India Design Motifs, Part 7

BY: SUN STAFF - 27.6 2017

Auspicious Marks on Lord Caitanya's Hands

A study of the historical, spiritual and cultural elements of Vedic design.

In earlier segments of this series, we have discussed some of the basic symbols found in Vedic culture, including the yantra, mandala, and various motifs created in rangoli and kolam designs. Today we begin a new study, of the most transcendental of all canvases upon which artistic designs may be rendered – the lotus hands and feet of Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, His consort, Srimati Radharani, and various of His incarnations and expansions.

The drawing of transcendental symbols on the hands and feet of Their Lordships are generally referred to in Vaisnava scripture as ankaih, bodily marks. When appearing on other personalities, auspicious marks on the body are sometimes referred to as nir-lakshana. In Buddhism, the symbols appearing on the Buddha avatar's feet are known as astamangala -- asta meaning 'eight', and mangala meaning 'auspicious'. While these symbols all originate with Krsna, most of the astamangala symbols are now rendered in more of a Buddhist artistic style.

In the 11th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam we find a description of how such auspicious marks appear on the body of the Lord, and what they designate:

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.27 

dvapare bhagavan syamah 
pita-vasa nijayudhah
srivatsadibhir ankais ca
laksanair upalaksitah

SYNONYMS
dvapare -- in Dvapara-yuga; bhagavan -- the Supreme Lord; syamah -- dark blue; pita-vasah -- wearing a yellow garment; nija-ayudhah -- having His own particular weapons (the disc, club, conchshell and lotus flower); srivatsa-adibhih -- by Srivatsa and others; ankaih -- bodily marks; ca -- and; laksanaih -- by ornaments; upalaksitah -- characterized.

TRANSLATION

"In Dvapara-yuga the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears with a dark blue complexion, wearing yellow garments. The Lord's transcendental body is marked in this incarnation with Srivatsa and other distinctive ornaments, and He manifests His personal weapons.

PURPORT

The Lord's transcendental body in Dvapara-yuga can be compared to the color of a dark blue flower. The Lord exhibits His personal transcendental weapons such as Sudarsana cakra, and all of the limbs of His body, especially His hands and feet, are decorated with auspicious symbols such as a lotus flower and a flag. And on His chest, the Lord manifests the Kaustubha jewel as well as the auspicious Srivatsa, a whorl of hair curling from left to right on the right side of the Lord's chest. Actually, such auspicious marks as Kaustubha and Srivatsa, as well as the weapons of the Lord, are present in all of the visnu-tattva incarnations. Srila Jiva Gosvami explains that these universal characteristics of the Lord mentioned by the sage Karabhajana are indications of the Krsna avatara. Because Krsna is the source of all incarnations, all of the symptoms of all other incarnations are to be found in His transcendental body."

The above verse is also mentioned in Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya 20.337. References to the specific auspicious marks appearing on the hands and feet of Sri Krsna, Radharani, Sri Caitanya and the Pancha-tattva are found in many other books of sastra, including Saratha-darshini, (Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti's commentary on Bhagavatam), Govinda-lilamrita and Ananda-chandrika, (Srila Visvanatha's tika on Govinda-lilamrita), Srila Visvanatha's Rupa Chintamani, Srila Jiva Goswami's Sri-kara-pada-yugala-samsmrti, the Skanda Purana, Matsya Purana, Garga Samhita and numerous other writings.

Before getting into a specific study of which symbols appear on each transcendental personality's hands and feet, or the Sanskrit terms and basic meanings for each one, let us first look at the symbols combined into groups. The following auspicious marks appear on either the hands or feet of Sri Krsna, Sri Radha, Caitanya Mahaprabhu or one of the Pancha-tattva personalities:

Devotional Paraphernalia: 
Conch
Drum
Fan
Flag
Flower Garland
Four Pitchers
Sacrificial Altar
Umbrella
Waterpot
Whisk

Domestic Items: 
Broom
Jewelled Bangle
Kunda Earrings
Long Flag
Palace
Pitcher
Plow
Rope

Creatures & Nature: 
Barleycorn
Blackberry
Cow
Cow Hoofprint
Fish
Flower
Flowery Creeper
Flowery Twig
Half Moon
Horse
Lotus
Mountain
Sky
Tortoise
Tree

Items of Transport: 
Chariot
Elephant
Elephant Goad
Two carts

Weaponry: 
Arrow
Club
Disc
Four Arrows
Iron Club
Javelin
Pillar of Glory
Spear
Stick
Sword
Thunderbolt
Trumpet
Unstrung Bow
Victory Flag

Geometric Symbols: 
Fate Line
Good Fortune/Enjoyment Line
Life Line
Octagon
Swastika
Triangle
Upcurving Line