It is MONDAY – Lord Shiva’s Day !
And therefore – a fine sculpture of Lord Shiva as Hunter.
Now, this particular representation is of Shiva as a Kirata.
These days the term refers to a particular and significantly Sino-Tibetan ethnic sphere found in the northeast of the SubContinent (this sculpture is situated in Namchi in Sikkim).
This has understandably lead to people presuming that the name has come from the population – bringing the idea of the Hunter Deity out on the fringes of Indo-Aryan society with it.
However, there is some evidence to suggest that the situation has, in fact, gone the other way.
We know, for instance, that the God in question being identified as a Hunter and on the barbaric fringes of civilization is an archaic Indo-European perception. We find it in the Nordic / Germanic sphere and we find it in the Greek. It does not, therefore, derive from a particular ethnic group of archers in the Himalayas.
In terms of the theonym – there is, again, a perfectly viable Sanskrit etymology for the term. From the ‘Kr’ particle – कॄ .Effectively, ‘Thrower’, ‘Caster’, ‘Injurer’ – an apt term for a hunter.
However, there is something slightly curious in terms of the most archaic mentions of Kirata to be found – in the Vedas.
Specifically, while the occurrence in the White Yajurveda is ‘behaving itself’ by occurring in a list that features other ‘barbarian peoples’ and animal-trappers (several of which, if memory serves, also occur as Roudran theonymics elsewhere) … within the AtharvaVeda we find something slightly different.
There, the hailing is not for a male Kirata – but rather, for a female member of that clade.
And rather than a bow-armed hunter of animal prey, she is spoken of as digging up a particular medicinal remedy from the high hills and mountains, utilizing a golden spade. I have my own brief supposition of what this might appear to resonate with from elsewhere in the Vedic corpus – but more upon that, perhaps, some other time.
Certainly, we have other attested occurrences for a female Kirata (a Kirati) within the mythology – often appearing, as it happens, alongside Her Husband.
A Hunter and a Huntress. Adopting the guise of barbaric mortals and yet being truly Divine.