The philosophical and religious tradition of Śaiva Siddhānta (Caiva Cittāntam in Tamil and Śaiva Siddhānta in Sanskrit) is widespread in South India (especially, Tamil Nadu) and Sri Lanka today. It is also prevalent among Hindus of the Tamil diaspora around the world. Śaiva Siddhānta is a dualist school of thought and ritual practice based on 28 Śaiva Āgamas, authoritative scriptures in Sanskrit that declare their origin as divine knowledge revealed by Śiva. The dualist doctrine regards Śiva as pati, or Lord, and souls, or paśu, as eternally distinct and divine entities; materiality (pāśa) which constitutes the rest of the universe is inanimate but also real. The doctrine prescribes that the rites of initiation and the daily worship of Śiva are necessary to attain liberation. The labours of scholars such as Dominic Goodall, Alexis Sanderson and T. Ganesan have only recently unearthed the origins and early history of Śaiva Siddhānta.

 

In the interview with M.D. Muthukumaraswamy for Sahapedia, Dominic Goodall elaborates on the vast manuscript resources of Śaiva Siddhānta available not only in Tamil Nadu but also in Nepal and Cambodia and points us towards the geographical spread of the tradition throughout Southeast Asia. Goodall's interview is complemented by his introduction to a critical edition and annotated translation of The Parākhyatantra: A Scripture of the Śaiva Siddhānta published by Institut Français de Pondichéry and École française d'Extrême-Orient. In this critical introduction situating the text of Parākhyatantra, Goodall determines the dates of Śaiva tantric canonical literature and draws parallels with other Siddhāntatantras. The result is a comprehensive account of the early history of Śaiva Siddhānta scriptures in Sanskrit.

 

From 12th to 14th century, scholars wrote a series of doctrinal works in Tamil and Sanskrit that together came to be called the Meykaṇṭa Cāttiraṅkaḷ. This collection became the new Śaiva Siddhānta ‘canon’ in the Tamil country (ancient Tamilakam), containing a number of features that move away from the doctrines of the earlier Sanskrit Āgamic literature. While the Brahmin priests focused on the rituals in the temples—pararathapūja (rituals for others)—the high caste non-Brahmin practitioners conducted home pūjas for one's own sake (ātmārthapūja), established monasteries, wrote theological works and commentaries and embraced Vedas and medieval Tamil devotional literature blurring the distinction between Śaiva Siddhānta and Tamil Śaiva Bhakti. Tracing this historical growth in his seminal essay, ‘Sanskrit and Tamil in the service of Śaivism’, Ganesan elucidates how Śaiva Siddhānta has come to encompass and to serve Bhakti, the foundation of Śaivism for the common people. In his introduction to the book Two Śaiva Teachers of the Sixteenth Century: Nigamajñāna I and his disciple Nigamajñāna II, Ganesan further elaborates on the doctrinal systematisation and the consolidation of rules that took place in Tamil and Sanskrit in the 16th century. Ganesan, in his conversation with Dominic Goodall and M.D. Muthukumaraswamy, emphasises the importance of Śaivite Bhakti in the philosophical and theological development of Śaiva Siddhānta.

 

In the 19th and early 20th century, J.M. Nallasami Pillai became the most influential propagator of Śaiva Siddhānta and coordinated a vast network of Śaiva Siddhānta organisations all over South India and Sri Lanka through his influential journal Siddhanta Deepika. Historian of the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu, Eugene F. Irschick, declared Nallasami Pillai to be the leading propagator of Śaivism as the ‘Dravidian religion’. S. Kailasapathy,a leading Sri Lankan Tamil Marxist literary critic, also acknowledged that Siddhanta Deepika served for many years as the rallying forum for non-Brahmin Śaiva protagonists. Kailasapathy further certifies that Nallasami Pillai did not go along with the core convictions of other Tamil Śaiva revivalists since he was not anti-Sanskrit like Maraimalai Adigal, an important ideologue in the formative years of the Dravidian movement. Michael Bergunder, however, sees in Nallaswami Pillai a propagator of Śaiva Siddhānta as the universal religion, which is far superior to the Advaita Vedanta oriented neo-Hinduism of the 19th and early 20th century. The volumes of Siddhanta Deepika and Nallasami Pillai's collected essays on Śaiva Siddhānta offer a precious resource to understand the development of the tradition.

 

The complete 14 volumes of Siddhanta Deepika, one book of collected essays on Śaiva Siddhanta by Nallasami Pillai, two essays by T. Ganesan (‘Sanskrit and Tamil in the service of Śaivism’ and the introductory essay to Two Śaiva Teachers of the Sixteenth Century: Nigamajñāna I and his disciple Nigamajñāna II), one introductory essay by Dominic Goodall to a critical edition and annotated translation of The Parākhyatantra, A Scripture of the Śaiva Siddhānta, together with an interview with Goodall and Ganesan, constitute this module on ‘Resources of History: Śaiva Siddhānta in Tamil and Sanskrit’.

 

This module is part of a collaboration between Sahapedia and French Institute of Pondicherry.