Re: [INDOLOGY] Purāṇas, "resembling the belly of a mirror"

Toke Lindegaard Knudsen toke.knudsen at
Wed Jan 31 14:05:44 UTC 2018

Dear Madhav,

Though glass mirrors were produced in India (from 1500 CE in western India according to one article I’ve read), the references must be to mirrors made from polished metal.

One Śilpaśāstra text prescribes that a mirror should be very round (suvṛtta) and have a raised rim (though surviving mirrors don’t always have a raised rim). As such the mirror’s belly (udara) must be the polished part inside the rim or the edge of the mirror.

Your suggestion of “highly polished” makes sense and what I had in mind with ‘smooth, polished, clean.’ But I’m honestly not entirely sure how exactly the diagram, maṇḍala, would look like. Since mirrors were generally perfect circles, is a shape implied here?

All best wishes,

On Jan 31, 2018, at 14:50, Madhav Deshpande <mmdesh at<mailto:mmdesh at>> wrote:

Before this question can be answered, we need to figure out what the darpaṇas were made of.  Was it a glass mirror as we now have it, or was it a highly polished plate of metal?  If it is the latter, your description probably refers to "highly polished."  Just a thought.

Madhav Deshpande
(currently in Pune)

On Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 6:45 PM, Toke Lindegaard Knudsen via INDOLOGY <indology at<mailto:indology at>> wrote:
Dear all,

I’m looking at some purāṇic passages where the expression “resembling the belly of a mirror” occurs.

Liṅgapurāṇa 2.28.47-48 (all references in this email are drawn from GRETIL) has:

śrūyatāṃ paramaṃ guhyaṃ vedikoparimaṇḍalam /
aṣṭamāṅgulasaṃyuktaṃ maṅgalākuraśobhitam //
phalapuṣpasamākīrṇaṃ dhūpadīpasamanvitam /
vedimadhye prakartavyaṃ darpaṇodarasannibham //

The verses speak of a diagram, maṇḍala, to be drawn in the center of the altar, vedi. The expression darpaṇodarasannibham, “resembling the belly of a mirror,” is used with reference to the maṇḍala.

Liṅgapurāṇa 1.8.83 has:

atyantanirmale samyak supralipte vicitrite /
darpaṇodarasaṃkāśe kṛṣṇāgarusudhūpite //

The context is the location where a practitioner should engage in yoga. The expression darpaṇodarasaṃkāśe, “resembling the belly of a mirror,” is used to describe a characteristic the place should have.

The Śivapurāṇa 7.2,29.11-13 has:

na tu prayogo bhidyeta vakṣyamāṇasya karmaṇaḥ /
parīkṣya bhūmiṃ vidhivadgaṃdhavarṇarasādibhiḥ //
manobhilaṣite tatra vitānavitatāṃbare /
supralipte mahīpṛṣṭhe darpaṇodarasaṃnibhe //
prācīmutpādayetpūrvaṃ śāstradṛṣṭena vartmanā /
ekahastaṃ dvihastaṃ vā maṇḍalaṃ parikalpayet //

The context here is the ground on which the diagram, maṇḍala, is placed. The expression darpaṇodarasaṃnibhe, “resembling the belly of a mirror,” is used to describe the ground.

I’m interested in the image of a belly of a mirror used in the passages. The most obvious interpretation is that the image conveys something smooth, polished, and clean, as we would want a mirror to be; imperfections and dirt would distort the image we see in the mirror. I doubt that ‘reflective’ is meant, though ‘shining’ is a possibility.

My question is if the image could be used to indicate shape in some way? I doubt ‘concave’ or ‘convex’ shape is meant, but perhaps ‘round’ or ‘flat’?

With all best wishes,

Toke Lindegaard Knudsen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow
Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
University of Copenhagen

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