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Masterpiece: Standing Brahma and Standing Indra

Masterpiece: Standing Brahma and Standing Indra


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Brahma and Indra, or Bonten and Taishakuten as they are known in Japanese, were Hindu deities brought into Buddhism as attendants of the Buddha or of bodhisattvas. The Asian Art Museum's Bonten and Taishakuten are the only large-scale, matched Japanese hollow dry lacquer sculptures from the Nara period in a U.S. collection. Even in Japan, sculptures like these are extremely rare and most have been designated as National Treasures or Important
Cultural Properties. For more information: http://www.asianart.org/collections/brahma-and-indra


Brahma

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Brahma, one of the major gods of Hinduism from about 500 bce to 500 ce , who was gradually eclipsed by Vishnu, Shiva, and the great Goddess (in her multiple aspects). Associated with the Vedic creator god Prajapati, whose identity he assumed, Brahma was born from a golden egg and created the earth and all things on it. Later myths describe him as having come forth from a lotus that issued from Vishnu’s navel.

By the middle of the 1st millennium ce , an attempt to synthesize the diverging sectarian traditions is evident in the doctrine of the Trimurti, which considers Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma as three forms of the supreme unmanifested deity. By the 7th century, Brahma had largely lost his claim to being a supreme deity, although the Trimurti continued to figure importantly in both text and sculpture. Today there is no sect that exclusively worships Brahma, and few temples are dedicated to him. Nevertheless, most temples dedicated to Shiva or Vishnu contain an image of Brahma.

Brahma is usually depicted as having four faces, symbolic of a wide-ranging four-square capacity, as expressed in the four Vedas (collections of poems and hymns), the four yugas (“ages”), the four varnas (social classes), the four directions, the four stages of life (ashramas), and so forth. He is usually shown with four arms, holding an alms bowl, a bow, prayer beads, and a book. He may be seated or standing on a lotus throne or on his mount, a goose. Savitri and Sarasvati, respectively exemplars of faithfulness and of music and learning, frequently accompany him.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Matt Stefon, Assistant Editor.


Contents

The etymological roots of Indra are unclear, and it has been a contested topic among scholars since the 19th-century, one with many proposals. [31] [32] The significant proposals have been:

  • root ind-u, or "rain drop", based on the Vedic mythology that he conquered rain and brought it down to earth. [19][31]
  • root ind, or "equipped with great power". This was proposed by Vopadeva. [19]
  • root idh or "kindle", and ina or "strong". [33][34]
  • root indha, or "igniter", for his ability to bring light and power (indriya) that ignites the vital forces of life (prana). This is based on Shatapatha Brahmana. [35]
  • root idam-dra, or "It seeing" which is a reference to the one who first perceived the self-sufficient metaphysical Brahman. This is based on Aitareya Upanishad. [19]
  • roots in ancient Indo-European, Indo-Aryan deities. [36] For example, states John Colarusso, as a reflex of proto-Indo-European*h₂nḗr-, Greek anēr, Sabinenerō, Avestannar-, Umbriannerus, Old Irishnert, Osseticnart, and others which all refer to "most manly" or "hero". [36]

Colonial era scholarship proposed that Indra shares etymological roots with Zend Andra, Old High German Antra, or Jedru of Old Slavonic, but Max Muller critiqued these proposals as untenable. [31] [37] Later scholarship has linked Vedic Indra to Aynar (the Great One) of Circassian, Abaza and Ubykh mythology, and Innara of Hittite mythology. [36] [38] Colarusso suggests a Pontic [note 1] origin and that both the phonology and the context of Indra in Indian religions is best explained from Indo-Aryan roots and a Circassian etymology (i.e. *inra). [36]

Other languages Edit

For other languages, he is also known as

    : ইন্দ্র (Indro) : သိကြားမင်း (pronounced[ðadʑá mɪ́ɰ̃] ) : 帝釋天/帝释天 (Dìshìtiān) /Malay: (Indera) : 帝釈天 (Taishakuten). [39] : ꦧꦛꦫꦲꦶꦤ꧀ꦢꦿ (Bathara Indra) : ಇಂದ್ರ (Indra) : ព្រះឥន្ទ្រ (Preah Inpronounced[preah ʔən] ) : ພະອິນ (Pha In) or ພະຍາອິນ (Pha Nya In) : ഇന്ദ്രൻ (Indran) : ဣန် (In) : Индра (Indra) : ଇନ୍ଦ୍ର (Indraw) : ᦀᦲᧃ (In) or ᦘᦍᦱᦀᦲᧃ (Pha Ya In) : இந்திரன் (Inthiran) : ఇంద్రుడు (Indrudu or Indra) : พระอินทร์ (Pra In)

Epithets Edit

Indra has many epithets in the Indian religions, notably Śakra (शक्र, powerful one),

  • Vṛṣan (वृषन्, mighty)
  • Vṛtrahan (वृत्रहन्, slayer of Vṛtra)
  • Meghavāhana (मेघवाहन, he whose vehicle is cloud)
  • Devarāja (देवराज, king of deities)
  • Devendra (देवेन्द्र, the lord of deities) [40]
  • Surendra (सुरेन्द्र, chief of deities)
  • Svargapati (स्वर्गपति, the lord of heaven)
  • Vajrapāṇī (वज्रपाणि, he who has thunderbolt (Vajra) in his hand)
  • Vāsava (वासव, lord of Vasus)
  • Purandar (पुरऺदर, the breaker of forts)
  • Kaushik (कौशिक, sentiment of love)
  • Sachin or Sachindra (सचिन, the consort of Sachi).

Indra is of ancient but unclear origin. Aspects of Indra as a deity are cognate to other Indo-European gods they are thunder gods such as Thor, Perun, and Zeus who share parts of his heroic mythologies, act as king of gods, and all are linked to "rain and thunder". [41] The similarities between Indra of Vedic mythology and of Thor of Nordic and Germanic mythologies are significant, states Max Müller. Both Indra and Thor are storm gods, with powers over lightning and thunder, both carry a hammer or an equivalent, for both the weapon returns to their hand after they hurl it, both are associated with bulls in the earliest layer of respective texts, both use thunder as a battle-cry, both are protectors of mankind, both are described with legends about "milking the cloud-cows", both are benevolent giants, gods of strength, of life, of marriage and the healing gods. [42]

Michael Janda suggests that Indra has origins in the Indo-European *trigw-welumos [or rather *trigw-t-welumos] "smasher of the enclosure" (of Vritra, Vala) and diye-snūtyos "impeller of streams" (the liberated rivers, corresponding to Vedic apam ajas "agitator of the waters"). [43] Brave and heroic Innara or Inra, which sounds like Indra, is mentioned among the gods of the Mitanni, a Hurrian-speaking people of Hittite region. [44]

Indra as a deity had a presence in northeastern Asia minor, as evidenced by the inscriptions on the Boghaz-köi clay tablets dated to about 1400 BCE. This tablet mentions a treaty, but its significance is in four names it includes reverentially as Mi-it-ra, U-ru-w-na, In-da-ra and Na-sa-at-ti-ia. These are respectively, Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatya-Asvin of the Vedic pantheon as revered deities, and these are also found in Avestan pantheon but with Indra and Naonhaitya as demons. This at least suggests that Indra and his fellow deities were in vogue in South Asia and Asia minor by about mid 2nd-millennium BCE. [33] [45]

Indra is praised as the highest god in 250 hymns of the Rigveda – a Hindu scripture dated to have been composed sometime between 1700 and 1100 BCE. He is co-praised as the supreme in another 50 hymns, thus making him one of the most celebrated Vedic deities. [33] He is also mentioned in ancient Indo-Iranian literature, but with a major inconsistency when contrasted with the Vedas. In the Vedic literature, Indra is a heroic god. In the Avestan (ancient, pre-Islamic Iranian) texts such as Vd. 10.9, Dk. 9.3 and Gbd 27.6-34.27, Indra – or accurately Andra [46] – is a gigantic demon who opposes truth. [36] [note 2] In the Vedic texts, Indra kills the archenemy and demon Vritra who threatens mankind. In the Avestan texts, Vritra is not found. [46]

Indra is called vr̥tragʰná- (literally, "slayer of obstacles") in the Vedas, which corresponds to Verethragna of the Zoroastrian noun verethragna-. According to David Anthony, the Old Indic religion probably emerged among Indo-European immigrants in the contact zone between the Zeravshan River (present-day Uzbekistan) and (present-day) Iran. [47] It was "a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian and new Indo-European elements", [47] which borrowed "distinctive religious beliefs and practices" [48] from the Bactria–Margiana Culture. [48] At least 383 non-Indo-European words were found in this culture, including the god Indra and the ritual drink Soma. [49] According to Anthony,

Many of the qualities of Indo-Iranian god of might/victory, Verethraghna, were transferred to the god Indra, who became the central deity of the developing Old Indic culture. Indra was the subject of 250 hymns, a quarter of the Rig Veda. He was associated more than any other deity with Soma, a stimulant drug (perhaps derived from Ephedra) probably borrowed from the BMAC religion. His rise to prominence was a peculiar trait of the Old Indic speakers. [50]

In Rigveda, Indra is described as strong willed, armed with a thunderbolt, riding a chariot:

5. Let bullish heaven strengthen you, the bull as bull you travel with your two bullish fallow bays. As bull with a bullish chariot, well-lipped one, as bull with bullish will, you of the mace, set us up in loot.

Indra's weapon, which he used to kill the evil Vritra, is the Vajra or thunderbolt. Other alternate iconographic symbolism for him includes a bow (sometimes as a colorful rainbow), a sword, a net, a noose, a hook, or a conch. [52] The thunderbolt of Indra is called Bhaudhara. [53]

In the post-Vedic period, he rides a large, four-tusked white elephant called Airavata. [19] In sculpture and relief artworks in temples, he typically sits on an elephant or is near one. When he is shown to have two, he holds the Vajra and a bow. [54]

In the Shatapatha Brahmana and in Shaktism traditions, Indra is stated to be same as goddess Shodashi (Tripura Sundari), and her iconography is described similar to those of Indra. [55]

The rainbow is called Indra's Bow (Sanskrit: indradhanus इन्द्रधनुस्). [52]

Vedic texts Edit

Indra was a prominent deity in the Vedic era of Hinduism. [33]

Over a quarter of the 1,028 hymns of the Rigveda mention Indra, making him the most referred to deity. [33] [56] These hymns present a complex picture of Indra, but some aspects of Indra are oft repeated. Of these, the most common theme is where he as the god with thunderbolt kills the evil serpent Vritra that held back rains, and thus released rains and land nourishing rivers. [31] For example, the Rigvedic hymn 1.32 dedicated to Indra reads:

इन्द्रस्य नु वीर्याणि प्र वोचं यानि चकार प्रथमानि वज्री ।
अहन्नहिमन्वपस्ततर्द प्र वक्षणा अभिनत्पर्वतानाम् ॥१।।
अहन्नहिं पर्वते शिश्रियाणं त्वष्टास्मै वज्रं स्वर्यं ततक्ष ।
वाश्रा इव धेनवः स्यन्दमाना अञ्जः समुद्रमव जग्मुरापः ॥२।।

1. Now I shall proclaim the heroic deeds of Indra, those foremost deeds that the mace-wielder performed:
He smashed the serpent. He bored out the waters. He split the bellies of the mountains.
2. He smashed the serpent resting on the mountain—for him Tvaṣṭar had fashioned the resounding [sunlike] mace.
Like bellowing milk-cows, streaming out, the waters went straight down to the sea. [57]

In the myth, Indra fights Vritra, a giant cobra who has coiled around a mountain and entrapped the waters. Indra uses his vajra, a mace, to kill Vritra and smash open the mountains to release the waters. In some versions, he is aided by the Maruts or other deities, and sometimes cattle and the sun is also released from the mountain. [59] In one interpretation by Oldenberg, the hymns are referring to the snaking thunderstorm clouds that gather with bellowing winds (Vritra), Indra is then seen as the storm god who intervenes in these clouds with his thunderbolts, which then release the rains nourishing the parched land, crops and thus humanity. [60] In another interpretation by Hillebrandt, Indra is a symbolic sun god (Surya) and Vritra is a symbolic winter-giant (historic mini cycles of ice age, cold) in the earliest, not the later, hymns of Rigveda. The Vritra is an ice-demon of colder central Asia and northern latitudes, who holds back the water. Indra is the one who releases the water from the winter demon, an idea that later metamorphosed into his role as storm god. [60] According to Griswold, this is not a completely convincing interpretation, because Indra is simultaneously a lightning god, a rain god and a river-helping god in the Vedas. Further, the Vritra demon that Indra slew is best understood as any obstruction, whether it be clouds that refuse to release rain or mountains or snow that hold back the water. [60] Jamison and Brereton also state that Vritra is best understood as any obstacle. The Vritra myth is associated with the Midday Pressing of soma, which is dedicated to Indra or Indra and the Maruts. [59]

Even though Indra is declared as the king of gods in some verses, there is no consistent subordination of other gods to Indra. In Vedic thought, all gods and goddesses are equivalent and aspects of the same eternal abstract Brahman, none consistently superior, none consistently inferior. All gods obey Indra, but all gods also obey Varuna, Vishnu, Rudra and others when the situation arises. Further, Indra also accepts and follows the instructions of Savitr (solar deity). [61] Indra, like all Vedic deities, is a part of henotheistic theology of ancient India. [62]

The second-most important myth about Indra is about the Vala cave. In this story, the Panis have stolen cattle and hidden them in the Vala cave. Here Indra utilizes the power of the songs he chants to split the cave open to release the cattle and dawn. He is accompanied in the cave by the Angirases (and sometimes Navagvas or the Daśagvas). Here Indra exemplifies his role as a priest-king, called bṛhaspati. Eventually later in the Rigveda, Bṛhaspati and Indra become separate deities as both Indra and the Vedic king lose their priestly functions. The Vala myth was associated with the Morning Pressing of soma, in which cattle was donated to priests, called dakṣiṇā. [59]

Indra is not a visible object of nature in the Vedic texts, nor is he a personification of any object, but that agent which causes the lightning, the rains and the rivers to flow. [63] His myths and adventures in the Vedic literature are numerous, ranging from harnessing the rains, cutting through mountains to help rivers flow, helping land becoming fertile, unleashing sun by defeating the clouds, warming the land by overcoming the winter forces, winning the light and dawn for mankind, putting milk in the cows, rejuvenating the immobile into something mobile and prosperous, and in general, he is depicted as removing any and all sorts of obstacles to human progress. [64] The Vedic prayers to Indra, states Jan Gonda, generally ask "produce success of this rite, throw down those who hate the materialized Brahman". [65] The hymns of Rigveda declare him to be the "king that moves and moves not", the friend of mankind who holds the different tribes on earth together. [66]

Indra is often presented as the twin brother of Agni (fire) – another major Vedic deity. [67] Yet, he is also presented to be the same, states Max Muller, as in Rigvedic hymn 2.1.3, which states, "Thou Agni, art Indra, a bull among all beings thou art the wide-ruling Vishnu, worthy of adoration. Thou art the Brahman, (. )." [68] He is also part of one of many Vedic trinities as "Agni, Indra and Surya", representing the "creator-maintainer-destroyer" aspects of existence in Hindu thought. [56] [note 3]

  1. You, Agni, as bull of beings, are Indra you, wide-going, worthy of homage, are Viṣṇu. You, o lord of the sacred formulation, finder of wealth, are the Brahman [Formulator] you, o Apportioner, are accompanied by Plenitude.

Parentage of Indra is inconsistent in Vedic texts, and in fact Rigveda 4.17.12 states that Indra himself may not even know that much about his mother and father. Some verses of Vedas suggest that his mother was a grishti (a cow), while other verses name her Nishtigri. The medieval commentator Sayana identified her with Aditi, the goddess who is his mother in later Hinduism. The Atharvaveda states Indra's mother is Ekashtaka, daughter of Prajapati. Some verses of Vedic texts state that Indra's father is Tvashtr or sometimes the couple Dyaush and Prithvi are mentioned as his parents. [73] [74] [75] According to a legend found in it, before Indra is born, his mother attempts to persuade him to not take an unnatural exit from her womb. Immediately after birth, Indra steals soma from his father, and Indra's mother offers the drink to him. After Indra's birth, Indra's mother reassures Indra that he will prevail in his rivalry with his father, Tvaṣṭar. Both the unnatural exit from the womb and rivalry with the father are universal attributes of heros. [59] In the Rigveda, Indra's wife is Indrani, alias Shachi, and she is described to be extremely proud about her status. [76]

Indra is also found in many other myths that are poorly understood. In one, Indra crushes the cart of Ushas (Dawn), and she runs away. In another Indra beats Surya in a chariot race by tearing off the wheel of his chariot. This is connected to a myth where Indra and his sidekick Kutsa ride the same chariot drawn by the horses of the wind to the house of Uśanā Kāvya to receive aid before killing Śuṣṇa, the enemy of Kutsa. In one myth Indra (in some versions helped by Viṣṇu) shoots a boar named Emuṣa in order to obtain special rice porridge hidden inside or behind a mountain. Another myth has Indra kill Namuci by beheading him. In later versions of that myth Indra does this through trickery involving the foam of waters. Other beings slain by Indra include Śambara, Pipru, Varcin, Dhuni and Cumuri, and others. Indra's chariot is pulled by fallow bay horses described as hárī. They bring Indra to and from the sacrifice, and are even offered their own roasted grains. [59]

Upanishads Edit

The ancient Aitareya Upanishad equates Indra, along with other deities, with Atman (soul, self) in the Vedanta's spirit of internalization of rituals and gods. It begins with its cosmological theory in verse 1.1.1 by stating that, "in the beginning, Atman, verily one only, was here - no other blinking thing whatever he bethought himself: let me now create worlds". [77] [78] This soul, which the text refers to as Brahman as well, then proceeds to create the worlds and beings in those worlds wherein all Vedic gods and goddesses such as sun-god, moon-god, Agni and other divinities become active cooperative organs of the body. [78] [79] [80] The Atman thereafter creates food, and thus emerges a sustainable non-sentient universe, according to the Upanishad. The eternal Atman then enters each living being making the universe full of sentient beings, but these living beings fail to perceive their Atman. The first one to see the Atman as Brahman, asserts the Upanishad, said, "idam adarsha or "I have seen It". [78] Others then called this first seer as Idam-dra or "It-seeing", which over time came to be cryptically known as "Indra", because, claims Aitareya Upanishad, everyone including the gods like short nicknames. [81] The passing mention of Indra in this Upanishad, states Alain Daniélou, is a symbolic folk etymology. [19]

The section 3.9 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad connects Indra to thunder, thunderbolt and release of waters. [82] In section 5.1 of the Avyakta Upanishad, Indra is praised as he who embodies the qualities of all gods. [56]


Indra is called as the Lord of the Universe, the all pervader and the Supreme Lord in many Vedic verses. Here are some examples from RigVeda:

रूपं-रूपं परतिरूपो बभूव तदस्य रूपं परतिचक्षणाय |
इन्द्रो मायाभिः पुरुरूप ईयते युक्ता हयस्य हरयःशता दश || (RigVeda 6.47.18)

In every figure he hath been the mode: this is his only form for us to look on. Indra assumes many form by his Maya, for his Bay Steeds are yoked, ten times a hundred.

यो विश्वस्य जगतः पराणतस पतिर्यो बरह्मणे परथमो गा अविन्दत |
इन्द्रो यो दस्यून्रधरानवातिरन म. || (RigVeda 1.101.5)

He who is Lord of all the world that moves and breathes, who for the Brahman first before all found the Cows Indra who cast the Dasyus down beneath his feet,—him girt by Maruts we invoke to be our Friend.

Let us praise him who made these worlds and creatures, all things that after him sprang into being. May we win Mitra with our songs, and Indra, and. wait upon our Lord with adoration. (RigVeda 8.85.6)

Carrying your power, bear your hymns of affirmation to Indra as the Truth, if in truth he exists. ” There is no Indra, some say to you. Who has seen him? Why should we praise him. ” I am here, O singer, perceive me here. I transcend all Beings by my greatness, the directions of truth increase me, as the one who breaks things open, I break open the worlds.” (Rig Veda 8.89.3-4)

Indra extends beyond heaven and earth. Half of him is equal to both the worlds. That is the truth Indra there is no other God or mortal greater than you. You are the king of the creatures of the world. You generated together the Sun, heaven and the Dawn. –(Rig Veda 6.30.1,4,5.)

Similarly, in the Taittariya Aranyaka of Krishna YajurVeda (in the part of MahaNarayaniya) it is stated:

VIII-1: The Supreme Being, Indra, who is the most excellent Pranava taught in the Vedas, who ensouls the entire universe, who leads the collection of Vedic utterances in Gayatri and other metres standing in their beginning, who is capable of being attained by the worshippers and who is the first in the causal link, taught the contemplative sages the sacred wisdom of the Upanishad, Himself being the subject-matter of them, in order to strengthen them with the power of knowledge. I salute the gods for removing the obstacles in my path to illumination. For the same I also reverence the Manes. The triple regions of Bhuh, Bhuvah and Suvah and the entire Veda are comprised in Om.

Similarly in the Kaushitki Aranyaka of RigVeda (where there is Kaushitki Brahmana Upanishad) it is told:

To him then Indra said: A superior verily chooses not for an inferior. Do you yourself choose. ‘No boon verily then is it to me’ said Pratardana. But Indra did not depart from the truth, for Indra is truth. To him then Indra said: ‘Understand me only. This indeed I deem most beneficent to man, namely that one should understand me. I slew the three-headed Tvastir I delivered the Arunmukhas, the ascetics, to the wolves. Transgressing many compacts I killed the people of Prahlada in the sky, the Paulomas in the atmosphere, the Kalakanjas on the earth. Of me, such as I was then, not a single hair was injured. So he knows me thus – by no deed whatever of his is his world injured, not by stealing, not by killing an embryo, not by the murder of his mother, not by the murder of his father. If he has done any evil, the dark colour departs not from his face.

III-2. Then he (Indra) said: I am the Spirit of the vital breath, the intelligent Self. As such, worship me as life, as immortality. Life is the vital breath: the vital breath is life. For as long as the vital breath remains in the body so long is there life. For indeed with the vital breath one obtains immortality in this world with intelligence, true conception. So he who worships me as life, as immortality, reaches the full term of life in this world he obtains immortality and indestructibility in the heavenly world.

As a sidenote regarding the interpretation of such verses in the Vedanta, it is discussed in Brahma Sutras as

28. Prana is Brahman, because it is comprehended thus.

29. If it be argued that Prana is not Brahman, since the instruction is about the speaker’s own self, (then we say, no), for here is an abundance of reference to the inmost Self.

30. But the instruction proceeds from a seer’s vision agreeing with scriptures, as in the case of Vamadeva.

31. If it be argued that Brahman is not spoken of here on account of the indications of the individual soul and the chief vital force, then that cannot be so, since this will lead to a threefold meditation. (Besides, Prana) is accepted (elsewhere) as meaning Brahman (because of the presence of Brahman’s characteristics), (and these are) in evidence here.

The passage being discussed in the Brahma Sutra above is the same passage of Kaushitki Brahmana Upanishad which says Indra is Brahman. Here is commentary of Adi Shankaracharya on that part:

The individual divine Self called Indra perceiving by means of rishi-like intuition 1--the existence of which is vouched for by Scripture--its own Self to be identical with the supreme Self, instructs Pratardana (about the highest Self) by means of the words &aposKnow me only.&apos

By intuition of the same kind the rishi Vâmadeva reached the knowledge expressed in the words, &aposI was Manu and Sûrya&apos in accordance with the passage, &aposWhatever deva was awakened (so as to know Brahman) he indeed became that&apos (Bri. Up. I, 4, 10). The assertion made above (in the pûrvapaksha of the preceding Sûtra) that Indra after saying, &aposKnow me only,&apos glorifies himself by enumerating the slaying of Tvashtri&aposs son and other deeds of strength, we refute as follows. The death of Tvashtri&aposs son and similar deeds are referred to, not to the end of glorifying Indra as the object of knowledge--in which case the sense of the passage would be, &aposBecause I accomplished such and such deeds, therefore know me&apos--but to the end of glorifying the cognition of the highest Self. For this reason the text, after having referred to the slaying of Tvashtri&aposs son and the like, goes on in the clause next following to exalt knowledge, &aposAnd not one hair of me is harmed there. He who knows me thus by no deed of his is his life harmed.&apos--(But how does this passage convey praise of knowledge?)--Because, we reply, its meaning is as follows: &aposAlthough I do such cruel deeds, yet not even a hair of mine is harmed because I am one with Brahman therefore the life of any other person also who knows me thus is not harmed by any deed of his.&apos And the object of the knowledge (praised by Indra) is nothing else but Brahman which is set forth in a subsequent passage, &aposI am prâna, the intelligent Self.&apos Therefore the entire chapter refers to Brahman.

Ramanujacharya commentary on the same:

As the Rishi Vâmadeva perceiving that Brahman is the inner Self of all, that all things constitute its body, and that the meaning of words denoting a body extends up to the principle embodied, denotes with the word &aposI&apos the highest Brahman to which he himself stands in the relation of a body, and then predicates of this &aposI&apos Manu Sûrya and other beings--&aposSeeing this the Rishi. Vâmadeva understood, I am Manu, I am Sûrya&apos (Bri. Up. I, 4, 10). Similarly Prahlâda says, &aposAs the Infinite one abides within all, he constitutes my "I" also all is from me, I am all, within me is all.&apos (Vi. Pu. I, 19, 85.) The next Sûtra states, in reply to an objection, the reason why, in the section under discussion, terms denoting the individual soul, and others denoting non-sentient things are applied to Brahman.

And Srikantha Shivacharya in his commentary states:

The Sutrakara quotes an example, "like Vamadeva." Vamadeva saw that Paramesvara was none but his own Atma and exclaimed " I have become Manu and Surya." Just so is Indra&aposs declaration.

Or thus : When, by the contemplation of the harmonious nature of Brahman and Atman brought about by Vedantic knowledge, Vamadeva attained to the state of Brahman and was freed from all the imaginary limitations due to the identifying of himself with the human body and so on, and his mighty ego expanded so as to embrace the whole universe, he saw that he was present everywhere and accordingly spoke of himself as one with the whole univierse including Manu and Surya. So, it maybe concluded, it was in the case of Indra. In the passage " I am prana, the conscious Atman," Prana refers to Para-Brahman, in as much as He , blissful by nature, is the cause of all life, as said in the sruti " Prana is the conscious self, the Bliss, undecaying and immortal." Accordingly it is from the standpoint of Brahman that Indra taught " I am Brahman," " me do thou worship " So, too, Krishna taught to Arjuna, and so several others.


Relations of India with the Foreign Countries | Indian History

In this article we will discuss about the relations of India with foreign countries and the formation of greater India.

India maintained trade and cultural relations with foreign countries from the remotest time in the past till the tenth century A.D. It was only in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that it lost its contact with the outside world and the basic reasons for that had been the absence of its political unity and the degeneration of Hindu society. The impression that India kept no relation with outside world has now been proved entirely wrong.

India had trade relations with the western world even during the period of existence of the Indus Valley Civilization in India, both by land and sea. Some Indus valley seals have been found at Mesopotamia which indicates that India had direct trade relations with it. India kept trade relations with Babylon and Persia as well.

In the sixth century B.C., when the Persian empire extended up to the north-western borders of India, the relations of India with the western world increased which were further strengthened by the invasion of Alexander and the establishment of Greek principalities in some parts of north-west of India.

The Mauryas extended their empire to the borders of Central Asia and Afghanistan which remained a part of their empire. Therefore, during the period of the Mauryas, India kept relations with the western countries like Syria, Bactria, Persia, Egypt and as far as south-east Europe. The Roman empire encouraged direct sea trade with India during the first two centuries of the Christian era and, afterwards, India had a brisk trade directly with Europe through sea-routes from its western and south-western coast.

Pliny wrote that the Roman empire paid £ 5,00,000 every year to India for its merchandise. When the Arabs rose to power in the seventh century, they put hindrances to the direct relations of India with the western world. They took this trade in their own hands and served as a link between India and the western world. Thus, the relations of India with the countries of the west persisted even afterwards though, of course, through Arab traders.

The relations of India with the western world were mainly inspired by trade and commerce, though they definitely brought about some cultural influence on either side. But with certain countries in the north-west, east and south-east, India developed far deeper relations.

Of course, there too, the original intercourse might have been inspired by commercial enterprise, but it was soon over­shadowed by missionary activity which led to a cultural conquest of India over these countries. Besides, Indians set up colonies which brought into existence what may properly be called Greater India.

Afghanistan remained a part of India both culturally and politically from ancient times till its conquest by the Turks. The territory of Kabul and Seistan was called White India for a long time. But Indian culture penetrated further towards western Asia. The establishment of the Kushana empire and the missionary activities of Mahayanism brought the entire Central Asia and the territories upto Chinese Turkistan within the fold of Indian culture.

All countries of this entire region accepted Indian religion, morality, social customs etc. before their conquest by the Arabs and the Turks. In all these countries, the ruling dynasties were Indian, their nomenclatures were Indian Indian religions, particularly Buddhism among them, were the religions of the people and, the entire region was dotted with temples, Viharas, Stupas and images of Indian gods or that of Mahatma Buddha. It was only the rise and expansion of the power of Islam which destroyed Indian culture in these countries.

India had close relations with Sri Lanka, Tibet and China as well. In Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Buddhism was propagated by the Indians. The efforts started during the reign of emperor Asoka. Afterwards many ruling dynasties of south India maintained political relations with Sri Lanka. Buddhism was propagated in Tibet in the seventh century A.D. The relations with Tibet became more cordial during the period of the rule of the Pala dynasty in Bengal.

At that time many Buddhist scholars and missionaries went to Tibet, propagated Buddhism there and translated many religious texts in the Tibetan language for this purpose. All these efforts firmly established the roots of Indian culture in Tibet. With China, India had both trade and cultural relations. India had developed trade relations with China as far back as the second century B.C., both by land and sea, and, these were maintained throughout the Hindu period, particularly by the kingdoms of south India.

Besides, India developed cultural relations with China through the propagation of Buddhism there. In the first century B.C. the Buddhist monks, Dharmaratna and Kasyapa Matanga, went to China and spent the rest of their lives there translating Buddhist texts into Chinese and preaching Buddhism among the people. By the third or the fourth century A.D., Buddhism became a widely popular religion in China.

Afterwards too many Buddhist missionaries like Kumarajiva, Sangabhuti. Gyanabhadra, Buddhbhadra, Jiva Gupta, Dharma Gupta, Prabhakaramitra, Sudhakarasingha, etc., went to China. The same way, many Chinese pilgrims came to India, the most important of them being Fa-Hien, Hiuen-Tsang and I-tsing.

Thus, there was constant exchange of monks and scholars between India and China for centuries before the invasions of the Turks on India. Because of these cultural and trade relations between the two countries, Buddhism became the predominant religion in China. Besides, Chinese literature and fine arts were also affected by Indian literature and fine arts.

Buddhism penetrated into Mongolia, Korea and Japan as well and became the instrument of popularity of Indian culture there also.

However, India developed far deeper relations with Burma in the east and the countries of South-East Asia. There, the Indians not only carried on trade but established their colonies and by converting the local populace to their religion and culture made those countries culturally a part of India.

Prior to the penetration of Islam and Christianity there, the culture of all these countries was developed by Indians on their own model. Therefore, the culture of these countries remained a part of Indian culture for a long duration and therefore, this region constituted a part of what has been described Greater India.

In has not been ascertained as to when Indian culture grew in Burma and South-East Asia but, probably, the process started quite early. The reasons were many. The primary reason was trade. All these countries have fertile land and produce spices on a large scale. Besides, different minerals are also available here. Indians, primarily, went to these countries for the purpose of trade.

There were several big ports on the east sea-coast of India from where the Indians carried on brisk trade with these countries. Afterwards, many Indians settled down in these different countries. Many among them were traders, some were pure adventurers who went there to gain power and fame and many others were Kshatriyas who, feeling dissatisfied with their fortunes in India, went there to try their luck for better prospects of life.

All these people were responsible for the propagation of Indian culture in these countries. Besides, there were many Buddhist monks and Hindu saints who went there as missionaries and propagated their religion which proved one of the most powerful instruments for Indianising the people there.

Political History of Indian States in the East and the South-East:

Indian kingdoms were established in different countries of the east and the south­east like Malaya, Cambodia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Bali, Annam, etc. between the second and the fifth centuries A D. Sanskrit remained the language of these countries and somewhere Buddhism, otherwise primarily Saivism, remained the predominant religion of the people.

However, all these kingdoms established by the Indians were vanquished by the end of the fifth century A.D. But again, some time after more powerful kingdoms of Indians were built in Suvarnadvipa (Malay Peninsula, and nearby islands of Java, Sumatra, Borneo etc.), Champa (eastern coast of Indo-China or Vietnam), Kambuja (north-east Cambodia) and Burma, among which many continued for nearly one thousand years.

1. The Hindu Kingdoms of Suvaranadvipa:

The Indians established their rule first of all in the islands of Malaya, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Bali etc. because these were the nearest to the Indian sea-coast. The region comprising these islands was called Suvarnabhumi or Suvarnadvipa at that time. Here, in the island of Sumatra, the first big kingdom of the Hindus, called the Srivijaya, was established in the fourth century A.D. and it continued to exist till the seventh century A.D.

Then, again, in the eighth century A.D. a much more powerful empire was founded by the Sailendras in this region. The Sailendras established their sway over nearly the whole of Suvaranadvipa, comprising Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo, and the other islands of the south-east Asia.

For some time they captured part of Cambodia as well and attacked the sea-coast of Champa also. The Sailendra emperors were the followers of Buddhism. They kept diplomatic relations with China and the Palas and the Cholas of India. They came in conflict with the Cholas and were defeated. This reduced their strength. The Sailendra empire declined after the ninth century A.D. but continued for two centuries more.

Afterwards, it was broken into pieces. Java became independent and a strong empire was established there in the fourteenth century. Rajasanagara, who ascended the throne in 1350 A.D, made it a great empire and his capital Majapahit became a flourishing city in the south­east. His empire included nearly the whole of Malay Peninsula and Malay Archipelago except Philippines.

Rajasanagara and his successors were the followers of Hinduism, though they were tolerant to Buddhism. However, the empire created by him also declined in the fifteenth century under his successors. One important state which grew out of its fragments was Malacca.

One of the rulers of Malacca married the daughter of a Muslim ruling Chief in Sumatra and accepted Islam. Thereafter Islam gradually became the predominant religion in Malacca, except Bali where Hinduism is still the accepted religion of the people.

2. Champa or Annam:

The eastern coast of Indo-China, or modern Vietnam, was known as Annam at that time. As early as the second or the third century A.D., a Hindu kingdom was established there whose capital was Champa. Bhadra Varman, Rudra Varman, Hari Varman, Sinha Varman, etc. were some of the important Hindu kings of Champa. China in the north and Kambuja in the west were the neighbouring states of Champa. It had to fight against both of them for its survival.

The rising power of Kambuja proved against its interest. Jayavarman VII, the king of Kambuja, at one time, succeeded in defeating Indra Varman VIII, the king of Champa. Indra Varman was taken prisoner and Champa became a province of the Kambuja state.

It was only after constant fighting for thirty years that Champa regained its independence. It also suffered heavily by the invasion of the famous Mongol Chief, Kublai Khan, during the period between 1282-1285 A.D. Shortly after this, hostilities broke out with the Annamites who conquered nearly the whole country before the end of the fifteenth century A.D.

3. Kambuja (Cambodia):

In Indo-China, another Hindu state was formed. It was in Cambodia. The Indians called it Kambuja while the Chinese called it the kingdoms of Fu-nan. We find there a Hindu king, named Chandana or Chandra, as far back as 357 A.D. The Chinese called him Chan-tan who sent an embassy to China. Towards the end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century A.D., another Indian, named Kaundinya, was elected king by the people of Kambuja.

He was a Brahmana and had gone there direct from India at that time. He married a princess of the Naga-dynasty there, laid the foundations of the greatness of the Kambuja state and Indianised the local people. Gradually, the state of Kambuja extended itself and included the entire territory of Cambodia, Siam and Kochin- China.

In the eighth century, it had to accept the suzerainty of the more powerful Sailendra empire for some time, but in the ninth century we find it independent again.

The kingdom of Kambuja again rose to power under its able ruler Java Varman II, who ruled between 802-854 A.D. His successor, Yaso Varman, shifted his capital to Angkor region (Yasodharapura) which, thenceforth, became the centre of culture and was decorated with architectural monuments which have made Kambuja famous all over the world.

In 1001 A.D., the ruling dynasty was replaced by another dynasty whose founder ruler was Surya Varman. Surya Varman extended the territories of Kambuja. He conquered north Siam and a part of south Burma. His successor, Surya Varman II (1113 to 1143 A.D.) conquered a part of Malaya and the entire south Burma.

He constructed the famous Vishnu temple of Angakor-Vata. The last great ruler of Kambuja was Jayal Varman VII. He conquered Champa and planned its new capital city of Angkor Thom. After his death, the state of Kambuja became weak and it was destroyed by its neighbouring rulers, the Thais of Burma and Annamis.

4. Burma:

Burma was called Brama-desa at that time. The Indians went there both by land and sea and settled in different parts of Upper and Lower Burma. The first Indian immigrants in Burma belonged to Andhra Pradesh and were the followers of the Hinayana sect of Buddhism. They were called Mons and were known as Talaings also which indicate their origin from Telingana in India.

By the seventh century A.D., they established a strong empire in Lower Burma and increased their influence towards north Siam and west Laos. To the north of the kingdom of Mons, another kingdom was established by Hinduized Pyus with Srikshetra as their capital as early as the third century A.D.

This kingdom rose to the status of an important power in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. and its boundaries touched the frontier of Eastern India, Yunnan and Kambuja. Thus, it included a large part of Upper and Central Burma. It remained an important power even in the ninth century A.D. but, then its power gradually declined. The Hinduized Pyus were pressed by the Mrammas from the north and by the Mons from the south. Gradually, they lost their separate existence and were merged into their powerful neighbours.

Another powerful kingdom was created by Mrammas in north Burma. It was a Tibeto-Dravidian tribe who lived on the banks of the river Brahamaputra for a long time and settled in Burma. The Mrammas first accepted Hinduism but one of their rulers Aniruddha accepted Hinayana sect of Buddhism. Aniruddha (1044- 1077 A.D.) was a powerful ruler who conquered entire Burma and propagated Buddhism there.

His successor, Tribhuvanaditva Dharmaraja constructed the famous Ananda temple of Burma. Buddhism became the predominant religion in Burma during the rule of these powerful monarchs. The last ruler of this dynasty was Narasinghapati.

During his rule, the Mongols attacked Burma and he tried to flee to save his life but his own subjects killed him because of his cowardly behavior. One of the descendants of Mongol chief, Kublai Khan, ultimately destroyed the Hindu kingdom of Burma.

Indian Culture in the East and the South-East Asia:

In all the countries of the East and the South-East, Indian civilization and culture were completely accepted. Of course, here and there, the indigenous elements were also absorbed but the basic structure of culture remained Indian. The monarchical government and the administration was run on the ideals of Indian polity. The constitution of Mantri-Parishad, king’s responsibility towards his subjects and the pursuance of Rajya Dharma were all on the Indian pattern.

The same way the language, literature, religions, fine arts and social institutions of India were accepted by the people here. The people of these regions, at that time, were much backward in culture as compared to Indians with whom they came in contact.

They belonged to different grades of civilization, from the semi-savage of Cambodia to the people of Java who had made some cultural progress. Therefore, in fact, the Indians, who were far superior to them in culture, formed the culture and civilization of these people.

1. Literature:

Sanskrit or Pali, a derivative from Sanskrit, remained the main languages of these countries and Indian philosophy, religious texts, epics, etc., formed the source of the contents of their literature. Inscriptions, written in Sanskrit, have been found in thousands at different places in countries like Burma, Siam, Malaya, Cambodia, Annam, Sumatra, Java and Borneo and many of them belong to as far back as the second and third centuries A.D.

More than one hundred Sanskrit inscriptions have been discovered in Champa while those found in Cambodia are larger in number and also of higher literary merit. These inscriptions, and the like, found in other different countries are sufficient proofs that the people here had not only acquired the knowledge of Sanskrit language and its grammar and the knowledge of the Hindu religious texts, epics and philosophy but had mastered them.

It is clear that they studied thoroughly the Vedas, the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Bhagvata Gita, Grammar of Panini, the Mahabhasya of Patanjali and scholarly writings of Kalidas, Vatsyayana, Bhavabhuti etc. Buddhist texts were also popular there and all of them were studied by the people. The kings and rich people took a leading part in literary activities of the people and there had been many scholarly kings like Yaso Varman and Surya Varman I of Kambuja.

Yaso Varman composed a commentary on the Mahabhasya while Surya Varman I was well-versed in Bhasvas, Kavya and Dharmasastras. In Java, the people studied not only Sanskrit but evolved out of it an extensive literature of their own which flourished for nearly five hundred years, viz., 1000-1500 A.D The Ramayana and the Mahabharata were translated into the Javanese language.

Besides, Kavyas like the Arjuna-Vivaha, the Bharat-Yuddha, the Sumanasantaka, etc. were also composed by them. The Sumanasantaka is based on the story of Indumati, the queen of Aja and mother of king Dasarath, described by Kalidasa in the Raghuvansa. The Pali language is still in use in a large part of Indo-Chim.

2. Religion:

The people in these countries were all converted either to Hinduism or Buddhism. While Buddhism became the predominant religion in Burma and Sri Lanka, Hinduism prevailed in all the countries of South-East Asia. Hindu temples and Buddhist pagodas and also the images of different Hindu gods and goddesses, as well as those of Mahatma Buddha, were constructed in large numbers at all these places.

Crawford writes: “Genuine Hindu images, in brass and stone, exist throughout Java in such variety that I imagine that there is hardly a personage of the Hindu mythology, of whom it is usual to make representations, that there is not a statue of.” Among Hindu gods, the first position was assigned to Siva.

Next came Vishnu and then the rest of them. One very popular image in Java is that of Bhatara-Guru. It is regarded as a representation of Mahayogin Siva but some others maintain that it represents the sage Agastya. The worship of Agastya was very popular in Java and therefore, it is quite reasonable that the image is a representation of the Indian sage, Agastya.

Buddhism was also quite popular here. Besides, Tantric cult of Hinduism and Buddhism also influenced the religion of these people. Sri Vijava was a great centre of learning for Buddhist studies. The Chinese traveller, I-tsing, studied here for seven years. The famous Buddhist scholar and teacher of Nalanda University Dharmapala also visited Suvarnadvipa. There was constant exchange of Hindu and Buddhist scholars between these countries and India.

Sivasoma, the teacher of king Indra Varman, came to India to receive education from Sankar, viz., Sankaracharva. One important feature, which was responsible for the propagation of religion in these countries, was the establishment of Asramas like India in the Vedic age. These asramas (hermitages) were the abodes of pious devotees who dedicated their lives to study and meditation.

3. Society:

The people of these countries had adopted all norms of the Hindu society. The caste-system, which forms the fundamental basis of the Hindu society, was accepted in most of these countries and the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vaisyas and the Sudras formed the main castes of their society. The Brahmanas were respected in society but they did not interfere in the administration of the state. The status of the Sudras was much better there as compared to India. The caste system was also not rigid there.

Similarly, the women enjoyed better status there as compared to Indian women. The practice of Sati was prevalent only among royal families, while social evils like Purdah, child-marriage, etc., did not grow up there. Women mixed freely with men and participated in all social and religious functions.

They participated in administration also. One queen, named Gunapriya ruled over Java at one time. The food habits and the clothings of the people in most of these countries were similar to those of Indians. Wheat and rice formed their staple diet. Gambling, music, dance, dramas and fighting between animals and birds formed the main items of amusement of the people. The stories of dramas were mostly taken from the stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

4. Fine Arts:

There too, as in India, the art was the handmaid of religion. Therefore, primarily, temples and images of gods were constructed for the expression of art. In the beginning, the arts of sculpture and architecture were completely drawn on the Indian model and many early temples and images have been supposed to be constructed by Indian artists who had migrated there.

But, gradually, different local styles were evolved though they also maintained the Indian character. The temples and images, both of Hinduism and Buddhism, have been discovered in such a large number from different places that it is impossible to describe them all. Only a few examples are sufficient to convey an idea of their massive grandeur and artistic excellence.

Many temples and images of the Buddha and Hindu gods like Siva, Vishnu, Brahma etc. have been found in Java. The religious structures in Java are known by the general name Chandi, and most of them are temples, built on more or less a uniform pattern with variations in detail. There are Brahmanical temples on the Dieng plateau in Java.

Among them, the temples of Siva, Vishnu and Brahma are the most important. These temples possess that sobriety and dignity which is usually associated with Indian temples of the Gupta period. There is a beautiful temple of Siva named Chandi-Banon near Barabudur. Still more famous is the Lara-Jongrang group of Brahmanical temples.

The total number of temples here is 156, but there are three main temples in one row. They are of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, the Siva-temple in the centre being the most magnificent.

The temples have been decorated by relief sculptures depicing the story of the Ramayana. Among the Buddhist temples are Chandi Kalasan, Chandi Sari and Chandi Seva. The complex of temples known as Chandi Seva contains nearly 250 temples with the main temple at the centre.

But the most magnificent monument in Java is the famous Buddhist temple at Barabudur which was constructed during the period 750-850 A.D. under the patronage of the Sailendra rulers. It is situated on top of a hillock. The temple has a series of nine successive terraces, each receding from the one beneath it. The six lower terraces are square in plan and the upper three are circular.

The whole structure is crowned by a bell-shaped stupa which stands at the centre of the topmost terrace and is accessible from it by a series of circular steps. The three uppermost terraces are encircled by rings of stupas, each containing image of Buddha.

Besides, the walls and galleries have beautiful sculptured panels depicting the life of the Buddha and his different incarnations as described in the Jatakas. The Barabudur temple is both massive and beautiful. Dr R.S. Sharma writes, “The mighty structure presents a combination of the characteristics of the great stupa of Sanchi and the sculpture of the Kailas temple of Ellora.”

The best temple in Kambuja is the Vishnu temple of Angkor Vat. The name simply means the temple (Vat) of the city (Angkor-nagara). The temple is surrounded by a ditch which is more than 650 feet wide and 2 1/2 mile long. Its entrance gate is towards the west.

The broad paved avenue, which runs from the western gateway to the first gallery of the temple, is 36 feet wide, 1,560 feet long and raised 7 feet above the ground. The first gallery measures about 800 feet from east to west and 675 feet from north to south, with a total running length of nearly 3,000 feet.

The central tower rises to a height of more than 210 feet above the ground level. Thus, the structure of the temple is very massive and impressive. Besides, its proportions, general symmetry of the plan and above all the decorative sculptures have provided marvellous beauty and grandeur to it. It has been justly regarded as the greatest of the monuments in Kambuja.

M. Henry Mouhot who discovered it described it as, “The most wonderful structure in the world, the like of which Greece and Rome had never built.” There are also many other temples of huge dimensions like it in city of Angkor Thom, the capital city built by Jaya Varman VII. The city itself was very much beautiful and grand and could be favourably compared with Rome in the days of Nero.

There are also a large number of temples in Champa. Among them there are three important groups of temples viz., those of Dong Duong, Po-Nagar, Myson, the first being Buddhist and the next two Saivite. These are also beautiful specimens of architecture, though they are in no way comparable to the temples at Java or Kambuja.

The remains of nearly 1.000 temples have been discovered in the city of Pagan itself in Burma, but the finest among them is the Ananda-Temple which was built by Kyanzittha. It has been regarded as the masterpiece of Burmese architecture. It is a Buddhist temple. It is at the centre of a courtyard which is 564 feet square. The temple is made of bricks. It is square in plan, each side measuring 175 feet.

There is a colossal standing image of Buddha which is 31 feet in height and has been placed on an 8 feet high throne. The beauty of the temple has been increased by the numerous stone-sculptured reliefs and glazed terra-cotta plaques that adorn its walls. The temple is surrounded by a 30 feet high boundary-wall. It is believed that this temple was planned and constructed by Indian architects.

Thus, we find that Indian culture in the form of Sanskrit or Pali literature, religion in the form of Hinduism or Buddhism, social institutions based on casteism and the fine arts, particularly that of architecture and sculpture, prevailed in Burma, Sri-Lanka and a large part of south-east Asia for a long time. It was cultural conquest of India.

The Indians civilized most of the people in these countries and made them a part and parcel of Indians. Therefore, these territories, which formed part of Indian culture, have been rightly regarded as parts of ‘Greater India’. One more remarkable feature of Indian colonists in these countries had been that they did not exploit the people of these countries for the advantage of India.

They, rather, established themselves there as their own homeland, participated in the lives of the local people and enriched them with their culture though, of course, they maintained their contact with India. The Indians in the Hindu period could, therefore, be justly proud of being cultural missionaries and daring colonists for a large part of Asia without being the exploiters of the colonies where they held their power.


Masterpiece: Standing Brahma and Standing Indra - History

Northern Wei Dynasty, 386–534

National Palace Museum, Taipei

Shakyamuni is represented here in the full lotus position sitting on a two-tiered stand, right hand in the abhaya (fearlessness) mudra, and left hand resting on his robe. The monk’s robe reveals his right shoulder, and his face has a spiritual, somber expression. The inner section of the body halo behind the Buddha figure has seven Buddha icons, with U-shaped flames adorning the outer section, accentuating the figure and enhancing its grandeur. Despite the modest size of this example, it stylistically resembles the stone Buddha statue in Grotto 20 of the Yungang (雲罔) Grottoes in China, which date to the Northern Wei Kingdom (around 460 AD). This represented a new way of rendering Buddhist images starting in the Taihe period (477–499). The figure and the stand were cast as one piece, the body halo separately. The bronze body is beautifully cast, and the gilding, which carries a hint of red, is generously applied, adhering well to the bronze. All in all, it demonstrates a high level of craftsmanship. The top tier of the stand is a Mt. Sumeru throne decorated with lotuses, and at the side with floral scrolls. Two lions sit at the base, their heads turned back, their posture majestic. The lower tier is a square stand decorated with rolling waves, each side carved with figures making offerings, and floral scrolls. The reverse side of the body halo reveals a complex set of scenes that closer inspection shows to have a definite design that can be divided into three sections. Shakyamuni sits together with Prabhutaratna in a tower that occupies the center of the upper section. To the left and right of the tower, we see Manjusri, holding a “ruyi (如意)” sceptre, and Vimalakirti, holding a duster, engaged in conversation in a scene taken from the “Vimalakirti-nirdesa sutra” in which Manjusri inquires about Vimalakirti’s illness. In the middle section, we see Shakyamuni giving his first sermon in the deer park at Sarnath, with two monks, or biqiu (比丘), to either side in meditation, as well as two bodhisattvas. The lower section relates the story of the Buddha’s birth, with Shakyamuni as a newborn holding one hand up to the Heavens and touching the earth with the other in the center of the scene. On the left, his mother, Queen Maya, is standing next to a tree with the mature Buddha emerging from her right side. On the right of the scene, the Dragon Kings bathes the Buddha as Brahma and Indra sit in meditation to either side. On the far left and right of the lower section are two rectangular sections with inscriptions, but these are no longer legible. Both the content and structure of this scene make it a masterpiece of the 5th century. The reverse side of the stand also has an inscription dated to the tenth day of the ninth lunar month of the first year of the Taihe reign (477). Given the fact that this set is complete, with both the statue and the halo background, and also due to the quality of the workmanship, the richness of the content of the scene on the reverse side, and the fact that the exact date is known, it is of considerable artistic, historical and religious significance, making it one of the most important gilt bronze Buddhist statues in the world.


Stories from Hindu Mythology

in the last Para, the name of the river is 'Gandaki'. Vrinda as 'Tulsi' and Vishnu as 'Saligramji' are also worshipped in married form.

Nice research and thanks for sharing it. Can u plz guide me as from whr did u got all ths information..

I am so amaze with this story. enlightened me..

Thanks for this story! And won't this story come under Stories of Shiva also?

love the story and keep u good work .

Very interesting read in very simple language. Why dont't you write about Ramayan and Mahabharat in chronological order? Would mk it easier for the readers

is there a video of the curse of lord vishnu?

This story was shown in the Mahadev episode either 27th or 28th may 2013..on life ok channel

i've watched part of Jalandhara episode in mahadev & searched google. This article is very interesting & informative..nicely written.. thank you..

I also did the same.. watched mahadeva serial and found this article

Very interesting. thanks a lot..

Amazing narration. The brief story enlighten the spiritualism of human being. This also pass a message for construction of better world by destroying all vices.

read the best blog ever. thanks a ton

Can you please tell us why Radha is called as Vrinda?

Dear sir/madam,
I am not sure but it could have to do with the fact that Radha was from Vrindavan. It was normal in those days to name people based on the town they were from.

Radha was from Barsana and not fron Vrindavan

It's really great post and nice information about the tulsi in your website.
and Anybody get right information by your website and your post.tulsi have a 1000 of benefits.Holy Basil / Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is a very important herb in the Ayurvedic system.
It is grown in temple gardens and in household gardens in India. The Hindu name for holy basil, Tulsi,
means "the incomparable one." In Ayurveda, it is in the Rasayana "tonic" category of herbs, supporting good health and normal function of the whole body. If you want to more information about theTulsi Extract Capsules / just click hear.

Dear Sir/Madam,
The Shiva Purana tells the stories of Shiva and how story of how five powerful Lingas were formed. It is mentioned in that Nara and Narayana worshiped Lord Shiva in Kedar. As a boon to them Shiva is found as Linga in Kedar.
The Purana also mentions that Lord Shiva said to them that there was no need to worship him because they were so pious that they themselves deserved to be worshiped.

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In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Brahma (ब्रह्म) is the father of Dvipṛṣṭha: the second Vāsudeva (“violent heroes”) according to both Śvetāmbara and Digambara sources. Since they enjoy half the power of a Cakravartin (universal monarch) they are also known as Ardhacakrins. Jain legends describe nine such Vāsudevas usually appearing together with their “gentler” twins known as the Baladevas. The legends of these twin-heroes usually involve their antagonistic counterpart known as the Prativāsudevas (anti-heroes).

The stories of king Brahma, queen Umā and their son, Dvipṛṣṭha are related in texts such as the Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacarita (“the lives of the sixty-three illustrious persons”), a twelfth-century Śvetāmbara work by Hemacandra.

Brahma (ब्रह्म) refers to “abstinence from sexual intercourse” and is of eighteen kinds, nine relating to celestial females (vaikriya) and nine to terrestrial females (audārika).

Source: archive.org: The Jaina Iconography

1) Brahmā (ब्रह्मा) or Brahmayakṣa is the name of the Yakṣa accompanying Śītalanātha: the tenth of twenty-four Tīrthaṃkaras or Jinas, commonly depicted in Jaina iconography.—The tree under which Śītalanātha attained the Kevala knowledge is Vilva (Aegle marmelos), The Jaina texts assign tohim the Yakṣa named Brahmā and Yakṣiṇī named Aśokā (Digambara: Mānavī). The Digambaras regard the Aśvattha (Ficus religioso) as his emblem, the Śvetāmbaras Śrīvatsa (wishing tree) for the same.

2) Brahmā (ब्रह्मा) or Vāmā is the mother of Pārśvanātha: the twenty-third of twenty-four Tīrthaṃkaras or Jinas.—Pārśvanātha was probably born about 817 and died about 717 B.C. His father Aśvasena was the King of Benares. His mother’s name was Vāmā or Brahmā. Pārśva was a brave warrior and once he carried his victorious arms down to Kaliṅga. He married the daughter of King Prasenajit, King of Kośala, but like Prince Siddhārtha, he left his princess to follow the life of an ascetic at 30 years of age.

3) Brahmā (ब्रह्मा) also refers to one of the Dikpāla or “guardians of the quarters”, a class of deities within Jainism.—As in Bahmanism, so in Jainism, too, the Dikpāla Brahmā has been given the charge of the upper regions. The Śvetāmbara texts describe him as four-headed, riding on a swan and holdinga book and lotus. The Digambaras do not seem to have accepted not more than eight guardian gods. Brahmā and Nagā being left out from their descriptive list.

1a) Brahma (ब्रह्म) is the father of Brahmadatta: one of the Cakrins (Cakravartins), according to chapter 1.6 [ādīśvara-caritra] of Hemacandra’s 11th century Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacaritra (“lives of the 63 illustrious persons”): a Sanskrit epic poem narrating the history and legends of sixty-three important persons in Jainism.

Accordingly: “[. ] In Bharata there will be twenty-three other Arhats and eleven other Cakrins. [. ] The Cakrins will belong to the gotra of Kaśyapa, gold-color, and eight of them will go to mokṣa. [. ] In Kāmpīlya, Brahmadatta will be the son of Culanī and Brahma, living for seven hundred years, seven bows tall. He will live in the interval between Śrī Neminātha and Śrī Pārśvanātha and, engaged in evil meditation, will go to the seventh hell”.

1b) Brahma (ब्रह्म) refers to one of the the ten-fold dharma (i.e., Yatidharma) capable of leading across saṃsāra, according to chapter 3.3 [sumatinātha-caritra].—Accordingly, as Sumatinātha said, “The sources of pride—youth, power, beauty, etc.—have become subdued from penance, like evil spirits of a sorceror reduced to servitude from the power to summon them. Yatidharma, handed down orally by the Blessed Ones, is the best boat without impediments for crossing the ocean of saṃsāra. [. ] Chastity (brahma) is the restraint of the senses accompanied by the nine guptis. [. ]”.—(Cf. Uttarādhyayana, Chap. 16, gives a list almost identical with that of the Samavāyāṅgasūtra, but it has 10 divisions instead of 9.)

3) Brahmā (ब्रह्मा) is the name of a Yakṣa (i.e., Śāsanadevatās or ‘messenger-deities’) associated with Śītalanātha, according to chapter 3.8 [śītalanātha-caritra].—Accordingly, “Originating in that tīrtha, a Yakṣa, named Brahmā, three-eyed, four-faced, with a lotus-seat, white, with four right arms of which three held a citron, hammer, and noose, and one was in the position bestowing fearlessness, and with four left arms holding an ichneumon, club, goad, and rosary and Aśokā likewise originating there, [. ]. Attended by these two, Lord Śītala wandered for twenty-five, thousand pūrvas less three months”.

4) Brahmā (ब्रह्मा) is the name of an ancient king from Dvārakā, according to chapter 4.2 [vāsupūjya-caritra].—Accordingly:—“Now there is a city named Dvārakā, the face-ornament of Surāṣṭra, the base of its wall washed by the waves of the western ocean. Its king was Brahmā, whose strength was undulled, by whom everyone was subdued and repressed, like a rival of Jiṣṇu (Indra). Subhadrā and Umā were his wives, the most important of his harem, like the Gaṅgā and the Sindhu of the Lavaṇa Ocean. [. ]”.

Source: Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 4: The celestial beings (deva)

Brahma (ब्रह्म) refers to one of the sixteen heavens (kalpa) hosting the sixteen classes of empyrean celestial beings (vaimānika), according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 4.19. The living beings residing in the vimānas are called the empyrean gods (vaimānika) and represents one of the four classes of Devas.

What is the number of layers in Brahma and Brahmottara heaven pairs? There are four layers there. Which thought-colourations are there in Brahma and Brahmottara and Lāntava-Kāpiṣṭha gods? They have pink thought-colouration. What is the maximum lifespan of deities in Brahma and Brahmottara kalpas? It is slightly more than ten ocean-measured-periods (sāgara) for both.

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

Discover the meaning of brahma in the context of General definition from relevant books on Exotic India


A Hindu Past

Whilst Thailand is a country where 95% of its population are Buddhists, this wasn’t always the case. Thailand’s past — before it was even known as Thailand — was punctuated by a series of different ruling kingdoms, but in its earliest days, it was ruled by the powerful Khmer Empire. This empire, now modern-day Cambodia, followed Hinduism, and as a result, the religion spread to places under its control, including Thailand.

As the Khmer Empire ruled over modern-day Thailand, its Hindu ways and practices began to shape the land and the culture. Hinduism’s roots in the foundation of Thailand are evident all over the country. For example, Thailand’s former capital of Ayutthaya was named after Ayodhya, the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama, whilst the Phanom Rung temple in Isaan, built in the Khmer style, was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and made to represent the sacred site of Mount Kailash. Even Thailand’s national epic, Ramakien, was derived from the Hindu epic Ramayana.


The Ascent of Vishnu and the Fall of Brahma

According to Hindu mythology, Brahma has a lifespan of 100 years. That may appear way short for a god of Brahma’s standing . (He is the creator of our solar system.) But Brahma and Hindu gods do not follow our traditional 24-hour clock. They represent time in cosmic units of yugas and kalpas. If you don’t understand any of these terms, that’s ok. A kalpa, for instance, is defined as a day of Brahma and translates to 4.32 billion human years. In fact Brahma has a lifespan of 311 trillion years!

We explain these colossal timescales, as we introduce Brahma in this book. You will learn that Brahma initially was the supreme deity of Hinduism, but he could not hang on to his position for long. A judgmental lapse is said to have caused his downfall. With Brahma’s descent, Vishnu rose to power. Today, in the Hindu pantheon, Vishnu is a prominent god, and has a following of more than 700 million devotees, who are occasionally identified by the U-shared marks on their foreheads.

With a focus on Vishnu and Brahma, we continue our journey beyond the Vedic era. We begin by examining a popular creation myth in which Brahma emerges from the navel of a sleeping Vishnu and starts crafting the world. Further on, we explore the churning of the milky ocean, a crucial event in Hindu mythology and one of the rare occasions when gods and demons collaborated (instead of fighting) to search for the nectar of immortality. Many precious things—and surprises—came out this quest, including Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and consort of Vishnu. We also get to know a critical insight into our ancestry. According to Hinduism, we are all related and descendants of Manu, the father of human race.


While this book focuses on Brahma and Vishnu, there will be occasional detours when we pause to look at art and architecture. In particular, we’ll look at Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple in the world. Guess what? The fact that Angkor Wat is located outside India has dented Hindu pride from time immemorial. We’ll also peek at ancient paintings from a mythological perspective, especially the unique genre of miniature paintings called ragamala that combines art, music, and poetry. A remarkable shift in worship took place during this period. Bhakti became a major form of worship and pervaded Hindu society forever. If you are unfamiliar with bhakti, then nothing exemplifies bhakti (devotion) more than the dancing-and-chanting Hare Krishnas.


How lord Indra came to be known as the 'one with a thousand eyes' and lord Shiva came to came to possess 4 faces

The story starts with 2 daityas – Sunda and Upasunda – who performed great austerities on the Vindhya mountains (in the desire to control the 3 worlds). Gods tried their best to distract them but they failed, so Brahma appeared before them and asked for a boon.

The daityas asked for knowledge of maya, all the weapons, power to change form at will and immortality. Brahma granted them everything except immortality, but also asked them to choose the way how they would die. So the daityas said that they would only be afraid of each other and can only be killed by each other (the daityas were inseparable since birth, that's what made them so powerful).

After getting the boon, the daityas conquered the 3 worlds, killed brahmins wherever they saw them, entire world went into darkness (not literally). There was no rituals, nobody worshipped gods, and no sacred rites and festivals. Seeing this, several devarshis, siddhas and maharshis went to Brahma (who was seated along with other gods such as Shiva, Agni and Vayu) and told him that the daityas need to be stopped.

Lord Brahma then summoned Vishwakarma and told him to create the most beautiful woman. Vishwakarma gathered the most beautiful elements from the 3 worlds, and crafted the most beautiful woman. Her name was Tilottama (meaning one whose every particle or is uttam). Brahma then told her to go and seduce the daityas and create dissent among them.

Before going, she paid homage to lord Brahma and started doing a parikrama around the gods. All the gods faced different directions. As she passed by Shiva, he kept his composure but such was the desire to take a look at her, a new face came out in the direction that she passed by – thus ending up with 4 faces. Similarly, a thousand eyes popped up all over Indra's back and sides in order to take a look at Tilottama as she went around.

This is how Indra came to be known as the 'one with a thousand eyes' and Shiva came to came to possess 4 faces

The context of this story is that this story is told by Narada to Yudhishthir when he visits them after they obtain the kingdom after marrying Droupadi. Narada says that you brothers need to establish some rules among yourself, or Droupadi can become the cause of dissent and weaken you just like Tilottama did to the 2 daityas.


Watch the video: indra-come to india (July 2022).


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