Archaeology and Vaishnava Tradition, Part Seven

BY: SUN STAFF - 10.1 2019

Catur-vyuhas: Vasudeva, Shankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha 
Sri Krsna's Plenary Portions 

Part Seven of a monograph by Ramaprasad Chanda, published by the Archaeological Survey of India, 1998.


Next to the Garuda pillar of Heliodorus in point of time is the Ghasundi stone slab inscription. The slab was found "on the right hand side of the door or entrance leading down to a tank in the village of Ghasundi about 4 miles N.E. of Nagari" in the Udaypur State, Rajputana. [1] The inscription is engraved in Brahmi characters of the second century B.C.

Bhas with a long straight right-hand vertical line in place of two short lines forming an angle, as in the inscription of Heliodorus, and roundish ga, indicate that the Ghasundi inscription is later in date than the inscription of Heliodorus, while the occurrence of archaic screw-like rasshows that the distance of time is not long. This inscription in corrupt Sanskrit runs:

1. [Bhagava] [te]na Gajayanena Parasariputrena sa… 
2. … jina bhagavabhyam Samkarshana-Vasudevabhyam… 
3. … bhyam puja-silaprakaro Narayanavate ka[ritah] 


"A stone enclosure of worship for Bhagavats Samkarshana and Vasudeva… has been erected within the enclosure of Narayana by the Bhagavata Gajayana, son of Parasari…"

Narayanavata or the enclosure of Narayana denotes the compound of a temple or place of worship of Narayana. Pujasilaprakara for Bhagavats Samkarshana and Vasudeva evidently denotes a smaller stone enclosure round either the images or other cult objects representing Samkarshana and Vasudeva with the Narayanavata. As Vasudeva was already identified with Narayana or Vishnu the place presumably came to be known as Narayanavata from the presence of the cult object representing Vasudeva within it. The pujasilaprakara was probably something analogous to the railing round a stupa or a holy tree.

Samkarshana and Vasudeva, "the descendants of the moon (Chamda=Chandra) are invoked together with Dhamma (Dharma), Ida (Indra) and the guardians of the four cardinal points, Yama, Varuna, Kubera and Vasava in the beginning of the long Nanaghat cave inscription, [2]which may be assigned to the end of the second century B.C. [3] In Samkarshana and Vasudeva named side by side in these two epigraphs, we recognize two of the four Vyuhaswhich, according to the Narayaniya section of the Mahabharata, Book XII, and Sankara's commentary on the Vedanta-sutras II, 2. 42, were worshipped by the Pancharatras or Bhagavatas. These Vyuhas are, Vasudeva or the highest self, Samkarshana or the individual soul, Pradyumna or the mind (manas), and Aniruddha or the principle of egoity (ahamkara).

It was further held by the Pancharatras that Samkarshana or individual soul originated from Vasudeva, Pradyumna or manas from Samkarshana, and Aniruddha or akamkara from Pradyumna. A more orthodox view of the doctrine of the Vyuhas supported by both Sankara and Ramanuja is that the highest Brahman called Vasudeva abides in a fourfold form, or reveals itself by dividing itself fourfold as the four Vyuhas.

In all available expositions of the Pancharatra system Vasudeva is mentioned first and is followed by Samkarshana. But in both of our inscriptions the order is changed: Samkarshana is named first and Vasudeva comes as the second. This is in agreement with the epic and Pauranik legends wherein Samkarshana is represented as the elder step-brother of Krishna-Vasudeva. But this aspect of the epigraphical evidence has escaped the notice of Sir Ramakrishna Bhandarkar and Dr. Otto Schrader. The former traces the second (Samkarshana), third and fourth Vyuhas to the three of the Prakritis of Vasudeva as the Supreme being in the Bhagavad-gita VII, 4-5. [4] Dr. Schrader writes:

"The original worship, proved by archaeology and the Buddhist scripture, of only Vasudeva and Baladeva-Samkarshana can signify nothing else, in our opinion, than that by the original Pancharatrins Krishna was worshipped as the transcendent Highest God, and his brother, the 'God of strength,' as His immanent aspect appearing as the world, this dogma of the double aspect of God being simply the Pancharatra solution of the old, old Indian problem of a God becoming the world without sharing its imperfections."[5]

No such philosophical ideas can be credited to the author of the Nanaghat Cave inscriptions who invokes Samkarshana and Vasudeva along with some other divinities of the Brahmanic pantheon and indicates their difference from the other divinities named by calling them descendants of Chandra or belonging to the lunar Yavana line.

The mention of Samkarshana first and Vasudeva afterwards in two records of such two distant places as Ghasundi in Rajputana and Nanaghat in the Deccan shows that in those days, Samkarshana was popularly recognized as a divinity equaling Vasudeva in rank.



[1] J.A.S.B., Vol. LVI, Pt. I, pp. 77-78, and Plate Va. Luders' List, No. 6 
[2] Luders' List, No. 1112
[3] Memoirs A.S.I., No. 1
[4] Vaishnavism Saivism etc., pp. 12-13; for criticism of this theory by the present writer see The Indo-Aryan Races, Part I, pp. 97-98. 
[5] Introduction to the Pancharatra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Madra, 1916, pp. 144-145.