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Listen how the wise one begins construction of a house for Visnu: Chapters 1-14 of the Hayasirsa Pancaratra


This dissertation consists of a translation of the first fourteen chapters of Hayasirsa Pancaratra and a detailed analysis aiming at its contextualization in historical, cultural, and theological milieus. The Hayasirsa Pancaratra is a Sanskrit text from approximately the ninth century A.D. primarily dealing with rituals concerning the construction of a temple to the god Visnu. The text is probably from Eastern India, most likely Bengal or Orissa. The Hayasirsa Pancaratra belongs to the Pancaratra tradition, a Visnu centered movement within what we today call Hinduism. The Hayasirsa Pancaratra has incorporated older texts, most of which are no longer extant, and has also been a source-text for later works, most notably the Agni Purâṇa and the Hari Bhakta Vilasa. The text is named after Hayasirsa, the horse-headed incarnation of Visnu, who represents Visnu's divine character as revealer of úruti. This is the first time that the Hayasirsa Pancaratra has been translated. The text is important for Sanskrit textual history, art history, cultural history, religious history of the subcontinent, but unavailable to even most Sanskrit scholars because of a lack of access to the Sanskrit text. The translated chapters deal with preliminary work including choosing the participants for the undertaking. They list, therefore, prerequisites and qualifications, particularly of the acarya, the specific qualities required of the site, and for digging the foundation. The Hayasirsa Pancaratra situates the temple at the center of the universe by means of the vastupurusamandala. The vastupurusamandala is, I argue, both a ritual and a practical diagram: it is used ritually to locate the temple at the center of the universe; and it is used practically to plan the layout of the temple. The rituals marking the beginning of temple construction, like ritual plowing, can be traced to Vedic ceremonial practice, including, but not limited to, ritual plowing in the Vedic fire altar. The text focuses on certain moments within the construction because of the ritual function of these moments. The text is primarily a ritual text, possibly written for the acarya. The Hayasirsa Pancaratra is central to the understanding of temple construction and the rituals around it making the view of these more complete.

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