The Hindu pantheon is a bewildering profusion: a mix of deities, demons, and heroes, which perplexes not only the neophytes, but even the best of scholarly minds. Yet, despite the multitude of its divinities, Hinduism isn't a polytheistic religion. Worshipped over countless generations in innumerable homes and temples, these deities are, in affect, likened to "the many facets of a single crystal" - concretizing, as they do, the basic Hindu world-view of an Ultimate Spirituality that is implicit in diverse attributes or both Nature and human experience.
In sheer volume and imagery, in scope and variety, no other culture has produced the kinds of Mythological characters and incidents that are to be met within The Hindu Puranic literature and traditions. As one delves into the complexities and interconnections of names and nuances, exploits and genealogies, one gets a staggering view of an eerie, yet magnificent world! Which this Encyclopaedia tries to unveil in its near entirety. Traversing the marvelous maze of Hindu iconography, Professor Fredrick W. Bunce : a distinguished scholar of Oriental Art, here draws together myriad iconic representations of Gods and godlings, Demons and miscreants, fair maidens and grotesque witches, noble princes and heartless tyrants, ascetic saints and lustful sages, cosmic strides and incestual liaisons, jealous gods and forgiving ones, births from breast and from the mind - all these and many more that are painted on the Creative Canvas of Hindu pantheon. The author highlights each pantheonic figure in his/her concretized, recognisable form, spelling out the very nuances of iconic Language that have gone into the shaping of Hindu images.
Supported by beautiful visual material, Professor Bunco's work is veritably a monumental exercise meticulously setting out the categories/classes/groups of deities, their genealogies, and their iconographic attributes, including the distinctive symbols/mudras/characteristics towards their identification. Also included in the Encyclopaedia are easy-to-understand user's guide, genealogical tables, yantras (abstract/mystical diagrams), glossaries (of Symbolic objects, asanas, mudras and attributes), Identification tables, Deity lists, and extensive bibliographic references.
The Encyclopaedia not only helps dispel the artistic-theologic-cultural xenophobia" which these pantheonic representations have often evoked among the uninitiated, specially of the non-Indian origin, but provides them with an invaluable key to explore the essential Import of Hindu deity images, their complexity, their beauty - in fact, a whole culture.
Achala I - (Ind.: Acalal? aka Vishnu) (called "the one who is immovable") One of the thousand names of the Lord Vishnu (Vishnusahasranama) enumerated in the Mahabharata. Bhishma, the patriarch of the Kurus (Kauravas & Pandavas) mortally wounded by Arjuna (Pandava), recites the thousand names to Yuddhisthira of the Pandava clan. The epithet refers to the deity's preeminence. See: Vishnu. (EE, MB, AD, HB)
Adbipatis - (Ind.: Adhipatis aka Ekadashadhipatis) (called "the rulers") For various entities or realms there are rulers called Adhipatis. The epithet refers to the deities' role. See: Ekadashadhipatis. (VM, TR, RG)
Adideva - (Ind.: Adidevah aka Vishnu) called "the one who is the primal deity") One of * the thousand names of the Lord Vishnu...
Adi-Lakshmi - (Ind.: Adi-Lakshmi aka Devi) One of the eight Ashtamahalakshmis who are very popular in the Southern part of India. The other seven are: Gaja-Lakshmi, Vira-Lakshmi, Dhanya-Lakshmi, Santhana-Lakshmi, Vijaya-Lakshmi, Aiswarya-Lakshmi and Dhana-Lakshmi. As such, face/head: one, two eyes, beautiful, kirita-mukuta; arms/hands: four, right Hands hold Lotus (padma), abhaya mudra, left hands hold banner with disc/wheel (chakra-dhvaja), varada mudra; mudra: abhaya, varada; body: mature; legs: two; Asana : vajrasana; ornaments: red garments, necklace (stanahara), garland (mala) or necklace to waist, jeweled girdle (ratna-avyanga), hip wrap, armlet (angada), bracelet (kankana), wristlet, anklet (nupura); color: white; valianeL: padmasana; form of: Lakshmi. See: Ashtamahalakshmis. (JBK, MS, SM)
- (2) - (Ind.: Adi-Lakshmi aka Devi) As such, face/head: one, two eyes, beautiful, kirita-mukuta; arms/hands: four, right hands hold lotus (padma), abhaya mudra, left hands hold obanner with disc/wheel (chakra-dhvaja), varada mudra; mudra: abhaya and varada; body: mature; legs: two; asana: samabhangasana; ornaments: red garments, necklace (stanahara), garland (mala) or necklace to waist, jeweled girdle (ratna-avyanga), hip wrap, armlet (angada), bracelet (kankana), wristlet, anklet (nupura); color: white; vahana: padmasana; form of: Lakshmi. See: Figure 1, p. 2; see: Ashtamahalakshmis. (JBK,MS,SM)
Arima - (Ind.: Aruna) (called "the reddish one") A demigod, the half-developed son of Kashyapa and Vinata and the older brother of Garuda. He, like his brother, Garuda, is associated with the sky. Aruna personifies the dawn. His Mother Vinata, one of the consorts of Kashyapa, bore three eggs. The first she broke early and a bolt of brilliant lightening shot forth. The second, in Vinata's impatience, she opened after five-hundred years. It had not completely matured axidAruna came forth, formed except for his feet and ankles which had not fully developed. The third egg matured and produced his brother Garuda. Aruna became the charioteer of Surya, the Sun and he protects the Earth from the full rays of the sun. His consort Shyeni produced Sampati and Jatayu. See: Appendix B; see: Garuda. (RG, TR, MS, ML)
Dakshina Bhairava (Shiva) - (Ind.: Dak$ina Bhairava [Siva] aka. Dakshina) One of the numerous names, variants or epithets applied to or used to describe the deity Dakshina. SeeDakshina. (RG)
Diti - (Ind.: Diti aka Devi) A Hindu goddess, the daughter of Daksha and one of the consorts ofKashyapa and mother ofmanyAsuras, specifically the Daityas. The god Indra slew her many Asuras children. She became Pregnant and was determined to get by producing a Child even stronger than Indra. To this end she sought the boon of the Great One (Vishnuf). Indra realized her scheme, entered her womb and cut the fetus into forty-nine pieces. These then became the forty-nine Maruts (gods of the storm or wind). Later, she is noted as a form or manifestation of the deity Devi and related to the Shaivas (the Worship to the Lord Shiva) as well as to the Shakti sect. As such, face/head: one, karanda-mukuta; arms/hands: two, holding blue lotus (nilotpala), Fruit (undesignated; mudra: undesignated; body: mature; legs: two, child in her lap; asana: seated (lalitasana); ornaments: necklace (stanahara) garland (mala) or necklace to waist, hip wrap, jeweled girdle (ratna-avyanga), armlet (angada), bracelet (kankana) wristlet, anklet (nupura); color: undesignated; vahana: dandasana; form of: Devi. See: Appendix B. (RG, TR, MS, ML)
Hemambika - (Ind.: Hemambika) (called "the golden mother") The name of a goddess, Tantric in form, who was popular in South Malabar. Generally, she is depicted by a pair of hands Emerging from a well. The epithet refers to the deity's role. (MS) Indukari - (Ind.: Indukari) A minor deity and a companion of the deity Daivika. See Daivika. (RG)
Jaya-Durga - (Ind.: Jaya-Durga or Jaya-Durga aka Durga, Devi, Parvati) (called "the victorious Durga") One of the Nava-Durgas enumerated in the "Agamas." Jaya-Durga is known as the form of Durga that is worshiped by those who wish to attain siddhi. Her lustre pervades the three worlds. The other forms are: Agni-Durga, Harasiddhi, Kshemankari, Nilakanthi, Ripumari-Durga, Rudramsha-Druga, Vana-Druga, and Vindhyavasi-Druga. The Goddess Druga is considered a form of Parvati. The epithet refers to the deity's preeminence. As such, face/head: one, three eyes, crowned (kirita-mukuta); arms/hands: four, holding conch shell (shankha), disc/wheel (chakra), sword (khadga), trident (trishula) . . .; color: undesignated (black?); vahana: lion (simhasana); form of: Durga. See: Figure 49, p. 255; see: Nava-Durgas. (RG, MS, TR)
Jayanta - (Ind.: Jayanta) aka Rudra [Shiva] (called "the victorious one") One of the . Ekadasha Rudras. There are three major differing lists of the Ekadasha Rudras. As such, face/head: one, three eyes, chandrabimba, jata-mukuta; arms/hands: sixteen, right hands hold goad/hook (ankusha), disc/wheel (chakra), hammer (mudgara), javelin (shula), serpent/snake (sarpa), Drum (damaru), arrow (bana), Rosary (akshamala), left hold club/mace (gada), magical staff/stick (khatvanga), Battle axe (parashu), skull-cup (kapala), lance/spear (shakti), tarjani mudra, bow (dhanus), spouted Water vessel (kamandalu); mudra: tarjani; body: mature; legs: two; asana: samabhangasana; ornaments: necklace (stanahara), garland (mala) or necklace to waist, Sacred thread (yajnopavita), jeweled girdle (ratna-avyanga), loin cloth (kaupina or chitravastra), armlet (angada), bracelet (kankana), wristlet, anklet (nupura); color: white; vahana: padmapitha; form of: Rudra (Shiva). See: Appendix B; see: Ekadasha Rudras. (TR, RG)
- (2) - (Ind.: Jayanta aka Jayanta-Shiva) As such, face/head: one, three eyes, chandrabimba, sarpa, jata-mukuta; arms/hands: sixteen, right hands hold goad/hook (ankusha), disc/wheel (chakra), club/cudgel (parigha), javelin (shula), drum (damaru), serpent/snake (sarpa), arrow (bana), rosary (akshamala), left hands club/mace (gada), ritual staff/stick (khatvanga), battle axe (parashu), skull-cup (kapala), spear (shakti), tarjani mudra, bow (dhanus), vase/vessel (kalasha); mudra1 tarjani; body: mature; legs: two; ornaments: necklace (stanahara), garland (mala) or necklace to waist, sacred thread (yajnopavita), jeweled girdle (ratna-avyanga), loin cloth (kaupina or chitravastra), armlet (angada), bracelet (kankana), wristlet, anklet (nupura); color: white; vahana: padmapitha; form of: Rudra (Shiva). (RG)
- (3) - (Ind.: Jayanta aka Surya) (called "the victorious one") One of the numerous names, variants or epithets applied to or used to describe the deity Surya. The epithet refers to the deity's preeminence. See: Surya. (AD)
Among the high World cultures, India stands apart. It has a millennia-old, glorious Heritage which, in its lustre, refinement and civilisational parameters, is second to none. And all along the bygone centuries, it has unequi vocally shown its striking achievements - whether they be manifest in its sculptural/architectural marvels or articulated in its religio-philosophical writings. This land ofEllora and Elephanta, of epical grandeur and unique Upanishadic WISDOM has gifted the world two of its major religions: Hinduism and Buddhism.
Defying a precise definition, Hinduism (a term introduced by English writers in 1830s) is not just a religion. It rather synonymises the millennia of Indian civilisation that integrates "a Large variety of Heterogeneous elements": religious, philosophic, social, economic, political, artistic,.. . And, unlike every other major Religion of the world, it has no identifiable historical genesis, nor does it have any established church/supreme authority to dictate what it ought to be. It has, in fact, grown as an irresistible cultural-religious force: as a way of life, as a most elaborate, yet the most complex, system which has advocated coexistence; universal tolerance; reverence for deities, myths and genuine Religious aspirants (rsis, sages, gurus)- with affirmation of a transcendent cosmic (divine) principle and sophisticated analyses of baffling Metaphysical issues.
Hindu Mythology and Pantheon:
In Hinduism have arisen some of the loftiest, most Abstract concepts of divinity: as a super immanent principle that transcends human understanding and description. Which, in turn, have led to a variety of picturesque representations of this indefinable divine entity: representations "that range from the magnificent to the theromorphic, from the sublime to the grotesque. What is more, with every symbol of divinity are associated strange stories that are sometimes fantastic, sometimes racy, often breath-taking, but always mind-boggling."
Rich and varied, Hindu mythological figures could also be viewed as the "metaphorical visions of subtle insights and of acute recognitions of Higher truths that elude our pedestrian preoccupations.