Thursday, December 20, 2007
சிதம்பர ரகசியம் - ஆகமங்கள் பற்றிய ஒரு தொகுப்பு!
The Agamas, though they constitute an equally large body of ancient Sanskrit source
material for a different concept of the same advaita philosophy of Vedanta, have not been
studied by any Orientalist; indeed they have not been studied at all or studied in depth
even by any Indian scholar except perhaps Dr. Surendranatha Das Gupta (October 1885 -
December 1952) of Calcutta, even under the great handicap of the grantha script.
The agamas had existed mostly in South India, in the Tamilnad, in palm leaf manuscript
book form in the homes of the Sivachariyas who had been entrusted with the duty of
organizing and performing the consecration and the congregational worship (parartha
puja) in the Siva temples for probably over two millennia and a half. These Agamas are not
available in north India to the extent they are available in the south, although they had
been responsible for the culture of the whole of India. Dr. Das Gupta has stated that "No
Agama manuscript of any importance is found even in Banaras, the greatest center of
Hindu religion, Sanskrit studies and culture."
Besides, all the Agamas manuscripts are available only in the grantha script, one which had
been invented by the Tamil people for writing their Sanskrit scriptures more than fifteen
hundred years ago. There is also a view that the grantha was the script used when the
Vedas were reduced to writing and that the new nagari script came into vogue when the
Vedic language gave place to classical Sanskrit (Samskrt well constructed); in other words,
grantha script was much earlier than the nagari script. This grantha script was not in use in
the north, and the devanagari script of the north was unknown in the south till the
beginning of the twentieth century. It is too much to expect Western Orientalists first of all
to known of the existence of two scripts for Sanskrit, and then to study two scripts for one
language; their study was confined to the devanagari script which was in use over a much
larger area of India and in the north.
It has been said that the Upanishads and the Agamas branched off from the same stem,
namely the Vedas, and that the two dealt with the theory and the practice of philosophic
thought respectively. The general assumption that the Agamas deal only with temples and
temple worship is wrong. The Agamas consist of four parts of which Kriya dealing with
temple construction and rituals is one, and jnana dealing with philosophy is another. They
are as much philosophic treatises as any other treatises like the Upanishads. The Agamas
are encyclopaedic in their treatment of all subjects pertaining to the religious life of the
worshipper and to the temple.
The Saiva Agamas are some of the earliest books in the Sanskrit language on the Saiva
religion and philosophy, written over a period of several centuries before the Christian era.
They represent an independent class of writing by very early seers who had an inward
experience and enlightenment from the Supreme Being, Siva, and who were also perhaps
influenced by the Vedas in their original form. These seers have to be considered as hailing
from the South and not from the North. But they were essentially representatives of all
India and they reflected in their thoughts, modes of meditation and worship, in their
writing, and in their very lives, the inherent theism of the South.
The theism of the south or rather, the Saivism of the Tamilians, was the growth of an
unbroken tradition, probably from the pre-historic past, and this had three elements fused
into it. These are 1)an external worship of images as the manifest abode of God, both in
the shrines throught the land and in the devotees' own homes, 2)symbolism, and 3)the
inward meditation and realization.
The Agamas claim Vedic authority for their doctrines. The Agama doctrines are indeed
theistic, and such theism is not foreign to the Upanishads. The following Agamic passages
may be seem to affirm the derivation of the Agamas from the Vedas:
"The siddhanta consists of the essence of the Veda. "(Suprabhedagama)
"This tantra is of the essence of the Veda. This siddhanta knowledge which is the
significance of Vedanta is supremely good." (Mukutagama)
The Agamas are deemed to have scriptural authority and are often callled the Veda and the
Fifth Veda. As a matter of fact, the Sanskrit Nighantu (lexicon) names the Veda as the
Nigama, and the Tantra as the Agama. The Veda and the Agama both seem to have been
denoted by the common term sruti up to the 11th century, after which period the above
distinction of Nigama and Agama seems to have been adopted. Swami Prajnanananda,
quoted by Sir John Wooddroffe, has clearly established that the Agamic (tantric) texts, as
we known them today, had for the most part preceded Buddhism, and only the Agamic cult
had been able gradually to swallow up Buddhism on the Indian sub-continent, and
ultimately to banish it altogether from the Indian soil; it was not the Upanishadic
philosophy but the Agamic cult that was responsible for the supplanting of Buddhism and
for the fusion of its salient features into the core of the Hindu religion. This is a very
important and pertinent observation deserving the careful attention of all scholars.
The four parts of the Agamas are likened to the four parts of the Vedas, namely the mantra
part or stotras comparable to charya of the Agamas, the brahmanas dealing with rituals
comparable to kriya, the aranyaka part analogous to the yoga, and the Upanishad or
philosophy part equivalent to the vidya or jnana pada of the Agamas. It should be noted
that the Agamas have their own mantras for all their kriyas. They employ vedic mantras
only for the stotra part. (It is in this sense that one can say Agamas have alsmost
completely replaced the Vedas as the basis of current day Hinduism in India)
Exponents of the Agamas would go further and say that the Supreme of Saivism, Siva, is
mentioned in the Vedic terms such as the following:
Isa vasyam idam sarvam.
Yah parah sa mahesvarah.
Sarve vai Rudrah.
Ambika pataye Umapataye.
Yo vai Rudras sa Bhagavan Bhurbhuvas suvah.
Tasmai namas tasmai tva jushtam
niyurajmi yasmai namas tat Sivah.
Haraya Rudraya Sarvaya Sivaya
Bhavaya Maha devaya Ugraya.
(All the names mentioned in the last lines are the specific mantra names of Siva.)
Pasupataya Rudraya Sankaraya Isanaya Svaha.
Siva ido dhyeyah, Sivam daras sarvam anyat parityajya.
Yada charmavat akasam veshtayishyanti manavah
Tada Sivam avijnaya duhkasyanto bhavishyati.
The Bharga sabda in the Gayatri mantra (Bharhgo devasya dhimahi) is considered to refer
to Siva. Besides, the introduction of Sri Uma in the Kenopanishad explicity enunciates the
Saiva Siddhanta doctrine that ignonance can be dispelled only with the bestowal of Siva's
Grace which is personified as Sakti or Uma.
Sa tasminneva akase striyam ajagama,
bahu sobhamanam Umah, Haimavatim.
The Kaivalyopanishad, one of the early Upanishads, claimed by many to be of the Advaitic
or Vedanta school, has the following lines (sloka 7):
Tam Aadi madhyanta vihinam Ekam Vibhum
Chidanandam Arupam Adbhutam
Uma sahayam Paramesvaram Prabhum
Trilochanam Nilakantham Parsaantam.
The Narada Parivrajakopanishad is a large Upanishad having nine upadesas of which the
eight deals with the Pranava. In the second sloka we find a phrase 'Sarvagamayas-Sivah'.
Though the Upanishad could not have been one of the early Upanishads, yet the mention of
the Agama here as the form of Siva is significant. The terms agama, tantra, siddhanta and
mantra are found used synonymously in many Agamic writtings.
The Saivagama is also a general term applied to four different schools; the Saiva,
Pasupata, Soma and Lakula. Of these, the Saiva is said to have had three branches : Vama,
Dakshina and Siddhanta. Kapala, Kalamukha, Agora are all contained in the Vama branch.
The Dakshina branch includes Kashmir Saiva darshanas, Svachanda Bhairavam, etc.,
making up a total of 18 Agamas. The Siddhanta branch has 28 Agamas, and this article
concerns with these 28 only.
The definition of Siddhanta often quoted by writers may be given here :
"Siddhanta nama yah parikshakaih bahu vitam parikshya
hetubhih sadayitva stapyate nurnayah sa siddhantah"
That which stands many tests andis finally established is the Siddhanta.
Gautama nyaya sutram, 1.26
The 28 Saiva Agamas are said to have been revealed from all the five faces of Siva. The
first four taught five Agamas each, while the last, Isana, gave rise to eight.
The Sadyojata face revealed the Kamika, Yogaja, Cintya, Karana and Ajita. These were
taught to Kausika Rishi.
The Vamadeva face gave rise to Dipta, Sukshuma, Sahasra, Amsumat and Suprabheda, and
taught them to Kasyapa Rishi.
The Aghora face revealed Vijaya, Nisvasa, Svayambhuva, Agneya (or Anala) and Vira, and
gave them to sage Bharadvaja.
The Tatpurusha gave rise to Raurava, Mukata, Vimala, Chandrajnana and Mukhabimba (or
Bimba), and taught them to Sage Gautama.
The Isana face revealed Prodgita, Lalita, siddha, Santana, Sarvokta, Parameswara, Kirana
and Vatula to Sage Agastya.
(Footnote: Manikkavasagar accepts this tradition. He says that Siva revealed the Agamas
from the Mahendra hill from his five faces: Tiruvasagam 2, lines 19, 20.)
(There is another tradition, probably local puranic, that Siva revealed the agamas to
Parvati and Nandi. Parvati in turn revealed it to Lord Muruga. Nandi in turn revealed it to
his 8 disciples; Tirumular, Patanjali, Vyaghrapada, Sanatkumar, Sivayogamuni, Sanakar,
Sanadanar and Sanandanar. The reason I am mentioning this tradition is that it is curious
that Rishi Nandi hailed from the Himalayas (north Indian?), whereas all his disciples were
south Indians, and are vedic rishis themselves.
We are all familiar with the mantras and strotras corresponding with the 5 faces of Siva.
Most importantly, here we see with clarity that the tatpurusha mantras (tatpurushaya
vidmahe...) refer to Siva, and again here we see that the original(tat or 'that') purusha is
Siva., tying Him straight to the Rig Veda, Purusha hymns and the Purusha Sukta. No
In the light of these findings, much of the obscurity of the vedas, vedic mantras and vedic
gods becomes clear. Probably or this reason Tirumular said that the Vedas is general while
the Agamas are specific.
Another equally revealing fact is that these rishis to whom Lord Siva revealed the agamas
are the same vedic rishis too. In other words there is clear indication that the agamas and
vedas have similar authors, and that they could not have been written far apart in time.
Scholars should take note of this in dating texts and temple worship.
The French Institute of Indology, Pondichery, which has been able to gather in whole or in
parts, 28 principle Agamas so far (according to its Editor, Sri N. R. Bhatt) and 45 of the
From the volumn of writing under each head; chariya, kriya, yoga and jnana, it can be
clearly seen that the emphasis of the Agamas was equally on the jnana and the kriya parts;
that is, both the philosophical and the ritualistic aspects. The Agamas accept the Veda and
build upon it. The Vedanta may be termed the basis for the Agamic philosophy.
The kriya pada considers not the individual man alone but considers man in society. It has
a concern and involvement in the community around. The temple is an outward expression
of this concern. Congregational worship, besides festivals, is the one great force that holds
together society without disintegrating and the kriya pada lays down an elaborate code
therefore which is both emotional and artistic, and rational at the same time.
It is this activity that has held together the Hindu society through so may centuries when
alien cultures and religions bombarded it through political and economic impact. The kriya
pada is in essence considered to be parallel to if not identical with the yajnas of the Vedas.
But there are several other equally important subjects which are also dealt with
extensively. As an instance, we may mention temple architecture. The details of temple
construction here given are beyond what an excellent modern architect can dream of.
Other allied subjects dealt with here are sculpture, iconography, construction of the temple
car, geology, horticulture, astronomy, town planning, home science, water supply, health
and hygiene, food and many others. In short, we may say no area of human activity of the
period about 2,000 years back has been left out.
The charya pada deals with the daily observance and the personal discipline of the
worshippers. The purificatory ceremonies for the individual from the time of his birth, the
dikshas (initiations), the ultimate funeral rites and similar other ceremonies are described
India, particularly Tamilnad in South India, has an unbroken tradition in culture, civilization
and religion which has been continuing for several thousand years. India is probably the
only country which has retained the pristine character of its ancient culture and civilization
unbroken to this day. Even here, the North of India has fared badly under successive
onslaughts of invasions and cultures, but it is agreed on all hands that the South has
preserved its culture almost intact; onslaughts have been fewer, less devastating, less
disintegrating and less powerful here. We would say that the Agamas, through their
prescription of spiritual goals for man, have served as the sentinels of the ancient culture.
The publication of 2 Agamas and 3 Upagamas: Raurava and Ajita Agama, and Matanga,
Kalottara and Mrgendra Upagama in the nagari script in the recent years by the French
Institute of Indology, Pondichery, under the able and dedicated guidance of the late Dr..
Filliozat and Professor N. R. Bhat had brought the Agamas again into focus. The rest of the
agamas and upagamas are unpublished and only available in the grantha script.
'The Saivagamas' by M. Arunachalam,
Prof. Tamil University of Tanjavur
Associate, Dharmapuram Aadheenam
Associate, Kasi Mutt
Tiruchitrambalam, Mayuram Taluk
609 204 India
Kalakshetra Publications Press
ஆங்கிலத்தில் கொடுத்திருப்பதற்கு மன்னிக்கவும். முடிவைப் படிப்பவர்களே யோசித்துக் கொள்ளவும். திருமந்திரத்தில் ஆகமங்கள் பற்றிய பாடல்களைத் தொகுக்க முயற்சி செய்து கொண்டிருக்கிறேன். அவற்றையும் வெளியிடுகிறேன். சிதம்பர ரகசியம் இன்னும் சில நாட்களில் முடியும்.