Shaivism In the Light of Epics, Puranas and Agamas

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Item Code: IDK392
Author: N R Bhatt
Publisher: Indica
Language: English
Edition: 2020
ISBN: 8186569707
Pages: 634 (21 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.6" X 5.7"
Weight 910 gm
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Book Description


Indian philosophy provides the profound concept of cit. the school of Saivasiddhanta defines the essence of cit as universal action and knowledge. It conceives an entity which is none else than pure cit and gives it the name Siva, word of neuter gender denoting auspiciousness and purity. Thus is an abstract entity, beyond the grasp of human senses, speech and mind. Truly, the human being is endowed with the same cit of same universal faculty of action and knowledge. The difference between the supreme and the mundane being is achieved by another entity, a universal power of obscuration, to which the figurative name of mala, 'stain', has been given. The supreme Siva is free of mala 'stain', has been given. The supreme Siva is free of mala. The mundane soul is bound by it and undergoes drastic limitations of its faculties of cit: one cognition, one action at one time, accomplished with ever-changing tools of mind and body of limited faculties in a material world, but with a background of consciousness limited to that cognition or action only. Whatever is the cognition, whatever is the action, there is always the same back ground of consciousness. This is the indication of the presence of the fundamental essence of cit, inherent in every individual, partially and temporarily unveiled from the obscuration of mala.

The idea of a pure essence and a bond to impure, limitative matter is a basic component of many currents of Shaivism, the foundation of the quest for liberation of the bond, which characterizes all religious preoccupations. The being made of pure cit, eternally free from mala is God, the bound being is man. In fact, Indian thinkers have often used the same name for both: purusa. That reflects the concept of a fundamental identity of man and God by their common essence of cit, their common faculty of consciousness. Man is the bound purusa, God the eternally unbound purusa. That brings in a relation of a lower being versus a supreme one. The former is called pasu, 'bound soul', the latter Pasupati, 'Lord of bound souls'. This relation commands the religious activity, itself based on awareness of the supreme, devotional attitude, quest of ways of approach, aspiration to liberation from the binding obscuration of consciousness. There are two currents of doctrines about the ways of approaching the supreme, preference being given either to the resource of the knowledge faculty, either to that of action, gnosis versus ritual, both remaining complementary. The school of Saivasiddhanta has given emphasis to the ritual, other schools to gnosis. The site for conducting rituals is of several types: the home of the worshipper in the wake of worldly life, the monastery (matha) of those who opt for a more secluded mode of life, the temple open to all. The temple is the most important and the most original creation of Indian culture. A parent of the royal palace, it is a complex organization of structures adapted to all activities centered on the worshipped deity: purification, consecration, homage, festivities, services for the deity and for the worshippers.

In the religious sphere, the proper name of the Supreme Being is Siva. With this name we enter in the vast world of mythology. The supreme entity, which is formless, is characterized by its propensity to manifest itself in multiple forms, many human forms with supernatural adjuncts, some half way between the formless and the human degree of his manifestation: vyakta, 'manifested'. The medial one is the Linga, the last one is an embodiment in a figure acting heroic feats, offered to the worship of the seekers of liberation.

The core of Shaivism is a vast corpus of philosophical and theological concepts, of myths, of rituals. The present book by Pandit N.R. Bhatt introduces its presentation with the doctrine of Saiva-siddhanta and, after a long narration of numerous myths and an elaborate description of rituals, ends with a list of remarkable temples of south India. Thus it encompasses the whole gamut of the aspects of the religion. This book has a history, which is the life history of its author, and in a way the history of Indological studies of Shaivism. Indology of scientific spirit is born with the nineteenth century, which has been the century of Vedic studies. The twentieth century has opened a new domain in the history and archaeology of Indian religions, with the study of Shaivism and Tantrism. The first half has been that of discovery by pioneers like Bhandarkar, Gopinath Rao, Banerjee, Jouveau-Dubreuil, Hopkins, Marshall, etc. the second half has achieved considerable progress in the knowledge of texts and monuments, by surveys of temples and icons, critical editions of Mahabharata and Ramayana, of Puranas and Agamas. The vast domain of Hinduism, of the limitless literature of Tantras, Saiva or Sakta, as well as Vaisnava, Baudha, etc., of the countless temples, medieval and modern, has been entered for thorough investigation. It is a gaint step and it achieves considerable progress in our knowledge of Indian religions.

Pandit N. Ramachandra Bhatt (born in 1920 in Mudbidri, South Kannara) has been one of the main artisans of this progress. His life has been entirely devoted to research. After his Sanskrit studies in the traditional manner in Tirupati, at the Venkateshvara Sanskrit College, in 1939, he entered the team of researchers of the Adyar Library and Research Centre, which Alain Danielou (1907-1994) joined years later. There, he acquired a good knowledge of the bibliography and theories, sometimes quite speculative, of the pioneers of the history of Shaivism. He worked with Danielou on texts of musicology as well as philosophical and religious texts, Upanisads, Puranas etc. Danielou, during a long stay in India, had elaborated personal views on Indian mythology and religion, which he presented in a book entitled The Myths and Gods of India, Hindu polytheism. N. R. Bhatta could not share the same ideas. He had a deep knowledge of texts and a preference for literality in interpretation. He was too reluctant to speculation to accept Danielou's ideas. In spite of such disagreement, an enduring friendship was established between them.

In 1955, Jean Filliozat, my father, established a French Institute in Pondicherry. He invited Alain Danielou to his Department of Indology to work in the field of Sanskrit musicological text. Danielou came with Pandit N. R. Bhatta, who could be appointed at the same time and to whom Jean Filliozat entrusted the main project of his new institution: to collect manuscripts of Saiva texts of rituals, i.e. Saivagamas, survey the relevant literature and prepare critical editions with translations. A new career started for N.R. Bhatt. In the span of nearly fifty years he built a collection of some fifteen thousand manuscripts from temples and gurukkal families of Tamilnadu. He directed a team of pandits to organize an Agamic library to collate manuscripts. He could publish several major texts of Agamic literature, Rauravagama, Ajitagama etc. thus he has brought to light a large documentation and made accessible a lot of information on Saiva rituals, architecture, organization and iconography of Siva temples. He has constituted a precious tool for researchers of the 21st century, which will be the century of Tantric studies in the history of Indology.

The present book is the result of his full, life-long career in research. It starts with a detailed review of the works and ideas of the pioneers of the first half of the last century. Then, it presents the results of its author's innovative research in the field of Agamas. We have thus a complete survey of the progress achieved in the knowledge of Saivism during the past century. This is not an individualistic view of the religion, a personal interpretation of a chapter of its history. This is a view based on an ancient tradition, a tradition of ritualistic performance and literary composition, which N.R. Bhatt has received from the environment in which he is born and lives. This is a view founded on his advanced erudition, intelligently directed, rooted in his own experience of religious practice as a Brahmin follower of the faith. This is saivism seen from outside and inside. Thus, we have a picture of it which represents authentically the knowledge and the religious feelings of millions of worshippers in this modern world.

To complete the history of this book, I have to tell my link with its author and my participation in its elaboration. In 1956 I began to learn Sanskrit under the guidance of N.R. Bhatt. From the time of the first lesson was born between us a life-long friendship. I have worked with him for many years, especially on Saivasiddhanta works, and we collaborated in the English version of Ajitatantra (IGNCA, Delhi, 2004). A few years after the demise of Jean Filliozat in 1982, Alain Danielous had entrusted to N.R. Bhatt the project of writing a general survey of Saivism. His intention was to have it published in France. I was entrusted to translate the English work into French, then requested to do a few abridgements to comply with the project of a popular edition. Unfortunately the book could not be printed before the demise of Alain Danielou. It was finally published in French in 2000 by Agamat Publisher, under the supervision of Bernard Bouanchaud. The complete original English version is now coming in print, thanks to the initiative of Shri Alvaro Enterria of Indica Books Publishers. He laboured a lot to digitalize and format this long text. May he find here the sincere expression of my hearty gratitude. We extend our thanks to Bernard Bouanchaud who kindly gave the authorization to reproduce tables, charts and photographs from his publication.

Back of the Book

Saivism encompasses all aspects of religion: a philosophy, a theology, a conception of the universe, a current of devotion, a world of myths, elaborate rituals in organized temples, expressions in plastic arts, in poetry, music, dance. Images of Siva of great variety and impressive beauty are countless all over India. To improve our understanding of such a rich and elevated subject, the sources are the Sanskrit texts of Epics, Puranas and Agamas. The present book gives a clear presentation of Saivism through a survey and an erudite reading of this vast literature. The Agamas are the key to the knowledge of temples organization and rituals, the description of which is a unique and original contribution of this work.

This very readable and reliable work contains an amazing quantity of information, carefully referenced at every step, and is likely to be of the greatest utility to researchers in history of religion, medieval to modern, as well as to the general reader interested in Saivism.

Pandit N. Ramachandra Bhatt has devoted his whole life to research and bring to light Saivagama literature. His view of Saivism is thus based on the ancient tradition of ritualistic performance and literary composition, founded on his advanced erudition, intelligently directed, rooted in his own experience of religious practice as a Brahmini follower of the faith. This is Saivism seen from outside and inside, a picture representing authentically the knowledge and the religious feelings of millions of worshippers in this modern world.


The religious history of India has a long and continuous tradition. On the basis of archaeological and literary evidence, it is possible to show that the religion persisted in India without a break at least from the pre-vedic times up to the present day. Studies on the Mohenjodaro period show that there was a profound civilization of religion and culture. Further research on the rites, rituals and religious practices of the living religions must be made.

From time immemorial, Hindu Society has been dynamic and progressive. While the externals of the practices remain unchanged, internal changes were allowed to take place. The rituals and practices found in the Agamas are not found in the Vedas, yet they are not antivedic. The Vedas are not to be seen as an encyclopaedia describing every aspect of life in that society. There must have been many concepts and practices which were not recorded in the Vedas. On this basis, the Agamas which deal with them cannot be treated as antivedic. The same holds for the philosophical background of the Agamas, which arose out of the explanations for rituals.

Two types of literary works portray the religious faiths which are very close to those prevalent today among the people of India. It is in the Epics and Puranas or the Agamas, and not in Vedic Samhitas, the Brahmanas and the Upanisads, where we must search for Rama and Krsna, Ganesa and Skanda, or Siva and Parvatl, The Hindu religion of today is for the most part constituted by popular sects which have one or another of these gods at their head. Due to the great importance of the Epics, the Puranas and the Agamas as documents portraying for the first time the history ofIndian religion, the popular faiths of the people is thereby well established. Compared to the views of the Vedic period, the conception of Siva, Visnu or Sakti of the Epics, the Puranas or Agamas is definitely closer to the present day Hindu concept of those gods. The forms of worship indicated in-these texts bear a close resemblance to the forms of worship which are prevalent today, and the other religious practices also continued to be more or less identical. Thus being the case, a study of the Epics, the Puranas and the Agamas would be very helpful for a thorough understanding of the Hindu religion. It may also be pointed out that the Agamic Saivism and Visnuism have been deemed, in more senses than one, a direct continuation of the indigenous Siva or Visnu religion of the pre-vedic times and thus form a connecting link between the later religion and the religion of the modern followers.

Religion has always played a prominent part in ancient cultures, and this is all the more so in the case of India. On the basis of a thorough investigation of the artefacts discovered in the Indus Valley, Marshall in his book Mohenjodaro and Indus Civilization (p. 76) has come to the conclusion that the religion of that period was a composite one and that many cults existed side by side and continued to flourish with neither influence nor hindrance upon one another. Of these religious cults, the cult of the Mother Goddess and the Siva cult must have been most widely prevalent - a fact which is attested by the abundance of relevant materials unearthed in the Indus Valley. In the later religious history, those two cults are seen to have developed into the two parallel religions of Saivism and Saktism. The cult of the Mother Goddess is also seen to have been merged into the Saiva cult, so that the Goddess or Sakti began to be represented as the consort of Siva, Other once-distinct minor cults, like tree worship and the worship of inanimate objects were later integrated into the major cults. For example, the worship of serpents and trees, of which traces are found in the Indus period, had been absorbed by Saivism and Vaisnavism ofthe Epic and Puranic periods. The serpent becomes the couch of Visnu; Siva wears a serpent as yajnopavtta and as ornaments. TulasI and Bilva are considered as sacred to Visnu and Siva respectively. Every temple in south India has its sacred tree under the designation sthalavrksa.

Within the religious history of India, no religion has had such a long and continuous tradition as Saivism; few living religions can boast of such a long and unbroken history. The very antiquity of Saivism implies that this religion must have gone through various vicissitudes in the course of its long history. A study of Saivism implies the study of the ancillary cults as well. In south Indian traditions Siva is always represented with other subordinate divinities and we can trace the gradual evolution of this group associated with Siva. Ganesa, DevI, Skanda and Surya are installed in the places duly assigned to them in the South Indian temples; even Visnu has a place duly assigned to him. Colossal in structure and long-celebrated in history, these temples stand as grand monuments of religious traditions which they have preserved intact. These temples have helped to further the growth of several fine arts, such as architecture, sculpture, music and dance. For mahy generations, they preserved for us traditions of worship and ritual which are of great importance. Thanks to the religious generosity of many South Indian kings of old, who not only established these temples but who also made endowments for their proper maintenance, the ancient traditions of worship and ritual have been preserved more or less unchanged, through the agency of the continuous lines of priests who have been hereditarily associated with these temples. Thus, we see that on account of the munificence of the ancient kings on the one hand, and the interconnection of music dance and architecture with religious practices on the other, the old religious traditions have been preserved in South India almost in their original form up to this day.


The present work represents an attempt to study the Saivism of the Agamic, Epic and the Puranic period, together with its ancillary cults, with special reference to the Saiva religious practices prevalent in South India.

Few, indeed, are the books which embody a critical and historical survey of Saivism as a whole. In the religious history of India, no religion has had such a long and continuous tradition as Saivism. On the basis of archaeological and literary evidence it is possible to show that the religion of Siva has persisted in India, without a break, since the pre- Vedic times. Few living religions in the world, if any, can boast of such a long and unbroken tradition. The very antiquity of Saivism implies that that religion must have gone through various vicissitudes in the course of its long history of at least 5000 years. As such, a detailed study of this religion in its entirety can only be made through intensive investigations into the various periods of its history. Insofar as literary sources are concerned, we may in this connection think of three periods, namely the Vedic period, the Epic and Puranic period, and the modern period. Scholars have already thrown sufficient light on the Vedic period of the history of this religion. The studies on this subject are either found scattered in the relevant chapters of treatises dealing with Vedic religion and mythology, or are available in the form of independent monographs and papers which concern themselves solely with the problem of Rudra-Siva in the Veda. Subsequent to this period, as far as the literary history of Saivism is concerned, we have to take into account the period of the Agamas, the Epics and the Puranas. It is strange that the Saivism of the Agamic, Epic and Puranic period has not received adequate attention from scholars interested in religious studies.' Incidental references are no doubt made, now and then, to the Epic and Puranic characteristics of Saivisrn, but a comprehensive (and more or less objective) statement regarding the religion of Siva and its ancillary cults has long been a desideratum. Without such a statement, the history of Saivism can by no means be regarded as complete. The present study is undertaken with a view to filling this gap to a certain extent. However, before proceeding, one point needs to be clarified. The term Saivism is sometimes understood to comprise the Saiva religion as it is found in the four main periods of the religious history of ancient India, namely, the pre-Vedic proto-Indian period, the Vedic period, the period of heterodox religions, and the period of Hinduism, and at other times it denotes the Saiva philosophy as represented by the various Saiva systems, such as the Pasupata dualism, the Siddhanta dualism, the Dvaitadvaita system of'Lakullsa, Srikantha's Saiva-visistadvaita, the Vlrasaiva- Visistadvaita, and the monistic Saivism of Kashmir. It must therefore be pointed out that the scope of the present work is deliberately restricted to the consideration of the Saiva religion, and that too as reflected in the Agamas, the Epics and the Puranas. The valueof the Agamas, the Epics and the Puranas as important literary sources which deal with the various aspects of Saivism will be discussed elsewhere in this chapter. These valuable sources, however, have not been fully utilized by the few writers who have attempted to present a connected history of Hinduism. All that they have done is to incidentally devote a chapter or two to Saivism, without any special reference to the Siva of the Agamic, Epic and Puranic period. A few works of this type may be mentioned here.

Hindu Mythology by Wilkins 3 devotes its first part to the consideration of the Vedic deities. Part II 4 deals with Puranic gods like Brahma, Visnu, Siva, Uma, Ganesa and Karttikeya. Wilkins has profusely drawn upon Puranic data for the delineation of the various characteristics of these gods, but his general treatment of the subject cannot be said to be either exhaustive or critical and historical.




  Table of Figures 7
  Abbreviations 9
  Preface by Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat 11
  Foreword. Contribution of the Saiva Agamas to Saivism 17
Chapter I. Introduction 43
Chapter II. A Survey of the Early History of Saivism 59
1 The Mohenjodaro-Harappa period 59
2 The Rgvedic Period 70
3 Rudra in the Atharvaveda 76
4 Rudra in the Yajurveda 79
5 Rudra in the Brahmanas 83
6 Rudra in the Upanisads 86
7 Rudra in the Sutras 91
Chapter III. The Decline and Fall of the Vedic Gods. The Rise of the Hindu Trinity of Gods 97
1 The Evolution of Ancient Vedic Religion 97
2 The Epics and the Rise of Brahma, Visnu and Siva 114
3 The Puranas and the Individualization of the Three Gods 129
Chapter IV Siva in the Light of Puranic Mythology 147
  Puranic Names of Siva 196
Chapter V. The Linga and the Images of Siva 211
1. Sadasivamurti 256; 2. Lingodbhavamurti 257
3. Gangadharamurti 260; 4. Tripurantakamurti 261;  
5. Kalyanasundaramurti 262; 6. Ardhanarisvaramurti 263;  
7. Gajari 265; 8. Kesavardhamurti or Hariharamurti 267;  
9. Bhaksatana 268; 10. Simhaghnamurti or Sarabhamurti 270
11. Kalantakamurti 270; 12. Kamari 272;  
13. Bhairavamurti or Andhakari, Brahmasiraschedakamurti 272;  
14. Virabhadramurti 274; 15. Kiratamurti 275; 16. Jalandharari 276;  
17. Ekapadatrimurti 277; 18 Cakradanamurti 278;  
19. Visapaharanamurti 278; 20. Brahmasiraschedakamurti 279;  
21. Ravananugrahamurti 280; 22. Candesvaranugrahamurti 280;  
23. Umamahesvaramurti 282; 24. Somaskandamurti 284;  
25. Candrasekharamurti 285; 26. Vrsarudhamurti 286;  
27. Natarajamurti or Nrttamurti 288; 28. Daksinamurti 292.  
  Chapter VI. Forms of Siva Worship and Ritual in the South 309
1 Yajna 318; 2. Tapas 324; 3. Tirthas 335; 4. Stotra 340; 5. Dhyana 344; 6. Vratas 347; 7. Puja; 7. 348; 8 Mantra 356; 9 Yantras and Mandalas 360; 10. Kundas 362; 11. Mudras 372; 12. Karsana 374; 13. Utsavas 398; 14. Prayascitta 402.  
  An excursus on the Saiva Rituals as practiced at present 407  
  A note on the important Saiva vratas 433
Chapter VII. The Ancillary Cults 457
  Sakti 461; Ganesa 476; Karttikeya 486; Nandin 496;  
  Other Ancillary Deities: Visnu 498; Brahma 498; Candesvara 499;  
  Surya and Candra 499; Bhairava 501; Jyestha 501; Navagraha 501;  
  The Devotees of Siva, Sivabhakta 502  
1. A Brief Account of a Few Works Mentioned in this Work 505
2. Siva and his Ancillary Deities as Depicted in the Ancient Tamil Works 509
3. Some Puranic Episodes Relating to Siva Mentioned in the Tevaram Texts 513
4. The Puranas and the South 517
5. Temples Building in South India 519
6. Saiva Temples in South India 521
7. Construction of Images 562
8. Saiva Tirthas 567
  Bibliography 611


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