Gatekeeper gods; Skanda in Buddhism

Nobumi Iyanaga n-iyanag at PPP.BEKKOAME.NE.JP
Mon Jul 19 17:59:33 UTC 1999

Dear Mr. Wujastyk,
Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,

Thank you very much for your replies and for the references on Skanda as
demon sending disease to children.


Dear Mr. Sundaresan

Thank you very much for your reply.

At 6:47 PM -0700 7/17/99, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:
> Ganesha and Karttikeya in the said Elephanta cave are found flanking the
> seven mothers, and are on the same wall. It is not a shrine to the mothers
> with the two sons as door-keepers. The entire sculpture seems to have been
> conceived as one whole. In many other sculptures of the seven mothers, the
> two sons are also depicted, the reason being to highlight the benign nature
> of the mothers instead of the ferocious. This is a different function than
> that of gatekeepers.

Yes, I think you are right.  I read again the passage of Wendy Doniger, who

  Two of the figures in the east wing shrine are sons of Shiva who are
  doorkeepers: Ganesha [Pl. 13] and Karttikeya (or Skanda) [Pl. 14].  They
  flank the central shrines as their stories flank his; they are outgrowths
  of him, literally and symbolically...

I would say that I probably misunderstood the meaning of this passage; the
author does not say that these two sons of "Siva are in function of
doorkeepers specifically *there*, at that place of east wing shrine of
Elephanta; she only says that (in general) these two gods may be in function
of doorkeeper in some myths or occasions.

But while I know that"sa, Nandin, Viiraka, are doorkeepers in some
myths, I know of no myth in which Skand serves as a doorkeeper.  Is there
any such myth?

On the other hand, I would like to know if at the entrance of Hindu ("Saiva)
temples, one or the other of these two gods ("sa and/or Skanda) serve
as gatekeeper.

Thank you in advance!


Dear Mr. Iyer,

Thank you for your reply.

At 5:18 AM -0700 7/19/99, Venkatraman Iyer wrote:
>    Does Weituo or Jiantuo in Chinese mean some thing like
>   "the one with a spear" or "the beautiful god"?

Well, "Weituo" and "Jiantuo" are *transliterations*, meaning that they are
supposed to transpose the *pronunciation* of Skanda (or Skandha?) in
Chinese, and not at all its meaning.

Of course, you may be surprised that such syllables may reproduce in any way
the pronunciation of Skand[h]a.  As to the "Weituo", I think (with other
scholars) that it is a result of a mistake of scribe -- normally, these two
syllables can be a transliteration of Veda, but not of Skand[h]a.  As the
first character, "wei" can be very similar to another character which is
pronounced "jian", I think the original should have been "Jiantuo".  Now,
the modern pronunciation of "Jiantuo" may be something like "Chi-en-do" (as
this is pronounced in English), but the older pronunciation would have been
something like "ken-da" (I am not sure at all as to the old Chinese
pronunciation; the Japanese pronunciation is "ken-da", and Japanese
pronunciations often are close to older Chinese pronunciation).  Now, as
every Chinese character has a vowel, the first part of a sequence of two
consonants (like "sk...") is often omitted in transliterations.  I mean, if
the pronunciation "Skand[h]a" may be transliterated as "Seu-ken-da" with
three characters, or the first character can be omitted, so that it becomes
"Ken-da".  -- Please note that I have no special knowledge as to Chinese
linguistics or the theory of Chinese transliterations of Sanskrit words, so
all I write here may be not very accurate.  But I hope that this is better
than nothing.

Best regards to all!

Nobumi Iyanaga

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