A Comparison in Iconography and Memetics
written for CPAK 2009
End of May 2009 I travelled to Pune with the purpose of visiting some of the famous cave temples in Maharastra. I had intended to do so for a long time, after having read the inspiring, though not scientific by modern standards, book of H. P. Blavatsky From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan (Blavatsky, 1892) which left a slightly fictious impression – similar to an Indiana Jones movie.
During the following days I travelled to the caves of Bhaja and Karla, which are near the small town Lonavala, half way between Pune and Mumbai, slightly east of a mountain chain. This chain runs north-south for hundreds of kilometers and forms the Western boundaries of a huge plateau called Deccan, which almost stretches out to the East coast. These mountains serve as a watershed, separating the coastal strip from the higher mainland. As most, if not all, cave-temples in Maharashtra, those near Lonavala were carved from massive and highly durable volcanic rock. After paying a visit to the smaller but more archaic Pataleshvara Temple, which has now been encircled by the centre of modern Pune, I set off to a 240 km drive – which I thought would not take too long. Though the roads were acceptable, once again distances in India deceived me and in the end it took 6 hours to reach the famous site of Ellora.
After all the Mughal architecture and concrete-’rejuvenated’ (born-again) temples that I had visited during the last months, I expected little. When I reached Ellora, stood in front of the mighty Kailash-temple and after I made my way through the impressive Sita ki Nahani cave, something had fundamentally altered my understanding and low esteem of Indian architecture. This was different from what I had so far seen before. I had landed in an archaic and otherworldly epoch. Though most of the caves were decorated with statues and reliefs, I could still perceive and almost smell the same prehistoric monolithic aura and simplicity that constitute the essence of the henges of Britain, the temples of Malta (Ggantija and Mnajdra) or the large stone-fundaments at Baalbek.
Subsequently, while roaming through the various half lit chambers, trying still to keep an open mind, it struck me again and I could now specify even more from where the previous impressions originated. I stood in front of statues of heros or kings that strangely reminded me of Egypt, or even more specific Abu Simbel. They wore similar crowns, they were adorned and attributed by cobras and they had the distinct physiognomy of Nubio-Egyptian nobility. I had come across of various depictions of pyramids at the caves of Bhaja and Karla before and knew that of course the pyramidal shape had always played an important role as a basic meme for Hindu Temples as well as the Buddhist Stupas…
– This paper aims to deliver some background information to my poster presentation for the 2009 Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge (CPAK), hosted at UCI. It is kind of a spin-off from my current work on an enlarged English version of my previously published (in German) book on the World Ages and cyclical time, which will hopefully be ready for publishing soon. –