Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gnostic Embrace of Warkaris in the Monsoon Season around Pune: Part III Kanifnath, Kanoba, and Syncretism

This is the third part of this blog trilogy on the intrinsic Gnosticism of the warkaris in the palkhi procession during the monsoon season. These blogs have little on actual warkari aspects. They instead dwell on a possible evolution of the (Gnostic, a difficult word to define) mindset of these warkaris from the religiosity of their environment.

The more intriguing aspect of this shrine is the presence of seemingly muslim tombs covered with saffron cloth.

This blog has been written mainly to explain (to myself?) some imagined contradictions in giving a muslim identity or not to the shrine. This is a trivial matter for an warkari.

I have no professional (and very little) amateur background on anthropology. These blogs are what they are --- just blogs of a nomad, say, with the independence to identify the deity to worship for the moment. The truth that one seeks is the inclusive peace with one's environment without being intrusive.

The blog will most likely meander through various seemingly disconnected points of view and records more from a personal point of view without requiring a quod erat demonstrandum at the end.

The inputs that I refer to depends mainly on the internet and is mainly based on extracts from published books of the academic kind.

I also do not need to depend on historical records. Historical records are the products of empire building and are most times rendered empirical because of political constraints. Moreover, in a tradition of impermanence (not fickleness) that characterize our early lifestyles based on tropical abundance and fast decay there cannot be a record … only an emerged lifestyle and philosophy that does not really depend on a holy testament or script. The worshipper is truly independent even if socially constrained and contributing all the while to a changing socially viable swarm intelligence.

The numbering of figures continue from the previous blogs in this series. Click on figures to expand.

Kanifnath Shrine

The drive away from the khandoba mandir (see part II) towards Saswad was especially pleasant being through green flatlands with rustic scenes of buffalos grazing (fig 12, left), and distance red-tiled roofs of villages and temples (fig 12 middle). The chaturmukh cone and ridge is visible to the left of the hill slopes of Fig 12 left. On the way to Saswad we decided to take a left turn at a corner where there was a large collection of freshly painted saffron (the present politically correct colour) worship stones on the ground.

The road led to a kanifnath shrine on the top of a hill. I did not know much about Kanifnath before this trip. The only thing we knew about the shrine was that there is a cave containing the Samadhi of a saint. The kanifnath shrine is located on a hill (fig 12 right) which is shaped something like the hill in Fig 12 middle. There are many such hills around. There are also many hill-top shrines and probably many samadhis.

Most of all that I have written below has been obtained from the internet after this trip, although as a Bengali, I should have known much more. What I did learn fits in very well with this Gnostic warkari theme .

The nath movement has a very complex tradition which, I gather, is predominantly generated from the very early bon (see my blog Bon of the Bongs) Buddhist tradition of eastern Bengal. The nath movement is religious by all accounts having elements of Buddhism, Jainism, baul movement (see my blog “Pulling strings for Joy: the ‘baul’ of Madhugiri”) and its vaishnavism, and has some of the external manifestations of Shaivites. The actual nath tradition is thought to have been started around the 12th century by Matsyendranath. They abhor brahminical rituals and they are followers of Adinath, lord of origin (to give it a Tolkienian name).

Adinath is the "big bang theory" of the universe?

The nath jogis probably appeared in written records on Bengal for the first time around the end of the 12th century. It was about this time that sufi-ism of Islamic wonderers also arrived in Bengal. The question is then often asked about who came first the nath or the sufi.

If we consider the life-style of the bauls of Bengal (I will mean the east bengal of the bon buddhists with its shamanistic or tantric traditions when I refer to bengal) to be the precursors of the nath as well as the sufi minstrels there is little doubt (in my intuition) that the bon Buddhists of Tibet came first (the tonsuring of the heads of Bengali Muslims has often been attributed to the inheritance of this custom from Buddhist monasteries of their ancestors). After all, the yoga of the naths, with its emphasis on breathing, follows a Tibetan practice.

A recent (1995) Stockholm thesis entitled The Ocean of Love: Middle Bengali Sufi Literature and the Fakirs of Bengal by David Cashin, comes to the conclusion (with which I must genetically agree, being a bengali) that the main part of the sufi literature with its emphasis on yoga is derived from Nath sources. Attention has been drawn in a review of the book by Carl Solomon ( in The Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1998 ) to the role of the nath yoga manual, Amrtakunda (Pool of Nectar), in providing a historical context to the nath influence of sufi literature. The Sanskrit original of this text has been lost (in keeping with Indian habits of losing important documents that prove a point, be it a scam or a truth). The Persian and Arabic translations of this text survive, we are told. Such translations are thought to be vague about their origin (see The Islamization of Yoga in the "Amrtakunda" Translations by Carl W. Ernst) so that it is difficult to prove a point “scientifically” by depending on some written records.

In der Zwischenzeit, Carl W. Ernst would discuss the sufi-nath origin debate in the context of the third century writing in the Gnostic “Acts of Thomas” which describes Apostle Thomas’ acts during his Evangelical mission before he was killed at the St. Thomas Mount in Madras (Chennai) for converting people to his faith. Ernst would discuss in particular the way an ancient text (Hymn of the Pearls) was treated by Islamic texts and concludes (I think) that there is islamisation of Amrtakunda in sufi texts just as Hymns of Pearls was Islamized.

Indians historically rely on their memory and the spoken word; even the spoken word will be understood only on the way one nods one’s head or the intonation when one speaks, or the bhava of the eyes becomes very crucial in conveying understanding, trust, or emotions. There is no way to "objectivising" the spoken word and so one has no history to write about in any case, This is why we sometimes cannot avoid the temptations to lie and/or not to keep records; this could be especially so when we give everything to the lord’s dependents, forgetting that we also take from the lord’s dependents (sometimes more than we should if we could). For this reason it is difficult for us to claim to be historically first in many things including the patenting of natural products.

The question of who came first the nath or the sufi is irrelevant for the warkari because there are so many more important things to sing and dance aboout.

It is not quite unlikely that the Bengali naths and sufis came to the western region before it reached Persia and Arabia (through the silk route?) . Their Gnosis could have permeated into the local conscious much before the actual sufi or nath texts were written. Remember in matters of Indian history we require only traditionally spoken truths, if we throw away the confining yoke of Christianizing or Islamizing texts.

As the warkaris may say, does it matter for things spiritual?

Be that as it may, the bauls and the sufis and the naths follow the basic practice of love and humanism which is the religion of the common people, the warkaris, without adopting firmly theocratic rituals and symbols. It is this which has contributed to the amicable geographical and cultural milieu throughout the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. Imperial rulers could not disrupt this environment.

Strangely, the political power of independent democratic republic that India now claims to be is highlighting antagonistic intolerance, instead of highlighting our intrinsic Gnosticism.

The basic gnosis of the warkaris and bauls may perhaps be seen in this video clip of the baul singer krishnendu das (with a lovable typically Indian chalta-hai phase-lag between sight and sound). This clip captures some essence (even if it may be staged and hence not spontaneous) because of the architectural style of the place where it is sung which has some resemblance to that of the Kanifnath shrine we visited.

The shrine is seen from far away (Fig 12 right) and the main dome is rather modern looking (Fig 13 left). Kanifnath is thought to have discovered the cave on which the shrine is built. The shrine itself resemble the Vajreshwari devi shrine which is also built on a hill formed from a volcanic eruption (according to Wikipidia).

The location of Vajreshwari shrine on a old volcanic hill would support our conjecture that the chaturmukh of Warwadi is to be associated with a volcanic hill. Since we are free to conjecture in a blog, we also propose that the Kanifnath mandir located on a hill at Pisalwadi, near Saswad (as indicated by Wikimapia) is to be associated with (what seems to be) a volcanic hill on which there are “craters” (Part I, Fig 7, right) that seems to be of the same size as the chaturmukh craters (Part I, Fig 7 left).

Very little is known about the navnaths except that they were thought to be more powerful than the traditional gods. This itself could be good news.

The relationship between the nath movement and the Kanifnath shrine has to be imagined, I suppose. Gorakhnath, under whom the nath movement saw the maximum expansion is thought to have his Samadhi in a Nath mandir near the Vajreshwari mandir. Matsyendranath, who is considered to be a founder of the navnath parampara served Vajereshwari devi.

Inside the Kanifnath mandir there is a hall where ladies are seated watching bare-bodied men crawling in and out of a small hole in a decorated silver-panelled wall (Fig 13 middle). The hole looked, quite contrary to expectations, as if it was 12”x12” which will make it diagonally 18” long. That would not be too small a size for a man to go crawling in (head first) and out (feet first) as they usually do without much problem. It is easier if you go in without your top clothes so that the rule that men should go in bare-bodied is rather sensible. That women are not allowed inside would also be sensible in this case.

The view from the top is rather scenic if you are not looking at recently developed structures (Fig 13 right).

If one goes around the temple there are signs of worship of stones with embedded eyes (Fig 14 left) coloured saffron and further sanctified by a trishul. The flowers used for worship includes the shiuli (paarijaata) flowers; there is a shiuli tree that is also seen at the chaturmukh mandir (PaRT i; Fig 4 right). There is a stone couple (Fig 14 middle) whose identity I now forget but whose features are similar to the one under the “60,000” year olf banyan tree (Part I, Fig 5 left). There is also a tolerance for dogs at the temple (Fig 14 right).

Some of the interior craftsmanship inside the temple is typical of Jain temples (Fig 15 left).

The more interesting aspect of the shrine is not the cave, but the presence of rectangular tombs or tombstones that are characteristic of Christiam or Muslim tombs. The tomb is similar to that of the dargah in Khed Shivapur where the tomb is covered by a green cloth as expected for a Muslim tomb. The tombs here is covered with saffron.

On going back down the steps one sees giant painted frieze/sculpture of a bearded Hanuman with long black hair, to keep up, I guess, with the images of the very primordial sculptures in the complex of the nine learned men, navnath, of which Kanifnath is listed as fourth in the order.

The nath movement introduced yoga in the Indian context having benefited from the Tibetan connection of the bon Buddhist’s association with the early Bengal or vanga (see my blog “Bon of the Bongs” for the way I look at it). These nath yogis are thought to have introduced the concept of Samadhi to the modern world. In Samadhi the spiritual and material bodies are separated. The spiritual body dominates in Samadhi and the material body is left behind so that the sense of karma and duty is not there. The yogi is immersed in Brahma.

So we make another conjecture. The chaturmukhi mandir of Warwadi is claimed to be a Brahma mandir simply because there is a tradition of an ancient Samadhi there of the nath yogi type?

The question of whether it was a sufi dargah or a nath samadhi would not have arisen "60,000" years ago.

In My People Uprooted: A saga of the Hindus of Eastern Bengal, Tathagata Roy writes “Popular religion in Bengal often displays syncretism, a mixing of both Hindu and Muslim folk beliefs, deities, and practices. Bengal is famous for its wandering religious mendicant folk musicians (e.g., the Bauls, who disdain caste and conventional Hindu/Muslim religious distinctions in their worship and way of life). In addition to formal worship at Hindu temples and Muslim mosques, popular worship involving religious folk music is widespread, especially at Vaishnavite gatherings ( kirtan ) and among Muslim followers of several Sufi orders ( tarika ) present in Bengal. Bengali Muslims are also known for their practice of "pirism," the cultic following of Muslim saints or holy men (called pirs )”.

The so-called pir cult comes from the spoken anecdotal panchali sing-song narratives extolling established deities as well as folk deities without worrying about established religious perspectives of different communities. The panchali texts that are popular include those concerning Muslim Kalu Gazi and Satyapir or the Hindu Satyanarayan thereby indicating the common folks' disregard for religious implications. The symbiotic syncretism of sufi saints and nath yogis has survived within India till now. The Bengali satyapir panchali which spreads harmony and maintains communal feelings among all seems to have now become satyanaryan puja which is observed all over India.

This communal hamony is very fragile now because of the growth of the poer of vote-manipulating democracy and multi-channel TRP-rated television which provides the fodder for tempting junk-ism and screechy animalized jockeys and moderators who appeal to the lowest common denominator.

In Murali Ranganthan’s English translation of Govind Narayanan’s Marathi description “Mumbaiche Varanan” there is an important description of life in Bombay (“Govind Narayan’s Mumbai: An Urban Biography from 1863”). Part of the description relevant to this blog in the context of khandoba is summarized in what follows in this paragraph, Bombay around 1850 Bombay was full of maths (hermitages) owned by people other than Brahmins. Kanoba’s maths are ordinary rooms or houses in which a bhagat (devotee of Kanoba, who could be Krishna or a “great devotee” of Krishna; we note in passing that Tukaram, a great devotee of Krishna, had a brother named Kanoba) resides.

It has been said in this book that the idol of Kanoba is a combination of the idol of Balakrishna and the panja (impression of hand) of a Mulim pir (much as satyapir). The worship of kanoba is supposed to be strictly unbiased between Muslims and Hindus being based on the principle that Rahim and Ram are the same (this was before BJP). In practice the Muslims did have a tacit superior status according to Govind Narayan.

The Kanifnath shrine at Madhi is also known to Hindus as Shri Kanoba’s shrine

The members of this kanoba cult are said to be followers of a Syed Sadaat, a devotee of Vishnu from paithan, who converted to Islam, some say in the ninth century. This would make the kanoba cult earlier than the moghul or muslim influence in India and could be attributed to non-empire contacts such as baul or their muslim (probably Bengali) sufi mendicants that must have been accompanying the ordinary people, say merchants and sea-farers.

When sites of burial, revered as sacred sites by communities with syncretic/symbiotic sharing of religion, becomes subjects of competition between the communities later with the influence of powerful patronage (usually due to political or commercial aspects of an empire). For instance, There is sacred site shared between Hindus (Kanifnath’s Samadhi, where his body is shed) and Muslims’ (Shah Ramzan Mahi Savar’ dargah where the body is entombed ) in a village called Madhi, in Maharashtra. Around the end of the nineteenth century, the site resembled more a dargah, according to a Bombay Gazeteer report.

Robert Hayden records an instance in (in his book Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites) late twentieth century when the site was raided by members of a political party which named itself after Shivaji and who resisted Muslim influences. All evidence of a Muslim dargah was supposed to have been removed from the site by these raiders of the political kind.

When the bauls and sufis speak of religion and live by the charity of the public as mendicants, they must not offend, like politicians seeking vote. So they transcend religion and their kathas (discourses) may be heard by the ordinary people without fearing the wrath of the god of their structured religion. It is then but natural that the more popular the mendicant the more secular spiritual recognition they get till they become saints in popular parlance. I am sure that our and popular bollywood stars or lyricists or script-writers would have become secular saints by now.

So, when does a Samadhi become a dargah? When the Samadhi fails?

I suppose one may be in Samadhi for a few days instead of forever.

It is probably important to see a real-time Samadhi to believe it. In Romalia Butalia’s book ‘In the presence of Masters’ there is a description of a lady disciple (Yogmatta Shraddha) of a sadhu (Pilot Baba) going into samadhi by descending into a hole using a ladder, being covered by a tarpaulin sheet, then by tin sheets and finally by soil and mud.

She was there for three days and nights during which time “Devotees and disciples came in thousands to pay their homage outside the barricades of the site. Within it, at all times, there were one, two or more of Baba’s close associates who kept vigil. Throughout the day, several people sat just outside, keeping a watch. During the nights, several sadhus kept protective vigil at the Samadhi sthal. “ …”The tarpaulin and tin sheets were removed from overhead so Baba could descend into the pit. A ladder was placed. He descended and stood beside Yogmata Shraddha, who sat in samdhi. He placed his hand over her head. Instantly, she rubbed her eyes exactly as Baba instructs at the end of a meditation. Her hands automatically went to Baba’s feet as she bowed before him. … … The crowds were almost uncontrollable.

The notion of going into a Samadhi is always intriguing. Long space travel would benefit from such a state. You also wonder what physical process is there that can slow down your biological processes that time stands still for your body and your soul persists to be alive and perceiving and intelligent unless your soul is that part of your being which is a part of swarm intelligence of the entire society.

In The New Accelerator, H. G. Wells , Professor Gibberne who works on the action of drugs on nervous system, discovers a drug that accelerates awareness processes. The effect after taking the drug is described thus '"Roughly speaking," said Gibberne, "an object in these latitudes falls 16 feet in the first second. This glass is falling 16 feet in a second now. Only, you see, it hasn't been falling yet for the hundredth part of a second. That gives you some idea of the pace of my Accelerator." And he waved his hand round and round, over and under the slowly sinking glass. Finally, he took it by the bottom, pulled it down, and placed it very carefully on the table. "Eh?" he said to me, and laughed. … … An immovable cyclist, head down and with a frozen puff of dust behind his driving-wheel, scorched to overtake a galloping char-a-banc that did not stir. I gaped in amazement at this incredible spectacle.'

Instead of an accelerator a man in Samadhi would require taking a decelerator drug when every process would relatively accelerate around him (limited only by the speed of light? Imagine that?!!!) when 60,000 years would be very manageable in the real time of the decelerated state. I suppose if acceleration gives a relativistic increase in mass, heavy deceleration would give a loss of mass and one eventually becomes a spirit?!!!

Being in Samadhi for three days and starting a religious movement for “uncontrollable crowds” is a possibility. We don’t know to what extent Christ’s resurrection after three days of burial was not similar to that of Yogmatta Shraddha. Nor will we know whether the more recent miracle of Shriddhi Sai Baba’s open-air quasi Samadhi was not an yogic spectacle; nor will we know (we do not require knowing in any case) whether the temple priest (mhalsapathi) of the khandoba mandir at shridhi who stayed by Saibaba’s side throughout this three-day Samadhi-like fast is not similar to the role of Pilot Baba. Muslim Saibaba’s final resting place is now treated as a Hindu Samadhi . and not a dargah, reversing the case of Syed Sadaat in the kanoba controversy referred to above.

It could be asked whether there could be a relationship between kanoba and khandoba other than the mere phonetic. The relationship between the Sanskrit word kona (Celtic word cairns) and kanoba is phonetically nearly the same as that between Skanda and khandoba. In this case the all important feature is the corner boundary stone pile, Cairns with which we may be marking a kanoba or khandoba. The rest is merely the structuring of religion.

As we left the warkari country for Pune through the Bopdeo ghat and Kondhwa, we encountered some young revelers who had the carefree attitude of youth who were going out to get into some mischief for the evening. The warkari effect had gone and the young men (Fig 16 left) typical motor-bike riding hep youths who could have become any of the modern skinhead or other gangs if a TV-initiated swarm effect roamed around. They stopped to make fun of me while I photographed a tree (a villager had told me once that tree he had planted in his late father’s plot it grew fast and tall with its three branches shaped like a trisul) which I thought had to be photographed in black and white. The young men had the anticipation of the beer-filled revellers in a train to London, who dared me to sing the song of their football team with them; they were angry that I did not know which team the song was for. It was a little frightening, this football-song-singers who were quite unlike the warkari singers.

Lalitha later informed me that the day (Aug 10 2010) was Gatari Amavasya, a Marathi regional festival that is celebrated on the No-moon-day of the month (Ashad Amavasya) which signals the beginning of the month of Shravan when there are religious restriction on food or drink. Gatari Amavasya is thus the last day of indulgence; one is expected to drink till one drops into a gutter. Some news paper gave numbers of about three million litres of hard liquor being drunk and 2 million chickens and 50, 000 goats being slaughtered on that day. The warkari influence must have been definitely over by that time and a fresh cycle was to start.

There were dreams to be fulfilled including, say, an airport on one’s roof where a plane could land IFig 16, right) or take off (in a modern version of samdhi?).

How long more, do you think, it will take for the gnostic embrace of the warkari to continue to survive in nature's monsoons around Pune?

Gnostic Embrace of Warkaris in the Monsoon Season around Pune: II Khandoba Mandir (Warwadi) and the mystery of a Stone Pillar

Gnostic Embrace of Warkaris in the Monsoon Season around Pune: II Khandoba Mandir (Warwadi) and the mystery of a Stone Pillar

In the first part of this series we were exploring the country side around Pune during the monsoon season when the palkhi procession of warkaris take place. We had wondered off from Khed Shivapur into the hinterlands of Pune going towards Saswad from the NH4 highway. In the first part we discussed stone worship at the Marimmai temple next to the Marimmai ghat and then went off to see a “60,000” year old Brahma Mandir, which the local people thought to be truly that old. We discussed worship of stones and the seeming independence given to a worshipper to identify a deity with the stone. This nature of worship of a stone where the identity of the deity is dependent on the worshipper is, what I think, the very basis of Gnosticism before syncretic growth into establishing the rituals of theocratic religion takes place.

In this blog we will discuss the Khandoba Mandir near the village of Warwadi, where a find a stone pillar. The way a worship stone may evolve into a mandir (temple) caught my attention and I made an interpretation of the way a pile of stones become a stone pillar and the way it may revert to a pile of stone. This is part of a natural process when a seemingly theocratic religious structure may yield, when unattended, to the Gnosticism of the local people.

Khandobai Mandir and the Stone Pillar

The drive back was through a very sparsely populated idyllic grren countryside (Fig 9, the figure numbering continues from Fig 8 in the first part of the blog). There was evidence for considerable work on a road leading to a college being set up on the hills. These colleges would set up the populace for English-wielding information-technology requirement of computer clerks to be followed by billboards and other junk foods that will do away with the warkari life and other benevolent resources. Who are we to say no? We can only be wise after the event, after the horses have bolted the stables, and wait at best for kaliyug to end. Just be patient. It is all ordained on us?

I dare say the basic motivation of the herd or swarm of people has not changed. They still remain warkaris at heart. Its just the pace at which changes are taking place does not give time to assimilate and be at peace like the warkari. Change must occur, even as we record and perceive change; we think it progressive to change and change fast. Yet in some other scientific things where change is a necessity, the benefits of orthodoxy far outweighs the perils of essaying even thought or gedanken experiments … …

Die Gedanken sind frei” . The laws of increasing entropy demands there be increased incoherence or disorder if change is to be spontaneous … Civilized entropy-consuming warkari behavior can only slow down such changes.

One of the surprises on the road we took to Saswad is the appearance of a stone pillar in front of a stone structure. If you search the wikimapia you will recognize the structure as a khandoba mandir (if you had not already read the writing on top of the structure, that is) of Warwadi, the village nearby.

A pillar associated with a temple is usual in this land and perhaps elsewhere.

The nature and interpretation of the role of the pillar is another matter. This pillar (Fig 10 left) is not very massive and has elegant proportions and looks wonderful by itself in its own background. The pillar is made up of five loosely placed cylindrical rocks. You first wonder how such a loose assembly could be so stable. Then you wonder what the little knob on the top of the pillar could mean. Is the knob symbolizing a head? Is it some kind of a totem?

There are tribals of the Deccan (including Gonds, Kurumbas and Morias) who worship stone or wooden pillars with a rounded projection at the top to represent the human head. The worship of such pillar … the veneration of the wooden and stone pillars --- is evident in the practices of the Marias (or Morias, probably from the same community as the poet Tukaram) who apply turmeric and oil.

In popular tribal folklore these pillars sometimes are thought to pin the spirit of the dead to the place and prevent it from wandering around; instead the pillar helps locally in bringing rain (much like marimmai?) and driving away spirits.

Usually the boundary stone is marked by a heap of stones piled together by passing worshippers (reminiscent of piles of worship stones in Tibet?). The boundary-stone may also represent the totem animal being slain such that its blood is shed and thereby secure the presence of the totem deity at a particular spot, which then becomes tabu. To prevent violation the place is marked by a simple heap of stones, or by a stone pillar. In such cases the stone pillar would sometime be sprinkled with the blood (there is some evidence for dried blood on the pillar at Warwadi, if one looks and/or imagines hard enough).

Or, is the stone pillar a dwaja-stamba (flag staff)? In this case it should be in a line with the deity and it’s vamana (vehicle). The temple is marked by a rectangular wall which show a later attempt to regularize the temple plan to recent standards. The dwaja stamba should be between the vamana and the deity and it should be towards the east (which it is). The dwaja-stamba should also be typically made of metal or covered with a long-lasting metal (gold) foil. This pillar would probably have to do better to be a dwaja stamba.

It could be a victory pillar (kirti stamba).

Or does it serve another purpose such as holding a lamp?.

Does it have anything to do with khandoba?

The most important khandoba mandir is at Jejuri. It is famous for its deepmalas (light towers), there being, it is said, 350 of them along the hill path road to the temple. They are not very elegant looking but they are there. So if the tower was built after the temple was called a Khandoba temple then the pillar could as well be a deepmala although there seems to be only one place where a deep could be kept---on the top. So, the pillar will be a deep sthamba instead of a deep mala.

Maybe, we should start from inside the temple.

Who is khandoba? Khandoba as a god has existed from time immemeorial (depending on the memory), which is quite as it should be for a true god. The deity probably took shape in the mind of the worshipper as a stone was worshipped. In this case there is no point in figuring out the nature of the deity by looking at a stone. The prominent feature that strikes one is the red stone (Fig 10 middle and right) that seemed to have a pair of eyes and was similar in shape to that in the Marimmai temple in Part I, Fig 3, left , except that there was a socket for the eyes. There is, what seems to be, a small bull in front as the vamana which would make the deity Siva.

There does not seem to be a siva lingam.

The only indication of it being a Khandoba temple is the small copper plate (enlarged in Fig 10 middle, inset at right bottom) with the impression of man riding a horse, branding a sword along with his wife. A Ravi Varma press print has a similar scene depicting khandoba, except that khandoba and his wife (Mhalsa?) were slaughtering attackers with caste marks that ran parallel across the forehead, much like shaivites.

Legend has it that Mhalsa was helped by her dog. The temple tower at Jejuri has at least one dog among the Gods. We were allowed to take Bruno right into the heart of the temple at Jejuri and many worshippers would touch Bruno in reverence.

The copper plate does not make the red stone a khandoba figure but it is easier to associated the red stone with Khandoba in the minds of the worshipper. The figure of Khandoba in the Jejuri temple seems to have been elevated from a red stone to a man in red with an exaggerated moustache. In this case it is Siva because siva is red in tamil (so we must believe, since it has been repeated more than three times in the literature?)

There is a small pillar inside the khandoba temple of Warwadi on which a vessel (probably for an oil lamp) is kept and now (Fig 10 right) having some burning incense sticks. The wall had a knotted snake skin (Fig 10 middle, left inset) hanging from a nail. The knot in the snake indicates a deliberate act as it would be difficult for a snake to wiggle out of its skin in a knotted position even if it was a yogi and then hangs its skin on a nail. Some worshipper may have thought that the snake would be necessary for a Siva temple.

There is a rounded stone (fig 10 middle top right inset) of the kind found near the chaturmukh place mentioned above (Part I, Fig 8 left). It was covered with yellow (probably turmeric in oil). The Khandoba temple at Jejuri is always bathed in yellow with turmeric powder. Turmeric is the sole offering for the gods. So the yellow stone in the temple at Warwadi is consistent with a khandoba worshipper,

There are two pairs of feet sculpted on a stone inside our small khandoba temple (Fig 10 right).These feet are obviously not swayambhu. They could be representing the feet of a couple as one pair is larger than the other. The khandoba temple is sometimes the first place where newly married couples go for a blessing. This stone is apparently added later. After the wedding when the wife has entered her husband’s home (gṛiha pravesam), a fire ritual (homam) is performed by the couple seeking the blessings of the fire god, for a long married life. Here the couple is seated to the west side of the agni (sacred fire, in the centre) after which the bride is positioned on the left hand side. The position of the two pairs of feet (Fig 10, right) is consistent with this ceremony that blesses the couple to success in their house-holding life.

There seems to be a mini shivalingam carved by the side of the pair of feet on the stone. Maybe the person who placed the stone also placed the mini nandi (bull) in front.

The most famous khandoba temple is in Jejuri and the structure is thought to have been built around the middle of the eighteenth century, when Shivaji was no more.

The more mogul-friendly Peshawas and Wodeyars (most likely) shared the rule with the deccan sultanates in friendly persuasion. The influence of Islamic architecture is easily seen in the Jejuri temple on the top as well as the main temple. However, there is a strong resemblance to the Bhuleshwar temple (see my two blogs on Bhuleshwar on a hill) on a hill which was built in earlier times (I am told; not to be dimissed as hearsay). This does not mean that khandoba was not previously worshipped at the same spot as red worship stones before the main temple was built and identified by a worshipper as a khandoba temple.

It is also not clear whether the name khandoba evolved from something else. Phonetically it could have emerged from the name, cairns (a celtic word that could have evolved from a Sanskrit word, kona; celtic and Sanskrit have common words, I am told) for a conical pile of stones. From cairns to skanda a name for the tamil precursor to murugan or siva is a small phonetic step. The change from skanda to khandoba is an accepted version.

A possible transformation from a stone to an image is shown in Fig 11. On the left of Fig 11 is a stone I picked up from the river bed at the bhima-bhama sangam where I had immersed my ´late elder brother’s ashes. I picked it up because of its resemblance to ganesha and as an easy example of a swayambhu ganapathi stone. Such a stone with a pair of eyes embedded and covered with vermilion paint could even get to resemble the Kasbapeth ganapathi (Fig 11 middle) which, legend has it, that Sivaji's mother got as swyambhu from boys playing the river near her house.

The further evolution to skanda is shown in Fig 11 rght, from a small temple at the centre of virach talim chowk near present day Ramanbag school. It is easy to imagine that this temple once marked a boundary of Pune gaon near the river. On the right (click to enlarge) the gradual transformation to ganapathi, hanuman or skanda (in black, as non-dravidian images) takes place, with the fixed staring eyes being the common feature. Such staring eyes have been seen in the early pre-Egyptian carvings, for example (see inset on left of Part I, Fig 3).

It is difficult to obtain a coherent or consistent interpretation of stone worship and why they should be in red. Perhaps red colour is seen from farthest, like red traffic signals? Or because red is the colour of blood besides other things. One of my searches in the internet led me to a book A general collection of the best and most interesting voyages and travels in all parts of the world many of which are now first translated into English:….volume 10 by one.James Pinkerton. In Chapter CXLIX Antiquities of the Isle of Elephanta (the author apparently went from Arabia to Bombay and Surat) we find the following (an old print where what looks like 'f' is actually 's'):-

The comments of the author about modern Indians having “almost lost all knowledge of the fine arts” is interesting and revealing. The people who carved the Elephanta caves were different from the later people who piled the stones who were probably least influenced by the striking (to an outsider) nature of the caves and the sculptures. Maybe the local indigenous people (adivasi) felt that a fixed image removed their freedom of worship. May be the place was an original stone worship mound which was interfered with by the “’fine-arts’-refined” visitors. It is like witnessing the transformation to the natural state, much as a highly bred plant or animal reverts to its wild state when left free in nature and has to fend for itself.

So it seems has happened to the stone pillar at our khandoba mandir at village Warwadi. It must have been difficult for the worshippers to commit a particular stone to a particular deity for worship. It is possible that the refinements introduced by making a stone pillar is slowly being done away and the stone pillar is slowly being reverting back to the pile of stones which is accumulating at the bottom much as the well bred flowers reverts to its natural wild state.

One can find more complications. Is there a reason for five stones being used to make the pillar.

There is a pile of five stones at the base of the pillar (Fig 10 left, near Lalitha’s feet). There is evidence for other piles of five stones which have been dismantled or fallen down, all around the pillar. In James Hastings’ “Enclyclopedia of Reigion and Ethics” we find “Among the Bhils, after a birth, the mother smears a spot outside her hut with cowdung marked with lines of turmeric. In the midst of the figure thus made she places five stones, corresponding to the number of days which have elapsed since the birth, and, laying round them pieces of coco-kernel, she sprinkles them with turmeric, millet, red powder, and spirits --- possibly a magical charm to bring good luck to the child…”.

The number five, panch, comes in several ways: The five hooded snake guarding over Buddha, the festivals associated with panchami the fifth lunar day (nag panchami for snake, vasanth panchami for spring), there are five stones in a zen balance, not to mention five fingers on our hands for example. A five-fold point group also sustains growth without repetition (as in Penrose tiles) since repetition in space and time without change, as in a crystal, will be death (I guess).

So the interpretation of five stones piled in the pillar and elsewhere can vary and would depend on the worshipper and the way five is interpreted. (?)

Since finding the five-stone pillar, I have looked around in my memory/experience. in the internet as well around the Pune-Saswad-Jejuri region. I have not found anything like that as yet. But then my experience in this field is limited. I may be totally wrong. But then I will chalk it up to the way the teaching of history of India avoids what has not already been trodden upon.

Gnostic Embrace of Warkaris in the Monsoon Season around Pune: I Early Worship

In the early parts of July the main arterial roads in Pune would have been blocked for vehicular traffic because of the Sant Dnyaneshwar palkhi procession from Alandi to Pandharpur the number of worshippers being huge and counted in hundreds of thousands . It’s a wonderful sight (see,, for instance) even when you are caught in the traffic because of the procession of "warkaris". The tradition of these warkaris is to emphasize community service and they empathize/harmonize with each other through musical group worship, the ektara or dotara being their most common instrument.

The warkari procession from Alandi goes via Pune where it stops for a night and then goes on to Saswad for another halt before it goes on to Pandharpur. The route to Saswad is taken by the Dive ghat when the image of 100s of thousands of worshippers (warkaris) in very simple clothes, carrying saffron flags, and shining brass vessels with tulsi plants, singing songs of devotion and dancing to it remains etched in your minds.

You long to participate in it.

By the time the palkhi comes to Pune, the monsoon has usually set in. The warkaris walk regardless in the rain. The green hills and the wet drizzle adds to the atmosphere. You promise yourself to join the procession the next year each year, the palkhi procession moves on.

The warkaris could perhaps be better described as gnostics even though they may not themselves have heard of gnosticism. During this period the warkari literally frees himself from the material world and seeks only spiritual awakening. They are not agnostics. For the duration of the palkhi they became very lovable people. It may not matter what became of them after they leave the palkhi when they have to lead their daily lives.

Before and after the palkhi procession groups of warkaris carrying their most simple living essential and their most congenial/spiritual essence would be converging from (they always walk) or diverging toward various parts around Pune where they live. These fragments form the living parts of the swarm intelligence of the united palkhi and they are as bewitching to see as the palkhi itself.

There are three blogs planned in this series and trisects my earlier blog. I have removed that blog from the site as my daughter insists that it was impossibly long. These three blogs will deal with the a-religious gnostic aspects of pre-religion and will not deal much with the syncretic aspects. The words Gnostic, Gnosticism, gnosis, used here do not seem to have a definite meaning. Among the definitions I intuitively like is that in the first paragraph of the website at I think Gnosticism is based on Gnosis which is based on personal religious experience which transcends the trained language of theology or philosophy and depend on narrating stories that take the form of myths. It is, I think, similar to the panchali or katha tradition that I will allude to later in the blog.

The blog (click to expand images) will start with a simple prelude with vada pav and dargah then go on to stone worship on the Marimmai ghat where we will hear of a 60,000 year old Brahma mandir which we would see and make some interpretations here and later.


It is always of interest for self-imagined hyper-educated/hyper-civilized people like us to find out what their background are that make them what they are. To us self-styled “hyper-people”, it seems almost certain that modern politics/television would soon reduce to nothing these ways; it would be called modernization or uplifting by the advertising agencies who would love to sell them instant noodles rather than their native jawari bhakris. So much more would be gained we would say if they had applied themselves to their fields of labour instead of indulging in the “opium of religion”. But ... this is no religion! It is their way of life with a long history behind it!

Some of these swarm-parts are seen on the way from Pune to our hill-house near Varve gaon in Khed. Many of them emerge from the hills beyond our farm house. I had no idea of what Maharashtrian life existed beyond the hills. Maybe the soul of the warkaris would be better understood if we visit more those places.

There is a lesser-known road which slinks off into the hills to the left while going away from Pune. This is another of the road to Saswad although it is less frequented and therefore more likely to preserve the warkari style. On the right is the road to Simhagad and another to the should-be-famous for the dargah on the tomb of Hazrat Kamar Ali Darvesh from north-india who settled in Shivapur more than 800 years ago (so it is said). This dargah (see for instance) is better known as the place where there is a heavy stone that can be lifted by a group of 11 people with their little finger working simultaneously while shouting the name of the saint.

In the rainy season, the stream by the side of the tomb looks especially beautiful. One can appreciate the wisdom of this saint on choosing his final resting place there.

Mariammai Ghat and Temple

Among the simple pleasures of life of the Puneri people is the vada pav which is best enjoyed piping hot in the rain. One of the shops we like particularly is the Shri vada pav shop just after Shivapur on the way back to Pune. Whenever we stop at this shop and look at the hills we see a rather flat range with a prominent dip and the tower of a temple in the gap (Fig 1, click on figure always to expand image). The road to Saswad goes through this gap. On the rainy season of this year 2010 we chose to drive up this road to the inviting silhouette of a temple. Once we reached the top the view down was not spectacular there being too much industrial development of the non-conserving kind. The highway was distant and not straightforward to locate (Fig 2 left).

The temple silhouette turned out to be that of a new structure made with cement and concrete and probably of political import; it did not and could not emanate an essence of god that the old temples do with their incense-burning and their chanting. There was however a (what looked like ficus variety) tree by the side. Beneath this tree there is a smaller structure of brick and mortar. On the other side of this small structure lay some worship stones which were daubed with orange colour of the enamel (certainly not vermilion) kind that is so common to these parts of modern Maharashtra.

We did not examine the structure closely the first time but came back the next day. There was a man cleaning the temple site (Fig 2 right) the second time we visited it. It seemed quite romantic , if that is the right word. There was a crutch resting by the side of the temple. The man had obviously used the crutch to come to the temple from a distant village. He had spectacles. He was in no hurry and when he looked at you over the top of the rims of his spectacles (Fig 3, left) he seemed fully at peace with himself. For some reason, he reminded me of my late brother who in turn had always reminded me of Peter O’Toole in Goodbye Mr. Chips.

The inside of the structure held a orange stone (Fig 3, left) to which the man had offered coconuts (he gave me a piece) and had lit an agarbatti (incense stick). There were some plastic garlands hanging on the wall and covering an image inside a glass frame which I did not go close enough to examine. The goddess is that of Mariammai, the location and the stone is several hundred years old, which we have to accept even if the man said it himself.

The road by which we ascended the hill is known as the Mariammai ghat. It is probably named after the temple.

Mariamma is a family deity for a very small percentage ( ~ 1%) of families in Maharashtra which have a family deity; this would seem to be reasonable considering that she is the goddess of death by cholera, small pox and so on.

It is very likely that Marimmai is of Tamil origin, when mari could come from marai which means rain in Tamil. If this is true it shows the Early Dravidian influence on the Deccan. In india it is usually seen that the earlier the history of a tribe the lower is its allotted caste, by succeeding invaders. By this logic the Mariamma deity would have an older and more natural ideas of worship. She is thought to be worshipped primarily by a lowly untouchable caste descended from the çandala or Matanga tribes of history.

Mariamma (amma means mother in Tamil), is a name by which Tamil Christians used for Mary, mother of God. I heard it first in my school St. Marys’ (started for European orphans in old Madras in early 19th century) at George town Madras.

The name “Mariamma” had been in use before the Portugese at least. In Kosambi’s “Introduction to Indian History” there is a footnote for Mariamma in which he adds “ A comic, unintentional, but historically justified tribute was paid to this goddess at Calicut by Vasco da Gama and his companions. They entered the local Mariamma temple, were sprinkled with holy water by the priests, genuflected before the image, under the impression that they were paying homage to the Virgin Mary.”

Who came first, Mother Mary or Mariamma? Does it matter? Mariamma! Of course?

The worship stone painted in saffron colours inside clearly has, what seems to be, a pair of eyes (see bottom inset of Fig 3 left). Carvings with such fixed staring eyes are characteristic of 5000 years old pre-Egyptian styles (see top inset in left of Fig 3). Kosambi writes about such worship stones “The aniconic image has a pair of eyes which are not in the stone, but in the red coat which has reached a thickness of about 30 millimetres. Sacrifices are occasionally made here too by those who do not mind the hard walkup a steep hill and a couple of miles into the scrub jungle.” Pune has such worship stones with eyes implanted in the red coat in primordial temples spread all over the city. The various deities which include Vetala, Mhasoba (a demon to some), Kalubai (“which later becomes Kali”), Mariamma (goddess of death by cholera) are all coated with red and one cannot tell whether the stone is a god or goddess.

Kosambi calls these stone deities as “lower deities” as presumably the higher deities are housed as recognizable human figures in "properly" built temples with an architectural plan and so on.

Deities represented by various stones, with or without eyes, look alike to the eye and are only identified by the worshippers, says Kosambi. This lack of grammar in our worship, is typical of our countrymen who improvise is all kinds of ways, the most sublime of them being in their music.

This freedom to worship a deity without recognizable shape or form and with an identity chosen by you is the true freedom of worship that seems to characterize the indomitability of the pre-religion Indian mind which is so difficult to shake.

There is a fear of the unknown when we choose to worship.

The deities we choose to worship would depend on the nature of the fear; the stone would represent the deity. The only point of importance is that we worship for the moment for the fear of the moment. This would be our ingrained secularism, where the physical identity of the god we pray to and the actual prayer we offer is not the dominant factor.

With every worship we syncretize until it becomes commercially powerful to idolize the worship. Then kings and priests and higher deities come in quite anti-agnostically in a metamorphosis of the religious bent.

Chaturmukh Mandir

The man at the temple told me about a chaturmukhi temple a kilometer or so into the hills away from the road. This temple, he said, is more than 60,000 years old. It is the place, he said, which is the Southern version of Uttarakashi (in the Himalayas), and which my wife interpreted later as the kashi of Benares. He pointed the way to the Chaturmukhi temple.

We took a left turn a kilometer down the road going to Saswad. This left turn was towards the village of Warwadi, we learnt later. The chaturmukhi temple was about a kilometer away, I was told. We saw a freshly painted temple tower about a kilometer away and went towards it. On the way we saw a small neat freshly painted Shiva temple with a painting of what seemed to be a man riding on a Garuda (sworn enemy of snakes since they had enslaved his mother), the kite-like or eagle-like bird which is the mount of Vishnu. The features of the man riding the snake seemed to be that of Tukaram, the much loved, admired, venerated, early seventeenth century Marathi poet who left for “Vishnu’s abode” on a garuda-like bird. The painting on the temple may have borrowed from a celebrated Ravi Varma Press print of early twentieth century.

The presence of a Krishna-devotee riding Vishnu’s vamana (vehicle) on the walls of a Shiva temple is not at all perplexing to an all-embracing warkari. They embrace every good thing just as they do Tukaram and his public discourses in song (kirtaney) that came in his poetry that emphasized love for fellow human beings and his environment rather than the mechanical following of orthodox rituals. The greatness of Tukaram is his awareness and resonance with the greatness of the warkaris. Many religions have later incorporated Tukaram’s teaching, including Gandhi who, translated some poems of Tukaram during the fortnight he was in Yerawada jail during a fortnight in October of 1930.

In a verse entitled Pavitra te kul paawan to desh jethe Hariche daas janma gheti Gandhi’s translation has… 'The Puranas have testified like bards without reserve that those called untouchables have attained salvation through devotion to God. Tuladhar, the Vaishya, Gora, the potter, Rohidas, a tanner, Kabir, a Momin, Latif, a Muslim, Sena, a barber, and Vishnudas, Kanhopatra, Dadu, a carder, all become one at the feet of God in the company of hymn singers. Chokhamela and Banka, both Mahars by birth, became one with God. Oh, how great was the devotion of Jani the servant girl of Namdev! Pandharinath (God) dined with her. Meral Janak's family no one knows, yet who can do justice to his greatness? For the servant of God there is no caste, no varna, so say the Vedic sages. Tuka says: I cannot count the degraded'.

It was very soothing to sit by the temple with a stream flowing by its side. There were obvious burning piers of stone in front with evidence of a recent ritual. The stream prevented my access to its interior, and a local resident informed me that it was a kalubai (Kali) temple although a later investigation of Wikimapia showed a kalubai temple at a different location in that region.

We thought (wrongly) that the chaturmukhi temple was further down the path behind the trees and guessed it to be the pink-painted tower which we could make out. We were directed elsewhere when we reached that spot going through a happy neat village.

The drive to the chaturmukhi temple was very pleasant skirting two hills that act as landmarks at a distant. When we reached the spot, it was terribly disappointing. There was a modern structure (Fig 4 left) very much like the structure at the marimmai temple earlier.

There is a quasi-saffron painted figure (Fig 4 centre) probably representing (in the imagination of a local official) the saint 60,000 years ago, flanked by two photos in a glass frame who reminded me of vaishnavite Ramakrishna missionaries (probably bengali).

In another enclosure of very recent origin there is a new shaivaite lingam decorated with fresh shiuli flowers from a tree which grew nearby (not more than ten years old).

I could not find any four-faced evidence for chaturmukhi which indicates a Btahma origin. It was disappointing even if we should not have really expected anything else.

What was interesting was the enthusiasm of the caretaker who said he was the assistant to the head priest. He spoke only Marathi and I understood virtually nothing. Lalitha understood a bit. He and the head-priest had plenty to tell us and they did. We understood what little we thought we could.

The assistant pointed to a tree behind the modern structures (Fig 5 left)with some obviously old carved figures at the base. That tree, the assistant said, was 60,000 years old. The assistant was perhaps privately worried that we would ask him why the ficus tree had no large aerial roots like the large banyan trees (ficus benghalensis) near the temples in the plains. Without our asking he said that there were no aerial roots because of a curse.

Among the four sacred trees (Nalpamaram) trees which are planted near temples, I thought the cluster fig tree (ficus racemiosa) which has little or no aerial roots most closely resembled the tree. The ficus racemiosa grows in the Deccan plateau. For a ficus racemiosa tree, the tree behind looked old; it certainly perhaps looked much older than the rest of the trees around.

There were very few other big trees around. There were some recent eucalyptus trees planted invariably by the forest department because of their deep concern for the rayon industry. Perhaps the oldest living species there was the head priest (Fig 5 middle) who had appeared by this time. The oldest tree had perhaps been recently felled or had fallen (Fig 5 right).

There is a shiuli (to Bengalis) or paarijaata (night-flowering jasmine) tree from which the flowers (Fig 6 left inset) for the shivlinga obviously came; there was a flowerless frangipani or Indian temple tree (Fig 6 left).

The shiuli flower is much loved by Bengalis certainly. The flowers are commonly used by the worshippers in the east of India; the medicinal properties of these plants are also mainly exploited by the tribal populations of the east. I mention this here since it may be important to find a bengali connection with this place when I discuss the Kanifnath shrine later

At the monsoon time of the year, the place had a lovely undulating country side (Fig 6 left) that our dog (Bruno) loved, especially when he had the opportunity running around chasing his ball.

The hills around the chaturmukhi temple are seen from the NH4 highway as one comes out of the new Katraj tunnel (Fig 6 right). The flattish hill on the left is actually a bent ridge and the chaturmukhi mandir is located in a dip in the ridge at the bend. The conical hill on the right (Fig 6 left) actually looks like a volcanic hill with concentric rings round its peak and starting from its base in the wikimapia figure (Fig 7, left; the figure is large so that the claimed crater-like features can be seen better). The diameter of the major semi-circular vehicular path is nearly 150 m. The dark strips are ploughed land awaiting planting.

There seems to be a few crater-like objects in the wikimapia map which are about 10 m in diameter. These circular object could be shadows of trees or brushes. That would not be interesting. If there are four such crater-mouths one could call them chaturmukh, I suppose. That will be interesting!!!

Otherwise there is little that is directly suggestive of a four-mouthed evidence for chaturmukhi near the spot.

The senior priest was very keen to communicate to us about the miracles of the place. He could not convey anything that he wanted us to hear and believe. The first point I think, that he wanted to impress upon us is that the spot is like kashi of Benares. It is even more sacred, he said, since you require to visit this spot only once to get your sins washed while your require visiting kashi of the north thrice for the same purpose. This story was also told to me earlier by the man at the marimmai temple.

One story that we got some gist of is that the rishi of 60,000 years ago took some of the stones from the hill to Brahma and told him that there is no gold in those hills like Brahma had said there will be. Brahma then turned the rocks in the rishi’s hand to gold.

There are some evidences for an older monument there. Some pieces of sculpture like those under the “60,000” year old tree (Fig 5, left) look like sculptures that can be dated back to at least a few hundred years. Somewhere around there is a cluster of stones which seems to be well-weathered pieces of some decorative stone panels as well as perhaps even of a face (Fig 8 left). I guess they would be called swayambhu stones (sculptured stones that appear by themselves without human intervention) at some later religiously proper time after some orange colour is placed on them (why not?) . There is also a collection of stones covered with a few slabs of rock (Fig 8 middle) with gaps through which the sun shines through. There are signs of recent worship. The small bottle (much smaller than a “quarter” bottle of spirits) at the bottom of the picture was used for oil, the priest informed us. Icould not figure out the identity of the deity or deities represented by the stones.

The junior priest took us to a shrub behind (Fig 8 right). There is a copper vessel typical of a kalash suspended on a stone hung over a siva lingam as in Fig 4 right. The place has several very-weathered stones buried in the ground which could be imagined to remains of ancient lingams exposed to nature. There is a cluster of such objects (see also inset of Fig 8 right). The assistant said that the mud due to the rain water has covered up the stones. He started digging out the mud with his hands, but we stopped him. The covered stones in Fig 8b, middle, would then be another lingam. I did not remember to find out the orientations of such lingams. These clusters of shiva lingam and the peethams (circular base supporting the lingam) as a manifestation of parasakthi representing the creative power of the almighty. In this case these lingams would be Swayambhu, which is likely since there could have been a flowing stream there. Could these be the chaturmukh?