Gurjara / Gujjar Logo - The Royal Insgnia of Kanishka
Dr Sushil Bhati
The royal insignia found on Kanishka’S coin is also known as Kanishka’s Tamga. Kanishka’s tamga have curved bottom with four prongs at the top. Due to its four prongs it may be called Chaturshool or Quadrant. The Royal Insignia of Koshano (Kushana) king Kanishka symbolizes both the King and the dynasty. It was also used as the royal seal. The symbol was first used by Vima Kadphises, the father of Kanishka, as a royal insignia on his coin. Vima Kadphises was the worshipper of Shiva and he took the title of Maheshwar i.e. the devotee of Mahesh (Shiva).
Shaivite Symbols were also used earlier as Tamga. Nandipada Tamga, symbol representing the foot mark of Ox Nandi, the vehicle of lord Shiva was used earlier as tamga in North-Western India. Koshano kings, specially, Vima Kadphises had a shaivite leaning. Thus, according to some historians the four pronged tamga of Kanishka is a compound of the foot print of Nandi, vehicle of Shiva and Shiva’s war weapon Trishula (trident). But then the question arises why instead of three there are four prongs in Kanishka’s tamga?
Beside Trishul, Shiva possesses a powerful four pronged weapon, known in puranic literature as Pashupatastra, with which he killed the daityas and with which he will destroy the universe at the end of the yuga. Pashupatastra is a kind of Brahmashira astra. Brahmashira astra, in turn, is a kind of Brahmastra. All the Brahmastra are very powerful and destructive weapons said to be made by Brahma. Brahmashira is four time powerful than simple Brahmastra. Brahmashira Astra would manifest with four heads of Brahma at its tip. Apparently Brahmashira astra was a four pronged arrow. It can be launched in four manners- with a thought, a glance, a word or a bow. So it suggests that four prongs in Kaniska’s tamga represent the four prong of Shiva’s weapon Pashupatastra.
We also have other example of Pashupatastra being as a motif in piece of art. A seal depicting two armed goddess, with legend Durggaha in Gupta script, has been discovered from Rajghat, Varanasi. The goddess is shown with a wreath in left and four pronged object in right hand. Four pronged object in right hand of Godess Durga represent the Pashupatastra (Brahmashirsha Astra) as Pashupatastra also belongs to the Durga, the destructive manifestation of Parvati, the wife of Shiva. As the Shiva and Durga are spouses to each other, it is some time better to see their concerned religious beliefs together as a whole. Koshano kings with a shaivite leaning played an important role in development of Durga worship cult. Thus, depiction of Pashupatiastra of Shiva-Durga on their coin is quite natural. According to the Rabatak inscription Nana (Durga) was most revered deity of Kanishka. AS the four pronged Pashupatastra also belongs to Shiva’s wife Durga there is high probability that four pronged Tamga represent the Pashupatastara.
A small female figure with lion at her feet is found from a devkula, dedicated to Vima Kadphises, at Mat in Mathura. According to V S Aggarwal the statue is supposed to be that of Goddess Durga. B N Mukherjee considers it to be the statue of Bactrian goddess Nana, introduced by Koshano kings in India. In Rabatak inscription it has been said that Kanishka got the kingship with the grace of goddess Nana and other deities. In fact, Nana and Durga are supposed to be one and the same deity. Nana and Durga have common attributes. Both are war goddess and depicted as sitting on the Lion on the coins and other sources. Nana is depicted as sitting on lion on koshano king Huviska’s coin. A goddess with legend Ommo (Uma,Shiva’s wife) is shown with Oesho (Shiva) on Koshano coins. Similarly on some other Koshano coins the name of the goddess with Shiva is given as Nana. Hence Nana is identical with Uma. As Durga is another name of Uma, Nana and Durga are identified as one and the same deity. The name of Nana survives in deity that of Naina Devi whose famous shrine is at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh. Naina devi temple is considered to be a seat of Durga. It is interesting to note that it is believed that idol (pindi) of Naina Devi was discovered by a member of Gujar tribe. The Gujars are identified by Alexander Cunningham as historical Koshanos (Kushanas), who introduced the goddess Nana in India. In this way name of Koshanos (Kushanas) is still connected with deity Nana.
The name of Kanak Durga temle of Vijaywada, Andra Pradesh and the story related to its establishment also associate the name of Kanishka with the Pashupatastra, in some way. According to Kiratarjuniya, written by Bharvi in sixth century A D, a combat between Shiva and Arjuna was fought at the Indrakeeladri hills in present Vijaywada of Andhra Pradesh. Shiva got pleased with the bravery of Arjuna and gave him Pashupatastra, (Brahmashirsha Astra) the four pronged arrow. Beside Shiva, Pashupatastra belonged to the Durga, the destructive manifestation of his wife Parvati. Arjuna also worshipped Durga at the same place and got her blessings too for his success in upcoming war with Kauravas. He built there a temple of the goddess Durga, now known as Kanak Durga. Kanishka is called Kanak (kanik) by Al-biruni (973-1048 A. D.) in his book Tahqiqe Hind. Thus, the name of the Kanaka Durga temple suggests its connection with Kanishka. According to Chinese pilgrim Wang Hsuan-tse, who visited India in seventh century, Kanishka invaded the Satvahana king of modern Maharastra and Andhra Pradesh. So it is possible that Kanishka visited the place and renovated the Durga temle at Indrakeeladri hill. The fact that Durga temple said to be built by Mahabharta hero Arjuna came to be known with the name of Kanishka seems interesting. It equates the name of kanishka with that of Arjuna, the receiver of Pashupatastra (Brahmashira astra), the four pronged arrow, from Shiva.
As per the discussion above, in my view, Kaniska’s royal insignia is compound of four pronged Pashupatastra and foot print of Nandi.
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