of the word vajra
0.1): "Tibetan: Rdo-rje: Five-pronged ritual object extensively employed in Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies. It is the symbol of the
Vajrayana school of Buddhism.
Vajra, in Sanskrit, has both the meanings of “thunderbolt” and “diamond.” Like the thunderbolt, the vajra cleaves through ignorance. The thunderbolt was originally the symbol of the Hindu rain god Indra."
0.2): "(In Tibetan rdo-rje, "lord of stones") An ultimately untranslatable Sanskrit word meaning diamond, adamantine, or thunderbolt, connoting immutability, unbreakability, and ultimate power. The vajra symbolized the supreme power of Indra in Vedic India and was used punitively by that god of war and storm. Universal Vehicle Buddhism transvalued it into a symbol of great compassion, the strongest power in the universe. In
Tantric art and ritual it symbolizes compassion as great bliss consciousness, with its companion bell representing the wisdom of the void, the male organ with the bell as the female, and the magic-body with the bell as the clear light."
Source: Mandala: The Architecture of Enlightenment, Denise Patry Leidy, Robert A. F. Thurman. New York: Asia Society Galleries, Boston, Shambala: Tibet House, 1997. Copyright Asia Society Galleries, Tibet House, 1997.
Source: Asia Source / Asia
0.3): Vajras may have nine, five or three spokes. The spokes of a peaceful Vajra meet at the tip whereas those of a wrathful vajra are slightly splayed at the end. When paired with a bell their length can vary from four finger-widths to twenty-eight finger widths.
The upper sets of spokes of a five-spoked vajra symbolize the five wisdoms, which are:
1) The mirror like wisdom-that which reflects all sense perceptions is purified when one attains enlightenment and becomes the mirror like wisdom.
2) The wisdom of equality-arises after all the feelings of pleasantness, unpleasantness and indifference have been purified.
3) The wisdom of individual analysis-arises when the factor of discrimination, which distinguishes one object from another is purified. It enables one to benefit each sentient being according to his or her needs and disposition.
4) The wisdom of accomplishing activity-arises when the basic ability to perform acts according to particular circumstances is purified.
5) The wisdom of the sphere of reality-arises when consciousness is purified and becomes the mind that is the seed of the wisdom truth body of a Buddha. The five lower spokes symbolize have five mothers.
Source: The Government of Tibet in Exile: The Office of
Tibet, the official agency of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in London
|1.0 Vajra in Hinduism
Indra - the holder of vajra
"More than 250 hymns have been dedicated to Indra in Rigveda. Another fifty plus hymns sing the praises of Indra in combination with other gods like Vayu, Varuna, Agni, Vishnu, Soma and Brihaspati. Vedic sages do not get tired of describing the glorious deeds of Indra. More than one fourth of the
Rig-Vedic verses are about Indra. The hymn traditionally considered the most
favourite hymn of Indra is presented below.
1. Who is first among the gods, who after being born adorned gods from his actions, from whose impulse earth and heaven tremble, who is famous for his strength, he, O people, is Indra.
2. Who made the trembling earth firm, who pacified the angry mountains, who measured the wide atmosphere, who supported the heaven, he, O people, is Indra.
3. Who killed the serpent and made seven rivers flow, who got the cows hidden by Bala out, who created Agni between two rocks, who kills enemies in wars, he, O people, is Indra.
4. Who has made the shaking world, who has put Dasa varna in a hidden place below, who conquers like the hunter killing dogs, the lord who snatches nourishing material from enemies, he, O people, is Indra.
5. About whom people ask where is the awful, and say that he does not exist, he the lord destroys nourishing material of enemies, so have respect for him, because he, O people, is Indra.
6. Who instigates rich and poor, knowledgeable, needy and poet, who has beautiful cheeks, who protects those extracting Soma juice using stones, he, O people, is Indra.
7. Whose horses are, whose cows are, whose villages are, whose all chariots are, who created sun and Usha, who leads the waters, he, O people, is Indra.
8. Whom earth and heaven moving together call for help, whom high and lowly both enemies call, whom two warriors sitting on the same chariot call in several ways, he, O people, is Indra.
9. Without whose help people can’t win, whom warriors call for protection, who became world’s model, who moves the unmovable, he, O people, is Indra.
10. Who kills the sinners and ignorants by Vajra, who does not let the arrogants win, who kills the Dasyus, he, O people, is Indra.
11. Who found Shambara hiding in the mountains during fortieth winter, who killed the valiant serpent and sleeping Danu, he, O people, is Indra.
12. Who is seven-rayed strong bull, who freed seven rivers for flowing, who holding Vajra in his hand killed Rohana riding on heaven, he, O people, is Indra.
13. For whom earth and heaven bow, whose strength mountains fear, who drinks and protects Soma, who holds Vajra in his hand, he, O people, is Indra.
14. Who protects those extracting and cooking Soma juice, who protects those reciting hymns and those active in worship, who increases by hymns, whose Soma is, whose wealth is, he, O people, is Indra.
The battle between Indra and Vritra has been described again and again in the Rigveda as this is the central point of Vedic cosmology. Let’s then go through a Vedic hymn that describes this extraordinary battle in detail.
1. Now I describe the glorious deeds of Indra, who holds Vajra. He killed the serpent and made waters flow. He broke the hearts of mountains.
2. He killed the serpent, which was taking refuge in mountain. Tvashta made the Vajra for him. Like the cows making sounds, flowing waters reached the sea.
3. Mighty Indra chose Soma, and drank from three containers. Generous Indra held Vajra in his hand, and killed first born among the serpents.
4. O Indra, when you killed first born among the serpents, you also made the deception of deceivers ineffective. Then you created dawn and sun in heaven, afterwards you could not find any enemy.
5. Indra severed and killed the great coverer Vritra by mighty devastating Vajra. Like a trunk of a tree cut down by axe, serpent was lying on earth.
6. Unlike a good warrior, arrogant engaged the mighty warrior, expeller of enemies, who can subdue several opponents. Enemy of Indra could not withstand the devastating blows of Indra, and broke into several pieces at once.
7. Without leg and without hand, Vritra fought Indra. Indra hit him by Vajra on his head. Like a weakling fighting a mighty warrior, Vritra was lying scattered at several places.
8. Like the river overflowing its banks, waters started to flow recklessly over lying Vritra. Whom Vritra was holding by his great extent, the serpent was trampled under their feet.
9. Mother of Vritra became weak. Indra attacked below her. Then mother was on top and son was below. Like a cow over her calf, Danu was lying.
10. Body was lying among the water-streams, which never stop and never rest. Waters were flowing over the hidden Vritra. The enemy of Indra was lying in deep darkness.
11. Wife of Dasa and protected by serpent, waters were held back like cows by Pani. The gate holding waters was closed, Indra killed Vritra and opened them.
12. When Vritra counterattacked, one god Indra became the hair of horse. Mighty Indra won the cows, won Soma, and freed seven rivers to flow.
13. Neither lightening, nor thunder were successful for him. Neither fog nor hail were successful. When Indra and serpent fought, generous Indra won for coming years.
14. O Indra, which follower of serpent did you see that fear entered the heart of slayer of Vritra? You crossed nine and ninety streams like a terrified eagle.
15. Indra, who holds Vajra in his hand, is the king of moving and stationary, of peaceful and horned animals. He is the king of men. He is enveloping like the felly of wheel surrounds spokes."
Edge of the Universe (now broken). Try Rig
3.12), translated by Ralph T.H.
Griffith, in 1896 at
The Vajra, thunderbolt, which Usana Kavya is said to
have fashioned, as also Tvastri in RV 1 .32.2, was Indra's
exclusive weapon and on account of his skill in wielding it, he is
called in RV Vajrabhrit, bearing the bolt, Vajrivat, armed
with the bolt. Vajradaksina, holding the bolt in his right hand,
Vajrabahu or Vajrahasta, holding the Vajra in his hand, or
Vajrin, armed with the bolt, which is the commoner epithet of
them all. Not much information about the shape of Vajra is available in
the RV. However, it is said that it was made of iron, and that it
belonged to the category of the weapons called the astras i.e.
those weapons which are operated by throwing.
In RV V.34.2 cited earlier where Uiani is said
to have presented a weapon with thousand bhristis to Indra.
Geldner has translated bhristis as spike. The meaning of the
word, however, is doubtful. It also occurs in RV 1.133.5 in the context
of the picaci who is described as pisangabhristi. Geldner
thinks that the weapon is Soma.
JB 1.97 narrates the story of the birth of Vajra:
The devas and the asuras were contesting. Those devas created a
sharp-edged thunderbolt (which was) as if a man. (They through) him (?
tam) warded off the asuras. Having pushed them away, he returned to the
devas. The devas were frightened. They attacked him, and broke him into
three. Broken into three, he remained the same ...
It seems likely that the vajra was similar to
trisula. A double trisula is found on some of the Assyrian
bas-reliefs [see picture below: 4.0 Thunderbolts (vajras) in
Mesopotamia], where it is depicted as having the three edges on each
side with the handle in between.
Before acquiring the thunderbolt, the devas and the asuras were fighting
with the staves and bows (dandairdhanubhisca) and did not succeed
in defeating each other. Thereupon they started pairing the masculine
and feminine words with a view to ending the battle conclusively.
AiBr. II.31 states in the ritual language the reason of
the balance in the strength of the devas and the asuras: "The Asuras
performed at the sacrifice all that the Devas performed. The Asuras
became thus of equal power (with the Devas) and did not yield to them
(in any respect). Thereupon the Devas saw (by their mental eyes) the
tusnim samsa i.e. silent praise. The Asuras (not knowing it)
did not perform this (ceremony) of the Devas. This "silent praise" is
the silent (latent) essence (of the mantras). Whatever weapon (Vajra)
the Devas raised against the Asuras, the latter got aware of them . The
Devas then saw the silent praise as their weapon; they raised it, but
the Asuras did not become aware of it. The Devas aimed it at the Asuras
and defeated the latter who did not perceive (the weapon aimed at them).
Thereupon the Devas became the masters of the Asuras...""
This may simply be interpreted as suggesting that the
asuras were alert every time they were attacked, but when taken
unawares, they succumbed to the attack.
The discussion of archaeological material shows that
this original double trisula was transformed by the asuras into a
weapon which could perform two kinds of functions. It could be thrown
and could be held as well.''
Source: Shendge, Malati J.: The civilized Demons: The Harappans in
the Rigveda. Pgs. 79-80.
Civilized Demons- The Harappans in Rigveda - Google Books Result)
2.0 Vajrayana Buddhism
Sanskrit: Vehicle of the Diamond [or
Thunderbolt], also called Tantric Buddhism, important development within Buddhism in India and neighbouring countries, notably Tibet. Vajrayana, in the history of Buddhism, marks the transition from Mahayana speculative thought to the enactment of Buddhist ideas in individual life. The term vajra (Sanskrit: "diamond," or "thunderbolt") is used to signify the absolutely real and indestructible in man, as opposed to the fictions an individual entertains about himself and his nature; yana is the spiritual pursuit of the ultimately valuable and indestructible.
Other names for this form of Buddhism are Mantrayana (Vehicle of the Mantra), which refers to the use of the mantra to prevent the mind from going astray into the world of its fictions and their attendant verbiage and to remain aware of reality as such; and Guhyamantrayana, in which the word guhya ("hidden") refers not to concealment but to the intangibility of the process of becoming aware of reality.
Philosophically speaking, Vajrayana embodies ideas of both the Yogacara discipline, which emphasizes the ultimacy of mind, and the Madhyamika philosophy, which undermines any attempt to posit a relativistic principle as the ultimate. Dealing with inner experiences, the Vajrayana texts use a highly symbolic language that aims at helping the followers of its disciplines to evoke within themselves experiences considered to be the most valuable available to man. Vajrayana thus attempts to recapture the Enlightenment experience of the Gautama Buddha.
In the Tantric view, Enlightenment arises from the realization that seemingly opposite principles are in truth one. The passive concepts Sunyata ("voidness") and prajña ("wisdom"), for example, must be resolved with the active karuna ("compassion") and upaya ("means"). This fundamental polarity and its resolution are often expressed through symbols of sexuality (see yab-yum).
The historical origin of Vajrayana is unclear, except that it coincided with the spread of the mentalistic schools of Buddhism. It flourished from the 6th to the 11th century and exerted a lasting influence on the neighbouring countries of India. The rich visual arts of Vajrayana reach their culmination in the sacred mandala, a representation of the universe used as an aid for meditation.
Source: Encyclopedia Brittanica: http://www.britannica.com/
reading: Jungian Archetypes and Tantric Deities: A Comparative Expose
Linda Reid. Department of Psychology. Simon Fraser University
|2.1 The Tibetan Book of the
Bardo, Second Day:
"Listen without distraction. On the second day, a white light, the purified element of water, will shine, and at the same time Blessed Vajrasattva-Aksobhya will appear before you from the blue eastern Realm of Complete Joy. His body is blue in color, he holds a five-pointed vajra in his hand and sits on an elephant throne, embracing his consort Buddha-Locana. He is accompanied by the two male bodhisattvas Ksitigarbha and Maitreya and the two female bodhisattvas Lasya and Puspa, so that six
Buddha forms appear.
The white light of the Skanda of form in its basic purity, the mirror-like wisdom, dazzling white, luminous and clear, will come towards you from the heart of
Vajrasattva and his consort and pierce you so that your eyes cannot bear to look at it. At the same time, together with the wisdom light, the soft smoky light of hell-beings will also come towards you and pierce you. At that time, under the influence of aggression, you will be terrified and escape from the brilliant white light, but you will feel an emotion of pleasure towards the soft smoky light of the hell-beings. At that moment do not be afraid of the sharp, brilliant, luminous and clear white light, but recognize it as wisdom. Be drawn to it with faith and longing, and supplicate it, thinking, "It is the light-ray of Blessed Vajrasattva's compassion, I take refuge in it." It is Blessed Vajrasattva coming to invite you in the terrors of the bardo; it is the light-ray hook of Vajrasattva's compassion, so feel longing for it.
Do not take pleasure in the soft smoky light of the hell-beings. This is the inviting path of your neurotic veils, accumulated by violent aggression. If you are attracted to it you will fall down into hell, and sink into the muddy swamp of unbearable suffering from which there is never any escape. It is an obstacle blocking the path of liberation, so do not look at it, but give up aggression. Do not be attracted to it, do not yearn for it. Feel longing for the luminous, brilliant, white light, and say this inspiration-prayer with intense concentration on Blessed Vajrasattva:
When through intense aggression I wander in samsara,
on the luminous light-path of the mirror-like wisdom,
may Blessed Vajrasattva go before me,
his consort Buddha-Locana behind me;
help me to cross the bardo's dangerous pathway
and bring me to the perfect buddha state. (pp. 43-44)"
"The second tathagata is Aksobhya, in the eastern side of the mandala, which, following Indian tradition, is placed at the bottom. In other texts Aksobhya may appear at the centre, with Vairocana in the east, so there is often some alteration of their attributes; this is why both white and blue colours appear on the first and second days and why there is sometimes an apparent confusion in the mandala pattern. Aksobhya is the ruler of the vajra family, whose poison is aggression or hatred. This is transmuted into the mirror-like wisdom, which reflects everything calmly and uncritically. (p. xviii)"
"Transcending the water element, the white light begins to dawn, and in the east, the Realm of Complete Joy, the tathagata Vajrasattva or Aksobhya appears.
Aksobhya means immovable, and Vajrasattva means vajra being; they both indicate toughness, solidness. In Indian mythology vajra is the most precious jewel, or the thunderbolt, which destroys all other weapons and jewels, which can cut diamond. There was a certain sage who meditated on Mount Meru for centuries, and when he died his bones were transformed into vajra, and Indra, the king of the gods, discovered this and made his weapon out of it, a vajra with a hundred points. The vajra has three qualities: it can never be used frivolously, it always fulfils its function of destroying the enemy, and it always returns into your hand. It is indestructible, adamantine.
The tathagata Vajrasattva-Aksobhya is holding a five-pointed
vajra, this absolutely solid object, and he is sitting on an elephant
throne, what could be more solid than that? His consort is Buddha-Locana, the Buddha Eye. In the Buddhist tradition there are five types of eyes: the bodily eye, the Buddha eye, the wisdom eye, the heavenly eye and the dharma eye. In this case the buddha eye refers to awakening. You may have a very solid, stable situation, but if you have no outlet it can stagnate. The feminine principle automatically opens out, she provides the exit or activation of the whole thing, the element of communication from solidness into a flowing, living situation.
He is accompanied by the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, the Essence of Earth, who represents any kind of fertility and growth, also an expression of that particular Buddha. And he is also accompanied by Maitreya, the Loving One. That firmness, solid and fertile at the same time, needs emotion as well in order to give life to the solidity; it is the emotional, compassionate quality of love, not necessarily selfless compassion.
Then there are the female bodhisattvas: Lasya is the bodhisattva of dance or mudra, she is more performer than dancer, the offering goddess who displays the beauty and dignity of the body; she shows the majesty and seductiveness of the feminine principle. And Puspa is the goddess of flowers, the bodhisattva of vision, sight, the scenery.
Transcending the skandha of form, are mirror-like rays, white and glittering, clear and precise, which shine from the heart of Vajrasattva and his consort. Along with that there is the light of hell, grey light without brilliance. When the person perceives such a display of the vajra quality it seems too complicated to work with, so there is a possibility of simplifying it into the grey light, associated with hell or a fundamental notion of paranoia which is always connected with the intellectual vajra quality. In order to have intellectual understanding you have to see what is wrong with everything rather than what is right; that is the natural vajra intellectual quality, the critical attitude of the logical mind, which also brings solidity. If you have an understanding of something founded on the logic of a critical attitude, then your wisdom is based on extremely solid and definite ground; it is unshakeable. But the other aspect of it is the realm of hell, when the critical attitude does not relate to solidity or basic sanity of any kind, but sets off a chain reaction, an alarm clock so to speak, of paranoia. (pp. 17-18)"
"He holds a five-pointed vajra in his hand and sits on an elephant throne": He sits on an elephant throne like Indra rides his white elephant, Airavata.
"In the east, the Realm of Complete Joy, the tathagata Vajrasattva or Aksobhya appears", the boddhisatva appears in the east, the cardinal direction of Indra.
Source: The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation
Through Hearing in the Bardo, Francesca Freemantle and Chögyam Trungpa
(Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1975) - from the
web-site of Kay
Elaine. For other other
Vajra and bell. India, 20th century.
|Ritual Vajra and Bell
The ritual scepter (vajra, rdo-rje) and bell (ghanta, dril-bu) are the most important ritual elements in Vajrayana Buddhism. The vajra, from which Vajrayana Buddhism takes its name, symbolizes the active male aspect of enlightenment often equated with skillful means, compassion, or bliss. The vajra evolved from the thunderbolt-scepter wielded by the Vedic god Indra. When used in ritual, the vajra is paired with the bell which represents the feminine principle of wisdom. These twin principles of compassion and wisdom are indispensable to the attainment of enlightenment. Although the use of the vajra and bell varies from ritual to ritual, they are used primarily in tandem with ritual gestures (mudra, phyag rgya) to evoke the Buddhas and Bodhi-sattvas, or to make musical offerings to various deities.
With courtecy to the Library of Virginia University. From their
website about the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Ceremonial Objects page of the Art section.
|2.2 Ritual Implements in Tibetan Buddhism: A Symbolic Appraisal
"Rites and rituals are an essential part of Tibetan religion and reflect its practical side. Not restricted to temples alone, they are performed in a variety of places and circumstances, for a myriad of purposes. Daily ceremonies are conducted in temples, although they are perhaps not so elaborate as those that take place in Hindu temples in India and Nepal. Throughout the year, too, special rituals are performed to propitiate deities, to precipitate rain, to avert hailstorms, diseases, and death, to ensure good harvests, to exorcise demons and evil spirits, and of course to destroy the passions of the mind and, ultimately, the ego. All these practices-whether occult, magical, or shamanistic, require various implements which are as important as the images of the deities in whose service they are employed. Each such object is pregnant with symbolic meaning and is frequently imbued with magical power and potency.
Some of the important ritual implements are:
The Vajra or Thunderbolt, also known in Tibetan as dorje.
The Bell, known in Sanskrit as the Ghanta, and in Tibetan as dril bu.
The Phurpa (Ritual Dagger).
The Skull Cup, known as kapala in Sanskrit.
The Curved Knife or Chopper.
The Vajra is the quintessential symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism, which derives its name from the vajra itself. The Sanskrit term vajra means 'the hard or mighty one', and its Tibetan equivalent
dorje means an indestructible hardness and brilliance like the diamond, which cannot be cut or broken. The vajra essentially symbolizes the impenetrable, immovable, immutable, indivisible, and indestructible state of enlightenment or Buddhahood.
The form of the vajra as a sceptre or a weapon appears to have its origin in the single or double trident, which arose as a symbol of the thunderbolt or lightning in many ancient civilizations of the Near and Middle East. Parallels are postulated with the meteoric hammer of the Teutonic sky-god Thor, the thunderbolt and
sceptre of the Greek sky-god Zeus, and the three thunderbolts of the Roman god Jupiter. As a hurled weapon the indestructible thunderbolt blazed like a meteoric fireball across the heavens, in a maelstrom of thunder, fire and lightning.
In ancient India, the vajra, as a thunderbolt, became the chief weapon of the Vedic sky-god Indra. It controlled the forces of thunder and lightning, breaking open the monsoon storm clouds, bringing the welcome rains to the parched plains of an Indian summer. According to legend, Indra's thunderbolt was fashioned from the bones of the great Rishi Dadhichi, who was decapitated by Indra in sacrifice. Dadhichi's 'indestructible' skull-bones gave Indra the most powerful of weapons. By its energy he slew innumerable of his enemy demons. In mythological descriptions, Indra's thunderbolt or vajra is shaped either like a circular discus with a hole at its center, or in the form of a cross with transverse bladed bars. The Rigveda, the most ancient text in the world, identifies the vajra as a notched metal club with a thousand prongs. What is significant is that all these descriptions identify the vajra as having open prongs, unlike the Buddhist one, which has closed prongs. According to a Buddhist legend, Shakyamuni took the vajra weapon from Indra and forced its wrathful open prongs together, thus forming a peaceful Buddhist
sceptre with closed prongs. The Buddhist vajra hence absorbed the unbreakable and indestructible power of the thunderbolt.
The Buddhist vajra may be represented with one to nine prongs. It is designed with a central shaft that is pointed at each end. The middle section consists of two lotuses from which may spring, at each end, for example, six prongs of the
dorje. Together with the projecting and pointed central shaft, each end thus becomes seven pronged. The outside six prongs face inwards towards the central prong. Each of these outside prongs arise from the heads of makaras (mythical crocodiles), which face outwards. The mouths of the makaras are wide open and the prongs emanate from the mouth like tongues of flame.
The vajra is generally two-sided but the vishvavajra or the double thunderbolt has four heads representing the four dhyani Buddhas of the four directions namely, Amoghasiddhi for north, Akshobhya, who presides over the east, Ratnasambhava, lord of the south, and Amitabha who reigns over the west. It is the emblem of the crossed vajra that is inscribed upon the metal base that is used to seal deity statues after they have been consecrated.
The vajra is indeed the most important ritual implement and symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism. It is so important that many of the Vajrayana deities have the word vajra prefixed to their names, two of them being Vajradhara and Vajrasattva.
When used in ritual, the vajra is paired with the bell. It represents the masculine principle and is held in the right hand, the bell, held in the left hand, represents the female principle. More on this follows.
The bell is the most common and indispensable musical instrument in tantric Buddhist ritual. Gods and apotheosized lamas alike hold this popular symbol, along with the thunderbolt in their hands. The bell has an elemental function and its sound, like those made by the trumpet and the drum, is regarded as auspicious; it is said to drive away evil spirits. Like the church bell, the Buddhist hand bell sends the message to evil spirits that they must stay away from the consecrated area where the ritual is being performed.
As already mentioned, in ritual the bell is paired with the vajra. The vajra represents the compassion of the Buddha, the masculine principle; and the bell represents wisdom, the female principle. To achieve enlightenment, those two principles must be combined. The bell is visualized as the Buddha's body, the vajra is visualized as his mind, and the sound of the bell is visualized as Buddha's speech in teaching of the dharma.
The use of the bell and vajra differs according to the ritual performed or the
sadhana chanted. The vajra can be used for visualization or evocation of deities; ringing the bell can be used to request protection or other actions from a deity, or it can represent the teaching of dharma, and can also be a sound offering. As one example of their use, during meditation on the deity Vajrasattva, the vajra is placed on the chest of the practitioner, meaning that Vajrasattva is brought to the meditator, and they become one and inseparable. Ringing the bell then represents the sound of Buddha teaching the dharma and symbolizes the attainment of wisdom and the understanding of emptiness.
While chanting, the vajra is held in the right hand, which faces down, and the bell is held in the left hand, which usually faces up, and they are moved in graceful gestures. Sometimes the hands are held with the wrists crossed over each other, against the chest. This represents the union of the male and female principles."
Part of Ritual Implements in Tibetan Buddhism: A Symbolic Appraisal
is written by by Nitin Kumar in Exotic
India Art, June 2001. See the
whole article with images.
|3.0 Vajra, bell and Vajrapani from
"Seated Buddha and Attendants. Vajrapani. Ca. 2nd–3rd century
A.D., Kushan period, section from a Frieze. India (Uttar Pradesh,
Mathura). Gupta Period 6th century."
"Description: The Buddha was portrayed in human form for the first time during the Kushan period. The central image of this frieze, an element from a lost ensemble, shows him in a typical pose and format for the period, seated with attendants at his side holding fly whisks. They are flanked on the right by the bodhisattva Maitreya, standing on a plinth holding a water bottle, and on the left by a crowned figure who may be the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. These two bodhisattvas are also traditional attendants of the Buddha. Further to the right stand a group of men, women, and a child paying homage to a seated figure, who can be provisionally identified by the double vajra (thunderbolt
sceptre) he holds in his right hand as the bodhisattva Vajrapani, a deity also frequently associated with the Buddha. Another possibility is that this seated figure is the god Indra, who similarly attends the Buddha."
Source: Collection of
Metropolitan Museum of
Art, New York.
Authors comment: The dating is confusing: 2nd-3rd
or 6th century. If 2nd-3rd century, then the frieze
is the oldest piece of art from India depicting a vajra.
Vajrapani - India, Gupta Period 6th century (collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
| Indian Indra with Vajra: PICTURE
|Vajra at Swayambhunath Stupa, Nepal.
Courtecy to Online Exhibit of
Drilbu (Ghanta, Bell) & Dorje (Vajra) by Dante Rosati, who is
maintaining a very extensive web-site about the Vajra.
Gyanyin - Liao Dynasty (916-1125) Northern Shanxi or Hebei Province
Chinese Vajrapani holding the vajra in one of the right arms.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Vajra, Ming Dynasty, age unknown.
|For a Chinese bell see the Kongo bell at 3.5 Japan below.
These ritual objects "were modelled after those brought back from China by Kukai and Saicho. These are metalwork objects that were made in Japan between the Heian Period and the Kamakura Periods (9th-14th Centuries) and have been used through the ages in various Esoteric Buddhist temples throughout Japan.
One kind of ritual object is the Kongo vajra (meaning thunderbolt), which often has sharp, dagger-like prongs. Kongo vajra can have one, three, five, or more prongs on each end. Some have Buddhist jewel designs."
Five-pronged Kongo Vajra, Heian Period, 12th Century (Private Collection).
Source: Kyoto National Museum,
where more samples are shown.
Five-pronged Kongo Bell
China, Tang Dynasty,
Koryo Dynasty (918-1392)
Bell from Korea,
Koryo Dynasty (918-1392)
Courtecy to Online Exhibit of
Drilbu (Ghanta, Bell) & Dorje (Vajra)
by Dante Rosati
Vajra from Central or Eastern Java c. 10th cent., Metropolitan
Museum of Art, N.Y.
Bell from Eastern Java, 13th-14th Century,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Gold ring with vajra, Java - 8th-10th century,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
|3.8 Vietnam (Cham Empire)
Vajrapani, Vietnam; Cham Period, 8th Century AD, bronze, height: 33 cm.
Source: Alexander Götz Gallery.
Single-pronged Kongo Vajra, Kamakura Period, 13th Century,
The vajra in the hand of the Cham Vajrapani above looks quite similar to
the Kongo Vajra, which is made in Japan between the Heian Period and the Kamakura Periods (9th-14th Centuries) and
has been used through the ages in various Esoteric Buddhist temples throughout Japan.
Vajra, 12th-13th Century AD, dimensions: 19.4cm
Indra with vajra, Banteay Srey, Cambodia, 967 A.D.
Vajra from the 13th century from the Khmer Empire, bronze, 14.5 cm,
(Jewel of the Lotus
Vajrasatva with vajra, 11th century, Khmer, bronze, 11.4 cm.
(Bayon style?), Khmer, 12 th- 13 th century A.D., bronze,
height: 12 cm
Vajrasattva with vajra and bell, Khmer, Angkor Wat era,
12th-13th century A.D., height: 21 cm
||Left: Hevajra with Vishnu and Garuda
Angkor period, Bayon style, 13th
century, bronze, height: 23.5 cm.
"This bronze is extremely unusual, as it
comprises two separate figures joined together, possibly in an attempt
to reinforce the supremacy of Buddhism over Hinduism. The base of the
image is a finial depicting Vishnu on Garuda atop nagas with two apsara
either side emerging from behind a mythical bird. Inserted into the top
is a bronze which appears to be two Hevajra figures joined back to back,
with two sets of arms, front and back, and ten heads. It is possibly two
separate finial pieces joined together to form a new iconic type."
|Hevajra, 12-13th cent., Bayon style, Khmer, 19.5 cm
||Hevajra, Shakya type, Tibet, 2002, copper, Tibet
"A bronze figure of Hevajra; with eight
heads in three registers; dancing on a recumbent figure with grooved
lines on a double base; his sixteen hands holding his attributes; a
large ‘butterfly' at the back of his sampot.
Hevajra is the principle deity on the Tantric
path to Enlightenment. He is described in the Hevajratantra, which lists
his attributes and other characteristics. Of his dancing the
Hevajratantra says: "He is possessed of the nine emotions of
dancing: passion, heroism, loathsomeness, horror, mirth, frightfulness,
compassion, wonderment and tranquillity".
His hands hold the following attributes:
(right, bottom to top) elephant, horse, ass or dog, camel, human being,
sarabha (a fantastic beast), and a cat; (left) a number of figures
representing the personifications of the four elements, the sun and moon
and wealth and death. All sixteen attributes sit in cups made of
The grooves on the recumbent figure, who
represents evil preventing enlightenment, indicate that multiple
figures, the four Mara, are represented; similarly, Hevajra's legs are
grooved indicating that he has four legs.
The topmost head and the four heads of the
central register represent the five Jina; the three lower heads
represent Buddha, Lokesvara and Vajrapani." Source: Michael
& Henrietta Spink Oriental Antiquities
Bell from the 13th century (Jewel of the Lotus
NE-Thailand (Isan) - a part of the Khmer Empire
Vajra and bell, bronze, Angkor Wat style, 12th century.
Viravong National Museum, Khorat, Isan, NE-Thailand
| The Vajras from the Khmer
Empire and Bali have more open prones (spokes) than the vajras
from Tibet, China and Japan. The Khmer vajra is mostly formed like
on the bell from Isan (see above)
"Vajras may have nine, five or three
spokes. The spokes of a peaceful Vajra meet at the tip whereas
those of a wrathful vajra are slightly splayed at the end". The
Government of Tibet in Exile
Vajrasatva with vajra
Khmer style, NE-Thailand
Vajrayana, Tantric Buddhism,
Phimai Museum, Thailand.
Indra with Vajra
Khmer style, NE-Thailand, That Phanom Rung Temple,
12th century, Buriram Province, Hindu Shaivite.
Hindu, Phanom Rung is regarded as a Shaivite temple.
Khmer vajra with handle
Southern Buriram Province near the Cambodian border, 12th-13th century
Khmer style. In the author's
Use unknown. Part of a statue or for ceremonial use - or an astronomical
device for determination of solar noon?
(astronomical device, see Sundial
Size = 1:1
|Dancing Shiva - with vajra?
Southern Buriram Province near the Cambodian border, 12th-13th century
In the author's
possession. Use unknown.
|Khmer Mahayana Buddhist deities
Southern Buriram Province near the Cambodian border, 12th-13th century
In the author's
In the 11th to 13th century the Khmer Empire
included nowadays Cambodia, most of NE-Thailand (Isan) and parts of
Central Thailand and southern Laos.
Studies in Sanskrit Inscriptions of Ancient
Mahesh Kumar Sharan:
Chapter 2. Other cults, gods and goddesses
"Hinduism is a repository of faiths and creed. It is internally divided into a large number of religious sects, which, besides common observances, perform their special religious rites and ceremonies. A Hindu, though belonging to a particular sect, pays his respect to other sects also. Different sects prescribe special discipline of their own but they ultimately aim at the same goal - self-realisation. The most important sects of the Hindus are:
1. The cult of Brahma.
2. The cult of Vishnu.
3. The cult of Siva.
4. The cult of Sakti (the mother Goddess).
5. The cult of the Sun
6. The cult of Ganapati or Ganesa.
7. The cult of Buddha.
8. The cult of Nanaka.
To these may be added a number of Puranic and Tantric cults, which are further divided into sub-sects and sub-sub-sects.
In Cambodia too, besides the important sects and their gods discussed above (Brahmanism, Saivism and Vaisnavism), the people believed in many other smaller cults and sects also. Their statues were usually installed in Saivite and Vaisnavite temples but in many cases they had their individual abodes (temples). In inscriptions there are numerous references to the following gods and goddesses as:
1. Aditya, Adityasvami (1)
6. The Nine Planets
8. Skanda-Karttikeya (2)
(1): Majumdar, R.C. IK, No. 40, p.50. Though the names of the donors were Salagrama-swami, it appears that they were named after the two prevailing gods Aditya (Sun) and Salagrama whose representative symbols (figure) appear on the stele.
(2): He was known as early as 7th century A.D. in Cambodia. Statues of Skanda-Kartthikeya mounted on Peacock were known in Pre-Angkorian period. (p. 250 - Ref.: 3)"
"In Dong Duang of Champa (1), the kings have been considered to be the divinities ruling the land. In another inscription of Indravarman I, the king has been supposed to be a part of Chandra, Indra, Agni, Yama and Kubera (2)"
"(1): BEFEO, Vol. IV, p.83
(2): Majumdar, R.C. Inscriptions of Champa, No. 23, v. 3. (p. 257 - Ref.: 3)."
Some of the Guardian deities of the Cardinal Directions
Indra - East, Agni - Southeast, Yama - The Lower Worlds, and
Kubera - North.
Dancing and meditating Shiva. That Phanom Rung. Eastern doorways.
12th century Khmer, Suryavarman II Era, Buriram province, Thailand.
| Author's comments:
Suryavarman II was build Angkor
Wat for the worship of Visnu in the first part of the 12th century A.D.
The local ruler at Phanom Rung was Shaivite, worshipping Shiva, with his
lingam in the center of the temple - also from the 12th century. Shiva's
dance at the end of times are mentioned in the old Vedic texts.
Buddhism co-existed with the dominating Hindu
beliefs. At some periods Buddhism dominated, as in the reign of nn VII,
Bayon period at Angkor and Phimai in Isan, 13th century. The Buddhism was
Mahayana Buddhism - Tantric Vajrayana Buddhism. Nowadays Hinayana
Buddhism florishes in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma.
The picture of the dancing Shiva (above) and the picture
of the dancing Hevajra (above) indicates influence of
Tantric Buddhism on a Hindu Temple. Similar thought arises, when
comparing the Shiva in meditation (above) with Vajrasatva
in meditation (above). In the 12th-14th centuries Hinduism
and Buddhism lived mostly peacefully together following a long
Cultural Influences in Cambodia
Bijan Raj Chatterji
Spread of Tantra-yana from Bengal
"But it was under the Palas of Bengal (who
rose to power in the latter half of the eighth century) that Mahayanism
reached its high-water mark in Bengal and Magdha (footnote: And it was in
the Pala period that the relations between Father India and Bangal and
Magadha were the closest). But from the beginning of this Pala period
Mahayana doctrines became tinged with Tantrism. The Pala dynasty lasted
until the Muhammadan conquest of Bihar in 1199, and throughout this long
period the Pala monarchs remained steadfast supporters of Buddhism, though
unfortunately Tantrism worked havoc with it - especially in the eleventh
and twelfth centuries. And Tantrism was also at the same time modifying
Saivism in Bengal. Tantric Buddhism (or Tantra-yana) was in this period
slowly loosing itself in the Tantric Saiva cult. Lokesvara and Tara were
becoming mere shadows of Siva and Durga. The Brahmans, who monopolised the
office of prime-minister of the Pala kings must have helped to bring about
this curious medley. The later Pala kings installed images of Siva side by
with images of Siva side by side with images of Lokesvara. Indeed the form
of this Lokesvara was like that of Siva and was adorned in the same manner
with snakes as ornaments. A curious scripture, the Sunya Purana, written
by one Ramai Pandit in the eleventh century, combined the doctrine of
'void' of Mahayanism with Tantric practices into which the whole of the
Hindu pantheon was also introduced. Other teachers taught darker secret
teachings, and Buddhism fell into evil days indeed.
But all this is interesting because Mahayanism and Saivism in Sumatra,
Java, and Kambuja showed exactly the same characteristics. As M. Finot has
pointed out the images the images of Lokesvara at Angkor Thom bore such a
strong resemblance to those of Siva, that the iconoclasts (probably during
Yasovarmns reign) spared some of them by mistake. After this outbreak of
fanaticism, Mahayanism and Saivism became more and more fused together -
as we have seen in the inscriptions. In one case we have seen the
identification became so complete that the Trinity was composed of Brahma,
Vishnu and Buddha, and this combination was dedicated to Siva. Buddhist
sovereigns like Jayavarman VII had Brahmans versed in the Vedas as royal
chaplains and paid their homage to Bramanic deities. We have also noticed
in the inscriptions that Tantric doctrines had crept into the Saiva cult
of Kambuja. Hiranyadama, who introduced the worship of the Royal God,
taught four Tantric texts to the first high priest of this deity. Several
kings were initiated into the
Vrah Guhya (the Great Secret) by their Brahman gurus.
Udayadityavarman II, after celebrating the Diksas (mystic consecrations),
performed the mahotsavapuja according to the
Vrah Guhyu with the aid of the high priest of the Royal God - Jayendra-Pandita.
Buddhism in Kambuja was appearently not so much tinged with Tantrism as
far as we can learn from the inscriptions. There are however references in
an inscription to the "tantras of the Paramis" (see p. 154). See
also the references to Sakti in a Buddhist inscription (p. 218). Also
images of Hevajra have been quite recently discovered at Angkor Thom (as
the writer heard recently from M. Finot). This is a Tantric Buddhist
divinity (which is Saiva in its attributes) introduced into Tibet and
Nepal from Bengal during the Pala period. In Java and Sumatra, Mahayana
Buddhism and the cult of Siva, both deeply imbued with Tantric influence,
are to be seen often blending with oneanother during this period. The
Kamahayanikan, consisting of Sanskrit verses explained by a Kavi (Old
Javanese) commentary, professes to teach the Mahayana and Mantrayana. Sir
Charles Eliot thinks that it offers many parallels to Nepalese Tantric
literature, which, as we know, consists of the teachings of the Buddhist
monks of Magdha and Bengal during the Buddhist monks of Magadha and Bengal
during the Pala period. According to this treatise, Brahma, Visnu, and
Siva are emanations of the Dhyani Buddha Vairocana. The "paanca makaras"
are also referred to in this strange work. Another Kavi text, which gives
the story of Kunjarakarana, extols Vairocaana as being Siva and Buddha in
one. The Javanese version of the Sutasoma Jataka, composed by one Tantular
who lived at Majapahit in the reign of Rajasangara (13501389 A.D.),
states, "The Lord Buddha is not different from Siva". But most
important of all from this point of view are the references to the Tantric
practices in Java and Sumatra in I. J. L. Moens' article in the
Tijdschrift voor Indishe Taal… Land en Volkenkunde… (Deel. LXIV,
1924). There we find extracts from Prapanca's Nagarkritagama (a Kavi work
composed during the reign of Hyam Wuruk - fourteenth century) showing
Kritanagar, the ruler of Singasari, as receiving worship as a Siva-Buddha.
But Siva is here Bhairava and Buddha has the terrible demoniac aspect
which we come across in a cremation ground - which is an unmistakable
proof of the Tantric doctrines which he professed. Again while discussing
the Tantric inscription (1269), of Adityavarman, a Sumatran prince, Moens
describes this prince as receiving in a cremation ground the Bhairava
consecration while on all sides corpses burnt on funeral pyres. The
funeral monument of this prince states that he possessed all the Buddhist
virtues and that he was an incarnation of Lokesvara. (pp. 237-241, ref. 2)
The King' Buddhist Minister
"The first inscription of Bat Chum"
mentions "the invisible Vajrapani, who has vanquished the hostile
demon, and wields the flaming thunderbolt, and is skilled in destroying
the heap of obstacles raised by the stream of sins committed by the proud
Danavas and Kali". (p. 141 - Ref. 2)
In 875 s.e. this wise and eminent Buddhist set up
here a great image of Buddha, a Divyadevi (Prajnaparamita),
together with a Vajrapani, in the midst of a great many palaces and houses
- as if in his own excellent heart." (p. 142 - Ref. 2)
Jayavarman is repeatedly saluted by Brahmans
"who have regulated their lives by the sun, who are always drenched
in the nectar of meditation, and who are versed in the Vedas and
Vedangas" (p. 146 - Ref. 2)
"So the son-in-law of the king of Kambuja
was a Brahman from Brindavan in North India" on "the banks of
the Jumma" (p. 147 - Ref. 2)
Ref. 2): Cultural Influences in Cambodia, Bijan Raj Chatterji,
Calcutta, India, 1964.
Ref. 3): Studies in Sanskrit Inscriptions of Ancient Cambodia,
Mahesh Kumar Sharan, New Delhi, IndInd, India,
4.0 Thunderbolts (vajras) in Mesopotamia
The oldest thunderbolt reference is
found in The Seven Tablets of Creation made of are baked
clay and found among some 22.000 other tablets in the ruins of
the palace and library of Ashur-bani-pal (B.C. 668-626) at
Ḳuyûnjiḳ (Nineveh)'' in modern day Iraq (location: N36.366
King Assur-bani-pal, or, as the Greek historians call
him, Sardanapalos, reigned between B.C. 668 and 626, but the
creation myth(s) predates the written evidences by many
''Battle between Marduk (Bel) and the Dragon
Drawn from a bas-relief from the Palace of Ashur-nasir-pal,
King of Assyria, 885-860 B.C., at Nimrûd.''
British Museum. Nimrud Gallery, Nos. 28 and 29.
''Marduk destroying Tiâmat, who is here represented in
the form of a huge serpent.''
From a seal-cylinder in the British Museum,
''In late Babylonian astrology, Marduk was connected to the
planet Jupiter. As the ruler of the late Babylonian pantheon, he
was equated with the Greek god Zeus (Latin Jupiter), hence the
name of the planet.''
Ref: The Free Dictionary:
''In Babylonian mythology, Tiamat is the sea, personified as a
goddess, and a monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos. In the
Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to
the first generation of gods; she later makes war upon them and
is split in two by the storm-god Marduk, who uses her body to
form the heavens and the earth.''
The 4th of the Seven Tablets of Creation tells about the
battle between Marduk and Tiamat:
''30. They gave him the
unrivalled weapon, the destroyer of the enemy [saying]:
31. "Go, cut off the life of Tiâmat.
32. "Let the wind carry her blood into the depth [under the
33. The gods, his fathers, issued the decree for the god Bel.
34. They set him on the road which leadeth to peace and
35. He strung [his] bow, he set ready his weapon [in the stand],
36. He slung his spear, he attached it to [his belly],
37. He raised the club, he grasped it in his right hand.
38. The bow and the quiver he hung at his side.
39. He set the lightning in front of him.
40. His body was filled with a glancing flame of fire.
41. He made a net wherewith to enclose Tiâmat.''
... ... ... and after having tracked her down the tablet
''93. Tiâmat and Marduk, the envoy of the gods, roused
94. They advanced to fight each other, they drew nigh in battle.
95. The Lord cast his net and made it to enclose her,
96. The evil wind that had its place behind him he let out in
97. Tiâmat opened her mouth to its greatest extent,
98. Marduk made the evil wind to enter [it] whilst her lips were
99. The raging winds filled out her belly,
100. Her heart was gripped, she opened wide her mouth [panting].
101. Marduk grasped the spear, he split up her belly,
102. He clave open her bowels, he pierced [her] heart,
103. He brought her to nought, he destroyed her life.''
... ... ... and
137. He slit Tiâmat open like a flat (?) fish [cut into] two
138. The one half he raised up and shaded the heavens therewith,
139. He pulled the bolt, he posted a guard,
140. He ordered them not to let her water escape.
141. He crossed heaven, he contemplated the regions thereof.
142. He betook himself to the abode of Nudimmud (Ea) that is
opposite to the Deep (Apsu),
143. The Lord Marduk measured the dimensions of the Deep,''
The following Fifth Tablet describes the creation of the
''1. He appointed the Stations for the great gods,
2. He set in heaven the Stars of the Zodiac which are their
3. He fixed the year, he appointed the limits thereof.
4. He set up for the twelve months three stars apiece.
5. According to the day of the year he ... figures.
6. He founded the Station of Nibir (Jupiter) to settle their
7. That none might exceed or fall short.
8. He set the Station of Bel and Ea thereby.
9. He opened great gates under shelter on both sides.
10. He made a strong corridor on the left and on the right.
11. He fixed the zenith in the heavenly vault (?)
12. He gave the god Nannar (i.e., the Moon-god) his brightness
and committed the night to his care.
Portion of a tablet inscribed in Assyrian with a text of the
Fifth Tablet of the Creation Series. [K. 3567.]
13. He set him for the government of the night, to determine the
14. Monthly, without fail, he set him in a crown (i.e., disk)
15. "At the beginning of the month when thou rises over the
16. "Make [thy] horns to project to limit six days [of the
17. "On the seventh day make thyself like a crown.
18. "On the fourteenth day ...
[Lines 19-26 dealt further with Marduk's instructions to the
Moon-god, but are too fragmentary to translate. After line 26
comes a break in the text of 40 lines; lines 66-74 are too
fragmentary to translate, but they seem to have described
further acts of Creation.]
75. The gods, his (Marduk's) fathers, looked on the net which he
76. They observed how craftily the bow had been constructed,
77. They extolled the work which he had done.
78. [Then] the god Anu lifted up [the bow] in the company of the
gods, 79. He kissed the bow [saying]: "That ..."
80. He proclaimed [the names] of the bow to be as follows:--
81. "Verily, the first is 'Long Wood,' the second is ...
82. "Its third name is 'Bow Star in heaven' ..."
83. He fixed a station for it ...
[Of the remaining 57 lines of this tablet only fragments of 17
lines are preserved, and these yield no connected sense.]''
The Babylonian Legends
of the Creation and the Fight Between Bel and the Dragon - Told
by Assyrian Tablets From Nineveh:
The Babylonian Story of the Deluge as Told by Assyrian Tablets
Project Gutenberg Free E-books:
"The form of the vajra as a sceptre or a weapon appears to have its origin in the single or double trident, which arose as a symbol of the thunderbolt or lightning in many ancient civilizations of the Near and Middle East. Parallels are postulated with the meteoric hammer of the Teutonic sky-god Thor, the thunderbolt and
sceptre of the Greek sky-god Zeus, and the three thunderbolts of the Roman god Jupiter. As a hurled weapon the indestructible thunderbolt blazed like a meteoric fireball across the heavens, in a maelstrom of thunder, fire and lightning."
T.K. Das Gupta argues
... (COMING) ...
in Der Vajra: eine vedische Waffe, Gupta, T.K. Das, Seminar Kultur und Geschichte Indiens Universität Hamburg,
"The vajra is the Indian representative of the thunderbolt, and a comparison of corresponding ideas with other Indo-European peoples leads to the conclusion that even in the Indo-European period there was some idea of a vaguely personified independent wielder of the thunderbolt. With the Germanic tribes he became the "Thunderer," the porr of Old Norse mythology, in Hellas and Rome he was associated with Zeus-Jupiter, and in India he became Indra. But a vague recollection of his original independence had left its impression on the religious mind of the Aryans, and he was never quite absorbed by Indra. Even in the
Rigveda, our chief document for the period when Indra, rose to the rank of supreme god, we also find Rudra designated as
vajrabahu (II, 33. 3); in the Atharvaveda Bhava and Sarva are asked to use their Vajra against evil-doers (IV.28.6), and Soma smites with the vajra (VI. 6. 2), &c.; in the Bhagavatapurana (X. 159. 20) Visnu wields the thunderbolt, and so forth."
pp. 316-317 in Note on Vajrapani-Indra,
Sten Konow, Acta Orientalia, 1930.
|Zeus and thunderbolt, Sicily, c. 355 B.C.
|Zeus and thunderbolt, Sicily, c. 355 B.C.
||5.1 Grece: Zeus
"The thunderbolt weilder"
"The cloud gatherer"
Zeus is the lord of the sky, the rain god.
His weapon is a thunderbolt,
his bird the eagle and his tree the oak.
Octavian, 40 B.C.
Thunderbolt, 40 B.C.
He overthrew his Father Cronus (the
Sun-god) and then drew lots with his brothers Poseidon and Hades. Zeus
won the draw and became the supreme ruler of the gods. His breastplate
the aegis. He is married to Hera but, is famous for his many affairs. He
is represented as the god of justice and mercy, the protector of the
weak, and the punisher of the wicked and those that lie or break oaths.
The gods lived on top of Mount Olympus.
"Hesiod's Theogony, written shortly after 700 BC, relates the most
accepted tradition regarding the birth and childhood of Zeus. But there
were others: Arcadia in particular prided itself on having been the
cradle of this god. It became easy to deduce the past-Hellenic Zeus was
formed by absorbing many local "great gods." For example, in
Crete itself Zeus probably replaced a vegetation god, since the Cretans
exhibited a "tomb of Zeus," and few but vegetation deities
were believed to be subject to periodic deaths and rebirths.
Zeus, the supreme sky-god of the Greeks and a
composite figure, was believed to be involved in the daily affairs of
people, but was never thought of as a creator deity. As Hesiod notes,
the origins of things were related in other myths concerning Ouranos,
the sky, and Gaia, the earth. The Dorian invasion of Greece around 1200
BC resulted in the superimposition of the Indo-European sky father cult
on an indigenous Minoan-Mycenaean tradition in which the earth goddess
was predominant, just as in India the Aryans submerged the Hindus valley
culture. Even though traces of pre-Greek tradition are seen in Hera
being the wife of Zeus, it was he as Nephelogeretes, "the cloud
gatherer," who reigned over all things. He was given other names as
well that depicted his different aspects and functions; they included
Ombrios, "rain god"; Kataibates, "the descanter";
Keraunos, "lightening"; Gamelios, "god of marriage";
Teleios, "giver of completeness"; Pater, "father";
and Soter, "saviour." Hades, the god of the dead, and Poseidon,
the god of the sea, were distinguished from Zeus because their powers
were seen as extensions of his in their special realms. They were
granted separate mythical forms, yet the writ of the Olympian Zeus,
"the wolfish," Lykaios, ran everywhere, and he alone judged
the winners and losers."
Publications 2002 and GreekMythology.com
c. 450 BC
Zeus with vajra,
Dodona, ca 470 BC
Zeus with Thunderbolt.
Parada: Greek Mythology Link
Zeus or Poseidon,
AD 460-450 AD
Zeus fighting Typhon. Ca. 550-530 BC
For images courtecy to John
||Eagle on thunderbolt with oak-leaf.
Ptolomy III, 246 - 221 BC
Egypt, Eurgetes, Alexandria.
Opposite site: Zeus-Ammon.
Coins from Greece, Rome and Egypt carries on the one
side the portrait of the emperor (of men) or Zeus, the emperor of
the gods. The the other side of the coin could as here show
the 3 symbols of Zeus: The thunderbolt, the eagle and the oak-leaf.
Zeus as eagle with Ganymede
A.D. 1st century B.C.
|COMING: Text and images
from: Der Vajra: eine vedische Waffe, Gupta, T.K. Das,
Seminar Kultur und Geschichte Indiens Universität Hamburg, Weisbaden,
|Thunderbolt and oak leaf,
Opposite site: Zeus
Syracuse, 344 - 336 BC
Opposite site: Zeus
After 241 BC
Opposite site Zeus
275 - 240 BC
5.2 Thor and his hammer
Thor has a hammer, which returns to his hand
after slaying a foe and Thor is associated with thunder and lightening
like Indra and Zeus.
| Thor is not the leader of the
Aser, the gods of the Vikings.
In Norse mythology, the hammer of the thunder god, Thor, is the symbol of his power. Forged by dwarfs, the hammer never failed Thor; he used it as a weapon to crash down on the heads of giants.
After throughing the hammer after a victim, it would return to Thor.
Dwarfs play a part in Norse mythology. They were very wise and expert craftsmen who forged practically all of the treasures of the gods, in particular Thor's hammer.
Odin is the principal gods in Norse mythology.
His exact nature and role, however, are difficult to determine because of
the complex picture of him given by the wealth of archaeological and
literary sources we have. Odin's weapon is his spear.
Thor's hammer was made by dwarfs. Odin's
thunderbolt was made by 3 Cyclops. Indra's thunderbolt, the vajra, was
made by Indra himself using the bones of a sage.
Like Indra's vajra and Zeus' thunderbolt Thor's
hammer is indestructible and returns to it's master after having been
hurled after an enemy. Thor is - like Indra and Zeus - associated with
thunder and lightening; but unlike them, then he is not the ruling god
among the ancient Norse gods (aser).
Indra's Vajra and Zeus' Thunderbolt
Zeus and his thunderbolt is mentioned as far
back as Hesiod's Theogony, written shortly after 700 B.C. and he
is depicted on a vase fighting Typhon the snake in the 6th century B.C.
(se above). Paintings and coins tell us that the thunderbolt was widely
on coins and on paintings in the Midetaranians in the first millennium
Indra and his thunderbolt, the vajra, is
described in Hindu Vedic texts dating back to the second millennium B.C.
The Tantric Vajra: Different in substance
from both Indra's and Zeus' vajras
Vajrasatva and his vajra, the diamond, is of
a newer date - first millennium A.D. - and is derived from Indra's
vajra. The substance is different from the ancient vajras. These were
the powerful weapons of the gods! Humans could have a Thor's hammer
hanging around his neck as a talisman, but not possessing a hammer. The
thunderbolts were for the divine.
Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism), belongs to
Hinayana Buddhism and saw it's birth in the 5th century B.C. With
Vajrayana Buddhism the vajra descended from the gods to mankind and
became a powerful tool for meditation and has been in use up till
The Serpent and the Main God in
Mesopotamia and India
The Rigveda (I.32.1-4) describes how
Indra with his Vajra killed the first born among the serpents, which was
taking refuge in the mountain (Mt Mandara), and made waters flow - and
created dawn and sun in heaven. Among his four weapons he also had a net
and a bow.
The forth of the Seven Tablets of Creation
describes how Marduk and earlier Mesopotamian main gods also had a
thunderbolt, a bow and a net among their weapons; but Tiamat, the
serpent was killed by a spear. She was then slit into 2 parts, one half
raised up to shade the heavens therewith. Thereafter the God appointed
the Stations for the great gods, set in heaven the Stars of the Zodiac
which are their likenesses, and fixed the year.
[The Norse thunder-god Thor too battles a serpent:, the
midgaardsorm, the 'serpent of Middle-Earth'].
Soma - an 'inner force'.
Where ''mighty Indra chose Soma, and drank
from three containers'' before the fight with the serpent Marduk had
''his body ... filled with a glancing flame of fire''.
Jupiter as a symbol for the prime God
from Mesopotamia to Greece - to India...
In late Babylonian astrology, Marduk
was connected to the planet Jupiter. This concept was, like astronomy,
adopted by the Greece, where the ruler of their pantheon, Zeus also
became associated with Jupiter.
When Greek astronomy influenced Hindu Astronomy in the
beginning of the first century the brightest of the planets became
connected with Indra, the ancient Vedic Supreme Ruler of The Gods, whom
in the 1st century changed position to be the leader of the Guardian of
the Cardinal Directions, the Dikpalas. Like Zeus he is also the god of the sky,
thunder and monsoon - the
From late 1st millennium Indra frequently guards the
eastern doorway of Khmer Hindu Temples wielding his thunderbolt (below)
assuring that the cosmic order continues, i.e. the sun, moon, planets
and stars rises according to rita.
The creation myths of ancient Mesopotamia and Vedic India both dates
back to mid 2nd millennium BC, both have a main god armed with a vajra
and filled with 'inner force' killing a serpent (kaos) - and afterwards
creating the world (order).
The giant serpent is in both myths related to water.
Transformation of the Hindu creation myth
In the first
millennium Indra's superior position is substituted by the triad Shiva,
Vishnu, and Brahma. And the creation myth is in Indian epic the
Mahābhārata substituted by the Churning
of the Ocean of Milk, where many of the elements of the elder
creation myth have survived in new forms:
''The Gods and the Asuras knew that they could
gain the Amrit, the Water of Life, if they churned up one of the seven
oceans that, ring beyond ring, encircles the worlds. They came down to
the Ocean of Milk. They took the Mountain Mandara for a churning-pole
and the hundred-headed serpent Vāsuki for a churning-rope. They wound
the serpent around the mountain, and pulling it this way and that way
they splashed and dashed the, Ocean up and down and to and fro. And the
Ocean of Milk frothed and bubbled as they churned.''
... and after the Devas won over the Asures ...
''The Gods were triumphant and the three worlds became filled
with radiance and power. Indra, king of the Gods, seated upon his
throne, made a hymn in praise of Shrī. She granted him his wish, which
was that she should never abandon the Gods. And so they lived upon that
most holy mountain which is round like a ball and all made of gold. The
birds there have golden feathers. Indra stays there. The steed which he
gained at the Churning of the Ocean grazes near him. Beside him is his
thunderbolt winged with a thousand plumes: Tvastir made it for him from
the bones of the seer Dadhica: it is hundred-jointed, thousand-pointed.
The myth in full can be read at
Asger Mollerup - October 2002
24 August 2008