THE WAR OF THE TWILIGHTS
India, a land of glorifying culture, sees divinity in each and every element even in this modern world, which is eulogized by all. The sculptures and architecture of India are considered aspects of divinity. The Vedic and Purāṇic stories that are depicted in the sculptures give immense pleasure to the readers who are well versed in both the fields.
The Vedic and Purāṇic stories are well handled and portrayed with extensive care during Pallava period. In continuation to that the Coḹas too took great care in depicting the Vedic and Purāṇic stories. The care that they took, deserves great applause.
THE DAILY RITUAL OF BRAHMINS
Sandhyāvandana is the main spiritual duty amongst the six duties that are to be performed by a Brahmin. The duty is to be performed before sun-rise, exactly at the mid day and after the sun set. (Even the Tamil saying “Kāṇāmal koṇāmal kaṇḍu cei” emphasizes the above fact.) During this duty, a Brahmin will pour the water (Arghya) chanting some hymns after which the Gāyatrī mantra ascribed to the Sun god will be chanted. The reason behind the Arghya is well explained in a hymn from Taittarīya āraṇyaka. This hymn is usually chanted during the annual death funerals at Brahmin-houses. The mantra and the meaning are as follows.
तैत्तिरीयारण्यकम् – स्वाध्यायब्राह्मणम् (2) —
रक्षाग्ंसि ह वा पुरो’नुवाके तपो’ग्रमतिष्ठन्त तान्प्रजापतिर्वरेणोपामन्त्रयत तानि वरम् अवृणीत आदित्यो नो योद्धा इति तान्प्रजापतिरब्रवीत् योधयध्वमिति
तस्मादुत्तिष्ठन्तग्ं ह वा तानि रक्षाग्ंसि आदित्यं योधयन्ति यावदस्तमन्वगात् तानि ह वा एतानि रक्षाग्ंसि गायत्रियाभि-मन्त्रितेन अंभसा शाम्यन्ति तदु ह वा
एते ब्रह्मवादिनः पूर्वाभिमुखाः सन्ध्यायां गायत्रियाभिमन्त्रिता आप ऊर्ध्वं विक्षिपन्ति ता एता आपो वज्रीभूत्वा तानि रक्षाग्ंसि मन्देहारुणे द्वीपे प्रक्षिपन्ति। यत्प्रदक्षिणं प्रक्रमन्ति तेन पाप्मानमवधून्वन्ति। उद्यन्तम् अस्तंयन्तम् आदित्यम् अभिध्यायन् कुर्वन् ब्राह्मणो विद्वान् सकलं भद्रमश्नुते ।
असावादित्यो ब्रह्मेति ब्रह्मैव सन् ब्रह्माप्येति। य एवं वेद ॥
Once some demons were desirous of fighting with the Sun and with a view to gain the requisite strength for the battle, they propitiated Brahmadeva with steadfast penance. Brahmadeva appeared and asked the demons to ask for any boon they wanted. They desired the boon for strength to fight with the Sun. Immediately, they started a battle with the Sun. If the Sun was to win in the persistent battle with these demons from dawn to dusk, the only way was to sprinkle these demons with water sanctified with the chanting of Gāyatrī. The Brahmins perform the sprinkling of water through the arghya and drive away the demons to the island of Mandehāruṇa.
Thus say the Vedas. Hārīta, a sage and a lawgiver has also given the same description elsewhere.
आदित्येन सह प्रातः मन्देहानाम राक्षसाः।
युध्यन्ति वरदानेन ब्रह्मणोऽव्यक्तजन्मनः॥
निघ्नन्ति राक्षसान् सर्वान् मन्देहाख्यान् द्विजेरिताः॥
ततः प्रयाति सविता ब्राह्मणैरभिरक्षितः।
मरीच्याद्यैर्महाभागैः सनकाद्यैश्च योगिभिः॥
तस्मान्नलङ्घयेत् सन्ध्यां सायं प्रातः समाहितः।
उल्लङ्घयति यो मोहात् स याति नरकं ध्रुवं॥
“A group of demons named Mandehās started fight with the Sun right from the morning, deriving strength from a boon given by Brahmā. The people called Brahmins to defeat those demons through pouring water up with the chanting of Gāyatrī. Therefore the Sun is going the round from dawn to dusk only because He is protected by the Brahmins performing the arghyam, and this is done by the god-like Marīci, and yogis such as Sanakas and others . It is the duty of every brāhmaṇa to give the arghya to save the Sun and thereby save the universe. Therefore the practice of giving arghya in the morning and evening should never be breached. If any Brahmin does so, through forgetfulness or arrogance, he will surely find naraka or hell as his final destination.
In the words of Oṭṭakūttar
Oṭṭakūttar, courtyard poet of Coḹa race of 12th CE, mentions this story in a suggestive manner in his work Dakkayāgaparaṇi (Dakṣa-Yāga-Bharaṇi),
Eḹuṅkaḍaṙpa kaippi ṇattum Raviti ganta ellai poy
Viḹuṅkaḍaṙpa kaippi ṇattum ōḍi uṇḍu mīḷpave.
Oṭṭakūttar while describing the ghosts, hints that the ghosts are returning after eating the corpses of the demons killed by the Sun-god during his rise and set.
DEPICTION IN SCULPTURE
Now we have to see the depiction of story in sculpture. A panel from Bodhgayā, has this story depicted in it. See the panel.
The panel is dated as 4-5th CE. The Sun god is depicted at the middle in a chariot along with his consorts. His consorts are bending their bows for a fierce battle. The demons are falling down on the sides. The consorts are Uṣā and Pyatuṣā are symbolically representing the sun rise and set. This is typical representation of Vedic story which has been seen just now.
The same theme can be seen from a miniature of Puñjai temple which was built during the middle of 10th CE. The miniature contains the same depiction of Sūrya with consorts on both sides. Both are bending their bows and showering arrows at the demons. The demons being targeted by the beautiful ladies, embodiments of twilights, are felling down. That skill Coḹa sculptor is amazingly exhibited in this sculpture, which reflects a Vedic story.
Bodhgaya picture … from Net
Puñjai sculpture .. from Sri. Arvind Venkatraman