An investigation into the fifty-six Vinayakas in Banaras and their origins

Isabelle Bermijn
This thesis investigates a unique and hitherto unresearched phenomenon in the sacred city of Banaras: the fifty-six Vinayakas. These Vinayakas are arranged throughout the city in seven notional concentric circles with eight directionally oriented images in each. The Vinayakas are fully documented for the first time: each one is photographed, drawn, described and analysed. Textual references are given for each and a methodology is developed for dating them into four periods over twelve
more » ... er twelve centuries. The grouping is situated within the evolution of the city, within the religious history of the origins and development of Ganesha, the textual and scriptural history of Banaras, and symbolically and ritually within the concept of the mandala. The Mahatmya in which they are first described, the Kasi Khanda, is dated and analysed. The text, which establishes the Lordship of Visvanatha, relates the religious history of Banaras chronologically through a series of myths which simultaneously effect the cosmologisation of Kasi. The concept of the mandala is examined and it is found that although the Vinayakas meet all the criteria of a physical mandala they are not themselves a mandala. The only mandala is Kasi itself which the Vinayakas mark out and protect. The origin of the Vinayakas is investigated and the dynasty and ruler responsible for their installation is putatively identified. Because the establishment of the Vinayakas is effectively the introduction of the concept of Kasi as a complete microcosm and the beginning of the process of its cosmologisation, the dating of the group of Vinayakas permits the dating of a major chapter in the religious history of north India.
doi:10.25501/soas.00029335 fatcat:xuqv5wg4d5b7xbi2tvxeiv7bqi