The kAlAmukhas-I

One of the most enigmatic of the shaiva groups of India were the kAlAmukhas. Their origins and the rise to power are shrouded in mystery. An added mystery is their suddence disappearance despite their prominent presence in the mideaval period. I stood before a great shrine of The god once built by the kAlAmukhas in the city of my birth and wondered about their origins. They were described as kAlAmukhas after the practice of marking their foreheads with a black streak. There were two great schools or councils (pariShads) kAlAmukhas. The siMha pariShad was common in Andhra and the shakti pariShad was common in Karnataka. The latter pariShad is most actively represented in epigraphic records studied by Lorenzen. Though there is not much evidence for the kAlAmukhas having any presence elsewhere in India, the South Indian epigraphic records suggest that they were also present in Kashmir. We do not find much connection between the kAlAmukhas and the much maligned kApAlikas, and the siddhAnta shaiva streams. The main center of the shakti parishad was the dakShiNa kedAreshvara temple in North Karnataka from where the kAlAmukhas fanned out into the rest of the state. From the inscriptions we get the following lineage of the kAlAmukhas.

The founding achArya was the learned kedArashakti. His first student was rudrAbharaNa. His student was vAlmIki. kedArashakti’s second student was shrikaNTha. His student was someshvara. His student was vidyAbharaNa. He had 3 students vAmashakti, gautama and GYAnashakti-I. gautama’s student was vAmashakti-II. His student was GYAnashakti-II. His student was shrikaNTha-deva II. His student was vAmashakti-deva III. Another line from GYAnashakti-I was started by his student chandrabhUShaNa. His student was krIyAshakti. Thus from late 900s to 1225 the kAlAmukha scholars dominated the scene in Karnataka.

The inscriptions suggest that the kAlAmukhas were the direct representatives of the pAshupata stream. This is the tradition founded by the ancient lAkulIsha, who described in the shiva purANa as the promulgator of the pAshupata cult. The antecedents of the pAshupata stream can be traced back the parishiShThas of the atharva veda which describe the ancient version of the pAshupata vrata. For example the AchArya rudrAbharaNa is mentioned as being “an ornament of the lAkula-doctrine”. The modern orthodoxy, has tended to malign the kAlAmukhas as a heterodox school that is to be shunned by the mainstream brahmins. However, the inscriptions clearly show that the kAlAmukhas were not heterodox followers of non-Aryan ways but a branch of brahmins. For example the Kedareshvara inscription states that “the kAlAmukhas study in the secluded and quiet maThas, the R^ik, yajur, sAman and atharvan saMhitas with their auxiliary texts. A scholarly study is also made of the kaumAra, pANinIya, shAkaTAyana shabdAnushAsana grammars. They also are mentioned as studying: nyAya, vaisheShika, mImAmsa, sAMkhyA and bauddha philosophy as well as pauraNic and secular saMskR^it literature, in addition to the lAkulIsha tantras”. In particular many of the kAlAmukhas were specialists in Hindu atomism of nyAya and vaisheShika. One of them someshvara was a particular expert in these schools as per one of the inscriptions. The kAlAmukha maTha is also mentioned as feeding jaina and bauddha mendicants in addition to Hindu brahmins and saMnyAsis.

Some kAlAmukha AchAryas of both pariShads in the Mysore region bear the title: kAshmIra paNDita. More explicitly the Muttagi inscription from Bijapur states that a certain kAlAmukha paNDita had migrate to Karnataka from Kashmir. Thus, at least the kAlAmukha cult had a certain adherants in Kashmir. The Ghaznavid invasion ravaged the two great pAshupata centres: Mathura of the kaushika lineage and Somanatha of the gArgya lineage. So it is quite likely that some of the North Indian scholars migrated to Karnataka and Andhra which were relatively safe from Islamic violence at that point. Thus, an understanding of the place and distribution of the kAlAmukhas in the larger matrix of pAshupata cults has been largely erased as their sister groups were destroyed in Somanatha and Mathura by the Islamic ravages. Like Buddhism, the eventual fall of the kAlAmukhas can be attributed to their highly centralized monastic structure. When Islam struck, these centralized vihAras or maThas that were entirely dependent on massive patronage and solely devoted to scholarly pursuits were blown away resulting their rapid extinction. In contrast the more amorphous Hindu groups dispersed over the countryside survived and revitalized the Hindu world in face of the Islamic assault.

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