NATIONAL MUSEUM DELHI, JANPATH, NEW DELHI, INDIA.
The prophecy of Saraswati.
The Lingam might continue to be topic of debate between scholars and researchers out to decipher its real nature, as to whether it was indeed conceived to represent a phallic object, or was a ceremonial pillar that somewhere down the lane lost its true significance or perhaps, as seen from the air, stood as a symbol of an eye that served some unknown purpose in the obscure past, for the citizens of the Vijaya Nagara empire that lasted some three centuries in the southern half of India as a powerful island of Hinduism surrounded by a sea of Islamic kingdoms, it was a sacred object of worship related to their patron god Shiva and revered in sculpted stones of hefty dimensions such as the one that graces the lawn of the National Museum in New Delhi, India, unearthed some four centuries after its creation, possibly in the fifteenth century.
In 1800 as W.J. Wilkins, an Englishman consumed with an unrequited cuoristy of unraveling ancient Vedic rites and legends embarked on a self imposed task of producing for English readers of his time a book (see Farbound.Net snippet: Hindu Mythology by W.J. Wilkins) that could contain in a single volume all relevant knowledge of a bygone age, he was to come across a tale from the Matsaya Purana, a scriptural composition of 14,000 verses created by Vedic writers in what is speculated to be the first millennium, of an amusing account of how the Lingam came to be.
It once so happened, narrates the ancient scriptures, Brahma, the creator of the Vedic universe had decided on holding a ceremonial rite at an auspicious hour and desperately needed at his side his consort, Saraswati, the goddess of speech, learning and science as the ceremonial rite needed the participation of both husband and wife.
Yet Saraswati, an independent minded and strong willed woman (see Farbound.Net snippet: The indomitable Saraswati) was never one to be ordered around, even if her spouse happened to be an important member of the supreme trinity with all kinds of godly powers and engaged in maquillage and dressing, declared she was not ready to enter the ceremonial hall, specially when the wives of the other gods had not yet come.
This enraged the impatient Brahma so, that he swiftly commanded Indra, the king of the Devtas, to beget him a second wife from where ever he could find a maiden of marriageable age, and Indra in haste seized and brought in Gaytri, a young and beautiful milkmaid, he had found walking with a jarful of butter.
No sooner had the wedding taken place with Vishnu giving away the bride’s hand in marriage, there appeared the wives of the other gods with Saraswati in their midst and witnessing her husband had married a second time, flew into rage and cursed all those who partook in the wedding.
Looking at Brahma she fumed, “as you have partaken in such a vile act henceforth no temple of you will exist, no idol of you will ever be seen and you’ll be worshiped only once a year”. To Indra she said, “as it was your hands that brought in the milkmaid, so shall your hands be bind in chains and you be made a prisoner by your enemies in a strange land with all your possessions coveted”. To Vishnu she uttered, “as it was you who gave away his woman’s hand in marriage so shall the sage Brighu condemn you to suffer by being born in the world of men, and have your wife ravaged by your enemy”. And finally onto Shiva she pronounced, “as you pride yourself in your virility, so shall the holy sage also condemn you to be deprived of your manhood”.
But after Saraswati having poured forth her rage, stormed out of Bhrama’s abode, continues the Purana, the milkmaid Gaytri, newly wedded to Brahma and now his second wife, stepped in and much to the relief of all the gods present altered the curse for a happier ending. To Brahma she said, “even though no temple of you will henceforth be built nor your idol ever seen, you will be continued to be worshiped and receive ablutions”. To Indra she promised, “even though you will chained and made prisoner by your enemies in a strange land and have all your possessions coveted, your sons will bring about your release”. To Vishnu she blessed, “even though you will be condemned to be born in the world of men, and your wife will be ravaged, you will regain her in the end”. And finally to Shiva she assured, “even though you will be deprived of your manhood, it will be universally worshiped in place of you”.
The Padma Purana, compiled by another generation of Vedic writers, after a gap of some centuries, depicts Saraswati as a more tamed woman who not only forgives her husband Brahama but lectures his second wife, Gaytri, that the role of a dutiful wife is to always abide by her husbands wishes – signifying perhaps, as Wilkins himself theorized, the accepted role for women of that age or the writer’s fantasy and his endeavours to create a new role model for the ideal wife.
In the Shiva Purana, yet another compilation of scriptures to be produced down the line, the curse is more prominently attributed to Brighu, a learned and great sage known for his divine powers and propensity to bring suffering upon the gods. In this compilation, the sage puts all three gods to the test and finding their reactions not upto what he expects condemns Brahama never to be worshiped in a temple, Vishnu to be reborn in the world of men and have his wife stolen by his enemy and Shiva, as the god instead of paying attendance to the sage preferred the amorous embrace of his wife Parvati, to be deprived of his manhood.
File Fact: The Vedic Puranas literally translated stand to mean ‘old scriptures’ and are considered an important aspect of Hinduism. Each a composition of legends, myths, tales of gods and goddesses. Build upon and updated by succeeding generations of Vedic writers editing older thoughts, weaving in new themes and morals into the fabric, as per their times, preferences and ensuring synergy with other existing versions. They allow for one to chart the development of Hinduism’s gods and goddesses as well as from a historical point of view reveal the presence and growth of the Vedic clans and the lives they led after the Harappan decline. But the source behind much of its original material still remains obscure. The Puranas, a legacy left behind by Hinduism’s ancient forefathers, the Vedic Aryans, continues to be popular in present times.