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Bhīmasena as Bhairava in Nepal

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By Gudrun Bühnemann,

Madison (Wisconsin)


Summary:


Bhīmasena, the second of the five Pāṇḍava brothers in the Mahābhārata, is worshipped in Nepal as a form of Śiva or, more precisely, as Bhairava. Referred to as ‘Bhīmsen’, he is especially popular among the Newar trading community, which worships his images on small altars in shops. Inscriptional evidence shows that Bhīmasena has been worshipped in Nepal at least since 1540, but the cult is likely to be older. Bhīmasena’s shrines and temples are common in today’s Nepal, and various iconographic forms of the divinity are represented independently in paintings and line drawings, and as woodcarvings and brass


sculptures. In this paper I examine the rather complex iconography of Bhīmasena which developed in Nepal under the influence of Tantrism. I especially focus on representations of Bhīmasena slaying Duḥśāsana, in which he is accompanied by two small emaciated figures associated with charnel grounds, the habitat of Bhairava, Śiva’s wrathful form. I show that Bhīmasena’s iconography in Nepal, as perceived from at least the seventeenth century onward, developed from South Indian prototypes. But whereas in South India Bhīma is merely the epic hero and serves as a guardian, in Nepal he is also worshipped

as a divinity in his own right. This change of status and his identification with Bhairava added specific features to his more complex iconographic forms. Introduction Bhīmasena, the second of the five Pāṇḍava brothers in the Mahābhārata, there portrayed as a redoubtable warrior, is worshipped in Nepal as a form of Śiva or, more precisely, as Bhairava.1 Referred to as ‘Bhīmsen’, he is especially popular among the Newar trading community, which worships his images on small altars in shops. Inscriptional evidence shows that Bhīmasena


I would like to thank Gerd Mevissen for valuable comments on this paper and Kashinath Tamot for fruitful discussions. I am indebted for help with photographic material to Gerd Mevissen, Manik Bajracharya, Ellen Raven, Gerard Foekema and Gudrun Melzer. 1 For general information on the worship of Bhīmasena in Nepal, see Regmi 1965– 1966, part 2, pp. 612–613, Lienhard 1978, pp. 174–175, Regmi 1980–1981, part 2, pp. 612– 613, Slusser 1982, volume 1, pp. 258–259 and Duijker 1998. For information specifically on his worship in the city of Bhaktapur, see Levy 1990, pp. 252–254 and 421–422. Sax 1991, 1995 and 2002 analyze the worship of Bhīma and the Pāṇḍavas in the Pāṇḍavalīlā in Garhwal, while Duijker 2001 and 2010 deal with representations of Bhīma on Java.

456 Gudrun Bühnemann has been worshipped in Nepal at least since 1540,2 but the cult is likely to be older. Devotional texts and inscriptions attest to the popularity of his worship among both Hindus and Buddhists. Bhīmasena’s shrines and temples are common in today’s Nepal,3 and various iconographic forms of the divinity are represented independently in paintings and line drawings, and as woodcarvings and brass sculptures. The deified Bhīmasena is worshipped in aniconic form in the sanctum of an important temple in Dolakhā. In anthropomorphic form he appears as 1) the main divinity a) as a solitary figure b) or

accompanied by one or more of his brothers and/or Draupadī and/ or with one or two (often gaunt) figures c) or, like Śiva and Bhairava, flanked by Gaṇeśa and Kumāra4 2) or in a subordinate position, paired with Kubera,5 as a guardian on the western façade of Śiva temples, at or near their entrances. The unpublished ritual text Mohanacukayā hitiyāta busādhanasa āhuti biya vidhi (“The method for making fire offerings to the [[[deities]] in the] fountain of Mohancuka on its anniversary”), written in the Newari language, prescribes fire oblations to be offered to the divinities at the sunken stepped fountain in

(Man)mohan courtyard in Kathmandu’s Hanūmānḍhokā Royal Palace, and includes a mantra for the offering of an oblation to Bhīmasena, invoked as Mahābhairava.6 The deity is called Bhīmabhairava in a large number of ritual and devotional texts from Nepal preserved in manuscript 2 A copperplate inscription dating from 660 N.S. (= 1540 ce) refers to Bhīmasena’s worship; see Regmi 1965–1966, part 2, p. 612. 3 For a list of thirteen Bhīmasena temples in Nepal, see Regmi 1972, p. 23. 4 See Slusser 1982, volume 2, Fig. 414 and Duijker 1998, p. 14 for two such representations. 5 For an early-eighteenth-

century painting of a Śiva temple with these two divinities as guardians, see Pal 1985, p. 74 (P 30). Shrestha 1987, p. 3 notes that it was customary in the seventeenth century to install images of these two divinities as guardians of Śiva temples. Bhīmasena and Kubera, labelled as Śiva’s guardians in the west, are depicted in sketchbook 611–684 in the collection of Ian Alsop. The fact that Bhīmasena is considered the guardian of the west is also evident from the Vaṃśāvalī of Guṇānanda, p. 125, which reports that King Śivadevavarmā “brought Kāmēswara Bhīmasēna from the west, and established him to the west

of Pashupati”. This text (p. 215) records that Pratāpamalla discovered a frightening stone image of Bhīmasena(bhairava) in a tank and placed it to the west of his palace. The Vaṃśāvalī of Padmagiri, p. 75 also notes that Pratāpamalla “found an image of Bhīma Bhairava in one of the tanks near his Darbar which he placed in a temple to the west of his Darbar near the Viṣṇumatī river”. 6 The passage in the text reads: bhīmasenayāta || bhāṃ bhīṃ bhūṃ [followed by a kūṭākṣara, a mantra monogram] bhīmarājeśvaramahābhairavāya namaḥ ||.


Bhīmasena as Bhairava in Nepal 457 form, such as the Bhīmabhairavapūjā(paddhati/vidhi/arcanavidhi), the Bhīma bhairavastotra, the Bhīma bhairavadvādaśanāmastotra, the Bhīmabhairavasahasranāmastotra, the Bhīma senasahasranāmastotra (ascribed to the Bhairavakalpa of the Rudrayāmala tantra and printed in Regmi 1990, pp. 2–7), the Bhīmabhairavamantra and the Bhīma mahābhairavapūjāpaddhati.7 In this paper I will examine how Bhīma sena’s identification with Bhairava in Nepal finds expression in texts and images. Among the textual sources identifying Bhīmasena with Śiva (but not explicitly

with Bhairava) is the Śivarūpabhīmastotra, a hymn in fourteen verses attributed to King Pratāpamalla of Kathmandu (r. 1641–1674). The hymn of praise, preserved in manuscript form and in a stone inscription8 dating from 1655 near Kathmandu’s Bhīmasena temple, celebrates Bhīmasena as a manifestation of Śiva. The as yet unedited (Mahā-)bhīmasena-dhāraṇī 9 in thirty-six verses and sections, preserved in several manuscripts from Nepal, invokes Bhīmasena with different names, epithets and titles, including Bhairava, slayer of Duḥśāsana and directional guardian (dikpāla). The epithet Karuṇāmaya also appears,

which in Nepal usually refers to AvalokiteśvaraMatsyendranātha. The Bhīmasenasahasranāmastotra (Regmi 1990, pp. 2–7) invokes the deity as Bhīmabhairava (verse 8) and Bhairava (verse 23). Bhīmasena’s simple form The (Mahā-)bhīmasena-dhāraṇī describes the simple iconographic form commonly seen in roadside shrines in Nepal, on tympana of temples or on or to the side of doors, when Bhīmasena serves as guardian or doorkeeper of Śiva temples.10 Bhīma assumes a militant stance (pratyālīḍha) and

holds a club (gadā) in his right hand, while displaying the gesture of protection (abhayamudrā) with his left. In some images (Fig. 1) the gesture is exhibited 7 The texts are recorded in the online title list of the Nepalese-German Manuscript Cataloguing Project (= NGMCP). 8 The stone inscription was published in Abhilekh-Saṃgraha, part 3, 1961, pp. 15–16. A paper manuscript of the text is preserved in the Tokyo University Library (Matsunami 1965, p. 102, no. 276) and a microfilm of one manuscript is kept in the Buddhist Library, Nagoya (accession number CH 341). Five manuscripts are recorded in the

title list of the NGMCP (manuscripts I 33/4; E 1631/19; E 1079/15; H 13/11 and X 1232/1). 9 A short note on the text with extracts from the manuscript in the Asha Archives can be found in Regmi 1992, a one-page article in Nepali. 10 I quote here the description of Bhīmasena’s iconography from the Cambridge manuscript (fols. 5 v.6–6 r.1), written in a rather faulty mixture of Newari and Sanskrit: suvarṇasiṃhāsanamadhyasthitaṃ raktavarṇa<m> ekamukhaṃ d<v>ibhujaṃ raktava<r>tulatrinetraṃ dahina[6a]bhujagadāhastaṃ mahābalaṃ śatrusaṅghāte vāmabhuja-abhayamudrādharaṃ pratyālīḍhapadāsthitaṃ ||


with the middle and ring finger (or the index and middle finger) pressed against the thumb and the other fingers being kept straight. Duijker (1998, p. 12 and 2010, volume 1, pp. 34, 70) calls this mudrā the ‘lionface’ gesture (simhamukhamudrā), but I have not seen evidence for this term being used in this context. In visual representations from Nepal, Bhīmasena usually wears a tight, short-sleeved shirt of mail covering (part of) his upper body, a long skirt (jāmā, Nepali) and a decorated mukuṭa on his head. He has a prominent moustache and occasionally holds a sword and shield. Representations of the epic hero Bhīma holding his characteristic weapon, a club, in his right hand appear early on in Indian art.11 The club is usually held in his raised right hand. The

sixth-century relief of Viṣṇu Anantaśayana on the southern wall of the Viṣṇu Temple in Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh (depicted, for example, in Zimmer 1960, p. 167) has been interpreted as featuring, on its lower part, Bhīma with a club in hand, in the company of the other Pāṇḍavas and Draupadī, but this interpretation is contested; indeed the relief likely represents the Āyudhapuruṣas together with Madhu and Kaiṭabha (van Kooij 1985, pp. 681–683). Numerous

scenes from the Mahābhārata featuring Bhīma holding a club are found at the twelfth/ thirteen-century Hoysala temples in Karnataka.12 In the mid-twelfth- century Airāvateśvara Temple at Darasuram we see Bhīma in militant stance, with flame-like hair, holding a club as part of depictions of the Bhīma


It is beyond the scope of this paper to deal in more detail with representations of the epic hero Bhīma in South Asian art. Some information on these images can be found in Duijker 2010, volume 1, pp. 30–33. 12 The representation of scenes from the Mahābhārata at Hoysala temples is discussed in Evans 1997. For depictions of Bhīma with a club in hand as part of such scenes, see Evans 1997, figs. 72, 79, 80, 100, 130, 136 and 150. Fig. 1: The Bhīmasena shrine in the village of Sankhu, Nepal


puruṣamṛga episodes.13 Depictions of these episodes, perhaps from the late fifteenth century, are also seen in Hampi-Vijayanagara (Dallapiccola/Verghese 2002). The figure of Bhīma standing in militant stance, holding a mace in one hand and a flower (probably a saugandhika lotus intended for Draupadī) in the other hand, appears in a relief on a stone slab near the Kudrekallu Gate in Vijayanagara (Dallapiccola/ Verghese 1998, p. 25 and Plate 13), dating from the sixteenth century. A slightly later, mid-sixteenth-century free-standing sculpture inside Bhīma’s Gate in Vijayanagara (Fig. 2) represents the same iconographic type.


Bhīmasena slaying Duḥśāsana In Nepal, in addition to the simple and pacific form, are found representations of Bhīma in a militant stance, towering over a slain enemy and pressing him down with the knee of his bent left leg. Bhīma rips open the enemy’s belly or chest with his left hand and either pulls out a long portion of his entrails with his right hand or else raises a club over him (Fig. 3). Individuals are often unable to specify the enemy’s name in such

representations, while others are unsure whether he is Duryodhana (see, for example, Duijker 2010, volume 1, p. 34), Duḥśāsana or Kīcaka. Such confusion is widespread, too, in India, where there are many versions of the Mahābhārata. According to local versions from South India, for example, Bhīma tears open Duryodhana’s chest, and Draupadī—in fulfillment of a vow—uses his blood to dress her hair and his intestines to bind or garland it (Hiltebeitel 1988, p. 21, note 16, pp. 306–307, 409, 432–433). Representations of Bhīma ripping out an enemy’s intestines refer in Nepal to Bhīma fulfilling a vow to kill Duḥśāsana, who—supported by Duryodhana—had tried to disrobe Draupadī in public.

For recent discussions of puruṣamṛga representations in Indian art, see Branfoot 2002, Dallapiccola/Verghese 2002 and Wessels-Mevissen 2006 and 2009.


460 Gudrun Bühnemann Verse 3 of a song in the Newari language, dating perhaps from the nineteenth century, illustrates this. The hymn is quoted here in full in the translation of Lienhard 1974, p. 148: (Refrain:) Bhīmasena comes gladly, having destroyed his enemy’s body. (People) came and stayed; he stopped being busy in order to accept (their) worship. The whole ground is perfumed with the incense of gogula and smoke.

(1) When various musical instruments sounded, it was terrible to listen to this (sound). Gnashing his teeth, Bhīmasena leaps into battle.

(2) Opening his red eyes, kicking (him) angrily with his (bent) knee14 and extracting his bowels: (Bhīmasena) slays Duḥśāsana.

(3) There is no one stronger than he. He drinks sufficient blood, (and) on the site of his battle he makes a fire as (big as a fire) can be.

(4) (Easily) catching tigers and elephants between his legs, clasping lions under his arms, and making horses fall flat to the ground, he moved there. Who is not afraid?

(5) Let me, (Lord), dwell beneath your two feet, and make me attain liberation in this (very) body and pay my homage as well as I can.

(6) In representations of the theme from Nepal, Duḥśāsana is lying on his back and sometimes holds a shield and a broken sword.

Brass statues depicting this fierce form of Bhīma are sold in the market as objects of worship. Somewhat similar representations but with Draupadī standing near Bhīma and preparing to bind her hair can already be found in South Indian art. The theme is quite popular in the twelfth/thirteenth-century Hoysala temples.15 Thus the north niche of the southern shrine of the twelfth-century


14 I have changed the plural form ‘knees’ in Lienhard’s translation to the singular, because it is grammatically appropriate and corresponds with iconographic representations. 15 For a brief discussion of the relations between Nepal and South India in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, see Michaels 1985.


Fig. 3: Bhīmasena slaying Duḥśāsana. Tusā Hiti, (former) Royal Palace of Patan, Nepal


Hoysaleśvara Temple, Haḷebīd16 (Fig. 4) shows Bhīma pulling out the intestines of a kneeling Duḥśāsana, and Draupadī about to take them in hand to use for binding or garlanding her hair. The scene appears also on the north face of the vestibule of the western sanctum of the late-twelfth- or early-thirteenth-century Hūcheśvara Temple at Haḷebīd (Evans 1997, p. 220); on a section next to the west external niche of the middle temple of the Nāgareśvara Temple

complex, Haḷebīd, from the second half of the twelfth century (Evans 1997, p. 229); on the south face of the vestibule of the western sanctum of the late-twelfth- or early-thirteenth-century Kedareśvara Temple at Haḷebīd (Evans 1997, p. 238) and on the north side of the early-thirteenth-century Īśvara Temple


at Arsikere.17 It is also represented on the northern side of the north-west corner of the hall of the Lakṣmīnārāyaṇa Temple, Hosaholalu (Fig. 5) and on the eastern side of the northern cella of the Mallikārjuna 16 See Annual Report of the Mysore Archaeological Department for the Year 1930, p. 43 with Plate 13-2; Evans 1997, p. 204, Fig. 131; see also Evans 1997, p. 208. 17 See the Annual Report of the Mysore Archaeological Department for the Year 1930, p. 66 for a reference.


Fig. 4: Bhīma pulling out the intestines of a kneeling Duḥśāsana, and Draupadī about to take them in hand. Hoysaleśvara Temple, Halebid Photo courtesy of Gerard Foekema.


Temple at Basarālu/Basral. It appears, further, on a relief on Bhīma’s Gate in Vijayanagara, dating from the end of the fifteenth century to the beginning of the sixteenth century (Dallapiccola/Verghese 1998, p. 25 and Plate 14) (Fig. 6). Textual support for such representations is found in Pampa’s tenth-century Bhārata, also known as Vikramārjunavijaya, written in the Kannada language, wherein Draupadī vows that one day her hair will be bound with

Duḥśāsana’s intestines and Bhīma promises to make this wish come true (Sitaramiah 1967, pp. 95–96). Bhīma subsequently slays Duḥśāsana, smears Draupadī’s hair with his blood and garlands it with his intestines (Acharya 1981, pp. 293, 359–361). The theme of a divine figure disembowelling an enemy, be it noted, was already familiar from representations of Narasiṃha slaying Hiraṇyakaśipu. These are widespread and older, and so must have served as prototypes. The two figures accompanying Bhīmasena In more complex Nepalese sculptures and line drawings of the slaying of Duḥśāsana, Bhīmasena is accompanied by two

small, emaciated figures. The earliest representation I have found is a sculpture in Tusā Hiti, a sunken stepped fountain built in 1647 ce in the (former) Royal Palace of Patan (Fig. 3).18 Bhīmasena is ripping open Duḥśāsana’s abdomen with his left hand and is pulling out the entrails with his right hand. The sculpture is damaged, the long string of entrails having broken off. Bhīma is flanked by two small gaunt figures making begging gestures. They are apparently soliciting the flesh, blood and intestines of the slain warrior for their own consumption. 18 For this fountain and its sculptures, see

Bühnemann 2008. Deva 1984, p. 57 erroneously labelled the sculpture as a ‘two-armed militant goddess’ and Bangdel 1995, p. 271/26, rather too broadly, as a ‘Tantric Deity’, although Pandit Maṅgalānanda (in Gail 1984–1988, volume 2, p. 45 and in Shrestha 1996, p. 9/24) correctly identified it as ‘Bhimsen’. Fig. 6: The same scene as in Figs. 4 and 5 carved on Bhīma’s Gate, Vijayanagara


A similar sculpture is found in the fountain in (Man)mohan courtyard located in Kathmandu’s Hanūmānḍhokā Royal Palace and dating from 1652 ce (Fig. 7). The figure of Duḥśāsana is severely damaged and so is the face of one of the emaciated figures. A line drawing in a ca. nineteenth-century concertina-type manuscript catalogued as Nānāstotracitrasaṃgraha (Fig. 8), which bears some relation to the sculptures in the two fountains, also illustrates the theme.

Chaudhury 1972 (unnumbered plate on p. 9 of the unnumbered section containing illustrations) reproduces another stone sculpture of this type, which he labels as unidentified and not in a worship setting, without specifying its location. The two small figures accompanying Bhīma as he slays Duḥśāsana appear in several line drawings in sketchbooks and similar material. They do not always engage in begging but may instead be featured as approaching the scene eagerly, as if dancing with joy. In a line drawing in a “Book of Iconographic Drawings” preserved in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.82.169.6) (Fig. 9) (assigned, perhaps too early, to the last quarter of the

Fig. 7: Bhīma slaying Duḥśāsana. Fountain in (Man)mohan courtyard in Kathmandu’s Hanūmānḍhokā Royal Palace Fig. 8: Bhīma slaying Duḥśāsana. Manuscript leaf, ink on paper; National Archives of Nepal, Kathmandu (acc. no. 3/40) Photo courtesy of Gudrun Bühnemann

Fig. 9: Bhīma slaying Duḥśāsana. A line drawing in a “Book of Iconographic Drawings” preserved in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.82.169.6) Digital Image © [2012] Museum Associates / LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, New York.

Fig. 10: Bhīma slaying Duḥśāsana. A line drawing in sketchbook 412 in the collection of Ian Alsop, Santa Fe Photo courtesy of Gudrun Bühnemann sixteenth century) one of the figures holds a skull cup in the left hand and an unidentified object in the right; the other figure raises the left hand and lowers the right hand, both of which are empty. A line drawing in sketchbook 412 in the collection of Ian Alsop, Santa Fe (Fig. 10) shows the two figures arriv


ing on the scene excitedly, their arms rocking up and down. Stone sculptures of the entire group of four (viz. Bhīmasena, Draupadī and the two gaunt figures) are worshipped in an open-air shrine dating from the nineteenth century (or quite possibly even later),19 in the Pukhulāchi quarter in the centre of the village of Sankhu20 (Fig. 11). Here we encounter the simple form of Bhīmasena holding a club and displaying the gesture of protection. To Bhīmasena’s left is Draupadī, and far off to the left and right are two small figures stretching out their hands to beg. (One would assume that the two figures are quite out of place in this context. Since Bhīma is shown in a pacific form rather than slaying an enemy, there is no reason to expect any flesh

or blood. Perhaps the artist was unthinkingly imitating elements he had noticed in other representations.) The two small figures are also mentioned in texts but the nomenclature varies. The aforementioned ritual text Mohanacukayā hitiyāta busādhanasa āhuti biya vidhi invokes Bhīmasena, followed by Draupadī (not represented in the fountain in [Man]mohan courtyard) and Bhūtinī and Piśācinī.21 The small figures were sometimes considered a male and a

female, a feature not easily discernible in artistic representations. The nineteenth-century chronicle Bhāṣāvaṃśāvalī (part 2, p. 73, lines 7–10) reports with reference 19 Shrestha 2012, p. 282 reports that the original shrine was destroyed in the 1934 earthquake. 20 Bangdel 1995, pp. 463–464 separates the group in his documentation. For the two small figures, see Bangdel 1995, p. 463 (sec. 7/3; labelled ‘Chamunda’) and p. 464 (sec. 7/5; labelled ‘Female Figure’); for Bhīmasena, see Bangdel 1995, p. 464 (sec. 7/6); for Draupadī, erroneously also labelled ‘Bhimsen’, see Bangdel 1995, p. 464 (sec. 7/7). 21 The text reads: bhīmasenayāta || bhāṃ bhīṃ bhūṃ [followed by a kūṭākṣara] bhīmarājeśvaramahābhairavāya namaḥ || dropatiyāta ||| dāṃ dīṃ dūṃ [followed by a kūṭākṣara] dropatīdevyāyai namaḥ || thanā bhūtinīpiśācinīyātaṃ māla ||


466 Gudrun Bühnemann to the statue of Bhīmasena22 in the well-known Bhīmasena temple on Patan’s Darbar Square (expanded into a three-storied structure in 1681 by King Śrīnivāsamalla) that on the 11th day of the bright half of the month of Māgha of N.S. 821 (= 1701 ce) (Śrīnivāsamalla’s son Yoganarendramalla of Patan) made a statue of Bhīmasena, in his angry aspect, killing Duḥśāsana, and accompanied by Bhūta and Bhūtinī. The large Bhīmasena statue23 on the upper floor of this temple is joined by a figure of Draupadī (in a corner) and by two gaunt figures (at the sides)—one with a blue and the other with a red face—both of whom make begging gestures. Regmi 1965–1966, part 2, p. 612, Wiesner 1976, p. 129 and Rau 1984, p. 261 refer to the two figures as Mahākāla and Bhairava, while the priest-in-charge calls the blue-faced one Bhairava and the red-faced one Kālī. This labelling is certainly incorrect. The Bhīmasena

temple southwest of Kathmandu’s Darbar Square houses large-size statues of Bhīmasena and Draupadī, together with another figure said to be Arjuna.24 Bhīmasena’s statue is clad in a long robe and the attributes cannot be discerned, but it seems that the figure of Duḥśāsana is absent. At the far left and right sides of the group are two stooped figures, clad in robes covering their features. The priest-in-charge identified the two figures as the youngest

Pāṇḍava brothers, Nakula and Sahadeva. Others identified the two sculptures as representing two figures of Dhusi Ajīmā (‘Hunchbacked Grandmother’ in Newari), believed to cure backache, or else as Dhusi Aju and Dhusi Ajīmā (‘Hunch-backed Grandfather’ and ‘Hunchbacked Grandmother’ in Newari).25 The stooped figures more likely correspond to the two figures called Bhūtinī/Piśācinī or Bhūta/Bhūtinī in texts. 22 A reference to this statue of Bhīmasena is also found in the Vaṃśāvalī of Guṇānanda, p. 247, but the two attendant figures are not mentioned. 23 Photography is not officially allowed in this temple, but a rather dark photograph is reproduced in Jośī 2008, p. 30. 24 Anderson 1971, p. 237 summarizes a legend that provides a rationale for this combination

of images as follows: “It seems in the old days that when people went before this towering, moustached image of the fierce Bhimsen, many died soon thereafter, a phenomenon which, incidentally, is today attributed to idols of the God of Wrath, Bhairab. To pacify Bhimsen and avert further calamity, the people installed at his side an image of his beloved wife Draupadi. And when her presence failed to lessen the number of deaths, an idol of the noble


warrior brother, Arjuna of benign and gentle nature, was set beside Draupadi.” 25 Thus Anderson 1971, p. 237 reports that women call both figures “Dhushi Ajima, who, despite their perpetually crouched posture, will cure backache. Women who bring them offerings must never bend to touch Dhushi Ajima’s feet with their foreheads in the usual manner, but must always stand upright if they expect their ailment to be cured.” In an article titled ‘Bhimsen temple’ in the Sunday Post (a weekly magazine of the Kathmandu Post), dated 19 May 2002, Razen Manandhar reports that “two human figures in humpback position are kneeling there in (sic) both sides, commonly known as Dhusi Aju and Dhusi Ajima (that is, Hump grandfather, Hump grandmother in Newari language)”.


They are also seen, with their hands stretched out in a gesture of begging, flanking Bhīmasena on one of the two tympanums in front of the shrine room of this temple. Such emaciated figures, begging or holding a skull cup and knife, are associated with charnel grounds, the habitat of Bhairava, Śiva’s wrathful (ugra) form. They are referred to in texts and represented in art and often appear in pairs (Ladrech 2010, p. 304) as Bhairava’s attendants. They can perform a variety of activities, including dancing, playing musical instruments, worshipping with their hands in the añjali gesture or drinking blood from skull cups. Texts label them variously as bhūtas, pretas, piśācas, vetālas, grahas or mātṛs, among other categories (Ladrech 2010, pp. 304–307). An


eighteenth-century Nepalese painting26 (Fig. 12) features a small dark-blue 26 The painting, whose date corresponds to 1754/1755 ce, is part of the concertinastyle manuscript labelled “Navagrahasastra (Guide to the Planets)” and reproduced in: Paintings on Paper: Nepalese Illustrated Manuscripts: An exhibition on view in conjunction with Asian Art in London, 1 November–16 November 2007, p. 27 (no. 6466).


figure to Bhairava’s right and a red one to this left. Both figures make a begging gesture. A sketch in the Newark Museum (acc. no. 82.253) dating from 1755/1756 ce also includes the two figures, whose complexion is specified as dark-blue (nīla) and red (rakta), to Bhairava’s right and left, but their hands are empty and they do not make any such gesture. Two figures making a gesture of begging are seen on the pedestal of a sculpture of Ugracaṇḍī (also known as Mahi ṣāsura mardinī and Bhagavatī in Nepal) in Tusā Hiti (Fig. 13). They are also seen on the pedestal of a similar sculpture in the fountain (hiti) in (Man) mohan courtyard in Kathmandu’s Hanūmānḍhokā Royal Palace (Fig. 14). In the corresponding line drawing in the Nānāstotracitrasaṃgraha (Fig. 15) each figure holds a string of entrails


Other characteristics of Bhīmasena as Bhairava So far I have shown how Bhīmasena’s identity with Bhairava is indicated by the presence of figures typically associated with Bhairava, other wrathful deities and charnel grounds. But the identity is also expressed more specifically in texts and art. The (Mahā-)bhīmasena-dhāraṇī specifies that Bhīma is fond of devouring humans (narabhakṣamahāpriya) and consuming liquor (madhupānapriya), has fits of boisterous laughter (aṭṭāṭṭahāsa), which we know to be characteristic of wrathful Tantric deities, holds a vessel filled with human blood and has a terrifying (aghora) form. The Bhīmasenasahasranāmastotra (Regmi 1990, pp. 2–7) describes the deity as characteristically dwelling in charnel grounds (śmaśānavāsī) (verse 91).


470 Gudrun Bühnemann In art, Bhīmasena appears occasionally with two corpses (śava, preta) as his vāhanas. Animated corpses (vetālas)27 are also associated with charnel grounds, and they, too, serve as the vāhanas of many Tantric deities in Nepal. A line drawing in an artist’s sketchbook28 shows a comparatively rare five-headed form of Bhīmasena, accompanied by a consort, standing in militant stance on two crouching corpses (Fig. 16). Rākṣasa versus Bhairava In a recent article titled “Bhīma Vṛkodara: homme ou animal?” Ronan Moreau (2008–2009) analyzes various epithets applied to Bhīma

in the Mahābhārata. He concludes that the comparisons of Bhīma to wild animals (including lions, tigers and elephants), which are frequently made in the epic, show that he is considered wild, barbaric, demonic and almost animal-like. In Pampa’s tenth-century Kannada work Bhārata, Bhīma not only slays Duḥśāsana but also drinks his blood and eats his flesh (Acharya 1981, p. 360). Some authors including David Gitomer have compared Bhīma’s behaviour to that of a Rākṣasa, especially given the manner in which he slays Duḥśāsana and Duryodhana. Gitomer notes that Bhīma’s ripping out Duḥśāsana’s guts and drinking his blood replicates the standard description of a Rākṣasa feasting on battle carnage. Furthermore, Bhīma not only fights Rākṣasas but also marries the

Rākṣasī Hiḍimbā (1991, p. 301). As interesting and valuable as these observations may be, we do not know of a cult of Rākṣasa Bhīma anywhere in South Asia. Bhīma’s behaviour, however, incontestably matches that of a wrathful (ugra) divinity, such as Bhairava, Śiva’s fierce form. Bhīmasena’s iconography in Nepal, as perceived from at least the seventeenth century onward, developed from South Indian prototypes. But whereas in South India Bhīma is merely the epic hero and serves as a guardian, in Nepal he is also worshipped as a divinity in his own right. This change of status and his identification with Bhairava added specific features to his more complex iconographic forms.


On vetālas, see Huang 2009 and especially Dezsö 2010. 28 The line drawing appears in artist sketchbook 411 in the collection of Ian Alsop. The colours of Bhīma’s five heads are indicated in Sanskrit and Newari as: ra (= rakta, red); va (= vāũ, green); ni (= nīla, dark blue); ku (= kuṅkuma, golden) and, the top head, to (= toyu, white). Bhīma is accompanied by a two-armed consort whose name is not specified. Thus it remains unclear whether she is Draupadī, Hiḍimbā or another female. For the fiveheaded form of Bhīma, see also the manuscript titled Pañcavaktrabhīmabhairavahṛdayamantra in the online title list of the NGMCP.


The identification of Bhīmasena with Bhairava is not the only such case in Nepal. It has a parallel in Bhīma’s half-brother Hanumān, who is likewise considered Vāyu’s son. Hanumān’s Bhairava form is Hanū-Bhairava29 in Nepal (Fig. 17). A large number of devotional and ritual texts in manuscript form, including such titles as Hanū(mad)bhairavapūjāvidhi, Hanūbhairavastotra, Hanūbhairavakavaca and Pañcamukhīvīrahanūbhairavastotra,30 are devoted to the worship of the deity. Hanū-Bhairava (or Hanūmadbhairava) is a type of five-headed (pañcamukha) Hanumān. The five-headed form, usually described as seated or standing on a corpse, is already known from Sanskrit 29 There are numerous representations of Hanū-Bhairava in Nepal. For sculptures of this form of

Hanumān in the Patan Museum, see Slusser 2002, pp. 118, 120–121. See also an inscribed painting in manuscript 10054 from Nepal, preserved in the collection of the Bhārat Kalā Bhavan, Vārāṇasī and published in Pal 1970, Fig. 85 and Bhattacharyya 1980, Fig. 15. Several sculptures are found in Kathmandu’s Hanūmānḍhokā Royal Palace but are as yet unpublished. 30 See the online title list of the NGMCP for more information on these texts. Fig. 17: Hanū-Bhairava. A line drawing in an unnumbered artist sketchbook in the collection of Ian Alsop, Santa Fe Photo courtesy of Gudrun Bühnemann 472 Gudrun Bühnemann texts transmitted in India.31 However, many five-headed representations of Hanumān in Indian art32 appear without a vāhana and exhibit

benevolent features. Hanū-Bhairava is standing in militant stance on one or two (animated) corpses and displays mostly fierce attributes including a garland of skulls. Revanta, the son of Sūrya, was also transformed into Bhairava in Nepal. The ritual text Mohanacukayā hitiyāta busādhanasa āhuti biya vidhi invokes Revanta-Mahābhairava,33 and so do pūjā manuals.34 However, I have not yet come across a representation of Revanta as Bhairava in art. Hayagrīva is often called Hayagrīvabhairava and the heavenly body Saturn (Śani/Śanaiścara) has occasionally been invoked as Śanibhairava.35


See the Hanumadgahvara for an iconographic description, quoted in Śrīvidyārṇavatantra, volume 2, p. 766, 15–24: pañcavaktraṃ mahābhīmaṃ tripañcanayanair yutam | bāhubhir daśabhir yuktaṃ sarvakāmyārthasiddhidam || pūrvaṃ tu vānaraṃ vaktraṃ koṭisūryasamaprabham | daṃṣṭrākarālavadanaṃ bhrukuṭīkuṭilekṣaṇam || atraiva dakṣiṇaṃ vaktraṃ nārasiṃhaṃ mahādbhutam | atyugratejovapuṣaṃ bhīṣaṇaṃ bhayanāśanam || paścimaṃ gāruḍaṃ vaktraṃ vakratuṇḍaṃ mahābalam | sarvarogapraśamanaṃ viṣaroganivāraṇam || uttaraṃ saukaraṃ vaktraṃ kṛṣṇaṃ dīptaṃ nabhonibham | pātālānilabhettāraṃ jvararoganikṛntanam || ūrdhvaṃ hayānanaṃ ghoraṃ dānavāntakaraṃ param | ekavaktreṇa viprendra tārakākhyaṃ mahābalam || kurvantaṃ śaraṇaṃ tasya sarvaśatruharaṃ param | khaḍgaṃ triśūlaṃ khaṭvāṅgaṃ pāśam aṅkuśaparvatam || dhruvamuṣṭigadāmuṇḍaṃ daśabhir munipuṅgava | etāny āyudhajālāni dhārayantaṃ yajāmahe || pretāsanopaviṣṭaṃ taṃ sarvābharaṇabhūṣitam

divyamālyāmbaradharaṃ divyagandhānulepanam || sarvāścaryamayaṃ devam anantaṃ viśvato mukham | … The same passage, with some variants, is found in the Śrītattvanidhi (Viṣṇunidhi, no. 72 [p. 59]), where it is ascribed to the Sudarśanasaṃhitā. 32 For illustrations of this form of Hanumān in works of art, see Aryan/Aryan 1994 (multiple plates) and Nagar 1995; for a discussion of this iconographic type with a few illustrations, see Kalidos 1991. 33 The text reads: revanta || rāṃ rīṃ rūṃ [followed by a kūṭākṣara] revantamahābhairavāya svaśaktisahitāya namaḥ ||. 34 See the online title list of the NGMCP for manuscripts titled Revantamahābhairavapūjāvidhi and Revantabhairavatoraṇakalaśārcanavidhi. 35 See the hymn eulogizing Śani with twelve names (“Śanibhairavadvādaśanāma”) in the online title list of the NGMCP.


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