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The Saiva-Siddhantam : Is it of Dravidian Origin? By Francis Kingsbury


Francis Kingsbury

[Francis Kingsbury was the son of C.W. Damodaram Pillai, the celebrated pioneer-editor of Tamil works. Pillai was a Christian by birth and he became a Saivite early in his life. His children were brought up in the strict Saivite tradition. His last will and testament contained a clause whereby any heir of his embracing Christianity would forfeit his share in Pillai’s property. These precautions notwithstanding, his son because aChristian.

Kingsbury’s love of the Tevaaram and the Tiruvaachakam knew no bounds. He took special efforts to bring out an anthology of Saivite hymns and their translation. He made a selection of 138 verses and rendered them into English. He entrusted the work of giving metrical form to his colleague G.E. Phillips an Englishman. These two gentlemen were attached to the United Theological college, Bangalore. Their work ‘Hymns of the Tamil Saivite Saints’ with Tamil text and translation into English, appeared in 1921. It contains the photographs of the NAALVAR.

Kingsbury also wrote a book dealing with the history of Tamil literature. His article “Taayumaanavar’s Concept of God” appeared in the Christian Patriot (August, 1922).

The Saivite in Kingbury created many a friction in his dealings with the missionaries. It is said that towards the end of his life, he was made to suffer for his Saivite predilections.

The article printed hereunder appeared in the Madras Christine College Magazine, in 1904. The questions raised by the author are full of significance. They will, we are sure, exercise the minds of a certain section of Saiva Siddhantam, and will, in all likelihood, generate a sober influence in their thinking. - Ed.)

The Higher of Philosophic Hinduism that till recently drew the attention of Western scholars was the Advaits doctrine of Sankara Acharya, and by many that was considered to be the only higher Hinduism, although some of the works of the Saiva Siddhantam had been translated long ago by missionaries like the late Rev. Mr. Hoisington. Not seldom did we see the Christian missionary speaking or writing of Sankara’s pantheism as if it were the only Hinduism of the learned, and drawing his inferences on that supposition. But thanks to the Dr. Pope for his polyglot edition of the Tiruvachakam of Manikkavachakar, which has made the Westerner see that there are other systems of religion in India which deserve his attention and which are in some respects superior to the Vedanta of Sankara, as they are nearer the gospel truths which are so precious to him. Of these systems Dr. Pope thinks that the Saiva Siddhantam is the highest. This judgement might be questioned, for it is not clear that the Saiva Siddhantam, is superior to the Vaishnava Siddhanta, otherwise known as the Visishtadvaita doctrine of Ramanuja. In this paper, however, it is not my desire to discuss that question, but no inquire whether the Saiva Siddhantam is Dravidian in its origin. Dr. Pope says it is, and Mr. Goudie accepts his conclusion. I do not say that Dr. Pope and Mr. Goudie are worng in asserting that the Saiva Siddhantam is Dravidian, but I wish to know (and I know that the Saivites themselves would be very glad to know) what grounds these two gentleman have for their belief. The interest I have in raising this question is purely historic for though once a Saivite myself and a son of Saivite parents. I am today a follower and minister of Jesus Christ, who to me, appears to be the Fulfilment of the Saiva Siddhantam. I would even be glad to know that this system is Dravidian if it is really so, for n my veins runs less of the Aryan blood, if any, than of the Dravidian. One thing is certain, that all the Saivites themselves declare that their religion is Aryan. I give below the origin of the Saiva Siddhanta according to the traditional account of the Saivites. I need not say that I do not believe in the account in toto as given by them; no man with any scientific spirit in him can do so; but I do not see how one can reject the whole and accept a hypothesis, the framers of which do not give us any reason for their bold departure from tradition. The account, briefly stated, is this.

Siva Peruman (the Lord Siva) first composed the four Vedas. But the language of the Vedas was so vague that it could be interpreted in more than on way. Hence there was the danger of their being misunderstood. So Siva Himself wrote a commentary on the Vedas. That commentary is the twenty-eight Agamas of the Saivites. These twenty-eight Siva Agamas (written, of course, in Sanskrit) are the basis of the Saivite religion. These alone (with the Vedas) are the canonical books-the Scriptures of the Saivites. But the Agamas are too large for most men to study and master. So Vyasa or Badarayana, wrote a book called the Brahmamimamsa, otherwise known as the Brahma Sutra. This was also in Sanskrit. This book gave in a nutshell the essence of the four Vedas in accordance with the interpretation of Agamas. But unfortunately this brief and sound treatise was also capable of more than one interpretation. Hence there are now four Bhashyams (commentaries) to this Brahma Sutra; and they contradict one another. These four are the Sankara Bhashyam (the commentrary by Sankara), the Ramanuja Bhashyam (the commentary by Ramanuja), the Madhva Bhashyam (the commentary by Madhava) and the Nilakanta Bhashyam (that by Nilakanta Siva Acharya). All these are in Sanskrit. The last named is the only one accepted by the Saivites as the true interpretation of the Brahma Sutra, as it alone, say the Saivites, is in accordance with the Siva Agamas. (who this Nilakanta Siva Acharya was, when and where he lived, and other particular about him, I should be thankful to lear, if any of the readers of the Christian College Magazine can give me any information). There is a Tamil translation of the Nilakanta Bhashyam1by Sivajnana Munivar (__________________pg 74_____________), a famours author of several works in Tamil That translation is called in Tamil Maha Padyam ______pg74________ or Maha Bhashyam, the great commentary). This book has not yet been printed; but it is carefully preserved in _________pg 74_____________ (Tiruvavaduthurai Matam0, near the railway station at Narasigampettai in the Tanjore District.

In Tamil, besides the above-mentioned ________pg 74_________ are the Tirumurais ____________, compiled by Nambi Andar Nambi, and the fourteen Saiva Siddhanta Sastrams, as noticed by Mr. Goudie in his excellent paper on the Saiva Siddhanta2 . The Thirumurais are all original hymns in Tamil except the Periya Puranam3 which narrates the lives of the Saivite Nayanmar (devotees), and the fourteen Sastrams are not mere translations from Sanskrit works. And yet it must be admitted that most of the writers were well versed in Sanskrit, or that they had learnt from those who knew Sanskrit much of the Saiva Siddhanta and the Siva Puranams (the latter of which are attributed to Vyasa).

The above is the account of the Saiva Siddhanta as given by the Saivites,and one does not see how it is possible in consistence with it to assert that this system of religion is Dravidian in its origin. Mrl Goudies wonders how the Sanskrit name Siva occurs in the Dravidian system of the Saiva Siddhanta. But to what language do the following words belong?- Pati, Pasu, Psam, Malam, Anavam, Karmam, Prakriti, Maya, Gruru, Sakti, Rupam, Arupam, Samaya Acjarua, Sandana Acharya, and other words used by Mr. Goudie in his paper4. Where did the Saivites get these technical terms from? Was is not from Sanksrit? I admit two things . First, this system differs very much from Sankara’s Pantheism, which is accepted by many in North India and by not a few in the south. Second, the Saiva Siddhanta is more or less confined to the south-the country of the Dravidians-and has far more followers among the non Brahmans. Are these sufficient grounds for saying that the Saiva Siddhanta is of Dravidian origin?

1 Sivagnana Munivar is not the translator of Nilakanta Bhasyam. The work was translated into Tamul by Kaasi Vaasi Sentinaatha Iye.

2 Rev.W.Goudie’article is the sixth article (pp. 69-86) of “Saiva Siddhantam “ – Volume One, I.I.S.S.R.(1984).

3 The Periya Puranam in Tamil is an original work.

4 To come by a correct perspective, the reader is advised to read “Harmony Of Religions” by Thomas Manninezhath (1993).



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