VALMIKI RAMAYANA 3-12-17, 3-12-18, 3-12-19, 3-12-20 BOOK OF FOREST ARANY`A KAAND`A
CONTEXT: Rama is in the forest. After about 12 years there, he visits the hermitage of the sage Agastya. Before finally reaching the altar for sacrifices, he sees temples (sacred places -sanctus)for 17 Gods. Where is this Agastya Ashram? It is in Vindhya Mountains. Somewhere in Madhya Pradesh or Chattisgadh.
Sa tatra Brahman`aha sthaanam AgneH sthaanam tathaiva ca< br />< br /> List of the Gods: 1. Brahma (Creator) 2. Fire 3. Vishn`u 4. Indra 5. Sun (Vivasvata) 6. Moon (Sooma) 7. Bhaga (One of the Adityas. Similar to the Sun. Dispenser of fortune) 8. Lord of North and Riches (Kubera) 9. Dhaata 10 Vidhaata (Created by Brahma to help the first human Prajapati 11. Wind God (Vaayu) 12. Rain God (Varun`a who wields a noose) 13. Gaayatri (Female Goddess of Gnosis) 14. Serpant God (Adi S`eesha)(Vishn`u sleeps on Seesha) 15. Kite God (Garud`a - Vishn`u's vehicle) 16. Commander of Gods (Kaartikeeya, the second son of S`iva) 17. God of Death (Yama Dharma Raja or simply Yama or Dharma).
Vishn`ooh sthaanam Mahendrasya sthaanam caiva VivasvataH
Sooma sthaanam Bhaga sthaanam sthaanam Kauberam eva ca
Dhaatur Vidhaatuh sthaanam ca Vaayoh sthaanam tathaiva ca
Sthaanam ca Paas`a hastasya Vaarun`asya mahaatmanaha
Sthaanam tathaiva Gaayatryaa Vasuunaam sthaanam eva ca
Sthaanam ca Naagaraajasya Garud`a sthaanam eva ca
Kaartikeeyasya ca sthaanam Dharma sthaanam ca pashyati.
My Blogger's views
Writer's observation: There is no place for S`iva. Why? Here the attempt is to present Rama as incarnation of Vishn`u. Hence Vishn`u's vehicle and bed are mentioned, but not S`iva. When the epic Ramayana took a clear shape (many believe it took place around 420 A.D. during the rule of Gupta dynasty), the Gupta kings might not have worshipped Siva. At that time, it might not have been accepted that Kaartikeya was the second son of S`iva. In Gupta dynasty, there was a king called Kumara (pron: Kumaara) Gupta. The term Kumara may refer to Kumaara s/o Siva. Kumara Gupta's son was Skandha Gupta. Skandha is another name for Kaartikeeya or Kumara. In chapter 1-37, Sage Vis`vaamitra narrates to Rama, the birth chronicle of Kumara (Skandha). The poet Kalidasa-1 who was in the court of Chandra Gupta appears to have derived his motivation to script his play "Kumara Sambhavam" (birth of Kumaara) from the Prince Kumara Gupta and Valmiki Ramayana.
If S`iva is ranked as equal to Vishn`u, his vehicle Bull (Nandi) should also have a place in the 17 temples.
2. Why there is no place for Goddesses? Except Gayatri, there is no sanctum for any Goddess. Vishn`u's wife Lakshmi, S`iva's wife Parvati, Creator's wife Sarasvati the Goddess of Learning ought to have a place. Gayatri might have been prayed more as a chant.
3. Was there idol worship?
Ans: Though idol worship is not specifically mentioned, descriptions such as as holdinga noose, Serpant, Kite etc. indicate that there might have been idols.
4. Was S`iva worship prevalent in those days?
Ans: Ramayana does not seem to glorify S`iva. Rama breaking the bow of S`iva to win the hand of S`ita, there is an attempt to lower the stature of S`iva. Depicting Raavan`a as a devotee of S`iva, and killing him in the hands of Rama (Vishn`u), there is an implied message that Vishn`u is superior. At 4-16-43 Rama was compared to Siva, Lakshmana to Nandi, Sita to Parvati.
5. Was Rama himself a devotee of S`iva?
So do the people are made to believe.
In Ramayana, there does not appear to be a mention of places of worship or temples except here. There were only sacrificial altars in the hermitages. Even in Ayodhya City, there do not appear to be temples. According to some historians, the first temple in India seems to have been built during the Gupta regime (3rd and 4th Centuries A.D.). The first temple apparently is in Madhya Pradesh. In that case, the first temple may be Agastya's heritage which may be near Chitrakuut`a.