Thursday, November 21, 2013

Some insights into form and worship of Harihara.

Previous articles:-

Padmanabha swamy in ananta sayana - the discussion continues.

Iconographic feature of Lord Padmanabha Swamy

Maize in the hands of temple deities – an indigenous concept of iconography.


Continuing the discourse on Harihara, I am reproducing here some more information based on the additional inputs sent by Dr S. Kalyanaraman. He sent links to Harihara temple at Billawar at Jammu, at Osian in Rajasthan and Harihara procession in Mahakaleshwar temple at Ujjain. In addition he sent a scanned copy of an old book on temple architecture of Orissa. My sincere thanks to him for helping me expand my knowledge in temple art and olden history.


The book on Orissa architecture opens me to another dimension of Hindu temple art having its early origins in Lapita art whose remnants are seen – of all the places – in Polynesia – the region which I believe bears the remnants of the scattered culture of early Tamils or Proto-Tamils or Proto Manavas from whom the North Indian population diverged and entered North India through Arabian sea corridor and Dwaraka.


I also thank Mr skm, a reader for bringing to our notice the existence of Harihara form in the Tamilnadu itself, at Sankaran kovil. Reproduced below are the images of Harihara at Sankaran kovil.



In this context, I think it is worth pondering on the exact verse of Mayamatham on Harihara form. Verses 90 and 91 in Chapter 36 on Iconography read as follows (translation by Bruno Dagens):


"The half corresponding to Vishnu and that corresponding to Ishvara are to be made in accordance with what has previously been said (concerning each of these Gods). The half corresponding to Krishna has the conch and the mace and that of Shiva the trident and the axe. Each part is covered with the decoration befitting (the one represented) and the God is to stand on a single lotus. The Vishnu half is to the left and that of Shankara to the right."


The mention of the name Krishna ("ShankhadaNdam  tu  KrushNardhE" ) in this verse gives some clues on the origin of this form. The first inference is that this form could have come into existence after Krishna's times. As if to support this inference, the sthala purana of the Harihara temple at Jammu has a unique story.

This is the Harihara temple at Billawar, in the district of Kathua in the Jammu region.

The link sent by Dr S.Kalyanaram gives the following details of this temple:


"This Siva Temple according to tradition is said to have been built by king Babhruvahana, son of Arjuna. The ancient name of the place was Belapur or villapur which got corrupted to Billawar. The temple is noteworthy for architectural planning, sculptural wealth and decorative scheme. It is Navratha on plan and consists of a square sanctum internally crowned by curvilinear sikhara, Antarala and a pillared mandapa. The wall portion has plain moulding at the base and top. It has niched shrines for Parsvadevatas on its central rathas and is studded with dikpala figures and rosettes in pedimented niches at the corners and flanking rathas. The temple is assignable to circa 10th century A.D."


Though the presently existing temple structure is attributed to the 10th century AD, the original temple was built by Babhruvahana, the son of Arjuna. There is a story behind Babhruvahana. He was born to Chithragatha, popularly known as 'Alli RaNi' in Tamil legends. When Arjuna went on exile as a punishment for having intruded the privacy of Yudhishtira with Draupadi, he crossed Kalinga, then Mahendar parva and then went along the sea shore and reached a place called Manipura. This is not Manipur of today. Arjuna's trail shows that this Manipura was somewhere in the eastern shore of South India or Tamilnadu or Srilanka. There he met Chitrangadha, whose family was known to have been having only one son in each generation. She was the only descendant in her generation thereby making her the queen of the land.


Arjuna married her and got a son by name Babhru vahaha or Habhru vahana. After spending 3 years with her, he continued his journey and eventually returned to Indraprastha. The local Tamil legend tells about one Alli ArasaNi or Alli Rani having married Arjuna. Under this queen it was all- female dominance in her country. This legend has given rise to an allegory that any household having the domination of the female will be referred to as Alli Rajya. The female dominance was actually due to the abject surrender of pearl divers, called Paravas or Parathavas to this queen. The Parathava legends on their origins as noted in Thurston's compilation of "Castes and tribes of South India" make a reference to Alli Rani's domination over them. This was during Mahabharata period. It was only in the later period, perhaps after the last deluge (3500 years BP) they came under the rule of Pandyan kings. These Parathavas possessed of good physical prowess took up the commands of Chitrangadha and obeyed her. This perhaps gave rise to the legend of female dominance. Later Babhruvahana became their king.


Later in the Mahabharata there came a situation when Arjuna was overpowered by this son, Babhruvahana.  When Arjuna went after the horse for Aswamedha yajna, he entered Manipura where he was received by his son Babhruvahana. Refusing to accept such reception which he said was unbecoming for a kshatriya, he invited his son for a fight. In that, Babhruvahana defeated him and Arjuna fell down like dead. Then he was revived by Uloopi by the naga gem. After that, Babhruvahan went on to meet Yudhishtira and Kunti. That was perhaps the first time Babhruvahan went to North India. That could have been the first time he was introduced to Krishna. Until then he must have been acquainted with Naga cult and Tamil practices of worship of Shiva and Skanda in Manipura.


The name of the place "Belapur" in Jammu  where Babhruvahana established Harihara temple, rings similar to Vela- pur or the city of VeL, Skanda vEL, or vElan Murugan. The VeL kings of Sangam age were Skanda or Vela worshipers. Skanda was known as vEL. The earliest reference to Skanda as Karthikeya comes in Valmiki Ramayana. In chapter 3-230 of Mahabharata, sage Markandeya lists out the various names of Skanda. The stories of Skanda were narrated to Pandavas thereby showing that the cult of Skanda could have started or spread only after Mahabharata. The vELir or vEl people coming from Dwaraka to Tamil lands at about 3500 years BP shows that between the time of Mahabharata (5000 years BP) and the last submergence of Dwaraka (3500 years BP), the vEL worship was established in North India. As the vEL connection comes from Tamil lands, the vEL people did not have any reservation in migrating to Tamil lands when sage Agasthya led them after the submergence of Dwaraka (Bet Dwaraka).


Coming to the topic, Babhruvahan's name appearing with the establishment of a temple for Harihara in Belapur in Jammu, seems to show that with him Skanda worship spread to Aryavarta (though Skanda legends were known to Aryavarta much before that time). The concept of Harihara as a fusion of Vishnu and Shiva also could have been initiated by him. The use of the name Krishna in the place of Vishnu, by Mayamatham, makes me wonder if Babhruvahan conceived the idea of worshiping Krishna (from his father's side) and his native Kula devatha Shiva (from mother's side) together as Harihara. The presence of Harihara predominantly in North India and parts of the Deccan which were worshipers of Skanda ruled make me think so.


There is one more probability. From North India, the idea of Bel could have spread to Persia as Baal. For the Hebrews, Baal was an important deity. The word Hebrew sounds similar to Babhru vahan! His name is variously pronounced as Habhru vahan or Babhru vahan or Vabhru vahan. Babhru means deep brown or reddish brown. Skanda was reddish in colour (the colour gave him the name Senthil, sEyOn etc). I wonder whether Habhru became Hebrew and his followers were the ones who left India. (genetic study traces the origins of Hebrews / Jews to Fertile Crescent close to the borders of Indian sub continent) Some connection between Hebrew and Habhruvahan looks plausible.


The features of worship of Baal look very similar to Skanda who was known as Baala, the youth. This connection will be explained in detail in a future article. Let me confine myself by saying here that Canaanite Baal, Sumerian Bel and Persian Marduk  bear resemblance to Muruga / Skanda / Velava. Baal was connected with ram, with his abode on "high places" referring to hill tops (which is where Muruga was connected to, in Sangam age), he subdued the ocean (Ugra Kumara Pandyan, son of Meenakshi and Sundaresa did that in Then- Madurai/ South Madurai), was connected with the Tower of Babel (Muruga was associated with introduction of Tamil  language as a refined one), was associated with spells and prophecies and violent gyrations (Velan veriyaattam was an oft repeated event in Sangam texts. The cult of sacrifice of goat or ram was associated with this Velan veriyattam which held violent gyrations/ dance movements. Baal was hated in the Biblical period and was eventually shunned.


Continuing with Harihara, Osian in Rajasthan has a temple of Harihara. This location is in Indus region with which Velir / vEl were associated.


Harihara temple, Osian. 8th century