Symbolism - Symbols and some images of Kandhar

                                                                                                                   -Dr. Arunchandra S. Pathak

Introduction -

            Symbols have very important place in the Indian philosophy and world literature as well. When we try to find out the meaning of these symbols, it presents itself as a mixture of human creativity and traditions. The memory of society or people in the form of legends and anecdotes lives in eternity though in a changed form. Through these anecdotes and legends we can trace the meanings of symbols; and these anecdotes also give certain aura to the symbols. We are going to study here the images and artifacts which were created during the reign of Rashtrakuta king Kŗşņa III at Kandhar (Dist. Nanded).

Kşetrapāla image of Kandhar

            Dr. Dhavalikar and Dr. Jamkhedkar unearthed the remains a huge Kşetrapāla image during an excavation at Kandhar. It was constructed of dressed stones and set with mud mortar; and in between, it was packed with stone rubble and murrum. The plan of the structure resembles an anthropomorphic form with a circular head portion in north-west and the lower extremities in the south-east.  The image appears to be the Bhairava form of Śiva. It is appropriate that the temple of Bhairava, who was worshipped as Kşetrapāla would have been built on the outskirts of the capital town, in the fields.

 This Trinetra Kşetrapāla is certainly a representation of ‘Shiva’. But when we see him as the guardian of urban settlement, his hugeness shows him as the Vastupurush of that settlement. According to Purāņas Vāstupuruşa is none other than the shadow of Daitya (demon) sliding in the sky. The unearthed image of Vāstupuruşa at Kandhar is basically different from the representation of Vastupurusha our traditions put forth. Yet the scholars like Dhavalikar and Jamkhedkar have attempted to explain the iconography of this Trinetra Kşetrapāla image in a different light1. It is clear that concept of Vāstu-puruśa which became very complex and abstract later, was quite different originally. It appears from the later Vedic literature that it simply represented the fallen body of an Asura. If we accept this, then we will not be far off the mark, if we identify the human shaped structure (shrine) exposed in the course of excavations of Kandhār as a concrete example of the concept of Vāstu-puruśa. The structure is gigantic, massive, built of dressed stones and certainly resembles the body of a fallen ‘Asura’.[1]

Lajjāgauri image of Kandhar

            More than 150 images and sculptures from Kandhar are documented by us. An image and an inscription of Rāştrakuţa king Kŗşņa III are found here. At the same time another inscription depicting the names like Manyakhetaka and Jaina Acārya Kundakundacharya is available2. Similarly, there is another broken inscription found here. This place was a seat of power in the times of Chalukyas of Kalyani as well as the Yadavas. These both later reigns also give evidences of inscriptions among which one talks about the ‘Dandanayaka’ named ‘Ratta’. Another fact of significance is the founding of ‘Lajjagauri’ image at Kandhar. Such images are found all over India. During the proto-historical periods, such an image is found from Inamgaon, while during the early historical times, Ter, Bhokardan from Maharashtra and another very significant one unearthed from Nagarjunakonda.

            These are the evidences of their worship by man as the symbol of fertility since the ancient times. Man who was worshipping the five fundamental elements of the nature i.e. Pancamahabhutas was in awe at the prospect of creation of life or the earth which gives birth to the physical prosperity of all human beings. Thus the ant-hill (Varul) on the earth and the genital organs of woman become the objects of worship for the man who was humbled by the creative forces of the Mother Nature. We can find the contexts of such phenomena all over the world. Carol Bolon3 and R.C.Dhere4 have given very significant contribution in the study of Lajjagauri images. Lajjagauri is accepted all over as the symbol of fertility and progeny. The worship of Lajjagauri can be traced from the proto-historical periods up to the Rashtrakutas and even later during the periods of Yadavas. Dr.A.P.Jamkhedkar in his article ‘Lakşmi’, while describing the concept of elevation(unnayan), represents Lajjagauri as the symbol of the urbanization as well as prosperity. And also when we take into consideration the development of urbanization during the period of Shungas, Kushanas and the Satavahanas, we can take into account the development of Mātŗkā sculptures happening in parallel time scale. Here we are taking into consideration the Lajjagauri images patronized by Rashtrakutas. ‘Ravan ki Khai’ at Ellora and the same large scale Lajjagauri presentations at Kandhar have a very important place in the Rashtrakuta sculptures. The temple built in the 12th century at Tahakari in the Ahmednagar district represent the Lajjagauri images on a large scale. Yet the Rastrakuta Lajjagauri dating back to the 10th century is very significant one. These all sculptural representations show the psych of the creator and the symbols which were adopted by the then people. Such connections can be studied in greater depth.

Mahişāsurmardini image of Kandhar       

Another set of images found at Kandhar are of Mātŗkā images. The Mahişāsurmardini sculpture dating back to the 10th century without doubt shows the Rāştŗkuta school of art. When we take into account the all India campaign undertaken by Rāştŗkuta Kings like Kŗşņa I, II and III, Dantidurga, Govinda II, it shows the authority of Rashtrakuta banner over whole of India5. Such ambitious rulers no doubt were the worshippers of Shakti. The image of Mahisasuramardini depicting the Devi killing the Asura with such aggressive grace and other Mātŗkā images show the attempt by Rashtrakuta rulers to proclaim their sovereignty and might. Even during the rule of Mughal over Kandhar, the local rulers – Rajput king of Gauda lineage continued the worship of Mahisasuramardini. All these things depict the ambitious people worshipping the deity representing the might behind those ambitions.

Ardha-Nari-Nateshwara image of Kandhar -

            Another important image from Kandhar is of Ardha-Nari-Nateshwara. It is a representation of the combination of both the forces of nature or creator – Prakriti and Purush; Shiva and Shakti. It is very attractive symbol of congruence of different thinking processes as well as the life forces.




1. Dhavalikar M.K. and Jamkhedkar A.P., 1989-90, The Ksetrapala Shrine At Kandhar, Puratattva, No. 20, pp.99-105.

Dhavalikar M.K. and Jamkhedkar A.P., 1983-84,  Indian Archaeological Review, , pp.58-59.

2. Sircar D.C. and Bhattacharya, Fragmentary Inscriptions from Kandhar, E.I.,Vol.35, pp.105-114.

3.bolon, carol; 1992 Forms of the goddess Lajja Gauri in Indian Art, The Pensylvennia University Press,.

4 Dhere R C; Lajjagauri, 2004 , Padmagandha Prakashan, 3rd edition, 2004 .

5. Maharashtra State Gazetteers Dept , in Itihas Prachin Kal Ed. Pathak A S,  2003                  


[1] M.K.Dhavlikar and A.P.Jamkhedkar, Indian Archaeological Review, 1983-84, pp.58-59.