Web         Gaudiya Discussions
Gaudiya Discussions Archive » ARTICLES
Articles and essays on devotional topics belong to this section.

The Makara-dragon, key to (post) vedic creation myths - and a link in diverse mythologies East to West

nabadip - Fri, 16 Jul 2004 21:51:37 +0530
At the Surya-temple of Konarak we encountered the Makara, this fantastic creature, that appears on many Indian temples, especially in South India. There the Makara is actually framing left and right, often the entrance gate or even the main temple roof itself, as is seen here in the second foto. You see this ornament often also in Vaishnava temples, including (only modern?) Gaudiya-vaishnava ones.

Makara is given the time of December/January in Indian Astronomy/Astrology, the time when the Sun begins its northward movement. This is the external reason why the Makara plays a role at a Sun-temple and other temples as well. It is also the time of the dawn of the devas, whose day/night cycle corresponds to our year. The dragon therefore can be said to symbolize time as a whole, in its cyclic order. As time is at the background of creation, the dragon carries connotations of the primordial elements, earth, water, fire and air, or the panca-bhuta, if its spacial extension, and the roaring sound it makes, is included.

The dragon is well known from Chinese mythology, but we encounter him also in Christian and European alchemical metaphors. In Christianity he is taking another form in the guise of Satan, eytmologically connected to Saturn who is the lord of the Makara period, or Capricorn, and in the guise of the snake at the Tree of Knowledge in paradise. St. George killing the dragon is also a well known metaphor. Mother Mary or the Christ are sometimes depicted as killing the dragon-snake. The slaying of Vritra by Indra is a major Vedic theme extending into the Puranas including the Srimad Bhagavatam as well. The many myths collected in these holy books re-tell aspects of the secret of creation, of the inter-connection, the web of different forces in nature. This is my view on the sanctity and veracity of a text like the Srimad Bhagavatam. And the Makara is a pivotal symbol of this mystery, both of these texts and the reality described there.

Following these fotos are some quotes from online articles on the Makara and Dragon theme, to shed some light into this mysterious topic which connects all the world-mythologies, because the Sun shines on everyone on this earth, and the Earth's relationship to the Sun, in an astronomical as well as existential sense, is a fundamental mystery of our existence revealing a divine purpose and divine existence behind and beyond it.
nabadip - Fri, 16 Jul 2004 21:54:00 +0530
This Makara is constructed in two animal forms
Attachment: Image
nabadip - Fri, 16 Jul 2004 21:56:33 +0530
This is the way a Makara is normally placed in a temple structure. there should be one at the other side as well. This one is some kind of aquatic animal with an elephant's trunk holding a fish. Some kind of crocodile with lions' paws and a fin/wing hinting at the union of the diverse elements...
Attachment: Image
nabadip - Fri, 16 Jul 2004 22:04:35 +0530
"The Makara is a composite monster something like a crocodile, taking many forms, but unreal and elusive in all of them. It is hard to imagine that it was ever believed to exist, yet its figure is common in the architecture of India and the Far East and in the Mayan and Aztec civilizations of the New World. Its appearance is so varied, its features so different, that almost any weird beast can be called a makara; there are elephant-makaras, fish-makaras, dragon-makaras, goat-makaras, and so on, which may possibly account for its lack of a concrete, substantial character.

Two points, however, seem to persist in all the metamorphoses of the makara. Although essentially a sea-beast, it always seems to have characteristics of both fish and mammal and it may be that, even as the Persian bird senmurv was an attempt to combine the features of mammal and bird in a single creature, the makara was intended to combine the features of sea and land animals in one. Secondly, the makara always has at least a suggestion of a snout. This snout, whether it originated in that of the crocodile, or as the horn of the horned shark, the horn of the antelope, or the trunk of an elephant, certainly resembles the latter most closely. The creatures modeled at either end of the ridge pole of Chinese roofs, with the pole itself coming forth from their mouths in a most successful architectural design, are presumably makaras. Their head, and the barely suggested front claws are those of the dragon; the snout that curls back over the wide-open mouth can only be described as that of an elephant.

The makara is essentially Indian, although its prototype may well be found in the goat-fish Capricorn, a creature of the Babylonian water-god Ea. Its most common form is that of an antelope-fish, and as such it is the tenth sign of the Indian Zodiac, being thus identical with the goat-fish Capricorn which is the tenth sign of our Zodiac.

But the strangest thing about the makara is that, although definitely an aquatic animal, it combines features of the elephant and the dragon. And it is in the relationship of the elephant to the dragon, or serpent, that we may find a clue to the mystery of why the dragons of East and West have so different a character. The great reptilian figure, the primeval force that under the guise of the dragon haunted the minds of both Orient and Occident, seems to have been originally one and the same creature; only, as we have seen, in Western mythology it epitomized all that was most diabolical, destructive and terrifying in nature, and in the Far East it was the king and best of all beasts, capricious perhaps, but a true benefactor of man.

In Indian mythology, however, not only do good and evil dragons exist together but they carry on constant warfare against each other. The trouble is that, to add to the confusion, it is doubtful whether either of these two opposing dragon forms are truly dragons. Both are nagas, which is usually translated either as "dragon" or "snake," but the word "naga" is applied not only to the mythological serpent breed but also to the wild elephant. And the elephant is definitely a symbol of good. (This is reflected by early Christian writers, who used the elephant as a symbol of Christ.) Thus, whether from a misunderstanding of words, or from an inarticulate attempt to express the duality of good and bad in nature, the elephant seems to have taken over the good characteristics of the dragon form, while the serpent-dragon-naga absorbed what was evil in it. The first concept, traveling east, may have been associated with an already existing spirit of the waters and thus given the Orient its kindly, bewhiskered dragon (though in this case it could only have been the concept or idea that traveled; it would be hard to imagine anything physically less like an elephant than the Chinese dragon). In the same way the second, traveling west, either created or reinforced belief in a monster of evil, an elemental force incarnate in serpent form. (In this connection it is interesting to find a seventeenth-century English naturalist saying that "There be also serpents called Elephants," whose bite inflicts a kind of leprosy, but that fortunately these are "strangers to our country.")

Whatever its origin, the traditional enmity of elephant and snake is widely accepted both East and West. The Pa snake in Western China is reputed to attack and swallow elephants, as are certain serpents in Borneo. In Libya, near the Nile river, enormous snakes are said to prey on the elephants as they come down to drink, and the same story is told of the dragon in India. There as elsewhere, it is the reptile who attacks the elephant, entangling him in vicious coils until the poor ponderous beast has no hope of escape, but it is said that the wounded elephant makes sure he falls in such a way as to crush his enemy. Thus the monsters die together. No man has ever seen one of these titanic battles, but proof of them is to be found in the existence in the earth of veins of cinnabar, for it is the dragon's blood soaking into the earth that causes this reddish ore. (At least one Japanese emperor tried to make himself immortal by drinking melted cinnabar in the belief that it was truly dragon's blood.)

All this takes us far from the makara. There may indeed be no connection between that vague and unrealistic monster and the question of whether the dragons of East and West have a common ancestor in the "naga," and whether the naga in turn is both elephant and snake. But it is curious that a single combining elephant and dragon does exist.

The makara is a frequent decorative motive, either the whole figure or the head alone, and it is probably due to its popular use in art rather than to any symbolism that it has become so widespread in the Far East. As a design rather than a living beast, it also appears in combination with another strange creature found in Indian and other Asian architecture. This is the Kirtimukha, the "Glory Face" or "Face of Fame," and it is the face of a lion, without body, without limbs, without even a chin below its wide open mouth. The eyes are protruding, the thick line of the eye-brows is extended to form a suggestion of horns, and the bushy hair springs upward as though it were meant to represent flames. The mouth is an enormous grinning cavern reminding one irresistibly of the Cheshire Cat. ("A grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!") Sometimes, especially when used as the lintel of doorways in Javanese temples, there is no lower lip at all and the "Glory Face" is scarcely even a face. From the open mouth spring festoons of pearls or of flowers, and these in turn end on either side in the head of a makara, fish face, elephant snout and all.

This Kirtimukha is probably related to the "T'ao-t'ieh," or monster face, of China, which was supposed to drive away evil spirits and which was much used on early sacrificial bronzes. It is likely that both are derived from some ancient Asiatic symbol, the meaning of which is lost to us. The origin of the T'ao-t'ieh (also Tao-tieh) is certainly obscure, the only hint being contained in a single reference in the early classical books to the T'ao-t'ieh as one of four monsters exiled into outer darkness by the emperor Shun about 2,000 B.C., but it is interesting to find that the characters for the name of this bodiless monster face mean "voracious glutton." The story as told in India by the worshippers of Siva to account for the origin of the Glory Face fits in well with the idea of gluttony.

Siva, it seems, was just about to marry the beautiful Parvati, when a messenger came to him from the land of the demons. This messenger was Rahu, the demon who every now and then swallows the sun and so causes eclipses, and the message he brought was that the king of the demons considered Siva unworthy to wed Parvati of the mountains, and that he himself would take her instead. On hearing this Siva became so angry that, before he could even speak, a monster in the shape of a man-lion, which was indeed nothing else than his own concentrated fury made visible, sprang out from between his eyes and fell upon the unfortunate Rahu. Rahu, however, threw himself at Siva's feet and begged for mercy, arguing, as the ambassadors of kings have always done, that he could not reasonably be held responsible for the message of which he was only the bearer. Siva, mollified, agreed to let him go. But the lion creature who was born of his wrath now turned upon Siva, and complained of hunger.

"You created me to devour the demon," he protested. "And now you have forgiven him and sent him away. What am I to do?"

"Well," Siva agreed, "that is true enough. But if you have been cheated of one demon, there is still another. You will just have to eat yourself."

And this the monster did. He began with his legs and then his arms, gradually eating himself up until nothing remained of him but the face. (The strings of pearls so gracefully formed into garlands by the artists were his entrails.) The sight of this so amused Siva that he appointed the lion spirit -- or what remained of it -- as guardian of his door, to be worshiped and fed with sacrificial meats by all who entered there.

Text excerpted from Peter Lum's Fabulous Beasts, copyright 1951. "

quoted from:
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 02:31:17 +0530
Here is a Kirtimukha of the Konarak Sun Temple, a Face of Glory, the personification of hunger eating itself, a symbol of the universe
Attachment: Image
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 02:33:29 +0530
Another Kirtimukha is on the above second foto of a Makara
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 02:37:40 +0530
"Yalli, (corruption of Skt. vyala, fierce monster) are architectural or decorative animal motifs. They feature mainly as stone carvings like the ones at the famous Hindu temples of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India.

They usually have the stylized body of a lion and the head of some other beast, most often an elephant (gaja-vyala.) Other common examples are: the lion-headed (simha-vyala,) horse- (ashva-vyala,) human- (nir-vyala) and the dog-headed (shvana-vyala) ones. They are related to the hippogryphs and sphinxes of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and symbolize the world-emperor (Skt. chakravartin,) whose strength derives from divine power.

Another monstrous creature is the Shabara, a hybrid of a lion, horse and ram.)

Their counterparts in European design are some of the fantastic animals used as mediaeval heraldic devices, eg. the griffon.


Mukha means face or mask or even maw. A mukha is an architectural or decorative motif that is placed above openings as a form of protection. It is also known as makara vakstra, and is often the central feature in the elaborate cloth door hanging known as a toran. A particular type is known as the Face of Glory or Kirtimukha. It is a demonic mask of great ferocity with protruding eyeballs, stout horns, and a gaping maw with prominent fangs or canine teeth. Kirtimukhas often appear above gates, dormer windows, archways and so on. A kirtimukha often has garlands or festoons issuing from its mouths.

It is also referred to as Simha-mukha (lion-mask) in literature, and the stylized lion's face can be traced to the Persian lion-faces which appear for the first time in India on Mauryan (eg. Ashoka) pillar capitals. It is referred to as Grasamukha in western India, Rahumukha in eastern India, and as Kala in the Southeast Asian countries.

It may be related to the Mask of Medusa as it was used in Greek and Roman architecture. Gorgon heads with their terrific faces were carved on gates and walls of forts, palaces, and temples to ward off enemies and other dangers. Similar decorative devices were also used by the Scythians, Chinese and appear all over the world; in Britain, for example, there is the Green Man mask hiding in corners of Gothic cathedrals.

The Kirtimukha is generally considered symbolic of the destructive power of Shiva Mahabhairav (very wrathful) -- destroyer of demons. It is seen by Hindus as symbolic of the glory of divine power which generates creation but is also the source of destruction. For Buddhists it is a symbol of Impermanence -- the face of the demon grasping the Wheel of Samsara. However, alone, it is an auspicious mark of the activity of Dharma Protection.

Some see in the Kirtimukha, the eclipse demon Rahu who had no body according to Indian mythology. Eclipses are almost never considered good omens and often are interpreted as portents of disaster. Considering the ancient homeopathic principle that we can treat "like with like" then we can understand why Kirtimukhas are believed to ward off evil, especially such forces of destruction as fire and earthquake.

V. S. Agrawala says that kirti denotes an excavated chamber, and so Kirtimukha signifies its façade. ~ Rajaram Hegde's on-line article.

Kirtimukha often appears as a subtle motif in the embroideries, and traditional Tibetan Buddhist hangings and banners that decorate shrine rooms and temples. For some, they still serve in a magical capacity to ward off evil, for others they are only an auspicious motif. Most people do not even realize the mask is there."

a quotation from:
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 02:41:19 +0530
Similar decorative devices were also used by the Scythians, Chinese and appear all over the world; in Britain, for example, there is the Green Man mask hiding in corners of Gothic cathedrals.

for a sample of a Green Man in England see

The Green Man in Islamic tradition here, but clearly leading into alchemical symbology:
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 03:09:43 +0530
a sample of the Makara with a Kirtimukha in the centre you see in this picture of Devi Padmavati, namely in the halo over her head. The crown ends in a makara each side (near the murti's hands) and on top you see a Kirtimukha, a Face of Glory.

see it at:
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 03:27:14 +0530
This is a more speculative piece on cosmic-astronomical connections of these symbols.

"Coomaraswamy writes that the makara is a great Leviathan (serpent) moving through the waters. Since the makara has a primary stelar relationship with Capricorn, the waters, on one level, must be the cosmic ocean of the night sky. Spiritually, or metaphysically, the waters contains the essence of life. The makara decorative types that Coomaraswamy examines are well known as the “vehicle” of Varuna and the banner of Kamadeva. “Vehicle” means conveyence or totem object in which the deity resides. Kama-deva means death or time spirit. In relation to Kamadeva, the makara’s mouth symbolizes the gate of death and birth, and passing through it annihilates time.

In other words, the domain beyond the terrible, devouring mouth of the makara is the realm of unconditioned essences, and is beyond the conditioned experience of time within the manifest world. As such, the makara is related to the gandharva beings who guard the gate of paradise, within which the soma elixir of immortality can be had (if one is spiritually prepared). Krsannau is a gandharva; he is an archer who protects the treasure of heaven at the center of the world. He is associated with Sagittarius, the archer constellation. Already, we have two pointers to a specific region of the sky: Krsannau (Sagittarius) and the makara (Capricorn), which are next to each other. The makara is related to a group of life-sprouting or life-devouring mouths that include the kala-mukha (great mouth) and the simsumara crocodile, who lies in wait within the stream travelled by the newly deceased soul. In many traditions around the globe this river of souls is usually equated with the Milky Way. Given that the mouth motif is located in the region of Sagittarius, Capricorn, and the Milky Way, it is almost impossible to not associate it with the great cleft in the Milky Way which runs north of Sagittarius.

The makara is also the vehicle of the river goddess Ganga (p. 143), and the Ganges is associated with the Milky Way. The makara appears as the source of lotus vegetation (of life). The Yaksa is a spirit of life-essence and the lotus is sometimes shown sprouting from its mouth or navel. Voice and navel were though of as creative forces or centers.

In Mannikka’s book on Angkor Wat, a connection is made between the eagle who stole soma and the Aquila constellation. Krsannau (Sagittarius) shot at the Garuda bird/eagle. The soma is often equated with solar fire, but is also the life-essence that resides at the root of the cosmic tree of creation. It can also be conceived of as creative fire at the top of the cosmic mountain. Varuna was an early form of Indra, whose solar associations place the sun into the sidereal location under consideration. This opens up the yaksa cosmology to time, seasons, and solar movements. The ashvatta twins helped to resurrect their solar father on the winter solstice. The ashvatta is the station of the horse, related to sky elephants (clouds; the Milky Way) who are gandharvas. Yaksas and Yaksis are later male-female versions of the gandharva-apsarases duality, and may relate to the ashvata twins. The asvatta is also the tree under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment; as it is also the station of the horse, we may have an astrological feature much like the Mayan crocodile head that represents the nuclear bulge of the galactic center. Coomaraswamy writes, “the makara is always represented, at least in the early art, as a creature with a head like a crocodile…” (143). A related tree is the nyograva tree, which means “downward spreading.” This inverted tree motif evokes an axis that comes down to earth from a celestial root or center place. This is the tree in the galactic chakra model. Mula is lunar mansion called “root” and is located at the galactic center (see Frawley).

The full-face makara, a widely used architectural element even to this day, is also known as kirtimukha, or “glory head.” Coomaraswamy writes that the kirtimukha was probably not originally associated with the makara. My feeling, given the glory head’s presence in the Rahu-myth, is that it should refer to the Gemini-Taurus gateway. Confusion arises in the multiple uses of different metaphors (mouth, naval, head) and when isolating one side of the sky from the other. The proper system would identify the makara’s mouth as a birthplace (vagina / fish-mouth) and the Rahu glory head as the third eye of the sixth chakra; or, the creativity of third eye mentation is born through incantation and thus voice/mouth. Vagina-mouth duality. The Makara crocodile is analogous to the Greek dolphin (p. 144); the dolphin as symbol of the savior who was born on the December solstice is consistent with the makara’s association with Capricorn (see my argument that the dark-rift “mouth” rises heliacally when the sun is in Capricorn). The makara is related to the flood legend (water or life essence flooding out of the Leviathan’s mouth) – thus an eschatological use. A myth states that the makara’s mouth can contain a pearl, and extracting it was providential; this relates to the soma-beyond-the-gate theme.

It is not surprising that these features and locations come together in the Churning of the Ocean creation myth. At Angkor Wat, this myth is prominently featured. A related myth, the theft of soma, borrows many of the motifs; most significantly, soma. Sagittarius, Aquila, Capricorn, and the sun (as soul-essence or soul-fire) all relate to the sun’s passage (annually or precessionally) through the galactic center. Metaphysically, we can understand this as being equivalent to the soul’s after death journey to God. The soul, like the sun, passes through the highest house wherein the Creator dwells. In the passage through God’s house, spirit-energy attaches to the soul. Or, we might say, the God-consciousness already resident in the soul resonates with the God-soma-energy-light during its after-death processing in the highest heaven."

quoted from:
Madhava - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 03:53:09 +0530
sphurad-atiruci-kallola-kapolaH |
smara-rasa-madhura-vilocana-khelaH ||

|| Azcarya-rAsa-prabandhaH 27 ||

Makara is one of the more fascinating creatures out there that I've been meaning to look into for a long time but never seemed to quite get that far. I'll have to browse through this thread carefully. Would you happen to have something in store on the Timingila-aquatics (fishes?), too? Not as much of a symbol as Makara, but a mighty interesting being as well. cool.gif
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 14:47:52 +0530
Indeed, the Makara is a symbol of primordial importance which was shrunk by some to just an unintelligeable misunderstood fish-monster. Its significance is seen by the fact that Kamadeva is called Makara-ketu, "bearing Makara as his banner", and Kamadeva is identified with Agni of the Vedas. (Atharva Veda portrays Kamadeva as the offspring of Dharma and Shraddha.) Kamadeva is the primal creative principle of attraction that makes creation possible.

Krishna wears a Makara-kundala (Makara-shaped ear-rings) and is praised as outdoing Kamadeva any time (well, most of the time wink.gif ). In Bhagavad Gita, X. 31, Krsna is jhasanam makarah, the makara among the jhasa.

The Timingila as a whale-eating fish may just be a sea-monster. If a mythical connection needs to be construed, perhaps the Manu-fish-deluge theme would serve, told in the Satapatha Bramana.
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 14:58:56 +0530
sphurad-atiruci-kallola-kapolaH |
smara-rasa-madhura-vilocana-khelaH ||

|| Azcarya-rAsa-prabandhaH 27 ||

Krishna wears a Makara-kundala (Makara-shaped ear-rings)

This is told about Perumal in this regard:

"The makara kundala i.e., ear drops which adorns His ears is studded with precious stones. When He moves His head, they create a gentle musical sound. What is more the bright shining glow of the precious stones in the kundala get deflected by the frontiers of the ashta disas (eight directions) and rebounds on the face of Perumal and enhances His Tejas. It is as if the makara kundalas are dancing with joy at the sight of the lavanya sundaram (Supreme delicate beauty) of the divine face. The face (mukham) of Perumal radiates Tejas (bright effulgence), Saithyam (cool), Mardavarn (softness), sowrabhyam (delicate fragrance). It has all the great qualities (sakala kalaigal). It confers happiness on all; It is so beautiful as to surpass even the ravishing beauty of the blemishless chandramandala and that of a freshly blossomed lotus flower. It makes the devotees who are near Him become uncontrollably mad with a craving to attain Him (pichhu uttri). It is the abode of Maya and makes the devotee forget everything else and think of only one wish viz., to attain His lotus feet and become one with Him."
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 15:00:59 +0530
Krishna wears a Makara-kundala (Makara-shaped ear-rings)

This is told about Perumal in this regard:

"The makara kundala i.e., ear drops which adorns His ears is studded with precious stones. When He moves His head, they create a gentle musical sound. What is more the bright shining glow of the precious stones in the kundala get deflected by the frontiers of the ashta disas (eight directions) and rebounds on the face of Perumal and enhances His Tejas. It is as if the makara kundalas are dancing with joy at the sight of the lavanya sundaram (Supreme delicate beauty) of the divine face. The face (mukham) of Perumal radiates Tejas (bright effulgence), Saithyam (cool), Mardavarn (softness), sowrabhyam (delicate fragrance). It has all the great qualities (sakala kalaigal). It confers happiness on all; It is so beautiful as to surpass even the ravishing beauty of the blemishless chandramandala and that of a freshly blossomed lotus flower. It makes the devotees who are near Him become uncontrollably mad with a craving to attain Him (pichhu uttri). It is the abode of Maya and makes the devotee forget everything else and think of only one wish viz., to attain His lotus feet and become one with Him."
nabadip - Sat, 17 Jul 2004 16:14:12 +0530
The connection of Agni and Kirtimukha, even though only impicitly, expressed here, in a mantra to be said when pouring ghee into the fire. (From the Mahabharata)

The hero (Sahadeva) then addressed Agni, the god that sanctifieth everything, in these words,--

'I bow unto thee, O thou whose track is always marked with smoke. These my exertions are all for thee. O thou sanctifier of all, thou art the mouth of the gods and thou art Sacrifice personified. Thou art called Pavaka because thou sanctifiest everything, and thou art Havyavahana, because thou carriest the clarified butter that is poured on thee. The Veda have sprung for ministering unto thee, and, therefore, thou art called Jataveda. Chief of the gods as thou art, thou art called Chitrabhanu, Anala, Vibhavasu, Hutasana, Jvalana, Sikhi, Vaiswanara, Pingesa, Plavanga, Bhuritejah. Thou art he from whom Kumara (Kartikeya) had his origin; thou art holy; thou art called Rudragarva and Hiranyakrit. Let thee, O Agni, grant me energy, let Vayu grant me life, let Earth grant me nourishment and strength, and let Water grant me prosperity. O Agni, thou who art the first cause of the waters, thou who art of great purity, thou for ministering unto whom the Vedas have sprung, thou who art the foremost of the deities, thou who art their mouth, O purify me by thy truth. Rishis and Brahmanas, Deities and Asuras pour clarified butter every day, according to the ordinance into thee during sacrifices. Let the rays of truth emanating from thee, while thou exhibitest thyself in those sacrifices, purify me. Smoke-bannered as thou art and possessed of flames, thou great purifier from all sins born of Vayu and ever present as thou art in all creatures, O purify me by the rays of thy truth. Having cleansed myself thus cheerfully, O exalted one, do I pray unto thee. O Agni, grant me now contentment and prosperity, and knowledge and gladness."
nabadip - Tue, 20 Jul 2004 01:19:15 +0530
"An 18th-century Tibetan bronze makara (Tib. chu srin) scrupulously follows the traditional description: Jaws of a crocodile with pointed teeth, scales of a fish, the tail of a peacock, the trunk of an elephant, the eyes of a monkey, and the tusks of a boar.
These hybrids originated, according to the Buddhist tradition, during the time right after the Buddha's Awakening when all hatred vanished from the world. Then, animals that had been foe and prey mated with each other, and produced offspring such as makaras."
nabadip - Tue, 20 Jul 2004 01:29:57 +0530
" In old Greek Makara means "blessed." As Many East European people accepted Christianity from Greeks so many of these peoples have Makara in the root of their last names: Makarov (Russians), Makarenko (Ukrainians), Makarios (Greeks)..."
nabadip - Tue, 20 Jul 2004 02:10:56 +0530

"The more mystic meaning of 5 is given in an excellent article by Mr. Subba Row, in "Five Years of Theosophy" (pp. 110, et seq.) -- "The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac," in which he gives some rules that may help the inquirer to ferret out "the deep significance of ancient Sanskrit nomenclature in the old Aryan myths and allegories." Meanwhile, let us see what has been hitherto stated about the constellation Capricornus in theosophical publications, and what is known of it generally. Every one knows that is the tenth sign of the Zodiac into which the Sun enters at the winter solstice, about December 21st. But very few are those who know -- even in India, unless they are initiated -- the real mystic connection which seems to exist, as we are told, between the names Makara and Kumara. The first means some amphibious animal called flippantly 'crocodile,' as some Orientalists think, and the second is the title of the great patrons of Yogins (See "Saiva Puranas,") the Sons of, and even one with, Rudra (Siva); a Kumara himself. It is through their connection with Man that the Kumaras are likewise connected with the Zodiac. Let us try to find out what the word Makara means.

The word Makara, says the author of "The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac," "contains within itself the clue to its correct interpretation. The letter Ma is equivalent to No. 5, and Kara means hand. Now in Sanskrit Thribhujam means a triangle, bhujam or Karam (both synonyms) being understood to mean a side. So Makaram or Panchakaram means a Pentagon" -- the five-pointed star or pentagon representing the five limbs of man.* Under the old system, we are told, Makara was the eighth instead of the tenth sign.** It is "intended to represent the faces of the Universe, and indicates that the Universe is bounded by Pentagons," as the Sanskrit writers "speak also of
[[Footnote(s)]] -------------------------------------------------

* What is the meaning and the reason of this figure? Because, Manas is the fifth principle, and because the pentagon is the symbol of Man -- not only of the five-limbed, but rather of the thinking, conscious MAN.

** The reason for it becomes apparent when Egyptian symbology is studied. See further on. ---footnotes finished

Ashtadisa or eight faces bounding Space," referring thus to the loka-palas, the eight points of the compass (the four cardinal and the four intermediate points) . . . "From an objective point of view the Microcosm is represented by the human body. Makaram may be taken to represent simultaneously both the microcosm and the macrocosm, as external objects of perception." (pp. 113, 115).

But the true esoteric sense of the word "Makara," does not mean "crocodile," in truth, at all, even when it is compared with the animal depicted on the Hindu Zodiac. For it has the head and the fore-legs of an antelope and the body and tail of a fish. Hence the tenth sign of the Zodiac has been taken variously to mean a shark, a dolphin, etc.; as it is the vahan of Varuna, the Ocean God, and is often called, for this reason, Jala-rupa or "water-form." The dolphin was the vehicle of Poseidon-Neptune with the Greeks, and one with him, esoterically; and this "dolphin" is the "sea-dragon" as much as the Crocodile of the Sacred Nile is the vehicle of Horus, and Horus himself. "I am the fish and seat of the great Horus of Kem-our," says the mummy-form God with the crocodile's head (ch. lxxxviii., 2, "Book of the Dead"). With the Peratae Gnostics it is Chozzar (Neptune), who converts into a sphere the dodecagonal pyramid, "and paints its gate with many colours." He has FIVE androgyne ministers -- he is Makara, the Leviathan.

The rising Sun being considered the Soul of the Gods sent to manifest itself to men every day, and the crocodile rising out of the water at the first sunbeam, that animal came finally to personify a Solar-fire devotee in India, as it personified that fire, or the highest soul with the Egyptians."
nabadip - Tue, 20 Jul 2004 02:15:15 +0530

"In the Puranas, the number of the Kumaras changes according to the exigencies of the allegory. For occult purposes their number is given in one place as seven, then as four, then as five. In the Kurma Purana it is said of them: "These five (Kumara), O Brahman, were Yogins who acquired entire exemption from passion." Their very name shows their connection with the said constellation -- the Makara, and with some other Puranic characters connected with the Zodiacal signs. This is done in order to veil what was one of the most suggestive glyphs of the primitive Temples. They are mixed up astronomically, physiologically, and mystically, in general, with a number of Puranic personages and events. Hardly hinted at in the "Vishnu," they figure in various dramas and events throughout all the other Puranas and sacred literature; so that the Orientalists, having to pick up the threads of connection hither and thither, have ended by proclaiming the Kumaras "due chiefly to the fancy of the Puranic writers."

But -- Ma, -- we are told by the author of the "Twelve Signs of the Zodiac" -- is Five; kara, a hand with its five fingers, as also a five-sided sign or a pentagon. The Kumara (in this case an anagram for occult purposes) are five in esotericism, as Yogis -- because the last two names have ever been kept secret; they are the fifth order of Brahmadevas, and the fivefold Chohans, having the soul of the five elements in them, Water and Ether predominating, and therefore their symbols were both aquatic and fiery. "Wisdom lies concealed under the couch of him who rests on the golden lotos (padma) floating on the water." In India it is Vishnu (one of whose avatars was Budha, as claimed in days of old). The Prachetasas, the worshippers of Narayana (who, like Poseidon moved or dwelt over not under the waters), plunged into the depths of the ocean for their devotions and remained therein 10,000 years; and the Prachetasas are ten exoterically, but five, esoterically. "Prachetas" is in Sanskrit, the name of Varuna, the water god, Nereus, an aspect of the same as Neptune, the Prachetasas being thus identical with the "five ministers" of [[CHOZZAR]] (Poseidon) of the Peratae Gnostics. These are respectively called [[AOT, AOAI, OTO, OTOB]], "the fifth, a triple name (making Seven) being lost"* -- i.e., kept secret. This much for the "aquatic" symbol; the "fiery" connecting them with the fiery symbol -- spiritually. For purposes of identity, let us remember that as the mother of the Prachetasas was Savarna, the daughter of the Ocean, so was Amphitrite the mother of Neptune's mystic "ministers."

Now the reader is reminded that these "five ministers" are symbolized both in the Dolphin, who had overcome the chaste Amphitrite's unwillingness to wed Poseidon, and in Triton their son. The latter, whose body above the waist is that of a man and below a dolphin, a fish, is, again, most mysteriously connected with Oannes, the Babylonian Dag, and further also with the (fish) Avatar of Vishnu, Matsya, both teaching mortals Wisdom. The Dolphin, as every mythologist knows, was placed for his service by Poseidon among the constellations, and became with the Greeks, Capricornus, the goat, whose hind part is that of a dolphin, thus shown identical with Makara, whose head is also that of an antelope and the body and tail those of a fish. This is why the sign of the Makara was borne on the banner of Kama deva, the Hindu god of love, identified, in Atharva Veda, with Agni (the fire-god), the son of Lakshmi, as correctly given by Harivansa. For Lakshmi and Venus are one, and Amphitrite is the early form of Venus. Now Kama (the Makara-ketu) is "Aja" (the unborn), and "Atma-bhu" (the self-existent), and Aja is the LOGOS in the Rig-Veda, as he is shown therein to be the first manifestation of the ONE: "Desire first arose in IT, which was the primal
[[Footnote(s)]] -------------------------------------------------

* So is Brahma's fifth head, said to be lost, burnt to ashes by Siva's "central eye"; Siva being also panchanana "five faced." Thus the number is preserved and secresy maintained on the true esoteric meaning. ----footnote finished

germ of mind," that "which connects entity with non-entity" (or Manas, the fifth, with Atma, the seventh, esoterically) say the Sages. This is the first stage. The second, on the following plane of manifestation, shows Brahma (whom we select as a representative for all the other first gods of the nations) as causing to issue from his body his mind-born sons, "Sanandana and others," who, in the fifth "creation," and again in the ninth (for purposes of blind) become the Kumara. Let us close by reminding the reader that goats were sacrificed to Amphitrite and the Nereids on the sea-shore, as goats are sacrificed to this day to Durga Kali, who is only the black side of Lakshmi (Venus), the white side of Sakti; and by suggesting what connection these animals may have with Capricornus, in which appear twenty-eight stars in the form of a goat, which goat was transformed by the Greeks into Amalthaea -- Jupiter's foster-mother. Pan, the god of Nature, had goat's feet, and changed himself into a goat at the approach of Typhon.

But this is a mystery which the writer dares not dwell upon at length, not being sure of being understood. Thus the mystical side of the interpretation must be left to the intuition of the student. Let us note one more thing in relation to the mysterious number five. It symbolizes at one and the same time the Spirit of life eternal and the Spirit of life and love terrestrial -- in the human compound; and, it includes divine and infernal magic, and the universal and the individual quintessence of being. Thus, the five mystic words or vowels (vide infra) uttered by Brahma at "creation," which forthwith became the Panchadasa (certain Vedic hymns, attributed to that God) are in their creative and magical potentiality, the white side of the black Tantrik five "makaras," or the five m's. "Makara," the constellation, is a seemingly meaningless and absurd name. Yet, even besides its anagrammatical significance in conjunction with the term "Kumara," the numerical value of its first syllable and its esoteric resolution into five has a very great and occult meaning in the mysteries of nature."
nabadip - Tue, 20 Jul 2004 02:16:53 +0530
"Suffice it to say, that as the sign of Makara is connected with the birth of the spiritual "microcosm," and the death or dissolution of the physical Universe (its passage into the realm of the Spiritual)*; so the Dhyan Chohans, called in India Kumara, are connected with both. Moreover, in the exoteric religions, they have become the synonyms of the Angels of Darkness. Mara is the God of Darkness, the Fallen One, and Death**; and yet it is one of the names of Kama, the first god in the Vedas, the Logos, from whom have sprung the Kumaras, and this
[[Footnote(s)]] -------------------------------------------------

* "When the Sun passes away behind the 30th degree of Makara and will reach no more the sign of the Meenam (pisces) then the night of Brahma has come." . . .

** Death of every physical thing truly; but Mara is also the unconscious quickener of the birth of the Spiritual. ----- footnotes finished

connects them still more with our "fabulous" Indian Makara, and the crocodile-headed God in Egypt.* The crocodiles in the Celestial Nile are Five, and the God Toum, the primordial deity creating the heavenly bodies and the living beings, calls forth these crocodiles in his fifth creation. When Osiris, "the defunct Sun," is buried and enters into Amenti, the sacred crocodiles plunge into the abyss of primordial Waters -- "the great Green One." When the Sun of life rises, they re-emerge out of the sacred river. All this is highly symbolical, and shows how primeval esoteric truths found their expression in identical symbols. But, as Mr. T. Subba Row truly declares, "The veil, that was dexterously thrown over certain portions of the mystery connected with the (Zodiacal) signs by the ancient philosophers, will never be fully lifted up for the amusement or edification of the uninitiated public."

Nor was number five less sacred with the Greeks. The five words (Panchadasa) of Brahma have become with the Gnostics the "Five Words" written upon the akasic (shining) garment of Jesus at his glorification: the words [[ZAMA ZAMA OZZA PAXAMA, OZAI]], translated by the Orientalists "the robe, the glorious robe of my strength." These words were, in their turn, the anagrammatic blind of the five mystic powers represented on the robe of the "resurrected" Initiate after his last trial of three days' trance; the five becoming seven only after his death, when the Adept became the full CHRISTOS, the full KRISHNA-VISHNU, i.e., merged in Nirvana. The E Delphicum, a sacred symbol, was the numeral five, again; and how sacred it was is shown by the fact that the Corinthians (according to Plutarch) replaced the wooden numeral in the Delphic Temple by a bronze one; and this one was transmuted by Livia Augusta into a fac-simile of gold.

It is easy to recognize in the two spirits -- the Greek accents or signs () spoken of by Ragon (vide supra) -- Atma and Buddhi, or "divine spirit and its vehicle" (spiritual soul)."
nabadip - Tue, 20 Jul 2004 02:28:50 +0530
" The Fifth group is a very mysterious one, as it is connected with the Microcosmic Pentagon, the five-pointed star representing man. In India and Egypt these Dhyanis were connected with the Crocodile, and their abode is in Capricornus. These are convertible terms in Indian astrology, as this (tenth) sign of the Zodiac is called Makara, loosely translated "crocodile." The word itself is occultly interpreted in various ways, as will be shown further on. In Egypt the defunct man -- whose symbol is the pentagram or the five-pointed star, the points of which represent the limbs of a man -- was shown emblematically transformed into a crocodile: Sebakh or Sevekh "or seventh," as Mr. Gerald Massey says, showing it as having been the type of intelligence, is a dragon in reality, not a crocodile. He is the "Dragon of Wisdom" or Manas, the "Human Soul," Mind, the Intelligent principle, called in our esoteric philosophy the "Fifth" principle.

Says the defunct "Osirified" in ch. lxxxviii., "Book of the Dead," or the Ritual, under the glyph of a mummiform god with a crocodile's head: --

(1) "I am the god (crocodile) presiding at the fear . . . at the arrival of his Soul among men. I am the god-crocodile brought for destruction" (an allusion to the destruction of divine spiritual purity when man acquires the knowledge of good and evil; also to the "fallen" gods, or angels of every theogony).

(2) "I am the fish of the great Horus (as Makara is the "crocodile," the vehicle of Varuna). I am merged in Sekten."

This last sentence gives the corroboration of, and repeats the doctrine of, esoteric Buddhism, for it alludes directly to the fifth principle (Manas), or the most spiritual part of its essence rather, which merges into, is absorbed by, and made one with Atma-Buddhi after the death of man. For Se-khen is the residence or loka of the god Khem (Horus-Osiris, or Father and Son), hence the "Devachan" of Atma-Buddhi. In the Ritual of the Dead the defunct is shown entering into Sekhem with Horus-Thot and "emerging from it as pure spirit" (lxiv., 29). Thus the defunct says (v. 130): "I see the forms of (myself, as various) men transforming eternally . . . I know this (chapter). He who knows it . . . takes all kinds of living forms." . . .

And in verse 35, addressing in magic formula that which is called, in Egyptian esotericism, the "ancestral heart," or the re-incarnating principle, the permanent EGO, the defunct says: --

"Oh my heart, my ancestral heart necessary for my transformations, . . . . . . do not separate thyself from me before the guardian of the Scales. Thou art my personality within my breast, divine companion watching over my fleshes (bodies). . . . . . ."

It is in Sekhem that lies concealed "the Mysterious Face," or the real man concealed under the false personality, the triple-crocodile of Egypt, the symbol of the higher Trinity or human Triad, Atma, Buddhi and Manas.* In all the ancient papyri the crocodile is called Sebek (Seventh), while the water is the fifth principle esoterically; and, as already stated, Mr. Gerald Massey shows that the crocodile was "the Seventh Soul, the supreme one of seven -- the Seer unseen." Even exoterically Sekhem is the residence of the god Khem, and Khem is Horus avenging the death of his father Osiris, hence punishing the Sins of man when he becomes a disembodied Soul. Thus the defunct
[[Footnote(s)]] -------------------------------------------------

* One of the explanations of the real though hidden meaning of this Egyptian religious glyph is easy. The crocodile is the first to await and meet the devouring fires of the morning sun, and very soon came to personify the solar heat. When the sun arose, it was like the arrival on earth and among men "of the divine soul which informs the Gods." Hence the strange symbolism. The mummy donned the head of a crocodile to show that it was a soul arriving from the earth."
Elpis - Sun, 10 Oct 2004 21:50:43 +0530
I just came across this thread. Thank you, Nabadip, for making all this interesting information available. I have one comment at this time.

QUOTE(nabadip @ Jul 16 2004, 12:21 PM)
Makara is given the time of  December/January in Indian Astronomy/Astrology, the time when the Sun begins its northward movement. This is the external reason why the Makara plays a role at a Sun-temple and other temples as well. It is also the time of the dawn of the devas, whose day/night cycle corresponds to our year.

That the Sun's entry into makara, i.e. Capricorn, marks the dawn of the devas is not universally agreed upon; in fact, the Indian astronomers explicitly reject this idea.

Since parts of Lalla's ZiSyadhIvRddhidatantra is available to the Internet community (see here), I will draw on this text in the following. Other texts can be cited in this regard as well.

The Indian zodiac is sidereal, but in the following we should think of it as being tropical.

In the beginning of chapter 20 of the ZiSyadhIvRddhidatantra Lalla enumerates a number of illogical points of view. In verse 20.3, he says:

asurAmaravAsaraM kramAd ayanaM dakSiNam uttaraM jaguH |

"Some say that the day of the asuras and devas is, respectively, the dakSiNAyana and the uttarAyana." (My translation.)

The dakSiNAyana is the part of the ecliptic in which the Sun travels north, i.e. the arc from the winter solstice to the summer solstice, and uttarAyana is the part of the ecliptic in which it travels south, i.e. the arc from the summer solstice to the winter solstice.

Since the beginning of Capricorn is the beginning of the uttarAyana, the idea that the dawn of the devas occur at the beginning of Capricorn is, according to Lalla, a kuhetumadvacana, an illogical account.

Lalla refutes the idea in two later verses (20.8-9):

mithunAntasamIpasaMsthito yadi yajJAMzabhujAM divAkaraH |
satataM samupaiti dRkpathaM na kulIre vada kena hetunA ||

apamasya vazAt samunnaman kramazo yatra sa tatra vIkSitaH |
vinamann api tadvazAt tathA viparItaM ca kathaM na dRzyate ||

"If the Sun is always visible to the devas when it is near the end of Gemini, then explain for which reason it is not visible to them in Cancer.

"(If the Sun) is visible wherever it is gradually ascending on account of the declination, how come it is not visible when it is likewise descending in the opposite direction on account of it (the declination)?" (My translation.)

Lalla's point is that the Sun moves along the exact same diurnal circles when it is descending in the signs of Cancer, Leo and Virgo as it is when it is ascending in the signs of Aries, Taurus and Gemini, and therefore, if the Sun is visible to the devas on Meru in the latter three signs, it must also be visible to them in the former three.

According to the astronomers, the day of the devas takes place when the Sun is between the vernal equinox and the autumnal equinox, i.e. from the beginning of Aries to the end of Virgo.

nabadip - Sun, 24 Oct 2004 18:14:41 +0530
According to the astronomers, the day of the devas takes place when the Sun is between the vernal equinox and the autumnal equinox, i.e. from the beginning of Aries to the end of Virgo.

I appreciate your valuable contribution, Elpis.

What seems to be in question here is the difference between Dawn and Sunrise and the respective opposites of crossing over the Zenit and actual Sunset. It is accepted that the Sun comes into visibility in Aries and disappears after Virgo, while other criteria define its upward or downward course.

I do not know whether that helps to settle the other astronomical considerations. The important point here is that Makara is seen as a mystical impetus of a cycle of which the Sun is the visible indicator.
nabadip - Sun, 24 Oct 2004 18:22:36 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Oct 24 2004, 02:44 PM)
According to the astronomers, the day of the devas takes place when the Sun is between the vernal equinox and the autumnal equinox, i.e. from the beginning of Aries to the end of Virgo.

I appreciate your valuable contribution, Elpis.

What seems to be in question here is the difference between Dawn and Sunrise and the respective opposites of crossing over the Zenit and actual Sunset. It is accepted that the Sun comes into visibility in Aries and disappears after Virgo, while other criteria define its upward or downward course.

I do not know whether that helps to settle the other astronomical considerations. The important point here is that Makara is seen as a mystical impetus of a cycle of which the Sun is the visible indicator.

Here is a picture of a pre-sunset atmosphere at Puri beach. I think it illustrates the kind of energy at work before Sunrise and before Sunset.
Attachment: Image