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Tantric Rituals of Kerala Temples

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Item Code: NAO074
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Ajithan P. I.
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9788124608999
Pages: 377
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 650 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Kerala Tantra is a regional phenomenon which is an offshoot or synthesis 0f Saiddhantika and Pancaratra tantric ritual rites. It is a tradition deeply rooter within the Vedic ritualistic fold and characterized by Smarta-Pauranik beliefs and customs.

This volume is a general, but a serious and in-depth study of distinct temple ritual cult of Kerala. Kerala Tantra still remains to be a less explored subject There is no exclusive study on the ritual peculiarities of Kerala Tantra. This book focuses on filling that gap covering extensively the prominent characteristic of the unique ritual cult of Kerala.

The data presented in the book are based on many unpublished and less-known but authentic manuscripts of lat. medieval period, and interviews with previous and current generations 0f tantrins and their testimonies. It cover the great traditions of Tantra, Keral, Tantra, and transmission of tantric knowledge through formal and informal methods. It also talks about the. institutionalization of Tantric education taking a cue from the context of Vedic and Sanskrit education of Kerala.

Ajithan P.I. is a scholar in Tantra philosophy and rituals. He got his PhD for the thesis "Ritualistic Tradition of Tantra in Kerala" and degrees of MA and MPhil (in Sanskrit) from Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, Kerala. He has to his credit half a dozen articles published in different journals. Dr Ajithan has attended numerous seminars and conferences, presenting papers. He had a short stint as Guest Lecturer, Department of Sanskrit, University of Calicut and chaired a session on Classical Literature in the 11th Prof. NVP Unithiri Endowment All Kerala Oriental Conference, 2016.


THE term tantra in its specific sense denotes traditions constituting diverging "cults" and their "sub-cults" and texts affiliated to them. Among well-known cults and sub-cults, Saiva, Vaisnava and Sakta are the prominent ones and found to have a pan-Indian appeal. It has been a subject long neglected but the post-Independence era has witnessed its phenomenal growth as an academic subject. The early studies of Sir John Woodroffe, Agehananda Bharati, Prabodh Chandra Bagchi, Gopinath Kaviraj, Vrajavallabha Dvivedi and Sanjukta Gupta were mainly dealing with general aspects of Tantrism. But present studies mostly revolve around specific aspects of tantric cults. To this category of specialized studies we can add the excellent academic studies of N.R. Bhatt, K'C, Pandey, Navjivan Rastogi, Helene Brunner, Alexis Sanderson, Mark Dyczkowski, Bettina Baumer, Dominic Goodall, Harunaga Isaacson, Diwakar Acharya, Peter Bisschop, Shaman Hatley, Jurgen Hanneder, Raffaele Torella, Gavin Flood and so on. Now Tantra remains one of the much advanced fields of studies in the South Asian religious studies.

The Kerala Tantra is a regional phenomenon which is, in a broader sense, an offshoot or synthesis of Saiddhantika and Pancaratra tantric ritual cults. It is a tradition deeply rooted within the Vedic ritualistic fold and characterized by Smarta-Pauranika beliefs and customs. There are many ritualistic tantric traditions, specifically familial traditions, in Kerala and none of them has independent existence outside the temple premises.

The present volume entitled Tantric Rituals of Kerala Temples: Texts and Traditions is a general study on the distinct temple ritual cult of Kerala. This is a revised version of my PhD thesis, The Ritualistic Tradition of Tantra in Kerala: A Study on Its Characteristic Features and Transmission, submitted to Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in 2014. The Kerala Tantra remains one of the subjects less explored even now. The scope of such a general study is that it is essential to have a general idea of the subject before one undertakes specialized study of a text or a particular cultural or historical phenomenon. The previous studies do not deal exclusively with ritual peculiarities of Kerala Tantra. Therefore an attempt is made in the present study to cover the prominent characteristics of the unique ritual cult of Kerala as extensively as possible.

The data collected from the scores of unpublished and less-known manuscripts constitute the major inputs of the present study. Many of these texts are of late medieval period and they are not enough to analyse present-day ritual scenario. Keeping this in mind several traditional tantrins of previous and current generations are interviewed and their words are analysed within a larger context.

The study is divided into three sections and it contains nine chapters altogether. The first section entitled "The Great Traditions of Tantra primarily focuses on surveying all the known scriptural divisions oftantric traditions and looking into general characteristics of tantric rituals. The background knowledge of canonical divisions is necessary to place Kerala Tantra within a broader context and subject it to a comparative analysis.

The second section entitled "Kerala Tantra", deals with the distinguished characteristics ofKerala tantric rituals. In five chapters it covers a wide range of topics extending from the detailed survey of the major ritual's, manuals and their characteristics and previous studies on the subject to post-Tantrasamuccaya ritual scenario. The third section entitled "Transmission: Formal and Informal Methods" focuses on how a performance-oriented tradition is transmitted orally in formal and informal educational settings. In two chapters an attempt is made to locate the traditional system of tantric education within the broader historical context of Vedic and Sanskrit education of Kerala. And the last chapter discusses how such education takes place in formal institutional contexts. The third section is followed by conclusion and a select bibliography. At the end photos of some of the ritual procedures are given as an Appendix. The present study would not have been possible without the help of several individuals who not only consist of academic scholars but also practising priests, friends and people who have made invaluable contributions in several possible ways. This book is a revised version of my PhD thesis that I have submitted to Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in 2014. First of all, I would like to thank Dr N.K. Sundareswaran, presently the Head of the Department of Sanskrit, University of Cali cut, under whose guidance I have carried out the study. I am highly indebted to him for his continuous support, patience, trust and proper guidance. His suggestions and observations helped me a lot in my endeavour.

I express my sincere thanks to Dominic Goodall, for giving me an opportunity to participate in Workshop on Nisvasatattva Samhita conducted at Pondicherry in 2011, that provided me with a great opportunity to see and interact with international scholars of excellent academic records like Alexis Sanderson, Harunaga Issacson, Diwakar Acharya, Shaman Hately, Peter Bisschop and so on.


Preface v
List of Tables and Figures xvi i
Abbreviations 1
Part 1

1. Canons of Major Tantric Traditions and Their Divisions 3
The Term Tantra Defined 4
Importance of the Guru and the Sastra5
The Canonical Divisions 6
The Classifications of Sai vagamas 6
The Canons of Bhuta, Garuda and Varna Divisions11
The Structure and Content of Siddhantagamas 13
The Provenance and Date of Composition 18
The Upagamas 19
The Paddhati Texts 19
The Saiddhantika Exegetes21
Later Phase of Saiva Siddhanta22
The Bhairava Tantras 24
Vidyapitha (Sakta-Saiva)27
Yamala Tantras27
Sakti Tantras29
The Tantras of Kashrnir Saivism 35
The Spanda School 36
The Pratyabhijna School 37
Abhinavagupta and His Works 38
Commentaries 38
Independent Works 38
Hymns 39
Vaisnavism 40
The Classifications of Tantric Vaisnava Scriptures 41
The Pancaratra Cult 41
The Pnncariitra Literature 42
The Contents of the Sarnhitiis 45
The Vaikhanasa Cult 46
Classifications of the Vaikhanasa Literature 47
The Buddhist Tantra 50
Classification of the Buddhist Tantric Literature 51
The Tantric Cult of Bengal 53
The Buddhist Tantras of Bengal 53
The Sakta Tradition of Bengal: The Dasamahavidya Cult 53
The Tantras of Jainism 54
2. Tantric Rituals: Their General Characteristics 55
The Ritual Elements 56
The Worshipper 56
The Initiation as a Cross-cultural Phenomenon 56
The Initiation in the Tantric Traditions 57
The Rituals of Initiation 57
The Saiddhanrika Initiation 58
The Signs of Saktipata 60
The Significance of Rituals of Initiation 60
The Categories of Initiation 60
The Saiddhantika Rituals of Initiation 62
The Efficacy of Rituals 64
The Non-Saiddhantika Initiation 65
The Vaisnava Initiation 66
Categories of Initiations 67
The Pancaratra Initiation 67
The Sakta Initiation 68
Ritual Space 69
Utensils used in Worship 70
Objects of Worship 70
Ritual 70
Fourfold Division of Rituals 70
Atmartha-Plija and Parartha-Puja 74
The Secret of Ritual 77
Part 2
3. General Features of KeraJa Tantric Rituals 81
General Features of Brahmanical Traditions of Tantra 81
Hierarchy of Priests 82
Two Kinds of Tantrins/Acaryas 82
The Basic Structure of a Ritual and Its Categories 84
The Ritual Space 90
The Rituals of Utsava 90
Kinds of Bali Offerings 91
The Rituals of Jiruoddbara 93
The Sakta Tradition of Muss ads 100
The Tantric Elements in the Folk Cultural Expressions 102
4. Previous Studies on Kcrala Tantra 106
The Studies of Independent Scholars 107
E.V. Raman Namputiri 107
N.P. Unni 116
S.A.S. Sarma 119
Palakkal Madhavan (Madhavji) 122
Traditional Tantric Scholars 123
The Studies of Academic Scholars126
Jayan Erancherry 127
K.M. Sangamesan 127
J.P. Prajith 128
R. Suthashi 130
5.Tantric Ritual Manuals of Kerala132
Ekadevata Pratisthii Tantras138
Notable Features 141
The Pradyota Commentary 143
Notable Features 146
Pasupata 146
Notable Features 147
Visnu Sarnhita 149
Notable Features 151
Kriyasarpgraha 152
Notable Features 156
Matrsadbhava 156
Caturdevata Pratistha Tantra157
Nariiyanatrnaka 157
Notable Features 158
Saptadevata Pratistha Tantras160
Kriyasara 160
Sivanusthana 162
Kriyadlpika or Putayurbhasa164
Tantrasamuccaya 166
Commentaries on Tantrasamuceaya 168
The Less-known Commentaries ofTantrasamuccaya 170
Kriyii lesasrnrti 172
Pararnesvaranusthana 172
Tozanaranusthana 174
Karuttapajjinusrhana 176
Anusthanapaddhati 178
Astadevata Pratistha Tantras 179
Kuzikka ttupacca 179
Tantradarpana 180
Kainikkarapacca 181
Keralaiyaksetratantrakriyapaddhati 182
Vividhadevata Pratistha Tantras 183
Tsanasi vagurudevapaddhati 183
Sesasamuccaya 186
Tantrasesasamuccayanusthaua 188
The Disappearing and Expanding Rituals 193
Diksa (Initiation) 195
The Rituals of Initiation 196
The Texts on Initiation 198
Prayogamajijari 198
Suivagamanibandhana 200
Isanasivagurudevapaddhati 202
Definition of Dlksa 203
The Categories of Initiations 203
Vishnu Sarphitii 209
Matrsadbhava 213
Kriyasilra 214
Putayarbhasa 215
Tantrasamuccaya 217
Kriyasarpgraha 220
Kugikka Hupacca 221
Koraliyaksctratantra kriyapaddhati 222
Summary 222
Jirnoddhara 223
7. The Post-Tantrasamuccaya Phase of Kerala Tantra233
The Structure and Content of Tantrasamuccaya 234
Eclectic Nature 235
Aim of Composition 235
Advantages and Disadvantages of Generalization 236
The Political Milieu and Inclinations of Tantrasamuccaya237
Later Phase of the Tantrasamuccaya Tradition: 241
Texts and Authors 243
Other Anusthanas and Their Importance244
Irinjalakuda Tradition 245
The Post- Tantrasamuccaya Kerala Tantra Scenario 246
Inclusion of the New Ritual Elements247
Bahuvera Vidhana 248
Asvatthopanayana and Mrdangopanayana249
Redefined Role of Astrologer249
Preface 251
List of plates 251
Introduction 251
Historical Study: Hinayana and Mahayana 252
Outline of Political History, Socio-Economic and Religious
Changes in India from 300-700 CE: The Transition Period
Political and Economic Background and the Spread of
Esoteric Buddhism in Early Medieval Period India 257
Emergence of Vajrayana 257
Vajrayana Images 258
Conclusion 259
Glossary of Buddhist Terms262
Bibliography 262
Index 263
Temples and the Society 267
Role of Acarya!Tantrin in Temples and the Society 270
Education System in Kerala: A Hawk's Eye-View 271
Kerala Tantra: Texts on Informal Mode of Transmission 273
Mantropadesa Replaces Dlksa 274
Contexts of Learning 276
Stages in Learning Rituals 279
Textual Transmission 280
Disadvantages of Traditional Methods283
Traditional Tantrins of Scholarship and Fame 283
Andaladi Divakaran Narnputiri Padu284
Putumana Damodaran Namputiri285
Kalppuga Divakaran Nampatirippudu287
Kallur Narayanan Namputiri288
Vezappajambu Pararnesvaran Namputiri 288
9. Formal Transmission: Brahmanlcal and Non-Brahmanlcal Institutions 289
Emergence of Tantric Institutions in Kerala293
Brahrnanical Institution: Emergence of TVP293
Non-Brahmanical Institutions 298
Koru Asan Smiiraka'Vaidika Sangharn299
Gurupadam 302
The Organization of Tantrins 304
Conclusion 306
General Index330
Title Index 354

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