Brihat Samhita

by N. Chidambaram Iyer | 1884 | 135,584 words | ISBN-13: 9788171104215

This page describes temple idols (pratima-lakshana) which is the fifty-eighth Chapter of the English translation of the Brihat-samhita. This work, written by Varahamihira in the 6th century, is classified as jyotisha literature, also known as Indian astronomy. It contains however, also content regarding astrology, palmistry, agriculture, gardening, perfumes, medicines and various other encyclopedic topics.

Chapter 58 - On temple idols (pratimā-lakṣaṇa)

1. The fine particles moving in the rays of the sun coming into a room through the window opening are known as atoms. Is not the atom the first of all measurements?

2. Eight atoms make an hair’s end; eight hair’s ends make a nit; eight nits make a louse; eight lice make a barley seed; eight barley seeds make a digit, which is known as a unit of measure.

3. The height of the pedestal of an idol (pratimā) shall be one-third of seven-eighths of the height of the entrance. The height of the idol shall be twice the height of the pedestal.

4. The breadth and length of the face of the image shall each be 12 digits. The sage Nagnajit says that in the Drāviḍa country, the face of the image is 14 digits long.

5. The nose, the forehead, the chin, the neck and the ear of the image shall each be 4 digits; the mouth shall be 2 digits; the breadth of the chin shall also be 2 digits.

6. The forehead shall be 8 digits long; 2 digits from it are the frontal bones which shall be 4 digits, and the ear shall be 2 digits broad.

7. The space between the ear and the eyebrows shall be four digits and a half and the lobes of the ear shall be well formed.

8. According to Vasiṣṭha the interval between the end of the eye and the ear shall be 4 digits; the lower lip shall be a digit broad and the upper one shall be one-half the size of the lower.

9. The Gocchā (dimple above the lip) shall be half a digit; the mouth shall be 4 digits long; the breadth of the mouth when open shall be 3 digits, and the opening shall be a digit and a half

10. The nose shall be two digits broad; the sense of smell is at the tip of the nose; the nose shall be two digits high; the interval between the eye and the tip of the nose shall be four digits.

11. The eye-lid shall be two digits broad; the eyeball shall also be two digits broad; the breadth of the pupil of the eye shall be two-thirds of a digit. The eye-lids shall be open with a space of half a digit. The centre of the pupil of the eye where the sense of sight remains shall be one-fifth of two-thirds of a digit.

12. From one end of an eyebrow to the other end of the other eyebrow shall be ten digits. The breadth of the eye-brow shall be half a digit. The interval between the eyebrows shall be two digits; and the length of each eyebrow shall be four digits.

13. The breadth of the hair of the eyebrows shall be half a digit throughout; at the end of the eye shall be formed the figure of the Karavīra flower about a digit in dimensions.

14. The breadth of the head shall be 32 digits; the same when measured across shall be 14 digits. In painting 12 out of the 32 digits shall be visible and the rest shall be invisible.

15. The face with the hair growing about it shall be 16 digits according to Nagnajit; the neck shall be 10 digits broad; the same when measured around shall be 21 digits.

16. The heart shall be 12 digits below the neck; the navel shall be 12 digits below the heart, and the genital organ shall be 12 digits below the centre of the navel.

17. The thighs shall be 24 digits long; the shanks shall also be 24 digits; the knee-shell shall be 4 digits, and the feet shall be 4 digits high.

18. The length of the feet shall be 12 digits and the breadth shall be 6 digits; the length of big toe shall be 3 digits; the same when measured around shall be 5 digits; the next toe shall also be 3 digits.

19. The other three toes shall each be one-eighth less than the length of the toe before it. The height of the big toe shall be a digit and a quarter.

20. The learned say that the nail of the big toe shall be three-fourths of a digit broad and that the toe-nails shall each be half a digit or less.

21. The shanks when measured around āt the end shall be 14 digits. The breadth at the place shall be 5 digits. The breadth of the shanks at the middle shall be 7 digits; the shanks when measured around at the middle shall be 27 digits.

22. The knee shall be 8 digits broad at the middle; the knee when measured around at the middle shall be 24 digits. The breadth of the thigh at the middle shall be 14 digits; the same when measured around at the middle shall be 28 digits.

23. The hip shall be 18 digits broad; the same when measured around shall be 44 digits. The navel shall be a digit deep.

24. The measure of the body round the middle of the navel shall be 42 digits. The interval between the two nipples of the breast shall be 16 digits and the armpit shall be at a distance of 6 digits from the nipple.

25. The shoulders shall be 8 digits long; the upper arm shall be 12 digits long; the lower arm shall be 6 digits and the wrist shall be 4 digits.

26. The upper arm when measured around at its root shall be 16 digits and the lower arm when measured around at the wrist shall be 12 digits. The breadth of the palm shall be 6 digits and its length shall be 7 digits.

27. The middle finger shall be 5 digits long; the fore-finger shall be shorter than the middle finger by one half of the length of its middle-joint; the length of the ring finger shall be the same as that of the fore-finger, and the little finger shall be shorter than the middle finger by its last joint.

28. The thumb shall consist of two joints and the other fingers of three joints each. The breadth of the nails shall be one-half of the length of the joints on which they grow.

29. The images shall be shaped and adorned according to the fashion of the country. By placing images in temples, a person becomes prosperous.

30. The images of Rāma. the son of Daśaratha and of Bali, the son of Virocana, shall each be 120 digits high. The Devas of middle importance shall be 108 digits high and the inferior Devas shall be 96 digits high.

31. The image of Bhagavān Viṣṇu shall have either 8 hands or 4 hands or 2 hands; there shall be a mole at the breast known as

32. Śrīvatsa; and the figure shall be represented to wear at the breast the gem known as Kaustubha.

33. The body shall be of the colour of the Atasī flower; the cloth shall be of yellow colour; the countenance cheerful and the image shall be made to wear pendants and crowns. The neck, the breast, the shoulders and the arm shall be large.

34. Three of the right hands shall hold a sword, a stick and an arrow, and the fourth hand shall appear stretched and held vertically[1]. The four left hands shall hold the bow, the target, the discus and the conch shell.

35. If the image of Viṣṇu be made with only four hands, one of the two right hands shall hold the stick and the other shall be raised as an abhaya-hasta. Of the two left hands, one shall hold the conch-shell and the other the discus.

35. If the image be made with only two hands, the right hand shall be raised up as an Abhaya-hasta and the left shall hold the conch-shell. He who desires prosperity shall make an image of Viṣṇu as stated above.

36. The image of Baladeva shall be made with a plough in one hand, with eyes dim through pride, with a pendant and a body white like conch-shell, moon and the stem of the lotus.

37. Between the images of Baladeva and Kṛṣṇa (Viṣṇu) shall be placed the image of a beautiful woman with her left hand in her middle and with a lotus in her light hand.

38. If the figure be made with four hands, the two left hands shall hold the lotus and a book and one of the light hands shall be shaped as a Varada-hasta[2] and the other hand shall hold a rosary of crystal beads.

39. If the figure be made with eight hands, the four left hands shall hold the water bowl, the bow, the lotus, and a book; and of the four right hands, one shall he made into a Varada-hasta and the other three shall hold the arrow, the mirror and crystal heads.

40. The image of Śāmba (son of Balarāma) shall be made with a stick in one hand; and that of Pradyumna (son of Kṛṣṇa) with a bow in his hand; the images of the wives of these shall be made each with a sword in one hand, a target in the other.

41. The image of Brahmā shall be made as seated in a lotus with a water jar in one hand and with four faces. The image of Skanda shall be made to appear young with the weapon known as Śakti in his hand, and as mounted on a peacock.

42. The image of Indra shall be mounted on a white elephant with four tusks and with the weapon known as Vajrāyuddha in his hand: there shall be a third eye in the forehead of the figure.

43. The image of Siva shall be made with the figure of the Moon in his head as it appears in the third lunar day after the New-moon, as mounted on a bull with a third eye in his forehead, with the trident in one hand and a bow known as Pināka in the other. The left half of the image may be made of half the body of PārvatīŚiva’s wife.

44. The image of Buddha shall be made as seated in a lotus with the hands and feet marked with the figure of the lotus, with a cheerful countenance and with short hair.

45. The image of the God of the Arhats shall be made with hands hanging down to the knees with the mole known as Śrīvatsa in his breast, with a placid look and as naked, young and beautiful.

46. In the image of the Sun, the nose, the forehead, the shanks, the thighs, the cheeks and the breast shall be large. In adorning the image, the method followed in the northern countries shall be followed. From breast to the feet shall appear covered.

47. The Sun shall be represented as holding a lotus in each hand, as wearing a crown and pendants, with garlands hanging from his neck and as surrounded by Devas.

48. the countenance shall be cheerful and the lustre of the gems shall add beauty to the image. He who fixes in a temple an image of the Sun of the above description will enjoy prosperity.

49. An image only a cubit high is good; one 2 cubits long will bring on wealth; and if the height be 3 or 4 cubits there will be plenty and prosperity.

50. If the image has an extra organ the master will suffer from kings; if it be one of defective organs, the master will suffer from diseases; if the belly be depressed, there will be suffering from hunger, and if the figure appear thin there will be loss of wealth.

51. If the image be wounded, the master will die by weapons; if the left side of the image be bent, the master’s wife will suffer, and if the right side be bent, the master will meet with early death.

52. If the eyes of the image look upwards, the master will become blind, and if the eyes look downwards, the master will suffer from anxieties of mind. These remarks apply as well to the images of the other Devas as to that of the Sun.

53. The height of the Liṅga shall be equal to the length of the circumference; the lower one-third of the Liṅga shall be foursided, the central third shall be eight-sided, and the upper third shall be round.

54. The lower part of the Liṅga shall be planted into the ground, the middle part shall be made to fit the hole in the pedestal. The breadth of the pedestal all round the hole shall be of the length of the portion of the Liṅga above.

55. If the Liṅga be thin and tall, the country will perish; if a side be defective, towns will perish; and there will be suffering if there be any wound in the head of the Liṅga.

56. The idols (pratimā) of the mother deities shall also be made after the manner of the country and agreeably to their names. The image of Revanta (son of Sūrya) shall be represented as mounted on a horse and as surrounded by a party of hunters.

57. The image of Yama (God of death) shall be mounted on a buffalo and as holding a club in his hand. The image of Varuṇa shall hold a rope in his hand and be mounted on a swan. The image of Kubera shall be represented as being borne by men, with a large belly and wearing a beautiful crown.

58. The image of Gaṇeśa shall be represented with the face of the elephant, with a hanging belly, with an axe in his hand, with a single tusk and with the root of the Mūlaka with its black leaves.

Footnotes and references:

1.

This position of the hand is known as abhaya-hasta—telling men not to fear.

2.

Varada-hasta: as if granting the worshippers their wishes—the hand is made to hang down with the palm towards the worshipper and the fingers slightly bent up.

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