12.27.2005

A moment longer at Elephanta caves, Mumbai.

Elephanta caves, Mumbai: A moment longer at Elephanta caves can give a life time of happiness. Sounds strange, but when you discover the value of such an amazing monument, your mind rests on it forever. You know, these monuments scattered around our country side do not just stop with being tourist attractions but have greater value when we try to understand them a little more.

Art historians like George Michell, scanned the entire caves and brought out a book the beautifully represents Elephanta pictorially to the average reader. It has a few very interesting things about it that triggered my thoughts further on Elephanta, and it just blew my mind when i realized what i possibly found. I might be wrong, but i dont feel so.

Elephanta's main cave hosts a four doored chamber which contains an incomplete Shiva Linga. In front of it stands a hall of pillars rather unassuming to start with. I think the cave faces east and on the south wall is our very famous Trimurti. Is all this leading somewhere, maybe... Lets walk a step back, what is Elephanta caves all about?

Elephanta caves hosts a complete cave dedicated to Shiva, with 11 iconographic representations from his various mythologies, 11 out of 25 forms of Shiva have been depicted here. Ok, if you though Vishnu was 10 and Shiva was 1, let me correct this, Vishnu is 10 but Shiva is about 25 forms.
This does not end here, i do not know the reason for picking these particular sculptures, am yet to figure that out, but what i know is that, what George Michell tried to conclude in these caves was that the ground plan represented some sort of a mandala that looks like this.



The square on the left is the shrine chamber that hosts the Shiva linga within it. The point i am trying to make is that much as he hit the nail on the head and said it represented a ground plan, i think he got it wrong diagramatically. Why do i say this?

For this we need to move away from pure are history and architecture towards ritual. The worship of Lord Shiva brings in the use of mystical diagrams like yantras to perform fulfilling worship of the Lord. The most auspicious yantra that represents Lord Shiva looks like this.



Now, counting the number of squares within this yantra we come to 25 (5x5) squares. Superimpose this on the ground plan of the cave, but not diagonally. The floor of elephanta now represents a living yantra, each square marked by a pillar at the corners, with the shrine chamber at the first square of row three, meaning square 11. (i hope you got the square) I think this number 11 is coincidental and may not symbolically represent the number of Shiva scultpures inside these caves. What remains a mystery to me right now is whether there was a lot more to this ritualistically or was this purely a representation to carry the tradition forward.

Now this might look normal and matter of fact to you. Well it does not look normal or matter of fact to me. I have woken up to this after 2 years of breaking my head on it, and man! this enlightenment makes a difference to me and makes me want to value these sculptures more than just beautiful depictions on stone. This is a hint of the potency that evolves when architecture and ritual combine which our ancestors have left behind for us, to take note of and pursue ( i dont mean to preach).

The more we soak ourselves in it, the more we dig deeper, the clearer it gets, and we are brought face to face with this potency. I cant explain this.. but i can only say its worth all the study i did, its worth all the frustration i have been through, its worth all the belief and faith i bank on! There IS something here to be looked at, cherished and valued.


27 comments:

JC Joshi said...

Hi Kavitha,

With the background that the origins of the cave temples at Elephanta are lost in obscurity, and that these believably date to the 6th century AD - representing the Brahmanical revival - as I see it at a glance, the ‘Yantra’ presented by you reads “Namah Shivayaha”, utilizing five letters (perhaps representing the Panchabhootas) aranged in NW to SE direction only…

I had said elsewhere that, 'Bhootnath or Shiva, i.e., earth’ was understood by the ancients to be reclining in the same direction, i.e., from NW (location of the perennial source of ‘sacred water’, River Ganga - and perhaps Moon too) to SE (location of Andaman island, near the source of fire in Indonesia, i.e., volcanoes under the sea - just as planet Mars or Hanuman in Treta yuga is considered the lord of ‘fire’, one of the panchbhootas)… And, these are located near the SW coast, along the Arabic Sea, the origin of the monsoon ‘winds’ that represnts the famous ‘churning’ of the ‘milky ocean’ referred in the ‘Hindu’ mythology that has been carried forth through eons…

Also, Lord Vishnu or the formless Creator was understood reclining from West (the location of the Shivlinga in the middle of the grid) to East (location of rising sun, the direction from which Arjuna approached Krishna, a reincarnation of Vishnu in the Dwaper yuga), the general direction in which the Himalayas - as a symbol of infinite strength - also trend... And, it was said that Shiva is Vishnu and Vishnu is Shiva… The Trimurti, in a deep recess against the South wall - flanked by Gangadhara Shiva towards West and Ardhanarishwara towards East - represents the three physical aspects of the formless Vishnu, i.e., the aspects of creation, sustenance for a certain duration, and destruction or transformation of all physical forms with the passage of time…

Third Eye Closed said...

Hello,
You were right it was kind of intense. But something bothers me: Why would a temple have only 11 of the avatars/forms? What is the significance of 11?

Possibly the the sect that built it believed in only 11? or are they actually hidden or encrypted in the temple somewhere?
Ok, just to let my imagination take over... here's a thought.

What If the temple was actually arranged in 3 layers that would represent the 3 planes. Geometrically concider it to be in the form of a double sided prism (connected at thier 4 sided bases).
As we see most temples have a sort of prism shape in general. What if they had a similar mirror below.

Ok, getting back to this one. The layer we see has one main form/avatar? and 10 other spread on the plain right? If this was the case say a plane above was tapering to say one notch lower, we'd have 6 forms/avatars there (while cutting the main plane geometrically to a lesser level or tapering it). And say one main avatar in the same plane or another higher plane would sort of form a prism.
Concider the same mirror downwards that would give us another 6+1 forms or avatar.
Adding in all we'd get 7+7(from the above and below planes) +11(as what we see)= 25.

Might sound like a funny theory. But thats because I believe what we see usually in a temple as great as this one is only surface level. Possibly because we couldn't see or lack to see the complete visage.

I must say one very interesting post.

~fEelix
PS: You are most free to beat me if you think I am wrong. Galileo got beaten up.

abhilash warrier said...

Kavi,

I agree with Felix there... temples (as we discussed many times) may have more than one plane of existence and prominence.

What you wrote today has been a peep into the submerged part of an iceberg so to speak...

I think enlightenment as you said is the same. Just seeing or experiencing the submerged iceberg.

Very nice post... I think, you should visit the Elephanta yourself... soon. One fine day...

Felix, I checked out your blog. Interesting to say the least.

JC Joshi said...

Hi Kavitha,

You said that Vishnu is ‘ten (10)’… In my opinion, as I have said earlier also, Krishna - His believable manifestation in Dwaper yuga - is represented by eight (8) or a form made with two zeros (conception, and governor vessels or ‘ghatams’, the human structure is believed to represent) to cover the eight directions… Thus the control ever remains with the formless in the two directions – up and down… The combined figure of ‘Mohini’ or the female form of Durga, together with Her vehicle, ‘Lion’, (the planetary system including Earth), thus symbolically is shown to have ten ‘hands, or through Dashavatar’ of Vishnu in the mythology…

A ‘PIE’ (Planning, Implementation, Evaluation) diagram perhaps represents best the ‘Hindu’ philosophy in 2D, wherein the centre of the circle represents the Nirakar Vishnu or the formless Creator, and His three aspects - of Planning, Sustenance, and Destruction or transformation - through ‘Mahashiva or Mahesamurti’ as in Elephanta, i.e, Brahma (Sun), physical Vishnu (Centre of galaxy) and Shiva (Earth) respectively…

Mahashiva or ‘Bhootnath’, literally the king of the ghosts, however comprises the ‘Panchbhootas’ or the ‘Panchtatvas’, i.e., the five elements that go into the formation of each and every temporary physical 3D (360 degrees in space) Heavenly Body in the universe…

As we have already seen in the ’64 Yogini cult’ or 8 forces at each level of the eight hierarchical ‘bandhas’, the human form could be visualized to cover 5 x 8 or 40 degrees of the space - thus totaling to 120 degrees through three sub-stages each of the three stages of the PIE, eventually covering the 360 degrees in space…

I hope I have been able to express in words what I consider in cycles to cover the life span versus the interactions of the planets derived from the particulars of birth of an individual to reflection various events in one's life, with reference to the present day Indian Standard Time (IST) that represents the Longitude 82.5 degrees East, close to which lie the birth place of Adi Shiva (with Sati in His heart or the molten rock core covered with outer shell of our earth) near Varanasi and later Shiva-Parvati (Earth-Moon) at Kailash-Mansarovar in the epresent day Tibet...

JC Joshi said...

Hi again,

Talking of the number 11, let us consider the earth (believably a model of the blloon like space of the universe) as a three dimensional geometrical figure of a sphere. It is sub-divided into two hemispheres, with Equator, i.e., one of the big circles serving as the dividing line.

Now, to cover the eight directions one could imagine four big circles or Longitudes that pass through the North and South poles on each hemisphere to define the surface of planet earth which is exposed to the Sun during one revolution from East to West. Thus eight plus one, i.e., nine lines on the surface of the earth could be said to cover the surface of the two hemispheres, in so far as its movement from East to West is concerned. The two circles that mark the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, one on each hemisphere, define the North-South and vice-versa movements of Sun during a year thus making the total to eleven, 11!!

Coincidentally or as a part of design, each team in perhaps the most popular game of cricket - that is played in selected eleven or so countries only (in World Cup) - consists of eleven players!

To my knowledge these countries are England, Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Canada, and Holland… And, these countries generally were at one time perhaps ruled by Britain and thus the saying at a certain stage, “The sun never sets in the British empire!”

I do not know if any one has wondered why the stadiums of the game of cricket are - apparently unconsciously - fashioned like models of our galaxy, such that the spectators in the stepped disc shaped stadiums represent the stars and players the members of the Solar system! And, like the Dasavatar of the Hindu Philosophy, an innings finishes when ten players are out! The stress in ‘nature’ is perhaps on the eleventh player that never gets out, like the formless Creator, who remains detached or in a higher plane - called Vishnu by the Vaishnavites and Eeshaan by Shaivites – never, believably, dies!

One could perhaps find it bizarre that the Indian Lok Sabha recently declared ten of its 'players' out (caught napping) while the eleventh came from the Rajya Sabha...

JC Joshi said...

I am very sorry! I missed the West Indies!!!!!

JC Joshi said...

I would like to give additional information on the presented ‘Yantra’ as indicated in my opening comment…

The five letters are so placed that ‘Na-mah Shi-va-ya’ is also read from middle South (the location of Maheshamurti, or Adi Shiva) to North (the main Northern entry) to the cave temple, i.e., ‘head down position’ - like a normal child at the time of birth, perhaps thus taking into account the ‘zero’ time or the Longitude that passes through ‘Kashi’ representing the original zero… Also we know that the polarity of earth interchanges at certain time intervals and at present there is an ‘eccentricity’ in its axis of rotation, just as is reflected in the present day erect human beings in head up position also! However the position of the middle element remains unchanged…

Also, if the five letters are assigned numbers 1 to 5, the ‘Yantra’ would result in a total of 15 - along each row, each column, and diagonally as well - perhaps indicating some connection with the frequency of the number. It of course needs to be looked into in detail…

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JC Joshi said...

First of all, I would say to Kavitha that if 'sky' or atmosphere that represents the vast space, i.e., Eeshan or the formless Shiva, and therefore is assigned number zero (0), then the total would work out to 10, and not 15 as I had indicated earlier...

Yes, Mr. Lewis Williams, I read your blog. It's nice to see that you are performing your job honestly and enjoying it too. The wise ancients also advised that although one could reach God through knowledge and science, He liked best those who surrendered in Him! There is, therefore, no harm if one surrenders and also attempts to increase one's sphere of knowledge...

Best wishes to all for a Happy New Year, and best wishes to you particularly for a bright future and a Happy Marrried life!

JC Joshi said...

Finally in my own way, to round up, I would correlate ‘Na-mah Shi-va-ya’ with the ‘Panchatatva’ as follows:

#1 or physical 0, ‘Na’ stands for Nabha, i.e., ‘Sky’ or Void.
#2 or physical 1, ‘mah’ stands for Mahi, i.e., ‘Earth’.
#3 or physical 2, ‘Shi’ stands for Shikhi, i.e., ‘Fire’
#4 or physical 3, ‘Va’ stands for Vayu, i.e., ‘Air’
#5 or physical 4, ‘Ya’ stands for Yamuna, i.e., ‘Water’

N.B. - For humans, ‘Yamaraj’ is considered in the form of destroyer Shiva, i.e., earth or ‘mrityulok’, and Yamuna is called his sister… While River Ganga is considered sacred and is associated with ‘Gangadhara Shiva’, River Yamuna is its perennial tributary that passed through the Capital city of the Pandavas in the Dwaper Yuga, Indraprastha (the present Delhi), as also through Mathura the birth place of Krishna who killed the demon serpent ‘Kaliya’, i.e., made its water pollution free then. Similarly, Shiva is believed to have held the deadliest poison, as a result of ‘churning of the milky ocean’ - by both selfish (demons) and selfless humans (angels) - in His throat for the sake of the selfless…

JC Joshi said...

Hi Kavitha,
continuing in the year 2006, the number 8, now, when one looks at the earth, with the above background, one would notice Antarctica as the head (or ‘sky’, the number 0) of earth at birth and the Arctic sea (or ‘water’, the number 4) at the feet, and the present day Mount Kailash at the head and the Seas at the feet of ‘India’…

One Mr. GV Shankar, in TOI had indicated, “… According to lore, when Shiva was marrying Parvati, the sages gathered to witness the event and the world tilted to one side with the weight of the assemblage. To restore balance, Shiva requested the sage Agastya to go south, granting him the power to witness the marriage from afar. The latter professed ignorance of the language of the south whereupon the Lord taught him Tamil himself, while he in turn brought the Sanskrit language to the south.”

It remained unprinted, however, I had commented, Shri GV Shankar has cited the Hindu mythological story related with the marriage of ‘Shiva’ with ‘Parvati’ (the daughter of Himalayas!!!) The mythological stories have been carried forth ‘naturally’ through generations as it is - perhaps to be ‘read between the lines’ when the time is ripe…

A literate Indian today might know that once upon a time ‘India’ was an island, called Jambudweep. And, that in the ever changing universe on our planet earth, over a long duration, Himalayan ranges emerged from within the bed of the ocean in its North - relatively recently in geological terms.

The description of ‘Shiva’ in the stories, that ‘He has Moon on His forehead’ should itself have been sufficient for a ‘Hindu’ to realize that ‘Shiva’ refers to our planet Earth… Shiva in the beginning or Adi Shiva, with His abode at Kashi, the present day Varanasi, is referred as Ardhanarishwar, i.e., both male and female God, Shiva & Sati (the outer shell of earth with the molten inner core as ‘King Prajapati’ the father of Sati)… The second marriage of Shiva, with Parvati, another form of Sati ‘who committed suicide by jumping into sacred fire’, obviously describes evolution of Moon from Earth and becoming earth’s satellite… Reference to Parvati as the daughter of Himalaya perhaps indicates ‘Gomukh’ - the origin of River Ganga - as the location from where the Moon evolved. This, of course, is a subject of further research…

Now, the statements, ‘Sage Agastya drank the whole sea water’, and ‘his movement to South India, due to tilt in the earth, to watch the marriage from a distance’, as cited by Shri Shankar also, obviously refer to the depression in the land mass beyond the boundaries of India, with the resultant seas on three sides in the South - after appearance of the Himalayas in the distant North…

God alone perhaps would know how many times there have been ‘Pralayas’ or ‘Great Inundations’ on the planet earth believably at the end of each Yuga and therefore, like it is impossible to tell the point where a circle begins and where it ends, this question also will ever remain a mystery: Which came first, Tamil or Sanskrit? One remarkable thing about Sanskrit however is that the word ‘Aham’ means both, I as well as pride!"

kavitha said...

Hi Joshi Uncle

the information you have given here is simply superb.
I knew you would have a lot to say with this post :)

regds
kavitha

JC Joshi said...

Hi Kavitha,

Thanks! I am happy if someone finds the information useful. It is said, to the effect, that money diminishes on sharing, whereas knowledge increases the more you share it with others!

Anonymous said...

Talking of 'knowledge', continuing in the same spirit, one could find it funny when someone says that formless God or ‘Nirakar Brahma’ is difficult to visualize as He has no form. While on the other hand the ‘scientist’ deals with formless fluids, stating that they - gases, water (that is 'life') etc. - take the form of the vessels in which they are kept…

The ancient ‘wise Hindu’ also visualized ‘soul’ similarly to reside in all physical forms – even inside an atom! The Japanese, and the Russians also to some extent, have experienced its destructive power...

The ‘Gita’ also defines formless God, ‘the unending’, as ‘supreme knowledge’ and states the purpose of human life to realize Him as also His various physical forms with relatively superior knowledge or ‘Purushottam’, the best among humans, viz., Shiva (model of earth) in Sata yuga, Rama (model of Sun) in Treta yuga, Krishna (model of Centre of galaxy) in Dwaper yuga, and so on, and hence the saying, “God can appear in any form,” literally considering every physical form as a reflection of the omnipotent and the omnipresent – although an inferior one, all being temporary in nature…

Third Eye Closed said...

Hello,
This post is taking its path a lot more. Mr. Joshi you are brimming with knowledge and information, my honours and bows to you.
I wonder if you'd ever like to put in your knowledge into some form... website, book, anything. If you need help of any sorts, I'd be most glad to help you out. The wealth of information you hold simply amazes me.

~fEelix (Ask Why?)
PS: You could mail me at dexter_backup@yahoo.com.

kavitha said...

Hi Joshi Uncle,

Feelix is a colleague of mine at work. This is introducing feelix back to you. In case you are interested to put your thoughts to paper, please feel free to ask him.

regds
Kavitha

JC Joshi said...

Hi Feelix,

I have separately sent an email to you. I hope you have seen it...

With the 'Panchatatva' as indicated by me above, now, when one looks at the human palm, one would notice five fingers, or rather one thumb and four fingers in a normal hand...

The thumb is symbolic of strength (0) that has at its root the main pulse and could therefore be considered to represent the planet Mars, the ‘Mooladhar’. Also, it has easy access to all other fingers - starting from # 1, the little finger, representing the core of earth, to # 4, the index finger representing Moon or the Guru,i.e., the superior one, at the head. # 3 or the middle finger represents the throat or the house of planet Venus, and #2, the ring finger, the Sun - with three sub divisions in each of them, totalling to 12 houses, which are perhaps indicated in a horoscope also...

The thumb is ritully used in meditation by ‘Hindus’ for keeping record of the count while, say, ‘gayatri mantra’ - invoking the sun, the source of energy or 'fire' - is recited a number of times while the thumb is manoeuvered over the natural houses formed by the lines over the joints in the fingers, only 10 of these, though, in a certain order – clockwise and anti-clockwise… This process perhaps serves the dual function of keeping one’s attention away from thoughts related with day-to-day ‘material’ life while transferring energy in ‘mooladhar’ to higher chakras or essence of planet represented by each of the other four fingers or the ‘bhootas’ (as in the technique used in Acupressure) to overcome any block in the 'channels'…

JC Joshi said...

Hi Felix,
I have written separately to you as regards your name and the essence of 'Hindu' philosophy, originating from it, as I have understood it...

I thought to post it here too for the benefit of Kavitha and others who might be interested:

"What is there in a name; a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet." William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet...

The funny thing is that apparently everyone who has read Shakespeare's works agrees that he was a great personality. But, no one knows who he really was!
There are, of course, different guesses about who he could have been... (I wasn't a student of English literature, though, so unable to participate in
that 'red herring chase'.)

However, at this stage itself, do you see a hint, or the hand of the
Creator - and His mysterious ways? And, look at the infinite guesses about Him! A 16th century saint, Tulsidas of the 'Ramayana' fame, said to the effect that He is 'seen' by each individual according to his/ her own
imagination. Apparently He/ Her/ It presents Himself/ Herself/ Itself in various forms. In short - all forms are His 'reflections' or 'images'! Thus the mention of illusion - for He is apparently either amusing Himself, like
man apparently does viewing projection of films on the 'silver screen'. Or,maybe He is seeking His 'Mother' or the origin. Hindu philosophy however believes Him to have appeared on His Own (Swayambhu) and thus has neither a
beginning nor an end!

The 'Hindus', particularly therefore, would be found worshipping various forms, or directly the formless - meditating in some isolated location, far
from the crowd... All saints were later given names different from what their parents had named them. This feature also gets reflected in the 'pen names' adopted by certain writers... Prisoners are called by numbers even!

The 'Hindus' believed the soul to be imprisoned within the body and pining for release from the bondage - however not being able to do so for Yugas or eons till it acquires the human form, the superior most animal form! Even
then one is supposed to show 'inclination' to reach Him. It is believed that 'surrender in Him' by the exterior form is the best way to merge the soul
with the supreme soul, like river water empties itself into the sea...

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ramblings of a caffeinated mind said...

Hi Kavitha,

Reading your blog only makes me want to cherish my roots. Thank you once again for making the effort to pen your thoughts. Joshi Uncle you are brilliant. So did you finally conclude on the mystery behind the ground plan of the caves?

~ Best
Ambika

ramblings of a caffeinated mind said...

Hi Kavitha,

Reading your blog only makes me want to cherish my roots. Thank you once again for making the effort to pen your thoughts. Joshi Uncle you are brilliant. So did you finally conclude on the mystery behind the ground plan of the caves?

~ Best
Ambika

ramblings of a caffeinated mind said...

Hi kavitha,

reading your blogs makes me cherish my roots ever more. Joshi uncle you are a mountain of knowledge for us all. Thank you so very much. So did you finally 'cave' in on the mystery behind the ground plan?

~ Best
Ambika

Bhagwat said...

I went to Elephanta over 25 years ago. I remember a few of the sculptures.
I have a lot of info on iconography. If you tell me which 11 are there in Elephanta, I can probably give you an idea of what they represent.

Bhagwat_s@yahoo.com