Expiatory Rites in Keralite Tantra

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

This page relates ‘Expiatory Rites in Ishanashivagurudevapaddhati’ 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.

1.3. Expiatory Rites in Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati

Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati is an encyclopedic work on Kerala Tantric literature authored by Īśānaśivaguru considered as flourished in 12th century CE.[1] This work is composed based on Śaivāgamas and it contains 119 Paṭalas. It is divided in to four sections: Sāmānyapāda, Mantrapāda, Kriyāpāda and Yogapāda.

The twentieth Paṭala of Kriyāpāda envisages the expiatory rites as follows:

atha pramādaskhalitavismṛticyutajanmanām |
doṣāṇāṃ praśamāyātra prāyaścittaṃ nigadyate ||

Negligence and forgetfulness in ritual performances, touching of the idol of Śiva by an uninitiated person, presence of termite soil, entering of owl, hawk, etc. or entering of impure persons such as Sūtakas, Śūdras in a ritual place, touch of impure substances etc. are the main harmful acts which demand expiation.[3] This text mentions different expiatory rites to be performed in various situations.[4] The concept and practice of expiatory ritual is articulated mainly in the 20th and 63rd chapters of Kriyāpāda.

The expiatory rites in Īśānaśivagurudeva-paddhati reveals two types of expiations that [are]:

  1. the archaic Ātmārthaprāyaścitta and
  2. most celebrated Parārthaprāyaścitta (Temple expiations).

1. Ātmārthaprāyaścitta

It is recommended only for removal of the impurities occurred in connection with the Ātmārthapūjā (worship for one’s own sake) of a Tantric practitioner (Sādhaka). Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati considered falling down of Liṅga as a sinful deed, so for the removal of its bad effect, Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati recommended chanting of Aghoramantra thousand times along with Pañcagavya and Pañcāmṛta bathing (Snapana) for Liṅga. If the Liṅga accidently falls down from two hands, the expiation is chanting of the Mantra and sprinkling of sanctified water in the affected area. Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati confirms breaking of Liṅga as a Mahāpātaka, so no expiation is recommended; therefore it is directed that the Liṅga has to be protected every time. According to this, losing, burning and depraving of Liṅga are sinful acts. The expiations are chanting Mantra hundred thousand times and sprinkling of sanctified water in the affected area. In the case of losing the Liṅga, the expiation is to install a new Liṅga in that place.[5]

A Sādhaka, who omits the Sandhya, is directed to expiate by fasting and hundred times of chanting.[6] The expiation for stepping over the vessels and other accessories of Pūja is chanting of Mantra five thousand times after cleansing them. In the case of omitting one day Pūja, one should perform chanting of Mantra for three days. In omitting two days worship, one should perform the expiation thousand times.[7] Fasting and chanting the Mantra of Vāmadeva thousand times is the expiation for eating reviled food.[8] If Sādhaka trickles his semen at night, he should perform the expiation of chanting Puruṣamantra thousand times.[9]

Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati considered touching the leftovers (Ucchiṣṭa) is a harmful act. For touching the leftovers of a person of equal caste, the expiation is bathing and chanting of Mantras, if the Ucchiṣṭa is of an uninitiated person Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati recommended chanting Mantra two hundred times, if it belongs to an Antyaja,[10] Sādhaka should chant Mantra for three nights. For touching the leftovers of a Caṇḍāla, Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati recommended bathing in Tīrtha, chanting of Aghoramantra thousand times and Kṛcchravrata. If one eats the leftovers of other people, the expiatory rite is Pañcabrahmamaṇḍalapūja and re-initiation, in the case of eating the leftover of a Śūdra, a Brahmin is directed to perform Kṛcchravrata and chanting Mantra in five nights.[11]

Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati strictly prohibited the eating the food of Ārhatas, Śākyās, Pāśupatas and Kāpālikas. If one eats the food of Kāpālikas, several expiations like Kṛcchravrata, Cāndrāyaṇavrata and chanting of Īśānamantra hundred thousand times are recommended.[12] If one eats food of other Tantric sects especially Anyaliṅgas, he should perform the expiatory rites like chanting of Mantra hundred thousand times and Cāndrāyaṇavrata.[13] In the case of touching and stepping over the Nirmālya, one should perform the expiatory rites like chanting the Mantra of Pañcabrahman hundred times and Anantayāga.[14]

[Concept of Nirmālya]

2. Parārthaprāyaścitta

These types of expiatory rites are usually performed in temples for the removal of impurities affected to sanctum sanctorum and idol. Some of them are given below:


It is a special rite of fire expiation. The ferocious form of Śiva is contemplated in this fire expiation. The presence of mushroom and worm in the sanctum sanctorum, entering of menstruated woman, entering of some animals, seeing bad omen or portent, falling of meteor in temple premises, seism etc. are the reasons which compel to perform this Astrayāga ritual.[15]


If the Śiva idol is touched by an un-initiated person or by those belonging to other Tantric religions, Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati recommends Mahādoṣaprāyaścitta (the expiation due to the giant fault) for averting the impurities. Sacrificial gift (Dakṣiṇā), oblation (Bali), feasting of Brahmins, fire sacrifice etc. are the parts of this expiation.[16] Succinctly Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati suggests sprinkling of sanctified water (Puṇyāha), smearing of incense, Avagāha (submerging), Snapana, Mahāpūja with Agnikārya, Bhūtabali and Jayābali as expiations.[17]

It can be seen that almost all of the expiatory rites seen in Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati are identical to that of Somaśambhupaddhati, a most celebrated Śaiva Paddhati manual in South India.[18] Somaśambhu considered that the loss and theft of Liṅga, touch of the Liṅga with the foot, the presence of perspiration, urine, blood, menstruated blood and semen, touching of Liṅga by un-initiated persons or Varttakas, Naṭas, Śvapacas, Vāma and Dakṣiṇā Tantric sects, omission of worship, eating of Nirmālyā, eating of food from the hands of other castes, touching and eating of left over’s etc. are the impurities affecting the Sādhaka and an idol. For the cleansing of impurities, it suggests recitation of Gāyatrī, Ajātamantra and Aghoramantra; and it recommends fasting and eating of Pañcagavya. It deems that Aghoramantra and consuming of Pañcagavya is the most important purifier of all sins.[19] The concept of Nirmālyā and the touching of leftovers are very identical in Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati and Somaśambhu. Nonetheless Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati seriously discusses Ātmārtha-prāyaścitta. But, the other ritual manuals of Kerala did not give the consideration of Ātmārthaprāyaścitta. They duly and lucidly give importance to the temple expiations only.

Footnotes and references:


For a detail discussion on the author of the text, vide Unni, N.P., Tantra Literature of Kerala, New Bharatiya Book Corporation, Delhi, 2006, pp. 111-124. About the date of Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, S.A.S. Sarma notes: “Some historians of Kerala date the Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati to the 11th century A.D. But if we consider the works cited by Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, especially the Somaśambhupaddhati, we may not be able to date it earlier than the 12th century A.D. Even the Mayamata, which has quoted several times, has been dated to the 12th century A.D. Another śaiva text, the Bṛhatkālottara, which has been quoted by any authors before the 12th century; it has been quoted by authors such as Jñānaśambhu and the disciples of Aghoraśiva who belong to the 12th century A.D. Apart from this, there are no manuscripts of this text that date earlier than 12th century A.D. If we take the above mentioned points in to consideration, it is rather difficult to place this text earlier than 12th century A.D.,” Cf. “The Eclectic Paddhatis of Kerala”, p. 327-328.


Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 3.20.1.


Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 3.58-61, 75, 85.


See Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, Kriyāpāda, 21.122, 34.92, 35.9, 49.202, 51.48, 52.25, 53.64, 53.65, 54.62, 54.63, 56.52, 57.55, 58.62, 59.114, 60.55, 61.35, 63.1, 63.19, 63.28, 63.38.


Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 3.20.2-5.


Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 3.20.7.


Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 3.20.8-11.


Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 3.20.20-32.


Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 3.20.32.


Tradition says that the Rajakas, Carmakaras, Naṭas, Kaivartakas etc. are the Antyajas. Somaśambhupaddhati, p. 307, fn. 87a.


Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 3.20.36.






Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 3.20.13-15.


The ritual procedure of Astrayāga is succinctly described in the Kriyāpāda of Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, 64. 89-100, also see Prayogamañjarī, 21. 54-61.


See Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, Kriyāpāda, 63. 75-88.


Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati, Kriyāpāda, 63.62, 63, 76, 77, 79, 80, 87, 91, 92 & 94.


Somaśambhupaddhati of Somaśambhu is a very famous Śaiva ritual manual in South India also called Kriyākāṇḍakramāvalī, composed in 1048/9. Somaśambhu was an abbot of the major Saiddhāntika monastery at Golgī (Gurgi) in the kingdom of the Kālacuris of Tripuri. See Sanderson, “The Śaiva Literature”, p. 21.


aghorādaparo nāsti mahāpātakanāśanaḥ | Somaśambhupaddhati, p. 247.
pañcagavyamiti proktaṃ mahāpātakanāśanaḥ | Somaśambhupaddhati, p. 323.

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