Tritonal recitations of vaiShNava-s

KRK astutely observed that the tritonal recitation of the nAlAyira divyaprabandhaM (DP4000) by the shrIvaiShNava-s might be a survival of an even earlier custom of the tritonal recitation of the pA~ncharAtra texts. The evidence from the AgamaDambara (AD) of jayanta bhaTTa in support of this seems rather clear. In the AD an orthodox smArta ritualist severely condemns the vaiShNava-s and shaiva-s in a conversation with a smArta teacher. In the 4th act of the play the R^itvik states:
yad amI pA~ncharAtrikA bhAgavatA brAhmanavad vyavaharanti | brAhmaNa samAja madhyam anupravishya nirvisha~Nkam abhivAdaya iti jalpante | vishiShTa svara varNaanupUrvIkatayA veda-pATham anusaranta iva pa~ncharAtra grantham adhIyate | “brAhmaNAH smaH” ity AtmAnaM vyapadishanti vyapadeshayanti cha | [The attack on vaiShNava-s]
shaivAdyas tu na chaturvarNya madhya patitAH shruti smR^iti vihitam Ashramam avajahataH shAsanaantara parigraheNaanyathA vartante | ete punar “A janmana A santater brAhmaNA eva vayam” iti bruvAnAs tathaiva chaturAshramyam anukurvantiiti mahad duHkham || [Attack on shaiva-s]

In his attack on the pA~ncharAtrika vaiShNava-s the smArta states that they move around in the midst of brAhmaNa-s using the same abhivAdanaM as them. They are also said to recite their pa~ncharAtra texts with the special svara-s as thought they are a veda recitation. The call themselves brAhmaNa-s and expect others to do so likewise. With respect to the shaiva-s he says that they fall outside the varNAshrama dharma and follow their own authoritative texts (he means the shaiva tantra-s) and claim they are brAhmaNa by birth and lineage. They imitate the four-fold Ashrama-s (or does he include varNa in this?) of the smArta-s.

So it appears that KRK is indeed correct in observing that tritonal recitation of the DP4000 in imitation of the veda is likely to have been further based on the model of the recitation of the pA~ncharAtra texts. In this light, we should note that certain Kashmirian pA~ncharAtrika-s who were temporally relatively close to jayanta bhaTTa (e.g. the great kShemendra) mentioned that they were practitioners of the ekAyana shAkhA (of the shukla yajurveda), which is believed to be the root of the pA~ncharAtrika texts. So was this supposed recitation of pA~ncharAtra texts in imitation of the veda actually a hold over from an older “ekAyana shAkhA”? One line of reasoning could be: given that the ekAyana is mentioned in the latest layers of the Vedic texts (namely the teaching of skanda in the chAndogya upaniShad), it is possible that a body of early vaiShNava material under this name existed in that period and it could have been indeed accented. A model for such accented early vaiShNava material could be the vaikhAnasa mantra-pATha which includes several accented vaiShNAva mantra-s (including the famous AtmasUkta which have described on these pages) affiliated with the taittirIya shAkhA of the kR^iShNa yajurveda. Likewise, the taittirIya AraNyaka and AV auxiliary literature include a vaiShNava text, the nArAyaNa sUkta (valli), which is recited in an accented form, though TS version has words with atypical accents. It is possible that the shukla yajurvedin-s had a vaiShNava movement parallel to the KYV vaikhAnasa-s, known as the ekAyana-s, who were the precursors of one of the strands of the later pA~ncharAtra. Of course, it should be noted that ekAyana is not mentioned in any of the charaNa lists as a distinct shukla yajurvedIya shakha-s. Furthermore, within the pA~ncharAtra tantra-s themselves, though the ekAyana is mentioned as a collection of yajuSh-s, the SYV shakhA with which they are associated is explicitly given as kANva or in rare cases as also including the mAdhyandina-s:
sAtvata 25.16:
ekAyanAn yajurmayAn AshrAvitam antaraM | (ekAyana as a collection of yajuSh-s)

jayAkhya saMhitA 1.109 (manuscript):
kANvI shAkhAm adhIyAnAv aupagAyana-kaushikau |

Ishvara saMhitA 21.554:

kANvI shAkhAm AdhIyAnAn veda-vedAnta-pAragAn |
saskR^itya dIkShayA samyak sAtvataadyukta-mArgataH ||

pAdma saMhitA charyApAda 21.4:
aupagAyana pUrvAsate nAnAgotrA mumukShavaH |
adhIyAnAH kaNva-shAkhA tathA mAdhyandinaahvayam ||

Also of note is the fact that the pAdma saMhitA places its frame story in the Ashrama of kaNva and the text as a lecture delivered by kaNva.

Hence, the ekAyana collection was probably a mantra collection somewhat like the vaikhAnasa mantra pATha rather than being a shAkhA by itself. As noted before on these pages, in support of this we find that the mahAbhArata mentions a pA~nchrAtra system of the ekAyana type that certainly preceded the full-blown tAntrika version of pA~ncharAtra. This Mbh section alludes to a mahopaniShad of these pA~ncharAtrika-s that could have been from the ekAyana collection (perhaps a parallel to the nArAyaNa valli). This vaiShNava section of the Mbh mentions the certain early vaiShNava groups like ekAntika-s and chitra-shikhaNDin-s. Now some pA~ncharAtra tantra-s (e.g. viShNu saMhitA, 2nd paTala) mention the types of vaiShNava-s to be: 1) vaikhAnasa-s, 2) shikhin-s, 3) ekAntin-s and 4) sAttvata-s, 5) mUlaka-s. Of these, the vaikhAnasa-s are the equivalents of their modern versions.  The shikhin-s are the chitrashikhaNDin-s and ekAntin-s the followers of the ekAntika dharma of the Mbh – they were vaiShNAva equivalents of the shaiva atimArga ascetics.

Based on the evidence from the mahAbhArata we hold that the sAtvata-s are the vaiShNava-s who originated the chatur-vyUha system and were associated with the sAtvata confederacy – the deification of their heroes kR^iShNa and balabhadra or their identification with a 4-fold vaiShNava pantheon was probably at the heart of this system. We also hold that the bhagavad-gIta is a text originally belonging to the early sAtvata-s that acquired a wider currency in jambudvIpa. Now the mUlaka-s are likely to be the proto-pA~ncharAtrika-s who worshiped viShNu independently of the vyUha-s. Now, we should note in this regard that some early pA~ncharAtra tantra-s mention the vaiShNAva pa~nchabrahma which clearly points to an alternative to the vyUha-style of worship. The long vaiShNava interpolation in the R^igvidhAna also appears to be the work of relatively early vaiShNava-s possibly belonging to this vaiShNava system. It is not impossible that the ekAyana was originally prevalent among these vaiShNava-s. In this regard, as we pointed out before, the very name pa~ncharAtra is not understood in most of the later Tantric saMhitA-s of this system. In fact they give different “folk” etymologies to try to explain this name. However, it should be noted that this term is more naturally explained as a deriving from an ancient Vedic ritualist term i.e. the 5 nights rite. Indeed, the pa~ncharAtra of puruSha nArAyaNa is currently known from the shukla yajurveda tradition (shatapatha brAhmaNa). It is likely that this was indeed the origin of the term. Subsequently, the mUlaka-s and sAtvata-s appear to have amalgamated to give rise to the classical pA~ncharAtra system.

Hence, while the evidence is wholly circumstantial it is possible that the later pA~ncharAtra recitation might have itself followed this early recitation pattern of the accented ekAyana material.

We may point out that some vaiShNava mantra-s recited by saMkarShaNa in the AgamaDambara in the famous raNasvAmin temple in Kashmir are found with some variations in the appendices of a medieval shukla yajurvedIya paddhati in the context of viShNu worship:
namaH krama samAkrAnta chitra trailokya sadmane |
kukShi-koNaika deshAmsha-lIna vishvAya viShNave ||

On philological grounds we can rule out that this mantra was early: it has the word “koNa” which is a loan into Sanskrit from technical Greek (xenolog of Greek gona; ortholog of Sanskrit jAnu). So the mantra has to be post-Hellenic, but the link between the SYV and the pA~ncharAtrika-s might be real.

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