A virtual Mirror of KÁĐÍ – 
KailÁsanÁtha Sukula's KÁĐÍdarpaĆa (1876)

Jörg Gengnagel, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg (draft - 11.2001)

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Introductory Remarks 

This web-based interactive presentation of Sukula's Mirror of KÁĐÍ is the result of a complete reading of the extensive legends inscribed on the map.1 In order to make all details accessible the map has been cut into 72 slightly overlapping detailed views (K1 to K72, indicated at the upper left). In each of these 72 windows you can click on the objects and a popup will open with the respective symbol, the Sanskrit and Hindi inscriptions in DevanÁgarÍ script, the transcription as well as a translation and further remarks about textual references etc. A navigation cross in the upper right allows direct access to the surrounding maps.
The 751 text blocks on the map have been numbered (S1 to S751). Every entry is indexed in the "General Index" and linked to the maps. To the left of the entries the number of the map is given, to the right the object-number, linked directly to the popup. The entry "34 -  AbhayadavinÁyaka - S605f" thus stands for the sixth (indicated by the letter f) entry in popup S605 on map K34. The search for a specific entry on the map is - especially in the case of larger text blocks - sometimes difficult. We have therefore indicated the first name and the number of the popups in the flags that appear while moving with the mouse over the map.

1. The Mirror of KÁĐÍ as Spatial Text

KailÁsanÁtha Sukula's Mirror of KÁĐÍ is the historical map of VÁrÁĆasÍ that has received by far the most attention and has already been published at various places.2 One might therefore be tempted to ask why this specific map has found such wide attention and how one additional publication can further the understanding of Sukula's map. It will be the task of this brief introduction to show how a detailed reading of the map as a "spatial text" as well as the analysis of its textual background can shed new light on the representation of sacred space in the religious cartography of VÁrÁĆasÍ. 

The map of KailÁsanÁtha Sukula with the title KÁĐÍdarppaĆa (sic!), "A mirror of KÁĐÍ", was printed in VÁrÁĆasÍ in 1876 at the press named Vidyodaya. The four wooden block prints were printed on cloth as well as on paper, the total size of the map is 79 x 92 cm. Items of the map can be found in the Bharat KalÁ Bhavan (VÁrÁĆasÍ), the British Library (Cat.no. 53345.2), and in private collections.

According to KailÁsanÁtha Sukula's own indication the map's representation of the sacred topography of VÁrÁĆasÍ is based on purÁĆic textual sources and meant to make KÁĐÍ constantly visible in other places. The text printed as title in the left corner on top of the map3 goes as follows:


liŢga, Điva, naŢdi, skaŢda, gaĆeĐa, aura agni purÁĆokta devatÁoŢ aura tÍrthoŢ ke nÁma aura sthÁnoŢ sahita ĐrÍ vÁrÁĆasÍ purÍ kÁ sÚkŇma uttama parilekha ĐrÍ paޱita kailÁsa nÁtha jÍ sukula ne anyadeĐiyoŢ ke sarvadÁ kÁĐÍ darĐanÁrtha baŞe pariĐrama se banÁ kara aikÔa 25 san 1867 ke anusÁra rajaŇÔarÍ karÁ diyÁ ĐrÍ kÁĐÍ purÍ meŢ ĐrÍ ±huޱhirÁja ĐÁstrÍ jÍ ke vidyodaya mudrÁlaya meŢ chapÁ bhÁdra Đu. 13 saŢ. 1933

"The mirror of KÁĐÍ

The mirror of KÁĐÍ, that is the fine and excellent picture (parilekha) of the city of VÁrÁĆasÍ as told in the LiÉga, Ďiva, Nandi, Skanda, GaĆeĐa and Agni PurÁĆa, along with the names and places of deities and waterplaces prepared with great exertion by PaƱita KÁilÁsanÁtha Sukula in order to make KÁĐÍ constantly visible for people of other places. Registered under the act 25 of the year 1867, printed in the city of KÁĐÍ at the Vidyodaya Press of ÎhuĆŐhirÁja ĎÁstrÍ on the 13th of the light half [of the month] BhÁdra saŢvat 1933 [1st of September 1876]. May there be fortune."

The given enumeration of six PurÁĆas as textual sources seems to indicate a precise relation between the inscribed text on the map and its textual sources. But a detailed analysis of the legends on the map shows that direct references to these sources are rarely found.4 We can nevertheless perceive at first sight that the amount of text on the map is significant, more than on any other map of VÁrÁĆasÍ that we have seen so far. The Mirror of KÁĐÍ therefore has to be read as a two dimensional "spatial text" on the sacred topography of VÁrÁĆasÍ.

2. The structure of the map

The map is structured by a combination of geometrical features as well as the depiction of elements of the sacred landscape of the city. Its dominant circular outline does not immediately point to one singular perspective. The basic geometrical feature is its maƱala-like circular form, embedded in this circle is a square containing almost all central buildings at the river front as well as in the city centre. The sacred topography of VÁrÁĆasÍ is represented by the depiction of the GaÉgÁ that trespasses shaped like a bow the outer circle from right to left – or South to North. As additional landmarks the two tributaries of the GaÉgÁ are shown: the rivers AssÍ in the southern and VaraĆÁ in the northern direction. Added to that are four small streams flowing from the city area into the GaÉgÁ.5

3. How to look at the map: 
    The cardinal directions and the orientation of the map

On the map the eight cardinal directions are indicated outside the circular line surrounding the inner space of the city. Together with the indication of the cardinal direction a protective shield or cover (ÁvaraĆa) of several beings is associated with the directions.6 In the case of the eastern direction the text reads as follows: 

pÚrva. ĐrÍ gaĆeĐÁya nama˝. pÚrvÁdik. ata˝ paraŢ bhÚtÁvalyÁvaraĆam.

"East. Salutation to GaĆeĐa. Eastern direction. Further on [follows] a protective shield (ÁvaraĆa) [consisting] of a series of beings."

The beings that constitute this ÁvaraĆa which is specific to each of the eight directions will be described below. Here it might suffice to note that the enumeration of these groups of beings is started in the KÁĐÍkhaƱa in the eastern, ritually pure direction. This could be taken as an indication that the east is the direction where Sukula's map "starts". The salutation to GaĆeĐa in the eastern quarter of the map fits very well into this observation since this can be taken as a further hint that the mapmaker started the production of the map at this very spot asking GaĆeĐa for the removal of all hindrances during the following process as well as for a successful accomplishment of this task.7 That the east is at the top of the map is confirmed by the fact that the map's title is printed in the northeast. Therefore the intended "correct" orientation of Sukula' s map seems to be the following:

The map with the eastern direction at the top.

Even though there are strong arguments for the fact that the whole map is orientated towards the east there are other elements on the map that suggest a multiple perspective to the map. This becomes obvious if one looks at the outer circle where the map has to be turned - or one has to turn around the map - in order to read it. In this case one should rather speak of a dynamic perspective where no singular orientation is apparent:

The map in a dynamic perspective.

But there is also another case to be observed: the symbolic and to a large extent standardized representations of the shrines and temples are in the vast majority of the cases orientated towards the east, i.e. on the east-west axis. This means that the gods are facing east which is the standard orientation of the Hindu temple. This eastward orientation of the temples has obviously influenced the inscribed text which is in the inner area mostly orientated in the same manner as the temples. The only exceptions are the names of the TÍrthas along the Ganges and some large text blocks that have received different orientation because of lack of space. The result of this orientation of the temples and their respective inscriptions is that in case of an eastward orientation of the map a large part of the temples and legends is upside down. It is for this practical reason that we have selected the westward orientation for our web-based presentation of the map. 

The map with the western direction at the top.

To sum up one has to point out that the factors which influenced the orientation of Sukula's map do lead to a certain polyvalence or even tension if one looks at the map. To put it straight: if the title and the eastern direction is on top of the map, the majority of the text is upside down and vice versa. This interesting tension which has in my view its internal logic has already led to publications of the map where the position of the title has been deliberately changed.8

. The outer circle

The outer area of the map is marked by a circular double line that gives the impression of a "ring road" encircling or enshrining the city. The visual impression of a roadlike shape is confirmed by Sukula's inscriptions bŞhatpaŢcakroĐamÁrga "the road of the large PańcakroĐa" (in the North, S493) and kÁĐibŞhatpaŢcakroĐÍyÁtrÁmÁrga "the road of the large procession of PańcakroĐa in KÁĐÍ" (in the East, S525).

Outside this circle the shrines and temples are depicted in a standardized, abstract manner.

The 96 Ďaktis according to KÁĐÍkhaƱa chapter 72.

This passage could be taken as an instance where the cartographic representation of the spatial text serves as means of decoding the written textual source. The spatial text clearly reads a set of eight times 12 Ďaktis distributed among the eight cardinal directions. We therefore do expect a list of 96 Ďaktis. However the editor of the edition as well as the author of the Hindi commentary NÁrÁyaĆÍ and the translator did not have this structure in mind and therefore did not split the listed names of Ďaktis in a way that leads to the number 96. There is only one instance where this splitting seems to be forced: this is the compound vajratÁrÁ in verse 7 that must be interpreted according to our inferred structure as standing for the two Ďaktis VajrÁ and TÁrÁ, but metrically the reading vajrÁtÁrÁ would be unproblematic.

It is difficult to proof that the text actually intended to enumerate 96 Ďaktis. We find only stated that the enumeration of the first of 90 million Ďaktis is given. But why should the naming of so many Ďaktis stop somewhere short of the number 96? What we can proof is the fact that KailÁsanÁtha Sukula in 1876 interpreted this list as an enumeration of altogehter 96 Ďaktis starting in the east and that the modern edition as well as the translator of the text were not aware of this interpretation.

Agastya uvÁca

pÁrvatihŞdayÁnanda skanda sarvajńanandan
kÁ˝ kÁs tu Đaktayas tÁ vai tÁsÁ nÁmÁni me vada 1

Skanda uvÁca

tÁsÁŢ paramĐaktÍnÁm umÁvayav sambhavÁm
ÁkhyÁmy ÁkhyÁŢ ĐŞĆu mune kumbhasambhava tattvata˝ 2
trailokyavijayÁ (1) tÁrÁ (2) kŇamÁ (3) trailokyasundarÍ (4)
tripurÁ (5) trijaganmÁtÁ (6) bhÍmÁ (7) tripurabhairavÍ (8) 3
kÁmÁkhyÁ (9) kamalÁkŇÍ (10) ca dhŞtis (11) tripuratÁpanÍ (12)
jayÁ (13) jayantÍ (14) vijayÁ (15) jaleĐÍ (16) ca- -aparÁjitÁ (17) 4
ĐaŢkhinÍ (18) gajavaktrÁ (19) ca mahiŇaghnÍ (20) raĆapriyÁ (21)
ĐubhÁ-(22) -ÁnandÁ (23) koÔarÁkŇÍ (24) vidyujjihvÁ (25) ĐivÁ (26) ravÁ (27) 5
trinetrÁ (28) ca trivaktrÁ (29) tripadÁ (30) sarvamaÉgalÁ (31)
huÉkÁrahetis (32) tÁleĐÍ (33) sarpÁsyÁ (34) sarvasundarÍ (35) 6
siddhir (36) buddhi˝ (37) svadhÁ (38) svÁhÁ (39) mahÁ (40) nidrÁ (41) ĐarÁsanÁ (42)
pÁĐapÁĆi˝ (43) kharamukhÍ (44) vajr[Á!] (45) tÁrÁ (46) Ňa±ÁnanÁ (47) 7
mayÚravadanÁ (48) kÁkÍ (49) ĐukÍ (50) mÁsÍ (51) garutmatÍ (52)
padmÁvatÍ (53) padmakeĐÍ (54) padmÁsyÁ (55) padmavÁsinÍ (56) 8
akŇarÁ (57) tryakŇarÁ (58) tantu˝ (59) praĆaveĐÍ (60) svarÁtmikÁ (61)
trivargÁ (62) garvarahitÁ (63) ajapÁ (64) japahÁriĆi (65) 9
japasiddhis (66) tapa˝siddhir (67) yogasiddhi˝ (68) parÁ- (69) -amŞtÁ (70)
maitrÍkŞĆ (71) mantranetrÁ (72) ca rakŇoghnÍ (73) daityatÁpanÍ (74) 10
stambhanÍ (75) mohanÍ (76) mÁyÁ (77) bahumÁyÁ (78) balÁ- (79) -utkaÔÁ (80)
uccÁÔanÍ (81) maholkÁsyÁ (82) danujendrakŇayaÉkarÍ (83) 11
kŇemaÉkarÍ (84) siddhikarÍ (85) chinnamastÁ (86) ĐubhÁnanÁ (87)
ĐÁkambharÍ (88) mokŇalakŇŢÍs (89) trivargaphaladÁyinÍ (90) 12
vÁrtÁlÍ (91) jambhalÍ (92) klinnÁ (93) aĐvÁrÚ±hÁ (94) sureĐvarÍ (95)
jvÁlÁmukhÍ (96) prabhŞtayo navakoÔyo mahÁbalÁ˝. 13


b. Water places along the river

Along the river front the map indicates as many different water places and fords. The terms used by Sukul are ghÁÔa, tÍrtha, hrada, srotas, and sravÁ. Most of the mentioned spots and places can be found in the KÁĐÍkhaƱa. There the chapter 83.60–112 describes a sequence of TÍrthas moving from the confluence of the rivers AssÍ and GaÉgÁ to the North up to the BhagÍrathÍ and VÍra TÍrtha. In chapter 84.2–105 the enumeration of TÍrthas starts in the North with the confluence of VaruĆÁ and GaÉgÁ and moves upwards the river up to the TÍrthas to the South of MaĆikarĆikÁ ending with the BhagÍrathÍ TÍrtha.

c. Hints to some central aspects of the map

The Aurangzeb mosque is an example for a prominent landmark at the riverfront depicted on the map.

The BhoŢsala GhÁÔ Mandir is depicted as another prominent construction at the riverfront.

The ViĐvanÁtha Temple complex as central structure.

The Town Hall as example for an incorporation of contemporary constructions.

The list of names of the Ńo±aĐavinÁyakas shows that the KÁĐÍkhaƱa has not been Sukula's only source for the production of the map, since this list of 16 GaĆeĐas is not found in this text.


DehalÍvinÁyaka is important for the construction of the sacred area of the city (kÁĐÍkŇetra). For it is the distance between MadhyameĐvara and DehalÍvinÁyaka that measures pańcakroĐa and determines the radius of the circle that marks the outer limits of the holy field of KÁĐÍ.