Monday, December 16, 2013
Guest Blogger Jayasree: Long ear culture from India to Mesoamerica – a Vedic and Tamil influence! (Part 1)
This is a 3-part series. Also posted at http://www.scribd.com/doc/190923934/Long-ear-culture-from-India-to-Mesoamerica
In an article on Tutankhamun, I wrote about the probable influence of Vedic culture on the 18th dynasty of Egypt as was made out from ear piercing habit and wearing of ear heavy ornaments. Ear piercing, known as Karnavedha is an important sacrament for anyone born in the Vedic culture. This continues till today among Hindus in India. The young Tutankhamun's mask on the mummy showing huge holes in the ear, apparently made so by the constant wearing of heavy ear ornaments for long, made me think that Vedic practices had entered the 18th dynasty with the introduction of Atenism (of Sun God who moves in a chariot in the sky) by Tutankhamun's father.
In response to this article, Mr Dale Drinnon brought to my attention the 'long ear' tradition found in Easter Island and in the Andes in South America.
(Article with pics:-http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2149846/Hidden-treat-The-Easter-Island-heads-BODIES.html )
His article posted in his anthropology blog is reproduced at the end of the 3rd article – this is a 3-part series. The information provided by him adds credence to my persistent opinion that I have been writing in many articles with supportive evidence from Sangam Tamil literature. The early Tamils (shall we call them as proto Tamils who followed Vedic culture?) positioned in scattered islands in the Indian Ocean (now submerged) had spread or their cultural influence had spread as far as the South American coast in the Pacific Ocean in the wake of submergences, the last of which happened 3500 years BP as per Tamil Sangam texts.
Already a research study exists that says that there is genetic imprint of Indians and Indian dogs in Australia some 4000 years ago. In my earlier blog post I showed how this could have become possible. The vast stretch of the Indian Ocean was not crossed by those people from today's India, for there existed Indians (whose genetic imprints continue in today's Indian population) in the scattered islands in the Indian Ocean at that time. From Indian Ocean to Pacific Ocean the people had interacted and this resulted in common culture being followed by them. The Indian Ocean habitat was largely occupied by Proto Tamils or Sangam Age Tamils whose kinship with Indian mainland had existed for more than 10,000 years before that.
The discovery of man-made structure off Pumpukaar in South east Tamilnadu and the discovery of artefacts in Agastheeswaram in Kanyakumari district in the southern tip of India (Tamilnadu ASI Publication, 2008, on Kanyakumari district) both dated at 10,000 years and before substantiate the Tamil literary tradition of early Tamils having an advanced culture at that time in Indian Ocean habitat. Some of them later shifted to Pacific Ocean and then to the South American inland when Indian Ocean habitat was submerged. Among many commonalities found among the people in this vast area, the 'long ear' tradition is one that stands as a crucial testimony for a united Vedic culture throughout this region – from Indian Ocean to Pacific Ocean. In this article I am going to explore details of this 'long ear' tradition.
Piercing the ear on the first year after birth is a Vedic rite. The timing is when the child starts talking by listening. Hearing and talking are activated by piercing the ear. As a Vedic rite, this was aimed at enabling the child to keep listening to the name and praise of God and remembrance of God. In actual terms this means the child would remember what it hears. By stretching the ear hole using heavy ornaments, perhaps it was thought that hearing and remembering faculties would keep increasing with age. There is no written record to say why this Vedic samskara of ear piercing and wearing of ear ornaments is done. But the recent scientific studies have shown that brain activity can be increased by pulling the ears. This gives a clue to why this practice was introduced as a Vedic rite. Let us see what happens with the pulling of the ear.
The pulling is done exactly in the region where the heavy ornaments are worn.
Called as Super Brain Yoga, scientists have found out that by pulling the ears with a gentle pressure, the two hemispheres of the brain along with the pituitary and pineal glands can be energised. A few minutes of gentle pull of the two ears are enough for energising the brain and thereby the entire body and also in reducing stress.
This kind of pulling the ears is called as "Thoppuk karaNam" in Tamil (read my article here). For ages in India, this was a popular mode of punishment to the student if he fails to remember or reproduce the lessons or verses.
A typical Gurukula of students taking Vedic education.
This "thOppuk karaNam" is also done as a way of worship to Lord Ganesha.
Lord Ganesha is seen with huge ears of the elephant which looks ideal for gathering sound waves for listening and remembering. Ganesha was known to have written Mahabharata by listening to Vyasa dictating the verses. Sage Vyasa did not write down the Mahabharata verses. He only dictated them to Lord Ganesha on the condition that Ganesha must write them down only after understanding the meaning. Ganesha was too fast in listening and grasping the meaning that Vyasa had to compose difficult verses every now and then so that he could gain some time in composing further verses before Ganesha could grasp the meaning and write. Perhaps the idea of large ears started with this episode of Lord Ganesha.
Perhaps this gave rise to the idea of depicting the temple images of Gods with large ears. The symbolism was that large ears could gather even mild sounds or even the words uttered mentally by the devotees. Almost all the images of deities in olden temples in India (most of them exist in South India) are seen with huge ears that look like elephant's or Ganesha's ears. The Utsava deities that are taken out for procession around the streets are always decorated with large ears. As examples let me show the images of the famous deity Lord Venkateswara of Tirupathi with Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. (picture below)
One can see the large ears fitted on the sides of the head.
Below is the image of the Goddess Padmavathy at Thiruchanoor, the consort of Lord Venkateswara of Tirupathi
One cannot miss out the huge ears on the sides of the head in the above image of the Goddess. Large ears are symbolic of listening to the prayers of the devotees.
In the Vedic society any learning was of mental nature – that of listening and remembering. The ear piercing and the subsequent wearing of ornaments on ears give the effect of the Super Brain Yoga. The ornaments continuously give gentle pressure to that part of the ear that activates the brain and the glands in the head with the result that the person remains alert and energised. When a little heavier ornament is used, the ear gets stretched and gives an appearance of a larger ear. Thus in the single act of wearing the ear ornament, two advantages are drawn – of increasing the brain activity and getting larger ears. Thus the idea of piercing the ear early in childhood and stretching the ear by the gentle pull of the ornament comes with twin purposes – one real and another symbolic. The real purpose is that the pull keeps the brain always alert and efficient. The symbolic reason is that the stretched ear looks large thereby capable of gathering or listening sounds (related to Vedic chants and deities).
Such a symbolism exists in the wearing of nose ring. Nose ring is considered as an auspicious sign and also a must for married women in the Vedic society. It's location in the nose signifies "prana", the vital breath with which the husband was equated. When the husband dies, the wife removes the nose ring. This practice shows that the nose ring is only a symbolism and is not really the prana or the life of the husband. Similarly the large ears are symbolic of capability to listen and retain Vedic chants. It was favoured for a more realistic reason of helping to keep the brain alert (super brain yoga). That is why there was no gender difference in piercing the ears and stretching the ears thereafter, even though the men folk of today have abandoned this practice in the Hindu society. Today only those men engaged in Vedic learning continue to wear ear ornaments. The women population however continues this practice.
Today it is not rare to see women folk in rural India having long ears stretched with ornaments. Take a look at these women from Tamilnadu.
All these ornaments are of same type and are called by the name of "serpent" or Naga! In Tamil it is called as "Paambadam" (Paambu = serpent).
This is how it looks.
The design is actually that of a snake. This is not just a Tamil tradition. We can see this everywhere in India, but it has come into disuse in the past few decades. In other parts of India this ornaments is called Nagali or Nagulu or Nagavadura.
This woman is wearing a nagali, a coiled serpent in her ear. The size of the hole will be increased by stretching the coil.
A detailed article on this ornament and its variation in other parts of India can be read here. That article says that this practice (of wearing ornaments to stretch the ears) was found in certain communities and not among Brahmins. May be this is the case in recent times. In the past even Brahmins had worn heavy ornaments and had their ears stretched long. A prominent example is the image of Ramanujacharya, the founder of Vaishanva sect.
There are 3 images of him in 3 temples of which 2 were made while he was alive. These images were made exactly like him. These images show him with stretched ears indicating that he had worn heavy ornaments. After taking to asceticism, he had discarded the use of ornaments. The following is his image at Melkote near Mysore. The next is his image at Sriperumbudur, near Chennai.
The following is his image in Srirangam. This is said to be his embalmed image. The ears are long and stretched and bear proof of having worn heavy ornaments
Pierced and stretched ear is not a feature to be found only in Tamil society or South India. The North Indian sculpture images of yore show this feature. As most of the North Indian temples of antiquity have been demolished by invading Muslims, we do not have adequate proof in North India. However looking at Buddha images of olden times found in North India, it can be established that this practice was there in North India among the elites and kings. The following is the 2nd century CE image of Buddha of Gandhara region. The ear is pierced and stretched.
It is not just the Buddha or the Buddhists, even Jain sages had pierced the ears and stretched them. The following is the statue of Bahubali at Shravanabelaola made 1000 years ago. It features pierced and stretched ear.
This shows that Buddhists and Jains did follow the Vedic samskaras. We must remember that this practice is not found in Europe from where the Aryans were supposed to have come to India according the AIT believers. This feature is a strong proof for non invasion of the Aryans and non Vedic connection with Europeans.
Even Darius the Great who claimed himself as the Aryan (550 to 486 BCE) did not have his ears pierced.
But centuries before him Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria (883 to 859 BCE) had worn ear ornaments but did not have stretched ears. See the image below.
Every entity of his time, including the Dvarapalaka type gate keeping Lamassu (winged lions) is seen with ear ornaments.
Much before that, say 5000 years ago, this culture had existed in Indus regions. Following is the image of the figurine excavated in Harappa. It has huge, dangling ear ornaments having stretched -effect on the ears.
(Source http://eternalaryavarta.blogspot.in/ )
Yet another one, showing signs of ear ornaments.
Wherever the Vedic culture had spread there we find this feature established. Take a look at the Buddhist statue found at Java.
The following is the image of Vedic sage Agasthya found at Yogyakarta in Java. Look at the long ears.
Following is the image of Vedic God Harihara found in Krung Thep, Bangkok. Look at the ears.
Another image of Harihara found on Northern Thailand. The ears are stretched.
This shows that long ears are an integral identity of deities, semi deities, sages and common people of the Vedic society wherever such images may have been established.
Let us take a look at the image of a couple found at Haryana belonging to the Sunga dynasty, 2nd century BCE.
Look at the stretched ears of both the male and the female. The huge ornament is filling the ear hole of the female. This statue is found in Haryana in north India. This shows the spread of this practice throughout India across the communities.
Now let me get back to the design of the ear ornament, the Paambadam or Nagali in serpent design. Does this convey any meaning?