It is Wednesday – which, in the Northern European end of things, is Woden’s Day. Therefore, as has become our custom … fine Shaivite devotional (A)Art-i posting.
Now this beautiful depiction has been upon my mind for some weeks now – because if you were asked to draw a fearsomely formidable Lord of the Wind … well, there He is.
The figure has been tentatively identified as that of the Sogdian Weshparkar / Veshparkar – a form, in their language, of an Iranic ritual phrasing : found in Avestan as ‘Wayaos uparo kairyehe’ (also anglicized as ‘Vayus uparo kairyo’).
What does this mean? Effectively, “Vayu the High-Working”, or Vayu the Powerful/On High (it can also be interpreted rather less evocatively as ‘Possessing Superior Skill’). This refers to the Wind (Vayu) in the upper atmosphere. And most certainly, the relevant deific ‘Uber Alles’.
Unfortunately, much of the detail of this and various other murals found at the site in question – Panjikent, in modern-day Tajikistan – have succumbed to the ravages of time and the elements, meaning that this fragmentary rendition is about as clear as things get.
This naturally invites the question – how can we be so sure that this God is, indeed, Lord Shiva?
Now I have covered at much greater length elsewhere the clear theological reasoning why a Vayu figure encountered out there on the Steppes is co-identified as Shiva; building from the standard Hindu understanding found in the Shatapatha Brahmana which confirms the matter, and our broader underlying Indo-European typology likewise. I had also incorporated sustained analysis about the figure found amidst the Kushans and Kushano-Sasanians as Oesho [a likely rendering of Ishvara – that is to say .. ‘God-Emperor’, a standard Shaivite epithet and theonymic title], and shall not seek to repeat all of that analysis here.
Instead, let me simply state that across the Sogdian sphere at around this time (and, for that matter, previous) – we find the similarly arrayed figure. Wielding the Trishula [Trident], seated upon a Bull. And, in the case of a figure of the deific encountered at Panjikent, rather directly identified via inscription as ‘Wspr(kr)’.
This must have represented a truly magnificent figure both in the imaginations of the Sogdians (and other such peoples of the Indo-European Steppe sphere) and upon the wall in question; the evocative flourishes depicted here are so striking that they persist even in monochrome and fragment.
Fortunately, the worship of this deity has survived and thrived elsewhere – and who knows, one day, may even be carried back out onto the Central Asian Steppe once more.
Jai Ishvara !
ॐ नमः शिवाय !
हर हर महादेव !