It was nearly five years back that the edition and translation of Satvata Samhita by Dr. Prabhakar Apte was published by Academy of Sanskrit Research. At that time, he had asked me the question whether the commentary on Satvata Samhita is also to be translated. I answered with emphatic ‘yes’. Since Alashinga Bhartar alias Toda Bhattacarya is a precious heritage of Melkote. He was conferred honour for his distinguished scholarship and service to Narayana temple institution; and he was given a golden bracelet, locally called Toda. Thereafter he became known in Melkote as Toda Bhattacharya: a worthy son of worthy father, Yogananda Bhattacharya, who gave his valuable service as the priest of Narayana shrine. He was the torch-bearer of unique Satvata tradition of Pancaratra Agama. Traditionally, Satvata Samhita is regarded a supreme and sovereign authority for administration and worship ritual of Narayana temple. He wrote the gist of Satvata Samhita in his scholarly work Satvatamrta which Academy of Sanskrit Research proposes to publish alongwith translation in English. Alashinga Bhattar, inspired by his father’s contribution to Satvata tradition, ventured to undertake the mega mission of writing commentary on Satvata Samhita as well as Isvara Samhita which was a commentarial text on it and also contained Yadavacala Mahatmya. Isvara Samhita alongwith Alshinga Bhattar’s commentary is already published by Indira Gandhi Kalakendre, New Delhi. H.H. Yadugiri Yatiraja Sampatkumara Ramanuja muni of Melkote graciously donated the palm leaf manuscript in Grantha characters to Academy of Sanskrit Research at the request of Dr. R.R. Karnik on behalf of Academy of Sanskrit Research. Satvata Samhita along with Alashinga Bhashya is published from Varanasi. However, the palm leaf manuscript in H.H. Seer’s possession was not used in it. Honourable Sampatkumara Bhattar, and Vid. Narasaraja Bhattar the chief Archaka of Narayana temple, Melkote kindly provided us a copy of Alashinga Bhashya transcribed by him from Grantha to Telugu script. Thus we had three sources of which palm leaf copy was made the prime source and other two were used for comparison. Academy of Sanskrit Research staff members, Sarvashri Vid. S. Narayana, Vid. H.S. Hanumantha Rao and Vid. S. Krishnan delegently went through the manuscript and prepared the press copy by supplying Pathabhedas in footnotes.
It gives me pleasure to write this foreword which will go as volume II of Satvata Samhita series. I assure the readers that Academy of Sanskrit Research will bring out Satvatamrta in near Future.
We are thankful to the authorities of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam and the Dharma Prachara Parishath for their generous financial help. I place on record my thanks to the services rendered by Sri Krishna Prasad former Registrar of ASR and N.V.R. Prasad of Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth for their untiring efforts to procuring sponsorship.
I tell feel indebted to the help rendned by honorable Vid. Sampath kumar bhattar and Vid. S. Narasaraja bhattar. Thanks are also due to Sri S. Kumara for his administrative co-operation.
1.1 The term Satvata:
Satvatas, Vrsnis, Yadus etc. are traditionally the terms used for the clan to which Krsna belonged. Apparently, the Yadu dynasty inherited some code of religious practice which was known as Satvata vidhi. According to the description in Bhismaparva of Mahabharata, Sankarsana, the elder brother of Krsna praised him at a period which was marked by the culmination of Dvapara Yuga and the beginning of Kaliyuga. “Satvatam vidhim asthaya. Gitah Sankarsanena Yah.. Dvaparasya yugasya ante Adau Kaliyugasya ca ..” As per this description there had been a religious tradition in Krsna dynasty to worship some hero as a personified god and as per history, Vasudeva, the son of Vasudeva was prophecised to be the incarnation of Visnu with a mission of establishing Dharma by punishing the wicked and protecting the virtuous. In order to deceive Kamsa, the Lord took birth after Balarama or Sankarsana who became his elder brother. However, he became the first to adore him as a god as per the Satvatavidhi. In Bhagavad Gita Vyasa has praised the devotee who worships Vasudeva as a supreme, to be rare Mahatma: ‘Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah’. Thus in the propagation of Satvata Vidhi, Sankarsana became the leader and others followed him. A popular line in Bhagavad Gita: ‘Sanatanah Sasvata dharma gopta’, in which the Lord is praised to be the perennial protector of eternal dharma, the Kashmir recension gives a variant reading as: Satvata dharmagopta. It gives Satvata vidhi the status of Satvata dharma.
Some time after the final phase of Mahabharata the first scriptural documentation of the Agama named as Pancaratra bears the title Satvata Samhita, which is the first of three gems: Ratnatraya, other two being Pauskara and Jayakhya. As per the chronology adduced by F. Otto Shrader, the triad of classical Samhitas range between 3rd to 4th century AD. There was a minor mistake in internal chronology in which he placed Pauskara Samhita to be earlier than Satvata Samhita. The mistake was due to a line in Satvata Samhita: Pauskarakhye ca Varahe.... which refers to cosmic creational phase marked by Pauskara, i.e. lotus born Brahma. He mistook it to be reference to Pauskara Samhita. However, in Pauskara Samhita, there is a clear reference to Satvata Samhita.
In the introductory chapter of Satvata Samhita, Lord Parasurama instructs sage Narada to enlighten the sages performing penance on Malaya mountain about the Satvata mode of worship which apparently was inspired by the concepts embedded in the Satvata dharma and Satvata vidhi of Mahabharata. Alshing Bhatta belongs to the priestly heritage of Lord Narayana of Yadugiri, i.e. Melkote, through his father Yogananda Bhatta, Whose ritual commentary on Satvata Samhita is Satvatamrtam. He often uses a term: Satvata nistha which apparently refers to a living tradition who adhered to the Satvata mode of worship.
This is in brief the evolution and growth of the term and concept of Satvata, which is the name of the first revealed text of Pancaratra Agama.
1-2. Agama-dharma: Evolution and Growth
Sanatana Hindu Dharma is considered to have a dual inbuilt composition. The two components are popularly known as Nigama and Agama. Hence, Hindu dharma is said to be Nigamagamatmaka. Broadly and briefly Nigama - dharma can be described as that socio-cultural growth which has sacrificial institution or Yajnasamstha as the nucleus. For Nigama dharma, Vedas are the scriptural source. Vedas are believed to be Apauruseya, i.e. having no recorded human authorship. Vedas are also known to be revealed and the names of Rsis associated with various Suktas are said to be the seers and not composers (Rsayah drastarah). The tradition of performance of yajnas is from time immemoraial. As per Indian chronology the Yajnasamstha has a continuous flow through the ages: Krta, Treta, Dvapara and Kali. Kings and affluent and affording leaders of society performed various kinds of yajnas where social gatherings took place from far of places. The sacrifical institution thus had a perennial flow encompassing geographical expanse of Bharatavarsha. History records that king Raghu performed Visvajit Yajna, king Rama, Asvamedha yajna and King Yudhisthira, Rajasuya Yajna. In Mahabharata it is recorded that before Rajasuya, four Pandavas: Bima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva completed four political expeditions covering the entire map of Bharat by planning their respective tours to leave no region untouched. In this way, Yajnasamstha developed and maintained its all pervasive religio-cultural impact on society.
While Nigama-dharma had sovereign monopoly during first three yugas, a parallel cultural course emerged at the culminating period of Dvapara yuga. Unlike Nigama-dharma, it has historically recorded period of origin and the name of the promulgator. Mahabharata (Bhima parva and Santiparva) gives the time as: Dvaparasya yugasya ante and adau Kaliyugasya ca, i.e. end of Dvapara and beginning of Kali, that is to say, more than five thousand one hundred and eleven years.
2.2: Periodical stages of Agama-dharma
Broadly, the growth of Agama-dharma can be divided into four stages: 1. Adikala, i.e. ancient period 2. Agamakala, i.e. Agamic period 3. Acaryakala, i.e. the period from 10th to 18th CAD 4. Adhunika kala, i.e. modern period. The ancient period continued from culmination of Dvapara and covering over three thousand years of Kaliyuga. During that period two religio-cultural currents were flowing in parallel streams: Nigama dharma and Agamadharma.
The Agamakala was marked by the composition of scriptures of Agamas. Traditionally, the earliest triad of Samhitas: Satvata, Pauskara and Jayakhya, are believed to be based on the Mula-Veda. The analogy is based on the popular belief that Vyasa divided unified Veda into four Vedas: Rk, Yajus, Sama and Atharva. Thus the scriptural basis for Nigamadharma was fourfold Vedas inspired from one basic Veda. Like that three classical Samhitas were inspired from Mula-Veda and were the basis for Agama-dharma.
The Acaryakala was marked by the commentary by Shankaracharya on Pancaratra Adhikarana of Brahmasutras (II.2. 39-42). It gave indirect recognition to Agama-dharma and Shankaracharya tradition also initiated Pancayatanapuja. Before Acarya period, in south India, Agamadharma had a strong socio-religious basis in Kashmir and it had migrated to south India and had gained ground. Yamunacarya, the Pancaratrika Naiyayika wrote Agama Pramanya to defend the authority of Agamadharma. He termed it as Kashmiragama. His role was carried forward by Ramanuja. Ramanujacarya took advantage of the situation favourable for Agamadharma and promoted the temple building activity on large scale and spread the impact of Agama-dharma to all layers of society. His mission was carried forward by subsequent Acaryas, especially Vedantadesika, who composed Pancaratra Raksa to strengthen the authority of Agamadharma. It was Ramanujacarya who contributed his mite in overall systematisation and development of four Svayamvyakta Ketras, i.e. self-emanated seats of Lord Visnu: 1. Narayanadri, i.e. Yadavadri (Melkote) 2. Srirangam 3. Visnukanci and 4. Venkatadri. Out of these Venkatadri, i.e. Tirumala is governed by Vaikhanasa Agama and other three are governed by Pancaratra. Among the three, Narayana temple in Melkote has Satvata Samhita as sovereign authority and Isvara Samhita has practical ritual authority.
The modern time is marked by the establishment of British rule in India. The gazettes have recorded various temples, especially in south India which are governed by Vaikhanasa, Pancaratra and Saiva Agamas. After Independence the four southern states have separate ministries for Hindu religious and charitable endowment departments. The Agama-dharma is thus systematically documented and boards are appointed for administration. This period can be named as Adhunikakala. Tirupati - Tirumala Devasthana Board has a separate department called DharmaPracharini Parishad which promotes Agamadharma. In Kerala, it is called Devasvam Board which controls the administration of Hindu temples. For big temples like Tirumala the executive officer is an I.A.S. officer.
The Agamadharma which originated in Dvaparayuga has been going from strength to strength and today not an hour passes when some temple- activity: building, renovation or festival does not take place.
3. Agamadharma: Nature and Scope:
In Bhisma parva, this dharma is named as Satvata Dharma and its ritual code is called Satvata vidhi. Its promulagator is Lord Krsna or Narayana. In Bhismaparva the eligibility for worship and service is thrown open to all the four Varnas. This has been a catholic step by which the society at large had opportunity of participation in Satvatavidhi; the participation which was denied to them so far Nigama dharma. It is said in Bhismaparva: The two terms, Arcana and Seva gradually grew into two wings of temple culture: worship ritual and social service. Ultimately it has developed into a full-fledged department of religious and charitable endowments. Vasudeva, Visnu or Narayana is philosophically regarded as the supreme self and Sankarsana a doyen of Yadu or Vrsni dynasty is attested to be the first worshipper of Vasudeva as per Satvata mode of worship. Apparently, Yadus inherited the Satvatadharma which was marked by enshrined image worship which was propagated by Vasudeva, the Vrsni hero and incarnation of Visnu who propagated it further. Worship of personal god was the distinguishing feature of Satvata dharma as opposed to Nigama-dharma in which oblations were offered to pantheon of gods into sacred fire-Agni who acted as a courrier offering that service. Whereas, Nigama-dharma required merely temporary structures: Yajnakundas, citis and Yajnamandapas. Agamas developed a full-fledged technology of iconography, architecture, sculpture and renovation. The Samhita texts provided the scriptural sanction as well as infrastructure for Satvata, Pancaratra, Ekanti or Bhagavatadharma. Consequently, Agamadharma developed on two fronts: literary and practical; on one side temple building activity and temple ritual activity went on growing and pervading Bharatavarsha culminated in acceptance of one hundred and eight Divya Ksetras; the literary activity developed on other side with post - Mahabharata composition of Pancaratra Samhitas. The first phase was that of classical Samhitas: Satvata, Pauskara, Jayakhya and the second phase was of commentarial Samhitas, Isvara, Paramesvara and Padma. Those texts contained Mahatmya chapters giving factual pen-picture of three respective Svayamvyakta Ksetras. Isvara Samhita chapter XX narrates Yadavacala Mahatmya, Paramesvara Samhita ch. X narrates Sriranga Mahatmya, and appended chapter of Jayakhya Samhita which was apparently composed after Padma Samhita, narrates Hastigiri i.e. Visnu-Kanci Mahatmya. That chapter being latest in chronology gives an infrastructure of three Svayam-vyakta Ketras with their sovereign authoritative scriptures, the main presiding deity, the respective Mantra and respective practical manual. Thus Isvara Samhita is labelled as Arthopapadika of Satvata Samhita and it is taken to be an executive manual: Karvakari pracaryate for 1. Satvata Samhita is revered as having a soverign status for Yadavacala Narayana shrine. The pair: Pauskara and Paramesvara rule over Srirangam and another pair: Jayakhya and Padma rule over Visnukanci. The literary growth of Samhitas culminated in Padma Samhita which is a model Samhita text comprising four Padas.
3.2. Thematic structure:
3.2.1. Jnanapada contains the philosophical and metaphysical background of Satvatadharma explaining the, nature of ultimate reality, cosmology, nature of Moksa and means to attain it: Jnanayoga, Karmayoga and Bhaktiyoga, doctrine of Karma and concepts of Papa and Punya.
3.2.2. Yogapada gives the Agamic version or ritual-oriented application of Astangayoga. Bhutasuddhi, i.e. elemental purification which is a prerequisite for temple- priest to purify his body, mind and spirit to make it fit for image- worship. It is a sublimated component of Yogic practice, specially designed for temple- ritual. Manasa-puja or Manasayaga is another ritual component which is more suited for introvert and is useful for personal worship and temple- worship.
3.2.3. Kriyapada - this section of Agamas provides for architectural, technological basis to supplement the enshrined image worship, round the clock and round the year. Specialised intricacies of iconography, sculpture and architecture are left to Sthapatis and Silpasastra: Silpasastra vidhanena kuryat. In Silpasastra texts, the ritual requirements are advised to be done in consultation with Agamas: Agamokta Vidhanena kuryat. Thus Agama and Silpa are complementary in promoting Agama-dharma.
3.2.4. Caryapada is more extensive and forms the scriptural basis for the infra structure and function of enshrined image worship. The temple worship has three phases: routine, occasional and motivated: Nitya, Naimittika and Kamya. Caryapada provides the practical details for conducting all those rituals. Utsavas and Tirthayatras are another important features of Agamadharma for which also Caryapada serves as manual. It is to be noted that all the Samhitas do not have Pada-wise arrangement and the topics covered by the Padas are found scattered. However, the thematic arrangement is relevant. Besides Samhitas, there are practical digests: Prayoga-granthas such as Utsava-sangraha, Prayaschittasangraha etc. which have been useful for practitioners of Agamadharma.
4. Satvata Samhita and Satvata Vyakhya
4.1. The relationship of Satvata Samhita and actual temple worship of Narayana in Melkote is like Rgveda and Yajnasamstha. The author of Satvata Samhita is not aware of Narayana ksetra. However, by the time of Isvara Samhita or at least at the time of composition of its 20th chapter: Yadavacala Mahatmya, the full-fledged temple with vertical and horizontal architectural components and several images: Dvaradevatas, Avaranadevatas, Vimana-devatas etc. were in existance. The priestly tradition has apperantly unbroken continuity, at least since the time of Ramanuja who restored Lord’s image which was misplaced at that time. Out of the five Gotras authorised to perform Parartha- yajana for Narayana temple, one is Maunjyayana and the doyen of that Gotra, namely Yogananda Bhattacharya is attested to be the priest. The tradition of using Satvata Samhita as source book must have unbroken continuity upto his time, i.e. two hundred years back. It is evident from his own book: Satvatamrta, giving the gist of Satvata Samhita which is often quoted by his son Alashinga Bhattar, who wrote elaborate commentary on it. Alashinga Bhatta also refers to Isvara Samhita as its official commentary. He also elaborately quotes from Lakmi-tantra, which is later than Isvara Samhita, especially philosophical ones. He has also written his prose commentary on Isvara Samhita which is a Narayana temple oriented text which werved the present editor of Satvata Samhita, Vol. I and II ; To write a research article on temple text corelation in ‘Melkote through the ages’. Alashiga Bhattar refers to a group of staunch adherents of Satvata tradition, perhaps originating in Bhisma parva and continuing through the times of Satvata Samhita, Isvara Samhita and Lakmi-tantra. He has also extensively dealt with the points of agreement and dis- agreement with the views expressed in the commentary on Paramesvara Samhita by his contemporary Nrsimha Yajvan. Many of the verses quoted by him appear to be common to both, Isvara and Paramesvara Samhitas. Thus it may not be a strict thematic separation among Satvata nisthas and others. It is interesting to note that the first Devanagari edition of Satvata Samhita edited by Pt. Prativadi Bhayankara Anantacharya was published from Kanchi in 1902 and Isvara Samhita in 1925. The first edition of Padma Samhita in Telugu script (1925) and Pauskara Samhita in 1934 were published from Melkote and Paramesvara Samhita from Srirangam in 1952. As per Agamic scheme, Satvata and Isvara Samhitas should have been published from Melkote, Pauskara from Srirangam and Padma from Kanchipuram. It is a matter of satisfaction that the latest edition of Isvara Samhita alongwith Alashinga Bhashya, though published from Delhi, is prepared in Melkote. Satvata Samhita as well as Alashinga Bhashya is now published from Melkote. The palm leaf, paper- manuscript on which this edition is based also belongs to Melkote and it has been the valuable possession of present day Archaka family represented by Sampatkumara Bhattar and Narasaraja Bhattar.
The Satvata Samhita was second time published in Devanagari script, from Varanasi in 1982 edited by Vrajavallabha Dwivedi and the potential of Alashinga Bhattar as a commentator on the earliest Samhita of Pancaratra is before the scholars. It has to be noted after the thorough study and translation of his commentary that Alashinga Bhattar’s pen is of high mark versatile scholarship. The Commentators like Sayana on Rgveda, Vijnanesvara on Yajnavalkya Smrti, Medhatithi on Manusmrti, Patanjali on Panini are wellknown. Alashinga Bhattar is only comparable to such commentators, a fact which has so far not come to the light, to the research world.
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