Category : Reports

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This is the Panchamukhi Shiva, also known as Sadāshiva,’ says Dr. Prachi Moghe, Assistant Director at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan and Visiting Faculty at the Mumbai University, pointing to the famous sculpture that many recognise as the Trimurti of Elephanta caves.

‘Panchamukhi?’ those gathered around her ask in surprise. ‘But there are only three faces!

‘Yes!’ nods Dr. Moghe. ‘While three faces are carved into the wall, two faces are unseen!

Facing the centre is the Sadāshiva, the Ultimate Divine Energy. While to the left is the Aghora-Shiva representing the divine power of dissolution, Vāmadeva to the right, represents the gentle form of sustenance. On the reverse and hence unseen, is the Tatpurusha-Shiva representing the power of concealment. And on the top and hence also unseen, is the Sadyojata-Shiva representing the power of creation.

While this sculpture of Shiva, was interpreted earlier as the Trimurti or the three faced Shiva, scholars today agree that it is not the Trimurti but the Panchamukhi Shiva.

This is the ultimate supreme form of Shiva,’ explains Dr. Moghe. ‘Through form, it symbolizes the formless, the Nirguna, the Nirākara.’

This Panchamukhi sculpture occupies centre-stage in the most prominent and richly decorated Cave No. 1 of the islands, amidst many forms of Shiva which have been etched into its walls.

While Natarāja maintains the cosmic balance with his splendid dance, Kalyānasundaram depicts how the ultimate can be attained through sādhana. While the Ardha-narīshwara Shiva teaches the world that both male and female principles are equally important, the Rāvana-anugraha Shiva reminds the devotee to always stay humble.

‘These caves are one of the three main sites of the Pashupata cult in Mumbai,’ points out Dr. Moghe as she explains the significance of this remnant of ancient history, not far from the shores of the commercial hub of India.

The Pashupata sect is one of the most ancient forms of Shaivism. Said to be founded by Lakulishā  in the 2nd century CE, it is distinct and different from popular mainstream Shaivism.

While pasu refers to the individual soul, pati refers to the Lord and pasa are the fetters imposed on the soul keeping the individual soul from attaining the Divine. ‘When pasa is removed, the pasu can merge with the pati. This is the essence of the Pashupata cult.’ explains Dr. Moghe.

The caves were a live site of worship until the British period. Prior to that, when the Portuguese arrived here in the 16th century, they found two massive stone elephants on the island. This is how the place came to be known as the Elephanta islands. The Portuguese disfigured and destroyed many of the sculptures on the island, using them as targets for shooting practice. One of the stone elephants can be seen today outside the front entrance of the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai.

Morā, Ghārā and Awas are the three sites of habitation on the island,’ explains Dr. Moghe. ‘The original name of the island is Ghārāpuri. Perhaps it was the capital of the Konkan Mauryas who ruled the region from the 2nd to the 3rd century CE.’ she adds.

Few people know that the Ghārāpuri island was an ancient site of entreport. Traders stopped at the port here since the 2nd century BCE for rest and to refill supplies of fresh water. Archaeological remains of Roman amphorae dating to those times have been found on the island.

The caves were also an ancient Buddhist site. British records mention the presence of a stupa on the eastern side of the island,’ says Dr. Moghe. ‘In fact, I have seen the plinth of the stupa about 20 years ago.’

But neither the stupa nor its plinth exist anymore. And that is a cause for concern.

‘This island has seen so much!’ says Dr. Moghe, ‘but very little work has been done to uncover, document and preserve that rich history!’

While boat-loads of people from Mumbai throng to the Ghārāpuri caves for a picnic, few seem to realise that they have stepped into a veritable time machine that transports them back into an era that existed 2000 years earlier.

So, take some time out to visit the Ghārāpuri islands and treat yourself to a passage into the past.  And when you see the famous Panchamukhi Shiva at the centre of the Hall, you will know that what the eyes see, do not always represent the whole truth!


An article by Mallika Iyer, student of Diploma in Comparative Mythology course, in response to the study tour conducted by Dr.Prachi Moghe to the Gharapuri caves on 5th February 2017 for the course students.

१३।१।१७ ,रोजी मुंबई विद्यापीठातील  संस्कृत भवनात आयॊजित करण्यात आलेल्या कार्यक्रमात प्रमुख पाहुणे म्हणून बङोदा येथील रहिवासी आणि संस्कृत हस्तलिखितांचे गाढे अभ्यासक डॉ.सिध्दार्थ वाकणकर यांना आमंत्रित केले होते.प्राचीन भारतीय संस्कृतीचा अनमोल ठेवा असलेल्या हस्तलिखितांवर प्रदीर्घ चर्चा व्हावी,हा त्यामागचा मुख्य उद्देश होता.हस्तलिखितांच्या माध्यमातून मानवाचा सर्वांगीण विकास कसा घडवता येईल,आणि हस्तलिखिते हा एकमेव मार्ग म्हणता येईल,हे पटवून सांगणारे असे हे व्याख्यान म्हणता येईल. सरांनी आपल्या व्याख्यानाची सुरुवात इतक्या रंजक पध्दतीने केली की  श्रोत्यांमध्ये
उत्साहाचे वातावरण निर्माण झाले होते.सर्वांच्याच जीवनातील अविभाज्य भाग म्हणजे त्यांचे बालपण. आजी-आजोबांकडून ऐकलेली परीची गोष्ट (सिंड्रेला) आणि अगदी आनंदाने खेळला जाणारा खेळ म्हणजे सापशिडी (मोक्षपट) यांचा थेट संबध हस्तलिखितांशी असू शकतो,असा विचारही नसलेल्या आमच्या माहितीत भर टाकणारी महत्वपूर्ण गोष्ट सांगितली  होती. आपल्याला माहित नसलेल्या ज्ञानात भर पडावी आणि मानवाची प्रगती व्हावी, यासाठी हस्तलिखितांचा अभ्यास करणे महत्वाचे झाले आहे.डॉ.वाकणकर सरांनी स्व:ताचे  अनुभव, हस्तलिखिंतांचा अभ्यास कसा करायचा?, हल्लीच्या युगातील हस्तलिखितांची दयनीय अवस्था, त्यामागची कारणे आणि त्यावरील उपाययोजना अशा अनेकविध विषयांवर भाष्य केले.सर्वत्र पसरलेले  हस्तलिखितांचे पुरावे,कागदपत्रे असूनही त्यावर कार्य करण्यास अपुरी ईच्छाशक्ती (मानवी बळ),अशी ही विरोधात्मक परिस्थिती पाहणे हे दुर्भाग्यच होय, असेच मत त्यांच्या संपूर्ण व्याख्यानातून जाणवत होते. परंतु एकंदर व्याख्यानातून आणि डॉक्टर वाकणकर सरांनी आपल्या आयुष्यातील चाळीस वर्षे हस्तलिखितांसारख्या क्षेत्रांसाठी समर्पित केलेली भावना सर्वांनाच सकारात्मक उर्जा देणारी ठरली,हे आवर्जुन सांगावसे वाटते.
-आरती चौधरी (एम.ए-2)

Decoding the principle of opposites in ‘Unbreakable’ at Kalanuranjani.3
– Sumathi Sridhar
(Diploma in  Comparative Mythology)

December 25, 2016 dawned bright and clear. The world woke up to yet another merry Christmas day … albeit with a slight disappointment that this year, the festival had fallen on Sunday, a holiday!! But, the ‘Kalanuranjani’ enthusiasts were far from disappointed!! For them, this Sunday was going to be extra special!

They were in for yet another treat…..

‘Kalanuranjani’ is a group from among the student community of the department of Sanskrit, Mumbai University that aims to explore, appreciate and encourage the learning of academic concepts in a fun way, through movies.

First, a movie is chosen for screening based on its conceptual merit. Then, guided by the speaker, an expert on the chosen perspective, the hidden elements embedded in the movie are revealed and discussed in depth. The first series in this initiative is titled ‘Films and Philosophy.’ The first two events in this series saw complex concepts such as Shankara’s Advaita and Gaudapada’s dream theory made accessible to the lay audience when explained through the popular medium of movies by the articulate speaker.

As part of the third event in the series hosted by ‘Kalanuranjani’, the English movie ‘Unbreakable’, made by Manoj Night Shyamalan, was screened at the Sanskrit department’s seminar room.

Following the screening, Professor Shakuntala Gawde, an assistant professor at the department, shared insights on the various parallels that can be drawn between the key characters in the movie and the concepts of Atman (soul) and Sharira (body) as seen through the lens of Indian and Western philosophers.

She explained how David the hero of the movie, personified the Atman, the indestructible. In contrast, Elijah, the villain is portrayed as physically weak and fragile, in a personification of the mortal body.

To illustrate these concepts as proposed by the Indian philosophers, the professor quoted widely from various Upanishadic texts including Ishavasya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads in addition to Kathopanishad and Mundakopanishad. Simultaneously, she contrasted the Indian take with Western philosophy, particularly, the Greeks’ interpretation of ‘Dualism’ in the universe. Along the way, she also introduced the concepts of the ‘Doctrine of Opposites’, discussed the Pythagorean ‘Theory of Opposites’ and Plato’s logical approach to the binary nature of the universe in addition to Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Dialectics’. She finally wrapped up the discussion by comparing Western philosophy to the Chinese theory of Yin and Yan, adding how all these have paved the way for the modern-day theory of Structuralism.

Students pursuing various courses in the university participated in this program with full enthusiasm. A few students had also brought along their friends and acquaintances as guests. The program ended with a Q&A session where the professor answered questions from the audience.

Above all, Dr. Madhavi Narsalay, HoD of the Sanskrit department needs a special mention for encouraging the ‘Kalanuranjani’ initiative.

Thanks to ‘Kalanuranjani’ and the department of Sanskrit, Christmas day 2016 was made memorable for the ‘Kalanuranjani’ club members!! Cheers!!