This book explores the Hindu iconography from the Vedic to recent period in time and space that would dispel many misconceptions. The first few articles deal with Agni, the fire of Vedas. The fire has two inherent powers, the consuming heat energy and illuminating-beneficial energy, which they called on one hand as Rudra and on the other Vishnu. Similarly Rudra is like the father and the benevolent energy of the same fire, insuperable, is called mother devi Parvati, the male and the female, in one and the same form as Ardhanari. Most of the important iconographic visualizations arise from such syncretic forms that are dealt with in this volume. For example the concept of Linga or Varaha, gives so many layers that are properly focused that would come as revelations. At another level some individual manifestations like Andhakasuravadha or Nataraja are rooted in Vedic understanding of darkness and light. The writings of some that there was no worship of feminine power in the Vedic age are shown as pedestrian, worthy of outright rejection. Similarly some hold that the Muruga Kartikeya is exclusive and the earliest god of the Tamil is disproved and shown here as a Sanskrit word "Mrgya" in Prakrit form. The origin of Rama and Krishna and their place in the chronological perspective is given in detail with epigraphical evidence and disproved some of the abysmal ignorance of some professorial claimants.
Each article with references and notes is thought provoking, original and linked to the factual utterances which are absolutely necessary for those who seek proper approach to the subject.
Dr. R Nagaswamy (b. 1930) is MA in Sanskrit Language and Literature and PhD in Art and History with Sakta Cult in Tamil Nadu. His fields of specialization are Indian Art and Aesthetics, Architecture, Iconography, Bronzes, Numismatics, Epigraphy, Music, Dance etc. He served as Curator for Art and Archaeology, Government Museum (1959-62), Assistance special Officer, Archaeology (1963-65), the First Director of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu (1966-88), and after retirement he served as the first Vice Chancellor of Kanchipuram University. A versatile scholar, he has published several books in English, Tamil and Sanskrit. An epigraphist and paleographer, his articles have been published in 24 languages of the world by UNESCO. He has written several dance dramas and presented them all over the world. Presently, he is specializing in South-East Asian Art.
I could not think of a better introduction to this work than the sayings of the Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya. Mahaswamikal, the Senior Sankaracharya Swamikal of Kanchi Kamakoti Pitha who lived amongst us for nearly one hundred years as an embodiment of India's Life. They open up our vision of our approach to Indian godhood. His sayings on the nature of Vedic religion sums up the True spirit of Hindu thought and I begin the work with his saying which will enlighten the reader on the synthetic nature of Indian thoughts.
Maharishi Aurobindo wrote that "In India, the high Vedic beginning, the Great spiritual stir of the Upanishads, the wide flood of, Buddhism, Vedanta, Sankhya, the Puranic, and Tantiric religions, the flowering of Saivism and Vaisnavism, in the Southern kingdoms have come in on a surge, of spiritual light and a massive or intense climbing of the religious or the religio-philosophic mind to its own heights, its noblest realties, its largest riches of version and experience. It was in such periods of intellect, thought, poetry, the arts and the material life flowered into splendour, in the Foundations of Indian Culture". The Aurobindo Ashram, Pondichery, (1921 and reprinted in 1988 pp. 80-91).
The Great Maharishi of Indian Art History, Ananda Coomaraswamy, in his introduction to "Study of the Vedas" wrote that "The Sacred literature of India is available to most of us only in translation made by Scholars, trained in liturgical rather than in Metaphysics, and it has been expounded and explained or as I should say "explained away" mainly by scholars rarely trained with the assumption of naturalist, and the Anthropologist, scholars whose intellectual capacities, have been too much inhibited by their own powers of observations that they can no longer distinguish the reality with appearance, the supermal sun of metaphysics from the physical sun of their own experience." (Ananda Coomaraswamy in 'Perceptions of the Vedas'ed by Vidya Nivas Misra, IGNCA and Manohar, New Delhi, 2000, Introduction).
Dr. Stella Kramrisch, the greatest exponent of the Hindu temple in her introduction to the 'Hindu temple' says "The attempt is made here to set up the Hindu temple conceptually, from the foundation to the final. Its structure is rooted in Vedic tradion, and primeval modes of buildings have contributed their shapes. The principles are given in the sacred texts of India and the structural rules in the treatises on architecture. They are carried out in the shrines which still stand through out the country, and which were built in many varieties and styles, over a millennium and a half from the fifth cent. AD.
The purpose of the Hindu temple is shown by its form. It is the concrete symbol of reintegration and coheres with the rhythm of the thought imaged in its carvings and laid out in its proportion. Their perfection is a celebration of all the rites enacted during the building of the temple from the ground to its pinnacle. Nothing that is seen on the temple is left unsaid in the verbal tradition nor is any of the detail arbitrary or superfluous. Each has definite place and is part of the whole." (Stella Kramrisch, "Exploring India's Sacred Art", edited by Barbara Stoler Miller, IGNCA, New Delhi 1994, p. 20).
This book may be said to be the result of inspiration I derived from the sagacious statements of the Rishis, the bright luminaries in the horizon of Indian cultural ethos, to look for the magic of the original sound of the Vedas, aided by the secondary help of translations, to penetrate into the secrets of Indian art and architecture. Soon I began to realize I learnt more from the Sound of the Vedas, than from the meaning of translation. It has convinced me that nothing can give us greater experience than the Original and that change totally our perceptions of our thought on Hindu religion and iconography and I am also convinced that every classical concept is rooted in the Vedas. Does it mean, there is a vacuum before the Vedas. Certainly not but to explain them with evidence one has to enter the slippery space of speculation and nothing can be achieved by that enquiry. I am quite happy to stand on the solid ground.
Most of the articles in this volume are either on Vedic studies, or trace the roots of well known images of Hindu iconography. They show the Vedic tradition of adoring the nature's energies and are meant for the universal well being. The later worship is a linear development of these Vedic concepts and rituals. Two types of worship are recognized in ritual texts which are classified as worship for ones own self called parartha puja and the other for the community or the world called Parcirtha puja. All temple worship fall under the later category.
The articles on Linga, Siva, Balarama, Rama and Krsna deal with concepts chronologically. The origin of Karthikeya, the Goddesses, Varaha, are shown to have developed with their origin in Vedic ideas. The vague claims by some that many of them are from non Vedic sources are illustrated with speculative means. I have shown the Tamil Society was as much Vedic from its historical period as any other region of India. The articles on Indra worship in Tamilnadu from Silappatikaram included in this volume demonstrate that point. There is enough scope for enlarging each article into a full independent thesis. There is a need to remove many distortions in the present stage. An objective handling is desideratum. It is hoped that this work will stimulate more such studies in the future.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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