Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bactrian Kushan Deities & Religious Pantheon


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The Kushan religious pantheon is extremely varied, as revealed by their coins and their seals, on which more than 30 different gods appear, belonging mainly to their own Iranian world, and to a lesser extent, the Greek and Indian worlds as well. Greek deities, with Greek names are represented on early coins. During Kanishka's reign, the language of the coinage changes to Bactrian (though it remained in Greek script for all kings). After Huvishka, only two divinities appear on the coins: Ardoxsho and Oesho (see details below).

"The Kushans are believed to have been predominantly Zoroastrian....However, from the time of Vima Takto, many Kushans started adopting aspects of Buddhist culture. Like the Egyptians, they absorbed the strong remnants of the Greek Culture of the Hellenistic Kingdoms, becoming at least partly Hellenised. The great Kushan emperor Vima Kadphises may have embraced Saivism, as surmised by coins minted during the period. The Kushan emperors represented a wide variety of faiths including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Tantric Saivism ."......

The Iranian entities depicted on coinage include:

Αρδοχþο (ardoxsho, Ashi Vanghuhi)....In the younger Avesta, divinified Ashi (feminine) is also referred to Ashi Vanuhi or Ashi Vanghuhi (Aši vaηuhī, nominative Ašiš vaηuhī "Good Reward")

Aþαειχþo (ashaeixsho, Asha Vahishta)....also the proper name of the divinity Asha, the Amesha Spenta that is the hypostasis or "genius"

Αθþο (athsho, Atar)....Sacred Fire.....Zoroastrians revere fire in any form. In the Zoroastrian religion, fire (see Atar), together with clean water (see Aban), are agents of ritual purity. ...Shams-i-Balkh, a Bactrian sun temple....

Φαρρο (pharro, Khwarenah)... khwarenah (xᵛarənah) is an Avestan language word for a Zoroastrian concept literally denoting "glory" or "splendour" but understood as a divine mystical force or power projected upon and aiding the appointed. The neuter noun thus also connotes "(divine) royal glory," reflecting the perceived divine empowerment of kings. The term also carries a secondary meaning of "(good) fortune";

Λροοασπο (lrooaspa, Drvaspa)....Drvaspa (druuāspā, drvāspā, drwāspā) is the Avestan language name of an "enigmatic" and "strangely discreet" Zoroastrian divinity, whose name literally means "with solid horses" and which she is then nominally the hypostasis of.....The word drvaspa is grammatically feminine. Proceeding from an observation in James Darmesteter's Avesta (1875), "it has been customary to compare her to the Celtic Epona, protector of horses...

Μαναοβαγο, (manaobago, Vohu Manah)....Vohu Manah is the Avestan language term for a Zoroastrian concept, generally translated as "Good Purpose" or "Good Mind" (cognate with Sanskrit su-manas...सुमनस्).....

Μαο (mao, Mah).... Mao (cf. Av. Mah 'Moon')....

Μιθρο, Μιιρο, Μιορο, Μιυρο (mithro and variants, Mithra).....Miiro 'Mithra'...Solar deity Mithra

Μοζδοοανο (mozdooano, Mazda *vana "Mazda the victorious?")...Ahura Mazda (Phl. Ohrmazd), meaning "Wise Lord." Ahura Mazda is all good.....

Νανα, Ναναια, Ναναϸαο (variations of pan-Asiatic Nana, Sogdian nny, in a Zoroastrian context Aredvi Sura Anahita)....The inscription NANAIA is used on some of the coins of Kanishka to indicate the goddess Nana. Rosenfield suggested that the shorter version NANA was common in the eastern parts of the Kushan Empire and the longer version NANAIA in the west, the region ruled by the Sapadbians.....On the coins of Kanishka Nana appears as a human figure. However, on the coins of Huvishka & Kanishka II/III she appears seated on a lion.

Οαδο (oado Vata)....Oado was a wind god, the name probably deriving from the Avestan Vata, the strong Mazdah-created wind, similar to the element vata in the Rig Veda

Oαxþo (oaxsho later Oxus in Greek?).....

Ooρoμoζδο (ooromozdo from Ahromazda, i.e. Ahura Mazda)...Ahura Mazda, (also known as Athura Mazda, Athuramazda, Ohrmazd, Ahuramazda, Hourmazd, Hormazd, Hurmuz, and Azzandara) is the Avestan name for a divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism.

Οραλαγνο (orlagno from Verethragna)....the divinity Verethragna, who is the hypostasis of "victory", and "as a giver of victory

Τιερο (tiero from Tir).....Tir (god) - God of wisdom, culture, science and studies, he also was an interpreter of dreams. He was the messenger of the gods and was associated with Apollo. Tir's temple was located near Artashat.....Armenian_mythology

Representation of entities from Greek mythology and Hellenistic syncretism are:
Ηλιος (Helios).....Helios (Ancient Greek: Ἥλιος Hēlios; Latinized as Helius; Ἠέλιος in Homeric Greek) was the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology. Homer often calls him Titan or Hyperion,
Ηφαηστος (Hephaistos)..... the Greek god of metalworking
Σαληνη (Selene).....goddess of the moon, and sister of the sun-god Helios
Ανημος (Anemos)...Ancient Greek: Ἄνεμοι, "Winds") were Greek wind gods
The coins of Huvishka also portray the demi-god erakilo Heracles..., Heracles (Ancient Greek: Ἡρακλῆς, Hēraklēs, from Hēra, "Hera", and kleos, "glory".... a divine hero in Greek mythology, the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity, the ancestor of royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae (Ἡρακλεῖδαι) .... In Rome and the modern West, he is known as Hercules..
and the Egyptian god sarapo Sarapis....Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Dorian Greek) is a Graeco-Egyptian god. Serapis was devised during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. The god was depicted as Greek in appearance, but with Egyptian trappings, and combined iconography from a great many cults, signifying both abundance and resurrection. A serapeum (Greek serapeion) was any temple or religious precinct devoted to Serapis.

The Indic entities represented on coinage include:
Βοδδο (boddo, Buddha)....Kanishka's reputation in Buddhist tradition is based mainly that he convened the 4th Buddhist Council in Kashmir.
Μετραγο Βοδδο (metrago boddo, bodhisattava Maitreya)
Mαασηνo (maaseno, Mahasena)...A Hindu deity known from Kushana and other coins and inscriptions
Σκανδo koμαρo (skando komaro, Skanda Kumara)......Like most Hindu deities, Murugan is known by many other names... Kumāra (meaning 'prince or child or young one'), Skanda (meaning 'seed' in Sanskrit)...Murugan also known as Karttikeya (Sanskrit: कार्त्तिकेय), is the Hindu god of war and victory
þακαμανο Βοδδο (shakamano boddho, Shakyamuni Buddha)....Only a few Buddhist divinities were used as well:....ϷΑΚΑΜΑΝΟ ΒΟΔΔΟ (shakamano boddho, Shakyamuni Buddha)

Οηϸο (oesho), long considered to represent Indic Shiva,but more recently identified as Avestan Vayu conflated with Shiva....Oesho was a deity represented on the coins of several Kushan kings, and was apparently one of the titular deities of the dynasty. The deity is often though to be identical with Shiva (I'sha), and "Oesho" would just be the pronunciation of Shiva's name in the Bactrian language of the Kushans....... recent studies indicate that Oesho was Zoroastrian Vayu with admittedly many of the attributes of Shiva ....... again the coins of Vasudeva I, who converted to Hinduism, continue to depict, the deity, has left open the discussion, weather Oesho is Shiva or Vata-Vayu.

Two copper coins of Huvishka bear a 'Ganesa' legend, but instead of depicting the typical theriomorphic figure of Ganesha, have a figure of an archer holding a full-length bow with string inwards and an arrow. This is typically a depiction of Rudra, but in the case of these two coins is generally assumed to represent Shiva....Ganesha (also spelled Ganesa, also known as Pillaiyar, Ganapati and Vinayaka, is a widely worshiped deity in the Hindu pantheon.Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Jains, Buddhists, and beyond India....Ganesha's elephant head makes him particularly easy to identify.Ganesha is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles

"Of the numerous divinities depicted on the coins of Kanishka I and Huvishka, most are given Iranian names, e.g., ardoxšo (Av. ašiš vaŋuhi), aθšo “fire,” farro (Av. xᵛarənah-), lrooaspo (masc.; cf. Av. drvāspā-), mao “moon,” miiro (in many spellings; Av. miθra-), nana (Sogd. nny), oado “wind,” oaxšo “Oxus,” oēšo (Av. vayuš, conflated with the Indian Śiva, see H. Humbach in Monumentum H. S. Nyberg I, Acta Iranica 4, Tehran and Liège, 1975, pp. 402-08), ōoromozdo (Av. ahurō mazdǡ), orlagno (Av. vərəθraγna-), and teiro (Mid. Pers. tīr). See further F. Grenet, “Notes sur le panthéon iranien des Kouchans,” Studia Iranica 13, 1984, pp. 253-62. The coinage of Kanishka includes issues portraying boddo “Buddha,” sakamano boudo “Śākyamuni,” and mētrago boudo “Maitreya” (see J. Cribb, “A Re-examination of the Buddha Images on the Coins of King Kaniska. . .” in Studies in Buddhist Art of South Asia, Delhi, 1985, pp. 59-87), while that of Huvishka attests foreign gods and demigods such as ērakilo “Heracles,” sarapo “Sarapis,” maasēno “Mahāsena,” and skando komaro “Skanda Kumāra.” After Huvishka the repertoire of reverse types contracts sharply, the only deities named on the coins of the last Kushans being ardoxšo and oēšo.".......

"The pantheon of Armenian gods (ditsov) formed during the nucleation of the Proto-Armenian tribes that, at the initial stage of their existence, inherited the essential elements of paganism from the Proto-Indo-European tribes that inhabited the Armenian Plateau. Historians distinguish a significant body of Indo-European language used by Armenian pagans as sacred. Original cult worship is a kind of unfathomable higher power or intelligence called Ara, called the physical embodiment of the sun (Arev) worshiped by the ancient Armenians, who called themselves "the children of the sun". Since ancient times, the cult of sun worship occupied a special place in Armenian mythology. Also among the most ancient types of worship of Indo-European roots are the cults of eagles and lions, and the worship of heaven. Over time, the Armenian pantheon was updated, and new deities of Armenian and not Aryan origins appeared. Furthermore, the supreme god of the Armenian pantheon, Vanatur, was later replaced by Aramazd. The latter, though, has appeared under the influence of Zoroastrianism (see Ahura Mazda), but with partially preserved traditional Armenian features. Similarly, the traditional Armenian goddess of fertility, Nar, was replaced by Anahit. In the Hellenistic age (3rd to 1st centuries BC), ancient Armenian deities identified with the ancient Greek deities: Aramazd with Zeus, Anahit with Artemis, Vahagn with Hercules, Astghik with Aphrodite, Nane with Athena, Mihr with Hephaestus, Tir with Apollo."....


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….August 2013


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