Category: Artwork


bhgavata-exhibition-painting

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By Sharon St Joan

 

In 1565, invaders poured into the magnificent city of Hampi, one of the largest cities in the world at that time, leveling many of the buildings and much of the artwork, and slaughtering nearly all the city’s residents.

 

Located in the southern state of Karnataka, in India, the Hazara Rama Temple is one of the most remarkable temples of this ancient city. Inside are black polished stone columns, exquisitely carved. At the city’s final hour, as the marauding armies drew near the city gates, some of the temple devotees were thinking only of protecting the temple’s central icons.

 

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During the destruction of Hampi, many sculptures all over the city, icons that were worshipped and revered, were violently smashed and broken. Some fragments lay on the ground for hundreds of years afterwards, with no way of restoring them.

 

If one looks closely at the floor of the temple interior of the Hazara Rama Temple, one can see four empty rectangles where today nothing stands, yet clearly sculptures once stood there. Apparently, as the armies approached, some worshippers, with the help of others – no one knows who – were able to spirit away four of the key temple icons – Rama, Laksmana, Sita, and Hanuman – before the invaders broke through the gates. The unknown devotees who, out of love for the Gods they worshipped, moved them in the dark of night, must have buried them in an unknown location, intending to return later to restore them to the temple. It seems they were never able to return. Thanks to their brave act of devotion, the icons, which have never been found, rest in peace and were spared from being broken.

 

The outside walls of the temple remained intact and are lined with thousands of panels, beautifully sculpted, that tell the story of the Ramayana – one of the two great epic poems of India. The Ramayana is very long – several books, but in a nutshell the story is this: The ancient god-king Rama is looking for his wife, Sita, who has been kidnapped by the demon-king of Lanka (today’s Sri Lanka). Rama is distraught, not knowing what to do or where to look for his beloved Sita. In the forest of Kishkinda, he meets the monkey god, Hanuman – a magical being who becomes known for his undying loyalty and devotion to Rama and Sita. Hanuman brings light and positivity into a desperate situation; he travels with Rama to help find Sita, and time after time against impossible odds, he finds a way to overcome all the obstacles that block their way – building a bridge across the sea, transporting a whole mountain top on which healing herbs are growing, finding and communicating with the missing Sita, and then selflessly allowing Rama himself to rescue her. Hanuman brings the gift of life with his innocence, devotion, and magical abilities.

 

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Just across the river from the ruined city of Hampi, which is now a World Heritage Center, lies the wilderness of rocks and forests where Hanuman was born and where he spent his early life. This whole area was the forest of Kishkinda, many thousands of years before Hampi was built in the fourteenth century.

 

All around the outside walls of the Hazara Rama Temple run the enchanting panels that depict, with immense charm, the story of Rama’s and Hanuman’s journey to find the lost Sita. While travelers flock to this spectacular late medieval city, it is Hanuman’s story and Hanuman’s presence that provide the backdrop for the city of Hampi.

 

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The wonderfully sculpted panels of the temple portray the events of the story. Hanuman is engaging and clever. He always finds a way where there seems not to be one. When he has no idea at all what he can do, or how he can help, he never gives up, and then an inspiration will come into his head. Sometimes he acts impulsively, without much advance planning. At the moment when he locates the cave where the kidnapped Sita is being kept, it dawns on him that he has never actually met Sita, and that naturally, not knowing who he is, she may be afraid of him. So, with his magical powers, he reduces his height, becoming very small and unthreatening, speaking very gently to her – appearing to be just a little forest monkey who would not harm anyone. Rama has also given Hanuman his signet ring as a token to give to Sita so that she will know that he has been sent by her husband Rama. That helps too.

 

Hanuman has been sent by Rama to find Sita because, being a magical creature, he can fly through the air – something the human being, Rama, cannot do. Rama cannot traverse the several miles of ocean that lie between India and Sri Lanka. Later, when the bridge has been built across the sea by Hanuman’s friends, the army of monkeys, then Rama also can cross the sea to Sri Lanka.

 

Hanuman is intensely charming because, in his innocence, he does not recognize his own strength and his own powers. It is only when he is reminded by someone else that he becomes aware that he can do amazing tasks, such as getting his monkey and bear friends to build a bridge across the ocean, that he can fly, or grow smaller or taller, or pick up a mountain and carry it thousands of miles – that he has the powers and the ability to find and restore to Rama, his lost wife Sita.

 

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But there is something else very captivating and charming – and that is the intense devotion to Hanuman of the sculptors and temple builders who created these beautiful evocative images of Hanuman – and the reverence of the many thousands of worshippers who come here to see this re-creation of the life of Hanuman and the story of Rama and Sita.

 

It is with great love and faithfulness that artists carved the wonderful lifelike images of Hanuman and all the other beings in the story. It is with profound reverence that they brought the images to life.

 

An uncomprehending eye might say that after all, this is just the story of a flying, talking monkey – something like a child’s story from thousands of years ago – about a forest animal that travels through the air — what could be its relevance today?

 

But the devotees from all over India and from farther away who visit these beautiful images do not see it that way. Instead they are caught up in the magic of this heroic presence, Hanuman – always faithful, always innocent, ever brave, and endowed with the magical gifts needed to bring light, life, and a happy ending to this ancient tale. It is a story of profound loyalty and a beautiful heroic spirit – a story always relevant to all times and all places.

 

Thank you to Dr. Nanditha Krishna for her profound insights into the character of Hanuman.

 

Photos: Sharon St Joan

Top photo: Hanuman on the right, and, above, giving the ring to Sita.

Second photo: The temple interior.

Third photo: More scenes from the Ramayana.

Fourth photo: A winged being.

Fifth photo: A black polished column and a visitor to the temple.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2017

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By Sharon St Joan

 

On this planet, as we all know, life began in the sea, with the fish and other sea creatures; then came reptiles like the turtles, as animals began to adapt to life on land. Great sea turtles still swim in the sea, but they lay their eggs on the shore. Then the land animals, like the boar, appeared. And of course, much, much later humanoid beings appeared, including the several species of early humans.

 

In Hindu tradition, one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu is Narasimha, who is half-man, half-lion. Preceding Narasimha are three Vishnu incarnations that have an animal form: Matsya, the fish, Kurma, the turtle, and Varaha, the boar. The incarnations that follow Narasimha are all human in form: Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Ballarama (or in some sources, Buddha) and Kalki.

 

Interestingly, this progression throughout time corresponds to the theory of evolution: first a fish; then a reptile; then a mammal; then a half-mammal half-human, followed by the human forms.

 

An eighteenth century painting This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.808px-Narasimha_oil_colour

 

How did ancient Hindu seers know about the theory of evolution—which was only “discovered” by Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century? Well, they seem to have known quite a lot of things. Ancient Sanskrit writings are filled with scientific treatises on mathematical and scientific topics, especially astronomical knowledge, a lot of which was only “discovered” many centuries later by Europeans, yet this knowledge was there all along, and was written down in very early Sanskrit texts.

 

We are so used to thinking that only modern humans, within the past few centuries, have possessed any real knowledge about the world, that we remain ignorant of all the thousands of years of human history in which there is evidence that humans knew far more than we give them credit for.

 

In any case, Narasimha stands on the threshold between the animal and the human forms of Vishnu. He is an intriguing figure.

 

Author Adityamadhav Narasimha at Simhachalam Temple in Visakhapatnam

 

Many stories in Hinduism and in legends all over the world, portray the great battle that takes place between the self-absorbed forces of darkness and the beings of light who defend the innocent from wrongdoing. Narasimha is a defender against injustice.

 

Once upon a time, so one of these stories goes, there was a demon named Hiranyakasipu who didn’t like Vishnu very much because in a previous incarnation Vishnu had killed his younger brother. This had happened because one day the brother, Hiranyaksha, had brutally attacked and then tried to drown Mother Earth at the bottom of the sea. In his role as protector of the innocent, Vishnu had saved Mother Earth from the sea, and killed the demon brother.

 

The demon Hiranyakasipu, who was perhaps afraid because his brother had been killed as a consequence of his evil deeds, feared death and wanted to live forever.

 

So one day, he approached Brahma to ask for the gift of immortality. Brahma replied that that gift was not within his power to bestow, but, at Hiranyakasipu’s insistence, he agreed to do the next best thing. Brahma granted him a boon – that he would not die either inside or outside, neither during the day nor the night; also that he would not be killed by any weapon, or by any human being or any animal. Hiranyakasipu was quite happy with all this and felt pretty certain that he would now live forever.

 

A few years passed, and Hiranyakasipu had a son named Prahalada. Unfortunately for Hiranyakasipu, his son became an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This upset Hiranyakasipu no end because he saw Vishnu as his mortal enemy. One day just as the sun was setting, Hiranyakasipu came upon his son Prahalada, who despite all his father’s objections, was still praying to Vishnu. He even said to his father that Vishnu is all-powerful and is present everywhere. Thoroughly exasperated, his father shouted at him, “Look at that pillar; is your God Vishnu inside that pillar?”

 

Prahalada replied, “Vishnu is inside every pillar and even every twig.” Losing his temper completely, Hiranyakasipu picked up his heavy mace and smashed the pillar into pieces. Out jumped Narasimha. By this time Hiranyakasipu was swinging his mace wildly, and his son’s life was in danger. To save the boy Prahalada, from the wrath of his father, Narasimha lifted the demon Hiranyakasipu up off his feet and killed him with his bare hands.

 

As it turned out, Hiranyakasipu was after all subject to death, despite the boon granted by Brahma, because he was killed at twilight – neither in the day or in the night; by Narasimha’s powerful hands, not by any weapon; in the doorway, and therefore neither inside nor out, and he was killed not by any animal or any human, but by Narasimha, who was part man, part lion. Perhaps the lesson is also that no matter what kind of deal one tries to strike with fate or with the Gods, one cannot evade one’s karma.

 

As an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Narasimha is a fierce and powerful, magical being who protects those who call on him from harm and danger.

 

The twenty feet high, beautifully carved statue of Narasimha at Hampi, however, was not immune to the violence done by the invading army which destroyed the city in 1565. His legs and hands were cut off, and they lay nearby on the ground for several hundred years until significant restoration work was done in the 1980’s by the Archeological Survey of India. Now he looks down, once again an imposing presence, ready to spring into action to bring about justice and rid the earth of evil.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2017.

 

Top photo: Sharon St Joan. Narasimha at Hampi.

 

Second photo: An eighteenth century painting of Narasimha. Wikipedia: “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.”

 

Third photo: Author: Adityamadhav83 / CC BY-SA 3.0, Narasimha at the Simhachalam Temple in Visakhapatnam.

 

 

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By Sharon St Joan

 

The now deserted site of Hampi, in Karnataka, in south India, covers 25 square miles, of stunning ancient ruins – the temples, palaces, and bazaars of this ancient city.

 

Knocking on the pillars of the beautiful Vitthala Temple is no longer allowed; but when they used to be struck, each pillar would produce a unique musical tone.

 

The main temple features 56 columns – each of the columns is made up of a circle of musical pillars — long, slender, and graceful. The rock that resonates contains large quantities of metallic ore, including silica. Other temples in India also feature musical pillars, including some at the Chidambaram Temple on the east coast and at the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. They produce a clear, bell-like sound, with each pillar sounding its own unique note. In some cases, when one pillar is rung, others in the same circle will also ring.

 

Begun in the Fourteenth Century, the Vitthala Temple was expanded later on by the great Vijayanagara king, Krishna Deva Raya in the Sixteenth Century.

 

Vitthala is a traditional name by which Krishna is known in this area.

 

The structures at Hampi, as is typical of old temples, are constructed in two sections, the bottom part being built of heavy stone, and the top section made of clay bricks which are much lighter, so the structure is stable with the heavier stone on the bottom. The clay bricks tend to wear away easily over the centuries, while the stone sections, less affected by weathering, remain much as they always were.

 

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In front of the Vitthala Temple at Hampi stands a great stone chariot. The stone wheels of the chariot are made to be able to turn, just as they would in a real chariot; however, to prevent damage to them, they have been fixed in place in modern times and no longer revolve. Inside the chariot is the icon of Garuda, the winged being, part man, part eagle – or part brahminy kite, who is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu.

 

Where, a few centuries ago, two stone horses were placed in front to pull the chariot, now there are two stone elephants instead. The horses were destroyed by the invading army that leveled the city of Vijayanagara (Hampi) in 1565. The topmost part of the chariot, made of bricks is also gone; the great carved stone section of the chariot remains.

 

A powerful, magical being, Garuda is seen as one who has access to mystical knowledge and insights. Ferocious and fearless, he targets evil with his keen eyes and sharp claws. He is particularly an enemy of snakes.

 

This does not mean, however, that snakes are evil. Like all the animals of the earth, snakes are innocent beings. The nagas, who are mythical snakes and serpents, possess great knowledge of the earth; after all, snakes live within in the earth so they know it well. (Even in western mythologies, dragons guard the hidden treasures of the earth.) Snakes, however, are also likely to eat eggs, which does not endear them to birds.

 

It may be said that eagles, hawks, and all birds, have an opposing worldview from that of snakes – the birds’ domain is the sky, the realm between heaven and earth, so their perspective is opposite to that of snakes, but neither one is evil (There are, in fact, a few birds that do make their homes in caves in the earth, but only a few.) In many mythologies, among the peoples of South America, for example, there are tales of feathered serpents – who, one supposes, must have an affinity with both snakes and birds.

 

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In any case, Garuda’s realm is the space between heaven and earth; his home is the skies, which he traverses to carry Lord Vishnu from his heavenly home down to the earth. Whenever unrighteousness holds sway over the earth (which seems to happen quite a bit), Vishnu descends to the earth, where he incarnates as an earthly being to overcome injustice and set things right again.

 

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The number of avatars of Vishnu varies from one source to another, but most commonly is said to be ten; of these, the ninth is Krishna. These are described in Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s beautiful “Book of Vishnu,” where she writes, “Vishnu means all-pervading: he is the all-pervading sun, whose rays envelope the earth, who protects the sacrifice and sends forth the rain and is the final abode of the pious dead…Benevolence, goodwill, and willingness to help his devotees whenever they call upon him are characteristics that made Vishnu popular in an increasingly material world and which brought him into the world in several incarnations.”

© Text and photos, Sharon St Joan, 2017

Photos:

Top photo: The Vitthala Temple, with its musical pillars.

Second photo: The stone chariot of Garuda.

Third photo: A flowering tree in the courtyard.

Fourth photo: Traces of painting still present on one of the sculptures.

The Book of Vishnu, by Dr. Nanditha Krishna, is available on Amazon –www.amazon.com

 

 

 

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By Sharon St Joan

 

Centuries ago, as today, travelers waited at crossing points to go across the Tungabadra. Nearby are stone platforms no longer in use where the heat of the Indian summer was broken by leaves overhead as they rested in the shade waiting for their turn to cross the great river. Round boats called coracles would carry them to the island just across the way.

 

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A few yards downhill was a small shrine to Ganesha where they could ask the God’s blessing for their trip.

 

From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, Hampi was the great capital of the Vijanagara dynasty, which ruled all of south India. Many of the citizens had leisure time; they were well off, and their city, estimated to be three times the size of Paris at the time, may have been the largest and wealthiest city in the world.

 

The British economic historian, Angus Maddison, has described India as the richest country on earth for well over a thousand years, possessing from one quarter to one third of the entire global wealth – until the advent of the British.

 

How short our memories are that some of us do not even think of the ancient lands of Asia, Africa, and South America in any way other than as “developing” countries struggling to catch up.

 

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The Tungabadra is a broad, pale, blue-gray river, wide, as many Indian rivers are, nearly a mile across, it winds its way along the border of Hampi, narrowing and deepening, as it runs through a gorge with spectacular huge boulders on either side. These boulders, scattered throughout the area, are a distinctive feature of Hampi. Some are as big as houses; looking for all the world as if a giant hand has swept them up and dropped them again in great heaps; they line the roadsides, as well as the horizons, in towering piles.

 

 

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A beautiful river with many small green islands, the Tungabadra, along with the amazing boulders, forms natural defensive barriers that helped protect the city for hundreds of years — reasons that this site was originally chosen to be the capitol of south India.

 

The line of the Vijayanagara kings who ruled this area began with two brothers, Harihara I and Bukka Raya I. It is said that, as boys, they were enslaved and forcibly converted to Islam, in 1327, when their father was taken prisoner by advancing forces.

 

The two boys grew up, took back their freedom, and in 1336, they set up their capitol city at Hampi, and spent the rest of their lives staging a firm resistance to the Moslem intruders who were sweeping down the western regions of India from the north. The line of rulers and the empire they established held its ground against repeated incursions for around two hundred years.

 

Even though the city of Vijayanagara, or Hampi, was eventually overrun, the brave centuries-long stand of the Vijayanagara kings and their people meant that regions of India’s far south, like Tamil Nadu and Travancore (which was divided up later in the twentieth century), were able to retain their freedom, and unlike the central and most of the northern states, were never taken over and ruled by invaders.

 

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Since the sacking of Hampi in 1565, the city has never been rebuilt. No one lives there now, but the area has many people all the same. Tourists visit, especially from all over India. Guides offer their services, there are cold drink stands, and young boys, some clearly destined to be future entrepreneurs, sell guide books.

 

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No small family houses remain at Hampi, but hundreds of fascinating stone structures still stand in the approximately two mile by three mile area south of the river, which is a UNESCO heritage site.

 

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Many of the temples have been excavated in recent years, and archeological work is ongoing. One can walk up sloping rock hills to visit palaces, giant sculptures, and beautiful sites of worship, peering into the windows of the past. Long stone bazaars now stand empty – once they thronged with crowds where merchants sold diamonds, rubies, and gold; others fruits and vegetables, or simply trinkets and bangles.

 

An impressive 162 feet high dam has been built on the Tungabadra River to provide electricity and irrigation to the region around Hampi. Completed in 1953, it creates a large reservoir and the dam itself is lit up at night with colored lights. Despite the dam and the seemingly huge quantities of water, the area is suffering from a severe drought.

 

Trees dot the hillsides, some with leaves faded from the lack of rain. There are many date palms too, not originally native to south India.

 

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In the fading light of the sunset, one can sense the presence of ancient spirits among the immense sculptures and temples; in them the glory and majesty of this great empire lives on. There is a gentleness in the beautifully carved sculptures and a lingering memory of the heroic strength of those who fought well to defend their land.

 

Top photo: The Tungabadra river where people can cross by boat to an island.

 

Second photo: A Ganesha shrine.

 

Third photo: Huge boulders, a natural feature of this region.

 

Fourth photo: The Tungabadra where it widens.

 

Fifth photo: Boys selling guide books.

 

Sixth photo: Tourists and a toppled pillar.

 

Seventh photo: This used to be a row of shops.

 

Eighth photo: Palms around a little shrine.

 

 

© Text and photos, Sharon St Joan, 2017

 

 

 

 

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bhgavata-exhibition-painting

pine-trees-kaibab-forest-sharon

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

To read part one first, click here.

 

All of the above is not in any way to downplay the dedication, heroism, and lifelong work of the many who have fought to protect our wild lands. Though this is a struggle against an overwhelming force, there is no doubt that this brave work has held back and delayed the deluge of destruction.

 

It is not simply greed that is at fault here, though clearly that plays a large role. But even more basic is the notion, pervasive throughout our culture, that all of nature is subservient to human beings, and ultimately that nature is an “it” not a “who.”

 

Some level of sentience is accorded to animals, but in the common view and the commonly accepted norms of science, no level of sentience or consciousness is accorded to plants, let alone to rocks, cliffs, mountains, the oceans, or the earth. This perspective is so fully embraced by science, and science has now taken such a lofty place of authority, that suggesting that the beings of nature have their own lives, as well as their own awareness and intrinsic value, is considered so farfetched as to not be worth a passing glance.

 

(I do understand, and I agree, that science can play a vital, much-needed role in combating climate change and the destruction of species. It remains true, however, that science is a double-edged sword. Science also ushered in the industrial revolution and many of the ills that are now destroying our planet. Science, like any tool, can be used for harm or for good.)

 

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There is a counterforce to the drive to destroy nature – a simple one – many people the world over are distressed and protest vociferously when great old trees are cut down to widen a city street. They see a tree as a living being; in a way, as a person. People feel the same reaction when they see the ocean clogged with garbage or watch any aspect of nature being treated with disrespect or disregard. There is an underlying sense among most of us, not always articulated, that Mother Nature is being harmed, and this deep love for the earth lingers on in the human psyche despite all the centuries of propaganda promoting dominance and destruction.

 

There are two forces within human nature. At the moment, and cumulatively over the centuries, the powers of hatred and the drive to kill the wild, are winning. We need to become aware of these two forces within us and around us.

 

If we are ever to have any hope of re-connecting with the earth and with the natural world of which we are a part, we will need to go out into nature, in respectful silence, to once again come to know and to acknowledge the sentience of all of nature, the spirits, and the beings that our most distant ancestors knew so well. We are not separate, as we believe. We are they, and they are us.

 

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One way to re-affirm this bond with nature is through art and music, which tend to value the spiritual and the spirit. There are mystical realities far beyond the prosaic, assumed certainties of the linear mind. We must get to know nature once again – revere and worship the trees, the cliffs, the moon, the stars, the great bears, the cottontails, the eagles and the red-winged blackbirds. Without this deeper perspective and reality, we are doomed to destroy the planet, all living things, and ourselves as well. In the interests of our own survival, physical and spiritual, and in the interests of the sacred lands and sacred beings all around us, it is time for us to do this.

 

It may, or may not be, too late to save this world, but nature is not just physical, it is spirit. It is eternal and transcendent, recurring and recurring, again and again, always present in the greater cosmos that lies beyond. So this effort spent to re-connect with the beings of nature will bring a clearer, mystical reality; it will bring inner peace. It will help the beings of nature and ourselves, and, whatever the outcome, it will not be in vain.

 

© Sharon St. Joan, 2016.

 

Top photo: Sharon St Joan / Pine trees in the Kaibab Forest, Arizona.

 

Second photo: Sharon St Joan / Juniper tree in Kane County, Utah.

 

Third photo: Vitornet / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported / Bald eagle. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the pillars at Gobekli Tepe.

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

In his remarkable book, Gobekli Tepe, Genesis of the Gods, Andrew Collins paints a portrayal of the possible cosmic significance of these great mysterious circles of stone pillars, in southeastern Turkey, whose origins go back nearly 12,000 years into the past, to the time of the ending of the last great Ice Age. They are believed to be the oldest megalithic structures in the world.

 

Obviously, no one today can know for sure what the builders of Gobekli Tepe intended or what they were thinking.

 

On some of the stone circles, imaginative depictions of animals are carved on the right sides of each of the great pillars – only on the right side, with no carvings on the left. Andrew Collins makes the point that these seemed to be designed for circumambulation – as devotees would have walked clockwise around the great circle, they would have been able to view all the carved animals; whereas, if they walked counterclockwise, they would have seen no carvings. In Hindu and Buddhist temples today, circumambulation is always clockwise. In Islam, on the other hand, during the hajj, pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba in a counterclockwise direction. Collins notes that sun dials, and later clocks, were designed to reflect the movement of the sun, and to go clockwise.

 

A century or so ago, it used to be thought that the Greeks invented the zodiac, dividing the sky and the seasons into 12 segments. There were many much earlier cultures, however, who used this division of the sky into 12 segments.

 

Andrew Collins states that, by at least 2400 B.C.E., and probably long before, the Indus Valley civilization had divided the celestial horizon into 12 parts, and they were using an instrument made of shell to mark off 360 degrees on the horizon. Some of the great enclosures of Gobekli Tepe are divided by their pillars or columns into 12 parts, though there is no evidence that these ancient builders were thinking in terms of a zodiac. Perhaps they were, or perhaps they weren’t. We may never know.

 

The placement of two large pillars in the center of the Gobekli Tepe enclosures suggests an axis mundi or world axis – portrayed in spiritual traditions throughout the world.

 

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A Hopi kiva showing a sipapu.

 

Seen as the cosmic tree or the cosmic mountain, the world axis is the line linking the earth, the heavens and the underworld – or the many worlds or levels, depending on the views of the particular culture. In Hopi and other southwest Puebloan traditions, the sipapu is the point of connection between the worlds and the point of emergence from the previous world into this earthly world. It is not a mountain, but a straight line, with openings from world to world. It is believed by many Hopis to be located in the Grand Canyon, the place of creation, where people emerged into this world from the previous world which was underground.

 

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Ma’rib, ancient capital of the Sabaeans, in modern-day Yemen.

 

Collins points out what seem to be a number of celestial correspondences between the stone pillars and the stars, and he mentions that the Sabaeans, who were star worshippers living in the city of Harran, right near Gobekli Tepe, are known to have held an annual celebration, the Mystery of the North, during which they revered the northern direction as the source of life. These people, living around 8,000 BC were most likely the direct descendants of the people of Gobekli Tepe, who may have passed on to them their worship of the direction North.

 

They are not unique in their reverence for the North. Apparently, the Yazidis (or Yezidis) – the much-persecuted people who were in the news two years ago, stranded on a mountain top, in imminent danger from Isil forces, also turn to the north in prayer, as do the Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran. The Brethren of Purity, an Ismaili sect, do the same. All these peoples may have had their cultural views passed down to them from their Neolithic ancestors.

 

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The constellation Cygnus, showing the former pole star, Deneb

 

Deneb is the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus. Though the name Cygnus means swan, the constellation is perceived just as often to be a vulture, as a swan. During the years prior to 9500 B.C.E., the time of Gobekli Tepe, Deneb was a circumpolar star that never set; it was the North Pole star, the position that Polaris occupies today.

 

Perhaps the builders of Gobekli Tepe were archeoastronomers who aligned their tall, elegant structures to the heavens, possibly with a particular worship of the northerly direction and the North Pole star.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2016

 

Andrew Collin’s book, Gobekli Tepe, Genesis of the Gods is available on Amazon, click here

 

Photos:

 

Top photo: Erkcan / Wikimedia Commons / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.” / The sculpture of an animal (perhaps a fox) at Gobekli Tepe, close to Sanliurfa.

 

Second photo: Wvbailey / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / “Image of sipapu (small round hole) in floor of ruin of kiva at Long House ruins in Mesa Verde.”

 

Third photo: Bernard Gagnon / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / Ruins of ancient Ma’rib, the capital of the Sabaeans, in present-day Yemen.

 

Fourth photo: Torsten Bronger / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / The Cynus constellation