R Srinivasan rsrin at PACIFIC.NET.SG
Sat Dec 16 00:35:30 UTC 2000

When those in power needed both tacit acceptance from mortals on earth and
sanction from the heaven above, the concept of God-king was born, but in
China, rather than India. The 1st empror of China Qin Shih Huang (3BC),
called it the Mandate of Heaven (Tien Hua) and had the blessings in
Confucious's writings. China's emperors immortalised themselves, built
stately tombs, with terracota statues of warriors and horses for their
aftrelife, long before such a concept seems to have taken root in India. The
Central Asian king of the Yueh Chi tribe of Ku-Shan clan, Kanishka, combined
the Mandate with ASoka's "Devanampiya" (Favourite of teh Gods) and
Chakravartin ideology to call himself "Devaputra" (son of God) in 1cdBC/AD.
The imperial ideology of Dharmarakshaka (Protector of Dharma) enabled
emperors carve images in pairs in caves, one bearing the image of the king
in royal attire and the other bearing his iamge in the Bodhisattva mould in
early Christian era (eg: Jiqu Mengxun cave of the Northern Liang dynasty,
When imperial patronage of the Brahmanical gods gained momentum in the Gupta
period and in the Pallava/Chola periods in the South, assuming Vishnu's
epithets for themselves was only the logical step to Godhead. Kumara Gupta's
coins bears testimony to this. "Tiruvutal Mannare kaanal Tirumale Enrum" is
a famous Tamil eulogy to sing the praise of the king as "Seeing the king
walking is like seeing Vishnu walking". Khmer tradition is an extension of
this, since the Prashastis found all over Siem Reap reflect this concept.
Western historians who could not understand the concept have tended to think
that Khmer kings treated themselves as "Gods"; LIKE Gods is differnt from
being Gods. The Vedantic/Advaitic concept uses the term "iva" (like so very
often to draw the distinction to describe the Mahavakya, "Tat Tvamasi" (That
Art Thou). History records terms such as Devadasi, DevaBrahmana, yet
Devaraja has been argued over like none else. Although all these terms have
been misinterpreted, at times abused even.

-----Original Message-----
From: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at LISTSERV.LIV.AC.UK]On Behalf Of N.
Sent: Saturday, December 16, 2000 12:52 AM
Subject: Re: Devaraja

Vanbakkam Vijayaraghavan <vijay at VOSSNET.CO.UK> wrote:
What is the vedic precedents conceptually and ritually of the concept
of 'devaraja' which came to be a premier medievel Hindu mode of
politico- religious authority in India and more so in south east
asia? It is also said by some historians that the ultimate conquest
of one king by another king used to be carrying away (not
desecrating) the royal image /deity symbolising the annexation of
that principality?

Is this devaraja concept an innovation of medievel India/ South east
  asia (i.e. post 3rd C Ad) without precedents or ritual support?

Me also very much want Vedicists/Sanskritists to talk about this

Years ago, I have discussed Tamil parallels here stored in the
archives. The paLLippaTai temples of Pallavas, Cholas etc. with the
art historian, Mary Storm, UCLA and examples in South East Asia.
As you know Pallavan grantha script, which is used in Tamil country
for writing Sanskrit (Dr. James Nye, UChicago has created a web page
for displaying grantam script)  is/was used in all of south east Asia
including Vietnam.
Let me cite few lines on the Devaraja issue in SEAsia from a personal
letter to me:
" [snip]
my SEA books are still in boxes in the garage, probably lost to access
for months to come, BUT I will venture to say that the Devaraja issue
is fraught with controversy.  I think the most interesting issues seem
to turn up in the Champa context, where there existed a very peculiar
amalgam of Tantric Saiva and Buddhist religion, but little has been
written about the Chams and most of that is in French, [snip]
There are some interesting links with the Pallavas, which you might
find pertinent. [...]"

A quick list is appended at the end from my biblio-notes which you may
find interesting.

Kings and Gods are seen as one in many of S. Indian art:
Example 1) In the Chola painting (early 11th century) in Tanjore
temple, (long thought to be lost, but rediscovered by S. K.
Govindasamy of Annamalai univ., Chidambaram in 1930s) a youthful
majestic man with an aged munivar is seen. This, many authors claim
(eg., Nagasamy, or Jim Heitzman's book on Cholas (OUP) cover photo)
as Rajaraja I and his guru, KaruvUrt tEvar. BUT, this is only
part of the story. There are a total of 4 men standing (3 aged, one
young)! and a little far, there is Dakshinamurti sitting like
Ayyappan/Ayyanar with a yoga-paTTai. Dakshinamurti image is badly
damaged, For a sketch see C. Sivaramamurti, monumental Nataraja book.
Evidently, the devaraja concept is working here. Among the four rishis
worshipping Dakshinamurti, (sanaka- aadi munivar), only sanatkumAran
is portrayed as young, and the rest are elderly rishis. The beautiful
idea is used by the master Chola painters: sanatkumAran-sanaka; also
simultaneously Rajarajan-KaruvUrttevar!
[I do not think anybody has described this info anywhere].

Dakshinamurti was present only in the old Tamizakam (= today's Kearala
and TN, here I use tamizakam in the sense of Prof. P. Schalk's
publications). The Dakshinamurti in the Potiyil mountains is seen as
Avalokitesvara in Buddhist gaNDavyUhasUtram. There is a long and
ancient tradition among Saivaites that Tamil was taught by Shiva to
Agastya Malayamuni and among Tamil Buddhists that it was Avalokita who
taught Tamil to Agastya at Potiyil. This earlier myth spills over into
Sanskrit legends produced in the south that made Shaivaites claim that
Shiva taught Sanskrit to Panini, and Buddhists on the contrary went to
claim that it was really Avalokita who inspired Panini. Differing from
M. Deshpande, Who inspired Panini?, JAOS paper (Nortwest
India/Afghanistan area was said to be the orgin of the Panini myths),
I wrote about South and the key role of Potiyil(Malaya/Potalaka)
in the creation of these legends about Panini and parallel ones for
Agastya. (1998 postings under the thread title: Where was PANini

Between Pandyan Madurai and Pallava/Cholan Chidambaram royal
competitions, the Dakshinamurti myth has played a major role. See
Dr. Palaniappan's essay from the Indology website:

a) Madurai and Chidambaram:
   The Tamil Cities that Created Important Sanskrit Myths
b) Parvata, potiyil, and zrI-parvata
   Some remarks by S. Palaniappan

There is a century old important Indological quest to locate parvatam
mentioned in the shlokam of vAkyapadIyam 2.486. Anient Tamil texts
explicitly locate Parvatam as Potiyil(malayam), for example, in
Takkayaakap paraNi.

In the second millennium CE, Dakshinamurti travels North.
Abhivagupta's teacher praises him as Dakshinamurti, and
AdvaitavAdins use the DakshiNaamUrti theme.

Example 2:

I have already given an example of painting exhibiting Devaraja
phenomenon. Next is sculpture. Rajaraja I's famous and powerful son,
Rajendra Chozhan I has carved a big and beautuful relief sculpture at
GangaikoNDachOzapuram. This displays the ChaNDesa nAyanAr, who stays
outside all the Shiva sanctums in India and who cut his father down
with his axe. Shiva appears in the scene to revive the dead father,
and garlands the young ChaNDesar with his favorite flower garland made
of ko_nRai flowers. In the Chola panel, Shiva, seated with Parvati, is
seen garlanding the ChaNDesa Nayanar worshipping and thanking for the
highest honor that Shiva bestows. Here, ChaNDesar's face is said to be
modeled after Rajendran I. (See his portrait sculpture in Gautam
Sarabhai collection). Again Devaraja concept: ChaNDesar/Rajendran.
Well, sort of.

S. Indian kings portrayed themselves only as Rishis/Nayanars etc.,
But Khmer kings went overboard and portrayed themslves as Vishnu, ...
Also, the famous "Smiling God" imagery seen in gopura towers of
Cambodia, has early precedents in Tamil literature and art.
[Will write on this some other time.]

I am almost positive that if successor states (like Vijayanagar,
Nayaks, Marathas) followed the earlier lead of seafaring in
sangam literature, and then Pallavas and Cholas built up
the Naval forces, India would not have been subdued by
Europe later.

N. Ganesan, PhD
NASA Johnson Space Center
Houston, Texas

Kulke, Hermann.
     The Devaraja Cult / Hermann Kulke ; translated from the German by
I. W. Mabbett ; with an introd. by the author and notes on the
translation of Khmer terms by J. M. Jacob.  Ithaca, N.Y. : Southeast
Asia Program, Dept. of  Asian Studies, Cornell University, 1978.

Coedes, G. The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, ed. Walter F.
Vella, trans. Susan Brown Cowing, Honolulu, 1968.

Gesick, L., ed. Centers Symbols and Hierarchies: Essays on the
Classical States of Southeast Asia, New Haven, 1983.

Hirsch, Marilyn. "Royal Implications of the Unique Subject Matter,
Scale and Formative in the Narrative Reliefs at Mamallapuram" Bulletin
of South Asian Religious Studies  3 (Oct. 1983) 56-63.

Kaimal, Padma Audrey. Stone Portrait Sculpture at Pallava and Early
Cola Temples : Kings, Patrons and Individual Identity Dissertation,
University of California, Berkeley, 1988.

Sivaramamurti, C. Royal Conquests and Cultural Migrations in South
India and the Deccan, Calcutta: Trustees of the Indian Museum, 1955.

Srinivasan K. R.  "Some Aspects of Religion as Revealed by Early
Monuments and Literature of the South," Journal of the Madras
University, Vol. XXXII, No 1, July 1960.
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list