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NAKSHETRA - A POSSIBLE INSPIRATION for the MARINER'S COMPASS
By Deepak Bhattacharya 1 & P. C. Naik
Edited by Christopher F. Ash

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Miscellaneous socio-religious aspects associated with Nakshetra

During the monsoon season of June to September, such a celestial Nakshetra (nine-pointed compass) - with the Orion constellation at its center - would not be visible from the territories of Kalinga, neither from the better-part of the Indian sub-continent (with the exception of Kailash mt./the Himalayas, Tibet, etc.) including the bays of the Indian Ocean. This means that, for four months out of the year, the celestial signature of the Lord is covered by the heavy and all pervading monsoon clouds which are 10 to 30 Km thick (Orion, as we have presented in our previous communications, was and yet remains in Hindu culture, synonymous with Rudra/Lord Shiva).

All over India, this period is known as Shiva Jala abhiseka; and is marked by devotees by the carrying of pristine and holy waters to Shiva temples. Interestingly however, this abhiseka is not observed at the ancient site of Parasurameshwar nor at Lingaraj, the two principal living shiva temples at Bhubaneswar/Ekamra (the heart of TARAKKA/Nakshetra and erstwhile capital of Kalinga). These two sites form the northeast and northwest corners of the earthly model of Orion, "Tarakka."

Furthermore, at these sites, this period is refered to a the "Chaturmasia" period, during which the ruling deity, Lord Lingaraj (which we identify with b Orion) is said to fall sick and take to bed. But before He takes to bed, along with the minister (Kapilnath), He visits Parasurameshwara (idendified by us with a Orion) and, with humble words, hands over the reins of the city and empire to Parasurameshwara (a Orionis / Rudra / Betelgeuse of Tarakka). This temporary exchange of tenure ends with the clearing of the sky and the onset of fair weather. The annual period of divine "bed rest" is prominently marked in the Oriya calendar as Shiva Sayan and Shiva Uthapana chaturdasi respectively. Both these dates would be very important to sea voyagers, for whom clear sky and fair weather mean good sailing conditions.

On the day prior to every new moon and full moon on the Hindu Lunar calendar, a day known as "chaturdasis," a person belonging to the Khandait ("warrior") clan, having the surname of Samartha ("capable"), climbs to the top of the 180ft high monument (which we associate with b Orion) and holds aloft to the sky, a flaming torch ("maha deepa").

To whom is this torch held aloft? Is it to the Vedic Jagya soma, known as "Puaranic Kalapurusha," "Orion," "Rudra" and "Adra" (meaning "red hot")?

This ceremony raises a number of interesting questions.

First, why are the reigns of the city handed over with "humble words?" It seems passing strange that a living deity, with full royal appendages, enshrined in a 180ft-high, imposing, ornate monument, should make a pilgrimage to the home of a lesser deity, housed in a 45ft-high, comparatively small monument.

According to Hindu mythology, Parasuram is Rudra. Rudra, according to ancient Hindu astronomy ("siddhanta") is identified with a Orionis, a variable, "red hot" star of magnitude 1, and a very ancient star as well. As for the deity and monument of Lingaraj, it represents b Orionis, which is a smaller and newer star. These correlations seem to indicate that the ancients of this place had the benefit of some measure of "advanced" Astronomy. How are such relationships to be explained otherwise? [Note: we do not intend to suggest that astronomy in any form or manner originally evolved here.]

When, in all of India and parts of Kalinga, it is the time of Shiva jala abhiseka, why is this said to be the "sickness" or "sleeping" period for the supreme deity in the supreme monument (a 180ft-high Lingaraj temple, where the deity takes jala abhiseka from every devotee as his - Lords - most preferred means of devotional worship - that is, on all other days save Chaturmasia)?

To us, this is an indication that the Kalingans, being master mariners, and thus heavily dependant on professional navigators, helmsman and traders (Kalingans also possessed a kingdom across the Bay of Bengal3) may have interpreted the monsoon cloud-cover phenomenon as a period of illness for the lord. After all, along with it came his off-season, as the better part of Kalinga witnesses heavy, incessant rains, floods, cyclones, and very rough seas, as well as tragedies and woes of both a personal and communal nature. Moreover, during this season of flood and water, all shiva lingas out in the open and in the flood plains in river valleys would get a drowning drench, with the exception of the shiva linga of Lingaraj, or any one that might be on a watershed like the Parasurameswar temple.4

Another question inspired by the divine visit to Parasurameshwara is why such a ritualistic annual passing of ecclesiastical reins even occurs?

Might it simply be because the monument of Parasuram is the terrestrial abode of a Orionis / Rudra (meaning "red hot / terrific aspect of Shiva") and predates the shrine of Lingaraj - the former possibly being the earliest original Hindu royal monument? The art on the extant monument of Parasurameshwar is dedicated to a resurgence of Hinduism over Buddhism; a resurgence that swept the sub-continent between 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD. The Chitra Bhasa (story telling via art) on Lingaraj monument is very different indeed and dates from the 11th century A.D. This also provides evidence of the continuity of ancient practices and traditions.

Why a season for Jal abhiseka? Well, ancient astronomy or stargazing was certainly not limited to Kalinga, and we do not suggest that it originated here. In the uplands of the sub-continent, Shiva lingas were exposed to seasonal monsoon rain, during which the overhead Orion, which was the heavenly Shiva, was not visible. The ancient faithful might have concluded that, as the heavenly Shiva takes a cloud cover, it is time to pour water on his earthly signatures.

The Kalingans, in contrast, may have observed and understood Orion as a divine guiding force, permanent, fixed and all pervasive: as it could be seen and relied upon for guidance from unknown places in any hemisphere and, in the absence of which, mariners might lose their way. Residents therefore may have chosen a royal seat, appendages, paraphernalia and high ground for the a / b Orion's terrestrial signature (Shiva linga) and may have desisted from pouring water during the season of rain - instead, introducing the cult of the annual "sickness" period.

Yet the Kalingans went one step further and developed a versatile compass-like device, augmented it with direction indicators, and unabiguously associated this device with Lord Siva. Such an act could have been an acknowledgement of the gift of lord Shiva / Kalapurusha mandala otherwise known as the Orion constellation. In separate communication, we have produced archaeological evidence for this versatile compass, referred to as Yantra ( "instrument" ), in maritime treatise.5 The Kalingans ( Oriyas exclusively ) went on with additions and alterations in the scheme of the Yantra and have left for us a series: the Nakshetra remaining the fulcrum of the scheme.

In a subsequent paper, we demonstrate that the Shiva Linga is an iconic model of cosmic and engineering parameters. These are all artifacts of astronomical observation and highly suggestive of computing abilities. The compass is the much-valued product of its practical application. What we suggest is that the ancient Kalingans possibly made the compass synonymous with Kalapurusha and wove life around it and with it - as we see in Tarakka, Nakshetra, "The cranium," and others.

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Footnotes:

  1. Sailendra empire of S E Asia ; R C Majumdar - Suvarnadwipa
  2. Parasurameshwara even 50 years ago marked one of the the local laterite bed watershed
  3. ICHR ( Indian Council of Historical Research - funded ) , 2001

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