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Chapter Eight Bhaktapur's Pantheon

1. For Newar religious and art history in relation to representations of divinities, see Pal (1970, 1974, 1975, 1978), Pal and Bhattacharyya (1969), Slusser (1982), M. Singh (1968), Macdonald and Stahl (1979), and Ray (1973). [BACK]

2. Compare the discussion of Visnu's[ *] avatars below. [BACK]

3. There is some correspondence between the shape of the main body of the temple—square, rectangle, circular, octagonal—and its particular deity (Slusser 1982, vol. 1, p. 142). [BACK]

4. This unemphasized reference to Brahma is one of the very few rimes where this divinity is represented in Bhaktapur. [BACK]

5. For Indian Vaishnavites, salagramas are a particular species of fossilized mollusk thought to embody Visnu's[ *] presence. [BACK]

6. This is of particular interest in regard to Krsna[ *] . His cult is of great importance in India and elsewhere in Nepal, but it has not developed in Bhaktapur's traditional religion. This probably is related to the conflict that the personal bhakti religion centering around Krsna[ *] represents in relation to the civic priestly religion of Bhaktapur. Krsna[ *] devotion is beginning in certain groups in Bhaktapur and represents a transformation and "modernization" of Bhaktapur's religious organization. [BACK]

7. Varahi is generally conceived as one of the forms of the Tantric goddesses derived from Siva. She is also the Sakti of Varaha, however, the boar avatar of Visnu[ *] , and this gives her a connecting thread to Rama, another avatar of Visnu[ *] . [BACK]

8. See Pal (1970). Some of these representations represent the Vaishnavite emphases of earlier Newar dynasties. [BACK]

9. "Some works differentiate the divine essence in the several human incarnations thus: Krsna[ *] , full incarnation; Rama, half; Bharata, Rama's Brother, one quarter; Rama's two other brothers, one-eighth; and other holy men, various appreciable atoms" (Atkinson 1974, 709). [BACK]

10. In spite of their marked contrasts to the imagery and uses of the dangerous deities, particularly the Goddess (below), some of Visnu's[ *] avatars share with the Goddess her ability to overcome the Asuras, and people may occasionally pray at their shrines for protection against exterior dangers such as earthquakes, evil spirits, and destructive weather as they would, and most usually do, to the Goddess. These avatars represent a "semantic" potential use that is not important m Bhaktapur because, in a sense, the dangerous goddesses fill the need. [BACK]

11. Siva is in a different way a bridge to the Tantric gods but he is worshiped as an "ordinary" deity. [BACK]

12. The ambivalent nature of Ganesa[ *] is sometimes signaled elsewhere in South Asia by the position of his trunk to the right or left. "The trunk . . . may turn either to the right or to the left, and it is most important to notice in which direction it is turned, for Ganesa[ *] with his trunk turned to his own right hand is a dangerous god to worship. Only a Brahman in a state of the utmost ceremonial purity dare attempt it. . . . The god with his trunk turned toward his left hand, however, is in quite a different mood; even a Sudra dare approach him, and he can be worshiped quite informally, and even though his worshiper be not ceremonially pure" (Stevenson 1920 [1971], 292-293). [BACK]

13. In Bhaktapur (and generally for the Newars) Ganesa's[ *] vehicle is a shrew, techu(n) , (Kathmandu Newari tichu[n] ) rather than his usual South Asian vehicle, a mouse or rat. He is only rarely represented in Bhaktapur in his one tusk, ekadanta , form. [BACK]

14. "The idol of Ganapati[ *] is installed at the gateways of villages and forts, under the fig tree, at the entrance of temples, and at the southwestern corner of Siva temples" (Mani 1974, 273). This last placement is also represented in Bhaktapur, when Ganesa[ *] is placed along with Visnu[ *] , Surya, and Bhagavati, as one of the four protectors at temples of Siva as the supreme god. [BACK]

15. "Inar" derives from the Sanskrit Ina, one of the names for the sun and the sun god, (Surya is another). Worship, puja , to Ganesa[ *] is called ma puja in Newari. There is a legend regarding the founding of the Inar Dya: temple in which the dead son of a Brahman is brought back to life through the agency of Ganesa[ *] , who had previously taken the boy's life out of jealousy because of the excessive love of Ganesa's[ *] father Siva for Nepal. The boy's life was restored at a spot in a forest where the first rays of sunlight at dawn touched the ground, which thus became the site of the present shrine. [BACK]

16. Niels Gutschow and his associates were shown a complex drawing of Bhaktapur as a mandala[ *] showing concentric arrangements of various deities (Kö1ver 1976; Auer and Gutschow n.d., 38). They have designated this as a "ritual map" and made attempts to locate the divinities in Bhaktapur's actual space. The deities include eight Ganesa[ *] locations, ten Mahavidyas, eight Bhairavas, and eight "Mothers" (Astamatrkas[ *] ). The painting was made in the 1920s, and provides considerable difficulties in its evaluation and interpretation in relation to the present and past realities of Bhaktapur's religious practices and existing shrines. The location and function of the Astamatrkas[ *] is clear in relation to present practices, the rest problematic. The eight Ganesas[ *] , ten Mahavidyas, and eight Bhairavas located in the "ritual map" have no clear location or representation in Bhaktapur's present religious life, with the possible exception of certain Tantric initiations where their location and function may, perhaps, be referred to in a trace of some traditional esoteric knowledge. [BACK]

17. Brahma has no important representation nor significance in religious action in Bhaktapur. He is represented, as we have noted, as one of the three gods, the Trimurti, represented in the Dattatreya temple, which has its major importance as a Shaivite pilgrimage site for non-Newars during the annual Sivaratri festival. As Slusser writes, "In the Kathmandu Valley there are no temples of Brahma, his images are few, and his role in Nepalese affairs minor" (1982, 263f.). Slusser, while noting that Sarasvati, like Laksmi, is an independent goddess, says that she may be considered as having a relation to Durga, the Tantric goddess. She notes early Newar representations where she is "Durga's daughter, and one of Visnu's[ *] consorts," and is the "Kumari aspect of Durga herself" (1982, 320f.). Such interweavings are sometimes significant in Tantric esoteric doctrine, but for her meaning and action in Bhaktapur's city organization, Sarasvati, like Laksmi (who has similar esoteric connections), is an independent and benign divinity. [BACK]

18. There is a month-long period of devotion to Parvati (the Swasthani Vrata; see chap. 13) which is important to all Valley Hindu women. For Bhaktapur's women the spatial foci of this devotion are the household and together with other Hindu women in melas , mass pilgrimages at out of the city Valley sites. [BACK]

19. This reflects a traditional South Asian distinction in the form that a particular deity as well as kinds of deities may take between "peaceful" forms and (in the conventional Sanskrit terms) ugra "mighty, violent, grim, terrible" or krodha , "angry," forms. [BACK]

20. It is possible to offer an "ordinary" puja to the dangerous gods, but it is not the properly effective puja required for most of the purposes that their worship serves. The legend of Taleju, discussed below, indicates the importance of the "proper" worship of such deities through meat and alcoholic offerings. [BACK]

21. Fustel de Coulanges long ago suggested that the " pater " and " mater " as used in relation to the classic Mediterranean gods had more to do with titles of respect and authority rather than of ordinary (biological) parenthood, which was expressed in terms such as " genitor " and '' genitrix " (1965, 89f.). Sanskrit also has these two contrasting Indo-European terms for mother, Matr[ *] and Nanitr[ *] (the latter, related to the term for "birth''), which are cognate with " mater " and " genitrix ." [BACK]

22. Each of the Mandalic[ *] Goddesses was sometimes popularly referred to as "Ajima," the respect title for grandmother, preceded by a differentiating term. Indrani[ *] , for example, was called "Ili Ajima," and Vaisnavi[ *] was called "Naki(n)ju Ajima." These names seem to be going out of ordinary usage. [BACK]

23. The pithas of the Mandalic[ *] Goddesses are worshiped m the same order by an Acaju priest during the course of the mass mock-marriage ceremony, the Ihi (app. 6). [BACK]

24. Bhaktapur, like the Newars generally (Slusser 1982, vol. 1, p. 322n.), has given this name to two historically distinct forms. One of these is the Matrka[ *] , proper (Kaumari in Sanskrit), considered as the Sakti of the god Kumara. The other historically different goddess given this name is the Goddess as a young virgin (Sanskrit Kumari). While the Mandalic[ *] "Kumari" is derived from Kaumari, Bhaktapur's "living goddess" Kumari is partially derived from the virgin Kumari, and her representations as young daughters in households during Mohani is entirely derived from that virgin form. Other Bhaktapur Kumaris, preeminently the Kumari of the Nine Durgas, combines both precursors in one figure. [BACK]

25. The order of the Astamatrkas[ *] at Bhaktapur's periphery seems to reflect another cosmic sequence. Pal and Bhattacharyya (1969, 39) give a diagram taken from the Pujavidhi chapter of the Agni Purana[ *] . This diagram presents the Astamatrkas[ *] with the same membership and in the same order as they are arranged in Bhaktapur, beginning again with Brahmani. But here the Matrkas are associated with corresponding heavenly bodies or grahas . Seven of the grahas are associated, m a tradition shared with the west, with particular days of the week. With one exception, that of Vaisnavi[ *] associated with the sun and hence Sunday, who appears in the fourth and central position, the other deities in the list as they are arranged in Bhaktapur are exactly in order of the days of the week; Brahmani, for example, is associated with the moon, and thus Monday, and so on in order. The goddess m the eighth position, Mahalaksmi[ *] is associated with a graha , Rahu, which does not preside over a day of the week. Mahalaksmi[ *] is the deity who does not occur in the Devi mahatmya list either, and is from the point of view of both correspondences added to the seven basic Matrkas to yield an eighth. [BACK]

26. Guhyesvari is primarily represented in Bhaktapur in a hidden and restricted shrine within the Taleju temple. A second representation is a hole in the ground in the western part of the city, next to a rest shelter, where people entering Bhaktapur in that direction from a pilgrimage were customarily met by their family priest and family members and where they would stop and pray. [BACK]

27. This is in contradiction to the belief held by some in the Valley that it was Sati's anus that fell to earth at the place marked by the Guhyesvari shrine (G. S. Nepali 1965, 307; Slusser 1982, vol. I, p. 326). [BACK]

28. The eighth Durga is the Sipha goddess, or Mahalaksmi[ *] . We will discuss the "mystery" of the ninth Durga in chapter 15. [BACK]

29. These forms are historically related to the Nepalese tiger- and lion-headed goddesses Vyaghrini[ *] and Simhini[ *] (D. R. Regmi 1965-1966, part II, p. 590; Hamilton [1819] 1971, 34.) Slusser writes of them that they derive from "the lion-headed Simhavaktra[ *] and her tiger-headed companion, Vyagravaktra, Buddhist dakinis[ *] who are the fearful psychosexual partners of yogins" (1982, 326). [BACK]

30. There have been a number of architectural studies of the Kathmandu Valley Malla palaces (Nippon Institute of Technology 1981, 1983; Sanday 1974; Korn 1976). Korn (1976, 59) and Slusser (1982, vol. II, fig. 3) present sketches of the ground plan of the Bhaktapur palace and its adjoining temples. See also Slusser (1982, vol. I, chap. 8). [BACK]

31. Some of the inner structures' sculptures and frescoes, superb examples of Newar art of the Malla period, have been photographed and reproduced in Singh (1968, 192-193, 198-199). [BACK]

32. "In A.D. 1097, Nanyadeva, a chief from the Karnataka[ *] country (the western part of southern India) proclaimed himself King of Mithila and established a new capital at Simaramapura, referred to in Nepali sources as Simraongarh [Simraun gadh[ *] ]" (Slusser 1982, vol. I, p. 46). [BACK]

33. This buffalo sacrifice amalgamates Taleju in Bhaktapur with the warrior goddess Bhagavati as Mahisasuramardini (below). [BACK]

34. In contrast to other sacrificial animals, which are supposed to be killed by the person who offers the sacrifice whatever his status, the killing of water buffaloes including the major sacrifices to Taleju is the special function of the low Nae, or "butcher" thar . This part of the legend is connected with this. [BACK]

35. At present the Taleju temple still has esoteric ritual relations with the Indrani[ *] pitha . The Taleju temple is within Indrani's[ *] mandalic[ *] section. [BACK]

36. Slusser has made the suggestion that Taleju was associated with and eventually absorbed the cult of the ancient Licchavi tutelary goddess Manesvari (1982, vol. 1, p. 317). In Bhaktapur there is a stone within the Taleju temple which is worshiped as Manesvari. [BACK]

37. D. R. Regmi states that in the Kathmandu Taleju temple, "There is no image of Taleju at the main shrine, only a finial with certain symbolic marks engraved in a plate of bronze stands in its place as is the case with similar patterns in other temples of the type in Nepal." (1965-1966, part II, p. 593). The "finial" is a metal ritual waterpot, the kalas . [BACK]

38. A Brahman, a Tantric priest (Acaju), and an astrologer (Josi) are necessary for all of Taleju's internal rituals. At the time of this study the Taleju staff had four Rajopadhyaya Brahmans, six Acajus, and three Josis. Among the Brahmans one is considered Taleju's chief priest. This is a title and function that is inherited within one segment of the Rajopadhyaya thar . It is noteworthy that in contrast to both Malla royal inheritance (D. R. Regmi 1965-1966, part I, p. 485; part II, p. 394) and current Nepalese law, where succession to title is by primogeniture, the Taleju chief priest fide passes on the death of a holder to his next oldest brother, even if the eldest son of the deceased title holder is elder than the next eldest brother. However, this principle is limited to brothers dwelling in the deceased title holder's extended household. If the brothers bye in a separate household, the title will usually pass to the deceased title holder's eldest son if he is of age. [BACK]

39. These rituals are perfunctory. The priests read an oath in Sanskrit, which is translated into Newari. The person being initiated takes the oath while making an offering of a mixture of rice, nuts, and corns to the goddess. [BACK]

40. It is said that there is only one group in Bhaktapur's civic religion whose Tantric initiation does not depend ultimately on Taleju mantras, namely, the Jugis. [BACK]

41. Only a failure to consider the esoteric and structural aspects of her role or perhaps an emphasis on the comparatively fragmented religious system of Kathmandu may explain Slusser's remark that "today, except for a brief annual resuscitation at Dasai(n) [Mohani], the Taleju—Mahesvari temples are closed and her cult is virtually extinct" (Slusser 1982, vol. I, p. 319). [BACK]

42. As Slusser remarks, Bhagavati "is the name most commonly invoked to identify any image that is iconographically puzzling to the Nepalese, particularly gods or goddesses that remind them of the familiar multiarmed Durga" (1982, vol. I, p. 310). [BACK]

43. Dui Maju has another entirely different legend in another context. On the fifth day of the Biska: festival sequence (chap. 14) she is worshiped as the "younger sister" of the Mandalic[ *] Goddess Indrani[ *] . According to the legend told about this day's worship the Goddess Devi had gone in the form of a low-caste Dwi(n) maiden to the market where she was recognized and captured by a Malla king with Tantric power and placed in the Taleju temple. This story may have been generated entirely by the resemblance m sound of Dui and Dwi(n). [BACK]

44. Bacchala's temple image is variously described as an anthropomorphic image in the embrace of Siva as the Lord of the Dance, and as a yantra on a Kalasa. Her temple is next to a temple of Siva as Pasupatinatha and seems to represent his consort. [BACK]

45. The story goes that a Malla king of Patan, jealous of the king of Bhaktapur, sent a merchant to sell Ku Laksmi's[ *] image (and thus the goddess herself) to the Malla king of Bhaktapur, who was famous for accepting all new things offered to him. The king bought her and placed her near his palace with the result that she drove out the other protective goddesses, who did not want to be associated with her. So she was moved to a different area, and people went there to worship her. [BACK]

46. The practice of going on the twelfth day meant that most of the children who might die from smallpox had already died, thus protecting the goddess's reputation. [BACK]

47. The Devi Mahatmya is an independent text that was once a part (chaps. 81-93) of the Markandeya Purana[ *] . According to Vasudeva Agrawala, that Purana[ *] was a product of the Gupta Age and its final version was completed by the time of Chandragupta Vikramaditya at the end of the fourth century A.D. (1963, p. iv). [BACK]

48. The version of the Devi Mahatmya we are using here is a translation of a thirteenth-century Nepalese palm-leaf manuscript (Agrawala, 1963, p. xiii). [BACK]

49. In Bhaktapur, Taleju, Bhagavati, and the Devi of the Devi Mahatmya are sometimes addressed as "Bhavani," a title that would be inappropriate for lesser Tantric goddesses, or for ordinary goddesses such as Laksmi. Bhavani, "the popular name of Devi in the Sakti cult" (Stutley and Stutley 1977, 44), connects the goddess for Shaivite purposes to Bhava, a title of Siva, a title stressing his creator functions. According to Bhaktapur Brahman informants, Parvati is not properly called "Bhavani" until she becomes transformed into Parvati Devi, or Bhagavati, that is to say, the fully powerful manifest goddess. Bhavani sometimes is held to mean Siva's consort, stressing the Shaivite connection, but sometimes to mean the " naki(n) " of ''mistress'' of existence, which emphasizes the goddess as the supreme creator. [BACK]

50. Bhisi(n) is only one of the protective deities choosen by Newar trades-men and shopkeepers in other places. In other Newar communities Laksmi is said to be the most popular of their deities. Bhisi(n)'s central status for them in Bhaktapur is special to that city. [BACK]

51. As Toffin notes Nasa Dya: and some other figures m the Newar pantheon "clearly have non-Indian roots. These autochthonous elements represent that part of the religious heritage that is authentically Newar. . . . Unfortunately our knowledge of the pre-Indian substrate is too limited to determine precisely its role in contemporary Newar religious life" (1984, 422 [our translation]). [BACK]

52. Akasa Bhairava, in Bhaktapur a severed head, is described m Puranic[ *] accounts as having cut off the head of Brahma who had enraged Siva. In some of the versions Bhairava was forced to continue to carry Brahma's severed head with him because of his great sin. He was finally able to purify himself and get rid of Brahma's head (which m some versions had become stuck to his palm) in Benares, at a place that is still commemorated (Mani 1975, 115; Sahai 1975, 119, O'Flaherty 1973, 124). [BACK]

53. These eight Bhairavas (for their names, see Kölver [1976, 69-71]) are those eight forms traditionally designated as the "leaders" of the eight major groups of Bhairavas, each group containing, in turn, eight lesser Bhairavas (Sahai 1975, 121). [BACK]

54. The slits in the walls of houses, which allow supernatural serpents, Nagas (and other vague spirits), to enter and, more importantly, to leave the house, are sometimes identified with Bhairava. These slits are called "Dya: la(n)," or god paths, and are also identified with a dangerous form of Hanuman as Hanuman Bhairava, and variously called "Hanuman," "Bhaila Dya:," "Nasa Dya:," or "Naga" holes. [BACK]

55. Among the non-Newar Hindu Chetri the lineage gods are also represented by stones generally found outside the village (K. B. Bista 1972, 66). [BACK]

56. Toranas[ *] , which commonly are placed behind or over figures of divinity, are in Bhaktapur often carved with a demonic protective figure at their apex. This figure, Che(n)pha: God, represented with a lion's head, sometimes with horns, is said to be the brother of Garuda[ *] , to whom he is related in local legends. He is iconographically related to the demon-like South Asian form Kirtimukha. Some arches have Garuda[ *] himself as the protective figure at the apex. [BACK]

57. Niels Gutschow remarks (personal communication) that there are some particular stones in the city that represent (or are) naga s and that can be worshiped and placated. [BACK]

58. According to Toffin (1984, 488), the chwasa is identified in some Newar communities "by women" as the goddess Ajima. "Ajima" is a respect title for "grandmother" and is used in Bhaktapur with additional qualifying terms, as we have noted, to refer to various major dangerous goddesses. [BACK]

59. According to Manandhar (1976, 37), Buddhist priests similarly believe that the chwasa is "the location of an image of Siva." [BACK]

60. For the Biska: festival Swatuna Bhairawa represents the place where Bhairava descended into the ground in an attempt to escape his angry consort Bhadrakali[ *] . The attempt was only partially successful in that she seized his head and cut it off; the headless body escaped. This movement is consonant with the idea of the stone deities as transitions to the underground. [BACK]

61. These are the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, plus two more (Rahu and Ketu) representing the ascending and descending nodes of the moon where it crosses the ecliptic and, thus, the "dangerous" points where eclipses may occur. [BACK]

62. The various particular kinds of influence—neutral, auspicious, and inauspicious—of each of the Navagraha are also reflected m the auspiciousness or inauspiciousness of particular days of the week for various activities, each day of the week having its particular presiding Graha . [BACK]

63. Bhaktapur's shrines of Jagannatha, Ramasvara, Kedarnatha, and Badrinatha "were conceived as substitutes for four famous Indian tirtha s, to which the king's subjects could more easily repair in their own city square" (Slusser 1982, vol. 1, p. 207). She has some notes on their construction. [BACK]

64. "Annapurna[ *] , 'Giver (or possessor) of food.' A household goddess who is a beneficent form of Durga. Her worship ensures that the household and the world shall never lack food" (Stutley and Stutley 1977, 14). [BACK]

65. In South Asia the persisting preta is generally associated with greediness and a hunger and thirst that cannot be assuaged. For example, "to linger as a preta is the most dreaded of all states, for a preta has a throat as narrow as the eye of a needle, so it can neither drink water nor breathe, and its shape is such that it can never stand or sit, but it is for ever flying m the wind." Stevenson, from whom this quotation is taken (1920, 191), goes on to say that, the preta "continues in that terrible state not . . . owing to any bad karma it has acquired, but, generally, owing to the way m which its Sraddha[ *] [death ritual] has been either omitted or bungled. There is, however, another thing that may hold a spirit in this terrible condition, and that is the force of its unfulfilled desires." [BACK]

66. The bhutalpreta distinction is vague and varies for different people, and in different communities. In his Kathmandu Newari dictionary Manandhar (1976, 409) defines " bhuta " as "a ghost, spirit of a dead person." Stevenson (1920, 161) says that the preta may become a bhuta , "a malignant spirit."

Stutley and Stutley (1977, 47) indicate that bhuta were a special class of created malignant beings, who later became assimilated, in part at least, with the malevolent qualities of "particular pretas such as those who have met with violent deaths, or who have died without the performance of the correct funerary rites." [BACK]

67. D. R. Regmi believes that the khya is derived from the ancient Indian forest spirit the Yaksa[ *] (1969, 31). [BACK]

68. The numbers of deities in household pantheons are of the same order, however, as Roberts, Chiao, and Pandey's numbers. [BACK]

69. As we have seen, differentiations based on "elementary family groupings" only—and significantly—apply to one component of Bhaktapur's pantheon, the benign major deities. [BACK]

70. Some of the historical residues that are represented in a "religious" object or event may in a global way give it its canonical validity. They give force to the object or event from the very fact that they are "traditional" yet not presently understandable. Compare Rappaport (1979) on the "sacred" implications of traditional invariants in ritual. [BACK]

71. The epitome is St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (i. 20-24). "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles . . . they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator." [BACK]

72. "Horror stories," as exemplified by Dracula , are familiar modern examples. See Levy (1985), which contrasts horror stories as explorations of the moral periphery of a community with tragedy as portrayals of their moral centers. [BACK]

73. The iconographic features of Hindu gods are discussed in the books on Nepalese art history mentioned above and exhaustively for South Asian icons in Rao (1971), Banerjea (1956), and Sahai (1975). [BACK]

74. Totagadde's terms for this " devates " group includes " buta ." [BACK]

75. Both these terms refer to a sort of general deity, which has successively differentiated concrete forms that add specific attributes and functions to the general characteristics of the term. Each level of differentiation is a being, a deva in itself. Wadley notes the contrast between what we have called the "generative powers" of the more abstract beings to the concrete, embodied powers of the more and more specialized manifestations: "We move from the least differentiated beings (with the broadest powers) in the first deity class to the most differentiated beings (the most marked beings with the most defined powers) in the last class. The more differentiated, more marked beings are most likely to be found acting in the world of men or to have derived mythologically from the world of men. Related to the amount of specification (differentiation) of deities is the ideas of powers as embodied. Bhagavan , only vaguely anthropomorphized, represents largely unembodied powers—and the least differentiated powers" (1975, 145). [BACK]

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