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Early Tantric Vaisnavism: Three Newly Discovered Works of The Pancaratra (The Svayambhuvapancaratra, Devamrtapancaratra and Astadasavidhana)

Early Tantric Vaisnavism: Three Newly Discovered Works of The Pancaratra (The Svayambhuvapancaratra, Devamrtapancaratra and Astadasavidhana)
Item Code: NAK691
Author: Diwakar Acharya
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Language: Sanskrit
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 9788184702064
Pages: 315
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 9.0 inch x 6.5 inch
weight of the book: 640 gms
About the Author

Diwakar Acharya studied Sanskrit with traditional teachers beginning with his father and at universities in Nepal, India, and Germany. He starred his teaching career in 1993 in Nepal and is currently teaching Indian philosophy and classical Sanskrit studies at Kyoto University, Japan. His research covers a wide range of topics in Sanskrit literature, Indian religious and philosophical traditions, and the early history of Nepal. He has published Vacaspatimisra's Tattvasamiksa: The Earliest Commentary on Mandanamisra's Brahmasiddhi (2006) and The Little Clay Cart (2009), as well as a number of articles in journals and anthologies.


About the Book

The three works presented in this volume are hitherto unpublished texts of great significance for the early history of tantric Vaisnavism, and we have grounds for supposing that they are older than any hitherto published Vaisnava Tantras. They preserve archaic elements not found in other Pancaratra works, such as Vaisnava brahma-mantras styled after the Pasupata ones, and the veneration of eight heroes of the Vrsni clan, as well as of the pentad of Varaha, Narasimha, Trivikrama, Vamana, and Vasudeva. Their ritual makes profuse use of Vedic mantras, one of them even requiring the installation of Vedic hymns (rather than tantric mantras!) chosen from each of the ten mandalas of the Rgveda in every image of Visnu. In a spirit rare in the Vaisnava traditions of the second millennium, these scriptures call on devotees to identify Brahms, Visnu and Siva. They thus present a picture of Tantric Vaisnavism in the first millennium AD as imbricated with Saivism and Brahmanism and tell us much about the early history of tantrism and of Hinduism in general.

The first and third of these texts are transmitted to us in a single palm-leaf manuscript dated to Nepal Samvat 147 (1027 AD), and the second in a slightly newer and undated one, both from the treasure trove of the National Archives, Kathmandu. This volume contains a first edition of these texts with a detailed introduction, including an English synopsis, along with text-critical notes and indices, as well as facsimiles of the manuscript leaves.



Vaisnavism was well-established in the Kathmandu Valley already in the early Licchavi period and it enjoyed a strong following in sub-sequent periods too.' I had therefore always hoped that the Nepalese archives might preserve some early Vaisnava Agamas alongside its early manuscripts of Saiva Agamas. The chances seemed high because more than one manuscript of the Jayakhyasasamhita and several manuscripts of the Visnudharma, an early Vaisnava text belonging to a less esoteric current of Vaisnavism, were already found there. So, I was not unduly surprised when I discovered the texts presented in this volume while cataloguing manuscripts for the NGMCP in Kathmandu and Hamburg. I quickly prepared electronic transcriptions of these texts, and when I moved to Kyoto University in 2006, I started to edit them one after the other and to read them in my seminars with my colleagues and students. The result is in your hands.

The texts presented in this volume have special value as they provide revealing evidence for the influence of Saivism over Pancaratra Vaisnavism in the early mediaeval period, at a time when Vaisnavism was beginning a process of self-transformation that involved partly recasting itself in the mould of tantric Saivism. Besides, these also speak of the influence of late Vedic and Smarta ritual systems over the Pancaratra ritual system. Therefore, with the discovery and publication of these texts, I hope that some light will be shed on the early history of Pancaratra Vaisnavism, which is otherwise obscure, and that its affinity with both Saivism and Vedism in its formation process will be more widely recognised.

I am obliged to the Early Tantra Project (initially funded for three years by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Agence National pour la Recherche), first, for organising workshops on early Tantras and giving me a chance to talk about these texts, and now, for taking the responsibility of publishing this volume. I am also grateful to the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies for inviting me to Oxford in spring 2010, where I delivered a lecture about the early Vaisnava texts I discovered in Nepal. A part of that lecture has now been incorporated in the introduction. I also thank the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) for providing me with a research grant (Start-up 2011-2012) to finalise this edition of Vaisnava Pancaratra texts.

Above all, I am eternally grateful to my two kalyanamitras, Profs. Dominic Goodall (EFEO) and Harunaga Isaacson (Hamburg University), who have always helped me in their various incarnations of intimate friends, teachers, academic colleagues, and sources of digital resources. They have read an earlier draft of this book and made valuable suggestions. I have also benefitted immensely from the suggestions of Prof. Yuko Yokochi, my colleague at Kyoto University, for we have studied these texts at various reading sessions, and from those of Prof. Judit Torzsok, who has reviewed my manuscript very carefully, made useful suggestions, and even painstakingly corrected numerous typos.

Helpful also were the suggestions of my two students Mr. Koreto Ikehata (Kyoto) and Mr. Nirajan Kafle (Kathmandu/Pondicherry). Besides, Dr. Marion Rastelli (Vienna) as well as Dr. Taisei Shida (Kyoto) have occasionally corrected my mistakes and they deserve words of gratitude. I am also thankful to the staff at the Nepal Research Centre and the National Archives (Kathmandu), my family, and other friends for their co-operation in various stages.

At the end, with this book, I should like to pay tribute to my father Loknath Acharya (1931-2010) who shaped my childhood with a traditional Sanskrit education and also introduced me to certain Tantric texts. I should also like to remember my Tantra/ Agama teachers in various times and places and in various capacities: the late Swami Vidyaranya, better known as Murkharanya, and the late Shyam Chetan Baba, both from Vasuki Ashram in Pashupati, who were my informal mentors in my childhood days in Kathmandu; the late Pt. Hemendra Chakravarti, the late Prof. Vraj Vallabh Dvivedi, and Prof. Ramji Malaviya, and all my Tantra/ Agama teachers at Benares.



We know from some literary sources, including the Mahabharata and a number of inscriptions, that a form of Vaisnavism existed even some centuries before the commencement of the common era.2 However, the Pancaratra system that has come down to us even in the earliest available Pancaratra Samhitas does not reflect this early stage of the religion. The Jayakhyasamhita has long been regarded as the earliest of the Pancaratra Samhitas but, as SANDERSON has recently stated.3 even the ritual system of this Samhita is the product of a competitive reformation of their system along Saiva lines. Although Embar KRISHNAMACHARYA, the editor of the Baroda edition of the Jayakhyasamhita, had dated this text to the age before 700 A.D. (cf. Sanskrit introduction, pp. 52-53),4 it is now a long while since K. V. Soundara RAJAN published his conclusion, after an analytical study of the architectural chapter, that the age of the text, excluding later interpolated portions, was 'likely to range between 600- 850 A.D.' (cf. RAJAN 1967-1969: 80). But I should now like to add that, even in the main body of this text such as we find it transmitted in Nepalese manuscripts .5 comparatively modern elements are included, such as the fourfold classification of the initiate, which do not feature in the early Agamas of the Saiva fold such as the Nisvasa and the early recensions of the Kalottara texts. So it is safe to say that the Jayakhyasamhita does not represent the earliest stage of the 'competitive reformation of the Pancaratra system along Saiva lines'; rather it reflects a late stage of that reformation, perhaps at a time when it was already settled in the South and beginning to evolve there. Moreover, I have found what I believe to be the Urtext of the Jayakhyasamhita preserved in a palm-leaf manuscript in Nepal and, as mentioned in fn. 5 above, am preparing a critical edition of the work. Its text is much shorter and contains only what I regard to be the core of the printed Jayakhyasamhita.

However, as we might readily imagine, there must have been earlier Pancaratra texts, and we have some evidence for their existence. For example, the stotonirnya chapter of the Brahmayamala6 mentions some ritual manual of the Pancaratra school (pancaratravidhana) as well as the ritual manuals for the worship of Narasimha, Varaha and Vaikuntha.7 Similarly, we know the name, but no more, of another Vaisnava text, the Mayavamanika, as it is mentioned by Kashmirian Saiva exegete Ksemaraja in his commentary on the Netratantra.8 In the same way, the opening passage of an extra Vaisnava text copied at the end of one of the Nepalese manuscripts of the Jayakhyasamhita enumerates a few names of Vaisnava scriptures which were allegedly taught in the past. These previously taught texts are Jaya, Vaihayasi, Maya, Pausksri, Jyotis, Patalakhya, Lsksmi, Kalavaisvanara, Pancaratrarahasya, and Kulakesarika.9 But except the Jaya, Pauskari, and Laksmi, none of these works has survived. Even among these three, the available versions of the Pauskari and Laksmi contain quite a lot of relatively new matter; compared to these two, the Jaya contains relatively old materials, but this too, in its Samhita form, has been considerably diluted with additions over time.

Nevertheless, it is fortunate that the treasure trove of manuscripts preserved in Nepal also contains some rare Vaisnava texts. These little known archaic texts preserved in Nepalese palm-leaves provide some evidence for earlier stages of the competitive reformation of the Pancaratra system that SANDERSON has talked about (see above, p. xiii, footnote 3).

I am working on five of them and would tentatively put them in the following chronological order: the Svayambhuvapancaratra, Astadasa-vidhana, Devamrtapancaratra, Jayottaratantra, and the Vasudevakalpa ascribed to the now lost Mahalaksmisamhita. All these texts are, I believe, earlier than the surviving recension of the Jayakhyasamhita. The Svayambhuvapancaratra has affinity with the bracketing layer of the Nisvasatattvasamhita, that is to say with the two latest of its five books, namely the introductory Nisvasamukha and the concluding Guhyasutra.10 The second text, as its title tells, is a precept of eighteen rituals and is related to the tradition of the first text. It is actually embedded in the first text, but I have separated it and presented it alongside the Svayambhuvapancaratra, for, as will become clear from the following pages, I have come to regard it as a separate work. The third text is obviously based on the Svayambhuvapancaratra, and the fourth text, the Jayottaratantra is the core base of the Jayakhyasamhita. The fifth text, the Vasudeva-kalpa, contains some sort of Kaula influence, and can be compared, as far as its nature and time is concerned, to the early YoginI Tantras and Krama Texts. The cults of the last two texts are already known to the Netratantra.

In this volume, I am going to present the first three of the above-mentioned texts, the Svayambhuvapancaratra, Astadasavidhana and Devamrtapancaratra, and the other two will appear soon in separate volumes.




Preface 7
Introductory Note by Valerie Gillet 9
Biography and Bibliography of Pandit R. Varadadesikan by S.A.S Sarma 23
A Note on Time : Venkatanatha's conception of time by Marcus Schmuker 33
Metres in Tamil Bhakti Literature and the Problem of their (occasional ) Description in Treatises(Studies in Tamil Metrics-2) by Jean-Luc Chevillard 39
Royal and Local Bhakti under the Pallavas by Emmanuel Francis 97
Jivakacintamani's Contribution to Periyapuranam by T. S. Gangadharan 135
Tracking Traces of Gods: the site of Tirupparankunram by Valerie Gillet 143
The Sacred Landscape of Tamil Saivism : Plotting Place in the Realm of Devotion by Leslie C. Orr 189
Life after Death : From Mortal Remains to Monuments by K. Rajan 221
The Edifice of Bhakti : towards an "archaeological " reading of Tevaram and Periyapuranam by Charlotte Schmid 241
Vaisnava Literature in Tamil by R. Varadadesikan 287
From Ancient Poetics to Applied Poetics: Continuance and change in Tamil Bhakti Poetry(with special reference to Nammalvar's akam poems) by G. Vijayavenugopal 303
Nammalvar as a Master of tinaimayakkam - Transposition Techniques in the akam songs of the Tiruvaymoli by Eva Wilden 317
Srivaisnava Topoi: Constructing a South Indian Sect through Place by Katherine Young 335
About the Contributors 365
Index 369
Sample Pages

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