From the Jacket:
The Hindu temple is the seat of a full culture including material commodities and services, arts ranging from cooking and flower decoration, to music and philosophy. To conceive, build, organize, manage, maintain such a privileged site of culture an authentic and well thought out theory and guidance is required. Sanskrit Agamic literature plays this role. The Saiva religion is based on a set of twenty-eight Tantra's. The Ajitamahatantra is the fifth in a international list, a lengthy text, which invites the reader to approach the Saiva religion in a form, which probably goes back to the Cola period and is definitely located in Tamilnadu. In eighty-nine chapters, it offers a systematic account of the installation of Linga starting from the selection of the stone ad construction of the temple to the great ceremony of installation of the deity. Thereafter it deals extensively with the daily worship, festivals and occasional rituals, with iconography, subsidiary rituals, as well as the rites of atonement of faults and failures. The present publication in five volumes is the second revised critical edition with English translation and annotation. Wherever possible, descriptions have been illustrated with theoretical drawings or photographs of actual monuments and icons.
About the Author:
N. Ramachandra Bhatt is a traditional Pandit well-versed in the vast literature of Saivagama. He has toured South India for many years to collect manuscripts and conduct inquiries in the temples. He has directed a team of researchers on this subject in the French Institute of Pondicherry and authored critical editions of Agamas and relevant texts. To his credit is also a general study, The religion of Siva (in French) which sheds light on the rituals with special reference to Tamilnadu.
Jean Filliozat (1906-1982) was a versatile scholar in many fields of Indology, with an excellent command over Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan and Tamil. Initially a medical doctor, he held the prestigious chair of Indology in College de France (Paris). He established and administered the French Institute of Pondicherry from 1955 to 1978 where he conceived and directed a project of the study of Saivagamas and South Indian temples. His works cover all branches of Indology from Ayurveda to Buddhism, Tamil literature, expansion of Indian culture in South East Asia, etc.
Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat is Professor of Sanskrit in Paris and conducts research mainly in the field of Sanskrit literature, Alamkarasastra, Vyakarana, Saivagamas, History of Indian art and architecture. His publications bear inter alia on Panini and Patanjali, Saivagama and Temple architecture in Karnataka.
The origin of this work is an initiative taken by Jean Filliozat in the fifties of the twentieth century. He had observed, at that time, that Indology had progressed a good deal in the knowledge of Vedic rituals and more generally in the reconstruction of the ancient Vedic religion, but was lacking in the field of Hindu rituals, particularly in the knowledge of those conducted in the temples which are the living centres of all branches of Hinduism. It was known that there existed a ritualistic literature in Sanskrit which was the source for the practice of religion in medieval, modern and contemporary times. But it was not accessible to the world of Indologists and had not yet attracted the attention and efforts of philologists, historian, archaeologists etc. the existing printed publications in this field were aimed at the followers of the religion, such as temple priests, monasteries, worshippers etc. the pioneering writings of Gopinath Rao, Woodroffe, Schrader and a few others were just enough to make the international indological community aware of the existence and importance of this branch of literature.
With a special interest in understanding the activities conducted in Hindu temples, Jean Filliozat inquired about the source books of the priests in temples of south India. The existence of a considerable mass of manuscripts dealing with rituals appeared quickly to him. In the French Institute of Indology established by him at Pondicherry, in 1955, he started a project of publication, translation, study on scientific basis of the source literature of Siva temples in south India. He selected this branch of Hinduism, because similar undertakings occurred at the same time in the field of Vaisnava literature etc. by other institutions in Tirupati and other centres. Dr. N.R. Bhatt was appointed to collect manuscripts and prepare critical editions of texts. Dr. Helene Brunner-Lachaux undertook a translation into French of a standard mediaeval manual, the Somasambhupaddhati. The first volume of the critical text of Ajitagama was published in 1964, a second volume appeared after a short interval, in 1967, a third volume came only in 1991. The reason for this long gap was the slow process of collecting manuscripts from a vast area and of retrieving portions of the text scattered in a very large number of composite manuscripts. The projected translation appears only now. The reason for this still longer gap is only the difficulty of a task which involves exploration of other sources than the mere individual text and inquiry in the oral tradition which is its background.
Philological work improves considerably the reliability and readability of a text. The final goal is still beyond that. We aim at an improved understanding of the contents as a source for the knowledge of religion and culture in the course of history. The close relationship of the ritualistic literature with the practice of religion incites the researcher to extend his efforts to an inquiry in the temples and the live activities of the worshippers. Consequently Jean Filliozat added to the philogical project another project of archaeological, iconographical and epigraphical survey of temples, particularly those of Tamilnadu which yielded the majority of manuscripts. He personally visited and observed a great number of temples of south India, with a mind attentive to note down any relationship between observable monuments, icons and ceremonies with the texts in course of editorial work.
The textual source always remained in his mind the most important object of study, as being the source of the whole culture displayed in temple life. He personally participated in the project by undertaking a French translation of Ajitagama and teaching the text in a long course of lectures delivered at the Ecole pratique des hautes etudes which is a centre of post-graduate research in the University of Paris, in the seventies. Only his demise in 1982 prevented the final output of his efforts in the form of a publication. He left me a handwritten manuscript of some 400 pages. In fact this manuscript was not the direct preparation of a text for publication. It had been written by him to prepare his lectures. It contains a draft of a French translation of the first volume and stops abruptly in the very beginning of the second, in the chapter of iconography and thus covers only a half of the whole text. This manuscript could not be published in the state in which it was left. It is clear also that it was not intended by its author for publication. It is a mere literal translation. But in his lecture Jean Filliozat added a lot of oral explanations, a few of philological interest, a lot of archaeological and historical bearing. Had he been to pursue his project, he would have re-written his first draft of translation, commented, annotated and illustrated it. His oral comments and illustrations have not been preserved. And the task left by him has proved to be considerable.
Thanks to a timely help of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, I undertook to retrieve my father's manuscript and protect it from oblivion. I made it a starting point for the present work. The English translation of offer now, is not a translation from this French manuscript. It is a new translation in English of the original Sanskrit after revising the first edition of the text. It covers the whole of the matter published in the first edition, with the exception of a few chapters whose authenticity is under suspicion with sufficient reasons. And of course I benefited not only from my father's manuscript, but also from my memories of numerous conversations we had about the contents of the text and about the relevant temples and religion.
The other major contribution to this work comes from Dr. N.R. Bhatt who is presently authoring the revised edition of the text. No new manuscripts have become accessible, since the first edition, nor any new material found. But in the course of the translation work, fresh interpretations have been done and occasionally variant readings, indicated previously in footnotes, appeared to yield a better interpretation. They have been now integrated in the main text, the reading previously placed in the main text being now relegated in a footnote. Thus the main difference with the previous edition is in the constitution of the text displayed as main in print.
The number of manuscripts available to us is quite small. It appears that they belong to one tradition only, are all recent and very close one to the other. In spite of that, variant readings are very numerous. We observe that in most cases they are punctual, one word in a sentence or a clause of a sentence. There is no chronological criterium to do a selection. There is no older reading which could be preferred for being nearer to the original redaction of the text, all being equally distant from it. The only criteria are formal, consistency of language and style, metre and meaningfulness. The reading giving the best meaning is selected to constitute the best meaningful and readable text and displayed as main in the typography of the publication. There remain problematic variations, occasional cases of variant readings, all meaningful, with no criterium of selection available at present. Such cases are discussed in footnotes.
Now the selection done at the present stage of research maybe is not final. New manuscripts can be found and future research can find new clues, new researchers can have better insights. It seemed good to us to leave this work open and provide the future researchers with all the available material of variations at hand, together with the text presently constituted. Therefore, all variant readings already noted in the first edition are again given here, so that the reader may have constantly the complete material before his eyes, at the time he reads the new edition and the accompanying translation and notes. We had to do this reproduction, because the constituted text has been modified and the presentation of readings was consequently changed. A mere invitation to consult the previous edition would have led the reader to an unpleasant effort of reconstruction and eventually to confusion. The arrangement and presentation of variant readings have been also slightly modified with a view to take into account a particular feature of the variations. It happens that all manuscripts have punctual differences on diverse words in one verse or sentence, none giving a correct and meaningful expression of the whole. The text is constituted by taking material in more than one manuscript, sometimes in each of them. The difference between our constituted text and the manuscripts is more obvious, if we indicate in one footnote the whole chain of the expression in several manuscripts, instead of showing only the punctual variations in separate footnotes.
There is also a major departure from the first edition, and that regards the method of interpretation. The first edition has rendered a great service to researchers by publishing extracts of numerous other Agama-s, many of them unknown and taken from manuscripts, on each subject dealt with in Ajita. And the text was then constituted with criteria in recent years, at the time of preparing the translation, has made us gradually more and more aware of the originality of Ajitagama. It is true that there is much common material in the different Agama-s at our disposal. But that should not overshadow the differences. The first approach of the text of Ajitagama has been through emphasizing the common stock. The new approach in the present edition and translation emphasizes the differences. Another point is that a thorough study brings to light the unity of conception of the text. We are more aware now that its contents form a well-organised system of worship, reflected in the composition of the text. Each Agama maybe represents a slightly different system. And it is more advisable to treat each one, first as a unitary whole, then to compare the different systems. There is a risk of erring by mixing the contents through punctual interpretations of passages of one by fragments of others. Consequently we are giving now a preference to internal study, attempting comparisons between diverse passages inside the text and refraining to use too much external material. As less emphasis is given to the external material, we have not reproduced here the numerous extracts of other texts given in footnotes in the previous edition.
To summarize, this new edition is a companion to the translation and complements the previous one, neither reproducing, nor replacing it. It aims to be a further step in the progress of our knowledge and understanding of Ajitagama.
The contribution of Dr. N. R. Bhatt has not been only the edition. He has also revised my English translation thoroughly. This translation is itself the output of many years of joint work, as he accompanied the researches of my father and mine all along the years. His contribution to our understanding of the text and of the religion goes in fact very far. Such a text as Ajitagama takes its full meaning through the oral tradition which is its background. Indian culture in general is such that its written expression is a complement to an overwhelming oral tradition. That is well-known for Vedic literature and religion. It is also perfectly true of Tantric literature and Hinduism. No authentic understanding of a text like Ajitagama would be possible without access to the knowledge obtained in India through oral tradition. Reversely, a pure ethnographic inquiry without reliance on textual sources cannot yield a right knowledge of religious matters. The text has been composed and transmitted always with a background of knowledge transmitted orally. It has been composed in such a way that it is understood through a non-written material transmitted orally with its written from. Oral tradition is thus a component of the text and an important part of the documentation. The scientific analysis has to take it into account to be exhaustive. Dr. N.R. Bhatt knows the literature through his pandit's qualification and his life-long specializing in the branch of Saiva literature. He knows also the religion from the inside, as a Hindu Brahmin. He knows specially the Saiva religion through his constant visits of temples of south India and intimacy with the gurukkal priests of Tamilnadu. The influence of a scholar in full possession of the tradition on our translation could only lend more authenticity and prevent us to err. A denial of validity for a tradition in the name of an apparent conflict with a written testimony, is risky, considering that the text may have been composed for an interpretation in agreement with the tradition and all efforts have to be done to see if the disagreement is not apparent or the result of a wrong understanding. All along the years I have passed in India I have learned the reliability of tradition. A simple instance of such conflict is the sexual interpretation of the Linga. The current tradition in south India ignores it. To read this interpretation in Ajitagama by relying on a few external references in Purana-s or other texts conflicting with this tradition, would be a serious error. As we shall see, the Ajitagama have no express reference to any sexual symbolism, emphasizes expressly different meanings, can be entirely read and understood in complete ignorance of it and in total agreement with the tradition. A denial of validity of the tradition in such a case would come from a defective inquiry and representation. Any generalization of stray references to the whole of Saivism would be a gross exaggeration.
Another aspect of the work involved in this project have been an attempt at confronting the contents of the text with the observable reality. The Ajitagama has a practical destination. It is a manual for the temple priest. Its meaning ends in actual performance. It is to be understood with its applicability to practice and it can be told to be understood only when its applicability to practice is demonstrated. A mere translation is not sufficient, a demonstration of the practical use is to be done. Our effort to understand the import of any sentence has been pursued up to the ascertainment of a practical possibility of performing the rite or abiding by the prescription. This has been checked by as many comparisons with reality as possible. It appears utopic to think that every prescription can be illustrated by a reference to practice in one temple. Two cases have to be considered, the comparison with an observable reality and the comparison with a virtual reality. The second case, the most frequent, has been dealt with through virtual drawings or descriptions which are our has been dealt with through virtual drawings or descriptions which are our reconstructions and which aim only at demonstrating the possibility of a practical realization. The first case has been dealt with in two manners, as we have to distinguish two different situations. With regard to architecture and iconography the prescriptions of the text can be compared with monuments and sculptures of the past. As will be shown in details, most of the instances of a good agreement between the text and monuments or sculptures pertain to the early and middle Cola period. This is an indication of the probable date of redaction of Ajitagama. With regard to rituals, which are the core subject of the book, the situation is quite different. We have no past records of rituals. Only observation o contemporary practice can be done. References to rituals in inscriptions are not detailed enough and too sporadic to furnish material useful for comparison. There has been a long history, maybe a millennium, since the presumed times of Ajitagama. We cannot claim to illustrate the text with records of rituals contemporaneous with it, as we could do in the case of architecture and sculpture. Therefore we have voluntarily refrained to give illustrations in the form of photographs of present rituals. We have attempted some reconstructions, in the case of mudra-s for instance, only to give a visual help to the reader and to demonstrate the possibility of realizing the text prescriptions, not to show an existing reality.
The history of this undertaking explains sufficiently the presence of three authors for the book. Jean Filliozat is no more. There remains to me the duty to express how much his memory is still present, commanding and inspiring the continuation of the project. I personally express my immense gratitude to Dr. N.R. Bhatt for his life-long zeal in the preparation, pursuance and completion of the work. If something of the great tradition of the Saivacarya-s is present in this publication in authentic form, it is entirely due to his massive participation. I have to mention also that the background influence of the culture of my Indian wife plays a great part in imprinting authenticity to my researches. Her help in facilitating my approach to deep level of this long undertaking have been constantly engineered by her. A Further material support has been a timely help the last stage and with great pleasure I acknowledge the efforts of my assistants in Mysore, Dr. Ananta N. Bhat who typed the entire Sanskrit text on a computer and Shelva Pille Iyengar who worked a lot to revise and format the book, to prepare the index and illustrations, without failing in giving useful informations about rites and customs Finally I express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana, Prof. N. R. Shetty, Dr. Satkari Mukhopadhyaya, Dr. Tripathi for accepting this publication in the prestigious Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, for the sympathy they have always shown towards our undertaking and the financial help given to this project. As a token of gratitude I with to express my admiration for the original concept of this institution which integrates all branches of research towards a holistic understanding of Indian culture, in which arts are not separated from techniques, philosophies and religions.
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