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SHIVA & PARVATI, PRIMORDIAL POWERS OF GENDER

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.

Marriage of Shiva and Parvati

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.  

Hindu Art and ReligionExotic and authentic, rare and antique religious figurines and sculptures of Shiva and Parvati from Anton Sebastian Private Collection presented for sale by Antiques International

HINDUISM, JAINISM and birth of buddhism

Nandi, most venerated zoomorphic deity of Hindus next to Ganesha

Hinduism and Jainism are two of the oldest religions in the world lost in time due to their antiquity. The religious sculptures and art from their past reveal a complex, exotic and mythical aspects of these religions. A thousand gods generating ten thousand mythologies have been inspiration for Hindu Art for over a thousand years. These gods became personal deities in various names and forms all over India thus multiplying the myths. The Hindu Art that we are endowed with today is culmination of the imagination of Hindu devotees and artisans over millennia. The main portrayal of Shiva as Nataraja (Natyam; dance, raja; king) came from the Chola Period (ca 800 – 1100 AD) to become the most iconic sculpture in religious art. In more remote parts of India Shiva was a powerful tribal God offering protection to the Hindus with names such as Khadoban, Bhairava, Rudra and hundred more. Amongst the female Hindu deities Durga for protection from evil, Parvati for compassion, Sarasvati for prosperity and wealth are more popular. The mesogenic representation of Shiva and Parvati as one (Ardhanarishwara) is the ultimate not only in art but also in philosophy. Hindu Art, a heritage from Hindu faith has now become an art, sans religious borders across the world.

Jainism one of the oldest religions in the world is traditionally traced through a succession of twenty-four propagators of their faith known as tirthankaras, Rishabha being the first of them, and Mahavira the last.

Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma was founded in the 5th century BC. Followers of Jainism are called “Jains”, a word derived from the Sanskrit word jina (victor) and connoting the path of victory in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths through an ethical and spiritual life. Jains trace their history through a succession of twenty-four victorious saviors and teachers known as Tirthankaras, with the first being Rishabhanatha, who is believed to have lived millions of years ago, and twenty-fourth being the Mahavira around 500 BCE. Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal dharma with the Tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology.

The main religious premises of Jainism are ahimsa (“non-violence”), anekantavada (“many-sidedness”), aparigraha (“non-attachment”) and asceticism. Jain monastics renunciants and devout householders take five main vows known as vratas, outlined in their oldest surviving text, the Acaranga Sutra: ahimsa (“non-violence”), satya (“truth”), asteya (“not stealing”), brahmacharya (“celibacy or chastity”), and aparigraha(“non-attachment”). These principles have impacted Jain culture in many ways, such as leading to a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle that avoids harm to animals and their life cycles. Parasparopagraho Jivanam (“the function of souls is to help one another”) is the motto of Jainism. Namokar Mantra is the most common and basic prayer in Jainism.[5]

Jainism has two major ancient sub traditions, Digambaras and Svetambaras; and several smaller sub-traditions that emerged in the 2nd millennium CE. The Digambaras and Svetambaras have different views on ascetic practices, gender and which Jain texts can be considered canonical. Jain mendicants are found in all Jain sub-traditions, with laypersons (śrāvakas) supporting the mendicants’ spiritual pursuits with resources.

First bodily depiction of Budda on a Kushan Coin

As the preachers of ancient Hindu scripts who held title to the unwritten Vedas or incantations became king makers propagating the ritual of animal sacrifices and indulgences, a spiritual rebellion was born. Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as “The Buddha,” was born into a wealthy family as a prince in present-day Nepal in 5th century BC. Gautama was later moved by suffering in the world and then existing practice of Brahmins of the day decided to give up his lavish lifestyle and endure poverty, proposing happiness within one’s own mind.

However of all the ancient religions Jainism has best stayed close it’s roots of spiritual philosophy while Buddhism spread across the world mainly due to the efforts of King Asoka in 3rd century BC. Much later in the 4th to 8th century the Khmer kings being originally Hindus embraced Buddhism by a process of inclusion into Hinduism while still honoring the Hindu deities.

Zoomorphism in Hindu Art & Religious Belief


Bhairava ( a fearsome manifestation of Shiva) riding horse with his consort Kali (Devi) holding a lotus bud accompanied by his dog (Shvan)

bhairava


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.  

bhairava 1
Hindu god Bhairava with her vahana or mount, the dog (Shvan)

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.

Decorated Nandi

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.

Kamadenu

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.

Hindu Art & Antiques from Antiques International

  

Coinage of Satavahana Empire

Indus Civilization 2500 BC – 1500 BC

Ganges Civilization 1500 BC – 400 BC

Mauryas (Asoka) 322 BC – 320 AD

Shungas 185 BC – 30 BC

Satavahanas (Satavhana) 100 BC – 250 AD

SATAVANA MAP

The Satavahana (Stavhanas) Empire was an Indian dynasty based from

SATAVANAS 100 BC ELEPHANT 1
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,
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 Tamiland 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.

Rare-coins of Ancient India  from Antiques International 

Gods on Coins & Stamps

BOODOO
First depiction of Buddha ca 200 AD

There are more animals and mortals depicted on coins than Gods.  Yet religion is the oldest culture in the world. Kushan kings of India were the first represent gods incuding Shiva and Buddha in their coins as early as 100 to 300 AD. 

GOLD SHIVA 1
Shiva with Nandi, King Kanishka 100 AD, gold coin from Anton Sebastian Private Collectiom

Religion and deities depicted on coins are construed by some pious people as effacing the value of their gods. Coins are a part of everyday life for everybody, and religious coins can also be a reminder to the presence  of god in daily life. In a puritan’s sense the use of religious coins in monetary transactions could mean that god looks over honesty and integrity when his image is used. 

The coins have their own caste system or status too, the poorest being cooper or aluminium or copper, silver for the gentry, and gold for the kings and the wealthy.

NATARAJA STAMP
Shiva as Natarah

Since late  19th century there came a new forum to represent gods in daily life: the postage stamps. The expression of gods on stamps and coins also contributed to philatelic and numismatic art in daily life.

Gods on Coins and Stamps