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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Aśvatta Tree

                The origin of this universe is represented as an inverted pipal tree (aśvatta) in the Rg veḍa. (I do not have the exact reference but is said to have been referred to as santana aśvatta) Another meaning of this word is a indicating “no” and śvatta meaning “tomorrow”. Thus the word  aśvatta indicates impermanence. It is in the latter meaning that the front entrances of temples of south India are modeled after the inverted aśvatta tree with narrow top and wide base.

                Tilak describes this concept of aśvatta tree based on Samkhya system as follows: “The imperceptible matter (avyaktaprakrti) is its seed. The reason (mahat) is its trunk. Individualism (ahamkạra) is its foliage. The mind (manas) and the ten organs of senses and action are its hollow inside the trunk. The tanmạtra form the five large branches and their support are the sub-branches. They are covered by leaves, flowers and fruits which are the live forms of this universe. All these leaves and fruits depend on the root which is above – in the cosmos. This is brahma vrika”.

                The temple structure is thus a reminder of the connection between the cosmos and the individual, the brahmạnda and the pinda

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