The Murtis of Varaha and Nrisimha

It is not an exaggeration if we say that the form of Lord Nr̥siṁha and Varāha are more interesting than any other emanations of Srīmannārāyaṇa. Their Vigrahas are also equally fascinating.

Generally, the mūrti of Varāha is described as human up to the neck and the face is of Varāha or boar (Pādma Samhitā). The hue of this mūrti has been variously described as white (like the conch), śyāma, blue, green or black, when sources such as Nāradīya, Parāśara, Pādma and Sātvata Samhitās are examined. The hands of this mūrti range from four (Hayaśīrṣa Samhitā) to sixteen (Parāśara Samhitā). According to Nāradīya Samhitā, the mūrti of Varāha is to be thus constructed:

'The right and left hands on the back hold the Chakra and the Shankha; With the front two hands, he holds Bhūdēvī (earth personified), seating her on his left lap, with his snout affectionately smelling the fragrance of the goddess, holding her two feet with his right hands, embracing her lovingly with his left hand. The mūrti is decorated with a crown and various ornaments and is seated on a pedestal. One of his feet remains raised. The idol should always be seated (āsīna) and not reclining etc. (śayāna, yānaga).

Vimānārcana Kalpa, which belongs to the Vaikhānasāgama, lists three forms of Varāha mūrtis that can be consecrated:

1 ādivarāha
2 Pralayavarāha
3 Yajñavarāha

If there is one mūrti that is described in almost every āgama of Pāñcarātra and Vaikhānasa streams, that would be of Nr̥simha. The mūrti of Nr̥simha can be sthita, āsīna or yānaga. Of these, the popular is the āsīna or seated form, popularly called Yogāsana mūrti. In the first two forms, the body is of a man and the face that of a Lion. He has three eyes, and a fearful face sporting daṁṣṭra. According to Viṣvaksēna Samhitā and Viṣṇu Tantra, the idol should have two hands sporting Shankha and Chakra. However, most other samhitās illustrate four hands holding Shankha, Chakra, Gadā and Padma. Hayaśīrṣa samhitā describes a similar form, where padma is replaced by abhaya mudrā. It also illustrates a second form where the upper two hands hold Shankha and Chakra, while the bottom two hands are engaged in ripping open the innards of an asura on the Lord’s lap.

The aṣṭabhuja and ṣōḍaśabhuja forms of Nr̥simha are also variously described. The procedure is to install Brahmā to the right and Rudra to the left, as parivāra. Prahlāda and Garuḍa are also present in the vicinity.

In most temples which have Nr̥simha as the central deity, the commonly suggested form is of Saumya Chaturbhuja mūrti along with śrī and Bhūdēvīs. Pādma samhitā describes forms with and without Bhūdēvī. Consecration of the Lord in reclining form is prohibited by various āgamas. General non-specific lakṣaṇas of sthānaga and yānaga mūrtis are similar that of Vāsudēva mūrti.

There is a reference to Puccha Nr̥simha mūrti in īśvara samhitā, where the tail of the mūrti is engaged in tāḍana of the earth, thereby bringing Pralaya.

Vihagendra Samhitā lists seventy-four forms: svayam nr̥simha, mōkṣanr̥simha, vijayanr̥simha, chatranr̥simha, dīrghanr̥simha, virūpanr̥simha, pūrṇanr̥simha, abdhinr̥simha, lakṣmīnr̥simha, vijayalakṣmī nr̥simha, yōganr̥simha, yōgēśvaranr̥simha, dīptinr̥simha, puṣṭinr̥simha, bhūtaprabhāthi nr̥simha, jvālānr̥simha, ugranr̥simha, ghōranr̥simha, vidāraṇanr̥simha, ahōbala nr̥simha, stambhanr̥simha, mahānr̥simha, pātāla nr̥simha, ananta nr̥simha, grahaṇanr̥simha, pramathanr̥simha, āvēśa nr̥simha, aṭṭahāsa nr̥simha, navavyūha nr̥simha, cakranr̥simha, dik nr̥simha, caṇḍanr̥simha, aranr̥simha, prāsādanr̥simha, brahmanr̥simha, viṣṇunr̥simha, raudranr̥simha, mārtāṇḍa nr̥simha, candranr̥simha, bhairava nr̥simha, pr̥thivī nr̥simha, vāyunr̥simha, ākāśa nr̥simha, jvalana nr̥simha, ādhāra nr̥simha, amr̥ta nr̥simha, haṁsa nr̥simha, ātmanr̥simha, satyanr̥simha, yajñanr̥simha, annadāna nr̥simha, prabhāsa nr̥simha, viśvarūpa nr̥simha, tritāra nr̥simha.

The list names fifty-four forms, but if the numbers for vyūha, nava and dik are added, the count does become seventy-four.

Worship of Shani

Vishvarupa Vyomeshvara Mahadeva

Today, we received an invitation to a “grand opening” (their words, not mine) of a “śanēśvara” temple somewhere in Kaṇāṭa dēśa where the chief deity is śanigraha (Saturn).

That reminded me of an incident narrated by our Gurunātha who had, in turn, heard this from his Guru Sri Vidyābhinava Vālukēśvara Bhāratī Mahāsvāmin (Mahāmahōpādhyāya Hānagal Virūpākṣa Shāstrī). Our Paramaguru had studied with the great ācārya Sri Saccidānanda Shivābhinava Nr̥simha Bhāratī of Sr̥ṅgērī, not only Vedānta but also received dīkṣā of Mahāṣōḍaśī, Prāsāda, Nr̥simha and Mahāpādukā mantras. One day, while he was seated in the vicinity of the Great Guru, a long-time disciple of the ācārya approached him and narrated his various woes. The Great Guru listened with his ever-smiling countenance, when the disciple said, “I have consulted the best astrologer in Kōnasīmā and he has suggested that I undertake Shanidēvōpāsanā”!

Acārya smiled and asked, “Aren’t you a śrīvidyōpāsaka?”
Disciple: “Yes sir, I come from the direct lineage of Bhāskararāya Makhīndra”
Achārya: “So you tell me! But then have you read his wonderful commentary Setubandha”?
Disciple: “No sir”
Acārya: “Upāsanā does not mean simply chanting a mantra. You need to study its importance, tattva, and what it indicates and contemplate. Anyway, you should read his commentary on the specific verse:

gaṇēśagrahanakṣatrayōginīrāśirūpiṇīm |
dēvīṁ mantramayīṁ naumi mātr̥kāṁ pīṭharūpiṇīm ||

The Divine Mother is an embodiment of Gaṇas and their Gaṇēśa, the nine planets, the stars, the constellations, the yōginīs that rule over the dhātus of the body and the tattvas of the cosmos, the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet which are the source of every known and unknown mantra, as well as the sacred pīṭhas within and outside the body.

Even Bhagavatpāda chose Her among the sixty-four Tantras related to various deities and forms as the Supreme! So, why then would you give up upāsanā of this Supreme Power and switch to worshipping a planet?”

Our Guru reiterated this story several times and drilled this crucial fact deep into our hearts and minds.

That said, this does not mean one needs to disrespect Shanigraha or stop vidhis related to Navagrahas performed as part of various śrauta smārta rituals. But to start building temples and begin upāsanā of Shanigraha does seem to be a stretch!

One can indeed see Brahmabhāva in all deities and claim to worship the same Parāmbā in Shani as well! Sure, but that is rarely the case. It is the same Parāśakti that appears as various deities to perform different functions. The same electricity is used as a fan to get air, as a bulb to get light, in a TV to see picture and so on; thus, though it is the same Parābhaṭṭārikā appearing in various forms, each form has its own significance. Similarly, upāsakas of Mahādēva, Viṣṇu, Gaṇanātha etc. see their beloved deity as the origin of other forms.

However, saguṇōpāsanā as taught by the sages and knowers of Tantra Shāstra, prescribes the propitiation of specific forms of the Supreme such as Shiva, Nārāyaṇa, Kumāra, Sūrya, Lalitā, Durgā, Gaṇēśa etc. Further utilizing this concept from the śruti and āgama, even the Smārta procedures teach the worship of Pañcāyatana. No matter how hard one looks, there is no scripture that teaches upāsanā of Shani, or procedures for his pratiṣṭhā as the main deity (interestingly, Gaṇapati and Subrahmaṇya are his retinues in this new temple!) or details of worship within a dēvālaya.

Kane shows with proof the supposed Shanimāhātmya that narrates the story of King Vikramaditya, is not a part of Bhaviśyōttara Purāṇa as per the popular but erroneous claim. Similarly, various stories about Shani, including the lengthy Shanimāhātmya, seem to originate from Mahārāṣṭra. Most people seem to venerate this deity more out of fear than anything else, and the surrounding stories of punishment at the hands of Shani seem to enhance the dread.

Even the name of this deity is pronounced incorrectly. Most people seem to refer to Shani as śanīśvara or śanēśvara. The correct usage is 'śanaiścara' (śanaiḥ carati iti) - the one that moves slowly! There are various stories which describe why Shani moves slowly, due to a limp. One such story from a medieval work on āgamas is of Sage Pippalāda. It is said that Shani tortured the sage’s parents horrifically and to avenge their suffering, Pippalāda, who is the mantravēttā of the Mahāvidyā of Dhūmāvatī, attacked Shani with Dhūmāstra prayoga which permanently injured his leg. This story is narrated in Dhūmākalpa to highlight the invincibility of this severe Mahāvidyā. Of course, the Sages of yore clearly knew that the orbit of Saturn around the sun is slow compared to other planets (29.4 years). At least five planets and their details were clearly known to the sages of Rgvēda. The facts were later expressed as stories by the Purāṇas. The colloquial distortion of the word śanaiścara led to the popular usage of - śanēśvara and śanīśvara. Some enthusiastic devotee of Shani even created a folktale of Mahādēva granting the title of 'īśvara' to Shani, to justify this distortion.

Everyone should be allowed to worship whatever they want; all I am saying is this - Shrīvidyōpāsakas performing various elaborate rituals and homas to appease Shani seems completely ridiculous. Needless to say, this is better than running to Sai Baba, Kasai Baba or other babas - if that's the highest possible standard for Sanatana Dharmikas today.


Kartika Masa

Mahakali Mahakala

During the sacred Kārtika māsa, the great Lord Mahādēva is to be worshiped in four forms by upāsakas of Mahātripurasundarī following the path into ūrdhvāmnāya through the Paścimāmanāya krama of Navaratna Kubjikā.

The first week, the Lord is invoked during brahma-muhūrta as Mahāsvacchanda Bhairava along with Bhagavatī Guhyakālī - through the first nine āvaraṇas of sr̥ṣṭi Dakṣiṇāmūrti śrīcakra. Red flowers and raktacandana are offered to the divine couple. This vidhi grants the upāsaka freedom from all obstacles of the body, mind and celestial causes.

The second Monday, the Lord is invoked as Mūla Dakṣiṇāmūrti with Parā as his Saubhāgyahr̥daya - through the first ten āvaraṇas of the śrīcakra. This grants the upāsaka kāya, yoga and vāksiddhi. White flowers are offered during worship. He represents the Guru, Parama Guru, Paramēṣṭhi Guru, Parāpara Guru and Kāraṇa Guru.

The third Monday, the Lord is invoked as Mahākāla along with Dakṣiṇā Kālī through the tripañcāśadakṣarī vidyā of Mahākāla. The worship happens in the fifteen āvaraṇas of the śrīcakra following the combined āvaraṇas of Dakṣiṇākālī and Mahākāla. While the worship of the Goddess is via Kādi krama of Dakṣiṇāmnāya, the Lord is worshiped through sādi krama of 
Uttarāmnāya following the procedures of Manthānabhairava Tantra. Blue flowers are offered in worship. This vidhi grants the upāsaka Mantra Siddhi. Based on the āmnāya, the dhyāna varies (there is a third version of the mantra in paścimāmnāya as well, as a parivāra of Navātman, but this mantra is not imparted in our lineage). The versions given below are for Dakṣiṇa and Uttarāmnāya mantras (28 and 53 letters).

पित्रावासे शयानः प्रमथपरिवृतः कालिकाप्राणनाथः
नालम्बीवादनोल्लासहनविधुहुताशाक्ष औज्वल्यमूर्तिः ।
नृत्यन्त्याः कालिकायाः पदकमलधरोरःप्रदेशप्रकाशः
ध्येयः प्रेम्णा ह्यजस्रं हृदि स कुणपरूपो महाकालदेवः ॥

नीलजीमूतसङ्काशं महाभयत्रिलोचनम्‌
नीलकण्ठं खड्गचर्मवराभयधरं भुजैः ।
पिनाकशूलखट्वाङ्गतोमरान्‌ बिभ्रतं विभुम्‌
प्रासपट्टिसहस्तं वै महाकालं स्मरामि अहम्‌ ॥

Final week, the Lord is invoked as Ardhanārīśvara through the Mahāprāsāda mantra. The worship occurs in the sixteen āvaraṇas of the śrīcakra. The worship of prāsādaparā occurs in sr̥ṣṭikrama and that of parāprāsādā in saṁhārakrama. In sthitikrama, yuganaddha form is propitiated. Red and White flowers are offered during the worship. The worship is concluded with balidāna to Gaṇapati, Chaṇḍēśvara, Kukkuṭēśvara, Durgā and Kālabhairava.

The Lalitopakhyanam

Sri Lalita Tripurasundari

- Dr. B Dutta

The Lalitōpākhyānam is a text containing 40 Chapters and comprising of about 3000 verses. At present, it is found included in the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa. The text of this upākhyāna has nothing to do with the rest of the Purāṇa. It shows the tendency of being more or less an appendix to the Purāṇa. This fact is clearly borne out by an objective analysis of the contents of the upākhyāna and of the facts pointing out the period of its composition.

The date of Lalitōpākhyānam - External Evidences

(a) Lalitōpākhyānam and the different editions of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa

The Lalitōpākhyānam is neither found in the Vāyu, nor in the Baṅgabāsi edition of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, nor in the Javanese version. Insofar as this work is not included in the Vāyu Purāṇa, it could only prove that the same was added to the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, at a time later than the compilation of the Vāyu text or else its inclusion in it might not even have been considered imperative from the sectarian point of view. The volume of the text of the Baṅgabāsi edition of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa without the inclusion of either two of the Lalitōpākhyānam or the Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇa or the Bhārgavōpākhyānam, hardly answers the traditional bulk of the Purāṇa, 12000 verses recorded by the lists of as many as four different Purāṇas. Therefore, the text of the Baṅgabāsi edition is definitely deficient in its complete volume, and hence no conclusive remarks regarding the period of adoption or composition of the text of Lalitōpākhyānam on the grounds of its absence in this edition, can be made. Similar is the case with the Javanese edition which, too, has so abruptly ended, leaving even the last chapter and accounts incomplete. In this version, even one complete section, the Vamśānucarita, one of the main five characteristics of a Purāṇa, is totally absent. Therefore hardly any conclusions regarding the period of inclusion of Lalitōpākhyānam can be drawn from its absence in the Javanese edition.

(b) The Lalitōpākhyānam and lists of contents of different Purāṇas

It has been observed that the Lalitōpākhyānam is not mentioned in any of the lists of contents available in the different Purāṇas. The lists of Purāṇas like Agni, Matsya, Skanda and Shiva are very sketchy in recording the contents of the Purāṇas, whereas that of the Nārada Purāṇa is an exhaustive one. Its absence in the Nārada list, too, apparently shows that the Lalitōpākhyānam did not by the time of the compilation of the list, either form a part of, or was added to the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa.

Yet its absence may not finally make us conclude that it was not composed earlier than the compilation of the Nārada list, simply because the Lalitōpākhyānam has always shown a tendency of an independent work hardly giving any positive proof of its knowledge of the text of the rest of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, excepting that the colophons of its chapters mention to have belonged to the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa. It has all through shown a tendency to be an appendix to the main work and this has been conclusively proven by the evidence as held by Mahāmahōpādhyāya Haraprasad Shastri. If this characteristic of Lalitōpākhyānam is accepted, then even its absence in the Nārada list may not be taken to prove finally that by the time of this list, it was not appended to the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa.

(c) The Lalitōpākhyānam positively quoted as from Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa

The posterior date of the Lalitōpākhyānam being accepted as belonging to the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa is supplied by the great śākta scholar Bhāskararāya Makhin, who has commented upon the Lalitā Sahasranāman. The author of this commentary, the Saubhāgyabhāskara, quotes a number of times from the Lalitōpākhyānam under the name of Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa. The date of Bhāskararāya according to the vyākulākṣara chronograph recorded in the Saubhāgyabhāskara is 1718 A.D. and in the Setubandha, 1723 A.D. The profuse quotations by him prove that undoubtedly by that date the Lalitōpākhyānam formed an integral part of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa.

(d) The Lalitōpākhyānam, the Llalitā Sahasranāma and Lalitā Triśatī

The introductory verses (upōdghātakalā) of the Lalitā Triśatī, record the tradition that the Triśatī was narrated after the Llalitā Sahasranāman, which again in its first chapter clearly mentions that the stotra was related subsequent to the Lalitādēvyāḥ caritam, and the latter seems to be identical with the Lalitōpākhyānam, for both of them are said to be belonging to the same source, i.e., the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa. Thus, the three works appear to have been composed in the following order:

1. The Lalitōpākhyānam
2. The Llalitā Sahasranāman
3. The Lalitā Triśatī

The Lalitā Triśatī, too, existed prior to the days of Shaṅkarācārya, because it has been commented upon by him. Thus its composition is to be assigned anterior to Shaṅkarācārya (C. 850 A.D.) and the date of the Llalitā Sahasranāman would, therefore, be earlier than C. 800 A.D. and that of the Lalitōpākhyānam still earlier.

But this early date is possible to be assigned only when we accept that Shaṅkarācārya, the Vedāntin, is the same, who wrote the Bhāṣya on Lalitā Triśatī and in the other words similarly we accept that the Prapañcasāra and Saundaryalaharī to be from the pen of the same śaṅkara, who wrote the śārīraka bhāṣya on the Brahmasūtras and the Upaniṣads. Though the tradition would have us believe that the two were identical, still due to a very great divergence in the treatment of the subject and thought, the two authors appear to be not identical, rather the śākta author being of a later date, which apparently could be assigned to the work like Prapañcasāra, if analyzed in greater details.

Considering this fact, it appears that the conclusions drawn above (C. 800 A.D.) suffer from some fallacy namely basing our argument on the date of an author whose authorship is not distinctly ascertained to be associated with the Bhāṣya of Lalitā Triśatī. Yet it remains an attempt in which at least the order of the three works is by far decided and will help us to date the one provided the date of the other is precisely fixed.

(e) The Lalitōpākhyānam and śaktisūtras

The Lalitōpākhyānam is a dialogue between Hayagrīva and Agastya, both of whom have been assigned a work each, of the śākta school namely the Hayagrīva śākta darśana and Agastya śaktisūtra. Both of these deal in sūtra form with the subjects common to be works written in the same line of tradition. They appear to be later than the Lalitōpākhyānam and seem to record its teaching in a nutshell and also add such philosophic details, which are absolutely wanting in the Lalitōpākhyānam. This may partly be so, because the scope of the Hayagrīva śākta darśana and the Agastya śaktisūtras is much wider, for they seem to be concerned more with the supplying of the precise philosophical basis to the śākta school. but the two appear to be identical insofar as the ritualistic representations of the school are concerned.

According to the tradition, Dattātrēya wrote the Datta Samhitā containing 18,000 verses. Paraśurāma is said to have studied this extensive work and summarized it in a body of 6,000 sūtras called the Paraśurāma Kalpasūtras. Later, his pupil Sumedhas, composed the Tripurā Rahasya while summarizing both the Samhitā and the Sūtras in the form of a dialogue between their authors. Similarly, there could have been a possibility that the necessary tenets of these works were translated into an upākhyāna by a subsequent author while retaining the names of the original authors as the locutors. This, however, does not appear to be true in the case of these Sūtra works because they mention certain late works, including the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. They, rather, on the other hand, seem to contain a summary of the principal tenets of the Lalitōpākhyānam in the sūtra form.

The Hayagrīva śākta darśana is assigned to a time before the 8th Century A.D. by Prof. Abhyankar, but the same date cannot be accepted for it, because though there is really no mention or reference to Shaṅkarācārya in it, the mention of the Bhāgavata among the Purāṇas makes it definitely later than the date of the Bhāgavata, which is generally accepted to be later than Shaṅkarācārya himself. Again, Prof. Abhyankar hesitantly dates the Agastya sūtras to a period within a century or two later than the Hayagrīva śākta darśana, but before Shaṅkarācārya and other master philosophers of India. Now, here again, this remark makes us think that this statement is self-contradictory inasmuch as two centuries later than the 8th Century A.D. would be the 10th Century A.D., but how this later date is supposed to be Pre-Shankara? It appears that the Agastya sūtras are really the forerunners of the Hayagrīva śākta darśana, because the former is more religious and the latter more philosophical in treatment. The philosophical basis of a particular sect is always later than the sect, which is established more after its rituals.

Further, the mention of Hayagrīva as a teacher in the Agastya sūtras should not finally decide its late later than the Hayagrīva śākta darśana, because Hayagrīva in the Agastya sūtras is shown to be a teacher practicing the philosophy of indifferentism (tatsvābhinnō hayānanaśca). It is difficult to identify this Hayagrīva with the author of Hayagrīva śākta darśana, whereas he should be identified with Hayagrīva, the locutor of the Lalitōpākhyānam, who was verily the same, rather of the identical form with Janārdana Viṣṇu, and narrated the Lalitōpākhyānam to Agastya, and it was he, who might have further composed (uktavān) these sūtras. Thus, these two sūtras relate the tradition of the two locutors of the Lalitōpākhyānam, rather than taking Hayagrīva as a philosopher preaching the philosophy of indifferentism.

Thus Agastya sūtras appear to have been written after the narration of the Lalitōpākhyānam, which has been summarized by Agastya in the sūtra from combining rituals and the philosophy. If this postulation is accepted, the date of Lalitōpākhyānam need not be earlier than 10-11th centuries A.D., especially when a later date, in view of the date of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is possible for the Agastya sūtras.

The internal evidences

(a) The epithet Lalitā

Lalitā as also Tripurā occur among the names of Bhadrakālī, who appeared before Rāma Jāmadagnya while he was fighting with Her devotee Suchandra. The mention of the epithet Lalitā in this particular context makes us surmise that the author of the Bhārgavōpākhyānam was familiar with the Lalitōpākhyānam of Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, or at least, had an acquaintance with the School of Lalitā. The chapter mentioning Lalitā in Bhārgavōpākhyānam was perhaps added to it only after the Lalitōpākhyānam was finally appended to and accepted as an integral part of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa.

(b) Mention of Chaṇḍī Saptaśatī

The author of the Lalitōpākhyānam refers to the Chaṇḍī Saptaśatī, which may be identified with the Durgā Saptaśatī of Mārkaṇḍēya Purāṇa. This Dēvī Māhātmya is precisely dated to the 5th or 6th century A.D. by Hazra. Thus, if the identification of the two is maintained, this could by far serve as the anterior date for the composition of the Lalitōpākhyānam.

(c) The number of Vidyās referred

The number of Viddyās of Srīvidyā referred to in different texts of Tantras have the tendency of gradual increase in number. If a reference to the less number of vidyās in a particular text is taking as the deciding factor of antiquity, then the Saundaryalaharī of śaṅkarācārya mentioning only two of them, would be dated much earlier than the Nityāṣōḍaśikārṇava, mentioning eight of them. The Nityāṣōḍaśikārṇava mentions eight vidyās, and the Yōginīhr̥daya contains one additional, making the total at nine. In the Jñānārṇava, the number of vidyās rises up to 12. Its commentator Shaṅkarānanda has recounted all of them.

The Lalitōpākhyānam refers to 10 vidyāS and it should, on that score, be supposed to occupy a place between the Yōginīhr̥daya and the Jñānārṇava, but it is difficult again to date these two works.

However, the anterior date of the Yōginīhr̥daya would be fixed by the Nityāṣōḍaśikārṇava, which is generally believed to be the forerunner of the Yōginīhr̥daya, as the former mentions one vidyā less than those mentioned in the latter. The Nityāṣōḍaśikārṇava has been taken to be contemporary with Shaṅkarācārya i.e., the 9th century A.D.

The posterior date for the Yōginīhr̥daya is positively decided by the commentator Amr̥tānandanātha who proudly mentions his commentary to the first for this work. He was the teacher of Jayaratha, the commentator on Tantrālōka and who, according to Dr K. C. Pandey, flourished towards the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th century A.D. His teacher would be assigned to the middle of the 12th century A.D. The Yōginīhr̥daya is known to Subhagānandanātha, the author of Manoramā, a commentary on the Tantrarāja Tantra, which is mentioned by the Tantrālōka and hence the former existed much before the 9th century A.D. But the date of Subhagānandanātha, again, is shrouded in mystery.

The Yōginīhr̥daya, on the whole, is an ancient work and cannot be dated much later, say about a century, than the Nityāṣōḍaśikārṇava, because both of these have been unanimous in recording six yōginīs whereas the Jñānārṇava mentions seven.

Now, the date of Jñānārṇava is again difficult to fix. It appears to be different from the Jñāna Tantra mentioned in the Nityāṣōḍaśikārṇava, among the 64 Tantras, for the former has on the basis of internal evidence, show a later tendency. The Mahājñānārṇava Tantra supposed by Bhāskararāya to have been quoted in the Yōginīhr̥daya, is again not recognized as a work of that name by its commentator Amr̥tānandanātha, because he explains the term Mahājñānārṇava differently. It could, therefore, be suggested that the Jñānārṇava Tantra was not known to Amr̥tānandanātha and came into existence much before Bhāskararāya, who quotes from it as also its commentator Shaṅkarānanda. The argumentum ex-silentio in this case should not be taken to be conclusive but may tentatively maintained. Thus the date of Jñānārṇava appears to be the 13th century to 15th century A.D.

Hence the date of Lalitōpākhyānam should be somewhere between the 9th and the 12th centuries A.D. Mahāmahōpādhyāya Gopinath Kaviraj, too, assigns the same probable date to this work.

(d) The ten incarnations of Nārāyaṇa

The text of the Lalitōpākhyānam recounts the ten incarnations of Nārāyaṇa, which are said to have come out of a fingernail of Lalitā to fight the demons that were created by Bhaṇḍa. They are as follows:

1 ādikūrma
2 Mahāvarāha
3 Nr̥simha
4 Vāmana
5 Rāma Jāmadagnya
6 Rāma Dāśarathi
7 Tālaṅka
8 Vāsudēva
9 Saṅkarṣaṇa
10 Pradyumna
11 Aniruddha and
12 Kalki

Although they number 12, the poet, somehow, recounts them as ten only, more after tradition. In that case, we have to recount the Vāsudēva vyūha (of four) as two, more so because he adds the words first and second with Vāsudēva and Saṅkarṣaṇa and leaves other two, without numbering them.

Now, this Vyūha theory was actually promulgated by the Pāñcarātra school. The Viṣṇu Purāṇa, one of the early Purāṇas, does not mention the vyūha of Vāsudēva, whereas first of all it is to be traced in the Nārāyaṇōpākhyānam of the Mahābhārata and is also further mentioned in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. The Ahirbudhnya Samhitā clearly mentions the vyūha theory with the sectarian details. According to Dr. K D Pandey, the vyūha theory appears to be a part of the theory of incarnation, promulgated by the Pāñcarātra school and also accepted by the Purāṇas. Sampradāya pradīpa and Bhakramālā evince the later developments of this theory.

Thus we find that this theory was fully developed by the time of the Ahirbudhnya Samhitā (8th century A.D.). It could have been adopted a century or two later by the works of other schools and hence a more or less contemporary date to the above conclusion for our text would not be out of the question.

(e) Stylistic grounds

The descriptions of the Lalitōpākhyānam appear stylistically to be in the wake of the Yogavāsiṣṭha. The long compounds generally covering the complete hemistich and in the stutis of Lalitā are similar to the Niyatinr̥tyavarṇanam and Kālarātrinr̥tyam of the Yogavāsiṣṭha. It is difficult to say which of them is the borrower of this style. The diction of Lalitōpākhyānam appears to be more ornate and chaste.

(f) Reference to bhuśuṇḍī among weapons

Among the different weapons used in battle, our text refers to bhuśuṇḍī. However, a much later date on that score cannot be granted to it because this weapon also occurs in the Durgā Saptaśatī and the Yogavāsiṣṭha. The inevitable conclusions from the above discussions are that our text was written between the 8th and the 11th century A.D.

(g) Addition of Devī shrines to the temples of South India by Rājarāja Chola

Lalitōpākhyānam narrates that the gods prayed Lalitā to stay permanently at Kāñcī. She agreed to the proposal and three shrines were erected for Brahmā and Sarasvatī, Viṣṇu and Lakṣmī to the south and north, central being for Lalitā or Umā and Mahēśvara. If this event is to be taken identical with the erection of a Devī shrine at the site of Kailāsanātha temple at Kāñcī by Rājarāja, the Chola emperor (985-1014 A.D.), then some precise date for the composition of Lalitōpākhyānam can be arrived at, and this also further can successfully explain the purpose of the composition of this work.

The Authorship of Lalitōpākhyānam

The text specifically records that this upākhyāna was related by Hayagrīva to Agastya at Kāñcī. This could perhaps give an inkling that the author was in all probability a permanent native of Kāñcī itself, or else he had settled down there. That he could at most be a local man, is again pointed out by his extraordinarily elegant praise showered on the Kampā river.

It is needless to say that the perfection shown by the author of the upākhyāna, as a poet and as a devotee commands but praise. The descriptions (rather bhāva) of the reality in its various forms are the very sum-total of his lifelike imagination as a poet, a vividly explicit vision of a realized devotee, and above all a detailed exposition of the secrets of the worship of Srī Lalitā while observing fully well the necessary measures imperative for its proper use alone by posterity, speak for him as a master exponent of the Lalitā school, making it all the more possible that the author had received patronage from the Chola king Rājarāja I.

Home of Lalitōpākhyānam

Several arguments can be adduced to show that the Lalitōpākhyānam was written in the South India, more precisely somewhere near Kāñcī. A few important ones are mentioned as follows:

(a) There are many stanzas written to show the importance of the river Kampā.
(b) The śrīpura’s description contains many architectural terms such as gopuram etc., known to be used in the architecture of South India alone.
(c ) Dāśarathi Rāma is known to bear a Jaṭāmukuṭa, which again is evinced mostly by the sculpture and bronzes from South India.
(d) The frequent use of the word kalyāṇam for marriage, which is used there in this sense in the dialects even these days.
(e) The use of coconut, jackfruit, plantains and the pāyasam, too, shows that the author came from South India. All these fruits are of indigenous growth to the South India, and the preparation which is made of rice and milk even today is known by the word pāyasam.

paramahamsa shrIguru guhAnandanAtha

guhAnandanAtha paramahamsa

गुहावासमीशं गुणातीतमूर्तिं
गणाधीशपूर्वप्रपूज्यं सुभक्त्या |
गुहाकारमाश्रित्य तज्ज्ञानदं तं
गुहानन्दनाथं गुरुं वै भजेऽहम् ||

Sri Lakshmi Nrsimha Karavalambana Stotram

Sri Subrahmanya Gadyam

Thiruttanigai Subrahmanya

पुरहरनन्दन रिपुकुलभञ्जन दिनकरकोटिरूप परिहृतलोकताप शिखीन्द्रवाहन महेन्द्रपालन विधृतसकलभुवनमूल विधुतनिखिलदनुजतूल तापससमाराधित पापजविकाराजित तारुण्यविजितमाराकार कारुण्यसलिलपूराधार मयूरवरवाहन महेन्द्रगिरिकेतन भक्तिपरगम्य शक्तिकररम्य परिपालितनाक पुरशासनपाक निखिललोकनायक गिरिविदारिसायक महादेवभागधेय महापुण्यनामधेय विनतशोकवारण विविधलोककारण सुरवैरिकाल पुरवैरिबाल भवबन्धनविमोचन दलदम्बुजविलोचन करुणामृतरससागर तरुणामृतकरशेखर वल्लीमनोहारिवेष मल्लीमालभरीकेश परिपालितविबुधलोक परिकालितविनतशोक मुखविजितचन्द्र निखिलगुणमन्दिर भानुकोटिसदृशरूप भानुकोपभयदचाप पितृमनोहारिमन्दहास रिपुशिरोदारिचन्द्रहास श्रुतिकलितमणिकुण्डल रुचिविजितरविमण्डल भुजवरविजितसाल भजनपरमनुजपाल नववीरसंसेवित रणधीरसम्भावित मनोहारिशील मेहेन्द्रारिकील कुसुमविशदहास कुलशिखरिनिवास विजितकरणमुनिसेवित विगतमरणजनिभाषित स्कन्दपुरनिवास नन्दनकृतविलास कमलासनविनत चतुरागमविनुत कलिमलविहीनकृतसेवन सरसिजनिकाशशुभलोचन अहार्यवरधीर अनार्यवरदूर विदलितरोगजाल विरचितभोगमूल भोगीन्द्रभाषित योगीन्द्रभावित पाकशासनपरिपूजित नाकवासिनिकरसेवित विधृतविद्याधर विद्रुमहृद्याधर दलितदनुजवेतण्ड विबुधवरकोदण्ड परिपालितभूसुर मणिभूषणभासुर अतिरम्यस्वभाव श्रुतिगम्यप्रभाव लीलाविशेषतोषितशङ्कर हेलाविशेषकलितसङ्कर सुमसमरधन शशधरवदन सुब्रह्मण्य विजयीभव विजयीभव ||

|| सुब्रह्मण्य गुहानन्द ॐ ||

puraharanandana ripukulabhanjana dinakarakoṭirūpa parihṛtalokatāpa śikhīndravāhana mahendrapālana vidhṛtasakalabhuvanamūla vidhutanikhiladanujatūla tāpasasamārādhita pāpajavikārājita tāruṇyavijitamārākāra kāruṇyasalilapūrādhāra mayūravaravāhana mahendragiriketana bhaktiparagamya śaktikararamya paripālitanāka puraśāsanapāka nikhilalokanāyaka girividārisāyaka mahādevabhāgadheya mahāpuṇyanāmadheya vinataśokavāraṇa vividhalokakāraṇa suravairikāla puravairibāla bhavabandhanavimocana daladambujavilocana karuṇāmṛtarasasāgara taruṇāmṛtakaraśekhara vallīmanohāriveṣa mallīmālabharīkeśa paripālitavibudhaloka parikālitavinataśoka mukhavijitacandra nikhilaguṇamandira bhānukoṭisadṛśarūpa bhānukopabhayadacāpa pitṛmanohārimandahāsa ripuśirodāricandrahāsa śrutikalitamaṇikuṇḍala rucivijitaravimaṇḍala bhujavaravijitasāla bhajanaparamanujapāla navavīrasaṃsevita raṇadhīrasambhāvita manohāriśīla mehendrārikīla kusumaviśadahāsa kulaśikharinivāsa vijitakaraṇamunisevita vigatamaraṇajanibhāṣita skandapuranivāsa nandanakṛtavilāsa kamalāsanavinata caturāgamavinuta kalimalavihīnakṛtasevana sarasijanikāśaśubhalocana ahāryavaradhīra anāryavaradūra vidalitarogajāla viracitabhogamūla bhogīndrabhāṣita yogīndrabhāvita pākaśāsanaparipūjita nākavāsinikarasevita vidhṛtavidyādhara vidrumahṛdyādhara dalitadanujavetaṇḍa vibudhavarakodaṇḍa paripālitabhūsura maṇibhūṣaṇabhāsura atiramyasvabhāva śrutigamyaprabhāva līlāviśeṣatoṣitaśaṅkara helāviśeṣakalitasaṅkara sumasamaradhana śaśadharavadana subrahmaṇya vijayībhava vijayībhava ||

Subrahmanya Kavacham

Subrahmanya Shadanana

ॐ अस्य श्रीसुब्रह्मण्य कवचस्तोत्र महामन्त्रस्य बोधायनो भगवान् ऋषिः अनुष्टुप् छन्दः श्रीसुब्रह्मण्यो देवता सां बीजं मं शक्तिः यं कीलकं सर्वाभीष्टसिद्ध्यर्थे आत्मसंरक्षणार्थे सर्वव्याधिनिवारणार्थे समस्तपापक्षयार्थे जपे विनियोगः ||

[ॐ त्रिपुरभावाय -ॐ दीप्ताय -ॐ शरवणभवाय -ॐ शैलभवाय -ॐ भवहरशिखाय -शिवहरभवाय]

द्विषड्भुजं षण्मुखमम्बिकासुतं
कुमारमादित्यसहस्रतेजसम् |
वन्दे मयूरसनमग्निसम्भवं
सेनान्यमत्यद्भुतमिष्टसिद्धये ||

[सुब्रह्मण्य द्वाविंशाक्षरीं प्रजपेत्]

सुब्रह्मण्योऽग्रतः पातु सेनानी पातु पृष्ठतः |
गुहो मां दक्षिणे पातु वचद्भूः पातु वामतः ||
शिरः पातु महासेनो स्कन्दो रक्षेल्ललाटकम् |
नेत्रयोः द्वादशाक्षश्च श्रोत्रं मे पातु विश्वभूः ||
मुखं मे षण्मुखः पातु नासिकां शङ्करात्मजः |
ओष्ठं वल्लीयुतः पातु जिह्वां पातु षडक्षरः ||
देवसेनापतिः पातु चिबुकं बहुलासुतः |
खण्डं तारकजित् पातु बाहू द्वादशबाहुमान् ||
हस्तौ शक्तिधरः पातु वक्षः पातु शरोद्भवः |
हृदयं ब्रह्मभूः पातु कुक्षिं पात्वम्बिकासुतः ||
ऊरू पातु गजारूढो जानू द्वौ जाह्नवीसुतः |
जङ्घे विशाखो मे पातु पादयोः शिखिवाहनः |
सर्वाण्यङ्गानि देवेशो सप्तधातूंश्च षण्मुखः ||
सन्ध्याकाले निशीथिन्यां सङ्कटे दुस्तरे जले |
दुर्गमे च महारण्ये राजद्वारे सुदारुणे ||
मूले चरणमध्ये च सर्वदुष्टमृगादिषु |
चोरादिसप्तभेधे च ज्वरादि व्याधिपीडने ||
दुष्टग्रहोपशमने दुर्निमित्तादि भीषणे |
अस्त्रशस्त्रनिपाते च पातु मामिष्टसिद्धिदः ||

सुब्रह्मण्यस्य कवचं इष्टसिद्धिफलं लभेत् |
तस्य तापत्रयं नास्ति सत्यं सत्यं वदाम्यहम् ||
धर्मार्थी लभते धर्ममर्थार्थी धनमाप्नुयात् |
कामार्थी लभते कामं मोक्षार्थी मोक्षमाप्नुयात् ||
यत्र यत्र जपेन्नित्यं तत्र सन्निहितो गुहः |
पूजाप्रतिष्ठाकाले च जपकाले पठेदिदम् |
सर्वाभीष्टप्रदं तस्य महापातकनाशनम् ||
सुब्रह्मण्यप्रसादेन अपमृत्युर्विनश्यति |
आयुरारोग्यमैश्वर्यं पुत्रपौत्रविवर्धनम् |
इह लोके सुखी भोगी देहान्ते मोक्षमाप्नुयात् ||

|| इति कुमारतन्त्रे कौशिकप्रश्ने महासंहितायां सुब्रह्मण्यस्य कवचस्तोत्रम् ||

OM asya śrīsubrahmaṇya kavacastotra mahāmantrasya bodhāyano bhagavān ṛṣiḥ anuṣṭup chandaḥ śrīsubrahmaṇyo devatā sāṃ bījaṃ maṃ śaktiḥ yaṃ kīlakaṃ sarvābhīṣṭasiddhyarthe ātmasaṃrakṣaṇārthe sarvavyādhinivāraṇārthe samastapāpakṣayārthe jape viniyogaḥ ||

[OM tripurabhāvāya -OM dīptāya -OM śaravaṇabhavāya -OM śailabhavāya -OM bhavaharaśikhāya -śivaharabhavāya]

dviṣaḍbhujaṃ ṣaṇmukhamambikāsutaṃ
kumāramādityasahasratejasam |
vande mayūrasanamagnisambhavaṃ
senānyamatyadbhutamiṣṭasiddhaye ||

[subrahmaṇya dvāviṃśākṣarīṃ prajapet]

subrahmaṇyo.agrataḥ pātu senānī pātu pṛṣṭhataḥ |
guho māṃ dakṣiṇe pātu vacadbhūḥ pātu vāmataḥ ||
śiraḥ pātu mahāseno skando rakṣellalāṭakam |
netrayoḥ dvādaśākṣaśca śrotraṃ me pātu viśvabhūḥ ||
mukhaṃ me ṣaṇmukhaḥ pātu nāsikāṃ śaṅkarātmajaḥ |
oṣṭhaṃ vallīyutaḥ pātu jihvāṃ pātu ṣaḍakṣaraḥ ||
devasenāpatiḥ pātu cibukaṃ bahulāsutaḥ |
khaṇḍaṃ tārakajit pātu bāhū dvādaśabāhumān ||
hastau śaktidharaḥ pātu vakṣaḥ pātu śarodbhavaḥ |
hṛdayaṃ brahmabhūḥ pātu kukṣiṃ pātvambikāsutaḥ ||
ūrū pātu gajārūḍho jānū dvau jāhnavīsutaḥ |
jaṅghe viśākho me pātu pādayoḥ śikhivāhanaḥ |
sarvāṇyaṅgāni deveśo saptadhātūṃśca ṣaṇmukhaḥ ||
sandhyākāle niśīthinyāṃ saṅkaṭe dustare jale |
durgame ca mahāraṇye rājadvāre sudāruṇe ||
mūle caraṇamadhye ca sarvaduṣṭamṛgādiṣu |
corādisaptabhedhe ca jvarādi vyādhipīḍane ||
duṣṭagrahopaśamane durnimittādi bhīṣaṇe |
astraśastranipāte ca pātu māmiṣṭasiddhidaḥ ||

subrahmaṇyasya kavacaṃ iṣṭasiddhiphalaṃ labhet |
tasya tāpatrayaṃ nāsti satyaṃ satyaṃ vadāmyaham ||
dharmārthī labhate dharmamarthārthī dhanamāpnuyāt |
kāmārthī labhate kāmaṃ mokṣārthī mokṣamāpnuyāt ||
yatra yatra japennityaṃ tatra sannihito guhaḥ |
pūjāpratiṣṭhākāle ca japakāle paṭhedidam |
sarvābhīṣṭapradaṃ tasya mahāpātakanāśanam ||
subrahmaṇyaprasādena apamṛtyurvinaśyati |
āyurārogyamaiśvaryaṃ putrapautravivardhanam |
iha loke sukhī bhogī dehānte mokṣamāpnuyāt ||

|| iti kumāratantre kauśikapraśne mahāsaṃhitāyāṃ subrahmaṇyasya kavacastotram ||

Is Udupi Krishna actually Subrahmanya?

Udupi Krishna

There has been an ongoing discussion whether the idol of śrīnivāsa at Tirupati is that of Viṣṇu. On similar lines, a controversy seems to have erupted in Karnataka regarding the idol of Kṛṣṇa in the famous Mādhva shrine at Udupi.

The knowers of Shilpa śāstra suggest that the idol of Kṛṣṇa in the shrine at Udupi does not confirm to the lakṣaṇas laid out in the āgamas for an idol of Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. The idol, according to some experts of iconography, is of Skanda or Subrahmanya.

According to popular belief, this idol was originally from the fabled city of Dvārakā and was obtained by Madhvācārya through a sailor. The idol, known to have been covered with gopīcandana, was consecrated and installed in the shrine at Udupi by Madhvācārya, the founder of Dvaita Vedānta.

There is also the popular tale of Kanakadāsa, pleased with whose devotion, the idol is said to have turned towards the western direction within the shrine at Udupi. But it is now pointed out that the consecration of the original idol was done facing the west and that the tale of Kanakadāsa probably was created during the time (fifteenth century) of prominence of the Kuruba community (shepherds) to which Kanakadāsa belonged. As the idol arrived from the sea which faces the west, it is said to have been consecrated facing the same direction.

This controversy is nothing new, but seems to have gained a new momentum due to discussions on digital and social mediums. Many of the points outlined below are recorded in a Kannada book published by the Indian Archaeological Society named - ‘Udupi: Itihasa and Puratattva’. A researcher and writer named Manjeshwara Mukunda Prabhu has spent more than a decade investigating this subject and has collected various opinions from different research scholars which indicate that the idol is indeed of Subrahmaṇya and not Kṛṣṇa. He published an article for the first time in 1985 with his study which had then created a big controversy. Some of the noted scholars who have studied the idol and its history in depth and conclusively opine that it is indeed an idol of Skanda are:

- Dr. G N Panth, Director, National Museum, New Delhi
- Dr. R C Sharma, Director, Indian Museum, Calcutta
- T V G Shastri, Director, Birla Archaeological and Cultural Research Center, Hyderabad
- Dr V V Krishna Shastri, Director, Government Museum, Mangalore
- Thiru N Harinarayana, Director and Research Scholar, Government Museum, Hyderabad

All these reputed scholars have published their studies supplemented by verifiable proof. P Gururaja Bhatt, in his book, Studies in Tuluva History and Culture (page 331), notes: ‘the absence of kirīṭa is another feature and owing to the impact of age, the face is worn out”. He posits that the idol is much older than the time of Madhvācārya with several interesting implications.

Following are some of the key arguments put forth by these various scholars.

Udupi was originally a śaiva kṣetra

Researchers are of the opinion that Udupi, to begin with, was a śaiva kṣetra. The place gets its name ‘Udupi’ after Chandra (moon) - (Udu+pa = nakṣatrādhipati) who is said to have performed a penance here to please śiva to rid himself of leprosy which he contracted due to a curse from Dakṣa prajāpati. Lord Shiva is said to have appeared here to Chandra, cured him of his affliction and worn him as an ornament, thereby appearing as Chandramaulīśvara. Two ancient temples in Udupi are of Ananteśvara and Chandramaulīśvara. Shivalli, a place near Udupi (known for Shivalli Brahmins) was a famous center of śaiva worship before the time of Madhvācārya. There are references available today that speak of four shrines dedicated to śakti and to Skanda in four directions surrounding the temple of Ananteśvara. Of these, one of the temples of Skanda is missing today, and as recorded in an issue of the Archaeological Gazette of India, the current temple of Kṛṣṇa is known to originally have been this now missing shrine of Skanda.

Iconography of Kṛṣṇa and Skanda idols

It is pointed out that the pose of the idol holding what is alleged to be a churning rod in one hand, with his other hand on his waist - is not associated with idols of Kṛṣṇa and such an idol is not seen elsewhere in India.

(a) The idol sporting a daṇḍa in one hand, is stationed in the heroic pose of ekabhaṅgi or samabhaṅgi (a straight posture with no bends) rather than the tribhaṅgi (three bends of the body at the waist, neck and the knee) which is commonly associated with idols of Kṛṣṇa. Even the aṣṭottara used in the temple of Kṛṣṇa today includes the name: tribhaṅgine namaḥ. Various forms of Kṛṣṇa such as Nartana Kṛṣṇa (dancing posture), Govardhanadhāra (lifting mount Govardhana), Kāliṅgamardana - none of these are seen in samabhaṅgi.

(b) The chief object associated with the idol of Kṛṣṇa is the flute which is also missing in the idol at Udupi. The iconographical details hence seem to match those of Subrahmaṇya instead who is frequently depicted as Daṇḍāyudhapāṇi (bearing a staff in his hand).

(c) According to āgama and shilpa śāstras, some of the common characteristics of an idol or icon of Kṛṣṇa are: śaṅkha and cakra, mukuṭa (crown), peacock feather, vanamālā, śrīvatsa lāñchana, pītāmbara (the idol in Udupi on the other hand is clad in kaupīna - associated with Skanda) and flute. Now, the reasons why this idol is that of Skanda are: samabhaṅgi (discussed earlier), daṇḍāyudha in the hand, kaṭihasta (hand on the waist), kaupīna (loin cloth) and keśālaṅkāra (as opposed to hair covered by a crown in the case of Kṛṣṇa vigrahas).

The idol at Udupi perfectly fits the below popular pratimā lakṣaṇa of a Skanda vigraha from Kumara Tantra:

कल्पद्रुमं प्रणमतां कमलारुणाभं
स्कन्दं भुजद्वयमनामयमेकवक्त्रम् |
कात्यायनीसुतमहं कटिबद्धदाम-
कौपीनदण्डधरदक्षिणहस्तमीडे ||

kalpadrumaṃ praṇamatāṃ kamalāruṇābhaṃ
skandaṃ bhujadvayamanāmayamekavaktram |
kātyāyanīsutamahaṃ kaṭibaddhadāma-
kaupīnadaṇḍadharadakṣiṇahastamīḍe ||

Another similar verse can be seen from the ancient Kāmikāgama:

द्विहस्तो यज्ञसूत्राढ्यः सशिखस्त्रिमेखलः |
कौपीनदण्डधृक् सव्यपाणः कट्याश्रितो अपरः ||

dvihasto yajñasūtrāḍhyaḥ saśikhastrimekhalaḥ |
kaupīnadaṇḍadhṛk savyapāṇḥ kaṭyāśrito aparaḥ ||

Agencies associated with the Kṛṣṇa Maṭha of Udupi deny this theory and insist that the idol follows the guidelines of the work Tantrasārasaṃgraha of Madhvācārya and hence argue that it is no big deal if it defies the well-known rules of āgama and śilpaśāstra. However, this argument makes no sense as the idol (according to the narrative of the Mādhva votaries themselves) existed much before the birth of Madhvācārya, and hence also predates the work Tantrasārasaṃgraha. The very first reference to a churning rod (in the hands of this idol of Kṛṣṇa ) seems to have started from the time of Vādirāja (1480), a Mādhva Yati who first interpreted the daṇḍa as a churning-rod and the channavīta.

Dr. Selvapillai Iyengar, who has a doctorate in śilpaśāstra and is currently serving as a research scholar at KSOU, asks the following questions:

(a) Kṛṣṇa is generally depicted as wearing an urudāma (a thread around the waist or hip, which most traditional Hindus wear to this day), but never holding a rope in his left hand.
(b) Even if the idol did depict a rope, why is it held in left hand and not tied to the churning rod?
(c) Why is the churning rod, if it indeed was one, held in an inverted fashion with the churning end pointed upwards?

Subrahmanya worship in Dakshina Kannada

The idol said to be of Balarāma which also was retreived by Madhvācārya from the ship and installed at Vaḍabhāṇḍeśvara, is again very similar to the idol of Skanda and does not confirm to any lakṣaṇas of an icon of Balarāma. Both idols, researchers opine, are of Skanda and resemble numerous such idols found throughout the region of Dakshina Kannada where the worship of Subrahmaṇya was very popular in the past. Shown below is one such image of Skanda which closely resembles the idol in Udupi alleged to be a Kṛṣṇa vigraha.

Skanda Ido from Dakshina Kannada

Some experts also draw attention to the shrine of Kukke Subrahmaṇya, also situated in the coastal belt of Karnataka, which houses a vigraha that resembles the idol at Udupi. Both these idols exhibit very similar iconographical details popular in the region in the eighth century when Subrahmaṇya worship was at its peak. Also, an expert of iconography from Udupi named P Gururaja Bhatt points out that the daṇḍa, over a period of time, had worn off giving it the appearance of a churning rod, and it is actually a snake, that is mistaken for a rope (talk of adhyāsa!) Alternately, based on the lakṣaṇas of Skanda idols, this is recognized as channavīta. The coastal belt, where primary adherence was to śaiva customs, is recorded to have been effectively influenced to worship Viṣṇu after the establishment of Kṛṣṇa Maṭha by Madhvācārya.

Hagiographical Accounts

There is proof for the existence of the idol (now believed to have been consecrated by Madhva) even before the times of Madhvācārya. Also, the hagiographical Madhvavijaya of Nārāyaṇapaṇḍitācārya does not speak of an idol which bears a churning rod in its hand. This work which provides a keśādipādānta description of Kṛṣṇa, makes absolutely no reference to a churning rod, which is the most significant aspect of the idol at Udupi. Also, other than works of āgama and Tantra which make no mention of a mūrti bearing a churning rod and rope in its hands, Purāṇas such as Brahma, Brahmavaivarta, Bhāgavata, Viṣṇu etc. also do not illustrate such a form of Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu.

The earliest reference to the idol of Kṛṣṇa - even before Vādirāja’s popular narrative, is seen the hagiography Sumadhva Vijaya by one Nārayaṇa paṇḍitācārya, said to be a direct disciple of Madhvācārya:

गोपिकाप्रणयिनः श्रियः पते-
राकृतिं दशमतिः शिलामयीम् |
शोधयन्निह ततो व्यगाहयत् ||
सन्निधानपदतां गतं हरेः |
त्रिंशदुद्यतनरैः सुदुर्धरां
लीलयाऽनयदिमामसौ मठम् || (9.41-42)

gopikāpraṇayinaḥ śriyaḥ pate-
rākṛtiṃ daśamatiḥ śilāmayīm |
śodhayanniha tato vyagāhayat ||
sannidhānapadatāṃ gataṃ hareḥ |
triṃśadudyatanaraiḥ sudurdharāṃ
līlayā.anayadimāmasau maṭham || (9.41-42)

According to popular tradition, Madhvācārya rescued a ship that arrived on the shores of Malpe by waving his saffron robes and guided it to safety in a raging storm. When the owner of the ship offered anything from the ship as a gift for saving his life, Madhvācārya is said to have chosen two logs of gopīcandana which concealed the idols of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. It is this idol that is currently believed to be installed in the temple at Udupi. However, none of the older works, especially the Sumadhvavijaya, make any mention of this tale. According to Nārayaṇa paṇḍitācārya believed to be the direct disciple of Madhvācārya, the idol was retrieved from the depths of the sea by Madhva with the help of his disciples and subsequently installed at the Kṛṣṇna maṭha at Udupi. As clearly seen from the above verses of Sumadhvavijaya, the popular story of the idol arriving in a ship from Dvārakā seems to be a later spinoff.

Based on the hagiographical śaṅkaravijaya, Hastāmalakācārya, a disciple of śaṅkara, who was from this region, is known to have established the earliest idol of Kṛṣṇa in Udupi, which is today rumored to be the ‘Taila Kṛṣṇa' worshipped in the Kangu Maṭha of the Mādhvas. A picture of this idol is shown below.

Majeshwara Mukunda Prabhu posits that Tantrasārasaṃgraha indicates Madhvācārya’s familiarity with āgama and śilpaśāstra and hence it is difficult to believe that he mistook the idol of Skanda for Kṛṣṇa. Also, after the establishment of this idol, for the next 300 years, there seems to have been no dhyāna ślokas composed on the deity by the pontiffs of the Kṛṣṇa Maṭha at Udupi, till the time of Vādirāja in 1500. Prabhu argues that Vādirāja camouflaged the idol with various alaṅkāras (decorations) - one of which happens to be Skandālaṅkāra, and composed verses and songs to popularize the deity as Kṛṣṇa. Below is a verse composed by Vādirāja which seems to be the first description of the idol as Kṛṣṇa which calls the daṇḍa as ‘mantha (churning rod):

कृष्णं वन्दे मन्थपाशधरं दिव्यार्भकाकृतिम् |
शिखाबन्धत्रयोपेतं भैष्मीमध्वकरार्चितम् ||

kṛṣṇaṃ vande manthapāśadharaṃ divyārbhakākṛtim |
śikhābandhatrayopetaṃ bhaiṣmīmadhvakarārcitam ||