Saiva devotionalism is one of the chief contributions of the Tamil country from very early times. Many great saiva devotees such as Tirunana- campantar and Tirunavukkaracar have made it a devotional practice to personally visit some of the numerous saiva holy places and sing hymns in praise of Siva thereby instilling devotion in the minds of the masses. Royal patronage in the form of construction of large siva temples from the pallava period and extending throughout the great Chola reign also gave a strong boost for the propagation of sincere devotion to Siva and the practice of many other public devotional acts.
Based entirely on the agama-s that were believed to have been revealed by Siva the religio—philosophical system of Saivasiddhanta which is one of the important branches of saivism along with the Pasupata system was very wide-spread in the Tamil country from about the early medieval period. It is well-known that the pallava king Rajasimha of the 8"` century called himself ‘knower of many tenets in Saivasiddhanta’ in one of his inscriptions. Though we do not have any exclusive text on Saivasiddhanta composed in the Tamil region during such an early period from about the 12th century we come across such Tamil texts as the Nanamirtam of Vakicamunivar which purports to give the essence of the agama-s, Unmaivilakkam of Manavacakamkatantar which very briefly summarises important concepts of the saivagama-s.
It is well known that while the development of Saivasiddhanta through texts that commenced with the compositions of Sadyojyoti and others during the 6th -7th centuries in Kashmir and continued in other northern parts of India during the successive period practically stopped in the l2"` century in those parts but was fortunately taken up in Tamilnadu in the same century and vibrantly flourished there to a great extent upto the l9" century.
The Civananapotam of Meykantar (circa. l3"` century, CE) inaugurated a new chapter in the history of Saivasiddhanta in Tamilnadu with an array of interpretative commentaries, subcommentaries and independent manuals composed by some of his direct disciples and others of his lineage. These texts for their elaboration utilized the saiva agamic corpus along with the native Tamil saiva devotional literature (known as Tevaram) and as a consequence some of the basic tenets of the Saivasiddhanta were given a new interpretation. All along these elaboration of philosophical tenets, there were also a number of independent texts (in Sanskrit and Tamil) composed to explain the intricate ritual aspects, both private and public, of the Saivasiddhanta. Each century witnessed production of a large number of texts and the culmination was attained in the 16"' century when there was a proliferation of texts on ritual as well as on doctrine, Tamil adaptations of some of the agama-s and voluminous compilations.
Nigamajnana I (also called Maraitanacampantan) and his nephew- cum-disciple Nigamajnana II (also known as Maraitanatécikar) coming in one of the four ancient saiva monastic lineages have composed a large number of texts in Tamil and Sanskrit. Their place of activity was the holiest saiva town, Chidambaram also called Tillai and Vyaghrapura.
The range of their texts vary from simple ritual manuals explaining the performance and significance of some important saiva vows (vrata) observed by common men and women to independent manuals explaining the fundamental doctrines of the Saivasiddhanta; from texts devoted to the intricacies of ritual pollution of an initiated saiva to a ritual hand—book on the rites of renovation and reinstallation of Linga in the temple; from sthalapurana-s adapted into Tamil extolling the sanctity and holiness of such places as Tiruvarur and Tiruvannamalai with the aim to instill firm devotion in the minds of common folk to a voluminous compilation on the daily obligatory rites of an initiated saiva and another one on the fundamental rite of initiation (diksa); from elucidative commentaries on one of the fundamental texts of the Sivajnanabodha tradition, Civananacittiyar to the commentary on the text of Vyomavyapistava which deals with the complex mantra system of the Saivasiddhanta tradition.
The express aim of these two authors in composing these type of texts is to propagate widely the basic religious tenets of saivism and establish the Saivasiddhanta system on a strong foundation with a wider scope appealing to persons of different sensibilities and capacities. Another striking feature in their compositions is the vast compilations. In the annals of the Saivasiddhanta we come across for the first time such voluminous compilataions such as the Atmarthapujapaddhati and Diksadarsa which are mainly based on the vast agama corpus and related texts. But, except for a few Tamil compositions such as the Civatarumottaram and two Sanskrit texts- the Saivagamaparibhasamanjari and the Saivakalaviveka none of their works has so far been published or widely known by scholars. Some of the unpublished compilations of Nigamajnana II such as the Diksadarsa were much utilized in the edition of Somasambhupaddhati.
The works grouped under the Meykantacattirankal which were composed in the 13th and the 14th centuries have been considerably studied and analysed. Quite a few of them have been translated into Hindi and English. But we do not find any ground breaking study on the rich textual contributions of the successive centuries.
Considering these facts an analytical study of the contents of all the oeuvres of Nigamajnana I and Nigamajnana II of which most of them are preserved in the collections of the French Institute of Pondicherry was envisaged under the programme “History of Saivism" in order to bring to light the great contributions made by these saiva authors in the pre-modem period for the cause and propagation of Saivasiddhanta in all its phases.
Interestingly, the period under discussion is so rich that we have a few more important saiva authors such as Sivagrayogi, Guru Nanacampantar and Nanapppirakacar of Salivati, Jaffna who have enriched the Saivasiddhanta textual corpus. A detailed analytical study of their works is also envisaged which will be published as the next part of this volume.
Back of the Book
This book is a complete analytical study of all the oeuvres of Nigamajnana I and his nephew-cum—disciple Nigamajnana H. This study aims at bringing to limelight the great contributions made by these two teachers in the sixteenth century for the consolidation, elaboration and propagation of the Saivasiddhanta religious system and philosophical doctrines. The great efforts of these two teachers to propagate widely the basic religious tenets of saivism and establish the Saivasiddhanta system on a strong foundation with a wider range appealing to persons of different sensibilities and capacities are brought out clearly in this book.
For the first time the contents of all the available texts of these two saiva teachers in Sanskrit and Tamil, of which many are unpublished, are completely and critically analysed with a view to fully bring out the richness of these texts in their totality and their value in the propagation of Saivasiddhanta during one of the most important periods in Indian History.
Dr. T. Ganesan, is working as a Senior Researcher in the French Institute of Pondicherry, since 1985. Starting his career in the project Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts of the French Institute of which 4 volumes have been published, he is now working on the project A Comprehensive History of Saivasiddhanta in Tamilnadu surveying the contents of the entire gamut of Saivasiddhanta literature (Sanskrit and Tamil, published and unpublished) to trace the system’s historical development. He has presented many papers and research articles in seminars and has published a few texts concerning saivism and Saivasiddhanta. Dr. Ganesan is also working inn the project Critical edition of the Suksmagama.
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