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its origin in the stupa. And similarly, in the
gradual concretising of the Vedic Rudra into the
modern Mahadeva, the impress made by Buddha
on the national imagination is extraordinarily
evident. Stirless meditation, unshadowed know-
ledge, fathomless pity, are now the highest that
man can imagine of the soul. And why ? For
no reason, save that Buddha had gone to and fro
for forty years after the attainment of Nirvana,
and the print of his feet could by no means die
out in India! The caves of Elephanta in the
Bay of Bombay are a cathedral of Shiva-worship.
They contain, moreover, not only an emblem of
Shiva which may be more or less modern, but also
a great many carvings. And none of these has a
greater interest and importance than that on the
left side of the entrance, a bas-relief of Shiva,
wearing beads and tiger-skin, and seated in medita-
tion. It is Shiva : it is not Buddha. But it is the
Shiva of the Transition, and as such it is most


For hundreds of years, then, before this emer-
gence of Shiva as the main Hindu conception of
God (which for a time he was), devout souls had
loved Buddha and hastened with a special devotion
to give alms to sadkus, without on that account
suspecting for a moment that they were of any
but the accepted Arya-Vedic household of faith.
Less dependence on the great powers that dwelt
beneath the mountain springs ; less sense of the
mystery of serpent and forest ; an ever-deepening
reverence for the free soul for the sadhu } for the
idea of renunciation, this was all of which anyone
was conscious. And yet in this subtle change of
centres, history was being made ; a new period
was coming to the birth. Verily, those were great
days in India between 500 B.C. and A.D. 200 or
thereabouts. For the national genius had things
all its own way, and in every home in the land
the little was daily growing less, and the real and
the universal were coming more and more pro-
minently into view. Those were probably the
days of Gitas made in imitation of the Buddhist
Suttas. And this fact alone, if it be true, will give
us some hint as to the preoccupation of the period
with great thought.

" Thou that art knowledge itself,

Pure, free, ever the witness,
Beyond all thought and beyond all qualities,
To thee the only true Guru

My Salutation :
Shiva Guru ! Shiva Guru ! Shiva Guru ! "


These words may be taken as the keynote of this
first period in the making of Hinduism. The
national faith will form itself henceforth like a
great white SANKHA (conch-shell) coiled in broaden-
ing spirals about the Vedic pillar. The theological
Iswara believed in by the Brahmans is referred to
vaguely but conveniently by themselves and others
at this time as Brahma. He is the God to whom
the sacrifices are made. But in the presence of
Buddha and the memory of Buddha a new and
higher conception begins to prevail, and as time
goes on this higher conception takes name and
form as Shiva or Mahadeva. Hinduism is thus
born, not as a system, but as a process of thought,
capable of registering in its progressive develop-
ment the character of each age through which it

It follows, then, that the heirs of Buddha- bhakti,
so to speak, in India, might be on the one hand
Jainas, or on the other Saivite Hindus. These
were the two churches whose children might be
born as if in the shadow of Buddha. And it is
in accordance with this that we find Saivism and
Jainism subsequently dividing between them such
places of Buddhist history as Benares and Rajgir.


AT a great moment in the history of India the caves
of Elephanta were carved out of the living rock. A
moment of synthesis it was that ages had pre-
pared ; a moment of promise that would take
milleniums to fulfil. The idea that we now call
Hinduism had just arrived at theological maturity.
The process of re-differentiation had not yet begun.
The caves ot Elephanta mark perhaps its greatest
historic moment. In all religious sects the conflict
of opinion is determined more by the facts of
history and geography than by opposing con-
victions. What then were the sources, geographic
and historic, of the elements that make up
Elephanta ?

The caves themselves were meant to be a
cathedral. So much is apparent on the face of
things. Traces of palace, fortifications, and capital
city must certainly be discoverable in their im-
mediate neighbourhood. On another island several
miles away is the Abbey of Kenheri with its chaitya
hall and its 108 monastic cells, each two of which
have their own water-supply ; its bathing tanks,

and refectory or chapter floors on the mountain-


Photo : Johnston and Hoffmann



top. Kenheri was a university : Elephanta was a
cathedral : and both were appanages of some royal

How splendid is the approach through pillars
to the great reredos in three panels that takes up
the whole back wall of the vast cell ! And in the
porch, as we enter this central chamber, how im-
pressive are the carvings to right and left ! On the
left, in low relief, is a picture representing Shiva
seated in meditation. The posture is that of
Buddha, and it requires a few minutes of close
examination to make sure of the distinction. The
leopard-skin, the serpents, and the jata, however,
are clear enough. There is no real ground for con-
fusion. On our right is another low relief of
Durga, throwing herself into the universe, in God-
intoxication. Behind her the very air is vocal with
saints and angels chanting her praises. The whole
is like a verse from Chandi. And we hold our
breath in astonishment as we look and listen, for
here is a freedom of treatment never surpassed in
art, combined with a message like that of mediaeval
Catholicism. The artist here uttered himself as
securely as the Greek. It was only in the thing
said that he was so different. And for a translation
of that into terms European, it needs that we should
grope our way back to Giotto and Fra Angelico and
the early painters of missals.

Our astonishment is with us still as we pene-
trate the shadows and find our way amongst the
grey stone pillars to that point from which we can


best see the great central Trimurti of the reredos.
How softly, how tenderly, it gleams out of the
obscurity ! Shadows wrought on shadows, silver-
grey against the scarcely deeper darkness ; this in
truth is the very Immanence of God in human life.
On its right is the sculptured panel representing
the universe according to the Saivite idea. Shiva
and Parbati ride together on the bull, and again
as in the carving of Durga in the porch the
heavens behind them are like a chorus of song.
On the left of the Trimurti, finally, is the portrayal
of the world of the Vaishnavite. Vishnu the
Preserver has for consort Lakshmi the Divine
Grace and the whole universe seems to hail Him
as God. It is the heads of Brahma, Shiva, and
Vishnu, grouped together in one great image, that
make up the Trimurti which fills the central recess
between these panels.

A ledge for offerings runs along below this series
of pictures. The altar itself, where actual consecra-
tion took place, is seen to the spectator's right, in
the form of a little canopy-like shrine or Shiva
chapel, which once doubtless held the four-headed
Mahadev that may to-day be seen outside the caves,
and now contains the ordinary image of bhiva, as
placed there at some later date. We may assume
that lights and offerings, dedicated here, were after-
wards carried in procession, and finally placed
before the various divisions of the great reredos.
The pillared hall held the congregation, and stands
for the same thing as the nave in a Christian church,


or the courtyard in a modern temple like Dakkhin-

So much for the main cave. The plan of the
entablature is carried out, however, in the archi-
tecture, and there are wings consisting of cells
built round courtyards enclosing tanks to right
and left of the great central chamber. And here
the carved animals and other ornaments, that
support short flights of stairs and terraces, are all
eloquent of a great art period and a conception of
life at once splendid and refined.

Elephanta, then, perpetuates the synthesis of
Hinduism. How royal was the heart that could
portray no part of his people's faith even though
it held his personal conviction and worship with-
out the whole! Not Saivite alone, but Saivite,
Vaishnavite, and the still remembered worshipper
of Brahma, go to make up the Aryan congregation.
All alike, it is felt, must be represented. Nay, when
we recall the older Kenheri, we feel that not the
churches alone but also the monastic orders out-
side all churches ; not society only but also the
supersocial organisation, denying rank and all that
distinguishes society, had a place here. In the
architectural remains within a certain area of the
Bay of Bombay, we have a perfect microcosm of
the Indian thought and belief of a particular period.
The question that presses for determination is,
what was that period.

The first point to be noticed is the presence of
Brahma in this synthesis of Hinduism. In the


Mahabharata, similarly, we are constantly startled
by the mention of Brahma. He is there called the
grandsire, the creator, and sometimes the ordainer,
with face turned on every side. This last attri-
bute is perhaps derived from some old mysticism,
which gave the Romans Janus from which our
own January and found expression amongst the
Hindus in the four-headed image, and the weapon
with four heads called Brahma's head, as mentioned
in the Ramayana. While constantly referred to in
the Mahabharata, however, Brahma is nowhere
there invested with new functions. He does not
appear as a growing concept of the divine. He
plays rather the part of one receding from actuality
who must constantly be held in memory. In the
Puranic stories of Krishna, similarly, no one goes
to Brahma with any prayer or austerity, as they do
to Shiva. He is no dynamic factor in the life of
men. Yet He is the Creator, beyond all argument.
He is chief and eldest of Hindu post-vedic deities.
His position needs no proving. It is accepted by
all. Nor does Brahma in the Puranas require to
be convinced that Vishnu is the equal of himself :
Krishna, as the presentment of Vishnu, is new to
him, but Vishnu himself He takes for granted.
At the same time, while indisputably supreme,
Brahma is by no means a spiritual reality. That
place, as other stories and the whole of the Mahab-
harata show, is filled by Shiva, with whom are
associated all those philosophical ideas nowadays
described as Vedantic. And yet, if the story of


Krishna had been written in the twentieth century,
Brahma would have had no place in it at all.
Partially forgotten as He was then, He is wholly
forgotten now. From this evidence then, we may
infer that the personality of Brahma was the first,
and that of Shiva the next, to be developed as
concepts of Supreme Deity.

Thus there was a period in Hinduism when the
name of Brahma the Creator was held in reverence
having dominated the theology of a preceding
age and used in conjunction with those of Shiva
and Vishnu to make the specification of deity
complete. Hinduism at that time deliberately
preached God as the Three-in-One, the Unity-in-
Trinity. This theological idea we find expressed
in its purity in the Caves of Elephanta, and perhaps
slightly later in the Ramayana of Valmiki.

The poet Kalidasa also, writing both the Kumara-
sambhava and the Raghuvamsa, would appear to
have been under the inspiration of this Hindu idea
of the Trinity. He shared the desire of the power
that carved Elephanta to represent the synthesis
of Hinduism by doing something to concretise both
its popular aspects.

But the form under which Vishnu appears in
Elephanta is purely theological. It is Lakshmi-
Narayana, the idea that to this day is more familiar
to the West and South of India than to Bengal.
This theological concept or divine incarnation,
as it is called was fully formulated before the
Ramayana was written, and is referred to there


much oftener than in the Mahabharata ; though
that also was meant to prove the identity of a
certain hero with Vishnu. Sita-Rama are from
the very beginning argued as the bodying-forth of
Lakshmi-Narayana in human form. Krishna in
the later epic seems to be consciously a second
attempt to paint the mercy of God in incarnation.

The ideas that succeed in India are always firm-
based on the national past. Thus that idealism of
the motherland which is to-day the growing force
intellectually can go back for foundation to the
story of Uma, wedded in austerity to the great
God. Similarly it would be very interesting to
see worked out by some Indian scholar the root-
sources in Vedic literature of these conceptions of
Shiva and Vishnu. One can hardly resist the
conclusion that each was elaborated independently
in its own region.

We have to think of the Mother Church as the
expression of a people who, between 500 B.C. and
A.D. 500, were intensely modern and alive. Indian
civilisation has educated its children from the
beginning to the supreme function of realising
ideas. And ideas grew and succeeded each other,
taking on new forms with amazing rapidity, in the
period immediately before and after the Christian
era. The impression that the chief formative im-
pulse here was the life and character of Buddha
is extremely difficult to resist. On one side the
stern monastic ; on the other, the very projection
into humanity of the Infinite Compassion the


Blessed One was both of these. His character was
the world's proof that God was at once Preserver
of His children, and Destroyer of their Ignorance,
even while He was but a name for the Supreme
itself. Hence in men's dreams of Shiva we see
their effort thenceforth to realise the one, while
Narayana is their personification of the other of
these attributes.

Just as Buddha may have been the radiant centre
whence diverged the popular religions, so Benares
may have been the spot where the idea of Shiva
was first conceived and elaborated. Many causes
may have contributed to this. The Deer Park
seven miles away must have been a monastic uni-
versity before the time of Buddha. Its undisputed
pre-eminence is shown by the fact that He made
his way to it immediately on attaining enlighten-
ment, because it was there that his theory, or
discovery, must be published to the world. From
this we can see that the monk, although a little
apart, must always have been an impressive figure
in Benares, which was itself, at this particular
period, mainly a commercial and industrial centre,
associated with a great Brahmanic wealth of Vedic

After the time of Buddha, while his name still
reverberated throughout the length and breadth
of the land, Benares would doubtless become a
place of pilgrimage, rendered doubly sacred by
his memory and by its Vedic altar. The growing
opinion that the Deity could take no delight in


slaughter must have killed the sacrifices, and the
Brahmans of Benares would take to cherishing a
system of theology in which the great God was
represented as remote, solitary, and meditative.
The right of all classes to interest themselves in
religious philosophy was indisputable, in face of
the work done by the Buddhist Orders, and Vedantic
theories and explanations were given freely to all
comers, and by them carried back over the country
to their distant homes.

We may suppose, meanwhile, that the memorial
stupas continued to be placed in the sacred city,
as at other scenes of Buddhist memory, by pious
pilgrims. Little by little the stupas changed their
shape. At first plain, or simply ornamented, they
came to have the four Buddhas on them, looking
North, South, East and West. Some were then
made, by a natural transition, with four large heads
instead of four seated figures. According to the
Brahmans, the God of the Aryans was Brahma,
the personal aspect of Brahman. According to
the thought of the world at that period, again, God,
or Brahma, was " the Ordainer, with face turned
on every side." Hence the four-headed stupa was
first, perhaps, regarded as the image of Brahma.
But it could not long be so taken. The new con-
ception of God was growing, and presently, with
the post in the middle, it came to be regarded as
Mahadeva, and then as Shiva.

There was a good deal of hesitation at this
period. Anyone who has seen the bathing ghat


at Baragaon, between Behar and Rajgir, will be
in a position to judge in how many different direc-
tions the emblem of Shiva might have been evolved.
The four-headed stupa, for instance, was sometimes
made to refer to Parvati. Finally, however with
the perfecting of the theological idea of Mahes-
wara the modified stupa was taken as Shiva.
This particular phase must have occurred just as
the Rajputs began to settle in Rajputana, and this
accounts for the prevalence of the four-headed
Shiva in that country. The family-God of the
royal line of Udaipur is said to be a four-headed
Mahadeva. In Benares again there may be more,
but there is certainly one temple in the Tamil
quarter behind the monastery of Kedar Nath,
where a Shiva of the period in question is wor-
shipped to this day. When first erected this
temple was doubtless on a level with the street.
Owing to the accumulation of debris in the interim,
however, it is now some eight or ten steps down.
This fact alone gives us some notion of the age of
the building.

The image of Mahadeva has gone through many
further phases of simplification since the day we
speak of, but this Shiva of Benares and the other
of Elephanta belong to a single historic period,
and the small four-headed stupa outside the caves
is one of their most precious relics.

Hinduism throbs with the geography and history
of India. In every image of Shiva speaks the voice
of pre-Gupta Benares. In that complex conception


of Krishna which blends in one the Holy Child of
Brindaban, the Hero of the Gzta, and the Builder
of Dwarka, we celebrate the vision of the royal
house of Pataliputra. . In the Ramayana we unravel
the earlier dream of Kosala. And here in Ele-
phanta on the extreme West, we are confronted
with a rendering of the great synthesis that comes
after the formulation of Shiva. Whence did Ele-
phanta take her Lakshmi-Narayana ? And what
must have been the solidarity of the country when
the dream dreamed in Benares finds expression
here a thousand miles away !

Wherever we turn we are met by the same
phenomenon of the marvellous and effective unity
of pre-mediseval India. The Narayana, who is
constantly worshipped in Madras, is the same
whose images were wrought in Behar so long ago
as the fifth century. A single style of architecture
characterises a single period, from Bhubaneshwar
to Chitore. Every child knows the names of the
seven sacred rivers ; and the perfect tirtha, for
every province of India, has taken a man these
many centuries to the Himalayas, to Dwarka, to
Cape Comorin, and to Puri.


ONE of the first tasks before the Indian people is
the rewriting of their own history. And this, in
accordance with the tacit rule of modern learning,
will have to be carried out, not by one, but by a
combination of individuals ; in other words, by an
Indian learned society. It is a strange but in-
controvertible truth, that none of us knows ihimself
unless he also know whence he arose. To recognise
the geographical unity and extent of the great
whole we call India is not enough ; it is imperative
also to understand how it came to be.

Fortunately we are now in possession of a single
precious volume The Early History of India, by
Vincent Smith of which it may roughly be said
that it embodies the main results of the work
concerning India done during the last century by
the Royal Asiatic Society. We must be grateful
for so handy a compendium summarising for and
opening to the Indian worker the results achieved
by the European organisation of research, as no-
thing else could have done, save that personal
intercourse with great scholars which is at present
beyond his reach. Vincent Smith's work may seem


to some of us, considering its scope and subject,
to be curiously unspiritual. Yet is it the veritable
handing on to a new generation of scholars of
the torch of the spirit.

Nothing surely in all the story here told of
early India is more inspiring than that of the
Guptas of Magadha and the empire which they,
from their ancient seat of Pataliputra, established
over the whole of India. The central fact about
this great Gupta Empire, as it will seem to
Indian readers, is the identification of Vikra-
maditya, who is now seen to have been "of
Ujjain " merely in the familiar modern sense of
the title added to the name of the conqueror.
Vikramaditya of Ujjain, then, was no other than
Chandragupta II of Pataliputra, who reigned from
A.D. 375 to A.D. 413.

If this was so, we might take the year A.D. 400
as a sort of water-parting in the history of the
development of modern India. The desire be-
comes irresistible to know how far the Puranic
Age was then developed and established ; to what
extent and under what form Buddhism was still
remembered ; what was the political outlook of a
Hindu of the period ; and, among the most import-
ant of the questions to be answered, what were
the great cities that made up the Indian idea of
India, and what the associations of each ? The
answer to the last of these queries, if discoverable
at all, would be of vastly greater significance than
all the facts as to sovereigns and kingdoms about


which the modern system of learning makes us
so unduly curious.

It is already a commonplace among historians
that Hinduism, together with Sanskrit learning and
literature, underwent under the Guptas what is
regarded as a great revival. According to Vincent
Smith, most of the Puranas were during this period
re-edited and brought into their present shape.
Statements of this kind are at present somewhat
vague, but accepting what has already been done
as our basis, it will, I believe, prove possible to
introduce a definiteness and precision into the
history of the evolution of Hindu culture which
has not hitherto been dreamed of as practicable.
We shall soon be able to follow step by step, dating
our progress as we go, the introduction of one idea
after another into the Hindu system, building up
again the world which surrounded the makers of
the Puranic age.

In Vincent Smith's pages we can see the great
tradition of Gupta learning beginning in the person
of the gifted and accomplished Samudra Gupta
(A.D. 326 to A.D. 375), father of Vikramaditya, and a
sovereign of such military ability as to be described
as "an Indian Napoleon/' while he himself had
the fine ambition to be remembered rather for his
love of music and poetry than for his success in
war. In the reign of such a king, and in the per-
sonal influence of such a father, must have lain
the seed of more achievements and events which
were to make his son Vikramaditya the hero of



Indian tradition through subsequent ages. It takes
many lives sometimes to carry out a single great
task, and we can only guess whether or not Samudra
Gupta began the undertakings whose completion
was to make his son illustrious.

In my own opinion, the very head and front of
these must have been the final recension of the
Mahabharata at some time within the famous reign,
say at about the year A.D. 400. It is difficult to
resist the conclusion that certain of the Puranas,
notably the Vishnu and Bhagavata, were edited,
exactly as the Bhagavata claims, immediately after
the Mahabharata by scholars who found cause for
regret in the fact that work had not given them the
scope required for all the details they were eager to
give regarding the life of the Lord. I do not
remember even to have seen any note on the social
functions of the Puranas. But the Vishnu Purana
strongly suggests a state curriculum of education.

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