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Date of Award

4-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religious Studies

Supervisor

Professor Phyllis E. Granoff

Abstract

This thesis studies the development of the Hindu god Skanda-Kiirttikeya from the fourth century BCE to the fourth century CE in north India. I argue that during this time period the deity is transformed from a demonic being associated with childhood diseases to a respected divine general and son to Siva. I begin with a discussion of the earliest written material about the deity found in the two Sanskrit Epics (The MahEibharata and The Ram/iyana) and other texts. These texts establish Skanda-Karttikeya's origins in demonic beings and illustrate his transformation into a maliial deity. These texts also demonstrate how Brahminical redactors assimilated this deity into their own traditions. This process of assimilation takes an inauspicious and unorthodox deity and transforms him into an auspicious and orthodox deity. I go on to argue that this transformation did not result in the increased popularity of this deity, but brings about the end of his popular cult in the north of India. Based on ancient coinage, statuary and inscriptions I demonstrate that this deity's popularity was related to his earlier terrible image and a propitiatory cult designed to appease him. Once the dangerous aspect of his image was removed, so was the main source of his popular cult. As opposed to previous scholarship on this deity, I argue that the Brahminization of this deity's cult brings about its end. I also demonstrate, based on this deity's depiction on ancient coinage, statuary and epigraphy, that there were also political forces at work in this process. My research demonstrates that the most important groups in this process were non-Indian. Primarily, I identify the KU~!1as as the main political group who transform this deity. This conclusion related to the foreign influence in the development of this deity lie in stark contrast to previous studies of this deity.

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