J. N. (John Nicol) Farquhar.

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sleeps, moves and acts.

The whole of the temple-worship depends on this belief.
What is the use of honey-mixture, perfumes, incense, waving
lights, and food, if the image is not a living god ? The villager
goes to the temple ' to see Kali's face '. He believes he looks
into her own great divine e3'es. He prays his fervent prayer,
and hears the goddess answer him with her own lips. Nor
the villager only. In the lives of all the saints we meet the
same beliefs.

In the official life of Ramanuja, written in Tamil in the
thirteenth century by Pinbalagla-Perumal-Jiyar, we are told
that there was a dispute in Ramanuja's day as to whether the
image in the great temple of Tirupati was Vishnu or Siva.
Ramanuja proposed that both sets of emblems — Siva's trident
and drum, Vishnu's discus and shell — should be laid in front
of the image, every person carefully excluded from the shrine,
and the doors locked, so that the god himself might decide
the dispute. The narrative proceeds :

This test was gladly agreed to by all. The emblems were accordingly
prepared and placed before the Imaj^e. Next day both the parties came
in a body with eager expectations of their own opinion being realized.
But when the doors were thrown open in full daylight and in the
presence of the whole^assembly, it was found that the Lord had assumed
the Vaishnava emblems, with the Saiva emblems lying unused on the
floor. Ramanuja's joy knew no bounds. lie sang and danced, eyes


streaming with tears of delight at the miraculous event and the Beatific
Vision presented to his view,^

Here is another story from Ramanuja's life. After com-
pleting his famous commentary on the Veddnta-sutras, we are
told that he took a long journey, visiting many sacred places,
and finally reaching the temple of Sarasvati in Kashmir. The
goddess asked Ramanuja to explain a passage in the Oihdn-
dogya Upanishad, the meaning of which has caused endless
discussion among pandits. Ramanuja embodied his explana-
tion in a couplet of verse, and the narrative proceeds :

On hearing this, Sarasvati said : ' Ramanuja I Saiikara had ere this
unhappily interpreted this as *'' monkey's posteriors ", and I was much
grieved at his perverse understanding and warped heart. Thou hast
now wiped my tears.' So saying she placed Ramanuja's commentary,
the Sri-bhashya, upon her head, drew Ramanuja to her breast, gave
him the title Rhashyakrira, and handed him the image of HayagrTva
(i.e. Horse-mane, one of Vishnu's incarnations) for worship.-

At a later date Ramanuja was driv'cn by persecution to
take refuge in ^Mysore. There he found an image of Vishnu
and had a temple erected for it. But he had no processional
image. In a vision he was told that the image he wanted was
named Ramapriya and was in the possession of the IMuham-
madan king in Delhi. The saint journeyed to the capital, and
there a second vision informed him that the king's daughter
had the image in her rooms. We give the rest of the story
from the text :

The king took the Sannyasin Ramanuja into the seraglio, where no
other man dared enter ; and wonderful to relate, Ramapriya was there
found, fondled by the Sultani, his daughter, to whom He played the
husband. Ramanuja, entering, called Him by His name, and lo, the
image jumped down from the couch on which the Sultani had placed
Him, and walked to where Ramanuja stood, in all tlie glory and grace
of an incarnated deity .^

In the life of Tiru-mahgai. one of the Vaishnava poet-saints

^ Rd}}id?iuja, 143. 2 Ramd7mja, 140.

^ Rdjnd?2uja, 188.


known as Alvars,^ we are told that he went one day with two
companions, Parakalar and Yatirasan, to steal a golden imac^e
of Buddha from a disused Buddhist shrine. The only way in
which they could manage the holy burglary was to get up on
the tower and lower one of their number through an opening.
We quote the rest of the story :

Parakalar then letdown his brother-in-law Yatirasan into the aperture.
When Yatirasan laid his hands on the idol, it escaped ; and he ran,
and it ran, round and round the apartment. Parakalar suggested
Yatirasan's spitting on it. He did so, and the mantra-power which
gave the idol motion vanished by this act of pollution. He then
clutched the idol and hoisted it up to the aperture and Parakfdar
lifted it out.^

Mira Bai was the wife of one of the Rajput kings of Udaipur.
but she was driven from his bed and palace on account of her
devotion to Krishna and her refusal to worship DevT, the wife
of Siva. She lived a wandering life for some time. Then
Brahmans were sent to Dvarika to bring her home. Before
departing she went to the temple of Krishna to take leave of
him. Tradition says that, when she had completed her adora-
tion, the image opened, and the princess leaped into the fissure,
and was never seen again. ^

Here is a story of an image of Devi, i.e. Uma, or Kali, the
wife of Siva. Haryanand, a Vishnuite saint,

being one day in want of fuel to dress his meat, he directed one of his
pupils to proceed to a neighbouring temple of Devi, and bring away
from it any portion of the timber he could conveniently remove. This
was done, to the great alarm, but utter helplessness, of the goddess, who
could not dispute the authority of a mortal of Haryfmand's sanctity.
A neighbour who had observed this transaction laboured under a like
want of wood : at the instigation of his wife, he repaired also to the
temple and attempted to remove one of the beams, when the goddess,
indignant at his presumption, hurled him down and broke his neck.
The widow, hearing of her husband's fate, immediately hastened to the
temple and liberally abused the vindictive deity. Devi took advantage
of the business to make a bargain for her temple, and restored the

^ See below, p. 384. * Holy Lives, 177. ' /\€li{^ious St\fs, 71.


man to life, on condition that he would ever afterwards buy fuel for

Innumerable passages in the same strain occur in the most
reliable literature.^

The truth shines out from these narratives, but we may add
a few clear statements from the most authoritative books.
Here is how a modern Vishnuite, a follower of Ramanuja, puts
the matter :

The Manifestation worshipable is that form of the Lord, in which
the Lord is pleased without any kind of limitation as to times, places,
or persons, to be present and manifest Himself to all, in temples and
homes, to wink at faults, and to be, for every movement or business,
dependent on the worshipper.^

The following is a sentence from the paper by Mr. V.
Srinivasa Rao quoted above : ^

Whatever the apologists . . . may say, as for instance that . . . Idolatry
is only keeping in view a concrete thing for concentration in worshipping
the One True Spiritual God; the stern and incontrovertible fact remains
. . . that the idolater does believe that some of the idols are the actual
incarnations of God, called A?'chavatdras (incarnations for worship ^),
and not mere symbols, that there is not one God but many, quite inde-
pendent of each other, one at Tirupati, the other at Chidambaram, and
so on ; that one should be worshipped on a certain day with different
leaves ; that the marriage and consummation ceremonies of one God
should be celebrated on a particular day, and those of the other on
another day, and so on.

Our next quotations are from a modern defence of the Madhva
sub-sect of Vaishnavas :

In daily service, we worship God dwelling in a metallic image, after
invoking God's presence therein. The invocation is the most important
part of the function, to make sure of God's special presence in the idol.^

Every honour and every homage that the mind of man can conceive
of, to glorify an Emperor of Emperors, if present in flesh and blood, is

^ Religious Sects, 33.

2 Ramanuja, 5, 78, 125, 126, 140, 146, 149. 152, 155, 180, 202, 203, 217;
Holy Li7'es, 108, 112, 114, 177 ; Di^-i^ie Wisdom, 40; Madhva, 114, 254,
714 ; Indian Inlerpj-eter, April, 1913, p. 17.

^ Divine IVi s do m, i;^S-i;^g. * See pp. 111-112.

^ This is the special teaching of the IMadhva sect, Madhva, 269.


paid with tireless patience and obeisance, day after day, in total forget-
fulness of the fact that it is after all an image that stands before them.'

The following is from Max Mliller's biography of Rama-
krishna Paramahamsa, and refers to the time when he was
priest of the temple of Kali at Dakshinesvara near Calcutta :

He now began to look upon the image of the goddess Krdi as his
mother and the mother of the universe. He believed it to be living and
breathing and taking food out of his hand. After the regular forms of
worship he would sit there for hours and hours, singing hymns and
talking and praying to her as a child to his mother, till he lost .ill
consciousness of the outward world. '

One of his own disciples reports ^ that he said,

We should believe in the Divine Presence infilling the Images of the

Mr. Havell ^ speaks of the image undergoing the pranapra-
tishtJid ceremony,^ and adds,

Thereafter it is regarded as a being endowed with life and feeling.

It is because the god lives in the temple that it is sacred,
and must be kept from all pollution. That is the reason why
all Hindu sects believe that the shrines and the idols, and also
the flowers, ashes, water, and food that have been presented to
idols, all transmit spiritual efficacy.

The Hindu belief is that the gods live in heaven, but
frequently visit earth. Thus, they have been often seen,'' and
the appearance of each is perfectly well knuwn."^ Hence it is
cjuite possible for the Hindu artist to make a statue which
is a true likeness of Vishnu or Lakshmh of Siva or Brahma,
or of any other god that is wanted. The lihga is not an
imacre of Siva, but it is believed that he himself took the form

^ Madhva, ,254. ^ Rdmakris/tna, p. 36.

^ Gospel oj Sri Rainakrishna.u 187. * lienarcs, 161. See p. 32:.

" Sahkara confesses that the gods were never seen in his day, but says,
'What is not accessible to our perception may have been wilhm the sphere
of perception of people in ancient times. Smrili also declares that \'yasa
and others conversed wiih the gods face to face.' S. />'. A"., xxxiv. 222.

^ .Sahkara writes, 'The V'cdic injunctions ... presuppose certain
characteristic shapes of the individual deities.' .b'. B. A., xxxiv. J2i.



of a linga of light in heaven, in order to manifest his greatness,
and that he created the earHest lingas on earth. Consequently,
it is easy to cut a stone in accordance with his will.

The next step is to transform the mere statue or carved
stone into a sacred image or symbol by inducing the god to
come and live in it. The priest performs a ceremony over it,
using holy mantras^ i. e. sacred formulae instinct with magic
power, and thereby brings the god into the statue. This
ceremony is called dvdhaiia, a bringing in \sc. of the god into
the image], or more often prdnapraiishtJid, the establishment
of life, the installing of vital breath \_sc. in the image]. The
ceremony of bringing Kali into an image is thus described in
the JMahdnirvdna T antra : ^

Having thus welcomed the goddess, one should install vital breath
into her. Having first recited A?/i, Uri'/zi, Krirn^ Shrim, and Siudhd^
he should exclaim * Life unto all the gods ; life unto this god '. Next
he should recite the five mantras. Then he should exclaim * Tslay jiva
(individual soul) be in this god and may the deity have all the senses '.
Again reciting the five mantras, he should say, * Speech, mind, eyes,
nose, ears, speech be unto her.' Afterwards he should recite twice the
mantras, * May Pranas (vital breaths) come here and live happily for
ever, Swaha.' Having thus written thrice on the Yantra, with the help
of Lilihan Mudra, the mantra of inspiring vital breath, he should with
folded hands exclaim, 'Welcome unto thee, O Prime Kali. Auspicious
is thy coming here, O great goddess.' Thereupon reciting the principal
mantra for purifying the image of the goddess, he should sprinkle her
thrice with the water of special arghya. Then, consecrating all the
limbs of the goddess with six sorts of uydsa, he should worship her
with sixteen ingredients.

The translator's note on the first sentence of the above
account is.

The word in the text is Prdna Pratishthd. We have given the
literal rendering, besides which the phrase has a theological signifi-
cance. The practice among the Hindus is that they first make an
image of the deity they worship either w^ith clay or stone. This image
is not considered sacred till this ceremony is performed. It thus goes
to prove that they do not worship the image but the spirit indwelling it.


vi. 70-77. Dutt's translation, 88.


On the word nydsa in the last sentence his note is,

The assignment of the hmbs of the body [\jv. of the goddess] to the
corresponding parts of the image.

Vishnuites say that Vishnu exists in five modes, as the Absokitc
in heaven, in his emanations, m his incarnations, in his saints,
and in images. Pope describes Saiva practice and behef:
' Each image by a peculiar service which is called Avdganaui
(Sans. Avahanam, "bringing unto") becomes the permanent
abode of an indwelling deity, and is itself divine.' ' In the
Agjii Purdtia '-^ there occurs a description of a ceremony
performed to open the eyes of the image and endow it with

Buddhists and Jains seem to have taken to the use of
images for reasons similar to those that move Roman Catholic
Christians, viz. to stimulate feeling and meditation. Ikit how
dangerous it is to play with fire in this way is plain from the
history of the practice both in Jainism and Buddhism. Despite
the fact that the Tirthakaras and the Buddhas have entered
nirvana, and therefore can neither listen to praise and prayer
nor receive gifts, in both religions food," flowers, and incense
are offered and many a prayer is uttered. Nor is that all.
In Ceylon the last act in the making of an image is the
painting of the eyes, a magical ceremony, clearly copied from
the Hindu rite for the opening of the ay^^. In Hurmah the
image is dedicated in a ceremony called 'the giving of life',
which thus corresponds precisely with the Hindu prdnaf^ni-
tishtJid. Here is what wc are told about Jkiddhist images in
China :

The images of the gods are usually made from wood or cl.iy, ^ildcil
or painted ; specially costly oncb arc bronze or marble. When the
craftsmen have finished their work, the image is vivified by a special

' TiruvasagcDii^ xxxv. - Iviii. 7-10.

^ The writer had the privilege recently of travelling in the same railway
carriage with an inteUigent Jain lady, who is an eager promoter of educa-
tion in her own community. Her theory is that Jains offer food to the

images in order to learn self-denial

X -x


rite, and is raised to the actual godship. As a rule there is a small
hole in the back of the image, through which some animal — a snake,
a cat, a frog, or a centipede — is inserted into the hollows inside, and
the opening is closed. The soul of the creature gives the impetus of
life to the dead image. Afterwards the pupil of the eye is painted in,
and thereby the deity has taken full possession of the image. This act
is called k\ii kuafig, the opening of eyelight.^

Let any one look through Hiouen Tsang's travels, and it will
become plain that the greatest Buddhist teacher which China
ever bred believed implicitly that the images of the Buddhas
and Bodhisattvas were alive and could walk about, speak,
and act.

There are innumerable images of each of the great gods in
India, and each is regarded as a living god. But this creates
no difficulty to the Hindu mind ; for one of the many super-
natural powers which the gods are said to possess is the
capacity of assuming many bodies at the same moment.
Saiikaracharya and Ramanuja both tell us this quite plainly
in their commentaries.^

Further, it is of great importance to realize that it is not
the connexion of the idols with their original in heaven, but
their local personality and power that makes them of value to
the Hindu. The living beliefs of the people, which make their
religion a helpful reality to them, and the whole practice of
the temple, depend upon the conviction that each idol is
a distinct and independent divine personality. Each idol has
his own personal name, suggested by some episode in his
history or by the particular blessing which he is believed to
bestow. Each idol has usually his own local form. Each
idol has his own biography recorded in the legend of his
temple, the Sthala-ptirdna. It is on the idol that the saint
lavishes his love.^ It is in looking in the eyes of his beloved
local lord that he kindles his emotion to rapture and breaks

^ Hackmann, Buddhism as a ReIigio7i^ 214. ^ Infra, p. 331.

A saint now and then gets the malady known <hs ' sunset and sunrise ',
i. e. he falls ill because he cannot see his favourite god, the doors of the
shrine being closed by night to allow the god to sleep.


1 -)


into a song of hhakti. So the villager trusts the power of
each separate idol. A Hindu wife goes to one divinity if she
wants to get a son, to another to pray for her husband's
recovery from a serious illness, to a third to ask for the removal
of cholera from the village.

Here is a very significant passage from the life of Ramanuja.
While still young, and living in Kanchi, i.e. Conjeevcram, in
the service of the temple of Vishnu there, he became a sannyasT,
and took up a course of philosophic study. I^ut his help was
greatly needed in the metropolitan shrine of Trichinopol\'.
The Vishnu of Conjeeveram is known as Lord Varada, the
Boon-giver, while the VHshiiu of Trichinopoly is called Lord
Ranga, Lord of the World-stage, and his temple is called
Srirangam. The narrative proceeds:

While such studies were being prosecuted, tlic tidings travelled to
Srirangam of the assumption by Ramanuja of the sannyasi order, and
other events rapidly succeeding it. Mahapurna and other disciples of
Yamunacharya received the tidings with joy, and longed for Kamanuja's
coming to Srirangam, making it his permanent quarters. But they
were helpless ; and Ramanuja too had once before in grief and despair
returned from the place without even visiting Lord Ranga, being dis-
appointed at the sudden death of Yamuna. So they went in a body to
Lord Ranga and petitioned to Him to prevail upon His Type at Kanchi
— the Lord Varada— to spare Ramanuja for them. So a message from
Lord Ranga was sent to Lord Varada. But a reply came to the eflfcct :
' If it is possible for one to forego his love, I too can part with niy
Ramanuja.' On hearing this, Mahapfirna and other worthies were
much disconcerted, but after some deliberation, determined to depute
an elder in person to approach Lord Varada and persuade Him by
hymns to grant them Ramanuja, inasmuch as the Lord's very name
Varada meant : * Grantor.' They besought accordingly Tiruvaranga-
p-perumfd Araiyar, the \'enerable Klder of the place, to march to
KafichI on their behalf, and so extol Lord Varada as to make him
condescend to grant them Ramanuja. Araiyar immediately left
Srirangam on this holy errand, after obtaining leave to do so from
Lord Ranga. On his nearing Kanchi, his relative there, by name
Varantaram Pcrumal Araiyar, met him and escorted him to the Holy
City, and tended him under his roof as befitted a distinguished visitor.
The next morning, in due fashion, Apaiyar proceeded to the Temple.


Lord Varada had that day taken His august seat in the pavilion called
Kacchikkitvaytfdn, surrounded by the Holy Assembly ; Kanchi-purna,
stationed before the Lord, reverently doing his allotted service of fanning.
Ramanuja stood by his side devoutly uttering the Devaraja-Ashtaka
hymn sung by Purna. Ramanuja savv' Araiyar, went forward and
received him most cordially. ' i\Iay I be allowed to pay my obeisance
to Lord Varada?' inquired Araiyar. Purna led him to His august
presence, in full Holy Council seated, and Araiyar fell prostrate before
Him, repeating Yamuna's verse : 'Oh, when, O Strider of the Three
Spheres, will Thy Lotus-Feet, decked with all the signs such as the
discus, bedeck my head ? ' Rising, he was honoured with tirtha^
p7-asdda ^ and Sri Sathakopa.^ Araiyar then chanted a select number
of the Lyrical Psalter of the Alvars, set to celestial music ; and as he
sang, danced and went into raptures.

'When His faithful sing and dance for joy, God Himself keeps time,'
it is said. So, Lord Varada was pleased with the devotion of Gayaka,
i.e. Araiyar, and vouchsafed to Him all the honours belonging to His
Shrine. 'Why do I want these ? ' said Gayaka, ' my wish is not for these.
Pray grant me a boon, as Thou art, O God, famous as the Boon-Giver.'
And so saying, he continued his song and dance with more fervour.
Pleased, Lord Varada spoke thus : ' Ask, my beloved, anything, except
Me and My Consorts.' 'Him, pray grant,' readily replied Gayaka,
pointing to Ramanuja, who was close by. ' Oh lost,' exclaimed the
Lord, ' I wish I had had the forethought to include Ramanuja on the side
of exceptions. However, son, except Ramanuja, ask for any other boon.'
' But ', remonstrated Gayaka, ' dost Thou retract also like mortals ? Are
not Thy own words these: "Rama hath no two tongues"?' On
hearing this. Lord Varada had no alternative but to reluctantly say ;
' Well, we grant you Ramanuja ; take him. And we bestow on him the
title, Yatiraja.' No sooner was this said, than almost convulsively
Gayaka grasped Ramanuja by the hand and said : ' Proceed, Sire.'
Ramanuja said not a word. He fell prostrate before Lord Varada and
saying : ' Thy will be done,' he immediately started, not even caring to
enter his cloister."

This narrative is quite sufficient by itself to prove that even to
the most cultured Hindus two images of the same god are
distinct persons, who may disagree the one witli the other.

^ See above, p. 315.

'^ Sathakopa is the greatest of the Alvars. S^e below, p. 384. His
sandals are presented to specially honoured guests.
^ Rdmamija, 74-76.


Hinduism has proved itself a most powerful system both in
organizing the people and in stimulating them religiously ; and
no part of the religion has been more living and effective than
the worship of the temple. But the grip of that worship on
the heart of India depends altogether on this cardinal belief,
that each idol is a living god. The temple is a constant joy
to the Hindu, because he can go and actually look on the face
of the god whom he loves, express his affection by giving him
a gift of food, pour into his ear all his sorrows and all his
desires, hear the god's reply from his own lips, and go home
fortified against evil spirits and ill-luck through eating a portion
of the food that has been offered to the divinit}-. The bJiakti
of the Hindu, whether villager or saintly poet, is usually
a passionate devotion to a single idol. Me dances with
rapture, or falls in a swoon from sudden emotion, when he sees
the glory of the divine eyes.

No one who knows what polytheism has been in other lands
will have any doubt as to the truth of this account of Hindu
image-worship. The ritual is everywhere of the same general
type; and, though the beliefs vary in particulars, the ground-
work is the same in every case: the image is a living god ; the
temple is his house ; he receives his worshippers in audience,
listens to all their requests, makes them his guests, treats them
royally, and gives them his personal blessing.

VH. Now that we have got a firm hold of the facts of image-
worship among Hindus, we are in a position to trace the liistory
that lies behind.

A. The use of the temple and the image is one of the
elements of the fresh fabric of Hinduism which took shn[)c
while the invading Aryans were bringing North India under
their sway. It arose rather later than the doctrine of trans-
migration and the philosophy of Brahman ; yet it came from
the same general period of the history and from the same

The next point (o notice is that, from the beginning down
to our own days, all temples have been open on the same terms


to Hindus of all the four great castes,^ both men and women.
This proves incontestably that temple-worship had a different
oricrin from the regular sacrificial worship of the gods ; for

Online LibraryJ. N. (John Nicol) FarquharThe crown of Hinduism [microform] → online text (page 27 of 39)