Sāmkhya-Yoga, Shramana, Brāhmana, Tantra

The Religious Traditions of the Ancient Indians

Alexander Jacob

I hail the superhuman;

I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.

W.B. Yeats, ‘Byzantium’

 The questions regarding the original enlightenment of mankind, the race that was first endowed with a spiritual vision of the universe, and the beginnings of Yogic wisdom are obscured by the mists of antiquity. If we attempt to discern the spiritual sources of the early Indo-Europeans, of the first Yogis, the Āryan fire-worshippers, and the later Hamitic temple worshippers, we are forced to rely on – apart from the fragmentary archaeological and the relatively late Greek literary evidence – the mythological literature of the ancient Indians for some clues that may allow a reconstruction of the development of religious thought among the various branches of the early Indo-Europeans.


I   Sāmkhya-Yoga and Shramana

28th Chaturyuga, Treta Yuga

The extraordinary cosmological and philosophical insights that inform the religions of the ancient world could have been achieved only through divine revelation or through the exercise of such techniques of mind- and body control as developed by the various systems of Yoga. The probability that Yoga was the source of this wisdom seems to be confirmed by the Brahmānda Purāna (I, i,3,8), for instance, and we note that, in the Mahābhārata, XIII (Anushāsana Parva) 14,[1] Shiva himself is constantly addressed as the “soul of yoga” and the object of all yogic meditation. Similarly, his son, Skanda (the god Muruga of the Dravidians) is described as being endowed with yogic powers in Mbh IX (Shalya Parva), 44. We may recall also the extraordinary description of the different forms of primal Light that is to be found in the yoga-based Mandalabrāhmana Upanishad, II,[2] where the state of enlightenment itself is described in terms of an identification with the supreme Light:

When the triputi[3] are thus dispelled, he becomes the kaivalya jyotis[4] without bhāva (existence) or abhāva (nonexistence), full and motionless, like the ocean without the tides or like the lamp without the wind.

The aim of all enlightenment, whether it be through the fire-worship of the Āryans or the forms of worship evident in Tantra, is indeed the ultimate identification of the individual soul, ātman, with Brahman. The term “yoga” itself means “yoking” and may signify the union of the individual soul to the supreme which is brought about through several strict physiological and mental austerities.[5]

In all of these ancient religions, the understanding of the relation between the macrocosm and the microcosm also seems to be derived from a Yogic source. For instance, the Tantric Yogic notion of the Kundalini serpent and the awakening of this serpentine form to the light of Brahman lies at the basis of the Egyptian drama of Osiris in the underworld, as well as of the concept of the universal tree of life which features in the cosmologies of all the ancient Indo-European cultures.

All of the ancient Indo-European religions are, furthermore, based on a vision of the godhead as a Supreme Soul (Ātman) that manifests itself first as an Ideal and then as a Cosmic Man, or Purusha. This Purusha is castrated by his son (Chronos/Shiva/Time), though his seminal force is restored in our universe as the sun by a son of Chronos (Zeus/Dionysus/Muruga).[6] While this  Purusha cosmology informs all the early religious forms of the Indo-Europeans, we will see that Brāhmanism and the later Tantra employ this mythology in their various rituals mostly in order to revive both the macrocosm and the microcosm spiritually. Sāmkhya-Yoga and the Shramana traditions following it, on the other hand, use it mostly as a theoretical background for ethical systems that seek to escape from cosmic manifestation and earthly incarnation altogether. In this focus on the escape from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth they take special care to stress the importance of the precept of non-violence, which sets them in direct opposition to the sacrificial rituals of the Brāhmans.

As regards the original form of the ancient Indo-European wisdom, we note that among the Krita Yuga avatārs of Vishnu listed in the Bhāgavata Purāna I,3,[7] Kapila (the name of the historical founder of Sāmkhya Yoga) precedes Yajna (representing Vedic sacrifice), who in turn precedes Rishabha (the name of the historic founder of Jainism). The avatārs of the Krita Yuga are of course cosmic phenomena rather than earthly, but the sequence of these names suggests that Sāmkhya-Yoga may indeed have preceded Vedic Brāhmanism, which in turn preceded Jainism. At any rate, regardless of the greater or lesser antiquity of these various traditions, when we compare the complexity of the rituals in Brāhmanism and Tantra that seek to revive the Purusha – through fire-altars, temple structures, idols and the adept’s body itself – with the stark precepts of saintly conduct and asceticism in the Shramana traditions we may be forced to conclude that the former have indeed retained more of the original Yogic, as well as of the original Vedic, spiritual knowledge than the latter.


The theoretical basis of Yoga is Sāmkhya, which is a dualistic school of thought which distinguishes Purusha as the spiritual principle from Prakriti, or matter. Liberation (kaivalya) from matter consists in the disentanglement of the spiritual principle from the material matrix into which it has sunk. One of the principal metaphysical doctrines propounded by this school is that of the three degrees (guna‘s) of spiritual refinement – or the lack of it – that characterise any manifest being: sattva (luminosity), rajas (vigorousness), and tamas (lethargy).

Sāmkhya is generally attributed to the sage Kapila. Although, as mentioned, there is an avatār of Vishnu called Kapila who appeared already in the first of the four ages, the Krita Yuga (BP I,3,10), in BP III Kapila is described as the son of Kardama and his wife Devahūti. According to Rāmāyana, Uttarakanda,100, Kardama was the same as Manu and king of Bāhlika (Bactria).[8] The son of Kardama is said to be Ila, the founder of the Lunar Aila dynasty.[9] The association with Bactria makes it plausible that the historic Kapila lived in the Treta Yuga beginning with Manu Vaivasvata[10] It was he who expounded the system of Yoga to his mother:

The discipline of yoga of relating to the soul for the sake of complete detachment from whatever pleasure and distress, is the ultimate benefit for mankind that carries My approval.[11]

In the Baudhāyana Sūtra, he is considered to be the son of the Vaishnava saint and Daitya[12] prince, Prahlāda. He is said to be the sage who created the four orders, or āshramas,[13] of brahmachārya, grihastya, vānaprastha and sannyāsa in such a way that he extolled the last ascetic āshrama as superior to the early ones committed to sacrificial worship. He is also credited with the propagation of the doctrine of non-violence, which, as we will see below, is the first of the five abstentions (yama’s) that the Yogic system begins with. Sāmkhya is clearly the source of the Shramana sects of Jainism and Buddhism, which are both critical of the Brāhmanical sacrificial rituals and exhort asceticism as the way of liberation from the net of samsāra, or the world.

The association of Kapila with Bactria[14] is particularly interesting since there happens to be clear evidence of Indic settlement in the Bactro-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) from 2200-1700 B.C., that is, a little later than the rise of the Hamitic cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia at the beginning of the Kali Yuga  The BMAC is not far north of Mundigak, where from 3000 B.C. we notice extensions of Elamite culture resembling that of the Indus Valley.[15] It is difficult to determine whether the Āryan settlements of BMAC represent a continuation of the early Elamite Hurrians of Mundigak or are new immigrants from the Andronovo culture associated with the Indo-Āryans (1800-900 B.C.).[16] The latter is indeed the more probable. The Andronovo culture is itself derived from the Hut Grave and Catacomb Grave culture of 2800-2000 B.C.[17] and the Sintashta culture of the southeast Urals (2300-1900 B.C.),[18] which is marked by chariot burials and may have been proto-Āryan rather than proto-Indo-Āryan. There is also clear evidence of fire-worship in the BMAC, which suggests that it was the site of Brāhmanical Āryans as well. Since there is little evidence of such fire-worship in Mundigak it is probable that the former is derived from the Andronovo rather than from the Elamite colonies – and may have included adherents of the Sāmkhya-Yoga system as well as of Brāhmanism.


 Yoga in its late, classical form (Rāja Yoga) as formulated by Patanjali (2nd c. B.C.) employs an eight-fold path that begins with five “abstentions” (yama’s): non-violence, truthfulness, avoidance of theft, celibacy and avoidance of covetousness. These abstentions are, as we shall see, adopted in Jainism too. The next step consists of five “observances” (niyama’s) which include purity of mind, speech and body, contentment, concentration, study and contemplation of God. These two initial stages are followed by the most practical ones related to the physical postures (āsana’s) to be adopted for meditation, breath-control exercises (prānāyama), withdrawal of the senses from external objects (pratyāhāra), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyāna) and liberation (samādhi).

Yoga seems to have become popular in India especially from around the 9th to the 5th century B.C. judging from the numerous Sanskrit and Prakrit texts of this period which stress the ideology of renunciation in which knowledge (jnāna) is given precedence over ritual action “and detachment from the material and social world is cultivated through ascetic practices (tapas), celibacy, poverty and methods of mental training (yoga).”[19] The doctrine of Jnāna Yoga[20] is enunciated also in the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, Ch.II:

The man who, casting off all desires, lives free from attachments, who is free from egoism, and from (the feeling that this or that is) mine, obtains tranquillity. This, O son of Prithâ! is the Brahmic state; attaining to this, one is never deluded; and remaining in it in (one’s) last moments, one attains (brahma-nirvâna) the Brahmic bliss.

 It is repeated in the treatise on ashtanga (eight-limbed) yoga, Yoga Sūtras, by Patanjali, where the state of yogic beatitude is understood as “the cessation of mental fluctuations”. The final goal is the achievement of a “supreme state” devoid of “mental fluctuations”. Consciousness is absorbed in itself, and the self does not become “identified with” the Absolute, but, rather, is the Absolute itself, since there is nothing apart from it. The yogi aims to attain the supreme state, as the Katha Upanishad, VI, also declares: “That state in which the five sense organs[21] …  remain united with the mind, and where the intuition or the brain remains idle or blank without any thought is the ineffable, supreme state of bliss”.

The state of yogic enlightenment is the same as that of the Brahmaloka of the Purānas, since the soul is immobile in its absolute concentration. Once this concentration is relaxed, it is reborn just as the cosmos too is reborn from a disturbance of the perfect balance of the gunas in the first ideal manifestation of the supreme Ātman. The ultimate aim of Yoga thus is to prevent this relaxation in order to achieve a “final liberation from the bonds of action and rebirth”.[22] Such a liberation is also described in the  Atharvaveda X,44:


Desireless, firm, immortal, self-existent, contented with the essence, lacking nothing,

Free from fear of death is he who knoweth that Soul courageous, youthful, undecaying.




The two major religious traditions that sprang from Yoga-Sāmkhya were Jainism and Buddhism. Both Jainism and Buddhism, along with Chārvāka and Ājīvika, are considered by Brāhmanism as heterodox (nāstika) doctrines.

Nevertheless, Jainism dates its origins to an extremely hoary antiquity. The Jain equivalent of an “avatar”, such as the ten incarnated forms of Vishnu, is a “tirthankara”, of whom there are twenty-four in each half of a cosmic time cycle.[23] The Jain scriptures maintain that the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishaba, was the father of Bharata, the ruler of India and that the Vedas originated relatively late, with the son of Bharata, Marichi. So Jainism may well have had its origin outside India. Further, the Vedic doctrines themselves, according to the Jains, were subsequently corrupted by the Brāhmans. According to Jinasena, the author of the 8th century Jain text, Ādipurāna, the origin of even the caste system is traced not to the Vedas (that is, the Purushasūkta), but to the Bharata legend, according to which Bharata tested men through a test of “ahimsa” (non-violence), and those who refused to harm any living beings were considered to be dvija, twice born and deva-Brāhmaṇas, divine Brāhmans.[24]

Rishaba is supposed to have been born to a queen called Marudevi, the consort of King Nabhi, in Ayodhya, which is also the birthplace of the Ikshvāku avatār, Rāma, whose story, as we will see,[25] may well have had an extra-Indian origin. While the early tirthankaras of Jainism seem to be mythological figures, the twenty-third of its tirthankaras, Pārshvanātha, is indeed a historical figure dating back to the ninth century B.C., and the twenty-fourth and last, Mahāvīra, was born in the sixth century B.C. Pārshvanātha was considered to be a prince of the Ikshvāku dynasty[26] who lived in Benares in India while Mahāvira was a prince who lived in Bihar. It seems therefore that Jainism, like Buddhism after it, was a religious doctrine developed among kshatriyas.

The canonical scriptures of the Jains are called – as in the Tantra tradition – Āgamas (inherited scriptures), and traced back by the Jains to the first tirthankara, Rishaba, though they were compiled by a certain Gautamaswami around the 6th or 4th century B.C. in Prākrit, rather than Sanskrit. These Āgamas are said to be based on the discourses of the first tirthankara of the present era, Rishaba.

As regards the identity of the first tirthankara, we have already seen that there is an avatār of Vishnu in the Krita Yuga called Rishaba (Bhāgavata Purāna ).[27] It is interesting that Rishabha also bears several of Shiva’s epithets such as Aghora, Ishana, Sadyojata, and Vāmadeva. Indeed, in the Shaivite Linga Purāna, he is considered to be an incarnation of Shiva. According to the Vishnu Purāna (II,1,31), the historical Rishabha is an Ikshvāku king and his eldest son is said to have been Bharata, who represents the land of India:

Rishabha was born to Marudevi, Bharata was born to Rishabh,

Bharatavarsha [India] arose from Bharata, and Sumati arose from Bharata.

In this context, it is interesting to note the evidence of swastika symbols in an ivory carving of a bird from Mezine in the Ukraine dating to ca.10,000 B.C. (that is, long before the rise of the Hamitic cultures of Egypt and Sumer) and the common use of swastikas in the Jain religion. The seventh tirthankara, Suparshvanātha, is indeed designated with the swastika as his ‘vehicle’. The evidence of Indic settlement in Bactria, including Brāhmanical, has already been pointed to above,[28] so that we may surmise that both the Shramana traditions and Brāhmanism may have extended from the Pontic-Caspian region[29] to Bactria to India.

When we study the Greek writers’ accounts of Indian religious sects, we find that both the Hellenistic chronicler, Megasthenes (ca.350-290 B.C.)’s records of India[30] and the geographical histories of Strabo (ca.64 B.C.-A.D.24)[31] distinguish two classes of philosophers in India, the Brāhmans and Sarmanes (Shramanas). Strabo (Geographica, XV, I,60) elaborates on the “Sarmanes” in the following manner:

Of the Sarmanes, the most honourable … are the Hylobii, who live in the forests, and subsist on leaves and wild fruits: they are clothed with garments made of the bark of trees and abstain from commerce with women and from wine … Of the Sarmanes … second in honour to the Hylobii, are the Physicians, for they apply philosophy to the study of the nature of man. They are of frugal habits, but do not live in the fields, and subsist upon rice and meal, which everyone gives when asked, and receive them hospitably. … Both this and the other class of persons practise fortitude, as well in supporting active toil as in enduring suffering, so that they will continue a whole day in the same posture, without motion.

We may detect in this description of the Shramanas something akin to the Yogic āsanas described in the later, 5th century, treatise of Patanjali, the Yogasūtras. The Greek Christian convert, Clement of Alexandria (ca. A.D.150-215), even refers to two quite different geographical origins for the early religious sects associated with India. He differentiates the “Gymnosophists” from the Shramanas as belonging to India and Bactria respectively:

Philosophy, then, with all its blessed advantages to man, flourished long ages ago among the barbarians, diffusing its light among the gentiles, and eventually penetrated into Greece. Its hierophants were the prophets among the Egyptians, the Chaldeans among the Assyrians, the Druids among the Galatians, the Sramanas of the Bactrians, and the philosophers of the Celts, the Magi among the Persians who announced beforehand the birth of the Saviour, being led by a star till they arrived in the land of Judaea, and among the Indians the Gymnosophists, and other philosophers of barbarous nations. (Stromata, 1.15.71)

Porphyry (ca.A.D.234-305) however derives both the Brāhmans and the Shramanas from the “Gymnosophists”:

For the polity of the Indians being distributed into many parts, there is one tribe among them of men divinely wise, whom the Greeks are accustomed to call Gymnosophists. But of these, there are two sects, over one of which the Bramins preside, but over the other the Samanaeans.[32]

This may explain the association of Bactria with both Brāhmanism and Jainism that we have noted above.

The term ‘Jainism’ itself is derived from ‘jīna’, or a human being who has mastered all passions. This bears a resemblance to the Āgamic classification of men in general – according to the predominance of the tāmasic, rājasic, or sāttvic elements in them – as pashu (animal), vira (heroic) or divya (divine).[33] The Jain doctrine of salvation (moksha) is based on the “three jewels” of right belief, right knowledge, and right conduct. These principal moral precepts provide the Jains with the “five vows” of abstinence, or mahāvratas – ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (avoidance of stealth), aparigraha (non-acquisition) and brahmachārya (chastity). It is naturally opposed to the sacrificial rituals of the Brāhmans since these involved animal (and originally also human) sacrifices.[34]

Geoffrey Samuel in his recent work, The Origins of Yoga and Tantra (Cambridge University Press, 2008), attempts to study two early periods in the development of Indic religions, the early Shramana movements in approximately the fifth to third century B.C. and the growth of Tantra in the seventh to twelfth centuries A.D. Samuel finds in the Vedas themselves “nothing…to imply yogic practice, in the sense of a developed set of techniques for operating with the mind-body complex”.[35] He concludes:

Our best evidence to date suggests that such practices developed in the same ascetic circles as the early sramana movements (Buddhists, Jainas and Ājīvikas), probably in around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE”.[36]

In other words, the Brāhmanical tradition was not yogic as the Jain and Buddhist Shramana traditions were. Monika Shee too distinguishes Brāhmanical asceticism (tapas) from yoga:

As tapas originally lacks any religious aims, it is not primarily connected with ideas of renunciation or salvation—ideas found, for example, in yoga or sanyåsa. Though tapas practices may be called yoga in the epic and a tapasvin is called a yogin sometimes, it is the magical, power-desiring concept of tapas which matters to the authors of these texts. [37]

Yoga, on the other hand, focuses on the more ethical notions of karma (action and its moral result) and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, which it seeks to overcome through detachment and cessation of all spiritual activity. J. Bronkhurst points to the relative lack of references to the term yoga in the Dharmasūtras as well, though the focus on the realisation of the true nature of the Self is clearly ascribed to the last of the four stages, āshramas, of a brāhman’s life.

C.K. Chapple also highlights the yogic aspects of Jainism:

The term yoga appears in three different usages within the broad tradition of Jainism. The first, and most general coinage of the term yoga refers generically to the practice of meditation. The second refers to the collection of ascetic disciplines for which the Jaina tradition is famous, including the five great vows beginning with ahimså. The third, and perhaps the most technical application of the word yoga refers to the remnants of attachment or yoking that must be abandoned in the highest levels of spiritual ascent. The omniscient being at the thirteenth stage exhibits a connection with karma and hence retains a body; at the fourteenth and final spiritual stage (gunasthåna), all karma is abandoned, resulting in the state of ayoga, which is considered to be the highest state of Yoga in Jainism.[38]

The doctrine of karma too, Chapple points out, is more clearly articulated in the early Jain text, Tattvārthasűtra of Umāsvāti (ca.5th c. A.D.)  than in the Yogasūtra of Patanjali (5th c. A.D.) itself:

Umåsvåti drew from canonical sources to describe the process through which activity (yoga) draws karmas of various colors to adhere or bind to the soul (jiva). Karma appears in four harming forms and four nonharming forms. The ten chapters of the Tattvårthasutra describe the structure of the cosmos including the nature and detailed manifestations of karma in 148 prakritis. The text also describes a fourteen-stage process of ascent leading to living liberation (sayoga kevala) and ultimately to total freedom (ayoga kevala), whereby one’s soul separates eternally from all remnants of karma (specifically, lifespan, name, feeling, and family: åyus, nåma, vedanīya, and gotra).[39]

However, it must be noted that Jainism itself does not give much evidence of the rigorous discipline of the body and mind that classical Yoga does. Jain philosophers also strove to distance themselves from Tantrism, which experimented with various techniques to achieve union with the divinity. The Yogadhristhisamucchaya of Haribhadra Yākiniputra (8th c. A.D.), for example, lists four types of yoga practitioners (family, clan, engaged, and authentic – kula, gotravanta, pravrittracakra, and avañcaka) but makes sure to excoriate Tantra as a licentious cult.

Kali Yuga

A later manifestation of the Shramana tradition is Buddhism, which is based on the doctrines of the Buddha (ca. 6th century B.C.) – who, as we have seen, is an avatār of the Kali Yuga. Buddhism retains notions from the Brāhmanical tradition – which is older than it[40] – such as the Brahmavihāras (the abodes of Brahma) that are invoked to direct righteous thought in the direction of goodwill, compassion, empathy and equanimity. However, it, like Jainism before it, rejects Brāhmanical rituals, and scholars such as Eraly and Wiltshire believe that Buddhism arose from the ascetic Shramana movements of the first millennium B.C.,[41] especially that of the “paccekabuddhas” who are said to have achieved enlightenment independent of the Buddha[42] Wiltshire suggests that paccekabuddhas were kshatriyas who particularly renounced “household” life, which is a life-stage associated with several of the fire-rituals of Brāhmanism.[43]

Buddhism, like Jainism, is based essentially on a pessimistic view of the world (samsāra) where suffering is the characteristic of temporal life. Desire, action, and rebirth are to be overcome through the ‘Eightfold Path’ of Right Understanding, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Thoughtfulness, Right Concentration so that a state of “nirvāna” or liberation from the cycle of earthly lives may be achieved. Buddhism rejected total asceticism as well as hedonistic indulgence in its Middle Path. It advocated five vows of abstinence for its lay devotees, including abstention from killing, stealing, sexual licentiousness, lying and alcohol.

Mahāyāna Buddhism outlined the path of the Boddhisattvas or those whose minds were “awakened” and on the path to Buddhahood  Hinayāna Buddhism, on the other hand, extolled the path of Arhats, who are considered to have attained a state of nirvāna, like the Buddha. The Mahāyāna Buddhists, however, consider the arhats as occupying an inferior status to that of the boddhisattvas. Buddhism, in general, rejected both the āstika Brāhmanical and the nāstika doctrines. It denied the permanence of the soul (ātman) as a hindrance to moral conduct and liberation. Indeed, moral conduct, and not rituals, are the only means of liberation according to Buddhism. In the consideration of asceticism, it prefers self-discipline to self-mortification. It not only opposes the theistic and past-life determinism of Brāhmanism but also the quasi-biological determinism of Jainism and posits moral action as the sole determinant of individual destiny. It thus represents a moralistic middle path between the extreme anti-corporealism of Jainism and the immanentist and sublimational doctrines of Tantra and Tantric Buddhists

Indeed, Buddhism did incorporate various Tantric practices from the 7th century A.D. onwards especially in its Vajrayāna branch, which, unlike the Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna schools, emphasises the importance of ritual rather than mere meditation. Scholars such as A. Sanderson and S. Hatley have suggested that Tantric practices may have penetrated Buddhism already in the 5th century from Shaivaite sources.[44] The Manjushri Mūlakalpa text attributed to the Boddhisattva Manjushri of the Mahāyāna tradition, and dating from the 6th century A.D., is, for example, based on Shaiva as well as Vaishnava Tantric texts.




The Shramana tradition is thus generally an ascetic one. It focuses on the cycle of births and deaths and the liberation (moksha) from it that may be achieved through asceticism and non-violence. Asceticism was more severely practised by the Jains than by the Buddhists and one of the major Jain sects, the Digambara, to this day renounces even clothing as an earthly attachment and as a source of violence against the minute organisms present in one’s environment.

II Brāhmana


The Vedas


When we turn to the spiritual traditions of Brāhmanism and Tantra we find that they are much less world-abjuring than the Yogic and Shramana traditions. The Indo-Āryan Brāhmanical tradition venerates the Vedas as the font of its spiritual knowledge. The Vedas are considered to be divinely revealed scriptures that emerged from the original cosmic sacrifice of the Purusha, or Primordial Man, the form in which the divine Soul first imagined itself in the manifest universe.[45] Thus in the Rigveda, X,90 (Purusha Sūkta), we learn that

9 From that great general sacrifice Ṛcas and Sāma-hymns were born:
Therefrom were spells and charms produced;

Therefrom were spells and charms produced;[46] the Yajus had its birth from it.

According to the Manusmriti, I,23, the Vedas, as liturgical texts to be chanted during sacrifices, were created by the Supreme Soul originally for the performance of the cosmic sacrifice of the Purusha itself:

He, the Lord, also created the class of the gods, who are endowed with life, and whose nature is action; and the subtle class of the sādhyas [lower celestial beings], and the eternal sacrifice.

But from fire, wind, and the sun he drew forth the threefold eternal Veda, called Rik, Yagus, and Saman, for the due performance of the sacrifice.

In BP III,12, the Vedas accompany the physical creation of the universe guiding its formation through sacrificial as well as ethical rules:

34.When the creator of all worlds one day wondered how he should create the three worlds the way they were before, the Vedic literature manifested itself from his four mouths.

35.Thus the four functions of [sacrificial] action [the offer, the performer, the fire and the offering] and the supplements of the Veda with their logical conclusions became manifest, as also the four principles of religion [truth, purity, austerity and compassion] and the spiritual stages [âshramas] and vocational divisions [varnas].[47]


26th Chaturyuga, Dvāpara Yuga

The editing of the Vedas in their present form was undertaken by the sage Vyāsa. Though Vyāsa is mentioned in BP I,3, as an avatār of Vishnu in the Treta Yuga, the Vishnu Purāna, III,3, declares that the Vedas are edited in every Dvāpara Yuga and the editor of the Vedas that we possess appeared in the Dvāpara Yuga of the twenty-sixth Chaturyuga. The Vedas as we have them are divided into four texts, Rigveda, Sāmaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. The first three are sacrificial liturgies for the use of the Hotr priest, the  Udgātr and the Adhvaryu priest respectively. The Atharvaveda is older in its contents and is meant for the supervising Brahman priest, or Atharvan, a name that is clearly of Indo-Iranian rather than Indo-Āryan origin.


28th Chaturyuga, Treta Yuga


Brāhmanism itself traces its origins to the Treta Yuga of the 28th Chaturyuga and the mythic figure of the first man, Manu. A brief account of the beginning of our humanity with Manu may be in order here.

According to the Bhāgavata Purāna, the cosmos is said to be ever recreated after a periodic devastation by a  “flood” when the supreme deity in the manifest form of Vishnu descends into a deep sleep within the cosmic ocean. Gradually waking, he begins to reproduce the cosmos. The antediluvian epoch, or kalpa, was called Brahmakalpa (BP III,11,33ff.), since it was marked by the perfect light of Brahma,[48] and the second, after the cosmic cataclysm, is the present one, called Padmakalpa (the Lotus epoch),[49] in which the divine light is transferred to the material universe.[50] Each kalpa is divided into fourteen “manvantaras” or ages of Manu, a Manu being the type of enlightened mankind. Each manvantara lasts for 71 odd Chaturyugas, or 310,980,000 years (BP III,11,24) and is followed by a deluge lasting as long as a Krita Yuga, or 1,728,000 years (Sūrya Siddhāntha, I,18).

According to the Sūrya Siddhānta, Ch.I, 22, the Manu of our cosmic cycle is said to have appeared in the 28th Chaturyuga of the [Padma] Kalpa. And, in the Mahābhārata, Shantiparva, it is said that Manu manifested himself in the Treta Yuga.  This Manu is the seventh and called  Manu Vaivaswata [of Vivasvant, the sun]. He is responsible for the transmission of the seeds of life to earth as well as for the mortality (Yama) of the forms that spring from these seeds. BP VIII,14,3, informs us that the role of a “Manu” is to maintain the cosmic order at the time of the creation of the universe and in BP VIII,24,13 the seventh Manu is called also Satyavrata, and King of Dravida. So we may assume that Dravida and its king Satyavrata represent the first fully enlightened post-diluvian mankind. As regards the proto-Dravidians, we may rely on Lahovary’s pioneering research into the Mediterranean race, which he identified with the Dravidian, and considered as being the original inhabitants of the ancient Near East “in its largest meaning”, that is, including “Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Caucasia, Persia, Mesopotamia with its extensions towards India, as well as Arabia and the African regions facing Arabia, i.e. from the Nile valley to the high tablelands of East Africa”.[51]

Manu is warned of a deluge by a fish (representing Prajāpati in his piscine incarnation Matsya).[52] In the MBh, the divine identity of the fish is revealed to be that of Prajāpati/Brahman (the name of the supreme god in his luminous, creative aspect), since the fish declares to the “seven sages” – who accompany Manu in the ship – “I am Brahma, lord of progeny [Prajāpati] … I in the form of a fish have delivered you from this peril”.[53] The fish goes on to state that Manu should create all creatures including “gods, asuras, and men and all the worlds and what moves and what does not move [i.e. animal and vegetable life].”

Manu saves himself in a ship which is tied to the “horn” of the fish[54] and is borne by the latter to the heights of “the northern mountain”, which, not being specified as a Himalayan one, may well be Mt. Ararat, which is generally identified as the mountain on which the “ark” of Noah/Manu rested after the deluge.[55]  It is important to note that Manu is the divine ancestor of the race that is to inhabit the earth. In the SB, Manu is described as offering a sacrifice after the flood recedes, and from this sacrifice arises, first, a “daughter” Idā [a variant of Ilā],[56] and then a son Ikshvāku, from whom the human race is derived.[57]

The Indic Manu is identifiable with the Noah of the Hebrew Bible, and Noah is said to be a descendant of Seth, the son of Adam [Man], who is the same of the Vedic Purusha, or Primordial Man. In the Ethiopian version of Pseudo-Callisthenes, the brāhmans are said to be the sons of Seth. Josephus identifies the land of Seth as located around “Seiris”, which is also the land of Noah, who is said to have preserved the wisdom of Seth. In the Christian Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum of Pseudo-Chrysostom, the books of Seth were supposed to have been hidden by Noah in the land of Šir, and the so-called “cave of treasures” in which they were hidden is identifiable with Mt. Ararat.[58] In Genesis 14:6, the Horites, or Hurrians, are particularly identified with Mt. Seir, and we note here a close identification of the proto-Hurrians with the proto-Dravidians of BP, according to which Manu is King of Dravida. Since Manu/Noah is a Dravidian “king” in BP, it seems that Vedic religion itself derives from a proto-Dravidian origin. It may be significant, in this context, that, in the Mahābhārata, Āranyakaparva (IX,45, 87ff.), the title “Yogeshvara” (Lord of Yoga) is applied particularly to the chief god of the Dravidians, Muruga/Skanda. F.E. Pargiter maintained that Brāhmanism was not originally Āryan but adopted into Indo-Āryan religion from Dravidian.[59] However, Pargiter did not consider the possibility that both Āryan and later Dravidian may have been derived from a proto-Dravidian/Hurrian[60] spiritual culture.[61]

Manu’s daughter Ila, according to the Purānas is the originator of the Lunar Aila dynasty of kshatriyas. According to Rāmāyana, Uttarakanda, 100, Ila was the son, rather than daughter, of the Manu Kardama, king of Bāhlika (Bactria). We have already noted the identification of Manu’s son with Kapila, the founder of the Sāmkhya-Yoga school. If Bactria should therefore, be associated with the possible origin of the Shramana sects, we will see that Bactria is equally associated with Brāhmanical fire-worship. In ancient West Asia, the kingdom of Elam in the western part of Iran may well correspond to the Aila dynasty, while the Akshak dynasty of Sumer may represent the Ikshvāku. If so, the entire region from western Iran to Bactria was inhabited by the Aila dynasty. In general, we may assume that the Aila dynasty represents an eastern branch of the same race that is represented in West Asia by the Sumerian/Akkadian Ikshvākus.

Purūravas, a grandson of Chandra and Ila, is said to have acquired the sacred fires of the Āryans from the Gandharvas (Gandharva being a term for heaven as well as for a particular tribe). Purūravas is said to have lived at the end of the Treta Yuga, at the end of which age too there was another flood when the earth was submerged under the waters. However, with the assistance of the sage Agastya the earth was recovered from the depths and life revived on it. The Aila dynasty thus is clearly associated with the Indo-Āryan fire-worshipping peoples, while Agastya represents the transmission of the Vedic religion to the Hamitic peoples of Sumer, Egypt, and India.

Of the Solar Ikshāvku line, Rāma, the famous son of Dasharatha, is said to have been born in the Treta Yuga (Rāmāyana, Uttara Kanda, 44). His kingdom is said to be Kosala, which is identified as being a part of present-day Uttar Pradesh, but this might just be a transference of a more westerly original location, perhaps Kish.[62] Although – as we shall see below – the fire-worshipping Āryan tradition is associated specifically with the Aila dynasty of Purūravas and is first evidenced in the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, the veneration of the Ikshvāku Rāma in Brāhmanical terms in India suggests that his story was equally Brāhmanised by the people who brought the mythological story of Manu and his descendants to the sub-continent.

Both the Brāhmanical religion, which may have had a northerly Indo-Āryan origin in the Pontic Steppe, and the Hamitic religions which begin in eastern Anatolia, around Mt. Ararat – are characterised by a concentration on the Purusha form of the divine Soul in the macrocosmos as well as in the microcosm The fire rituals of the Āryans are magical dramatisations of the cosmic sacrifice of the Purusha and aim at reviving the latter through the force of the ritual fire. The Agnicayana ritual, for instance, is an elaborate example of Vedic ritual conducted for the purpose of reviving the Purusha.[63] These rituals also serve to sustain the entire cosmos through an identification of the chief participants, that is, the sacrificer guided by the brahman priest, with the solar force.

The Vedas in their present form are thus primarily sacrificial liturgies aimed at restoring the creation to its ideal status as the Primordial Man. However, the ethical aspects of Vedic sacrifice too may be gleaned through the description of the evolution of religion provided in the Manusmrithi. The aim of all Vedic enlightenment, whether it be through Āryan fire-worship or the later Tantra, is indeed the attainment of the ultimate identity of the individual soul, ātman, with the primal light of the cosmos, Brahman. However, the means of achieving this end apparently varied with the changes in the ages or yugas, that constitute our present epoch, kalpa. According to Manusmriti, I,86, the chief means of enlightenment in the first of the four ages was austerities:

In the Krita age the chief [virtue] is declared to be [performance of] austerities, in the Treta [divine] knowledge, in the Dvapara [the performance of] sacrifices, in the Kali liberality alone.

We see that the Brāhmanical sacrifices are not, like yogic ‘tapas’ and ‘jnana’, associated with the Krita Yuga or the Treta Yuga but only with the Dvāpara Yuga. These sacrifices, as we shall see, focus on the macrocosmic elements of the divine manifestation rather more than on the human microcosmic. The esoteric spiritual significance of the Vedas does not emerge in the predominantly liturgical Vedas so much as in the Upanishadic (Vedānta) literature, especially in the Yoga-based Upanishads derived largely from the Krishna and Shukla Yajur Vedas.[64]

It may be mentioned here that later Āgamic texts like the Tārapradīpa, Ch.1, state, contrary to the Manusmriti, that in the Satya (Krita) age Vaidika Upāsana [meditation] prevailed while in the Dvāpara there were both Smriti[65] and Purāna. Finally, in the Kaliyuga the Tantrika rather than the Vaidika Dharma has come to predominate. The Tantra Shastra was taught at the end of Dvāpara age and the beginning of Kaliyuga. However, we may rely on the Manusmriti rather than the Āgamic texts since we find the primacy of Yogic worship over sacrificial maintained also in the Rigveda and the epics themselves. RV I,84,2, for instance, declares – regarding the forms of worship of the sages and the sacrifices offered by householders – that Indra attended ‘eulogies’ sung by Rishis and ‘yajnas’ conducted by humans. So it is apparent that Vedic sacrifices were necessary only for humans. In the MBh, VII (Anushāsana Parva), 16, too, Tandi, a sage of the Krita Yuga, is said to have “adored Shiva for 10,000 years with the aid of yogic meditation.

The “divine knowledge” (jnāna) mentioned in the Manusmriti as having prevailed in the following Treta Yuga may have been derived from the ascetic disciplines practised in the Krita Yuga. In the Treta Yuga, Manu himself is described in the MP as practising tapas, or austerities, on “Mt. Malaya”, but also as sacrificing. As for the practice of austerities themselves, the Rāmāyana, Uttara Kanda, Sec.87, states that only the Brāhmans practised austerities in the Krita Yuga. In the following Treta Yuga, Kshatriyas were born and, gaining equal spiritual dignity with the Brāhmans, practised austerities alongside them, while the Vaisyas and Shūdras served them. Then in the Dvāpara Yuga Vaisyas started to practise austerities as well, just as the Shūdras too began practising austerities in the Kali Yuga.


Dvāpara Yuga

As regards the geographical origin of Brāhmanism, the Bhavishya Purāna, Pratisarga Parva I, maintains that the Dvāpara Yuga was marked by the establishment of three kingdoms, at Pratishthāna (this being related to the Aila dynasty of Purūravas himself), Mathura (associated with Krishna, the lunar/Aila deity)[66] and Marudesh (ruled by Shamashrupal[67] of the Mlecchas,[68] and comprising Iran, Iraq, and Arabia). Marudesh clearly denotes the Hamitic cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt which must have started at the end of the Dvāpara age since their peak, in the late fourth millennium B.C. coincides with the start of the Kali Yuga, which is traditionally supposed to have begun around 3100 B.C.[69] The Dvāpara age is supposed to have lasted for 864,000 years, though there is, as yet, little evidence of the existence of enlightened mankind on earth until the end of the Dvāpara age. The Gandharvas and Purūravas represent the Āryan tradition marked by fire-worship, whereas the Hamitic is marked by temple worship and idolatry.

The fire-rituals which form the backbone of the Brāhmanical religious practice are attested in the typical Indo-Āryan settlement detected in the BMAC. Elaborate fire altars are evident in the ruins of the BMAC which correspond to the Āryan fire-sacrifices. The temples also contain rooms with “all the necessary apparatus for the preparation of drinks extracted from poppy, hemp and ephedra” that may have been used for the soma-rituals.[70] The BMAC may have thus been the centre of cultural contact between the proto-Dravidian/Hurrian peoples of Mundigak and the later Indo-Āryans. It is interesting to note too, in this context, that the Avesta (which is geographically centred in eastern Iran) mentions the Māzanian daevas as worshippers of the Indian gods. According to Burrow, Māzana is known in Iranian sources as the territory between the southern shore of the Caspian Sea and the Alburz mountains.[71] It may be related also to Margiana and the Indo-Āryan culture detected there.

It must be noted that there are indeed fire-altars even in the Harappan sites of Kalibangan, in Rajastan, and Lothal, in Gujarat, which may be dated to around 2500 B.C. So it remains a moot question whether the BMAC fire-altars were introduced from the north or the south, or whether they formed part of an extensive north-south Aryan cultural continuum. Indeed the Allchins surmise that there were probably also fire-altars in Harappa and Mohenjaro Daro though these have been missed in the mass-diggings conducted at these sites.[72]

However, it is clear that fire-worship was maintained particularly by the Āryan branch of the Indo-Europeans. For fire-worship is also observed among the Prussian-Lithuanian cult of szwenta (holy fire), as well as among the Greeks and Romans who maintained a cult of hestia or vesta.[73] Plutarch (Numa, II) informs us that “Numa is said to have built the temple of Vesta in circular form as protection for the inextinguishable fire, copying not the fire of the earth as being Vesta, but of the whole universe, as centre of which the Pythagoreans believe fire to be established, and this they call Hestia and the monad”. The Scythians too worshipped a goddess called Tabit whose name is probably related to the Sanskrit tapti denoting heat.

On the other hand, we must remember Herodotus’ statement that the Iranians did not worship fire originally.[74] We have seen that in the Purānas, too, Purūravas, the early Aila [=Elamite?] king, is stated, in the Mbh I,75, to have obtained sacrificial fire from the “Gandharvas”, who also taught him the constitution of the three sacred fires of the Āryans.[75] We have seen that Purūravas is stated in the Purānas to be an Aila king of Pratishthāna. The Ailas themselves are designated as Karddameyas, which relates them to Kardama[76] and the river Karddama in Iran, particularly in the region of Balkh, which was called Bactra in Greek.[77]

The fact that the Purūravas are said to have learnt the fire-rituals from the Gandharvas suggests that the early Hurrians of Elam and the earliest Iranians did not worship fire and learnt it from a later Bactrian source since the Gandhara culture follows the BMAC. However, even the Gandharas are included among the Aila [=Elamite?] dynasties in the Purānas. Herodotus (III,91) mentions the Gandaridae as one of the Indian tribes of the seventh satrapy of Darius I (550-486 B.C.) who can be located near the Bactrians of the 12th satrapy. The term “Gadara”, a form of “Gandhara”, occurs along with the term “Hindu”,[78] in an inscription of King Darius of Iran.

The archaeological evidence of the early Gandharvas may be that found in the Gandhara Grave culture of the Swat settled from 1700-1400 B.C., which followed the BMAC. The occupants of the BMAC may have been related to the same family as the later Gandhara. Since the Gandhara culture also bears the first evidence of cremation rituals in South Asia, we may consider them to have indeed consolidated the Vedic customs of the Indo-Āryans. Cremation is evidenced also in the Andronovo culture.[79] At the same time, the neighbouring Bishkent culture, which is contemporaneous with the Gandhara and is related to the northern BMAC type, exhibits also a curious quasi-Scythian custom of inhumation involving the removal of the entrails and their replacement with clarified butter which may have persisted among the Vedic Indians, as is suggested by SB XII,v,2,5.[80] The Gandhara culture thus may have had a northern source. The northern and eastern branch of the original Noachidian race may have thus been constituted of “Japhetic” tribes that moved northwards to the Pontic-Caspian steppes and created the Yamnaya culture there[81] which is considered the major source of the Āryan culture.[82]

The Purūravas who adopted fire-worship from the Gandharas may thus represent an Elamite/Aila branch of the proto-Āryan family, while the Gandaridae, who may have arrived from the south-east Caspian region (since the BMAC culture is apparently derived from the latter)[83] may be a typically Indo-Āryan branch of the same family.[84] It may be noted also that the probability that the Indic Vedic culture itself may have been developed after an original formulation at a proto-Indo-Iranian stage is suggested by the greater elaboration of the name of the god Tvoreshtar amongst the Iranians – representing the older religion of the proto-Āryans – compared to the Vedic Tvashtr.[85] Indeed, many of the characteristic traits of the rituals of ancient India derive from an Indo-Iranian period as is attested by the similarity of the terms, yajna/yaja, soma/haoma, mantra/manθra, nama/nəmô. Even the term atharvan, denoting the originator of the Atharvaveda, has only an Iranian etymology âθravâ.[86]

However, it must be remembered that fire-worship is based on a vision of the cosmic creation that formed the basis of the solar religions of the Hamitic Sumerians and Egyptians as well. In the Sumerian religion too, the chief solar god An is equated to Girra, the fire-god (in an Assyrian exegetical text)[87] and Re in Egypt is the same as the solar force, Agni. So that it is possible that the adoration of the solar force as divine fire may have been an integral part of the original proto-Dravidian religion that was shared by Semites, Japhetites and Hamites. But the worship of cosmic forces through fire-rituals seem to have been characteristic of the Japhetic Indo-Āryan stock that had migrated at a very early date northwards to the Yamnaya and Andronovo cultures whence they moved southwards again later, in the second millennium B.C., towards northern Mesopotamia, Iran and India. The eastward movement of proto-Dravidians-Hurrians (Ailas as well as Ikshvākus) with Elamite forms of the Brahmanical religion may have encountered the more northerly fire-worshipping Gandaridae tribes to form the typically Indian branch of the Āryan family.

Pargiter has suggested that the Dravidian “brāhmanical” institution was also considerably transformed by the Āryans. While the original [proto-] Dravidian priesthood was characterised by the practice of yogic austerities (tapas) which gave them magical powers, the Āryan was preoccupied with the performance of sacrifices involving the worship of fire.[88] If Pargiter is right, it may be that the Tantric and Brāhmanical traditions were derived from a single proto-Dravidian or Noachidian source[89] that split into fire-worshipping and temple-building tribes. We may, in this context, also recall Megasthenes’ account of the early Indians:

The Indians were in old times nomadic, like those Scythians who did not till the soil, but roamed about in their wagons, as the seasons varied, from one part of Scythia to another, neither dwelling in towns nor worshipping in temples;[90] and that the Indians likewise had neither towns nor temples of the gods, but were so barbarous that they wore the skins of such wild animals as they could kill … they subsisted also on such wild animals as they could catch, eating the flesh raw, – before, at least, the coming of Dionysus into India. Dionysus, however, when he came and had conquered the people, founded cities and gave laws to these cities, and introduced the use of wine among the Indians, as he had done among the Greeks, and taught them to sow the land, himself supplying seeds for the purpose … It is also said that … the Indians worship the other gods and Dionysus himself in particular with cymbals and drums, because he so taught them … and that he instructed the Indians to let their hair grow long in honour of the god …[91]

Since Dionysus is the same as the solar god of the Mesopotamians, An, and the Egyptian Horus the Elder-Osiris,[92] and the earliest evidence of the Dravidian god, Muruga, in India reveals a Dionysiac deity, we may assume that the cultural contact being referred to by Megasthenes is that between the early Indo-Scythian settlers of India and Elamite Dravidians/Hurrians from the Zagros region.[93] The Dionysiac Dravidian religion, associable with the worship of Muruga among the Tamils, may be associated with the Tantric tradition that gradually began to predominate in early historic India. However, it must be remembered also that both these spiritual traditions are best preserved in the cultivated [sanskrit=refined] and inflected language of the upper castes of the Indo-Āryans, which however retains several Dravidian elements in it.

We have seen that Bactria seems to have been the locus in which the Shramana, as well as the Brāhmanical traditions of the Indo-Āryans, were consolidated. It is interesting in this context to note also that Herodotus, History of the Persian Wars, III,102, refers to other Indians who “dwell northward of all the rest of the Indians “and describes them as following “the same mode of life as the Bactrians“. However, the Indo-Āryans seem to have moved early to India as well and to have come to consider it their home. For, in the Manusmrithi, Chapter II, the land of the Indo-Āryans is described in fully Indian geographical terms:

  1. But the tract between those two mountains [Himavat and Vindhya] as far as the eastern and western oceans the wise call Āryāvarta.
  2. That land where the black antelope naturally roams[94] one must know to be fit for the performance of sacrifices; the tract different from that is the country of the Mlecchas.
  3. Let the twice-born men seek to dwell in those [lands]; but a Shūdra, distressed for subsistence may reside anywhere.

According to Vishnusmrithi, LXXXIV,4, “Those countries are called barbarous (Mleccha) where the system of the four castes does not exist; the others are denoted Āryāvarta.“ Non-Āryans were in general called Anagni, the fireless.





The sacrifice-oriented Vedas are different from Yoga, which encourages the adept to attempt not only a higher Brahmic consciousness but also a total liberation from the bonds of manifestation. The Brāhmanical fire-rituals focus on the sacred fire as part of the solar force that animates the universe and bestows life, and even immortality, on human beings. The fire-rituals were indeed devised to obtain supernatural effects through the control of the sacred fire by means of “tapas”, or “fervour”. The Rgveda (X,154,2), for example, refers to tapas as that by which “one attains the light of the sun”. Indeed, in AV XI,8, we glimpse the magical power of ‘tapas’ (fervour/heat) in the formation of the mind and the sense faculties in the macrocosm even before the creation of the gods:

Ten Gods before the Gods were born together in the ancient time.

Whoso may know them face to face may now pronounce the mighty word.

Inbreath and outbreath, eye and ear, decay and freedom from decay,

Spiration upward and diffused, voice, mind have brought us wish and plan.

As yet the Seasons were unborn, and Dhātar and Prajāpati,

Both Asvins, Indra, Agni. Whom then did they worship as supreme?

Fervour and Action were the two, in depths of the great billowy sea;

Fervour sprang up from Action: this they served and worshipped as supreme.

The Brāhmanās and the Upanishads, however, aim also at the control of the fire within the body. The establishment of Agni within the inner self of the sacrificer is explained in the Shatapatha Brāhmanā as a means of attaining immortality. According to this major Brāhmanical text, in the beginning, not even the gods or their opponents, the asurās, were immortal since they lacked soul, ātman. Only Agni, the fire, was immortal. As Heesterman paraphrases it,

Fervently chanting and exerting themselves the gods finally beheld the rite of setting up the fire … They then gained immortality by establishing the fire within themselves, and thereby obtained an ātman, the seat of immortality, as well. And so they overcame the asurās.[95]

Further, according to the SB, “Once the fire has been ritually established in the inner self through the agnyādheya, it is the sacrificer’s inalienable true identity, in short, his ātman.” The internalisation of Agni within, and as, the individual soul, ātman, is made clear also by Taittiriya Samhita III,4,10,5 where, as Heesterman points out, we observe that

when the sacrificer symbolically has the fire mount the aranis by warming them over the glowing members of the dying fire, he makes it enter into himself … When churning the fire to reinstall it, he churns it out of himself, exteriorizing, as it were, his own self, for he is himself the yoni, the womb of the fire… For the fire is one’s atman.[96]

And SB II,2,2,17 declares that “as long as he lives the fire which is established in his inner self-does not become extinct in him”.

SB III,6,2,16 further reveals that “even in being born, man, by his own self, is born as a debt (owing) to death. And in that he sacrifices, thereby he redeems himself from death.” The sacrificer thus has two bodies, one material and the other ritual/spiritual. Through the sacrifice he mounts to heaven to get a divine body and, on earth, he gives his material body to the gods. Thus his material body is sacrificed after purifications such as shaving the hair, cutting the nails, etc. (TS VI,1,1,2), although the sacrifice of his material body is performed with a substitute victim. Though this victim was originally a man, it was later replaced by a horse or a bull, while, at the time of the composition of the SB, the most common substitute was the goat (SB VI,2,1,39).

The importance of Agni as an instrument of the rebirth of man in the heavenly realm is made clear in the SB, which declares that Agni entered into a compact with man saying: “I shall enter you; having given birth to me, you must maintain me. As you will give birth to me and maintain me, so I shall give birth to you in yonder world”. Indeed, according to SB XII,1,3,18,ff., in the last stages of the sacrifice,

when the sacrificers worship the regions (dishāh) with a sacrifice, they become these deities, the regions. That means that they master the whole of the universe in respect to space …When they enter upon the mahavrata (day) they worship the deity Prajāpati; they become the deity Prajāpati … That means that those who now experience intimate union with this god and “residence” in his sphere have reached this ultimate goal .. they establish themselves firmly in the world of heaven.[97]

This is in sharp contrast to the Shramana traditions which do not value fire as a sacred instrument of salvation and do not strive to reach heaven so much as to leave all phenomenal existence behind. Yoga recognises the essence of man as energy (especially in Kundalini Yoga) and yajna too relates it to thermal energy or the vital fire within man. But yajna is external and symbolic worship whereas yoga is more clearly internal and practical.

In the ‘Bhagavat Gita’ too Yogic exercice is described in terms of fire-worship. It declares that yogis offered their vital force to the cosmic Prāna, which is considered to be a spiritual Havan (offering). Bhagavat Gita’, 4,24, further states that the self-control aimed at by yogic tapas may become the source of a variety of sacrifices:

Others offer up the senses, such as the sense of hearing and others, in the fires of restraint; others offer up the objects of sense, such as sound and so forth, into the fires of the senses. Some again offer up all the operations of the senses and the operations of the life-breaths into the fire of devotion by self-restraint, kindled by knowledge. Others perform the sacrifice of wealth, the sacrifice of penance, the sacrifice of concentration of mind, the sacrifice of Vedic study, and of knowledge, and others are ascetics of rigid vows.

Of all these possible sacrifices the Smārtasūtras consider the sacrifice of the self as the highest.[98] According to the Prānāgnihotra Upanishad (derived from KYV), 17ff.,[99]

One should meditate on the Atman saying “I offer a sacrifice to Atman through fire” … In order to set the sacrifice within the motion of the universe, one should make an offering to the interior of one’s own body saying “Thus I set the sacrifice into motion”.

The Avyaktopanishad treats dhyāna or spiritual meditation as a yajna and declares that one should offer one’s self as an oblation into the fire in order to attain Brahman. According to the ‘Gita’, IV, knowledge (jnāna) itself is a supreme sort of sacrifice since “the fire of knowledge reduces all actions to ashes”.

The metaphysical constitution of the fire employed in the Brāhmanical rituals is explained in great detail in the Panchāgni Vidya of the Chāndogya Upanishad, V,4ff, which identifies the five spiritual fires within the macrocosm (heaven, the atmosphere, and earth) and the macrocosm (man and woman). The Prānāgnihotra Upanishad also mentions five fires, but four of these are identified within the human body. The Panchāgni fires of the yajna are also used to clean the five internal fires such as passion, anger, greed, attachment, and jealousy.  Similarly, in Kundalini Yoga,[100] Earth is represented by the Mooladhara chakra of the yogi and Heaven by the Sahasrara chakra[101] and the Kundalini energy gets elevated to the Sahasrara chakra when it goes through the fire of Agni.

The Garbha Upanishad mentions three forms of fire within the human body, koshta agni, darshana agni and gnāna agni, relating to digestion, sight, and knowledge. These are located in the stomach, face, and heart respectively and correspond to the three fires, gārhaptniyāgni, āhavaniyāgni, and dakshināgni, in the fire-ritual. Thus, according to the Garbha Upanishad, “There is none living who does not perform yajña (sacrifice). This body is (created) for yajña, and arises out of yajña and changes according to yajña.”

Although the sacrifice has more mundane purposes such as the acquisition of offspring, cattle, health, wealth, and the brahmanic splendour,[102] the final aim of the sacrifices is to attain immortality by transfiguring the sacrificer into the solar force. The nectar of immortality that sacrificers seek for by toil and penance is indeed Soma (SB IX,5,1,8). The basic meaning of the Soma sacrifice is related to the idea of pressing or killing the Purusha, as SB II,2,2,1 suggests: “in pressing out the king [Soma] they slay him”. This may have a special phallic connotation as well since the soma juice is akin to the seminal power of Prajāpati which serves as the source of the sun that emerges as a result of the castration of the Purusha. Thus the sacrifice, though representing the death of the sacrificer, compensates the latter with his spiritual rebirth.

According to the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brāhmanā III,14,8, “As long as a man does not sacrifice, for that long he remains unborn. It is through the sacrifice that he is born”. Thus the Maitrāyani Samhita, III,6,7, declares that man is indeed born three times, at birth, at the sacrifice, and at death. Indeed, Manusmrithi V also points out that even lower forms of life, such as plants, animals, trees, birds, which have been killed as sacrificial victims rise to a higher status when reborn. All sacrifice is, like the original sacrifice of the Purusha, a self-sacrifice followed by a spiritual rebirth wherein the sacrificer acquires the essential aspect of his existence, “uniform, undecaying and immortal” (SB X,1,4,1).

This rebirth is enacted during the sacrifice in the four-day purification ceremony called dīksha. SB III,1,1,8 reveals the importance of the consecration of the sacrificer in the dīksha ceremony whereby the sacrificer is reborn as an immortal: “He who is consecrated truly draws nigh to the gods and becomes one of the deities”. The significance of sacrifice as a rebirth is evident in AB, I,3, which declares that “the priests transform the one to whom they give the diksha into an embryo.” The yajamāna and his wife should be dressed in clothes which correspond to the shell of an egg since they are going to be reborn.[103] Though the sacrificer’s wife participates in this ritual, it is principally the sacrificer himself who will be reborn as the sun. AB I,1,3, details the process whereby the sacrificer is turned into the embryonic form of Agni in the course of this ceremony and is finally born anew. Interestingly, when the purificatory rite is completed, the dīkshita is addressed as Brahman, even if he is not a brāhman. So too, in the climactic abhishekam of the rājasūya sacrifice, the king is addressed as “Brahman” by the four priests, which suggests that the sacrifice indeed imbues the sacrificer with the divine Light and Consciousness of Brahman.




We see therefore that the fire-rituals of the Brāhmans are essentially magical performances whereby the Brāhmanical “magi” restore the cosmos to its original splendour, and allow the sacrificer who employs them to achieve immortality through the strict observance of the scriptural regulations regarding the sacrifices. The spiritual focus in the Brāhmanical sacrifices on the fire of the macrocosm is complemented by the focus on the microcosm in the Brāhmanās and the Upanishads. The internalisation of Agni within the aspirant’s body is also seen to be for the purpose of gaining the vital fluid, Soma, which guarantees immortality. In general, Brāhmanism seeks to control the macrocosm and microcosm through the power of the divine fire, unlike the Shramana religions which seek, through chastity and non-violence and right conduct, to escape from the phenomenal world.


III Tantra


Kali Yuga




The origins of Yoga and of Jainism and Brāhmanism are difficult to date since, as we have seen, they locate their founders in the very remote Treta and Dvāpara Yugas. The Hamitic[104] Tantric religions associated with temple-worship that followed them are relatively easier to date since they flourish around the beginning of the Kali Yuga, which is traditionally fixed at the historical date of.3102 B.C.[105] – even though early temple cults are attested already in the sixth millennium B.C., in Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia.[106]

The Indic literary references to the Vedic sage Agastya are of special significance in identifying the sources of the Hamitic spiritual tradition since he is traditionally considered to be the sage who conveyed Vedic wisdom to the Tamils. In the Tamil Kallatam (10th c. A.D.), Skanda/Muruga, or Subrahmanya, is said to have bestowed the Vedic knowledge on Agastya, who then transmitted this wisdom to “South India” having crossed the “Vindhya” mountain range. It is quite probable that the sage Agastya is actually a reference to Akkad,[107] and the transmission of Vedic wisdom to “South India” a modern rendering of the traditional memory of a migration of proto-Akkadians from northern Mesopotamia to the Uruk region of southern Mesopotamia. The reference to the “Vindhya” mountain range suggests that this immigration proceeded from a region north-east of Kish, since there are no high mountains south of Kish. Agastya’s spiritual instruction of the Tamils also permits a location of the proto-Tamils among the Sumerians of Uruk.

The Dravidians of the “South India” of the Kallatam may have been proto-Tamils as distinguished from the proto-Dravidian Manu. These proto-Tamils seem to have been contemporaneous with the rulers of Uruk. An interesting episode in the Sanskrit poem of Kālidāsa (5th c. A.D.), Raghuvamsha (VI,59ff.), refers to Agastya’s being the officiating priest of a Pāndya (Tamil) king who is the contemporary of Aja (the grandfather of the Ikshvāku king Rama), and the capital of the Pāndya king here is called not Madurai, as one would have expected if the scene were set in South India, but rather “Uraga”,[108] which might indeed refer to the Sumerian Uruk itself. Aja may be represented in the Sumerian king-list as Aka,[109] of the first dynasty of Kish, which preceded the foundation of Uruk. The first rulers of Kish were thus proto-Akkadians from whom the Ikshvākus were derived. Ikshvāku itself seems to be identical to Akshak[110] in the Sumerian King-List.[111] One of the extant Sumerian histories related to “Gilgamesh and Agga” too refers to the initial supremacy of Kish and the north under the king Agga, son of Enmebaraggesi, who demands the submission of Gilgamesh in Uruk.[112] This means that the proto-Akkadian Kish and Kosala are identical and the Treta Yuga date of the story of Rāma, while a chronological exaggeration, an indication of the greater antiquity of this “avatār” to that of Krishna in the following Dvāpara Yuga.

Agastya is said to have learned the “difficult language” of the Tamils[113] from either Muruga or directly, from Muruga’s father Shiva.[114] The reference in Kālidasa must be to a time when the Uruk Sumerians (speaking an agglutinative language) were still somewhat alien to the Akkadians (speaking an inflected language). The fact that Agastya is said to have crossed the “Vindhya” mountains in order to reach Uraga suggests that the Kish dynasty included peoples who arrived from farther north. These northern Mesopotamians and Elamites may have imparted their spiritual wisdom to the proto-Akkadians who then relayed it to the Sumerians of Uruk, whose political ascendancy seems to have been established first in the south.




The Hamitic religious tradition which came to the fore in the age of temple building is essentially that of Tantra. The term Tantra itself may mean ‘essential constitution’ or ‘doctrine’. It may also be derived from the root “tan” which means “to extend”, a concept that is also associated with the Vedic sacrifice.[115] Although the origins of Tantra are obscure it seems most probable that they did not arise among the Āryan Brāhmans.[116] We have seen that Jainism, unlike Buddhism, is averse to Tantric practices. The Āryans who maintained the essentially esoteric Vedic tradition of fire-worship were, likewise, originally opposed to the Hamitic religious tradition centred on temple worship – which they considered to be inappropriately exoteric – just as they were to the various Kundalini Yogic attempts to control the “chakras” in Tantra. The Manusmriti (III,152), for example, records the aversion of the Āryan brāhmans to the temple priests who followed the Āgamic tradition of Hamitic origin: “Doctors, temple-priests, meat-sellers and such should be excluded from the sacrifices to the gods and manes”. Besides, the description of all of Tantra as “liberality” in Manusmriti, I,86[117] is a clear indication of the contempt with which it was viewed by the Brāhmans. Heesterman has noted the relative lack of importance of the priestly office in ancient Greece and Iran too.[118] He attributes the rise of the priesthood to the development of the temple cults in the ancient Near East.

Tantra is less focussed on the macrocosm than Brāhmanical yajna and concentrates rather on the microcosm through several symbolistic rituals involving mandalas (yantras that represent larger universal and cosmic structures), yantras (symbolic geometric diagrams), mantras (mystical syllabic chants), nyāsas (invocation of the deity to enter the human body), mudras (symbolic gestures), puja (worhsip), yātras (pilgrimages) and dīksha(initiation). Teun Goudriaan defines Tantric practices as a “systematic quest for salvation or spiritual excellence”[119] by realizing and fostering the divine within one’s own body, one that is a simultaneous union of spirit-matter and the masculine-feminine and has the ultimate goal of realizing the “primal blissful state of non-duality”. Unlike the Shramana doctrines, Tantra is not entirely world-abjuring but maintains that one can realise the divine even in one’s corporeal condition.

The Āgamas

Tantra is based principally on Āgama (“inherited scriptures”) rather than Vedic texts, though, as the name Āgama implies, it certainly draws on very ancient sources of sacred ritual.[120]  The doctrines of the Āgamas are divided into four stages, starting with Charya (selfless conduct and service) and Kriya (esoteric worship and the construction of temples and sculptures) and proceeding to Yoga (spiritual concentration) and Jnāna (supreme knowledge). There is no focus on fire-worship in the Āgamas. The four aspects deal with, first, the rules relating to the observance of religious rites, second, rules for the construction of temples and for sculpting, third, yoga and mental discipline, and, finally, philosophical knowledge. The lowest form of Āgamic practice, therefore, is that of temple worship and the highest the supreme knowledge of the Supreme Being. The fact that Yoga is included in the Tantra system suggests that it is a more comprehensive one than the Shramana traditions deriving from Sāmkhya-Yoga.

The Āgama texts are normally constituted of speeches made by Shiva to Pārvati, whereas the texts that contain speeches made by the latter to her consort are called Nigama. Yamala texts involve the worship of united deities. The Āgamas are written in Sanskrit using the South Indian Grantha script rather than the Devanāgari. The Āgama texts are divided into three types, Tantra (Sattvaguna – or based on the quality of Sattva), Yamala (Rajoguna – or based on the quality of Rajas) and Damara (Tamoguna – or based on the quality of Tamas). Although drawing on the Vedic tradition, Āgama claims to supersede it. As Flood points out,

The mainstream tantric texts of the Pancharatra and Shaiva Siddhanta maintain a close proximity to the Vedic tradition and prescribe a whole way of life that incorporates vedic rites of passage [samksaras] … along with the supererogatory tantric rites of their tradition.[121]

Āgama considers the universe as a whole whose every single part bears an influence on the others. Thus a system of sympathetic magic was developed out of it in which the final aim of the spiritual adept (sādhaka) is to transform, within his consciousness, his own person as well as cult-objects and rites into that which these phenomena essentially are. Every god is indeed represented by a ‘bija’ or seminal mantra which embodies the essence of the god. Thus the syllable ‘ram’ betokens Agni, ‘dam’ Vishnu, ‘horum’ Shiva, etc. And the ultimate aim of Tantra, called ‘Siddhi’ or spiritual perfection, is a practical realisation of the Upanishadic equation of the individual ātman with Brahman (“tat tvam asi”/that art thou).

Men, in general, are classified according to the predominance of the tāmasic, rājasic, or sāttvic elements (terms derived from Sāmkhya) in them, as pashu (animal), vira (heroic) or divya (divine), this classification roughly corresponding to the vaisya, kshatriya and brāhmanical castes among the Vedic Āryas, though, as we have seen, the Jains trace the caste system to another source than the Vedas.[122] There are only two life-stages (āshramas) recognised by the Āgamic tradition, those of householders and ascetics, for both brāhmans and non-brāhmans, “though the particular practices of the Vipras [brāhmans] and other castes vary” (Mahānārāyana Tantra, Ch.8).

In spite of the relatively exoteric aspect of Tantra, the aims of both Brāhmanism and Tantra are not dissimilar, only the means differ considerably. While the Brāhmanical rituals aim at reviving the cosmos through the agency of the divine fire and the construction of elaborate fire-altars, Tantra expands the celebration of the spiritual cosmos from mere fire altars to large temple structures. The Vedic sacrifices do not involve idolatry and the only idol mentioned in the SB is the gold man that is placed within the fire-altar.[123] The idolatry employed in Tantra, however, is based on the divinisation of the king as sun-god that is the aim also of the Brāhmanical royal consecration, Rājasuya Yagna.[124] This divinisation resulted in the numerous representations of the king as a god in the Hamitic cultures, and this regal apotheosis is also closely related to the worship of divine idols in the temples. Just as the major focus on Agni in the Vedic rituals is on its creative solar force and the need to preserve this force,[125] in temple worship the deity whose idol is adored is daily created and sustained.

It should be noted also that the Āgama texts on temple worship use Vedic mantras in their Tantric rituals. For instance, the Bodhayana Shesha Sūtra and the Vishnu Pratishtha Kalpa combine Grihya Sūtra rules with Tantric practices to outline the rites for the installation of Vishnu images, etc. The Grihya Sūtras, however, do not include the Prāna Prathistāpana ritual (infusing life into the idol) which is taken from Tantra, and the latter is combined, as in Egypt and Sumer, with the ceremony of “opening the eyes of the deity with a needle”.

There are clear similarities between the structures of the Vedic fire-altars and those of the temples of the Hamitic traditions. The Gārhapatya fire is represented in the temple by the vedika platform. The cella where the icon is placed is called a garbhagriha (womb chamber), and we may remember that Agni, and the Vedic sacrificer himself, were considered as undergoing a rebirth in the course of the sacrifice. Also, the plinth of the temple is adorned with sculptures of men, horses and other animals which beings correspond to those of the five heads buried in the foundation of the Vedic altar.[126] The axis on which the temple is built is identical to that of the sacrificial post, yupa, in the Vedic altar which SB III, vii,1,25 describes as rising from the underworld to the heavens. The stambha of the Vedic fire-altar may have later been transformed into the more graphic Shiva Linga of Hindu temples, for Shiva is also called Sthānu or pillar, the axis mundi.

The Āgama texts relating to temple worship clearly include Yoga methodology since they consider temple architecture as imitative of the human body and locate the six chakras within the temple structure. Following Yogic correspondences, the mulādhāra chakra is identified with the platform for the sacrificial food offerings, the svādhishthāna with the flagpole, the manipura with the vāhana or vehicle of the god, the anāhata with the mahāmandapa or assembly hall, the vishuddha with the antarala or corridor between the mandapa and the cella, the ajna with the cult image, and the brahmarandhra with the amalaka stone.[127]

Temples are built on a mandala representing a supine Vāstu-Purusha oriented according to the course of the sun. The Vāstu-Purusha is a Purānic variation of the Vedic account of the formation of the Cosmic Man, or Purusha, which coincides with the emergence of the supreme Light and Consciousness of Brahman. The Agni Purana LXI, 19-27, for example, declares that the temple is the body of the Purusha, so that the door of the temple is the mouth of the Purusha and the image is his life. In the Vedic fire-altar, the kunda is considered its “mouth”.[128] The centre of the mandala, the brahmasthāna, is the most sacred part of it since it denotes the navel of the Purusha whence the universe or the Mt. Meru which serves as the universal axis, emerged. The spires of Hindu temples, as well as the pyramidal structures of Egypt, are representations of this phallic axis of the universe.

The garbhagriha, or womb-chamber where the idol of the deity is placed, is a square cella where the idol is, as it were, born. Only the priests are allowed into this chamber. There is an ambulatory around the inner chamber for the worshippers’ circumambulation of the image of the deity. The steeple of the dome above the sanctuary is called shikhara (summit) and represents Mt.Meru, which represents the central mountain of the matrix of Earth atop which the sun arises.

The erotic sculptures adorning some of the temples of central India are linked to the importance of “kāma” (love) and “mithuna“ (sexual union) in Shaktism as well as, earlier, in the Vedic yajna.[129] For Kāma is considered as the root of the universe and the universe is to be reabsorbed into its root through desire.[130]  The temple also has a hall held on pillars for meditation, prayer or sacred dances. The temple tank is outside the temple and used for purificatory purposes.

Temple building was governed by the strictest rules of divine geometry. In the Shāstras and Āgamas, the physical form of the temple is identified with “the laws that govern the movements of heavenly bodies”.[131] The plan of the temple is a square which is divided into 64 or 81 smaller squares, each representing a specific deity. These squares are related to yantras, which are specific geometric shapes representing the energies of the devatas, for each devata has his or her own yantra.

The divinisation of the king in ancient India in the rite of anointing during the Rājasūya rituals has already been noticed. In the Tantric tradition, the king’s role as a warrior is allied to the shakti (power) of the Goddess which is bestowed upon the king during his consecration.[132] The divinisation of the king is closely related to the divinisation of idols in the temple worship which forms an important part of the Āgama tradition. Idol worship is, as we shall see in the discussion of the divine manifestation in the Pāncharātra system, of special Yogic significance since it allows the devotee to more easily apprehend the formless and quality-less divinity by detaching himself from his own form and quality in the process of admiring those of the idol. Thus, through his adoration of the idol, the devotee is gradually freed from his own ego.




Āgama is divided into Vaishnava (215 in all), Shaiva (28) and Shākta Āgama (77). The Shākta Āgama tradition is normally called Tantra, though Tantra is often used to describe the Vaishnava and Shaiva traditions as well.


Vaishnava Āgamas

Vaishnava Āgamas are divided into Vaikhānasa and Pāncharātra Āgamas.

Vaikhānasas may have been the first group of professional temple-priests and are more Vedic in their affiliation. Indeed, they are also called Vaidikāgama and Shrutāgama.[133] The principal Vaikhānasa text is the Vaikhānasa Sūtra from the 4th c. A.D.

The Vaikhānasas, like the Āryan brāhmans, consider grihasthya as being the best stage of the Hindu’s life and worship at home as rather more important than worship at the temple. Vaikhānasas are devotees of Vishnu and consider Vishnu in four principal forms as Achyuta (the immutable aspect), Satya (the static aspect of the deity), the Purusha (the principle of life), and Aniruddha (the irreducible aspect). The absolute form (nishkala) of Vishnu in the universe is contemplated by the worshipper through the Vishnu form in his own body, and then the worshipper transfers this spirit into the immovable idol. The large immovable image in the temple represents Vishnu’s nishkala form and is ritually placed in the sanctuary and consecrated. The smaller moveable images in the temple represent the sakala forms that represent the manifest emanations of the divinity.

Pāncharātra is a later form of Vaishnava worship associated with Rāmānuja and his teacher Yāmuna (ca. 918-1038 A.D.), who wrote the Āgamaprāmānya in defence of the Pāncharātra tradition.[134] In the Pāncharātra, yajnas are less valued than idol-worship whereas, in the Vaikhānasa tradition, idol-worship is only a development of the yajnas. Also, among the Southern Indian Pāncharātra followers, more Tamil hymns are recited and more festivals are organised involving all sections of the community. Shūdras and ascetics are given an important role in the performance of rituals. Although Vaikhānasa is generally considered to be the first and principal Vaishnava Āgamic tradition, Abhināvagupta (ca.975-1025 A.D.),[135] however, maintained that the Pāncharātra is superior to the Vaikhanasa since it is meant for the spiritually advanced.

 The Pāncharātra doctrine of divine manifestation: is of special importance in understanding the crucial correspondence between the macrocosm and the microcosm. According to the Jayākhya Samhita written before the 10th c. B.C. and based on Sāmkhya philosophical categories, the Absolute Being (Brahman) is equated with the personal being of Vāsudeva (Vishnu). From Vāsudeva emanate lower forms as vyūhas. The description of the transformations of the ultimate reality in this work is worth noticing for its spiritual insight into the Purusha cosmology of the Vedas and Purānas:

Having a hundred-fold radiance of fire, sun, and moon, Vāsudeva is the Lord, the truth of that [absolute], the supreme Lord. Agitating his own radiance through his own energy (tejas), the Lord whose form is light manifests the god Achyuta, like lightning … [Then] that Achyuta of firm radiance spreads his won form, depending on Vāsu as a wisp of cloud [depends] on the summer heat. Then shaking himself he [in turn] produced the god Satya, whose body is shining, as the ocean [produces] a bubble. He is called the light mode of consciousness who produces himself by means of himself [as the god] called Purusha, who is great, an unending stream of light. That supreme Lord is [in turn] the support of all the [lower] gods, their inner controller,[136] as the sky [is the support] of the stars.[137]

We see that the Pāncharātra employs the same hypostases of Aniruddha, Achyuta, Satya and Purusha that the Vaikhānasas also do. And we note also the very elaborate understanding of the Purusha cosmology that the Āgamic traditions display.

After the initial ideal creation comes a lower material phase characterised by Māyā Shakti along with the cosmic body of Purusha. During this phase emerge the individual souls “contaminated by the dust of beginningless karmic traces … and to which they return during the periodic destruction or reabsorption of the lower creation”.[138] From Māyā then emanates Prakrti, the material creation which emanates from the Mahat (the Great). From the Mahat, in turn, is generated the Ahamkāra (the Ego) and thence the mind (for dealing with worldly transactions), the five senses, the five organs of action, the five subtle elements and the five material elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth). The individual soul is wrapped in these Shakti emanations and entrapped in them. Liberation consists in the extraction of the soul from its Shakti envelope.

The Pāncharātra, much like the Vaikhānasa, maintains that the deity manifests himself in five-fold manner, as Para, Vyuha, Vibhava (or Avatāra), Antaryāmin (or Aniruddha), and Archa. The first four detail the process of divine emanation from macrocosm into microcosm. The last two are the manifestations of the lord within humans and in idols.

Para is the first immanent manifestation of the Lord. This is the “best of the Purushas”, “the highest Light”. The Padma Tantra describes the Lord as dividing himself and becoming with one-half the Vyuha Vasudeva and with the other Nārayana, creator of the primal waters.

Vyuha is the process of emanation itself marked by the appearance of six guna’s in Nārāyana and his consort Lakshmi.

Avatāra (descent) is the next manifestation of the Lord, also called Vibhava (human manifestation). All the avatāras spring from Aniruddha or some from Vāsudeva and the others from the other three vyuhas. The supreme Being, however, remains transcendent and indifferent to the manifestation.

Antaryāmin is Aniruddha as the inner ruler of all souls seated in the lotus of the heart.

Archa is an inanimate object which is duly consecrated and possessed of miraculous power when the shakti of Vishnu descends into it. It is used as an object of daily worship since the devotee feels the very presence of God in it. The non-initiated devotee in the Pāncharātra tradition adores the Vibhava form of the Lord, the incarnation of the deity, as Rāma, etc., in the temple and then moves on to the worship of His more subtle Vyuha forms.

The rituals detailed in the Jayākhya Samhita are interesting for the yogic complexity they point to in the divine worship that is to be undertaken by an adept.[139] The rituals consist of 1. purificatory ablutions (snāna), 2. purification of the elements within the body (bhūtashuddhi), 3. divinisation of the body through imposing mantras upon it (nyāsa), 4. internal worship of the deity (antara-yoga) performed in the mind, 5. external worship of the deity (bahya-yoga) with offerings. The aim of the rituals is to allow the adept to purify the physical or elemental body (bhautika sharira) and induce the soul to ascend from the heart through the body (and simultaneously through the cosmos) to the Lord Nārāyana located at the crown of the head.

During these rituals the adept performs the divinisation of his own body through imposing mantras upon it, followed by mental sacrifice (mānasayāga) and external sacrifice (bāhyayāga). The divinisation of the adept’s body is undertaken through the imposition of mantras upon it by touching the various parts of the body while reciting the appropriate mantras.[140] When the adept is thus fully divinised he is identified with Nārāyana and his ego is transformed into the absolute subjectivity of Vishnu. He can say at the end of this process, “I am the Lord Vishnu, I am Nārāyana, Hari, and I am Vāsudeva, all-pervading, the abode of beings, without taint”.

In the internal worship that follows, the adept seeks to establish the supreme Lord within his heart, which is envisaged as a throne. The adept visualises the hierarchical cosmos in the forms of the deities located within his own body. First, he situates the power of Earth on his penis, above that the fire of Time, then the Tortoise incarnation of the Lord bearing the insignia of Vishnu, the discus and the club. Above that are situated the cosmic snake, Ananta, and, above Ananta, Prithvi, the Earth-goddess. Above her, at the navel, is located an ocean of milk from which arises a white lotus. On this lotus are situated the sun, moon, and fire. Above these is the throne of being upon which rests Garuda, the solar vehicle of Vishnu, and the boar Varāha. The area from the navel to the heart is divided into five sections and the adept finally worships the mantra-throne in the heart. We note the similarity that this ritual of divinisation bears to the identification of the various parts of the fire-altar with those of the Purusha in the Vedic Agnicayana ritual.[141]


Shaiva Āgamas


The Shaivāgama consists of four different schools, the Shaiva, Pashupata, Soma, and Lakula. Of these, the Shaiva is said to have had three branches: Vāma, Dakshina and Siddhānta.

The Vāma branch includes Kapala, Kālamukha and Agora.

The Dakshina branch includes Kashmir Shaivadarshanas, Svachanda Bhairavam, etc., making up a total of 18 Āgamas. Of the Dakshina branch, Kashmir Shaivism is mostly monistic in its metaphysics and its principal exponent is Abhināvagupta (10th century A.D.), author of the Tantraloka. Other texts include the Shiva Sutras of Vāsugupta (ca. 875-925) and Jayaratha’s 12th-century commentary on the Tantraloka.

Kashmir Shaivism considers Shiva as the only Reality and infinite Consciousness. By his own will and energy (Shakti) he appears as the phenomenal universe. Shakti has five qualities, chit, ānanda, ichcha, jnāna, and kriya. To this is added māyā, or the agent of phenomenal manifestation, which in turn gives rise to five kanchukas – kala (power), vidya (knowledge), rāga (attachment), kāla (time) and niyati (space). One of the major doctrines developed by Vāsugupta is that of spanda, or vibration, which is manifest as a sound within the divine consciousness, rather like the Vedic Vāk.[142] The individual soul is essentially the pure consciousness of Shiva and must strive towards a recognition of its real divine self, as in Shankara’s Advaita Vedantic philosophy.  One key feature of this school is ‘krama’ meaning progress wherein the stages prior to spiritual realisation are understood in a monistic-dualistic (bhedābhedopāya) manner, though the underlying metaphysical doctrine remains monistic.

The Shaiva Siddhānta branch[143] was most probably a Kashmiri school in its original form, for Satyajyothi Shivāchārya (ca. 7th century) is a well-known Siddhānta scholar from Kashmir who is extensively quoted in the pre-Meykandar Shaiva texts. The Siddhānta doctrines of the Kashmiris were continued in southern India by Aghorashiva of Chidambaram (12th century), who is considered one of the most authoritative representatives of southern Indian Siddhānta. Indeed, from the 12th century, the school is evidenced only in southern India. In the 13th century, Meykandar, who is famous for his treatise Sivajnānbodham, formulated a dualistic form of Siddhānta based on Aghorashiva’s.

The Siddhānta Āgamic texts, which number 28, are said to have been authored by the Seven Sages themselves who received them from the five “faces” of Shiva. According to another tradition, Shiva revealed the Āgamas to Pārvati and Nandi, the bull that serves as Shiva’s vehicle and assistant. Parvati revealed it to her son Lord Muruga, while Nandi, for his part, revealed it to his eight disciples, Tirumalar, Patanjali, Vyaghrapada, Sanatkumar, Sivayogamuni, Sanakar, Sanadanar, and Sanandanar, all of whom are given Tamil names, though these may be Tamil forms of Sanskrit ones. We note here also the inclusion of Patanjali, the Yogic scholar. Tirumular, who propounded a monistic Shaivite doctrine that is redacted in his yogic compendium, Tirumantiram, is considered by some to have lived in the third millennium B.C., even though the actual redaction of this work may have been made only as late as the 8th century A.D.

For the followers of Shaiva Siddhānta, as for the Vaishnavas, worship of Shiva is graded through charya, external worship such as cleaning the temple, offering flowers, etc., kriya, which is internal worship related to the actual rituals, yoga, seeking identity with Shiva and jnāna, or wisdom in which the devotee and Shiva are one. The Shaivāgama texts on pūja, such as the 17th-century Pūjaprakāsha of Mitramishra, make clear that the devotee must purify himself internally so that he becomes similar to the deity he is about to worship since “only Śiva may worship Śiva”.[144]

Shiva is understood in Shaiva Siddhānta as the totality of all, consisting of three perfections: Parameshvara (the Personal Creator Lord), Parashakti (the substratum of form) and Parashiva (Absolute Reality which transcends all). Souls and the world are identical in essence with Shiva, yet also differ in that they are evolving. A pluralistic stream arose in the middle ages from the teachings of Aghorasiva and Meykandar. For Aghorasiva’s school (ca 1150), Shiva is not the material cause of the universe, and the soul attains perfect “sameness” with Shiva upon liberation. Meykandar’s (ca 1250) pluralistic school denies that souls ever attain perfect sameness or unity with Shiva. Thus some followers of the Shaiva Siddhānta system maintain a distinction between the self, the Lord, and the universe. The Lord is considered as the Pati, or Lord of animals, the soul as Pashu, or an animal, and the bonds of the universe are called pāsha. The bond is constituted of five components – egoism (anava), action (karma), illusion (māyā), the illusory universe, and the power of concealing reality.

The unfolding universe is made up of 36 tattvas (the constituents of matter and of the incarnate soul) which allow the soul to experience the results of their actions. Through ritual reabsorption of the tattvas, the soul may be liberated. The first ideal manifestation of the Shiva-tattva is called Bindu, the next Māyā, which produces the mixed creation and the last is Prakrti tattva which produces the lower categories of Nature described in the Sāmkhya.

Siddhānta recognises three types of souls, sakalas are those that have become free from all the three pashas, vijnanakalas are those that have freed themselves from māyā and karma, and pralayakalas are those that would become free from māyā only when Shiva withdraws his entire māyā-shakti finally into himself as a part of the dissolution of the worlds. Indeed, the soul’s bond within the universe can be broken only by the grace (prasāda) of Shiva whereby the soul is able to become like the Lord, though ever remaining distinct from Him, for Shiva alone is always free (anādimukta).

The initiation rites of the Shaiva Siddhānta system interestingly include a ritual called vishesa-dīkshā whereby the guru transports the soul of the disciple into the womb of the goddess Vāk, consort of Shiva, who has been installed in the fire. The disciple is then reborn from her, exactly as the Vedic sacrificer is reborn during the fire-rituals studied above. Vāk here is Aditi, consort of Varuna/Vishnu in the underworld and gives birth to Agni, the underworld form of the sun which later emerges in our universe as Āditya.[145] So the process of rebirth in the Shaiva Siddhānta is essentially identical to that of the sun.

In the next ritual, nirvāna-dīksha, the master installs in the body of the disciple the totality of the subtle elements of the cosmos. He then envisages himself as entering the central channel of the disciple’s body through the aperture at the crown of the head and going down to the chakra at the heart. Next, the master leaves the disciple’s body by the same route taking his disciple’s soul as well as the subtle constituents of the universe with him. He brings the soul and the universal elements into his own heart through the aperture at the crown of his own head and finally emits them from there establishing the disciple’s soul and the subtle cosmos on a cord that symbolizes the spinal cord of the disciple. These are purified by the master on the cord and then replaced in the disciple’s body as in a new birth.

These major rituals are then followed by daily (nitya karman) rites which burn up the remaining karma in the disciple so that, at death, he may achieve final liberation.


Shākta Āgamas


Shākta Āgamas, which are popular in Bengal, and are generally called Tantras, consider Shiva’s consort, Shakti, as the supreme deity. Shakti is the divine energy of Becoming while Shiva is the divine Being. Shakti is therefore regarded as the real power of all creation, maintenance, and destruction. It is maintained that from the divine Shakti emerges first a Bindu or mystic drop which calls to life the diverse components of the universe. Shakti creates through her power of Māyā the multiplicity of the phenomenal world. The mystic seed-syllables used in Tantrism are considered as forms of Shakti and are called “mātrkā’s” in yantras.

Shākta Tantra divides spiritual development into seven stages. The first four stages are constituted of the lowest stage, that of Vedic sacrifices, followed by the Bhakti stage practised by the Vaishnavites, and the highest stage of the Jnānamārga (the path of knowledge) followed by Shaivites. The fourth stage is called Dakshināchāra (the right-sided, or male) which leads the sādhaka into the nature of the Devi and makes him a shākta. These first four stages are together called “pravrtti”, an emergence from the eternal maternal womb. As in the Vedic sacrifices, the adept has to undergo a “dīksha” and obey his guru to the last moment of salvation. Indeed the dīksha consists in the transference of the vital force of the guru into the adept.

The following three stages are termed ‘nivrtti’. During these, the sādhaka seeks to neutralise his newly acquired powers in such a way that he realises a universal life. The fifth stage is called Vāmachāra (the left-handed, or female) and aims at the self-destruction of the powers of pravrtti. Vāmachāra tantras are considered to be non-Vedic since they include ritual practices involving meat-eating and sexual union. The sixth stage is called Siddhāntachāra which aims at freeing one from darkness and all the bands in order to establish the universe in macrocosm and microcosm. The seventh stage is called Kaulāchāra, where the adept prepares his own funeral rites. At this stage the adept has gone beyond time and space, having acquired gnosis, Brahmagnāna, and the great mother, Shakti, dwells in his heart.

Since stress is laid on the shakti (energy) of the divinity and this shakti is characterised as female, personified as the consort of Shiva, women are in this tradition given a much more important role as images of the great goddess, and they serve as teachers as well. Also, unlike in the Vedic society, widows are allowed to remarry and the practice of sati is forbidden.[146] Generally, unlike in the Vedic system, there is much less focus on asceticism in Shākta Tantra, which rather emphasises the female principle.

The Smārta[147] literature, particularly the Dharmashāstras, had given more emphasis to brahmachārya, while sexual union was permitted only to the grihastha and that only for reproduction. The Shākta Tantric tradition, on the other hand, stresses kāma in such a way that bhoga (pleasure) becomes identified with yoga and bhukti (pleasure) with mukti (salvation).[148] In the secret nocturnal rite called Shrichakra indiscriminate coitus takes place to recreate the marriage of Shiva and Shakti. The Panchatattva rites involve the use of mada (alcohol), matsya (fish), mamsa (meat), mudrā (grains) and maithuna (coitus). But these rites are not entirely unbridled orgies but rather aim to control the instincts so that carnal activities are given a cosmic, divine dimension. This has precedents in Vedic religious doctrine as well, as, for instance, in BAU VI,4.

Ch.29 of Abhināvagupta’s Tantraloka details the ‘kula prakriya’ rite which involves the unorthodox consumption of meat, alcohol, fish and the performance of ritual sex.[149] However, as Flood points out, the BAU (IV,3,21) too describes the realisation of the self as the Absolute in sexual terms, while the Chāndogya Upanishad (II,13,1-2) identifies Vedic recitation itself with the sexual act. As Brajalal Mukherji also explained,[150]

All Vedic yajnas are based on the idea that Maithunikarana (coitus) leads to spiritual happiness. Sexual intercourse is Agnihotra (SB XI, 6,2,10). Maithunakarana is consecration (SB III, 2,1,2, etc.) … [Yajnas] direct the observance and performance of Maithuna as a religious rite or part of a religious rite … and they direct that Mantras are to be uttered during the observance of this rite … One of the articles of faith of the Vaidik people, therefore, was that sexual union led the way to bliss hereafter and must be performed in a true religious spirit to ensure spiritual welfare, wanton indulgence being severely deprecated …

Those who have studied Vedic sacrifical rituals will also remember the dramatic performance of copulation between the king’s wife and the dead horse in the Ashvamedha sacrifice and may reasonably suppose this to have been a part of the original Purushamedha as well. However, it is important to observe here that, in the Vedic sacrifice, the stress is always on the phallus and its power to create the sun as well as our ordered universe, whereas in the Shākta Āgama the female aspect of coition is given special stress.

According to Mukherji, many of the other aspects of Tantra are also derived from the Vedas themselves:

The Vaidik people performed their Somayajnas and Haviryajnas which included the Sautramani, with libations and drinks of intoxicating liquor … The Vaidik people used to offer to their Devatas at their sacrifices animal and vegetable food … They offer animal sacrifices … which include the horse, goats, sheep, oxen … and human beings (TB III,4,1). They believe that by performing animal sacrifices the sacrificer ransoms himself … or wins all these worlds … The animal is the sacrificer himself (AB II, 2,1).

Mukherji pointed out further similarities between the divinisation rituals of the Āgamic tradition and some of the Vedic rituals:[151]

The worship in both Vaidik and Tantrik rites begins with Acamana, which is a form of ablution in which certain parts of the body are touched with water …  They purify themselves by uttering some Mantras as Bijas while contemplating the Deities of certain parts of their bodies and touching such parts with their fingers … They make use of certain sounds for removing unclean spirits, e.g., Khat, Phat, Hum … They attribute a Deity to each letter in a Mantra … They make gestures with their fingers as part of their religious rites … and locate the Devatas of particular sounds in particular parts of their bodies …

Indeed, Āgamic practice also includes sacrifices which are called yāga, rather than yajna, and are mostly impersonal, in the spirit of the bhakti cult of the Gita. Further, Biardeau has pointed out, “le ‘sacrifiant’ du culte agamique – qui est toujours, par la force des choses, un notable, au moins local – se rapproche ainsi beaucoup plus au roi que du maître de maison ordinaire”.[152] This suggests that the Tantric sacrifices retain the public significance of the early sacred rituals of the Indo-Europeans rather more than the rituals of the later Vedic Āryans, which tended to be more domestic, and exclusive, affairs.

Shākta Tantra places a special emphasis on Kundalini Yoga since Kundalini represents Shakti while the Purusha is located in the Sahasrāra lotus in the crown of the head. In Shākta Tantra, as in the Vaishnava Pāncharātra, the deities are identified within the adept’s body. However, in the Shākta system, within the calyx of the heart (lotus) are visualised Shiva and his consort locked in sexual union, which indicates the non-differentiation of consciousness and the phenomenal world.[153] The ritualised sexual acts performed in Shākta Tantric rituals reflect this union of Shakti and Shākta. As Flood points out, in the ecstasy of this union, the body of the adept becomes filled with an awareness of its equivalence to the cosmos and its identity to Shiva, the supreme subject of consciousness, which is “inseparable from his energy and containing within it the totality of manifestation”. Here again we note that the enlightenment offered by Shākta Āgama is described in terms of the union of male and female principles, or in the terminology of the Sāmkhya philosophy, of Purusha and Prakrti, whereas, in the other Āgamas, the Vedic image of the Purusha is located by itself in the heart and the highest Bliss is the Light of Brahman to be attained at the crown of the head.

The highest stage of the entire Āgamic system is Jnāna or perfect knowledge of divinity. This is the philosophical stage of the more practical disciplines of Yoga and the jnāna sections of the Āgamic texts contain various discussions of cosmogony and the individual self. Similar to the precepts of the Vedānta (i.e., of the Upanishads), the jnāna doctrine of the Āgamic schools is one which aims at achieving identity with Shiva. According to the Tirumantiram, of Tirumalar, in charya, the soul forges a kindred tie in “God’s world” (salokya), in kriya it attains “nearness” (samipya) to Him, in yoga it attains “likeness” (sarupya) with Him and finally, in jnāna, the soul enjoys the ultimate bliss of identity (sayujya) with Shiva.[154] The Siddhi who has become one with the deity sheds blessings on mankind even while remaining in his body.




We see therefore that the Brāhmanical fire-rituals and the Tantric psychosomatic ones are related to each other through the same cosmological insights that gave rise to the earliest Indo-European spirituality. The adoration of the Purusha form of the supreme godhead in the fire-worship of the Āryans is transformed into a worship of divinised idols in the Tantric tradition that culminates in the divinisation of religious adepts themselves. The religious traditions of Brāhmanism and Tantra are indeed contiguous in several aspects and, though Tantra is more exoteric than Brāhmanism, it is at the same time more elaborate in its worship of the divinity as Purusha. On the other hand, the Shramana tradition deriving from Sāmkhya-Yoga sees no value in performing rituals in its effort to abjure the world altogether. Consequently, neither the severe world-abjuration of Jainism nor the less ascetic and more ethical heterodoxy of Buddhism exhibits the prisca theologia in its full cosmological complexity as the Brāhmanical and Tantric traditions do. And of the latter two traditions, it is clear also that it was the Hamitic Āgamic tradition – with its elaborate temple structures, idolatry, and sacred music- and dance forms – that crystallised the later ‘Hindu’ culture of India just as, in the West (through Anatolia and Egypt), it informed the powerful ‘Humanism’ of Graeco-Roman civilisation.

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[1]              Cf. MBh VII (Drona Parva), 202, where Shiva is called Yoga and the Lord of Yoga (Yogeshvara).

[2]              The most substantial information regarding the original yogic system is perhaps that to be gleaned from the yoga-based Upanishads derived largely from the Krishna and Shukla Yajur Vedas (see K. N. Aiyar, Thirty Minor Upanishads, Madras: Vasanta Press, 1914).

[3]              Modifications of the mind

[4]              The light of isolation [from the phenomenal world]

[5]              For the contrasting understanding of yoga in Jainism see below.

[6]              For a full discussion of this cosmology, see A. Jacob, Ātman: A Reconstruction of the Solar Cosmology of the Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2005, and A. Jacob, Brahman: A Study of the Solar Rituals of the Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2012.

[7]              According to BP I,3, there are twenty-two avatārs of Vishnu, beginning with –

[Krita Yuga] Chatursana (the four sons of Brahma), the boar Varāha, Nārada, Nara-Nārāyana, Kapila, Dattatreya, Yajna, Rishabha,

[Treta Yuga] the fish Matsya, the tortoise Kūrma, Dhanvantari, Mohini, Narasimha, Vāmana, Parashurāma, Vyāsa, Rāma,

[Dvāpara Yuga] Balarāma, Krishna,

[Kali Yuga] the Buddha, Kalki.

[8]              Cf. S.B. Chaudhuri, Ethnic Settlements in Ancient India, p.110.

[9]              See below.

[10]             See below

[11]             Srimad Bhāgavatam (tr. Aanand Aadhar), III,25,13.

[12]         That is, an Asura, or lesser god, born of Diti, the earth goddess, who is the sister of Aditi, the mother of Indra and the solar Ādityas..

[13]             That the āshrama system is not originally Brāhmanical is probable, since Brāhmanism, as we shall see, focuses mostly on the first two stages and not on the latter two, which are more central to the Shramana doctrines.

[14]             Bactria spreads across modern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

[15]             Cf. J.P. Mallory and V. H. Mair, The Tarim Mummies, p.45f.; p.262.

[16]             Andronovo type pottery has been found in the early layers of Margiana (see A. Parpola, “The problem of the Aryans”, p.363).

[17]             The Hut Grave culture apparently separated into the Timber Grave (proto-Iranian) and Andronovo (proto-Āryan) cultures. The fourth millennium predecessor of the Hut Grave and Catacomb Grave cultures may have been the Yamnaya culture dating from 3500-2800 B.C. (ibid., p.356).

[18]             See J.P. Mallory and VH. Mair, op. cit., pp.260f.

[19]             G. Flood, An introduction to Hinduism: The secret tradition of Hindu religion, London: I.B. Tauris, 2006. p.81.

[20]             See below.

[21]             The action organs are referred to as karma-indriya and the sense organs are referred to as gnāna-indriya.

[22]             M. Biardeau, Le sacrifice dans l’inde ancienne, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1976, p.75.

[23]             In the Brāhmanical tradition there are fourteen Manus in each kalpa (the present kalpa is called  the Padma Kalpa, as the earlier one was the Brahma Kalpa), and the beginning of human life on earth is dated to the appearance of Manu Vaivasvata, who is the seventh Manu of our kalpa.

[24]             See P. Jaini, The Jaina Path of Purification, N. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998, p.290.

[25]                   See below.

[26]             Ishvāku is the son of Manu who begins the Solar dynasty (see below). It appears that the Ikshākus, whom we may first locate in West Asia (see below), also moved at some time to India.

[27]         See above.

[28]             See below.

[29]         This is the Ukrainian steppe, stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.

[30]         Frag. XLIII.

[31]         Geographica, XV,1.

[32]             Porphyry, On abstinence from animal food, (tr. T. Taylor) IV,17.

[33]         See below. This classification roughly corresponding to the vaisya, kshatriya and brāhmanical castes among the Vedic Āryas.

[34]             See A. Jacob, Brahman, Ch.IX.

[35]         G. Samuel, op.cit., p.8

[36]             Ibid,

[37]                   M. Shee, Tapas und Tapasvin in den erzählenden Partien des Mahåbhårata. Reinbek: Dr. Inge Wezler Verlag, p.405, tr. J. Bronkhurst, “The Brāhmanical Contribution to Yoga”, International Journal of Hindu Studies 15, 3: 321.

[38]             C.K. Chapple, “Recovering Jainism’s Contribution to Yoga Traditions”, International Journal of Hindu Studies 15,3:324.

[39]             C.K. Chapple, art.cit., in International Journal of Hindu Studies, 15, 3: 326.

[40]             See below

[41]          See A. Eraly, The First Spring: The Golden Age of India, N.Delhi: Penguin Books, 2011.

[42]             See M. Wiltshire, Ascetic Figures before and in Early Buddhism,

[43]             See A. Jacob, Brahman, Ch.X.

[44]             See, for instance, S. Hatley, “Converting the Dākini, Goddess Cults and Tantras of the Yoginis between Buddhism and Saivism” in Tantric Traditions in Transmission and Translation, (ed.) D.B. Gray and R.R. Overbey, Ch.2.

[45]             For a full account of the mythology of the Purusha and its significance for an understanding of the Āryan as well as Hamitic religions, see A. Jacob, Brahman, and A. Jacob, “Reviving Adam: the sacrificial rituals of the Indo-Āryans and the early Christians“, http://www.numenbooks.com

[46]             This would refer to the contents of the Atharvaveda.

[47]         However, we may remember the attribution of the institution of the āshramas to Kapila by the Sāmkhya-Yoga school and that of the caste system to Rishabha by the Jain (see above ).

[48]             Brahma is the Purānic form of Brahman.

[49]             According to VP, I,27-28, however, the first kalpa was called Padmakalpa (the kalpa of the Lotus) and the present one is called Varāhakalpa (the kalpa of the Boar).

[50]            Current astrophysical theories suggest that the cosmos is roughly 14 billion years old whereas, according to the BP, the cosmos is approximately 13,140,000,000 years old (the first day and night of the Lord plus half of the second day). The latter is likely to be more accurate since it is not based on fallible empirical observation but on spiritual intuition.

[51]             See N. Lahovary, tr. K.A. Nilakantan, Dravidian Origins and the West: Newly discovered ties with the ancient culture and languages, including Basque, of the pre-Indo-European Mediterranean world, Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1963, p.2.

[52]             See the list of Vishnu avatārs above.

[53]             MBh II,187,2ff.

[54]             See SB I,viii,1,5.

[55]             For the identification of Manu with Noah see below; cf. A. Jacob, Ātman , Ch.I; A. Jacob, Brahman, Ch.IV.

[56]             Ilā and Idā are interchangeable in the BP (Ilā: IX,16,22) and other Purānas (Idā: BrdP III,60,11, VP 85,7).

[57]It may be noted, in passing, that the Edda (‘The Deluding of Gylfi’) too records the first human beings as a girl called Embla and a boy called Ask.

[58]             See G.G. Stroumsa, Another Seed, p.117.

[59]             See F.E. Pargiter, Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Ch.26.

[60]            For a good account of the Hurrians see G. Wilhelm, Grundzüge der Geschichte und Kultur der Hurriter, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1982; G. Wilhelm, The Hurrians, tr. J. Barnes, Warminster: Aris and Phillips Ltd., 1989.

[61]             For a detailed discussion of the proto-Dravidian/Druidic origins of Brāhmanism see A. Jacob, Brahman, Ch.VI.

[62]             See below.

[63]             See A. Jacob, Brahman, Ch.IX; cf. A. Jacob, “Reviving Adam“.

[64]              See K. N. Aiyar, op.cit.

[65]             “Smriti” refers principally to the epics and the Dharmasūtras.

[66]             See above.

[67]             Shamash is the Akkadian word for the sun.

[68]             In the Manusmriti, ‘mleccha’ is a general term for non-Āryan (see below). However, here it seems to refer particularly to the mostly Semitic Assyrians and Babylonians.

[69]             See below p.199.

[70]             Ibid., p.262.

[71]             See E. Bryant, Quest, p.130.

[72]             See R. and B. Allchin, The rise of civilization, p.183. See also D. K. Chakrabarti, “The archaeology of Hinduism”, pp.44f.

[73]             See M. Sharma, Fire-worship, p.19.

[74]             See Herodotus, Histories, I,132.

[75]             See F.E. Pargiter, op.cit., p.309. The three sacred fires of the Brāhmans are the the circular gārhapatya, representing earth and the world of men (SB VII,I,1), the  square āhavanīya representing heaven and the world of the gods (SB VII,2,2) and the āgnīdhrīya fire representing the air of the Mid-region (SB VII,1,2,12).

[76]             See above.

[77]             See Rāmāyana VII,103,21ff.

[78]          “Hindu”, a form of “Sindhu”, is used to denote the people or country on the river Sindhu conquered by Darius.

[79]             Ibid., p.366. It is interesting to note, however, that the earliest Neolithic caves of Palestine in Gezer (7th millennium B.C.) already give evidence of a culture that practised cremation. Inhumation appears in these sites only much later in the fourth millennium B.C. (see S.A. Cook, op. cit., p.74). This confirms the possibility that Palestine and Anatolia were first inhabited by proto-Dravidians/Hurrians before they were settled by the Armenoid peoples who practised inhumation. The early neolithic/chalcolithic levels of Yarim Tepe II (7th millennium B.C.), near Assyrian Nineveh, also reveal crematory practices (see P. Charvat, op.cit., p.45). So we may assume that cremation was the earliest funereal mode of the entire Noachidian race.

[80]             See A. Parpola, op.cit., p.365.

[81]             W. Bernard suggested that the human remains from Period I of Gandhara bore resemblances to those of Bronze Age and early Iron Age crania of 2500 B.C. – A.D. 500 from the Caucasus and Volga region as well as from Tepe Hissar in Iran (see K.A.R. Kennedy, “Have Aryans been identified”, p.49).

[82]             See A. Parpola, “The Problem of the Aryans”, p.356. It is possible that Gandharva is related to Goidelic, the term used to designate the Irish, Scots and Manx forms of Celtic, but there is little evidence of a precise fire-worshipping identity either in the archaeology or in the mythological literature of the Irish except the occurrence of the appellation “Áed” (fire) in the royal names noted above (p.136).

[83]             See J.P. Mallory and V.H. Mair, op.cit., p.262.

[84]             It is possible that the Gandharas themselves were later considered as not belonging to the Brāhmanical orthodoxy since, in Mbh, Shanti Parva, 12.65, they are classified along with the Yavanas (Greeks), Kiratas, Sakas, etc. as outsiders living within the dominion of the Indic Āryans.

[85]             Cf. A. Jacob, “Cosmology and Ethics”, p.96.

[86]             The term means “priest” in Avestan.  See P. Kretschmer, Kuhns Zeitschrift 55, p.80; cf. J. Gonda, Religionen Indiens, I, p.107.

[87]             RA 62-52,17-8 (see A. Livingstone, op.cit., p.74); cf. K170+Rm520rev. (ibid., p.30ff).

[88]             See F.E. Pargiter, op.cit., p.308f.

[89]             That the biblical Noah, a descendant of Adam’s son, Seth, represents the wisdom of Seth is evident from the Gnostic tradition (see G.G. Stroumsa, op. cit., p.107). Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities, I, 70-71 also makes clear the association of the line of Seth with cosmological learning (see A. Annus, op.cit., p.xxvii).

[90]             The fact that the Scythians did not build temples or worship divine images is mentioned also by Herodotus, Histories, I,131.

[91]             See Arrian, Indica, VII (in R.C. Majumdar, Classical Accounts, p.220f.).

[92]             See A. Jacob, Ātman, Ch.XII; cf. A. Jacob, Brahman. Ch.I.

[93]             The theory that Āryan is pre-Harappan was put forward by A.D. Pusalkar, “Pre-Harappan, Harappan”, pp.233ff.

[94]             India, which is the natural habitat of the black antelope.

[95]             See J.C. Heesterman, Broken world, p.215.

[96]             See J.C. Heesterman, op.cit., p.101.

[97]             See J. Gonda, Prajapati’s rise, p.113f.

[98]             See Vaikhānasa smārtasūtra II,18 (cf. M. Biardeau, op.cit., p.66).

[99]             I follow here the French translation of M. Buttex based on the versions of A. G. Krishna Warrier and Paul Deussen.

[100]           Seebelow

[101]           The Manipura chakra is located in the middle – in the stomach. Aum chanting is done from the Manipurachakra.

[102]           See, for instance, SB II,3,3,15f; X,1,5,4, etc.

[103]           See K.-H. Golzio, Der Tempel, p.113.

[104]           The Hamitic civilisations include those of Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley.

[105]           This is the calculation of the early (ca. 6th c. A.D.) astronomical treatise, Sūrya Siddhānta.

[106]           See H. Frankfort, Archaeology and the Sumerian Problem, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1932, p.19.

[107]           See A. Jacob, Ātman, Ch.I; Brahman, Ch.IV.

[108]           See G.S. Ghurye, Indian Acculturation: Agasthya and Skandha, Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1977, p.31.

[109]           The “centum” quality of Sumerian is also evident in the Sumerian word for “eye”, “igi”, which is closer to the Germanic “auge” than to the Sanskritic “akshi”.

[110]           Akshak was later called Upi (Gk. Opis) and may, like Kish, have been situated in the southern vicinity of modern Baghdad.

[111]           See T. Jacobsen, The Sumerian King-List, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939, p.107.

[112]           See J.B. Pritchard, ANET, pp.44-7. In the Sumerian King-List, Aka is a king of the first dynasty (at Kish), though Gilgamesh follows apparently later in the second dynasty (at Uruk) after the fall of Kish (see T. Jacobsen, op.cit., pp.85, 89-91).

[113]           Modern Dravidian languages, like Sumerian, are agglutinative, in contradistinction to the inflected Āryan languages.

[114]           See K. Zvelebil, Tamil Traditions on Subrahmanya-Murugan, Madras: Institute of Asian Studies, 1991, p.24.

[115]           See, for instance, Rgveda X,130.

[116]           See G. Flood, ibid., pp.161-62.

[117]           See above.

[118]           J.C. Heesterman, The Broken World of Sacrifice: An Essay on Ancient Indian Ritual, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993., p.184.

[119]           T. Goudriaan, S. Gupta, Hindu Tantric and Shākta Literature, Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1981, p.1.

[120]           According to Flood, the Tantric texts were composed in the 8th century A.D. (see G. Flood, An Introduction to Hinduism, p.159) but this may only be the approximate date of the compilation of Tantric doctrines that had an earlier origin.

[121]           See G. Flood, The Tantric Body: The secret tradition of Hindu religion, London: I.B. Tauris, 2006, p.38.

[122]           See above.

[123]           See A. Jacob, Brahman, Ch.IX; cf. A. Jacob, “Reviving Adam”.

[124]           Ibid.

[125]           For instance, the fire is aroused after its nightly rest in the Agnihotra ritual and put to sleep at the end of the evening (see, for instance A. Jacob, Brahman,  p.189f).

[126]           See S. Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple, I, 146-7.

[127]           See K.H. Golzio, Der Tempel im alten Mesopotamien und seine Parallelen in Indien: eine religionshistorische Studie, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1983, p.127f.; cf. H. v. Stietencorn, Ganga und Yamuna, Wiesbaden, 1972, 92-4.

[128]           See A. Jacob, Brahman, p.183.

[129]           See below..

[130]           See G. Flood, op.cit., p.86.

[131]           See G. Michell,  The Hindu Temple: an introduction to its meaning and forms, Chicago: Univeriity of Chicago Press, 1988, p.73.

[132]           Ibid., p.78.

[133]           Shruti (“revealed”) is the term used for the Vedas.

[134]           For an interesting study of Pāncharātra Tantrism, see G. Flood, The Tantric Body, pp.99ff.

[135]           See below.

[136]           Antaryāmin (see below).

[137]           Quoted in G. Flood, op. cit., p.102.

[138]           Ibid.

[139]           This account of the rites prescribed in the Jayakha Samhita is derived from G. Flood, op.cit., p.106ff.

[140]           As Gonda points out (Die Religionen Indiens II: Der jüngere Hinduismus, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1963, p.47), there are Vedic precedents for these tactile rites (for example, in SB III,1,3,25); cf. below.

[141]           See A. Jacob, Brahman, Ch.IX; cf. also A. Jacob, “Reviving Adam”.

[142]          See below.

[143]           For an excellent study of Shaiva Siddhānta see G. Flood, op.cit., pp.120ff.

[144]           See A. Michaels, Hinduism past and present, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004,.p.243.

[145]           See above.

[146]           See Mahānirvāna Tantra 1,79-80.

[147]           i.e. derived from Smriti (see above )

[148]           See G. Flood, op.cit., p.82.

[149]           Ibid., p.154ff.

[150]           In ‘Arthur Avalon’ (Sir John Woodroffe), Shakti and Shākta: Essays and addresses on the Shâkta tantrashâstra, London: Luzac and Co. 1918., ‘Note to Ch.IV‘.

[151]           Ibid.

[152]           See M. Biardeau, op.cit., p.139.

[153]           Shiva is envisioned within the heart as united with his consort Uma also in the Kaivalya Upanishad.

[154]           See the summary of Jnāna Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita’ quoted above.[spacer height=”20px”][spacer height=”20px”]

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