Wednesday, April 6, 2011



During our February,2011 'pilgrimage' to the land of Saivites, as we went from temple to temple of SriMukhalingam, Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal, we could see that the kings and their team of visualisers   wanted to present images of Siva,Vishnu and other gods, including MahishaMardini and SaptaMatrkas engaged in battles to the worshipers. While SivaLinga was placed in the inner sanctum, wall-reliefs and the scenes carved on the pillars depict the combat scenes.

I picked up two photos - one each  of Siva and Vishnu - relaxed and at peace.

 Siva leaning against Nandi.
Mallikarjuna temple,Pattadakal,Karnataka.

 Vishnu rests on Ananta the snake while Lakshmi and Saraswati give him company.He would soon be engaged in battles against Hiranakshya and Hiranyakashipu.
Famous fresco from SriKurmam temple,SriKakulam,A.P.  
NOTE : From any point on the corridor where this fresco is painted, it would seem that Vishnu's eyes are focused on you !

Mythology  has layers of tales,allegories and worshipers of various deities adding their beliefs as spices ! These stories are never linear in nature and are subject to the view points of the writer - OR the person who interprets ! Therefore,  stories of the conflicts the mightiest among the gods had with the lineage from Kashyap and Diti may be differently perceived by others - my apologies to them .

Diti was one of the wives of sage Kashyap. Kashyap - a much-married sage - fathered Adityas through Aditi, twin sister of Diti, Danavas through Danu and Nagas through Kadru. Diti's conception has a story with a twist - she was jealous of her sister's sons and invited Kashyap to bed at the time of twilight. Kashyap advised her to be patient, suggested not to invoke wrath of Rudra and his companions who roam around during the hour of sunset. Diti was restless. She tugged at his clothes  and Kashyap yielded.Later Diti understood her mistake and braced for tragedies of her sons' lives.

 Vishnu in his boar manifestation - Varaha Avatar.He has brought  Bhudevi - the Earth goddess from the bottom of the ocean - she rests on his lower left hand on a lotus.His own left leg rests on a lotus too.His other three hands carry 'Chakra' - the wheel, mace and conch. Nagaraj , gods and other celestial beings worship him and celebrates Bhudevi's appearance.
Cave of Vishnu, Badami, Karnataka.

Diti gave birth to Hiranakshya and Hiranyakashipu who grew to be great warriors. They defeated the gods and  their arrogance brought upon their death at the hand of Vishnu.

Hiranakshya adopted Andhaka ( vide my story on Andhakasura ,posted a few days ago ) - he also grew up to be a great warrior.He challenged Siva and was nearly killed by him.After  'a  thousand years' of punishment and equally long  penance , he  was let free and allowed to join  Siva's 'Ganas' as Bhringee.But, Gajasura - a close associate of Andhaka - was killed by Siva.

Siva slaying Gajasura. At least three Matrkas are present in this wall-relief.Siva is ithyphallic and Nandi looks upwards.If the skeletal figure next to Siva's right leg is of Bhringee  ( Andhakasura before his penance ) - then I would say : it is  tragic, it is an irony of Andhaka's destiny that he had to witness the demise of his erstwhile associate and friend ! 
SriMukhalingam, SriKakulam,A.P.

Hiranyakashipu's son Pralhad was a great devotee of Vishnu - there was no conflict in this generation.Later, gods and Daityas collaborated in churning of the sea - but gods took away all the goodies including the divine elixir . Thus, the temporary truce was broken.There was prolonged battle when Prahlad's grandson  Bali was chosen the army-chief of the Daityas  and was pitted against Indra.Bali was a great warrior, he could not disposed of in face-to-face battles,  - we shall come back to the tale of his manipulation a little later.

NaraSimha in action. Here, his gestures more terrifying than those @ Hampi and Aihole.
Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal,Karnataka.

If we look back to the episodes so far, we shall find the Devatas - the gods - were rescued by  either Vishnu or Siva again and again. Vishnu's third manifestation - Varaha Avatar - rescued Bhudevi, the goddess Earth from  the depth of ocean when Hiranakshya was slayed.His next manifestation - Nrisimha Avatar - killed Hiranyakashipu.From the gods' point of view, these slayings were big reliefs for them. The mythological stories have been written by devotees of Vishnu - who can tell if he were partisan or not ?

Partisan he was.During the collaborative phase of Devatas and Daityas, Visnu posed as a beautiful woman - Mohini - and 'her' charm deprived the Daityas of their rightful share  of the divine elixir.

Before I move to  Bali's end  as a mighty ruler, Siva's  big contribution to churning of the ocean must be mentioned . This exercise was mostly controlled by Vishnu. He helped the gods at every stage - yet, at a very critical juncture, Siva lent his big support to this event.  Vasuki ,the snake used as the 'rope' for churning, was greatly stressed and vomited poison. All those engaged in this operation were very badly affected. Siva  drank the poison to the world's relief and his throat turned blue forever - he is now called 'NeelKantha'- the blue throated god - by his devotees. I have not found any wall-relief  on this episode at Pattadakal or Aihole. But, Samudra Manthan

 Emergence of Lakshmi. The ocean is getting churned - on the right , Daityas holding the head of Vasuki .Gods,on the left ,hold his tail .We see 'Uchchaishraba' the horse and 'Airavat' the elephant among other treasures this churning yielded. 
Mallikarjune temple,Pattadakal,Karnataka.

Now back to Bali. Bali survived the battle with the gods. He stayed at the top  and kept on ruling the world. When he could not be dislodged by the gods. a manifestation of Vishnu - BamanAvatar - came to their rescue. Vishnu posed as a short Brahmin and  came to Bali's court  as a alms-seeker. He asked for land just enough for three steps of his. When Bali granted his wish , he did not know he was being tricked by Vishnu into a situation from where he would have no escape.Vishnu grew into a size  extra-ordinary.His first step filled up  the e-n-t-i-r-e kingdom of Bali, his body filled up the sky and his arms blocked the eight directions. His second step filled up the heaven  and his third step - well there was nowhere any place for it. I just now read the exchange between Vishnu and Bali as written in BhagavatPurana - and Bali emerges as a great soul..... though he understood that he was tricked by Visnu incognito,  he offered his head for the third step.

Trivikrama in his full glory.The world worships him. Bali is shown as uprooted in this famous sculpture. According to what I read,Vishnu's third feet was placed on his head and he was then removed from the heaven which was restored to the Devatas.
MahaVishnu caves,Badami,Karnataka.

History repeated itself.Bali's father Virochan was deprived of his life by the gods as they came to his palace posing as alms-seeker Brahmins ( 2nd paragraph, nineteenth chapter, eight canto). Well, from our mythology, we often find the gods were not always great ! And , often, quite unfair.But, Bali's treatment at the hand of Vishnu ( or his feet ! ) leaves me sad. The story-tellers have applied soothing ointment to his banishment from his throne and kingdom to the 'underground' (...'paataal...') by adding that he was offered a beautiful abode ('...sutal...' in Sanskrit) built by Vishwakarma and the position of 'Indra' in 'Sabarni Manwantar' , but,it reminds me of the many unfair deeds of the protagonists of Mahabharata and Ramayana.

I end with a photo of Hari- Hara, standing together with Siva - ensuring the support extra-ordinary to their clan of gods !

On the left, stands Siva with two arms , his trident with a coiled snake, a smiling skull on his piled matted hair.His left hand rests on his thigh in KatyaValambita posture.His right foot is in anchita and left in sama postures.Hari-Hara in Siva's left has four arms.Siva's half  is in the right, with his  third eye, crescent moon and snake.Vishnu has the conch in his upper left arm, his lower left hand gain in KatyaValambita posture. Both the feet are in sama posture.
RavanaPhadi, Aihole, Karnataka.

1.Reference : 7th and 8th Cantos,SrimadBhagataPurana - Bengali translation by Sri Taaraakaanta Kaabyatheertha.
2.Siva in dance,myth and Iconography - Ann Marie Gaston.
3. Mr  Palahali, my 'friend' in brought to my notice a 'story' on Prahlad/Bali - a blog of his.This was 3 years ago. in response to a blog I wrote on Mahisasura  - a story of this Asura's viewpoint.My submission - I did appreciate Mr Palahali's blog a lot , but what I wrote here is completely my view-point.


Ruchi said...


I am yet to read the full post, but I have a question on the second picture. How is Saraswati associated with Vishnu. I know Saraswati is daughter of Shiva and consort of Brahma.

(please ignore my ignorance in this matter)



Indian mythology - all our Puranas and other connected literature - have layers of tales and allegory - getting a linear answer about a relationship, a lineage or details of a major event is often difficult. As an example, I shall invite you to read the paragraph called 'Saraswati & other gods': -

Let us say, in the fresco I have added to my blog, the expert who guided the painter had depicted both Lakshmi and Saraswati under Vishnu's area of influence - Saraswati represents knowledge while Lakshmi represents wealth. This does not mean that Saraswati is Visnu's consort.This iconography is not uncommon - pl view :