glossary of the technical terms is also appended in the work.
Hence, this book would be immensely useful to the students as well as researchers to know and understand the real mystery of the gods and goddesses of Indian Culture, Art and Literature.
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Brahma Sutras (84)
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