Identifying Gods/Goddesses in India - Siva
Course: Introduction to Hinduism
I thought it might be helpful to you if I just put on a single sheet all of the major distinguishing marks of the gods and other marks I felt like might be helpful, but may not be, you know, major distinguishing marks. So, what I've done is to summarise up to this point where we are and then where we'll go through today. And if you can look at the chart you'll see that we've already done Vishnu, Rama, Hanuman, Lakshmi and Krishna. And on the left hand column, I have the major features of each of them – and then how to identify their iconographies. And then also, on the same column, some other dead giveaways that might help you in the process.
I've also taken the liberty to put bold type on terms that you'll need to know. There are not too many, but there's a few terms. I mean, for example, already this whole lecture is only two terms from last lecture and that's the term gopis and the other is Arjuna. We really haven't discussed Arjuna yet, but will be someone that we'll develop more with the Bhagavad-Gita. This is the person in the chariot with whom Krishna has the conversation which is the substance of the Bhagavad-Gita. The gopis refers to the women in the puranas, and so we have the material appear with Krishna. His favourite gopi is Radha. So the gopis are as important to him because very popular in modern or in current Hindu discussion.
Now we're ready to talk about Siva. Siva is the easiest god to identify. There's so many dead giveaways with Siva and there are certain things that are helpful. One of the problems with Rama that we saw earlier – Rama almost always has the bow and arrow or bows and arrow – both of those. The other ones associated with Rama are various scenes in the Ramayana. And because of that, if you don't know the Ramayana, you may not recognise: O that's, you know, Bhoodevi, the goddess of the earth, or something that's critical to the overall epic. So it's more difficult.
But Siva, because he's generally in this meditating mode, and almost always he identify with certain very strong icons based on various activities in his own mythology. This one here in fact has the major features. The number one thing you'll always notice in a Siva icon is the presence of the Trishal. This is like a trident. This is used for battle. And it's a sacred weapon of destruction that is found in Hindu iconography. It's always identified with Siva. So I would say that this is the number one way that you can identify Siva.
But there's a number of other things that are important too. Another is the Naag or the cobra – another very, very well-known one. Another is the damaru. In this particular picture, it's very, very minor. A damaru is a little drum that's shaped like this. It's like an hour-glass shaped thing. They hold it in the middle and it has little strings on it that have the ability to beat the drums. And they have a way ... they go like this and it beats both drums. It's called a damaru. So certain kind of little small drum – hand-held drum. The hand-held drum is one of the top iconographic marks that you'll find in a Siva icon.
Other features that are prominent is the third eye of Siva, which you do see a lot. It's usually in a certain shape that it really identifies it as either a clean dot or a kind of an eye-shape like this. Another feature, which is just classic Siva, and by the way this is a north Indian deity. And so, where I am, these are everywhere – Siva deities, Siva ???, Siva temples. I've seen thousands of these. This is certainly very, very important. This is actually a stream of water. This is the Ganges River flowing from his head. The Ganges River flows out of Siva.
Don't forget the dreadlocks – a very big part of any meditating Brahminical kind of figure, you have the dreadlocks. You'll notice a lot of wild hair which Siva always has wild hair. The damaru, the third eye – we haven't looked at the other forms yet.
So, let's look at some other examples of it and see if you can pick out them. This one's nice because it has kind of everything. But if you look at this one. It looks very different. But if you look carefully you should notice that it is a Siva. This is not labelled. What's the main reason why you know it's Siva?
Right. The Trishal – the trident is there. Is other minor features which would tell you that's the Ganges River. The third eye of Siva. This is actually his Lingum. This is his phallus which we haven't looked at yet, but that's another way to tell for sure. But this would be less clear than others. This actually is the damaru – the little drum – but it's difficult to actually see it there properly. Clearly a Siva icon.
This one is even more obscure. This one is ... again they have everything you might imagine. Here you have the Trishal. You have the stream of the water coming out which feeds the Ganges River. So you know immediately. This is actually the damaru. The damaru actually very regularly is hanging on the Trishal. Very – this is actually very typical. So the little drum is there. You see the drum on the Trishal more than you do in his hand. This is a special bowl. This is ... you see it here. This is another very, very common feature because that's his mount. Every one of the gods has a mount. That's present there.
This one will be less clear. You have in the background the Trishal is there. The damaru is hanging there on the Trishal. It's not that clear, but you can see it. The Naag is there. One of the famous stories about Siva, which we'll look at with the dancing form, Nataraja, is that he has this fight with a big snake, called Naag, and he defeats it and puts it around his neck. So, you almost always see the snake around the neck. In the same battle, by the way, he kills ... the first thing he kills is this tiger which he kills with his fingernail and immediately skins it and makes it into a like a little blanket. So you very regularly see him sitting on a tiger skin. I don't know if I can put that on the list. I probably should have. I don't even have ... You could add that as another sign – sitting on a tiger skin.
Here's another Siva icon. All the features are there. You have the water streaming out. You have the Trishal. You have the tiger skin. There it is again. The Naag around his neck. Just classic Siva icon.
Here's another one. All the features – here's a good picture of the damaru – there, by his side. Again, it's often there with the Trishal. You have the tiger skin. You have the Naag. You have the Naag there again, right. Usually it's round his neck. You have the water streaming out. You can even see the Ganges River behind it. The mountains in the background – it's always the Himalaya mountains. That's a particular mountain called Mount Kailosh because Mount Kaillosh – that's k-a-i – it's not a term you need to know – but it's a famous mountain that comes into the various encounters between Siva and Parvati, his consort.
This is one ... if I showed you this picture, you should be able to identify it as Siva. So the question is: If this Siva, who is this and who is this? This is where you have to use your imagination. OK, if you can identify this as Siva, which you definitely can – you have Mount Kailosh there, you've got the Trishal, you've got the damaru, you've got the snake, you have the third eye, everything, the dreadlocks – it's just classic ... there's no doubt that's Siva. So if this is Siva, that must be Parvati – because Parvati's his consort. So you should identify this as Parvati. Their only son is Ganesh and so that is definitely Ganesh – though this is Ganesh before he has his elephant head, so that may not be very helpful at this point.
This is a classic Siva and Parvati icon because, again, it has everything that you would expect to have. You have the Naag. You have the Trishal. You have the damaru. You have the water pouring out of the head of Siva. This is the Ganges god. And it's all encaged inside a Siva Lingum, which we haven't looked at yet, but this is the Lingum and the yoni, the womb, and the phallus of Siva. And, of course, that's Parvati. These are various offerings that you'll find that with almost any god.
Here you have Siva, Parvati and Ganesh. You should be able to immediately identify this as Siva. Why? Trishal. Damaru. There it is. That automatically tells you. But you have all these other things. You've got the water streaming out going into the Ganges River. You've got the Naag. You've got the skin of the tiger. I mean, this is just absolutely classic Siva. Now this obviously is Parvati. And this is the son Ganesh. Now, we haven't talked about Ganesh yet. This is his son that gets decapitated and he puts an elephant head on him. We'll look at that later. Ganesh has his own separate iconographies because Ganesh is worshipped separately now from Siva.
Question: ??? the other person in the picture?
As far as I know, it's just a devotee. This is very typical to have the family, kind of like the family thing, so you have Siva, Parvati, Ganesh, all the classic things and I won't go through it again. There it is.
This is one ... we haven't seen this. This is called a mudra – it's a hand signal. You'll find this in a lot of the gods will have this. We could also do another study just of hand gestures. Hand gestures is a huge part of Hindu iconography – and, by the way, Hindus and Buddhism. So the way you hold hands reveals certain kinds of auspicious meanings. So, you can see the OM sign is in the palm of his hand. This is the sacred sound that resonates through the universe that we've talked about earlier in the class. That's a little unique to this one. Everything else seems to be about what we've seen.
The reason all this looks so similar for you – I'm sure it's helpful, especially because it helps you identify – but there are very strict rules of idol or iconography. And they have to follow these rules. And so if, for example, someone produces a Ganesh with two arms, for example – occasionally that happens – they'll be scolded for this. Ganesh has got to have four arms. You know, it's just like the way it has to be done. Or if you have a skinny Ganesh – they don't like that. It's Ganesh has always has to have a big belly, you know. And so it's kind of like a little icon police that go out and will chastise people if their icons are not actually conforming to certain things. So it makes it therefore helpful. Because the whole idea is that ignorant people who can't read or have no literacy need to know what god it is. And so the only way to do it is by having these kind of symbols.
OK, Siva, being who Siva is, has a number of different forms. The one that is the most important for our list is Siva as Nataraja, that is, dancing – dancing Siva. The lord of the dance. This particular form is very, very important and it has certain features that are very different from the other kind of standard Siva icons. So you do need to be able to identify, not only the classic Siva, but also the Nataraja. Obviously, the minute you see this dancing Siva, it's obvious it's the Nataraja. But, there's things you should notice about it. For example, notice that he has four arms, two legs. That's standard. You'll notice one giveaway, even if you had not known – if you did not have any discussion of the Nataraja – you probably could identified it as a Siva idol because of one thing. What is in his hand? I know it's hard to see.
Answer: Is that the damaru?
That's a damaru. OK, so he's dancing with a drum in his hand – so the damaru is like a giveaway, all right? So, he'll typically have a damaru in his hand. That's one giveaway. He'll have a flame of fire in the other. This, by the way, is symbolic of creation and destruction of the world. He's the creator and destroyer of the world. He specially functions as the destroyer of the world. But these are ... you have both motifs present in his icon. Also, I mentioned that he often has the dreadlocks. All this is his hair. This is actually not the Ganges River. This is his hair. Siva is famous for these like long dreadlock type things – so that hair thing is another giveaway, but it's very much a feature of the Nataraja. Another thing that makes it clearly a Siva icon is actually this arm, which is supposedly in this form as if it's the trunk of an elephant – which, of course, reflects Ganesh. So you've got several things that kind of give it away.
Now, the other thing that you'll notice which is part of the classic Siva is the Naag. This is not that clear, but this is actually a snake around his neck. So you still have the snake and the damaru. And so, if you see that, you should think Siva anyway. But in the classic battle, where Siva has ... when he first emerges and revealed his divine dignity, the sacrificial fire challenges him and throws out several challenges, one of which ... The first is the snake, which he defeats – the snake, he kills it and wraps it around his neck. The second is this tiger we mentioned, which where he kills it with his fingernail and he makes it into a garment. And that's what you see him always meditating on, and he carries round the skin of the tiger. The third is this figure – and all of the dancing Sivas, Natarajas, have this dwarf figure under his feet. That's another classic sign – let me see if we have another one that can show you maybe even better.
Yeah, this is a much better one – because you have the snake, you have a snake there too. You have clearly the dreadlocks. You have the damaru. You've got the flame of fire. This is just a classic form of it. But you can see a little better in this carving the actual dwarf monster. The last challenge he had was the dwarf. And this was the sacrificial fire sent out a monster disguised as a dwarf. I think this is actually a bit of a anti-Vaishnavite thing. There's a lot of debate about ... all the ??? behind it, but in Vaishnavite mythology one of ... the way that Vishnu took over the world was he took the form of a little monster like this. And so he goes to the demon and he says: Will you give me three strides of land. Because the demon sees he's such a small little dwarf, you know, three strides of land is nothing. So he finally says: Sure, I'll give you three strides of land. Well, immediately the little dwarf takes on, which is Vishnu, takes on his cosmic proportions. He steps over the earth in one step, steps over the heavens second step. He has a third step left and no place else to go. So the demon puts his head down, puts his foot on his head. So he's over all the demon. So there's like a kind of a triumphalistic thing that Vishnu wins. So, that's a whole separate story of Vishnu.
So here you have Siva also encountering this demon, this monster dwarf, but he's triumphant over it. So it's interesting to note in Hindu iconography, there's two things you'll find under the feet of people – either things they defeated in battles or whatever in their mythology or sometimes their mount will be there. There is a little bit of a competition here between the gods – who's going to become supreme? You have all this tension that goes back and forth. So the Nataraja is a very, very famous Siva form. All right, any questions about the Nataraja? Yes.
Question: Not so much about the Nat...
Or about Siva in general.
Question: Did you say what mudra was? Was mudra ...
Mudra is hand gestures – and I actually, we are not going to, at least at this point, I don't anticipate that we'll take time to go through all those. But just know the concept of mudra is that there are different auspicious gestures with the hand that mean certain things in Hindu meditation. Yes.
Question: Is there something that means ... is that like the wheel of Samsara or what is that thing? Because the dancing Siva as the Nataraja always have like this wheel ...
They do. They do. I'm not sure they would call it wheel of Samsara, but it amounts to the same thing. This is the wheel of life. This is fire coming out from the wheel which shows his ability to create life. So I think that Samsara may not be the most popular way of using it but I think in fact that's what it is. It's the wheel of creation.
Question: So he creates as well as Brahman?
His main task is destroying, but what's happened is that this Siva ... the Shaivites want to find ways to say that all of the other features of Brahman Vishnu are found inside Siva. Vishnu wants you to see that Siva anyway is inside of Vishnu. So you have certain icons that try to encompass others. But Siva's main … in the basic Trimurti, the basic feature of Siva is destruction, not creation.
You don't see this here, but the third eye of Siva is called the trilochana. Lochana is a word for eye or a auspicious eye or far-seeing eye. The trilochana, the third eye, is what lies behind the famous spot that you see on the heads of Hindu women. That probably ??? a point that shouldn't be overlooked. I mean, that's obviously one of the most common things you observe when you go to India is that women wear a spot on their forehead. That is related to the third eye of Siva. But even though you go down south, I mean, it's very wide in the north, but it's also in the south. There's different kinds of associations with it, but historically, in iconography, it's always associated with Siva, not with Vishnu.
Question: How do you spell tril...
You really want to know?
OK. I love this enquiring minds. OK, you have tri, which is ... then you have lochana. You may know the ... did you meet the librarian at NTC who has the name Lochana? Her name, it means, people often name their children Lochana – it means beautiful eyes. Were there other comments about Nataraja? Yes.
Question: I was talking to a woman the other day and she said that now that the dots that women wear is just ...
Question: OK, so it doesn't necessarily mean that they're devout?
No, it doesn't. And in fact what really it, I mean, it's always, you know, the obviously red is very important in the whole iconography of it. And yet, I was really struck a number of years ago flying on Indian Airlines – like, they have these green outfits and so they all have a green spot to match. So, you know, it's a fashion thing now.
And so that actually raises theological question that I've had a lot of our students at ??? that, but women will generally will put a little red mark, the same substance they use for the eye, in their forehead in the part of their hair which tells if they're married. And so, if you go out without that, he will assume you're single. And so because many women, Christian women, don't wear any ornamentation, it has created questions about their status. So there are some men who've said: I would like my wife to wear that. But yet it's clearly means: I'm a Hindu woman who's married, really. So, you know, there's a lot of people who have, you know, discussions about this whole thing and we'll hopefully, before the class is over, we can address some of this.
There's a Siva devotee. I mean, he's really devoted. You can see that there's certain things about ... you know, he's ... this standing on the skin of a tiger – see, that's a Siva thing. So you can identify it that way. He has the third eye of Siva. He's bearing some of the iconography marks.
OK, the third form of Siva that you need to be aware of – there's the classic meditative form which is very dominant. The second is the Nataraja, the dancing Siva. The third is the Siva Lingum. I still say, in my experience in India the last 16 years, this is the most dominant icon – certainly in north India. There are things about it that you recognise – especially this one that's clearly Siva. You have the Naag, which is associated with Siva. They have Naag festival every year where they worship the snake. They will decorate the cobras and all that. You know, you've heard the famous, you know, like we've got people who play the instruments and snakes come up out of the basket. They really do do that. It's not just the movies. I've actually watched them do it.
Quite apart from the Naag, that's not actually the most important element of the Siva Lingum. The most important element, of course, is the phallus of Siva. And in this is what's called the yoni, which means womb. So it's the female sexual organ. This is the erect male sexual organ – in union. They often will show Siva and Parvati in sexual embrace, showing the union of male/female. All of the gods have male forms, female forms. So, it's not maybe a shock to see this in a larger sense, but certainly in a more kind of standard sense it's very much of a dominant imagery. So, the reason this is done – this is actually ... the way it's usually done, there's a little opening here. You don't really see it here. This ... I mean, I have, this may be one for just ... for looks. But the one they actually use in temples will have an opening here. So, when you pour the water and the milk – we haven't discussed puja yet – but when you have the sec... the worship services, you pour the milk and flowers all over it. It runs down this little trough and comes out this end here. It's how it's used.
Going back to one of the other Siva Lingum. Here you have all the classic Siva icon notations. You know, you have the Trishal, the damaru, the Ganges River, the Naag snake – but it's all encased inside the Lingum and the yoni. So you have Siva inside the Siva Lingum. Occasionally you see this kind of iconography, where two of these major forms are brought together. The Siva Lingums can be extremely elaborate or extremely simple. The whole gamut is there. They're all over India. They can be decorated. In this particular temple, you've got the Siva Lingum. They have it ... they drape it with some kind of cloth with some food off ... This is prasad. This is the sacrificial offering they make to the god. And, see, notice how they have here the Trishal nearby. So, you know, it lets you know, this is a Siva temple. In the background, this is actually Kali, another goddess, famous goddess – bloodthirsty Kali with the skulls around her neck, a severed head. We'll look at that later – look at her later. But she's there in the background.
You have simple Siva Lingums. That's a very simple one, you find in a temple. I've seen Siva Lingums that are at least ten feet high. And in fact, the one, the most elaborate one I ever saw was actually down in south India – in Bangalore. So you would expect to see beautiful into north India, but there's more prosperity in the south and they can build some huge, huge, powerful, expensive ones.
OK, so any questions about the Siva Lingum form? You see that regularly. I didn't mention the ashes on the body, but ashes are something you find often spread all over Siva. His followers especially will do that to themselves. Yes.
Question: So ??? is that form, we would know it's affiliated with Siva?
Comment: Always, OK.
Question: It's not just a god in its own right or some ...
No, it's always Siva's Lingum – nobody else's Lingum. It sounds horrible, doesn't it? I know this is a little bit of a shock, maybe. There's a lot of sexual imagery in Hinduism. I mean, with Krishna, it gets pretty elaborate with a lot of the erotic dalliances with the gopis. And you find it with Siva, especially in those two forms. Yes.
Question: Why is there all this ... on the one hand all this erotic imagery and stuff like that and yet at the same time asceticism is like this big thing in India?
Well, there are two reasons for it. I think it's a great question and it's been talked about a lot. One answer that has been given is that part of India likes to show that, you know, the one and the many, you know – that everything, however diverse from different extremes, ultimately finds some kind of convergence point. It's the whole Hindu mentality, so, you know.
The other idea is that there is actually is a tension in between life-affirming, life-negating, streams in Hinduism. And in the Bhagavad-Gita is where that real battle actually occurs. I mean, this is why the Gita, which is not that important literature on the sruti level, becomes sruti basically, because everyone recognises that really all of Hindu philosophy finally meets on the battlefield – not just symbolically in Arjuna's battlefield, but actually symbolically. All the philosophies fight it out there. And in the Gita you have this struggle over whether the job is to enter into life or to extract from life.
The compromise I think – and I typically think that's really more of the answer, but there are people who think the other. The compromise I think actually eventually comes out with the four stages of life. Because the four stages of life is really the ultimate compromise. Because it's OK, you a student stage, you have wife, family. You engage fully in the world. But then you begin to extract from the world and eventually you detach from the world and become a sannyasin. So they kind of become stages, where any of these things can be affirmed. So you have the one life, the many expressions. The one and the many.
So eventually this all kind of comes together so that any one point your life could be yet another cosmic homology for greater forces in the universe. So if you have a family, the act of intercourse is a cosmical homology of creation itself. If you're denying yourself, if you're starving yourself, you're on the banks of the Ganges, you're a cosmical homology for death and destruction at the end of the ages. I mean, the whole thing is there compressed into your life. That's kind of the standard answers to this.
OK, Durga is one of the manifestations of the great Deva, Ma. We talked about that the opening slides, how the goddess form of India has taken several forms. We mentioned three main forms. We mentioned Saraswati, which is the god of knowledge, of Brahma. We mentioned Parvati and Lakshmi. And the Parvati form has two major further manifestations – Durga and Kali. Very, very important in India – especially north India, especially over in the eastern part of India, like in places like Bengal. Calcutta is Kali Cutta – it's the whole city is founded for Kali. So Kali is one of the forms of this. So looking at Durga and Kali are very important, especially in places like Calcutta.
Durga's form is identified with multiple, multiple arms. I'm sorry, I'll have better pictures of this. I need to find some better pictures of Durga. But essentially she is identified with major numbers of arms. You'll find Durga often with a spear in her hand, because she's famous for this slaying of this buffalo king – buffalo demon. And she's often riding her mount, which is a lion. So, the lion, the spear, the multiple arms, slaying of some figure – it's all classic. There's no question this is Durga.
It's obviously a goddess form too. It's ... I guess that's the first thing you should ask: Is this a god or a goddess? So if it's a goddess, you're OK, we're looking is this Parvati? Is this Durga? Is this Kali? Whatever. So, there's no question when you saw the multiple arms, you know this is Durga.
Another example of ... here's another icon of it. Again, all the same features. You've got the multiple arms. You've got the victory over the buffalo king. You've got the spear. You're ... actually interesting ... this one is interesting because you have Ganesh over here on the side watching the whole thing. So, you know this is a ... you know the Shaivite universe that you're in. It's not these things are all separate. You may find within the Shaivite universe other things will come in. Within the Vishnaivite universe ... So it's not unusual to have a Ganesh like watching the whole thing, because ultimately Ganesh is the son of Parvati. Durga's one of the expressions of Parvati. So, you know, it's all possible.
Amazingly you have Saraswati here, which is the consort of Brahma. We haven't discussed Saraswati, but there she is. This could Parvati. This could be her in a non- manifest form. I'm not really sure if that's Parvati or that's her. But you have the lion. You have the demon, a buffalo king, being slayed, the spear.
It's interesting, you also have other ... I mean, because she has so many hands, you'll find things that you may have seen other places. This is typical. When you have a goddess with so many arms and hands, you've got to put something in their arms to symbolise something. This is the disk that we saw, you know, Rama's disk. You've got Rama's arrow. So you've got a lot of Vishnu's disk. You've got things that we've seen in other icons that may appear in these. That's not unusual. There's Durga.
Here's another. Well, this one is a rotating "Name that god". Here's Durga. We've already saw ... who's that? Lakshmi. ??? That's Kali. We haven't looked at that. Durga. Coins. Remember? Lakshmi. Saraswati – we haven't looked at her, but she always has the instrument. And there's that bloodthirsty Kali – we' haven't looked at yet. All right.
Which does bring us to Kali. Kali is always the most shocking of the goddesses or even of any of the icons. People who see Kali are always amazed at the bloodthirsty horror of the whole thing. One of my biggest surprises ... I've seen many, many iconographies of Kali and very ... and idols as well, in various temples and all that. But my biggest surprise, when I was actually at NTC at the seminary and right next door we have a Buddhist monastery and they had their main temple which I'd been to many times and I ... But I was with one of our, one of the monks there, one time, and we were talking and we were walking down this little path and ... This is a Tibetan monastery. This Tibetan monk and we were talking and we go down and there's this little, little miniature shrine or something. This is in the Buddhist compound now, which I'd never been into before. We're actually looking at this prayer wheel that they have down there. We went beyond it. There's a little building there. We go inside and there are several Bodhisattvas – Buddhist things – but there in huge form, in that temple, was Kali. In the Buddhist temple – this form – I was ... Actually it was more like this form here, but I was really, really surprised to see that there. But he says: yeah, we're afraid of Kali too. So we give puja to Kali.
In the traditional story of Kali, the form you're actually seeing is based on a major battle that she had. And it goes back to a earlier battle with a demon known as Raktavera. We haven't actually discussed Raktavera and we will not ... you're not responsible for Raktavera. But Raktavera is one of the famous demons. In the course of the battle, Brahma, with whom he's fighting ...
One of the things you'll often find is that the reason Brahma does come into the mythology a lot is the Trimurtis of Brahma grants boons. A boon means a divine favour. So, if you're fighting and you have some big struggle and you agree to give up as long as you get a boon or if you ... maybe you have a victory. Maybe the demons have victory over the gods and then in various battles. It depends on the situation. But in this case, lord Brahma granted the boon to Raktavera that if he ever had his blood shed which means he knew he was killed in battle, every drop of blood that was shed would become another demon. It's a way to multiply himself basically. That was the boon he got. Remember I told you about Vishnu got the boon whatever. Take three steps, you know, all that. These are just ... this is very typical in the epic literature. You have some battle or some encounter and then someone's granted a boon or whatever.
So, when Kali came upon Raktavera, she had to kill him without allowing any blood to drop on the ground. So, in the course of the battle, she stabs him fatally and then immediately reaches down and she sucks all of his blood out of his body, so that none will drop to the ground. Isn't this just like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John? So, she drinks all of his blood before it gushes out. But, because she drank the blood, it gave her this powerful bloodlust for destruction. So, she goes along – that's why she has these multiple arms to symbolise this – she goes along killing and slaying everything, just massively creating all this havoc. And so the only way it could be stopped is if Siva, the world's destroyer himself, put a stop to it by bowing down and under her feet. So she is slaying, slaying, slaying, killing – she's on Siva, about to slay Siva and she realises that Siva himself – which she realised through implication, Siva, Parvati. Parvati, this is her god, or her consort. She stops the battle. And that's how the world is saved.
Now, if you're looking at a Kali icon, there are a number of things which will tell you immediately it's Kali. The multiple arms is one way to tell. I wouldn't say it's necessarily the ... there are other goddesses with multiple arms. That's one way for sure to start you on the path. The other two ways that are dead giveaways is the tongue out – like the bloodthirsty tongue sticking out. Does this one have it? This one here? Yeah, this has it as well. The tongue sticking out is a major example. And then, she always has a garland of skulls around her neck. Now, these don't look too bad. These look like heads. Often you'll find ... like this is more like just skulls. That's very typical. Usually in one of her arms is one dismembered head. It's often dripping with blood. Some of the figures of Kali, she herself is dripping in blood – though it's not present on these two icons. The severed head. The garland of skulls. The tongue out. Multiple arms. Those are all classic Kali. O yeah, the hair. She has really long hair. You can see – she usually has like wild, dishevelled hair. It's like ... it's almost like Siva in that sense. Yes.
Question: What's with the multiple faces?
The multiple faces is again a way of showing their omnipotence, their transcendence. It shows that their ... it's a goddess, rather than just a guru. In this case that's clearly ... it's an example of power because it's the same face. If it's different faces of other gods and goddesses, it could be like a theological move, you know clandestinely, but to exert and say – especially with Krishna you see this – that all of the other gods are found in Krishna. So that kind of theological thing happens sometimes in the icons.
This is another Kali temple. These are all over Calcutta. They're often dark so it's hard to see – get a good picture of it – but here is this skulls around the neck. The tongue – dead giveaway. Multiple arms. So you've got a lot of the features that you should know immediately that this is a Kali goddess. Yes.
Question: Does the name Kali have anything to do with Kali yuga – the dark age?
It does. It does. Yeah, that's the last age of destruction. It's the same word.
Question: And do people worship her so she won't kill them?
Uh-huh. Yeah. In fact, in my dissertation, the figure I studied, Ramavanta, lived in Calcutta. He wanted to find a way to create festivals for Kali and Durga in Calcutta that Christians could participate in as cultural symbols. I'm not saying I endorse this idea. I'm just telling you what he was like deeply committed to. We don't have time to go into all the analysis of it – but, anyway, this created a huge controversy. And he eventually was charged with having turned back to Hinduism, because of especially this Durga festival that occurred in Calcutta that was very famous. And he participated in the Durga puja. He had all kinds of theological reasons for this, which may be lamentable, but he realised you cannot get on with the gospel in Calcutta especially without dealing with Kali. So this is the city of Kali. His idea was, he went to Europe and he saw how the Europeans had reduced the gods, OK. Goddess of wisdom was in front of some building in the centre square of London. And he said: Well, gosh, you know, nobody worships this goddess of wisdom, Sophia. Why can't we kind of do the same thing – kind of demote our gods to cultural icons, not religious icons? He's exploring this idea in the latter part of his life. Yes.
Question: Is Kali also a form of ???
Yes. Yeah, Durga and Kali are the two forms of ... actually what you find in most of the gods and goddesses both is that all of them have a creative form and a destructive form. So Siva's creative form is called Rudra. His destructive form is called Siva – which is the whole Siva theme. But Rudra is always present in Siva. Siva is always present in Rudra. And you've got the goddess Kali is more destructive. Durga is more creative. This is typical of the way it works.
If you saw this, could you identify it? Surely you could. It's got all the features of it – the severed head, the garlands. This one only has four arms, but you have the triumph over the buffalo king, very similar kinds of icons.
OK, the easiest one to identify would be Ganesh himself. This is the last one that you need to know. I have a few extra slides to show you a few things. But Ganesh is probably the most beloved of the Hindu gods – found all over India. I want to give you the iconography even though the most obvious thing is the elephant head.
I think I mentioned to you something of the story of this. But essentially what happened, Siva was coming home to Parvati. And Parvati and Siva apparently had a dispute among one another about he would barge into her inner chamber even if she was taking a bath. And she didn't like this. So, she took some ... I mean, there's different ways this story's told, but basically she took some sandalwood from one of her shoes – because they don't wear leather shoes – obviously these were high caste people, so they wear wooden shoes. And so she took this sandalwood shoe, put some paste on it and she made a son from it. So the son is there. The son was told to guard the door so that Siva could not get in to see her or to bother her during her morning rituals – her, you know, ablutions. So, Siva comes home. He doesn't know who this fellow is. And they get into this big battle and they fight and eventually, in the course of the battle, the son's head is severed. Parvati comes out, is extremely upset and is about to destroy the whole heavens and earth and everything else. And so before she's allowed to do this, he quickly tells his people: Go out and get the head of the first thing you find. So they rush out into the woods and, of course, you're in India, right? So what are you going to find? An elephant, right? So the first living thing that they find is an elephant. So they cut off his head, rush it back. They reattach the head to the child that was severed. And the child lives. And Parvati's happy. And now she has this wonderful son Ganesh.
Ganesh – gana is the term they use for Siva's followers anyway. They're called ganas. And isha – lord of. Ganesh means lord of the followers of Siva, basically. ??? it is what it means – lord of the followers of Siva. So Ganesh is the icon for Siva's followers. And so you'll find Ganesh taken out of the Siva/Parvati/Ganesh little family setting we saw earlier into actual separate shrines all over India. And you'll see Ganesh there.
There's several features about the Ganesh iconography that's important. I mentioned one already. Ganesh always has four arms in proper Ganesh iconography. Ganesh is always fat – not just an elephant, a fat elephant. He'll have various things in his hands. He usually has something sweet – like a bowl of sweet something in his hand because, you know, he's fat – he's eating a lot. And he gives his followers things to eat. He's a god of prosperity. There are a number of gods of prosperity and wealth. He's one of the major prosperity gods.
Actually, there are always four beings, I don't know what, animals, whatever – four beings, I guess you could say, associated with Ganesh. You don't see them on this one completely – or maybe we do. We have the man. You have the elephant. You have a mouse, which I didn't notice was on this – but there it is – the mount is a mouse. So here's an elephant riding a mouse. O, you wouldn't believe the theology drawn from that. And the fourth is the snake. I don't see the snake on here – on this one. Again, it's not clear to see, but in many of them you'll see a clear snake.
The Brahmins wear a sacred thread. We haven't looked at that yet, but we will next week or so. But ... or the week after next, after reading week. The sacred thread is a thread that the Brahmins wear that let's everyone know they're Brahmins. So he also wears like a thread, but it's a snake. So you have a snake, a mouse, an elephant and a man that are usually found in the icon – often one or the other of those.
Here's other examples. In this case he has six arms. That's a little variation of the basic four theme. It's almost a play on the dancing Siva and the Nataraja. You can see this. But the main thing to notice obviously is the elephant head, the snake. You can recognise this definitely a Ganesh figure.
Question: Is that a Trishal he's holding? ???
Yeah, it is. It's definitely a Trishal he's holding, yeah. Which is not a problem, because this is the Shaivite universe, right? Siva has the Trishal, so any offspring ultimately of Siva or one of his companions could have it.
You have ... here's other examples of it. One thing I did notice actually – or didn't mention to you that he only ever has one tusk. Did I put that on the list? Maybe I didn't. I mean, these are minor things. I didn't actually. You could probably note on the other marks on the right the broken tusk. Let's see if the others ... it's better to see that. Yeah, in this one you can see it really well. See how this tusk is there full, this is broken? He always has one tusk that's broken off. We could spend all day telling the stories behind why the tusk is broken. It goes down to stories that are a ... like an expansion of the original story of Ganesh himself, how he was severed because he guarded the door. He's at another point in his life guarding the door to protect his father this time when there's a big battle and his tusk is broken. There's another story that he is the one that penned the Ramayana and he needed something to write with, so he broke off his tusk and used it to write the Ramayana with. You know, this kind of ... there's various stories behind it.
In fact, if you're ever in Sri Lanka, O they have their own story. In Sri Lanka, they say that the demon king in the Ramayana, the famous epic, mostly takes place in Sri Lanka. So in that epic struggle, the demon king, Ravana, takes the tusk of Ganesh, one of them, and makes ivory ear-rings for all of the women of Sri Lanka. So if you see a woman in Sri Lanka with a ivory ear-ring, you can say: O, it's so nice to see that you're wearing Ganesh's tusk. She'll be so impressed with your knowledge of Hindu iconography, because that's what it is, historically. But that's a lot of ear-rings to make from a little tusk. But you'll see the broken tusk on the Hindu icons.
OK, I had a few little kind of free slides to show you – just to clarify a few things that are not on the exam, but may be helpful. And then if you have any other questions about any of these icons, feel free to ask. Yes.
Question: Do you ??? like there should be ??? significant ???. Why couldn't they just put in original heads?
Well, I ... if you're asking the question historically, as an historian verses a popular, you know, these ribbon things. Historically, the belief is that Hindus in this area worship the elephant. They worship the mouse. They worship all the major animals round them worshipped. So, the elephant had to be brought in some way as a form for the icon. Otherwise, you have to essentially tell somebody: No, your god's wrong. And Hinduism never tells anybody they're wrong. They tell everybody they're right. Their whole idea is absorb, absorb, absorb. So Hinduism, rather than delineate and try to demote the elephant just: OK, great, we'll put it on the head. No problem. So, a lot of this has to do with competing worship things.
On a popular level, Ganesh is very popular because of the elephant. Kids love riding elephants. They love playing with elephants. Elephants spray water on everybody. Elephants are decorated in big festivals. So it's a popular thing. This is ... would be the ways it's answered, based on who you're talking to. I think the historical reason's more probably what you're looking for. You want to know the facts – the historical development of all this.
That's why also you have the mouse. I'm convinced the mo... all the mounts, the bull, the mouse, the ... all the ones we looked at, are all part of essentially Hinduism absorbing deities that are worshipped when they try to exalt these other major figures. Eventually, on the final exam, I will show you pictures ... Here you see the mouse really clearly there. You see the broken tusk, fat stomach. I don't see the snake. But obviously the elephant head. So pretty obvious. The sweet bowl of food is always there. Four arms. It's just classic Ganesh iconography.
A few pictures just to show that on a few things. We're going to come back to kind of puja and what happens in the temple and so forth, but this is a picture of the Ganges River. This is right in Calcutta, the city of Kali. And these steps are called ghats – and they're famous steps down to the Ganges River. How many of you have been to Varanasi? So you've been ???? OK. Well, this is like Mecca for the Moslems. This is the place where the cremations take place. And these ... on every one of these tents, these little domes, is a Brahman. And this is where you go – you pay money to learn the mantra that you say when you sprinkle the ashes or whatever. And this is a very, very common sight in Calcutta.
This is another god that's very famous along the Ganges River. This is actually the cremation god here where they cremate the bodies. I've actually sat and watched them burn the bodies. And then they put them in these little baskets and then they'll put flowers all over it and spices and they'll put it out into the Ganges River. It's a very remarkable thing to see.
Here's a Siva temple. This is right there also in Varanasi – called, Siva is lord of the world. And in a place like Varanasi there's a lot of vying for attention. And so you have a lot of multiple gods being worshipped.
I wanted to show you a couple of temples that are right here in the US. This is a floor plan of a temple in the US. And I think this is actually helpful to see because it does demonstrate how Hindu worship actually takes place because you don't really have often in the large temples dedicated to one god or goddess. So you have various little niches you can go to worship various gods and goddesses. Most of these we've looked at – like Siva, Parvati, we've talked about Ganesh today, Subramanya, (which is a god of war; we haven't looked at), Sri Belagi (very famous) I'll show you a picture of Belagi in a minute briefly, but that's a god of worldly wealth – so you get money if you give to this god. Bhoodevi, that's actually the goddess of the earth. This comes into the Ramayana, so it's very, very popular among children. This is the goddess that swallows up Sadi in the end of that epic. And of course, the mother of India, the goddess of India.
Here's ... I thought very interesting. This is one in Chicago which I think really shows Hinduism – what happens with Hinduism. Because here you've got a temple complex in Chicago that has both ... it's a Rama temple as well as a Siva temple. You've got the whole thing here. So essentially it goes through everything we've looked at. So you walk up to the thing and you can decide whether you are a Vishnaivite or a Shaivite. So they OK Vishnaivites go here, Shaivites go there, or you can go to both. So the Rama temple has Sri Rama, Sita, Lakshman (that's the brother of Rama), lord Ganesh, Hanuman, Belagi (this is another word for Vivalaji, the god of worldly wealth), Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth), Mahalakshmi (just means the great Lakshmi), Krishna and Radha, of course – we looked at all of these – are present in the temple. In the Siva temple, you have lord Siva himself, you have Ganesh, Ganesha, Devi, Subramanya (the god of war), Parvati (the goddess consort).
We actually haven't mentioned Navagraha. Navagraha is also popular. That's the ... na means nine, gra means planets – and they worship all the planets. Actually, it's not practically true. That means nine planets. What they usually do is: Sunday they worship the sun, Monday the moon, then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday five of the planets is what I typically have seen. But they also worship all the planets. And they have like a day for Saturn, a day for Venus, a day for Neptune, Mars, I don't know, the base ... the major planets and I think Saturn. So what happens is that all of the gods, the major Shaivite gods, are associated with various planets as well. So the planets are all brought into it so people go and worship the planets.
We didn't mention Saraswati except in passing. You do not need to know Saraswati – it isn't on the list – but just to be clear. Saraswati ??? sorry I don't have any good pictures of it – but she is always seen with this instrument. You'll find this in places where they play music, but also she's the goddess of wisdom. A lot of schools will have Saraswati. Remember, who's Saraswati the consort of?
Brahma, right. You don't need to know ??? but just to keep it clear you have the three Trimurtis.
Gayatri is another one which we have not talked about. But I'm just giving you a few in case you're interested – might be helpful to be aware of. Gayatri has become kind of the god of all the Vedas – so this brings in the whole Vedic thing – and is always known by having five heads. So you might see that a lot. You probably would by just guessing maybe you'd see the spinning disk or whatever and you might be led in one direction. So I just thought I'd mention that – and the lotus. There's some giveaw... things that might lead you the other way. So Gayatri is a separate deity.
Belati I mentioned in passing. This is becoming more and more popular. You see it in a lot of places in India. It's totally black and it's always garlanded with diamonds or like iconography of diamonds, fake diamonds and stuff.
Subramanya, Hindu god of war, I mentioned that – always see the big spear in his hand. Mace which means power. You have that ... those icons. Again, these are ones you don't need to know, but just to fill in a few places.
Other well-known symbols we've talked about, but just make sure that you have these clear in your mind. This is, of course, the OM symbol. The two most dominant symbols that are not ... don't have any particular icon, but just Hinduism in general. The first is this one. This is the most popular. You see this everywhere. And this is that resonating sound that resonates through the universe. And the other is, of course, the swastika, which is emblazoned on temples and is ... appears in both forms that you see here. I'm pretty sure it must be the left one that is the one that was adopted by the Nazis because of the Aryan race thing – because this is a symbol of Aryanism. We talked about that before.
I didn't intend on us to spend the whole time on this, but I think it's helpful. So, we're going to have to come back next time, after the break, and we'll delve into the Bhakti movements, the Sanbhakti movements and puja and we will continue making progress through that.