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Early Medieval Representation of Human Anatomy: A Case Study of Chamunda Stone Image from Dharamsala, Odisha

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The understanding of the human anatomy was a subject of an investigation of various civilizations for the purpose of varied reasons. However, in Indian tradition, it is often seen and discussed taking into consideration its religious background, and to some extent, it was a subject of magico-medicinal studies. Whereas, this traditional understanding of human anatomy is seen in various types of visuals since Early Historic period. In which most fascinating portrayal of human anatomy is noticed on stone sculptures. Especially, the Early Medieval depictions of some Brahmanical deities began to show with its anatomical details, in which the representation of goddess Chamunda took an important place where her skeletal features developed had become an identical norm. While making an image of Chamunda with all its anatomical details the sculptor requires the basic knowledge of the human anatomy. This knowledge may have been gained by these sculptors through the observation of actual human anatomy to achieve the certain perfection. This artistic perfection can be seen resulted in some of the sculptures found different parts of the country. However, such types of several stone images of Chamunda with its micro anatomical details are often noticed in the state of Odisha, which once was the primecenter of Shaktism. This paper discusses the results of a case study carried upon the stone image of Chamunda found at Dharamsala in order to understand the nature and accuracy of traditional knowledge of human anatomy.
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EarlyMedievalRepresentationofHumanAnatomy:A
CaseStudyofChamundaStoneImagefromDharamsala,
Odisha
RushalUnkule1,GopalJoge1andVeenaMushrifTripathy1
1. DepartmentofAncientIndianHistory,CultureandArchaeology,DeccanCollege
PostGraduateandResearchInstitute,DeemedtobeUniversity,Pune411006,
Maharashtra,India(Email:unkule.rushal@gmail.com;gopaljoge@rediffmail.com;
vmushrif@gmail.com)
Received:17October2017;Revised:10November2017;Accepted:13December2017
Heritage:JournalofMultidisciplinaryStudiesinArchaeology5(2017):191200
Abstract:Theunderstandingofthehumananatomywasasubjectofaninvestigationofvarious
civilizationsforthepurposeofvariedreasons.However,inIndiantradition,itisoftenseenanddiscussed
takingintoconsiderationitsreligiousbackground,andtosomeextent,itwasasubjectofmagico
medicinalstudies.Whereas,thistraditionalunderstandingofhumananatomyisseeninvarioustypesof
visualssinceEarlyHistoricperiod.Inwhichmostfascinatingportrayalofhumananatomyisnoticedon
stonesculptures.Especially,theEarlyMedievaldepictionsofsomeBrahmanicaldeitiesbegantoshow
withitsanatomicaldetails,inwhichtherepresentationofgoddessChamundatookanimportantplace
whereherskeletalfeaturesdevelopedhadbecomeanidenticalnorm.Whilemakinganimageof
Chamundawithallitsanatomicaldetailsthesculptorrequiresthebasicknowledgeofthehuman
anatomy.Thisknowledgemayhavebeengainedbythesesculptorsthroughtheobservationofactual
humananatomytoachievethecertainperfection.Thisartisticperfectioncanbeseenresultedinsomeof
thesculpturesfounddifferentpartsofthecountry.However,suchtypesofseveralstoneimagesof
ChamundawithitsmicroanatomicaldetailsareoftennoticedinthestateofOdisha,whichoncewasthe
primecenterofShaktism.Thispaperdiscussestheresultsofacasestudycarrieduponthestoneimageof
ChamundafoundatDharamsalainordertounderstandthenatureandaccuracyoftraditionalknowledge
ofhumananatomy.
Keywords:Medieval,HumanAnatomy,Chamunda,Dharamsala,Iconography,
Sculpture,Odisha
Introduction
Theinvestigationofthetraditionalknowledgesystem,throughitshistorical
perspective,isanimportantaspectofthehistoryofscienceandtechnology(Nanda
2017).Ithasdevelopedasanimportantdisciplineinthe20thcentury.Inthisdiscipline,
thesubjectsofinvestigationarediverseandvaried.Inwhichmainlyincludesthe
historyoftraditionalmedicine(Wujastyk2009),historyofnumeralsandmathematics
(Plofkeretal.2017),astrology(Mak2013),traditionalalchemy(White1996)etc.In
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thesestudies,broadlytwoparadigmscanbeobservedregulatingtheprogressofthis
discipline.Inwhichfirstisanunderstandingofthereligiousdimensionforlooking
macroaspectsofparticularsectanditspractices(Dehejia1986;Padoux1990;Wilson
1995;White1996),secondtounderstandthedevelopmentofscientificideasthrough
theinvestigationofthesetraditionalknowledge(Zysk1986;Bhattacharya2008;
Wujastyk2009;SavageSmith1997).Thesestudiesaresignificantsinceitdiscussesthe
crossculturalrelationandmigrationofideasthroughwhichthisknowledgesystem
wasevolvedandspread(Nanda2017).
TheinvestigationofmedicinalpracticesinancientIndiasomescholarshasdiscussed
thetraditionalunderstandingofhumananatomy(Zysk1986;Wujastyk2009;Savage
Smith1997).Theknowledgeofhumananatomyisanessentialrequirementfora
medicalpractitionerinordertounderstandthefunctionofthebody,causesof
diseases,thecauseofdeathandalsoformedicinalexperiments.Asmentionedabove
allthesepreviousstudiesfocusingonthehistoryofmedicineingeneralandhuman
anatomyparticular.Thesestudiesaremainlybasedonthetextualsources.Thereis
anothersphereofinformationwhichcanbeacrucialsourcetolookinadifferentway
forthesame.AsdiscussedbyWujastyk(2009)whilediscussingthedevelopmentofthe
Ayurveda.Inthisdiscussion,hetookthereviewoflatemedievaltextsand
commentariesonAyurveda.Themainobjectiveofthisreviewwastoexaminethe
Indianunderstandingofhumananatomy.Sincesomeofthesetextscontainthe
illustrationsandpaintingsofthehumananatomytoserveasareferencetothestudent
ofAyurveda.Atlast,heremarkedthatinIndiantraditionduetosocioreligiousfactors
theknowledgeandunderstandingofhumananatomywaslimitedandremained
stagnantafterPostShushrutaperiod(Wujastyk2009).However,apartfromthis,there
isanotherstrongtraditionofvisualrepresentationthatisastonesculpturewhichis
completelymissedornottakeninconsiderationseriouslyinpreviousstudies.The
stonesculptureswhichdepictsthehumananatomywithitsmicrodetailsgivesa
differentimpressionofthetraditionalunderstandingofhumananatomy.Thesestone
sculptureshaveappreciatedbythearthistoriansforitsartisticexcellenceand
perfection.However,thesestonesculpturescanbeusefulforreexaminingthe
traditionalknowledgeofhumananatomyinthepast.
ThedepictionofhumananatomyinIndianstonesculpturalartwasfirstseenduring
theEarlyHistoricperiod.InwhichtheimageofBuddhainitsemaciatedbodybegun
torepresent.ThistypeofimageswasfrequentlyobservedinGandharaschoolofart
(Huntington1985:142).SuchimagesofBuddhaweremadeforthecertainpurposes
oneofthepurposeswastoshowtheextremityofphysicalpenanceanditssavior
influenceoverthebody.InBuddhisticonographictradition,thiswastheonlyimageof
Buddhawhichisseeninskeletalform.SuchimageryofBuddhaisseeninconfined
periodandregion(Huntington1985).
However,inanotherhandwithinBrahmanicaliconographicaltraditionsomeofthe
divinecharactersarealwaysshownordescribedwithskeletalfeatures.Asdiscussed
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andprescribedinmanualsoficonography(Rao1914).Inthesedeitiesincludes
Chamunda,BhringianardentdevoteeofShiva,thedeityKal,amalecounterpartof
Kaliandmale/femaleattendanceofBhairaviandBhairavatheseattendantdeities
categorizedasBhutaandPishaccha.Amongthesedivinities,Chamundaroseas
powerfulgoddessduetoherimportantpositionintothecultofgoddesses.
Subsequently,intantriccultsofShaktismgoddessChamundadevelopedaschiefdeity
ofworship(Hazra1963;Kinsley1975;Mukhopadhyay1984;Misra1989;Daniélou
1991).
ThegoddessChamundaisanintegralgoddessinagroupofSaptamatrakaplacedher
ontheseventhnumberinseveraltexts(Rao1914;Banerjea1956;Joshi1979;
Mukhopadhyay1984;Misra1989;Pannikar1997).Theiconographicdevelopmentof
thismatrakaimageryisdiscussedbyseveralscholars(Banerjea1956;Kinsley1975;
Joshi1979;Mukhopadhyay1984;Misra1989;Pannikar1997;Miester1987).However,
itsindividualiconicrepresentationsandpresenceinthegroupofmatrakasare
observedbeingprominentonwards4thcenturyCE.Theseveralfindingsoftheimages
ofSaptamatrakaafter4thcenturyCEinthroughoutIndiansubcontinentindicatesthat
theworshipofgoddesseswasprominentduringtheEarlyMedievalperiod(Kinsley
1975;Meister1978;Pannikar1997).Duringthisperiodthesegoddessesareseen
portrayedintwotypes.Inapanelwhichvariesinnumberssuchasseven,eightornine
andindividualdepictions.Itsmythsandlegends,thenumberofgoddesses,itsorigin
andfollowedbytheirinclusionandexclusionarediscussedinplentyoftexts.This
corpusoftextsalsoconveysthereligiousandsectarianimportance(Rao1914;
Kramrisch1974;Kinsley1975;Dehejia1986;White1996).Asmentionedabovethe
iconographicdepictionofChamundaalsoseenintwotypes.Inanearlyphaseofher
iconographicdepiction,sheisshowninferociousformbutwithusualfeminine
features.Inseveralinstances,samehascontinuedinthelatterperiodalso(Kinsley
1975;Meister1978;Joshi1979;Misra1989:102;Pannikar1997).However,thisscenario
graduallychangedsignificantlyandalongwiththis,thegoddessbegantobe
representedinskeletalform(Kinsley1975;Meister1978;Joshi1979;Misra1989;
Pannikar1997).Theseveralnamesofthegoddessalsomakesomeconfusionregarding
theexactnatureofthedeity.AssheisreferredasChamunda,Chandi,KaliandKalika.
However,thetextualtraditionisclearononeaspectthatthegoddessisamanifestation
ofgoddessDurga(Agrawala1963;Kinsley1975;Joshi1979).Whereas,itsmythological
backgroundstronglyconnectsherwiththeShivawhichisvividlydescribedinan
episodeofandhakasuravadhainAgniPurana(Agrawala1963;Hazra1963;Kinsley1975;
Misra1989).
ThepresentpaperfocusesontheChamundasculpturefoundatDharamsala,District
JajpurinOdisha(Fig.1a,Fig.1b).ThisimageofChamundaisnowdisplayedin
ArchaeologygalleryinOdishaStateMuseum,Bhubaneshwar.Thecloseobservationof
itsstylisticnatureitsuggeststhatitcanbeplacedaround9thcenturyCE.However,
similartypesofChamundaimagesareearlierreportedinOdisha.Theseimagesare
discussedbyscholarstakingintoconsiderationitʹsiconographicalaspects(Misra1989:
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109110;Pannikar1997:146147).However,thispaperdealswiththeiconographical
portrayalofgoddessChamundawithreferencetoitsskeletalfeatures.Theimagesof
Chamundaarecommonlyrepresentedinemaciatedform.Thisiconicnatureofthe
deityisconsideredasheridenticalfeature.Suchformofthedeitywasimmensely
popularduringtheEarlyMedievalperiodinthroughoutthecountry.Herethefocusis
onunderstandingthetraditionalknowledgeofhumanskeletalanatomywithits
presentunderstandingofhumanskeletalanatomy.
TheIconographyofChamunda
ThegoddesswasinstrumentaltokillthedemonsChandaandMundahenceshe
namedasChamunda.Thedeityisknownforherferociousnatureandmentionedasa
consortofBhairavawhoalsobearsferociouscharacter.Thedeityisalsoconsideredasa
goddessofdeathandtime(Kinsley1975).Therearemultipleaspectswhichare
discussedinthetextsduetothisthefearfulnatureofthedeitydevelopedasits
identicalelement.Thisferociouselementseenrepresentedthroughtheskeletalbody,
withaterrifyingface,sunkeneyes,gapingmouth,pendulousbreasts,longnailsanda
sunkenbellysurroundedbyfleshandbloodthirstywildanimals.Themountofthe
deityisapreta(corpse).Someopinionsvarywhichclaimsthatitisnotapretaratherit
ishimselfShivawholaidbeneathherinordertogethertocalmdownfromangerafter
killingademon(Soundarajan2003:26771).
ThereareeightprincipleformsofthegoddessChamunda.Inthesemostcommonly
observediconographicfeaturesofChamundacanbeextractedthroughthetextsofthe
iconography.Thatisthegoddessshouldwearagarlandofskulls(mundamala),with
jatamukutaformedofmattedhair,tiedwithasnakeorskullornament.Thegoddess
holdsabowlinherhandfilledwithbloodorwine.Thedeityshouldbeshown
surroundedbyaskeleton,flesheatingjackals,corpse,snake,eagleandscorpion.The
mountofthedeityprescribedvariesaccordingtoitsregionalaffiliationandtextual
tradition(Mukhopadhyay1984;Misra1989;Pannikar1997).Someofthetexts
prescribedowlasamountofthegoddess.Whereas,mostcommonlymentionedand
noticedmountisacorpse.ThegoddessiscalledYogeshwariwhenthedeityisdepicted
withthreeeyesandfourhands(Rao1914;Misra1989).Theattributesofthegoddess
areprescribedasfollows,thetridentordagger,kapala,damaru,andnarmunda.
Sometimesascorpioncanbeseendepictedonhernaveloftennoticedwhenthedeity
isshowninadancingposture.Theornamentsofthedeityarementionedtobemadeof
bones,serpent,skullsandothersymbolsofdiseaseanddeath.Thedeityshoulddepict
wearingayajnapovita,madeofskulls(Rao1914;Banerjea1956;Joshi1979;Pannikar
1997).
DescriptionofImage
ThisimageofChamundaisubhayanvarticarvedequallyfromfrontandbacksidesuch
typeofimagessuggeststhatitwouldbemadeforsanctumsanctorum.Sincetheimage
isdisplayedinthemuseumitwasdifficulttodocumentthebackportionoftheimage.
Hencetheauthortriedtomakeavideoputtingthecameraonitsbackfor
Unkuleetal.2017:191200
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documentation.Theimagemeasuresroughlyaround2’6”×1’6”.Deityisseatedin
lalitasanahasfourhands(Figures1aand1b).Thelowerrightandupperhandare
mutilated.Whereas,theremainingportionofupperrighthandwhichisseenatthe
chestofdeityholdsaKapal.Theupperlefthandalsoiscompletelybroken.However,
thelowerlefthandholdsseveredhead(narmunda).
Figure1a:GoddessChamundaFigure1b:IllustrationofChamunda
Thegoddessisshownseatedonobsessedboy(CorpseorPreta).Thecorpseisplaced
onapedestal.Thedeityhasaskeletalbody,veinscanbeseenclearly.Itsfaceis
ferociousandwrathful;eyesarepoppingoutwithopenmouthandfrownonface.This
maybeinfluencedbytheconceptofYogeshvariasthirdeyeshownprominentlyover
theforehead.Thehairstandsareerected(urdhvakesha)whichlooklikefireflames
(jvalakesha)(Rao1989).Thehairsaretiedfirmlywithasnakeandskull.Ontheright
sideofheadgearasmallhandinabhayamudraisdepicted;samefeaturecanbeseenon
leftbutitisanerodedcondition.Thegoddessiswearingaskullgarland,mundamala
consistof44skullsandsarpakundalasinears.Asnakeencirclingaroundtheneck.The
deityisshownwearingabajubandhmadebythedesignofsnake,Sameornamentsare
replicatedatwristandankle.Itisanartisticexcellencewheresnakeisshownholding
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itsowntailinmouthwhichhasformedabeautifulcircle.Thedeityisshownwearing
ornatemekhala.Theparikaraoftheimageisornatedepictingtheelephantskininlow
relief.Therepresentationsofpairofowlscarryinggarlandisshownonportionof
elephant’searonaleftside.Thedepictionofpeacock,bellandconchshellcanbe
observedonarightside.Thedepictionofdevoteeisseenbesidetherightfootofthe
deity.Thedevoteeisshownsittinginvajrasanahasaprominentheadgearwithcircular
karnakundalas.Itisholdingaswordinitsrightarmshownwearinganornate
bajubandhaandkeyur.Thedevoteeisinnamaskarmudra,headisshownslightlyraised
upwardswatchingadivineappearanceofthegoddess.Thefivejackalsareshown
fetchingfleshfromcorpsewhichisbeneathofthedeity.Thesmallfemaleattendant
(11.5cm)ofthegoddessisshownonaleftsideofthepedestalbelowtheleftfootofthe
corpse.Thisfemaleattendancereplicatesthemaingoddessshowninskeletalform
holdingdaggerandkapalainrightandlefthandrespectively.
Figure2:DetailsofFaceFigure3:TheRightRibCage
ExaminationofSkeletalAnatomyoftheSculpture
Thebranchofmorphologythatdealswiththestructureoforganismsareknownas
anatomy(Websterdictionary).ThephysiognomicfeaturesofChamundainthis
sculpturelookslikeaskeletonandtheseskeletalfeaturesareeasilyidentifiable.The
wrinklesonthefaceandthesuperficialveinspoppingoutdenotesthefierceaspectof
theChamunda.Theeyeorbitsaresymmetricalinnature.Thenasalcavity(Nose)
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cannotbeseenduetoweatheringofthesculpture.Thecheekbone(zygomaticbone)is
prominent.Also,thezygomaticarchgroovecanbeclearlyseen.Themandibleisalso
projectingandpresentedwithasharpgonialangle(Figure2).Thesupraorbitalridgeis
visiblebutnotmuchprotuberance.Theoccipitalregioniscarvedflat.
Figure4:TheCarpalBonesofPosteriorLeftHand
Figure5:MusclesandVeinsDepictedin
RightLowerExtremity
Figure6:Boneswithits
RespectiveLabels
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Thereare24presacralvertebraspresentinhumanbody.Inthissculpture,thereare
around1718bodiesofvertebraswhichcanbevisibleatbackinerodedcondition.The
lastthreecervicalvertebrae(fromneckregion)canbespottedonthebackoftheneck.
Totaleightvertebraearticulatewithribsattheback.Hencethereareeightthoracic
vertebrae.Remainingsixareinthelowerbackandtheyarebadlyeroded.Numbersof
vertebraecarvedisnotclear,only1718bodieswerenoticeable.Bothclaviclesare
presentandplacedincorrectposition.Inthisimage,therearetotal28ribsrepresented
onthesculptureinsteadof24.Whereas,only16ribsarearticulatingwitheight
vertebras,eightoneachsiderightandleft.Thedistributionofribsisuneven.Thereare
15ribsonrightsideand13onleft.However,inthehumanbody,thereare12ribson
eachside.Inthehumanbody,thereare24ribsarticulatingto12thoracicvertebraeon
bothsidesofvertebraebodyrespectively(Figure3).Sternumandmanubriumare
absent.Theimagehasfourhands.Theyhavebeengivenfollowingdenominationfor
identification:R1andL1tohandsonthefrontonbothsides;R2andL2tohandson
theposteriorside.ThehumeralheadisvisibleonR1.RadiusandUlnahavenotbeen
presenteddistinctly.Thedorsumorbacksideiswithflesh,butphalangescanbe
observed.Olecranonisvisibleonbothelbows(R2andL2).Mostprobablytrapezium
boneisvisibleontheL1wrist.Thecarpalbonescannotbeseen.BothR1&L1hands
havefivemetacarpals.Thenailsarevisibleatfingertipsofbothhandandfeet.InR1
therearetotalelevenphalangescanbeidentifiable.Inwhichthreephalangesare
brokenfromthedistalend.Allfivefingerscanbespottedwithnotrouble.Incaseof
L2,onlysevenphalangesareunspoiledoutofwhichonlyfivearecompleteandtwo
arehalfwasbroken(Figure4).Thelowerlimbhasbeenillustratedlikeanormalhuman
thighandleg.Veinshavebeendepictedonhands,legs,andtorso(Figure5).Onlytalus
boneisvisibleoutofalltarsalbones.Therightfootofthedeityhasfivemetatarsals
andtenphalanges.Thetoeofthisfootisdamaged.Thetenphalangesofthisfootarein
goodpreservation.Whereas,theleftfootofthedeityisbrokenfrommetatarsals
(Figure6).
Discussion
Thedetailedstudyofthisimagerevealsthatthesculptor/sculptorsofthisimagewere
quitefamiliarwiththefeaturesofhumananatomy.Asobservedthroughimagethey
werequiteprecisewhiledepictingtheanatomicalfeaturesinasculptureofChamunda.
Especially,inadepictionofphalanges,ithasbeendepictedfairlyaccurateonboth
handsandfeet.Inotherimportantfeatures,thevertebraearedepictedwithelevated
portionsonthebackofthefigure.Thesculptordidn’tseemtohaveaccurate
knowledgeabouttheribcage.Thesefeatureswithitscertainaccuracyshowthe
perfectionoftheskillofsculptingbythesculptor.Thisperfectionofcarvingthehuman
skeletalanatomywithitsmajorphysiognomicfeaturesseemstobedevelopedbythe
strongbackgroundofindividualvisualpracticalandthroughtheobservationsof
existinghumananatomyofthatperiod.Thispracticalunderstandingofhuman
skeletalanatomymayhavecometoknowtotheclassofthesculptorsthroughthe
contemporarypracticeoftantricreligioningeneralandtheShaktisminparticular.This
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particularaspectofthetantrisminwhichthehumanskeletalisrequiredforritual
purposeneedstofurtherinvestigatetounderstandsuchtypesculptural
representations.Thepresentimagewhichisoneoftheexceptionalexamplesofthe
contemporarycraftsmanshipalsoneedstobefurtherstudiedincomparisontothe
otherimagesofChamundaofthatperiodinsameandanotherregion.
Thisimagebearssomeothermicrodetailsofthehumananatomysuchasmusclesand
veins.Thesefeatureswillbedealtseparatelyinasubsequentpaperbytheauthors.
Otherthanthis,alongwithmicrodetailsofanatomicalfeaturesofChamunda,there
aresomeimportantdepictions.Thesedepictionsincludeelephant,peacock,fox,apair
ofanowl,snake,maledevoteeanddancingfemaleattendancewithemaciatebodyalso
needtofurtherinvestigatetounderstanditsactualfunctionalnature.
Acknowledgements
TheauthorsarethankfultotheauthorityofstatemuseumofBhubaneshwar,Odisha
forgrantingthepermissiontostudyanddocumentthissculptureindetail.Theauthors
arealsothankfultoourstudentSushantwhopreparedabeautifulandaccurate
illustrationofthisimage.TheauthorsarethankfultoAakankshaandRahulVerma
whowereaccompaniedwhilefieldvisitandhelpedfordocumentationoftheimage.
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Popular attention has recently been captured by the results of the Bodleian Library's 2017 project of radiocarbon datingportions of the birch-bark fragments constituting what is known as the Bakhshālī Manuscript. In this paper, we disagree with the interpretation of the findings announced by the Bodleian team. In particular, we argue that the earliest dated folio of this manuscript is unlikely to be the date of the whole text. Rather, the latest dateable folio is logically the date of the scribal activity. This fits well with past estimates of the date of the Bakhshālī Manuscript based on historical, philological and palaeographic arguments.. And we argue that the Bakhshālī Manuscript does include written zeros that function as arithmetical operators, i.e., as numbers in their own right, and not merely as place-holders, as asserted by the Bodleian team. Finally, we express regret that the Bodleian Library chose to announce scientific results without peer-review and through a press release to newspapers and a YouTube video.
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Since Pingree's 1978 publication of his work on the Yavanajātaka, the text had established itself as one of the most important historical documents in various fields of Indology, from the history of mathematics and astral science, to Indian chronology and historical contacts among ancient cultures. A number of Pingree's discoveries concerning the text were widely quoted by scholars in the past decades. These discoveries may be summarized as follows: The Yavanajātaka was an astrological/astronomical work composed in 269/270 CE. by Sphujidhvaja, an "Indianized Greek" who lived in the realm of the Western Kṣatrapas. The work was a versification of a prose original in Greek composed by Yavaneśvara in Alexandria in 149/150 CE. The work, though highly corrupted and clumsily expressed, contains algorithms of "ultimately Babylonian origin" and the earliest reference to the decimal place-value with a symbol for zero (bindu). Pingree's discoveries were based largely on readings from the last section of the Yavanajātaka, described by him as "Chapter 79 - Horāvidhiḥ", an exposition of mathematical astronomy. In the recent years, scholars including Shukla (1989) and Falk (2001) pointed out some major flaws in some of Pingree's interpretations and reconstitution of the text. However, further progress of a proper reevaluation of the controversial contents of this chapter has so far been hampered by the lack of a better manuscript. In 2011-2012, additional materials including a hitherto unreported copy of the Yavanajātaka became available to the present author. This paper will therefore be the first attempt to reexamine Pingree's key interpretations of the Yavanajātaka, focusing on this last chapter, in the light of the new textual evidences.
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The Alchemical Body excavates and centers within its Indian context the lost tradition of the medieval Siddhas. Working from previously unexplored alchemical sources, David Gordon White demonstrates for the first time that the medieval disciplines of Hindu alchemy and hatha yoga were practiced by one and the same people, and that they can be understood only when viewed together. White opens the way to a new and more comprehensive understanding of medieval Indian mysticism, within the broader context of south Asian Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Islam. "White proves a skillful guide in disentangling historical and theoretical complexities that have thus far bedeviled the study of these influential aspects of medieval Indian culture."—Yoga World "Anyone seriously interested in finding out more about authentic tantra, original hatha yoga, embodied liberation . . . sacred sexuality, paranormal abilities, healing, and of course alchemy will find White's extraordinary book as fascinating as any Tom Clancy thriller."—Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Journal
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For those who wonder what relation actual Tantric practices bear to the "Tantric sex" currently being marketed so successfully in the West, David Gordon White has a simple answer: there is none. Sweeping away centuries of misunderstandings and misrepresentations, White returns to original texts, images, and ritual practices to reconstruct the history of South Asian Tantra from the medieval period to the present day. Kiss of the Yogini focuses on what White identifies as the sole truly distinctive feature of South Asian Tantra: sexualized ritual practices, especially as expressed in the medieval Kaula rites. Such practices centered on the exchange of powerful, transformative sexual fluids between male practitioners and wild female bird and animal spirits known as Yoginis. It was only by "drinking" the sexual fluids of the Yoginis that men could enter the family of the supreme godhead and thereby obtain supernatural powers and transform themselves into gods. By focusing on sexual rituals, White resituates South Asian Tantra, in its precolonial form, at the center of religious, social, and political life, arguing that Tantra was the mainstream, and that in many ways it continues to influence contemporary Hinduism, even if reformist misunderstandings relegate it to a marginal position. Kiss of the Yogini contains White's own translations from over a dozen Tantras that have never before been translated into any European language. It will prove to be the definitive work for persons seeking to understand Tantra and the crucial role it has played in South Asian history, society, culture, and religion.