Vishnudharmottara Purana (Art and Architecture)
by Bhagyashree Sarma | 2021 | 59,457 words
This page relates ‘8(b): The Image of Various Gods’ of the study on the elements of Art and Architecture according to the Vishnudharmottara Purana: an ancient text whose third book deals with various artisan themes such as Architecture, Painting, Dance, Grammar, etc. Many chapters are devoted to Hindu Temple architecture and the iconography of Deities and their installation rites and ceremonies.
8(b): The Image of Various Gods
In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the attire, accessories, weapons, carrier, different colours etc. of the idols of different deities are projected which are taken for discussion here.
According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Brahmā should have four faces and four arms. But in the Vāyupurāṇa, Brahmā is known for fourteen faces. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Brahmā should be made in the posture of being seated on a lotus seat. This book states that the dress of Brahmā should be the skin of an antelope.
The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa states that the icon of Viṣṇu should be as seated on a statue of Garuḍa. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa as well as the Bṛhatsaṃhitā, the image of Viṣṇu should be adorned with kaustubha and a vanamālā. Kaustubha is a kind of celebrated gem which is obtained with thirteen other jewels during the churning of ocean. In the Garuḍapurāṇa, the image of Viṣṇu is prescribed as adorned with kaustubha and vanamālā. In the Raghuvaṃśa of Kālidāsa also, we find the reference of Kṛṣṇa’s use of kaustubha. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the colour of the idol of Viṣṇu should be as the colour of water loaded cloud and the garment should be yellow. But the Bṛhatsaṃhitā suggests that the complexion of the image of Viṣṇu should be as dark as atasī flower i.e., common flax which is light blue in colour. The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa also states that the image of Viṣṇu should have four faces and eight arms. In his right hands there should be some equipments like arrows, a rosary, a club and the left hands should possess a shield, a garment and a rainbow.
According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Mahādeva should be placed on a statue of bull. But according to the Bṛhatsaṃhitā, the picture of bull should be placed on the flag of the image of Mahādeva. In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, five faces of the image of Mahādeva are instructed to be made.
From the etymological meaning of the word yama, it is known that Yama is that, who controls our lives and gives the result of our lives. In Hindu mythology, Yama is recognized as the god of death. In the Ṛgveda, god Yama is prayed for leading the devotees to the path through which their ancestors departed. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the colour of the image of Yama should be very dark like water loaded cloud. The Kāśyapaśilpa also states that the complexion of Yama should be as dark as black colour. Śilparatna of Śrīkumāra also admits it. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Yama should have four hands where as the Kāśyapaśilpa as well as the Śilparatna accepts only two hands of this God. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa the image of Yama should hold a ḍaṇḍa and a khaḍga in his right hands and a carma with one of his left hands. In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, it is suggested that the garment of Yama should be in the colour of heated gold. But according to the Kāśyapaśilpa, the image of Yama should be adorned with red attire. Śilparatna also admits it. In the context of having mahiṣa i.e., a buffalo as vāhana of Yama, the view points of the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa , the Kāśyapaśilpa and the Śilparatna seem to be similar.
According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Yama should be made along with his two companions viz., Citragupta and Kāla. But the Kāśyapaśilpa accepts kinnara instead of Kāla. Again the Śilparatna accepts Kali instead of Kāla. In the Ṛgveda, two dogs of Yama are referred to as yamadūta i.e., the messenger of Yama. So, there may be a connection between the relation of Citragupta, Kāla and Yama with the Vedic portrayal of the two dogs with Yama. Moreover, according to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Yama should be made along with his wife Dhūmorṇā. The skin tone of Dhūmorṇā is like the colour of blue lotus and she sits on the left lap of her husband. The image of Dhūmorṇā should have two hands having mātuluṅga i.e., a kind of citron tree, in her left hand and her right hand should be placed on the back of her husband. The image of Citragupta and Kāla should be placed in the right and left side of the image of Yama respectively . The etymological meaning of the term citragupta identifies him as a recorder of vices and virtues of mankind. According to the Medinīkośa, Citragupta is an attendant as well as a writer of Yama. So, it can be said that taking this concept from earlier sources, the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa prescribes that the idol of Citragupta should hold a pen in the right hand and a leaf in the left hand . Moreover, the idol of Kāla should hold a noose in his left hand.
Varuṇa is known as the lord of water. In the Śatapaṭhabrāhmaṇa, the god Varuṇa is said to be adorned with black cloth. It is also stated that if black one is not obtained then any kind of cloth is recommended for Varuṇa. The perception of later works on Iconography is totally different from the Śatapaṭhabrāhmaṇa in this context. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the idol of Varuṇa should be adorned with white cloths. On the other hand, the Kāśyapaśilpa as well as the Śilparatna accepts yellow colour for the dress of Varuṇa. According to the Ṛgveda, Varuṇa should wear the golden armour on his shinning attire. In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, it is said that the image of Varuṇa should be placed on a chariot with seven swans. But according to the Kāśyapaśilpa as well as the Śilparatna, the idol of Varuṇa should be seated on a crocodile. The point to be noted here is that though the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa does not accept crocodile as the āsana of Varuṇa, this work says that there should be a flag having a symbol of a crocodile in the left side of the idol of Varuṇa. The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa accepts four hands in the image of Varuṇa where as the Kāśyapaśilpa and the Śilparatna acknowledge only two . The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa says that the image of Varuṇa holds a lotus and a noose with his right hands as well as a conch and a jewel box with his left hands.
According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa the image of Varuṇa should be made along with the image of his wife Gaurī. The image of Gaurī should be placed on the left side of her husband’s lap. She should hold a lotus in her left hand and her right hand should be placed on the back of her husband. Moreover, the images of Gaṅgā and Yamunā are also placed in the right and left side of the image of Varuṇa respectively. The image of Gaṅgā should be placed on a crocodile and should hold cāmara i.e., bushy tail of yak . The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa states that the image of Yamunā should be placed on a tortoise and also have cāmara in her hand. The Kāśyapaśilpa as well as the Śilparatna do not talk about the images of Gaurī, Gaṅgā and Yamunā in connection with Varuṇa.
Vahni is the synonym of Agni. In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa the word vahni is used to denote the god Agni. According to the Śabdakalpadruma, Agni is the god who possesses fire in him as he is born from fire. In the agnisūkta of Ṛgveda, Agni is called as aṅgiras.
Explaining the aṅgiras term Aitareyabrāhmaṇa says that aṅgiras is that which possesses aṅgāra i.e., charcoal—
ye'ṅgārā āsaṃste’ ṅgiro’bhavan…...
Charcoal in heated form is red in colour. So it can be assumed that following this concept of the Ṛgveda, the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa suggests red colour as the body complexion of the image of Agni. The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa accepts smoky colour where as the Śilparatna accepts white colour for the attire of the god Agni. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Agni should be placed on a chariot adorned with the images of four parrots and a symbol of smoke. But in the Śilparatna, the image of Agni is instructed to be placed on the seat of a lotus. Having matted hair is another identity of the image of Agni. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Agni has four heads and four teeth. But the Kāśyapaśilpa says that the image of Agni should have four hands in the right side and three hands in the left side. The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa opines to decorate the image of Agni with the garland of flames where as the Śilparatna instructs to decorate it with the garland of gold. A point to be noted here is that, the authors of later period are seen to adorn the idol of Agni with the garland of gold to project him as the God of wealth. In this context they seem to follow the concept of the Ṛgveda as in the Ṛgveda Agni is portrayed as a god who brings wealth to the yajamānas.
Goddess Svāhā is the wife of Agni. In the Svāhopākhyāna of Prakṛtikhaṇḍa of the Brahmavaivarttapurāṇa, the role of Svāhā is considered to be very important in delivering the offerings to the deities. In the Brahmavaivarttapurāṇa, Svāhā is believed as the burning power of Agni as she is his wife and it is stated here that without her, Agni cannot burn anything. So it can be assumed that Svāhā and Agni, both need to be together for the accomplishment of the duty of Agni. Taking this concept from earlier purāṇas, the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa seems to instruct to place the idol of Svāhā on the left lap of her husband. This book says that she should hold a vessel of jewelry in her hand. In the Śilparatna, no description of the wife of Agni is found.
According to the Śabdakalpadruma, Vāyu is the lord of the north western side of the globe. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the dress of the image of this God should be flowing with the wind. The Śilparatna suggests that the garment of the image of Vāyu should be of variegated colour. The image of Vāyu has abundant of hair and scattered in a well manner. The image of his wife Śivā is also placed in the left side of the image of Vāyu. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Pavana is also made along with the image of Vāyu. The image of Pavana should be made as like Pavana holds the edge of the attire of Vāyu. The Śilparatna does not talk about the wife of Vāyu as well as of Pavana.
Nāsatya is an epithet of the twin god Aśvins. According to the Skandapurāṇa Nāsatyas or the twin god Aśvins are the excellent physicians. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the body complexion of the statue of Aśvins is like the colour of lotus leaf which is very dark green in colour. But According to the Śilparatna, the complexion of Nāsatyas should be of the colour of the pomegranate. In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, it is suggested that the garments of Nāsatyas should have the colour of lotus leaf where as the Śilparatna suggests the yellow colour in this regard. Since, the Nāsatyas are the physicians of gods, a divine medicinal plant should be placed in their right hands whereas in the left hands of these Gods, two books should be kept. In the Ṛgveda, the chariot of the Aśvins are said to be associated with a bull and a crocodile. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa two beautiful women should be placed in both sides of the Nāsatyas.
Śakra is an epithet of Indra. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the image of Śakra or Indra should be golden in complexion and should wear blue garments. The statue of Śakra should be placed on an elephant which have four tusks. According to the Bṛhatsaṃhitā, the elephant of Indra should be white in colour. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the eyes of the image of Indra should be made to show the eyes placed crookedly towards the forehead. But according to the Bṛhatsaṃhitā, a third eye should be placed horizontally on the forehead of the image of Indra. Along with the image of Indra, the statue of his wife Sacī is also placed. The idol of Indra should have four hands holding a lotus and an elephant goad in right hands and the vajra in the left hand. Another hand of left side should be placed behind the idol of his wife.
Āditya, Sūrya, Ravi etc. are the names of Sun god. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa the image of Sun god should be adorned with bright coloured attire. The Bṛhatsaṃhitā suggests that the attire of Sun god should be in northern style. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa as well as the Bṛhatsaṃhitā , the body of Sun god should be covered by an armour. The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa states that the image of Sun god should have four hands whereas, the Bṛhatsaṃhitā accepts two hands here. Sunbeams, reins should be placed in the left and a lotus should be placed in the right hand of the idol of the Sun.
Thus from the above discussion it is clear that the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa offers a great field of knowledge regarding the nuances of Indian art of Painting and Image making during 10th–11th century A.D. It is an important point that during this period it appeared that the strong rules of the Vedic conventions became loose and various new concepts evolved with time. The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa can be regarded as a bridge between the Vedic knowledge and the new concepts and ideas in the field of Painting and Image making in India.
Footnotes and references:
brahmāṇaṃ kārayet…….caturmukham/ Ibid., 3.44.5
brahmāṇaṃ……caturbāhuṃ…../ Ibid., 3.44.6
caturdaśamukho yaśca akāko brahmasaṃjñitaḥ/ Vāyupurāṇa, 26.31
brahmāṇaṃ…..baddhapadmāsanaṃ toṣyaṃ…./ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.44.5
brahmāṇaṃ…..kṛṣṇājināmbaram/ Ibid., 3.44.5
……viṣṇuṃ……kaustubhodbhāsitoraskaṃ…..// Ibid., 3.44.10
tasya dakṣiṇahasteṣu bāṇākṣamusalādayaḥ/ carma cīraṃ dhanuścendracāpeṣu vanamālinaḥ// Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.44.12-13
…..sakaustubhaṃ hepayatīva kṛṣṇam/ Raghuvaṃśa, 6.49
…. viṣṇuṃ….sajalāmbudasacchāyaṃ pītadivyāmbaraṃ tathā// Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.44.10
V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.9
viṣṇuḥ….atasīkusumaśyāmaḥ…./ Bṛhatsaṃhitā, 57.32
viṣṇuṃ…. mukhāśca kāryāścatvāro bāhavo dviguṇāstathā/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.44.11
tasya dakṣiṇahasteṣu bāṇākṣamusalādayaḥ/ carmaṃ cīraṃ dhanuścendracāpeṣu vanamālinaḥ// Ibid., 3.44.13
devadevaṃ mahādevaṃ vṛṣārūḍhaṃ tu kārayet/ Ibid., 3.44.14
śambhoḥ….vṛṣadhvajaḥ…./ Bṛhatsaṃhitā, 57.43
sajalāmbudasacchāyaḥ……yama…./ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.51.1
kṛṣṇavarṇaśca…..yamaḥ……/ Kāśyapaśilpa, 48.38
…..yamaḥ kāryaścaturbhujaḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.51.2
daṇḍakhaḍgāvubhau kāryau yamadakṣiṇahastayoḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.51.3
…….taptacāmīkarāmbaraḥ….. yamaḥ …./ Ibid., 3.51.1
raktavastradharaḥ….. yamaḥ…./ Kāśyapaśilpa, 48.39
…..mahāmahiṣavāhanaḥ….yamastu…./ Kāśyapaśilpa, 48.39
citragupto vinirdiṣṭaḥ……kāla eva svarūpeṇa kālo yamasamīpagaḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.51.13-14
atha yamalakṣaṇam…… citraguptaḥ kinnaraśca dvārapārśve tu saṃsthitau/ Kāśyapaśilpa, 48.40
yamastu….citraguptaḥ kaliścaiva dvārapārśve tu saṃsthitau/ Śilparatna, 23.25
yau te śvānau yama rakṣitārau…….. ……..yamasya dūtau carato janānanu……// Ṛgveda, 10.14.11-12
dhūmorṇā…..yamapṛṣṭhagataṃ bhavet/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.51.4
nīlotpalābhā dhūmorṇā vāmotsaṅge ca kārayet/ Ibid., 3.51.2
V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.434
dhūmorṇādakṣiṇaṃ hastaṃ yamapṛṣṭhagataṃ bhavet/
vāme tasyāḥ kare kāryaṃ mātuluṅgaṃ sudarśanam/ Ibid., 3.51.4-5
…..dakṣiṇe tasya citraguptaṃ ca kārayet/ Ibid., 3.51.5
vāme pāśadharaḥ kāryaḥ kālo vikaṭadarśanaḥ/ Ibid., 3.51.7
citraguptastu puṃsi syādyame tasya ca lekhake/ Medinīkośa, 16.199
vāme pāśadharaḥ kāryaḥ kālo…../ Ibid., 3.51.7
varuṇo…. śvetāmbaradharastathā/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.52.1
varuṇaḥ…..pītavastradharaḥ…./ Kāśyapaśilpa, 48.43
…..drāpiṃ hiraṇyayaṃ varuṇo vastanirṇijam/ Ṛgveda, 1.24.13
saptahaṃse rathe kāryo varuṇo yādsāmpatiḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.52.1
varuṇaḥ…..makarasthāsanāsanaḥ/ Kāśyapaśilpa, 48.53
varuṇo…… devaścaturbhujaḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.52.2
varuṇaḥ…dvibhujaḥ……/ Kāśyapaśilpa, 48.52
padmapāśau kare kāryau devadakṣiṇahastayoḥ/ śaṅkhaṃ ca ratnapātraṃ ca vāmayostasya kārayet// Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.52.5
V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit-English dictionary, p.206
bhāge tu dakṣiṇe gaṅgā makarasthā sacāmarā/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.52.6
vāme tu yamunā kāryā kūrmasaṃsthā sacāmarā/ Ibid., 3.52.7
V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit-English dictionary, p.6
…….vahniṃ kuryādvai dhūmravāsasam/ Ibid., 3. 56.1
agniḥ………śuklāmbara……../ Śilparatna, 23.16
vahniṃ kuryāt……caturbhiśca śukairyuktaṃ dhūmacinharathe sthitam/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3. 56.2
agniḥ…….ambhojasaṃstham/ Śilparatna, 23.16
……jaṭādharaṃ vahniṃ…./ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3. 56.1
vahniṃ kuryāt……caturbāhuṃ caturdaṃṣṭraṃ…../ Ibid., 3. 56.2
atha agnidevalakṣaṇam…….dakṣiṇe tu caturhastaṃ vāmapārśve trihastakam/ Kāśyapaśilpa, 48.64
vahniṃ kuryāt……jvālāmālākulaṃ saumyaṃ…../ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3. 56.1
agniḥ…… kanakamālālaṅkṛtaṃ…../ Śilparatna, 23.16
agninā rayimaśnavat…../ gvedaṚ, 1.1.3
tvamagnerdāhikā śaktirbhavapatnī ca sundarī/
dagdhuṃ na śaktastvakṛtī hutāśaśca tvayācinā// Brahmavaivarttapurāṇa, vol-1, 2.35.14
vahniṃ…..vāmotsaṅgagatā svāhā…../ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3. 56.3
vāyvāpūritavastraśca...../ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3. 58.1
…… vāyuḥ śabalāmbarabhūṣitaḥ/ Śilparatna, 23.32
vāyuḥ… keśāḍhyaḥ suvikīrṇakaḥ/ Ibid., 23.3
……nāsatyābhyām aśvinābhyāṃ……/ Sāyaṇabhāṣya, Ṛgveda, 1.116
nāsatyayoḥ……padmapatrasavarṇābhau……/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.49.2
aśvinā…...ḍāḍimīpuṣpasaṅkāśāvubhau tau sopavītakau// Śilparatna, 25.91
nāsatyayoḥ…….padmapatrasamāmbarau/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.49.2
aśvinā…...pītastragvastradhāriṇau/ Śilparatna, 25.92
Śabdakalpadruma, vol.3, p.7
śakraḥ…… nīlavastraḥ suvarṇābhaḥ sarvābharaṇavāstathā/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.50.3
caturdante gaje śakraḥ…../ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.50.2
śuklaścaturviṣāṇo dvipo mahendrasya…..// Bṛhatsaṃhitā, 58.42
tiryaglalāṭagenākṣā kartavyaśca vibhūṣitaḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.50.3
śakraścaturbhujaḥ kāryo…. padmāṅkuśau tu kartavyau śakradakṣiṇahastayoḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.50.4
….raveḥ kuryādudīcyaveṣaṃ……// Bṛhatsaṃhitā, 58.46
raviḥ kāryaḥ…..kavacenābhisaṃvṛtaḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.67.3
raviḥ kāryaḥ…..caturbāhurmahātejāḥ…// Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.67.3
….. raveḥ…..bāhubhyāṃ paṅkaje…..// Bṛhatsaṃhitā, 58.47