Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes characteristics of images (bimba-lakshana) which is Chapter 23 of the English translation of the Parama Samhita, representing a manual of the Pancaratra school of Vaishnavism philosophy. These pages summarize ritualistic worship, initiation and other topics, as contained in the various Agamas belonging to the Pancaratra school

Chapter 23 - Characteristics of Images (bimba-lakṣaṇa)


1. Please tell me how the image (bimba) should be, in respect of its features, with all measurements connected therewith; also the position of the organs as also the features of the pedestal platform.


2. I have already explained that the material for images may be gold etc. Having first of all cleaned these, let these images be made by expert artisans.

3. When the gold is all melted together, make it into an ingot of uniform thickness all round. Such an ingot is acceptable for an image of God, as otherwise, the image will bring no good.

4-5A. Khadira, Panasa, Madhūka, Sandal, Saraḷa, Devadāru, Jāti, Asana, Timiśa, Chandan, these trees are considered acceptable among trees.

5B-6A. For auspicious images (bimba), the pieces of wood ought to be straight, close-fibred, symmetrical in shape, without knots, uninjured, heavy, full grown but not dried.

6B-10A. A stone dug up from ground well known for good stone, clean and cold to the touch, but without flaws of any kind, should be chosen. That which gives a broken sound is unacceptable, and is to be understood as impregnated with other substances; it is easily broken. Stones are of three kinds, according to locality, and are said to be of different colours Those stones are inauspicious which show, when dug up, the figure of a crow, an ass, a monkey, a dog, a snake, a scorpion or a bandicoot, on the dug up surface. If, in some other stones, flaws appear in nature, that stone is to be understood as aṣṭagarbha, and is destructive of the whole family (kula).

10B-11. If the stone shows the signs of the conch, discus, mace, lotus, umbrella, festoon and elephant, or lion, swine, deer, śrīvatsa (sign like a curl of hair), elephant-goad or water-pot, such a stone is auspicious.

12-13 A. If the stone shows when washed other signs auspicious or inauspicious such a stone should be regarded middling when it is evenly heavy all round.

13B-16A. If a stone is, in appearance, like gingelly or rice, or sand, except at the lines on the stone, that also has to be counted middling. If through the mason’s carelessness or due to exposure to wind and sun, the stone shows itself defective though free from other stones, pieces of wood or sand, and there is no evidence of impurity by smell, colour, touch or sound, that stone is auspicious for all classes of people.

16B-17A. Even earth has to be tested in the same way as detailed above and, if dug up from a clean place, the material is considered auspicious.

17B-18. The image of God made in this manner with the good materials described above, and called in the science variously bimbaarchabera and pratimā, are of various sizes according as they are to be housed in prāsāda or bhavana.

19. In this Śāstra, the sizes of images (bimba) meant for being carried about, and for those represented in painting, are said to be of three kinds of measurements, O, Pitāmaha!

20-22A. The height, the width and the perimeter arc the three measures of an image; the first is spoken of as unmāna, the next vimāna, and the last parimāṇa in the Śāstra. Whatever is measured in this manner with the three measurements, is to be understood as citra (picture), and is fit for worship by the learned.

22B-23A. When the size of the image is made one-half, it is called acitra; but is yet considered fit for worship. Images (bimba) etc., made irrespective of the measurements prescribed are called citrābhāsa. Whatever is made beautifully, with colours on cloth, walls, etc. for the use of the devout, such are called bhaktivardhana (what increases devotion).

24B-25A. Set up beautifully made acitra images of half size made of stone or wood for the increase of devotion in women and children.

25B-26A. Set up citra images (bimba) in prāsāda temples, or temples of the bhavana class, for one’s own prosperity. Worship images which can be carried about (jaṅgama) daily invoking God into them, or evoking as occasion demands.

26B-29. The dust particles dancing in the sun-beam, bursting through a window (& other wind-hole)—the smallest ones moving about are called paramāṇu. Eight of these make a keśa. Eight keśas make a likhyā. Eight likhyās make one yūka. Eight yūkas make one yava. That which measures eight yavas is one aṅgula. Twelve aṅgulas make one vītasti or tāla. Two tālas make one hasta (hand). Five make a puruṣa (man).

30. It is not desirable that an image of Viṣṇu should exceed five hastas, nor be smaller than one hasta for a prāsāda temple.

31. An image (bimba) to be set up in a bhavana temple should not exceed one hand. From the Vindhyas............

The manuscript seems broken here.