ha.msa in parama-ha.msa and ha.msa-sa.mde/sa

Christophe Vielle christophe.vielle at UCLOUVAIN.BE
Fri Apr 17 16:00:52 UTC 2009

There is also the story of God Brahmaa going to 
the top of the sky in the shape of a ha.msa 
(looking for the end of the li;nga, while Vi.s.nu 
goes under the Earth in the shape of a boar) as 
reminded by Puur.nasarasvatii:

ruupa.m bibhran na.ta iva sakhe rocamaa.na.m tvadiiya.m
maatu.m dhaataa madanadamanajyotir uurdhva.m gato 'bhuut | 7ab

(the story is at least told in Li;ngaP 1,17,5-52)

I wonder what are the oldest (textual or 
iconographical) sources for the ha.msa(s) as 
vehicle of Brahmaa, and what is the original 
symbolical relationship between the god and the 

Christophe Vielle 

>I suspect a factor in the soul being compared to 
>it, and the sannyasis being called paramahaMsa, 
>is that it flies very high and also fast and 
>without stop, seeming to make it almost 
>completely detached from the earth.
>The Wikipedia article Bar-Headed Goose says:
>"The Bar-headed Goose is one of the world's 
>highest flying birds, having been seen at up to 
>10175 m (33,382 feet). It has a slightly larger 
>wing area for its weight than other geese and it 
>is believed this helps the goose to fly high.[2] 
>Studies have found that they breathe more 
>efficiently under low oxygen conditions and are 
>able to reduce heat loss.[3] The haemoglobin of 
>their blood has a higher oxygen affinity than 
>that of other geese.[4]
>The Bar-headed Goose migrates over the Himalayas 
>to spend the winter in India, Assam, Northern 
>Burma and the wetlands of Pakistan. It migrates 
>up to Magadi wetlands of Gadag district of 
>Karnataka in the southern part of India. The 
>winter habitat of the Bar-headed Goose is on 
>cultivation where it feeds on barley, rice and 
>wheat, and may damage crops. The bird is can fly 
>the 1000-mile migration route in just one day as 
>it is able to fly in jet stream. [1]"

>Hoping not to "grind flour" too much, I would 
>say that the double ha.msa's quality of 
>travelling freely the world and distinguishing 
>milk mixed with water (cf. Slouber's post), as 
>reminded in Puur.nasarasvatii's Ha.msa-sa.mde/sa 
>(9) :
>pauna.hpu.nyaad bhuvanam akhila.m bhraamyata.h svairav.rtte.h
>/saktasyoccair api samudite k.siiraniire vivektum |
>maarga.m taavanmahita mahataa.m notsahe te pravaktu.m
>jñaatajñaana.m na khalu sudhiyaa.m tu.s.taye pi.s.tape.sa.h ||
>is enough for explaining why the name of this 
>migrating and vivekin bird, as "parama" denotes 
>a all-discriminating and super-liberated ascetic 
>(=? in the poem the su-dhii to whom the path, 
>maargam, to liberation is already known, 
>>I am grateful for the references, also the ones 
>>from the Yoga Upanishads. But they do not 
>>explain to me why this bird was selected as a 
>>model of a high type of (yogic performer? and) 
>>But already many thanks
>>Victor van Bijlert
>>Date: Fri, 17 Apr 2009 12:13:10 +0200
>>From: Christophe Vielle <christophe.vielle at uclouvain.be>
>>Subject: Re: rAjahaMsa in the ha?sasa?des´a
>>Without being a specialist, the ha.msa seems 
>>rather to be connected with yoga in this case : 
>>the ha.msa as migrant bird being in some yoga 
>>texts a metaphor of the the Soul escaping from 
>>the sa.msaara (see Ha.msa-Up 1.5, K.surikaa-Up 
>>1.22), with also puns on the repetition of the 
>>word "ha.msa" (breathing in making "ham" and 
>>out "sa", Dhyaanabindu-Up 1.62, or ha.msa as 
>>the reverse of so'ham). The parama-ha.msa would 
>>be the one who has attained perpetual mukti 
>>from the nets of living. I rely here on the 
>>writings of the late Jean Varenne, Aux sources 
>>du yoga, Paris, 1989, pp. 68-70, and Upanishads 
>>du yoga, Paris, 1971, pp. 24-25, 110-11, 163.
>>There probably exist more complete studies on the subject.
>>Best wishes,
>>Christophe Vielle
>>-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
>>Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk] Namens Michael Slouber
>>Verzonden: vrijdag 17 april 2009 11:54
>>Aan: INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk
>>Onderwerp: Re: rAjahaMsa in the ha.msasa.mde/sa
>>It's the traditional notion of the ha.msa's viveka that is the source
>>of comparison:
>>n¥rak.s¥raviveka.m ca ha.mso vetti na cÇpara?
>>(Garu.dapurÇ.na 3,17.48)
>>Other examples are abundant.
>>Michael Slouber
>>PhD Candidate
>>UC Berkeley
>>On Apr 17, 2009, at 3:16 PM, victor van Bijlert wrote:
>>>  I am aware of the fact that the hamsa is the Anser Indicus, a kind
>>>  of goose.
>>>  Could anyone explain why the hamsa has been used as a metaphor of a
>>>  special
>>>  type of world-renouncer, the socalled paramahamsa? Is there anything
>>>  in the
>>>  behaviour of the bird that could have led to calling certain
>>>  renouncers
>>>  paramahamsa's? I know this is sidetracking, but it seems relevant in
>>>  connection with the discussion of the bird hamsa.
>>>  Victor
>>>  -----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
>>>  Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk] Namens John C.
>>>  Huntington
>>>  Verzonden: vrijdag 17 april 2009 4:37
>>>  Aan: INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk
>>>  Onderwerp: Re: rAjahaMsa in the ha?sasa?des´a
>>>  Historically it is not a Swan but the Anser Indicus
>>>  John
>>>  On Apr 16, 2009, at 7:16 AM, victor van Bijlert wrote:
>>>>  In the logo of the Ramakrishna Mission a real swan also figures,
>>>>  not a
>>>>  goose. Apparently in the nineteenth century one regarded the hansa
>>>>  as a
>>>>  swan. The latter perhaps as an allusion to the image of the swan
>>>>  that will
>>>>  sing its most beautiful song when it feels it is going to die; a
>>>>  famous
>>>>  image found in Plato's Phaedo, 84e-85b? The idea in Phaedo is that
>>>>  Socrates
>>>>  as a philosopher knows he is going to die and expects to be united
>>>>  with the
>>>>  God Apollo.
>>>>  Victor van Bijlert
>>>>  -----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
>>>>  Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk] Namens Christophe
>>>>  Vielle
>>>>  Verzonden: donderdag 16 april 2009 11:21
>>>>  Aan: INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk
>>>>  Onderwerp: Re: rAjahaMsa in the ha?sasa?des´a
>>  >>
>>>>  It is a real "swan"  messenger that Raja Ravi
>>>>  Varma painted in his famous "Ha.msa-Damayantii"
>>>>  (1899) now displayed in the Sri Chitra Art
>>>>  Gallery, Tiruvanantapuram. See at:
>>>>  http://www.temple-trees.com/ravivarma/urrvprints.asp?printtype=2&pg=2
>>>>  Best wishes,
>>>>  Christophe Vielle
>>>>>  I expect you are familiar with this book:
>>>>>  Vogel, J. P., 1962,  The Goose in Indian
>>>>>  Literature and Art.  Memoirs of the Kern
>>>>>  Institute No. II. E. J. Brill, Leiden.
>>>>>  According to my notes, Vogel (good name?)
>>>>>  identified haMsa and rAjahaMsa with a mainly
>>>>>  white form of the Indian goose (Anser indicus),
>>>>>  and kalahaMsa with the greylag goose (Anser
>>>>>  anser).
>>>>>  Valerie J Roebuck
>>>>>  At 7:12 am -0700 15/4/09, Oliver Fallon wrote:
>>>>>>  I would like some help on the identity of the
>>>>>>  ra¯jaha?sa which is the subject of
>>>>>>  Veda¯ntades´ika's Ha?sasa?des´a. He tells us
>>>>>>  little of the bird except that he repeatedly
>>>>>>  stresses that it is a pure white water bird and
>>>>>>  that it has a beautiful call as it flies to
>>>>>>  which that of the peacock is unfavourably
>>>>>>  compared. I was first provoked into considering
>>>>>>  that this is not a goose by a comment in
>>>>>>  Shastriar's 1902 Madras edition of the poem,
>>>>>>  where he says: "ra¯jaha?sa is a species of swan
>>>>>>  with red legs and bills (sic). Compare
>>>>>>  'ra¯jaha?sa¯s tu te cañcucaranair lohitais
>>>>>>  si¯ta¯?'"
>>>>  --
>>>>  http://belgianindology.lalibreblogs.be
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