PataJjali a form of ZeSa

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 6 22:43:34 UTC 1999

Dr. Deshpande once asked:
  > Patanjali is known to KaiyaTa (11th cent. A.D.)
  >as an incarnation of Seza, the serpent divinity.  This is also
  >depicted iconographically in the Cidambaram NaTarAja temple.  Does
  >anyone know of older iconographic or textual sources for this
  >motif?  I have a suspicion that Saiva Agama texts may contain such
  >references.  I have looked, but have not yet found any older

  Agastya, the first tamil grammarian, learns from
Dakshinamurti in the malaya mountains. This myth starts atleast
by 5-6th centuries. This god-grammarian myth percolates to all the
Tamil country and then as Panini/Patanjali myths at Cidambaram
to all over India.

Patanjali as ZeSamuni is first depicted iconographically
in a Vaishnavaite setting! In the 8th century.
Namakkal cave temples depict Patanjali as ZeSa muni.
There are 8th c. inscriptions on this "atiyendra viSNugRham".
Reference: R, Champakalakshmi, VaiSNava iconography in the Tamil
country, 1981, p. 71, In the Namakkal Ranganatha cave temple,
see the Patanjali muni along with Tumburu and Narada.
What is more interesting is in the neighboring bhUvarAha cave temple
at Namakkal, there are four rishis above the hand of Varaha.
They are Sanaka, Sanandana, SanAtana and SanatkumAra -
usually associated with daxinamurti! Even though Saivism succeeded in
appropriating the four rishis and patanjali as disciples of
Dakshinamurti or Nataraja, Namakkal caves show the vaishnavaite

Patanjali as ZeSamuni is sung first by TirumUlar (7th century)
and by ManikkavAcakar (8-9th century).  Later, Vaacaspati Mizra
(who writes on Sankara's bhAshyas) and Abhinavagupta (who writes about
many Saivaite ideas coming from the South) take Patanjali as a zeSa
divinity. Interestingly MadhurAjayogi praises Abhinava as
Dakshinamurti himself seated in vIrAsana posture. While no daxinamurti
icons in vIrAsana exist from North India, 1000s exist in Pallava and
Chola temples.

N. Ganesan

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