CORONATION OF HINDU KINGS IN ANCIENT INDIA (Post No.4935)

WRITTEN by London Swaminathan 

 

Date: 21 April 2018

 

Time uploaded in London –  15-13 (British Summer Time)

 

Post No. 4935

 

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks. Pictures may be subject to copyright laws.

 

 

 

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Ancient Hindu coronations are explained in the Hindu Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. They followed the rituals prescribed in the Brahmanas (Vedic Literature). They used to recite the story of Sunashepa. It was a symbolic human sacrifice. The Brahmana literature says in very clear terms that all the animals tied to the sacrifice poles are released before the fire sacrifice.

 

Ramayana and Mahabharata describe the state and the pageantry of the great coronation (Rajasuya) of Rama and Yudhishthira respectively. They were consulted as precedents for like ceremonies in later ages. 2000 years ago  Tamil Choza king Perunarkilli performed Rajasuya Yajna for which the other two Tamil Kings of Chera and Pandya countries came. Tamil poetess Avvaiyaar attended the Rajasuya and praised all the three great kings (Ref.Purananuru)

 

Like Hindus recite the story of Sunashepa in Hindu coronations, the British read/recited the Bible. In the coronations of British sovereigns at Westminster, the Holy Bible is brought from off the altar by the Dean of Westminster, and handed to the Archbishop, who “with the rest of the bishops going along with him, shall present it to the Queen/King, saying these words to her/him ‘ Our gracious Queen/King we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords; Here is wisdom; This is the Royal Law ; These are the lively Oracles of God; Blessed is he that readeth, and  they that hear the words of this book, that keep and do the things contained in it…etc.”

 

The Rajasuya (King making) ceremony was specially used for the inauguration of a king, who by conquest or through influence had supremacy over other kings.

 

It was partly a repetition of the Abisheka or bathing (with holy water) ceremony with which every king was crowned at his accession.; and lasted at least one whole year, sometimes for several years. It included many rites, civil and religious peculiar to the various peoples of India.

Aitareya Brahmana

Aitareya Brahmana belongs to the Shakala Shaka of the Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world. It describes the heavenly coronation ceremony in detail. Santi Parva of Mahabharata, the oldest and longest epic in the world; says that it is the chief duty of the people of a country to inaugurate a king, because the Devas performed a similar ceremony for Indra.

 

India was the first democracy in the world according to the Rig Veda. The reference to Sabhas and Samitis and the words ‘Chosen’ ‘elected’ prove this.

 

Every king in India was chosen by the ministers and elders of the capital city. Even Valmiki shows this in his Ramayana where Dasaratha consulted his senior citizens. Even Indra, the celestial type of earthly sovereignty was ‘chosen’ by the Devas, for their king.

 

In ancient India, there were two capital cities for two different races. Hasinapura and newly constructed  Indraprastha near modern Delhi was the capital of Bharata Kings of the Lunar Race. Ayodhya was the capital of Ikshvakus of the Solar Race. It is also not far from Delhi.

Abisheka / Anointment

The main ceremony in the coronation of a Hindu king was Abisheka or bathing with holy water. For this the water from all the holy rivers of India and the sea water from four different corners of India was brought and filled in golden pots. After uttering the Vedic mantras the king was bathed with that water. During the repeat ceremonies (Punar Abisheka) it is done again.

Ordinary people also had this type of abisheka during their 60th, 70th, 80th and 100th birth anniversaries. For Brahmins the golden pots, for Kshatrias the silver pot, for Vaisyas copper pots and for Shudras the earthen pots were used in ancient India.

 

Invitation was sent to all the kings and they came with big presents for the new king. We have a very long list of presents that Yudhisthira received in the Mahabharata. According to Vedic scriptures the ceremony took place in an open air. Fixed erections such as altars and open sheds were demolished at the end of the ceremony.

Women watching from Multi Story Buildings

The interest with which Hindu ladies watched such ceremonies from the latticed windows of multi story buildings are described in Sanskrit literature. Nala Charita (History of King Nala) mentions a lofty balcony from which men and women watched the ceremony. In the Ramayana the mischief making Manthara observed the preparations for installation of Rama as Yuva Raja (prince) from an upper window and at his final installation the women are referred to as watching the ceremonies from the upper windows of overlooking mansions.  Sangam Tamil literature mentions seven storied buildings.

The general arrangements of the coronation ground were the same as other sacrifices. The Aitareya Brahmana explains the symbolism of plan, by comparing its three divisions to Earth (a sitting room) Air (fire place) and Sky (two repositories for food (Sadas, Agnidhriya and Havirdhana respectively). With reference to the last word it is further said Heaven and Earth are the two havirdhanas of the Gods for every offering is made between them.

But there were some modifications for accommodating vast crowds and display the coronation pageants. Kings from neighbouring countries also attended it.

The Brahmana literature says “And that sacrificial mansion crowded with kings and Brahmins and great rishis/seers, looked, O King, as handsome as heaven itself, crowded with the gods.”

Ficus Glomerata Tree and Gold

The throne seat was made of Udumbara wood (Ficus glomerata). It rested on four legs with boards placed on them, just one foot high. It had side boards two feet high. It was well fastened with sacred Munja grass (sachcharum munja).

 

A tiger skin was placed on the seat with hair side upward, and the neck to the east, typical of royal, military, power, the tiger being the hero of Indian beasts.

Ramayana and Venkateswara Suprabada praise Rama as Tiger among men ( Narasardula).

Vishnu Sahasranama refers to three trees of Ficus family (Moraceae) as God Vishnu:

Asvatta (Ficus religiosa)

Vata (Ficus indica)

Udumbara (Ficus glomerata)

 

The king ascended it on his knees, praying to gods to ascend it with him, and they were believed, though unseen, to do so.

According to Vedic literature, every sacrifice must be accompanied by his wife. The Queen-consort, also took part in the coronation ceremony. Ramayana says,

Vasistha, chief for revered age,

High on a throne, with jewels graced,

King Rama, and his Sita placed

–Ramayana 6-130

Soma feast was part of coronation; soma drink is different from Sura (alcoholic drinks) drinks. It may be compared to something like strong coffee (Expresso) or a herbal coffee.

The crown was a small branch of the Udumbara tree set in a circlet of gold (Indus valley seals show it ). The crown was sprinkled with the holy waters.

 

Two strainers are used for bathing the king. He (the priest)  weaves gold (threads) into them. With them he purifies these consecration waters… Gold is immortal life (Satapata 5-3-5-15)

Below the king’s foot the priest throws a small gold plate with “Save him from death’; Gold is immortal life; he thus takes his stand on immortal life” mantra.

Then there is another gold plate with a hundred or nine holes. That gold plate is laid upon king’s head; The king thus lays immortal life into him (Satapata 5-4-12-14)

The signal to the chorus through the response to a verse chanted by the chief reciter, of the sacred syllable Aum to a Vedic verse and of Evam tathaa (so it is), the exact equivalent o modern Amen in Christian church.

Rig Vedic mantras and Yajur Vedic formulas are used in the coronation mantras.

–Collected from  (year 1898) an old book ‘The Golden Legend of India’ by William Henry Robinson and added my own inputs.

 

–Subham–

 

 

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