Friday, December 14, 2007

Agamas that helped shape Bharat

Wednesday, December 12, 2007



Have you ever given a thought why the religious landscape of Bharat remained almost intact even after a thousand years of suppression by Muslim and Christian invaders ? Do you think it was the power of Vedas , Upanishads and the Gita and our people’s knowledge in our fundamentals ? NOPE.. It was by the singular attachment of the lay Hindu towards HIS God, that we are still alive as heirs to Hinduism.

How did the common man develop so much attachment to his God, silently suffering under the brutal suppression of the worst enemies of Humanity then and now ? It was by the Agamas.

I now present to you all a forgotten heredity of us all which has helped shape the spiritual landscape of Bharat. The essence of this heredity are a series of divine scriptures. They are AGAMAS.

When you propose to build a house, (especially in South India), the plot is chosen by its straightness, the length and width. They have to be in certain measure of feet. Then the direction of the site. Then the house plan. Specially here, the location of the sump, the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom are finalized only after consulting vasthu. Vasthu science was given to us by the Agamas.

All the temple rites are given to us by the Agamas. Even your daily arathi and the Murthis and photos you worship are given to us by the Agamas. In short temple worship was started by the Agamas only.

Agama literally means coming down.

Agamas were built into the society rather than accepted and studied. Such has been their subtlety. For example, the adage , “do not reside in a village that has no temple” is a direct Agamic edict that is followed to this day by every Hindu without himself studying anything about it. The society itself is built up on such edicts.

Have you ever wondered why you stand up in front of the deity with your palms joined and raised to the level of the chest in such a way that the lower joint of the thumbs point towards the solar plexus ? Also , why do we go around the prakara of the temple in a particular way ? Why do we adorn specific religious symbols such as Vibhuti, kumkum , Chandan and Gobi on our foreheads ?

The answers to all the above are in the Agamas .

The three major sects of Hinduism have separate agamas. In fact each have many. Saiva sects have as many as twenty eight agamas( Tamil and kashmir sects). Vaishnava sects have two main agamas namely pancharatra and Vaikanasa. Similarly Saktha sects have their own.

The power of Agamas is so great that, though these sects treat the vedas with respect, they do not consider the vedas to be their authority in their sect. Saiva Siddhantha people will resent if you thrust vedic thoughts on them. In the 10 th century AD, Yamunacharya, the founder of Vaishnavism as a sect wrote a treatise explaining why Vedas do not matter for his sect.

Agamas are self sufficient literature in that they cover the man's life from cradle to grave. Even minute details such as brushing the teeth, selection of sticks for brushing etc are given. If you ever see some rites in a funeral , never laugh anymore. They are the direct links of the man and his antique forefathers.

These agamas are principally in Sanskrit. The Tamil people developed the grantha lipi for writing the Sanskrit Slokas and till today they are in Grantha form and not in Devanagari !

Today, the granthas are known only to a class of temple archakas known as kurukkal. I interviewed one kurukkal a few days back and what he told me shook me. He said that he studied for five years in a patashala to learn Agamas alone. And also he told me that he had nothing to do with Vedas. Remember , the archakas are also brahmins, who do trikala Sandhyavandanam with gayatri.

But the fact remains that Agamas only use Vedic mantras for most rituals. n fact they can be considered as the watered down version of Vedas. They have segregated many Vedic Gods among themselves to form sects of their own. All the Vedic Kriyas like Achamanam, Arghyam, Padhyam, Proshanam etc were simply adapted to suit temple worship. In short Vedism was fully Yagnic and Agamas were temple based. Hence it can be safely concluded that the Agamas can be dated after the upanishadic and Mahabharatic period since no temple was mentioned in these texts.

Incidentally the 'Indus Valley Civilization' - also called Indus Saraswati Civilization was also an Agamic Hindu culture where they worshipped Shiva Linga. Saiva sect can be called the oldest Agamic sect. Thammanna Chettiar, a saiva scholar and writer opines that the symbology of Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram came from the Indus Saraswati Civilization. The Dixitars are some Kashmir Saivites.

These sects had the same Vedic varna system, the same Sanskrit language and the same Guru- Shishya parampara. Only in Agamas, the initiation was called a Dhiksha. This Dhiksha is mainly Tantrik. Agamas also adapt a diluted Sandhya Vandanam and Nama Japam.

He further said that they are proficient in grantha and have written examinations in grantha ! The only people allowed to do consecretion of temples are kurukkals and the only mantras chanted are Agama mantras.

The Indonesian Hindus call themselves as Agamic Hindus.

Agmas teach tantric philosophy. What is tantra ? We will see that in the next part.