Indus Culture, Durga, and CilappatikAram

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Sat Jun 21 00:17:09 UTC 1997

Earlier, under the heading, "What animal does Durga ride?", I said the

<I have earlier posted a translation of some passages from CilappatikAram, a
Tamil text from 5th century CE as dated by Western scholars. This particular
section (Chapter 12) may be one of the earliest texts if not the earliest
text detailing the worship of Goddess/Durga.  In this text, KoRRavai (DurgA
in Sanskrit) rides a stag or male deer. In Sanskrit texts, on the other hand,
Durga is supposed to ride a lion or a tiger, I believe. Does anybody know if
Durga rides a stag in any other Indian tradition?>

Since then, I have discovered some very interesting findings. Stag appears
accompanying a goddess in the coins of the KuniNDa tribe (2nd century CE?).
While earlier scholars have identified the goddess with Zri, because of the
presence of lotus and the representation of Zri/Lakshmi as a golden antelope,
I think it is more probable that the goddess in question is DurgA. For one
thing, lotus is not exclusively associated with Lakshmi alone. Moreover,
there are two Indus seals shown in the Deciphering the Indus Script by Asko
Parpola, Fig.14.35, and especially Fig. 7.13 seem to be stags. The twisting
horns on the seals seem to echo the description, 'tiritaru kOTTuk kalai'
(stag (?) with twisting/turning horns). Now in Old Tamil the word 'kalai' is
used to refer to the stag and male monkey. I do not know what other species
of animals 'kalai' refered to earlier if the animal in the seal is not a
stag.  According to Asko Parpola, the animal is a markhor goat (Sanskrit
 'zarabha') mentioned in kAlikApurANa as a sacrificial animal. But in
CilappatikAram, 'kalai' is a vehicle and not a sacrificial animal. 

In the Goddess worship ritual described in  CilappatikAram, the priestess is
made to sit on the 'kalai' and brought in front of the Goddess who rides
'kalai'. After that, the priestess worships the Goddess. There is no mention
of the priestess sacrificing the 'kalai'.  So, apparently it stood beside the
priestess which is in agreement with the Indus seals.

It looks like 'kalai', stag or markhor goat was the original vehicle for
DurgA. The lion probably is a later innovation. If this is confirmed, then
CilappatikAram seems to be the only text describing the sacrificial ritual
related to koRRavai/DurgA accurately in the manner implied by the Indus
seals. I would appreciate any comments from archaelogists, art historians,
numismatists, tantrists, etc.


S. Palaniappan  

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