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.



bhattathiri said...

One of the greatest contributions of India to the world is Holy Gita which is considered to be one of the first revelations from God. The management lessons in this holy book were brought in to light of the world by divine Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, Sri Shri.Ravi Shankar and Swami Bodhanandji, and the spiritual philosophy by the great Adi Sankaracharya the greatest philosopher of India and proud son of Kerala, and Sri. Srila Prabhupada Swami and humanism by Mata Amritanandamayi Devi and Satya Sai Baba. Maharishi calls the Bhagavad-Gita the essence of Vedic Literature and a complete guide to practical life. It provides "all that is needed to raise the consciousness of man to the highest possible level." Maharishi reveals the deep, universal truths of life that speak to the needs and aspirations of everyone. Swami Chinmayanandaji preached and educated the people and Swami Sandeep Chaitanyaji continuing the mission by keeping this lantern burning always knowing the wishes of the modern generations. Arjuna got mentally depressed when he saw his relatives with whom he has to fight.( Mental health has become a major international public health concern now). To motivate him the Bhagavad-Gita is preached in the battle field Kurukshetra by Lord Krishna to Arjuna as counseling to do his duty while multitudes of men stood by waiting. It has got all the management tactics to achieve the mental equilibrium and to overcome any crisis situation. The Bhagavad-Gita can be experienced as a powerful catalyst for transformation. Bhagavad-Gita means song of the Spirit, song of the Lord. The Holy Gita has become a secret driving force behind the unfoldment of one's life. In the days of doubt this divine book will support all spiritual searches. This divine book will contribute to self reflection, finer feeling and deepen one's inner process. Then life in the world can become a real education—dynamic, full and joyful—no matter what the circumstance. May the wisdom of loving consciousness ever guide us on our journey? What makes the Holy Gita a practical psychology of transformation is that it offers us the tools to connect with our deepest intangible essence and we must learn to participate in the battle of life with right knowledge?. It shows us the path to handle the situation with equipoise mind irrespective of what comes our way and reminds us time and again, that what the right action is.

Anonymous said...

Namaste Venkatji,
Very educational and enlightening article. thank you. I have very much to learn in this regard.
Pranams, Vrndavan Parker

10yearslate said...


I have a question regarding agamic sanction for non-devotional structures such as ranga mantapams in temples.

Ranga mantapams were used for the sangeeta seva and nrtya seva of the moolavar and as such were probably a later inclusion into the constructional canon.

However did these have any considerations towards acoustics, dance maargams etc?

Any info would be much appreciated.

RVR said...

Great Venkat, Your study of Chidambaram temple with complete details is excellent. Your theme and aims projected in the profile is noble. Keep up the research and God Bless You for the hard-work.

dins said...

Excellent. Keep writing articles like this to update us. May God bless u abundantly.

Anonymous said...

Hi.. Thanks for this informative article. I really liked it. I also came across this similar site with nice articles and videos on vedic prinicples -