Published in Himalaya: Journal of the Badrinath Temple Committee, Vol-1 No. 2, Oct-Dec, 1952, pp 59-66
The most magnificent of the mountains in the world are the Himalayas which adorn, as it were, this great land of ours. India must be justly proud of this fine series of mountains. In fact, in India all the great mountains which form natural protective barriers as it were for the country have been adorned almost in divine aspect. It is not without reason that the great mountains are called Kulaparvatas. The familiar couplet enumerates these mightly mountains. The most magnificent of them all is the Himalaya. It is this that makes Kalidasa eloquent which speaking of this great mountain. He described it as of essence divine.
To the north there is the over-lord of mountains named Himalaya, that is essentially divine, standing, stretching across from one ocean to the other east to west as if it were the measuring rod for the earth. This is the great mountain, the abode of snow, the tallest, the most magnificent. In India, as already remarked, there is a just pride taken in the thought of the procession of great mountains has its own magnificence and the most magnificent of them all is the Himalaya.
The great poet Valmiki compares the loftiest objects to Meru and Mandara. The concept of Mandara is something superb. It is such a lofty mountain that it alone could serve as churning stick for the ocean. The great Ravana, the great opponent of the hero of Valmiki’s story, is compared to Mandara. With a dark thick waist-cord on his hip, Ravana looks like the very churning stick Mandora with Vasuki around it as the cord.
The same poet compares Rama to another great mountain, Himavan, in praising his heroes undaunted courage. Vamiki mentions Meru with Mandara in describing the noble heights of great mansions almost reaching the sky.
As the ocean is taken for comparison as a supreme object of unfathomable depth for stressing the deep and noble virtues of prince like Rama, the glorious heights of mountains like Himavan are also chosen for emphasizing the lofty nature of the hero. In India the mountains as well as the ocean are conceived as great Mahapurushas and they are so personified and represented.
In relation to Prithvi or earth, however, the mountains appear more as her limbs or as her ornaments. That is why Kalidasa who characterizes the great and long range of Himalayas as but a Mandadanda, a measuring rod for the earth, fancies mountains Malaya and Dardura as the sandal smeared breasts of Earth.
It is therefore also we find Himavan and Vindhya, two great mountains described as the ear-ornaments of the earth damsel. This Bharatvakya of Bhasa is thus most appropriate in the appropriate concept of the mountains as ornaments.
The magnificence of another great mountain Vindhya is in subtle manner suggested by Kalidasa in one of his verse where he describes the great exploits of the short but powerful sage Agastya.
This great sage who subdued the mountains Vindhya was the one that drank up the ocean as well. By the knitting of his brow the great Nahusha, who occupied the high position of the lord of the gods, Indra, was brought down to earth in a trice. We know that the pandavi of Indra was the most coveted and great emperors like Sagara and Dilipa attempted its attainment by performance of a hundred asvamedha sacrifices. Nahusha who achieved this lost it by displeasing Agastya. The great mass of water constituting the ocean that according to its own explanation to Rama could not transgress its own vela or boundary and which baffled even the great army of Rama in the process o crossing over, this mighty mass of water, was just a sip of water for Agastya, and it is that great Agastya that subdues Vindhaya. The great mountain bowed to the sage and remained in that position for ever in accordance with his orders, the mountain that grew and grew and obstructed the path of the luminous objects in the sky and even baffled the gods by its amazing height and alarmed the denizens of heaven. And it is no wonder that Kalidasa thought that this was the greatest of the achievements of Agastya and put that first. But even there he could not refrain from exclaiming that this mountain was indeed a magnificent one.
He is not satisfied with the use of merely the word adri, mountain, but he needs must call it mahadri, great mountain. An another context in describing the prowess of a great king who had come as a suitor in the svayamvara of princess Indumati, Kalidasa calls him as the lord of Mahendra and the Mahodadhi. He is the lord of great mountain and the great ocean. He could only think of the grandeur of the mountain and ocean think of the grandeur of the mountain and ocean together; the ocean for its depth and the mountain for its dizzy heights. When describing the valorous battle that the King of Kalinga the valorous battle that the King of Kalinga gave to Raghu, Kalidasa compares the splendid elephants of his army to great mountains all arrayed for fighting INdra. Mahendra, as we know, is one of the mighty mountains of India, the most important of the series known as the Eastern Ghats.
The valleys of the mountains present their splendid landscape with flowing stream dashing here, running there and hurrying with splashing sound, suddenly slackening her pace and broadening her stream among the straggling rocks of the wide mountainous valley as in the case of Narmada at the foot of the Vindya.
The artistic vision of Kalidasa is struck by the beauty of the mountain wherever it is and he cannot help exclaiming in terms of comparison to hill and stream in an appropriate context. The lord of the Pandyas seated in the svayamvara of Indumati with his dark body anointed with fragment sandal paste and with a long lustrous necklace of pearls flowing on his chest against his torso from his shoulders appears like a magnificent mountain tinged with the red glow of the rising sun with white streams flowing down its slopes.
It is most appropriate that he should have chosen this in the case of the Pandya as the Sandal paste, Malayachandana is found on mountain Malaya to the extreme south of India and a stream flowing on that would be appropriate parallel to the description of the Pandya who was the lord of the Malaya. The mighty sandal trees of the Malaya mountain have rightly evoked the praise of Kalidasa.
The sloped of the Malaya hill are again thus the subject of Kalidasa’s glorification with their ichor-smelling cardamom forests and fragrant sandal trees, their trunks entwined by large pythons fascinated by the sweet smell of sandal.
The laterite tint, so peculiar to the mountain-slopes and so colourful in determining the mountainscape has not missed the keen attention of Kalidasa. He is ever attentive to such pictures of natural beauty, Nandini,thebeautifulcowof tawny colour, with the pale white lion on her as Dilipa saw it cannot but make Kalidasa compare the picture to a Lodhra tree in blossom on the red-dish mountainscape.
In another context in describing the long concourse of people following Kusa to inhabit his original capital of Ayodhya, as their way from the city of Kusavati lay between mountains and streams, the artistic sense of Kalidasa brightens up as he sees and describes a picture of red dust of laterite raised by a long procession of chariots, animals and men and the deafening noise of such a huge congregation in the valley at once reminds him of similar deafening sound of the river Narmada with her gushing stream in similar valley.
The body of hill and dale, mountain and stream, has ever been an attraction for Kalidasa and he has fondly imagined great and noble qualities ad traits in personified mountain and stream. Nestled on the mountain Himavan as if on his lap the beautiful city of Alaka looks like a damsel with pure stream of Ganga flowing close to her like silken garment loosened. The Sanskrit poet has ever conceived of a city in personifies form as a damsel and so Ayodhya comes and woes king Kusa as her lord. So Alaka here on the lap of Himavan of the damsel on the lap of her lover as the poet describes her of which magnificent pictorial representation abounds, as for instance, in the paintings from Ajanta.
In the great concept of the earth as a never-failing cow yielding great treasures, the legends has it that Meru was the milkman and Himavan the calf. It is this importance of Himalaya as the vasta of Prithvi, as the producer of the most important of the valuables the earth can offer, the oshadhis and gems that Kalidasa introduces in the verse.
The treasure-house of innumerable valuables Himavan cannot be blamed for his being the abode of snow as well. Like the blemish on the moon-disc the single defect amidst so many excellences escapes attention. In fact, it does not detract from the beauty, the natural beauty, of the mountains.
The great qualities of the mountains are innumerable. Kalidas has enumerated some of them being personally charmed with such divine beauty. The red earth on its slopes at its crest used by divine nymphs for their toilet and decorations reflected in the clouds produces the illusion of the red glow of sunset eve untimely.
Enjoying the shades of clouds moving on the slopes and troubled by their showers Siddhas resort to the sunny tops of the mountains. The sense of touch is thus gratified in the case of Siddhas as eyesight is charmed by the picture of twilight by a look at the picturesque glow on the mountain-top or by the luminous oshadhi-medicinal plants that light up the caves at night and serve as oil-less lamps for lovers in the wild jungle. The sense of hearing is also gratified by the very natural musical note produced by the wind-laden bamboo clusters which serve as it were as musical drone for Kinnara damsels engaged in music. There is equal appeasement of the sense of smell by the sweet smell of the flowing milk from Sarala trees against the trunks of which wild elephants rub their bodies. The sense of touch, however, causes an apparent painful effect by the freezing cold of the snow boulders that benumb the fingers and toes of the Kinnara nymphs as they move along and really charm the spectator by the slow but lovely gait of the damsels whose weight of hips and numbness of feet retard their quick steps.
All these descriptions and much more that Kalidasa has given on elaborately are in praise of the natural beauty of the great mountain that satisfies and overwhelms all the five senses of the spectator by its grandeur in every way.
But more than this Kalidasa considers Himavan as the abode of everything that is holy; he considers the mountain itself as the very embodiment of purity. Wherever he can he introduces the hermitage of Rishis on or in the vicinity of the Himalayas. The hermitage of Kanva is on the banks of the Malini, quite close to the foot of the Himalayas and he gives a picturesque description of the natural scenery there as painted by Dushyanta as a background to the scene representing Sakuntala.
The words of Manu shows the holy atmosphere at the foot of the Himalaya which recalls the description of the sacred spot fit for sacrifices, described by Manu. Already holy, the mountains is rendered all the more so by the Ganges flowing from its crest. Himavan himself is conscious of this as may be seen in his remark when he welcomes the holy presence of the SaptaRishis, the seven sages that approached him for the betroths of Uma with Shiva.
Just as Ganga is proud of her origin from the foot of Vishnu similarly her second origin from the crest of the Himalaya is also something of which the holy river is also in her turn proud not satisfied with this Kalidasa, the great devotee of Devi, delights in calling the mountain the father of Gauri and he rightly puts it that Sati took her birth again from Himavan and Mena as unfailing policy well utilized with zeal produces prosperity.
Kali delights in presenting a glorious picture of the majestic personality of the royal mountain Himalaya. It is not the artificial chauri waved before royalty that proclaims the dignity of this great mountain but it is the very natural yaktail of the chamaris white like the moon-beams that proclaim the royal presence on the mountain.
Even the sun in brightening up the lotus flowers in the lakes on its summit handled only by the holy SaptaRishis awakens them with his rays directed topwards almost as if in obeisance to the mighty cliffs of the lord of mountains. No wonder that the gods finding him worthy of partaking of havis in a sacrifice created for him a yajnobhaga as the legend goes and he was anointed the paramount sovereign among the mountains.
Kalidasa admires the nobility of the mountain that was readily a refuge for all terror-stricken. The undaunted alone could offer protection to any that sought one’s help, and in a humorous way Kalidasa puts it that even darkness terrified from daylight that rushed into his caverns to seek refuge there was easily assured protection by that lofty-headed mountain as even the lowest or the meanest when seeking protection was to be reassured by the lofty.
In fact Himavan is comparable only to Purushottama, the Lord who by his three mighty strides encompassed the whole universe. This was by a strong effort the achievement of Hari, but in the case of the great mountain his all-pervasive form encompassing the whole earth was but his own natural trait and naturally he was of the essence of Vishnu amongst the motionless objects on earth his lofty peak outweighed that golden peak of famous Sumera.
Kalidasa makes a difference between the Sthavara and jangama body ofthemountain,themovable and the immovable. All the required strength of the mountain was in his Stharara body, but his jangama body was an essentially different one full of that courteous movement that bespeaks high birth and breeding.
Himavan himself considers that his twofold division of body is for the service of the holy by movement in its aspect of motion and for receiving holy footprints of seers and sages on his slopes in its aspect of motionless permanence.
In the Vishnudhrmattora it is very clearly given that the mountain should be represented personified on its own peak in human form on his own peak and addresses Hanuman requesting him to rest awhile on his slopes.
It will be interesting to see how this great concept of Himayan has struck the sculptor as it has inspired the poet, and it would be the most thrilling thing to find a sculptural presentation of the great lord of mountains; and indeed we are happy that we have such representation and that also a great masterpiece by a master craftsman.
Amongst the most marvelous carvings in India are to be reckoned the glorious panels of gigantic size at Elephanta where the figures reveal the charm of Gupta pattern with something more of early medieval delicacy in workmanship attuned in it. It is probably a sculptor of the Maitrikas of Valabhi that was responsible for the masterpiece in Elephants and one of these is a panel showing the marriage of Shiva, Shiva as Kalyanasundara. In his form as a bride-groom, Shiva is shown holding the hand of Parvati in wedlock, and just behind Uma we find Himavan and Mena in human form presenting their daughter in marriage to Shiva. The dignity of this great sculpture at once recalls how great are the personalities and how tremendous is their alliance as Kalidasa so forcefully puts in his verse. The mountain king is represented in most majestic aspect and Himavan is here not only the emperor of the most lofty mountains who far outweighs all the gods and denizens of heaven, but he is adorable by the gift of his daughter to that Lord who is the lord of all, and adorning none himself.
The puranalumbha in the hand of Mena only suggests her fully gladdened heart and only suggests a sort of answer to that glances of the king of mountains that Kalidasa describes when Himanvan looked at his wife Mena, though himself fully satisfied about Shiva’s alliance to know the mind of Mena, the mother of the bride, and indeed Himavan felt embarrassed and looked abashed when the Lord, adorable for the three worlds, bowed to him but himself did not know that his own lofty peak was bent even from a distance at the very sight of the Lord.
One of the masterpieces of the Vakataka sculptor of Ellora presents a long panel with scenes of the story of Parvati’s wedding and it begins significantly with the request made to Himavan for giving his daughter to Shiva in marriage. Here is shown the great lord of mountains looking significantly as his queen Mena for her approval of this most coveted match as only ladies decide this. The painter has not lagged behind the sculptor in presenting the grandeur of Himalaya; and one of the Pahari paintings shows this happy theme of Himavan receiving Shiva as a Bride-groom, who bows at his feet and embraces the mighty mountain as described in Kalidasa’s Kmarasambhava.
And the highest peaks on the Himalayas which is known as Gaurishankar may well recall this glorious Kailasha dwelling of Shiva and Parvati haloed by legend and lore and well may we join Kalidasa as he makes the ladies of Oshadhiprastha (the capital of Himavan) remark about the added importance of Himavan by his association with Lord Shiva.
Published in Himalaya: Journal of the Badrinath Temple Committee, Vol-1 No. 2, Oct-Dec, 1952, pp 59-66