Friday, August 26, 2011

Bedsa Caves : Speculations on Bedsa symbols and pillars

I have reached this stage of life where I have to think about harmless things to do for whiling away the time, preferably for a common "good", especially when I am stuck in my science. I recently visited the Bedsa caves (see the previous blog). I found some aspects that were puzzling to me (no surprise). I researched the internet and came up with some conclusions, that could be a little interesting although I have no idea how it will interest the scholar. This blog is about these conclusions.

It could be imagined that the culture that gave Bedsa, what we now call the culture of the followers of Buddha or of enlightenment, has been adopted only by what is known in India as adivasis or indigeneous people. They are aometimes classifed as dalits by people who are not indigenous to the land. We have to follow the dalit culture if we are to regain a semblance of national pride. We have to sit at the foot of their enlightened ones, their Buddhas.

This blog is meant as a quick reference to issues at hand in understanding the reason behind Bedsa. There is no need to come to a definite conclusion, moreover. There does not seem to be a QED (quod erat demonstrandum if not quantum electro-dynamics) requirement in such matters. The fun, as they say, is on the speculation.

The blog is long, perhaps far too long. It is about the remnants of the life of an "enlightened" soul, whom they call Buddha and whose people have left behind some indelible imprints on rock in the form of cave 'temples'. I have found it very difficult to complete in a truly integrated sense. It has taken me much time and it could take many sittings for a reader. I hope it serves a purpose of enlightenment on Buddha.

However ...

An aside on Anna

There are some disturbing background noises from the mass-media on corruption that is distracting. There is a distinct cry/screech from a humorless middle class morality (a few lakhs from thousand millions). I am worried about the "good"ness of "good'.

I am not an Anna Hazare who does 'good' by rooting out corruption, even if it is only of the kind indulged in by public servants for making financial gains. I have no idea what corruption means precisely or even roughly. Thesaurus tells me that 'corruption' could mean dishonesty, bribery, fraud, sleaze, vice. Anna's corruption issue is only of a limited kind. If I was Anna Hazare I would have never imagined that I could have even thought of rooting out corruption in its entirety. We would also not recognize saints without it.

In Anna's vision the corruption issue is straightforward. very limited in scope and blinkered. There are government-proscribed rules to be followed in financial dealing and those government servants who do not follow these rules are corrupt. Simple. If there were no rules there would be no corruption to fast for and no 'good' will be done.

I find that Anna's goal is a bureaucracy-multiplying malaise. I sincerely wish that Anna would apply his vision of corruption to other countries such as China and USA who are in competition with us.

Having said that I must go on with this blog. It turns out that (among other things) most of our recently recorded history are written following rules of history set by people who wrote history for recording their gains after wars of spiritual or material kind. It does not become history worth recording otherwise. There are therefore rules for interpreting history set by rulers.

The Indian historian is a slave of the English language because their grammar is dictated by the statements of English-speaking 'authorities'. D. D. Kosambi, among others, tried valiantly to break these shackles. He has many followers, but not enough evidently.

The analysis of historical remains is for me the last bastion for understanding the lives of past giants. It may not be the same thing as reviving dinosaurs from their DNA imprints. But it may help in reviving the less directly visible impact of a lifestyle that we think is worth following and that dealt with liberation from corruption in the mind itself.

The Google invention of searching by images liberates the searcher somewhat. I am therefore using images mainly as the basis for deliberation and for harmless conviction of the blog kind.

Carved Symbols of Bedsa

The main concern that I will have is to understand the carved symbols (see figure below) remaining on the walls using the benefits of Google image search. Another concern that I will have, and that I will quickly dispense with, is the possibility of the use of plastering or stucco work on the walls after the initial carving work was done (see pictures on the right of the figure below).

A major problem in understanding the inner caitya is that there has been paintings on the walls and ceilings as well as wood work which must have been an integral part of the theme of the place.

One of the common descriptions about the Bedsa caves that is found one several sites is that "These caves are 1000 years old, There is a strange story told by villagers about these caves that the details about the caves and the entire history of the caves was painted and carved on the walls of the cave. But it so happened that a Senior British Officer was to visit the caves, hence a local officer painted the entire caves and the details were lost behind the paint. The truth of this story is not yet known but still it is an interesting story to listen." Since the exact passage is repeated so many times by various sites on the net, it may not be true, especially since they all say that the caves are 1000 years old instead of 2000.

A photograph of Bedsa caves by Henry Cousens around 1880 (see previous blog) shows the pillar structure to be quite white in colour as if it has indeed been freshly white-washed at that time, discarding the possibility that the photo was taken early in the morning and may have been touched up.

The more reliable GBPP on Bedsa would write
All the wood work has disappeared though the pegs that kept it in its place may still be seen. [The wood work would seem to have disappeared within the last twenty years. In 1844 (Jour. Bom. Br. Roy. As. Soc. I. 438) Westergaard describes the cave as ribbed, and about 1861 a writer in the Oriental Christian Spectator (X. 17-18) found fragments of timber lying on the floor.] On the pillars, as late as 1861, could be clearly traced portions of old painting chiefly of Buddha with attendants; but the caves have since been whitewashed and no trace of the painting is left. [About 1861 the roof had traces of indistinct paintings. The pillars were richly and elaborately painted on a ground apparently of lime.

The use of stucco coatings on sculptures are known to have been used on Bamyan Buddha sculptures of Afghanistan (recently blown up by Taliban).

The mention by GBPP about the pillars in the caitya being covered with lime is suggestive. Among my problems about the caitya is that the wall-space above the pillars seems to have been freshly (in century scale) chiseled out (fig above, right top; click to expand). It is suggestive of the removal of a plastered layer which had become an ugly white by some restoring agency such as Archaeological Survey of India. The carvings on the wall were so sharply chiselled (see right brelow of figure above; click to expand) that it reminded me of stucco or plaster work that I had blogged about earlier (see Tuesday, February 17, 2009, Pune Street Scenes III: Pune Trishundiya Ganapathi Temple Exterior; Tuesday, March 31, 2009 Bhuleshwar on a Hill: Exterior). In the latter blog I had written :- "The minarets and other parts of the domes are covered with stucco as sculptural and artistic puroses as well as a base material for paints. Such use of stucco work perhaps predate its use in Baroque and Rococo architecture, which is the hallmark of European nobility. ". I think it started with the culture of people who gave us the Buddha.


A major puzzle (as far as my limited knowledge goes) among the symbols in the caitya is the nature of the six-handed spiral on one of the columns (top left corner of figure above).Usually the spiral is single-handed in all the images of rock art that I could find on google search. It could be clock-waise or counter-clockwise. For instance the spirals on the two ends of the toranas of the north gate of the Sanchi stupa are single-armed but mirror images of each other. Its origin could come from a spiralled tail of a sea crocodile on the Torana of the Bharhut stupa that I discuss later.

The post-buddhist pre-Christian pagan Celtic spirals are also single-armed as are the spirals carved out on the rocks in New Mexico and Arizona (middle row left). It is interesting that the set of three spirals from Ireland (middle of middle row in figure above) has the same sign of rotation. According to physics of magnetism it is frustrating to have opposite orientations on a triangular lattice.

One wonders whether the six-armed spiral became an important religious symbol because of a celestial event. An important event that happened in the skies as a celestial phenomenon is the "Norway Spiral" of 2009 (top right of figure above). The net has very speculative discussions on the spiral. An officially accepted version is that the spiral is due to the spiral of a nozzle of a Russian rocket launch that failed in the upper atmosphere. According to the net (see, for example) the brightness of the Norway spiral is much too perfect to be due to missile exhaust. Instead they suggest that it is due to charged particles being formed. Applying the physics of the "right hand rule" the site suggests that the beam that caused the ionization had to be from ground up. Such sites suggest that the spiral is due to Ionization heating carried out by HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Programme). The international high-energy EISCAT programme which broadcasts powerful micro-wave energy into space and causing side effects in the ionosphereis located just over the hill from which the beam seems to be directed. The spiral occurs naturally in creepers (Middle row fourth from right in figure above). The direction of the spiral would change when one looks at the spiral from top or bottom.

The nature of the Bedsa spiral is like those of the spiral galaxies or the spirals in hurricanes and cyclones (bottom row of figure above) and is also akin to the image of the core of a daisy flower (Fig above middle row wxtreme right). One then wonders whether the early buddhists identified spiral galaxies using their dark Tibetan nights and evenings or their own version of a telescope made, say, from bamboo? The M33 spiral galaxy that appears in the constellation Triangulum (see bottom left of picture above) is known to be seen with the naked eye under appropriate condition. It seems to be a six-armed spiral to the untrained eye.

Outer Pillars
Outer Pillars
The outer pillars of the Bedsa caves are thought to rise from pot-shaped round objects. I first thought that the entire pillar was made out of the stone-walls of the cave. At least one of the pillars (the demi pillar on the left facing the cave) was clearly made from assembled stone bricks as shown in the right of the picture below. It must have been plastered over to give it a smooth finish. The "pot" of the full pillar on the right also had such stone work. The full pillar on the left (facing the cave) had some impressions (see left of picture above) and could give the impression as if some plaster had scaled off. It has often been said that the early Buddhist pillars of the Asokan period had Persian/Assyrian influences. A name commonly mentioned is Persepolis. I have extracted below some images from THE SEVEN GREAT MONARCHIES OF THE ANCIENT EASTERN WORLD; GEORGE RAWLINSON, M.A., VOLUME II. The pillar base from Pasargadae, the capital of Cyrus the Great from Persia (Plate L of the image below), show the Greek/Persian influence.

Vidya Dehejia in Early Buddhist Rock Temples" would write
The early slanting octagonal column (of Buddhist rock temples) was followed by the straight octagon, which the acquired a base consisting of a waterpot (ghata) on a stepped platform .... The fully developed pillar in the caityas was achieved when an elaborate capital was added consisting of a ‘bell’, an enclosed amalaka, a stepped abacus and crowning animals. ... In the first phase the ‘bell’ is noticeably incurving, almost ‘waisted’ and has distinctly depicted petals. The Bedsa capital is of this type and seems to follow the earlier Asokan tradition which may also be seen at Sanchi stupa II and at Bharhat

Greek and Assyrian influences on the design of the pillars are well acepted by historians of the western mould. Thus according to "THE CAMBRIDGE HISTORY OF INDIA - I - ANCIENT INDIA XXVI THE MONUMENTS OF ANCIENT INDIA" (see we have the following:-

Long ago M. Senart pointed out that the decrees of the Achaemenian monarchs engraved on the rocks of Bahistan and elsewhere furnished the models on which the edicts of Ashoka were based. It was in Persia, also, that the bell-shaped capital was evolved. It was from Persian originals, specimens of which are still extant in the plain of the Murghab at Istakhr, Naksh-i-Rustam, and Persepolis, that the smooth unfluted shafts of the Maurya columns were copied. It was from Persia, again, that the craftsmen of Ashoka learnt how to give so lustrous a polish to the stone a technique of which abundant examples survive at Persepolis and elsewhere. Lastly, it is to Persia, or to be more precise to that part of it which was once the satrapy of Bactria and was at this time asserting its independence from the Empire of the Seleucids, that we must look for the Hellenistic influence which alone at that epoch of the world's history could have been responsible for the modelling of the living forms on the Sarnath capital.

Little more than two generations had passed since Alexander the Great had planted in Bactria a powerful colony of Greeks, who occupying as they did a tract of country on the very threshold of the Maurya dominions, where the great trade routes from India, Iran, and Central Asia converged, and closely in touch as they were with the great centres of civilization in Western Asia, must have played a dominant part in the transmission of Hellenistic art and culture into India.

The description of the pillars themselves that is given by GBBP expresses the unwillingness to believe that such ancient works of sculptured art did not have Greek, Persian or assyrian influences. Thus it is written in GBPP the following:-
A passage five feet wide has been cleared between the blocks and the front of two massive octagonal columns and two demi columns which-support the entablature at a height of about twenty-five feet. Their bases are of the lota or water-vessel pattern from which rise shafts slightly tapering and surmounted by an ogee or fluted capital of the Persepolitan type, [The pillar and pilaster to the west are much closer fluted and more like Ashok pillars than the pillar and pilaster to the east. The top of the pillar below the capital is clearly Assyrian.] grooved vertically and supporting a fluted torus in a square frame over which lie four thin square plates each projecting over the one below. On each face of the uppermost plate crouch elephants horses and bulls with beautiful and well proportioned groups of men and women riding over them. On the pilaster to the right of the entrance are two horses with a man and woman seated on them. The whole is finely carved especially the mouth and nostrils of the horses. The posture of the animals on the capital at Bedsa is similar to those of the Bulls at Persepolis (Fig 3 of Plate XLIX, see figure above).

The Greek Influence in the western Deccan region of Maharashtra is usually implied in the term yavana from Ionia or Saka from the Scythians. Gopalachari's 1941 thesis on "An Early History of Andhra Country" provides a rich internet source for yavana history in the Western Deccan. There is evidence for a large element of yavanas in the western Deccan about from about 250 BC which is about the same time as the time of the Bhaja and Bedsa Caves. These yavanas were thoroughly "Indianised" , (if that is the word for that time), adopted Buddhism and Hindu family names. There was a Yavana settlement in a place called Dhenukakata in the vicinity of Karla which is close to that of Bhaja and Bedsa Caves.

Twenty years ago, while trekking upto Bisapur fort from Malavalli station near Bhaja caves, we passed through a village where most of the inhabitants had clear blue eyes. Their dress and custom were otherwise very Maharashtrian and very different from the features of the Konkanastha Chitpavan Brahmins (Ko-Bras) who are descended from people who were shipwrecked off the coast of the Konkan region of Maharashtra.

The point that I am trying to make is that there is believable evidence for a strong Greek/Ionian influence around the time the caves in Bhaja/Bedsa were being built. Similar crafting expertise from the builders of Persepolis/Xerxes complex seems to be evident in these caves at least as far as the outer pillars of Bedsa caves are concerned. The petal-like structure, of the capital, many times described as an inverted lotus flower, is found sometimes at the base of pillars at Persepolis (see Fig 4 of Plate XLIX of the Persepolis figure above, or the oneby its side). Vidya Dehejia would call the enclosed fluted torus-like sphere on top of the 'bell' as an enclosed amalaka, which is an ellipitial and fluted crown that is supposed to resemble the fruit amlaka or aamla the Indian gooseberry. The aamlaka feature on Hindu temples is uually on the top of the highest tower and the main or presiding deity is housed under the aamlaka. The petalled capital of Bedsa has an enclosed aamlaka which is unusual and probably has no religious significance. Such influences were short-lived and by the time the rock-cut caves in Nashik were made after the first century A.D., the 'bell'-shaped inverted Lotus flower with petals form of the Bedsa caves (with Sanchi influence) had become just an inverted 'pot'.

It has been noted that the influence of the Sakas and Yavanas in the western Deccan had completely diminished after the second century A.D. when it was replaced by the Satvahana dynasty. It seems that a Satvaahana Andhra king Gotamiputa SirinSatakani, of the second century AD, to whom the epithet Saka-Yavana-Palhava-nisudanasa applied, drove out these casteless foreigners from his newly rebuilt empire. He also preserved the purity of the four castes by stopping mixed marriages between them. In the context of this blog it would mean that the skill of the immigrant labourer was lost. The petalled 'bell' of the capital at Bedsa became an inverted pot.

As an aside, I can't help adding that the elimination of these foreign Ksatrapas of the Khakharata-vasa is reminsicent of Parasuram's destruction of the Kshatriya caste and one wonders whether the legends have been mixed. At the same time we have been told that Parasuram was iustrumental in introducing the Konkanashtha Chitpavan Brahmins (Ko-bras). A lot of tying-up remains.

To get back to the theme of the outer pillars of Bedsa it is clear that these pillars with its near-Sanchi 'bell' capital came to being briefly in the region around Bedsa. The style of the 'bell' at Beda is close to the 3rd century BC lion capial at Sarnath although it as no sign of a boxed amalaka. The shape of the 'bell' is also close to the Ashoka Pillar at Kolhua, Vaishali known as Bhimsen-ki-Lathi. The 'bell' at Bedsa is perhaps an improvement on the virtual pillars of the earlier Bhaja caves (see figure above). The style of the 'bell' has already started deteriorating towards that of the 'inverted pot' in the pillar at Karla.

A well-recognized puzzle of the Bedsa cave is the larger width of the verandah compared to the caitya and the unfinished nature of the front with a narrow passage leading from the outside to the verandah. "Those who did the preliminary stine cutting knew the exact number of large blocks to be left standing for later conversion to pillars. They knew the number of blocks to be left on an aapsidal plan, and the exact height and width of the roof. An accrate system of measurement must have been employed to have resulted in the alignment of the columns. It could have been no easy task to excavate into a mountainside, keeping the row of pillars in line, maintaining them of the same height, and seeing that the pillars on the two aisles corresponded with each other. At Bedsa for example, there was first the cutting of a passage which was then expanded into a veranda, and only then could excavation of the cave itself commence." (Vidya Dehejia, Early Buddhist rock temples, p 135).

The description of the cutting of the rock suggests a long-drawn process. there was no early demand on specialized skills. Such caves were built from the top downwards. Initially the hillside was cleared of vegetation and debris. Then there was made a pair of tunnels inside the rock up to the desired depth. Timber wedges were driven vertically in the rock and moistened. As the wood expanded cliff was fractured, forming large chunks of rock. This rock was carefully removed and the exposed walls of cave chamber levelled and polished. After the main body of rock was removed, more exquisite sculpting was done.. From

The allocation of skilled work at various levels had to be done. Skill of the type used to make the earlier Bhaja cave interiors were perhaps more readily available and work began on th caitya and the verandah perhaps first. The construction of the pillars outside required a different amd more specialized skill, which were probably associated with the yavana-saka-pahlava people. It is likely that while all this work was going on the excavators lived in villages below while the merchants and the priests lived in the vihara. The vihara had to come first without the yavana-saka-pahlava influence on them. This cave must have been the place for living and cooking and lighting a fire for the night. GBPP writes:- The whole cave has been plastered and was probably painted, but it is now overlaid with a coating of smoke. In the back wall of the cave in a niche is a figure of the goddess Yemmai (seen on expanding Fig 8, right, of previous blog) thickly covered with red paint. A sati stone lies against the wall, a little to the right.

I have no estimate of the time taken to make the caves. I imagine that it could have taken one or two generations of steady daily work involving a few laborers and artisans (of the order of hundreds?). The narrow passage would have been sufficient for access to the inner parts. The inner caitya and verandah must have been finished quicker while the outer pillars perhaps took a longer time because of the lack of the required alien skills. The destruction of the Ksaharatas perhaps led to the loss of the specialized skills required for the outer pillars and they were probably finished the slowet even if the inside excavations were completed.

The function of these caves have been taken over subsequently by the local influences. The non-Buddhist deity Yamai. is thought to be worshipped by the Kolis when a palki (palanquin) ascends up to the shrine of Yamai in Bedsa. A similar procession goes up to the goddess Ekaveera housed in a cave at Karla on Chaitra Poornima. The names Yallammma, Mariamma, Yamai, Ekaveer are the names given by the cult of Mother Goddess to Renuka, and who is symbolized by an ant-hill and is believed by some to be of Dravidian origin. Yellamma is a patron goddess of rural folk of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The devotees of Renuka or Yellama worship her as the Jagadamba, "Mother of the Universe" and is of Shaman origin being thought to be an incarnation of Kali. As we shall see later this mother goddess worship could be important in understanding some of the symbols in the Bedsa caves.

Lalitha pointed out to me that one of the exterior mini stupas outside seemed to resemble a shiva lingam as there were some signs (different coloration) of something being scooped out of the bottom of the cave surrounding the stupa and a drain seems to have been excavated to the outside to form the yoni for the lingam. The different coloration is also seen during dry summer days. Since what remains is really a slab, the conjecture on the shivling is incomplete. Near Dehu on the Pune Mumbai road one sees a flight of steps which go up to what has been called an ancient shiva temple. These are the Ghorwadeshwar Buddhist caves built around 300-400 AD that is now dedicated to Shiva. The blog on these temples by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha ( suggests that the original caitya has become the main temple dedicated to Ghorawadeshwar viz.Lord Shiva.

Three Other Symbols

The three other symbols on the pillars are well recognised Buddhist symbols and one should not have any problem in identifying them. There is the dharmachakra or th Wheel of the law with its eight spokes representing the eight-fold path. Then there is the Srivatsa which in my mind is usually represented as an endless knot as in the inset of the top row, centre in the figure below.

After a search for images and the literatture on the net I came to the conclusion that the symbol labeled Srivatsa could be the ancient Buddhist or Jain representation of it. The representation of Srivatsa as an endless knot could be due to later Celtic pagan influences. A search for images similar to the symbols found on the pillars in the Bedsa caves led me to, what I thought, to be that of the Srivatsa gave me a Jain connection from a facade (see top left corner in image below)on the Udaygiri-Ratnagiri Jain caves in Orissa built during the Chedi Dynasty between 100 BC and 100 AD. One may therefore jump to the (unnecessary) conclusion that --- at least as far stone carving is concerned --- the making of a stone image of Srivatsa has a Buddhist pre-history.

The interesting part of the image of the top left corner is that it was obtained from an internet image-search for the nandipada or hoof of a bull. The third symbol (left symbols from first figure on top)is thought to be a Nandipada . It is also called a triratna or the three jewels. Some of the other images similar to that of the Nandipada that I thought is relevant is given in the figure above. The most interesting of these is the set of images fond on abench in immersed ruins found in Godi-pavata pattana on the southern tip of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) that used to be a harbour used for trade during early Buddhist periods. Quite significantly this image is accompanied on the bench by (what I think, at least) is the Srivatsa image in the Bedsa caves.

The image of the nandipada or the triratna is very similar to that in the Bedsa caves. The one in the Bedsa caves has its top U-shaped tip ending conically like the like the tip of an arrow (for instance). The triratna at Sanch N gate is triply forked. The one at Godi-pavata pattna is bent outwards. Among other images (se figure above) one may think of the shape of Tibetan thokchas, the tibetan symbol of the khyung (Garuda) or the laughing Buddha, or the symbolism of the Mother Goddess(Jagadamba). One could have included as well a more primitive religious symbol such as that of Tendulkar waving his bat and helmet to his father in heaven after a century. There is a little more discussion on this aspect later.
The Triratna, the Dharmachakra or padma (Lotus) and the Srivatsa are integrated together on the top torana of the Sanchi North Gate (Figure below,top). The symbols on the pillars at Bedsa include these three Sanchi symbols. The Udaygiri facde (figure above) may also be imagined to have these three symbols. The padma or dharmachakres

The association of the symbols in the Bedsa caves with the triratna or Nandiapada requires more consideration. In his book on the "The Dvāravatī wheels of the law and the Indianization of South East Asia", Robert L. Brown writes
There are no texts or inscriptions that tell us how the triratna was represented. The identification of the trident as the three jewels came simply on the basis that nineteenth-century scholars (for example, Cunningham, Fergusson, Burgess, Indraji, Senart) felt there should be a plastic representation and looked for a possible symbol; the three points of the trident, in their number, suggested the three jewels. Furthermore, there was no name for the Buddhist trident-shaped symbol, which allowed for various interpretations. The ancient name is still not known today.Benisti goes through the various names that have been used by scholars --- trisula, nandipada, vardhmana, nandydvarta --- showing that none of them can be proven to apply to the Buddhist version of the symbol. The trident as representing the triratna appears to be completely a scholarly fabrication.

Lessons from the Bharhut Stupa

The search for pre-sanchi description of stupas and buddhist legends and history led me to Cunningham's book (1879) on the Stupa of Bharhut which could be 300 BC or before. Cunningham's description of the Stupa includes the line that ... the same huge bricks (that) are found all over this space, which is quite true, but they were no doubt all originally taken away by the people themselves from the great brick Stupa ... indicates support for the possibility that the carvings found in or near the Stupa are a product of the lifestyle of the people at that time.

The Eastern gateway at the Bharhut stupa as described by Cunningham (Plates VI and VII) have only the triratna and the dharmachkra (or padma) with no direct evidence for the Srivatsa of Sanchi. The U of the triratna is doubly forked. The lack of a Srivatsa symbol in Bharhut stupa suggest therefore that the stupa predates the Sanchi stupa. Other carvings as illustrated in Cunningham's book also suggest the lack of a definitive evidence for Buddha worship.

The scenes of ordinary life as illustrated in the top row of figure above suggests an emphasis on tree worship with very little direct evidence for the worship of other symbols of Buddha or Buddha himself. There seems to evidence for the worship of the deer (top left of figure above) although there is someone aiming an arrow at the deer. It could be a happy coincidence that the images of men with arrows in Fig 4 of Plate LVII in the figure above titled Perspolis Influence (click to expand) resemble that in the top left of the figure above.

The scene of the Jetavana monastery of Plate XXVIII of Cunningham's book (bottom leftof figure above) has revealing scenes from the village life that I did not know about (not a surprise). For instance, there is a scene that looked at first glance of a lady carrying a baby which turned out to be a lady carrying something like a tea-kettle. There is also a man who seemed to be (figure above bottom left top corner) a man whistling using his finger in much the ame way as, say, audiences in movie halls do when expressing appreciation for the item-girl, for instance. The hut has the same "peepal-leaf" form of the facade of the caitya of the Bedsa caves.

The bottom right of the figure above is the only one I could find iu Cunningham's book of disciples listening to the sermon of an enlightened person. This is different from an worship of an enlightened person. There could have been many such enlightened persons and this could have been a typical scene instead of being the Buddha-enlightenment scene. The left portion of the panel in the bottom right of the figure above looks like the precedent to a srivatsa (see later)

The gateway of sanchi lays emphasis on previous buddhas by having seven stupas on its torana. The worship of a stupa would just mean the worship of an enlightened person. There is a stupa on the end of the torana of the stupa of Bharhut (see bottom left ogf fifure above.

The Torana endings at the Bharhut (bottom right of figure above, Plate IX of Cunningham)have been described by Cunningham as as ... composed of open-mouthed crocodiles with curled tails by which he meant tails spiraliing inwards. The crocodile's mouth reminded me of the makara or the sea elephants described elsewhere. The emphasis here would then be on the makara and not on the spiral.

According to Cunningham "The principal Buddhist Symbol is the Tri-Ratna, or " Triple Gem " Symbol, which is found in all the countries wherever Buddhism has prevailed. Mr. Beal calls this " the sacred Symbol of the Mani, or threefold gem, indicating the all supreme Buddha ;" and in another place he describes the Symbol as " the triple object of their veneration, Buddha, the Law, and the Church." * This triple Symbol was a very favourite form of ornament for the pinnacle of a gateway, or the earrings of a lady, and for the point of a military standard, or the centre piece of a necklace.^ In the Bharhut Sculptures the Tri-Eatna Symbol is placed above the thrones of the Buddhas Yiswabhu, and Sakya Muni.^

It is beyond my very limited scholarship to comment on Cunningham's extensive first-hand experiences and the basis of his conclusions. In the bottom left of figure below the two-forked triratna of Cunningham, is place below a "peepal-leaf" hut which in turn is placed below a tree with what appears to be a "peepal" tree. Amusingly, the two men on either side seems to be whistling with their fingers. Maybe they had no technology for using trumpets and horns at that time?

In the top left of another selection of images of carbvings from Cunningham's book in the figure below, the bearers in the coping panel takes, in my mind, a shape that could resemble that of the triratna. The elephants also bow in homage to the peepal tree.

In the top right of the figure below the five-headed serpent makes its appearance without seeming to protect or to be worshipped by anyone. A figure holding what seems to be a flower could be an enlightened one rising above the rest.

Perhaps the most important aspect in the figure above is that the capital on thich the lion is placed (bottom right of figure above) has two inverted petalled (padma?) flowers;; the one on the left (facing the figure) has close-spacing between the petals while the other on the right has .a larger spacing. Such differences in spacing is seen on the inverted lotus shapes on the pillars at Bedsa. Although the spacings between the petals is not seen on the samle pillar, t.The petals on the left full- and half-pillar are close-spaced while those on the right are wider spaced. I have not found an eplanation on the net for this left-right distinction. Nature makes such distinction; it includes the structure at meso-levels such as those of .ribosomes which our own Venky helped in resolving as we know so well. Persepolis structures did not make such deliberate differences in the fluting of their pillars.

There is a happy scene from a coping (Cunningham's Plate XLVII, top right corner of figure below) of an Eve or a Gopi looking down from her prech on a tree at a sleeping boy surrounded by what seems to be pigs (!?) which are looking up at the lady. In the same coping there is also an intriguing panel in which the triratna or the nandipada symbol is placed in an inverted position and covered by a lotus flower (?). The whole could give an impresion of a srivatsa?

In the top right of the figure below there are mangoes. If this indicates worship/appreciation of these fruits it is well deserved even if it comes before apoos was known. In the same panel there is to the right a scene of a (noble?) man who seems to be admonishing another person (a priest or from a different class or tribe) in front of a hut with a different non-peepal-leaf shapes that seemed to be holding acow or bull down holding it by one horn and pressing it down with another. It could be a cow-slaughter scene.

Evidence for yavana influence (probably from pataliputra?) seems to be there inm the shape of figures (bottom right, figure above). There ar also hints of a monkey "army" using an elephant (bottom right of figure above).

Aum in the Caves

It is difficult not to feel the resonance of your voice inside the caves. The caitya with its stupa could have easily served the physics of resonanting echoes. One is tempted to chant in the caves as Lalitha did with aum for a brief while.
It is perhaps natural to wonder whether these caves had anything to do with the symbolism of aum or even the letter ma itself. In the Pallavi or Brahmi script of those early days the script for ma resembles the image for the triratna or nandipada (second from right in the first figure of this blog) does not have a protruding circle within the lower circle. It is hollow like the ma in the pallavi or Brahmi script (see left of figure below). No other script for ma in other languages bear any resemblance to the triratna or nandipada. The scripr for aum (figure below top right) has no resemblance to the script for ma in any language.

The symbol of the triratna or nandipada with a circle in the centre resembles that in the Buddha-pada (bottom right of figure above). It is in this sense one may consider the nandipada image to be derived from Buddha-pada. Praying to the feet of the enlightened one (sometimes also a older person) is a tradition that persists even today. One wonders whether the ma symbol represents its sound for testing the resonance within he caves before events in the caitya.

I prefer to interpret the triratna or nandipada symbols in the Bedsa caves as arising from the Buddha-pada symbol.

I should stop here (finally).

There are other possibilities though.

The triratna or nandipada symbols could be derived from the garuda symbol. It is indicated in the Amravati symbol shown in the figure above with an inset (click to expand) taken from fig 5 of plate XL in the figure above illustrating Persepolis influences.

The symbol which is second from the left in the bottom line is in all the coins from Malhar (Magha or Megha dynasty in South Kosala (present day Chhattisgarh) being used upto the 4th century AD (from This blog concludes that "... we could assume that, to begin with the Magha ruler used his initial letter ‘Ma’ for stamping the coins of the erstwhile rulers to indicate his suzerinity and used the same device for his own issues for smaller denominations.".

This would take the aum out of the ma symbol. On the other hand a P. N. Subramaniam would write in his blog "A friend of mine, after examining my coins, was in favour of calling it a religious symbol – a Fire Altar. This can not, however, be ruled out. The rulers could have been fire worshippers".

The outlines of the Bhutanese Bull mask also resembles the Brahmi script for ma. Bhutan is the last bastion of Mahayana Buddhism which has recorded history before 100 BC in India.

The zodiac symbol for the Taurus constellation is almost exactly the Brahmi script for ma. Why one should find the bull (nandi?) symbol in the Bedsa caves is another matter.