Kashyapa Shilpa-shastra (study)

by K. Vidyuta | 2019 | 33,520 words

This page relates ‘Classification 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.

5.2. Classification of the Āgamas

The Āgamas advocate the adoration of particular deities to the exclusion of others who form part of the retinue of the principal deity. More than one deity enjoys the privilege of such prominence. The Vaiṣṇava, Śākta, Śaiva and Gāṇāpatya, are most well known matas glorifying particular deities. The Pāśupata, Kālāmukha and Jaina are also held to be types of Āgamas. In course of time, all of these Āgamas became extinct except those of the Śāktas, Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava varieties.

(a) Śākta Āgamas:

The Śākta system believes in the all-embracing potency and the supremacy of Śakti, the female principle. Since the main deity here is Śakti, this Āgama is also called as Devī Āgama. Śakti is God in mother form. In her static, transcendent aspect, she is of the same nature as Śiva. While Śiva is the unchanging consciousness, Śakti is its changing power. The Self is one with the Supreme. Mind and body are the manifestations of the power of this Supreme. Thus the philosophy of the Śākta Āgamas is Advaitic.

The texts of this Āgama speak of the system as delivered by Devī, listened to by Śiva and approved by Vāsudeva. Therefore the word “Āgama” is derived as emanating (ā) from Śiva or Devī, reaching Devī or Śiva (ga) and approved (ma or mata) by Vāsudeva[1].

Important works on the Śākta system are the encyclopaedic Prapañcasāra attributed to Śaṅkarācārya, Lakṣmaṇadeśika's Śāradātilaka, Bhāskararāya's Varivasyārahasya and Lalitā-sahasranāma-bhāṣya, Kṛṣṇānanda Āgama Vāgīśa's Tantrasāra, Pūrṇānandahaṃsaparivrājaka's Śrītattvacintāmaṇi and others. Lakṣmīdhara's commentary on the Saundaryalaharī contains valuable information on the cult of Śakti.

(b) Vaiṣṇava Āgamas:

The Vaiṣṇava Āgamas glorify Viṣṇu as the Supreme Being to the exclusion of all other deities. For them, the Ultimate Reality is Viṣṇu with Śrī. These Āgamas show that they are closely related to the Vedas through the title “Vaiṣṇava”, for among the varied names of Viṣṇu, “He” is mentioned primarily by this name in the Vedas. The arcā form of worship gets detailed treatment in the Vaiṣṇava Āgamas which includes the erection of temples and the conduction of private and public festivals. They also enjoin the worship of God in the household.

These Āgamas are of two kinds, viz., Pāñcarātra and Vaikhānasa. The former is more liberal in its outlook and practice than the latter; but Tāntrika practices have deeply influenced the Pāñcarātra, than the Vaikhānasa Āgamas.

As these Āgamas are deeply concerned with worship of the Lord in arcā form, the details of the selection of site for building temples, technical details about the temple construction, method of worship, private and public festivals and expiation for the sins of omission and commission are expounded here.

(c) Śaivāgamas:

The Śaiva Āgamas hold Śiva as the supreme deity ever associated with Śakti, identified with Devī or Pārvatī. These Āgamas are some of the earliest texts in Sanskrit language on the Śaiva religion and philosophy.

The Śaivāgamas is a general term applied to four different schools the Śaiva, Pāśupata, Soma and Lākula. Of these, the Śaiva is said to have three branches: Vāma, Dakṣiṇa and Siddhānta. Kapāla, Kālāmukha and Aghora are all contained in the Vāma section; the Dakṣiṇa branch includes Kashmir Śaiva darśanas, Svacchanda Bhairavam, etc., making up a total of 18. The Siddhānta branch has 28 Āgamas and these are the traditional Śaivāgamas.

The 28 Śaivāgamas are said to have been revealed from all the five faces of Lord Śiva[2]. The first four faces taught five Āgamas each, while the last, Īśāna, gave rise to eight. The Sadyojā ta-face revealed the Kāmika, Yogaja, Cintya, Karaṇa and Ajita - Āgamas; the Vāmadeva-face taught Dīpta, Sūkṣma, Sahasra, Amsumat and Suprabheda; the Aghora-face revealed Vijayā, Niśvāsa, Svāyambhuva, Āgneya and Vīra;the Tatpuruṣ a-face taught the Raurava, Makuṭa, Vimalā, Candrajñāna and Mukhabimba; and the Īśāna-face revealed the remaining eight–Prodgīta, Lalita, Siddha, Santāna, Sarvokta, Parameśvara, Kiraṇa and Vātula. Of the Āgamas available in print today, only the Suprabheda, the Mṛgendra (Upāgama) and the Kiraṇa contain all four parts.

The Śaivāgama philosophy is theistic and so it is inseparably connected with religion. Yet it seems to present a separate and distinct philosophy of Advaita, different from the Śaṅkara School.

Architecture gets a very elaborate treatment in the kriyā pāda of the main Āgamas. This concerns not only the construction of temples but also palaces and the citizen's houses. The various maṇḍapas, sub-temples, prākāras, vimānas, gopuras are dealt with in detail, from the foundation to the tip of the śikhara. The vimānas vary as circular, square, gajapṛṣṭa, etc. The garbhagṛha also varies as circular, square, rectangular, etc. Regarding palaces, the audience hall, ramparts and bastions, soldier's quarters and the like are discussed. In the matter of ordinary houses, the layout of the house, its drawing room, bedroom, pūjā room, kitchen and similar apartments are elaborately given a location to suit comfortable living.

One of these 28 Śaivāgamas is the Aṃśumatbhedāgama, otherwise known as Kāśyapa Śilpaśāstra (taken up for the present study). This text as available today, has only the kriyā pāda that deals with temple architecture.

Footnotes and references:


Cf., Piṅgalāmata cited in Tantras: Studies on their Religion and Literaure, Chintaharan Chakravarti, Punthi Pustak, Calcutta, 1963, p. 2, 7fn:
āgataṃ pañcavaktrāttu gataṃ ca girijānane | mataṃ ca vāsudevasya ca tasmādāgamamucyate ||


Śrīmat Kāraṇāgama, Pūrva and Uttara Pāda, by Azhagappa Mudaliyar, Chennai, I. 1. 65ff.

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