by Pathmarajah Nagalingam


Chapter 4




The Saivagamas

The Tamils/South Indians invented grantha to write sanskrit, which is an earlier script than nagari. And grantha was the forerunner to the evolving and current Tamil script. In other words, a Tamil person two thousand years ago simply by learning the grantha script could read and write tamil and sanskrit! One script, two languages. As the vast majority of Hindu shastras is written in grantha no one can truly claim to be a Hindu scholar if he does not know the agamas.

As the Agamas are monotheistic, Hinduism has to be decribed as a monotheistic religion only.

There are 28 saivagamas, 215 vaishnava agamas and 77 sakta agamas. Each agama has an upa agama. This article deals with the 28 Saiva Agamas, considered the original agamas.

The Saivagamas

by M. Arunachalam,
Prof. Tamil University of Tanjavur

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 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 (agama) consists of the essence of the Veda." (Suprabhedagama)

"This tantra (agama) is of the essence of the Veda. This siddhanta (agama) knowledge which is the significance of Vedanta is supremely good." (Mukutagama)

(Note: agama, tantra and siddhanta means the same thing and is used interchangeably.)

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. (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 and is 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.

Note: Manikkavasagar accepts this tradition. He says that Siva revealed the Agamas from the Mahendra hill from his five faces: Tiruvasagam 2, lines 19, 20.

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 here.

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 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 Upagamas.

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 Saivagamas' by M. Arunachalam,
Prof. Tamil University of Tanjavur
Associate, Dharmapuram Aadheenam
Associate, Kasi Mutt


Since then the Makuta, Chandrajnana and Parameshvara Agama have also been published under the auspices of a Math in Karnataka. The rest of the agamas and upagamas are unpublished and only available in the grantha script.

The rishis who received the agamas were Kausika, Kasyapa, Bharadvaja, Gautama and Agastya. Please note that these are all rig vedic rishis, therefore the rig veda and the agamas could not have been revealed at vastly different times, nor can the veda and agama although independent, be different in philosophy, nor can Brahman and Siva be different. The same persons authored the vedas and agamas. Hence we must conclude that the vedas and agamas, while being independent, speaks of the same Gods and the same teachings. Scholars should take note of this in dating texts and temple worship. How can one then say the vedas is not agamic, is not saivite? And vice versa.

As shown elswhere, clearly Agni, Vishnu, Soma, Manyu, VIsvadevas, Maruts, even Indra, and several others have been directly identified with God Rudra. Perhaps maybe the only question is that only Rudra, Agni and Vishnu have been addressed in the very honorific title of 'Bhagavan', in the process putting them supremely ahead of all other vedic devatas.

In the southern tamil tradition, Siva was referred to as Kadavul (trancendent-Immanent One), Iraivan and Mukkanan (Three Eyed), Vishnu as Maal or Tirumal, Skanda as Muruga and Ceyon (Red Lord), and Krishna as Thuvaraik Koman (king of Dwaraka. The names are indicate of their nature and status in society.

There is another tradition, that Siva revealed the agamas to Parvati and Nandi. Parvati in turn revealed it to Lord Muruga. Nandi 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, who is also the guru of Vashishta, hailed from the Himalayas [north Indian?], whereas all his disciples were south Indians, and are vedic rishis themselves. How did they communicate and write?

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.

Additionally, Vishvamitra, the grand author of the gayatri mantras in the rig veda is also the author of the Triyambaka mantra (aum triyambakam yajamahe). Clearly he identifies the Three Eyed Lord as the granter of moksha. That, in my view, makes all the gayatri mantras saivite, as is Vishvamitra and Vashista. The same rishi cannot be meaning different Beings in different sutras and in different texts.

Here are the comments from the Intro to the Kamika Agama by M. Arunachalam.



"....the practical and living religion of the Hindus to whatever denomination they may belong, is governed, as pointed out by Swami Vivekananda, from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin by the Agamas only. For the information of the ignorant and the biased it has to be explained here that in point of chronology the Agamas are as ancient as the Vedas and they are both acknowledged as Divine Revalation from from the mouth of God. The vastness of Saivagamas (28 original saiva agamas and 207 upagamas) - their slokas reckoned traditiolally at many lakhs... The difference and distinction between the Vedas and the Agamas are that while the Vedas spoke of many Gods and of one Brahman, the Agamas are out and out monotheistic and their ontology is no less profound.

Later Saints like Tirumular in his Tirumandram which is considered to be the essence of the Agamas and Manikavachagar and Nammalvar (both Saiva and Vaisnava) and scholars like Haradatta, Srikantha, Siva-grayogin Sivajnanaswani and Appaya Dikshita have looked upon Vedas as common and the Agamas as specific as the latter are for all irrespective of caste and sex that yearn for the descent of the Grace of Siva.

Agamas are common to the three prominent schools and they are called Agama in Saivism, Samhita in Vaishnavism and Tantra in Saktiism.

The thousands of temples in this country are standing monuments to the prevalence of the agamic cult from the ages past down to the present day.

The agamic cult which was that of the generality of the people and the Vedic cult which was that of the priestly classes, officiating for themselves or for others, both indigeneous, they existed and grew up side by side without extraneous influence from the outside, the distinction between the two was in no sense racial.

The Theism of the south or rather, the Saivism of tie Tamilians, was the growth of an unbroken tradition probably from the pre-historic past and this had three elements fused into it. These are worship of idols and images, both in the shrines throughout the land and in the devotees own houses, symbolism, and the inward meditation and realisation. These three were not separate compartments but basically one harmonious integrated whole.

When the Upanisads were added on to the Vedas in the course of the later centuries, they could not but be influenced by the religion and philosophy flourishing around them. These naturally embody a considerable volume of the thought of the agamic scholars, because some of the early Agamas were earlier than these later Upanisads in point of time and the Agamas were much more alive and vibrating with life and activity than the Upanisads, because they dealt with definite and concrete objects, while the others dealt only with abstract concepts. The very fact that some later Upanisads came to be written shows that the followers of the original Upanisads had to take note of agamic thoughts and, to bring them also into a single common fold, adopted the device of writing further Upanisads, to embrace fresh thought on the same subject. The Saiva Upanisads such as Brhadjabala did certainly come into existence a long time after the Agamas."


The Agamas Are Pre-Buddhist

"....To bring a harmony between these two contesting movements, the calvinistic doctrine, the doctrine of grace and the Chosen man appears in the Hindu scene and we come to the age of Agamas. All agamas claim that they are all God-inspired and all of them claim their origin to God himself. To the
Saivas they are the earliest revealed works in the Sanskrit Language on their religion and Philosophy. Since Tirumoolar (2nd century A.D.) mention nine Saiva Agamas by name (Thirumantiram. Samya Ed. 63) we may assume that those Agamas were written a long time before him. The Pidagagama is the
name giben to the Buddhist Scripture Tripidaga. This came into existence immediately after the Buddha attained Nirvana. The nomenclature of the Buddhist religious treatise was obviously taken from the then existing Saiva treatises. Hence we may conclude that the Saiva Agamas were in existence before the 6th century B.C.

Former Principal, Parameswara College Jaffna.


Where there are temples, there are agamas. A sumerian king visited and endowed a temple in Gujarat in 940 BCE.  Neminatha is mentioned in the vedas as a rishi.

Nebuchadnazzar I visited Jain temple of Neminatha

The literary evidence seems to be supported by an epigraphic evidence. In Kathiawar, a copper plate has been discovered on which there is an inscription. The king Nebuchadnazzar (940 B. C.) who was also the lord of Reva-nagara (in Kathiawar, Gujarat) and who belonged to Sumer tribe, has come to the place (Dwarka) of the Yaduraja. He has built a temple and paid homage and made the grant perpetual in favour of Lord Neminatha, the paramount deity of Mt. Raivata. This inscription is of great historical importance. The king named Nebuchadnazzar was living in the 10th century B. C. It
indicates that even in the tenth century B.C. there was the worship of the temple of Neminatha the 22nd
. Tirthankara of the Jains. It goes to prove the historicity of Neminatha. Thus, there seems to be little doubt about Neminatha as a historical figure but there is some difficulty in fixing his date. He is said to be the contemporary of Krishna the hero of Mahabharata.

http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Neminatha

Nebuchadnazzar (940 B. C.) was Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon and not Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon mentioned in Bible.



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