'Siva and Avalokitezvara

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 15 00:51:22 UTC 1998

N. S. Raja writes:
I presume this is a theory rather
than an established fact.  There
is almost nothing in common between
the "personalities" of these two deities,
Siva and Avalokiteshvara.  In fact, they
are almost exact opposites.

M.-T. de Mallmann, Introduction a l'etude d'Avalokitezvara,
Paris, 1967.

See the section: Avalokitezvara et la tendance zivaite.
Also, sAdhanamAlA section where halahala A. nilakantha a.,
padmanarttezvara A. are vividly described.

Dancing Avalokita is obviously imitating Nataraja
in texts or icons.


M. Deshpande, Who inspired Panini?, JAOS, 1997
(The entire paper deals with Mahezvara and Avalokitezvara
competitions and commonalities. I can't type major portions)

"Such affinity is particularly evident between Avalokitezvara
and Mahezvara. The close connection of Avalokitezvara and
ziva was brought out by Alice Getty in her famous work,
The Gods of Northern Buddhism, Their history and iconography
   Avalokitezvara is sometimes represented with five heads,
   in which case he resembles 'siva as Mahadeva with five
   heads; but his form with more than one head has usually
   double that number, with the head of Amitabha on top,
   making eleven heads in all. He is often represented in
   yab-yum attitude with his 'sakthi, but there are examples
   where he holds the yum on his knee in archaic manner, as
   'Siva holds Parvati. (p. 59)

She also refers to forms of A. with kapAla (p.60), a third eye,
wearing a tiger skin, a trident, his throat blue because of
poison, a serpent, and a crescent (p.69). These are all
clearly 'saivaite motifs. Referring to avalokitezvara,
Dietrich Seckel (1964: 224-5) points out:

   Religious speculation and popular piety invest him with
   immense wisdom and the power to work miracles, as a
   result of which, as Buddhism becomes hinduized and
   popularized, he becomes Cosmic ruler of the world,
   resembling Brahma, and finally, in tantrism, is assimilated
   to shiva ... Like Shiva, Avalokitezvara possesses
   various magical powers, symbolized in many of his
   guises by his having several heads and arms. Like Shiva
   again, he could also take on a fearsome guise, and could
   put his arms around a 'sakthi in mystical union "


R. Banerjee, The Eight Great Bodhisattvas, 1994
p. 50
"Most of the later iconographic history of Avalokitezvara
is a process of gradual merger with his Hindu rival.
Like Siva he acquires a female consort, sprouts multiple
arms and heads, widens his personality to include terrible
forms as well as benign ones, ..."
 p. 54
"Further the eleven headed Avalokitezvara reminds us of
Ekadasa rudras.

  A figure of Ekadasa Rudra (with 11 heads and many arms)
has been found at Peddaveggi, Andhra Pradesh. This figure
has abundant similarity to the eleven-headed A. from
Central Asia and Dunhuang"

I. K. Sharma, the art historian, has an article on similarities
between Avalokitezvara and Siva.

To Xuan Zang, at Potalaka in the MalakUTa country of
the Malaya mountains, the bodhisattva appears as
Avalokita to Buddhists and as 'Siva to Buddhists.

According to R. Raghava Aiyangar writing in 1920s,
Parvati is praised as MalayavAsini in Lalita SahasranAmam
while Tara, her Buddhist counterpart, is praised as
Potalagiri nivAsini in tARaSuktam.

There are more references on these affinities.

N. Ganesan

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