30 June 2006

Sphinx at Arunachala

There are many religious and historical monuments at Arunachala but perhaps one of the most enigmatic are these wayside sphinxes that appear around the pradakshina road. Each sphinx stands next to a water tank (tirtham).

The sphinxes appear to have the head of a lion but, according to scholar Stella Kramrich, in fact are composed of three faces: the face of man, the face of the lion representing the Sun or Supreme Spirit, and the face of the dragon who, as the Destroyer of the Universe, stands for Transcendental Wisdom. Stella Kramrich further suggests that all three are superimposed on, and hence overwhelm the just discernible Deaths head underlying them.

Speculating further on the history and meaning of the sphinxes, M. Bose writes in her book, The Hill of Fire:

. . . Today, these enigmatic sphinxes are used as mere shrines at which pilgrims, after taking a bath in the tank, make their offerings to Arunachala. But did they have a more important function in the past? For their symbology suggest that in long-forgotten rites they may have been gateways to the Sun, places of initiation where the neophytes, after being cleansed of sin and animal nature, received the highest knowledge that led to immortality in the Sun.


Divyakka said...

Another new and fascinating piece of information from your site! I never considered the temple sphinx-faces before. there must surely be deeper meaning to it all.

Arunachala Living said...

Yes, these shrines etc., were built for special, esoteric reasons. Hopefully I will be able to unearth further ascinating information as I go along.

Anonymous said...

What is the true origin of Arunachala's spirituality?
Some claim it is Lemurian (the famed Kumari Kandam).

Dirk Gysels

Dirk said...

Fascinating. Arunachala to me felt like a very ancient yet very vibrant spiritual place. My master used to say that its origin is Lemurian and these Lemurians still live inside the hill.

Dirk Gysels

Arunachala Living said...

Ramana Maharshi was reported on many occasions of speaking of beings living inside Arunachala. There are several quotes regarding this. Am planning on posting some of them in later entries.

Arunachala Living said...

'What is the true origin of Arunachala's spirituality?
Some claim it is Lemurian (the famed Kumari Kandam).'

I didn't know anything about Kumari Kandam till your comment - but now have checked it out via our friend Google. Fascinating theories.

As to the true origin of Arunachala's spirituality, well probably that's something that will never be completely understood - but perhaps in some small way can be experienced.