January  2005




January  2005 


 Protection of World
 Heritage Sites
 Bangladesh & Nepal

 Pakistani Handlooms

 Bird Trade in India


 The Sacred Bride

 Victor Banerjee

 Soha Ali Khan

 Looking Back 2004

 Single & Happy

 Fashion Designers
 add new dimensions


 the craft shop

 the print gallery

 the art gallery


 Between Heaven and Hell

  Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in









   about us              back-issues           contact us         search             data bank


  craft shop

print gallery


The Sacred Bride

- a cross-cultural reference


Dr. Manoshi Bhattacharya


The concept of the Sacred Bride and the Sacred Marriage began on the plains of the Indus Valley over 4000 years ago and the symbolism, that made Da Vinci Code a best-seller, owes its origin to those ancient nature worshippers. India is unique because its culture and tradition survived despite the numerous invasions, which brought in new ways of thinking. While the ancient nature worshippers in the rest of the world died out, only those in India survived.

Accepting the woman – albeit a supernatural one – as being the source of the ultimate knowledge is not a new concept. The ancient thinking of the Indus Valley Civilization, placed the male and female principles as equals. The male principle, Shiva or D united with the female, Shakti or Ñ to form the Y hexagram or mandala. The hexagram was a symbol of the Sacred Marriage. The earliest evidence of this symbol was found among coins from the excavation of the city of Ujjain in India. The coins have been dated to be 2000 - 3000 years old. These coins came into the possession of Colonel James Tod, the Political Agent to the Western Rajput States of India in the early 1800s. The Indus Valley Harappan seal numbered 297 bears one of the first representations of Shakti with her foot planted on a buffalo's nose grasping a horn with one hand and thrusting a spear into its back with the other.

A similar thought existed in ancient Babylon and Sumeria where the divine lady Belit-ili, or Belili was worshipped. The Canaanites worshipped her as Baalat. A tablet from Ur, dating back to  2000 BC addressed her as Laillake. She was adopted by the Jews during their days of captivity in Babylon. As the home-sick Jews compiled the Old Testament, they incorporated tales that they had imbibed from their land of captivity - Iraq. Adam’s first wife became Lilleth of the Genesis and the Rabbinic literature. She was Laila of the later Islamic version. The world over, nature worshippers celebrated the woman as an essential half of spiritual enlightenment. The act of Hieros Gamos, the union of Amon and Isis, was as hallowed in Egypt as in Greece.

A wave of change swept the world. Lilleth of the Rabbinic literature refused to bow her head before Adam. She was his equal in every way. Uttering the name of God, she disappeared and was condemned as a demon. A lesser woman was created out of Adam’s rib and pulled out of his back. Eve would always stand behind Adam. The Greek and Egyptian cultures died and in India, the position of the Sacred Bride suffered. The civilization that replaced that of the Indus Valley was strongly patriarchal in nature. Early Vedic literature made no mention of Her until the age in which the Shatpat Brahmin was compiled. It was said however, that the creator’s work had not been perfect. His creations would not multiply. Finally, He sought his answer among the practioner’s of the ancient Indian way. He witnessed Shiva and Shakti together in their ‘ardhanareshwar’ form. The body was split longitudinally into two. One half was male, the other female. Neither was complete without the other. Prajapati Brahma, the creator now understood. The Shatpat Brahman goes on to say, "Prajapati created the universe. He populated the earth with living creatures of every kind. Exhausted, he rested. Sri, in her divine beauty, issued from within him. Instantly the gods were jealous. Kill her, was the cry. Prajapati intervened. He let her live." Although, the female principle was acknowledged as necessary and in every respect equal to the male, like Lilleth, she was denied the respect due to her. However, in India the position of the Sacred Bride gradually recovered. Her ancient worshippers survived in small pockets, principally in Bengal. The mystery that lay within Her could not be denied. By the time the Kena Upanishad was written, the position of the Vedic woman had greatly improved. The female principle was acknowledged as the source of divine knowledge. "The Brahman (the one and only supreme being) appeared before the gods of the patriarchs. Agni, the fire god, plucked up his courage. He challenged the Brahman. The Brahman offered him some straw. Agni was unable to burn it. Vayu, the god of wind, was unable to blow it away. The king of the gods arrived. Indra was determined to learn the true nature of the Brahman. He found instead the sacred feminine, Uma or Himavati (Shakti). Humbled, Indra submitted. Uma taught him."

The knowledge that was in the possession of the Sacred Bride was coveted by all but while Shakti survived, Lilleth did not. Neither did Isis nor She who held a buffalo in an upraised hand at Dordogne, France. Their counterpart at the temple of Nagar in Nubia who slaughtered a demon with her sword while her lion mount waited in the background fared no better. Nor did the Celtic Tara.

The ancient architecture of India remained alive and Shakti’s presence dominated the worship of every form of the Brahman (greater or lesser gods). The very act of entering a temple was taking part in the mystic union. Indians worshipped in dimly lit little rooms though their temples were large and the spires reached out to the skies. A long corridor led to sanctum sanctorum, which lay deep within the temple. The womb of the temple would admit but one devotee. Here, all by himself, the devotee would aspire to cross over and unite with the Brahman, both in mind and in body. Entrances to ancient Celtic temples were marked in a similar manner with flowers and roses, symbolizing the entrance to the womb. Few ancient temples survived and though the beautiful carvings were inherited by the modern day churches, their meaning was long forgotten.

God’s own bride was successful in India. Sri Sukta, a late addition to the original Rig Veda, sang of the glory of the sacred feminine. She was adored by many names - Mahalaxmi, Mahasaraswati and Mahakali in the Khilaratri Sukta and Durga in the Taittirya Aranakyas. In the Epic Age, she was celebrated as Durga who helped Lord Ram overcome King Ravan. Ram’s devotions lived on and her worshipper’s continued to follow the steps laid down by Lord Ram in the invocation of the goddess, an autumnal, rite called Durga Puja, celebrated even today. She traveled through the world once again, staking her claim wherever mankind struggled to abandon her. Her mystery drew many followers. She was both venerated and feared. Juneiti Kannon or Chundi and Juntei Butsubo, the mother of seven crores of Buddhas or the Sapta Koti Buddha Matri took her place in Japan. Mahayan Buddhism with Tara’s (a form of Kali – the aggressive form of Durga) powers spread through Tibet and China. The cosmic union with its Yin Yang balance appealed to Chinese thought and the mandala became a popular symbol. Sara-Kali or the Black Virgin, was worshipped by gypsies and dacoits through the world. Though Kali compared with Lilleth in many ways, her respect for Shiva could keep her in control. When Lilleth and Kali were on a rampage, a great loss of life would follow.

By the beginning of the Middle Ages (AD 395 to the Renaissance) it was apparent that great suffering had been imposed upon the Jews. It was blamed upon the abandonment of God’s feminine half. The concept of Shakti and the Sacred Marriage was imported from India. The Shiv-Shakti mandala, Y, with its magical powers became the Star of David or the Magen David. Though David, king of the Jews, is traditionally placed in the same time period as the heroes of the great Indian epic, Mahabharat, it isn’t until the 4th Century A.D. that the mandala came to became popular. It was adopted as a symbol of the dynasty of the Messiah – the dynasty of David, the first Messiah. Popular among the followers of the mystic Kaabala, all Jewish women have since celebrated the Shabat every Saturday. White candles are lit and the Sacred Bride is welcomed. Regarded as Hebrew lore, the name of Shekina is omitted from the modern Bible. In the ancient Aramaic version, it says, "God shall choose that his Shekina may dwell there, unto the house of his Shekina shall you seek." The Bible merely uses ‘the name’ in place of Shekina. The Gnostic Christians of the 4th century acknowledged Sh’kina as a spirit of glory. The foreign origin resulted in some conservatives referring to the Star of David as the mark of evil.

The 4th Century A.D. saw another revival in India. After years of Buddhist rule a strong Hindu Empire had taken root. The Gupta emperors ordered scholars to commit to writing the classical teachings and epics. The Purans were the result and they elevated the Sacred Bride, Durga, to the highest position, abandoning with enthusiasm the entire male pantheon. The bride was now firmly back on her throne. She now evolved into two forms. Mahishasura Mardini, the slayer of the demon Mahishasura, was the warrior while simple stones, aniconic representations, were said to be the body of Uma or Sati or Parvati, the fertile nurturing form of the goddess who was the devoted wife of Shiva. By the 11th Century AD, the many diverse forms of the sacred feminine were consolidated into one. The cult of the goddess was at its peak. The Purans dictated the image while the Chundi section described the manner of worship. The prescription given was permanent. Mahishasura Mardini remains the most popular form even today. Her right foot rests on her lion’s back and the left on the shoulder of the demon Mahishasura. Her third eye is open and her ten arms bear weapons bestowed upon her by the male pantheon. She has a slender, well developed body, skin the colour of gold like that of the Vedic beauties and almost frizzy black hair, reminiscent of her ancient aboriginal roots. Dressed as a bride, she is resplendent in her red silk sari and ornaments of gold and papyrus. A severed buffalo head lies at her feet and the demon, having emerged from within its carcass, brandishes a sword and shield. The goddess drives her trident into his chest. Shiva, her husband, is present in his iconographic form.

The two thousand year old Y hexagram has since adorned the walls and floors of sacred monuments. The hexagram or the Trinitarian symbol, appeared on the beautiful abbey gate of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, United Kingdom, in A.D. 1377. Islamic rule in India used the mandala in their architecture in the 16th Century. Emperor Humayun’s tomb, in Delhi, heralded the beginning of Mughal architecture in India. It was built by his first wife, Hajji Begum, the virtuous Muslim empress, who was distinguished for having performed the Haj. She made prominent use of the mandala on every face of the tomb. This mandala which has no Biblical or Talmudic authority was first used by the Jewish community of Prague as an official symbol in the 17th Century and by the 19th Century, became a striking emblem of Judaism appearing on synagogues, tomb-stones and the flag of Israel.

The hunt for the knowledge, which could end mankind’s miseries, sparked off the quest for the Holy Grail in the Christian world. The Holy Grail was speculated to be the chalice of Christ, akin to the ‘Celtic horn of plenty,’ by Chretian de Troy in the 12th century A.D. Wolfram Essenbach’s epic, Parzival, declared it to be the stone that fell from heaven - the philosopher’s stone? The mystical teachings of Saint Bernard of Claivaux, reflecting on man’s rise to perfection, influenced the writing of Quest del Saint Graal. This became Malory’s 15th century Le Morte Darthur, which identified the Grail with the mystical union experienced by Sir Galahad. The divine love of Arthurian legends akin to the mystical union of Shiva and Shakti Y hexagram, prevailed and has proved to be a fruitful theme in Christian literature.

Dan Brown’s effort, at establishing the role of Mary Magdalene as Christ’s bride and the possessor of the sacred knowledge, is yet another proof that deep within its heart the Western world still yearns for the return of the Sacred Bride.



Copyright © 2000 - 2005 []. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.