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According to Mahdihassan (1987/1988, p. 300), the cross (Heaven) symbolizes "cosmic soul" and the four corners symbolize "universe." In any case, the cruciform shape is characteristic of Hindu temples across India. The whole symbol is read as "heaven and earth." The numbers of the corners (Earth) total 52. The cross consists of 117 (i.e., 65 + 52). The possible significance of this numerology will be taken up again in §15.

The cosmographic framework represented by the temple is an important facet of Indian ethno-astronomy. The Jains had many holy places, which were laid out in accord with cosmological astronomic principles, among them the magnificent 15th-century Adinatha temple at Ranakpur in western India. Ranakpur is also the site of an older temple dedicated to Surya, the Sun god. Temples cut in bed rock at Ellura are particularly notable. We now turn to the construction of Buddhist temples. We take up this discussion yet again for sites elsewhere in Asia, in a later section.

9.1.2.2. The Buddhist Temple

Along the Wagora River, in an area called Ajanta (in west-central India, east of Bombay), there is a monastic complex consisting of 28 rock-hewn temples, set within a horseshoe cliff. A 29th temple is set back on the west side of the complex. We refer to each carved structure as a "temple" although most were used as dwelling places by the monastic community. Collectively, they are often called the "Ajanta caves."The earliest temple (No. 10 in the notation of Bechert and Gombrich 1984/1989, p. 98) on the site dates from the 2nd century b.c. and to the 7th century a.d. Although there are more than a thousand rock-cut monasteries in India, these are famous for their exceptional preservation of early Buddhist art. Since they were abandoned prior to conflicts with other religious groups, notably Islam, they were not destroyed as were many other Buddhist sites.

It is possible that an underlying conception was involved in the creation of these temples despite the fact that they were carved over an interval of eight centuries or so. The relationships among cosmos, calendar, and deities is so intimate that it seems reasonable to suggest that there is a correspondence between the 28 temples and the 28 lunar mansions (see Table 15.2 for a numbered list). Only four of the Ajanta temples (Nos. 9,10,19, and 26) have the rounded back wall of a caitya hall (a shrine or reliquary). Three of them (9, 19, 26) are geometrically related because lines through their axes, extended across the river, meet at a single point. The 9th and 10th temples form a paired set, and in a sense, so do 19 and 26, both of which are adjacent to very small caves, 18, and 25, respectively. Pursuing the analogy with lunar mansions, we note that naksatras 9 and 10, counted from Krittika (the Pleiades) as the first mansion, are the paired set Purva-Phalguni and Uttara-Phalguni. naksatras 18 and 19 are the paired set Purva-Asadha and Uttara-Asadha, and the naksatras 24 and 25 are the paired set Purva-Bhadrapada and Uttara-Bhadrapada, all mentioned earlier in §9.1 as particularly associated with the Moon. Although the correspondences are not of exactly the same kind, it is not clear that the same correspondences held throughout the construction period. It is not clear, for example, that the present numbering of the temples corresponds exactly with the numbering of the mansions or that all the builders had exactly the same interpretation. Some may have thought in terms of a system of 28, others of a system of 27, mansions. Reckoning consecutively in a CCW sense, temple No. 29 is at the 21st position of the present series of temples. Its setback position would fit well with that of the 20th mansion, Abhijit (Vega), which is omitted in the 27 series (see §§9.1.1, 15.4.1.1). It is interesting to note that of all the naksatras, Vega is the most distant asterism from either ecliptic or celestial equator. The 29th temple faces due east, and its E-W axis passes through the center of the propylon13 of temple 1. This E-W axis through temple 1 thus associates Krittika with the equinox sunrise, even though temple 1 faces southwest (see §9.1.1). We note that the 6th temple is the only one that has a plan corresponding to some degree with the Kalachakra mandala (see §9.4). The 6th lunar mansion from Krittika is Pusya, "flower," and is ruled by Brihaspati (Jupiter). DHK thinks that Jupiter is also the lord of the Kalachakra mandala. Finally, we note that temple 7 faces due south. A careful study of the iconography of these temples would probably verify or disprove this hypothesis but is far beyond the scope of this book.

An important feature of Buddhist temples is the central stupa, or mound. Often a massive structure, it typically functions as a shrine or reliquary. The development of stupas into pagodas carries symbolism to an extreme. Lauf (1976, pp. 122-123, 130, 139) shows that the ideal form of such buildings embodied the five elements and Sun and Moon with associated colors and Tathagatas ("teachers of gods and men"). In a typical Tibetan change, the colors of the elements are different from the colors of the associated Tatha-gatas. In other contexts, Tibetans typically associate the five elements with the five planets.

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