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Jyotsna Chawla Listings

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1 Jyotsna Chawla
The Rgvedic Deities and Their Iconic Forms
Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.; New Delhi, India; 1990; 8121500826 / 9788121500821; First Edition; Hardcover; New; New; 
India's cultural traditions have their origin in diverse sources embedded in the life style of various pre- and proto-historic communities occupying different parts of the sub-continent in the various periods of their existence. Despite high antiquity of several archaeological finds, one has to admit that the earliest recorded references of India's cultural philosophy and ideological concepts are found only in the textual data of Rgveda, which show an already developed stage of thought. The importance of Vedic philosophy and religious concepts especially those defining the form of divinities lies in the fact that they preserve in them the seeds of later Hinduism to a considerable extent. The Rgveda contains references to various types of divinities which have been classified into three broad groups viz., (i) Terrestrial deities like Prithvi, Soma, Agni, (ii) Atmospheric gods like Indra, Vayu, Maruts, Parjanya, and (iii) Heavenly divinities like Varuna, Dyaus, Asvins, Surya, Savitr, Mitra, Pusana and Visnu. Of these last five were regarded as different phases of sun's movements. Varuna, who has been extolled in many hymns, is also associated with the concept of Rta, i.e. the cosmic and moral order. The Rgveda mentions some goddess too like Prthivi, Usas or the dawn, ratri, Ila Bharati or Sarasvati. A few gods like Dyava-Prthivi (i.e. the sky and the earth) are vitally significant for later iconographic development. To propitiate these gods the Rgvedic people made offerings of milk, ghee grains, etc. through sacrificial oblations and chanted hymns in their praise which, undoubtedly, suggest presence of the elements of Bhakti (deep devotional urge) in the Vedic religion. The present work is conditioned by a kind of unconventional approach to the study of Vedic elements of iconic forms and concepts especially those mentioned in Rgveda, She feels that all gods of Hinduism are basically the gods of the Rgveda which changed their forms from time to time to meet the demand of the people. In her view these developments are well attested to by the literature of historical times, e.g. the Smrtis and the Puranas. According to Chawla the early idea of image-making can be traced back in the hymns of the Rgveda particularly in the poetic imagery of early Vedic seers. She agrees that most of the Vedic deities, no doubt, originally represented the forces of nature but in the course of time, during the Rgvedic age itself, she feels that iconic concepts in regard to at least some divinities had already come into vogue. The author had also located and analysed certain Vedic terms preserving in them clues pertaining to bodily features of some deities. The representation of form as reflected in the expressions like rupani pimsatu and rupam sukrtam, is an indication of some kind of artistic activity in Rgvedic times. Perhaps emergence of the concept of Tvastr, the divine craftsman/artist, was a result of constantly growing creative urge of Rgvedic societies. Dr. Chawla views the whole growth of Hindu iconography as a continuous process of development from the period of the Rgveda onwards under the cover of religious philosophies. Yet, she does not deny the role of Indus civilization and external mythological import. Jyotsna Chawla further invites our attention to the Iconographic parellelism between the concept of Dyava-Prthivi, the eternal parents, and the one reflected in the unified form available in the Puranic iconography of Ardhanarisvara. She traces the growth of the iconic forms of Rgvedic deities like Siva, Surya, Soma, Yama, Asvins, etc. in the later periods when the Puranas were compiled. She has beautifully analysed the Vedic symbolism and the attributes held by various gods in the form of vajra, pasa, danda, sruk and sruva in a logical manner. Printed Pages: 242 with 37 b/w illustrations. 000211

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