Kashmir, Tamilnadu, Panini, Abhinavagupta, etc.

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian ramakris at EROLS.COM
Sun Feb 21 17:52:23 UTC 1999

N. Ganesan <naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

>  1) Pl. look at the Avalokitezvara sitting cross-legged
>  in the Mt. Potalaka in BorobudUr GaNDavyUha panels
>  (800 AD). He resembles 'Siva very much. He wears
>  matted hair like 'Siva, holds rosary beads and a
>  kamaNdalam. Exactly like a great yogin. ('Siva mahadeva).

>  3) There is a very long tradition in Tamil telling that
>  'Siva taught Tamil grammar to Agastya, the Malayamuni.
>  In Sanskrit, there is a long traditon that 'Siva taught
>  grammar to Panini (Who inspired Panini, JAOS, 1997).
>  Note that the Sanskrit texts narrating this myth are from
>  South India (eg., Haradatta's padamaJjari, Nandikezvara
>  kArikA, ..) Tamil tradition also has Avalikitezvara teaching
>  Tamil to Agastya. Southern Sanskrit tradition talks of
>  Avalokitezvara inspiring Panini also. These Saivaite
>  and Buddhist claims point to DakSiNAmUrti, the teacher
>  par excellence, under the banyan tree. Classical Tamil texts
>  have this motif. MahabhArata XII talking of "Siva as the
>  Supreme teacher is ONLY from Southern recension (cf. de Jong).
>  Note also that dakSiNAmUrti sculpture is only
>  found in Tamilakam (Of course, there are Nolamba
>  dakSiNAmUrtis in Dharmapuri situated in Tamil Nadu).

I have been trying to follow this thread, but I have to admit I have
not had much success. There have been a number of posts and to confuse
things there has been a parallel thread where two list members have
devoted their time only to launch attacks on Sarma and Petr, instead
of making any positive contributions. I have not been able to follow
even Dr Ganesan's reasonings completely, much less Sarma or Petr. With
this said, I'd like to offer some comments. I hope they'll be taken in
the right spirit:

The statement above (about Mahabharata) is a gross generalization. As
a rule, I have problems with these kinds of statements. Is Mahabharata
12 (shAntiparvan, if I remember right), the only place where Siva is
described as supreme teacher? Certainly not. It occurs for example in
the Sivasahasranama (anushAsanaparvan, chapter 13?). Further, in the
sauptikaparvan 10.17.24, Siva is called the universal guru and the
"original one". See W.J.Johnson's translation of the Sauptikaparvan
page 83. If you want to make a statement that Siva is mentioned as
universal guru _only_ in the Southern recension, I think you'll have
to take a look at the entire mahabhArata, find out where Siva is
mentioned as guru, and read through the comments of the critical
edition _yourself_ and then form conclusions of this type. Gross
generalizations made from _secondary sources_, IMO, are invariably
wrong. I suggest Prof. Tokunaga's machine readable version. It has
been of great use in my researches.

Note that the symbolism of daxiNAmUrti as in the Agamas is very
sophisticated. There is a rich layer of symbolism involved in this
imagery, suggesting that it was a later development or there was
accretion over time. The latter is certainly a very good possibility
as noted by Stella Kramrisch. See page 57, footnote 6 of "The Presence
of Siva". I quote:

"A very early example of Siva as vINAdhAra daxiNAmUrti can be found in
C. Sivaramamurti, Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature, 1976, p.
169, fig. 4, a terracota image of the **shuN^ga period, 2nd century
BC**. A much later example, p. 169, fig. 95 on p. 243 from the early
Cola period, illustrates **the image in its consolidated
iconography**" (emphasis mine).

Further, many of the symbolisms of daxiNAmUrti are found already in
early Sanskrit sources, though not in one place. The later
sophisticated symbolism could very well be a cut-and-paste job, though
occurring over a period of time. Some references which come to mind at

1. Siva as guru, as I have noted above occurs in many places in the
mahAbhArata. Bruce Long thinks the idea is as old as the R^ig Veda.
The 2nd century BC sculpture also goes to prove this, even more
2. The "principle" of Siva is to be taught with "silence". See
atharvashira upanishhad, a very old upanishhad of the atharva veda.
See atharvashiras 7,13. Consult Deussens translation of this, Vo 2,
page 775. Even in other sources similar ideas can be found. In the
brahmasUtra 3.2.18 it is said that quiescence is brahman. Sha.nkara
quotes a story where a disciple  bashhkalin goes to a guru bahva and
he instructs him with "silence". He says that this story is from a
upanishhad. This upanishhad is now lost. Since sha.nkara uses only the
"early" upanishhads we may say that instruction through "silence" was
a very old concept.
3. The imagery of the banyan tree is found in the chhAndogya, an early
upanishhad (pre 400BC).

The image of both Siva and avalokiteshvara as yogi, at least to my
mind, does not prove much. First, Siva as a yogi occurs very early in
the aitreya brAhmaNa among other places. Second, yoga was very
popularin very early times and the Greek Megasthenes notes that Indian
yogis sit in meditation for long periods. Imagery of Siva with matted
hair is also quite old. So the similarity in image could be quite

Further, the story you quote, that of a Buddhist first going to
avalokiteshvara and then going to Siva-Maheshvara could very well be
interpreted as an attempt to subordinate the already popular image of
Siva as teacher to avalokiteshvara as teacher.

More after I sort through this (long!) thread. If it's not much of a
bother, may I request Dr Ganesan for a pre-print of his journal


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