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Cosmogonic Sacrifice

A Ghost Zoroastrian Doctrine

Amir Ahmadi

A number of prominent scholars of Zoroastrianism have recently taken up Marijan Molé’s thesis that Ahura Mazdā created the world by way of a sacrifice. This article examines the sources that have been adduced for the thesis. It concludes that neither in Avestan nor Pahlavi texts do we find any evidence for the supposed cosmogonic sacrifice.

Early Strata of Śaivism in the Kathmandu Valley

Śivaliṅga Pedestal Inscriptions from 466–645 CE

Nina Mirnig

The Sanskrit liṅga pedestal inscriptions produced in the Kathmandu Valley during the Licchavi period between 466 and 645 CE are the earliest dated sources for local Śaiva religious activities. This article aims at a comprehensive survey and analysis of this group of inscriptions, examining (1) their material aspects and locations, (2) donative patterns and related social and economic features, such as the prominent agency of merchants and women of high rank, and (3) religious concepts linked to the spiritual and soteriological reasons for establishing the liṅgas, as expressed in the donative formulas. In addition, these formulas will be compared to contemporaneous prescriptive literature (e.g. the Śivadharmaśāstra) as well as to Buddhist donative practices. As will be shown, the Pashupatinath temple emerged as a key site in the propagation and shaping of liṅga worship, with the accumulation of wealth and related socio-religious activities contributing to the appearance of local Pāśupata groups and the elevation of Pashupatinath’s status to that of a national shrine.

The Quest for the Pāśupata Weapon

The Gateway of the Mahādeva Temple at Madhyamikā (Nagarī)

Hans T. Bakker and Peter C. Bisschop

This article offers a new iconographic reading of the sixth-century architrave of the gateway of the Mahādeva Temple at ancient Madhyamikā (Nagarī). It is argued that the eastern and western face of the architrave should be read in conjunction. The eastern face shows Śiva’s entry as a naked mendicant into the Devadāruvana, while the western face depicts the Kirātārjunīya, a story that is foreshadowed in the panels of the eastern face. The motif that ties both stories together is the Brahmaśiras or ‘Head of Brahmā,’ which is simultaneously the skull that forms Śiva’s begging bowl and the Pāśupata Weapon acquired by Arjuna. The theme of the winning of the Pāśupata Weapon may have had particular resonance for the Aulikara rulers in their troubled times.

Csaba Dezső

A fragment of a play written on the Buddhist legend of prince Sudhana and the kinnarī has been microfilmed by the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project. It was probably written at the end of the eleventh century in Bengal by a Buddhist scholar called Śāntākaragupta. The present article contains a critical edition and an English translation of the fragment, as well as an analysis of the intertextuality of the play and especially the literary influences that shaped the author’s poetic diction.

Vincent Tournier

This article investigates the religious message of a set of inscriptions from Bodhgayā issued by Sinhalese monks in the 5th and 6th centuries ce. The long inscription of the hierarch Mahānāman, in particular, allows an in-depth understanding of this monk’s self-representation as the heir of a virtuous lineage descending from the Elder Mahākāśyapa, committed to the transmission of the Saṃyukta-Āgama, and related to the ruling dynasty of Laṅkā. Moreover, it provides the rationale behind Mahānāman’s aspiration to Buddhahood, as the donor dedicates to this aim the merits of the erection of a temple on the Bodhimaṇḍa itself, hosting a representation of Śākyamuni’s Awakening. I argue that Mahānāman is part of a milieu sharing common origins, monastic background, and aspirations, a milieu that was later labelled as *Mahāyāna-Sthavira by the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang.

Diwakar Acharya

This paper begins with the identification and analysis of some earliest textual references to Pāśupata ascetics, their tenets, and behaviours. Then it inquires into the genesis of Pāśupatism by analysing some critical passages of the Pāśupatasūtra, going beyond Kauṇḍinya’s Bhāṣya. It analyses relevant passages from the Jaiminīyabrāhmaṇa, Mahābhārata, and Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa, and shows how the Vedic govrata or anaḍudvrata has been first adopted and then adapted in Pāśupata tradition, and how Indra, a deity associated with the original vow, comes to be depicted as the primaeval observer of the newly defined pāśupatavrata. It argues further that the conception of the celestial bull as a divinity and the idea of imitating the bull’s behaviour to please that divinity are at the heart of the Pāśupata praxis, in all stages of its development. This paper also argues in favour of recognising “Megasthenes’ Heracles” as Indra, and the Sibae people mentioned in his report as the Śibis.

Alexis Sanderson

This paper considers the limitations of the Śaivas’ prescriptive literature as evidence of the reality of their religion and stresses the benefits of reading it in the light of inscriptions and other forms of non-prescriptive evidence. It utilizes these other sources to address a number of questions that the prescriptive texts do not or cannot address. The first is that of the early history of Śaivism between the Mauryas and the Guptas. It concludes that when initiatory Śaivism achieved its dominance, as it did after the Gupta period, it did so on the basis of a widespread tradition of popular devotion that goes back at least to the second century bc, and that while the ingenuity and adaptability of the emerging Śaiva traditions were instrumental in this rise, a more fundamental cause may have been that in investing in these traditions their patrons were adopting an idiom of self-promotion that would be efficacious in the eyes of an already predominantly Śaiva population. It then presents evidence of this rise to dominance, explains the contradiction between the power and wealth of the Atimārga’s pontiffs seen in inscriptions and the ascetic disciplines prescribed in its literature, shows that the Āmardakamaṭha, the Mantramārga’s earliest monastic centre, at Auṇḍhā, was already active in the sixth century, argues that it was the initiation of rulers, seen in inscriptions from the seventh century on, that enabled the Mantramārga to spread throughout the subcontinent, and demonstrates that already in the seventh century Śaiva initiation had become routinized as a calendrically fixed duty imposed on temple-attached officiants as a condition of their tenure, thus illustrating how inscriptions can reveal mundane realities that the high-minded prescriptive literature is designed to conceal and transcend.

Martin Gansten


In comparison with the spread of Perso-Arabic astrological traditions into medieval Europe, the Indian reception of the same knowledge systems, known in Sanskrit as tājika-śāstra, has received little scholarly attention. The present article attempts to shed some light on the history of the transmission of tājika-śāstra by examining the statements of Sanskrit authors about their earliest non-Indian sources. In particular, the identities of five traditionally cited authorities—Yavana, Khindhi, Hillāja, Khattakhutta and Romaka—are discussed on the basis of text-internal, historical and linguistic evidence.

Paul Dundas


This paper examines the description of the funeral ritual to be performed for a lay Digambara Jain which is provided by Somasenabhattāraka in his Traivarnikācāra , written in Maharashtra in 1610. This description represents the fullest textual account hitherto available of premodern Jain mortuary ceremonial for a non-renunciant. Despite Jainism's consistent rejection of brahmanical śrāddha ceremonies intended to nourish deceased ancestors, Somasenabhattāraka clearly regards the performance of these as a necessary component of post-funerary commemoration. The paper focusses on Somasenabhattāraka's references to árāddha and the ancestors and suggests how categories deriving from brahman ritual ideology were maintained in a devalorised form in the Digambara Jain context.

Richard Salomon


The one-act Sanskrit drama Madhyama-vyāyoga or "The Middle Brother" attributed to Bhāsa describes an oedipal encounter between the Pāndava hero Bhīmasena and his half-demon son Ghatotkaca. The author utilizes subtle techniques of word choice and strategic repetition of key words, particularly sadrśa 'like, similar,' to hint at the underlying similarity of the superficially unlike pair. This keyword technique, which is found only sporadically in Sanskrit, is compared to similar techniques in other literatures, particularly the Leitwortstil characteristic of Biblical Hebrew.