Bhairava and the Great Brahmin - is the ridiculous Mahodara the negation or the plenitude of th e all-encompassing Bráhman?
- By making Brahmā’s head so central to the definition of the Kāpālika-Bhairava, the *Origin Myth* short-circuits the linear caste-hierarchy to establish an intimate and exclusive bond between Brahmin and Untouchable. In Hindu ritual transactions, the ‘poisoned’ gift (dān = Vedic dakṣiṇā) transfers evil from the generous donor to the inauspicious recipient. The brahmanicide is thus ideally qualified to become Sin-Eater who redeems pilgrims to Banaras and Kāñci. However, Chalier-Visuvalingam (1989) shows Brahmā’s head playing the same role. Viṣṇu liberates Bhairava at Tirukaṇṭiyūr by enticing the insatiable skull with ‘blood’ before sending it to Banaras to consume offerings for those who die at an inauspicious (pañcaka) moment. The paradoxical conjunction of the extremes of purity and impurity is consecrated in the enigmatic figure of the ‘great brahmin’ (mahā-brāhmaṇa), who performs funerary rites in Banaras in exchange for (obligatory) ‘gifts’ (Parry, 1980). Doniger (1976) recounts how the brahmanicide Indra discharged, through a golden self-image, the evil man within onto a reluctant brahmin, who is forever reviled by the citizens of Banaras. The Kusle-Jogi (Unbescheid, 1980), Newar successor to the Kâpâlika, accepts the clothes of the dead at the stone, where the quarter's life-cycle impurities are deposited, and food-offerings including meat, fish, etc. on the seventh day after death. The mythical justification is Brahmā’s decapitation on the inauspicious Pañcaka, the depositing of his clothes taken by Gorakhnāth, who revives the Creator on the seventh day in the Baṭuka Bhairava temple. The Newars deposit a five-headed Brahmā-figurine at the stone to neutralize a possible chain reaction of five deaths. Skull-bearers (mahāvratin) known from inscriptions (Lorenzen 1989) are mostly brahmins, even Soma sacrificers. Chalier-Visuvalingam (1989) concludes from the *Vedic Antecedents* that the Mahābrāhmaṇa, consubstantial with the deceased and impersonating his ghost, is the funerary transposition of the initiatic death of the dīkṣhita. This ‘sacrificialization’ of natural death is expressed by Bhairava conquering Death to usurp Yama’s reign over Kāśī, the cremation-ground of the Hindu universe. Ever soliciting and pampered with gifts, the clown-scapegoat of the Sanskrit theater is a greedy Mahābrāhmaṇa. For Visuvalingam (1984), this ridiculous ‘non-Vedic’ (avaidika) transgressor corresponds to the pot-bellied elephant-headed god Gaṇeśa, worshipped by Hindus before all auspicious undertakings. Both embody the all-devouring Fire (of Consciousness) that reduces our world to Soma: their inseparable rounded sweetmeats (modaka) correspond to the funerary rice-balls (piṇḍa) offered to dead ancestors. Like the sin-eating Bhairava, the Great Brahmin transcends good and evil, pure and impure.
Elizabeth Chalier-Visuvalingam, “Great Brahmin - Bhairava Bibliography” (2011)
As you can see, the ritual opposition between Brahmin and Untouchable is not the wishful thinking of Manu and his Vedic authorities that nobody bothers to read but is inscribed into the minutest details of our Hindu life-cycle rituals and the stories we tell.
To understand and transcend these millennial internal divisions with the help of the Great Brahmin, the indispensable first step is to recognize their existence and analyze their hidden rationale (instead of claiming that the caste-system was conjured up by Indology).
>Rest of this thread at Sunthar’s posts at
“Saptapadī <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Abhinavagupta/message/6223> - when the 'Lord of the Universe' inspires the brahmanical sacrificer to publicly transgress the caste-hierarchy” (02 August 2011)
“Bhairava and Kingship - was the Mahārāja a god, oppressor, servant, (self-) sacrificer, or the reflection of our own autonomy? <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Abhinavagupta/message/6221> ” (01 August 2011)]
From: Sunthar Visuvalingam
Sent: Monday, August 01, 2011 5:55 PM
To: Abhinavagupta@yahoogroups.com; 'Ontological Ethics'; 'Hindu-Buddhist'
Cc: 'Akandabaratam'; Indo-Greek@yahoogroups.com; 'Dia-Gnosis'
Subject: Bhairava and Kingship - was the Mahārāja a god, oppressor, servant, (self-) sacrificer, or the reflection of our own autonomy?
Śiva’s promised suzerainty over Hinduism’s sacred city (*Origin Myth*) translates into the brahmanicide being promoted to policeman-magistrate (kotwal) of subordinated to Kāśī-Viśvanātha. […] Chalier-Visuvalingam (2004) unearths the sacrificial schema underlying the Pachali Bhairab and related royal festivals of the Katmandu Valley to show how the polluting god of the cremation-ground reenacts the antinomian dimension of the king-dīkṣita. […] The *Great Brahmin* clown-scapegoat of the Sanskrit theater (Visuvalingam 1984), who forms a biunity with the royal protagonist, embodies the same principle of sovereign ‘autonomy’ (svātantrya) that metaphysicians like Abhinavagupta recognize most fully in the brahmanicide Bhairava.
Elizabeth Chalier-Visuvalingam, “Kingship - Bhairava Bibliography” (2011)
>Does the Maharaja of Travancore at the Ārāttu procession strike you as a bare-chested old beggar, devious self-aggrandizing hegemon, devout servant of God, chief sacrificer at the shared festivity, Padmanābha Swami in person, or simply an iconic mirror of our-self?
>Rest of this thread at Sunthar’s posts at
“Why world leaders are losing hearts and minds <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Abhinavagupta/message/6219> " unlike Maharaja Swati Thirunal, royal servant of Padmanābha Swami” (31 July 2011)
“Bhairava and Brahmanicide - Pope on the 'anthropological' implications of Foucault's silent philosophical laugh <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Abhinavagupta/message/6215> ” (29 July 2011)]
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