Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 6


BY: SUN STAFF - 13.1 2021

Fig 5. Yama from Balasor

A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Indo-Scythian Sakas

Concluding his historical survey of ancient Mayurabhanja, author Nagendranath Vasu offers this summary of the progression of early Indo-Scythians' worship of not only Surya, the Sun God, but also Agnideva.

Though the most ancient scriptures of the Hindus point to the fact that the Indo-Aryans had been worshipping Agni (fire) from a remote period of history, yet it is nowhere recorded in them that Agni was worshipped in the form of any image. Such worship was probably introduced by the Maga Brahmanas. We learn from the Bhavisya Brahmaparvan, the chief authority of the Sakadvipis, that images of Agni used to be set up in the temples of Surya. The Sauras believed Agni not only to be an attendant on Surya, but also as the recorder of the good and evil acts of men. Images of Agni have been found at Ayodhya and Doma-gandara in Nilgiri. The following descriptions of Agni are given in Visvakarma-silpa (chap. 7):

"He has a flag in his hand; he is very powerful; his eyes are red and his colour is that of smoke. He is surrounded by flames, is bright and has a halo of lustre. He is riding on a sheep, is placed in a kunda and is surrounded by Yogapatta. On his right side there is Svaha. He wears ear-rings made of jewels, he is beneficent in all yajnas (sacrifices), is holy and is decorated with ornaments of a grey colour."

The above description exactly corresponds with the image found at Doma-gandara (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4 Agni from Domagandara

Like Agni, Yama is also regarded as an attendant on Surya. Both the Vedic and the Avestic Aryans used to worship him. He is known in the Puranas as the son of Surya and is worshipped with Indra and other Lokapalas. The following description of Yama is given in Visvaharma-silpa:—

"He has a club and a paca in his hands; his eyes are like a bright fire; he is seated on a large buffalo; his colour is like that of dark-blue collyrium. On his two sides there are figures of youthful persons who resemble him, whose chests are well-developed, who are heavenly, and who are strongly built. He stands at the door, he seems to be angry and is dreadful to the whole creation, having blue eyes. On his left and right sides there are the goddesses Mara and Dhara who represent Dharma (virtue) and Adharina (vice). He is the controller of rulers and his emblem is buffalo."

An image of Yamaraja found in Balasor tallies with the above description. (Fig. 5) [above].

Among the Sauras, Skanda was known as one of the attendants of Surya and called "Srosh". In the Zend Avesta he is known as "Sraoshavareza", or simply "Srosh". He is described in the Avesta as holding a sword. The following is the description of him in the Bhavishya Brahmaparvan:

"Skanda has the form of a prince, holds a yakti in his hand and his emblem is peacock."

The worship of Skanda or Kartikeya is to be traced from an ancient time in India. Mention is made, in the Lalita-Vistara, as we have seen, of the figure of Skanda. His worshippers went by the name of Kaumara or Skanda. Temples dedicated to him existed in various parts of India.

Fig 6. Skanda from Dhudhua

King Jayaditya of Kashmir saw "a very large temple of Kartikeya at Paundravardhana in the eighth century of the Christian era.'' Kartikeya is represented as having either two, four or six arms. In modern figures he is represented as riding on a peacock, but in very ancient times he was shown astride a cock. A very old image of the latter type has been discovered at Dhudhua. (Fig. 6)

Statues of Subrahmanya having as his emblem either a peacock or a cock, are found in various parts of Orissa. These are known by the people as images of Kartikeya. The following description of Subrahmanya is found in the Saradatilaka Tantra:

"We adore Subrahmanya, whose colour is red like vermilion, whose face is beautiful as a moon, who is decorated with Kehyura, necklace and other ornaments, who offers (to devotees) the happiness of heaven, who holds in his three hands a lotus, a sakti and a cock respectively and gives abhaya (protection from fear) with his fourth hand, whose body is painted with red colour, who wears a red cloth and who is about to destroy all objects of fear for those who bow down to him."

An image of Subrahmanya of the above type has been found at Maninagesvara. (Fig. 7)

Fig 7. Subrahmanya from Maninagesvara