J. Estlin (Joseph Estlin) Carpenter.

Theism in medieval India; lectures delivered in Essex hall, London October-December, 1919 online

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was erected at Eran, in the Central Provinces, on which he was
celebrated as "the cause of the conbinuance, production, and
destruction of the universe " ; and in the same locality a statue
of the Deity in his boar form presented him as " the Pillar of
the great house of the Three VVorlds " ; while in a temple built
by the Gupta king Chakrapalita, 457-8, he was designated the
" Conqueror of distress," who " became human by the exercise
of his own free-will." ^ ^^ Allahabad Civa was described about
350, as the poets of the Great Epic had sung, with matted hair,
bearing the Ganges on his head, in his character of " I^ord of
the animals" (Pa^upati).^ The fiery wrath which consumed
Kama, god of love, when he intruded on the Great Yogin's
meditation, is commemorated at Mandasor (in the West Malwa
division of Central India), 473-4." He is parame^vara^
" Supreme God " (447) ; he is bhava-svij, " creator of existence,"

^ Watters, On Yuan Chwang, ii. p. 226.
2 Blihler, Epigraphia Indica, ii. (1894), p. 322.

^ Liiders, on "Early Brahmi Inscrr.," appendix to Epigr. Ind., x.

* Fleet, Corpus Inscrr. Indie, iii. (1888), p. 270.

" Fleet, op. cit., pp. 90, 158, 61.

6 Fleet, op. cit, p. 1. But on this title see Lect. VI., p. 352.

' Fleet, op. cit., p. 87.


who has employed Brahman to effect the continuance, the
destruction, and the renewal of all things, and thus brought
him to piti'itva, the " fatherhood " of the world.^ So the stream
of pious foundations begins to flow over the land. Victorious
sovereigns, widowed queens, successful generals, wealthy Brah-
mans, provide endowments for the religious merit of their
parents and themselves. There is no sectarian antagonism
between the followers of the two great Deities. The same
dynasty may promote either cult ; the same king may bestow
his favours on both.- A Brahman trained in all the schools
might boast, in dedicating a temple to (.'iva (in the Central
Provinces, 1167-8), that he "had crashed the conceit of the
Charvakas, drunk up the Buddhist ocean ("difficult-to-be
restrained"), and been a god of death to the Jains." ^ _ But
the Buddhist Dantivarman, in making a grant to the Arya-
Sangha of Kampilya (Gujarat), for the provision of flowers,
frankincense, lamps, and ointments, in the ninth century, did not
disdain to invoke the protection of Vishnu and ^iva."*

The Gods of the Triad, sometimes with subordinate deities
associated with them, appear in many variations of order, each
one taking the lead in turn. Only rarely is Brahman com-
memorated as "the Supreme, the Cause of the production,
stability, and destruction of the Three Worlds, the True, with-
out end and without beginning, who consists of knowledge alone.
One, the Abode of Immortality."^ The devotion to Vishnu
called for the representations of his Descents as Boar and as
Man-Lion in almost all the early temples ; and in his form as
Lord of Yoga his image was placed in a niche on the west of

1 Fleet, op. cit., p. 155.

2 For instance, Eingr. Ind., i. 211 ; vi. 320 ; viii. 316 ; xi. 305.
^ Kielhorn, Epigr. Ind., i. p. 44.

4 Bhandarkar, ibid., vi. (1900), p. 236.

6 Hultzsch, South Indian Inscriptions, II., pt. iii. (1895), p. 353 ; in the
reign of the Pallava king, Naudivarman, on the Malabar and Coromandel
coast. The inscription is not dated. The Pallava dynasty was destroyed
by the Chola king Rajartija towards the end of the tenth century. Atten-
tion may be called, also, to the great Brahma faces on towers of temples
and city gateways in Cambodia, e.g. in the great temple of Bayon, con-
secrated about A.D. 900. Fergusson and Burgess, Hist, of Indian and
Eastern Archit., ii. (1910), pp. 392, 397, 401, 408 (Siara).


the central shrine in all old temples, sometimes with his consorts
Lakshmi and Bhumi-DevI (the Earth goddess) on his right and
left, while (^'iva was figured on the north wall, and Brahma on
the south. ^ Over these foundations brooded the shadow of the
transitoriness of life, and the longing for tranquillity and peace.
The wife of a general in Rajputana, "seeing the vanity of
fortune, youth and wealth, in order to cross the troubled sea of
this worldly existence," built a temple to Vishnu (661) and
erected a statue in his name as Vasudeva.- The ^'aiva Buddha-
raja in Baroda grants a village to a Brahman (609-10) to
provide for certain rites " as long as the sun, the moon, the sea,
and the earth endure " ; and exhorts future kings to maintain
the gift, "bearing in mind that the world of living beings is
unsteady, like a wave of the sea raised by a fierce wind, and
wealth is liable to perish, while virtue endures for a long
time.""^ Devotion travelled to Burma, and a pious Vaishnavite
quoted at Pagan in the thirteenth century a verse from a hymn
by a Vaishnava saint named Kula9ekhara before the eleventh :
" I have no regard for merit, none for a heap of wealth, none at
all for the enjoyment of lust. Whatever is to happen, let it
happen, O God, in accordance with previous actions. This
alone is to be prayed for, and highly valued by me — in every
other birth let me possess unswerving devotion to thy lotus

Vishnu, of course, is frequently glorified as the upholder,
destroyer, and (through Brahman on the lotus sprung from his
navel) the creator of the world. Now it is on Sankhyan lines,
as in the North- West Provinces (953-4) ; ^ or at a later date
(1515) he is described as "known from the Vedanta, who,
though his nature is knowledge, without end, and existence,
yet, in order to perform the duties of Maghavat (Indra), wears
an illusory body."*^ Here is an interesting glimpse into theo-

1 Rao, op. cit., i. pp. 39, 41, 86.

2 Kielliorn, Epigr. hid., iv. (1896), p. 29,

3 Kielliorn, ibid., vi. (1900), p. 300. This was already a well-known
verse ; cp. ix. p. 299, from the Nasik district, 595.

^ Hultzsch, ibid., vii. (1902), p. 198. Such hymns seem to have been
actively composed before 750 (ibid., xi. p. 156).
■5 Kielhorn, ibid., i. p. 130.
^ Luders, ibid., vi. p. 1U9.



logical theory : Vishnu is really all the other gods. Just as he
is identical with Brahman and ^iva, so he condescends to mani-
fest himself in beings which do not claim to be self-existent or
without beginning. It involves some partial limitation of his
own nature, some Docetic assumption of a temporary form.^
(Jaiva piety reached the same end in a different way. " Vic-
torious is the Eternal Sthanu (the "Steadfast'" or " Stable "),
whose one body is formed by the coalescence of all the gods " :
so ran the dedication by King Kakusthavarman (500-550) on
a great tank in Mysore adjoining a temple of (^'iva.- Five
centuries later, 1001-2, the ^'aiva theologian could embrace
not only the Vaishnavite, but even the Buddhist and the Jain :
" Adoration to that ^arva who causes all [gods] to be compre-
hended in [his] one [person], he whom those acquainted with
the Vedanta call (^Ava, the desire of the mind, while people with
true knowledge call him the One Supreme Brahman, the Inde-
structible, Ageless, Immortal ; others, the verily Auspicious
Buddha ; others, again, the Spotless Vamana (Vishnu), the
Jina."" On the material side he may be figured sharing a
body with his consort ParvatT, or with Vishnu ; * or he may
be presented as the eight-formed Lord of beings, constituted
out of ether, sun, moon, fire, earth, the sacrificing priest,
water, and air.^ Such statements, however, were confessedly
inadequate to his glory. His true nature not even the Veda
itself could reveal ; '' mortals could only apprehend him as
the Sole Architect for the construction of the universe ; "^
"cause of the production, existence, and destruction of the
world, without ■w<77/a-power, yet possessed of it in many
shapes, free from attributes [gunat, perhapst he Three Strands],

' Cp. the Buddha, a7ite, pp. 56, 97.

2 Kielhom, ibid., viii. (1905), p. 33.

3 Kielhom, ibid., i. (1892), ]i. 150. Inscription at Khajuraho, Central
India, a.d. 1001-2.

* Ibid., viii. p. 314, "the very embodiment of mercy" ; South Indian
Inscrr., II., iii. p. 386.

^ Kielhorn, ibid., ii. (1894), p. 14. Cp. the invocation to Kalidasa's
famous play, Cakuntald, perhaps "in the beginning of the fifth century
A.D." ; cp. Macdonell, Sanskrit Literature (1900), p. 325.

« Kielhorn, ibid., iii. (1894), p. 78.

7 Ibid., pp. 20, 129.


yet endowed with them, the Self-Existent and the Most High
Lord." 1

The development of architecture and sculpture which led to
the erection of temples and statues was accompanied by various
modifications of the ancient ritual. The protests of Jains and
Buddhists against animal sacrifices led to their gradual abandon-
ment by the higher castes. The path of " works " was still
trodden, but in a different spirit ; and the external forms were
regarded as the means of an inward culture of the heart. Devo-
tion poured itself forth in pious hymns ; the repetition of the
sacred name established a direct communion between the believer
and his God ; and while on the one hand the approach to the
Deity by certain consecrated formulae (mantras) was not devoid
of the contamination of magic,- the nobler minds did not shrink
from making high demands upon the concentrated attention of
the worshipper. The adhivdsana ceremony, when the priest
drew near to Hari (Vishnu), required him to discipline his
person so thot his material body and all objects of sense-
perception should be mentally transformed into the spirit of
universal nature, the Mahat or " Great," which should in its
turn be merged in the " absolute real " in man, the unchanging
and perfect knowledge called Vasudeva.-^ This is the Indian
equivalent of " worship in spirit," conceived on the intellectual
side. The modern ^"aiva followers of the great Vedantist Can-
kara at Benares are said still to repeat a hymn on the " sacrifice
of self" before breaking fast containing the following lines : —

" And of the sacrifice performed by the master who has under-
stood these truths, the soul is the performer ; the heart the seat of
the sacrificial fire ; sensual desires the ghee ; anger the sacrificial
lamb ; contemplation the fire ; the period of sacrifice as long as
life shall last ; whatsoever is drunk the Soma drink ; and death the
sacred bath that finishes the ceremony." *

1 A.D. 650-700. Hultzsch, ihid., x. p. 8. Cp. xi. (1911), p. 140, at Alla-
habad, 1047. Cp. other identifications with Brahman, at Benares, 1042
(Kielhorn, ibid., ii. 305), or Rewah, 1175 (Kielhorn, Indirm Antiquary,
xvii. p. 228).

* Cp. the Agni Purdua, passim.

3 Agni Purdrja, lix., ed. M. N. Dutt, 1903.

* Life and Times of Sri Sankara, by Krishnaswami Aiyar, (pioted by
Havell, Benares, the Sacred City (1905), p. 61.


The preparation of the image, the selection of the material
of wood or stone, the details of its form, the ceremonies of its
installation, were all regulated by elaborate conventions, like
the choice of temple-sites and the erection of the fabric.^ A
rite of consecration brought the deity into his temporary abode,
and there he dwelt like a monarch surrounded by the attendants
of his royal state. Just as in Egypt, he received daily homage ;
he was bathed and robed ; singers chanted his praise ; flowers
and food were spread before him ; on great festivals he rode
forth in his car to give his blessing in return for the acclama-
tions of the crowd. Troops of ministrants of every rank were
needed at the greater sanctuaries, and large foundations were
further established for the maintenance of learning and the
relief of the poor. Provision must be made for the mainten-
ance of the building itself, perhaps for gilding its doors or for
adding and gilding new domes. The statues must be covered
with gold and adorned with jewels; the temple vessels must be
golden too.'- The costs of worship must be met ; incense, lights,
perfumes must be provided ; the guild of the gardeners might
be required to furnish two hundred white roses daily and two
thousand fragrant oleander blossoms (1287, Gujarat).^ Besides
repairs to the fabric and the enrichment of the cultus, food and
clothing must be supplied for student-ascetics and the teachers
who lectured to them. The spectacle of an uninterrupted line
of C'aiva saints "in whom austerities and majestic splendour
dwelt harmoniously together"' (rewarded by princely gifts of
elephants and horses and splendid robes to the monasteries)
drew forth from the court poet the admiring exclamation,
" Happv are those rulers, O Lord, who with unswerving minds
worship thee, and employ their wealth in works of piety." * The
widowed queen Vasata in the eighth or ninth century built a
temple to Vishnu (in the Raipur district. Central Provinces),

1 A(jni Purdna, xliii ft". Cp. tlie Cukra-NUi-Sdra, tr. B. K. Sarkar
(Allahabad, 1913), chap, iv., iv. 147 ft'. : "The characteristic of an image is
its power of helping forward contemplation and Yoga." "The images of
the gods yield happiness to men ; those of men yield grief."

2 Epigr. Ind., vi. p. 231 ; iv. p. 51 ; iii. p. 7.

3 Ibid., iii. p. 268 ; i.\. p. 340 ; i. p. 275.

* Ibid., iv. pp. 53, 213 ; i. p. 268 (in the Central Provinces, about


and attached five villages to it for the maintenance of temple
and almshouse, the support of the servants of the sanctuary, and
of twelve Brahmans, four for each of the Three Vedas.i Vajra-
hasta III. (Madras, 1061) granted a village to five hundred
Brahmans who delighted in " the six acts of sacrificing, conduct-
ing sacrifices, studying, teaching, giving and receiving, and were
well versed in the sacred lore.""' Kings of unusual wealth and
piety would ascend the tuld-purusha, like Govinda IV. (Gujarat,
930), in honour of the Holy Three. He weighed himself against
gold, which was then distributed in large donations to Brahmans ;
and eight hundred villages were assigned for temple revenues,
worship, feeding establishments, and clothing for ascetics.^ The
great temple at Tanjore required a huge staff of servants, includ-
ing " dancing masters, musicians, drummers, singers, accountants,
parasol-bearers, lamplighters, watermen, potters, washermen,
barbers, astrologers, a brazier, carpenters, a goldsmith, and
others."* Such endowments were not limited to temples.
Svapne9vara, general of an Eastern Ganga king in Orissa,
about 1200, not only provided a number of female attendants
for ^'iva, laid out a garden, built a tank and open hall, but
added wells and tanks on roads and in towns, put lights in
temples, erected cloisters for the study of the Vedas, and founded
a " Brahma-city ■" for pious Brahmans.^

The appearance of dancers in the temple-lists and the pro-
vision for the performance of plays imply that the drama, in
India as in Greece, was placed under the protection of religion.
The first positive document attesting the existence of dramatic
representations associates the new art with the legend of
Krishna.*" But it fell especially under the patronage of ^Mva.
Had he not invented the style of dancing known as Tdndava,
and did not his consort ParvatI give instruction in the Ldsya^
modes of great importance in the chorus ? ^ Acted only on
public or solemn occasions, a royal coronation, a religious

1 E'pigr. Ind., xi. p. 185. ^ 75^£^,^ ix. p. 95. ^ JUd^^ yii. p. 45.

* >S. Indian Inscrr., II., iii, p. 260.
^ Epigr. Ind., vi. p. 199

'' Sylvain Levi, Le TMUre Indien (1890), p. 316.

'' Wilson, Select Sjjecimens of the Theatre of the Hindus^ (1871), i. p. 19 ;
Levi, op. cit., p. 298.


holiday, a temple festival, the play was often opened with an
invocation for the protection of some deity. Thus in the
Vikrama and Urvaifi, ascribed to Kalidasa, Crv'a, " who is at-
tainable by 'f/oga and bhakti, the One Spirit {purusha) of the
Vedanta, spread through all space, to whom alone the name
of i(;,vara (God) is applicable," is entreated to bestow final
felicity upon the audience.^ The quaint philosophical morality
play known as "The Rise of the Moon of Intellect"'"'- opens
with a parallel between the mirage of water on a sandy plain
and the great illusion which treats the universe, constituted
out of the five elements, ether, air, fire, water, earth, as real,
and rises to adoration of the Stainless Being in heavenly
blessedness, the radiant object of his own knowledge. It is
the Great Yogin Civa who pervades the world. Strangely are
the two characters of the Ascetic and the Dancer blended in
his figure. The dance of Civa became a favourite subject of
religious art, and was invested with strange mystical meanings.^
The poets of the Epic had represented the vicissitudes of the
individual soul as the sport of the Most High.* The changes
of the universe were the giant game of Nature ; ^ the destinies
of men were the pastime of Vishnu ;"^' and ^'iva played with the
world as his marble ball.' Behind the severities of law, through
all the ceaseless rhythm of creation, maintenance, and dis-
solution, the artist discerns something more than the impersonal
Absolute of the philosopher. In the ecstasy of movement —
unlike the violence with which at Elephanta and Ellora he
tramples on the prostrate form of the demon Tripura — Civa
is caught up into a rapture of delight. The famous bronzes in
the Madras Museum seek to express this combination of tireless

' Wilson, oip. cit., p. 195.

- Prabodha Ohandrodaya, tr. J. Taylor, 1812. A German translation (by
Goldstiicker) was issued at Kuni^sberg in 1842. The play expounds the
Vedanta as taught by Cankara. See Lect. VI.

2 An interesting study of popular (^aivism among the ^aiva ^aktas in
Bengal will be found in the Folk Element in Hindu Culture, by B. K.
Sarkar, 1917.

* Mbh., xii. 309, 3, Jcrid/Mham.

^ Ibid., xii. 314, 15.

« Ibid., iii. 189, 54.

' Ibid., xiii. 17, 150.


energy and unstrained grace. ^ For such vision the world is
no place of suffering, lamentation, and woe ; nor is it a scene
of irresponsible caprice ; it needs no moral justification ; it is
the expression of that unstinted joy which Indian thought
associated with infinite Reality and Intelligence.

1 Cp. V. A. Smith, History of Fme Art in India and Ceylon (1911), p.
250 ; Havell, The Ideals of Indian Art (1911), p. 79 ; A. K. Coomfirasvami,
Siddhanta DipiM, xiii. 1 (July 1912), "The Dance of Civa."



The study of the philosophical movements of India is em-
barrassed by the same difficulties as the history of its literature.
No fixed chronology marks the rise or the decline of its chief
schools ; their founders may be legendary figures like Kapila,
and even if they can be attached with any confidence to
particular personalities, the data of time and place may be
quite uncertain. To transpose Plato or Wordsworth into
pi'eceding generations would render their teaching wholly
unaccountable ; but (^^ankara, the famous exponent of the
philosophy of Advaita or " Non-duality," which so profoundly
affected all the higher thought of India, has been variously
placed by modern students between the sixth and the ninth
centuries without encountering any obstacle from contemporary
conditions. Two or three witnesses, however, may be cited
who testify to the growing variety of speculation after the close
of the Great Epic.


Four chief systems were recognised by the poets of the
Mahabharata. Oldest of all came the teachings of the Veda
and the forest-sages concerning the Brahman and the Universal
Self Over against the idealism of Yajiiavalkya rose the
Sankhyan dualism of Matter and Spirit, and the doctrine of the
Three Strands. To this the practice of Yoga added the
conception of l9vara or God, the same cosmic ontology lending
itself alike to atheism and theism. Two other types under the
sovereignty of Vishnu (the Paiicharatra) and ^'iva (the Pa9upata)
complete the meagre list.^ But in the centuries before the

> Mhh., xii. 350, 1, 63. Cp. ante, pp. 184, 220.


poem was closed speculation was actively advancing. The
Buddhist schools of the Great Vehicle were engaged in vigorous
debate ; and the Jain Haribhadra (by birth a Brahman), who
died in a.d. 528, could reckon six systems, including the
Buddhists and his own co-religionists, the Sankhya, Nyaya,
Vai9eshika, and that of Jaimini.^ Who Jaimini was, and when
or where he lived, is unknown. But his name is attached to a
body of teaching founded on the Veda, and designated
Mlmdmsd, "inquiry" or "investigation." It was concerned
with the Karma-kdnda, or " Work -section " of the ancient
Veda, which was assumed to be eternal and constituted the rule
of human duty. Here was no metaphysic, concerned with the
relation of God to the world, or the nature and destiny of the
soul. It dealt with the sacred text and the principles of its
interpretation, with difficulties caused by apparent contradic-
tions, with various elements of ritual, with sacrifices, offerings,
and hymns, and the merits and rewards of their performance.
These were expounded in the form of Sutras,- condensed
summaries which a teacher might expand in oral instruction,
or a commentary explain in writing. This body of Vedic lore,
attributed to Jaimini, acquired the name of Purva- Mlmdmsd
or " Prior Enquiry," in relation to the Jndna-kdnda or
" Knowledge-section," based on the speculations of the Upan-
ishads. To this Haribhadra makes no allusion. But a century
later the poet Bana, contemporary with Yuan Chwang at the
court of King Harsha (a.d. 606-648), does not overlook it.
Deep in the forest of the Vindhya dwelt a Buddhist mendicant
named Divakara-mitra. The king, in search of his lost sister,
whose husband has been slain by a neighbouring prince, makes
his way through the glades to visit him. We have already seen
how, in mocking vein, the poet pictures him in the midst of a
concourse of followers from various provinces, and students of
all the philosophies.'* Among them were followers of the

* Max Miiller, Six Systems, p. 575.

2 Cp. ante, p. 203. Sutra, from siv (Latin st(,-ere), to "sew," denotes a
thread or cord. Just as our "text" is the woven fabric of thoughts and
words (from texere, to "weave"), so the threads of statement and proof
were stretched out to form the basis of the whole philosophical web.

3 Cp. Lect. II., p. 111.


Upanishads, not yet identified with the Vedanta.^ Bana makes
no reference to Jainiini and the Purva-Miniamsa ; nor does
he mention any name in connection with the study of the
Upanishads, the foundation of the " Knowledge-section " which
ultimately acquired the title of Uttara-Mvndmsd or " Posterior
Enquiry." What was the significance of this relation ? Like
the Purva-Mlmamsa, its successor was thrown into Sutra-form ;
it was, moreover, attributed to a definite author, Badarayana,
but nothing more is known of him than of Jaimini ; and the
literary and historical problem is made more perplexing by the
fact that each is represented as quoting the other ! Both
appear for the first time by name in the commentaries of
^ankara in the ninth century.- A brief conspectus of philoso-
phies, under the title of Sarva-Dar^mia-Siddhdnta-Samg7'aha,
attached in chapter after chapter to ^'ankara himself (but, says
Prof. Berriedale Keith, in agreement with Eggeling, " probably
wrongly"), describes the Mimamsa as the greatest of fourteen
branches of Vedic knowledge.

" It consists of twenty chapters, and is divided into two parts in
accordance with the subject-matter dealt with therein. The PTirva-
Mimamsa deals with the subject of karma (or ritualistic works), and
extends over twelve chapters.

The svtras relating to this have been composed by Jaimini.
The commentary is the work of (^abara. The Mlmamsdvarltika is
the work of Bhatta, as it has indeed been composed by the great
teacher (Kumarila) Bhatta.

The Uttara-Mimdmsd, on the other hand, consists of eight
chapters^ and it is also divided into two parts under the heads
dealing (respectively) with deities and with the wisdom (of true
philosophy). Both these divisions of the Uttara-Mimdrnsa have
alike had their sTdras composed by Vyasa." ^

1 Harsha Carita, tr. Cowell and Thomas (1897), p. 236.

2 On ^ankara's date, see below, p. 308. Qabara Svamin wrote a com-
mentary on the Sutras of Jaimini, and the famous Kumarila Bhatta, whom
tradition associated with violent persecution of the Buddhists (about 700),
added further annotations.

Online LibraryJ. Estlin (Joseph Estlin) CarpenterTheism in medieval India; lectures delivered in Essex hall, London October-December, 1919 → online text (page 29 of 55)