ORIGIN OF HINDU ICONOGRAPHY (Post No.8229)

WRITTEN BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN

Post No. 8229

Date uploaded in London – 23 June 2020       

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PEOPLE MAY THINK THAT THERE IS NO IMAGE WORSHIP DURING VEDIC DAYS. BUT THE MANTRAS IN THE OLDEST BOOK RIG VEDA SHOWS THAT IT WRONG.

The Vedic seers gave more importance to fire sacrifices called Yagas and Yajnas; but they might have made images with clay and wood. Even in 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature we read about paintings of gods on walls inside the houses. We have ample proof for temple paintings of Indra’s molestation of Ahalya in Tirupparankundram near Madurai. The painting is described in Paripatal of Sangam period. We come to know that Ramayana scenes were painted on the walls inside the houses according to Gata Sapta Sati in Prakrita language.

After the introduction of metal and stone in image making , we might have installed them in public places. Ramayana and Mahabharata have mentioned temples where public go for common worship. Kautilya even suggests to make idols and sell them where the king can put some sales tax. He also asked the kings to organise festivals so that religious business flourishes. We have proof for celebration of Indra festival in Ramayana and Sangam Tamil literature. Valmiki’s favourite simile is ‘he fell like Indra Dwaja’. (on the last day of Indra festival the Flag post is used to be knocked down) .

Vedic gods have a human aspect. They are often described in human form holding weapons in their hands and dressed with certain ornaments. An old hymn in the RV 8-29 describes the gods not too differently from the iconography of later times

Here is the hymn

1.One is a youth , brown, active and wise, who adorns himself with gold. It is about Soma.

2.Another radiant is stationed at the origin, wise among gods . it is Agni.

3. Another, firm among the gods, carries an iron sword in hand. It is Twashtar

4.Another holds the thunderbolt steady in his hand, by which he slays dragons. It is Indra

5.Another bears a shar weapon in his hand, luminous and fierce, with healing powers. It is Rudra .

6.One guards over the path, like a thief. He knows the treasures.  It is Pusan

7.another, wide in movement, has measured out three steps, where the gods abide. It is Vishnu .

8.The twins travel with a single wife and dwell far away like travellers . They are Ashwins

9.Two have fashioned the supreme seat in heaven, like emperors anointed with ghee. They are Mitra and Varuna

10.These, while chanting, meditated out the great song, by which they caused the sun to rise (They, here mean the Angirases or, according to Sayana, Atri.

Rig Veda 8-29 (Rishi Manu)

At least ten gods are mentioned here with their attributes.

One more interesting is the mention of Dr Rudra. He is attributed with healing powers. Even the Yajur Veda Mantra Rudram praises him as Doctor and Medicine (Bishak and Besajam)

Another translation (by Ralph T H Griffith

1. ONE is a youth brown, active, manifold he decks the golden one with ornament.

2. Another, luminous, occupies the place of sacritice, Sage, among the Gods.

3. One brandishes in his hand an iron knife, firm, in his seat amid the Deities.

4. Another holds the thunderbolt, wherewith he slays the Vrtras, resting in his hand.

5. Another bears a pointed weapon: bright is he, and strong, with healing medicines.

6. Another, thief-like, watches well the ways, and knows the places where the treasures lie.

7. Another with his mighty stride hath made his three steps thither where the Gods rejoice.

8. Two with one Dame ride on with winged steeds, and journey forth like travellers on their way.

9. Two, highest, in the heavens have set their seat, worshipped with holy oil, imperial Kings.

10. Some, singing lauds, conceived the Sama-hymn, great hymn whereby they caused the Sun to shine.

बभ्रुरेको विषुणः सूनरो युवाञ्ज्यङकते हिरण्ययम ||
योनिमेक आ ससाद दयोतनो.अन्तर्देवेषु मेधिरः ||
वाशीमेको बिभर्ति हस्त आयसीमन्तर्देवेषु निध्रुविः ||
वज्रमेको बिभर्ति हस्त आहितं तेन वर्त्राणि जिघ्नते ||
तिग्ममेको बिभर्ति हस्त आयुधं शुचिरुग्रो जलाषभेषजः ||
पथ एकः पीपाय तस्करो यथा एष वेद निधीनाम ||
तरीण्येक उरुगायो वि चक्रमे यत्र देवासो मदन्ति ||
विभिर्द्वा चरत एकया सह पर परवासेव वसतः ||
सदो दवा चक्राते उपमा दिवि सम्राजा सर्पिरासुती ||
अर्चन्त एके महि साम मन्वत तेन सूर्यमरोचयन ||

babhrureko viṣuṇaḥ sūnaro yuvāñjyaṅkte hiraṇyayam ||
yonimeka ā sasāda dyotano.antardeveṣu medhiraḥ ||
vāśīmeko bibharti hasta āyasīmantardeveṣu nidhruviḥ ||
vajrameko bibharti hasta āhitaṃ tena vṛtrāṇi jighnate ||
tighmameko bibharti hasta āyudhaṃ śucirughro jalāṣabheṣajaḥ ||
patha ekaḥ pīpāya taskaro yathā eṣa veda nidhīnām ||
trīṇyeka urughāyo vi cakrame yatra devāso madanti ||
vibhirdvā carata ekayā saha pra pravāseva vasataḥ ||
sado dvā cakrāte upamā divi samrājā sarpirāsutī ||
arcanta eke mahi sāma manvata tena sūryamarocayan ||

same hymn in another post explained
Vedic riddle | Tamil and Vedastamilandvedas.com › tag › vedic-riddle

Posts about Vedic riddle written by Tamil and Vedas. … Four are his horns, three are the feet that bear him; his heads are two, his hands are seven in number.

 MAHESWARI FROM VELANKANNI, MADRAS MUSEUM 

TAGS — Hindu iconography, Origin, Rig Veda 8-29

—subham—

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1 Comment

  1. Krishna Dwaipayana

     /  July 31, 2020

    But in which way does telling about iconography indicate there was idol worship in vedas?

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