Expiatory Rites in Keralite Tantra

by T. S. Syamkumar | 2017 | 59,416 words

This page relates ‘Expiatory Rites in Prayashcittasamuccaya’ of the study on Expiatory Rites in Sanskrit literature and ancient Indian religion and society, with special reference to Keralite Tantra. Further references to texts include those found in Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism as well as Dharmashastra literature. This study also investigates temple records and inscriptions of Kerala in order to demonstrate the connection between social life and expiatory rites and its evolution.

1.8 (b). Expiatory Rites in Prāyaścittasamuccaya

Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva is an authoritative Śaiva ritual manual, entirely dedicated to discuss the expiatory rituals.

In most of the faults and impurities affected to a Tantric practitioner, Trilocana mainly suggests:

  1. Recitation of Mantra,
  2. Doubling the quantity of materials,
  3. Prāṇāyāma,
  4. Fasting,
  5. Using of Pañcagavya,
  6. Mahāsnāna (bigger bathing) and
  7. Dānas as expiation.

The majority of prescriptions seen in Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva are given in the Dharmaśāstra style. Hence Goodall says that it is a text of quasi-legal character.[1]

Many Dharmaśāstra concepts, regulations and rules are also vividly seen in this text. Some examples are specified underneath:

The concept of Pariṣad:

This text says that the Guru is the authority to evaluate the gravity of sin and to instruct the heavy or light expiations accordingly. One must follow the instruction of the Guru. According to Trilocana, in the absence of his own Guru, an expiatory rite is prescribed by a counsel of three, seven or fifteen teachers. They should have good knowledge in Tantric scriptures and their praxis. At the same time Trilocana strictly restricts the entering of fools, non-believers etc. in this counsel of preceptors.[2]

Concept of Mahāpātaka:

The earlier ritual manuals were not aware of or worried about the grievous sins. But, following the Dharmaśāstra literature, Trilocana has dealt with these and he considers that killing a Brahmin, drinking liquor, stealing, immoral connections with preceptor’s wife, association with sinners are major sins.[3]

Concept of Anadhyāya:

All Dharma literature restricts the study of religious scriptures in Anadhyāya days. Trilocana also disagree with the reading of scriptures on a day which is forbidden for learning, Anadhyāya. He recommends recitation of Mantras as the expiation for breaking this rule.[4] The Dharmaśāstras have already denied the learning and reading of scriptures in an Anadhyāya.[5]

Concept of Varṇa System:

Varṇa system is the most significant part of Vedic and Smārta Brahmanism. Trilocana also holds a well-built position of Varṇa based caste system and the concept of untouchability in his work. He describes that the touching of idol of Śiva by an actor, fisherman etc. is a serious reason leading to expiation.[6] Likewise he restricts the downtrodden peoples (Patitas), blacksmiths, craftsman, tribals, low-caste people, laundry-man etc. from touching the idol and considers it as the cause of impurity.[7] Moreover, Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva strictly forbade the outcastes from worshipping a Liṅga.[8] Besides, Trilocana considers that crossing the shadow of a cow or a Brahmin is a sinful act.[9] Furthermore he thoughts-out that it is a sinful act of a Tantric Śaiva preceptor, if he performs installation or initiation out of compulsion for Kṣatriyas and other lower Varṇas.[10] It is observed that these concepts gradually led to the exclusivity in Śaivism.

Caste system and intolerance of other Tantric sects were the root causes of exclusivity of Śaivism. The Saiddhāntikas has developed a Śaiva version of caste system. Trilocana banned the Vāma and Dakṣiṇa Tantric practitioners from touching the Liṅga and suggested various expiations in such occurrences.[11] Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva refused the use of Mantras of Gāruḍa and Bhūta Tantras and banned their attachment.[12] It discards the eating in a single row with persons belonging to different classes.[13] In addition, Trilocana considers that even the sight of an out caste (Caṇḍāla) or a man of low origin leads to expiation.[14] These references point out that the Śaivism of Trilocana clearly follows Vedic and Smārta Brahmanism.

Step by step, the Brahminic idealism has thoroughly made impacts on Śaivism.[15] Varṇa system is the most important example. In early period Śaiva practitioners used the fish, flesh, wine etc. for their consumption and worship,[16] but in the period of Trilocana these substances were in every respect prohibited. Trilocana thinks that the eating of fish, meat and liquor are sinful and impure actions.[17] It is advised to avoid the food of Gaṇas, Gaṇikas, Patitas, Bauddhas, Pāśupatas, Kāpālikas, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas, Śūdras, un-initiated persons etc.[18] Besides, the contact with the Vāma, Dakṣiṇa, Kaula, Kālavaktras, Sāṃkyas, Cārvākas, Digambaras, Śvetāmbaras and Bhāgavatas is considered as an action causing impurities.[19]

In most part of this ritual manual, Trilocana significantly recommends Aghoramantra for the removal of impurity and sin affected to an individual or idol.[20] Moreover, Trilocana includes Śivamantras, Vidyāmantra, Brahmamantra, Saṃhitāmantra, Pāśupatamantra and Gāyatrīmantra.[21] In Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva, Trilocana also suggests Vratas like Kṛcchra, Cāndrāyaṇa and Sāntapana, which were generally seen in Dharmasūtras, as expiation. The earlier manuals like Brahmayāmala, Niśvāsa and Svāyambhuvasūtrasaṅgraha prescribe Kapālavrata, Vidyāvrata, Gaurīvrata etc. for expiations and in various contexts. Trilocana says that giving flesh to god causes for impurity and it needs expiation.[22] Trilocana deals only with expiatory rites related to individual problems, sins and impurities. He does not include problems and impurities affected to a temple or public shrines.[23]

Footnotes and references:


Ibid., p. 29.


guru vā laghuvidvān prāyaścittaṃ vicārya tu ||
gurūpadeśāt kurvīta parokṣe'sya gurau svayam |
prāyaścittaṃ carenmantrī gurūktaṃ śivabhāṣitam ||
trisaptapañcadaśabhirācāryaistantrapāragaiḥ |
svaśāstraniyatābhyāsairdattaṃ svagurubhirvinā ||
na mūrkhaidīrghasūtrairvā nāstikairvātha hetukaiḥ |
kartavyaṃ śāstrasaṃsiddhaṃ mahāpātakaśuddhaye ||
Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 17-20.


brahmahatya surāpānaṃ steyaṃ gurvaṅganāgamaḥ |
mahāpātakamityahustadyogāt pañcamaṃ bhavet || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 15.


anadhyāye paṭhecchāstraṃ japedaṣṭasahasrakam | Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva, 185.


The word Anadhyāya means the day which is prohibited for learning. The Vedic and later Vedic people followed the Anadhyāya system as a form of holiday or vacation. These days were used for revising their lessons in the way of Cintana or Manana only. According to the tradition the Anadhyāya days are: Pratipada, Aṣṭamī, Caturdaśī, Pūrṇimā, Amāvāsya and Saṃkramaṇa days. Also it is believed that the studying in Aṣṭamī that kills the Guru, Śiṣya on Caturdaśī and the Pūrṇimā kills both. Cf. Manusmṛti 4.105-114.


spṛṣṭe daśasahasrāṇi naṭakaivartakādibhiḥ ||
Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 104.


ṛtustrīpatitāśaucikarmāraiḥ sparśite sati |
śilpibhirbāṇacaṇḍālarajakādyairathāpi vā |
spṛṣṭe liṅge'thavā pīṭhe vyakte vāpyubhayātmake |
mahāsnānaṃ prakartavyaṃ tathāghorāyutaṃ japet || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 106-108.


vyaṅgitaṃ dagdhavicchāyaṃ sevitaṃ śvapacādibhiḥ |
patitaṃ ghoragartādau hṛtaṃ rājādibhiryadā ||
parityajettadā liṅgaṃ japtvā ghoraṃ daśāyutam |
liṅgāntaraṃ pratiṣṭhāpya viśuddhimadhigacchati || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 123-125.


liṅgacchāyāṃ gurośchāyāṃ liṅgināṃ yadi laṅaghayet |
śatatrayaṃ japedghoraṃ tathā gobrāhmaṇe śatam || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 126-127.


ayogyānugrahe kuryādātmadīkṣāṃ guruḥ svayam |
devapratiṣṭhāṃ dīkṣāṃ vā nirbandhāt kṣatriyādiṣu || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 180-181.


vāmadakṣiṇamārgasthaiḥ spṛṣṭe liṅge pramādataḥ |
ayutācchudhyate mantrī mahāsnānaiśca nānyathā || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 108-109.


gāruḍaṃ bhūtatantraṃ ca snehāllobhādvisarjayet |
pramādātkurute yastu bahurūpaśatācchuciḥ || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 186.


ekapaṅktiḥ sadā varjyā bhojane bhinnajātibhiḥ ||
bhuñjāno'jñānato vipraḥ kṣatraviṭśūdrajātibhiḥ |
jñātvā viramya madhye tadācānto bahurūpakam ||
japeddaśa ca viṃśacca triṃśaccaiva yathākramam |
bhojanānte yadi jñānamekadvitriśataṃ kramāt || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 223-225.


Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva, 254-255.


For a detailed discussion on the Brahminisation of Saivism vide Sanderson, A., “An Outline of Brahmanism”, Lectures Delivered in All Souls College in Michaelmas Term, 1993; “Saivism and Brahmanism”, Gonda Lecture, 2006; “Tolerance, Exclusivity, Inclusivity, and Persecution in Indian Religion During the Early Medieval Period”, Honoris Causa: Essays in Honour of Aveek Sarkar, edited with a foreword by John Makinson, Allen Lane, 2015, pp. 175-176.


The forty fifth chapter of Brahmayāmalatantra or Picumata recommended the daily meat consumption of the Tālaka, in this part it elucidates that the edible meats are that of goat, pig, buffalo, horse, hare, peacock, quail, partridge, heath-cock, Vārtāka-quil, curlew, pigeon etc. See, Brahmayāmalatantra or Picumata, 45.213-223. The Brahmayāmalatantra or Picumata also interestingly notes that the Tālaka should never eat if there is no meat: na māṃsena vinā bhojyaṃ tālakena kadācana | Brahmayāmalatantra or Picumata, 45.220. In addition, Rauravāgama, evidently says about the killing of animals or humenbeings (Nara) as a Bali to lord Śiva in the part of Utsava. See Rauravāgama, Kriyāpāda, 18.111-118.


Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva, 248-249.


Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva, 298-327.


vāmadakṣiṇakaulaiśca na samparkaḥ kapālibhiḥ |
śatena sparśane śuddhirbhāṣaṇādvai śatārdhataḥ ||
pañcārthakālavaktraiśca vivādaṃ na samācaret |
sambhāṣaṇaṃ tathā sparśaṃ dūrataḥ parivarjayet ||
sāṃkhyairbauddhaiśca cārvākairnagnaiḥ śvetapaṭādibhiḥ |
tathā bhāgavataiḥ sārdhaṃ sparśanaṃ ca vivarjayet ||
ālāpādayutācchuddhirdviguṇātsparśane tathā |
na ca dveṣaḥ prakartavyo na vivādaḥ kathañcana ||
yaḥ karoti sa mūḍhātmā dvyayutācchuddhimāpnuyāt | Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva
, 332-336.


aghorādaparo nāsti mahāpātakanāśanaḥ || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva, 116.


See Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva, 89-91, 159-160, 161-62, 231-232 and 254-255.


pramādādāmiṣaṃ deve datvāghorāyutācchuciḥ || Prāyaścittasamuccaya of Trilocanaśiva, 57.


Goodall has attested this fact. He observed thus: “Trilocanaśiva, as we have just seen, seems to have known at least one of the south Indian temple Āgamas in some form, on which he has drawn for rules regarding South Indian temple personnel. But it is striking that even in this context the rules that he includes relate to individuals, and not to problems that arise in the public religion of South Indian temples [………] Trilocana does include numerous rites of expiation for ritual faults, but none of them appears to concern public, temple-based liturgy: Trilocanaśiva follows, in other words, the old Mantramārga tradition of laying down the rules for individuals aspiring to Siddhi and /or liberation. This is of course not to say that temple centered public religion was still new in his time, for all sorts of evidence, not least that of the existence of large ancient temples that survive in stone and brick from all over the Indian world, show that it was not new; but the integration of temple centered religion in to the previously initiate-centered Śaivasiddhānta was perhaps indeed still relatively new in Trilocanaśivas time, and Trilocana seems not to have been a temple priest [……] the abbot of Maṭha and therefore the head, presumably of a residence of initiates.” Śaiva Rites of Expiation, pp. 46-48.

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