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The Sutasamhita On The Saiva Agamas By M. Narayaswami Aiyar



The Sutasamhita, perhaps the most favorite book among Indian Sanyasins, forms part of the huge Skanda Purana, which according to itself consists of 100,000 slokas. This Purana, owing to its strong Saivite bias and the large number of Saivite shrines it mentions, has generally been put in the ninth or 10th century A.C. by western scholars. And it must have been with a shock of surprise that they would have received the announcement of Prof. Bendall, that he had secured a manuscript of the same Purana dated the sixth century A.C. in Nepal. Allowing, as we must, under the circumstances, at least two centuries for it to become famous so as to be preserved as a Purana, we may provisionally assign it to the fourth century A.C. It is quite likely that it is considerable older; but the fact that a portion of it, the Sutasamhita, mentions Bauddhas and Jains positively prohibits us from going behind the third century B.C., when only Buddhism came into prominence as a State religion, menacing the existence of Hinduism itself. Probably the beginning of the Christian era is the safest date that can be assigned to it at present. This argument, of course, assumes that the Sutasamhita formed an integral portion of the Skanda even in those times; and till we get more information regarding Prof. Bendall's manuscript, we may proceed on the assumption that it was so.

This preliminary matter will make us appreciate in due measure the mention of the Saivite Agamas by name in the Sutasamhita. In the very first chapter in enumerating the eighteen Puranas and the eighteen Upapuranas, occurs a sloka which says that just as Iswara is the source of the Agamas like Kamika and the rest, so the son of Satyavati (Vyasa) is the source of the Puranas.1 [1 In this paper I have used only the Anandashrama edition, which contains the commentary of Madhavacharya also. I have not consulted the Grantha edition.] (I. 1. 12) In IV-8, 22-24, the Bharata, "the Taraka and other Sastras," Saiva Vaishnava and other Agamas are mentioned. I may here state that the Bharata is very often mentioned in the body of the book, so that all mention of it may be omitted hereafter, after giving a few references here. (I. 1. 36, IV. 19, 26, IV. 22, 2. IV. 39, 23, etc.)

In IV, 20, 14-27, occurs a list of things, the succeeding one of which is declared to be better than its preceding one. In this ascending scale are to be found worship of God according to methods devised by oneself solely, adherence to the Bauddha Agama, the Arha Agama, the Prajapatya Agamam the Vaishnava Agama, and the Saiva Agama. The Saiva Agamas are said to be divided into two portions, one having a low source, the other a high one, of which the second is declared to be superior. This the commentator explains as follows: that the lower portion has its origin from below the navel of the body of Siva and that the higher one comes forth from the five Saktis of God called Isana, Tatpurusha, Aghora, Vamadeva and Sadyojata, forming the well-known Saiva Agamas Kamaika and the rest.2 [2 The Sutasamhita makes a distinction among Saiva Agamas, the now-known 28 Agamas being classed as higher than the others. I do not know whether there are any other Saiva Agamas than these twenty-eight; at least I have not met with mention of any.] He then quotes from some Agama to show the distribution of them to each of the five.

	From Sadyojata     -    the five Agamas beginning with Kamika.
	From Vamadeva    -    the five beginning with Dipta.
	From Aghora         -    the five beginning with Aptivijaya.
	From Tatpurusha    -    the five beginning with Rourava.
	From Isana        -    the eight beginning with Prodgita.

Then the Samhita proceeds that the Smarta rules are better than rules in Agamas, and that better than both is the Srauta Dharma, and so on. The mention of the Bauddha and Jaina systems is to be noticed. It is nor condemned as intrinsically bad, but as only lower than some other systems.

Our next passage occurs in IV. 23, 2-6, where we find mention of Dharma Shastras, the Bharata, Vedangas and Upavedas,3 [3 This the commentator explains as Ayurveda, Dhanurveda etc. i.e., the science of medicine, of war etc.] of the Kamika and the other Agamas, the Kapala,4 [4 The Kapalas are a certain Saivite left-hand sect, who are noted for carrying a garland of skulls, and for eating and drinking from them. There is a graphic description of them in Bhavabhuti's drama Malatimadhava.] Lakula,5 [5 I do not understand what this is. There is another reading Nakula, which means 'relating to Nakula.'] Pasupata, Soma, Bhairava, Vaishnava, Brahma, Bauddha and Arha Agamas, and of the Lokayata, Taraka, Mimamsa, Saukhya and Yoga systems. IV.39.23., informs us that the Smritis, the Bharata, the Saivagamas and Tarka teach only Advaita and never Dvaita.6 [6 A very similar series of verses occurs in the Brahma Gita portion of the Sutasamhita. Chap.9. Verses 25 to 46.] The superiority and the all sufficiency of the Veda, is described in IV, 45, 52, where the Samhita asserts that knowledge of the Lord can be obtained only from the Veda, and that knowledge derived from other Agamas is no knowledge at all. It then proceeds to say that the other Agamas (i.e., the Veda itself being called an Agama) teach only a fragmentary portion of the truth contained in the Veda, and quotes as examples the Saiva, Vaishnava and the other Agamas we have become familiar with by the previous quotations, which, it says, are fit, only for lower Adhikaris (i.e., persons fit to follow them). This is rendered much more emphatic by the 8th chapter of the Brahma Gita, where six slokas (25 to 30) are devoted to the explanation that the Agamas are not meant for men who follow the Veda, and that they are solely intended for such as cannot go to it or have fallen from the Vedic path. In the first verse of this series, the Saiva Agamas are mentioned as example, and in the following ones, it is taught that the same principle applies to all the other Agamas also. The Samhita then proceeds to extol the excellence of the Vedas, and winds up the chapter with the statement that while Tantrikas incorporate Vedic teachings with their creed, the followers of the Veda do not stand in need of what is taught in the Agamas.

Looking back over our few gleanings from the Sutasamhita, we may easily gather, that at the time the book was written, which we have provisionally accepted as the fourth century A.C., and which may in fact be much earlier, there was a considerable body of what are called Agamas, appertaining to the particular cults of Siva, Vishnu, Brahma, &c., and that there was some antagonism between these and the Veda, which the Sutasamhita tries to reconcile by the theory that they were given out by God for lesser Adhikaris or less developed men, while the Veda was only for the highly developed. We also learn that there were two divisions among the Saiva Agamas, the higher comprising now-known twenty-eight beginning with the Kamika, the lower having to all appearance disappeared. It is evident that a huge body of literature must have perished, for now we have absolutely none of the Agamas mentioned in our extracts, except one or two of the Saivite ones. And it is sorrowful to think how with these, have also gone our hope of ever tracing to their primal sources, the history of many a ceremonial quite meaningless at the present day. That such a considerable literature existed even at a time of the surmise entertained by many that some of these Agamas had their origin in times almost coeval with the dim days of the Brahmana period.

There is also another source from which evidence may be gathered, viz., Tamil literature, almost the whole philosophical portion of which is dominated by the Agamas. The greatest of the Saiva saints, Tirumular, who is specially worshipped in perhaps the most revered Saiva shrine in Southern India, Chidambaram, mentions the twenty-eight Agamas and even gives the names of nine of them. His great work, the Tirumanthiram, is, one his own avowal, a condensation of the Agamas.7 [7 In the second verse of the chapter on ஆகமச்சிறப்பு, he gives the number of verses contained in the Agamas as twenty-eight crores and one lakh. In the fourth, curiously enough, he gives seventy crores and one lakh as their number. I do not know if I interpret the latter verse right; any how it seems to me to be plain meaning.] This saint is ascribed by some Tamil scholars to the first century A.C., but so far as I am acquainted with the literature of the subject, no reasons are given for this date. Another early saint Manicka-Vachakar also mentions these, though not by their individual names. Mr. Tirumalaikolundu Pillay has recently attempted to place the latter in the second century after Christ.8 [8 In this small pamphlet styled "The Age of Manickavachakar."] This, if well-founded, will also go to confirm the conclusion we have already arrived at, from Sanskrit sources, regarding the antiquity of the Saivite Agamas.

[N.B. I must mention that there is no mention of any Upagamas in the Sutasamihta. Apart from this, there are reasons to think that they form a body of literature, which came into being at a much later time. Personally, I think they mark a revival of Saivism which followed upon the publication of the classical scholastic works of Indian Philosophy. In this connection, the omission of any mention of these Upagamas in Sureswaras's Manasollasa, while the primary Agamas are mentioned, is significant.]


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See also :

  • ஸ்ரீ ஸூத ஸம்ஹிதை  - (Sri Suta Samhita) Tamil

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