Hinduism And Buddhism, Volume II. (of 3) - An Historical Sketch
by Charles Eliot
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Nor is the spirit of bhakti absent from Buddhism. The severe doctrine of the older schools declares that the Buddha is simply a teacher and that every man must save himself. But since the teacher is the source of the knowledge which saves, it is natural to feel for him grateful and affectionate devotion. This sentiment permeates the two books of poems called Thera and Therigatha and sometimes finds clear expression.[430] In the commentary on the Dhammapada[431] the doctrine of salvation by devotion is affirmed in its extreme form, namely that a dying man who has faith in the Buddha will be reborn in heaven. But this commentary is not of early date and the doctrine quoted is probably an instance of the Hinayana borrowing the attractive features of the Mahayana. The sutras about Amitabha's paradise, which were composed about the time of the Christian era and owe something to Persian though not to Christian influence, preach faith in Amitabha as the whole of religion. They who believe in him and call on his name will go to heaven.

When bhakti was once accepted as a part of Indian religion, it was erected into a principle, analogous or superior to knowledge and was defined in Sutras[432] similar to those of the Sankhya and Vedanta. But its importance in philosophy is small, whereas its power as an impulse in popular religion has been enormous. To estimate its moral and intellectual value is difficult, for like so much in Hinduism it offers the sharpest contrasts. Its obvious manifestations may seem to be acts of devotion which cannot be commended ethically and belief in puerile stories: yet we find that this offensive trash continually turns into gems of religious thought unsurpassed in the annals of Buddhism and Christianity.

The doctrine of bhakti is common to both Vishnuites and Sivaites. It is perhaps in general estimation associated with the former more than with the latter, but this is because the Bhagavad-gita and various forms of devotion to Krishna are well known, whereas the Tamil literature of Dravidian Sivaism is ignored by many European scholars. One might be inclined to suppose that the emotional faith sprang up first in the worship of Vishnu, for the milder god seems a natural object for love, whereas Siva has to undergo a certain transformation before he can evoke such feelings. But there is no evidence that this is the historical development of the bhakti sentiment, and if the Bhagavad-gita is emphatic in enjoining the worship of Krishna only, the Svetasvatara and Maitrayaniya Upanishads favour Siva, and he is abundantly extolled in many parts of the Mahabharata. Here, as so often, exact chronology fails us in the early history of these sects, but it is clear that the practice of worshipping Siva and Vishnu, as being each by himself all-sufficient, cannot have begun much later than the Christian era and may have begun considerably earlier, even though people did not call themselves Saivas or Vaishnavas.

Bhakti is often associated with the doctrine of the playfulness of God. This idea—so strange to Europe[433]—may have its roots partly in the odd non-moral attributes of some early deities. Thus the Rudra of the Satarudriya hymn is a queer character and a trickster. But it soon takes a philosophical tinge and is used to explain the creation and working of the universe which is regarded not as an example of capricious, ironical, inscrutable action, but rather as manifesting easy, joyous movement and the exuberant rhythm of a dance executed for its own sake. The European can hardly imagine a sensible person doing anything without an object: he thinks it almost profane to ascribe motiveless action to the Creator: he racks his brain to discover any purpose in creation which is morally worthy and moderately in accord with the facts of experience. But he can find none. The Hindu, on the contrary, argues that God being complete and perfect cannot be actuated by aims or motives, for all such impulses imply a desire to obtain something, whereas a perfect and complete being is one which by its very definition needs neither change nor addition. Therefore, whatever activity is ascribed to the creator must not be thought of as calculating, purposeful endeavour, but as spontaneous, exultant movement, needing and admitting no explanation, and analogous to sport and play rather than to the proceedings of prudent people. This view of the divine activity is expounded by so serious a writer as Sankara in his commentary on the Vedanta Sutras, and it also finds mythological expression in numerous popular legends. The Tamil Puranas describe the sixty-four miracles of Siva as his amusements: his laughter and joyous movements brighten all things, and the street minstrels sing "He sports in the world. He sports in the soul."[434] He is supposed to dance in the Golden Hall of the temple at Chidambaram and something of the old legends of the Satarudriya hangs about such popular titles as the Deceiver and the Maniac (Kalvar) and the stories of his going about disguised and visiting his worshippers in the form of a mendicant. The idea of sport and playfulness is also prominent in Vishnuism. It is a striking feature in the cultus of both the infant and the youthful Krishna, but I have not found it recorded in the severer worship of Rama.

Another feature of Hindu sects is the extravagant respect paid to Gurus or teachers. The sanctity of the Guru is an old conviction in India. By common consent he is entitled to absolute obedience and offences against him are heinous crimes. But in sectarian literature there appears a new claim, namely, that the Guru in some way is or represents the god whose worship he teaches. If the deity is thought of primarily as a saviour, the Guru is said to deliver from suffering and hell: if he requires surrender and sacrifice, then person and possessions must be dedicated to the Guru. Membership of a sect can be attained only by initiation at the hands of a Guru who can teach a special mantra or formula of which each sect has its own. In some of the more modern sects the Guru need not be a Brahman, but if he cannot be venerated for his caste, the deficiency is compensated by the respect which he receives as a repository of oral teaching. The scriptural basis of many sects is dubious and even when it exists, many of the devout (especially women) have not the inclination or ability to read and therefore take their religion from the lips of the Guru, who thus becomes an oracle and source of truth. In Bengal, the family Guru is a regular institution in respectable castes. In many sects the founder or other prominent saint is described as an incarnation and receives veneration after death.[435]

This veneration or deification of the Guru is found in most sects and assumes as extreme a form among the Saivas as among the Vaishnavas. The Saiva Siddhanta teaches that divine instruction can be received only from one who is both god and man, and that the true Guru is an incarnation of Siva. Thus the works of Manikka-Vacagar and Umapati speak of Siva coming to his devotees in the form of the Guru. In the sects that worship Krishna the Gurus are frequently called Gosain (Goswami).[436] Sometimes they are members of a particular family, as among the Vallabhacaryas. In other sects there is no hereditary principle and even a Sudra is eligible as Guru.

One other feature of Sectarian Hinduism must be mentioned. It may be described as Tantrism or, in one of its aspects, as the later Yoga and is a combination of practices and theories which have their roots in the old literature and began to form a connected doctrine at least as early as the eighth century A.D. Some of its principal ideas are as follows: (i) Letters and syllables (and also their written forms and diagrams) have a potent influence both for the human organism and for the universe. This idea is found in the early Upanishads[437] and is fully developed in the later Sectarian Upanishads. (ii) The human organism is a miniature copy of the universe.[438] It contains many lines or channels (nadi) along which the nerve force moves and also nervous centres distributed from the hips to the head, (iii) In the lowest centre resides a force identical with the force which creates the universe.[439] When by processes which are partly physical it is roused and made to ascend to the highest centre, emancipation and bliss are obtained. (iv) There is a mysterious connection between the process of cosmic evolution and sound, especially the sacred sound Om.

These ideas are developed most thoroughly in Saktist works, but are by no means peculiar to them. They are found in the Pancaratra and the later Puranas and have influenced almost all modern sects, although those which are based on emotional devotion are naturally less inclined to favour physical and magical means of obtaining salvation.


[Footnote 401: The population of India (about 315 millions) is larger than that of Europe without Russia.]

[Footnote 402: But compare the English poet

"Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies, ... but if I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all I should know what God and man is."]

[Footnote 403: Efforts are now being made by Hindus to suppress this institution.]

[Footnote 404: In the Vedic funeral ceremonies the wife lies down by her dead husband and is called back to the world of the living which points to an earlier form of the rite where she died with him. But even at this period, those who did not follow the Vedic customs may have killed widows with their husbands (see too Ath. Veda, XII. 3), and later, the invaders from Central Asia probably reinforced the usage. The much-abused Tantras forbid it.]

[Footnote 405: For the history of the Ramayana and Mahabharata and the dates assignable to the different periods of growth, see Winternitz, Gesch. Ind. Lit. vol. I. p. 403 and p. 439. Also Hopkins' Great Epic of India, p. 397. The two poems had assumed something like their present form in the second and fourth centuries A.D. respectively. These are probably the latest dates for any substantial additions or alterations and there is considerable evidence that poems called Bharata and Ramayana were well known early in the Christian era. Thus in Asvaghosha's Sutralankara (story XXIV) they are mentioned as warlike poems inculcating unbuddhist views. The Ramayana is mentioned in the Mahavibhasha and was known to Vasubandhu (J.R.A.S. 1907, p. 99). A Cambojan inscription dating from the first years of the seventh century records arrangements made for the recitation of the Ramayana, Purana and complete (asesha) Bharata, which implies that they were known in India considerably earlier. See Barth, Inscrip. Sanscrites de Cambodge, pp. 29-31. The Mahabharata itself admits that it is the result of gradual growth for in the opening section it says that the Bharata consists of 8,800 verses, 24,000 verses and 100,000 verses.]

[Footnote 406: Hardy, Indische Religionsgeschichte, p. 101.]

[Footnote 407: But some of these latter sacrifice images made of dough instead of living animals.]

[Footnote 408: It is said that the Agnishtoma was performed in Benares in 1898, and in the last few years I am told that one or two Vedic sacrifices have been offered annually in various parts of southern India. I have myself seen the sites where such sacrifices were offered in 1908-9 in Mysore city and in Chidambaram, and in 1912 at Wei near Poona. The most usual form of sacrifice now-a-days is said to be the Vajapeya. Much Vedic ritual is still preserved in the domestic life of the Nambathiri and other Brahmans of southern India. See Cochin, Tribes and Castes, and Thurston, Castes and Tribes of southern India.]

[Footnote 409: The outline of a stupa may be due to imitation of houses constructed with curved bamboos as Vincent Smith contends (History of Fine Art, p. 17). But this is compatible with the view that stone buildings with this curved outline had come to be used specially as funeral monuments before Buddhism popularized in India and all Eastern Asia the architectural form called stupa.]

[Footnote 410: The temple of Aihole near Badami seems to be a connecting link between a Buddhist stupa with a pradakshina path and a Hindu shrine.]

[Footnote 411: In most temples (at least in southern India) there are two images: the mula-vigraha which is of stone and fixed in the sanctuary, and the utsava-vigraha which is smaller, made of metal and carried in processions.]

[Footnote 412: Thus Bhattacharya (Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 127) enumerates eleven classes of Brahmans, who "have a very low status on account of their being connected with the great public shrines," and adds that mere residence in a place of pilgrimage for a few generations tends to lower the status of a Brahmanic family.]

[Footnote 413: Thus in Bengal there is a special class, the Barna Brahmans, who perform religious rites for the lower castes, and are divided into six classes according to the castes to whom they minister. Other Brahmans will not eat or intermarry with them or even take water from them.]

[Footnote 414: This is extraordinarily like the temple ritual of the ancient Egyptians. For some account of the construction and ritual of south Indian temples see Richards in J. of Mythic Soc. 1919, pp. 158-107.]

[Footnote 415: But Vedic mantras are used in these ceremonies. The libations of water or other liquids are said to be accompanied by the mantras recited at the Soma sacrifice.]

[Footnote 416: At these sacrifices there is no elaborate ritual or suggestion of symbolism. The animal is beheaded and the inference is that Kali likes it. Similarly simple is the offering of coco-nuts to Kali. The worshipper gives a nut to the pujari who splits it in two with an axe, spills the milk and hands back half the nut to the worshipper. This is the sort of primitive offering that might be made to an African fetish.]

[Footnote 417: See especially the Ambattha Sutta (Dig. Nik. 3) and Rhys Davids's introduction.]

[Footnote 418: See Weber, Die Vajrasuchi and Nanjio, Catal. No. 1303. In Ceylon at the present day only members of the higher castes can become Bhikkhus.]

[Footnote 419: But it is said that in Southern India serious questions of caste are reported to the abbot of the Sringeri monastery for his decision.]

[Footnote 420: The modern Lingayats demur to the statement that their founder rejected caste.]

[Footnote 421: So too in the cakras of the Saktists all castes are equal during the performance of the ceremony.]

[Footnote 422: Some (Khandelwals, Dasa Srimalis and Palliwals) include both Jains and Vaishnavas: the Agarwals are mostly Vaishnavas but some of them are Jains and some worship Siva and Kali. Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya, Hindu Castes and Sects, pp. 205 ff.]

[Footnote 423: The names used are not the same. The four Vedic castes are called Varna: the hundreds of modern castes are called Jati.]

[Footnote 424: Sampradaya seems to be the ordinary Sanskrit word for sectarian doctrine. It means traditional teaching transmitted from one teacher to another.]

[Footnote 425: I am discussing elsewhere the possible debt which Christianity and Hinduism may owe to one another.]

[Footnote 426: Panini, IV. 3. 95-98.]

[Footnote 427: Katha Up. I. 1. 2, 23.]

[Footnote 428: R.V. X. 125.]

[Footnote 429: Compare too the hymns of the R.V. to Varuna as a rudimentary expression of Bhakti from the worshipper's point of view.]

[Footnote 430: E.g. Theragatha, 818-841 and 1231-1245.]

[Footnote 431: I. 2.]

[Footnote 432: They are called the Sandilya Sutras and appear to be not older than about the twelfth century A.D., but the tradition which connects them with the School of Sandilya may be just, for the teaching of this sage (Chandog. Up. III. 14) lays stress on will and belief. Ramanuja (Sribhashya, II. 2. 43) refers to Sandilya as the alleged author of the Pancaratra. There are other Bhakti sutras called Naradiya and ascribed to Narada, published and translated in The Sacred Books of the Hindus, No. 23. They consist of 84 short aphorisms. Raj. Mitra in his notices of Sanskrit MSS. describes a great number of modern works dealing with Bhakti.]

[Footnote 433: Yet it is found in Francis Thompson's poem called Any Saint

So best God loves to jest With children small, a freak Of heavenly hide and seek Fit For thy wayward wit.]

[Footnote 434: Pope, The History of Manikka-Vacagar, p. 23. For the 64 sports of Siva see Siddhanta Dipika, vol. IX.]

[Footnote 435: E.g. Ramanuja, Nammarvar, Basava.]

[Footnote 436: Apparently meaning "possessor of cows," and originally a title of the youthful Krishna. It is also interpreted as meaning Lord of the Vedas or Lord of his own senses.]

[Footnote 437: E.g. the beginning of the Chand. Up. about the syllable Om. See too the last section of the Aitareya Aran. The Yoga Upanishads analyse and explain Om and some Vishnuite Upanishads (Nrisimha and Ramata-paniya) enlarge on the subject of letters and diagrams.]

[Footnote 438: The same idea pervades the old literature in a slightly different form. The parts of the sacrifice are constantly identified with parts of the universe or of the human body.]

[Footnote 439: The cakras are mentioned in Act V of Malati and Madhava written early in the eighth century. The doctrine of the nadis occurs in the older Upanishads (e.g. Chand. and Maitrayana) in a rudimentary form.]




India is a literary country and naturally so great a change as the transformation of the old religion into theistic sects preaching salvation by devotion to a particular deity found expression in a long and copious literature. This literature supplements and supersedes the Vedic treatises but without impairing their theoretical authority, and, since it cannot compare with them in antiquity and has not the same historic interest, it has received little attention from Indianists until the present century. But in spite of its defects it is of the highest importance for an understanding of medieval and contemporary Hinduism. Much of it is avowedly based on the principle that in this degenerate age the Veda is difficult to understand,[440] and that therefore God in His mercy has revealed other texts containing a clear compendium of doctrine. Thus the great Vishnuite doctor Ramanuja states authoritatively "The incontrovertible fact then is as follows: The Lord who is known from the Vedanta texts ... recognising that the Vedas are difficult to fathom by all beings other than himself ... with a view to enable his devotees to grasp the true meaning of the Vedas, himself composed the Pancaratra-Sastra."[441]

This later sectarian literature falls into several divisions.

A. Certain episodes of the Mahabharata. The most celebrated of these is the Bhagavad-gita, which is probably anterior to the Christian era. Though it is incorporated in the Epic it is frequently spoken of as an independent work. Later and less celebrated but greatly esteemed by Vishnuites is the latter part of book XII, commonly known as Narayaniya.[442] Both these episodes and others[443] are closely analogous to metrical Upanishads. The Mahabharata even styles itself (I. 261) the Veda of Krishna (Karshna).

The Ramayana does not contain religious episodes comparable to those mentioned but the story has more than once been re-written in a religious and philosophic form. Of such versions the Adhyatma-Ramayana[444] and Yoga-vasishtha-Ramayana are very popular.

B. Though the Puranas[445] are not at all alike, most of them show clear affinity both as literature and as religious thought to the various strata of the Mahabharata, and to the Law Books, especially the metrical code of Manu. These all represent a form of orthodoxy which while admitting much that is not found in the Veda is still Brahmanic and traditionalist. The older Puranas (e.g. Matsya, Vayu, Markandeya, Vishnu), or at least the older parts of them, are the literary expression of that Hindu reaction which gained political power with the accession of the Gupta dynasty. They are less definitely sectarian than later works such as the Narada and Linga Puranas, yet all are more or less sectarian.

The most influential Purana is the Bhagavata, one of the great scriptures for all sects which worship Krishna. It is said to have been translated into every language of India and forty versions in Bengali alone are mentioned.[446] It was probably composed in the eighth or ninth century.[447] A free translation of the tenth book into Hindi, called the Prem Sagar or Ocean of Love, is greatly revered in northern India.[448] Other sectarian Puranas are frequently read at temple services. Besides the eighteen great Puranas there are many others, and in south India at any rate they were sometimes composed in the vernacular, as for instance the Periya Purana (c. 1100 A.D.). These vernacular Puranas seem to be collections of strangely fantastic fairy tales.

C. The word Tantra originally meant a manual giving the essentials of a subject but later usage tends to restrict it to works, whether Hindu or Buddhist, inculcating the worship of Siva's spouse. But there are exceptions to this restriction: the Panca-tantra is a collection of stories and the Lakshmi-tantra is a Vishnuite work.[449]

The fact is that a whole class of Sanskrit religious literature is described by the titles Tantra, Agama and Samhita,[450] which taken in a wide sense are practically synonymous, though usage is inclined to apply the first specially to Saktist works, the second to Sivaite and the third to Vishnuite. The common character of all these productions is that they do not attempt to combine Vedic rites and ideas with sectarian worship, but boldly state that, since the prescriptions of the Veda are too hard for this age, some generous deity has revealed an easier teaching. This teaching naturally varies in detail, but it usually comprises devotion to some special form of the godhead and also a special ceremonial, which commences with initiation and includes the use of mystic formulae, letters and diagrams. Tantras, Agamas and Samhitas all treat of their subject-matter in four divisions[451] the first of which relates to the great problems of philosophy, the second to the discipline necessary for uniting the self and God; the third and fourth to ceremonial.

These works have another feature in common, namely that they are little known except to those Hindus who use them for religious purposes and are probably not very anxious to see them published. Though they are numerous, few of them have been printed and those few have not been much studied by European scholars. I shall say something more about them below in treating of the various sects. Some are of respectable antiquity but it is also clear that modern texts pass under ancient names. The Pancaratram and Pasupatam which are Vishnuite and Sivaite Samhitas are mentioned in the Mahabharata, and some extant Vishnuite Samhitas were perhaps composed in the fourth century A.D.[452] Ramanuja as quoted above states that the Pancaratra-sastra (apparently the same as the Pancaratra-tantra which he also mentions) was composed by Vasudeva himself and also cites as scripture the Sattvata, Paushkara and Parama Samhitas. In the same context he speaks of the Mahabharata as Bharata-Samhita and the whole passage is interesting as being a statement by a high authority of the reasons for accepting a non-Vedic work like the Pancaratra as revealed scripture.

As already indicated European usage makes the words Tantra, Tantrism and tantric refer to the worship of goddesses. It would be better to describe this literature and worship as Saktism and to use Tantrism for a tendency in doctrine and ceremonial which otherwise has no special name. I have been informed by Tamil Pandits that at the present day the ritual in some temples is smarta or according to Smriti, but in the majority according to the Agamas or tantric. The former which is followed by many well-known shrines (for instance in Benares and in the great temples of south India) conforms to the precepts of the Puranas, especially on festival days. The officiants require no special initiation and burnt offerings are presented. But the Agamic ritual can be performed only by priests who have received initiation, burnt offerings rarely form part of the ceremony and vernacular hymns are freely used.[453]

Such hymns however as well as processions and other forms of worship which appeal directly to the religious emotions are certainly not tantric. Tantrism is a species of religious magic, differing from the Vedic sacrifices in method rather than principle.[454] For all that, it sets aside the old rites and announces itself as the new dispensation for this age. Among its principal features are the following. The Tantras are a scripture for all, and lay little stress on caste: the texts and the ritual which they teach can be understood only after initiation and with the aid of a teacher: the ritual consists largely in the correct use of spells, magical or sacramental syllables and letters, diagrams and gestures: its object is less to beseech than to compel the god to come to the worshipper: another object is to unite the worshipper to the god and in fact transform him into the god: man is a microcosm corresponding to the macrocosm or universe: the spheres and currents of the universe are copied in miniature in the human body and the same powers rule the same parts in the greater and the lesser scheme. Such ideas are widely disseminated in almost all modern sects,[455] though without forming their essential doctrine, but I must repeat that to say all sects are tantric does not mean that they are all Saktist. But Saktist sects are fundamentally and thoroughly tantric in their theory and practice.

D. Besides the Sanskrit books mentioned above numerous vernacular works, especially collections of hymns, are accepted as authoritative by various sects, and almost every language has scriptures of its own. In the south two Tamil hymnals, the Devaram of the Sivaites and Nalayira Prabandham of the Vishnuites, are recited in temples and are boldly stated to be revelations equivalent to the Veda. In northern India may be mentioned the Hindi Ramayana of Tulsi Das, which is almost universally venerated, the Bhaktamala of Nabha Das,[456] the Sur-sagar of Surdas and the Prem Sagar. In Assam the Nam Gosha of Madhab Deb is honoured with the same homage as a sacred image. The awkwardness of admitting direct inspiration in late times is avoided by the theory of spiritual descent, that is to say of doctrinal transmission from teacher to teacher, the divine revelation having been made to the original teacher at a discreetly remote epoch.


In considering the evolution of modern Hinduism out of the old Vedic religion, three of the many factors responsible for this huge and complicated result deserve special attention. The first is the unusual intensity and prevalence of the religious temperament. This has a double effect, both conservative and alterative: ancient customs receive an unreasonable respect: they are not abolished for their immorality or absurdity; but since real interest implies some measure of constructive power, there is a constant growth of new ideas and reinterpretations resulting in inconsistent combinations. The second is the absence of hierarchy and discipline. The guiding principle of the Brahmans has always been not so much that they have a particular creed to enforce, as that whatever is the creed of India they must be its ministers. Naturally every priest is the champion of his own god or rite, and such zeal may lead to occasional conflicts. But though the antithesis between the ritualism of the older Brahmanism and the faith or philosophy of Sivaism and Vishnuism may remind us of the differences between the Catholic Church and Protestant reformers, yet historically there is no resemblance in the development of the antithesis. To some extent Hinduism showed a united front against Buddhism, but the older Brahmanism had no organization which enabled it to stand as a separate Church in opposition to movements which it disliked. The third factor is the deeply rooted idea, which reappears at frequent intervals from the time of the Upanishads until to-day, that rules and rites and even creeds are somehow part of the lower and temporal order of things which the soul should transcend and leave behind. This idea tinges the whole of Indian philosophy and continually crops up in practice. The founder of a strange sect who declares that nothing is necessary but faith in a particular deity and that all ceremonies and caste observances are superfluous is not in the popular esteem a subverter of Hinduism.

The history of both Sivaism and Vishnuism illustrates these features. Siva begins as a wild deity of non-moral attributes. As the religious sense develops he is not rejected like the less reputable deities of the Jews and Arabs but remains and collects round himself other strange wild ideas which in time are made philosophical but not ethical. The rites of the new religion are, if not antagonistic, at least alternative to the ancient sacrifices, yet far from being forbidden they are performed by Brahmans and modern Indian writers describe Siva as peculiarly the Brahman's god. Finally the Sivaite schools of the Tamil country reject in successive stages the grosser and more formal elements until there remains nothing but an ecstatic and mystical monotheism. Similarly among the Vishnuites Krishna is the centre of legends which have even less of conventional morality. Yet out of them arises a doctrine that the love of God is the one thing needful so similar to Christian teaching that many have supposed it must be borrowed.

The first clear accounts of the worship of Siva and Vishnu are contained in the epics and indicate the existence of sectarian religion, that is to say of exclusive devotion to one or other deity. But there is also a tendency to find a place for both, a tendency which culminates in the composite deity Sankara Narayana already mentioned. Many of the Puranas[457] reflect this view and praise the two deities impartially. The Mahabharata not unfrequently does the same but the general impression left by this poem is that the various parts of which it consists have been composed or revised in a sectarian spirit. The body of the work is a narrative of exploits in which the hero Krishna plays a great part but revised so as to make him appear often as a deity and sometimes as the Supreme Spirit. But much of the didactic matter which has been added, particularly books XII and XIII, breathes an equally distinct Sivaite spirit and in the parts where Krishna is treated as a mere hero, the principal god appears to be not Vishnu but Siva.

The Mahabharata and Puranas contain legends which, though obscure, refer to conflicts of the worshippers of Siva with those who offered Vedic sacrifices as well as with the votaries of Vishnu, and to a subsequent reconciliation and blending of the various cults. Among these is the well-known story of Daksha's sacrifice to which Siva was not invited. Enraged at the omission he violently breaks up the sacrifice either in person or through a being whom he creates for the purpose, assaults the officiants and the gods who are present, and is pacified by receiving a share. Similarly we hear[458] that he once seized a victim at a sacrifice and that the gods in fear allotted to him the choicest portion of the offerings. These stories indicate that at one time Brahmans did not countenance his worship and he is even represented as saying to his wife that according to rule (dharmatah) he has no share in the sacrifice.[459] Possibly human victims were immolated in his honour, as they were in Kali's until recently, for in the Mahabharata[460] it is related how Krishna expostulated with Jarasandha who proposed to offer to Siva a sacrifice of captive kings. In the Vishnu-Purana, Krishna fights with Siva and burns Benares. But by the time that the Mahabharata was put together these quarrels were not in an acute stage. In several passages[461] Krishna is made to worship Siva as the Supreme Spirit and in others[462] vice versa Siva celebrates the glory of Krishna. Vishnuites do not disbelieve in Siva but they regard him as a god of this world, whereas their own deity is cosmic and universal. Many Vishnuite works[463] are said to be revealed by Siva who acts as an intermediary between us and higher spheres.


In the following sections I shall endeavour to relate the beginnings of sectarianism. The sects which are now most important are relatively modern and arose in the twelfth century or later, but the sectarian spirit can be traced back several centuries before our era. By sectarians I mean worshippers of Siva or Vishnu who were neither in complete sympathy with the ancient Brahmanism nor yet excommunicated by it and who had new texts and rites to replace or at least supplement the Vedas and the Vedic sacrifices. It is probable that the different types of early Indian religion had originally different geographical spheres. Brahmanism flourished in what we call the United Provinces: Buddhism arose in the regions to the east of this district and both Vishnuism and Sivaism are first heard of in the west.

The earliest sect of which we have any record is that of the Bhagavatas, who were or became Vishnuite. At a date which it is impossible to fix but considerably before the epoch of Panini, a tribe named the Yadavas occupied the country between Muttra and the shores of Gujarat. Sects of this tribe were called Vrishni and Sattvata. The latter name has passed into theology. Krishna belonged to this sect and it is probable that this name Vasudeva was not originally a patronymic but the name of a deity worshipped by it. The hero Krishna was identified with this god and subsequently when the Brahmans wished to bring this powerful sect within the pale of orthodoxy both were identified with Vishnu. In the Mahabharata[464] the rule or ritual (vidhi) of the Sattvatas is treated as equivalent to that of the Bhagavatas and a work called the Sattvata Samhita is still extant. Bhagavata appears to be the most general name of the sect or sects and means simply of the Lord (Bhagavat), that is worshippers of the one Lord.[465] Their religion is also called Ekantika dharma, or the religion with one object, that is monotheism.[466]

A considerable literature grew up in this school and the principal treatise is often spoken of as Pancaratra because it was revealed by Narayana during five nights.[467] The name however appears to be strictly speaking applicable to a system or body of doctrine and the usual term for the books in which this system is expounded is Samhita. All previous discussions and speculations about these works, of which little was known until recently, are superseded by Schrader's publication of the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, which appears to be representative of its class.[468] The names of over two hundred are cited and of these more than thirty are known to be extant in MS.[469] The majority were composed in north-western India but the Pancaratra doctrine spread to the Dravidian countries and new Samhitas were produced there, the chief of which, the Isvara Samhita, can hardly be later than 800 A.D.[470] Of the older works Schrader thinks that the Ahirbudhnya was written in Kashmir[471] between 300 and 800 A.D. and perhaps as early as the fourth century. It mentions the Sattvata and Jayakhya, which must therefore be older.

The most remarkable feature of this literature is its elaborate doctrine of evolution and emanation from the Deity, the world process being conceived in the usual Hindu fashion as an alternation of production and destruction. A distinction is drawn between pure and gross creation. What we commonly call the Universe is bounded by the shell of the cosmic egg and there are innumerable such eggs, each with its own heavens and its own tutelary deities such as Brahma and Siva who are sharply distinguished from Vishnu. But beyond this multitude of worlds are more mysterious and spiritual spheres, the highest heaven or Vaikuntha wherein dwells God in his highest form (Para) with his Saktis,[472] certain archangels and liberated souls. Evolution commences when at the end of the cosmic night the Sakti of Vishnu[473] is differentiated from her Lord and assumes the two forms of Force and Matter.[474] He as differentiated from her is Vasudeva a personal deity with six attributes[475] and is the first emanation, or Vyuha, of the ineffable godhead. From him proceeds Sankarshana, from Sankarshana Pradyumna, and from Pradyumna Aniruddha. These three Vyuhas take part in creation but also correspond to or preside over certain aspects of human personality, namely Sankarshana to the soul that animates all beings, Pradyumna to intelligence and Aniruddha to individuality. Strange to say these seem to be the names of distinguished personages in the Sattvata or Vrishni clan.[476] Mere deification occurs in many countries but the transformation of heroes into metaphysical or psychological terms could hardly have happened outside India. Next to the Vyuhas come twelve sub-Vyuhas, among whom is Narayana,[477] and thirty-nine Avataras. All these beings are outside the cosmic eggs and our gross creation. As a prelude to this last there takes place the evolution of the aggregates or sources from which individual souls and matter are drawn, of space and of time, and finally of the elements, the process as described seeming to follow an older form of the Sankhya philosophy than that known to us. The task of human souls is to attain liberation, but though the language of the Samhitas is not entirely consistent, the older view is that they become like to God, not that they are absorbed in him.[478]

Thus it is not incorrect to say that the Bhagavata religion is monotheistic and recognizes a creator of souls. Indeed Sankara[479] condemns it on the very ground that it makes individual souls originate from Vasudeva, in which case since they have an origin they must also have an end. But Ramanuja in replying to this criticism seems to depart from the older view, for he says that the Supreme Being voluntarily abides in four forms which include the soul, mind and the principle of individuality. This, if not Pantheism, is very different from European monotheism.[480]

The history of these Bhagavatas, Pancaratras or worshippers of Vishnu must have begun several centuries before our era, for there are allusions to them in Panini and the Niddesa.[481] The names of Vasudeva and Sankarshana occur in old inscriptions[482] and the Greek Heliodoros calls himself a Bhagavata on the column found at Besnagar and supposed to date from the first part of the second century B.C.

The Pancaratra was not Brahmanic in origin[483] and the form of the Sankhya philosophy from which it borrowed was also un-Brahmanic. It seems to have grown up in north-western India in the centuries when Iranian influence was strong and may owe to Zoroastrianism the doctrine of the Vyuhas which finds a parallel in the relation of Ahura Mazda to Spenta Mainyu, his Holy Spirit, and in the Fravashis. It is also remarkable that God is credited with six attributes comparable with the six Amesha Spentas. In other ways the Pancaratra seems to have some connection with late Buddhism. Though it lays little stress on the worship of goddesses, yet all the Vyuhas and Avataras are provided with Saktis, like the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of tantric Buddhism, and in the period of quiescence which follows on the dissolution of the Universe Vishnu is described under the name of Sunya or the void. It attaches great importance to the Cakra, the wheel or discus which denotes Vishnu's will to be,[484] to evolve and maintain the universe, and it may have contributed some ideas to the very late form of Buddhism called Kalacakra. This very word is used in the Ahirbudhnya Samhita as the name of one of the many wheels engaged in the work of evolution.

Though the Pancaratra is connected with Krishna in its origin, it gives no prominence to devotion to him under that name as do modern sects and it knows nothing of the pastoral Krishna.[485] It recommends the worship of the four Vyuhas[486] presiding over the four quarters in much the same way that late Buddhism adores the four Jinas depicted in somewhat similar forms. Similarly the Sivaites say that Siva has five faces, namely Isana or Sadasiva (the highest, undifferentiated form of the deity) at the top and below Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha, and Sadyojata, presiding respectively over the north, south, east and west. It is thus clear that in the early centuries of our era (or perhaps even before it) there was a tendency in Vishnuism, Sivaism and Mahayanist Buddhism alike to represent the ineffable godhead as manifested in four aspects somewhat more intelligible to human minds and producing in their turn many inferior manifestations. Possibly the theory originated among the Vishnuites,[487] but as often happened in India it was adopted by their opponents. None of these theories are of much importance as living beliefs at the present day but their influence can be seen in iconography.

As a sect the Pancaratras seem to have been a subdivision of the Bhagavatas and probably at the present day many Vishnuites would accept the second name but not the first. The Pancaratra is studied at only a few places in southern India but its doctrines permeate the popular work called Bhaktamala and in view of the express approbation of Ramanuja and other authorities it can hardly be repudiated by the Sri-Vaishnavas. Bhagavata is sometimes used in the south as a name for Smartas who practise Vedic rites and worship both Siva and Vishnu.[488]


In these early times there were strenuous theological struggles now forgotten, though they have left their traces in the legends which tell how the title of Krishna and others to divine honours was challenged. Amalgamation was the usual method of conciliation. Several gods grew sufficiently important to become in the eyes of their worshippers the supreme spirit and at least four were united in the deity of the Bhagavatas, namely, Vasudeva, Krishna, Vishnu and Narayana. Of the first three I have spoken already. Narayana never became like Vishnu and Krishna a great mythological figure, but in the late Vedic period he is a personification of the primaeval waters from which all things sprang or of the spirit which moved in them.[489] From this he easily became the supreme spirit who animates all the universe and the name was probably acceptable to those who desired a purer and simpler worship because it was connected with comparatively few legends. But there is some confusion in its use, for it is applied not only to the supreme being but to a double incarnation of him called Nara-Narayana, and images of the pair may still be seen in Vishnuite temples. They are said to have revealed the true doctrine to Narada and are invoked at the beginning of each book of the Mahabharata.[490] One of the main theses of the Narayaniya[491] is the identity of Narayana and Vasudeva, the former being a Brahmanic, the latter a non-Brahmanic name for the Deity.

The celebrated Bhagavad-gita[492] which is still held in such respect that, like the New Testament or Koran, it is used in law courts for the administration of oaths, is an early scripture of the Bhagavata sect. In it the doctrines of Krishna's divinity, the power of faith and the efficacy of grace are fully established. It is declared to be too hard for flesh and blood to find by meditation their way to the eternal imperceptible spirit, whereas Krishna comes straightway to those who make him their sole desire. "Set thy heart on me, become my devotee, sacrifice to me and worship thou me. Then shalt thou come to me. Truly I declare to thee thou art dear to me. Leave all (other) religious duties and come to me as thy sole refuge. I will deliver thee from thy sins. Sorrow not." But the evolution of Sankarshana, etc., is not mentioned. The poem has perhaps been re-edited and interpolated several times but the strata can hardly be distinguished, for the whole work, if not exactly paradoxical, is eclectic and continually argues that what is apparently highest is not best for a particular person. The Hindus generally regard the contemplative life as the highest, but the Bhagavad-gita is insistent in enjoining unselfish action: it admits that the supreme reality cannot be grasped by the mind or expressed in speech, but it recommends the worship of a personal deity. Even the older parts of the poem appear to be considerably later than Buddhism. But its mythology, if not Vedic, is also hardly Puranic and it knows nothing of the legends about the pastoral Krishna. It presupposes the Sankhya and Yoga, though in what stage of development it is hard to say, and in many respects its style resembles the later Upanishads. I should suppose that it assumed its present form about the time of the Christian era, rather before than after, and I do not think it owes anything to direct Christian influence. In its original form it may have been considerably older.

The Bhagavad-gita identifies Krishna with Vasudeva and with Vishnu but does not mention Narayana and from its general style I should imagine the Narayaniya to be a later poem. If so, the evolution of Bhagavata theology will be that Krishna, a great hero in a tribe lying outside the sphere of Brahmanism, is first identified with Vasudeva, the god of that tribe, and then both of them with Vishnu. At this stage the Bhagavad-gita was composed. A later current of speculation added Narayana to the already complex figure, and a still later one, not accepted by all sects, brought the pastoral and amorous legends of Krishna. Thus the history of the Bhagavatas illustrates the Indian disposition to combine gods and to see in each of them only an aspect of the one. But until a later period the types of divinity known as Vishnu and Siva resisted combination. The worshippers of Siva have in all periods shown less inclination than the Vishnuites to form distinct and separate bodies and the earliest Sivaite sect of which we know anything, the Pasupatas,[493] arose slightly later than the Bhagavatas.


Patanjali the grammarian (c. 150 B.C.) mentions devotees of Siva[494] and also images of Siva and Skanda. There is thus no reason to doubt that worshippers of Siva were recognized as a sect from at least 200 B.C. onwards. Further it seems probable that the founder or an early teacher of the sect was an ascetic called Lakulin or Lakulisa, the club-bearer. The Vayu Purana[495] makes Siva say that he will enter an unowned corpse and become incarnate in this form at Kayarohana, which has been identified with Karvan in Baroda. Now the Vayu is believed to be the oldest of the Puranas, and it is probable that this Lakulin whom it mentions lived before rather than after our era and was especially connected with the Pasupata sect. This word is derived from Pasupati, the Lord of cattle, an old title of Rudra afterwards explained to mean the Lord of human souls. In the Santiparvan[496] five systems of knowledge are mentioned. Sankhya, Yoga, the Vedas, Pasupatam and Pancaratram, promulgated respectively by Kapila, Hiranyagarbha, Apantaratamas, Siva the Lord of spirits and son of Brahma, and "The Lord (Bhagavan) himself." The author of these verses, who evidently supported the Pancaratra, considered that these five names represented the chief existing or permissible varieties of religious thought. The omission of the Vedanta is remarkable but perhaps it is included under Veda. Hence we may conclude that when this passage was written (that is probably before 400 A.D. and perhaps about the beginning of our era) there were two popular religions ranking in public esteem with the philosophic and ritual doctrines of the Brahmans. The Mahabharata contains a hymn[497] which praises Siva under 1008 names and is not without resemblance to the Bhagavad-gita. It contains a larger number of strange epithets, but Siva is also extolled as the All-God, who asks for devotion and grants grace. At the close of the hymn Siva says that he has introduced the Pasupata religion which partly contradicts and partly agrees with the institutions of caste and the Asramas, but is blamed by fools.[498]

These last words hint that the Pasupatas laid themselves open to criticism by their extravagant practices, such as strange sounds and gestures.[499] But in such matters they were outdone by other sects called Kapalikas or Kalamukhas. These carried skulls and ate the flesh of corpses, and were the fore-runners of the filthy Aghoris, who were frequent in northern India especially near Mount Abu and Girnar a century ago and perhaps are not yet quite extinct. The biographers of Sankara[500] represent him as contending with these demoniac fanatics not merely with the weapons of controversy but as urging the princes who favoured him to exterminate them.

Hindu authorities treat the Pasupatas as distinct from the Saivas, or Sivaites, and the distinction was kept up in Camboja in the fourteenth century. The Saivas appear to be simply worshippers of Siva, who practice a sane ritual. In different parts of India they have peculiarities of their own but whereas the Vaishnavas have split up into many sects each revering its own founder and his teaching, the Saivas, if not a united body, present few well-marked divisions. Such as exist I shall notice below in their geographical or historical connection.[501] Most of them accept a system of theology or philosophy[502] which starts with three principles, all without beginning or end. These are Pati or the Lord, that is Siva: Pasu, or the individual soul: Pasa or the fetter, that is matter or Karma.[503] The task of the soul is to get free of its fetters and attain to the state of Siva. But this final deliverance is not quite the same as the identity with Brahman taught by the Vedanta: the soul becomes a Siva, equal to the deity in power and knowledge but still dependent on him rather than identical with him.[504]

Peculiar to Saiva theology is the doctrine of the five kancukas[505] or envelopes which limit the soul. Spirit in itself is free: it is timeless and knows no restrictions of space, enjoyment, knowledge and power. But when spirit is contracted to individual experience, it can apprehend the universe only as a series of changes in time and place: its enjoyment, knowledge and power are cramped and curtailed by the limits of personality. The terminology of the Saivas is original but the theory appears to be an elaboration of the Pancaratra thesis that the soul is surrounded by the sheath of Maya.

The early literature of the worshippers of Siva (corresponding to the Samhitas of the Pancaratras) appears to have consisted of twenty-eight works composed in Sanskrit and called Agamas.[506] There is fairly good evidence for their antiquity. Tirumular, one of the earliest Tamil poets who is believed to have lived in the first centuries of our era, speaks of them with enthusiasm and the Buddhist Sanskrit works called Agamas (corresponding to the Pali Nikayas) cannot be later than that period. It is highly probable that the same word was in use among both Hindus and Buddhists at the same time. And since the Mahabharata mentions the Pasupatam, there is no difficulty in supposing that expositions of Sivaite doctrine were current in the first century A.D. or even B.C. But unless more texts of the Agamas come to light the question of their age has little practical importance, for it is said by native scholars that of the twenty-eight primary books there survive only fragments of twenty, which treat of ritual, besides the verses which form the text expounded at length in the Sivananabotham.[507] There are also said to be 120 Upagamas of which only two or three have been preserved entire. Of these two have been printed in part, the Mrigendra and Paushkara.[508] The former is cited in the Sarva-darsana-sangraha (about 1330) but does not show any signs of great antiquity. It is thus clear that the Agamas are not much studied by modern Sivaites but it is unhesitatingly stated that they are a revelation direct from Siva and equal to the Veda[509] and this affirmation is important, even though the texts so praised are little known, for it testifies to the general feeling that there are other revelations than the Veda. But the Vedas, and the Vedanta Sutras are not ignored. The latter are read in the light of Nilakantha's[510] commentary which is considered by south Indian Pandits to be prior to Sankara.


[Footnote 440: An attempt was made to adapt the Veda to modern ideas by composing new Upanishads. The inspiration of such works is not denied but they have not the same influence as the literature mentioned below.]

[Footnote 441: Sri Bhashya, II. 2. 43. So too the Vishnu Purana, I. 1 describes itself as equal in sanctity to the Vedas. Sankara on Brah. Sutras, I. 3. 33 says that the Puranas are authoritative.]

[Footnote 442: See Grierson in Ind. Ant. 1908, p. 251 and p. 373.]

[Footnote 443: E.g. the Sanatsujatiya and Anugita (both in S.B.E. VIII.). See Deussen, Vier philosophische Texte des Mahabharatam.]

[Footnote 444: Forming part of the Brahmanda Purana.]

[Footnote 445: See for a summary of them Winternitz, Gesch. Ind. Lit. I. pp. 450-483. For the dates see Pargiter Dynasties of the Kali age. He holds that the historical portions of the older Puranas were compiled in Prakrit about 250 A.D. and re-edited in Sanskrit about 350. See also Vincent Smith, Early History, p. 21 and, against Pargiter, Keith in J.R.A.S. 1914, p. 1021. Alberuni (who wrote in 1030) mentions eighteen Puranas and gives two lists of them. Bana (c. 620 A.D.) mentions the recitation of the Vayu Purana. The commentary on the Svetasvatara Upan. ascribed to Sankara quotes the Brahma P., Linga P. and Vishnu P. as authorities as well as Puranic texts described as Vishnudharma and Sivadharmottara. But the authorship of this commentary is doubtful. The Puranic literature as we know it probably began with the Gupta dynasty or a century before it, but the word Purana in the sense of an ancient legend which ought to be learnt occurs as early as the Satapatha Brahmana (XI. 5. 6. 8) and even in A.V. XI. 7. 24.]

[Footnote 446: See Dinesh Chandra Sen, Hist. Bengali Language and Lit. pp. 220-225.]

[Footnote 447: Pargiter, l.c. pp. xvii, xxviii. It does not belong to the latest class of Puranas for it seems to contemplate the performance of Smarta rites not temple ceremonial, but it is not quoted by Ramanuja (twelfth century) though he cites the Vishnu Purana. Probably he disapproved of it.]

[Footnote 448: It was made as late as 1803 by Lallu Ji Lal, but is a rendering into Hindi of a version in the Braj dialect, probably made in the sixteenth century.]

[Footnote 449: Another Vishnuite work is cited indifferently as Padma-tantra or Padma-samhita, and the Bhagavata Purana (I. 3. 8) speaks of the Sattvatam Tantram, which is apparently the Sattvata-samhita. The work edited by Schrader is described as the Ahirbudhnya Samhita of the Pancaratra Agama.]

[Footnote 450: See for some notices of these works A. Avalon's various publications about Tantra. Srinivasa Iyengar, Outlines of Indian Philosophy, 118-191. Govindacarya Svami on the Vaishnava Samhitas, J.R.A.S. 1911, pp. 935 ff. Schomerus, Caiva-Siddhanta, pp. 7 ff. and Schrader's Introduction to the Pancaratra. Whereas these works claim to be independent of the Veda, the Sectarian Upanishads (see vol. I. p. 76) are an attempt to connect post-Vedic sects with the Veda.]

[Footnote 451: Jnana, Yoga, Carya, Kriya. The same names are used of Buddhist Tantras, except that Anuttara replaces Jnana.]

[Footnote 452: See Schrader, Introd. to the Pancaratra, p. 98. In the Raghuvamsa, X. 27. Agamas are not only mentioned but said to be extremely numerous. But in such passages it is hard to say whether Agama means the books now so-called or merely tradition. Alberuni seems not to have known of this literature and a Tantra for him is merely a minor treatise on astronomy. He evidently regards the Vedas, Puranas, philosophical Darsanas and Epics as constituting the religious literature of India.]

[Footnote 453: Rajagopala Chariar (Vaishnavite Reformers, p. 4) says that in Vishnu temples two rituals are used called Pancaratra and Vaikhanasa. The latter is apparently consistent with Smarta usage whereas the Pancaratra is not. From Gopinatha Rao's Elements of Hindu Iconography, pp. 56, 77, 78 it appears that there is a Vaikhanasagama parallel to the Pancaratragama. It is frequently quoted by this author, though as yet unpublished. It seems to be the ritual of those Bhagavatas who worship both Siva and Vishnu. It is said to exist in two recensions, prose and metrical, of which the former is perhaps the oldest of the Vaishnava Agamas. The Vaikhanasa ritual was once followed at Srirangam but Ramanuja substituted the Pancaratra for it.]

[Footnote 454: Avalon, Principles of Tantra, p. xxvii describes it as "that development of the Vaidika Karmakanda which under the name of the Tantra Shastra is the scripture of the Kali age." This seems to me a correct statement of the tantric theory.]

[Footnote 455: Thus the Gautamiya Tantra which is held in high estimation by Vishnuite householders in Bengal, though not by ascetics, is a complete application of Sakta worship to the cult of Krishna. The Varahi Tantra is also Vishnuite. See Raj. Mitra, Sanskrit MSS. of Bikaner, p. 583 and Notices of Sk. MSS. III. (1876), p. 99, and I. cclxxxvii. See too the usages of the Nambuthiri Brahmans as described in Cochin Tribes and Castes, II. pp. 229-233. In many ways the Nambuthiris preserve the ancient Vedic practices.]

[Footnote 456: See Grierson's articles Gleanings from the Bhaktamala in J.R.A.S. 1909-1910.]

[Footnote 457: E.g. Markandeya, Vamana and Varaha. Also the Skanda Upanishad.]

[Footnote 458: Mahabh. Vanaparvan, 11001 ff. The Bhagavata Purana, Book IV. sec. 2-7 emphasizes more clearly the objections of the Rishis to Siva as an enemy of Vedic sacrifices and a patron of unhallowed rites.]

[Footnote 459: Mahabh. XII. sec. 283. In the same way the worship of Dionysus was once a novelty in Greece and not countenanced by the more conservative and respectable party. See Eur. Bacchae, 45. The Varaha-Purana relates that the Sivaite scriptures were revealed for the benefit of certain Brahmans whose sins had rendered them incapable of performing Vedic rites. There is probably some truth in this legend in so far as it means that Brahmans who were excommunicated for some fault were disposed to become the ministers of non-Vedic cults.]

[Footnote 460: Mahabh. II. secs. 16, 22 ff.]

[Footnote 461: Drona-p., 2862 ff. Anusasana-p., 590 ff.]

[Footnote 462: E.g. Anusasana P., 6806 ff.]

[Footnote 463: E.g. the Ahirbudhnya Samhita and Adhyatma Ramayana.]

[Footnote 464: Santipar. cccxxxvii, 12711 ff. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says that he is Vasudeva of the Vrishnis, XI. 37.]

[Footnote 465: Cf. the title Bhagavata Purana.]

[Footnote 466: Ekayana is mentioned several times in the Chandogya Up. (VII. 1, 2 and afterwards) as a branch of religious or literary knowledge and in connection with Narada. But it is not represented as the highest or satisfying knowledge.]

[Footnote 467: Even in the Satapatha Br. Narayana is mentioned in connection with a sacrifice lasting five days, XIII. 6. 1.]

[Footnote 468: The Samhitas hitherto best known to orientalists appear to be late and spurious. The Brihadbrahma Samhita published by the Anandasrama Press mentions Ramanuja. The work printed in the Bibliotheca Indica as Narada Pancaratra (although its proper title apparently is Jnanamritasara) has been analyzed by Roussel in Melanges Harlez and is apparently a late liturgical compilation of little originality. Schrader's work was published by the Adyar Library in Madras, 1916. Apparently the two forms Pancaratra and Pancaratra are both found, but that with the long vowel is the more usual. Govindacarya's article in J.R.A.S. 1911, p. 951 may also be consulted.]

[Footnote 469: The oldest are apparently the Paushkara, Varaha, Brahma, Sattvata, Jaya and Ahirbudhnya Samhitas, all quoted as authoritative by either Ramanuja or Vedanta Desika.]

[Footnote 470: It is quoted as equal to the Vedas by Yamunacarya, so it must then have been in existence some centuries.]

[Footnote 471: The story of Svetadvipa or White Island in the Santi-parvan of the Mahabharata states definitely that Narada received the Pancaratra there.]

[Footnote 472: There is much diversity of statement as to whether there are one or many Saktis.]

[Footnote 473: Vishnu is the name of God in all his aspects, but especially God as the absolute. Vasudeva is used both of God as the absolute and also as the first emanation (Vyuha).]

[Footnote 474: Kriyasakti and Bhutisakti.]

[Footnote 475: Jnana, aisvarya, sakti, bala, virya, tejas. These are called gunas but are not to be confounded with the three ordinary gunas.]

[Footnote 476: The words seem to have been originally proper names. See the articles in the Petersburg Lexicon.]

[Footnote 477: Narayana like Vishnu is used to designate more than one aspect of God. Sometimes it denotes the Absolute.]

[Footnote 478: The above brief sketch is based on Schrader's Int. to the Pancaratra where the reader can find full details.]

[Footnote 479: Comment on Vedanta sutras, II. 2. 42.]

[Footnote 480: And, as Schrader observes, the evolutionary system of the Pancaratra is practically concerned with only one force, the Sakti, which under the name Bhuti is manifested as the Universe and as Kriya vitalizes and governs it (p. 31).]

[Footnote 481: On Sutta-nipata, 790, 792. The doctrine of the Vyuhas is expounded in the Mahabharata Santip. CCCXL. 36 ff., 70 ff.; CCCXLI. 26 ff.]

[Footnote 482: Lueder's List of Brahmi inscriptions, No. 6, supposed not to be later than 200 B.C. and No. 1112 supposed to be of the first century B.C. Sankarshana is also mentioned in the Kautiliya Arthasastra, XIII. 3.]

[Footnote 483: Some Samhitas emphasize the distinction between the followers of the Veda and the enlightened ones who worship the Lord. See Schrader, Pancaratra, p. 97.]

[Footnote 484: Syam iti Sankalpa, Ahirbudh. Sam. II. 7. In some late Upanishads (e.g. Naradaparivrajaka and Brihatsannyasa) Cakri is used as a synonym for a Pancaratra.]

[Footnote 485: The same is true of Ramanuja, who never quotes the Bhagavata Purana.]

[Footnote 486: See the quotations from the Sattvata Samhita in Schrader, pp. 150-154. As in the Pancaratra there is the Para above the four Vyuhas, so some late forms of Buddhism regard Vairocana as the source of four Jinas.]

[Footnote 487: The Manicheans also had groups of five deities (see Chavannes and Pelliot in J.A. 1913, I. pp. 333-338) but they are just as likely to have borrowed from Buddhism as vice versa.]

[Footnote 488: See Bhattacharya, Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 565.]

[Footnote 489: Manu, I. 10-11, identifies him with Brahma and says, "The waters are called Narah because they are produced from Nara, and he is called Narayana because they were his place of movement (ayana)." The same statement occurs in the Narayaniya.]

[Footnote 490: They are said to have been the sons of Dharma (religion or righteousness) and Ahimsa (not-injuring). This is obvious allegory indicating that the Bhagavata religion rejected animal sacrifices. At the beginning of the Narayaniya (Santip. cccxxxv.) it is said that Narayana the soul of the universe took birth in a quadruple form as the offspring of Dharma, viz. Nara, Narayana, Hari and Krishna. Nara and Narayana are often identified with Arjuna and Vasudeva. e.g. Udyogap. xxlx. 19.]

[Footnote 491: Mahabhar. XII.]

[Footnote 492: It is an episode in Mahabhar. VI. and in its present form was doubtless elaborated apart from the rest. But we may surmise that the incident of Krishna's removing Arjuna's scruples by a discourse appeared in the early versions of the story and also that the discourse was longer and profounder than would seem appropriate to the European reader of a tale of battles. But as the Vedanta philosophy and the doctrine of Krishna's godhead developed, the discourse may have been amplified and made to include later theological views. Garbe in his German translation attempts to distinguish the different strata and his explanation of the inconsistencies as due to successive redactions and additions may contain some truth. But these inconsistencies in theology are common to all sectarian writings and I think the main cause for them must be sought not so much in the alteration and combination of documents, as in a mixed and eclectic mode of thought. Even in European books of the first rank inconsistencies are not unknown and they need not cause surprise in works which were not written down but committed to memory. A poet composing a long religious poem in this way and feeling, as many Hindus feel, both that God is everything and also that he is a very present personal help, may very well express himself differently in different parts. On the other hand the editors of such poems are undoubtedly tempted to insert in them later popular doctrines.]

[Footnote 493: The name appears not to be in common use now, but the Pasupata school is reviewed in the Sarva-darsana-sangraha (c. 1330).]

[Footnote 494: Sivabhagavata, see his comment on Panini, V. 3. 99 and V. 2. 76. The name is remarkable and suggests that the Sivaites may have imitated the Bhagavatas.]

[Footnote 495: I. xxiii. 209. The Bibliotheca Ind. edition reads Nakuli. Aufrecht (Bodl. MSS.) has Lakuli. The same story is found in Linga P. chap. XXIV. Lakuli is said to have had four pupils who founded four branches. Lakulin does not play an important part in modern Sivaism but is mentioned in inscriptions from the tenth till the thirteenth centuries. The Sarva-darsana-sangraha describes the Nakulisa-Pasupata system and quotes Nakulisa who is clearly the same as Lakulin. The figures on Kushan coins representing Siva as holding a club may be meant for Lakulin but also may be influenced by Greek figures of Herakles. See for Lakulin Fleet in J.R.A.S. 1907, pp. 419 ff. and Bhandarkar Vaishnavism and Saivism, pp. 115 ff. The coins of Wema Kadphises bear the title Mahisvara, apparently meaning worshipper of the Great Lord. Temples in south India seem to have been named after Kayarohana in the seventh century A.D. See Gopinatha Rao, Hindu Iconography, II. p. 19.]

[Footnote 496: Mahabhar. XII.]

[Footnote 497: Mahabhar. XII. 13702 ff. It is recited by Daksha when he recognizes the might of Siva after the unfortunate incident of his sacrifice.]

[Footnote 498: Santi-parvan, section cclxxxv especially line 10, 470 ff.]

[Footnote 499: See Sarva-darsana-sangraha, chap. VI. and the comments of Ramanuja and Sankara on Vedanta Sutras, II. 2. 36.]

[Footnote 500: E.g. Sankara-dig-vijaya. The first notice of these sects appears to be an inscription at Igatpuri in the Nasik district of about 620 A.D. recording a grant for the worship of Kapalesvara and the maintenance of Mahavratins (= Kapalikas) in his temple. But doubtless the sects are much older.]

[Footnote 501: The principal are, the Pasupatas, the Saivasiddhantam of southern India and the Sivaism of Kashmir.]

[Footnote 502: The Sarva-darsana-sangraha, chap. VII. gives a summary of it.]

[Footnote 503: The Pasupatas seem to attach less importance to this triad, though as they speak of Pati, Pasu and the impurities of the soul there is not much difference. In their views of causation and free will they differed slightly from the Saivas, since they held that Siva is the universal and absolute cause, the actions of individuals being effective only in so far as they are in conformity with the will of Siva. The Saiva siddhanta however holds that Siva's will is not irrespective of individual Karma, although his independence is not thereby diminished. He is like a man holding a magnet and directing the movements of needles.]

[Footnote 504: There is some difference of language and perhaps of doctrine on this point in various Sivaite works. Both Sivaites and Pancaratrins sometimes employ the language of the Advaita. But see Schrader, Int. to Pancaratra, pp. 91 ff.]

[Footnote 505: The five Kancukas (or six including Maya) are strictly speaking tattvas of which the Saivas enumerate 36 and are kala, niyati, raga, vidya and kala contrasted with nityatva, vyapakatva, purnatva, sarvajnatva, sarvakartritva which are qualities of spirit. See Chatterji, Kashmir Saivism, 75 ff., 160, where he points out that the Kancukas are essentially equivalent to Kant's "forms of perception and conception." See too Schrader, Int. to Pancaratra, 64, 90, 115.]

[Footnote 506: See for names and other details Schomerus, Der Saiva-Siddhanta, pp. 7, 23: also many articles in the Siddhanta-Dipika.]

[Footnote 507: They are taken from the Agama called Raurava. The Sivaites of Kashmir appear to have regarded the extant Siva-sutras as an Agama.]

[Footnote 508: The Sanskrit text and translation of the Mrigendra are published in the Siddhanta-Dipika, vol. IV. 1901 ff. It is sometimes described as an Upagama and sometimes as the Jnanapada of the Kamika Agama.]

[Footnote 509: So Tirumular. Nilakantha in his commentary on the Vedanta Sutras says: "I see no difference between the Veda and the Saivagama."]

[Footnote 510: Or Srikantha. The commentary is translated in Siddhanta-Dipika, vol. I. ff. In spite of sectarian views as to its early date, it seems to be influenced by the views and language of Ramanuja.]




About the sixth century A.D. the decadence of Buddhism and the invigoration of Brahmanism were both well advanced. The Mahabharata existed as a great collection of epic and religious poetry and the older Puranas were already composed. Even at the present day authorities differ as to whether Siva or Vishnu commands the allegiance of the majority and naturally it is hard to describe the distribution of sects in earlier times. The monuments of the Guptas (for instance the ruins at Eran) suggest that they were Vishnuites but a little later the cult of Siva becomes more prominent. The Emperor Harsha (612-648) and his family were eclectic, honouring Siva, the Sun and the Buddha, but it is not recorded that they worshipped Vishnu. Bana who lived at his court indicates[511] that Sivaism was the predominant form of worship, but also mentions Buddhists and Bhagavatas. Hsuean Chuang on the other hand holds him up as a devout Buddhist. Great Sivaite shrines in different parts of India such as the temple of Bhuvaneshwar in Orissa and the Kailas at Ellora were probably constructed in the seventh century and it is likely that in the defeat of Buddhism the worshippers of Siva played an active part.

This conflict is connected with the names of Kumarila Bhatta (c. 725 A.D.) and Sankara Acarya (c. 800 A.D.). It clearly represents forces which cannot be restricted to the character of individuals or the span of human lives. The elements which compose Hinduism had been vigorous long before the eighth century and Buddhism, though decadent, continued to exist in India later. But probably the careers of these two men are the best record of the decisive turn of the tide. It is often said that they revived Hinduism, but however much they insisted on the authority of ancient tradition, the real result of their labours was not to re-establish the order of things which prevailed before the rise of Buddhism, but to give authority and solidity to the mixture of Brahmanism, Buddhism and popular beliefs which had grown up. Kumarila is said to have been a Brahman of Bihar who was a Buddhist monk but became a worshipper of Siva and so zealous a persecutor of his former faith that he persuaded a king of his time named Sudhanvan to exterminate it from the Himalaya to Cape Comorin. This is a monstrous exaggeration but he was doubtless a determined enemy of the Buddhists, as can be seen from his philosophical works.[512] He taught little about metaphysics or the nature of God, but he insisted on the necessity and efficacy of Vedic rites.

More important both as a thinker and an organizer was Sankara. There is some discrepancy in the traditions of his birth, but he was probably born about 788 A.D.[513] in a family of Nambuthiri Brahmans at Kaladi[514] in the Cochin state. Kaladi occupies a healthy position at some height above the sea level and the neighbourhood is now used as a sanatorium. The cocoanut trees and towered temples which mark many south Indian landscapes are absent, and paddy fields alternate with a jungle of flowering plants studded with clumps of bamboos. A broad river broken by sandbanks winds through the district and near the villages there are often beautiful avenues of great trees. Not far distant is Trichur which possesses a Vedic college and a large temple, forbidden to Europeans but like most edifices in Malabar modest in architecture. This is not the land of giant gopurams and multitudinous sculpture, but of lives dedicated to the acquisition of traditional learning and the daily performance of complicated but inconspicuous rites.

The accounts of Sankara's life are little but a collection of legends, in which, however, the following facts stand out. He was the pupil of Govinda, who was himself the pupil of Gaudapada and this connection would be important could we be certain that this Gaudapada was the author of the metrical treatise on philosophy bearing his name. He wrote popular hymns as well as commentaries on the Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras and Bhagavad-gita, thus recognizing both Vedic and post-Vedic literature: he resided for some time on the Narbudda and at Benares, and in the course of the journeys in which like Paul he gave vent to his activity, he founded four maths or monasteries, at Sringeri, Puri, Dwaraka and Badrinath in the Himalaya. Near the latter he died before he was an old man. On his deathbed he is said to have asked forgiveness for going on pilgrimages and frequenting temples, because by so doing he had seemed to forget that God is everywhere.

It is clear that his work both as an author and organizer was considerable and permanent, and that much of his career was spent outside Dravidian lands. His greatest achievement was his exposition of the Vedanta, of which I treat elsewhere. He based his arguments unreservedly on the Vedic texts and aimed at being merely conservative, but those texts and even the ancient commentaries are obscure and inconsistent, and it was reserved for his genius to produce from them a system which in consistency, thoroughness and profundity holds the first place in Indian philosophy. His work did not consist, as he himself supposed, in harmonizing the Upanishads. In this department of interpretation he is as uncritical as other orthodox commentators, but he took the most profound thoughts of the old literature and boldly constructed with them a great edifice of speculation. Since his time the Vedanta has been regarded as the principal philosophy of India—a position which it does not seem to have held before—and his interpretation of it, though often contested and not suited to popular religion, still commands the respect and to some extent the adherence of most educated Hindus.

In practical religion he clearly felt, as every Indian reformer still must feel, the want of discipline and a common standard, Though the Buddhism of his day had ceased to satisfy the needs of India, he saw that its strength lay in its morality, its relative freedom from superstition and its ecclesiastical organization. Accordingly he denounced extravagant sects[515] and forbade such practices as branding. He also instituted an order of ascetics.[516] In doing this he was not only trying to obtain for Hinduism the disciplinary advantages of the Buddhist church but also to break through the rule prescribing that a Brahman must first be a householder and only late in life devote himself entirely to religion. This rule did the Brahmans good service in insuring the continuity and respectability of their class but it tended to drive enthusiasts to other creeds.

It does not seem that any sect can plausibly claim Sankara as founder or adherent. His real religion was Vedantism and this, though not incompatible with sectarian worship, is predisposed to be impartial. The legend says that when summoned to his mother's deathbed, he spoke to her first of the Vedanta philosophy. But she bade him give her some consolation which she could understand. So he recited a hymn to Siva, but when the attendants of that god appeared she was frightened. Sankara then recited a hymn to Vishnu and when his gentler messengers came to her bedside, she gave her son her blessing and allowed them to take her willing soul.

This story implies that he was ready to sanction any form of reputable worship with a slight bias towards Vishnuism.[517] At the present day the Smartas, who consider themselves his followers, have a preference for the worship of Siva. But the basis of their faith is not Sivaism but the recognition of the great body of Indian traditions known as Smriti. And that, next to Vedantism, was the essence of Sankara's teaching: he wished to regard tradition as a coherent whole, based on the eternal Veda but including authoritative Smriti to be interpreted in the light of the Veda, and thus he hoped to correct extravagant and partial views and to lead to those heights whence it is seen that all is one, "without difference."

The results of Sankara's labours may still be seen in the organization of southern Hinduism which is more complete than in the north. It is even said that the head of the Sringeri monastery in Mysore exercises an authority over Smarta Brahmans similar to that of the Pope.[518] This is probably an exaggeration but his decision is accepted as settling caste disputes, and even to-day the Sringeri math[519] is one of the most important religious institutions in India. The abbot, who is known as Jagadguru, is head of the Smarta Brahmans. The present occupant is said to be thirty-third in succession from Sankara and numbers among his predecessors Sayanacarya, the celebrated Vedic commentator who lived in the fourteenth century. The continued prosperity of this establishment and of other religious corporations in the Dravidian country, whereas the Mohammedans destroyed all monasteries whether Hindu or Buddhist in the north, is one of the reasons for certain differences in northern and southern Hinduism. For instance in northern India any Brahman, whatever his avocation may be, is allowed to perform religious ceremonies, whereas in the Deccan and south India Brahmans are divided into Laukikas or secular and Bhikshus or religious. The latter are householders, the name having lost its monastic sense, but they have the exclusive right of officiating and acting as Gurus and thus form a married clergy.

It is possible that the influence of Sankara may have had a puritanical side which partly accounts for the degeneration of later Indian art. His higher teaching inculcated a spiritual creed which needed no shrines, while for those who required rites he recommended the old Brahmanic ritual rather than the modern temple cultus. The result of this may have been that piety and learning were diverted from art, so that architecture and sculpture ceased to be in touch with the best religious intelligence.

The debt of Sankara to Buddhism is an interesting question. He indited polemics against it and contributed materially to its downfall, but yet if the success of creeds is to be measured by the permanence of ideas, there is some reason for thinking that the vanquished led the conqueror captive. Sankara's approval both in theory and in practice of the monastic life is Buddhistic rather than Brahmanical.[520] The doctrines of Maya and the distinction between higher and lower truth, which are of cardinal importance in his philosophy, receive only dubious support from the Upanishads and from Badarayana, but are practically identical with the teachings of the Madhyamika School of Buddhism and it was towards this line of thought rather than towards the theism of the Pasupatas or Bhagavatas that he was drawn. The affinity was recognized in India, for Sankara and his school were stigmatized by their opponents as Buddhists in disguise.[521]


The reader will perhaps have noticed that up to the career of Sankara we have been concerned exclusively with northern India, and even Sankara, though a native of the south, lived much in the north and it was the traditional sacred lore of the north which he desired to establish as orthodoxy. Not only the older literature, Brahmanic as well as Buddhist, but most of the Puranas ignore the great stretch of Dravidian country which forms the southern portion of the peninsula and if the Ramayana sings of Rama's bridge and the conquest of Lanka this is clearly an excursion into the realms of fancy. Yet the Dravidian districts are ample in extent, their monuments are remarkable, their languages are cultivated, and Tamil literature possesses considerable interest, antiquity and originality. Unfortunately in dealing with these countries we experience in an unusually acute form the difficulties which beset every attempt to trace the history of ideas in India, namely, the absence of chronology. Before 1000 A.D. materials for a connected history are hardly accessible. There are, however, many inscriptions and a mass of literature (itself of disputable date) containing historical allusions, and from these may be put together not so much a skeleton or framework as pictures of ancient life and thought which may be arranged in a plausible order.

It may be said that where everything is so vague, it would be better to dismiss the whole subject of southern India and its religion, pending the acquisition of more certain information, and this is what many writers have done. But such wide regions, so many centuries, such important phases of literature and thought are involved, that it is better to run the risk of presenting them in false sequence than to ignore them. Briefly it may be regarded as certain that in the early centuries of our era Buddhism, Jainism and Brahmanism all flourished in Dravidian lands. The first two gradually decayed and made way for the last, although Jainism remained powerful until the tenth century. At a fairly early date there were influential Sivaite and Vishnuite sects, each with a devotional literature in the vernacular. Somewhat later this literature takes a more philosophic and ecclesiastical tinge and both sects produce a succession of teachers. Tamil Sivaism, though important for the south, has not spread much beyond its own province, but the Vishnuism associated with such eminent names as Ramanuja and Ramanand has influenced all India, and the latter teacher is the spiritual ancestor of the Kabirpanthis, Sikhs and various unorthodox sects. Political circumstances too tended to increase the importance of the south in religion, for when nearly all the north was in Moslim hands the kingdom of Vijayanagar was for more than two centuries (c. 1330-1565) the bulwark of Hinduism. But in filling up this outline the possibilities of error must be remembered. The poems of Manikka-Vacagar have such individuality of thought and style that one would suppose them to mark a conspicuous religious movement. Yet some authorities refer them to the third century and others to the eleventh, nor has any standard been formulated for distinguishing earlier and later varieties of Tamil.

I have already mentioned the view that the worship of Siva and the Linga is Dravidian in origin and borrowed by the Aryans. There is no proof that this worship had its first home in the south and spread northwards, for the Vedic and epic literature provides a sufficient pedigree for Siva. But this deity always collected round himself attributes and epithets which are not those of the Vedic gods but correspond with what we know of non-Aryan Indian mythology. It is possible that these un-Aryan cults attained in Dravidian lands fuller and more independent development than in the countries colonized by the Aryans, so that the portrait of Siva, especially as drawn by Tamil writers, does retain the features of some old Dravidian deity, a deity who dances, who sports among men and bewilders them by his puzzling disguises and transformations.[522] But it is not proved that Siva was the chief god of the early Tamils. An ancient poem, the Purra-Porul Venba-Malai,[523] which contains hardly any allusions to him mentions as the principal objects of worship the goddess Kottavai (Victorious) and her son Muruvan. Popular legends[524] clearly indicate a former struggle between the old religion and Hinduism ending as usual in the recognition by the Brahmans of the ancient gods in a slightly modified form.

We have no records whatever of the introduction of Brahmanism into southern India but it may reasonably be supposed to have made its appearance there several centuries before our era, though in what form or with what strength we cannot say. Tradition credits Agastya and Parasu-rama with having established colonies of Brahmans in the south at undated but remote epochs. But whatever colonization occurred was not on a large scale. An inscription found in Mysore[525] states that Mukkanna Kadamba (who probably lived in the third century A.D.) imported a number of Brahman families from the north, because he could find none in the south. Though this language may be exaggerated, it is evidence that Brahmans cannot have been numerous at that time and it is probable that Buddhism and Jainism were better represented. Three of Asoka's inscriptions have been found in Mysore and in his last edict describing his missionary efforts he includes "the kings of the Pandyas and Colas in the south" among the conquests of Buddhism. Mahinda founded a monastery in the Tanjore district and probably established Buddhism at various points of the Tamil country on his way to Ceylon.[526] There is therefore no reason to be doubtful of Buddhist activity, literary or other, if evidence for it is forthcoming. Hsuean Chuang in 640 A.D. deplores the decay of Buddhism and speaks of the ruins of many old monasteries.

According to Jain tradition, which some think is supported by inscriptions at Sravana-Belgola,[527] Bhadrabahu accompanied by Candra Gupta (identified with the Maurya king of that name) led a migration of Jains from the north to Mysore about 300 B.C. The authenticity of this tradition has been much criticized but it can hardly be disputed that Jainism came to southern India about the same time as Buddhism and had there an equally vigorous and even longer existence.

Most Tamil scholars are agreed in referring the oldest Tamil literature to the first three centuries of our era and I see nothing improbable in this. We know that Asoka introduced Buddhism into south India. About the time of the Christian era there are many indications that it was a civilized country[528] which maintained commercial relations with Rome and it is reasonable to suppose that it had a literature. According to native tradition there were three successive Sanghams, or Academies, at Madura. The two earlier appear to be mythical, but the third has some historical basis, although it is probable that poems belonging to several centuries have been associated with it. Among those which have been plausibly referred to the second century A.D. are the two narrative poems Silappadhikaram and Manimekhalai as well as the celebrated collection of didactic verses known as the Kural. The first two poems, especially the Manimekhalai, are Buddhist in tone. The Kural is ethical rather than religious, it hardly mentions the deity,[529] shows no interest in Brahmanic philosophy or ritual and extols a householder's life above an ascetic's. The Naladiyar is an anthology of somewhat similar Jain poems which as a collection is said to date from the eighth century, though verses in it may be older. This Jain and Buddhist literature does not appear to have attained any religious importance or to have been regarded as even quasi-canonical, but the Dravidian Hindus produced two large collections of sacred works, one Sivaite the other Vishnuite, which in popular esteem rival the sanctity of the Vedas. Both consist of hymns, attributed to a succession of saints and still sung in the temple worship, and in both sects the saints are followed by a series of teachers and philosophers. We will take the Sivaites first.


Their collection of hymns is known as Tirumurai, and was compiled by Nambi-Andar-Nambi said to have lived under King Rajaraja (c. 1000 A.D.). The first portion of it, known as Devaram, contains the hymns of Sambandha, Appar and Sundara. These persons are the most eminent of the sixty-three saints[530] of the southern Sivaites and are credited with many miracles. Tamil scholars[531] consider that Sambandha cannot have lived later than the beginning of the seventh century. He was an adversary of the Jains and Appar is said to have been persecuted by the Buddhists. Of the other works comprised in the Tirumurai the most important is the Tiruvacagam of Manikka-Vacagar,[532] one of the finest devotional poems which India can show. It is not, like the Bhagavad-gita, an exposition by the deity, but an outpouring of the soul to the deity. It only incidentally explains the poet's views: its main purpose is to tell of his emotions, experiences and aspirations. This characteristic seems not to be personal but to mark the whole school of Tamil Saiva writers.

This school, which is often called the Siddhanta,[533] though perhaps that term is better restricted to later philosophical writers, is clearly akin to the Pasupata but alike in thought, sentiment and ritual far more refined. It is in fact one of the most powerful and interesting forms which Hinduism has assumed and it has even attracted the sympathetic interest of Christians. The fervour of its utterances, the appeals to God as a loving father, seem due to the temperament of the Tamils, since such sentiments do not find so clear an expression in other parts of India. But still the whole system, though heated in the furnace of Dravidian emotion, has not been recast in a new mould. Its dogmas are those common to Sivaism in other parts and it accepts as its ultimate authority the twenty-eight Saiva Agamas. This however does not detract from the beauty of the special note and tone which sound in its Tamil hymns and prayers.

Whatever the teaching of the little known Agamas may be, the Saiva-Siddhanta is closely allied to the Yoga and theistic forms of the Sankhya. It accepts the three ultimates, Pati the Lord, Pasu his flock or souls, and Pasa the fetter or matter. So high is the first of these three entities exalted, so earnestly supplicated, that he seems to attain a position like that of Allah in Mohammedanism, as Creator and Disposer. But in spite of occasional phrases, the view of the Yoga that all three—God, souls and matter—are eternal is maintained.[534] Between the world periods there are pauses of quiescence and at the end of these Siva evolves the universe and souls. That he may act in them he also evolves from himself his energy or Paracatti (Sk. Sakti). But this does not prevent the god himself in a personal and often visible form from being for his devotees the one central and living reality. The Sakti, often called Uma, is merely Siva's reflex and hardly an independent existence.

The remarkable feature of this religion, best seen in the Tiruvacagam, is the personal tie which connects the soul with God. In no literature with which I am acquainted has the individual religious life—its struggles and dejection, its hopes and fears, its confidence and its triumph—received a delineation more frank and more profound. Despite the strangely exotic colouring of much in the picture, not only its outline but its details strikingly resemble the records of devout Christian lives in Europe. Siva is addressed not only as Lord but as Father. He loves and desires human souls. "Hard though it is for Brahma and Vishnu to reach thee, yet thou did'st desire me." What the soul desires is deliverance from matter and life with Siva, and this he grants by bestowing grace (Arul). "With mother love he came in grace and made me his"; "O thou who art to thy true servants true"; "To thee, O Father, may I attain, may I yet dwell with thee." Sometimes[535] the poet feels that his sins have shut him off from communion with God. He lies "like a worm in the midst of ants, gnawed by the senses and troubled sore" ejaculating in utter misery "Thou hast forsaken me." But more often he seems on the point of expressing a thought commoner in Christianity than in Indian religion, namely that the troubles of this life are only a preparation for future beatitude. The idea that matter and suffering are not altogether evil is found in the later Sankhya where Prakriti (which in some respects corresponds to Sakti) is represented as a generous female power working in the interests of the soul.

Among the many beauties of the Tiruvacagam is one which reminds us of the works of St. Francis and other Christian poetry, namely the love of nature and animals, especially birds and insects. There are constant allusions to plants and flowers; the refrain of one poem calls on a dragon fly to sing the praises of God and another bids the bird known as Kuyil call him to come. In another ode the poet says he looks for the grace of God like a patient heron watching night and day.

The first perusal of these poems impresses on the reader their resemblance to Christian literature. They seem to be a tropical version of Hymns Ancient and Modern and to ascribe to the deity and his worshippers precisely those sentiments which missionaries tell us are wanting among pagans—fatherly love, yearning devotion and the bliss of assured salvation. It is not surprising if many have seen in this tone the result of Christian influence. Yet I do not think that the hypothesis is probable. For striking as is the likeness the contrast is often equally striking. The deity described in words which almost literally render "Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear" is also the spouse of Uma with the white breasts and curled locks; he dances in the halls of Tillai; and the line "Bid thou in grace my fears begone" is followed by two others indicated by dots as being "not translateable."[536] Nor can we say that emotional religion here uses the language of a mythology which it has outgrown. The emotion itself while charged with the love of god, the sense of sin and contrition, has in it another strain which jars on Europeans. Siva sports with the world and his worshippers treat him with an affectionate intimacy which may be paralleled in the religion of Krishna but hardly in Christianity.[537] Thus several hymns have reference to a game, such as tossing about a ball (hymn vii), battledore and shuttlecock (xiv) or some form of wrestling in which the opponents place their hands on each other's shoulders (xv). The worshipper can even scold the deity. "If thou forsake me, I will make people smile at thee. I shall abuse thee sore: madman clad in elephant skin: madman that ate the poison: madman, who chose even me as thy own."[538]

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