Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Brahmanical Caves in Ellora

- By Deepa Krishnan

Ellora contains 34 caves adorned by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain art and figures. Caves 14 to 19 belong to the Brahmanical pantheon. Brahmanism is the predecessor of modern day Hinduism; it is primarily Vedic in nature and has several differences with modern Hindu practices.
This panel shows Shiva (large central figure) as the slayer of the demon, Andhaka (you can see the demon, represented in small form, speared on top right). Two hands of Shiva hold up the outstretched skin of the elephant demon Nila, one of Andhaka's allies. You can see the partial elephant head also on the top left corner of the photo. Shiva is in his fierce form as 'Veerabhadra'. In one of his hands, just under Andhaka, there is a cup, it is made of a skull, this is used to catch the blood of Andhaka as it drips (each drop spilt on the ground creates another demon). Parvati sits with her hand on her bosom, conveying either admiration or fear, I am not sure which.

The story goes that one day in a playful mood, Parvati covered Shiva's eyes with her hands. Darkness shrouded the world. From the heat and perspiration of her hands was born a dark child, Andhaka. Andhaka was raised by a demon, Hiranyaksha, who was childless and asked for a child as a boon.

When he grew up, Andhaka terrorized the world. He became the king of Asuras (demons). He tried to acquire or abduct Parvati, which enraged Shiva and led to Andhaka's death. Shiva's wrath is depicted in the panel.

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