The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 410,072 words

This page describes “symbology of khatvanga in the mahavrata” from the part dealing with Nampi Arurar (Sundarar) and Mythology, viz. Puranic stories and philosophy. The 7th-century Thevaram (or Tevaram) contains devotional poems sung in praise of Shiva. These hymns form an important part of the Tamil tradition of Shaivism

Symbology of khatvanga in the Mahavrata

[Note: for the context of this text, see chapter 3.8 section IV.4-5]

(4) [a] Burning Ghat:

In the mahavrata, one has to reside in the forest without coming into the village except for alms and wear the skin with khatvanga, held as a stick. “Khatvangam dandarthe’—that is what Apastamba says. The very word ‘khatvanga’ in its Tamil form ‘Kattankam’ is used by Arurar. The penance is clearly mentioned, “Kaiyatu kapalam katurai volkkai kattankam entiya kaiyar” —’The skull is in his hand; His is the life in the forest; His hand bears or holds the kattankam’. Khatvanga is described by Mr. Gopinatha Rao: “The Khatvanga is a curious sort of club, made up of the bone of the fore-arm or the leg, to the end of which a human skull is attached through the fore-arm”. This khatvanga became the Pallava emblem: they had the khatvanga dhvija.


Arurar refers to these, ‘You live in the old burning ground’. ‘Your village is the forest; your garment is the skin’,—“Urum katu utaiyum tole’: ‘you will never devoid of your unique attachment to the burning ground’—“Patakattakattu enrum parroliyay” ‘Ho has the forest as the familiar (abode)’—“Payila-k katutaiyan”. ‘Is He of the cremation ground—the charred forest’?—“Kari kataro’?

(5) Khatvanga:

The representation of the Kankala murti is found in the Kailasanatha Temple. This may be taken up along with the Bhikshatana form. Here may be noted the representation of Kankala and Khatvanga. Plate XLVi, fig. 1, gives the panel in front of the second cell from the East end of the large court on the North side of the Kailasanatha Temple. The stick is seen resting on His left shoulder. What is behind is not visible. This is visible as a chaurie in the plate LXI representing the panel on the back of the shrine at the South-west corner of the Vimana. We see the Agamas stating that the Kankala is tied up with probably chaurie as well. There is fig. 2, plate CXIX with a kankala which represents the South side panel on the side wall of Airavatesvara Temple.

The Khatvanga has been identified in one of the panels by Dr. Mlnaksi, in the shrine. It is seen in Rea’s Plate XXXIX, fig. 4. His description had already been mentioned whilst describing the panels containing the Mother. This misinterpretation is due to bad touching up and white-washing. Her interpretation is this: “There are two ganas at the feet of Shiva one above the other. The lower one holds a staff at the top of which we see a skull fixed and sheltered by the hood of a fine serpent entwining the staff”, because of which serpent, as she points out, “the Pallava, ‘the khatvangabhrt’ comes to be called “Pamputaippallavar kdn’\—the chief of the Pallavas with the serpent”. Arurar also speaks of the “Vital arava-k koti";—‘the flag of the Bull and the Serpent’. Pallava had both these emblems—the bull and the khatvanga. Shiva, according to the legend here narrated, has both these flags. In fig. 1, of Plate XLIII in Rea, representing the panel from the north on the North side of court, there is a gana carrying a staff with a joint at the top. What Rea represents as ‘gall’ is possibly the bull. What he calls a lotus is probably the skull and the hood of the serpent. This, therefore, may be taken to be a representation of the khatvanga.

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