Kashyapa Shilpa-shastra (study)

by K. Vidyuta | 2019 | 33,520 words

This page relates ‘The four sections of the Agamas’ of the study on the Kashyapa Shilpa-shastra (in English) with special reference to the characteristics of Prakara (temple-components), Mandapa (pavilions) and Gopura (gate-house). The Silpa-Sastras refers to the ancient Indian science of arts and crafts, such as sculpture, architecture and iconography. This study demonstrates the correlatation between ancient Indian monuments (such as temples and sculptures) and the variety of Sanskrit scriptures dealing with their construction.

5.1. The four sections of the Āgamas

The content of the Āgamas are brought under four heads, namely, jñāna, yoga, kriyā and caryā, which stand respectively for the knowledge of Reality, Yogic practices for the realisation of the Ultimate Reality, preparation of the materials and their collection for the worship of the deities and the religious practices themselves. The Jñāna part is the philosophy of the Āgamas while the other three may be taken as dealing with the sādhana or practice.

(a) Jñāna pāda:

The Jñāna pāda or Vidyā pāda as it is otherwise called, is the section dealing with the metaphysical basis of the Āgama system. It provides the philosophical truths underlying the system. The Āgamas accept the Vedas and build up on it. The Vedānta may be termed as the basis for the Agamic philosophy. The emphasis of the Vedānta on the soul and mind is elaborated in the Jñāna pāda.

(b) Yoga pāda:

There are traces of Yogic practices in the Vedic passages. For the ancients, the yajñas were in itself a sort of Yoga practice where the Vedic seer tried to unite himself with the particular deity invoked. It is usual in the modern day to speak of Rāja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Jñāna yoga etc., according to the techniques practised.

All the four pādas in the Siddhanta are super-structures on the foundation of bhakti. What is understood by the term Karma Yoga pervades the caryā and the kriyā pādas. Rāja Yoga pervades the kriyā and the caryā pādas while what is called the Jñāna Yoga pervades the vidyā pāda and the yoga pādas.

(c) Kriyā pāda:

This pāda considers not the individual man alone but also the society. It has concern about and involvement with the community around. The temple is an outward expression of this concern. The masses are not attracted by abstract thoughts or philosophy but are attracted by definite activity such as rituals and pūja or worship, festivals and the like, where they also physically participate.

Congregational worship besides festivals is one of the great forces that hold together society without disintegrating. Hence, the kriyā pāda lays down an elaborate code which is emotional, artistic and rational at the same time. This Kriyāpāda deals with this type of temple worship, known as parārtha pujā.

This section of the Āgamas provides information on temple construction and consecration on the one hand and information on all types of festivals along with purificatory rituals on the other hand. Temples also have yāgaśālas which come into prominence at the commencement of any festival or even ritualistic abhiṣeka; the chief of them being the Kumbhābhiṣeka.

In addition to the rituals, there are several other equally important subjects that are dealt with extensively in this section. The description of temple construction given here is beyond what the modern architects can dream of. Sculpture, iconography, construction of temple-car, geology, horticulture, astronomy, town-planning, home-science, water supply, health and hygiene, are some of the other allied subjects that are discussed in this section.

(d) Caryā pāda:

The seeker of Truth or aspirant, has to equip himself intellectually for understanding the philosophy of the Jñāna pāda. The spiritual effort is augmented and supported by temple worship and festivals. The code of personal conduct and discipline, and the way of behaviour or functioning is laid down in this caryā pāda. This section of the Āgamas is neither difficult nor complicated for understanding or for following.

Human life being what it is, there may be some leniency or laxity in this pāda, although the kriyā pāda is very strict in all its observances. This section deals with the daily observances and the personal discipline of the worshippers.

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