How a buck/stag could have become a lion!

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Sun Jul 13 05:43:06 UTC 1997

In a message dated 97-07-12 14:05:33 EDT, you write:

<< But if you'll indulge me
 a bit further, could you reiterate the actual Mahabharata chapter/verse
 that associate Ziva with lions?  On the iconographic face of things, this
 seems improbable, though infinitely greater diversity of motifs appear in
 literary contexts, naturally, than ever make it into standard sculptural
 iconography (wherein Ziva is never independently associated with a lion, so
 far as I know.) >>

N. P. Joshi in his article "Early forms of Ziva" in "Discourses on Ziva"
edited by Michael W. Meister, 1981 says the following.

"The lion is generally taken as the mount of PArvatI but sometimes Ziva, too,
has been associated with it in sculptures of the KuSANa age. Four sculptures
of this type are from MathurA.

Two instances are seen on adjacent sides of a single pillar from MUsAnagar,
Kanpur District, Uttar Pradesh (Pl. 31).59a Each side of this pillar has
three panels; the lower two show amorous couples while the uppermost panels
show, first, an ithyphallic Ziva with a vase in his left hand and the right
hand in abhaya. He stands between a lion (looking toward its master) and a
short, pot-bellied gaNa. The adjacent panel shows Ziva in his CaturvyUha
form. Below Ziva's thronethere appears a lion in repose.

In a third instance (Government Museum, Mathura no. 12.214), only the lower
portion of the image is preserved: this has a short-legged gaNa standing to
the right of the main figure, while the reverse shows a large, seated lion.
V. S. Agrawala identified this image as Ziva on the basis of its coming from
mAT, a site of the KuSANa "devakula", and also because that same site has
yielded an image of PArvatI with a lion near her feet (Government Museum,
Mathura, no. 12.214A).59b

My final example is a liGga from CaumA (Pl. 40) in Agra District, still in
situ.60 Near the base of the liGga is a seated lion, a gaNa, a mutilated
female face, and a water vase with a high neck.

These four sculptures point to the fact of a lion and a gaNa appearing
together. This convention apparently lingered for a long time. KAlidAsa uses
it in his RaghuvaMza. The lion, pleased with king DilIpa, who tried to save
the cow NandinI even at the cost of his own life, reveals himself and says,
"know me to be the gaNa Kumbhodara (potbellied), a friend of Nikumbha, who is
an attendant of ASTamUrti (Ziva) and whose back is purified by the sacred
feet of Ziva before he rides the bull as white as KailAsa."61 Subsequent
verse clearly mention a potbellied gaNa assuming the form of the lion at the
command of Ziva to protect the devadAru trees from the wild elephants, and
Ziva using his back as a footstool in order to mount the bull.

In light of these verses, the appearance of the potbellied gaNa and a lion in
association with Ziva does not seem merely to be a sculptor's fancy; rather
it suggests an ancient tradition.

The epics and PurANas do not clearly describe a lion as a mount of Ziva, but
a few indications are there for such an association.

(1) The MahAbhArata and the LiGga PurANa record "siMhaga"  and "siMha-vAhana"
as epithets of Ziva.62 (2) The MahAbhArata states that Ziva created a lion to
destroy Daksha's sacrifice.63 (3) In the VAyu PurANa, DakSa did not accept
Ziva's claim to receive sacrificial offerings like other gods, and, therfore,
did not invite him to his sacrifice. Ziva was enraged at this insult and his
wrath appeared in the form of lions. Later on, to protect the world from the
fury of these wild beasts, Ziva chained them in his house.64 (4) The
MahAbhArata tells us that after Skanda assumed the office of the
commander-in-chief of the gods, Ziva and PArvatI sat him in their chariot,
which glittered like the sun and was drawn by a thousand lions. 65 (5) The
HarivaMza informs us protecting BANAsura from KRSNa, Ziva came in a chariot
drawn by lions.66 (6) According to the LiGga PurANa, the lion among wild
animals (AraNya) and a bull among domestic ones (grAmya) are forms of Ziva.67
The MahAbhArata also calls the lion "Ziva among the animals," and Ziva has
been described elsewhere as zArdUlarUpa.68"

Footnotes relevant to your request.
61. RaghuvaMza, 2.35; also 2.38
62. MBh, AnuzAsana-parvan, 17.111, 5523. LP, pUrvArdha, 65.133.182
63. MBh, ZAnti-parvan, 284.30,5166
64. VAyu PurANa (Calcutta, 1959), 4.101, 291-298, 550-551
65. MBh, Vana-parvan, 231.29, 1610
66. Ibid., HarivaMza, ViSNu-parvan, 124.18, 718; also 126.86, 731
67. LP, pUrvArdha, 32.7, 88
68. MBh, AnuzAsana-parvan, 14.321, 5500; 17.48, 5516

The MahAbhArata references may be with respect to the Calcutta edition. So
some references may not exist in the critical edition. But I did find the
description regarding Ziva and PArvatI travelling to meet Skanda on a chariot
drawn by lions in Van Buitenan's translation Vol. 2, page 661, MBh,
Vana-parvan, 221.1-5. Incidentally, Skanda also kills a DAnava by name MahiSa
in his battle with the DAnavas! 

Since I do not have access to the Critical edition, I do not know the correct
verse numbers for other references in the Critical Edition.

Hope this helps.


S. Palaniappan

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