Petroglyphs of sun-headed deities of Tamgaly hole as a sign-symbolic or conventional reflection of Rig Veda`s ancient theogonic hymns

March 28, 2013, автор tim0

Galimzhanov S.E.
Master of Arts, PhD
Kazakh National Art Academy named after T.Zhurgenov

Petroglyphs of sun-headed deities of Tamgaly hole as a sign-symbolic or conventional reflection of Rig Veda`s ancient theogonic hymns.

Galimzhanov_S1The unique monument of culture of Kazakhstan at the Tamgaly hole is located in the South-Eastern part of Chu-Ily mountains, that separate the basins of the rivers of Balkhash lake and the Chu river. Tamgaly hole is in the plain-foothill desert-steppe zone of the North Tien-Shan region. The complex formed of around one hundred monuments from different periods – the settlements, burial grounds, ancient quarries, petroglyphs and other cult constructions (altars), dating back over a wide chronological range from the middle of XIV – XIII centuries B.C. until the XIX – XX centuries. [1, p. 50]. Petroglyphs, same as the ancient burials (sepulchers) are the main view of monuments of the Tamgaly complex. There are seven sepulchers of the bronze age known, being grouped on the right and left banks of the Tamgaly river. All sepulchers of the bronze age were included in the list of monuments of the Andronov cultural-historical community. A.E. Rogozhinskiy, a well-known researcher of Tamgaly petroglyphs thinks that «Typologically, Tamgaly monuments belong to the Central-Kazakhstan (Atasusk) and Semirechiye variant of Andronov community, reflecting the migration-diffuse nature of formation of the South-Eastern Kazakhstan population during the late bronze age» [1, p. 51]. He characterizes this complex as an ancient sanctuary or a temple under the open sky, dedicated to rituals or ceremonies [1, p. 58]. Although he does not provide any substantial arguments in his article, proving this viewpoint about the sacred functionality of the monument.

Briefly dwell upon the characteristic of the land topography, given by Rogozhinskiy in the book «The Monuments of petroglyphic art of Central Asia» [1, p. 45]. Looking at the map [1, p. 47], we can see that road side entrance to the territory of sanctuary from the modern railway station Kopa opens as a mound, which marks a particular location of the sanctuary beginning. Further into the South of canyon along the left side of the Tamgaly dry riverbed there are rocks. They are composed of micaceous shales, conglomerates and imbued with quartz veins of copper mineralization. Therefore, the rocks have a beautiful reddish-black shade of patina. Tectonically, ancient pieces of these rocks are close to the younger Devonian pieces. On the sedimentary rocks of the Devonian, at an angle of more than 40 degrees, there are numerous bronze age petroglyphs, conditionally divided by Rogozhinskiy into five groups.

Petroglyphs of the first group are located at the entrance of the hole and represent a zoomorphic compositions. The widely-spread image is a bull.

Petroglyphs of the second group are located behind the first group and represent the same zoomorphic motifs, images of mesh and spotted bulls, images of sun-headed gods and chariots. One of the most interesting petroglyphs of this group is the image of human foot – God`s foot.

Petroglyphs of the third group are located behind the second one and represent the same zoomorphic motifs, images of sun-headed God on the bull, the image of incalver, pictures of people dancing.

Petroglyphs of the fourth group are located diagonally across the third group, on the right side of the hole. It is the most famous rock of the hole – a Pantheon of gods. At the central part of composition of this group there are 7 sun-headed gods, image of dance with 12 dancers below and petroglyph of erotic scene under the image of the dance. To the right of the Central part of the composition – image of a goat.

Petroglyphs of the fifth group are located behind the third group and represent the image of sun-headed gods, erotic scenes and petroglyphs of Saks time.

Petroglyphs are the most significant and numerous monuments of Tamgaly hole. The total number of petroglyphs of this complex goes up to 5000 [1, p. 52]. All the rock carvings are made in the technique of pictogram, rarely as a stone or metal engravings. There are several historical epochs of petroglyphs presented at Tamgaly: the bronze age, iron age, middle ages, new and the newest time.

We will discuss some petroglyphs` images of late bronze age XII-X centuries BC.

Outstanding petroglyphic piece of the bronze age is a composition of seven divine character images (the picture of the top seventh deity has almost been lost), located on the conditional 118-th art rock plane (marking suggested by A.E.Rogozhinskiy) at an altitude of approximately 10 – 12 metres from the canyon. Therefore, it will be a matter of six solar deities. Below the composition of solar deities on the picture plane of the ancient «Pantheon» there are ten dancing men-soldiers, as well as a parturient woman and adorers. The «Pantheon» rock is located at a sufficient distance from the petroglyphs of 1 – 5 groups, approximately at a distance of 450 – 500 meters (on the contrary) through the canyon from petroglyphs of the group V. It is the hill with petroglyphs of the group V, from which the best overview of «Pantheon» image is opened. The altar of the bronze age was founded at the bottom of the base of rocks with «Pantheon». It represents a circular platform with a diameter of about 5 m. There were remnants of arsh from the pyre and bones, presumably, horses founded at the altar.

In the composition of petroglyphs there is a certain hierarchy in the three groups of characters` location: upper level is occupied with the solar deity, between them and the adorers in the lower part of picture there are series of figures of dancers and parturient woman [1, p. 54].

We have already noted above, that Tamgaly is a monument of the Andronov cultural tribal community. Most likely, the sanctuary were being regularly visited by tribes while the winter solstice celebrating days and there were large-scale ritual actions being carried out, because it is the day of the winter solstice that precedes the longest night, and from that time on the day begins to dwell, that was seen as a revival of existence. A range of topographic features specifies on that: firstly, vast area of canyon of the Tamgaly riverbed begins with Kurgan-marker; secondly, the scheme-map of the dried up Tamgaly riverbed is associated with the tree of life, thirdly, «Pantheon» rock picture plane is located a level above the all images of petroglyphs gallery on the rocks and is well overlooked at any time of the day. Moreover, at different time of the day some of the solar deities are better visible then the others.

Let us agree with the opinion of the archeologist A.E. Rogozhinskiy, Indologist F.B.Y.Keiper, archeologist and culturologist E.E. Kuzmina and others, who supposed that the key to penetrate the meaning of the images in this Central painting of the temple, the Pantheon of deities, has to be founded in the Vedic religion, namely, in cosmogony, myth, which tells how world once started to exist [2, 4]. Let’s consider in more details the Vedic cosmogonist myth on the example of Keiper`s research «Works on Vedic mythology,» [2]. He writes that «The origin of the world revealed a prototype of infinitely repeatable process of constant life and world renewal» [2, p. 28]. First, it was just water, but these so-called initial water carried the seed of life inside. A small lump of earth came up from the bottom and floated on the surface. Then it expanded and became a mountain, the beginning of the earth, continuing to stay on the water… The original world was sacral itself, and for its creation there were no need in the Creator… A special group of gods and Asuras was connected with that first stage» [1, p. 28, 29].

Researcher of Rig Veda notes that «The state of divided unity suddenly ended on the second stage of the cosmogony process, that began with the birth of Indra God outside the original world… Indra`s act, which is to be considered little more closely, is better be defined as demiurgic act. In the world of unorganized matter he begins the process through which a potential world becomes real: there is a light inside, which forms the contrast with the darkness, life inside coexisting with death, good balancing with evil» [2, p. 29].

«Indra`s demiurgic act consists of two distinct parts, relating respectively to the original hill and the tree of life. Initially, let us consider the first one. The hill, which is still floating at the initial waters should be divided to its` base and be opened. However, it contains a large force of resistance. …vrtra means obstacle resistance. In the myth, the power of resistance is personified by the dragon, and Indra, just like Saint George and another mythological characters must kill a dragon. …this dragon, also called as Vritra, is only one special aspect of the original hill – resistance, which should be overcome by Indra, in order to split the hill. Indra wins this struggle. He kills the dragon. And from the hillside, opened with his strength, life pulls out in two forms – water and fire. In the creation myth, water is represented by four rivers, flowing down from the top of the hill in four different directions, and the fire is by the sun rising from the hill or from the water. Hill now is not floating. It finds support… As for the second part of Indra`s acts, concerning the tree of life, there Indra functions as a pillar that supports the sky… With that he creates a duality of heaven and earth… And then, when sun rises in the sky, the opposition of light and darkness is being born, parallel to the juxtaposition of life and death… Indra was a seasonal God, whose mythological act consisted of creation and updating the world and opening the new year» [2, p. 29, 30].

«After Indra created a dual space, the Asuras ceased to be the only gods, because duality spread upon the gods as well. Together with Indra there is a group of new gods being created. Their name is Devas…» [2, p. 31]. Later Vedic texts say about the cosmogony battle of the Devas and the Asuras.

Varuna became Devas. Varuna becomes «the Lord of the waters». He was in the lower world, at the roots of the world’s tree, close to the underground space water. «At the beginning of each year the war between the Asura and Devas resumed. At the social level, it was reproduced in the competitions, which can be interpreted as the repetition of the cosmic struggle and human aggressiveness` ritualization» [2, p. 34].

In «the duality of the world» play, according to Vedic mythology, Vishnu helped Indra. His three great steps in the «Rig Veda» is described by several hymns. Here is one of them:

    Let me now sing the heroic deeds of Vishnu
    Who has measured apart the realms of the earth,
    Who propped up the upper dwelling-place,
    Striding far as he stepped forth three times.

    2 They praise for his heroic deeds
    Vishnu who lurks in the mountains,
    Wandering like a ferocious wild beast,
    In whose three wide strides all creatures dwell.

    3 Let this song of inspiration go forth to Vishnu,
    The wide-striding bull who lives in the mountains,
    Who alone with but three steps measured apart
    This long far-reaching dwelling-place.

    4 In his three footprints, inexhaustibly full of honey,
    People rejoice in the sacrificial drink.
    Alone, he supports threefold the earth
    And the sky and all creatures.

    6 We wish to go your dwelling places,
    Where there are untiring, many-horned cattle.
    There the highest footstep of the wide
    Stepping bull shines brightly down.
    (Rig Verda. 1.154)

Almost all researchers (e.g., Keiper, Kuzmina) [2,3]agree that the three steps of Vishnu relate to the definition of the sun way. Vishnu in the Rig Veda has a special relationship with the sun. It is possible that the sun in its Zenith is being associated with Vishnu just like the rising sun was considered as a manifestation of Mithra, and the setting as a Varuna (AB XIII.3.13).

Keiper notes that «…in an earlier era Vishnu took a more central place than Indra or Varuna, who are representatives of two opposing groups of gods and Asuras and, by that, take each of the two halves of a whole. In contrast to them, Vishnu should, therefore, represent the unity of the opposite parts – the top and the bottom of the world» [2, p. 106]

«Because the Rig Veda associate the three steps of Vishnu with Indra`s murder of Vritra`s dragon (Varuna). We have to conclude that Vishnu`s act must belong to the same mythological context… [2, p. 107].
1) The Myth of the struggle between Indra and Vritra refers to the organized space creation, which consists of the upper and lower worlds;
2) Vishnu`s mythical act made (like as Indra`s) for the sake of the world`s good. And sometimes directly related to the Indra`s feat, apparently, being a part of the creative act; …
4) The third step in the Rig Veda was completely mysterious and invisible to the human eye….
5) It is impossible to doubt the fact that the third step was the highest. Referring to the ascent we meet in the WG VIII. 69.7: «When I and Indra, we both go back home at the height of the sun…

Killing Vritra, Indra splits the hill, opens it and «props» heaven; thus, there is the dual organization of the cosmos. At the same time Vishnu «walks»: the first step corresponds to the lower world (including the earth), the second step to the upper world; however, there is a mystery in the third step, something which is perceived by the human eye, corresponding the sum of the opposite halves of the world – exactly the same as the thirteenth month represents the sum of the preceding twelve. All things exist in these three steps, or in the third step, which represent them… In relation to the thesis of the initial state of the world and the antithesis of Indra`s creation Vishnu`s third step is known as synthesis…

There are clear indications of Vishnu`s relationship with the mountains: he «dwells» or «stands» at the mountains; he is «the ruler of the mountains». » [2, p. 108-111].

Here is a short description of the main Vedic gods. Indra and Vishnu, as it was mentioned above, are the Central dual gods. The Ushas goddess in the Rig Veda is associated with the first morning lights and after Indra made his cosmogonic feat, «Ushas, being the goddess of the first day, is characterized as the one who knows his name» [2, p. 56]. And the God of fire Agni is being described as the last to see dawn. In the «Rig Veda» IV.13.1 we read «Ani last to see the beginning of dawn». There Ushas is also described as the one to give away gifts. God Surya in Vedas is associated with the sun, and Varuna, as mentioned above, with underground waters, night and death. God Soma was the God of the moon, planets and stars. He stands over the priests, plants, animals and pious vows. Moreover, with in the Vedas the rain and the divine drink – Soma associates with his name. In some hymns of Rig Veda it is not clear to whom the national anthem is being devoted: to God or to the divine drink.

Next we describe the visual body of the Pantheon. The axis of the deity`s left figure has a small slope to the right (to the center) of rock art plate, the feet of the figure below describes a more recent image of the animal (goat, cow or bull). In his right hand the divine holds a stick. Hands are down. Solar deities` nimbuses are differ by their large enough sizes, in other words, the size of the nimbus is out of proportion in relation to its figure, that is why the deities` figures look like «tadpoles». There is a head of elongated form engraved inside the figures` nimbus. Two rows of dots-basins are knocked out around the nimbus. Feet pointed in the right direction.

Almost «head to head» there is the second solar deity. Hands hang down and slightly spread out, there are also sexual characteristics. There is a sun-circle knocked inside the nimbus, which spreads the light rays to the nimbus line. There is only one row of dots around the nimbus. Feet pointed in the right direction. By its height, the figure is bigger than the 1st solar God.

On the third image, picture plane was badly destroyed, that is why we can identify only the upper part of the image. Picture remained only at the upper edge, where we can see the small saved images of rays or hair.

Fourth God has a lean to the left, his figure is almost twice smaller than a figure of second sun-headed God. But solar nimbus is not smaller then the first two figures, although the quality of pictogram is worse, and the double-line of nimbus is not that clear. Single row of dots knocked around the nimbus as well, but much smaller than the aforementioned gods` ones. Images of feet are not clearly readable.

We believe that the fifth deity is one of the Central in the Pantheon. It is located almost in the geometrical center of the rock picture plate. The deity is very beautiful by its execution and expressiveness. By its size, it is not inferior to the image of the first two sun-headed Gods, perhaps, his nimbus is the largest one in the Pantheon. There are large circles around its dual nimbus. There is a line drawn from the nimbus` inner circle below to the top, which goes outside the top edge of the nimbus through the upper circles. These gushing bundles lines are associated with the rays of light. The hands of the divine widely spread and there only one foot in the ballet «first position» is left visible.

Sixth deity almost twice smaller than the previous God. He had the tiniest nimbus in the Pantheon. There are rays going from the inner circle of the nimbus to the external. Also, there are circles around the nimbus` outside line and bundles rays drawn from the top three circles. Two of his feet stands in the first ballet position.

On a little distance there is figure without the nimbus, with nosed head, his nose turned to the left and his feet also turned the left. Hands stretched and bent at the elbows. The most unusual in this figure is a bunch of hair, which stood up on its end. There is a «specificity» in this figure. Most likely, the Central pliteta of Tamgaly shows the first gods of Aditi – sons of the goddess Aditi. Both researchers, Oldenberg and Doniger O`Flaherty [4,5] believe that the national anthem describing the birth of the gods (anthem X 72. to the gods) is a conglomerate of conflicting views on cosmogony without any attempts to link them with each other. New original interpretation of this song was given by H. Falk. In this hymn he sees the unity of form and content.

    1. Let us with tuneful skill
    Proclaim these generations of the Gods,
    That one may see them when
    These hymns are chanted in a future age.

    2 These Brahmaṇaspati produced
    With blast and smelting, like a Smith,
    Existence, in an earlier age of Gods,
    From Non-existence sprang.

    3 Existence, in the earliest age of Gods,
    From Non-existence sprang.
    Thereafter were the regions born.
    This sprang from the Productive Power.

    4 Earth sprang from the Productive Power
    The regions from the earth were born.
    Dakṣa was born of Aditi,
    And Aditi was Dakṣa’s Child.

    5 For Aditi, O Dakṣa,
    She who is thy Daughter, was brought forth.
    After her were the blessed
    Gods born sharers of immortal life.

    6 When ye, O Gods, in yonder deep
    Closeclasping one another stood,
    Thence, as of dancers, from your feet
    A thickening cloud of dust arose.

    7 When, O ye Gods, like Yatis,
    Ye caused all existing things to grow,
    Then ye brought Sūrya forward
    Who was lying hidden in the sea.

    8 Eight are the Sons of Adid
    Who from her body sprang to life.
    With seven she went to meet the Gods
    She cast Martanda far away.

    9 So with her Seven Sons
    Aditi went forth to meet the earlier age.
    She brought Martanda thitherward
    To spring to life and die again.
    (Rig Verda. X72. The Gods)

    Although, the Kazakhstani researcher K.K.Muratayev identifies images of sun-headed with the reflection of the initial space heat.
    There was not then what is nor what is not…
    There was neither death nor immortality then.
    The ONE
    Was breathing by its own power, in deep peace.
    Therein, in the void,
    By the fire of fervour arose the ONE. [3, p.106]

The opinion of Rogozhinskiy about the fact, that the Tamgaly complex was a kind of sanctuary for ritual actions of mystery character, where Aryan tribes on the eve of the winter solstice were annually coming (by Keiper) is being confirmed. Also, this confirmation is made upon the comparison we made during analysis of plot content of the «Pantheon» of gods with the themes and theories of the Rig Veda.

1 Рогожинский А.Е., Аубекеров Б.Ж., Сала Р. Памятники Казахстана // Памятники наскального искусства Центральной Азии. Общественное участие, менеджмент, консервация, документация. – Алматы, 2004. – С. 45 – 92.
2 Кейпер Ф.Б.Я. Труды по ведийской мифологии. – М.: Наука, 1986. – 195 с.
3 Кузьмина Е.Е. Мифология и искусство скифов и бактрийцев. – М.: Российский институт культурологии, 2002. – 286 с.
4 Hermann Oldenberg. Die Hymnen des Rigveda. 1888.
5 Wendy Doniger (O’Flaherty). Served as Vedic consultant and co-author, and contributed a chapter (“Part II: The Post-Vedic History of the Soma Plant, ” pp. 95-147) in Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, by R. Gordon Wasson (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1968). 381 pр.
6 Муратаев К.К. Солнцеликие божества урочища Тамгалы // Искусство против кризиса. Инвентаризация. – Алматы, 2010. – С. 106 – 108.

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