Amorphousphallus Campanulatus and proof of pre-Vedic Tantrism?

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Fri Jul 25 06:43:47 UTC 1997

In the Rig Veda 7.104.24, 10.87.2, and 10.87.14 given below, there appear
persons called �yAtudhAna� who worship some divinity called �mUradeva�. The
Sanskrit texts taken from J.R. Gardner�s Vedavid web-site are given below.

indra jahi pumAMsaM yAtudhAnamuta striyaM mAyayA shAshadAnAm | 
vigrIvAso mUradevA Rdantu mA te dRshaM sUryamuccarantam || 

This has been translated by R. T. H. Griffith as,
"Slay the male demon, Indra! Slay the female, joying and triumphing in arts
of magic.
Let the fools� gods with bent necks fall and perish, and see no more the Sun
when he arises."

R.M. Panikkar translates the same verse as,
"Slay, O Indra, the male magician and also the witch who boasts of her magic.
May idolaters perish with broken necks! No more for them the rising of the

ayodaMSTro arciSA yAtudhAnAnupa spRsha jAtavedaHsamiddhaH | 
A jihvayA muradevAn rabhasva kravyAdo vRktvyapi dhatsvAsan || 

This has been translated by R. T. H. Griffith as,
"O Jatavedas with the teeth of iron, enkindled with thy flame attack the
Seize with thy tongue the foolish gods� adorers; rend, put within thy mouth
the raw-flesh eaters."

parA shRNIhi tapasA yAtudhAnAn parAgne rakSo harasAshRNIhi | 
parArciSA mUradevA�chRNIhi parAsutRpo abhishoshucAnaH ||

This has been translated by R. T. H. Griffith as,
"With fervent heat exterminate the demons; destroy the fiends with burning
flame, O Agni.
Destroy with fire the foolish gods� adorers; blaze and destroy the insatiable

R.M. Panikkar translates the same verse as,
"Destroy with your heat the workers of magic; destroy with your power the
evil spirits; 
destroy with your flames idolatrous persons; burn to nothingness murderous

Griffith footnotes, "According to the St. Petersburg Lexicon, mU�radevAH =
mU�ladevAH, a species of demons or goblins." Manfred Mayrhofer�s
Kurzgefasstes etymologissches Worterbuch des Altindischen,  also equates mUra
and mUla. 

According to Monier-Williams, �mUla� means �root, a radish or the root of
various other plants (esp. of Arum Campanulatum, of long pepper, and of
Costus Speciosus or Arabicus), basis, foundation, cause, origin,
commencement,beginning�. Now what was the root being worshipped by these
people? The clue is given by a Tamil lexicon of 8/9 century CE, �tivAkaram�.
 According to this lexicon, 

"mUlam kantam kizaGku en2a mozipa" (tivAkaram 791)

This can be translated as "They say that mUla and kanda are (synonyms of)
kizaGku (tuberous roots)". 

This means that when the Vedic poets were using the word �mUla� they could
have meant �kanda�. Now kanda according to Monier-Williams refers to �a
bulbuous or tuberous root, the bulbuous root of Amorphophallus Campanulatus,
garlic, swelling, knot, an affection of the female organ (considered as a
fleshy  excrescence, but apparently prolapsus uteri, W.), name of a metre (of
four lines of thirteen syllables each), (in mus.) a kind of time'. According
to Dr. Wilbert Hetterscheid, an aroider, both names, Amorphophallus
Campanulatus and Arum Campanulatum, refer to the same plant, of which the
proper name is Amorphophallus paeoniifolius.  (This is called suran/jamikand
in Hindi and cEn2ai in Tamil.)  So the author of the Tamil lexicon knew what
he was talking about.

The interesting thing about Amorphophallus Campanulatus is that it is the
closest to a �linga� that nature produces. According to Dr. Hetterscheid, the
word Amorphophallus means shapeless phallus and refers to the shape of the
spadix of the first ever species assigned to this genus, which happens to be
the very Am. paeoniifolius we are discussing. "campanulatus" means
bell-shaped, referring to the shape of the spathe and Paeoniifolius means
"with a Paeonia like leaf". When full-grown, the plant reaches a height of 2
meters and it is like a pillar or post. The diameter of the �pillar� can be
upto 20 cm. The root is "Depressed globose; dark brown, with conspicuous
annular root scars and several fusiform offsets; weighing to some 25 K." In
fact, the shape of the root is very much like the yoni portion of the
composite lingas. For a picture of the tuber, visit the following web site.

The words �kandarpa� meaning �membrum virile� and �kandarpa kupa� meaning
�pudendum muliebre� suggest the symbolic affiliation of �kanda� to human
reproductory organs . In Malayalam, �kantu� means �membrum muliebre� (DEDR
1210). . In Tamil, the word �kantu/kantam� referred to a �pillar, post� (DEDR
1723). Classical Tamil texts mention pillars that were worshipped as well as
pillars/posts that were used to chain the elephants. 

Now did the yAtudhanas really worship the root or did they worship something
else? There are three possibilities. 

Scenario 1
The yAtudhAnas used Amorphophallus Campanulatus in their worship rituals.
They might have used the plant to represent lingas or yonis. 

Scenario 2
The yAtudhAnas used lingas/yonis in their worship rituals. The Vedic poets
were using euphemism to refer to the lingas/yonis as mUlas/mUras instead of
their real names.

Scenario 3
The yAtudhanas were worshipping the plain pillars �kantu/kantam� as the
Tamils did. The Vedic poets used a synonym for the homophon �kanda�, i.e.,

Among the three, my feeling is that the second one was the most probable one
followed by the first. The Tamil worship of the �kantu/kantam� was very
different from the �Tantric� tradition. In Tamil tradition, the kantu/kantam
could be bare or have some figurines painted/sculpted on it. The worship of
the kantu as revealed by Classical Tamil texts was very different in nature
and did not involve black magic. This means that the religious tradition
described in the Vedic hymns was slightly different. However, if one assumes
the tradition to be the pre-Rig Vedic syncretistic one of Dravidian and Aryan
cultures (or Dasa culture as identified by Asko Parpola), and that it was
Tantric in character, a number of things will fall into place. The words
�mUla� and �kanda� themselves are supposed to be of Dravidian origin. The
simple pillar �kantu/kantam� of the Dravidians could have been extended by
the Dasas as a phallic symbol with a possible representation of a trident on
it. This is probably what is being referred to in the RV verse 10.87.10. (In
the following discussion, all the RV translations are R. T. H. Griffith�s.)

nRcakSA rakSaH pari pashya vikSu tasya trINi pratishRNIhyagrA | 
tasyAgne pRSTIrharasA shRNIhi tredhAmUlaM yAtudhAnasya vRshca ||

"Look on the fiend mid men, as Man-beholder: rend thou his three extremities
in pieces.
Demolish with thy flame his ribs, O Agni, the yAtudhAna�s root destroy thou

In this verse, �mUla� may refer to the linga. The following verse RV 10.87.16
gives another clue about Tantric connections.

yaH pauruSeyeNa kraviSA samaN^kte yo ashveyena pashunAyAtudhAnaH | 
yo aghnyAyA bharati kSIramagne teSAMshIrSANi harasApi vRshca || 

"The fiend who smears himself with flesh of cattle, with flesh of horses and
of human bodies,
Who steals the milch-cow�s milk away, O Agni, - tear off the heads of such
with fiery fury."

Obviously, one cannot smear oneself with flesh. But one can smear oneself
with the ash of burnt flesh. I think that is what is meant here. The smearing
of ash is common among zaiva cults. Ziva is supposed to have smeared the
powder of the burning ground. (The very first hymn composed by the Tamil
zaivite devotee tiruJAnacampantar describes him as �kATuTaiya cuTalaip poTi
pUci en uLLam kavar kaLvan� meaning �the thief who steals my heart having
smeared the ash of the cremation ground�.) The participation of the horses in
the ritual suggests an Aryan origin of the ritual.

Consider the following verse RV 10.87.23.
pratyagne mithuna daha yAtudhAnA kimIdinA | 
saM tvAshishAmi jAbRhyadabdhaM vipra manmabhiH || 

"Burn thou the paired Kimidins, burn, Agni, the yAtudhAna pairs.
I sharpen thee, Infallible, with hymns. O Sage, be vigilant."

In this verse, the sexual aspect of the Tantric rituals can be seen.

Finally, the following verse RV 10.87.25 seems to suggest yAtudhAnas were
probably the priestly members of the people called rakshasas.  

pratyagne harasA haraH shRNIhi vishvataH prati | 
yAtudhAnasya rakSaso balaM vi ruja vIryam || 

"Shoot forth, O Agni, with thy flame: demolish them on every side.
Break thou the yAtudhAna�s strength, the vigour of the rakshasas."

Thus I feel what we have in RV 7.104 and 10.87 are the closest to a clear
proof/description of pre-Vedic Tantric worship.  

Any comments from list members?


S. Palaniappan

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