Thursday, June 23, 2011

Petra, Jordan - Is it an ancient Shiva Temple complex?

Note: This article has also been published in the Viewzone magazine and the Graham Hancock website.

Petra, the ‘rose red city, half as old as time’, located in modern day Jordan, is undoubtedly one of the most dramatic archaeological sites of the world. In a recently conducted Internet poll, it was voted by internet users as one of the ‘seven wonders of the modern world’. In this abandoned city, which lies hidden behind impenetrable mountains and gorges, magnificent rock-cut temples and palaces have been carved into towering cliffs of red and orange sandstone. The most famous of these structures is the ‘Al Khasneh’ (or the ‘Treasury’), which was made famous in an Indiana Jones film.

Historians tell us that sometime during the 6th – 4th centuries BC, the Nabataeans, a nomadic tribe from north-western Arabia, entered the region of Petra, and established their cultural, commercial and ceremonial center at Petra. Petra was located strategically at the intersection of the overland Silk Route which connected India and China with Egypt and the Hellenistic world, and the Incense Route from Arabia to Damascus. It soon developed into a thriving commercial center. Sometime during the 3rd century BC, the Nabataeans began to decorate their capital city with splendid rock-cut temples and buildings. Their economic prosperity and architectural achievements continued unabated even after they came under the control of the Roman Empire in 106 CE. The neglect and decline of Petra started soon after Emperor Constantine declared Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 324 CE. A series of earthquakes crippled the region in the 7th – 8th centuries and Petra disappeared from the map of the known world, only to be rediscovered centuries later in 1812, by a Swiss explorer named Johann Burckhardt.


Fig 1: Al-Khazneh (The Treasury) at Petra. Source: Wikipedia / Bernard Gagnon
While the architectural grandeur of Petra continues to captivate us, the mysterious religious beliefs of the Nabataeans have puzzled historians. Within the temple of Al Deir, the largest and most imposing rock-cut temple in Petra, is present an unworked, black, block of stone, like an obelisk, representing the most important deity of the Nabataeans - Dushara. The term Dushara means ‘Lord of the Shara’, which refers to the Shara mountains to the north of Petra. 

The symbolic animal of Dushara was a bull.  All over Petra, Dushara was represented symbolically by stone blocks. In addition, at religious sites throughout the city, the Nabataeans carved a standing stone block called a baetyl, literally meaning ‘house of god’. A baetyl physically marked a deity's presence. It could be a square or rounded like a dome. Some baetyls’ were depicted with a lunar crescent on the top. 

The Nabataeans also appear to be snake worshippers. One of the most prominent structures in Petra is the snake monument, which shows a gigantic coiled-up snake on a block of stone.

Fig 2: Dome-shaped Baetyl. Source: Nabataea.net
Fig 3: Baetyl with lunar crescent on top. Source: Nabataea.net
Fig 4: Petra snake monument. Source: Nabataea.net
This unusual array of symbolic elements associated with the chief god of the Nabataeans, Dushara, may have confounded historians, but to anyone familiar with the symbolism of the Vedic deity Shiva, the similarities between Dushara and Shiva will be palpable. 

Shiva is still worshipped all over India in the form of a black block of stone known as a Shiva Linga. A Shiva Linga, which is essentially a ‘mark’ or ‘symbol’ of Shiva, sometimes appears as an unworked block of stone, much like the idol of Dushara in the temple of Al Deir; but typically it is represented by a smooth, rounded stone which resembles some of the rounded ,dome-shaped, baetyls that we find in Petra. 

Shiva is also associated with the mountains; his residence is supposed to be in the Kailash Mountain in the Himalayas, to the north of India, where he spends most of his time engaged in rigorous asceticism. His symbolic animal is a bull, named Nandi, which is commonly depicted kneeling in front of the Shiva Linga. Pictorial depictions of Shiva always show a crescent-shaped moon in his matted locks, much like the lunar crescent that appears on top of certain baetyls in Petra; and on top of the Shiva Linga is present a coiled-up serpent, bearing a strong resemblance to the serpent monument of Petra. 

It is evident that Shiva and Dushara are symbolically identical, leaving little scope for doubt that Dushara must indeed be a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva. 

Fig 5: Black stone Shiva Linga in the coils of a seven hooded serpent. Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh, India, 16th century. Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra
Fig 6: The 65 feet high statue of Shiva in Bangalore, India, with snakes coiled around his neck and the crescent shaped Moon on his matted locks. Source: Wikipedia / Kalyan Kumar
 
Fig 7: Giant Monolithic statue of Nandi, the bull, facing the shrine, at the Halebidu Temple, Karnataka, c. 12th century AD. Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra
The similarities, however, do not end here. The consort of Dushara was known to the Nabataeans as Al-Uzza or Al-lat. She was a goddess of power and a goddess of the people, and was symbolized by a lion. Lions are present at many sites in Petra. At the Lion Triclinium in Petra there are two massive lions protecting the doorway. Lions are also seen at the Lion Monument in Petra, a public fountain, where refreshing water for the perspiring pilgrims would have sprouted from the water outlet at the mouth of the lion. 

At the Temple of the Winged Lions, a considerable amount of material has been found, including feline statuette fragments, which emphasize the ‘feline’ association of the mother goddess. The supreme mother goddess was also symbolically associated with vegetation, grains and prosperity, and was frequently depicted holding cereal stalks and fruits.

Not surprisingly, the lion is also associated with the consort of Shiva, known as Parvati, Durga or Shakti. As per the Puranic legends, when the entire humanity was threatened by the evil Mahisasura, the goddess Durga, invested with the combined spiritual energies of the Hindu Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – and adorned with celestial weapons granted by the divine company of gods, rode her lion to battle this asura. The terrible battle raged over nine days, and on the tenth day Durga defeated and killed Mahisasura. Even now, the victory of Durga over the forces of darkness represented by Mahisasura, is one of the most widely celebrated religious festivals in India, known as Dussehra (or Dasha-Hara, Navratri, Vijaydashami) which is celebrated over a period of ten days.

Fig 8: The idol of Al-Uzza, found in the Temple of the Winged Lions. Source: Nabatea.net

Fig 9: One of the two reliefs of lion of the Lion Triclinium in Petra, Jordan. Source: Nabataea.net
Fig 10: Durga on a Lion, slaying Mahisarura who has taken the form of a bull. Aihole temple complex, Karnataka, c. 6th century AD. Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra
There are indications that the Nabataeans, too, may have celebrated this ancient festival. At Petra, an elaborate processional way leads from the center of the city to the temple of Al Deir. In front of the temple there is a massive, flat, courtyard, carved out of the rock, capable of accommodating thousands of people. This has led historians to suggest that the Al Deir temple may have been the site of large-scale ceremonies. 

It is possible that this was a celebration of Dussehra, since Al-Uzza / Al-Lat was the ‘goddess of the people’ and Dussehra is the celebration of the victory of the goddess over the forces of evil. It is not unlikely that the presiding god of the Nabataeans, Dushara, may have obtained his name from the festival Dussehra. The cult of Shiva-Shakti represented the sacred masculine and feminine principles, and the worship of Shiva has always been inextricably linked with the celebrations of Durga. Even now in rural Bengal in India, the final day of celebration of Dussehra (Basanti Puja) is followed by an exuberant worship of Shiva. For these people, it remains the most important festival of their annual religious calendar.

Interestingly, the Nabataeans worshipped the triad of goddesses - Al-Uzza, Al-lat and Manat – often depicted in Petra in the form of three baetyls, carved next to each other. Al-Uzza (the ‘Strong One’) was the goddess of the morning and evening star. Isaac of Antioch (5th century CE) referred to her as Kaukabta, ‘the Star’. She was the virgin-warrior and the youngest in the goddess triad, fiercely protective, and a strong ally in an approaching battle. She was sometimes depicted riding a ‘dolphin’ and showing the way to sea-farers. She has been identified as the counterpart of the Indo-European goddess of dawn, Ostara, and the Vedic ‘Usas’. In the Rig Veda, there are around 20 hymns dedicated to the Usas, the goddess of dawn, who appears in the east every morning, resplendent in her golden light, riding a chariot drawn by glorious horses, dispelling the darkness, awakening men to action, and bestowing her bounty and riches on all and sundry. The phonetic and symbolic associations between ‘Uzza’ and ‘Usa’ indicate that they may be derived from the same source. 


Al-lat was widely regarded as ‘the Mother of the Gods’, or ‘Greatest of All’. She was the goddess of fertility and prosperity and was known from Arabia to Iran. She was symbolically associated with vegetation, grains and prosperity, and was frequently depicted holding cereal stalks and a small lump of frankincense in her hands. In this respect, Al-lat is symbolically associated with the Hindu goddess ‘Lakshmi’, who is also considered as the goddess of prosperity and fertility, and is depicted holding cereal stalks and a container of grains. The third goddess of the Nabataean triad, Manat, is the oldest goddess of the Nabataeans, and also the most feared. She was the terrible, black goddess of death, destruction and doom, and was worshipped as a black stone at Quidaid, near Mecca. Nabataean inscriptions tell us that tombs were placed under her protection, asking her to curse violators. The symbolism of Manat bears stark resemblances to the Hindu goddess of death and destruction – Kali – who is also worshipped in the form of a black goddess.


We can, therefore, see that the Nabataean triad of goddesses – Al-Uzza, Al-Lat and Manat – corresponds to the Vedic/Hindu goddess triad– Usa, Lakshmi and Kali. And here is the most interesting part: Even now, this goddess triad is worshipped in many parts of India, with the sole exception that Usa is often replaced by Saraswati, the goddess of learning and wisdom.


One of the most famous temples in India, which attracts millions of devotees throughout the year, is the Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu. This temple is dedicated to the goddess Vaishno Devi, who is an aspect of the goddess Durga. The primary shrine at Vaishno Devi, however, contains three pieces of stones representing the three goddesses – Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali. It is believed that these three goddesses represent three different aspects of the all-encompassing mother goddess Durga, the consort of Shiva. The symbolic similarities with the Nabataean goddess triad are plainly evident.

Certain rituals associated with Shiva-Durga worship can also be found reflected in the religious practices of the Nabataeans. The Nabataeans ritually made animal sacrifices to Dushara and Al-Uzza, at the ‘High Place of Sacrifice’ in Petra. The Suda Lexicon, which was compiled at the end of the 10th century, refers to older sources which have since been lost. It states: 
 Theus Ares (Dushrara); this is the god Ares in Arabic Petra. They worship the god Ares and venerate him above all. His statue is an unworked square black stone. It is four foot high and two feet wide. It rests on a golden base. They make sacrifices to him and before him they anoint the blood of the sacrifice that is their anointment.
The practice of anointing the Shiva Linga with red vermilion powder (Kumkum) continues to this date in India. It has also been noticed that most of the Djin blocks (large standing stone blocks) at Petra are located close to sources of running water, a fact which has left historians in a dilemma. However, such a peculiar alignment of Djin blocks can be explained once we remember that one of the most common practices of Shiva worship is to pour a kettle of water (or milk, curd, ghee, honey etc.) over the Shiva-Linga. This act is symbolic of the sacred river Ganges, which, after emanating from the toe of Vishnu, flows down the matted locks of Shiva. This is the reason why nearly every Shiva temple is also associated with a natural well or spring or a source of running water.

Fig 11: Petra - High Place of Sacrifice. Source: atlastours.net
Fig 12: Shiva Linga carved on the bedrock, at Hampi, Karnataka. Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra
The worship of Shiva-Durga, the sacred masculine and feminine principles, is as old as time itself. The presence of sacred pillars and dolmens, the ancient snake cults, the symbolism of the trisula / trident, the crescent moon etc. found at various archaeological sites across the world suggests that the worship of Shiva-Shakti was one of the most deeply entrenched belief systems of the ancient wisdom traditions. Among the ancient Semites, a pillar of stone was a sacred representation of a deity. In many texts, the ancient Hebrews are recorded setting up stones as monuments. Jacob set up a pillar and anointed it, in a manner starkly reminiscent of the Shiva worship rituals, while Joshua set up a sacred stone monument under a oak tree, just as a Shiva Linga is generally set up under a banyan tree:

"And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had set up for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. (Genesis 28; 18-19).
 
"And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon (Genesis 35; 14).
  
And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law  of God, and took a great stone,   and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD" (Joshua 24;26). 

Pillars and Dolmens (stones arranged one on top of another) also constituted an essential part of Druidical worship, among the Celts of ancient Britain and France. In the Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions (1894), James Bonwick mentions that the Irish venerated their lithic temples. They not only anointed them with oil or milk, but, down to a late period, they poured water on their sacred surface so that the draught might cure their diseases. Molly Grime, a rude stone figure, kept in Glentham church, was annually washed with water from Newell well. 

Fig 13: Cylindrical, Linga-shaped stone in the center of the stone altar. Feaghna, Ireland, at least 2000 years old. Source: http://www.megalithic.co.uk
The geographical distribution of stone monuments extends from the extreme west of Europe to the extreme east of Asia, and from Scandinavia to Central Africa. In spite of centuries of destruction, stone monuments of every type abound in the British and Irish Islands, and some of the most remarkable structures in Europe are found there. In France some 4000 dolmens are present. In Northern and Central Europe they occur in Belgium, Holland and in the northern plains of Germany. They have been found in large numbers in Denmark and the Danish Islands, and also in Sweden. ‘Meteoric stones mounted on carved pedestals’ have been found in the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire, and one such piece is, at present, on view at the Etruscan Museum in Vatican, Rome. 

Although this ancient faith was practiced in large parts of the world since time immemorial, there appears to have been a renewed westward thrust soon after the conquests of Alexander, which invigorated the ancient land and maritime trade routes, popularly known as the Silk Route, which connected India and China with the western world. 


Fig 14: The Silk Route. Source: http://www.cais-soas.com.

In 329 BC, Alexander established the city of Alexandria in Egypt, which became a major staging point in the Silk Route. In 323 BC, Alexander’s successors, the Ptolemaic dynasty, took control of Egypt. They actively promoted trade with Mesopotamia, India, and East Africa through their Red Sea ports and over land. This was assisted by a number of intermediaries, especially the Nabataeans and other Arabs.  Soon after the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, regular communications and trade between India, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, China, the Middle East, Africa and Europe blossomed on an unprecedented scale.

The Silk Route transformed into a highway for the cultural, commercial, technological, philosophical and religious exchanges between far flung kingdoms. Buddhism spread from the northern part of India into the farthest reaches of China.  The Eastern Han emperor Mingdi is supposed to have sent a representative to India to discover more about this strange faith, and further missions returned bearing scriptures, and bringing with them Indian priests. 

Together with coveted merchandise, rock-cutting skills travelled eastwards along the Silk Road from India to China. Hundreds of rock-cut caves with statues of Buddha were built between 450 and 525 CE. Among the most famous ones are the Longmen Grottoes in China’s Henan province, a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. The Longmen grotto complex contains 2345 caves and niches, 2800 inscriptions, 43 pagodas and over 100,000 Buddhist images collected over various Chinese dynasties. The Yungang Grottoes near Datong in the province of Shanxi consists of 252 grottoes and more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes, mainly constructed in the period between 460-525 CE. 
Fig 15: Yungang Grottoes, China. Source: Wikipedia /
Felix Andrews
Fig 16: Longmen Grottoes, China. Source: Wikipedia
There was also a westward flow of Eastern wisdom along the Silk Route. During the time around 320 BC, soon after the conquests of Alexander, the Mauryan Empire of India had extended its western borders to include nearly the whole of Afghanistan, and large portions of south-eastern Iran. Chandragupta Maurya had entered into a settlement and matrimonial alliance with the Greeks in 305 BC. Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta, and later Deimakos to his son Bindusara, at the Mauryan court at Pataliputra (modern Patna). The effect that this cultural exchange between two ancient nations had on the flowering of Greek philosophy and sciences during this period has been grossly underestimated by modern historians. In the Preface to the Vishnu Purana (translated 1940), the translator Horace Hayman Wilson, who was the Professor of Sanskrit at the Oxford University, writes:

“We know that there was an active communication between India and the Red sea in the early ages of the Christian era, and that doctrines, as well as articles of merchandise, were brought to Alexandria from the former. Epiphanius and Eusebius accuse Scythianus of having imported from India, in the second century, books on magic, and heretical notions leading to Manichæism; and it was at the same period that Ammonius instituted the sect of the new Platonists at Alexandria. The basis of his heresy was that true philosophy derived its origin from the eastern nations: his doctrine of the identity of God and the universe is that of the Vedas and Puráńas; and the practices he enjoined, as well as their object, were precisely those described in several of the Puráńas under the name of Yoga. His disciples were taught "to extenuate by mortification and contemplation the bodily restraints upon the immortal spirit, so that in this life they might enjoy communion with the Supreme Being, and ascend after death to the universal Parent." That these are Hindu tenets the following pages will testify; and by the admission of their Alexandrian teacher, they originated in India.”

It is, therefore, quite possible that the ancient faith of Shiva-Shakti may also have migrated westwards along these ancient trade routes during this time, and it was adopted by the Nabataeans. While it is possible that the Nabataeans may have worshipped Dushara prior to the construction of the monuments at Petra, there is very little evidence to support that. And even if they did worship Dushara prior to Petra, the stark similarities between the symbolic elements, rites and rituals of their faith with elements of Shiva-Shakti worship indicates that there must have been a cultural diffusion along the Silk Route which profoundly impacted and reinvigorated their religious beliefs. 

The other intriguing question is, how did the Nabataeans suddenly acquire and master the technological and architectural sophistication necessary to execute the rock-cut monuments of Petra? Achieving such a level of finesse and perfection in rock-cut architecture takes generations. In the few centuries before Petra was established the Nabataeans had not constructed a single house in the desert, let alone grand temples. Is it possible that, like the ancient cult of Shiva-Shakti, the technology for building these rock-cut monuments was also transferred along the Silk Route?

It may be no coincidence that around the same time that the rock-cut monuments of Petra were being executed, sometime during the 3rd – 2nd century BC, an incredible array of 31 rock-cut cave temples were being carved into the sheer vertical side of a gorge, near a waterfall-fed pool, located in the hills of the Sahyadri mountains in western India, at a place called Ajanta, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Ajanta is located 100 kilometers from the medieval town of Aurangabad (‘City of Gates’), which is situated right on the ancient Silk Route, and was a flourishing commercial center since time immemorial. In the ancient times, however, Ajanta itself used to be on the Silk Route. Buddhist missionaries used to accompany traders on busy international trade routes through India and the merchants, in turn, funded or even commissioned elaborate cave temple complexes that also offered lodging for traveling traders. Some of the more sumptuous temples included pillars, arches, and elaborate facades. Like Petra, the Ajanta caves had fallen out of use, and remained lost for centuries until 1819, when they were re-discovered by a British officer who was hunting a tiger in the region.

Fig 17: Cave 9, Ajanta, India. Source: Wikipedia / Marcin Bialek
While in Petra only the exterior façade was decorated with sculptures, the cave temples at Ajanta are elaborately decorated, both outside and inside, with sculptures, paintings and murals, which are considered to be masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, and represent the most sophisticated rock-cut architecture of this period anywhere in the world. They mostly depict the Jataka tales that are stories of the Buddha's life in former existences as Bodhisattva. Many mythic elements from Hinduism are also depicted. Moreover, the interiors were designed to be functional, providing housing, worship halls, and even dining halls for the monks who lived there.

It is extremely improbable that two ancient cities located on the Silk Route, and worshipping deities that are culturally related, would happen to build some of the finest rock-cut temples of the world at around the same time, without having any cultural contact between them. Petra and Ajanta must be connected; and since the rock-cut architecture of India represents the highest achievements of engineering and aesthetics of that period, it can be supposed that the Silk Route acted as a conduit for the westward transfer of the Shiva-Shakti cult and rock-cut architectural skills, across the Arabian Peninsula, during the 3rd – 2nd centuries BC. However, since Petra stood at the crossroads of the trade route between the east and the west, there has been an amalgamation of various influences in its architecture. The Greco-Roman influence is apparent in the facades of many structures, which strengthened even further after the Roman occupation of Petra. Egyptian influences are also evident due to the presence of obelisks and funerary tombs throughout the city.

Many other rock-cut architectural sites were established along the Silk Route during this period. For instance, the monolithic Buddha statues and rock-cut monasteries of Bamiyan in Afghanistan were constructed  between the 2nd - 7th centuries CE, while at Taq-e-Bostan in the Kermanshah Province of Iran a set of beautiful rock-cut caves and reliefs were built between the 3rd - 7th centuries CE. Both places are located right next to the ancient Silk Route. 

The Nabateans built a few other cities in the desert, one of which is the archaeological site of ‘Shivta’ built in the 1st century BC on the 'Perfume Road' between Petra to Gaza. Like Petra, Shivta too was abandoned by the 8th – 9th century CE, after the ascendancy of Islam. A few kilometers from Shivta is located the ancient, biblical city of ‘Tel Sheva’, an archaeological site in southern Israel, which derives its name from a nearby ‘well’ or ‘water source’. The phonetic and symbolic similarities between these cities and ‘Shiva’ are obvious. In fact, the worship of Shiva-Shakti was widespread across the entire Middle East and West Asia, and penetrated deep into the farthest corners of Europe in the centuries before Christ. The biblical kingdom of ‘Sheba’ (Hebrew: Sh’va) believed to be in present day Yemen, as well as the archaeological site of ‘Shibham’ (Sanskrit: Shivam) located in Yemen, hint at the fact that entire kingdoms and cities were named after this deity. 

It is unfortunate that these symbolisms and associations have been either overlooked or ignored by historians till now. What is even more regrettable is the fact that the Shiva Linga, and, in fact, any Pillar or Dolmen cult, has been uniformly interpreted as a form of phallic worship, when the information from the ancient sources clearly specify that the ‘pillar’ represents the ‘Cosmic Mountain’, the symbolic axis-mundi of the cosmos, around which the heavens revolve. It is a powerful cosmic symbol, fusing the divine masculine and feminine principles, whose meaning was universally understood by the ancient cultures, but whose real import has been lost to us now. Unless we begin to acknowledge the widespread presence of the Shiva-Shakti cult in large parts of the ancient world, and make a sincere attempt to understand the vast array of symbolisms associated with this ancient faith, we will continue to concoct a version of history that is illusory, fragmentary, and ultimately meaningless.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Evolutionary Cycles Of Creation and Catastrophe: The Case for Intelligent Design?

Note: This article has been published in the March' 2012 issue of the "Science to Sage Magazine". Abridged versions of this article have also been published on the Graham Hancock website and the Viewzone magazine.

In a previous article titled, “A Day and Night of Brahma: The Evidence from Fossil Records[i], I have pointed out that the ancient Sanskrit texts tell us of a 24 million year cycle of cosmic creation and dissolution, known as the “Day and Night of Brahma”. At the beginning of a “Day of Brahma” (which extends for 12 million years), life forms are brought forth from the unmanifest; and at the end of the Day of Brahma all lifeforms are extinguished. This is followed by a “Night of Brahma” which is of equal duration as the Day of Brahma, when no life forms exist. And when the Night of Brahma is over, the creative process is initiated once again. Thus, we have a cyclical 24 million year period of cosmic creation and dissolution. Amazingly enough, the same information is reflected in the fossil records, which indicate that every 26 million years there is a mass extinction of species on the earth. Even the dates of the previous extinction events, projected from the information in the Sanskrit text Vishnu Purana, correlates very well with the extinction dates calculated from the fossil data. And, quite incredibly, there is an exact match with the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65.5 million years ago!

The 26 million year cycle of mass extinction has significant implications for evolutionary biology. As per Darwinism, the evolutionary process is gradual, and life forms evolve slowly through a process of “natural selection”. Yet, a gradual process of evolution through natural selection appears to be markedly absent in paleontological records. In addition, evolution seems to be guided by extraterrestrial factors. The presence of enhanced levels of iridium in the soil layers at the geological boundaries, as well as the discovery of impact craters on the earth that match with the extinction periodicity, have convinced scientists that the extinction events have been triggered by large body impacts from outer space. David Raup, paleontologist at the University of Chicago, who along with Jack Sepkoski had identified the extinction periodicity in the fossil records, states:

“The implications of periodicity for evolutionary biology are profound. The most obvious is that the evolutionary system is not ‘alone’ in the sense that it is partially dependent upon external influences more profound than the local and regional environmental changes normally considered... With kill rates for species estimated to have been as high as 77% and 96% for the largest extinctions, the biosphere is forced through narrow bottlenecks and the recovery from these events is usually accompanied by fundamental changes in biotic composition. Without these perturbations, the general course of macroevolution could have been very different.”[ii]

He further states that, “the largest mass extinctions produce major restructuring of the biosphere wherein some successful groups are eliminated, allowing previously minor groups to expand and diversify…There is little evidence that extinction is selective in the positive sense argued by Darwin. It has generally been impossible to predict, before the fact, which species will be victims of an extinction event.”[iii]
 
Raup’s observations that the extinction or survival of a species is a “chance event”, is supported by the studies done by Macquarie University paleobiologist John Alroy. He says, “Mass extinction fundamentally changes the dynamics. It changes the composition of the biosphere forever. You can’t simply predict the winners and losers from what groups have done before”[iv]. The mass extinction event itself is short lived, very often below the resolving power of geologic record (<10,000 years), and possibly instantaneous. The term “Evolution by Catastrophe” was coined by Rampino in the “Encyclopedia of Planetary Sciences” to describe the evolutionary effect of the cyclical mass extinction events.


Mass extinctions are not the only curious phenomenon in the fossil records which contradicts the principles of Darwinian evolution. In 1972, Harvard paleontologists Steven Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge proposed the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium. Gould and Eldredge stated the fossil record is marked by long periods of “stasis” (extending for millions of years), during which time there is little or no evolutionary change. Most species “appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless.”[v] The long periods of stasis are punctuated by rapid, episodic periods of speciation, occurring within the space of a few thousand years (a geological microsecond). In any local area, “a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed[vi].

Fig 1: Punctuated Equilibrium
For a long time, the absence of transitional forms in the fossil records had been explained away by evolutionists as the “imperfections of the fossil record”. In their famous essay, “Punctuated Equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism” (1972), Gould and Eldredge wrote that, “Under the influence of phyletic gradualism, the rarity of transitional series remains as our persistent bugbear…Many breaks in the fossil record are real; they express the way in which evolution occurs, not the fragments of an imperfect record.”[vii]

Gould and Eldredge continued to stress that the absence of transitional forms in the fossil records is a reality that should be accepted by paleontologists. In the essay "Evolution's Erratic Pace" (1977) Gould said: “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology…Paleontologists have paid an exorbitant price for Darwin's argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life's history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.[viii]  

In another paper published in the same year titled “The Return of Hopeful Monsters”, Gould wrote: “All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt.” Although a few examples of gradualism in the fossil history were proposed by others, Gould and Eldredge dismissed these claims arguing “that virtually none of the examples brought forward to refute our model can stand as support for phyletic gradualism.[ix]  

In the essay, Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?” (1980), Gould reiterated the fact that, “The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.[x]


It is interesting to note that the absence of “missing links” in the geological records had also concerned Darwin. In the Origin of Species he asks, “Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”[xi] However, Darwin had supported his gradual theory of evolution by natural selection by claiming that intermediate fossils are not found because the geological record is imperfect: “The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record will rightly reject my whole theory. ”[xii] 

And that is exactly the conclusion that has been reached by paleontologists in recent years. Eldredge and Tattersall wrote the obituary for Darwinism in the book “The Myths of Human Evolution” (1982): “Darwin's prediction of rampant, albeit gradual, change affecting all lineages through time is refuted. The record is there, and the record speaks for tremendous anatomical conservatism. Change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.”[xiii]

Gould and Eldredge tried to explain the lack of transitional forms by suggesting that speciation takes place so rapidly in times of environmental stress that, although transitional forms may exist, they can never be found. That is clearly an unacceptable proposition.  For, if we say that the actual event of speciation through intermediate forms can never be detected in the fossil record, then any theory becomes simply an article of faith that can never be verified. How is that any different from creationism?  Besides, such a speculation raises uncomfortable questions for the field of genetics. Too much biological complexity must be built into too few generations. The level of DNA change a species can undergo in a few thousand years is grossly insufficient to justify the morphological jumps found in the fossil records. 

Even when evolutionists were speculating that evolution through natural selection takes place gradually over millions of years, due to a steady accumulation of gene mutations, there were serious objections from biologists. French zoologist Pierre-Paul Grasse, the past President of the French Academie des Sciences said that mutations are merely hereditary fluctuations around a median position which do not produce any kind of evolution[xiv]. In the book Evolution of Living Organisms he says that mutations "are not complementary to one another, nor are they cumulative in successive generations toward a given direction. They modify what preexists, but they do so in disorder... As soon as some disorder, even slight, appears in an organized being, sickness, then death follows.” Besides, “a single plant, a single animal would require thousands and thousands of lucky, appropriate events. Thus, miracles would become the rule...There is no law against day dreaming, but science must not indulge in it." And since Punctuated Equilibrium requires millions of such complex gene mutations to occur within a short span of a few thousand years, the need for miracles increases exponentially. 

In 1999, writing in Nature, Oxford zoologist Mark Pagel stated, while reviewing a book by Niles Eldredge: “Paleobiologists…saw in the fossil records rapid bursts of change, new species appearing seemingly out of nowhere and then remaining unchanged for millions of years - patterns hauntingly reminiscent of creation.”[xv] 

Indeed, it is easy to see that the sudden extinction of life forms every 26 million years, brought about by large body impacts from outer space, and the equally abrupt appearance of “fully formed” new species, supports the Vedic accounts of the events that transpire in a Day and Night of Brahma. The paleotological records show that the “mass extinction events” occur during the long periods of stasis separating the abrupt “speciation events”[xvi]. This means that the mass extinction and speciation events take place alternately, like the cyclical destruction and creation events in a Day and Night of Brahma. 

Recent evidence also indicates something fascinating: new life forms appear after a gap of roughly 12 million years from the mass extinction event!

In May 2012, scientists from the China University of Geosciences and University of Bristol reported that it took nearly 10 million years before life forms started appearing after the mass extinction event that took place 250 million years ago (http://phys.org/news/2012-05-million-years-recover-mass-extinction.html). During this period of 10 million years following the catastrophic event, conditions on earth were too grim for life to appear. The mass extinction had re-set evolution and fundamentally new, complex life forms appeared. 


Needless to say, this finding supports the contention that life forms appear on the earth, after a gap of roughly 12 million years following the dissolution event in a Day and Night of Brahma. Since the mass extinction events occur every 26 million years, we can easily deduce that the speciation events and the mass extinction events take place alternately every 12-13 million years.

Thus, the paleontological records reflect all the assertions of the ancient texts with respect to the large cycles of time known as the Day and Night of Brahma.

Fig 2: The Cycles of Cosmic Creation and Catastrophe as reflected in the fossil records

We find mention of similar episodic creation events in the accounts of the Mesoamericans as well.  Their myths tell us that the gods Tepeu and Gucumatz decided to create a race of beings who can worship them. Huracan, the Heart of Heaven, who is the Supreme Deity, did the actual creating while Tepeu and Gucumatz guided the process. First the Earth was created. However, the gods went through many trials and errors before creating humans. First the animals were created; however, with all of their howling and squawking they did not worship their creators and were thus banished forever to the forest. Man was first created of mud, but they just crumbled and dissolved away. Man was next created of wood but he had no soul, and they soon forgot their makers, so the gods turned all of their possessions against them and brought a black resinous rain down on their heads. Finally man was formed of masa or corn dough by even more gods and their work was complete. These mythical accounts seem to describing an episodic process of creation, spanning across many Days and Nights of Brahma. 

Another interesting hypothesis that can be derived from the punctuated equilibrium model of evolution is that modern man must have also appeared in a “fully formed” fashion after one of the episodic creation events. Since the most recent creation event took place at the beginning of the current Day of Brahma, nearly 5.5 million years ago, it implies that modern human beings must have been walking the earth for at least 5.5 million years. Not surprisingly, as per current evolutionary theories, humans and apes have supposedly diverged from their “common ancestor” sometime around 5.5 million years back, and the first hominids i.e. erect-walking humanlike primates, appear in the fossil record in the Pliocene period, nearly 5 million years back. 

However, the proposed “common ancestor” of humans and apes has never been found; and, therefore, it raises the possibility that such a common ancestor is purely hypothetical and never really existed. Proponents of evolutionary theory constantly assert that if two species have similar genetic make-up, it indicates that they must have a common ancestor. Thus, since humans and chimpanzee share 98% of their DNA, it necessarily implies that they must have evolved from a common ancestor.  Such a linear mode of thinking is quite surprising. Having worked in the Information Technology industry for more than a decade I know that if two systems share similar functions, it does not mean that they have both evolved from a common predecessor system. It simply indicates that the same code has been used; and if the systems concerned have a modular design, then it indicates a re-use of modules. Modules are essentially self-contained chunks of code that achieve a specific set of functionalities and can therefore be easily re-used across systems. In fact, in theory, an entire system can be built simply by assembling a set of modules and connecting them through their interfaces. There is no reason why such a thought process cannot be applied to the biological systems. In other words, the same genetic information may be re-used across multiple biological organisms in order to create the extraordinary diversity of organisms that we see around us, possibly with the intention of creating a self-sustaining ecosphere. There is no need for common ancestors. And just as complex information systems do not get designed by themselves, the incredible complexity of living organisms, which far surpasses anything that is man-made, suggests the presence of an intelligent force behind creation. 

In addition, there is sufficient fossil evidence to indicate that the first hominids, which appeared around 5 million years ago, were co-existent with “fully formed” anatomically modern humans. This implies that modern humans could not have "evolved" from these hominids. Darwinists, however, have continued to ignore the contradictory evidence and have carefully constructed a sequence of human evolution beginning with the Australopithecus, which supposedly gave rise to Homo habilis (2 million years ago), Homo erectus (1.5 million years ago), Homo sapiens (400,000 years ago) and finally modern man i.e. Homo sapiens sapiens (40,000 years ago). This entire sequence is based on pure speculation, with a complete disregard for a host of highly anomalous evidences which indicate the presence of anatomically modern humans nearly 5 million years ago.

In the elaborately researched book Forbidden Archaeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race, the authors Thomson and Cremo provide a wealth of evidence which highlights the extreme antiquity of man[xvii]

In 1880, in Castenedolo, Italy, Professor Giuseppe Ragazzoni, a geologist, found fossil bones and complete skeletons of several Homo sapiens sapiens individuals in layers of Pliocene sediments 3 - 4 million years old.
Fig 3: Castenedolo modern skull. Source: The Anderson Institute
Critics said that the bones must have been placed into the Pliocene layers fairly recently by human burial. However, the bones and skeletons that Ragazonni had found were completely enveloped and penetrated by the blue-green clay of the Pliocene strata, which showed no signs of disturbance. Ragazonni said that the bones "were dispersed, as if scattered by the waves of the sea among the shells. The way they were situated allows one to entirely exclude later mixing or disturbance of the strata".

In 1883, Italian scientist Professor G. Sergi also visited the site at Castenedolo. He ruled out human burial, and was convinced that the skeletons were the remains of anatomically modern humans who lived 3 - 4 million years ago (Pliocene period of Tertiary).

Regarding the objections of critics, Sergi said: "The tendency to reject, by reason of theoretical preconceptions, any discoveries that can demonstrate a human presence in the Tertiary is, I believe, a kind of scientific prejudice...By means of a despotic scientific prejudice, call it what you will, every discovery of human remains in the Pliocene has been discredited."


In 1979, researchers at the Laetoli site, Tanzania, in East Africa, discovered footprints of modern humans in volcanic ash deposits nearly 3.6 - 3.8 million years old.

Mary Leakey, who led the expedition, wrote: "At least 3.6 million years ago, in Pliocene times, what I believe to be man's direct ancestor, walked fully upright with a bipedal, free-striding gait...the form of his foot was exactly the same as ours."

However, there is no known human ancestor having footprints exactly like that of modern man, which means that the prints could have been left only by a Homo sapien. R.H. Tuttle, a physical anthropologist, stated:

"The shapes of the prints are indistinguishable from those of striding, habitually barefoot humans...because they are so similar to those of Homo sapiens, but their early date would probably deter many palaeonthropologists from accepting this assignment. I suspect that if the prints were undated, or if they had been given younger dates, most experts would probably accept them as having been made by Homo...they are like small barefoot Homo sapiens."
Fig 4: The Laetoli footprints. Source: University of Chicago

In 1965, Bryan Patterson and W. W. Howells found a surprisingly modern humerus (upper arm bone) at Kanapoi, Kenya. Scientists judged the humerus to be over 4 million years old. Henry M. McHenry and Robert S. Corruccini of the University of California said the Kanapoi humerus was “barely distinguishable from modern Homo.” All these anomalous discoveries have been ignored by the mainstream evolutionists because they do not conform to their proposed theoretical models. However, they certainly support the contention that “fully formed” anatomically modern human beings have appeared around 5.5 million years ago, at the beginning of the current Day of Brahma.


In addition to human remains, Cremo and Thompson provide evidences of a number of crude paleoliths and advanced stone implements which have been discovered in very old soil layers, suggesting that tool-using humans or human precursors existed in the Pliocene (2-5 million years ago), the Miocene (5-25 million years ago), and even earlier.  Crude paleoliths were found in the late nineteenth century by Carlos Ribeiro, head of the Geological Survey of Portugal in Miocene layers (5-25 million years ago) . At an international conference of archeologists and anthropologists held in Lisbon, a committee of scientists investigated one of the sites where Ribeiro had found implements. One of the scientists found a stone tool even more advanced than the better of Ribeiro's specimens. Crude paleoliths were also found in Miocene formations at Thenay, France.  S. Laing, an English science writer, noted: "On the whole, the evidence for these Miocene implements seems to be very conclusive, and the objections to have hardly any other ground than the reluctance to admit the great antiquity of man."

In 1880, J. D. Whitney, the state geologist of California, published a lengthy review of advanced stone tools found in California gold mines. The implements, including spear points and stone mortars and pestles, were found deep in mine shafts, underneath thick, undisturbed layers of lava, in formations that geologists now say are from 9 million to over 55 million years old! W. H. Holmes of the Smithsonian Institution, one of the most vocal nineteenth- century critics of the California finds, wrote: "Perhaps if Professor Whitney had fully appreciated the story of human evolution as it is understood today, he would have hesitated to announce the conclusions formulated [that humans existed in very ancient times in North America], notwithstanding the imposing array of testimony with which he was confronted." In other words, if the facts do not agree with the favored theory, then such facts, even an imposing array of them, must be discarded.

Every new discovery pushes the antiquity of man back millions of years. However, the incongruous evidences, as and when they come up, are simply filtered away as anomalies. In L'Anthropologie, 1995, Marylène Pathou-Mathis wrote: “M. Cremo and R. Thompson have willfully written a provocative work that raises the problem of the influence of the dominant ideas of a time period on scientific research. These ideas can compel the researchers to orient their analyses according to the conceptions that are permitted by the scientific community.”[xviii] 

Not surprisingly, a very similar opinion had been voiced by Stephen Gould when he had formulated his theory of punctuated equilibrium: “I am a strong advocate of the general argument that "truth" as preached by scientists often turns out to be no more than prejudice inspired by prevailing social and political beliefs.”[xix] In British Journal for the History of Science, 1995, Tim Murray noted that, “archeology is now in a state of flux, with practitioners debating ‘issues which go to the conceptual core of the discipline.’”[xx]

The discovery of crude paleoliths and advanced stone implements push back the date for the appearance of anatomically modern humans to the period around 55 million years ago, soon after the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. However, we should also remain open to the possibility that these stone implements may have been created by the various human precursors, which were created in the previous Days of Brahma. The Mesoamerican texts describe an episodic process of creation in which multiple “versions” of humans are created before the appearance of modern man. These artifacts appear to be supporting such mythical accounts.

It is worthwhile, in this context, to take a fresh look at the accounts of creation in the Genesis. As per the Genesis, creation took place in six days and six nights. However, the text specifically mentions that birds and sea-creatures were created on the fifth day while land animals and man are created on the sixth. Therefore, although the entire process of creation took six days and nights, all living creatures are created in only two days and nights.

We can reasonably assume that the creation account in the Genesis describes the events that took place at the beginning of one of the Days of Brahma, possibly the most recent one that began around 5.5 million years ago, since it talks about the creation of man. In this context, it is easy to see that the “day and night” mentioned here does not refer to a normal 24 hours day and night of the humans; since humans did not exist when the creative process was initiated. It is far more likely that it refers to a “day and night of the gods”.

It is possible that a “day and night of the gods” is nothing but the complete Yuga Cycle of 24,000 years duration (i.e. the Precessional Year). In this context, the ascending half of the Precessional Year of 12,000 years can be viewed as the “day of the gods” and the descending half of the Precessional Year of another 12,000 years as the “night of the gods”. 

Therefore, the six days and nights of creation is equivalent to 144,000 years, while the two days and nights during which all life forms were created, is equal to 48,000 years. Hence, we can conclude that as per the Genesis, the reconstruction of the entire biosphere at the beginning of a Day of Brahma takes around 144,000 years, while life forms appear on the earth over a period of 48,000 years.  And as per the estimates created by Gould and Eldredge, “speciation” after a catastrophe takes anywhere between 5000 – 50,000 years. This is the same value that we obtain from the Genesis

We get further confirmation from the Surya Siddhanta, the oldest astronomical treatise of India, which was revealed to the asura Maya at the end of the Golden Age. It states: “One hundred times four hundred and seventy four years passed while the All-Wise was employed in creating the animate and inanimate creation, plants, stars, gods, demons and the rest.”[xxi] This indicates that the entire creative process took 47,400 years, which is surprisingly close to the value proposed by Gould and Eldredge and to the biblical estimates.


Interestingly, the numbers 12,000 and 144,000 occur many times in the Revelation and have a number of esoteric meanings associated with them. 144,000 is mentioned as the number of “servants of God” who will be sealed on their foreheads before the apocalypse, while 12,000 is the number of spiritual “tribes” of the heavenly kingdom of God. The appearance of these numbers in connection with the creation events in the Genesis is certainly not a mere coincidence.

It is clear that the data from fossil records corroborate what the ancient, sacred texts told us all along: that there are cycles of creation and destruction every 24 million years; that new life forms abruptly appear on the surface of the earth at the beginning of each Day of Brahma; that modern human beings must have appeared at least 5.5 million years ago; and that speciation at the beginning of a Day of Brahma takes around 48,000 years. On the other hand, none of the assertions of the standard Darwinian model of evolution are reflected in the fossil records. In the face of such enormous evidences, the claim for Intelligent Design can hardly be ignored any longer.

References



[i] Bibhu Dev Misra, A Day and Night of Brahma: The Evidence from Fossil records , March 2011, http://bibhudev.blogspot.in/2011/03/day-and-night-of-brahma-evidence-from.html
[ii] Raup and Sepkoski, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol 81, pp 801-805, February 1984
[iii] D M Raup, The role of extinction in evolution, PNAS July 19, 1994 vol. 91 no. 15 6758-6763.
[iv] J. Alroy, The Shifting Balance of Diversity Among Major Marine Animal Groups,  Science, Vol. 329 No. 5996, September 3, 2010.
[v] Gould, S.J. (1977), "Evolution's Erratic Pace", Natural History, vol. 86, May
[vi] Gould, S.J. (1977), "Evolution's Erratic Pace", Natural History, vol. 86, May
[vii] Gould, S. J. and Eldredge, N., Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism (1972), pp 82-115 in "Models in paleobiology", edited by Schopf, TJM Freeman, Cooper & Co, San Francisco.
[viii] Gould, S. J., 1977. Evolution’s erratic pace. Natural History, 86(5):14.
[ix] Gould, S. J. and Eldredge, N., 1977. Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered. Paleobiology, 3:115–151 (pp. 115).
[x] Gould, S.J ., 1980. Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging? Paleobiology, 6:119–130 (p.127).
[xi] Origin of Species, 1859, p 280
[xii] Origin of Species, 1859, p 342
[xiii] Eldredge, N. and Tattersall, I. (1982), The Myths of Human Evolution, Columbia University Press, p. 48
[xiv] Grasse, Pierre-Paul (1977), Evolution of Living Organisms, Academic Press, New York, N.Y.
[xv] Eldredge, N. and Gould, S. J., 1972. ‘Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism’, Time Frames: the Rethinking of Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria, N. Eldredge, Heinernann, London, 1986, pp. 202.
[xvi] Stephen Jay Gould, The Evolution of Life on Earth, Scientific American, October, 1994.
[xvii] Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson, Forbidden Archaeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race, January 1998.
[xviii] Marylène Pathou-Mathis, L'Anthropologie, 1995 v.99, no. 1, p. 159.
[xix] Stephen Jay Gould, "Darwin's Untimely Burial," Natural History 85 (Oct. 1976): 24-30
[xx] Tim Murray, British Journal for the History of Science, 1995 v. 28, pp. 377–379.
[xxi] Surya-Siddhanta:a text-book of Hindu astronomy, Ebenezer Burgess, Phanindralal Gangooly, Chapter 1, p 13