Pre-Mauryan "Rattle-Mirrors..." by Ya roslav V. Vassilkov

Alexandra Vandergeer avandergeer at PLANET.NL
Tue Dec 7 12:03:01 UTC 2010

A small addition:
When you zoom in close enough, you see that all elephants show darker round dots on their trunk and ears; it is simply that the fusion of the dots differs. And all young elephants have hairy temples, older elephants gradually loose them. The ideal obviously is a young elephant with a lighter skin which shows the dots nicely. Nothing mythical or poetical about it.
Alexandra van der Geer


From: Indology on behalf of JKirkpatrick
Sent: Mon 6-12-2010 22:09
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Pre-Mauryan "Rattle-Mirrors..." by Ya roslav V. Vassilkov

What a brilliant and enjoyable reading of the designs on these
various white bronze mirrors.  If I may, I'd like to offer a few
minor thoughts on the material, as follows:

Re: the Rogozikha mirror, the elephant's dots:
"The same treatise, ML, mentions that the cakravartin's (the
emperor's) elephant
should have its face and trunk covered with small spots, or dots
(bindu; MLII.7). Moreover, pictures of a white royal elephant
with black dots on its head and trunk can be found in Jaina
miniatures (Plate IV)."

I would only add that the same dots (realistically, splotches) on
its pale trunk skin surface can be seen in photos of living white
elephants used in Indian or Thai processions today. They aren't
decoration but actual skin features. I have seen such photos but
not able to locate one at this moment.

Re: hairy kumbhas on royal elephants:
In the Jain elephant image (p.11-B) one can also see that its
kumbhas are hairy. The other elephant (C) is wearing a cap.
Re:  the Rogozikha mirror, Fig 6:  The tiny v-shaped flower
designs are lotuses, and there is also a lotus bud on lower left,
to right of the left woman's foot. I'd say that the circular dots
all over the place are flowers, not signs for peacocks, so
therefore in agreement with the interpretation of the setting as
a garden--in this instance a flowery garden.
Also, the 'high status' woman on base-left is holding out to the
'servant' woman a lotus,  perhaps signifying a harem-woman's
acknowledgment that the servant woman saved the King's
elephant--another possible confirmation of the folktale.

As for the bird that pecked the flying elephant's head and
stopped it in its tracks (in other words, "killed it", so to
speak):  Bengali folklore has a giant monster bird that not only
pecks the elephant head but kills it by eating up its brains. In
the National Museum in Dhaka there was on display (possibly 1987
when I saw it there) a grand, carved wooden bedstead with this
bird/elephant combination carved on all four of the bedstead's
legs. It was reputed to be the bed of a rich landowner, poss.
18th or 19th c.  I can't recall the monster bird's name in

Re: The Mechetsai disk:
"in the disc between the outer rim and the inner circle was
engraved, according to Smirnov, "a religious symbolic scene": two
female figures flanking the central circle, wearing exotic
garments, stretching out their arms towards a face in the upper
part of the disc (Fig. 3)."

The face in the upper part of the disc, I'd read as bearded
(hairs on bottom edge) with a long mustache--therefore it's more
likely a male not a female deity, if a deity. The identity of
this male head figure probably may not be established. (See
drawing p.18, A.) However, Krishna (p.18, B) is never represented
in Indian arts with a beard & mustache; most popularly, he is an

Were Sun deity figures in Central Asia ever represented as
bearded and mustached? Indian folk painting usually has sun god
Surya with a mustache; not sure about a beard. Agni has both. See
this link for a few folk art images of a mustachioed Surya: 

Siva sometimes is/was mustached, not sure about bearded. In
addition, in popular
representations today in Bengal of female goddesses, like Durga,
the head of Shiva is often placed top center (just his
head)--often in  the protima assemblages created for the annual
grand pujas. I have seen patas where he's represented with a
mustache. I'm not alleging here that Goddess Durga or her husband
Shiva has anything to do with this mirror design, I only wish to
allude to a comon folk-painting design convention:  placing the
head of a male deity at top center of a female deity

Best wishes, and many thanks for making the articles on EJVS open

Joanna kirkpatrick

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