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Vishnu – Dwadashanamas – Part Four

Continued from Part Three –The Vyuha

F. Vyuhantara

Vyuhantara

19.1. In the Pancharatra schema of cosmology, Para is the undifferentiated Vasudeva while Vyuha is the stage of differentiated creation closer to the beings. Lakshmi Tantra (4:25-32) a Pancharatra text of about the tenth century explains “First there is only the substance (reality); then comes the state of being; next the creation; and then the activity”.

19.2. The text elaborates that right after the final stage of Vyuha evolution and the onset of jagrat (wakeful) state of existence, each of the four Vyuha produced three further forms that resembled their creators (Vyuha) in all respects.

19.3. Accordingly, from Vyuha -Vasudeva, Keshava, Narayana and Madhava emanated; from Sankarshana emanated Govinda, Vishnu and Madhusudana; from Pradyumna emanated Trivikrama, Vamana and Sridhara; and from Aniruddha emanated Hrishikesha, Padmanabha and Damodara.

19.4. Vyuha is the major formation and the twelve forms that emanated from it constitute the secondary formation; and therefore known as upavyha or vyuhantara, which literally means ‘the one that within the Vyuha’.

Maasa Devatha

20.1. Each of the twelve Vyuhantara is identified with a month and is revered as masa-devatha (lord of the month).And; collectively they are identified with the year.

Vyuha
– the source
Vyuhantara
form
Shakthi
 or
the consort
Maasa
the month
Vasudeva
Keshava
Sri
Margashira
Narayana
Vagishvari
Pushya
Madhava
Kaanthi
Magha
 
Sankarshana
Govinda
Kriya
Phalguna
Vishnu
Shanthi
Chaitra
Madhusudana
Vibuthi
Vaishakha
 
Pradyumna
Trivikrama
Iccha
Jesta
Vamana
Prithi
Ashada
Sridhara
Rathi
Shravana
 
Aniruddha
Hrishikesha
Maaya
Bhadrapada
Padmanabha
Dhi
Ashviyuja
Damodara
Mahima
Karthika

 

20.2. It is also said that the twelve Vyuhantara along with their source (four) together make sixteen ; and are symbolic of the phases of the moon “Shodasha kala) ; andthis also is a measure of Time.

Vyuhantara -Adityas – Sun -Vishnu

21.1. In the ancient Indian context, Year is identified with empherical Time, which in turn is identified with the Sun. Because, the Sun in its daily course defines the day (and night), the basic (shortest) unit of time and governs life.

[The shortest unit was obtained by dividing the day/night into eight equal parts and each eighth into sixty and each sixtieth into sixty again. One third of that resultant unit was kshana (three consecutive eyelid moments – roughly a second).]

[Aditi is revered as the Deva Matri, the mother of all gods. In a way, all the gods are Adityas – children of Aditi.  The Adityas, who represent light are gods of light (Divi, Devas); bright and pure as streams of water; blameless; and, free from all guile and falsehood. The Adityas are upholders of Laws,” Upholding that which moves and that which moves not; and, are the protectors of all beings”.

Lord Vishnu was originally a solar deity (Addition); and, was later elevated to the status of a trinity God as the preserver of the world, to rescue the world and the dharma from the oppression of evil and social disorder.

Varuna, at one time, was regarded as the best among the Adityas, the solar deities; he was the lord of the sky; the god of heavenly light. But now, Surya (Savitr), the sun god is the most prominent Aditya. He is said to be endowed with many eyes (rays) corresponding to the twelve months of the year , described as the twelve spokes of the wheel of time.

*

The number as also the names of Adityas have varied from time to time. Originally, they were said to be to be six or seven in number, as per the hymns of Rig-Veda: Varuna, Mitra, Surya (Savitr), Chandra, Pusan, Agni, and Indra. And, Martanda was the eighth Aditya; but, was later left out.

The Brahmana texts list the twelve Adityas  as : Yama; Aryaman; Indra; Ravi; Varua; Dhātṛ; Bhaga; Savitṛ; Sūrya or Arka; Aśa; Mitra; and, Daka.

In another listing, Dhatri, Mitra, Aryaman, Rudra, Surya, Bhaga, Vivasvat, Pushan, Savitur, Tvashtir and Vishnu mentioned as Adityas.

The Linga Purana names the twelve Adityas as : Brahma;Vishnu;;Indra (The head of Ādityas); Tvaṣṭṛ; Varua;Dhata; Bhaga; Savitṛ; Vivasvat; Amshuman; Mitra; and, Pūan.

According to Bhagavata Purana, the twelve Adityas are : Vishnu (The head of all the Adityas); Aryaman; Indra; Tvashtha; Varuna; Dhata; Bhaga ; Parjanya (Savitr); Vivasvan ; Amshuman; Mitra; and, Pushya.

According to Vishnu Purana, the Adityas are :  Vishnu (This solar-deity is the head of all the Adityas); Aryaman; Śakra; Tvaṣṭṛ; Varua; Dhūti; Bhaga; Savitṛ; Vivasvat; Aśa; Mitra; and , Pūan.

Later , their numbers and names  almost,  settled down to twelve (Dwadasha Aditiya) as : Dhata ; Aryama;  Mitra; Varuna; Indra; Vivasvan; Tvashtha; Vishnu; Amshuman ; Bhaga; Pusha; and, Parjanja.]

21.2. The Vedic deities associated with the Sun and the energy are the twelve (Dwadasaha) Adityas, each controlling a month and collectively a year. They are the spokes of the wheel of Time. The twelve Vyuhantara therefore came to be identified with the Adityas.

solar months 2

With that the Vyuhantara came to be identified also with the empherical Time conceived as yearly cycles. And, thus, Vyuhantara are indeed the Sun.

21.3. Vishnu is the chief of the Adityas; and he is also identified with the Sun. The Vyuhantara, by extension, came to be recognized as the Adityas who in turn are the aspects of the Sun and Vishnu.

21.4. The identity of the Vyuhantara with the Adityas is discussed in detail in the Tantric texts such as Prapanchasara (12th century), Saradatilaka (14th century) and Tantrasara (16th century).

21.5. It is explained that the importance assigned to the twelve Vyuhantara is because of their identity with the Adityas, the Sun and Vishnu. And, their worship is indeed the worship of Vishnu as the Sun.

Dwadashamurti

22.1. Mainly by virtue of its association with the Sun and Vishnu, the Vyuhantara or Upavyuha or the Dwadasha-murti (the twelve forms) is an indispensable part of the Sri Vaishnava daily prayer –sandhya vandanam– which essentially is Sun worship; and of the daily purification rite of investing the designated upper-body parts with the Vishnu insignia, the urdhva pundra. Each upavyuha is associated with a specific spot: Keshava – forehead; Narayana-lower abdomen(centre); Madhava-chest; Govinda-front neck (middle) ; Vishnu-lower abdomen (right); Madhusudana-right arm; Trivikrama-neck(right side);Vamana-lower abdomen (left); Sridhara-left arm; Hrishikesha-neck(left side); Padmanabha-back (lower spine); Damodara-back (upper spine); and concluded with salutations to Vasudeva –top of the head.

The appropriate Upavyuha is invoked through anga-nyasa (gestures) with devotion and reverence while investing each set of urdhva-pundra.

22.2. As regards their iconography, the Dwadasha-murtis all resemble the four-armed form of Vasudeva in jagrat (wakeful) state. And, ichnographically they are alike; each possess four arms, carries the same or almost the same Vaishnava insignia (ayudha) – the conch (shankha), the discus (chakra), the mace (gada) and the lotus (padma); they have pleasing countenance (saumya vaktra); they stand erect (sama-bhanga) on lotus pedestal; and wear yellow silk garment (pitambara), royal crown, regal ornaments and flowing garlands of flowers (vanamala). Their color or complexion, are derived from their source vyuha, which is the vyuha among the four (chaturvyuha) from which they originated.

22.3. All the Dwadasha murtis are depicted as solitary images, standing alone; yet each of them is associated with a Shakthi, a consort. Each Shakthi is regarded a form of Lakshmi.

22.4. The forms are differentiated by the order of the four ayudhas or insignia (shankha, chakra, gada and padma) they hold. The Padma Samhita (kriyapada: 16, 30-36) as also Lakshmi Tantra and others describes in detail the iconographic features of the Vyuhantara-murtis. There are again variations among those texts. Let’s talk of that in the last segment of this post.

Caturvimsati murti

23. 1. The emanation process did not cease with the twelve Vyuhantara. Padma Samhita (Jnana kanda: 2, 26- 28) mentions that the four Vyuha  ‘ for some reason’ went on to create a sub –secondary Vyuhantara forms numbering twelve in two sets (4+8).This was achieved in a rather strange manner. Here, Vyuha- Vasudeva manifested another Vasudeva who manifested Nrusimha who in turn manifested Acchuta.

Sankarshana manifested another Sankarshana who gave raise to Purushottama who in turn manifested Adhokshaja.

Pradyumna manifested another Pradyumna who manifested Janardana who in turn manifested Upendra.

And Aniruddha manifested another Aniruddha who manifested Hari, who in turn manifested Krishna.

23.2. Thus the celebrated Caturvimsati murti group (the twenty-four forms) is composed by:

(a).  The twelve Vyuhantara or secondary forms:

[1.Keshava;2.Narayana;3.Madhava;4.Govinda;5.Vishnu;6.Madhusudana;7.Trivikrama;8.Vamana;9.Sridhara;10.Hrishikesha;11.Padmanabha;and 12.Damodara]

(b). Plus the four forms:

[13.  Sankarshana;  14. Vasudeva; 15.Pradyumna; and 16.Aniruddha]

(c). And, the eight further (sub secondary) emanatory forms:

[17. Purushottama; 18. Adhokshaja;   19. Nrusimha; 20. Acchuta; 21. Janardana;  22. Upendra; 23. Hari; and 24.Krishna]

24.1. The iconography of the latter set of twelve (from 13 to 24: from Sankarshana to Krishna follows that of the Dwadasha-murtis (from 1 to 12:  from Keshava to Damodara). As regards their colour, they follow the colour or the complexion of their source, that is: The first group of three along with Vasudeva is white; the second group along with Sankarshana is ruby red; the third group along with Pradyumna is golden yellow; and the fourth group along with Aniruddha is dark.

25.1. Padma Samhita states that the images of these twenty-four deities should be established in temples in order to acquire merit and prosperity. They might be established either separately or together. But, sculptural representation of all the forms is extremely rare. They are seen only in a few temples of Hoysala period (c.11th century).

25.2. While performing the daily Sandhya it is customary to recite the names of these twenty-four forms and invoke them in the twenty-four spots in the body.

25.3. The Gayatri- Sara- Samgraha, it is said, identifies of the twenty-four letters of the Gayatri Mantra with the deities (abhimana devatha) presiding over the names of the Caturvimsati murtis.[Please see the table appended.]

25.4. It is said the Vyuhantara from 13-16 though they bear the names of the original Vyuhas, they are not the same; they are different. Similarly, it is clarified that Vyuhantara murti with names such as Krishna, Narasimha, Trivikrama, Narayana etc should not be mistaken for the original deities bearing those names. It is also clarified that although the names of Vyuhantara forms resemble the names of Vishnu, ichnographically or otherwise they are NOT the Vishnu.

25.5. Among these twenty-four forms, the set of first twelve Dwadasha- murti, (from Keshava to Damodara), is assigned greater importance than the latter twelve.

*****

Iconography of the Dwadasha murti

1.1. As mentioned earlier, the Vyuhantara murtis are ichnographically similar; they all resemble the four armed Vasudeva in jagrat state. They are differentiated by the manner they hold the four ayudhas or Vaishnava insignia (shankha, chakra, gada and padma).There is however no uniformity among the various texts .For instance, Tantra Sara draws up an elaborate scheme by taking the conch (shankha) symbolizing emancipation as the principle ayudha and works out various positions/ combinations  of the other three ayudhas in relation to shankha in upper right hand, shankha in upper left hand, shankha in lower left hand and shankha in lower right hand. Agni Purana, Padma Purana and Skanda Purana etc propose their own scheme.

1, 2. But the commonly accepted form is the one that is given in the Shilpa text Rupamandana, The order given there commences with the upper -right –hand, then goes on to the upper-left-hand , then down to the lower –left-hand and finally to the lower-right-hand. The flow is clock-wise commencing from the upper-right-hand. The initial configuration is with reference to the ayudhas held by Keshava: Shankha (URH); Chakra (ULH); Gada (LLH) and Padma (LRH). The ayudha-positions of the other vyuhantara are worked out by rotation.

[Please refer to the tables appended for the ayudha-positions of all the twenty-four Vyuhantara forms].

Let’s discuss briefly about the iconography of the Dwadasha murti; that is the first twelve Vyuhantara from Keshava to Damodara.

1. Keshava –Murti

Keshava-murti the first of the Vyuhantara who emanated from Vyuha-Vasudeva is lustrous like gold (suvarna-bha). He wears white garments; and pearl ornaments.

His ayudhas are: shankha (URH); chakra (ULH); gada (LLH); and padma (LRH).

His Shakthi is Sri or Kirti.

He is the Lord of Margashira month.

He is invoked in the forehead of the devotee (lalata).

His flag bears the emblem of the great Eagle (Mahat Garuda Ketana).

2. Narayana- Murti

Narayana –murti the second of the Vyuhantara who emanated from Para-Vasudeva is glowing like a dark blue cloud. His countenance is benign (saumya). He wears yellow silk garments (pitambara); and gem studded gold ornaments.

His ayudhas are: padma (URH); gada (ULH); chakra (LLH); and shankha (LRH).

His Shakthi is Vagisvari.

He is the Lord of Pushya month.

He is invoked in the lower abdomen (centre) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the great Eagle (Mahat Garuda Ketana).

3. Madhava-Murti

Murti the third among the Vyuhantara who emanated from Para-Vasudeva shines like blue-lotus (nilothphala) .He dress is multicoloured and is adorned with garlands of many hues. He looks magnificent like a full blossomed lotus.

His ayudhas are: chakra (URH); shankha (ULH); padma(LLH); and gada (LRH).

His Shakthi is Kanthi.

He is Lord of Magha month.

He is invoked in the chest of  the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the great Eagle (Mahat Garuda Ketana)-

4. Govinda-Murti

Govinda-Murti the fourth among the Vyuhantara; and the first to emanate from Sankarshana is soothingly bright like moon, like a pearl. His eyes are lustrous and attractive like red lotus. He is adorned in rich gold ornaments.

His ayudhas are: gada (URH); padma (ULH); shankha (LLH); and chakra(LRH).

His Shakthi is Kriya.

He is Lord of Phalguna month.

He is invoked in the front neck (middle) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the lofty palm-tree and a plough.

5. Vishnu-Murti

Vishnu-Murti the fifth among the Vyuhantara; and the second to emanate from Sankarshana is crystal white (sphatika). He wears gold coloured bright garments; and richly adorned with ornaments.

His ayudhas are: padma (URH); shankha (ULH);chakra (LLH); and gada (LRH).

His Shakthi is Shanthi.

He is Lord of Chaitra month.

He is invoked in the lower abdomen (right) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the lofty palm-tree and a plough.

6. Madhusudana-Murti

Murti the sixth among the Vyuhantara; and the third to emanate from Sankarshana is glowing like a red lotus. He wears silken yellow garments. He is richly adorned with ornaments.

His ayudhas are: shankha (URH); padma (ULH); gada (LLH); and chakra (LRH).

His Shakthi is Vibhuti.

He is Lord of Vaishakha month.

He is invoked in the right arm of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the lofty palm-tree and a plough.

7. Trivikrama-Murti

Trivikrama Murti the seventh among the Vyuhantara; and the first to emanate from Pradyumna is glowing like a ruby. He is richly adorned with gold armlets, chains, earrings etc.

His ayudhas are: gada (URH); chakra (ULH); shankha (LLH); and padma (LRH).

His Shakthi is Iccha.

He is Lord of Jesta month.

He is invoked in the neck (right side) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of crocodile (Madana)

8. Vamana Murti

Vamana Murti the eighth among the Vyuhantara; and the second to emanate from Pradyumna is mellow glowing like jasmine , has wide eyes like lotus petals.

His ayudhas are: chakra (URH); gada (ULH); padma(LLH); and shankha (LRH).

His Shakthi is Priti.

He is Lord of Ashada month.

He is invoked in the lower abdomen (left) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of crocodile (Madana).

9. Sridhara-Murti

Sridhara-Murti the ninth among the Vyuhantara; and the third to emanate from Pradyumna is lustrous like white lotus. His eyes are beautiful and shining like a red lotus petal. He wears strings of pearls.

His ayudhas are: chakra (URH); gada (ULH); shankha (LLH); and padma (LRH).

His Shakthi is Rathi.

He is Lord of Shravana month.

He is invoked in the left arm of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of crocodile (Madana).

10. Hrishikesha – Murti

Hrishikesha – Murti the tenth among the Vyuhantara; and the first to emanate from Aniruddha is dazzling like lightning. He wears red garments; red flowered garlands and has stuck a red lotus in his hair.

His ayudhas are: chakra (URH); padma (ULH);shankha (LLH); and gada (LRH).

His Shakthi is Maaya.

He is Lord of Bhadrapada month.

He is invoked in neck (left side) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of deer (mriga).

11. Padmanabha Murti

Padmanabha Murti the eleventh among the Vyuhantara; and the second to emanate from Aniruddha is glowing like a blue diamond. He wears bright yellow garments; and is adorned with many coloured gems and jewels; and multihued garlands.

His ayudhas are: padma (URH); chakra (ULH); gada(LLH); and shankha (LRH).

His Shakthi is Dhi.

He is Lord of Ashviyuja month.

He is invoked in back (lower spine) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of deer (mriga).

12. Damodara Murti

Damodara Murti the twelfth and the last among the Vyuhantara; and the third to emanate from Aniruddha is enchanting like the tender green blades ofdurva grass and wide eyes like pools. He wears yellow silk garments; and many types of gems and jewels; strings of precious stones.

His ayudhas are: shankha (URH); gada (ULH); chakra (LLH); and padma(LRH).

His Shakthi is Mahima.

He is Lord of Kartika month.

He is invoked in back (upper spine) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of deer (mriga).

*****

The following tables indicate the ayudha positions of each Vyuhantara Murti , its presiding deity;  and,  its association with the letters of Gayatri Mantra.

vyuha

vyuha2

 

Sources and References

I gratefully acknowledgethe line-drawings and notes fromBrahmiya Chitrakarma Sastram

by Prof G Gnanananda

Vishnu Koshaby Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao

Ritual, state, and history in South Asia By J. C. Heesterman, A. W. van den Hoek, D. H. A. Kolff, M. S. Oort

http://www.wilbourhall.org/sansknet/agama/Pancharatraagama/poushkara_samhita/36.htm

http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/feb96/0014.html

http://www.stephen-knapp.com/thousand_names_of_the_supreme.htm

http://www.hindu.com/2001/03/13/stories/13130179.htm

http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/jan98/0082.html

http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/dec2000/0142.html

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Vishnu

 

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Vishnu – Dwadashanamas – Part Three

Continued from Part Two – Narayana – Vasudeva Krishna -Para Vasudeva

E. The Vyuha

Para–Vasudeva and Lakshmi

13.1. As mentioned earlier, the central doctrine of the Pancharatra Agama is that the Absolute, the Brahman, out of loving- compassion, voluntary assumed bodily forms so that the devotees may gain access to his subtle form. He manifests himself in five-fold forms: Para or the supreme form of his transcendent being; Vyuha or the group of his forms called Vyuha-Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha brought together in worship and adoration as a complete body of divine power, and who represent the cosmic consciousness, intellect, mind, and the ego respectively; Vibhava or his glory seen through his incarnations or Avatars; Archa or his presence manifest in his idols and images worshipped by devotees; and as Antaryamin or his immanent presence within the Universe.

13.2. Para–Vasudeva represents the Pancharatra ideology of the transcendental form (para) of Narayana the supreme principle abiding in the highest realm paramapada. He is visualized as pure and resplendent like a clear crystal; and as the divinely auspicious charming form (divya mangala vigraha).  Para is the highest form and is referred to as ‘the first form’,’ the best of the Purushas’ and ‘the Highest Light’ etc. Para –Vasudeva is endowed with countless auspicious virtues (ananta kalyana guna), which include the important six ideal attributes: wisdom or gnosis (jnana), sovereignty (aishvarya), energy (sakthi), strength (bala), valour (virya) and splendour or glory (tejas).His other notable attributes are gambhirya (grandeur, majesty), audarya (generosity or benevolence), karunya (compassion), souseelya (chaste manners)and vaathsalya (affection).

13.3. Lakshmi (Sri) as energies intimately associated with Para –Vasudeva; and is regarded as the composite aspect of his transcendental form. While Para Vasudeva is pure consciousness, Lakshmi as creative energy is the cause of the material world. It is said, Lakshmi at his behest, that is by the power of his will (iccha sakthi), differentiates herself into the power of action (kriya sakthi) and the power of becoming (bhuti sakti). Out of her three powers the next phase of emanations (vyuha) proceeds

It is also explained that Lakshmi and Vasudeva are two aspects of the One reality. Within Para Vasudeva’s unity He implies She; and She implies He. Para Vasudeva is pure consciousness while Devi Lakshmi is his expression of “I-ness”. She is the thought within his consciousness; She is the energy that manifests His glory. She exists because of Him; and He depends on her to manifest all that he intends. Lakshmi is Vasudeva’s power to intend an act (kriya-shakthi); She is also the power to bring this act into being (bhuthi – shakthi).As conscious intent She is Agni –the fire; and as fruitful act She is Soma – the life-juice that feeds the fire (meaning all that sustains life). Just as fire produces liquid and liquid produces fire, She brings forth everything into being. Whenever we speak of Him acting, we understand the actor in fact is She. The Bhagavatas address the Supreme Being as the Unity of He and She; as the Father and Mother of all existence. Some scholars say that in the ancient Tamil poetry, the term Tirumal (Tiru = Shri; Mal = Mahat the Great One) means the Majestic Devi with the Great One, suggesting the essential unity of Lakshmi and Vasudeva. [See Denis Hudson’s Book]

13.4. The later Pancharatra texts mention, in addition to Lakshmi, two other consorts – Bhu-devi and Nila-devi – who too are regarded as energies associated with Narayana. The three Devis are said to also represent the three aspects (gunas) of nature (prakriti): Lakshmi (satva –white); Bhu (rajas –red) and Nila (tamas –dark). She is also the Maha-Maya the transcendent and magical creativity.

Emanation – Shristi 

14.1. The appearance of gunas in Lakshmi and Narayana sets in motion the process of emanation, the vyuha. The term Vyuha stands for structure or group or groups of persons. In the Vyuha emanation, Narayana manifests himself as five heroes of the Vrishni-yadava clan:Vasudeva-Krishna; his brother Sankarshana; Samba (son of Krishna –Jambavathi); Pradyumna (son of Krishna -Rukmini) and Aniruddha (son of Pradyumna).These five are together known as ‘heroes of a family’; and, the Bhagavata cult came to be known as ‘the doctrine of heroes’ (vira-vada). However, with Samba having been omitted from the group, the other four Vrishni heroes were revered as chatur-vyuha, the four essential aspects of Vishnu. Initially worship was offered to them individually; and later they were worshipped together in group.

14.2. Some scholars of the Pancharatra School try to explain why the Vyuha was composed by the relatives of Vasudeva – Krishna. They say when Narayana appeared on the earthly plane as Krishna, some of his attributes too took form as persons surrounding him. While Krishna, they say, is the complete manifestation those around him were sparks of the divine essence. Yet, Krishna and Vrishni heroes all originated from the same source, Narayana.

It is said; the gods are to be celebrated by their name, form, glory of their achievements and together with their friends (sthutistu naama rupena karmana baandhavena cha: Brihad-devatha -17)

Chatur Vyuha

15.1. Para is the undifferentiated Vasudeva while Vyuha is the stage of differentiated creation. Among the four Vyuha forms, the Vyuha-Vasudeva is regarded the most complete representation of Para-Vasudeva or Narayana. He is the embodiment of the ‘para’ nature of Narayana and is endowed with the six gunas in full measure. He is the source of other three Vyuha forms and is the creator of the second Vyuha, Sankarshana. Vasudeva says ‘the four Vyuha forms rest in me’ (chatur murti dharo hyam).

15.2. The chatur vyuha is compared to a pillar (visaka yupa) having four nodes (parva) bearing four resplendent lights, each light at a different height and each facing a different direction. The brightest of the four lights, at the top, glowing like a gem is Vyuha-Vasudeva the pure effulgence; it is all brightness. The other three lights, at the lower level, shining not-so-brightly, represent Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. The light at the second level glowing red like a ruby is Sankarshana; the next one below that burning yellow like gold is Pradyumna; and the light at the lowest level dark like a rain bearing cloud is Aniruddha.

The Vyuha structure, attributes and functions

16. The structure, the symbolisms and the functions assigned to each vyuha-murti is not only elaborate but also very interesting.

It is explained; Vasudeva as the Supreme (para) and Vasudeva as formation (Vyuha) differ only in relation to the beings produced. It is said; the Supreme Being Para-Vasudeva cannot be seen within space-time, just as an embryo cannot see the mother in whom it resides. But Vyuha-Vasudeva as a formation can be seen just as the infant can see its mother soon after birth. Sadhana the devotional way of disciplined and dedicated life is the means to see and experience Vasudeva as the formation Vyuha.

Vasudeva, as formation, re-produces his body, its content and actions, in three specific re-arrangements of himself in sequence. The primary Vasudeva changes into the formation of plougher Sankarshana. He then changes into the pre-eminently mighty Pradyumna. He thereafter changes into the formation of unobstructed Aniruddha.

The four Vyuha forms are in essence the four aspects of Para-Vasudeva from whom they all originate. They represent the four dimensions of the created universe; and regulate the cosmic order, rta.

The emanation of the four Vyuhas follows a certain sequence. The Vyuha Vasudeva is the first emanation. From him arises the second Vyuha: Sankarshana who in turn gives rise to the third Vyuha: Pradyumna.   The fourth Vyuha, Aniruddha, is produced by Pradyumna.

In this process of emanation Para-Vasudeva remains unaffected, unchanged and ‘rests in his nature ‘.The other Vyuha forms are the differentiated aspects of the Para.

This evolution in stages is compared to lighting one lamp from another. Para- Vasudeva is also compared to a seed that holds in its womb the entire tree, but grows and flourishes richly into a visible form, over a period of time.

  • The Vyuha –Vasudeva white in colour like fresh snow or cow’s milk  complete in all aspects (kala) has four arms representing four stages in the evolution and dissolution of the universe: creation or emergence (sristi), maintenance (sthiti), dissolution (samhara) and emancipation (mukthi).

Sankarshana who was dragged out of Vasudeva’s body (akrasya tu svakaad dehaath) too is complete in all the four aspects (chatuskala).He is red in colour. And, he produced Pradyumna

The four armed Pradyumna bright like burnished gold represents universal soul (vishva-atma).He in turn produced from half of his body (dehaardha) Aniruddha dark in colour, the master of yogis.

The alternate names assigned to the four forms are Paramahamasa or Purusha for Vyuha-Vasudeva; Vyoma or Satya for Sankarshana; Naada or Achyuta for Pradyumna; and Hamsa or Narayana for Aniruddha.

Vyuha-Vasudeva represents Purusha (the all inclusive cosmic person); Sankarshana the Prakrti (individual soul or the material manifestation); Pradyumna the Manas (consciousness and mind) and Aniruddha the Ahamkara (the ego or the individual identify).

The four Vyuha forms are also said to represent the four states of consciousness; Vyuha-Vasudeva represents Turiya (the state beyond all states); Sankarshana the Shushupti (dreamless sleep); Pradyumna the Svapna (dream state) and Aniruddha the Jagrat (wakeful state).

Each Vyuha form is associated with a Yuga (a great period or an era). Vyuha-Vasudeva is associated with Krita-yuga; Sankarshana with Treta-yuga; Pradyumna with Dwapara-yuga; and Aniruddha with Kali-yuga.

Among the Dashavataras (the ten avatars of Vishnu) Vyuha-Vasudeva is associated with Vamana and Vasudeva-Krishna; Sankarshana with Matsya, Kurma, Parushuarama, Sri Rama and Kalki; Pradyumna with the Buddha; and Aniruddha with Varaha and Nrusimha.

When Vyuha forms are depicted on the Vimana of a Vishnu temple, the Vyuha-Vasudeva is placed on the East, Sankarshana on the South; Pradyumna on the West; and Aniruddha on the South face of the Vimana.

The Vyuha-Vasudeva who virtually is Para Vasudeva himself, is complete and endowed with all the six divine attributes (shad-guna): wisdom or gnosis (jnana) , sovereignty (aishvarya) ,  energy or potency (sakthi), strength (bala) , valour (virya) and splendour or glory (tejas)

The six attributes (gunas) are grouped into three sets. The first set comprising the first three gunas (jnana, aishvarya and shakthi) is said to be in the ‘plane of rest’; the second set comprising the latter three gunas (balavirya and tejas) is said to be in ‘the plane of activity’; and the third set comprises three pairs of two each :  jnana and Balaaishvarya and virya; the third pair being shakthi and tejas. The scheme of grouping in the third set is such that a guna each from the first set is paired with a guna from the second set. (Please refer to the table appended).

The Vyuha forms are thus significant both in spiritual and in physical planes.

  • It is said that all the six divine attributes (shad-guna) are present in Vyuha-Vasudeva, in full measure. He is the pure aggregate of the six supreme qualities; but they rest in him undifferentiated and un-manifest.

However, only two each of those gunas appear dominantly in each of the other three Vyuhas. The dominant gunas in Sankarshana are: jnana and Bala; in Pradyumna: Aishvarya and Virya; and in Aniruddha: Shakthi and Tejas.

It is clarified that it should not be construed that all six attributes are not present in each of the other three Vyuha forms (Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha). But, it is implied that two specific gunas are dominant or explicit in each of those three Vyuhas, while the other four gunas are present in them in seed or potent form.

  • It is said, while Vyuha-Vasudeva represents Dharma, rta the cosmic order, the other Vyuhas are each assigned two distinct types of functions: one related to creation and the other related to guiding the jivas on the path to salvation.

As regards the creation- functions, it is said, that with Sankarshana (Bala) creation assumes an embryonic form; through Pradyumna (Aishvarya) the duality of Purusha and Prakrti makes its appearance; and Aniruddha (ShakthI) enables the body and soul to grow.

[There are various versions of this concept. For instance, Lakshmi Tantra mentions the function of Aniruddha as creation; of Pradyumna as preservation; and of Sankarshana as destruction.]

As regards guiding the souls, Sankarshana (jnana) teaches the ‘siddantha’ the governing principles (ekantika –marga); Pradyumna (virya) helps its translation into practice (tatkriya); and Aniruddha (tejas) brings about the fruit of such practice (kriya phala), which is liberation.

The Vyuha context

17.1. There are arguments among various schools including the Vaishnavas on the Vyuha-concept. All agree with possibility of Vasudeva Parama-purusha manifesting himself in several forms in order to be accessible to the aspirants. However, some, notably Parashara Bhattar (12th century CE), point out that Vyuha- Vasudeva is virtually the Para_vasudeva in full measure. And, wonder if there was a need or relevance for Para-Vasudeva to replicate as Vyuha-Vasudeva –murti. They remark, it would suffice if the Vyuha is restricted to three forms: Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.

17.2. The Vyuha concept appears to be ancient and much older to that of the Avatars. It also appears to be better structured and function- oriented. Each Vyuha form has a designated position, specific aspects and defined functions. The Vyuha manifestations are actively associated with the processes of creation, evolution and maintenance of the world and the world-order. They also protect and guide the devotees on the path to salvation. In other words, Vyuha is a dynamic group which is closely associated with the functions of the world and expresses itself eloquently.

17.3. In the Pancharatra tradition which recommends icon worship (Archa) in the place of rituals like Yajnas, the approach to the divine is graded. And, in its   hierarchy of divinities, the Vyuha murtis are ranked higher than the Avatars. The Vyuha murtis are regarded celestial beings while Avatars are those who descended to the earthly plane.  The devotees, it is said, attain to or gain approach to the Vyuhas only after worship of Vibhava forms (Avatars) such as Sri Rama and others. A devotee contemplates on the subtle form of Vasudeva only through worship of Vyuha murtis.

17.4. In comparison, the Avatar concept appears rather nebulous. Avatar is the Vibhava form of emanation, the pragmatic stage, in which the God makes himself visible (avirbhava) descending to the earthly plane, for a specific purpose. And, only a handful of such Avatars are the major ones (purna), most others being either partial (amsha) or in passing (avesha). The recognition of an Avatar appeared to have come about as a response to the then popular sentiments. Each tradition follows its own interpretation of Avatar; the number of recognized Avatars too varies from School to School. For instance the Pancharatra Samhita lists as many as thirty-nine Avatars, while the Bhagavata – Purana mentions twenty-two Avatars; and the most recognized Avatars are ten. The legends connected with those Avatars also vary. Their virtues or position in the pantheon are often vague.

Next

18. The Vyuha concept is one of the most significant features of the Vaishnava traditions, particularly of the Pancharatra. In its schema of cosmology, Para is the undifferentiated Vasudeva while Vyuha is the stage of differentiated creation closer to the beings. The Vyuha influence is wide spread across its various texts of philosophy, theology and Shilpa (temple architecture).For instance, Sri Parashara Bhattar (c.12th century) in his celebrated commentary on Vishnu-sahasra-nama observed that the Vishnu-names from 1 to 122 glorify Vishnu’s transcendental form Para; the next set of names from 123 to 146 expound the Vyuha forms; and then the stotra moves on to Vibhava (Avatars), Archa and other attributes.

The Vyuha in turn gave raise to twenty-four classical forms of Vishnu, the names of which are recited each day with devotion and reverence by most Hindus. Of the twenty-four secondary Vyuha (Vyuhantara), the first twelve (Dwadasha murti) are regarded more important.

We shall talk about the Dwadasha murti   in the next post.The following is the brief iconographic description of the Vyuhas, in summary.Vyuha murtis are manifestations of Para-Vasudeva, the chief of the Vyuha (adyaksha); and, therefore their general features follow that of Vasudeva. The Agama texts of the Vaishnava persuasion (Vishvaksena Samhita, Isvara Samhita, Vishnudharmottara and Padma Samhita) as also the Shilpa texts such as Rupamandana carry elaborate descriptions of the Vyuha-murtis. The texts prescribe that icons of the four Vyuhas be installed separately. It is also mentioned that Vyuha -Vasudeva be depicted in standing posture (sthanaka); Sankarshana in seated posture (aasana); Pradyumna in resting or leaning posture; and Aniruddha in moving posture(yana karmani). The Vishvaksena Samita (11:145) however states that the Vyuha murti (images) may be depicted either as seated (aasana), recumbent (sayana), standing (sthanaka) or as in motion (Yana).

 

Iconography

Vyuha –Vasudeva murti

Vyuha Vasudeva is represented as bright and clear as the pure crystal (shuddha spatika mani), as the cow’s milk, as jasmine or as the fresh snow. His aspect is peaceful and benevolent (saumya); and he wears yellow or red garments. He may be two or four armed. His lower right hand assumes the gesture of protection or it holds a lotus (padma); and his lower left hand holds the mace (gada).His upper right hand holds the discus (chakra) and the left hand holds the conch (shankha).He is adorned tastefully with ornaments. His image is scaled in uttama-dasatala measure.

Vyuha –Sankarshana murti

Vyuha-Sankarshana is lustrous and glowing red as a ruby or the morning sun. He is depicted as a very strong and vigorous person. He wears yellow or blue garments ; and an earring in one ear (kundalaka vibhushita).In his lower set of hands he holds pestle (musala) and a plough (hala or langala). In the upper hands he holds a bow (dhanus) and a conch (shankha).He is richly ornamented.

Vyuha –Pradyumna murti

Pradyumna is the colour of tender durva –grass or lustrous like the light of a glowing blue gem (durva- marakata prakhyam).He is very handsome; his disposition is as if slightly intoxicated (madothkata) and he wears yellow or red silken garments. His ornaments are rich and delicate.  He holds in the lower set of hands a conch (shankha) and a mace (gada).In the upper hands he holds a lotus (padma) and a discus (chakra).

When he is two-armed he is shown in white garments holding a bow and an arrow.

Vyuha –Aniruddha murti

Aniruddha is dark-blue like the rain- bearing cloud. He is very handsome. He wears yellow silken garments (pitambara). He is also described as rather pinkish like a fresh red lotus, wearing red garments. He is richly ornamented and has flowing long flower- garlands (vanamala). He holds in his lower set of hands a dagger (khadga) and a shield (khetaka). In the upper hands he holds a bow and an arrow.

He is also shown in recumbent position, resting on Sesha and in company of his consorts.

ranganatha

Vishnu Dwadasanama

Sources and References

I gratefully acknowledge the line-drawings and notes from Brahmiya Chitrakarma Sastram  by Prof . Dr. G Gnanananda

Vishnu Kosha by Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao

http://www.gosai.com/chaitanya/saranagati/html/vedic-upanisads/vedic-archeology-2.html

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/spiritual-discussions/35835-enclyopedia-visistadvaitam-sri-vaishnavam.html

http://4krsna.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/the-pancharatra-agamas/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pa%C3%B1caratra

http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/cgi-bin/kbase/Pancaratra/Modes

http://4krsna.wordpress.com/page/2/

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/bhakti-list/126238-sri-sankaras-views-vyuha.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pa%C3%B1caratra

http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/apr2003/0043.html

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Vishnu

 

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Vishnu – Dwadashanamas – Part Two

Continued from Part One— Vishnu

B. Narayana

4.1. Narayana in Rig Veda is not the name of a god; but is the name of the Rishi to whom the hymn Purusha- Sukta was revealed. Purusha Sukta running into sixteen riks occurs in the last book (mandala 10: 7.90.1-16) of Rig Veda. Purusha- Sukta – commencing with the line sahasraśīrṣā puruṣaḥ sahasrākṣaḥ sahasrapāt – is the only hymn dedicated to Purusha; and is repeated in other Vedas with slight modifications.

The devatha invoked in the Sukta is Purusha the transcendental “primordial person” from whose body the universe was created. He was both sacrificer and the sacrificed, and his rite was the simulated prototype for all later Vedic sacrifices.

The Rishi of the Purusha Sukta is Narayana; and , its Devata is Purusha. It is said, the Rishi and his deity (devatha) merged into one; and , thus Narayana became the Purusha (Satapatha Brahmana 13. 6. 1.1).

puruṣo ha nārāyaṇo’kāmayata atitiṣṭheyaṃ sarvāṇi bhūtānyahamevedaṃ sarvaṃ
syāmiti sa etam puruṣamedham pañcarātram
yajña kratum apaśyattamāharattenāyajata teneṣṭvātyatiṣṭhatsarvāṇi bhūtānīdaṃ
sarva mabha vadatitiṣṭhati sarvāṇi bhūtānīdaṃ sarvam bhavati ya evam
vidvān puruṣamedhena yajate yo vaitadevam veda

[This perhaps is just as Rishi Vamadeva merged into Shiva becoming one of the five faces of Shiva to represent the aspect of Vama or “preserver” associated with the element of water.]

4.2. Purusha Sukta visualizes the universe as a cosmic person. The universe visualized in human imagery is the Purusha (purusha evedam vishvam). He is endowed with countless heads and limbs. He has Agni in the face and mouth; the sun in eyes; moon in the mind; directions around as ears; vayu as his vital currents; Vedas as his speech; and the whole universe is settled in his heart. The space and time, the years, seasons, all creation and the very earth itself emanates from his feet.

candramā manaso jātaś cakṣoḥ sūryo ajāyata |  mukhād indraś cāgniś ca prāṇād vāyur ajāyata ||

chandāṃsi jajñire tasmād yajus tasmād ajāyata ||

 pādo ‘sya viśvā bhūtāni tripād asyāmṛtaṃ divi ||

Purusha is cosmic in nature, fills and enlivens the entire universe; yet, he also dwells hidden in heart-cave of each being as its essence, spirit and strength. He is the antaryamin, the very life of life. Purusha in this sense is the Atman. The essentials of our existence are all settled in the Purusha, like the spokes of the wheel in its hub.

Visualizing the cosmos in the image of a person is a grand analogy; and no other  device appears  to  match that . A reciprocal reflection of that image is the man who finds in his own being a miniature universe. He finds within him the ‘sun’, the ’moon’, the ‘earth’, the ’fire’ and the ‘space’. Man is the fragmentary universe (vyasti); and Purusha is the totality (samasti). The man and universe exist in one another. The potency of the whole is contained in each fragment. Hence they are in me; and I am in them” (mayi te teṣhu chā api aham – Bhagavad Gita 9.29)

Purusha is not a personal deity who creates out of nothingness. It  is the cosmic process that creates and destroys because that is in its nature; just as a man’s blood creates new cells; his hair on head and body spring forth and wither away; and his stomach digests other forms of life. The acts of devouring and being devoured are successive states of everything. The processes of life and death are entwined, each giving rise to the other.

4.3. In the Samkhya context, the term Purusha has the meaning of pure consciousness or spirit, as compared to matter (prakriti) which includes our senses and intellect. Prakriti evolves, changes and binds; yet, it is inert and needs the presence of Purusha to enliven, push and impel. Purusha here is the stimulator who causes creation. It is through Prakrti that Purusha manifests himself. And, every form of creation bears this sign of duality.

When he is animated by the desire to create, Purusha is Prajapathi the creator (srashta)  and protector (Palaka) of all beings. Some scholars explain the giving up (sacrificing) his innate nature of purity, formlessness and transcendence is indeed the sacrifice of Purusha (Purusha medha). In a sense, Purusha was dismembered. Prajapathi could become the creator only as a result of Purusha’s sacrifice; and all the innumerable forms of creation emanated from a common foundation, the fire of desire (Kama) of the Prajapathi. Though Purusha was dismembered , he fills, enlivens all this Universe ; and,  lies hidden in all forms of existence.  Sri Ramanuja, therefore,  described him as the primordial creator adi-karta cha bhutanam.

ime vai lokāḥ pūrayameva puruṣo yo’yam pavate so’syām puri śete tasmāt puruṣastasya yadeṣu lokeṣvannaṃ tadasyā nnam medhas tadyadasyaitadannam medhas tasmāt puruṣamedho’tho  yadasminmedhyānpuruṣānālabhate tasmādveva puruṣamedhaḥ //Sh.Br.13.6.2.1//

4.4. Purusha Sukta had enormous impact on the development of Vishnu; as also in molding the Vaishnava doctrines, theology and world-view.

The concept of Purusha pre-dates the emergence of Vishnu or Shiva forms. The Purusha imagery comprehends the powers associated with Agni, Indra, Vayu, Surya and yajna; and transcends, pervades all existence. For instance, it was said, the power, energy and splendor of the sun are derived from Purusha the resplendent spirit dwelling inside the solar orb, brilliant like the burnished gold. Purusha in the solar orb and the Purusha abiding in the eye were said to be established in one another. Prajapathi, who is the form of Purusha when animated, was considered the Agni on earth. Purusha was the very essence and the purpose of the yajna. Purusha pervades all existence and also resides in heart-cave of all beings.

During the later periods, Purusha came to be recognized as Vishnu and  Purusha Sukta the eulogy of Vishnu, because the all-pervading Vishnu by then was identified with Surya, Agni, and Yajna (yajno vai vishnuh). The virtues and powers of Purusha and his associations with elements in nature were analogues to Vishnu relations with the Vedic deities. And, with that, Vishnu, Narayana and Purusha were all treated as one.

4.5. Some concepts emanating from Purusha Sukta appear to have guided the doctrine and theology of Vishitadvaita. For instance, the Purusha Sukta put forward the premise of the formless absolute entity (amurta) voluntarily assuming a cognizable form (murta) in order to be accessible to the aspirants. It was an act of boundless compassion (karunya) and love for the beings. Purusha is cosmic in nature and pervades all universe; yet, it resides in each being as its very essence (antaryamin).

Similarly, in Vishistadwaita, Narayana the Parama Purusha (the supreme person) is the embodiment of the Absolute the Brahman who assumed the divinely auspicious charming form (divya mangala vigraha) out of compassion for all beings. The transcendental Para Vasudeva assumed the Vyuha forms and Avatars for the benefit of all beings. Narayana Paramatman dwells in all beings and matter as the Antaryami or ‘Suksma Vasudeva’  like the ‘Smokeless flame’ seated in the ‘lotus of the heart ‘. Narayana just as the Purusha is the source of all existence and all that exists resolves in to him.

In the process Purusha, Narayana  , vasudeva and Vishnu all merged in to each other.This became the basis for the Bhagavatha Dharma

Narayanaya  vidmahe  Vasdudevaya  dhimahi

Tanno  Vishnuh  prachodayath  

(Mahanarayanopanishad)

 

4.6. According to Sri Ramanuja, whatever is, is Brahman. His Brahman is not an impersonal Absolute;  but, is a Savisesha Brahman, a saguna Brahman i.e., Brahman endowed with countless auspicious attributes (ananta kalyana guna). He is the infinite ocean of compassion (apara karuna sindhu).  He is eternal (nitya); His nature is truth (satya), knowledge (jnana) and bliss (ananda).

He is Narayana, he who originated from ‘that which has all forms and no form’. Narayana Parama-purusha alone exists; the entire existence dwells in him and he abides in all as antaryamin. Loving devotion and surrender to Narayana is the only path to Moksha, the liberation; and even that is possible only with the loving grace of Narayana. Sri Ramanuja explains Narayana as “He who is the dwelling place, i.e., the source,  support and dissolving ground of all Jivas, including inert matter.” Moksha consists in the jiva remaining in undisturbed bliss in presence of Narayana in Vaikunta.

4.7. Sri Ramanuja’s concept of the Supreme is closer to that of the Rig Veda, which primarily follows Saguno-pasana. The Supreme Reality of Rig Veda, though it is beyond description or definition, is the abode of all auspicious qualities; he is sat-chit-ananda. He is the omniscient and the original cause of the world (tasyedu visva bhuvanadhi mrudani). He manifests himself as the world (Visvarupah).  He is  Jagat_pati, the Lord of the Universe, of all beings. He is the sustainer and the protector. He is omniscient, compassionate and easily accessible to devotees (Niyanta sunrutanam). Rig Veda firmly believes in grace of God; and calls upon all humans to establish a relationship with Deva as one would do with a son, a friend, a father or a mother. There is faith that the Devas respond to prayers and fulfill the desires of the devotees.

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5.1. The famous philosopher Dr.Surendranath Dasgupta in his monumental History of Indian philosophy makes an interesting observation. In the Rig Veda, he observes, Vishnu is called as Gopa, Sipivishta, Urukrama, etc., but not as Narayana. Then he goes on to say, similarly, Bhagavad Gita does not use the term Narayana; but, the Mahabharata identifies Narayana with Vishnu. This, according to him, could show that Bhagavad Gita was composed much before Mahabharata tale was reduced to writing. He opines, Bhagavad Gita was composed when Narayana was yet to be equated with Vishnu. The name Narayana, he says, appears for the first time in the Satapatha Brahmana (xii, 3.4. L,) where, however,  it is not connected with Vishnu.

6.1. The term Narayana is a compound of Nara (Man, more particularly the foundation of all men) and Ayana (the goal); meaning, Narayana is he who directs towards the ultimate goal moksha of the humans. In Mahabharata, Krishna is often referred to as Narayana and Arjuna as Nara. Here Narayana guides Nara the man towards true understanding and liberation. The epic, in fact, commences with salutations to Narayana and Nara (Narayanam namaskrutyam naram chaiva narottamam).

6.2. The expression Narayana also suggests several other meanings; the more common of which, as given in Manu Smriti (1.10) are: ‘the primal waters’; ‘that which does not perish’; ‘the spirit that abides (ayana) in the water (Nara, apah) of existence’ and being the ‘goal of all knowledge’. Narayana’s association with water is very intimate. Narayana, it is said, Narayana as Purusha not only resides in water  in his natural state (prui sete) ; but,  is the very essence of water. These explanations are meant to suggest that Narayana is an infinite cosmic ocean from which all creation arises, in which all beings live and into which all that exists   resolves.

āpo narā iti proktā āpo vai narasūnavaḥ / tā yad asyāyanaṃ pūrvaṃ tena nārāyaṇaḥ smṛtaḥ // Mn_1.10 //

6.3. Further, the creation and destruction of the universe, it is believed, is neither its beginning nor its end. They are just segments of a long spread out cyclical process. When creation is withdrawn, the universe does not totally cease or is it wiped out. The universe that was destroyed persists in a subtle form as a reminder of what once was; and as a germ of what will be the next universe. That potent reminder (Sesha) of the destroyed universe is embodied in Sesha the serpent coiled itself and floating upon limitless ocean of casual waters. Sesha whose other name is Anantha (the endlessness) represents the non-evolved form of nature (prakrti).Vishnu the pervader and preserver rests on Sesha floating on water, until he wills the next cycle of creation. Vishnu then is Narayana the one who abides in water. Narayana also means ‘the abode of man and of all existence’

[There is an interesting sidelight to Narayana’s association with water. It was mentioned to me; and am not sure if it is based in a text. This has reference to the ever –going conflict between two powerful sages of the early Vedic era – Brighu and Angirasa. Brighu was the son of Varuna the Vedic deity of water-principle. The Brighu clan and followers were close to life on rivers and seas. The vast stretch of the mouths of the mighty Sarawathi as it branched into number of rivulets and joined the occasion was the domain of the Brighus. The Brighus were the people of the sea. The Angirasas were, on the other hand, closely associated with mountains, hills, dales, and vast open spaces; they lived mainly in the foothill regions of the Himalayas. The Angirasas were mountain dwellers.

mysore-painting

The myth of churning sea-water with a mountain-head is largely seen as a symbolic representation of the oscillating conflict between the people of the sea (Brighus – Asuras) and the people of the hills (Angirasas- Devas).The Angirasas eventually won the battle; Vishnu the leader of the Angirasas (Devas) took Lakshmi (aka Bhargavi meaning Brighu’s daughter), the daughter of the vanquished sea-people, as his wife. Vishnu also derived his riches like the Kaustuba gem, Panchajanya etc from the sea; and resided among the people of the sea (Brighus). Vishnu who in early Rig Veda was a mountain dweller (giristha) eventually made his home in water. He became Narayana. ]

C.  Vasudeva –Krishna

71. Krishna son of Vasudeva of the vrishni-yadava clan is the soul and spirit of the Mahabharata. Krishna alone rescued the epic from degenerating into internecine family feud; and elevated it into a conflict of great significance in order to uphold Dharma. He taught the world that the ultimate conflict was not about land, riches or power but about the human spirit, the Dharma.

7.2. Towards the end of Mahabharata, Vishnu came to be equated with Narayana and with the Supreme Being. At many places in the epic Krishna and Vasudeva are mentioned as forms of Vishnu/Narayana (MB Udyoga parva and Shanthi parva). In Bhagavad- Gita, Krishna is the virtual Supreme Being. The Anu-gita which appears at the end of Mahabharata reveres Krishna as Vishnu. There are at least six instances in Mahabharata (including the one of Bhagavad Gita) where Krishna displays his awe inspiring cosmic form (vishva rupa) to demonstrate his divine essence.

8.1. Krishna has long been worshipped and revered as Supreme god.  The great grammarian Panini (8th century BCE) in his Astadhyayi explains the term vasudevaka as the devotee of Krishna -Vasudeva. Later, Patanjali (3rd century BCE) in his Mahabhashya too defines the term bhakta (devotee) as the ‘follower of Vasudeva, God of gods’- ke cit kaṃsa-bhaktāḥ bhavanti ke cit vāsudeva-bhaktāḥ (P_3,1.26.6).  Patanjali quotes a verse: “May the might of Krishna accompanied by Sankarshana increase! – saṅkarṣaṇa-dvitīyasya balam kṛṣṇasya vardhatām iti  -(P_2,2.24.4) “

8.2. The Arthashastra of Kautilya, of fourth century BC, refers several times to Krishna; while the Baudhayana Dharma Sutra  (Baudh 2.5.9.10) of the same century gives twelve different names for Krishna, including popular ones like Keshava, Govinda, and Damodara.

8.3. The Jain god Halabhrit referred to in Jaina Puranas is identified as Baladeva or Balarama, elder brother of Krishna. He is shown with snake-hood, a club or ploughshare or both, and a wine cup.

8.4. The Ghata-jataka of the Buddhist Canon (5-6th century) carries the story of a certain Krishna who belonged to a royal family of Matura. He is the son of king Upasagara and queen Deva-garbha; but was given to the foster care of Nandagopa wife of Andaka-vrishni. This Krishna is described as a virtuous and revered person; a Rishi.

8.5. The noted historian Dr. D.C. Sircar, quoting Quintus Curtius Rufus (c. 41-54 AD) says that an image of Vasudeva-Krishna was carried in front by the army of King Paurava, as it advanced against the Greeks led by Alexander the Great (The Cultural Heritage of India, vol. 4. p. 115).

9.1. The archaeological evidences too indicate prevalence of Krishna – Vasudeva worship centuries before Christ. For instance, a stone pillar with a Garuda sculpture on top dedicated to the god Vasudeva the “God of gods”, was erected in front of Vasudeva temple by Heliodorus the Greek ambassador to the court of King Bhagabhadra (around 113 BCE, near Vidisha or Besnagar in MP).

Another second century inscription of Ghosundi (Rajasthan) mentions a pujā-silā-prākar (stone enclosure for worship) in Nārāyana-vata (park of Nārāyana) by king Gājāyana Sarvatāta constructed in service of gods Vasudeva and Sankarshana described as ‘Lords of all’.

And the Mora –well inscription assigned to first century found near Mathura (UP) refers to five heroes of vrishni clan viz Baladeva (Sankarshana), Vasudeva (Krishna), Samba (son of Krishna), Pradyumna (son of Krishna) and Aniruddha (son of Pradyumna).

4th–6th century CE Sardonyx seal representing Vishnu

Heliodorus was a Greek ambassador to India in the second century B.C. He was sent to the court of King Bhagabhadra by Antiakalidas, the Greek king of Taxila. The kingdom of Taxila was part of the Bactrian region in northwest India, conquered by Alexander the Great in 325 B.C. By the time of Antialkidas, the area under Greek rule included what is today Afghanistan, Pakistan and Punjab.

Heliodorus was presumably not the only foreigner who took to  Vaisnava devotional practices ; certainly there must have been many others

The column Heliodorus erected at Besnagar in central India in about 113 B.C is considered one of the most important archaeological finds on the Indian subcontinent.

The inscriptions on the Heliodorus pillar  read:

brahmi-on-columnDevadevasa Va[sude]vasa Garudadhvajo ayam
karito i[a] Heliodorena bhaga
vatena Diyasa putrena Takhasilakena
Yonadatena agatena maharajasa
Amtalikitasa upa[m]ta samkasam-rano
Kasiput[r]asa [Bh]agabhadrasa tratarasa
vasena [chatu]dasena rajena vadhamanasa

Trini amutapadani‹[su] anuthitani
nayamti svaga damo chago apramado

**

“This Garuda-column of Vasudeva (Vishnu), the god of gods, was erected here by Heliodorus, a worshipper of Vishnu, the son of Dion, and an inhabitant of Taxila, who came as Greek ambassador from the Great King Antialkidas to King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Saviour, then reigning prosperously in the fourteenth year of his kingship.”

“Three immortal precepts (footsteps)… when practiced diligently lead to heaven: self-restraint (dama), charity, (thyaga) consciousness (apramada).” 

10.1. The exact relationship between Krishna and Vishnu is complex;  and is a subject of endless debate. Strangely, Krishna became the point of departure for Vaishnava Schools of the North and the South. In the older traditions of the South, Narayana or Vishnu is the summum bonum , the source, support and dissolving ground of all Jivas. Krishna is an aspect or an avatar of Vishnu; not necessarily subordinate to Vishnu. However, the traditions of Gaudiya (Bengal) Vaishnavas, the Nimbarka Sampradaya and follower of Vallabha-charya consider Vasudeva-Krishna as Svayam Bhagavān “The Lord Himself “; and not  different from the ultimate and absolute Brahman. Vasudeva-Krishna   is the source of all avatars, and is the source of Vishnu or Narayana and all other gods.

D. Para-Vasudeva

11.1. The central doctrine of the Pancharatra ideology is that the absolute, formless Brahman, out of loving- compassion, voluntary assumed bodily forms so that the devotees may gain access to his subtle form. He manifests himself in five-fold forms: Para or the supreme form of his transcendent being; Vyuha or the group of his forms called Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha brought together in worship and adoration as a complete body of divine power,  and who represent  the cosmic consciousness, intellect, mind, and the ego respectively; Vibhava or his glory seen through his incarnations or Avatars; Archa or his presence manifest in his idols and images worshipped by devotees; and Antaryamin or his immanent presence within the Universe.

11.2. The approach to the divine is graded. The devotee worships the Vibhava form or the incarnation of God such as Rama and others; then moves on to worship the Vyuha forms. And, from Vyuha form he progresses to worship the subtle forms of Vasudeva. Only the Suris the truly wise ones (gods and emancipated souls) can experience and enjoy His Para form abiding in the highest realm paramapada

He is called Para because he is free and pure, altogether unconditioned by phenomenal process. Para is often referred to as ‘the first form’, ‘the best of the Purushas’ and ‘the Highest Light’ etc; But, Para is not the Absolute –Supreme –formless Brahman. Para is a representation of Brahman.

12.1. Adi – murti or Adi-Vishnu or Para-Vasudeva represents the Pancharatra ideology of the transcendental form (para) of godhead Narayana (Vishnu) abiding in the highest realm paramapada. He is called para because he originated from ‘that which has all forms and no form’, ‘Brahman without beginning, middle and end’; and because he  is the all pervading divinity and the primal source of all other divine forms and manifestations. He is visualized as pure and resplendent like a clear crystal; and as the divinely auspicious charming form.

The identification of Vasudeva-Krishna with Vishnu or Para –Vasudeva had enormous impact on the Pancharatra theology.

Adi Murthi

 

Let’s talk about the Vyuha of the Pancharatra School in the next post.

Continued in

Part Three

The Vyuha

 

Iconography

Narayana

(i) Narayana being one of the most popular forms of Vishnu, number of texts and dhyana-slokas carry the iconographic details of Narayana. The more prominent of such texts are: Chitra-karma sastram; Parasara Samhita; Sesha Samhita; Rupamandana; and Aditya hrudaya. While the general features of Narayana resemble that of Vishnu , Sesha Samhita says, Narayana image should be placed in a solar orb (savitr –mandala) ; he should be seated upon a white lotus;  and bedecked with armlets, crocodile-shaped earrings (makara – kundala) , a rich crown , the kaustubha gem and Srivatsa  on the chest; and  decorated with flowing garlands (vanamala) . He should be dressed in bright yellow or red  garments; and holding conch and discus in his hands. The expression on his face should be bright, beautiful, smiling and evoking happiness in the hearts of the viewers. His complexion should resemble molten golden –hue or luster of blue cloud. (Sesha Samhita 34, 16)

(ii) The usual descriptions of Narayana are that he has four arms representing four vyuhas; and carrying conch, discus, mace and lotus. His complexion is blue like that of sky.  His countenance is tranquil (shanta). His bearing is dignified, standing in equipoise (sama-banga) on a white lotus. He wears yellow silk garments (pitambara) and is richly adorned with gems, ornaments and flower garlands.

Krishna

Krishna is the most adorable of all gods. There are virtually countless forms of Krishna-depictions; and, can hardly be enumerated.  The texts , therefore, suggest, Krishna may be visualized in whatever form one desires. But , they lay down some broad guidelines.

[It is said in Vaikhanasa agama: Krishna‘s forms are indeed infinite; and,  are beyond enumeration . Whoever desires to worship Krishna, let her/him choose one of Krishna’s forms ; and , devote to it entirely, diligently and lovingly – Krishna rupani asankyanivaktum asaktyani; tasmad ethestya rupam karayeth]

(i) To start with, the Krishna iconographic depictions are conceived in three broad forms. They are his Saumya or Lalita-rupa – gracious, delightful and beautiful form; the Aradhya-rupa– worship-worthy divine form , either two-armed , four-armed or eight-armed (Trilokya-mohana)  carrying various ayudhas ; and, the third  is the Vishwa-rupa, or his cosmic form displaying his infinite form as Vishwa or Virat  Purusha pervading every element of the  entire cosmos .

[However, the spectacular Vishwa-rupa depictions and themes are mostly confined to Bhagavad-Gita illustrations]

It is mostly the blend of his two forms – the Saumya and the Aradhya – that have given rise to his Lila –rupa (depicting his various playful deeds and adorable sports) that is widely illustrated and painted in various Schools of art. The Lila Krishna is the most lovable infant/ boy/ and lover. Every mother loves to see Krishna in her little son; and every girl pines to see her lover in the image and spirit of Krishna.

The Lila-rupa is now the prime form of Krishna images. It combines in itself the three other Rupas or forms (Saumya, Aradhya and Vishwa) of Krishna; and projects him as Lila-Krishna or Lila-Purusha.

Again, Krishna’s icons in Lila-rupa may be classed under three broad groups :

: – The first one comprises of his sanctum images, the images installed in temples to which formal worship is offered. For instance:   the universally revered mage of Venu Gopala or Banke Bihari at Vrindavana standing in Tribhangi, with flute on his lips. He is richly decorated with Kaustuba jewel and Srivatsa mark on the chest; and Swastika insignia on his feet.

The sanctum-images of Krishna, Aradhya rupa, try to mirror his cosmic nature. The blue or dark bodied  like a rain-bearing cloud (abhravapu) Krishna corresponds to the sky and the ocean; one defining cosmic vastness and the other cosmic depth; and, both conjointly the Infinity, which as Vishnu’s incarnation Krishna represented [except in Tanjore and Mysore paintings where his figure glows with golden lustre].

: – The second relates to his deeds as the protector of the virtuous and the destroyer of the evil.

The icons depicting Krishna eliminating the evil form another group of Krishna’s iconographic visualization. He subdues the evil ones, such as Kalinga the python, puts an end to agents of death such as Baka, Puthana and Kubalyapitha and others. Here, the detached Krishna eliminates evil, protects environment and Yamuna; removes the polluting venom; puts out forest fires and so on.

As Govardhana-dhari, Krishna lifts mount Govardhana on his left hand little finger for protecting Vrindavana, its people, animals, nature and so on, from Indra’s ire.

His major act of valour in his adolescence was the elimination of Kamsa and Chanura; and establishing a just social order.

Apart from these acts of bravery, Krishna also dispels misgivings and imparts true understanding and knowledge. [Much later in his life, Krishna, as Partha Sarathi,  on the battle field, teaches Arjuna the true perspective of life; and the ways that wise persons act in life].

krishna chatustala0005

: – And, the third is his human forms, where he is the highly  ideal and most beloved  boy, youth and son; and, the sublime, divine lover

In this category of Lila rupa, Krishna as an infant is shown either on the swing or on the lap of Mother Yashodha or on a banyan leaf (vata-patra-shayi) or enjoying a lump of fresh butter (Navaneetha Krishna). In his childhood, Krishna as Bala Krishna is depicted variously as the most lovable ever mischievous little boy stealing butter, breaking pots and playing pranks; as Gopi-Krishna, he plays, sings and dances merrily with the village girls; and in the Radha – Krishna rupa he is with Sri Radha, idealized Love.

As Venu-Gopala or Madana-Gopala or Dhenu Gopala, Krishna adorned with pea-cock feather, vanamala (garland of forest flowers) and a string of gunja-seeds (gunja-avathamsam – siki-pincha),   playing on flute tends the cows (Gopalaka) and plays happily with his mates (Gopala-sukhavahanam).

In Indian tradition, cow (gau) also represents the earth; for, she has earth-like forbearance and capacity to feed mankind. Allegorically, Krishna protects the earth from evils and sustains it. ‘Gau‘ also means the five ‘senses’ that human beings have. Thus, Gopala (Gah palayanti) is he who sustains and controls senses (indriyani). At another level, Krishna stands for the Supreme Self and Gopis for ‘jivatmas‘ or individual selves pining to unite with it. Radha defines the culmination of this longing before she unites with the Supreme Self.

***

(ii) Now, a well respected text of the Shilpa Shastra – Sri Brahmiya Chitra karma Shastram – of Vaishnava orientation devotes the entire of its chapter nine – Sri Krishna Lakshanam – to discuss the various iconographic representation of Krishna.

According to this text:

Krishna, it is said, is usually depicted as an adorable, lovable lad of less than fifteen years; or as a handsome and graceful young man. The boyhood of Krishna, it is suggested, could be split into five segments of three years each. The general prescription is , the images of Krishna of the age of less than three be scaled to five (pancha) tala measure (sixty angulas); the images of three to six years in six (shat) tala measure (seventy two angulas);the images of the age up to nine years in seven (sapta) tala measure (eighty-four angulas); the images of the age from nine to twelve years in eight (asta) tala measure(ninety-six angulas); and, the images of the age from twelve to fifteen years be scaled in nine (nava) tala measure( one hundred and eight angulas).

Certain depictions of boy-Krishna are  stylized and are ichnographically well recognized; these are : Bala_Krishna (infant Krishna playing in mother’s lap or on leaf of banyan tree , sucking his toe); Navanita-tandava (three-year old Krishna standing on his slightly bent left-leg in a dancing pose, the right-hand holding afloat a ball of butter) ;Kaliya-mardana( a seven to nine year Krishna dancing on the hoods of the Kalia serpent , holding in his left hand the tail of the serpent); Govardhana-dhara( twelve year Krishna holding up the Govardhana hill on the tip of his little finger) and Venu-gopala (twelve-fifteen year Krishna under a tree playing on the flute , he stands in tri-bhanga posture and wears a peacock feather in his hair).

Krishna as a young man is depicted lovingly in company of Rukmini or Radha or other gopis;

or as  Govardhana or as Partha-sarathy the teacher of Arjuna on the battle field.

The image of Krishna as a young person is scaled in ten (dasa) tala measure (120 angulas). His complexion resembles light-blue sky; he is clad in garments of golden-hue (the colour of Radha); lovingly adorned with ornaments, flowing garlands swinging across his chest, a beautiful light crown with a peacock feather tucked on top. He could be holding a flute or a baton (danda); his left hand bent at elbow and slightly lifted up in jest. He has a gentle, sweet smile playing on his lips and face; and a sparkle glowing in his eyes.

Krishna is depicted with two hands as also with four or eight hands. Bedecked with ornaments (sarva-abhara-bhushitam)   Trailokya–mohana form may have eight or sixteen arms carrying various ayudhas , such as shakthi (sphere), kumbha (pot), srunga (horn), musala ( pestle) , bana (arrow) , goad (ankusha) , noose ( pasha)  ; and gesturing boons (varada-hasta) or in meditative pose (dhyana-hasta)

 

***

(iii) Another text – Vidyarnava-tantra – mentions that Krishna could be represented differently according to the three segments of the day: morning, afternoon and evening.

In the morning, Krishna is seated on a jewelled throne (ratna-simhasana) in Padmasana (lotus-posture). He is shown as a small boy, blue in complexion; holding a ball of fresh butters; and, surrounded by cows, his fellow cowherd-friends and maidens. He looks happy and cheerful (hasantam) with an enchanting smile playing on his lips (manda-smita-mukhambuja)

In the afternoon, he is a grown-up boy, in his teens, wearing pea-cock feathers on his crown (Shikhi-pincha); bejewelled (ratna-kundala); adorned with Vanamala garland; and, draped in yellow silken garments (Pitambara). He holds a flute in his right hand; and in his left hand he has either a conch (shankha) or a stick (krida vetra) for sport.

And, in the evening, he is resplendent as a monarch of Dwaraka (Dwarakadisha), seated on a jewelled throne in an elegant pavilion surrounded by water bodies. He well decked, adorned with variety of ornaments and a handsome crown. Sometimes, he is depicted with four arms carrying the ayudhas associated with Vishnu – conch, discus, mace and lotus (shankha, chakra, gadha, padma). He is served by many beautiful looking women (surupani) and wise sages. Rukmini of blue complexion holding a red lotus flower (padma or rakta-indīvara) stands to his right; while Satyabhama of golden complexion holding a blue lotus flower (utpala,nīlotpala ) stands to his left.

Krishna symbolism

(iv) There is also a rare depiction of Krishna in the Tantric tradition.

Para Vasudeva

Isvara Samhita (4: 80 to 102) gives a detailed description of the Para Vasudeva. He has four arms and is resting on Adi-sesha, attended by Garuda, Visvaksena, Nitya-suris and others. He carries lotus (symbolizing creation), discus (protection), conch (salvation) and mace (destruction).He is shining like a clear crystal; and is dressed in golden yellow garments. His other features are similar to that of Vishnu.

Sources and References

I gratefully acknowledge the line-drawings and notes from Brahmiya Chitrakarma Sastram

by Prof G Gnanananda

Vishnu Kosha by Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao

http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/2003-May/032971.html

http://www.gosai.com/chaitanya/saranagati/html/vedic-upanisads/vedic-archeology-2.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasudeva

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svayam_bhagavan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliodorus_pillar

http://www.gosai.com/chaitanya/saranagati/html/vedic-age_fs.html

http://hinduismhome.com/shop/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=16

http://4krsna.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/the-pancharatra-agamas/

http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/cgi-bin/kbase/Pancaratra/Modeshttp://www.srivaishnavan.com/ans_iswara.html

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/spiritual-discussions/35835-enclyopedia-visistadvaitam-sri-vaishnavam.html

Krishna with cow drawings from http://www.drdhaarts.com/portfolio/?q=node/8

 Other pictures from internet

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Vishnu

 

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