How a buck/stag could have become a lion!

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Thu Jul 10 20:29:53 UTC 1997

Earlier Michael Rabe had cited the translation of some verses from
CilappatikAram by Danielou. Danielou's translations have a lot of problems.
But Rabe's posting made me take a second look at the relevant passages
resulting in some new insights. 

The relevant lines in CilappatikAram are given below.

An2aittOl pOrttup puliyin2 uriyuTuttuk
kAn2attu erumaik karuntalaimEl nin2RAyAl		(12.8.1-4)
vAn2Or vaNaGka maRaimEl maRaiyAki
Jan2ak kozuntAy naTukkin2Ri yEniRpAy

varivaLaikkai vALEnti mAmayiTaR ceRRUk
kariyatiri kOTTuk kalaimicaimEl nin2RAyAl		(12.9.1-4)
ariyaran2pU mElOn2 akamalarmEl man2n2um
virikatiraJ cOti viLakkAki yEniRpAy

cankamuJ cakkaramum tAmaraik kaiyEnti
ceGkaN arimAn2 cin2aviTaimEl nin2RAyAl		(12.10.1-4)
kaGkai muTikkaNinta kaNNutalOn2 pAkattu
maGkai uruvAy maRaiyEtta vEniRpAy

The three lines selected describe KoRRavai standing/riding on animals. The
lines and their translation are given below.

KAn2attu erumaik karuntalaimEl nin2RAyAl		(12.8.2)
kAn2attu - of the forest
erumaik - of the buffalo
karuntalaimEl - on the black head
nin2RAyAl - you stood

This is translated as, "You stood on the black head of the buffalo of the

kariyatiri kOTTuk kalaimicaimEl nin2RAyAl		(12.9.2)
kariyatiri - black twisting
kOTTuk - horned
kalaimicaimEl - on top of the buck
nin2RAyAl - you stay

This is translated as, "You stay on top of the twisting horned black buck".

For the third line, interpretation is more complicated. According to
aTiyArkkunallAr, there was only one vehicle and he glosses it as "cinaviTai
which is the arimAn2". �arimAn� as a compund form means �lion� and �viTai�
means �bull�. Earlier interpreters have taken the line to refer to a lion
only and in an earlier posting I had interpreted it to be a bull only.  A
more intensive and extensive examination of the words, �mAn2� and �viTai�,
reveals that two animals, a lion as well as a bull, are mentioned in the
line. The reasons are (1) �mAn2� does not refer to domestic cattle and (2)
�viTai� does not refer to lions. In Classical Tamil, �viTai� is used only to
refer to the males of goat/sheep, domestic cattle and wild cattle. The
vehicle of Ziva is referred to as �An2Eru� meaning �the bull of the domestic
cattle� in the hymns of the earliest Zaivite saint kAraikkAl ammaiyar
(aRputat tiruvantAti, 59). In one of her poems, she also wonders if the male
animal Ziva rides is a male animal which fights in the mountains
(lion?tiger?) or a bull or a thunder (aRputat tiruvantAti, 100). The correct
interpretation of line 12.10. 2 is given below.

ceGkaN arimAn cinaviTaimEl ninRAyAl		
ceGkaN - red eyes
arimAn- lion
cina - angry
viTai - the bull
mEl - on 
ninRAyAl - you stay

This is translated as "You stood on the lion with red eyes and the angry
bull".  This means unlike the lines (12.8.2) and (12.9.2), which describe
only one animal vehicle each, this describes two vehicles. This is possible
because, in the next two lines, KoRRavai is described as "With the Vedas
praising, you stand in the form of the woman in the portion/half of the
forehead-eyed one who wears Ganges in the hair". Now, in light of
MahAbhArata�s description of Ziva as a siMhavAhana, we know he had two
vehicles, the lion and the bull which is later confirmed by LingapurANa. This
means that one can conclude that most likely the lion came to be associated
with DurgA after an association of DurgA with Ziva. This means the lion
vehicle of DurgA cannot be traced back to IshtAr or Indus Valley until we
find clear evidence showing that the association of lion with DurgA was
earlier than that with Ziva�s. 
I think the animal with twisted horns was more likely to be the vehicle of
KoRRavai/DurgA. Figs. 3, 5.3, and 6 of Michael Rabe�s web site all show that the author of
CilappatikAram was very accurate in his portrayal of the blackbuck with its
twisted horns as the vehicle of KoRRavai. (The blackbuck in Fig. 3 in the web
site is not clearly visible. "Elements of Hindu Iconography" by T. A.
Gopinatha Rao, Plate CI has a drawing of the same panel where the animal is
seen in better detail.) Thus when he associates the lion vehicle with the
Ziva-ZaktI union, he is definitely suggesting something. Moreover, the coin
type No. 30 of Azes in the Punjab  museum Catalogue, Vol.I, p.129, cited by
J. N. Banerjea in "The Development of Hindu Iconography", as probably
depicting a lion on one side and a bull on the other side seems to reflect
this association of DurgA and Ziva. Banerjea also compares this coin to  a
KushANa coin and says, " It is true that the Syrian or Elamite goddess Nanaia
is occasionally represented on some Kushan coins and seals as riding on a
lion (Pl.I.fig.24); but the mode of her presentation is quite different from
the device under discussion."

Given the fact that the blackbuck is represented in many Indus valley ceramic
objects, it is one of the better candidates along with markhor or any
specially bred animal, if one allows for stylistic variations in some seals.
As I have mentioned in my earlier postings, the association of antelope with
female divinities is also found in north Indian materials. In all the
instances in CilappatikAram where KoRRavai/DurgA is mentioned -even in cases
referring to her mantra- she is always called the lady of the leaping
blackbuck. The association of lion with DurgA could have come about by the
association of lion with Ziva or through KushANa coins depicting Nanaia. 

Thus CilappatikAram may be providing a unique insight into the development of
the iconography of KoRRavai/DurgA.

For those interested in CilappatikAram, I would say that the recent
translation of CilappatikAram by Parthsarathy is much better.


S. Palaniappan

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