Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes the satvata movement and bhagavata worship of the English translation of the Parama Samhita, representing a manual of the Pancaratra school of Vaishnavism philosophy. These pages summarize ritualistic worship, initiation and other topics, as contained in the various Agamas belonging to the Pancaratra school

The Sātvata movement and Bhāgavata worship

There is another explanation for the prevalence of Bhāgavata worship so far out as distant South India. This form of worship, there are good reasons for believing prevailed as the form of worship among the people who came to be known from very early historical times as the Sātvatas.[1] Their general adoption of this form of worship and their carrying it over with them wherever they went seems to have been one of the potent causes of the outspread of this form of worship over this vast extent of country.

The Sātvatas were associated with the Purus, one of the Vedic tribes, whose name occurs in conjunction with those of the Bharatas. When they moved out from the region of the Śūrasenas owing to the war of extinction the Śūrasena ruler and his ally, the ruler of Magadha, Jarāsandha, waged against them, they are said to have betaken themselves to the western frontier or rather south-western frontier of the Kuru-Pāñcāla region finally. In the course of this migration various sections of these people seem to have settled down in the region of Malva and the farther south, and therefrom spread over the whole of northern Dakhan and the region of the Konkan. Some of these seem to have moved further southward also, as among the early peoples of South India we find classes bearing names Āyar, Aṇḍar, Iḍaiyar, all of them communities of cattle-rearers, corresponding more of less to the later Ahirs, the Ābhiras of Sanskrit literature.

This movement of the Sātvatas dates back to earlier than the days of the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa which refers to the Abhiṣeka of Indra in the southern region of the Sātvatas with the title Bhoja. These titles, Bhoja and Mahābhoja are found to be common in historical times in the region of Berar extending down the Mahratta country to as far south as the northern part of the present day Mysore territory.[2] We also have evidence among the Southern dynasties of the Agnikula, and of the solar race traditions associated with the ruling dynasties of Rajaputana in later times. A Tamil chieftain, Irungoveḷ, ruling over North-western Mysore claims descent in the 49th generation from Kṛṣṇa of Dvārakā. There is a story related in connection with this chieftain that the poet Kapilar attempted negotiating a marriage of this chieftain with the daughters of his friend Pāri of Parambunāḍu after the father’s death. In that connection, the position of the family comes into reference, and the details are stated there. Kapilar’s poems in connection with this incident are included in the Puranānūṛu collection.[3] In a poem of another collection relating to the Pallavas of Kāñcī, the statement is made that these Pallavas were descended from one of the younger scions of the ruling family of Ayodhya, the Ikṣvāku family, and they are supposed to have descended from the younger scions of the family than Rama.[4] This is stated in terms in the Perumbāṇaṛṛuppaḍai celebrating the Toṇḍamān Ilaṃ-Tiraiyan of Kāñci. There is an important class of people constituting the population of south India even now who are called Vanniyars. They now-a-days call themselves Vannikula Kṣatriyas. This may be interpreted as Agnikula as the word Vanni means fire. But then is also the name of a tree, and it may be that the name is taken from the tree totem. Whether these people belong to the Agnikula or. no, the fact of a chieftain claiming Sātvata association with Dvārakā, and the prevalence of that and other similar tradition in respect of the Toṇḍamān chieftain of Kāñcī possibly through the Cholas, the Chola king having been the father of this Toṇḍamān, is indication of the spread of the tradition to the south and presumably also of the people intimately associated with these traditions.

If the Sātvatas, or people associated with these ethnically, moved into the south and occupied important regions of the peninsula, they must have carried their religious traditions with them, and that might account for the prevalence of the Bhāgavata worship in the south. The Sātvata movement therefore would account for this cultural movement. Probably the prevalence of the Bhāgavata worship in the south may have actually to be accounted for as the combined results of the movement of the people Sāṭvatas and the traditions incorporated in the Sānti parva of the Mahābhārata.

Footnotes and references:


Proceedings of the 2nd Oriental Conference, Calcutta, pp.351ff.


A. S. W. I. IV, 98ff. J. B. R. A. S. 407 ff.


Puṛanānūṛu. 201.


Pattupāṭṭu III, 11. 29-37.

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