A famous clan of mantravAdin-s


There are certain strange events or what they call the déjà vu that give you an eerie feeling. In course of a conversation on the transmission of tAntrika lineages between different parts of bhAratavarSha with R, she was mentioning the links on her maternal side that she had dug up recently. The connection to my medieval coethnic samarapu~Ngava dIkShita and its symmetry with respect to my larger clan was rather surprising. So it may not be out of place to discuss this great clan of mantravAdin-s among my coethnics. A genealogy up to certain point of the northern branch was produced by the historian madhava-kR^iShNa-sharman. Unfortunately, at this stage I cannot produce a complete genealogy of the southern branch.

In the drAviDa country on the bank of the Pennar river in the Paanampalli village, south of Shivakanchi, in an agrahAraM associated with the hastigirinAtha temple, lived a family of notable shrauta ritualists and saMskR^ita authors. They belonged to the Atreya gotra of vipra shyAvAshva and were chaturvedin-s. Their family deity was the viShNu standing atop the seven hills. One of the foremost amongst them was the ritualist samarapu~Ngava dIkShita who had performed multiple soma yAga-s and written a few works. His son was tirumala, and his son was shrIniketana dIkShita were also somayAjin-s. The latter’s son was shrInivAsa dIkShita, who after performing several somayAga-s in the drAviDa country had also acquired some knowledge of tAntrika lore. He then headed to the northern country and reached the jAlandhara pITha around 1575 CE even as the Mogol tyrant Akbar was prosecuting his bloody Jihad in Rajasthan. In the central part of the country rAnI durgAvatI and her son vIra-nArAyaNa had been killed after a heroic struggle against the Moslems and the last great patrons of the saiddhAntika shaiva-s had come to an end with that. The bundela-s were still defending the Hindu banner from their forest outpost at Orcha locked in a death-struggle with the army of Islam. But even in these trying times Hindus boldly moved from one part of bhArata to another as a part of their tIrtha circuits. The main driving force for shrInivAsa was to visit jAlandhara pItha as it was one of the greatest tAntrika kShetra-s after the oDDiyAna pITha, which had already been lost to the turuShka-s.

There he encountered a powerful tAntrika from the pa~nchanada named AchArya sundara deshikendra who was a learned exponent of the kula path. After having mastered a vast body of tantric mantra-s shrInivAsa was finally given dIkSha in the kAdi shrIvidyA and the trika mantra-s by sundara deshikendra under the dIkSha name vidyAnandanAtha. Giving shrInivAsa a shrIchakra he asked him to settle in vArANasI and expound the tantra-s of the kAmeshvarI. While vArANasI was reeling under the charge of the turuShka-s, sundara is supposed to have predicted that it will be revived by the time shrInivAsa reached the city. Indeed remarkable events were unfolding in the background. The Mogol tyrant was undergoing a remarkable transformation [read about it as detailed by shrI sarvesha tivArI] and he had elevated the Hindu toDaramalla to handle the finances of his Ulus. The city that toDaramalla bestowed his attention was vArANsI, which he renovated and made the center of his scheme of reviving Hindu scholarship. He attracted numerous learned brAhmaNa-s to the city to participate in the production of an enormous medical and chemical encyclopedia among others. Having reached the city in 1581 CE, shrInivAsa wrote a definitive commentary on the hallowed nityAShoDashikArNava named the artharatnAvalI. He also composed a mantra manual on the worship of shiva titled the shivArchana-chandrika.

His son named jagannivAsa was sought by rAma shAha, the rAjpUt ruler of Chanderi. rAma shAha was the son of madhukara shAha and had fought the Moslems in many battles before finally seizing Chanderi after defeating the forces of the Mogol tyrant Akbar, which were lead by the Jihadis Ali Quli Khan and Jam Quli Khan. rAma shAha appointed the young jagannivAsa as his preceptor and tutor for the clan. But shortly thereafter an internecine fight broke out in the bundela clan – vIrasiMha the other son of madhukara shAha killed Abu Fazl who had been sent to conquer Bundelkand by Akbar and strengthened himself in the old bundela capital of Orcha. This resulted in a conflict between rAma shAha and vIra sIMha, when Jahangir interceded and had rAma shAha captured and imprisoned in Delhi. At this time jagannivAsa moved with rAma shAha’s grandson bhArata shAha. In 1608 rAma shAha and Jahangir signed a truce in return for the former giving the latter troops. Upon his release rAma shAha moved to the province of Bar where he declared himself rAjan. Subsequently, in 1612 the warlike bhArata shAha succeeded rAma shAha. In 1616 he moved on Chanderi and captured it to found the second bundela dynasty. Here jagannivAsa helped with designing new forts which were built in Talbehat, Haraspur and Golakot the ruins of all of which are in the vicinity of Gwalior and some irrigation works. Additionally, jagannivAsa also helped in training bhArata shAha’s son devI siMha along with his own sons shivAnanda, janArdana and chakrapANi. This devI siMha then studied along with shivAnanda as both of them shared great interest in a wide range of topics such as medicine, astronomy, saMskR^ita literature, tantra-s and dharmashAstra-s. When devI siMha ascended the throne of Chanderi at the young age of 16, he and shivAnanda started indulging extensively in their intellectual pursuits. The rAjan was initiated into kAdi shrIvidyA by shivAnanda.

Under the patronage of devI siMha, shivAnanda started composing a variety of which include:
1) vaidyaratnA: A work on Ayurveda with an auto-commentary.
2) tithi-nirNaya, bAlaviveka and mUhUrta-ratna: works on time-keeping
3) vyavahAra-nirNaya and AchAra-sindhu: dharma-shAstra works
4) saMpkShepa-prAyashchitta: a work on penances and atonements.
5) mahAbhArata subhAShita saMgraha: didactic material from the mahAbhArata.
6) kArakakosha, taddhita kosha, samAsa kosha, strI-pratyaya kosha and sImha siddhAnta dIpikA: all grammatical works
7) several stotra-s to various deities including an encoded shrIkula tAntrika stotra titled the tripurA stotra.
8) mahAvidyAlaharI: A tAntrika poetic collection.
Under his guidance his patron devI siMha also wrote a medico-tAntric volume titled the siMha-siddhAnta-sudhAnidhi.
9) Finally he composed his magnum opus the siMha-siddhAnta-sindhu. This is beyond doubt the greatest tantric compendium ever composed in the medieval period and illustrates the enormous scholarship of this great brAhmaNa. The work is definitely more comprehensive than the shArada tilaka, prapa~nchasAra, shrIvidyArNava, mantra-mahodadhi, mantra-prakAsha, prapa~nchasAra-saMgraha, bR^ihat-tantra-sAra and purashcharyArNava. It is the true course to be followed by a high-level smArta tantric ritualist – in 92 taraMga-s spanning 35310 sholka-s. It covers pA~ncharAtra as well as shaiva mantra-shAstra and aims to cover all manner of mantra-s. Of the texts he quotes some apparently lost texts are of interest:
*guha-kalpa: kaumAra rituals; *rituals of the parishiShTha-s of the Chandoga-s; *sautramaNi-tantra; *ShaDanvaya mahAratna: a trika-kaula work; *lakShmIkulArNava: a shrIkula text with vaiShNava orientation; * A R^igvedic parishiShTha of the bahvR^icha-s.

His citations show his encyclopedic knowledge of siddhAnta tantra-s including some archaic ones like nishvAsa saMhitA (pAshupata elements of it), kAlottara, pi~NgalAmata and mohachUDottara. It is also clear that he had access to the pichumata (i.e. the real brahma-yAmala rather than the text followed by the paNTAram-s of the Tamil country), viShNu-yAmala, devI-yAmala, bhairava-yAmala and jayadratha yAmala texts. He also shows knowledge of the Kashmirian hAdividyA based shrIchakra ritual manual termed the lalitArchana-chandrikA. Another text of interest that he cites in the context of the kapAlavrata is the somasiddhAnta. It is believed that such a kApAlika text might still be extant in vArANasI through the grape-vine and manuscript catalogs but I have no confirmation for this. He also repeatedly cites a tantra called the mAlinIvijaya, but from the citation it is clear that what is meant is that more precisely called the mAlinIvijayottara. An unreferenced mention of seven crore vidyA-s and mantra-s (I guess) might be derived from the tantra-sadbhAva, but then some other tantra could also mention this figure. One of the kaula texts cited by him is the tantra termed kulamUlAvatara which is cited by various authors from the va~Nga/kali~Nga, drAviDa and kAshI suggesting that it was a popular text. The haMsapArameshvara cited by shivAnanda is enigmatic. Based on citations by the Kashmirian pA~ncharAtrika-s people have claimed that it is a vaiShNava tantra. However, it is cited on multiple occasions by shaiva authorities in the Kashmirian world and shivAnanda’s context favors a shaiva interpretation. So it is not clear if there were different haMsapArameshvara-s of both the shaiva and vaiShNava variety.

His vaiShNava tantra citations include the hayashIrSha saMhitA showing that this text was indeed more widely distributed than many people have thought. Interestingly his nR^isiMha kalpa appears to have been likely the overlapping or similar to the nR^isiMha section of the “A~ngirasa” kalpa of the atharvan-s from the kalI~Nga country.

As the Mogol invasion of Bundelkhand progressed shivAnanda moved to the court of anUpa-siMha of Bikaner along with his brother janArdana and their sons. This anUpa siMha, who was a great collector and preserver of manuscripts, gave them the grant of two villages and settled them there. But shivAnanda’s son shrIniketana settled in court of the rAja of Jaipur, the astronomer. When in Bikaner we find that shivAnanda composed two shrIvidyA manuals titled:
10) lalitArchana-kaumudi
11) lalitArchana-dIpikA
12) A manual of kArtavIrya and dAttAtreya prayoga-s known as the kArtavIrya-vidhi-ratna.
13) saparyAkramadarpaNa-stotra of unknown contents.
His brother janArdana composed:
1) A worship manual for the lay votary in Hindi for the worship of viShNu and lakShmI: the lakshMInArAyaN-pujA-sAr.
2) An erotic work titled the shR^i~NgAra shataka.
3) His own mantra-shAstra manual though shorter than that of his brother’s titled the mantra-chandrikA.
4) mahAlakshMI-stutI.
The last notable scholar in this North Indian branch of the clan that I have been able to trace is narasiMha-lAl who composed:
1) A mantra manual for durgA worship: durgArchana paddhati
2) A nitya-naimittika karma manual
3) sundarI-gopAla paddhatI on the syncretic shrIvidyA combined with the gopi-jana-vallabha mantra system of the late pA~ncharAtrika-s.
Other works by this illustrious clan of tAntrika-s like one on construction of an astrolabe by bhairavanAtha, TIkA-s on parAshara’s astronomy and the yantramAlikA by paramasukha are found scattered over North India.

~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on April 26, 2009.

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