How a buck/stag could have become a lion!

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Thu Jul 3 03:49:34 UTC 1997

In a message dated 97-07-01 19:18:42 EDT, you write:

<< Anyhow--while the color plates from Singavaram, Tiruchirapalli and
 Mamallapuram, etc., can wait, I should say now that the lion and deer
 vahanas exemplify two separate traditions--the lion traceable back
 ultimately to Ishtar in Mesopotamia (not to the exclusion of contemporary
 IVC imagery, of course--but the comparable deities remain unnamed so long
 as the Harappan script is undeciphered).
 Visual proof that two vahanas were understood as discrete alternatives
 appears in the Pallava cave-sites enumerated above--where BOTH animals
 attend Durga [for what its worth--the lion favored on the proper right;
 deer to her left]
Odile Divakaran in "DurgA the Great Goddess: Meanings and Forms in the Early
Period" in Discourses of Ziva says the following, "To start with, the
reclining ViSNu of the Shore Temple (Mahabalipuram) seems to have been carved
together with a DurgA accompanied by a stag as vAhana (the original image has
subsequently been replaced by the large lion carrying the Devi which is now
at the site). A similar association can also be seen at Singavaram." (p.281)

It looks as though that during KuSANa period, both Ziva and DurgA were both
shown with lion but not riding it. But it is with the Gupta period she starts
riding the lion. On the other hand according to N. P. Joshi, MahAbhArata
records 'siMhaga' and 'siMha-vAhana' as epithets of Ziva. Apparently
MahAbhArata also calls the lion "Ziva among animals".... According to the
Linga PurANa, the lion among wild animals (AraNya) and a bull among domestic
ones (grAmya) are forms of Ziva (Discourses on Ziva, p.55). Thus it looks
like Ziva was both pazupati as well as mRgendra. But Harivamsa, a late
addition to MahAbhArata, mentions DurgA having a lion for vehicle. Since the
Goddess is also associated with stag in KuNinda coins, is it possible that
the close association of Ziva and ZAkta cultists created this merging of
DurgA riding a lion and Ziva holding a deer in his hand? Like in other
aspects, did the South follow what happened in the north earlier with old and
new vehicles co-existing for some time and later the new one taking over as
the sole vehicle?  Would appreciate hearing your views. Also, how do  I
access your e-paper?

A Tamil text 'puRapporuL veNpA mAlai' mentions both animals in a description
pf KoRRavai, but it is dated to be later than CilappatikAram.


S. Palaniappan

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