The Ardhanarishvara , a composite androgynous form of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati (Shakti) is a philosophical expression of the power and equality of genders. In a more primordial form they are the Linga and Yoni which are the icons of procreation. The concept of Ardhanarishvara seems to have evolved as early as 800 to 900 AD during the Chola period in South India
Bhairava is a fierce manifestation of Shiva associated with annihilation. Bhairava originated in Hindu legends and is sacred to Hindus as well as Buddhists and Bhairava is worshiped throughout India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. He is the wandering form of Lord Shiva who guards the cardinal points. There are 64 Bhairavas. These 64 Bhairavas are grouped under 8 categories and each category is headed by one major Bhairava. The major eight Bhairavas are called Aṣṭāṅga Bhairavas. The Ashta Bhairavas control the 8 directions of this universe. Each Bhairava has seven sub Bhairavas under him, totaling 64 Bhairavas. All of the Bhairavas are ruled and controlled by Maha Swarna Kala Bhairava otherwise known as Kala Bhairava, who is the supreme ruler of time of this universe as per Hindu scriptures. Bhairavi is the consort of Kala Bhairava.Bhairava is also called upon as protector, as he guards the eight directions of the universe. Every Hindu temple usually has a Bhairava idol. and he is the protector of the temple. In Shiva temples, when the temple is closed, the keys are placed before Bhairava. Bhairava is also described as the protector of women.
Shiva and Parvathi are the most portrayed and celebrated male an female couple in Hindu pantheon. Shiva presents the male cosmic power while Parvati (reincarnation of Shakti) constitutes the female cosmic power. Often Shiva takes the form of half Parvati and the other half himself (Ardhanari) symbolising the harmony and synonymity between the two gender-powers.
Nandi as a vahana or vehicle of Shiva and Parvati is more a Dravidian Hindu concept whereas the horse as vehicle of the two deities is an Aryan depiction of their superiority. South Indian art and sculpture of Shiva & Parvati include Nandi as their vehicle whereas that of the northern India incorporate the the less traditional vehicle the horse.
Shiva and Parvati remain the primordial powers of the world in Hinduism demonstrating gender as the basics of human life. The Lingam representing male force, and Yoni, the female power are both the concept of love and procreation taking their roots in Indus culture of the proto-Dravidians or the Pre-Aryans. The power of both the female and male force is represented in the image of Ardharnishwara, an androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati. This concept of unified power of the male (Shiva) and the female (Parvati) takes its origin in the 9th and 10th centuries during the Chola period. One of the earliest images of Ardharnishwara from the 9th century AD was found in Sri Lanka and is displayed at the Colombo Museum demonstrating the Hindu influence on the adjacent island during the reign of the Raja Raja Cholan when Hindu culture reigned supreme in southern India . Incidentally the Hindu images unearthed at Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka constitute strong evidence for the Hindu influence in the island off the tip of south India.
The current Hinduism is a fusion of nature gods of the Aryans and the personified tribal gods of the Dravidians looking at the religion in a broader perspective. The Hinduism of southern India is more representative or mother or female guardian culture with innumerable female deities such as Shakti, Parvati, Meenakshi, Kali, Durga, Valli and scores of others. In the same tone the family aspect Hinduism is reflected in Shiva and Parvati, their son Ganesha, and the couple Vishnu and Lakshmi. While the latter predominate in Vaishnavism, dual Shiva and Parvati iconography is the hall mark of Shaivism, second only to Tandava (dance) of Shiva as Nataraja. The mythologies of these deities have provided the playing field for the artisans through their display of their art and skill in gifting us with Hindu Art and sculpture from the glorious past.
The Hindu iconographies such as Durga slaying
Maheshasuramardini, Krishna stealing cheese, Kaliya serpent submitting to
Krishna, Shiva courting Parvati, Vishnu holding Lakshmi and the Tandava dance
of Shiva are not only awe inspiring for the Hindu devotees, but also an
immeasurable pleasure for the eyes and souls for the connoisseurs of Hindu Art:
to them the magic of Hindu art itself has become a religion.
Bhairava ( a fearsome manifestation of Shiva) riding horse with his consort Kali (Devi) holding a lotus bud accompanied by his dog (Shvan)
Animals have been representative of deities from ancient times since worship began, and in the course they became gods and goddesses themselves. Reliance of animals began during the hunter-gatherer period when nature was central to man’s survival. Animal’s were the source of man’s strength by way of food, defence and support. The earliest known domesticated animal is the dog and it is also happens to be earliest companion of primitive man during his hunter-gatherer era. Dog is portrayed in Hindu religion as the vehicle or companion of God Bhairava, a fierce manifestation of Shiva. Bhairava happens to originate from the word bhīru, which means “fearful”, while the dog is also associated other fearsome gods such as Yama, the lord of death, whose Vahana is also a dog mentioned under its Sanskrit name Sarama.
The antiquity of the role of animals in Hinduism is exemplified by the fact that the first paintings of stone age man were that of animals as revealed through prehistoric cave art. When civilisation began as early as 6000 years ago in the Indus Valley we see animals appearing in the seals of pre-Aryans who occupied the valley. However, we are unable to gauge significance of these animal images since the text accompanying these seals still remain undeciphered: a missing link in the history of civilisation.
The appearance of cow in Hindu religion also may have taken origin during the pastoral period of early societies. It is a sacrilege in Hinduism to hurt a cow which is worshipped as deity named Nandi. In a more serene mood Shiva’s vehicle (vahana) is Nandi but in a warrior role Shiva abandons his meek companion and chooses the horse. One such role is as Khandoba, a village protector with a wielding a sword. Kamadhenu , also known as Surabhi, is a divine bovine-goddess described in Hinduism as the mother of all cows.
She is a miraculous “cow of plenty” who provides her owner whatever he desires and is often portrayed as the mother of other cattle. In Hindu art and iconography, she is generally depicted as a white cow with a female head and breasts, the wings of a bird, and the tail of a peafowl or as a white cow containing various deities within her body. All cows are venerated in Hindu religion as the earthly embodiment of the Kamadhenu. However, Kamadhenu is not worshipped independently as a goddess, and temples are not solely dedicated in her honour alone; rather, she symbolises the veneration of cows Hinduism
Born to Shiva and Parvati god Ganesha (Ganapati, Vinayaka) is perhaps is the most depicted god in Hindu art and sculpture in a zoomorphic form: an elephant head with an indulgent human body. In contrast to the size of his body Ganesha rides a mere rat. The significance of the impracticality of an elephant riding on meek rat has generated hundreds of logical and illogical assumptions to explain this paradox.
The Avatars of God Vishnu, a concept in Hinduism which means “descent” are even more complex. Of the avatars of Vishnu, the Fish (Matsya), tortoise (Kurma), boar (Varaha) and lion (Narasimha) are the standard zoomorphic deities that still invite and await theological explanation for their existence. Matsya is sometimes depicted as a great fish or as a human torso connected to the tail of a fish who rescued the first man, as well as other creatures of the earth, from a great deluge in mythologies related to cosmic history. Kurma is the incarnation Vishnu that relates to the myth of churning the ocean to obtain treasures dissolved in the ocean of milk. In this myth, Vishnu takes the form of a tortoise to support the churning stick on his back. Varaha is often depicted as a boar head on a human body who raised the sunken earth out of the water. In another depiction of Narasimha as an avatar of Vishnu he emerges as a human lion to slay the demon.
Of all the ancient religions in the world Hinduism is perhaps the most zoomorphic depicted by animal gods. The antiquity of the religion may help to explain this phenomenon just as Aesop’s Fables uses animals to explain complex philosophy in a simple. Similarly in Buddhism the Jataka Tales is a vehicle of philosophy.
Enshrining animals in religion is a concept common to many ancient religions but Christianity is an exception where worship of animals is sacrilege.
The Satavahana (Stavhanas) Empire was an Indian dynasty based from
Satavana Coin, Satlkarni I 100 BC, Anton Sebastian Private Collection
Dharanikota and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh as well as Junnar (Pune) and Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra. The territory of the empire covered much of India from 230 BCE onward. Although there is some controversy about when the dynasty came to an end, the most liberal estimates suggest that it lasted about 450 years, until around 220 CE. The Satavahanas are credited for establishing peace in the country, resisting the onslaught of foreigners after the decline of Mauryan Empire.
The Stavhanas were vassals to the Mauryan dynasty until the decline of the latter. They are known for their patronage of Hinduism. The Stavhanas were early issuers of Indian state coinage struck with images of their rulers. They formed a cultural bridge and played a vital role in trade and the transfer of ideas and culture to and from the Indo-Gangetic Plain to the southern tip of India.
Satavahana Dynasty, Satkarni I, Copper Unit,, Anton Sebastian Private Collection
The Satavahanas are among the earliest Indian rulers to issue their own coins with portraits of their rulers, starting with king Gautamiputra Satakarni, a practice derived from that of the Western Kshatrapas he defeated, itself originating with the Indo-Greek kings to the northwest.
Thousands of lead, copper and potin Satavahana coins have been discovered in the Deccan region; a few gold and silver coins are also available. These coins do not feature uniform design or size, and suggest that multiple minting locations existed within the Satavahana territory, leading to regional differences in coinage.
The coin legends of the Satavahanas, in all areas and all periods, used a Prakrit dialect without exception. Some reverse coin legends are in Tamil, and Telugu languages.
Several coins carry titles or matronyms that were common to multiple rulers (e.g. Satavahana, Satakarni, and Pulumavi), so the number of rulers attested by coinage cannot be determined with certainty. The names of 16 to 20 rulers appear on the various coins. Some of these rulers appear to be local elites rather than the Satavahana monarchs.
The Satavahana coins give unique indications as to their chronology, language, and even facial features (curly hair, long ears and strong lips). They issued mainly lead and copper coins; their portrait-style silver coins were usually struck over coins of the Western Kshatrapa kings. The Satavahana coins also display various traditional symbols, such as elephants, lions, horses and chaityas (stupas), as well as the “Ujjain symbol”, a cross with four circles at the end.
India was a blend of most diverse culture of 360 million people, speaking over 1000 languages, enriched by 560 Princely States of Maharajahs until independence on August 15 1947 which consolidated them in to One Nation. The transition from British Raj to Republic of India created the biggest democracy in the world.
The first set of 3 stamps of the independent republic was issued on 21st November 1947 . The stamps were printed at Nasik Security Press with lithographic method. All the three stamps have become rare now after 70 years after issue.
The first coinage of the republic was introduced on 15th August, 1950. The portrait of British King George VI was replaced by the Lion Capital of the Ashoka Pillar. A corn sheaf replaced the Tiger on the one Rupee coin. In some ways this symbolised a shift in focus to progress and prosperity. Indian motifs were incorporated on other coins. The monetary system was largely retained unchanged with one Rupee consisting of 16 Annas.
The Sanskrit epic Rāmāyana is perhaps the most depicted epic in the world today. Some of the most exotic historic sites in India and the rest of the east, such as the Ellora caves, Mahāvalipuram, Cambodian temples, and several other places in Thailand portray Rāmāyana scenes and characters in their sculptures and paintings. Its literary contents have continued to inspire artists and artesans to depict the Rāmāyana scenes in paintings, on stone and other media for sculptures. Consisting
of 24,000 verses, it is supposed to have been written around 250 to 300 BC, although the events described in it appear to be much earlier, around 1000 BC. Although generally looked upon as a religious epic of the Hindus the contents in relation to Lanka reveal some contents that may be historic.
Many other religious beliefs to stake a claim to Lanka, the present Sri Lanka. To the Mohammedans it was the paradise of Adam and Eve. One Islamic legend says that when Adam and Eve were cast out of the paradise, Adam fell on the island of Ceylon, and Eve near Jeddah, the port of Mecca. They later met each other and lived in Ceylon. Adam’s Peak is a legacy of this legend.
For the Buddhists, it was the island chosen for salvation of Rakshas and Nagas by the Buddha. With such a variety of claims it is not entirely surprising to see Lanka having a multitude of ancient names. The Island’s ancient name, Lanka (Laka or Laksha, thousands) is supposed to be derived from the Sanskrit language, to refer to a multitude of islands around its western coast. In the Pandiyan Saṅgam literature, the southern region in the peninsula is referred to as MaveIlaṅkai (great Lanka), while Lanka, known for its supply of rice to the Tamil kingdom, is referred to as Ilaṅkai. The Sinhalese called the island Sīhala, after the Siṃha (lion) of the Vijaya legend. This name was corrupted to Sinhaladipa, and became the Serendib of the Arabs around the 2nd century AD. During the colonial period Sieladipa became Ceilão, and later ‘Zeilan’, and ‘Ceylon’ under the Dutch and British.
To the Hindus, it was the scene of the epic Rāmāyana battle where Rāma and Rāvaṇa fought over Sītā. The Hindu epic poem, Rāmāyana refers to the island as Ilaṅkai, the most antiquated name for the island. Many holy places in the island are implied in the Rāmāyana. Rāma is said to have prayed for his victory over Rāvaṇa, at the shrine for Siva at Muniswaram (Tamil: mun, ancient or before, Īśvara, Hindu god) in the Chilaw district. The narrow causeway between Ramēśvaram (Hindu gods: Rāma, Īśvara,) in India and Talaimannar served as the crossing point for Rāma before his battle with the Lankan king Rāvaṇa, and we know that this is geographically true. Dandaka forest, the northernmost wildernes of South India (Penninsular India) is where the first conflict between Rama (Aryan) and Surpaanakai, the sister of king Rāvaṇa (Dravidian), began. The legend in many ways is a rerun of the Aryan invasion that occurred thousand years previously in the Indus which probably captured the imagination of Valmiki.
Following the Rig Veda of the Aryans (c 1400 BC), the next earliest quasi historic document that we can find is the Rāmāyana. The classical historian and Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Theodor Mommsen (1817-1910) quotes: “Imagination, mother of all poetry, is likewise mother of all history.” In the epic a divine monkey from the tribe of Vānarar comes to the island of Ilaṅkai in search of Rāma’s wife, who was abducted by Rāvaṇa, the king of Lanka. Shortly before entering Lanka he stands on Pavalamalai (Pearl Mountain) near Lanka, and observes the island which is regarded as a paradise. In the Kamba Rāmāyanam, a Tamil version of the Rāmāyana written later in the 12th century AD, the divine city of Lanka was built by the architect of God. Its palaces reached for the skies, with shining precious stones embedded in gold. Divine women of the giant race (Rākṣasas) and divine lords were serving giants like King Rāvaṇa. According to Kambar’s description Wind and God could enter the city only with Rāvaṇa’s consent; such was the the defence and glory of Lanka. Men and women happily lived here without the slightest care. Only happy people were seen about, and Hahnuman could not see any signs of discontent as he sifted through Lanka looking for Sītā.
The episode on war, the Uttara- kāṇḍa in the classic, between the Lankan Dravidian king and the Aryan king of India, constitutes 68 chapters out of a total of 537 chapters, in six books. Although in these verses the Rāmāyana narrates unlikely supernatural feats such as the flight of Hahnuman, a monkey god over Lanka, some geographical framework such as the Rama’s Bridge is noted. Rāma and Sītā’s legend still lives on in Sri Lanka through several place-names: Sītāvaka in the
Avissawella district where Sītā is believed to have been held in captivity: Sītākoṭuva, near Gurulupota in Minipe, on the Kandy-Mahiyangana road where Sītā is supposed to have been initially held by the Lankan king: Rāvaṇa, Älla, in Ella (near Badulla), a scenic cave behind waterfalls where Rāvaṇa hid Sītā: Ariṣṭa mountain Riṭigala) where Hahnuman is said to have dumped the earth containing medical herbs from Himalayas: MunĪśvaram where Rāma prayed for his victory: Sītā Amman Kovil, near Hakgala Gardens, where Hahnuman found Sītā, and the Rāma’s Bridge (Adam’s bridge) built by Hahnuman for Rāma to cross over to Lanka.