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'Aokan' Pillars: A Reassessment of the Evidence - IV: Symbolism Author(s): John Irwin Reviewed work(s): Source: The Burlington

Magazine, Vol. 118, No. 884 (Nov., 1976), pp. 734+736-751+753 Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/878588 . Accessed: 28/03/2012 19:24
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GENTILESCHI

S 'MADONNA

WITH

THE

SLEEPING

CHRIST

CHILD'

light and colour given to it to become an aesthetic and expressive agent equal with the human actors. The intensity and brilliance with which this resource has been exploited create illusion, but the illusionism is but one effect among a battery of ideas and sensations that the drapery conveys: among them a sense of majesty in its amplitude and sweep and of precious splendour in its luxury and colour that are appropriate to garb the Queen of Heaven and to enframe her Child. Later in his long career, Orazio would often be the supreme tailor in paint that Longhi describes,13 but here his intention reaches far above mimetic skill or fine visual sensation towards a region that makes analogue in its colour and its luministic force with the painting of the youthful Titian. Behind the devices of his art, however, there is a grandeur in Orazio's conception of his theme that gives his image its effect of a dimension that expands in the spectator's experience of it beyond the limits of its frame. The image combines majesty with seeming truth of actual existence, and grandeur with the closeness and particularity of a scene of genre. Beneath the modernity of Caravaggesque stamp that conveys the effects of reality and genre there is a set of traditional religious references of deep seriousness. The naked Child sleeps on the white sheet as on a shroud, prefiguring His sacrificial death.14 The Virgin, recalling a motif made famous by Raphael in the Madonna del Velo once in S. M. del Popolo,15 lifts her veil over Him. Commonly, the veil also may denote the shroud, but since the white cloth beneath Christ is here so explicit in its sense, it is likely that the veil intends a separate meaning. It is of course a traditional symbol of mourning, appropriate to this context; but it also calls to mind the custom of ancient Roman religion that required the celebrant at a sacrifice to be veiled, and in turn the r6le in the Christian Mass of the humeral veil
1' As for example in LONGHI, op. cit., [I9gI6], p.272. Cf. G. FIRESTONE: 'The Sleeping Christ Child in the Renaissance', AIarsyas, II [1x942],pp.43-62. 15Raphael did not invent the motif: see FIRESTONE, op. cit., for earlier instances. The small Raphael School piece, the Madonna with the Sleeping Christ Child and St John in the Louvre is another instance of the theme. The most famous intervening example between those by Raphael and our Gentileschi is Sebastiano del Piombo's in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples.
14

which covers the vessels of the Eucharistic sacrifice.16 In His left hand the sleeping Child holds a fruit which ordinary experience would lead us to expect to be the apple of Original Sin, but which is not that nor the less frequent attributes of the peach, pear, or pomegranate. The fruit has been identified exactly as an apricot,17 for the presence of which in this context I have found no precedent or contemporary example. It would appear that we are dealing in this instance with a quite exceptional - and sophisticated - case of Biblical textual criticism. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge most likely could not have been an apple. Moldenke18 summarizes the long controversy about the identity of the Biblical fruit, of which the species proposed besides the apple include the orange, citron, pomegranate, quince, fig, grape and apricot. Only the last, Moldenke concludes after a careful review of the evidence, seems to meet all the specifications of the Bible references. This conclusion was a frequently published one in nineteenth-century writing on the problem, but I have not been able to find the source which, c.I6Io, supplied to Orazio Gentileschi the special and arcane knowledge that the apricot, not the apple, should have been the true fruit of Original Sin, which Christ's sacrifice meant to redeem. But it is clear, primafacie, that this learned substitution was what was intended, and the fruit in Jesus's hand supplies the motive and necessity for the sacrifice the theme foretells. It is conveyed, finally, that the whole image is, as it were, a transubstantiation into their real presences, here made splendidly visible, of the elements of the Eucharist: the body of Christ, in a sleep that foretells His offering in sacrifice, is revealed beneath the humeral veil upon His shroud, the cloth laid on an altar which is the broad lap of Mary Virgin, who is Mother Church. The image is as eloquent in symbol as it is in substance, a point of rare ascent in Gentileschi's art.
18 Cf. in Italiana [ed. 1937], Vol.35, PP.32-33 and bibliography Encyclopedia thereto. 17 1 am very grateful to Dr Richard A. Howard, Arnold Professor of Botany and Professor of Dendrology, Director of the Arnold Arboretum, for help in this identification and for references to the botanical literature. 18 H. N. MOLDENKE Plants of the Bible, Waltham [19521, and A. L. MOLDENKE: pp.184-88, 286-87 n. 167.

JOHN

IRWIN

'A

okan'

Pillars:

reassessment

of

the

evidence -IV:
THE

Symbolism
A wide gulf separates this interpretation from the one now to be offered. Yet, if the preceding articles in this series1 have achieved their aim they will have prepared the reader for rejection of the assumptions on which the traditional interpretation had been based and at the same time made him aware of new factors which call for a radically new approach.
1 The firstthree articlesin this seriesappearedin THEBURLINGTON MAGAZINE, vol.CXV [November, I973], pp.7o6-2o; Part II in vol.CXVI [December,

interpretation of 'Abokan' pillars generally current over the last hundred years is that they were imperial monuments erected by Aboka during the twenty-five years between 258 and 233 B.C., expressly for the purpose of advertising his dharmaor 'Law'. As works of art they are said to represent an intrusive style inspired by Perso-Hellenistic tradition, thus attributing the beginnings of monumental art in India to foreign tutelage. 734

9. Sacred pillar in irrigation pond. North Bihar.

S10. Base of Garuda-pillar in temple

compound, Nepal, showing shaft resting on tortoise. Photo: RobertSkelton.

9.

10.

7. Relief depicting Pillar of Law. AmdirSvati, first century B.C. or later. Limestone. (British Museum). 8. Relief depicting Lion-pillar. Amdrivati, first century B.C. or later. Limestone. (British Museum).

II.
7.
8.

Drawing for wall-painting at wedding ceremony. Mithila District North Bihar. Contemporary folk-art. Photo: National Museum,New Delhi.

12. The TeachingBuddha.Gandhara, North-west India.

Second-fourth century A.D. Carved schist.

to theBodhisattvas. Relief outside K 5rli cave-temple, Deccan. 13. TheBuddha preaching About fifth century A.D. Photo: Dr. Gritliv. Mitterwallner.

'ASOKAN'

PILLARS:

A REASSESSMENT

OF

THE

EVIDENCE

IV:

SYMBOLISM

Among these new factors, we now claim to have proved beyond reasonable doubt that not all the pillars named after Agoka were in fact erected by him, and that when Adoka did start erecting pillars he was merely continuing an already well-established tradition. Structural analysis has shown that this type of pillar-architecture was wholly Indian. In so far as foreign influences are evident in the decoration, these borrowings are now proved to have been pre-Hellenistic: by the time they appear in the earliest surviving pillars, they are already transformed by Indian sensibility and imagination. Technically, the pillars have been shown to represent a very varied range, difficult to reconcile with a narrow time-span of twenty-five years. Finally, our new evidence has established at least the framework of a firm relative chronology, since corroborated by analysis of style-sequence. The resultant pattern now emerges as follows. EARLY GROUP (PRE-ASOKAN TYPE) emblem Ornament Crowning West Asian 'honeysuckle-and-palm(a) Bull or elephant, ette' (combined with indigenous naturalistic in style motifs such as padma-lotusand ndga(Rampfirvi, Sankisa or serpent-forms); also 'bead-andand Allahdbdd2). reel' and 'rope' ornament. (b) Lion, heraldic in style (VaiiMlionly). emblem Crowning (a) Lion, heraldic in style, either single or quadruple (former at Lauriya-Nandangarh and Rdmpfirvd; latter at Sanchi). (b) Quadruple lions (Sdrnath). Plain abacus; 'bead-and-reel' and 'rope' ornament below. LATER GROUP Ornament Indianized 'honeysuckle' combined with pecking-geese, 'bead-and-reel', and 'rope' ornament (as at Sdnchi); or the same without 'honeysuckle' (Lauriya-Nandangarh and Rdmpfirva). Disappearance of 'honeysuckle', geese, 'bead-and-reel', and 'rope' ornament. Abacus decorated with four quadrupeds intercepted by chariot-wheels.

In turning now to the symbolism of the monuments we shall first consider one of the most puzzling features of their archaeology which has so far been ignored by all writers on the subject: the fact that so many of these giant monoliths weighing up to 40,000 kilos3 were erected in heavily waterlogged subsoils and in conditions which, from the moment of erection, doomed most of them sooner or later to sinkage or to total collapse. At Rdmpirvd, for instance, where two of the pillars were sited, the subsoil was classified by archaeologists as 'clay with quicksand' - the worst conditions
imaginable!4

For wooden-shafted pillars of the type we now know preceded the stone ones, no serious technical problem would have been involved, since wood is relatively light and behaves buoyantly in waterlogged conditions. But stone is another matter. A first rule of building in stone is that the weight-bearing capacity of the subsoil should be tested and that, if poor, an appropriate technique of anchorage should be devised. Yet the erectors of the first so-called 'AMokan' pillars seem to have ignored this problem entirely - with catastrophic results, as we have seen. Are we therefore to conclude that those who erected these pillars were incompetent? The Indian record of craftsmanship does not encourage the assumption. There must be another explanation, and in my opinion it is not difficult to find. It is simply that the decisions as to how and where the pillars should be erected were governed by religious rather than secular or technical considerations: in other words, that metaphysics rather than physics were the decisive factor. In putting this hypothesis to the test, we shall find substantial evidence to support it. Our first clue is taken from early Buddhist relief carvings depicting the (Buddhist) Pillar-of-Law or dharma-stambha, which is very obviously in

1974], pp.7I2-27,

and Part III in vol.CXVII

These articles are condensations from the I974 Lowell Institute Lectures given in Boston in March-April 1974, under the title Foundations of Indian Art. The Lectures will be published in unabridged book form by the Victoria & Albert Museum in its publishing schedule for 1977-78. 2 Since the second article in this series was published, re-examination of the evidence relating to the Allah5hbddpillar has encouraged me to withdraw my statement that the nature of the animal originally surmounting this pillar was 'not known'. I am now convinced that Lieut. T. S. Burt was correct when he wrote in I833 that the original emblem had been a bull (T. S. BURT: 'A description, with drawings, of the ancient stone pillar at Allahbad', Journal of Asiatic Societyof Bengal, vol.III, Calcutta [1834], pp.Io5-13, and Plate III). Why, therefore, was it ever thought to have been a lion? The explanation is that when Cunningham made his surveys in the I86o's, publishing a number of the 'Asokan' pillars for the first time in Archaeological SurveyReports, all the pillars which up to that stage had been identified and bore Asokan inscriptions on their shafts had lions as emblems (where the emblem survived at all). Therefore, the original existence of a bull on top of the Allahabad pillar must have seemed to him too improbable to be worth considering. Howev r, as we now know from the discovery of the Rampfirva- bull-pillar, and from Hsuian Tsang's description of another which once stood outside the Jetavanna monastery at Sravasti, bull pillars certainly existed. Lieut. Burt, from his

[October,

1975], pp.631-43.

careful examination of the top of the abacus (since defaced), came to the conclusion that the bull must have been couchant, because 'the remains of the body as well as of the legs are connected with the stone itself'. If the Rampfirv5 bull-pillar had at that time been excavated, Burt would almost certainly have recognized that what he imagined to constitute part of the bovine body was in fact part of the area left solid under the belly of the standing quadruped, for the obvious reason of strengthening the sculpture (cf. RimpfirvA bull and Sankisa elephant, both of which have solid areas of stone left under the belly. Burt's small outline drawings showing the plan and section of the abacus (op. cit., Plate III, figs.3, 4, 6 and 7) show the feet of the animal in exactly the same position as the feet of the Rampfirvi bull. Sometime after Burt had made his study, the upper surface of the abacus was trimmed and the evidence thus erased. This must have been done in the 1850's, when the committee of the Asiatic Society of Bengal passed a resolution proposing that a lion and a bell should be specially designed and executed to be placed on top of the reerected shaft in Allahdbad Fort, in combination with the original abacus. Mercifully, the proposed design was submitted in advance for the approval of Cunningham, who was appalled, and commented tartly that it reminded him of'a stuffed poodle stuck on the top of an inverted flowerpot' (A. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey Reports, Vol.I,

abandoned. Today the shaft stands topless in the compound of the Fort, while the original abacus, now trimmed, is displayed in AllahbhAd Museum. 3 As a result of an error missed in proof-correcting, the figure of 4,000, instead
of40,ooo,

p.300oo, Simla,

1871). So the plan was

SWe should not ignore the opinion of geologists that the water-table of the Ganges basin has risen since the first millennium B.C. when it was more forested. Nevertheless, allowing for this, it is difficult to believe that subsoils classified by archaeologists as 'quicksand with clay' were not already waterlogged at the time the pillars were erected.

kilos was given in Part II, p.722.

737

'ASOKAN'

PILLARS:

A REASSESSMENT

OF

THE

EVIDENCE

IV:

SYMBOLISM

the same line of aesthetic and structural tradition as the 'AMokan'pillar. Examples are reproduced at Figs.7 and 8. Admittedly, these particular reliefs are at least two centuries later than AMoka; but this does not invalidate their use as evidence in this context: it is a commonplace of art history that when a religion takes over and adapts the symbols of an earlier cult, the original meaning is never entirely obscured.5 To Buddhists, the pillar at Fig.7 is a symbol of the Buddha's Preaching of the First Sermon - in other words, his 'Turning of the Wheel of the Law'. It is surrounded at ground-level by the type of railing known as vedica,long ago recognised by A. K. Coomaraswamy as 'the characteristic and almost essential feature of the sacred shrine in northern India'. At Fig.8 is a lion-pillar standing in a water-pot (kumbha or kalasa) - the latter being especially associated in India with birth and fertility rites, and ultimately a symbol of the cosmic waters from which all life was believed to have originated.6 The association of these pillars with water at their foundations is even more clearly recognised when we look further down and notice that underneath them are water-plants which have the appearance characteristic of aquatic Treesof-Life. The one on the left sports all kinds of human and animal life among its leaves and stems. The one on the right is a lotus, and to underline its water association the artist has shown it stemming out of another water-pot at the bottom. These observations should recall what we described in the first article in this series as one of the most striking features of the 'Abokan' pillar (yet one hitherto ignored by all writers on the subject): the fact that the shaft was designed to rise nakedly out of the ground without any base or plinth at ground-level, as if coming up from the fundaments of the earth. Is it possible that behind whatever meaning Aboka or the Buddhists may have attached to such pillars, there persisted a much older symbolism of the Axis Mundi founded in the Cosmic Waters below the earth and reaching up to the sun at its zenith (see Fig.A)? This is the second hypothesis to be examined. The key to such terms as 'Axis Mundi' and 'Cosmic Waters' is of course the Myth of Creation. Although every culture in the ancient world had its own cosmogonical myth or myths, historians of religion are now recognizing among

the earliest strata a pattern of' belief which might once have been universal.7 The pattern is also recognisable in many of ROTATION the cosmogonies of so-called 'primitive' cultures surviving into modern times, and it can be summarised as follows. (i) Before the world began there was only Chaos, usually imagined as an ocean of water. (2) From the bottom of the ocean arose a lump of solid matter which at first floated restlessly on the surface of the waters ('unfixed' as many of the stories say). This expanded and became the primordial hill A. The Cosmic Pillar. or mountain - still without life or any of the dualities which compose our universe (such as heaven and earth, gods and demons, male and female, day and night, fire and water, and so on). (3) The crucial moment in the creation of our universe was the separation of heaven and earth, in the train of which all other dualities were created, and the sun rose for the first time out of the cosmic ocean creating Time and the Seasons, thus setting in motion the cosmic life-cycle. (4) The tool used to separate heaven and earth was commonly conceived as a tree, pillar or mountain. These images were often used interchangeably to stand for the same metaphysical concept of the World Axis or Axis Mundi. The point at which this Axis touched our earth was known as the Navel of the Earth (Greek omphalos, Hebrew tabor, Sanskrit prithivi-nabhi, and so on). Vedic bhuvanasya-nabhih, The Hellenist scholars who pioneered the modern academic study of myths at first misunderstood the significance of this term, wrongly identifying the omphalosas a tomb, or as the womb of the Earth Mother. Nowadays it is recognized that 'Navel of the Earth' designated the mythical spot at which heaven and earth were separated - in other words, the spot at which our universe was literally 'born'.8 And since this was a mystical conception owing nothing to our modern sense of geographical location, there could be any number of Navels without logical inconsistency. From all this it follows that the Axis Mundi, sited at the Navel of the Earth, represented the supreme link between human and celestial. It was the sole channel through which cosmic order was imposed on our terrestrial world. By

S SUN

r A classic example is the adoption by Christianityof the Crosswhich had earlierserved as a symbol of the Axis Mundi.Early Christianteachersmust have been awareof this, and the very termsin which they describedthe Cross are obviouslyinheritedfromthe earliercult (see below,fn.59). The popularity of the Crossas an object of worship can no doubt also be explained by its and there are clear indicationsthat thiswas associationwith the Axis Mundi, to leadersof the Church. For instance,in 744 sometimesan embarrassment A.D., Bishop (later Saint) Bonifacecomplainedthat worshipof crosses(preon the highways)was detractingfrom church-worship sumablyat crossroads serieslatina, ed. J. P. Migne, Paris [1844-64], cursus completus: (Patrologiae (ed.): The Dreamof theRood,Manlxxxix, p.752, quoted from M. SWANTON chesterUniversityPress[1970],p.47. 6 For association of the water-pot with the cosmic waters, see especially SmithsonianInstitution,Washington,Part IIl A. K. COOMARASWAMY: Yaksas, [193I], pp.61 ff.

' The question as to how far these ideas have spread by cultural diffusion, and how far they have evolved independently in parallel cultures, need not detain us here, since the answer has no direct bearing on our main thesis. 8 The first to explain accurately the meaning of the Navel of the Earth seems to have been A. j. WENSINCK in 'The Ideas of the Western Semites concerning der KoninklijkeAkademie the Navel of the Earth', published in Verhandelingen te Amsterdam, van Wetenschappen Afdeeling Letterkunde, n.s. 17, No. i, Amsterdam [1916], where he defined it in these words: 'The holy one created the world like an embryo. Like the embryo it proceeds from the navel outwards, and from there it was spread out in different directions.'

738

'ASOKAN'

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: A REASSESSMENT

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EVIDENCE

IV:

SYMBOLISM

reverse logic, any spot where man had been in contact with celestial or superhuman powers was by implication a Navel of the Earth located at the Axis of the Universe - this applying to any shrine or other consecrated spot where divine revelation had been experienced, or could be expected. Ancient man's obsessive concern with How the World Began had nothing in common with our own rational curiosity about such matters. It was governed by his desire to get into right relationship with the sacred world as the source of cosmic order and as the key to the perpetuation of life. For him, the Act of Creation was therefore the supreme archetype or divine model of all re-generation. Equally important for us to grasp is the different conception of time involved. The creation of the world was not for him an event which happened in our sense of time and history, once and for all. It happened in sacred time, which was cyclic.9 It was therefore a recurringevent; and if the universe was not to slip back from Order into Chaos, the Creation had to be re-enacted whenever the overthrow of established order was threatened or even feared. The supreme moment of crisis was of course the end of the year,10 whence a new cosmic start was needed to avert a return to Chaos. Nothing in this picture is new. It was first outlined to the general reader in 1949, when Professor Mircea Eliade published his admirable short exposition, Le mythe de l'Jternelretour.Our main job now is to show both the way in which the main features recur in Indian cosmogony and also the extent to which the variants in the Indian version are relevant to an understanding of the meaning of 'Adokan' pillars. The earliest Indian source available to us is of course the Rig-veda.11 Most of its hymns are believed to date in their surviving form from the end of the second millennium B.C., about a thousand years before Adoka. Unfortunately, there is no one hymn in which the story is clearly or coherently

told, for the simple reason that the hymns were written for the initiated who did not need telling. The story therefore has to be reconstructed from oblique references. The most important advance was made in 1942 when W. Norman Brown identified the creation myth of the Rig-veda with the story of Indra's fight with the demon Vritra,1' which earlier generations of Indologists had interpreted as a nature myth concerned with thunderclouds and rain. The Indra-Vritra fight is in fact an episode in the wider context of the IndoAryan Creation Myth which can be summarized as follows: (i) As in other cases, the universe was preceded by Chaos, imagined as an ocean of water without life.13 Yet, in a mystical sense, the ocean already bore within itself the germ or potentiality of life. (2) From the depth of the ocean there arose to the surface a clod,14 which expanded and became the primordial hill or mountain (parvata-, giri-, adri-). At this first stage of the Creation, the primordial hill (later to become our universe) was still floating without foundations.15 (3) The next stage began with the birth of Indra,16 who appeared on the scene when heaven and earth were still compacted and undifferentiated within the primordial hill. The latter was at this stage guarded by the demon Vritra a sort of dragon personification of the idea of 'obstruction'

in these rites began more than thirty years ago when I studied them from a Marxist angle and published my views in an article, 'Class struggle in Indian London [Spring I946], pp.73-88. Such history and culture', ModernQuarterly, an approach now seems old-fashioned in light of modern knowledge of the r6le of cosmogony, about which Marx's generation knew nothing. 11Unfortunately there does not yet exist any translation of this difficult text which can be unreservedly recommended. The best available in English is by
R. T. H. GRIFFITH: The hymns of the Rgveda, Calcutta

Part III, Zurich and Leipzig [1935], p.122. A north Indian version is described by E. G. MAN in Sonthaliaand theSonthals,London [18671, p.56. My own interest

9 It has been suggested that the nearest most Westerners get to experiencing the ancient sense of sacred or mythical time is in the nursery, because it was in something very like mythical time that our nursery tales began: 'Once This sort of Time had nothing to do with upon a Time. . .', or in illo tempore. the history we later learned at school. Jack-the-Giant-Killer may have lived in aeons past, but we also knew that he was outside our window as the story was being told. 10 The end of the year did not in every culture coincide with the winter solstice. In India it coincided with the end of the dry season, and the New Year with the onset of the Monsoon. In some cultures the end of the Old Year was conceived of as a momentary return to the undifferentiated state of Chaos and actually enacted in the form of rites of reversal, whence social differences representing 'established order' were temporarily abolished. These rites were also performed in India, an example being the South Indian Pongal festival described by j. j. MEYER in Trilogie altinidscher Midchteund Feste der Vegetation,

scholars is in German, by K. F. GELDNER: Der Rig- Veda, 3 volumes, Mass. [1951].

I973 under the editorship ofJ. L. Shastri. The translation most favoured by
Cambridge,

[i1899], reissued in Delhi in

12 W. NORMAN BROWN: 'The Creation Myth of the Rig-veda', Journalof American OrientalSociety,Vol.62 [1942], pp.85-98. The nearest the hymns get to a single coherent narration of the creation story is Rig-veda I. 32, but this covers only the heroic episode of Indra's fight with Vritra, which has been called 'the mere torso of the myth'. Following W. Norman Brown, the lead in Vedic cosmogonical research has been taken by PROFESSOR F. B. J. KUIPER of the Kern Institute, Leiden, who has published his views in a sequence of masterly studies to which we shall have frequent occasion to refer, alluding to them by number: (i) 'The Three Strides of Visnu', IndologicalStudies in Honourof W. Norman Brown, American Oriental Society [1962], pp.137-51; (2) 'The Bliss of Asa', Indo-Iranian Journal, Leiden, vol.VIII [1964], pp.96-129; (3) 'The Heavenly Volume Bucket', India Maior: Congratulatory Presented to J. Gonda,Leiden [1972], pp.-144-56; (4) 'Cosmogony and Conception: a Query', Journal of History of Religions,University of Chicago, Vol.io [x970], pp.91-I38; and (5) 'The Basic Concept of Vedic Religion', ibid., Vol.I5 [x975], pp.107-20. I am also indebted to Prof. Kuiper personally for his most generous help in answering numerous questions both in conversation and in correspondence. 'In the beginning, the universe was only water . . .' Satapatha Brahmana, a13 XI. 1. 6. i. In the Rig-veda the same idea is implied in X. 129. I and in passages where the Waters are invoked as the Mothers (e.g. X. 82.5; X. 17. I. 23.16, and X. 121.7). See also Atharva-veda IV. 2.6. and 8; and XII. o10; 1.8. For an excellent discussion of the Waters in ancient Indian belief, see du Sacrifice, Paris [1898], pp.159 ifespecially SYLVAIN LEVI: La Doctrine 14 A variant Rig-vedic myth tells that the clod was raised from the bottom of the cosmic ocean by the creator-god Prajipati, who dived into the waters in the form of a boar (see KUIPER (4), p.10xo2for discussion of this myth). Later myths include the formation of the earth on the surface of the Waters by a process of coagulation (the best known example being the Myth of the Churning of the Ocean). Connected with the coagulation theory is another variant in which the earth appears in the form of an egg produced by collision of the billows on the surface. However, these and other variants need not detain us, since they have no direct bearing on our subject. 15 We need not bother ourselves with the fact that the Act of Creation is sometimes attributed to other gods who were mythically related to Indra, such as Vishnu, the god of the totality, who first created the space within which Indra performed his heroic r61e. As Kuiper puts it, Indra was born a celestial god avantla lettre. In trying to e16 reconstruct such myths, we should not forget that in the last analysis we are dealing with mysteries,not with narratives expected or even required to be logical. One can hardly doubt that in India as in Western Asia, many details were deliberately couched in terms of mystery. Only rarely does any element of rational reflection enter - as, for instance, in Rig-veda X. 129.6, where the poets admits: 'Whence this creation came into existence . . . that only the Supervisor of this world knows - or perhaps not even He!'

739

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or 'resistance'. Vritra's specific role was to obstruct or lock up the waters within the primordial hill.17 Indra's demiurgic act was to slay the demon and to release the waters while at the same time separating heaven and earth by 'pushing them asunder'18 and 'propping' (stabh-) the sky. As he did this, several other things also occurred simultaneously: (a) The sun was for the first time released from the Cosmic Waters,19 bringing light into the world, and creating Time and the Seasons. (b) Into the vacuum created by the separation of heaven and earth entered wind and atmosphere, making Space.20 (c) As space expanded outwards horizontally, the Four Quarters were born.21 (d) In separating heaven and earth, Indra simultaneously pegged the primordial hill to the bottom of the Cosmic Waters, thus stabilising the universe,22 while out of clefts in the hill flowed the four world rivers into the four regions of
Space.23

In Vedic metaphysical speculations, the Axis Mundi is called skambha,2 from the root skambh-, 'make firm'.25 The

17 Once the clod had risen to the surface and expanded into the primordial hill, the Waters are then imagined as somehow contained within the hill. The earth is henceforth imagined as lying on the Waters or enveloping them like a receptacle (patra), which lends added meaning to the water-pot often depicted at the base of the pillar (Fig. 8). For discussion of this point, see KUIPER (I), p. 1o7, and (3) p.I45. x18 Rig-veda VII. 23. 3. 19 Rig-veda Io. 72.7; I. 7.3; I. 52. 8, and II. 19.3. The simultaneity of Indra's separation of heaven and earth, and his release of the sun, is implied at VIII. 3. 6 and III. 32. 8. For general discussion of Indra's r6le as 'winner of the sun', see especially A. BERGAIGNE:La Religion vidique,Part II, Paris [1878], pp.18794 and F. B. J. KUIPER: 'The Ancient Aryan Verbal Contest', Indo-Iranian Journal, Vol.IV [1960], p.22o; also KUIPER (3), p.145 and 147-. 20 Rig-veda II. 15. 2. 21 The cosmogonic significance of the Four Quarters is more clearly stated in the Brshmanas than in the Vedas. For instance, in Satapatha Brihmana XIV. 3.1. 17, the sun is described as 'four-cornered, because the quarters are his corners'. However, the idea is already implied in Rig-veda I. I24. 3 in a hymn to the dawn; and in Atharva-veda X. 7. 16., the Axis Mundi as skambha (see below and fn.24) is specifically described as the source of the four quarters pradisah). (chatasrah 22 'He who steadied the wavering earth, who stabilized the quaking mountains, who measured out the wide expanse of the atmosphere, who fixed a support for heaven - he, O folk, is Indra!' Rig-veda II. I2.2 (as translated by W. Norman Brown). In this connection, see also KUIPER (4), pp.o103-04, and 1o8-09. 2s Rig-veda X. 139. 6; V. 32. 1; and I. 73. 6. See also KUIPER (3), p.I48, and (4), pp.103-04" is the subject of two well-known hymns in the Atharva-veda (X, 7 24Skamba and 8). These hymns are obscure, but there is a valuable gloss by LOUISRENOU, Publications de l'Institut de Civilisapublished in itudes vidiqueset panneennes, tion indienne, fasc. 2, Paris [1956], pp.79-85. More recently, a commentary has been published in India by ESTHERA. SOLOMON; 'Skambha-hymns of the Atharva-veda', Journal of OrientalInstitute,Baroda, Vol.IX [1960], pp.233-42. and the Surprisingly, neither scholar has understood the link between skambha pillar used by Indra to separate heaven and earth. Miss Solomon admits her bafflement over verses 29-30 of X. 7, which she describes as 'a queer statement that everything is contained in Skambha and this Skambha is Indra; and again that everything is contained in Indra and this Indra in Skambha. Scholars are at a loss as to why Indra and Skambha are identified'. The problem vanishes once one recognizes that in ancient India (and even up to modern times in some areas) Indra was worshipped in the form of the Indra-pillar, about which we shall have more to say presently. The important point is that the Indrapillar was never a mere symbol of the god: the pillar was an actual manifestation of thegod himself.As the Atharva-veda plainly says, Skambha is Indra, and Indra is Skambha. Only when we recognize this can we understand the wellknown passage in Rig-veda IV. 24. 1o, which has been wrongly used by scholars as evidence of idol-worship in Vedic India: 'Who purchases from me this Indra for [the price of] ten milch cows? When he has killed the enemies he must give him/it back to me!' Professor Kramrisch was right when she suggested that the word 'Indra' may have referred here to a portable Indra-pole or -banner used as a battle-standard, which was mystically synonymous with

same root gives Sanskrit stambhaand Pali thambawhich Asoka used for the pillars he inscribed with his edicts. Even in moods of greatest abstraction, skambha is described by the Vedic seers in terms which express the visual image of a pillar. Yet it is important to stress that in Indian as well as many other early cosmogonies, pillar, tree and mountain were used interchangeably as images of the Axis Mundi. Indeed, the cosmic pillar itself is often addressed as a tree (vanaspati, 'Lord of the Forest'),26 and sometimes as a mountain (mahameru,'Great Meru or Mountain').27 Moreover, within the category of cosmic pillar, Indian tradition provides many sub-forms, including the phallus (see below, fn. 31); the sacrificial stake (yiipa, sthiina); the portable battle-standard or Indra-dhvaja(about which we shall have more to say below), and the churning-stick which features in the later myth of the Churning of the Ocean. Yet another name synonymous with the Axis Mundi is Indra-kila, the word kila meaning 'nail' or 'peg' and thus referring to that aspect of Indra's demiurgic act which involved pegging the Primordial Hill to the bottom of the Ocean. Here we are naturally concerned mainly with the Axis Mundi as monumental pillar, and in particular with the association of pillar and sun. We have already recognized that the sun rose for the first time from the cosmic waters at the moment Indra separated heaven and earth. At midday the sun was believed to coincide in its diurnal course with the summit of the pillar, momentarily becoming one with it.28The sun was thereby mythically equated with the Axis Mundi. 'Skambha is the sun', unequivocally states the

the standard used by Indra in his fight against demons, and also with the pillar he used to separate heaven and earth after the demon Vritra had been slain. made her bold suggestion (in 'The However, at the time PROF. KRAMRISCH Banner of Indra', contributed to Art and Thought,essays in honour of A. K. Coomaraswamy, edited by K. Bharatha Iyer, London [1947], pp.197-2o01) she had not recognized the link with the creation myth. On this we shall have more to say presently. For interesting parallels in Buddhism and in Christianity for the Vedic statement that Indra is the pillar, and the pillar is Indra, see below fns.27 and 59. languages,London [1966], of theIndo-Aryan dictionary 25 R. L. TURNER: Comparative s.v. skambha. 26Rig-veda III. 8 (passim). 27MdnasdraXV, line 430 (The architecture of the Mdnasdra, translated by P. K. Acharya, Allahabad [1933], vol.I, p.I74). It is interesting to recall that the figure of Christ was sometimes identified with the cosmic mountain (e.g. St Augustine: '... And what is this Mountain by which we rise if not the Lord Jesus Christ?') Survival of Axis Mundi symbolism in Christianity may also explain those passages in the early scriptures in which Christ is said to be 'like a giant whose head touched the sky', or whose head 'went beyond the heavens'. London [1953], PP-58 and of Buddhism, (For sources, see HENRIDE LUBAC:Aspects veda and Brahmanas, the idea of the sun uniting with the top of the cosmic pillar at midday is implied rather than stated for instance, by the crowning of the yipa with a sun-symbol in the form of a wheel-like headpiece called cashdla,which can be proved to be a sun-symbol by later inscriptions (e.g. the Rewa inscription published by R. D. BANERJI: 'The Haiayas of Tripura and their monuments', Memoirsof Archaeological Surveyof India, No.23 [1931], verse the sun is invoked (Satapatha the of the rite In erecting yfipa, 15, pp.I35-36). Brahmana III. 7. 1. I1). In medieval tradition, the idea of the sun uniting with the axis mundiis very explicit, two classic sources being the I8th of the Thirty-two tales of the throne(translated by E. BURLINGAME in Buddhistlegends, Harvard Oriental Series, Cambridge, Mass. [192 i]) and the Deopara inscription (F. KIELHORN: 'Inscription of Vijayasena', EpigraphiaIndica, Vol.I [1892], see JEANNINE AUBOYER: Le Tr6neet pp.3o5 ff.). For discussion of this symbolism, Paris [1949], PP.74 ifdansl'Indeancienne, son symbolisme
148, fn. 17 and I8.) skambhamena chaskambha (Rig-veda X. III. 5). In the Rig28 Suryena skabh~yana

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Jaiminiya Upanishad Brdhmana;a9 and the same idea is already implied in several passages in the Rig-veda.30 To this basic notion of the equivalence of pillar and sun, we must add another of equal importance to our theme: the creative opposition of sun (fire) and water as the key to the cosmic life-cycle. At the mundane level this can be expressed as a diagram of the rain-cycle (Fig.B). Water, the ultimate source of all existence (see fn. 13) is drawn up to the heavens by the sun where it reassembles as cloud, thence to be released again as rain to nourish plant and other forms of life, before repetition of the same cycle - an endless rotary movement of water governed by the sun, upon which all life in the universe depends. This will recall remarks made in Part III, p.642, about the goose or hamsa which features so conspicuously on the abacuses of 'Alokan' pillars. We described it as symbol of the union of heaven and earth - in other words, the uniting as distinct from the separating aspect of the Axis Mundi. We can now recognize more clearly the hamsa's mythic function of linking the terrestrial and celestial waters - a role succinctly expressed in its Rig-vedic description as 'companion of the never-resting waters', aptly evoking an image of this bird presiding over the continuous circulation of the waters between heaven and earth.

CLOUDS
SUN

-FIRE

TS

WATER

The important point in our context is that the ancient Indians visualised the Axis Mundi as actually founded in the waters below the earth, where all life originated. This is explicitly stated in the Atharva-veda where skambha is described as 'the golden reed/penis standing in the waters.'31 This compels us to ask: is it possible that when votive pillars were erected in India, the presence of water at their foundations was deemed necessary? As far as the Vedic evidence is concerned, some of the groundwork needed to answer this question has already been done by Professor Renou. In a well-known article published in 1939 and entitled 'La maison vedique' he tried to deduce from ancient texts the building techniques employed in the Vedic period, in the course of which he made some interesting remarks on pillars.32 He explained that in erecting pillars for a consecrated building, a strict ritual was involved: first, a hole, knee-deep, was dug; then, after sunset the same evening - but before the shaft was inserted - the hole had to be filled with water!33 The sutra text from which Renou derived his evidence is much earlier than Aloka. Yet, as every student of India knows, in matters of religious ritual, centuries and even millennia mean very little. It is no surprise, therefore, to discover that this very same Vedic rite is still widely practised in India up to the present day, whenever pillars are erected on consecrated ground. For instance, this rite was recently witnessed in the compound of the famous Sri-rangam temple in South India by Mlle. Jeannine Auboyer, Conservateur of the Musde Guimet. In a letter to me she writes: 'First, a hole, kneedeep, was dug. [This was the hole for the first of forty-seven pillars to be erected for a pavilion in the temple compound.] Then, after sunset, the two temple-elephants were assembled at the spot, and, to the accompaniment of music played by the temple orchestra, water was ceremoniously poured into the hole. Immediately after this, the shaft was inserted.' This, in fact, is only one among innumerable examples which could be cited to show that even to-day, when a sacred pillar of any kind is erected, the presence of water at its foundations has to be ritually ensured. A few easily verifiable examples will suffice.

B. The Rain Cycle.

The idea of the divided waters will remind Christians of the opening passages of the creation story as told in the Book of Genesis, where the same idea is embodied: '. . . And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters . . . And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters". And so God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above . . .'

29

'The sun is a sky-supporting pillar'. Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana I. io. E.g. Rig-veda IV. 13. 5.-

9-10.
30

31 tisthantamsalile veda, sa vai guhyah Prajdpatih'.W. D. 'yo vetasamhiranyayam Whitney translated this passage as follows: 'He who knows the golden reed standing in the sea, he verily is in secret Prajapati.' It is tempting to suggest the possibility of the sexual overtone of reed/penis, since vaitasa, derivative of vetasa,is very obviously used in Rig-veda X. 95 in the sense of 'penis'. However, Prof. Kuiper, who gave me this reference, points out that this is the only case in Sanskrit literature in which the word is used in this sense. On the other hand, the identification of cosmic pillar with phallus is independently evidenced in the Shiva cult (e.g. by the famous Gudimallam sculpture of a phallus usually attributed to second century B.C.). 32 Journal asiatique,Paris pp.48I-5043 Prof. Renou did not [19391], point out that the same kind of ritual gesture is made when the yipa or sacrificial stake of the Vedic altar is erected. For the yzpa as cosmic pillar, see my article 'The Heliodorus Pillar - a fresh appraisal', originResearch ally published as a lecture report in Art and Archaeology Papers,London No.6 [1974], pp. 1-13, and now due to appear in expanded form in Purdtattva, Bulletin of the Indian Archaeological Society, New Delhi, No.7.

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Anybody who has attended a traditional wedding in Gujarat or Maharashtra will be familiar with the type of miniature pillar drawn at Fig.C, which commonly appears at the entrance to the wedding-pavilion. It will be noted that the pillar stands in a water-pot, already explained as commonly featuring in Indian art as symbol of the cosmic waters. Recently, when visiting Gujarat, I asked Professor Rasiklal Parikh, a leading expert C. Marriage pillar (mani- on traditional rites and customs, if he stambha) of painted could explain the significance of their wood, in a water-pot of painted earthencombination in the marriage context, ware. From Maharwithout indicating in advance the ashtra modern. reason for my interest. He explained that the water-pot in this case is a relatively modern introduction. In earlier tradition, the marriage pillar (manistambha) had been a large post, and as part of the rites involved in its erection five days before the wedding, it was obligatory to fill the shaft-hole with water: nowadays when a miniature pillar is used, the water-pot is used as symbolic substitute for the water originally poured into the hole.34 A few weeks later, while touring 'Abokan' pillar sites in the rural areas of northern Bihar and the Nepalese foothills where most of them are concentrated, I noticed that most of the irrigation ponds in this area had pillars or poles standing in the middle of the water (Fig.9). This, I was told, was 'ancient custom'. Whenever a pond was dug or renewed, a pillar or pole was erected in the centre as part of the rite of consecration. The idea behind the rite was that the pillar represented ant organ of generation (cf. fn. 31, above), and that in order to ensure the fecundity of the water used for agriculture, the pond had to be impregnated by the heavens - in other words (as another informant expressed it), 'heaven and earth had to be married'.35 The idea of heaven and earth (dydvd-prithivi) as the parents (janitri) of the universe is also part of the Vedic cosmogony. And since human marriage has its divine model in the creation of the world, which was initiated by the

separation of heaven and earth and consummated by their bridal re-union, the 'marriage' of heaven and earth has been ritually re-enacted at every Indian wedding ceremony from Vedic times up to the present day. 'I am Heaven; thou art Earth', recites bridegroom to bride in the Hindu marriage rite; and exactly the same words are exchanged between bridegroom and bride in the marriage ceremony described in the Atharva-veda,36 where each gesture in the act of lovemaking is equated to the sacred drama of the cosmic deities.37 In the Upanishads, where the same formula is repeated, the act of impregnation is treated as a cosmic drama in itself.38 For us, the particular interest of the ritual centring upon the ponds in north Bihar is that the terrestrial partner in the marriage between heaven and earth is the pond itself (i.e. water), whereas the organ of procreative union is the pillar which, as we have seen, was equated both with the sun and with the phallus. So once again we recognize the theme of the creative opposition of the sun and the terrestrial waters in motivating the life-cycle of the universe. To become aware of the relevance of this theme to art, we do not need to go beyond the folk-paintings of this region as they survive up to the present day in the form of murals. This art is essentially transient, since the walls are made of mud and frequently have to be rebuilt or replastered, and the paintings are made afresh for each festive occasion. At Fig.I i we reproduce a drawing on paper made locally in imitation of one of these murals.39 It depicts a lotus pond, and arising out of it a sun-pillar.40 The sun is depicted in its diurnal course,41 coinciding with the top of the pillar at midday. Every detail of this design is traditional, highly self-conscious, and charged with specific meaning. Indeed, everything would suggest that the basic pattern and its symbolism have been current in this area (where the greatest number of 'Agokan' pillar-remains are concen-

34The association of the marriage pillar with water at its foundations is also stressed in the priests' recitations which accompany the marriage ceremony. This oral tradition is incorporated in a Sanskrit anthology entitled Vinahapaddhati, compiled by Vallabharam Sukla and published in Ahmedabad in 1924, a copy of which was shown to me by Professor Parikh. 5 On a separate occasion I wrote requesting information about the pillars-inponds to Dr Kalyan Kumar Dasgupta, Reader in the Department of Ancient Indian History and Culture, University of Calcutta, who replied as follows: 'The central pole in the pond is looked upon as the husband of the water spirit, and it is believed that until the pond is wedded its water will not be sweet, it will only increase thirst and will cause disease; the pole-husband prevents the evil spirits from haunting unmarried tanks. The customary ritual of such marriages is that the relatives of the owner assemble, and as in the case of a marriage in the family, the owner impersonates the husband, and a kinswoman, the wife; gifts are given to Brahmans, a feast is held in the garden, and thus the water acquires the fertilizing power, and it may be used without danger.'

36Atharva-veda XIV. 2. 71. 3 Ibid, XIV. I. 48, 49 and 5338'. . . I am heaven and you are earth. Come let us strive together, let us mix semen that we may have a male child.' Brihadaranyaka Upanishad VI. 4. 21 (translated by s. RADHAKRISHNAN:The principal Upanishads,London [1953], p.327). 39The practice of having these murals reproduced on paper and sold in the craft shops of Patna, Delhi, Bombay and elsewhere was initiated from outside and is a very recent innovation, intended to relieve the present-day poverty of the area. In recent years, women of Mithila who are heirs to this very ancient tradition of mural painting have been brought to Delhi and elsewhere in the r6le of 'artists' to decorate walls for the profane enjoyment of a populace ignorant of their original sacred purpose. As a result they are inevitably losing the aesthetic vitality they once derived from the intensity of the religious experience. 40 1 am greatly indebted to Dr Erica Moser of the Stid-Asien Institut, University of Heidelberg, who educated me in the meaning of these paintings, and thus enabled me to recognize their relevance to the interpretation of 'Asokan' pillars (at which I had independently arrived, before I met her). There is not space here to do justice to the very valuable ideas and information she has accumulated from fieldwork in Mithila District, but we are planning to develop jointly our ideas on the relationship between the symbolism of Mithili painting and the symbolism of 'Asokan' pillars in another context. 41 Dr Moser tells me that the Mithili painters, when asked about the meaning of their paintings, were very definite in claiming the pillar as a 'sun-pillar' founded in water, but the orbs we have identified as representing the diurnal course of the sun they claimed to represent lotus-flowers. For a number of different reasons this interpretation is unconvincing and suggests that this part of the original mythical meaning is forgotten.

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trated42) not merely for centuries but for millennia, notwithstanding an unstable political history and innumerable social and religious upheavals which have nevertheless left the earliest cult beliefs intact. Such paintings were not of course made for profane decoration. The walls for which they were intended were those of the marriage-pavilion. Their function was the sacred one of depicting the archetypal act of generation in other words, the Creation - or more specifically, heaven uniting with earth following their creation as a duality. This consummation is expressed as the sun (fire) acting upon water through the agency of the cosmic pillar, metaphysically synonymous with phallus. In short, the design at Fig. i i is conceived strictly for the purpose of assisting the ritual re-enactment of the archetypal act of generation, regarded as necessary for the fertility of the human marriage. By reverse logic, the world itself was felt to be regenerated each time a marriage took place. The message of the cosmic pillar founded in the waters we have now recognized in the most ancient texts, on the one hand, and in folk-tradition surviving up to the present day, on the other. But what about the two or more thousand years between? Naturally, if our hypothesis is correct we should expect to find the same message in the arts of the intervening millennia. We do. At Fig.I12, for instance, is a Gandhara relief of the third or fourth century A.D. depicting the Teaching Buddha seated on a lotus-throne in the heavens. The throne is supported by a pillar which extends downwards, through the Navel of the Earth, to the Cosmic Waters symbolized by waves, fish, serpents and various other aquatic figures. At Fig.I 3 is a fifth-century relief outside the Kdrli cavetemple - one among innumerable sculptures of the same period showing the Buddha on a lotus-throne preaching to the Bodhisattvas (a favourite subject of later Buddhist art). The throne is poised over a Wheel of Law which is the crowning emblem of the pillar, the latter extending downwards through the Navel of the Earth to the Waters, symbolized in this case by a pair of human-headed waterserpents (ndgas) paying homage to the pillar at its foundations. The same message can be found in the arts of the extreme north and of the extreme south, as well as in all regions between. For instance, in Nepal it is not uncommon to find that sacred pillars stand on the backs of tortoises (Fig.Io), the latter symbolizing both the Waters and the idea of 'stability'.43 For the extreme south, we cite the example of the monumental stone pillar bearing a gilt-copper emblem of Garuda which stands in the compound of the Vishnu

ZE ITH

SUNRISE

SUNSET

NADIR
D. The Cosmic Pillar founded in the Cosmic Ocean, at the navel of the earth.

temple at Tiruvalli in Kerala State, discussed in Part III.44 When this pillar was first published in 1929, the author reported a local legend that 'the bottom end [of this pillar] touches water underground'.45 In the light of this accumulating evidence it cannot be doubted that Indians imagined the cosmic pillar as founded in the Cosmic Ocean, and that after penetrating our terrestrial sphere at the Earth's Navel it extended to the celestial sphere where it was touched by the sun at its zenith. The drawing at Fig.D illustrates this vision diagrammatically, taking into account the fact that in India the sun is usually imagined as rising on the left. (This association of East with the left is explained by Fig.E, showing that Indians looked southwards to the sun for axial focus, rather than northwards to the pole star as we do.)46

Papers, series 2 [1929], p.68. Puzzled by this information, the author supposed that the choice of watery foundations was to guarantee efficient earthing for lightning in thunderstorms! Whether the pillar is actually founded in water has not been investigated: for us, the significant point is that it was believed to be. In Cambodia, where the foundation of temples over water has been recorded as an archaeological fact, this also met with surprise. For instance, in 1932 when archaeologists explored the foundations of the famous Bayon temple, they were astonished to find that the enormous central tower was sited immediately over a sheet of water (M. G. TROUV1, reporting in Bulletinde l'Ecole
franfaise d'Extre'me-Orient, Vol.XXXIII

44Part III of this series, p.632, fn. xI. 45 V. RAGHAVAN NAMBYAR: 'Annals and antiquities

of Tiruvalla',

Kerala Society

42For map illustrating this, see Part II in this series, p.715, Fig. C. Mithila District (where the murals are painted) is not marked but is located immediately to the East of the line of pillars stretching from RdmpfirvA southwards to the Ganges. 43Significantly, the tortoise features in Hindu treatises on architecture in association with the foundation stone of temples. M. A. Dhaky, commenting on this in a very interesting article, mentions it as a stability symbol but does not refer to its associations with the cosmic waters which must have been the primary meaning if we are correct in our overall interpretation. (M. A. DHAKY: 'Prisdda as Cosmos', Adyar Library Bulletin, Madras, Vol.XXXV [1i971], pp.215 and 218.)

ally realised that a similar practice prevailed in ancient Egypt and is recorded in texts. It is of particular interest to us that the name given to the water, which had to be visible when the foundations of the temple were laid, was Nut, which Egyptian myth also identified with the cosmic ocean from which the primordial hill emerged in their own version of the Creation story. The temple, when completed, was identified with the hill itself, just as the much later Hindu temple was identified with Mount Meru, the cosmic mountain of post-Vedic tradition. (For references to the Egyptian sources, see H. BRUNNER: 'Zum Raumbegriff der Agypter', StudiumGenerale, Heidelberg, Vol.X [1957], p.619.) It is well known that Babylon was similarly believed to have been built directly over apsi, which was their term for the Waters of Chaos before the Creation. In Hebrew tradition, the Rock of Jerusalem was mythically conceived as founded in the same Waters, which they called tehkm.For further discussion of this aspect, see MIRCEA ELIADE:Imagesandsymbols:studiesin religious symbolism, 4 Once again I am greatly indebted to Miss Margaret Hall for the drawings published with this article and for the lead she has given me in matters of visual presentation.
London [I96I], pp.41 ff.

[1933], p.I 1I7). It is perhaps not gener-

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ZENITH

/\7 /ZI
SOUTK

0.
"(

!;i

"-,-;

,, ,:

E. Diagram to show the reason for the Indian tendency to focus southward with Sunrise on the left.

Up to this point we have not provided any textual evidence to prove that 'Adokan' pillars, in common with all other forms of the cosmic pillar in India, were traditionally regarded as being mythically founded in the cosmic waters. Unfortunately there is no mention of these monuments in any surviving text of the first millennium B.C. (apart from the edicts engraved on their shafts); but there does exist one fragment of literary evidence which, although not contemporary with the erection of the pillars, nevertheless gives a clear hint of what people thought about the meaning of the pillars at least 500 years ago. This evidence has been ignored hitherto by scholars trying to interpret the pillars, yet, as we shall see, it is very relevant to the interpretation gradually emerging from independent sources. It appears unexpectedly in a chronicle of the reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq (A.D. 135 Imost zealously Islamic rulers of the Delhi I388) one of the Sultanate. It is well-known that this so-called 'hater of infidels' showed much personal interest in 'Abokan' pillars in spite of the fact that he could have had no knowledge of their historical origin. He even went to the trouble of having two of them dismantled and brought to Delhi, where they stand today as topless shafts.47 One of them was brought from Topra,48 and the other from Meerut, 150 and 7o km. away respectively. Why did this admitted iconoclast go to

the immense trouble of transporting these giant monoliths long distances in order to re-erect them at his capital- and in the case of the Topra pillar, to site it immediately in front of his own mosque - which was surely the acme of heresy? Obviously, there must have been some motive other than megalomania. Did he know or suspect that the pillars embodied some kind of religious or magical power? An answer is clearly hinted in the contemporary chronicle of his reign entitled Sirat-i Firuz Shahi, since the anonymous author bothers to record what the 'infidels' said about this pillar: 'Some of the learned infidels, on the authority of their Hindi books, said that the pillar had grown out of the [bowels of the] earth and reached the heavens'.49 One could hardly expect more vivid confirmation of the interpretation we have independently reached. And this is perhaps the moment to recall that this notorious bigot and 'hater of infidels' had been brought up by his Hindu mother, after his father had died. Is it possible that all the stories about his rigid orthodoxy were, after all, mere smokescreens invented to conceal the reality of a religious temperament which was exactly the opposite? This is a question it might be worth historians examining.5o Returning now to the Creation Myth as key to the symbolism of the pillars, we have already seen that when heaven and earth were separated and the sun released from the cosmic ocean, the waters were thenceforth divided and made to circulate between the celestial and terrestrial spheres as the rain-cycle. On the abacuses of the pre-Agokan pillars the celestial waters are symbolized by 'honeysuckle' or lotus motifs. Presiding over their circulation is the goose or hamsa (described in the Rig-veda as 'companion of the never-resting waters'). Because of this particular r6le, the hamsa was closely associated with Indra, who set the cycle in motion. We have also seen that Indra, in recognition of his heroic act, was made king of the gods. Indra's creative act was

who described it in mosque at Hissar in the Punjab. ALEXANDER CUNNINGHAM, suggested that it might Archaeological Survey Reports, Vol.V [1875], pp.140-I42, has also been claimed as 'Asokan', but less convincingly
(B.

4 These may not have been the only 'Agokan' pillars dismantled and reerected by Firuz Shah. A topless pillar-shaft of so-called 'Chunar' sandstone, bearing traces of an early Br5hmi script, stands in the compound of a Sultanate be 'Asokan' in origin. Another standing in a mosque courtyard at Fatehabad
CH. CHHABRA:

** I have quoted the translation given by Mohammad Hamid Kuraishi and quoted by J. A. PAGE: 'A memoir on Kotla Firoz Shah, Delhi', Memoirsof the Archaeological Surveyof India, No.52 [I937], P-34. A more literal translation has recently been offered to me by Dr P. Hardy, Reader in the History of Islam in South Asia, London University, as follows: 'Some of the imams (leaders) of unbelief recorded the story from Hindi books that this stone (pillar) came forth (or grew) beneath the (moist) earth and carried its head to the Third Mansion of the Moon (Pleiades)'. Dr Hardy, in a personal letter dated I4th May 1975, adds the following interesting comments. 'The style of the anonymous author of the Sirat-i Firuz Shahi could be relevant to the meaning of this passage. He is given to the use of homographs or near homographs. Thus sard (earth or moist earth) is placed in juxtaposition to suraiyd (third lunar mansion) since they appear to have the same root. On sard, Lane's ArabicLexicon,I, p.336, is positive that the idea of moisture is contained in the word; whether one can go beyond 'moist earth' to 'waters' is however doubtful. The anonymous author could have heard some garbled account of what the 'imamsof kufr' said and merely have chosen an Arabic word in sard to act as one of the two elements in a homographic relationship in the sentence. Kuraishi in interpolating ['bowels of the'] may have stretched the meaning of 'taht', which is used in Arabic as the accusative of 'tahtun', 'the lower or under part', to signify the equivalent of 'below', 'beneath', 'under' (see WRIGHT: A Grammar Undoubtedly relevant in this connection is the curious story (told only in the context of its official and strenuous 'denial') that when on an expedition to Nagarkot in 1360, Firuz Shah placed a golden parasol over the head of an idol in a temple. The source is the contemporary chronicle by Shams ud-din Siraf 'Afif entitled Ta'rikh-i Firuz Shahi (see modern edition by MAULAVI
10 VILAYAT HUSAIN,

'Asokan Pillar at Hissar, Punjab', Vishveshvarand Journal, published Indological by the Vishveshvarand Vedic Research Institute, Hoshiarpur, Vol.II [1964], pp.319-22).
48

of the Arabic Language, vol.II,

Cambridge

[1955], p.182).

A. GHOSH,

Cunningham's identification of the Topra mentioned in the chronicle of Firuz Shah's reign as the original site of the pillar with a place named Topra or Tobra in the Punjab (Archaeological SurveyReport,Vol.XIV, Calcutta [1882], p.78) 'is not established beyond doubt', but he does not argue the case.

former Director General of Archaeology,

expressed the view that

Bibliotheca

Indica,

Vol.19,

Calcutta

I am grateful to Dr P. Hardy for this reference.

[x1891], pp.I86-87).

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therefore the paradigm for the earthly king who ruled by divine right of the king of the gods and as agent of cosmic law or dharmain his own kingdom. In order to fulfil this regal duty and to endow himself with the auspicious sanction and potency needed for his terrestrial r6le, the earthly king was expected to re-enact ritually Indra's primordial deed of slaying the demon and erecting the cosmic pillar. In this way his people were assured, not only of the firm upholding of moral law and justice, but also of the rain and fertility which they regarded as dependent on the maintenance of moral order in the kingdom.51 According to legend, Indra gave the pillar in the form of a portable pole or yashti to the first terrestrial king - king Vasu - with instructions that he and all subsequent earthly kings were to worship it annually.52 This rite was already being practised in Rig-vedic times;53 and it is yet another instance of the conservatism of Indian ritual tradition that in some parts of India it is enacted by rulers up to the present day (see Fig.16). Known as the Indra Festival or it is annually celebrated at the gates of the Indra-mahotsava, A royal palace. pillar or pole is ceremoniously erected, then decorated and worshipped as a manifestation of the richly actual presence of the god.54 Texts show clearly that the rite had a dual objective: on the one hand, to give the king power to vanquish his enemies; on the other, to ensure rain and fertility. These two aims may at first strike one as disparate; but as soon as their interconnection is recognized in terms of the Creation Myth, they are seen to be synonymous, since Indra's victory over the demon was the divine model both of military conquest and of control over the forces of nature.
51 In traditional Indian thought there was no differentiation between the stability required of the cosmos, and the just and orderly rule of a king. Hence there was close interdependence between the laws governing fertility, on the one hand, and good social ethics on the other. In the MahAbhdrata it is said that a king, by ruling unjustly, could cause the fruits of the earth to lose their taste. According to Satapatha BrAhmana XI. 1. 6. 24. there is close association between rain and the maintenance of law: drought and disorder go together, as do rain and orderly rule. The same interdependence between royal justice and material prosperity is discernible in other ancient cultures, including Babylonian (see BRUNO MEISSNER: Babylonienund Assyrien, Heidelberg [ig92o], Vol.I, pp.65 ff.) and Homeric Greece (Odyssey,XIX, iog). For an excellent discussion of the Indian point of view, see j. GONDA: Les religions de l'Inde: Vidismeet Hindouisme ancien,Paris [x962], pp.344-46. 52The best known of the many sources are MahAbharata I. 57. 21, and Brihatsamita, chapter 43. These and other sources are discussed in j. J. MEYER'S classic study: Trilogie AltindischerMachte und Feste der Vegetation,Part III, Zuirich and Leipzig [x937]. Meyer's study is still indispensable, although most scholars would agree that he over-emphasized Indra's character as a vegetative or fertility god. This aspect is discussed in an important addendum to the subject by j. GONDA: 'The Indra Festival according to the Atharvavedins', Journal of AmericanOrientalSociety,Vol.87 [1967], pp.41x3-29. However, in our opinion Gonda underplays the cosmogonic significance of the festival. 13 In Rig-veda I. io. I., worshippers are said to raise Indra aloft as a pole. (See also reference to Rig-veda IV. 24. io quoted in fn. 24.) Other probable references in the Rig-veda to Indra in the form of a pole are IV. 17. 4 and VIII. 1. 5. "We should be reminded here of the passage in the Atharva-veda (X. 7. 29-3o), regarded as baffling by some scholars, which states that Indra is the Axis Mundi (skambha),and viceversa- see fn. 24 above. On the other hand, it is hardly necessary to concern ourselves here with the Brihatsamita version (chapter 43, verses 3 and 6) which says that Indra was in the first place given the pole by Vishnu, although this has very interesting implications regarding the theory, advanced by several scholars, that Vishnu rather than Indra was pre-eminently the god of Axis Mundi. According to KUIPER (x), passim, Indra was associated with the Axis Mundi only in the momentary act of creating the world, not otherwise.

Thus, at the annual Indra Festival, the earthly king identifies himself with the king of the gods in his r6le of creating the world. In this way he ensures the return of spring and, more specifically, perpetuates the rotation of the waters between heaven and earth, with which the hamsawas identified. Significantly we learn from the Mahdbhhrata's version of the story that when Indra initiated this Festival in his own honour by giving the Indra-pole to the first terrestrial king, he appeared before him in the guise of a hamsa!55 The meaning of this rite becomes still clearer when we recognize that the Indra-pole is mythically synonymous not only with the pillar separating heaven and earth but also with the sacred standard or dhvajawhich Indra carried into battle against the demons. In Part II of this series (pp. 714-15) we described the Indra-dhvajain paradoxical terms as 'a sort of portable Axis Mundi'. In the period of the epic wars (first half of the first millennium B.C.) such standards played an important part in inter-tribal warfare. They were believed to ensure divine protection to the warrior-king, and many references show that the first aim in inter-tribal warfare was destruction of the enemy's standard, because a king bereft of his standard no longer received divine protection 'at the centre of the universe'. In the epic period, standards were surmounted by insignia, either in the form of emblems or of painted flags. An example of the former is shown here at Fig.2o, another having been reproduced in Part II (Fig.3). In the earlier context we pointed out (p.715) that the so-called 'AMokan' pillar, in its formal and aesthetic lineage, was very obviously related to the portable standard. This had already been noted by A. K. Mitra writing in the 1930's,56 yet the significance of this link had never been explored by him or anyone since, because the cosmogonical meaning of the Indradhvaja was not fully understood. One of the most learned experts on Indian iconography reversed the truth when, in discussion of 'Asokan' pillars, he implied that the sacred message was embodied in the animal figures,57 not in the columns themselves.58 The pillar used to separate heaven

55Not all editions retain the word hamsa, but Meyer argued that it was the original and authentic one. 56 A. K. MrrRA: 'The Mauryan Lats or Dhvaja-stambhas', Journaland Proceedings of Asiatic Societyof Bengal, New Series, Vol.XXIX [1933], pp.317-26. 'Indian votive and memorial 57JITENDRANATHBANERJEE: columns', Journal of theIndian Societyof OrientalArt, Vol.V [I937], pp.14-15. 68 This opinion was confirmed for me on my recent tour of the 'Agokan' pillar sites. By odd coincidence, my visit to Lauriya-Nandangarh coincided with the annual festival held at the site of the lion-pillar. At sunrise I noticed many people paying homage to the pillar and in several cases asked them what deity they were worshipping. They each gave the same answer: 'Lat-baba', literally, 'Lord or Father of the Rod or Staff'. The lion on top meant nothing to them at all and they were unable to explain it. The part sacred to them was the shaft. We should be reminded here again of the statement in Atharva-veda that 'Indra is the pillar, and the pillar is Indra' (see fn. 24). Also, the seventhcentury account of the Chinese traveller Hs/ian Tsang of how worshippers actually saw the figure of the Buddha in the bright mirror-like surface of an 'AMokan'pillar (s. BEAL: Buddhistrecordsof the WesternWorld, Vol.II [1884], modern Delhi reprint p.45), suggests that in the minds of the faithful the Master was identified, not with the lions on top (as often claimed) but with the shaft itself. There are of course interesting parallels in Christian texts where the Cross is equated with the actual body of Christ. For instance, St Hippolytus addressed the Cross as the body of Christ 'nailed down by the invisible nails

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and earth, which is the divine model of every votive pillar, did not of course bear any emblem. Thus, when emblems are placed on top of votive pillars they are not there to designate the sacred function but usually to identify the Axis Mundi with a particular sect or cult. A Westerner who grasps the religious significance of Indra's banner should recognize a parallel in the r6le played in Christian tradition by the Cross as emblem of the 'Church militant'. For English Protestants this is associated with childhood memories of singing the hymn which begins: 'Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, With the Cross of Jesus, going on before . . .' The Cross of Jesus with which we were 'marching as to war', to the accompaniment of the superbly martial music by Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame), can be recognized as part of the Christian inheritance from the cult of the Axis Mundi. In other words, it was synonymous with the Tree of Life which grew in Paradise, at the Navel of the Earth, marking the very spot where Christ was later to be crucified.59 Our militancy was guiltless because instead of

of the Spirit, so that he will never waiver in his fidelity to the divine, touching the sky with the crown of his head, establishing the earth with his feet, and in the space between heaven and earth embracing the innumerable spirits of the earth with his immeasurable hands'. Thus the Cross is at the same time Christ in person and the Axis Mundi (see also fn. 59). The same is clearly implied in the Byzantine liturgy, and in the Ethiopic Bookof the Mysteriesof the Heavens and theEarth, translated by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, London [I9351-. 59The early Christian teachers described the Cross of Jesus in terms very obviously inherited from the cult of the Axis Mundi which earlier Hebrew tradition had so strenuously tried to suppress (embodied in the many Old Testament injunctions to the Israelites to '. . . overthrow their altars, break down their pillars and burn their groves', Deut. I2.3). For instance, in a passage variously attributed to St Hippolytus and to St John Chrysostom, the Cross is likened to 'a tree going up from earth into the heavens; it is the plant of immortality, rising in the middle of heaven and earth - the firm prop of the universe, joining all things together, the support of the whole inhabited earth, twining the cosmos together and including in itself the whole medley of human nature . . .' See also the Apocryphal Acts of StJohn, 99, said to date from not later than the second century A.D., where the Cross is described as 'that which fixed all things apart', connecting all things, and containing all things (as Oxford [1924], p.255). New Testament, translated by M. R. JAMES:The Apocryphal No less revealing in this connection is the Byzantine liturgy as still sung today, describing the Cross as 'The Tree of Life planted on Calvary, the Tree on which the King of Ages wrought our salvation', and which 'rising up from the depths of the earth . . . stands at the centre of the earth [i.e. at the Earth's Navel] . . .' and 'sanctifies to the furthest bounds of the universe.' 'O surpassing miracle, the length and breadth of the Cross stretch as far as the heavens!' Quoted from the translation in H. DE LUBAC: Aspects of Buddhism,London where Buddhist parallels are noted. Even more apposite [I953], PP.54-55, to our immediate context, the Cross ofJesus is sometimes described in Christian texts in words interchangeable with those used to describe Indra's portable dhvajaor banner-of-victory. E.g. St Andrew addresses the Cross: 'O Cross, trophy of the victory [of Christ] over enemies!' (M. R. JAMES, op. cit., p.359.) into battle - and for 60 Of course, to the warrior-hero carrying the Indra-dhvaja of the sixteenth century carrying the that matter to the Portuguese conquistadore was a demon who was not of your Cross of Jesus into colonial war - everyone own kith and kin, and the worst demons of all were those inhabiting territory you wanted to pillage or occupy. So much so that in reading the Rig-veda we are seldom sure if the demons being scattered under Indra's banner were in fact flesh-and-blood humans branded as 'demons', or the mythical agents of Darkness and Chaos properly deserving the label 'demons'. According to Professor Gonda, it is not always possible to know if a particular name is being applied to a human or to a mythical demon (e.g. Sambara, which is a name used in the Rig-veda with this ambivalence). It is as if the distinction is sometimes deliberately blurred and that we are not meant to know. Within strictly cosmological terms of reference, this is very understandable. The identification of humans with demons had its origin in the ancient belief that only one's own inhabited and ordered area constituted the microcosm. Regions outside were synonymous with Darkness and Chaos. So it followed that any foreign invader was automatically a demonic agent seeking to upset established order

slaughtering fellow-humans in the real world we were mythically scattering demons, banishing chaos, releasing the waters, and establishing fertility and abundance in the Kingdom of Christ! The territory we were conquering was nothing less than the whole universe as defined by the Four Quarters.60 As we have already seen, from the religious angle the shaft of a votive pillar was more important than any emblem it may, or may not, have borne. In a discussion of 'Agokan' pillars, this does not of course absolve the art historian from giving the emblem the attention it deserves as the principal aestheticfeature of the monuments. However, there is in fact very little it can tell us about the meaning of the pillars which we have not already learned. The bull and elephant capitals at Figs.2 1 and 22 we now know to be the earliest surviving types. From literary sources we can infer the former existence of at least four more pillars with bulls or elephants.01 There is no positive evidence that any of them bore Adokan inscriptions or had any other connection with AMoka.The question as to whether they might even pre-date the Maurya dynasty must, at the present stage of our knowledge, be left open.02 Elephant and bull derive from a common reservoir of Indian fertility symbols from which all post-Vedic religions have drawn, each adapting them to its own legends and doctrine. The elephant, for instance, served as Indra's carrier,63 and as agent of the Buddha's conception. Perhaps because of this animal's mythical r6le as the mount of Indra, king of the gods, it was pre-eminently the vehicle of earthly kings, too. Indeed, the elephant was almost synonymous with terrestrial kingship and power. Yet, this is only one aspect of its mythical r6le, and perhaps not the most important. The elephant also had cosmic associations - in particular as symbol of the celestial blessing of rain. Thus, in epic poetry it is described as the animal which 'draws

and to return the microcosm to Chaos. Thus in Egypt, while the Pharoah was likened to the god R6 who slew the dragon Apophis, Egypt's enemies were identified with the dragon and called 'sons of ruin, wolves, dogs', etc. In this connection see MIRCEA ELIADE: Images and symbols,London [1961], pp.37-38, from whom the Egyptian reference is taken. 61 The Bodh Gaya pillar originally had an elephant on top, as we know from depictions in relief sculptures (see Part I of this series, pp.716- 7, and Fig.21). Another 'Asokan' pillar with an elephant on top was noted by Hsuian Tsang at Rajgir in the seventh century A.D. (s. BEAL: Si-yu-ki: Buddhistrecords of the WesternWorld,Vol.II, London [1906], p.165). Additional bull pillars included the Allahabad-Kosam pillar (see Fn.2 above). Another bull pillar was described by Hsiian Tsang outside the Jetvana monastery at Sravasti. Beal's translation of this passage was noted as incorrect by VINCENT SMITH (in Zeitschrift der Vol.LXV [1911], p.222). He approved DeutschenMorgenlandischen Gesellschaft, the earlier translation by T. WATTERS: On TuanChwang'sTravelsin India, Vol.I [1904-o5], p.383. 62 On the evidence at present available, it is not possible to say more about the dates of the pre-A'okan pillars. 63The myth of the elephant Airdvata as Indra's mount is post-Vedic.According to the Vedic Index there are only two references to the elephant in the Rigveda, where it is called mrigahastin (lit. 'the animal with a hand'), suggesting that it was a novelty to the authors of that work. On the other hand, the appearance of the elephant on seals of the Harappan culture suggests that it was already a sacred animal in the pre-Aryan India. Moti Chandra thought that the elephant had been assimilated with pre-Aryan matriarchal cults long before it was assimilated to Indo-Aryan mythology ('Studies in the cult of the Mother Goddess in ancient India', Prince of Wales Museum Bulletin, No.12, Bombay [1973], pp.3o0-31).

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water for the welfare of mankind'64 - the discharge of water from its trunk being a visual symbol of that concept. In the myths of the Churning of the Ocean, it emerges as one of the 'seven precious jewels' which are churned out of the primordial waters.65 The bull, on the other hand, is more especially associated with sexual potency - at any rate in pre-Hindu myth.66 Even more significant to us, the Vedas and Brahmanas identify the bull specifically with Indra. In Atharva-veda IX. 4. 9. a bull is addressed as Indra; and in Satapatha Brahmana II. 5. 3. 18. Indra's form is said to be that of a bull. Since we need a new name for the so-called 'Adokan' pillars we now know to be of pre-Abokan type, we could probably not do better than call them 'Indra pillars'. The lion, on the other hand, had no link with Indra. Indeed, it had no divine r6le at all in any of the pre-Buddhist religions of India. If we are right in seeing the Vai'li pillar as the earliest of the lion-pillars, it is tempting to think that India might have adopted the lion as emblem in the period of the Nanda dynasty (about 360 to 324 B.C.),67 and there is no doubt from where the idea came. In Western Asia, and also in Egypt, the lion from earliest times had served as dual symbol of the sun, and of the king as earthly substitute for the divinity of the sun. The same association was reinforced by links on other levels as well. The lion is 'king of beasts'. Kingship is the inevitable counterpart of its legendary strength and nobility. It is a conqueror, and its golden mane can be likened to the sun in its glory. There is no evidence that India had shared the longestablished western cult-symbol of the lion before the second half of the first millennium B.C., and the question therefore naturally arises as to why the lion should have replaced the bull and elephant as emblem of the pillars. Here we can offer two possible explanations.

By the fourth century B.C., the Indra cult was in decline in India,68 at least as far as the metropolitan courts were concerned.69 Although the Nanda and Maurya kings may have paid lip-service to Indra as king of the gods and therefore as their divine patron, the real model of Indian kingship was by this time more worldly than celestial: in part, at least, it was the sovereignty of the Achaemenids, who ruled the largest and most powerful empire the world had ever known, and whose edicts (and even the actual wording) scholars have long recognized as having influenced the style of AMoka'sedicts.70 A second possible explanation is that the Nanda or Maurya kings may have chosen the lion in preference to bull or elephant for the very reason that the lion was at that time without obvious cult associations in India, and therefore 'conveniently available for use as a symbol of a new conception of royalty.'71 The relatively late appearance of lion-symbolism in India is inconsistent with stylistic observations made about the lion-capitals in Part I of this series. They clearly represent a heraldic beast of foreign pedigree,7 embodying nothing of the intuitive sympathy characteristic of Indian animal art through the ages. The open mouth, protruding tongue, and incised moustache were established conventions of West Asian lion-sculpture at least from the second millennium B.c.; and more tenuously the lineage can be traced back to Mesopotamian art of the third millennium.73 The lion in its wild state was not unknown in India, but it was rare in comparison with its appearance in Western Asia. Careful examination of the anatomy of the beasts on the Sdrndth and Sanchi capitals (especially the detailed treatment of the forelimbs) leaves no doubt that the masons who carved them had been working from already stylized models, and without first-hand knowledge of the animal itself, which cannot be said of the artists who carved the bull and elephant capitals. We have already claimed the Vaiill lion (Fig.i 7) as the earliest of the Indian lion-sculptures. If we look for its closest parallels in Western Asia, we are taken back to

MahibhiArata V. 97.7. Mahibhtrata I. 17-19. A shorter and apparently earlier version appears in Ramiyana I. 45, and according to some authorities, this older version now lost. 66 Although in Hindu myth the bull becomes the vehicle of the phallic god Shiva, its ritual r6le is passive: the bull Nandi is the servant and worshipper of Shiva. This is in marked contrast with its r6le in the Harappan period, when the sexual aspect was emphasised. This change is discussed by WENDY 'The Hindu symbolism of cows, bulls, stallions and mares', o'FLAHERTY: AARP (Art and Archaeology Research Papers), No.8, London [1975], pp.x1-7. 67 There are very few sources available for the study of the history of the Nanda dynasty and they are mostly later works; but read in combination with the Greek classical writers they have encouraged the opinion that the Nanda empire covered 'practically the whole of the Gangetic basin' and Orissa, and that it was 'possessed of vast resources in men and money'. According to the Greeks, the last Nanda king 'kept in the field for guarding the approaches of his country, 20,00ooo cavalry, and 200,000 infantry, besides 2,000 four-horsed chariots, and, what was the most formidable force of all... 3,oo000elephants.' These figures were raised even higher by Diodorus and Plutarch. Quotations are taken from The Age of the Nandas and Mauryas, edited by K. A. NILAKANTA If this picture is anything like correct, it SASTRI, Banaras [1952], pp.11-20. makes nonsense of the longstanding claim that, until the Mauryan dynasty, there was insufficient concentration of power and wealth to explain the erection of stone pillars. Vaisali, the site of the earliest lion-pillar, was one of the two main seats of the Nanda kings (ibid, p.21): and the sites of all the other pillars we have hypothetically attributed to the Early Group (Sankisd, RampirvA, Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Kosam, and Srivasti) were also within the Nanda empire.
65

6-

68 There are indications that the Indra myth was already in decline in Rigvedic times. For instance, scepticism about the r6le of Indra in the creation of the world is frankly expressed in Rig-veda VIII. 100.3. Elsewhere, in hymn X. 12 1., the feats usually attributed to Indra are transferred to a newly conceived supreme deity, Prajipati, whose myth represented a less personalised version of the creation. In this connection, see w. NORMAN BROWN: 'Theories of creation in the Rig-veda', Journal of AmericanOrientalSociety,Vol.85 [1965],
69 In the petty kingdoms of peripheral areas, on the other hand, the Indra cult has survived (as we have already seen) up to the present day. 70 E. HULTSCH: 'Inscriptions of Agoka', CorpusInscriptionum Indicarum,Vol.I,

pp.24-25.

on this particular issue, although I had been for some time moving in the same direction. 72 For the lion in West Asian art, see comparative material presented by T. A. MADHLOOM in The chronology of Neo-Assyrianart, University of London [1970]. in The birthof Greek pp. o2 ff.; and E. AKURGAL, art, London [1968], chapter IV. s See especially H. R. HALL and c. LEONARD WOOLLEY: Ur Excavations, Vol.I Al-'Ubaid: a reporton the work carriedoutfor the British Museumin 19z19 andfor
the joint expedition in 1922-3,

Oxford [1925], p.xlii. 71 These words are quoted from a personal letter from ProfessorJ. C. Heesterman, dated 17th July 1975, which greatly helped me crystallize my own ideas

The lions found at this Sumerian temple-site and attributed to about 2,6oo00 B.C.were made of beaten copper over a bitumen core.

Oxford [1927],

pp.1x 12-27,

and plates X and XI.

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Achaemenid art of the fifth and fourth century B.C. - in particular to the so-called 'applied arts', represented by the gold rhyton or drinking-cup at Fig. 19, which Ghirshman attributes to about 500 B.c., more than two centuries before Adoka. It is logical to suppose that portable metalwork objects such as this must have been much coveted by Indian rulers dazzled by the power and splendour of the Achaemenid court during the two centuries before Alexander the Great.74 The fact that small metalwork models of the lion-capitals of Adokan capitals existed is proved by Cunningham's discovery of such a model in bronze at Mdnikydla in the Punjab.75 By the same logic, the four quadrupeds circulating the abacus of the Sarnath capital suggest the influence of similar animals depicted circulating the rims of plates or the outsides of bowls of West Asian origin.76 This would explain their hybrid character. The horse, for instance, which is reproduced in Part III, Fig.13, is obviously influenced by the conventions of Western art; yet the actual modelling with its emphasis on flesh-surface, and its indifference to the real anatomy and bone-structure of the animal, is just as obviously Indian. In this particular case, Hellenistic influence cannot be excluded; yet when we search for Western prototypes, it is as much if not more on Assyrian rather than Greek sculpture that the eye lingers (see comparison at Fig.F.).

F. Left: King Ashurbanipal (668-626 B.c.) hunting. Detail from a limestone relief from Nineveh. (British Museum). Right: The horse from the abacus of the Sirnith pillar.
4'As Professor Herzfeld remarked (with the later endorsement of Professor Frankfort), Achaemenid art was already dead by the time Alexander invaded Iran. From the fifth century inc. onwards, he said, there was 'an astonishingly quick decline, an unparalleled fall . . . Alexander's conquest was the consequence not the cause of this complete decay'. ERNST HERZFELD: Iran and the Ancient East, 1935 Lowell Institute Lectures, Boston, Mass.; published at Oxford [1941], p.274.

Given the total picture, we recognize once again that foreign influences in the art of the 'Adokan' pillar are of a secondary and relatively superficial nature. So we return finally to the essentially Indian roots of this tradition, and to what at the end of the previous article we hinted was the central theme of this interpretation: the 'Adokan' pillar as symbol of the divine r6le of ancient Indian kingship - in other words, identification of royal power with cosmic order. In the first article it was explained that Adoka's declared purpose in inscribing the pillars was to advertize his personal conception of religious law or dharma as a code of ethical behaviour. We are now in a position to see that in so doing he was adapting an older tradition in which the pillar served as cult-symbol of a rather different conception of dharma as cosmic law. We now need a deeper insight into the nature of the earlier cult if we are to understand how the truly Adokan pillar both differs from, and resembles, the pre-AMokan. We have recognized that the royal pillar-cult had its origin in the ritual re-enactment of the Act of Creation.77 By performing this rite, the earthly king was thereby assured of victory over his enemies and the prosperity of his kingdom. We have recognized clear traces of this rite in the Rig-veda, suggesting that its origins go back at least to B.C. However, Vedic scholars are in general agreeIooo1000 ment that at this period the king was little more than a war-leader, not yet divine in his own person, nor a wielder of absolute power. It was probably not until sometime after 1000 B.C. that he was invested with full magico-religious authority (although it may well be that what we are distinguishing is a matter of degree rather than substance, because in the ancient world ideals of terrestrial leadership inevitably partook of the character of a divine or primordial model). Fortunately, for understanding this next stage we have remarkably full documentation in the late Vedic texts, and particularly in their treatment of royal ritual. One of the most valuable of these sources are the texts relating to the royal consecration ceremony, known as Rajasiiya. According to Professor Heesterman in his illuminating study of the Rajastiya,78 this was not an inaugural ceremony as in the West, where the king is consecrated once and for all. It seems to have been a rite repeated annually as a ceremony of cosmic regeneration. The central purpose of the rite was that the king was required to integrate the whole cosmos within himself and, in the process, to identify with the primordial Act of Creation. This meant that he had to re-enact Indra's r6le of slaying the

SurveyReports,Calcutta, Vol.XIV, p.6 and plate IV. UnfortuArchaeological nately the lithographed plate (reproduced here at Fig.15) is of very poor quality in the original publication, and the present whereabouts of this important artifact is not known. There is no precedent for this type of addorsedanimal convention in pre-Mauryan art as far as we know. The nearest we can find to it is a two-headed chimaera in terra-cotta found at Harappa (M. s. VATs: Excavations at Harappa, Calcutta [1940], Vol.I, pp.308-o9, and Vol.II, P1. LXXIX, fig.88), the original now being in the National Museum, New Delhi. 76 HELENE J. KANTOR: 'A Rock Crystal Bowl in the Cincinnati Art Museum', Pls. 1494, 1495. Frankfort has commented A Survey ofPersianArt,Vol.XIV[1960], that Achaemenid art is 'more closely related to the applied arts than that of most other countries', and that 'the principles of Achaemenian sculpture are the same as those of the applied arts.' (H. FRANKFORT: The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient, London [1954], pp.376-77.) This makes all the more plausible our suggestion that Achaemenid influence probably reached India mainly through the agency of small portable objects.

5ALEXANDER

CUNNINGHAM: 'Report

on a tour in the Punjab

in 1878-79',

7 We have studied this only in its Indo-Aryan form since that is the only form we know from ancient literary evidence. However, there must also have been pre-Aryan creation myths in India, about which we know nothing. At the present stage of our knowledge, it is not possible to distinguish all the strands of Aryan from non-Aryan culture in the Rig-veda. By the time the hymns were composed in their surviving form there had already been a very long period of intermixture on Indian soil. Scholars are agreed that Indra himself was of Aryan lineage, although the Indra-Vritra story as we know it cannot be described as other than Indo-Aryan. 78j. c. HEESTERMAN: The AncientIndian Royal Consecration, 's-Gravenhage, The Netherlands [19571.

748

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demon Vritra and of erecting the cosmic pillar, while simultaneously identifying himself with the sun at dawn rising from the cosmic ocean. Birth symbolism is especially prominent in the ritual, since the king has to be turned into the cosmic embryo and to be endowed with a new body and a new life mystically equated with the life-force of the universe. At the climax of the unction ceremony he is made to stand on his throne with arms raised above his head in explicit imitation of the Cosmic Pillar. As he does this the priest recites a verse, the words of which vary slightly between one ritual text and another, but all of which evoke their source in Rig-veda V. 62. 8: ushdsovyush.tdv dyahsthinamadita- ryasyad rohatho hiranyarapam varunamitragdrtam dtal cakshdthedditimditim ca 'You, Varuna and Mitra, mount the throne which has a golden form (appearance) at the lighting-up of the dawn, which has (an?) iron pillar(s) at sunrise, from there you are overlooking Aditi and Diti.'79 In some of its details this verse is obscure and difficult to translate. But those difficulties need not bother us here since, in its relevance to our thesis, the gist is clear. Varuna and Mitra, the two gods associated with sovereignty in the primordial netherworld, are being called upon to rise with the sun at dawn, mounted upon their pillar-supported throne, reminding us of the later Indian legends of the 'yupa-throne's80 and of the frequent depiction of the pillaredthrone image in art (for instance, Figs.12 and 13) .s In this way the idea of celestial sovereignty in the cosmos is reinforced, and by implication also the power of the terrestrial king who acquires his sovereignty on trust from the gods. By the same logic, the terrestrial king's consecration is treated as a re-enactment of the consecration of Indra as king of the celestial sphere, and of Varuna as king of the primordial netherworld. In each case the ceremony is basically one of endowmentwith power.82

dans l'Inde ancienne,Paris [1949], PP-79 and 87, fn. 4; and j. c. symbolisme Indianroyalconsecration, HEESTERMAN, in The ancient 's-Gravenhage [I19571, p.96, all of whom render gartamas 'hole' or 'pit', thus producing the unlikely prayer
to Varuna

7 This translation, given to me by Prof. Kuiper in persofal correspondence, differs from the one given by others, including LOUISRENOU, in 'La maison J. AUBOYER, in La tr6ne et son v6dique', Journal asiatique [19391, pp.481-504;

of the Indo-Aryan Comparative dictionary languages,London [1966], expressed the opinion in a letter dated ioth March 1975, that 'there can no longer, as it seems to me, be any doubt that there were two different words in the Rig-veda: karta- m. 'pit, hole', and garta m. 'throne' or, perhaps, 'scaffold' etc The .... garta is said to be aya + sthuna,'resting upon iron pillar(s)', which in view of Rig-veda II. 41. 5, where Varuna's palace is said to be 'supported by a thousand pillars' suggests the conclusion that the garta was somehow connected with the palace and was also supported by a pillar or pillars . . .' The idea of a king ascending to the heavens on a throne supported by the cosmic pillar recurs in many later Indian myths and legends, a number of which are mentioned by AUBOYER, op. cit., PPy74 if. Indeed, it persists even in Mughal art, if we are justified (as surely we are?) in interpreting Akbar's famous pillared throne at Fathepur Sikri in this light.
s0 These legends are discussed by j. AUBOYER in her pioneer work, Le tr6ne dans l'Inde, Paris [1949], PP.-78-80. 81 This is the moment to ask if the Emperor Akbar's famous single-pillared

and MIitra to 'mount

the pit'. Kuiper,

following

R. L. TURNER:

Professor Heesterman's comments on the nature of this power are apposite to our theme. 'The cosmic implications of the unction ceremony', he writes, 'are clearly brought out by its setting; the scene of the unction is a replica of the universe: the king standing in the centre and stretching his arms to the sky impersonates the cosmic pillar: round him the officiants are standing and confer on him his new body from the four points of the compass. . . In this way, it seems, the rotation of the cosmic forces round the axis mundi is enacted at the moment of unction ...*83 After administration of the unction, the fluid is then over the to the wiped upwards king's body following words: 'The waters have turned back from below going upward following the Serpent of the Deep in his course; they move on the back of the mountain, of the bull...' On this Heesterman comments that the idea of cosmic rotation stands out clearly in the wiping upwards of the unction fluid, which he identifies with the rain-cycle, motivated by the procreative union of fire (sun) and water (Fig.B). 'The king thus becomes the pivot and source of the forces of fertility.. [He is made] a living representation of the cosmic pillar: the pivot of the cosmic rotation as well as the way between heaven and earth along which the fertilising fluids perform this circuit.'84 In short, the king acquires sovereign power by virtue of his identification with the axis mundi.Allegorically he resided at the Centre of the Universe, synonymous with the Navel of the Earth, which is also the mythical location of every royal throne. To complete the chain of connection, every throne was in turn located at the mystic centre of the palace; every palace at the mystic centre of the city; every royal city at the mystic centre of the kingdom, while the kingdom itself was conceived as image of the cosmos and equivalent to total space. By this logic, the four quarters of the kingdom were a reduction of the four quarters of the universe; the four gates of the city, of the four quarters of the kingdom - and so on downwards through the successive internal microcosms, one existing inside the other like a Russian doll until, at the core, we come back to the king's person as ultimate reduction of the cosmos and its power, visually imagined as seated on his throne at the summit of the cosmic pillar and mythically uniting with the sun at its zenith. From this we can see that it was not the king who gave prestige to the pillar, but the pillar which, because of its special r6le in putting the terrestrial kingdom in right relationship to the king of the gods, ensured prosperity to his kingdom. In other words, as we learned from Mile Auboyer, it was possession of the symbols of sovereignty which assured sovereignty itself.85 The ultimate embodiment of the philosophy of these rites was dharma, which at this stage was synonymous with the concept of universal order or stability. Moreover, since man saw himself as an inseparable part of the cosmos as a whole,

throne in the audience hall at Fathepur Sikri represents a re-emergence of the very same image we find in the Rig-vedic hymn? The conclusion seems to us inescapable. 82 Gonda has noted that the word pratishta, 'to install, found or establish' is equally applicable to a king's consecration and to the consecration of an image for worship. j. GONDA: AncientIndianKingship,Leiden [1957], p.8o.

13 J. C. HEESTERMAN, op. cit., p.120. 84 Ibid, pp.120o-22.

15 In some cultures - and in Burma until the nineteenth century - it was a capital offence for any unauthorized person to sit on the royal throne lest by so doing he should illegitimately acquire the power of sovereignty.

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indivisible from the totality, laws governing human behaviour were felt to be one with those governing the forces of nature - above all, those regulating rain and fertility (see fn. 51). A king fulfilling his duty as trustee of dharma was therefore literally 'Lord of the Universe' - a r6le variously expressed by such titles as samrdj, 'perfect, universal sovereign', ekaraj, 'the one king', sarvabhauma,'who governs or possesses all the earth', and so on.86 It is important that we should not automatically read into this magicoreligious concept of 'universal rule' those ideas of territorial dominion which are the essence of imperialism in the later sense. The notion of universal kingship with which we are concerned was not of course inconsistent with the dominion of one people over another.87 However, suzerainity in that sense was not its essential feature.88 The essence of the Vedic and brahmanical ideal of 'conquest of the Four Quarters' was magical control - in other words, the upholding of cosmic law which was the ultimate aim of sovereignty. In this sense, even the pettiest ruler of the most insignificant tribal state aspired to be 'Lord of the Universe', 'Conqueror of the Four Quarters', and so on. Perhaps a better way of

86 We have deliberately omitted here the term cakravartinwhich usually features in discussion of 'universal kingship' and in particular with Agoka. In the first place, there is no proof that Agoka ever regarded himself as a cakravartin or that the word was in currency in his time in the commonly interpreted sense of 'the king whose chariot-wheels roll everywhere without obstruction'. The Maitri Upanishad, in which this word first appeared, is generally accepted as relatively late, if not apocryphal. Nevertheless, in its original meaning and very likely harks back to a period at least as early as the other usage, cakravartin terms and therefore belongs to the same magico-religious order. Jacobi was the first to point out that -vartinat the end of a compound means 'abiding in' (JAMES HASTINGS:

putting it would be to say that the people of even the most insignificant tribal state expected of their ruler that he should make himself 'Lord of the Universe', thereby fulfilling his basic kingly duty as agent of cosmic law and exercising over his kingdom the cosmic regency which alone guaranteed prosperity for the kingdom. Naturally, with the growth of great territorial empires like the Achaemenid, and the simultaneous handing over of the king's sacerdotal functions to a professional priesthood, the unitary character of terrestrial and spiritual regency was lost. Henceforth the king's responsibilities became increasingly secular, while his sacerdotal functions were taken over by a professional priesthood.89 The way was then open for royal ambition to become narrowly equated with territorial ambition. The India which had given rise to the concept of universal dominion was still tribal or semi-tribal,90 when the primary aim was still the magico-religious one of equating the four quarters of the kingdom with the macrocosm. This is nowhere more clear than in the prelude to the unction ceremony of the Rajasiiya where the king is required to 'mount the quarters of space', which he does by taking a symbolic step in each of the five directions (significantly including the zenith). Explaining the reason for this rite, the Satapatha Brahmana makes it clear that it was to enable the king to gain control of Time and the Seasons9 x- in other words, to master the life-cycle of the universe. Turning now from these Vedic ritual texts to the message embodied in Asoka's seven pillar-edicts, we find ourselves in a different religious climate.

Cakra-on the other hand, although usually rendered as 'wheel', s.v. cakravartin). had an ancient connotation with the sun: more specifically, it was a symbol of the rotation of the sun as governor of the cosmic life-cycle. In my opinion, by far the most plausible interpretation of the original meaning of the compound is the king 'who participated in the conquering efficacy of the cakravartin "wheel", i.e. of the sun, of the vaja-winning and "imperialistic" chariot, of a power-centre of universality, of universal dominion . . . "he who is placed in the cakra-"is he who like the sun is the centre, lord and sustainer of the world, its eye and life-giver; coinciding with the axis mundi,the sovereign could reside from the religiouspoint of only in the middle.' J. GONDA: AncientIndian kingship seems to have once been universal, and many traces of it survive up to the modern period. A classic illustration of medieval English belief in the same idea is embodied in remarkable poetry in Act II of Shakespeare's Richard II. Similarly, in English coronation ritual, the archbishop, at the climax of the ceremony, prays that God may establish the king's throne in righteousness, and that it may 'stand fast for evermore, like the sun before him, and as the faithful witness in heaven.' 87 It stands to reason that the idea of 'spiritual' dominion of the Four Quarters of the Universe is unlikely to have arisen without the precedent of territorial aggrandisement in tribal warfare, and Kane suggests that 'the idea of an emperor who had suzerainty over several kings' was not unknown in Rig-vedic
times, although he admits that the evidence is not conclusive
(P. V. KANE:

Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol.III,

Edinburgh

[1910o], p.336,

88 We are slightly at variance here with the opinion of PROFESSOR ANDRIE BAREAU who (in 'Les r6cits canoniques des funerailles du Bouddha et leurs

view, Leiden [1969], pp.123-28.

This identification

of regal with solar power

History of Dharmasastra,Vol.III, Poona [1I973], pp.63-64). However, it is significant that in the ritual texts which lay greatest stress on the supreme sovereignty, power of royalty, there is nowhere mention of desire for territorial plained only when we understand the cosmic and religious connotations of the idea of 'expansion' implicit in making conquests and extending the bounds of The divine models include Indra's act in 'extendthe realm to give 'Lebensraum'. ing the earth threefold' after separating heaven and earth, and also Vishnu's striding out 'to make ample room for our abode'. As a corrective to Kane's misleading separation of the secular and religious aspects of kingship (ibid, p.Ioi), and in explanation of the cosmic nature of Indian ideas on conquest
and expansion, see especially j. GONDA: Aspects of early Visnuism, Utrecht [1954], pp.6x ff. and 68 ff.; and Ancient Indian kingship, Leiden [1969], pp.100oo-0o5. In as even Marxist historians have noted (e.g. R. s. SHARMA: Political Ideas and is exInstitutions in Ancient India [1968], p. 149). The apparent contradiction

Vol.LXII [19751, P-.154) anomalies', Bulletinde l'tcolefranfaise d'Extrbme-Orient, regards the pre-Maurya 'universal king' as a monarch who, aspiring to universal dominion in the territorial sense and unable to achieve it, was therefore content to have 'symbolic' title of world supremacy. It is questionable whether, in the king's mind, there was ever clear distinction between cosmic and territorial ambition. (By the same token, one can never be certain whether the demons being scattered in the name of Indra are in fact mythical agents of darkness and chaos, or flesh-and-blood humans, as discussed above, fn. 6o). The whole issue becomes clear when we understand how the ancient conception of sacred space implied by the 'four regions' differs fundamentally from our modern sense of (profane) space. Once again, the key to the old meaning is the Myth of Creation. In cosmological thinking, space is the opposite of chaos. Space did not exist at all until heaven and earth were separated; thenceforth it existed only in relation to a fixed point (the axis mundi,actual creator of space). This is radically different to our modern or profane conception of space as homogeneous and associated with the concept of relativity. We recognize the real nature of the Indian king's aspiration to conquer the Four Quarters of Space only when we see this aspiration as inseparable from his ritual r61e of re-enacting the Creation. 89 A shadow of the old belief survived into the modern world in the assumption that the king's enemies must automatically be our enemies and that God is always on the king's side, thus giving bishops the spiritual authority to bless battleships. Modern nationalism capitalises on these sentiments but did not create them. 90The transformation from tribal kingdoms to territorial states based on class and private property must have been a long drawn-out and very uneven process, even within the Ganges basin where there were still large areas of virgin forest. The complexity of Hindu religion and mythology is largely explained by the slow process of acculturation which continues up to the
present day. This aspect is well treated by D. D. KOSAMBI in An Introduction to

this connection, see also Fn. 6o.

the Studyof IndianHistory,Bombay [1956]. 91x Satapatha BrThmana, V. 4. 1, 3-8.

750

15. Bronze image of four addorsed lions found by Cunningham at Minikyala.

14. The Sdnchi Lion Capital. (Sdnchi Museum).

16. Celebration of Indra Festival showing Indra worshipped as pillar.

17. Close-up of Lion emblem on Vaidli pillar (preAsokan type). (Still in situ at Vaiili, Bihar).

18. Close-up of one of the four lions on Sdrndthcapital. (Sirnith Museum).

i9. Gold rhyton. Achaemenid, c.5oo B.C.

2o. Standardbearer carrying a dhvaja.Relief from Bharhfit.

22. The Sankisd Elephant21.

The Rdmpurva Bull-capital (preAgokan type).

capital (pre-Aiokan).

23. The Serndth Capital. (Sirnfath Museum). Probably the last Agokan Pillar.

'ASOKAN'

PILLARS:

REASSESSMENT

OF

THE

EVIDENCE

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SYMBOLISM

For Aboka, the convert to Buddhism, the dharma-stambha or Pillar-of-Law was no longer a magico-religious instrument for controlling the forces of nature, such as the Indra Pillar had been. It was a monument for advertising what was for him a higher conception of dharma, approximating to what we would call an enlightened code of ethics, yet incorporating piety as well as morality. In terms of his personal faith as a Buddhist, Aboka may well have imagined the Pillar-of-Law as a symbol of light and order over darkness and chaos; yet everything we know about him suggests that he would have been impatient, if not contemptuous, of the old demonology. Whereas in earlier tradition the demons had been synonymous with forces resisting rain and fecundity, the demons which assailed the Buddha-to-be in his struggle for Illumination under the Bodhi-tree (the axis mundi), located at the Navel of the Earth (prithivi-nabhi) were the passions which cloud understanding. Similarly, the solar symbolism of the wheel or cakra, which in the earlier religion had represented the movement of the sun as governor of the cosmic life-cycle, now stood for the Doctrine itself as regulator of the life of the individual. This is not to say that we accept the idea generally held over the last hundred years that the Abokan Pillar was a Buddhist monument. Aboka makes no direct avowal of Buddhism in any of his public proclamations (as distinct from his ordinances specifically addressed to the Buddhist clergy), nor does he mention the tenets of the Doctrine. On the other hand, he repeatedly advocates respect for all religious groups, and with characteristic liberalism points out (in the 12th Rock Edict) that respect for the religious beliefs of others does not weaken but on the contrary

strengthens one's own. In short, Aboka wanted his dharma to be seen as the summation of all good in all religions, of which Buddhism was for him the highest expression, yet without exclusion of others. It was valid for all alike foreigner no less than Indian. Its touchstones were the elementary virtues of human decency: of benevolence, compassion towards the weak and suffering, respect for elders, joy in seeing good done, and so on. The modern cynic might complain that the message is simple to the point of being platitudinous. However, Aboka's genius rested not upon the message itself but upon its application to practical affairs. His dharma reaped dividends in terms of practical politics, promoting the unification of many different cultures and giving him one of the most successful, efficient empires in history. We began this series with a description of the Sarnath pillar as the most famous of the monuments attributed to Adoka.92 In trying to pinpoint the quality which gave it universality and timelessness of appeal as a work of art, we defined it as 'worldly authority idealised'. We can now see that that quality was not the expression of a single moment in history, nor was it born of the genius of a single great monarch. Also, we are able to recognize that it does not - as commonly supposed - mark the beginnings of Indian monumental art inspired by foreign models. It represents the culmination under Asoka of a much more ancient tradition, unique to India, yet deeply rooted in our universal human heritage.
Vol.CXV [November 19731, p.706 and MAGAZINE, 9 See THE BURLINGTON and 23 of this article. Fig.2; and Figs. I18

CARL

CHRISTIAN

DAUTERMAN

Sevres Figure
in

the

Anna

Painting Thompson Dodge

Collection

N OTHING could be more indicative of the status of porcelain

in the eighteenth century than its r6le in the realm of princely gifts. In France, Louis XV set an example by offering it in lieu of the customary orfevrerie.1The highest porcelain fashion was found in the ornamental pieces made at the royal manufactory of Sevres. For the most part, such elegant presents took the form of vases - creations enveloped in a lambent glaze of blue, green or rose pink and reserved with panels of painted motifs. Each of these decorated panels constituted a veritable miniature painting, sometimes a landscape with multiple figures. The size rarely exceeded five or six inches across, while most were considerably smaller. Figure painting was a mark of special prestige; one

1 ANDRE'

SERGANE:

1972], p.-192.

La manufacture de S&vres sous l'ancien regime, Vol.I,

Nancy

such panel on each vase occupied the principal reserve and was supplemented by one or more secondary panels of flowers, trophies or landscape vignettes. Enhanced with borders of gold foliage, blossoms or rocaille scrolls minutely tooled and burnished, they marked the eiptome of luxury among the porcelains of their day. In our time, these precious miniatures remain a neverending source of delight, as their creators intended them to be. Yet they offer something more, a claim to scholarly consideration. One finds oneself asking, are the subjects found elsewhere than in porcelain? If they are derived, can the sources be traced? Indeed we do find that the scenes and subjects were integral to the pictorial vocabulary of the time. Additional questions may be posed: who were the painters and engravers, and what kinds of themes were most favoured? What do the various subjects on these datable porcelains tell us about the availability and the relative age 753