The catastrophes of the 2nd half of the 1st millennium are etched into the history and culture of India.
One of the more important cultural artefact that survived these catastrophic events was the “encyclopedic” knowledge base known as the Puranas.
The Puranas, states Kees Bolle, are best seen as “vast, often encyclopedic” works from ancient and medieval India.
Some of them, such as the Agni Purana and Matsya Purana, cover all sorts of subjects, dealing with – states Rocher – “anything and everything“, from fiction to facts, from practical recipes to abstract philosophy, from geographic Mahatmyas (travel guides) to cosmetics, from festivals to astronomy.
Like encyclopedias, they were updated to remain current with their times, by a process called Upabrimhana.
However, some of the 36 major and minor Puranas are more focussed handbooks, such as the Skanda Purana, Padma Purana and Bhavishya Purana which deal primarily with Tirtha Mahatmyas (pilgrimage travel guides), while Vayu Purana and Brahmanda Purana focus more on history, mythology and legends.
Arguably, the Hindu texts were the only ancient knowledge base that was largely intact at the beginning of the 2nd millennium – but that’s a story for another day.
Unsurprisingly, the only new Hindu text that appeared between the Arabian Horizon and the Heinsohn Horizon was the Shiva Sutras that are associated with the “destroyer and transformer” Shiva.
The following list provides a somewhat common set of reconstructed dates for the terminus ante quem of Hindu texts, by title or genre.
All dates here given ought to be regarded as roughly approximate, subject to further revision, and generally as relying for their validity on highly inferential methods and standards of evidence.
Shiva Sutras are a collection of seventy seven aphorisms that form the foundation of the tradition of spiritual mysticism known as Kashmir Shaivism.
They are attributed to the sage Vasugupta of the 9th century C.E.
Another is that Lord Shiva came to him in a dream and instructed him to go to a certain rock on which he would find the teachings inscribed.
Shiva is the “destroyer and transformer” within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity that includes Brahma and Vishnu.
In Shaivism tradition, Shiva is the Supreme being who creates, protects and transforms the universe.
The similarities between the iconography and theologies of Shiva with Greek and European deities have led to proposals for an Indo-European link for Shiva, or lateral exchanges with ancient central Asian cultures.
His contrasting aspects such as being terrifying or blissful depending on the situation, are similar to those of the Greek god Dionysus, as are their iconic associations with bull, snakes, anger, bravery, dancing and carefree life.
Similarly, the use of phallic symbol as an icon for Shiva is also found for Irish, Nordic, Greek (Dionysus) and Roman deities, as was the idea of this aniconic column linking heaven and earth among early Indo-Aryans, states Roger Woodward.
The thunderbolts associated with these catastrophic events of the 2nd half of the 1st millennium are linked to Indra the god of lighting who killed the serpent Vritra.
Indra is a Vedic deity in Hinduism, a guardian deity in Buddhism, and the king of first heaven called Saudharmakalpa in Jainism.
His mythologies and powers are similar, though not identical to those of the Indo-European deities such as Zeus, Jupiter, Perun, Thor, and Odin (Wotan).
He is the god of lightning, thunder, storms, rains and river flows.
He is celebrated for his powers, and the one who kills the great symbolic evil named Vritra who obstructs human prosperity and happiness.
Indra destroys Vritra and his “deceiving forces”, and thereby brings rains and the sunshine as the friend of mankind.
In the early Vedic religion, Vritra is a serpent or dragon, the personification of drought and adversary of Indra.
Although memories have mellowed during the last millennium the imagery and iconography of India still bears testimony to an age of transformation and thunderbolts.
Vajra is a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and diamond.
Additionally, it is a weapon won in battle which is used as a ritual object to symbolize both the properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and a thunderbolt (irresistible force).
The vajra is essentially a type of club with a ribbed spherical head.
The ribs may meet in a ball-shaped top, or they may be separate and end in sharp points with which to stab.
On account of his skill in wielding the vajra, some epithets used for Indra in the Rigveda were Vajrabhrit (bearing the vajra), Vajrivat or Vajrin (armed with the vajra), Vajradaksina (holding the vajra in his right hand), and Vajrabahu or Vajrahasta (holding the vajra in his hand).
The kīla is a three-sided peg, stake, knife, or nail-like ritual implement traditionally associated with Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Bön, and Indian Vedic traditions.
Vajrakilaya (also known as Vajrakumara) is the deity of the magic thundernail, the kīla, a tool of the sharp adamantine point of dharmakaya, a wisdom forded through the power of one-pointed concentration.
Although at one point the Indic origin of kīla practice was widely questioned, Boord claims that “the existence of a Kīla cult among the Buddhists in eighth century India…must now surely be accepted as established” and further claims that it has been “conclusively demonstrated that all the basic doctrines and rituals of Vajrakīla had their origin in India.”
A common manifestation of Vajrakilla has three heads, six arms, and four legs.
Vajrakilaya‘s three right hands except for the right front one held vajras with five and nine prongs.
Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, was an 8th-century Indian Buddhist master.
The 8th-century Tantric master Padmasambhava used the vajra to conquer the non-Buddhist gods of Tibet.
Vajra or Dorje – Ritual Object in Tibetan Buddhism – Barbara O’Brien – 13 Oct 2016
Vajrayāna, Mantrayāna, Esoteric Buddhism and Tantric Buddhism refer to the Buddhist tradition of Tantra, an esoteric system of beliefs and practices that developed in medieval India.
Vajrayāna is usually translated as Diamond Vehicle or Thunderbolt Vehicle, referring to the Vajra, a mythical weapon which is also used as a ritual implement.
Bhairava is a Hindu deity, a fierce manifestation of Shiva associated with annihilation.
Bhairava is depicted as being ornamented with a range of twisted serpents, which serve as earrings, bracelets, anklets, and sacred thread (yajnopavita).
However, Western memories have just melted away when it comes to the Indian imagery and iconography embedded in their religious and royal regalia.
It is unclear where the fleur-de-lis originated.
In this essay I defend the hypothesis that the fleur de lis is in fact a thunderbolt and is a symbol of armed authority. Unlike the single, the double and the four-fold thunderbolt the fleur de lys is a one-and-a-half one, the upper part being larger than the lower part.
Fleur de Lis – Hubert de Vries
The Trishula means trident in the Indian language.
The trishula is wielded by the Hindu God Shiva and is said to have been used to sever the original head of Ganesh.
A ceremonial mace is a highly ornamented staff of metal or wood, carried before a sovereign or other high official in civic ceremonies by a mace-bearer, intended to represent the official’s authority.
The history of the civic mace (carried by the sergeants-at-arms) begins around the middle of the 13th century, though no examples from that period remain today.
St Edward’s Crown is one of the oldest Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and the centrepiece of the coronation regalia.
Named after Edward the Confessor, it has traditionally been used to crown English and British monarchs at their coronation ceremonies.
I guess it’ll take a thunderbolt to rouse academia from it’s slumbers…