Shaivism In the Light of Epics, Puranas and Agamas


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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 perform

Item Code: IDK392
Cover: Hardcover
Edition: 2008
Publisher: Indica
ISBN: 8186569707
Language: English
Size: 8.6" X 5.7"
Pages: 634 (21 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details: Weight of the Book: 908 gms