Friday 6 February 2015

The history of Hayagriva

 Last week was the jayanti or birth anniversary of one of the greatest saints of the Madhwa parampare.  The saint was a philosopher par excellence and also a composer of extraordinary ability.
A disciple of Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha, he was a strident proponent of Madhwa Siddantha and he is more remembered today for his many steps to streamline the administration of the Krishna Temple in Udupi.
Having lived for 120 years, he was the first Madhwa saint to enter Brindavana alive. His Brindavana is in Sode in Sirsi taluk and today draws a large number of people from all over the world.
This seer is none other than Vadiraja Theertha, popularly called Rajaru by millions of  his devote. Born in 1480 in a small hamlet set in verdant paddy fields in Hoovinakere, he strode across the earth till 1600 when he entered Brindavana.
Vadiraja is known for his devotion to Hayagriva, an avatar of Vishnu. Hayagriva is generally depicted as a God with the head of the horse. Vadiraja has picturised  with the horse god eating the prasada or Hayagreeva, a sweet dish.
What or who is Hayagreeva and what is his place in Hindu mythology. Let us examine some aspects related to the Horse God. Interestingly, Hayagriva is not only mentioned in the Hindu text but in Buddhist works also and he is a god not only in India but in several countries of South East Asia, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Japan and China.
The word Hayagriva is a Sanskrit term and it is also spelt as Hayagreeva.  Considered to be an avatar of Vishnu, Haya in Sanskrit means horse and Griva neck.
Hayagrīva is associated with knowledge, learning and wisdom. The horse head is pure white in colour and the god is seated on a lotus. White represents purity, wisdom and  truth and Hayagriva is invested with the character of  one who swept away darkness and passion and lit up the world.
Interestingly, it was not Vadiraja who first spoke or wrote about Hayagriva. The name goes back to more than 2000 years ago when the Aryans began worshipping many animals including cow, elephant, horse. The Aryans attributed speed, intelligence and strength to a horse.
In the Vedas, particularly Rg Veda, there are numerous references and hymns dedicated to a horse or a steed. In many of them, the horse is related to the Sun.
Many legends of the Hayagriva are found in the Mahabharata and the Puranas too. In Devi Bhagavatha, Hayagriva is a horse demon defeated by Vishnu.
In the Skanda Purana, the story of Vishnu-Hayagriva is related in chapter 14-15 of Dharmaranyakhanda. In the Vamana Purana, Prahalada worships Hayagriva at Asvatheertha near Kanauj. This Purana also speaks of  the worship of Hayagriva in different regions of India, including Assam and in the Krishna (river) regions. The Nilamata Purana refers to Hayagriva in the Kashmir region.
The Matysa Purana says Hayagriva avatar preceded Matysa avatar. However, the Vaman Purana contradicts this and says Hayavadana is the third incarnation of Vishnu. The Garuda Purana places Hayagriva after Datta.
In the Sanatkumara Samhita (Sanat Kumara was one of the four spiritual sons of Brahma), Hayagriva is placed alongside Surya and Chandra .
The Pancharatna agamas also mention Hayagriva. The agamas are a body of  religious-cum-philosophical literature which trace their origins too the Vedas.
The Visvaksena allots a northern direction to the world occupied by Lord Hayagriva. This is the Hayagriva Loka. The Naradiya Samhita also allots a similar world to Hayagriva.
The Hayagriva Upanishat belongs to the Atharvana Veda. This tells us about the benefits of chanting mantas relating to Hayagriva.
The Tantras also mention Hayagriva. The Meru Tantra gives us information on several aspects relating to Hayagriva. The Yogini Tantra deals with the power of the Hayagriva.
The agamas have an exclusive work devoted to minor gods and it is called Hayasira Samhita. It is here that we find mention of Hayagriva, who scholars say, is a minor avatar of Vishnu. The avatar of Hayagriva is believed to have come about on a full moon day in August (Shravana-Pournami ) and on the ninth day of  Navaratri.
There is a verse in the Pancharatna Agama that deals with the Hayagriva. It says.....

"jñānānanda mayaṃ devaṃ nirmala sphaṭikākṛtiṃ
ādhāraṃ sarvavidyānaṃ hayagrīvaṃ upāsmahe."

This verse is now the prefix to the Hayagriva Stotra of the renowned 13th-century Srivaishnava poet-philosopher Nigamanta Mahadesika popularly known as Vedanta Desika (1268-1370). The Stotra is one of the earliest compositions of Vedanta Desika.
Consisting of  32 slokas, it is a beautiful hymn on the attributes of Hayagriva. It is said that it was Garuda himself who appeared before him and taught the Hayagriva Mantra.
He says,

Visheshavitparishadeshu natha: vidagdhagoshthisamaranganeshu |
Jigishato me kavitarkikakendran jihvagrasimhasanamabhyupeya. ||

For Vedanta Desika,  his Hayagriva has four lotus hands, with one bestowing knowledge; another holding books of wisdom. The other two hands hold the Conch and Discus.

Vadiraja in his Hayagriva Sampada stotra, says

hayagreeva hayagreeva hayagreeveti vaadinam |
naram munchanti paapaani daridramiva yoshitah ||1||
hayagreeva hayagreeva hayagreeveti yo vadet.
tasya nihsarate vaanee jahnu kanyaapravaahavat ||2||
hayagreeva hayagreeva hayagreeveti yo dhvanih |
vishobhate cha vaikunTa kavaatodghaatanakshamaH ||3||
shloka trayamidam punyam hayagreevapadaankitam |
vaadiraaja yatiproktam pathataam sampadaam padam.||4||
Itee Shri Madvadiraja Poojya Charana Virachitha
Hayagreeva Sampada Stotram Sampurnam.

Apart from these two stotras, we can find Hayagriva stotra in the Garuda Purana. This is part of a chapter on Hayagriva Pooja Vidhi.
The other stotra is in Skanda Purana and it is part of Brahma Khanda, Hayagriva Upakhyana.
In Buddhism, Hayagriva is depicted as a fierce and awesome god whose wrath knows no bounds. In the Mahavairocana-sutra, Hayagriva is described as one wearing a garland of skulls. Here, he is a Krodha Vighnantaka. For the Buddhists, Hayagriva is an avatar of Bodhisattava.
It is interesting to note that Hayagriva transformed from a Brahminical God of knowledge and purity to a fierce and intimidating God of the Buddhists. This transformation is traced by Robert H Van Gulik in his work: "Hayagriva: The Mantrayana aspect of a Horse Cult in China and Japan".
Another Buddhist work where Hayagriva is mentioned is the Dharma Samgraha-a collection of ancient Buddhist texts.
Hayagriva is depicted as a Horse God in several temples of India. One of the best representations is in the Lakshmana temple in Khajuraho. Built by the Chandela Kings, the outer wall of this temple has images of over 600 gods. It is entirely dedicated to Vishnu.
The first ever historical representation of Hayagriva can be found in several sculptures belonging to the pre-Gupta period. One of the earliest such sculptures can be seen in the Bharat Kala Bhavan museum in Varanasi.
Another pre-Gupta idol of Hayagriva can be seen in a museum in Mathura. The image of Hayagriva is depicted in the Vishwaroopa sculptures of Deogarh, Mandasor, Samalji and Kanauj.
Closer home, we can see images of Hayagriva in the Hoysala temple at Nuggahalli near Mysore. The Hayagriva which Desika so eloquently wrote about can be seen in Tiruvendipuram in Cudddalore district of Tamil Nadu. Since he is meditating, the horse God here is also called Yoga Hayagriva.
There are idols dedicated to Hayagriva in the Ranganatha Temple in Srirangam and in the Vaikunta Perumal temple in Kanchi.
By the way, the presiding diety of Parkala Matha of Mysore is Hayagriva.
In Tibet, Hayagriva was initially worshipped by horse dealers. Hayagriva came to Tibet, thanks to Atisha (980-1054), the Indian scholar from Bengal who was instrumental in spreading Buddhism in Tibet and other countries such as Sumatra.
Some other temples dedicated to Hayagrive in India are at Tank Bund Road in Gandhinagar, Bangalore: lakshmi Hayagriva Temple at Nanganallur in Chennai: Chettypunyam Hayagriva Temple in Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, Hayagriva Temple, North Mada Street, Tirumala and Lakshmi Hayagriva Temple at Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
Of course, who can forget the famous Hayagriva  Madhawa  Temple in Manikuta, Hajo near Guwahati, Assam. This temple is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists.
There are temples dedicated to Hayagriva in Yadagirigutta and Mahaboob Nagar in Andhra Pradesh, Madurai in Tamil Nadu and there is one in Pondicherry.

1 comment:

  1. Nice work , keep continuing !
    I'm too a great admirer of Madvacharya and his teachings, but sad to say that I don't find many sites related to madhva philosophy on the net. Btw, what's this 'aryan' stuff ?