You are on page 1of 10

DORIS METH SRINIVASAN

MANY HEADS,
ARMS
AND EYES
Origin, Meaning
and Form of Multiplicity
in Indian Art
BRILL
F
Publication of this book has been aided by a grant from the Millard Meiss Publication Fund of the
College Art Association
CoY<:r illustration: Parel (Bombay-Mabarashtra} Siva Sadasivamurti, 6th century. Deccan trap
(Plaster of Paris copy}, Bombay, Prince of Wales Museum, 90. Courtesy of the American lnstilllte
of Indian Stuclies.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Lllwvy olCoav- Data
SriniJasa.n, Doris.
Many head<, anm, and <)'CS : origin, meaning, and fonn of multiplicity in
Indian art I by Doris Meth Srinivasan.
p. cm. - (Studies in A<ian an and IU'Char.ology. JSSN 138(). 782X ;
Y, 20)
lnc:ludcs bibliographical n:fem>ces and index.
ISBN 9004107S84 (cloth : a1k. paper)
I. Arts, lndic-Thcme<, motive .. 2. Cods, Hindu, in an.
S. Cods, Hindu, in lit.erature. I. Tide. 11. Series.
77 vol. 20
[NX576.AI)
700'.9M-DCc21 97-11187
CIP
Sriaiw.,.., D..U Meclu
Many bead., """" and eyes : origin, meaning and fonn of mulri.plicity in IDdian
an I by Doru Mcth Srinivasan. - Lciden ; New York ; KOln : Brill, 1997
(Studios;, Aaian aot and archaoeolol)' ; Vol. 20)
ISBN 9G-04-107)8-4 Ocwcbc
JSSN 1380 782X
ISBN 90 04 I 0758 4
0 199 7 bJ K..UoklijU Brill, Uidnt, Tilt X<IM/mJJ
All n,.1ts rnmxJ. JV fJMI f{ litis pwblialtiM ""!!' IJ< rffJ<cdMud, trfliiSiakd, stortr/ in
a rdrialal !)'S""'- "' trlliUJitiJk.d U. tufJ f., "' bJ "'!1 -... ell<tr..U..
-"altW/, rtumli"'l or ollttru:ist, u.11N>ul pri"' wriltm
j>mlti<iMt fotm t& /lfJ!Iulttr.
J*IJJ/1.l ilmu.for ""-'/ 1< J>m-l
..,. is r.rllllkd "' 8riiJ ,,,. .. .;JtrJ 1/JJJJ
t& .. Jillii dirtd!J 14 17ot C.!!Jng/11
a--"""" 222 R.s&...t Drit, &tilt 910
Dtvt11trs MA 01923, USA.
FS.,., svbj< w
l'lliNTF.D 'OIF. NF.'I'tif.RI.ANUS
Matena1 pro g do por derechos de at..tr
CONTENTS
Acknowledgments IX
Abbreviations XI
PART I: MtmiJw. Textual Studks
Se,crion A l ntmdncrion
Chapter One: Theory ... ... ............................................................................. ...... .... 3
Sr-ction B. Basic Prlinjrions in the SawhiW
Chapter Two: The Rig Veda Defines the Multiplicity Convention ........ ....... ... 24
Chapter Three: The AthaiVa Veda Su'tains and Expand' the DefiniriolliS ...... 33
Chapter Four. So Does the Yajur Vcda ............... ............................................... 41
Chapter Five: Theory Con' t: Vedic Rudra-Siva .................................................. 47
Section C Transference of the Punap Ideal into rbr
Chapter Six: From Puru$!1 to Praj<ipati ...... .. . ... ................. ... .... .. ..... ....... .... ...... .... 60
Chapter Seven: Rudra and Vimu arc Linked to Puru.,a-Praj!lpati ....... ............ 76
Section D. Multiplicity in the Upanif'ds
Cha ter F.i t: The Fullness of Brahman ................................................. .......... 83
Chapter Nine: Body of God in the veWva!ara Upanisa<f .... ................. .......... 96
Chapter Ten: Munis and the MallanaraY3!)a Upanisad ............................ ........ 112
Section E. Multiplicity in the Epics and Beyond
Chapter Eleven: The Bridge from Words to Forms: Multiplicity in the
Epics and Selected Devotional Texts ................................................................ 129
Chapter Twelve: The Language of Numbers ......................... ............................. 162
PART ll: Form. lcunogr@ SludUs
Socrion F The Prehistoric Period
Chapter Thirteen: Does the Multiplicity Convention Begin in the Indus
Civilization? .. . .. .. . 179
Chapter F ourtecn: Ritual as Icon ...... ... ........ ............ .. . ..... . ............. ....... .. . ............. 185
Soctjoa G The Pre-Ku53')a Period
Chapter F"tftecn: Maba Yakp: Image of an Apparition ..................... ................ 197
Chapter Sixteen: In Praise of Heroes (Vnl}i Vlras) ........................................... 211
Chapter Seventeen: Religious Networlcs and Incipient Saiva Forms .................. 221
Se.:rion H The Period
Cha ter F.i htcen: Multi lici and the Me er Towards Vai avism .............. 240
aiva Multiplicity: The Germination of God ....................... 260
M r al pro 1do por d '10S d ll
CHAYfER FifTEEN
MAHA Y AKl>A: IMAGE OF AN APPARITION
The cosmic form$ constinl!c the vairui!Ja, the manifold appearance of
the deity. acb of thcrn in its strict definition is an apparition, a yakrha
merely name and foiTrl without real subsmnce.
V.S. Agrawala "VisvakaiTOa"
A
n1cre is something of a Y in the two earliest vai/lraoo sculptures showing cosmic
fonn.s of the deity. The first, a four-sided upright poruaying the catuTfl)'iiha notion
depicts twO of the emanations, or, I!)ID!w in anthropomorphic forms (Pis. 15.1 & 2). T hey
arc t.all, pot-bellied males and on tha.t account they recall the earliest Malta (i.e.
the colossal yak4a forms). These affinities influenced their initial identification. N.P. Joshi
idcnl!ified the upright from Bhfta as a fourfold Y image of c. the second century
B.C.' The four-armed vai,rrtaua image from Malhar, Madhya Pradesh (PI. 14. 1), reminds
of a for a different reason. It calls attention to a connection between "Vrra" and
With his sword suspended from the left hip all the way down nearly to the
ankles (PI. 15.3), he conveys especially "an heroic male" (vfra). The Malhar
image is big (c. 5' 2") and is readily comparable with a Sunga over-life size torso having
a similar sword also on the left hip (PI. 16.10 & 11). This torso, which would have been
originally part of a large male figure, comes from the village of Biriivai (Skt. vrra); its
name indicates that at one time that locality in Rajasthan paid honor to a hero-god.
Four miles from the Brravai image, in Noh, Rajastban, a statue still under worship as
'jakkba" (Skt. Ya4a) B11b3. was discovered.' Again, it is a massive Swiga found on
the bank of a tank (PI. 15.4). On the basis of girth alone, which at the shoulden [mclu-
sive of both arms) is seven feet across, the Noh Yak4a stands as a large (or mahii)
"Maha" could well be applied also 10 the Bir11vai and Malhar statues, but perhaps in
their cases, maha Vrra would be more suitable. Actually, the name Maha vtra was given
10 the foremost of Possibly both the Brravai torso and the Malhar figure repre-
sent a Vrra, a great or foremost Yak!'3, the laucr figure incorporating these qualities
within some sort of vai$11ava context. The special connection believed to exist in ancient
times between Vrras and is evident still in modem times. V.S. Agrawala observed
' N.P. joohi, "Some Unnoticed of Iconographic lnten:st", East aMI Wat (Rome), Vol. 22, Nos. 1- 2,
1972, 41- 43.
' R.C. "8rwal, "Y.q. Tol'liO fi"m Bharaq>ur Region", J.,ma/ o/'tlot Orinti41 111Jtillill, Vol. 17, 1967,
64-65.
' Cf. V.S. Agrawala, lllrMrt /Niiolo Folk Odu, Var.masi, 1970, p. 186.
Mater al p oteg1do por d r chos d a to
198
that on his campus at Banaras Hindu University there are "to-day four Yaksha shrines
under t11e name of 'Brr' [i.e. VTr) receiving religious homage even now".' His many
ot11er fmthand accounu leave little doubt as to t11e prevalence of Y worship in modem
times under the name of Bim and Bamhm (i.e. Bmhmli} worship. Names of some of
the Brr-Barnhm godlings show that epithets indicative of and "senior" are prefixed
to Yalcl!a names, and it should have been the same in ancient times. In fuct, V.S. Agrawala
surmises that when the Jain Savior, Vardhamlina, became famous, he received the hon-
orific "Mah!lvfra" (i.e. senior VTra, that is, Yak(l<l).
6
It seems equally possible
that the four-armed Malhl!r figure commemorates a famous or senior Vtra. Combining
vaiP,IIWO attributes "ith VTra and features, the Malhar figure could be a va#!taiiQ
Maha Vim.
'The Noh along \\ith several other early Yalqas, assumes a particular shape
which tells a lot about the nature of a matter of prime imponance if we are
ultimately to understand what their features may mean when incorporated into the car
licst multiplicity imagery. The overall impression of the Noh is one of
massiveness. Tllis impression is achieved by height (the visible height is c. 5'} and an
unrelenting series of O'Pansive forms. The entire Y is composed of rounded volumes.
11te head is large and round. Viewed from the back, the neck is as broad as t11e bead
(PI. 15.5). Tite shoulders and the remttining parts of the arms and legs appear like in
Aated tubes. Foremost of all the swollen forms is the middle, further accentuated
by rwo piece.' of cloth. One is a looped sash which circles the upper part of the
belly; the other i.s a sash holding up the dhoti and emphasizing the lowermost part of the
convex hulk. There is no need to indicate all the details of this oR described Y ak.,a.
Suffice it to note that all such details are subordinated to the sheer vo.lumc of the image.
The Nob is of course very similar to an even more well-known image, the Parkham
which has been aruibuted to c. the first ceotury B.C. {PI. 15.6).' Tills is a figure
over 8' in height coming from the village of Parkham, which is situated near to Mathurll,
as is also Nob. When found, the figure received worship under the name ':Jakhaiya"
(ultimately derived from Skt. "yalcl!a").
1
The word is not mentioned in the in-
scription around the feet of the image. The inscription does state that the image of the
Holy One was caused to be made by the members of the Mlnibhada (i.e.
congregation. On that account, it is surmised that the image represents Yaqa Miil;libhadra,
whose connection with ''vfra" worship (In present Bengal) may have bc:gtm in antiquity.'
Two otJ1er are associat.ed \\id1 Mfil;libbadra; one is from the region of Kauiambr
and one is from Pawaya (ancient Padmiivau1. These figures confirm the impression con
' Folk OdU, p. 185.
' See V.$. Agrawala, Folk Cldts, pp. 185-191; C M. Clundra, "Some Aspec:ts of Vaqa Cult in AJ>clcm
India", l+iou qf W.Ju M- &Jkho, No. 3, 1954, 6Hi2.
FoiJ; c.its, PP 166; 1aa.
' Sec Gritli v. Mitt<JWO!Incr, "Yak$as of MothurA" in Maflrotrl: Th C.ltUTa/ Hmlllf.<, gen. cd. D.M.
Sriniv:uan, New Delhi, 1989, Jl!> 368/t O.C. Sircar, &IKt I, p. 93.
1
Sec V.S. Agntwala, F.lk Cldts, p. 167.
See V.S. Agmwal's fmdings p"'oented in R.N. Misra, Ya.tsita c.JJ IWi l t"'"'f"J'J/rJ, New Delhi 1981,
p. 85.
llllatenal protog1do por d rccro'> do ...
MAltA VAJ<V.: IMAOE OF AN APPARITION 199
veycd by the partial figure of the Noh Ya4a, namely that a huge body and swelling
forms, in particular an expanded middle, are the primary traits of early free-standing
Y The entire torso of the Parkham Y a4a expands as a un.it. The surface is taut.
Volumes defining the neck, shoulders and chest sweU and lock into each other abruptly.
The neck is so wide that it articulates more as a passageway than a pan of a body. The
face whose features are now defaced, does not seem to have had a fierce expression. The
belly is again set off by a looped sash on top and a right sash on the bottom. Conspicu-
ous, it dominates the body's contours. It is easy to see why a with t!hi.s feature
should be Jabeled a kumbhodara yalqa (i.e. a whose beUy is like a water pot). Four
miles from Parkham comes a fragment of a male, worshipped under the name of ':Jalcheya",
who surpasses in size the Parkham Ya4a. This is the upper pan of the from
Baro<la in Mathurii District.'
0
When complete the image should have reached over twelve
feet in height. It shows the same fullness of forms as the Parkham and Noh it has
the unusually broad neck, inflated chest and shoulders and the looped sash marking the
upper part of the large abdomen. Mention of these few early free-standing will
suffice since the aint is neither to rcitermc surveys of the various types (which would need
to include the demonic fonm, the caryatids, seated as well as standing types, plus the
female counterparts), nor to present an historical sequence (which would need to concen-
trate on stylistic considerations, in the main).'' inquiry into Mahii essential fea-
tures and what they disclose about the nature of this Y a4a is the aim here. nte size of
the figures and the absence of the flywhisk indicate that these large Y are not aucnd-
ant figures, but major cult images. Indeed on the from Dcoriya {about one km.
from Bhita) attributes are present which bespeak of high status.
1
t The Dcoriya colossus
is adorned with a turban and a large protective umbrella, both insignia of the highest
cultic status. All these colossi (plus the Palwal the two Pama the Haigunda
Yak$a," the Vidisa, Pratapgarh and Sopara Y a4as, to mention the other important free-
standing colossi) express an astowtding sense of physical energy, in spite of the archaic
stilfucss of the limbs and their abrupt articulation. A sense of energy is due lO the pal-
pable fullness that inform.s every bodily cavity, especially the beUy. An essential feature of
these early free-standing Yak,as the locked-in sense of fullness, a characteristic which
continues even in later ages. An cxccUent example of a Kumbhodara Ya4a dating to the
si.xth/scventh century A.D. comes from Nort11 India, probably Bih.ar (Pl 15.7).'' The
rotund, seated holds a knotted mace (gat/4), in both his hands which are placed on
his knees. He spreads his legs far apart to make room for a bcUy of truly globular pro-
portions. Its girth is circled by a thick sash whose ends are tied into a bow. Below the
" V.S. Agrawola, Pn:-Kushll(la An or Matlwr.l", J.U.l'.H.S. Vol. 6, 1933, see 95 and Fig. 9.
" For n:cmt worb providing a bibliography on these matten, tee N.P. Jwhi, "Unnoticed Find", 42, ap.
fn. 2; v. Minen..-allner, ''Yak:ps".
" A.K. Coomanuwamy, "The Origin or the Buddha Image", Art Holklin, Vol. 9, 1927; Hs. 47.
" l t is reproduced in /ll<iimt Arrhtli!Jiogy 1973- 74 - A 1/aMrc, Plate X:XXU; tbc other yaJqas arc fr<qucndy
published, - for """'"plc tbc publication J11Cllliooed in rn. l 0.
" R.C. Agrnwoln, "More Sculptures !Tom the National MuJeum, New O.:lbi", &.rt 111111 Wut (Rome), N.S.
Vol. 20, No. 3, 1970, 351ft
"v1 n prot gtdo por d a JLJIOI
200 CllAPTER PIITEI!N
navel it is possible to catch a gfunpse of the lower sash straining to get around the
bottom of the bealy.
Depictions of painted Kumbhodara and the "male" vessels already described
reveal that th.e belly is not merely inspired by the shape of a vessel. It is meant to
represent a vessel (kumhha, gluJ!a etc.), or vice VCJlll. ln the aforementioned "male" vessels
from Sonkh (PI. 14.9), Bhflll (PI. 14. 10), Taxila (PI. 14. 11), Purana Qila (PI. 14.12) and
Mathurll (Pis. I 4. I 3 & 14), the vessel equates with the body which is effectively reduced
to the belly. Two painted Kumbhodara also have bodies which assume t11e fea-
tures of vessels. The Y have been found painted on rocks in the region of central
India. They arc oontcmporaneous with the "male" anthropomorphic pots and the major-
ity of the stone colossi just reviewed. The first Kumbhodara comes from t11e
Bhonr.twali hill (Cave Jl A- 5) in the Bhinlbetka region (Raisen Dist., Madhya Pradesh)."
Dr. Mathpal, who has studied Biumbetka rock paintings in detail, assigns the figure to
the Early Historic Period and states in his communication that it is some 2200 years
before the present. That means that a Mauryan dating has been given to the figure
whose head is formed by a rectangle outlined with a double line (see PI. 15.8 which
represents a drawing of the figure in the Cave). The head rests directly on the mouth of
the vessel, whose rim turns outward. The vessel is the 'body of the At its widest
part, a ribbon cuts across, reminding of the sash that circles the upper part of the belly
on the sculptured and larger counterparts. In the painted versions, tl1e 1ibbon extends
beyond the body in a manner indicative of outstretched arms. Two dissimilar stallS are
held in each of me hands. The legs are splayed open and are rendered in a
series of short, unc01wected brush strokes. The Bhinlbetka Y bas a benign expres-
sion on his face, and is in a field witl1 auspicious symbols such as a bird, the svastika, the
railing, the moon or mountain symbol and a hollow cross. It therefore is likely that this
too is an auspicious representation. Nearly identical to this is another
Kumbbodara from Binaikli near Bharkhera (M.P.). K.D. Bajpai places the fJgure,
painted in red ochre, between t11e second century B.C. and the second century A.D. (PI.
15.9; sketch is on PI. 15.10).
16
This (ht. 6"), has both a fiercer expression and hair
which grows upward like two pliant stalks. Again the head rests on the mouth of the
open vessel; it is almost as if the vessel is brimming with vegetation which is converted
into hair. Here too the girth of the body is punctuated with a ribbon. These
paintings which show the body/vessel marked with the ribbon are just a step away,
visually, from the clotl1, draped and kuoued, over the Pfll'!la gha!a ("filled container")
as depicted in t:.vly lndian art (PI. 15. I 1). Such decorated vessels probably n:Rect the
appearance of ritual vessels in certain worshipful contexts. Al-George and connect
" Penonal communication from Or. Yashodhar Matbpal, dated April 4, t989. Dating of this ''Yalqa"
is on the buis. of auperimrJO<Iition of painted la>"" Bbimbctlta nd dtc scientific analyses of the
c:omponenu of each l&)'tr; personal c:omrnunication from Or. Mathpal dated June 6, 1989. I am chankfulco
Or. Mathpal for his of tl1e work ao Rbimbctlca. Sec also Robcrt R.R. Rroolc.o and Vi&hnu S.
Wakanlou, SIJJR< Age Pamlifw in lndin, New Hava1 and London, 1976, p. 57 and p- 98.
11
Jnfonnarlon in a communication, dated July 16, 1979. Prof. Bajp:u kindly suppliod mr. ,.;,h
this photograph and sketch.
M at roal pro gKlo por d cchos oc .Jior
MAHA IMAGE OF AN APPARrriON 201
such images of the draped purrra glraJa 10 riJUals wherein the vessels "en tant que support
du ctivin ou des reliques du mort'' are addressed." They also point out that the vessel's
sash is imbued with precise symbolism pertaining to both the cosmic and the theological
level!. For example, the vessel in the Agnicayana, the uldJII, is presented with a girdle
(ramii) that represents, according to the Satapatha BriihmaQa passage accompanying the
gesture, the celestial regions (SB Vl.5.2.11), as well as the girdle of Adiri (SB Vl.5.2.13).
Since Aditi is the embodiment of motherhood and generation in the S31]1tilltlls,
11
the
girdle which highlights her loins must be equally charged with procreative energy or
gencrntivc powen. The uJdJII itself also correspond! to cosmic, celestial and ritualistic entities.
The three parts of the uidJII (plus the wholc),'
0
in SB Vl.5.2.3-6, correspond to four
differ ent sets of gods, parts of the universe and Vedic meters. The uidJII in the Apastamba
SrautasOtr.t (c. 500 B.C.), receives not only a girdle, whicb seems to be an elevated strip
of clay, fashioned during its preparation, it also should have two, four, six or ciglht breasts/
udders (i.e. elevations; swna- XVI.5.2).
00
The Baudhayana SrautasOtra (X.5; Taittirfya
Recension) also specifies that an upper girdle and breasts/udders (Jtana-) should. be carved
on the ukltli to be used in tJ1c Agnicayana.
21
In tJ1e Pravargya rite, tJ1e Mahlivfra pot is
also fitted with an upper girdle (rlisnli} during the course of its preparation,zz and it is
given "elevations" (uddhi-).-n It is clear tbat the Ukha and the Mahavfrn vessels a.re out-
fitted, mainly during the prepararional stages, with a girdle and female decorations
having cosmic and procreative import." In addition, a conceptual connection may have
been. eventually forged between "the vessel" and "the place of birth". A word such as
yoni develops tJ1e speciali7.ed secondary me.aning of "womb-chamber", from the p1imary
meaning "place of issue, receptacle, abode or place" (especially on or before the ritual
Several Upani$lld!' usage of yoni reflects the secondary meaning; yoni as "source"
in tJ>c Svet.Uvatara (1.9), implies "a pregnant cavity"; in the Brbadarat)yaka
(1.4.1 1) and MahanariiyaQa (vs. 535) stipulates the Brnhman-Womb, birth-
place of creation. The result is that a symbolic connection between "vessel" and "place
of birth" can be made for the time of the sOtr.lll. The possibility is strong that ritual
vessels mentioned in the siltras were understood as life-symbols, having possible cosmic
" S. AI-George et A ROJu, "l'lln)a Gha!a et Le S)'mbolisme du V:w: dans L' lnde", Lll'll Tome
IV, 1'957, 243ft:; 251.
" In tloc Rig Veda, Aditi is allied with Vilk, Sacred Speech, another female crelltive principle. Aditi/Viik
i! incorporaled into OO<onOf!Onic tpeeulations which posit her as a cream .. principle. Sec eopccially RV 10.72.31t
where she is called Uttil.napad (She whose legs .are spread [m parturition]).
On the addition of " I" Jignifying "the whole" to 1he sum of the p:uu, sec Chptcr 6, 1"1'- 71- 72.
10
C .G. Kashikar, " l'onuy in the Vedic Literature", lntlUlnJ1111n141 of/Ju History of&imt<, Vol 4, 1969, 21.
' ' Knshikar, uPotcc:ry", Hr20.
"' Ka.ltikur, "l'ouery", J(H7, using the llaudbiyana $rautuutm (IX 1-4).
" .J.A.B. van Duitencn, Tlu l'rllfNlllla, Poona, 19f.S, p. 10.
" l o bould be noted tbat except for deoails on the preparation of tlt..., two vessels, we h:.ve very little
additional infonnation in U\ C Vcdic texm on the preparotion or Vedic pottery; Kuhilw, " Pottery", 21.
" See L Renou, premiere du mot sanskrit y6ni", BSL 4 1:1, 1940, pp. 18, 20. The idea !hat
rea:p1ade ;., a womb-<:hamber promotes the Mahlbhllr.ua binh-story of Aga1tya who is born imide a
poL This """""' bim to be called Kumbhajannw.t, Kumbhayoni, Kumbhas311tbhava, Gha!odbhava etc.; see
17oe MaMM6raJJJ trarul. and cd. by J .A.B. van Boob 2 and 3, ChiCAgo, p. 187. In the KaUfRW
Bmhrn:tlJll (VI.I -9), Rudra is born from a golden bowl.
tJ.atertal p otegtdo por derechos de aL.tor
202 CHAPTF.R FIPTF.I?.N
implications. (l'he Mahavira, for example, represents the sun in the ritual whose inten-
tion is to reinforce the power of the sun.)
26
The symbolism attributed to the ritual vcsseb
should be likewise attributed to the fiiirpa glrn/n, which is always encircled by a girdle in
the artY By extension, the correspondence between a fiilled vessel and a filled womb is
retained when the hypostatic parrta g/raJa is fitted wtto the body of the Y as his
swollen belly. Like the craftmen when they fashioned a swollen belly, the ancient
ritualists did not shy away from ascribing female procreative attributes to the male. The
Mahavtra vessel makes this point implicit. Here is a vessel called "the large man" or "the
gTCat hero", therefore obviously a "male' ' vessel, which :is adorned with "elevations" and
"a girdle", symbols of fecundity taken from the female realm. The Pravargya is an iconic
ritual and it may have, on that account, helped prepare for the acceptance of an iconog-
raphy which associates the male's pot-belly with the female' s pregnant womb.
There arc numerous examples which demonstrate that the belly of a god, godling or
goddess, is ideologically connected to the fliirrta glra(a and represents the filled womb-
chamber. Depicted on railing pillars and on temple doors are small from whose
bellies forms of life proceed. A lower fragment of a Bharbut r.tilpost now in the Allahabad
Museum depicts a small, seated YaJcsa on either side. On one side vegetal forms, includ-
ing a lotus still intact, stream from his distended navel (PI . 15.12). On the other side
similar foJTnS stream from his mouth (PI. 15.13). Be it navel or mouth, plant life can arise
from tl1e Ynk$a because his body, mainly composed of his belly (= vcssel = womb) is
fecund. For the same reason, squatting, full-bellied Yalqas on either side of a railing
pillar from Siiiichr Stiipa II unfurl from their navels flowers, buds and leaves over the
upper portion of a pillar ... A seven hundred year interim has neither affected the basic
iconography nor auspiciousness of tltc plant-bearing Y alqa found, in a later example, on
a doorframe from the temple at Bhumara (M.P.) of the fifth century A.D. (PI. 15.14}.
With all these examples, as with the painted Kwnbhodara the limbs are not as
important as the middle of the body which emphasizes the fruitful womb. on
the lowest arcltitrave of the south torana of Sanchi Stiipa I exhibits a splendid variation
(Pl. 15.15; sketch from A.K. Goomara.swamy, Ya/rfas, on PI. 15.16). Walking on infantile
legs, the bloated belly of the sprours plant forms both from the navel and r.he
moutlt. Two Bharrbut railing medallions, while also recognizing the symbolic inte.rchange-
ahility of these two orifices, confirm that in all these cases the image is that of the par-
turient In the first medallion the foliage issues from the navel (Pl. 15.17}; in the
second it comes from the mouth (Pl. 15.18). ln both medallions the Y body is
clodted and poised in a similar, and telling, manner. Nude but for a covering over the
genitals, the Yah,a sirs on the bottom of the medallion; his thighs and knees are stretched
wide open and his feet a.re tensed on the lower rim of the medallion. The posture is the
mmc as that of the Birth-Giving Goddess (PI. 15.19), confirming that tl1ese arc birth
,. van Buitenen, 7Ttt p. 31.
" A.K. Cooonaraswamy, r..q.,, Part D, Reprint, New Delhi, 1971, pp. 61- 64.
,. A. K. Coomararwamy, r.q.,, Part 0 , Reprint, New Delhi, 1971, PI. 14, No. I.
M at rral pro grao por d cchos oc .Jior
MAHA IMAGE OF AN APPAJUTION 203
giving Y alqas who bring forth vegetation. The earliest images of the Birth-Giving God-
dess a.re minimally anthropomorphic, there being no head, no arms and no breasts.
29
TI1e emphasis is always on a recumbent female having tensely splayed legs and a middle
in the shape of a pot.
30
What is more, me pot is provided wim a girdle that is not unlike
the decorated band adorning the pur(Ul gha(4 seen in contemporary art (cf. me Amaravati
relief of a Pil.rQaghata, PI. XVIll, in Barrctt
31
and the recumbent figure from Kondapur,
No. 8 in C. Bolon, Cauri). This is not an isolated case; there are many examples of
a cloth around the "shoulders" of the pilrrra g/la/4 and around the girth of the body of the
pot-like Mother Goddess."
A curious set of sexual reversals musl be quickly registered. 'The Birth-Giving Goddess,
being without a swollen middle, shows no indication of pregnancy. She appears to be a
metaphor for creativity. The counterpart to the Yalqa, namely the is almost never
portrayed as pregnant in the early an.n The Yalqa is. Be he represented as a colossus
or a small ancillary godling, the male form expresses fullness; especially his belly symbol-
izes the fruitful womb. There can be little doubt that the male Y represents, on the
most general level, a being 6lled with an animating energy. That energy can be thought
of as a creative force and result in the depictions of the plant-sprouting That
energy can be visualized as strength of body and mind and result in depictions of Viras.
In each case, the wellspring, conceptually and plastically, is the Large the colossus
whose entire body, but especially the middle, seems to be filled with animating energy.
Here is a case where the Male is the Plenum and the Female is not. Why? Is it because
these are still under the influence of antiquity's important and impressive Male
Projenitor,
B
In singling out the influence of during a considerable parl of the first
millenium B.C., I am abandoning an approach lhat establisbcs importance by counting
the number of hymns to a god, or, the frequency of textual references to a god's wor-
ship. or yet, another method lhat looks backward from the position of Hinduism to make
"Carol Ra<k:liffe Bolon, Forms o/ U.. Godtlm L<!iio Gaari m INIUm Art, Universi1y Park, 1992, p. 13.
10
Sec Fill' 1-17 in Bolon, L1j4 Ga.ui.
" Douglas SrollhJrts ,frOift Amonwali iJI tl!e &iJis4 MIIS-, London, 1954.
" .Bolon, 14je Caori, p.
"' lt is of course imJlO"'lhhe tO pn>vi<k a oompreberui\<e list of "''"1' YalcJT in early Indian art. A good
sampling of the genre is KCD in Coomaraswamy, r.,q., and Misra, Yakslul Odl. Be they beauteous maidens,
seducti"" females, divine Mothers, or rcpresenlations of AbundJtooe, tbe Y&qn are either potent:ially mother>
or realied mother>. But they are not shown .. being pregnant. At the ACSAA '94 Sympoo;ium where I
presented the paper "'The Pregn.:utt Male", Sara I.. and Stq>han Hylcr spoke of isolated examples
of "pregnant fcnala", but did not mentioned data. Amy Poster knew of a Maury.m tcrroootta pregnant
female. I have not yet xen their exampleo.
M On the bomologizing between Purup and Ptajjpati which is assumed and sustained throughout the
trndition, see Chapter 6; pp. 6 1- 62.
'vi en_ proteg1do por derechos de ... <Jtor

Related Interests