Hindu Pluralism

by Elaine M. Fisher | 2017 | 113,630 words

This thesis is called Hindu Pluralism: “Religion and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South India”.—Hinduism has historically exhibited a marked tendency toward pluralism—and plurality—a trend that did not reverse in the centuries before colonialism but, rather, accelerated through the development of precolonial Indic early modernity. Hindu plur...

Let us rejoin the scene at Madurai’s Cittirai Festival at the debut of Atirātra Yajvan’s Sanskrit drama. Among the author’s relatives and colleagues likely in attendance that day, a number were responsible for poetic, didactic, and devotional compositions in Sanskrit that refer directly, in no uncertain terms, to their personal relationships with Śaṅkarācārya preceptors and their knowledge of esoteric Śākta ritual and theology.

Take, for instance, the celebrated poet Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita himself, honored on that day by his younger brother as master of the court’s elite literary society, who opens his Sanskrit mahākāvya, the Śivalīlārṇava, with the following benedictory verse:

What good is Śiva, proud that the Daughter of the Mountain is half his body?
I worship him who in his entire being consists of the Daughter of the Mountain—Gīrvāṇa, the best of yogins.[1]

Here, Nīlakaṇṭha includes in his traditional set of benedictory verses an homage to the preceptor he elsewhere acknowledges as guru, Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī—who is superior even to Śiva himself, Nīlakaṇṭha opines with a trope of rhetorical censure, as Śiva’s traditional iconography (Ardhanārīśvara) depicts Pārvatī as half of his body, while his own is in essence a full incarnation of the goddess herself. Very little, unfortunately, is known about Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī as a historical figure, best known for his single surviving composition, the Prapañcasārasaṅgraha, an extensive textbook of practical mantra applications modeled directly on the Prapañcasāra attributed to Śaṅkara, with a number of chapters devoted to Śrīvidyā. As for the history of his lineage, Gīrvāṇendra himself, by way of conclusion to the Prapañcasārasaṅgraha, acknowledges the three previous preceptors of his tradition: he is a disciple of one Viśveśvara, disciple of Amarendra or Amareśvara,[2] disciple in turn of a previous Gīrvāṇendra.[3] Given his occasional invocations of Malayalam vocabulary, or “Keralabhāṣā,” in addition to the local Tamil vernacular, it is plausible that Gīrvāṇendra himself relocated his lineage to Kanchipuram from Kerala in the late sixteenth century.

While little is known about these predecessors, his successors, on the other hand, include a number of the most noteworthy scholars of Advaita Vedānta of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.[4] Among these noteworthy disciples, the most widely recognized is Nṛsiṃhāśramin, a prolific and respected scholar of Advaita.[5] Family history remembers him as a close friend and advisor to Appayya Dīkṣita, Nīlakaṇṭha’s granduncle, and he is reputed to have directly influenced Appayya’s works of Advaita.[6] At the outset of his Advaitadīpikā, Nṛsiṃhāśramin refers to Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī by name, even declaring that it was at his behest that he undertook to compose the work.[7] Svayamprakāśayati, another of the period’s leading Advaita scholars, also accepted Gīrvāṇendra as his preceptor. But perhaps more intriguing still, yet another of Gīrvāṇendra’s noteworthy students was one Bodhendra Sarasvatī, understood by tradition to be the same individual revered as the fifty-ninth Jagadguru of the Kāñcī Kāmakoṭi Pīṭha, Bhagavannāma Bodhendra Sarasvatī.

Whatever his actual monastic affiliation may have been, Bodhendra Sarasvatī recognizes Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī as his guru in his Hariharādvaitabhūṣaṇa, as well as in his Ātmabodhaṭīkā, in which he describes him as follows:

The preceptor installed at the seat of the Advaita lineage [advaitapīṭhasthita], his inner form luminous with the delightful knowledge of the Self,

I worship him always inside my heart, Gīrvāṇendra, the best of yogins, pure of heart.[8]

In addition to his esteem for his guru, Bodhendra conveys to us that Gīrvāṇendra was considered the head of a certain lineage by his use of the phrase advaitapīṭha, suggesting an established monastery or institutional center for the propagation of Advaita thought. Beyond the association with Advaita, we are given no further information as to this lineage’s self-portrayal or the location of its center of operation. Nevertheless, the memory of Bodhendra Sarasvatī as equivalent to one of the pontiffs of the Kanchipuram Śaṅkarācārya lineage is highly suggestive, particularly in light of the rather distinctive initiatory title borne by nearly all of Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī’s gurus and disciples: “-Indra Sarasvatī,” an appellation attested only among the preceptors of two Kanchipuram orders, that of the Kāmakoṭi Pīṭha Śaṅkarācāryas and the lineage of Rāmacandrendra Sarasvatī, better known as Upaniṣad Brahmendra, a late seventeenth-century ascetic so named for his feat of commenting on 108 Upaniṣads. In short, Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī was a highly celebrated and influential figure among renunciant scholars of Advaita and most likely the pontiff of a monastic order centered in Kanchipuram, one that bears some historical relationship to the lineages now most commonly associated with the city.[9]

On the other hand, Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī’s importance extended beyond the confines of the monastery walls, attracting the attention of a number of court intellectuals, including Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita—who went so far as to name his son, Gīrvāṇendra Dīkṣita, after his preceptor. Nīlakaṇṭha’s sentiment is best captured from his own words, expressed eloquently in one of his versified hymns, the Gurutattvamālikā,[10] a garland of twenty-eight stanzas (nakṣatramālā) devoted entirely to his guru and rich with devotional sentiment:

A few people, here and there, have been saved by ancient gurus, through the
Purification of all six Śaiva adhvan s—tattva, sthāna, kalā, pada, akṣara, and mantra.[11]
But, with the single mantra adhvan, made manifest in his work the
Sārasaṅgraha, Gīrvāṇendra Guru unchains the entire world, from the proudest to the humblest.
My thirst to accept the water of your feet and smear their purifying dust,
To bear on my forehead at length those feet resembling two golden lotuses,
O master, even a hundred lifetimes cannot fulfill! And yet,
You will never obtain even a single rebirth, except in the minds of your devotees.
Pointing the way to austerities [kṛcchra], it removes all hardships [kṛcchra] of its own accord;
It swallows our karma by the roots, bringing our actions [karma] to fulfillment;
Bestowing liberation to all who hear it, may this four-syllable mantra, Gīr-vā-ṇe-ndra, be my comfort so long as I draw breath.
If the descent of power [śaktipāta] is certainly the fruit of fortune from an
Array of meritorious action conditioning this lifetime, amassed through the bondage of endless mortal bodies,
It is still conveyed through contact with the compassionate glance of the preceptor.
Thus, proclaim, you who are freed from error, that there is no reality [tattva] higher than the Guru![12]

Nīlakaṇṭha makes it abundantly clear over the course of the hymn that the preceptor he honors is none other than the author of the Prapañcasārasaṅgraha, a composition “adept at manifesting the heart of the great sayings of Śaṅkara.”[13] He proceeds to honor Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī variously as kulaguru—preceptor of one’s family, clan, or lineage—or as “mantra guru,” the bestower of a sectarian or esoteric initiation by means of the revelation of a mantra, which Nīlakaṇṭha implicitly claims to have received through the process of śaktipāta, the descent of power or grace at the hand of the initiatory guru, affirmed to be the sole source of liberation in many schools of Śaiva thought.[14] Such initiation also carried with it ritual obligations designed to cultivate a devotional experience directly linking the devotee with his chosen preceptor; indeed, the visualized worship of the preceptor was an essential part of the daily enactment of Smārta-Śaiva liturgy. As with all Śaiva traditions from the middle of the first millennium, in fact, the initiating guru or teacher was equated for all intents and purposes with the god Śiva himself. The preceptor, as a result, was seen as possessing the capacity to bestow the liberating power of Śiva’s grace through ritual initiation, severing the bonds that tied the individual soul to the cycle of transmigration. An initiate, therefore, who wished to attain liberation himself, could cultivate a devotional bond with his personal teacher, which, when inculcated through a regimen of ritual practice, facilitated the union of the disciple with Śiva himself.

Taken as a whole, the evidence strongly suggests that it is this Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī who provided Nīlakaṇṭha with the initiation required to pursue knowledge of Śrīvidyā ritual, the procedure for which the renowned poet-theologian sets forth at length in his unpublished ritual manual, a previously unknown work (paddhati), the Saubhāgyacandrātapa (Moonlight of auspiciousness). In the context of adjudicating ritual procedure, Nīlakaṇṭha cites the Prapañcasārasaṅgraha on a number of occasions, referring to its author by the honorific asmadārādhyacaraṇāḥ, “the one whose feet are fit to be worshipped by me.” Interestingly enough, Nīlakaṇṭha is not the only one of his immediate circle to refer in such laudatory terms to Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī. In fact, a similar claim is made by another of the most prominent intellectuals of his day, Rājacūḍāmaṇi Dīkṣita, best known as the author of the Kāvyadarpaṇa, one of the most celebrated treatises of aesthetic theory written in later centuries. For our present purposes, however, Rājacūḍāmaṇi was also the author of a highly refined narrative chronicle of the life of Śaṅkara titled the Śaṅkarābhyudaya (The ascension of Śaṅkara),[15] a reworking of the traditional “universal conquest” narrative that concludes with Śaṅkara ending his life in Kanchipuram and establishing the Śrīcakra, the Śrīvidyā icon or ritual diagram at the heart of the Kāmākṣī Temple.

Rājacūḍāmaṇi prefaces his work, in addition to an impressive resume of his academic achievements, with a number of benedictory verses addressed to Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī, in which he confides that this same preceptor came to him in a dream and instructed him to write the Śaṅkarābhyudaya. Rājacūḍāmaṇi refers to his preceptor as “a veritable Śaṅkarācārya, situated at the far shore of speech, the creator of the compilation on the essence of the Prapañcasāra.”[16] The term “a veritable Śaṅkarācārya” (paryāyaśaṅkarācārya) prompts close attention but leaves us with more questions than answers. Does Rājacūḍāmaṇi mean to say that he considers Gīrvāṇendra to be an incarnation of the original Śaṅkarācārya, or that he was one among a lineage of successive preceptors who adopted the title Śaṅkarācārya, as do the present-day lineages of Jagadgurus? The text of the Śaṅkarābhyudaya leaves no doubt, however, that Rājacūḍāmaṇi Dīkṣita himself envisioned an intimate connection between Śaṅkarācārya and Kanchipuram, best exemplified by the work’s seventh chapter, in which Śaṅkara completes his pilgrimage and his life by establishing in Kanchipuram (rather than Kashmir) the Sarvajñapīṭha, the “Seat of the Omniscient” and the heart of the Śaṅkarācārya lineages—a claim supported today, quite naturally, only by the Kanchipuram Śaṅkarācārya lineage.

Given the testimony of Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita and Rājacūḍāmaṇi Dīkṣita, two of seventeenth-century south India’s most prominent intellectual figures, Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī’s fame seems to have circulated well beyond his immediate lineage, serving as a pivotal link in the nascent social alliance between Smārta Brahmins and the lineages of Śaṅkarācārya preceptors. Before the generation of Nīlakaṇṭha and Rājacūḍāmaṇi, not a single nonrenunciant Sanskrit intellectual professed a personal or family allegiance to a Śaṅkarācārya order. Even Appayya Dīkṣita, Nīlakaṇṭha’s granduncle, who devoted much of his intellectual energy to reviving the Śaiva Advaita philosophy of Śrīkaṇṭha and transmitting it liberally to his students, to our knowledge makes no such claim.[17] That Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī was not an isolated charismatic figure but a participant in a larger social configuration becomes clear in the following generation: among Nīlakaṇṭha’s pupils, Rāmabhadra Dīkṣita,[18] one of the leading lights among the first generation of scholars at the Maratha court of Tanjavur, adopted a similar relationship with the ascetic and scholar of Advaita Kṛṣṇānanda Sarasvatī.

In fact, Rāmabhadra honors his own preceptor and lineage with a unique hymn, one reminiscent of Nīlakaṇṭha’s Gurutattvamālikā, titled the Ācāryastavarājabhūṣaṇa, commemorating (and even addressing in the vocative!) a similar devotional hymn written by Brahmānanda Sarasvatī in honor of their mutual preceptor, Kṛṣṇānanda, the Ācāryastavarāja.[19]

Your birth from Brahmānanda himself, your brilliant golden form,
The three worlds made subject to you, your familiarity with all the sciences;
The insightful praise refuge to you, which even for a moment gives birth to happiness,
Ācāryastavarāja! What poet would be bold enough to praise your virtues?

Surely the feet of Kṛṣṇānanda, on occasions of worship bearing a double multitude
Of tender blooming lotuses, with heaps of buds, strewn by assemblies of learned men,
Become even more radiant when you are attached to them. And yet,
I declare that it is you who are indeed the most charming, Ācāryastavarāja.

The elixir of life of the entire world, a cloud serves mostly to please the young cāṭaka bird;[20]
Bringing joy to all, the moon awakens at will for the pleasure of the night-blooming lotus.
Ācāryastavarāja, you bring bliss to the learned of the world, and now,
You bedeck yourself most particularly for the delight of Rāmabhadra’s heart.[21]

In addition to Rāmabhadra’s evident devotion to his lineage—manifested in his celebration of its textual incarnation in the form of the Ācāryastavarāja—his mode of address, compelling all learned scholars to take delight in his composition, makes it unambiguously clear that Rāmabhadra intended his hymn not for the confines of a monastery but for a more public consumption among connoisseurs of sophisticated Sanskrit verse. Moreover, that the audience he invokes is at once impeccably educated in Sanskrit poetics and philosophy and sympathetic toward Rāmabhadra’s devotion to his chosen lineage suggests that, by the late seventeenth century, affiliation with Śaṅkarācārya preceptors had become an unproblematic, or even commonplace, feature of Smārta Brahmin identity.

Such an implication, in fact, is fully supported by the sheer evidence of numbers: a staggering number of south Indian intellectuals, beginning around the seventeenth century, came to be involved one way or another with Śaṅkarācāryas, Śāktism, Advaita philosophy, and if we extrapolate from the emerging pattern, most likely all three at once. Reference might be made to Kālahasti Kavi, an acquaintance of Nīlakaṇṭha, who composed the Bhedadhikkāravivṛti, a commentary on Nṛsiṃhāśramin’s treatise. One might mention a certain resident of Kanchipuram who referred to himself as “Kāmākṣīdāsa” (servant of the goddess Kāmākṣī) and, by his own admission, received Śaiva dīkṣā at the hand of Appayya Dīkṣita himself. Or, one might take the case of Rāmabhadra’s pupil Nalla Adhvarin, who refers to himself in his Advaitarasamañjarī as a disciple of Sadāśiva Brahmendra, the latter himself the author of a popular compendium, the Siddhāntakalpavallī, based on Appayya’s Siddhāntaleśasaṅgraha. Taken together, these figures exemplify the emergence of a network of theologians, who over the course of several decades, participated actively in the reimagination of the institutional boundaries and the religious culture of the Smārta-Śaiva sectarian community.

As it turns out, the most intriguing works of the this formative period of Smārta-Śaiva religious culture have yet to be studied, remaining untranslated and largely inaccessible to academics and modern-day practitioners alike. Perhaps the most revelatory of these documents is the Saubhāgyacandrātapa of Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita. A manual for the daily ritual obligations of the Śrīvidyā initiates, the Saubhāgyacandrātapa is a far cry from the insipid cookbook-like procedural manuals that often go by the name paddhati. After all, Nīlakaṇṭha was one of the greatest stylists of the Sanskrit language in the precolonial period, in his prose as well as his poetry. What we discover, instead, is an instructive (to us as well as his pupils) intertwining of ritual and social commentary, through which Nīlakaṇṭha actively negotiates a place for Śrīvidyā ritual practitioners (upāsaka s) within the broader orthodox climate of south Indian Śaiva Siddhānta.[22]

The second work to be addressed is a little-known commentary on a Sanskrit hymn popular in south India, the Ambāstava, attributed at the time to Kālidāsa.[23] The author of the Ambāstavavyākhyā, Ardhanārīśvara Dīkṣita, was the elder brother of Rājacūḍāmaṇi Dīkṣita and, like his brother, was extensively well-read in the classics of Śrīvidyā scripture. As a didactic treatment of what was likely a popular work of poetry in his day, Ardhanārīśvara’s commentary consistently strives to establish a canon for the interpretation of Śākta verse, ranging from the earliestknown Śrīvidyā scriptures to the personalities construed by his contemporaries as the archetypal Śākta devotees: Śaṅkara and Kālidāsa. In doing so, this commentary casts Śaṅkara and Kālidāsa as the forerunners and champions of a sanitized model of Śrīvidyā upāsanā suited to the social demands of orthodox Smārta Brahmins.

The final work under discussion is the aforementioned Śaṅkarābhyudaya of Rājacūḍāmaṇi Dīkṣita, by far the most aesthetically refined example of the Śaṅkaradigvijaya genre and, perhaps for that reason, one of the least studied.[24] One of the few such narratives to situate the final destination of Śaṅkara’s journey in Kanchipuram, the Śaṅkarābhyudaya forges an intrinsic connection between the lineage of Śaṅkarācārya, Kanchipuram, its resident goddess Kāmākṣī, and Śrīvidyā ritual practice. In particular, the final two cantos of the work contain an array of astoundingly precise references to the esoteric vocabulary of Śrīvidyā, including a sixteen-verse hymn to Kāmākṣī that embeds each of the syllables of the Śrīvidyā mantra, leaving the reader with no doubt that the author was intimately familiar with Śrīvidyā ritual and viewed this practice as inextricably connected to the lineage of Śaṅkara.

To be clear about what is at stake in these rhetorical strategies, Nīlakaṇṭha and his colleagues did not promulgate Śākta ritual and theology purely through their own social capital. Rather, they substantiated the authority of their lineage by invoking two of Indian history’s most celebrated cultural figures: Kālidāsa, the most celebrated poet of Sanskrit literary history (or perhaps of any Indian literary tradition), and Śaṅkarācārya, the figurehead of the Advaita school of Vedānta philosophy, which had become the language of intersectarian debate in south India for much of the second millennium. Through this process, Śrīvidyā came to be understood unequivocally by seventeenth-century Smārta Brahmins as the teachings of Śaṅkara and Kālidāsa themselves. Within the Western tradition this phenomenon evokes the Renaissance European defense of the Hermetic tradition, in which the walls of the Vatican immortalized portraits of Hermes Trismegistus, who was understood by prominent intellectuals to have disseminated the esoteric truth of the Christian doctrine many centuries before Christ.

For Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita to cite Śaṅkarācārya as the forefather of Śrīvidyā upāsanā is strikingly reminiscent of the claim of a poet-intellectual in the court of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Philip Sidney, stating that:

Mercurius Trismegestius, who (if the bookes which are fathered vppon him bee his in déede, as in trueth they bee very auncient) is the founder of them all, teacheth euerywhere, That there is but one God: That one is the roote of all things, and that without that one, nothing hath bene of all things that are: That the same one is called the onely good and the goodnesse it selfe, which hath vniuersall power of creating all things.... That vnto him alone belongeth the name of Father and of Good.[25]

Śrīvidyā, for Nīlakaṇṭha and his contemporaries, was not a novel fashion in Smārta-Śaiva circles but the central insight of India’s greatest intellectual luminaries. In recasting the hagiographies of Śaṅkarācārya and Kālidāsa, then, the Smārta-Śaiva theologians of seventeenth-century south India aimed, not only to rewrite the “ecclesiastical history” of the Śaṅkarācārya monastic lineages, but also to provide a model for religious belonging in their own day and age. Their ecstatic devotion, couched in the garb of the sophisticated poet and intellectual, was no abstract ideal but, rather, served as a model for the self-fashioning of the SmārtaŚaiva theologian. Spared the rigors of an ascetic lifestyle of renunciation, these householder theologians found themselves saddled with the unique obligation of constructing a new religious public, one that cohered around a unified religious culture and shared sites of public memory. When the Smārta-Śaiva theologian spoke of his sectarian identity, he was, simply, just like Kālidāsa, the consummate literary genius who received his talents through the grace of the goddess herself, whom he held dearer than his own life breath. Just like Kālidāsa, these theologians portrayed themselves in their poetry and scholastic ventures as the paragons of the poetic talent of their generation and the ideal devotees of Śaṅkarācārya and of the goddess.[26]

Footnotes and references:


ardhe tanor adrisutāmayo ‘smīty ahaṃyunā kiṃ phalam ādiyūnā | gīrvāṇayogīndram upāsmahe taṃ sarvātmanā śailasutātmako yaḥ || Śivalīlārṇava (ŚLA) 1.5.


A manuscript of a work ascribed to Amareśvara Sarasvatī, remarkably enough a commentary on the Prapañcasāra, is currently held at the Punjab University Library, Lahore.


śaṅkaraś cāmarendraś ca viśveśvara iti trayaḥ | punantu māmakīṃ buddhim ācāryāḥ kṛpayā mudā || amarendrayatiś śiṣyo gīrvāṇendrasya yoginaḥ | tasya viśveśvaraḥ śiṣyo gīrvāṇendro ‘ham asya tu || Bühnemann (2001) understands the original Gīrvāṇendra in the latter verse to be another name for Śaṅkara referred to in the former, but this seems implausible, as the convention at work in the first verse is the tradition of invoking first the founder of the lineage (in this case understood to be Śaṅkara) followed by the two preceding gurus in the lineage.


The Advaita authors and texts enumerated below are described in some detail by Minkowski (2011), who clearly articulates for the first time many of the lines of influence among early modern scholars of Advaita.


The Vedānta compositions of Nṛsiṃhāśramin include the Bhedadhikkāra, Tattvaviveka, Advaitadīpikā, and commentaries on the Vedāntasāra and Saṃkṣepaśārīraka.


See Minkowski (2011, 224) for a discussion of this evidence. Also worthy of note is that the Nṛsiṃhāśramin is credited as guru by Mahīdhara, the author of the Mantramahodadhi, the most respected work of Mantraśāstra in the north Indian sphere, comparable in influence to the Prapañcasārasaṅgraha in the South.


kalyāṇaguṇasampūrṇaṃ nirvāṇavibhavālayam | gīrvāṇendrasarasvatyāś caraṇaṃ śaraṇaṃ bhaje || (v. 4). The colophon to the first pariccheda also refers to Nṛsiṃhāśramin as the pupil of one Jagannāthāśramin, who, judging by the similarity of their titles, may have been the one who initiated him into sannyāsa (renunciation). The commentator Nārāyaṇāśramin (himself Nṛsiṃhāśramin’s immediate disciple) describes Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī as the author’s “mantra guru.” The distinction between āśrama guru and mantra guru may also aid in explaining what otherwise may seem like a troubling chronological inconsistency: how can Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī have been venerated as guru by Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita as well as by Nṛsiṃhāśramin, who was a contemporary of his granduncle? Both Nīlakaṇṭha and Nṛsiṃhāśramin claim to have received a particular initiation from Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī by means of the bestowal of a mantra or śaktipāta, which may have taken place at any time during their lives. Furthermore, an intriguing verse from Nīlakaṇṭha’s Gurutattvamālikā (verse 8, see below) appears to suggest that Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī was no longer alive during most of Nīlakaṇṭha’s adult life, as Nīlakaṇṭha mourns not having the opportunity to serve him personally in his embodied form.


advaitapīṭhasthitadeśikaṃ taṃ hṛdyātmavidyāviśadāntaraṅgam | nityaṃ bhajāmo viśadasvarūpaṃ gīrvāṇayogīndraguruṃ hṛdantaḥ || In the Hariharādvaitabhūṣaṇa: gīrvāṇendrayatīndrāṇāṃ caraṇāmburuhadvayam | svargāpavargadaṃ puṃsāṃ naumi vighnopaśāntaye ||


Documentary evidence does not yet permit us to establish the precise line of descent from Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī to the lineages of Kāñcī Kāmakoṭi Pīṭha or Upaniṣad Brahmendra. The Kanchi maṭha’s own lineage chronicles are historically dubious, as the lineage claims a precise list of preceptors going back so far as the early centuries b.c.e. On the grounds of the historical evidence available, critics argue that the Kāñcī Kāmakoṭi Pīṭha has existed in its present form only from the mid-eighteenth century onward. For this controversy see, for instance, Sarma (1987) and Venkatraman (1973). The relatively late origins of the present-day Kāñcī Kāmakoṭi Pīṭha do not, however, preclude us from inquiring into its formative antecedents.

Also worthy of note is an inscription recorded as ARE 443 of 1919, which attests that a village in the vicinity of Kanchipuram now known as Śuruṭṭil was once referred to as “Śaṅkarācāryapuram.” The date of this inscription is unknown.


On the surviving manuscript evidence for this hymn, see Filliozat (1967).


On the six adhvan s enumerated by Nīlakaṇṭha, a common set of ontological categories in the Śaiva Siddhānta, see Filliozat (1967). The remainder of the hymn contains a number of technical references to Śaiva Siddhānta theology, such as a traditional visualization for the five faces of Sadāśiva.


Gurutattvamālikā (GTM) 5, 8, 9, 20. tattvasthānakalāpadākṣaramanūn śaivān ṣaḍ apy adhvanaḥ saṃśodhyaiva cirantanaiś ca gurubhiḥ kecid kvacit tāritāḥ | ekenaiva tu sārasaṃgrahakṛtivyaktena mantrādhvanā gīrvāṇendragurur viśṛṅkhalam avaty āprāuḍhamūḍhaṃ jagat || svīkartuṃ caraṇodakaṃ caraṇayor mārṣṭuṃ rajaḥ pāvanaṃ mūrdhnā dhārayituṃ cirāya caraṇau hemābjasāmājikau | svāmin me januṣāṃ śatair api tṛṣā nāpaiti janmaiva tu dvaitīyīkam alabhyam eva bhavatā bhakteṣv acitte kṛtam || kṛcchrāṇi pradiśan sakṛc chravaṇataḥ krcchrāṇi hanti svataḥ karmāṇi grasate samūlam api naḥ karmāṇi siddhiṃ nayan | gīrvāṇendra iti śrutaḥ śrutiṣu yaḥ sarvāsu nirvāṇado mantro ‘yaṃ caturakṣaro mama bhavatv āśvāsam āśvāsanam || antānantaśarīrabandhaparivāhopāttatattacchubhaprārabdhārthasamājabhāgyaphalito yaḥ śaktipātas taraḥ | nirṇīto yadi so ‘pi deśikadayāpāṅgaprasaṅgāvahas tattvaṃ tarhi guroḥ paraṃ kim api nety ākhyāta vītabhramāḥ ||


ś rīmacchaṅkarapādasūktihṛdayāviṣkāraniṣṇātayā... kṛtyā | GTM 17.


See for instance Wallis, “The Descent of Power,” 2008.


Rājacūḍāmaṇi Dīkṣita also composed a work titled the Śaṅkarācāryatārāvali, which does not appear to survive today but is attested by the author in his Kāvyadarpaṇa.


Śaṅkarābhyudaya (ŚA) 1.1, 1.5–10. asti svastikṛdastokaśastiś cūḍāmaṇir makhī | kartror viśvajitaḥ putraḥ kāmākṣīśrīnivāsayoḥ || kāvyaprakāśikāyāś ca yaḥ karoti sma darpaṇam | karṇāmṛtāgramānāni kāvyāni ca tathā śatam || śarvaryāś carame yāme śayānas sa kadācana | gīrvāṇendraguruṃ buddhyā gīrvāṇendram alokata || anugrahād āptavidya m amareśvarayoginaḥ | viśveśvarayatīśānavineyaṃ vinayojjvalam || paryāyaśaṅkarācārya ṃ pāre vācām avasthitam | prapañcasārapramukhaprabandhakṛtivedhasam || pratyagbrahmaikyanidhyānaprahasanmukhapaṅkajam | tattanmantrānusandhānatatparaṃ tamasaḥ param || kṛpayā coditas tena kṛpaṇānujighṛkṣuṇā | sa eṣa kurute kāvyaṃ śaṅkarābhyudayābhidham ||


The inscription in the Kālakaṇṭheśvara temple in Appayya’s agrahāram, Ad ayapalam, includes mention of an endowment for general instruction in Śrīkaṇṭha’s Śaiva Advaita. See chapter 3 for further details; see also Bronner (2007) on the educative function of many of Appayya’s stotras (hymns).


Rāmabhadra was a reputed grammarian and author of the Uṇādimaṇidīpikā, having studied under Nīlakaṇṭha himself.


Despite Rāmabhadra’s high praise, the original Ācāryastavarāja unfortunately does not appear to be extant today.


The mythical cāṭaka bird is said to drink only raindrops.


Ā SR 3, 4, 7, 41, 125. labdhaiḥ sādhukaviprabandhajaladhiṣv antaś ciraṃ majjatā śabdākhyair maṇibhiḥ patañjalivacaḥśāṇopalottejitaiḥ | yatnena grathitaṃ mayā sumatayaḥ sarve ‘pi kautūhalād ācāryastavarājabhūṣaṇam idaṃ paśyantu hṛṣyantu ca || yaḥ śāstreṣv akhileṣu śikṣitamatir yaḥ kāvyapāntho bhṛśaṃ yaḥ śakto ‘timṛdu svayaṃ kavayituṃ yaś cānasūyākaṭuḥ | bhaktir yasya ca deśike sa jagati stotuṃ kṣamas tvāṃ vidann ācāryastavarāja mugdhahṛdayaḥ kvāhaṃ kva te varṇanam || brahmānandata eva janma bhavato rūpaṃ suvarṇojjvalaṃ trailokyaṃ ca kṛtaṃ vaśe paricayaḥ śāstreṣu sarveṣv api | ślāghante sudṛśaś ca saukhyajananīṃ śayyāṃ muhus tāvakīm ācāryastavarāja kas tava kaviḥ stotuṃ pragalbho guṇān || yatpūjāvasareṣu sūripariṣatkīrṇaiḥ sarojādibhiḥ pāṭalyaṃ dviguṇaṃ bibharti mṛdubhiḥ smeraiḥ prasūnotkaraiḥ | kṛṣṇānandamuneḥ padaṃ tadadhikodbhāsi tvadāsañjane ‘py ācāryastavarāja komalatamaṃ tvāṃ nūnam ākhyāti naḥ || jīvātur jagato ‘pi cātakaśiśoḥ prītyai paraṃ vāridaḥ sarvāhlādakaro ‘pi kairavamude jāgarti kāmaṃ śaśī | ācāryastavarāja viśvaviduṣām ānandanīyo bhavān prāyaḥ samprati rāmabhadrahṛdayollāsāya sannahyati ||


See below (the section titled “Śrīvidyā and Society in Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita’s Saubhāgyacandrātapa”) for a brief overview of the history of the Śaiva Siddhānta, a prominent school of Tantric (Mantramārga) Śaivism.


One of a set of five hymns titled the Pañcastavī, the Ambāstava is in other regions commonly attributed to Śaṅkarācārya as well as to Kālidāsa.


See Bader (2000) for a thorough treatment of the extant Śaṅkaradigvijaya (Śaṅkara’s conquest of the directions) narratives and their genealogical relationships.


A Woorke concerning the trewnesse of the Christian Religion (1587, 27). Cited in Yates (1964, 178).


Of course, there is no evidence that Kālidāsa himself was a Śākta. The false etymology of his name (Kālī-dāsa, “servant of the goddess Kālī”), as we will see, was accepted as valid by Ardhanārīśvara Dīkṣita. Another Śākta work attributed to Kālidāsa is the Cidgaganacandrikā, a commentary on the Krama Stotra of Siddhanātha. Although cited as the work of Kālidāsa by Bhāskararāya, the Cidgaganacandrikā includes a self-attribution of authorship to one Srīvatsa, whom Rastogi (1979) dates to the twelfth century on the grounds of the dates of composition of the Krama Stotra and the earliest known citation of the Cidgaganacandrikā by Maheśvarānanda. In addition, South India in particular has attributed a number of Śākta hymns to the name of Kālidāsa, most popular among which is the Śyāmalādaṇḍaka.

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