The Medium Of Myth

Puranic figures today are either worshipped in petitionary prayer or dismissed by the sophisticated, mocked as ancestral superstitions. They carry a higher meaning, absent in both interpretations.

‘Nameless’: There is no serious literate tradition that does not carry it, or some close variant of it, at its very core. But when ‘Nameless’ descends from the cryptic language of the early texts it needs to display in a way that viewers at various levels connect to it.

If the expression is visual, it has to be familiar yet not too familiar [just as ‘Nameless’ is a readable English word; see the Post on the Voyager messages].

A traditional deity has clearly recognizable human dimensions; but then spins off into the strange and the distant. It has arms, but more than two. Eyes, but many. And so on.

The medium of Myth [Purana, literally, ‘Ancient Tale’]. The figure on the right is Narasimha, an Avatar of Vishnu, the story told in the Bhagavatha Purana.

Bent on his thigh is Hiranyakashipu, defiant and violent, who mocks his son, Prahlada, for his faith in the ubiquitous presence of Divinity.

Hiranyakashipu had through  years of penance been granted a boon by the Gods that he, as he demanded, meet death ‘ Neither in Day or Night, neither on Earth or Sky, neither by Animal or Man, neither Indoors or Out…’ and so on.

Vishnu appears as Nara-Simha [Man-Lion] and at twilight, and seated on the threshold, disembowels Hiranyakashipu with his nail-claws.

You can make the symbolism very abstract and risk losing its meaning as happened with the Symbol ‘0’ or the Mantric expression AUM. Or you can go the other extreme and make it too familiar. [the modern deification of Celebrities has its roots here.] 

The rendering of Jesus varies depending on the host-culture. From the standard authority-figure, older male with white beard of Northern Europe  to the embracing Madonna expression of Latin America, the very approachable Infant Jesus, and all all manner of variants in-between.

Hinduism is famous for providing the pilgrim with an unlimited choice. From a Krishna to a Hanuman to Mountains [Kailas] and Rivers [Ganga] to abstract symbols and sounds [Yantra, Mantra et al].