Tantra – Agama – Part four – Vaikhanasa continued

12 Oct

Continued from Part Three

Vaikhanasa Literature- continued

68.1. Vaikhanasa-kalpa-sutra ascribed to Sage Vaikhanasa and the various texts collectively called Vaikhanasa Shastra composed by his four disciples are together taken to be the cannon of the Vaikhanasa tradition. Scholars date these texts as being around third or fourth century.

But, the next significant reference to Vaikhanasas appears in the inscriptions dated around ninth century (during the time of Raja Raja Chola). The developments, if any, within the Vaikhanasa tradition between the period of the Vaikhanasa Shastra and the ninth century are rather hazy and virtually unknown. It was only after this period that a number of significant texts were produced detailing temple and domestic rituals.

The authors of these texts were mostly the temple priests serving at the major Vishnu temples following the Vaikhanasa mode of worship.

68.2. The reasons for recording those texts appear to be two-fold. One, to prescribe in detail and to establish temple–worship sequences and procedures; and, the other to assert  and defend the identity of the Vaikhanasa tradition in the face of the challenges it was  facing from the Sri Vaishnava sect that was beginning to gain ascendancy.

68.3. By about the 11th century, Sri Vaishnavas established themselves as the dominant sect among the Vaishnavas. And, their way of worship (pancharatra) took charge of most Vaishnava temples in South India, and made it open to a larger participation by larger segments of the community.

As a result of this development, the Vaikhanasas, rooted in orthodoxy, appeared to have been increasingly marginalized as temple priests. In order to distinguish themselves and to assert their identity as hereditary temple ritual-specialists following the pristine Vedic practices they interpreted certain pre-natal rituals (say, Vishnu-Bali) to serve as the boundaries of their group.

Those set of rituals and the texts that highlighted the superiority of Vaikhanasa–parampara – pantha (tradition) and its  siddantha (ideology) attempted to transform the self perception of a close knit group of priestly class  placed in a fluid  historical and local setting.

69.1. The Vaikhanasas scholars of this period strove to define and defend their unique identity through their highly specialized practices; and, by means of their texts on temple worship rituals and the domestic rituals. Among these, Nrsimha Vajapeyin, Bhatta Bhaskaracharya, Anantacharya and above all Sreenivasa-makhin are prominent.

69.2. Nrsimha Vajapeyin (described as the disciple of  Varadacharya and son of Madhavacharya) is held in high regard as a great scholar well versed in Vedic srauta rituals (he having performed the Vajapeya yajna), in Vaikhanasa temple worship-rituals, and in Tantra-mantra-shastra. His Bhagavad-archa-prakarana  details the daily worship procedures at the temple. 

He also prepared an elaborate and an excellent gloss on the seven chapters of Grihya-sutra, three chapters of Dharma-sutra and on the one chapter of Pravara-sutra. Nrsimha Vajapeyin’s gloss provides main framework for the elaborations in the later texts. It also lucidly presents the significant aspects of temple-worship sequences, in concise form.

69.3. His disciple, Bhatta Bhaskaracharya wrote commentaries on Daivika and Manusha sutras ; and, also on Khila (appendix) mantras of Rig-Veda.

69.4. However, the most prolific writer among them was Sreenivasa-makhin (also known as Sreenivasa Dikshita or Sreenivasa-adhvari) hailed as ‘the Vedanta Deshika of Vaikhanasas’. He enjoys a preeminent position in the Vaikhanasa lore.  It is said; he was the son of Govindacharya and Rukminiyamma of Vaikhanasa Brahmin family of Kaushika gotra.   He was born at Venkatachala (Vrsagiri), the present Tirumala. Sreenivasa-makhin served as the priest in the temple of Sri Venkateshwara on the Tirumala hills. He is said to have lived after Nrsimha Vajapeyin, Bhatta Bhaskara and Anantacharya. And, his period is said to be around the 11-12th century.

69.5. Sreenivasa-makhin in his famous work Dasha – vidha – hetu-nirupana, the descriptions of the tenfold reasons (or arguments why Vaikhanasas are superior) outlines the situation of the Vaikhanasas as obtaining and provides the strategies to establish the superiority of Vaikhanasas over rival traditions, the Vaishnava sects in particular. Dasha-vidha-hetu-nirupana, perhaps, came about as a reaction to the perceived threats from the more aggressive Pancharatra sect, which at that time was gathering strength and gaining ascendancy.

70.1. Dasha-vidha-hetu- nirupana   emphasized the merits of Vaikhanasa tradition, highlighting its distinctive features and merits; demarcated Vaikhanasa from the rival traditions, particularly the Pancharatra; and put forth elaborate reasons why Vaikhanasa is superior to other traditions.

70.2. At the commencement of the text (2.5-9) Sreenivasa-makhin presents in abstract form ten reasons why Vaikhanasa is superior to other traditions:

  • (i) Vaikhanasa-sutra is established by Sage Vaikhana an incarnate Vishnu who is the cause of the world;
  • (ii) it is the first among all the sutras;
  • (iii) it follows the ways of Sruti (Vedas) in all its ritual-actions;
  • (iv) it   encases all its ritual-actions in Vedic mantras;
  • (v) it has niseka   as its first life-cycle ritual;
  • (vi) it prescribes eighteen kinds of bodily life-cycle rituals (samakaras) that purify body and mind ;
  • (vii) it presents unity of ritual-actions and their associated components ;
  • (viii) it is accepted by Manu and other Sutra-kaaras;
  • (ix) it extols the absolute supremacy of the glorious  Narayana who is the only cause of the entire universe; and
  • (x) those who ardently follow the Vaikhanasa dharma as expounded in its sutra are dearest to the adorable Narayana.

akhila jagat kāraṇa bhūtena vikhanasā praṇītatvāt. sarva sūtrāṇām āditvāt. sarva karmasu śruti mārgā  anusāritvāt. samantrakasarvakriyā pratipādakatvāt. niṣekasaṃskārādi matvāt. aṣṭādaśa śārīrasa ṃskāraprati pādakatvāt. sāṅga kriyākalāpa vattvāt. manvādyaiḥ svīkṛtatvāt. akhila jagad eka kāraṇa bhūta śrīmannārāyaṇa eika paratvāt. etat sūtrokta dharmānuṣṭhāna vatām eva bhagavat priyatama tvopapatteś ca. iti.

70.3. Sreenivasa-makhin cites, in support of his arguments, passages from various Grihya and Dharma sutras, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Upanishads, Puranas and various other texts that are generally held in acclaim. He says the worship at home (griha-archa) which is done for securing individual and family welfare; and worship in temple (alaya-archa) which is done for the good of the whole community are both important. But, for icon-worship the temple is said to be the most suitable place.

70.4. The central issue that runs through Dasha-vidha–hetu-nirupana  is establishing  the eligibility (adhikara) of the Vaikhanasas, gained by birth, to act as temple- priests (archaka) in Vishnu temples – mukhyādikāriṇāṃ vaikhānasānāṃ, to worship on behalf of the devotees, and to mediate between god and the devotees.

Sreenivasa-makhin argues that the Vaikhanasa worship of the deity installed in temples is for the good of all (sarve janah): the individual, the community (loka), the state (rastra), the glory of the ruler (rajan) and the welfare of the ruled (praja).  It prays for timely rains, for abundance of food, the well being of the animals (dvi padechatush pade) and of the whole of nature.

The worship of the deity installed at the temple is thus benign (soumya) and beneficial/auspicious (Sri Kara) to all.  It contributes to the spiritual uplift of all the worshiping devotees. This worship is regarded as Kriya-yoga.

70.5. Sreenivasa-makhin explains that the Vaikhanasa tradition accommodates those who prefer to worship the form-less (amurtha-archana) through yajna, as also those who worship Vishnu through his icon (samurtha-bhagavad-yajna). It is explained; the two are not substantially different.

Yet; according to Sreenivasa-makhin, in the present age of Kali the Agama inspired worship is most suitable, since the srauta and smarta rituals are beyond the capability of most of the people. He however adds; the temple must be properly constructed; the and the icon appropriately installed in it; and it should be effectively consecrated. The worship should be carried out with single-minded devotion by priests well trained in conducting worship –sequences.

71.1. Among the other Vaikhanasa texts, the significant ones is, Archana-navanita (the essence of worship) by Keshavacharya who also prepared a gloss (vritti) on Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana, from the standpoint of view of Lakshmi-vishitadvaita.

As mentioned earlier, Bhaskara Bhattacharya a disciple of Nrsimha Yajapeyin wrote commentaries on Daivika and Manusha sutras.

And, Prayoga –vidhi on procedural aspects of icon worship by Sundara-raja, a writer of later period, is well known.

71.2. One work that includes much of the older material is the renowned Vaikhanasa-mantra-prashnam (daivikacatustyam) or Mantra Samhita. This book contains all the Vedic mantras needed in temple –worship rituals. Most of these are taken from Yajurveda .The first half (Ch. 1-4) contain mantras of Grihya Sutra. The second half called daivikacatustyam (Ch 5-8) includes portions relating to temple-ritual taken from the handbooks of the four rishis: Atri, Bhrigu, Kashyapa and Marichi.

[ For Vaikhanasa Mantra Prashna you can go to

and download the translation by Resnick, H. J. (1996). The Daivika-catustayam of the Vaikhanasa-mantra-prasna: A Translation. Published Ph.D. dissertation. Harvard University: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

with transliteration in English

And , for Bhrigu Samhita , please check here]

Vaikhanasa Philosophy

72.1. Vaikhanasa is essentially a religious system that preaches worship of Vishnu-icon with devotion and a sense of complete surrender. Its texts are primarily ritual texts (prayoga shastra) containing elaborate discussions on various layers of temples-worship-sequences and their significance; as also instructions on practical aspects concerning yajnas and domestic ritual procedures. The major thrust of Vaikhanasa texts is to provide clear, comprehensive and detailed guidelines for Vishnu worship.

The jnana-paada segment of Vaikhanasa Agama texts is, therefore, rather brief as compared to discussion on rituals. It does not go about setting out a detailed philosophical doctrine of its own. However, Vaikhanasa, Surely, prescribes its way of life (dharma) and its outlook (darshana) on God, Man and the relation between the two; and the ways that lead Man towards God.

72.2. During the medieval periods, the Vaikhanasa scholars, most of whom were temple-priests, provided a philosophical basis for worshipping Vishnu icons installed in temples; and to harmonize icon-worship with the Vedic practices of performing Yajnas. These works derive their authority from the Kalpa-sutra of Sage Vaikhana and the Vaikhanasa Shastra texts composed by his four disciples.

72.3. Sreenivasa–makhin, a Vaikhanasa Acharya, produced several works bringing out the characteristic features of Vaikhanasa philosophy.  Among his works of this genre, the better known are: Lakshmi-vishistadvaita–bhashya; Vaikhanasa–mahima-manjari; and paramathmika-Upanishad-bhashya.

Another author who attempted a clear presentation of Vaikhanasa philosophy was Raghupathi-Bhattacharya (also known as Vasudeva). His work Mokshopaaya-pradipika spread over twelve chapters discusses the nature of Brahman, the ways of attaining Brahman in his manifest form through worship rendered with intense devotion and a sense of absolute surrender (prapatti-purvaka-bhagavad-aaradhanam).  Raghupathi-Bhattacharya explains the Vaikhanasa doctrine employing the terms of Samkhya ideology. And, his work is seen by some as an attempt to bring about a sort of rapprochement between Vaikhanasa and Pancharatra traditions.

73.1. Sreenivasa-makhin in his Lakshmi – vishistadvaita- bhashya, which is a commentary on Badarayana’s Brahma sutras, states that Vishnu alone is the highest Reality (eka eva para-tattvah).

Both the authors, Sreenivasa – makhin (Tatparya chintamani) and Raghupathi Bhattacharya, explain that Brahman (Narayana) the Paramatman is of dual nature. He is visible and invisible; perfectly bright and pure; immutable. He is both nishkala (devoid of forms and attributes) and sakala (with forms and attributes). The two aspects, truly, are one; and are inseparable.

The former   aspect (nishkala) is all-inclusive. It pervades everything, in and out, like ghee in milk, oil in sesame seed, fragrance in flower, juice in the fruit and fire in the wood. It has the nature of space (akasha) in which everything resides; and which resides in everything.   That precisely is the nature of Vishnu (vyapanath Vishnuh) who permeates the entire existence. Because of being extremely subtle, he cannot be described as real or unreal.

73.2. Vimanarchana-kalpa ascribed to Sage Marichi mentions that Vishnu may be approached in one of the four ways: recitation / repetition of the sacred name of Vishnu (japa), attentive repetition of prayer; huta, sacrifice; arcana, service to images, or dhyana, yogic meditation. Of the four, the Marichi Samhita says, archana leads to the realization of all aims.

73.3. Further it is said; the worship of the Vishnu can be either internal (antaryaga) or external (bahiryaga). The Grihya sutras explain: the Godhead is formless –nishkala; perfectly pure and bright filled with lustre tejomaya; beyond comprehension achintya; and is of the nature of pure existence, consciousness and bliss sat-chit-ananda; and abides in the heart-lotus- hridaya-kamala – of the devotee.

But, because of the limitations of the human mind the worship of Brahman –without form, nishkala, is beyond the capability of us who live ordinary lives. The human mind finds it easier to deal with forms, shapes and attributes than with the formless absolute.

And therefore, when an icon is properly installed and consecrated; and it is worshiped with love and reverence, a sense of devotion arises from within and envelops the mind and heart of the worshiper. By constant attention to the icon, by seeing it again and again and by offering it various services of devotional worship, icon that is beautiful will engage the mind and delight the heart of the devotee. Enlivened by loving worship, devotion, and absolute surrender (parapatti) , the icon will  no longer be  just a symbol. The icon invested with love and devotion will be transformed into a true divine manifestation. And, its worship ensures our good here (aihika) and also our ultimate good or emancipation (amusmika).

The archa with devotion is therefore the best form of worship. And, Archa is dearer to Vishnu.

73.4. That is the reason, though the nishkala aspect is the ultimate, the worship of Vishnu-icon (samurtha-archana) with devotion is recommended as the best way for all, especially for those involved in the transactional world. Yet, the devotee must progressively move from gross sthula towards the subtle sukshma.

74.1. Vishnu’s visista (aspected) nature becomes manifest when the devotees churn him within their hearts by contemplation and devotion. It is like igniting fire by churning the wood. And, like sparks that fly from the burning fire, Vishnu shines forth in varieties of forms. He appears variously, to satisfy the aspirations of the devotee. Vishnu who is all-pervasive now becomes manifest in all his splendour. This is the Sakala aspect of Vishnu. The devotees must visualize, invoke and worship his divine form (divya mangala vigraha).

74.2. When Vishnu is visualized as a worship-worthy icon, he usually is imagined in a human form with distinguishable features (sakala). Vishnu’s form, seen in mind’s eye, for contemplation (dhyana) and worship (archa) is four armed, carrying shanka, chakra, gadha and padma. His countenance is beatific radiating peace and joy (saumya), delight to behold soumya-priya-darshana, his complexion is rosy pink wearing golden lustrous garment (pitambara). To meditate upon a beautiful image of Vishnu with a delightful smiling countenance and graceful looks is the greatest blessing.

75.1. Sreenivasa-makhin in his Lakshmi-vishistadvaita-bhashya, explains that Vishnu the highest Reality (eka eva para-tattvah) is distinguished by Lakshmi (Lakshmi-visista-Narayanah). Isvara associated with Lakshmi (Lakshmi-visita-isvara-tattvam) is Vishnu. 

 Lakshmi (Sri) is not as an independent reality (tattva) but is an aspect that is inseparable from Vishnu (Srisa or Narayana), like moon and moonlight. Vishnu’s power (maya) and splendour is Sri (Lakshmi); and, she is mula-prakrti the original source of energy and power (shakthi) that enlivens all existence. She is the cause of all actions by all beings.

75.2. Vishnu is Purusha and Lakshmi is Prakrti; the whole of existence proceeds from the union of the two. And, Purusha abiding in Prakrti experiences the qualities that result from Prakrti.   The Vaikhanasa, therefore, calls its ideology as Lakshmi-visita-advaita (the advaita, non-duality); and its   doctrine of Isvara associated with Lakshmi as Lakshmi visita isvara tattvam.

[The Lakshmi-Visita-advaita varies significantly from the philosophical and religious positions taken by Sri Ramanuja in his Sri Bhashya.]

75.3. As said; Lakshmi is inseparable from Vishnu. The non-duality (advaita) refers to the unity of Vishnu with Lakshmi. The Ultimate Reality is Vishnu with Sri. Those devoted to him are Vaishnavas.  The sakala aspect is the excellent form of Vishnu in association with Lakshmi (Sri) who is Prakrti the shakthi of Vishnu. For the purpose of devotion and worship, the sakala aspect is brilliant. For, in his sakala form, Vishnu responds most gracefully to devotional worship and contemplation.

76.1. Sreenivasa-makhin explains that in the Pranava (Om-kara), O-kara represents Vishnu; U—Kara, Lakshmi and Ma-kara, the devotee. The Om-kara binds the three together. Lakshmi (U-kara) bridges the transcendental Narayana the Supreme Self and the individual soul (pratyagatma). In other words, Lakshmi leads the devotee to the grace of Narayana.

76.2. If Vishnu (purusha) grants release from the phenomenal fetters (Mukthi), Lakshmi (Prakrti) presides over bhukthi  the fulfillment of normal aspirations in one’s life. The two must be worshiped together.

76.3. Therefore, the worship of Narayana alone or the worship of Lakshmi separately is not suggested. The proper worship is the worship of Narayana with Sri or Lakshmi as his aspect (visista).

77.1. Further, the Vaikhanasas evolved the theory of the five aspects (swarupas):  of Godhead: Vishnu as sarva vyapin, the one who pervades all existence and in whom everything resides; as Purusha the pure consciousness, the principle of life; as Satya, that which sustains the universe; as Acyuta the time-invariant aspect of all matter; and, as Aniruddha the ultimate constituent of all existence.

[If Vishnu is considered as the primary deity Adi-murti, then the four aspects are regarded as components of that single unit. This is the notion of chatur-murti.  If on the other hand, Vishnu is also counted along with the other four, then we have the pancha-murti concept. But, the first four forms of icons, chatur-murti, are regarded important.]

77.2..According to Vaikhanasa ideology, the four aspects of Vishnu : Purusha, Satya ,Achyuta and Aniruddha – are the four stages of emanations of Vishnu. In this scheme; Purusha is identified with Dharma (virtue); Satya with Jnana (wisdom); Acchuta with Aishvarya (sovereignty); and Aniruddha with vairagya (dispassion).

77.3. In the Vaikhanasa temple layout, the four aspects of Vishnu are visualized as four deities located around the main icon of Vishnu: Purusha to the East; Satya to the South; Acchuta to the West; and, Aniruddha to the North (pragadi chatur – dikshu).

77.4. The four virtues or planes of Vishnu are also regarded the four quarters (pada) of Brahman: aamoda, pramoda, sammoda and  vaikuntaloka  (sayujya)  . The highest of which is parama pada, Vaikunta the abode of Vishnu (Vishnod paramam padam).

[The Vaikhanasa regard the icon worship as the royal way for achieving emancipation from the worldly confines; and for leading the individual to Vishnu’s grace. Its faith is that when the individual jiva that frees itself from the fetters of the transactional world enters into the sphere of Vishnu vishnuloka through four successive stages; each stage being designated a plane of Vishnu-experience Vaishnava-ananda.

The first stage is aamoda where the jiva experiences the pleasure of residing in the same plane as the Godhead is Vishnu (saalokya)- associated with Aniruddha.

The next stage is pramoda where the jiva experiences the great delight of residing in proximity to with the Godhead Maha-vishnu (saamipya)-associated with Acchyuta.

The stage higher than that is saamoda where the jiva experiences the joy of obtaining the same form as the Godhead sadaa-Vishnu (sa-rupya) –associated with Satya.

The highest plane is vaikunta loka where the individual jiva experiences the supreme joy of union with the Godhead Vyapi-narayana (sayujya) – associated with Purusha.]

78.1. In the Vaikhanasa temple, the immovable (Dhruva-bimba or dhruva-bera) main idol that is installed in the sanctum and to which main worship is offered (archa-murti)   represents the primary aspect of the deity known as Vishnu  (Vishnu-tattva). The other images in the temple which are worshiped each day during the ritual sequences are but the variations of the original icon (adi-murti).

These other forms are emanations of the main idol, in successive stages. And, within the temple complex, each form is accorded a specific location; successively away from the Dhruva bera.

78.2. Just as the Vishnu of Rig-Veda takes three strides (trini pada vi-chakrama Vishnuh), the main idol (Dhruva – bera) installed in the temple too takes three forms which are represented by Kautuka-beraSnapana-bera and Utsava-bera.

The Kautuka-bera (usually made of gems, stone, copper, silver, gold or wood and about 1/3 to 5/9 the size of the Dhruva-bera)receives all the daily worship(nitya-archana); 

The Snapana-bera (usually made of metal and smaller than Kautuka receives ceremonial bath (abhisheka)  and the occasional ritual- worship sequences(naimitta-archana); and,

The Utsava-bera (always made of metal) is for festive occasions and for taking out in processions .

To this, another icon is added . This is Bali-bera (-always made of shiny metal) taken out , daily ,  around the central shrine when  food offerings are made to Indra and other devas, as well as to  Jaya and Vijaya the doorkeepers of the Lord ; and to all the elements.

78.3. And, on occasions when a movable icon is used for daily worship, special rituals, and processions and for food-offering, it is known as Bhoga-bera.

These five forms together make Pancha bera or Pancha murti.

78.4. And again it is said, Purusha is symbolized by Kautuka bera; Satya by Utsava bera; Acchuta by Snapana bera; and Aniruddha by Bali bera.

78.5. To put these together in a combined form:

The main idol (Dhruva-bera) which is immovable represents Vishnu (Vishnu-tattva).

Purusha symbolized by Kautuka-bera is an emanation of the Dhruva-beraKautuka-bera is next in importance, and is an exact replica of the Dhruva-bimba. it is placed in the sanctum very close to Dhruva bera.

Satya symbolized by Utsava-bera (processional deity) emanates from Purusha represented Kautuka-bera. And, Utsava-bera is placed in the next pavilion outside the sanctum.

Achyuta symbolized by Snapana-bera emanates from Satya represented by Utsava-beraSnapana-bera receives Abhisheka, the ceremonial bath; and, it is placed outside the sanctum in snapana-mantapam enclosure.

Aniruddhda symbolized by Bali-bera emanates from Achyuta represented by Snapana-bera. The food offerings are submitted to Balibera. And, it is placed farthest from the Dhruva-bhera residing in the sanctum.

These different icons are not viewed as separate or independent deities; but are understood as emanations from the original icon, Dhruva–bimba.


79.1. The symbolisms associated with the four murtis (chatur-murti) are many; and are interesting. As said earlier; the four are said to compare with the strides taken by Vishnu/Trivikrama.  The main icon represents Vishnu who is all-pervasive, but, does not move about. When the worship sequences are conducted, the spirit (tejas) of the main idol moves into the Kautuka,-bera, which rests on the worship pedestal (archa-pitha).

 This is the first stride of Vishnu.Again, at the time of offering ritual bath, the Tejas of the main idol moves into the Snapana-bera which is placed in the bathing-enclosure (snapana-mantapa).

This is the second stride taken by Vishnu.

And, the third stride is that when the Utsava-bera is taken out in processions. This is when the tejas of the Main idol reaches out to all.

79.2. In Marichi’s Vimana-archa-kalpa the five forms, five types of icons, the pancha-murti (when Vishnu is also counted along with the other four forms) are compared to five types of Vedic sacred fires (pancha-agni): garhapatya; ahavaniya; dakshinAgni; anvaharya; and sabhya. These in turn are compared to the primary elements (earth, water, fire, air, and space). And, the comparison is extended to five vital currents (prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana).

79.3. Further it is explained; the Vaikhanasa worship-tradition retained the concept of Pancha-Agni, but transformed them into five representations of Vishnu (pancha –murthi): Vishnu, Purusha, Satya, Achyuta and Aniruddha. And, that again was rendered into five types of temple deities as pancha-beraDhruva, Kautuka, Snapana, Utsava and Bali.

[The Vaikhanasa concept of five forms of Godhead parallels with that of Pancharatara which speaks of: Para, Vyuha, Vibhava, Antaryamin and Archa. Of these:

Para is the absolute form, the cause of all existence and it is beyond intellect.

Vyuha are the emanations from Para for sustaining creation.

The Vyuha, in turn, assumes five worship-worthy forms: Vishnu, Purusha, Satya, Achyuta and Aniruddha.

Vibhava represent the Avatars for destroying the evil, uplifting the virtuous and maintain balance in the world. 

Antaryamin is the inbeing who resides as jiva in all creatures.

And, Archa is the most easily accessible form; the form which protects the devotees and eliminates their sorrows. This is the form that is worshiped in the temples.]

Vaikhanasa –Temple context

Srinivasa PerumaL Moolavar

80.1. The earliest Vaikhanasas are projected as a group of hermits affiliated to Krishna Yajurveda – Taittiriya Shakha, having their own Kalpa-sutra and deeply devoted to worship of Vishnu. They are not referred to as professional temple-priests. And, of course, there is no mention of temples either. But, by about the ninth century (during the time of Raja Raja Chola) they are largely identified as a community of temple priests. Thereafter, they gain prominence not only as ritual-specialists who worship Vishnu on behalf of others but also as administrators of temples and managers of its estates.

80.2. But, the history of the Vaikhanasas during the intervening period (that is, between the time of Kalpa sutra, before 3rd or 4th century, and the time of the inscriptions) is rather hazy. Though the Vaikhanas texts of the later period claim that they derive their   authority from the Kalpa-sutra and also make frequent references to Vedic passages, they are mostly temple ritual-manuals elaborating upon details of worship sequences carried out in temples.

80.3. And, it is not clear, how the followers of a Vedic branch rooted in Vedic rituals turned into a community of temple priests.

81.1. After they were established as temple priests, the Vaikhanasas produced many texts on temple –rituals as also prescribed domestic rituals for governing the conduct of their followers. Through these texts and ritual practices they aimed to distinguish themselves from other ritual traditions as also from other Vaishnavas.

81.2. The Vaikhanasas make a clear distinction between the worship carried out at home (griha-archana)  and the worship carried out as a priest at a temple (alaya-archana)  for which he gets paid. The worship at home performed dutifully is motivated by desire for spiritual attainments (Sakshepa); and it is for the upliftment of self (atmartha).

And, on the other hand, while he carries out worship at the temple, as a priest, he is not seeking spiritual benefits for self, but is only discharging his duty (nirakshepa).Here, he conveys the prayers of the worshipping devotees to the god installed at the temple; and offers worship on their behalf (parartha).  It is mainly for the fulfilment of the desires of those who pray at the temple.

This distinction seems to have come about following the proliferation of temples and with the advent of temple-worship-culture.  Rig Vedic culture was centred on home and worship at home. And, the worship at temple appears to have come as an of the  the practice of worship at home. The worship of Vishnu installed at the temple was regarded  as an act of devotion and also as duty.

The Vaikhanasa Grihya Sutra system of Vishnu worship at home closely resembles the worship-practices described in the Bodhayana Grihya Sutra, Apastamba Mantra Prashna, and the Mantra Brahmana of the Samaveda. Further, the worship-system of Vishnu installed at the temple follows the worship-practices carried out at home.

This, again, suggests that the earliest temple worship emerged within the Vedic tradition as a mirror of the basic household system, even as the Srauta (temple) and Grihya (household) systems mirror each other in the older Vedic traditions.

As regards the Mantras chanted during the worship; the Vaikhanasa mantra-prashna, contains several accented mantras of clearly Vedic nature that are found in no other Yajush Samhita.

81.3. The Vaikhanasa treat the worship at home (atmartha) as more important than worship at the temple. A Vaikhanasa-priest is therefore required to worship the deities at his home, before he sets out to temple to conduct worship there (parartha) as a priest   employed by the temple management.

81.4. There is an alternate explanation offered to the term parartha. It is said; the term ‘parartha’ which ordinarily means worship on behalf of others, truly is ‘parartha-yajna’, that which is concerned with what is ‘superior’ or ‘excellent’; and that which prays for the well-being of the entire community. Worshiping divine images installed in temples is like the sun which illumines the entire world, while worship at home is like a domestic lamp. And, parartha worship leads to final liberation.

82.1. Having said all that, it also needs to be mentioned that the status of temple-priests in the Indian context has always been an uncomfortable issue and a dicey proposition. The standing of a temple priest is high insofar as he acts as an intermediary between devotees and god; and offers worship on behalf of the devotees. 

However, the social rank of the priestly class among orthodox   Brahmins is not high. That is perhaps because, their practice of accepting payment for worship god is rather looked down; and is not considered virtuous. Further, their practice of receiving gifts which are ritually ‘polluting’ is also not viewed with favour. The implication is that, while the priest accepts the gifts he also takes upon himself the impurities of the giver.

82.2. Traditionally, a person who receives remuneration for worshipping a deity is not held in high esteem. The old texts sneer at a person “displaying icons to eke out a living.” That perhaps led to a sort of social prejudices and discriminations among the priestly class. But, with the change of times, with the social and economic pressures and with a dire need to earn a living, a distinct class of temple-priests, naturally, crystallized into a close knit in-group with its own ethos and attitudes.

82.3. Devalaka is a term used in the old texts as a derogatory reference to a person who is ‘desirous of money’, and who is hired to perform worship. Sreenivasa –makhin argues vigorously why the term ‘Devalaka’ should not be slapped on the hereditary Vaikhanasa temple priests. He draws a distinction between a Devalaka and an Archaka who is guided by Vaikhanasa- Grihya sutra and Dharma-sutra /  Smarta-sutra.

82.4. Sreenivasa –makhin does not question the traditional definition of Devalaka and its negative import. But, he provides an alternate interpretation to the term to mean:  ‘one who carries out acts not prescribed by Sruti or Smrti; or acts in a way contrary to their spirit’. Following that interpretation, he excludes Vaikhanasas from the scope of the term Devalaka, for the reason that Vaikhanasas are indeed the ‘servants of god’ and are born for the sole purpose of offering worship to Vishnu.  Their loving devotion (bhakthi) towards Vishnu is free from pride or greed. He worships Vishnu according to Vedic traditions; and, is not motivated or distracted by material or personal desires. These indeed are the prime characteristics of a true Vaikhanasa–Archaka.

When a Vaikhanasa priest accepts remuneration for his priestly duties, it is just incidental to his main purpose of his life. And, therefore, a Vaikhanasa priest worshipping Vishnu in temple and accepting remuneration there for, cannot in any manner be equated with  a Devalaka (Dasha-vidha-hetu-nirupanam; 65.5-6).

82.5. Further, Sreenivasa–makhin explains: Vaikhanasa, a born-priest (janmathah – archaka) is guided by Vaikhanasa- Grihya sutra and Dharma –sutra, which are within the orthodox Vedic culture. He undergoes several samskaras (life-cycle-rituals) , follows the Vedic mode of performing yaja-yagnas , and tends to sacred-fires such as aupasana-agni at home and observes sandhya, ishti, charu-homa etc,  all through his life. He dedicates his life to worship of Vishnu. The Vaikhanasa Archaka serves in a temple not because it is a means of livelihood, but, primarily because he regards it as the fulfilment of the very purpose of his existence.

The worship of Vishnu, for him is more than mere duty (as detailed in Tatparya Chintamani of Sreenivasa-makhin while commenting upon Vaikhanasa- Grihya –sutra: 3.14).

82.6. He remarked; an Archaka need not be a scholar. More than book learning, what is more important is his devotion to the deity of his worship and his commitment to his calling. An Archaka renders a sacred service to the society as a mediator between the god and the worshipping devotee. He deserves respect and good care.

82.7. The guidelines that Vaikhanasas texts frequently refer to are neither static nor closed systems. The Vaikhanasa tradition like any other tradition did absorb innovations and modifications that arose in the context of changing times and circumstances. The causes for change may have arisen either from within the system or from outside events.

And, therefore, whatever might have been the past understanding, one should recognize that in the present-day the temples are public places of worship and the priests are professionals trained and specialized in their discipline; and they do constitute an important and a legitimate dimension of the temple-culture.

There is absolutely no justification for looking down upon the priestly class or their profession, for the mere reason they now receive remuneration.

83.1. The Vaikhanasa community is regarded orthodox for yet another reason.  They consider the life of the householder as the best among the four stages of life. Because, it is the householder that supports, sustains and carries forward the life and existence of the society. There is not much prominence for a Yati or a Sanyasi in this scheme of things. They decry a person seeking salvation for himself without discharging his duties, responsibilities and debts to his family, to his guru and to his society.

83.2. The Vaikhanasa worship is considered more Vedic, the various and mantras / suktams from the Vedas are in Sanskrit and there is a greater emphasis on details of worship rituals and yajnas. Depending on the ritual being performed, various panca suktam or sets of five suktams are recited.

For instance; the pancha-suktams could be Vishnu, Purusha, Narayana, Sri and Bhu suktams; or, Vishnu, Nrusimha, Sri, Bhu and Ekakshara suktams.

There is also another set of ten suktas (dahsa suktam): Rudra, Dhruva, Durga, Ratri, Saraswatam, Viswajit, Purusha, Aghamarshana, Godana and Atma suktams.

The set of fifteen suktas (pancha-sutams + dasha suktams) together make ‘Panca dasha suktam’.

Among these suktas, the Atma sukta (SrI Vaikhanasa Mantra Prasna, 5.120.1-12 ) is particularly unique to the Vaikhanasa paddathi of worship


84.1. Although the Vaikhanasa try to distance themselves from Tantra, there are many ritual sequences in their worship practices that derive inspiration from Tantric ideology.  In fact, the worship sequences conducted at the temple are a combination of several elements: Vedic practices together with its mantra; Tantra ideology and its techniques; Agama concept of divinity and its elaborate (Upachara) worship sequences; and the popular festivities (janapada) and processions (Utasava) where the entire community joins in celebration, singing, dancing, playacting, colourful lighting, spectacular fireworks, offerings of various kinds etc.

84.2. The tantra, practiced within the privacy of the sanctum, says that the communication with the divine is not possible unless the worshiper identifies himself with the worshiped (sakshath vishnu rupi). It is said; one cannot truly worship god unless one realizes the divinity within (naadevo bhutva devam pujayet).

The mantra that is recited by the Vaikhanasa priest, in that context, is the famous Atma-sukta. This a significant step based in the Tantra ideology, where the worshiper regards his body as a Yantra in which the deity resides; and as belonging to the deity (tasyaivaham ). He then invokes divine presence in himself, evoking his identity with Vishnu, and transfers the Vishnu in him to the idol to be worshiped. This is a deeply intimate Tantric process that is special to the Vaikhanasa mode of worship.

The priest conducts these symbolic sequences in the privacy of the sanctum, with the notion that he and Vishnu are indeed one; and that he as the priest has an enduring divine presence within him.

84.3. As a prelude to worship per se, the worshiper literally breathes life into the deity. The idol is transformed to divinity itself. The worshiper does this by extracting the power or the luster (tejas) of the divinity residing in his heart by means of inhalations and exhalations (ucchvasa and nishvasa), and investing it upon the deity.

At the same time, the worshiper draws the presence of the Highest Spiritual being (paramatma) into his own individual being (jiva).This process symbolizes invoking (avahana)the divine residing in ones heart, extracting it (bahir agatya) and transferring it with ease (sukham thistathu) in to the deity in front (asmin bimbe).The transferred Tejas stays in the deity until the worship is formally concluded.

84.4. Invoking the deity (avahana) through reciting the Atma –sukta, arousing the divinity within him by the ritual sequence of nyasa (placement of divine presence in the structure of the icon as also in the worshiper) is a very important worship ritual based in Tantra ideology. 

Nyasas collectively called bhagavad-aaradhana adhikara-yogyata-siddhi confer on the worshiper the  competence to worship the deity.

The core Brahma-nyasa comprises of Anga-nyasa, Bija-dhyana, Kara-nyasa and Brahma-aikvatvam (seeking identity with Brahman).

The Anga-nyasa involves invoking the presence of Vishnu in various parts of the worshiper’s body (Hridaya; Shiras; Shikha; Kavaca; Astra; and, Netra).

The Bija-dhyana is meditating upon the Adi-Bija (the primordial sound). It is said; the A-kara-bija should be surrounded by resounding OMs.

Then the worshiper performs the Kara-nyasa on his five fingers, for invoking the Devata-s: Abhuranya; Vidhi; Yajnam; Brahma; and, Indra.

Then he performs the Brahma-aikvatva-dhyana, meditating and visualizing the presence of the whole of the existence within himself by reciting the mantra:

Antar asminn ime Lokah; Antar Vishvam idam Jagat | Brahmaiva bhutanam jyestham tena ko arhati spardhitum ||

85.1. Atma-sukta is a collection of nine verses in tristubhchhandas (Vaikhanasa samhita: mantra prashna: 5.49; SrI Vaikhanasa Mantra Prashna, 5.120.1-12). It is unique to Vaikhanasa worship sequence. The hymn is called ‘Atma-sukta’ not only because it commences with the words “ātmātmā paramāntarātmā mahy-antarātmā yaś cātirātmā satano ‘ntarātmā vyāveṣṭi (the self of the self) ; but also because it concerns transforming the individual self into cosmic Self. Here, the meditation on Vishnu’s  nish-kala aspect is followed by a request to Vishnu to assume his sa-kala form within the idol so that the devotee may submit his worship.

The purpose of Atma-sukta is to invoke the presence of Vishnu who is the Purusha the Cosmic person, in the worshiper, and transfer that Tejas into the idol.  It is meant to enlarge the consciousness of the worshiper so that he may identify himself with the object of his worship in its cosmic aspect (sa-kala). The recitation of Atma-sukta is followed by the hymn Purusha

–sukta  (balam āsuraṃ yat satataṃ nihantā brahmā buddhir me gopa īśvara).

85.2. The worshiper, initially,   beseeches the deity and avers: ‘I am thine’ (tavevaham); and finally identifies himself with the deity: ‘I am you’ (tvamevaham) and says ‘we are never apart’.

85.3. Towards the end of the Atma-sukta the worshipper declares that in his pure   heart-lotus (vimalahrutpundarIka), the Yajna vedi (altar), sanctified by goddesses Savitri and Gayatri, enters (pravishta) Vishnu in his cosmic aspect (sakala) along with Lakshmi (sa-Lakshmi) in all his glory. May my virtuous merit (punya) provide Vishnu the space to reside.May he receive the worship offered (Kriyadhikaram)

SavitrI GayatrI maryada vedI |    hrutpundarIka vimale pravishta:  sakala: salakshmI: savibhutikango | yatsava punyam mayyadhishtanamastu || 8 ||

May the essence of all the gods reside in me; may the essence of all the great sages reside in me; may I become the personification of the fruits of all the austerities (tapo-murti) and of all the virtuous deeds (punya-murti).

savasham devanamatmaka: |  savasham muninamatmaka I  stapo murtiriha punyamurtirasan || 9 ||


86.1. A unique feature of Vaikhanasa temple construction is the erection of a Taruna-alaya. That is, before the construction of the main temple is undertaken a mini-sized temporary temple (termed as Taruna-alaya) is built for Vishnu on the construction site. The main temple to be constructed is termed as Bala-alaya.  The mini temple (Taruna-alaya) is intended to gather spiritual power while the construction is in progress.

86.2. Vimanarchana Kalpa ascribed to Sage Marichi says that the Taruna-alaya should be built in the north-east/north-west (Indra) direction of the main temple site in the same premises. The symbolic temple could a small one (say, within 100 s.ft in area).

Vaikhanasa-alaya-nirmana -vidhi   also recommends that a Taruna-alaya should be built first. And, if that requirement is satisfied then the auspicious Bala-alaya   which comes up is termed ‘samurtham’.  If on the contrary, the prescription is not followed, the Bala-alaya would be called ‘harakam’.

86.3. The basic idea of the Vaikhanasa faith is that when Vishnu is worshipped in a temple according to the Vaikhanasa scriptures , regularly, at least once each day, it will ensure the prosperity (sarva-sampathkari) of the whole world.

In the next part of the article let’s talk about the other major Vaishnava Agama viz, The Pancharatra; and also about its apparent differences from the Vaikhanasa.



Continued in Part Five


References and Sources

1. A History of Indian Literature: Epics and Sanskrit religious literature… By Jan Gonda

2. Vishnu’s children: Prenatal life-cycle rituals in South India By Ute Hüsken; Harrassowitz Verlag .  Wiesbaden (2009)

3. Sri Vaikhanasa Bhagavad Sastram by Shri Ramakrishna Deekshitulu

4. Agamas and the way of life  Dr. V. Varadachari, 1982. Agamas and South Indian Vaishnavism. Chapter X pages 407-426. 

5. Agama Kosha by Prof. SK Ramachandra Rao; Kalpataru Research Academy (1994)


Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Agama, Tantra


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27 responses to “Tantra – Agama – Part four – Vaikhanasa continued

  1. Buy Xanax

    March 31, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Your article features verified necessary to me. It’s extremely educational and you are clearly really experienced in this field.
    You get exposed my personal face to various views on this particular subject matter using intriquing, notable and solid articles.

  2. Luz Juvera

    July 31, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Your article gave me so much joy. Thank you for doing this, Lord Vishnu will give you infinite blessings.

    • sreenivasaraos

      August 1, 2013 at 12:42 am

      Thank you Dear Luz Juvera for the visit and the appreciation. Please do read the othe other articles too . Regards

  3. เต็นท์ผ้าใบ

    October 25, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Your mode of explaining all in this paragraph is really good, all be able to easily know it,
    Thanks a lot.

    • sreenivasaraos

      October 25, 2013 at 4:31 am

      Dear เต็นท์ผ้าใบ , thank you for the visit and for the appreciation.
      Please do read the other articles too.

  4. sreenivasaraos

    March 17, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Dear Sreenivasarao sir,

    I am extremely delighted to read these 4 articles on Vaikhansa. I do not have words to express my thanks to you. from the age of 6 i learnt from Sri Santhana Bhatachar swami about Vaikhanasam. I used to ask him lot of questions and I get excellent answers from him. Your article is just a summary of what i understood for years! I fully agree with facts in your article and the way it is written by you. Recently I have been trying to understand the doctrine of Vaikhanasa discipline. This article came in my way as amritha for a person dying in a thirsty and seeking just water! I have been trying to understand the first reference of Vishnu in Rig veda. I mean the very first time how Vishnu is expressed… I wonder struck with Vaishnava Homam slokas… I learnt from your article you are highly enlightened person. I would like to thank you and Sree. Ramakrishna Deeshithalu for this article. If you permit me, i can post the link in facebook for the benefit of others. Finally every Vaikhanasa has a Yogi inside! The true Vaikhanasa is an enlighten person! The sutra predicts that every one born in the linage also enlightened. This is because the path is already paved and the Karma is already written in the Garba itself!

    Best regards,
    Dr. D. Srinivasan

    • sreenivasaraos

      March 17, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Dear Dr. D. Srinivasan, You are most welcome to reach the articles to wider circle of readers.
      Thank you also for the comments and for agreeing with the contents. The appreciation coming from an erudite scholar well trained in Vaikhanasa philosophy and way of life is truly very re-assuring. I value your approval very highly.

      Earlier I posted a series of articles on Evolution of Vishnu .Please check :

      But, with the revision (downward) of Sulekha the fonts, alignment , spacing and the look of the articles have all changed for worse. I might not be easy to read. Yet ; please try.And also read the comments.

      I may have to post them again , as the Sulekha Editor does not allow Editing.


  5. uberstrike hack

    May 19, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Good day everybody!

    • sreenivasaraos

      May 30, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      Dear Uberstrike

      Thanks for the visit and Greetings

      Cheers and Regards

  6. Vijay

    September 25, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Dear Sreenivasarao, nice compilation of various aspects of Agamas and their relation to Vedas and Tantras. I went through all the articles in the series and found it interesting.

    I understand that, particularly the Vaikhanasa agama, suggest a kind of Advaita philosophy (though not exactly what Sri Sankara said) through its rites and how it is performed by the archaka in temples. Please clarify on this.

    Also, at the end, you have mentioned that this will be “continued in part five”. Am searching for it and unable to find. Please share the links for the rest of all the articles in this series, I dont want to miss any of them.

    Also, found the recognition from Pradhana Sthaneekam of Srinivasan sannidhi from Tirumalai in one of the comments. That is what remains etched in the heart of viewers ! No more words to greet.


    • sreenivasaraos

      September 25, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      Dear Shri Vijay

      Thanks for the visit and the observations.

      1. As you said; it is not quite Advaita. The Vaikhanasa outlook is between Abheda (Advaita) and Bhedha (Dvaita). It is Bheda-abhedha (Dvaitadvaita) – seeking unity while retaining identity. As I mentioned; the act of worship starts with the duality of the worshiper and the deity. The worshiper initially regards the idol, the most revered object, as separate from him/her. As the Sadhaka progresses, she/he realizes the essential unity with the deity. The Sadhaka is certain that the aim and the culmination of his/her worship practises is to attain the ‘ upasaka-upasya-abhedha-bhava’, the sublime state where the upasaka comes to identify her/himself with her/his upasya-devata. The worshiper, initially, beseeches the deity and avers: ‘I am thine’ (tavevaham); and finally identifies himself with the deity: ‘I am you’ (tvamevaham) ; and, says ‘we are never apart’. But, there is no complete merger – or non-difference (Abheda) .

      2. As regards Part Five – the Pancharatra, I posted a rather brief one on Sulekha. But, that article along with a few others completely vanished, perhaps because of some technical glitch. That is one of the reasons that I stopped posting on Sulekha; and opened my own website, just to preserve what was left. By around that time , my hard disk also crashed ; and, the MS Word copy of some of my articles were lost.
      I did not attempt again.

      However, I have written about Pancharatra doctrine in Parts three and four of my articles on Vishnu – Dwadashanamas. Please check Part Three as also the first introductory article (Part One).

      3. Yes; the Archakam at the sanctum of Sri Tirumala; and also some other ardent followers of Vaikhanasa have approved the articles. Appreciation coming from them is truly valuable. I understand portions of the articles are re-produced in the TTD Vedic University Magazine. It feels good.



      • Vijay

        September 27, 2016 at 4:49 pm

        Thanks for your gracious reply sir.

        I went through all the 4 articles in “Vishnu Dwaadashanaamas”. All are unique and convey very subtle and unknown information which only person with high patience like you, can go through the texts and references and convey in an unbiased manner.

        Apart from that 4 articles in the series, if there are any other article(s), let me know please.

        Thanks for your efforts once again. May god bless you with a healthy and prosperous life.


    • sreenivasaraos

      September 27, 2016 at 11:36 pm

      Dear Shri Vijay


      There are , of course , several others. You may check the subjects listed under Categories displayed in the border.

      Since you asked; you may start with the series on Varuna, Samkhya, Sanskrit , Sangita or Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar.


  7. Vaibhav

    November 10, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Dear Sir ,

    Where can i get the book – Vaikhanasa mantra samhita , Ive checked with the vedic university and its not available. Is it in sanskrit ?


  8. sreenivasaraos

    May 30, 2017 at 4:48 am

    Padma Raghavan / / 8 yrs ago

    Although I read your response some days ago, I am replying only now as I have some time. Sorry for the delay Sir.

    As you have stated all the vedas come from one eternal source. This is why I feel that it may be erroneous to sequence them as early or late. The very fact that many sections overlap may be a pointer to avoid this confusion of “dating” and might have been done deliberately by the compilers. The last paragraph of your reply gives many sources or texts for the nature of God. I feel all the statements are equally true, one does not cancel out the other.

    padma raghavan

    • sreenivasaraos

      May 30, 2017 at 4:50 am

      Dear padma raghavan , Thank you for reading the post. We all of us are beginners.

      The first question is interesting and a tough one too. I am not sure I know the right answer. Let me try

      Can we really sequence Vedas when we all accept that it was Veda Vyasa who compiled it?

      According to traditional belief, the Veda was only one and it was classified into parts at a later age. It is said, the Vedas were for a considerable period referred to as ‘trayi’ meaning a triad or a set of three. That classification was made, it is explained, in order to suit the requirements of those participating/conducting the yajna. The mantras recited by the ritviks called hotru in order to invite and invoke the deities were classified as Rig Veda; those mantras recited by the advaryu the priests who submit offerings to Agni and who actively conduct the yajna were classified into Yajur Veda; and those mantras sung by udgatru say at the time of Soma-yaga etc were classified into Sama Veda. There is however no reference to Vyasa in this context.

      The priest who supervises the yajna and ensures its proper conduct is designated the Brahma; and he of course had to be well acquitted with all the three divisions of the Veda. The Brahma was termed as the representative of the fourth division named Atharva Veda.

      There is a substantial overlap among the four Veda Samhitas .The source Book is the Rig Veda. Nearly about fifty percent of the mantras in Yajur Veda and thirty percent of the mantras in Atharva Veda are from Rig Veda. As regards Sama Veda, almost ninety percent of its mantras are from Rig Veda Samhita. The total number of all mantras in all the four divisions, including repetitions, is about twenty thousand.

      There was perhaps no single or central authority which decreed that the groups should be grouped in this manner. This arrangement has come down as a matter of tradition. But, the task of dividing the Vedic corpus into four divisions is ascribed to sage Vyasa (termed Veda Vyasa, meaning the arranger of the Veda texts). And, not much is known about this Vyasa; there is much debate surrounding his identity and whether Vyasa did actually undertake this task. There is also discussion on whether Vyasa was the name of a one person or whether it was a title shared by many across the generations.

      It is believed that four disciples of Vyasa (Paila, Vaishampayana, Jaimini and Sumantu) were associated with him in the task of re-arranging the Veda Books. (Vishnu Purana 3- 4-8,9)

      An interesting fall out of this arrangement is that the practice of conducting yaga , yajna and such other rituals pre-dates the composition of Rig Veda as it has come down to us. In other words, yajnas were being conducted by the Vedic people even prior to what is generally termed as the ‘Vedic Age’; and the relevant mantras were rearranged into Books at a much later age.

      As regards the question of chronology that you mentioned, it is hard to determine whether the rearranging of all the four Samhitas came about at the same time or whether the process was spread out in stages over a long period.. The traditional view is that all the four Vedas are equally ancient, since the majority of the mantras in all the four Vedas emanated from a common source.

      However, some attempts have been made to work out a time-frame/chronology; and, as always there are more than two opinions on that question too.

      Since Brahmana texts refer to Vedas as four and as being sacred, it is accepted that Samhitas preceded the Brahmanas.

      In the absence of external evidences, all scholars delved deep into Rig Veda Samhita and subjected its text to intense study and scrutiny from various angles, including grammar, etymology, language, style, usage of terms etc. Based on such studies, many scholars (mainly the western scholars) opine that the ten Books of the Rig Veda were compiled at different points of time. , The Rig Veda Books from number two to number seven (popularly termed as Family Books- please click here for details) were compiled in the first stage. That was followed by the Ninth Book and then the Tenth Book. And, what we know as the First Book was compiled last. Generally, when someone says “early ‘or ‘late’ Veda, you may assume they are referring to this sequence.

      The Indian scholars however argue that all the ten Books were compiled in one stage..They point out that the mantras across the books overlap; the mantras of the “early books” also appear in the “later books”. They surmise that the compilers might have started with simpler mantras and then moved on to more complicated ones. Well, of course, this too is disputed.

      In any case, all appear to agree that Rig Veda is the oldest Book; and has been carefully preserved.

      As regards your second question, let me admit I did not quite get it clearly. I presume it relates to the nature of God according to Rig Veda .Please correct me if I am wrong.

      Though Rig Veda mentions many deities, it does show a tendency to extol a God as the greatest among all the divine entities. It views God as the ultimate Reality. Rig-Veda regards the God as both the Impersonal and the Personal: The Nasadiya Sukta states that the Supreme Being is Un-manifest and Manifest. He is the Jagat_pati, the Lord of the Universe, of all beings. He is the sustainer and the protector. The Purusha-Sukta (Rig Veda 5.10.90) proclaims that this Universe is God. He is the cause of the world. He encompasses the whole cosmos and transcends it to infinity. He is the supreme and the solitary divinity. Yaska-charya says ‘Eka atma bahuda stuyate’; one Reality is addressed in many ways. Though Rig Veda basically follows Sagunopasana, it does contain seeds of monism.

      Thank you for asking.


  9. sreenivasaraos

    May 30, 2017 at 4:51 am

    Padma Raghavan / / 8 yrs ago

    Respected Sir

    Thank you so much of this magnificent article on Vishnu. As Vikram Narayan has said we could not have digested information from all the sources that you have mentioned.
    Just some thoughts and some questions that came to me:

    Many scholars have sequenced the Vedas as early or late and I suppose there is some evidence for that. I am ignorant as to their methods. Yet, the question that comes up is can we really sequence it when we all accept that it was Veda Vyasa who compiled it. That is he put the stanzas./verses/riks in a particular order, or he organized the material transmitted for centuries by earlier sages in a particular way. Is it possible to say that the codification and symbolism became more complex as time went on? The CORE IDEA that the ONE permeates and upholds everything remains the same through all the complex personifications leading to stories/puranas. The ONE is given names and attributes that we slowly construe as different deities Indra, Vishnu, Shiva or Agni as the case may be. Is this the reason why they are conflated or equated in different verses and the process changed again? Then, the “evolution” becomes only our way of understanding or misunderstanding, giving it a linear dimension in time. Like the story of the six blind men and the elephant who described the tail, trunk or leg of an elephant, we describe different deities – – – I may be totally off the mark, I dont know —-

    Thank you for your patient understanding of beginners like me

    With regards and best wishes

    Padma Raghavan

  10. sreenivasaraos

    May 30, 2017 at 4:52 am

    Dear Shri Sampath, that act of clipping a head was perhaps symbolic clipping of his inflated sense of ego.

    No Sir, I have not published anything in print. Over the years, I used to write something or other occassionally just to take my mind off the day-to-day work and the drudgery. I kept that aside. The thought of publishing those jottings never crossed my mind. When I sometimes relooked at them, I could recognize that I was not saying anything new or precious; and not many would be interested in the stuff. I reckoned the world would learn to live on even if those hastily written notes did not see daylight. I was often tempted to destroy the old heap, but used to hold back saying ‘let me look at it once more’.

    Some years back we shifted from Bombay; and I had to be away from Bombay at that time. When we later met in our home at Bangalore, my wife complained that she had a lot of trouble in getting the things packed; too many old and useless things. And she said she had to threw away many of those useless things including some old papers. When I heard that, it brought me a strange sort of relief.

    Now, I occasionally post something or the other when someone asks me a question; and, which, understandably, not many, including the ones that asked the question, care to read. A luminous star in the Sulekha-horizon once called a ‘guy who writes about the dead that do not contradict’. When I come to think of that I reckon it is a rather fair assessment. If you say you liked reading what I posted, that is because you are a very generous person.

    Please keep talking.


    • sreenivasaraos

      May 30, 2017 at 4:56 am

      DSampath / / 8 yrs ago DSampath
      is smbolic of the becoming aspect pf a human being
      siva is the being aspect of the humans..
      the being of vishnu personifies the bcoming …

      the bali..vamana incident talks about a very interseting human aspect of
      feeling small and feeling big..
      both are consisitent locations in the human psyche
      both dosowned and some confused mix is present..
      i am the mico and i am the macro….

      like the alice in the wonderland
      she had two mushrooms
      one when she ate
      she beacame big
      and the other made her small
      she kept one on the right and the other on the left
      she learnt that the left and the right judicial mix is the key to
      the right sizing..of humility and pride …

      the siva vishnu amalgamation
      in the form of mohini siva combine off spring ..iyyappa
      is the collective representaion of
      non differentition in the being and becoming…

      both the calls of human..
      i come form the saivite ttadition and to me the
      being processess of life takes predominance over the becoming aspects..
      thpugh there is a constant struggle..
      do you know of some who follow a form of combination of siva and vishnu….

      once i went througha personal process relating to
      (years back when
      i was with my guru who has mixed with the cosmos now)
      purusha sukhta
      i have tried to understand this
      purusha who offerred himself as a sacrifice
      if health permits plaese help me unedrstand this through your work
      and with your grace i may find a meaning in this experience…

      may god give you peace ,tranqulity and immense understanding of life…

  11. sreenivasaraos

    May 30, 2017 at 4:52 am

    Dear Shri Sampath, Your comment on ‘being and becoming’ was interesting.

    There are similarities and differences between Vishistadvaita and Kashmir Shaivism.

    In the latter, Shiva (in place of Narayana) is at the centre of the matrix of Being and Becoming – there is only one Being, Shiva, who is the nature and existence of all beings, the infinite light or prakasha of universal consciousness. The Shakti is not external or independent of Shiva –consciousness; it is like heat being one with fire. Shakti is also said to mirror the Shiva principle. The external world is a reflection of Shiva consciousness (Pratibimbavada).

    Shiva is Purusha, the underlying Self of the universe, from whom emanates the Prakriti-Shakti the manifest world; and into Shiva everything dissolves back.

    Among the differences, Trika is not crowded with the embodied representations of Shiva aspects (murtis). Trika also does not lay high emphasis on devotional worship of Shiva images, though it counts the path of Grace gained through total surrender to Sambu-Shiva as the third means.

    The other method it talks about is anavopaya, disciplining the ego or anava throughmeditative practices, or through saktopaya energizing the Chakras along the Kundalini path.

    Its premier path is pratyabighna recognizing what is already there, the most obvious, you are Shiva; shedding the inhibitions of the mind, ego etc that mislead to wrong identifications. Abhinavgupta says, there is nothing to recognize for that consciousness is already present.

    Thank you for the observation.


  12. sreenivasaraos

    May 30, 2017 at 4:53 am

    Dear Shri Sampath, Wow…Your comments say pithily more than the verbose post. Reg. Purusha, I have written few things about Narayana, Purusha and Purusha Sukta in the next part of the article. Kindly go through. I am not sure if all that makes sense. Regarding Shiva – Vishnu persuation, let me think about that.

    As regards what you said in the second tranche of your comments, I reckon I am greatly benefitted by this exercise. But for such prompting I lacked the need, motivation and the discipline to organize and put down my rambling thoughts on certain subjects. The awareness that someone is spending time, patience and enduring pain to read your post puts me on guard; I try to write in a readable manner, to present cogently; and also to check- cross check facts and references .Sometimes , comments ,observations , further queries do help greatly to expand or revise what I had written already.

    You have been too kind. I am just a clue-less old guy.

    The Benediction at the end was lovely. I cherish it. Thank you.

    May god give you peace, tranquility and immense understanding of life…

    Warm Regards

  13. sreenivasaraos

    May 30, 2017 at 4:54 am

    Vikram Narayan / / 8 yrs ago
    Dear Sir,

    It takes more than many life times to study all the scriptures which you have mentioned. I have never read any book which amalgamates all the information available and present an unbiased version, as you have done here. It gave immnse pleasure and happiness to read this literature.

    Kind Regards


    August 11, 2020 at 4:03 pm

    Respected Sir,
    Thank you so much for this content on “Vaikhanasa”. It fulfilled my long time curiosity on this subject.

    • sreenivasaraos

      August 12, 2020 at 1:30 am

      Dear Mohana

      Thank you for the visit ; and, for the appreciation

      I glad you found it useful

      Stay safe, healthy and happy


  15. siva prasad

    June 9, 2021 at 7:03 am

    Would anyone kindly tell me how to do venkateswara puja and its mantras according to vaikhanasa agama in home


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