Friday, 2 September 2011

Bana Linga

Classification of bana-linga suggestion by Hemadri (Lakshana-kanda).
1. The Svayambhu-linga is honey-coloured (tawny), and carries the black mark of a coil; it is adorned by all Yogic adepts.
2. The Mritunjaya-linga is multi-coloured, and has masks of matted hair and spear; it is worshipped by gods and titans alike.
3. The Nilakantha-linga is elongated in shape, and is pure white in colour, with a black dot in it.
4. The Trilochana-linga is white in complexion, and has three eye-like marks in it; there are also white lines resembling hairs in the body; the worship of this linga will eliminate all sins.
5. The Kalagni-rudra-linga is dark-complexioned, stout in shape, and brilliant in aspect; it carries the marks of matted hair dressed into a top-knot; it is adorned by all spirits.
6. The Tripuri-linga is honey coloured (tawny), with a white line resembling the sacred chord worn by the twice-born; there is a mark resembling crescent-moon on top, and at the bottom lotus-like mark, white in colour, can be seen; there are also lines reminding one of weapons.
7. The Isana-linga is white in colour, but there will be tawny coloured mark on top resembling matted hair; there will also be the mark of a garland of severed heads, and the mark of a trident.
8. The Ardha-narisvara-linga is distinguished by half of it being white; and the other half red; there will also be marks of trident and hand-drum.
9. The Maha-kala-linga is bright and corpulent in shape, elongated, and slightly red-hued; it is bright and attractive, and its worship will secure all the values of life.
Besides the above varities, other texts (like Kalottara and Bhavishya) mention three other types of Bana-linga. The ‘Daiva’ type is very uneven on its surface, with scratches and holes, depressions and mounds; it is longish in shape and it contains the marks of spear, crescent moon and stone- masons hammer. The ‘Gola’ type resembles a small pumpkin or a crow’s egg in shape. The ‘Arsha’ type is like a rose- apple in shape, and carries the mark of a sacred chord. It is fatter at the base than the rest of the body. Some lingas of this type are stout in the middle and not so at the bottom or on the top; and these are the best among the lingas of this type.
According to Yajnavalkya-samhita, the bana-lingas obtained in the river Narmada are the very forms of Siva assumed by the God at the request of Banasura; they are therefore the holiest of objects. Worshipping one bana-linga gets the benefits that can be procured by worshipping a crore of other lingas. The bana-lingas in the Narmada River may be the shape of a ripe jambu-fruit, or of a swan’s egg. They may be honey-coloured, white, blue or emerald-hued (passage quoted earlier).
Suta-samhita, which also extols the bana-lingas, mentions that the best bana-lingas are like the lotus seeds or like the hen’s egg in shape.
We also read in other texts that the best of bana-lingas must be four angulas in height, when fixed on a pedestal; half of that height would be inferior. A bana-linga the height of which is less even than this must never be worshipped.
While Suprabheda (33) roundly declares that all bana-lingas are equally worship-worthy, and that the distinguishing marks and features are not to be considered (‘bana-lingasta-naivoktam lakshanam’), there are texts which commend some bana-lingas as worthy of worship (‘subha-bana-lingas). According to Kedara-khanda, the rough surfaced bana-linga must not be worshipped; for its worship may lead to death of son and spouse. The linga that is flattened or blunted will augur ill for the house; if the linga when placed on earth inclines to a side will cause the death of cattle, children and consorts, as well as destroy wealth. If the linga is split on top, its worship will cause disease and death.
Hemadri (Lakshana-kanda) says that the bana-linga with sharp edges, and crooked tops, must not be worshipped also as exceedingly corpulent or thin ones. They may be beneficial to those whose only goal in life is emancipation from phenomenal involvement, but they will spell ruin for the normal householders, interested in worldly prosperity and spiritual welfare.
The householder would profit by worshipping a bana-linga, which is like a bee in colour, shape and size. It may be worshipped, fixed to a pedestal or not. It will secure worldly prosperity as well as ultimate liberation from all phenomenal ills. But those ascetics whose only concern is emancipation may worship bana-lingas, which are tawny in colour or dark, and of any size. The householder must never worship the bana-linga, which are extremely small or unusually fat.

Even as there are methods of examining the salagrama-stones for their acceptability (pariksha), there are methods to find out if a bana-linga is suitable for worship. One of the methods is to weigh the bana-linga against grains of rice, three, five or seven times. If the weight of the rice is not the same in all cases, then the bana-linga is acceptable as genuine. If the weight increases, and not decreases, when it is weighed seven times on a balance, then the supposed bana-linga is genuine; otherwise it is a mere stone.
Another method is to drop the bana-linga under examination into a flowing stream; if it can be picked up again, it is a genuine bana-linga, and its worship will secure happiness.
While there are no distinct prescriptions or procedures for the worship of salagramas, there appears to be a separate procedure for worshipping bana-lingas, different from the standard worship ritual offered to Siva. However, this procedure is heavily tantrik in orientation, and suggests Kaula influence. Yoga-sara, which is in the nature of a dialogue between Siva and Parvati, contains not only a dhyana for Siva in the form of a bana-linga but also a long stava (hymnology) eulogizing the bana-linga. Here bana is the name of Siva himself, and he is associated with his feminine counterpart, Sakti. He is said to be inebriated (prammata) and equipped with the ‘dart of eros’ (kama-bana), which deludes the phenomena; and he is full of the erotic sentiment (srngara-rasa). The worship of bana-lingas is calculated to burn up our transmigrational involvement.
Then the procedure involves the mental worship of the bana-linga, visualizing all articles of worship like sandal paste and flowers (‘manasa gandha-pushpadyaih sampujya manum smaret’). This is followed by rounds of breath-retention, which will cause delight to the bana-linga (‘pranayamam tatah krtva bana-lingam tu toshayet’). Then the devotee visualizes the identity of the bana-linga with his own chosen deity, and recites the ‘vagbhava-mantra’ in a state of contemplation (‘tad-ishtadevayor aikyam vibhavya vagbhavam japet’).
After the completion of this ritual of silent and concentrated repetition of the mantra (japa) for the fixed duration, the devotee offers following prayer to bana-linga (‘tato japam samapyatha stavenanena toshayet’).
This marks the completion of the ritual. The prayer-hymn (stava) contains nineteen verses, the first six of which appear to have been the original portion and the nucleus; the rest of the section opens afresh with the seed-syllable ‘aim’ which is the Vedic pranava (with which the first section begins). The first four verses in this latter section is the hymn-proper recounting the names of Siva, the remaining verses being in the nature of ‘phala-stuti’ (eulogization of the benefits to be obtained by reciting this hymn).

Banalinga , a stone found in nature, in the bed of the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh state, India, is an aniconic symbol of worship, based on either the scriptures or cultural traditions among the Hindus, particularly of the Shaivaites and Smartha Brahmins. Stones are ancient and connote divinity. It is a smooth cylindrical stone.
Banalinga is also called the Svayambhu Linga: (Sanskrit) “Self-existent mark or sign of God“, as it is discovered in nature and not carved or crafted by human hands.
The forms of Linga can vary in detail from a simple roller shape roughly cylindrical Banalinga to the stone carved with a thousand facets (Sahasralinga) or of light relief in several human figures (Mukhalinga). The Linga in the shrine of a temple is in stone.

What Salagramas are to Vishnu, that the bana-lingas are to Shiva: sacred and self-manifest representations. If the Salagrama are stones found only in the Gandaki river, the bana-lingas are stones found only in the Narmada river, although, according to some texts (as for instance Kalottara, sited in Viramitrodaya), the bana-lingas are obtained not only from the river Narmada but also in the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and other holy streams.
However, the bana-lingas are always associated with the Narmada river, so much so that a synonym of bana-linga is Narmada-linga. Narmada, which is regarded as one of the seven sacred streams of the country (sapta-ganga) and which is usually taken as what which marks off South India from the North, takes its origin  in Amarakantak, 914 metres above sea-level, in Madhya Pradesh, where the Vindhya ranges meet with the Satpuda ranges. It flows Westward for 1,292 kilometres through Mandla and Jubbalpore districts, and joins the Arabian Sea in Cambay near Bharoch in Gujarat. The legends identify the river with Reve of epic celebrity, which is described as flowing out of Siva’s own body, and therefore considered one of the holiest rivers.
According to Matsya-purana (Chap. 165-169), drinking the water from this river and worshipping Siva will secure freedom from all states of misery.

Voluntary death in this river by drowning sought by a devotee was extolled as leading directly to the realm of Siva, he having been purified from all sins, and being carried on the vehicle drawn by swans.
The currents of the Narmada river are very strong and forceful, and the stones are carried from the rocky river-sides, rendering them smooth and polished. Besides bana-lingas, which are normally white in colour, there are also in this sacred river, stones called ‘raudra-lingas’ which bare marked resemblance to the bana-lingas, but which are usually dark-coloured, although red, white and yellow varieties are not rare. We read in Lakshana-samuchchaya.

There is a story narrated in Aparajita-pariprchchha (205, 1-26) about the origin of the bana-lingas and their association with the Narmada river. Siva wanted to destroy the ‘tri-pura’, which had been obtained as a boon by the arrogant demon Banasura, and he let go a fiery dart from his great bow ‘pinaka’. The dart broke the three ‘puras’ into tiny bits, which fell on three spots: 1, on the hills in Sri-kshetra (of unknown identity), 2, on the peaks of Amarakantaka in the Vindhya ranges, and 3, on the banks of the holy river Narmada. The bits that fell in these places soon multiplied into crores,. each bit becoming a linga. As they formed part of the possession of Banasura, they were called Bana-Lingas.
Amarakantaka, the peak in Madhya Pradesh, is in close proximity to the source of the river Narmada, which according to the puranas, originated in the Vindhya mountains and flowed in the Kalinga country. Padma-purana says that there are along this river as many as sixty crore and sixty thousand holy ghats, all of which are associated with bana-lingas and raudra-lingas.
The demon Bana was the eldest of the hundred sons of Bali, who in turn was the son of Virochana and grandson of Prahlad (son of Hiranyakasipu and devotee of Narasimha). Bana, the king of demons (asuras) ruled over Sonita-pura. He went to the Himalayan regions, and performed a penance invoking Siva’s favour. When Siva appeared in answer to his austerities, Bana begged the god to bestow himself a thousand arms carrying a multitude of weapons to destroy all his enemies and opponents. He also desired that Parvati should consider him as her son.
In legend, he is described as Mahakala, one of Siva’s attendants and a brother to Subrahmanya. When, however, the demon began tormenting the three worlds, Krsna waged a war against him and severed all of his thousand arms with his discus, with the help of Siva. This story of told in Matsya-purana (chapter 5), Harivamsa (Vishnu-parva, Chapter 173) and Bhagavata-purana (10th skandha, chapter 62).

Bana, despite all the details of the story, was a great devotee of Siva, and Siva gave him his own representative in the form of a natural linga of worship (banrchartham krtam lingam); hence the name Bana-linga. It is also explained that the expression ‘bana’ means in reality Siva.
That the word ‘bana’ also means an arrow, a reed-shaft, cow’s udder and pike is to be considered. The moon-white stones naturally obtained in the river Narmada, answering to these forms may have been called bana-lingas on this account, quite independent of the legend concerning the asura named Bana.
The import of the legend is that the bana-lingas are self-manifest forms of Siva, and that they are therefore holier than any other anionic forms of Siva. This follows another legend which explains why Siva is not worshipped in his iconic form (pratima) but only as linga. Siva’s assumption of the linga form (a fiery column) to outwit the claims of superiority by Vishnu and Brahma is the theme of other legends. Among the several varieties of linga, Bana-linga is said to be the most sacred and its worship most effective.
We are informed in Yajnavalkya-samhita that the bana-lingas are actually bits of  the river-side rock, which flowed into the stream Narmada. The rock by the side of the river was itself the linga, the form assumed by Siva to bless the asura Bana. Siva dwells in that rock and the parts of the rock which we find in the river are, therefore, aspects of Siva.

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