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From: sampath kumar (
Date: Wed Mar 08 2000 - 10:47:01 PST

-- "T. R. Govindarajan" <>
> AdiYen has a question on AgamAs. What are
> pAncharAtra Agama and VaikAsana AgamA?
> Are there only these two Agamas? If these are not
> AgamAs, then what is the> correct classification?
> Some temples follow one Versus the other, some
> follow both. Who wrote these> Agamas?
> What are in there? Are these available in book form
> in simple style so that> adiYen
> can understand it with little knowledge?
> dAsan

SrimAn Govindarajan,
There are many scholarly books on "Agama-sAstrA"
published by TTD. You can refer to them. You can also
access for quick and easy reference some posts by
scholarly members on the bhakti-archives.

Just to get you started adiyen is giving you below a
very brief account of the 2 agamA-s you want to know
about. Adiyen is a mere student in these matters like
yourself, so please double-check with authoritative
sources whatever I am relating below:

In very simple terms, agamA-sAstra is knowledge,
sciece or doctrine dealing with ritual, iconography,
construction of temples, 'yantra-s' and so on.

Agamas are said to be found in the 'samhita' portions
of the Vedas and they are generically called

What is the 'samhita' portion of the vedas?

In each of the 4 vedas, Rg. Yajur, Sama and Atharvana
there are different "pATA-s" or "pATa-bhEdA-s" or
"pATAntharA-s". This is something very roughly like
what in Carnatic Music is called "pANi-s" or in North
Indian classical music is called a particular
"gharAna". Just as there are more "sangatis" to a
particular "kriti" in one particular "pANi" (Ariyakudi
pANi or Chembai "pANi") than in the other, so also
there are more "suktA-s" in some "pATA-s" of one Veda
than in the other Veda. Also there are differences in
the order of mantrA-s in one "pATA" and the other.

Each of these "pATA-s" is called a rescencion or
"sAkhA"... thus we have Rg "sAkhA", "yajur-shAka" etc.

Each "sAkhA" now has 3 parts called "samhita",
"brAhmana" and "Aranyaka".

What we call "veda-adhyAyana" or the chanting or study
of Vedas in common parlance refers normally to the
"samhita" part only. The "samhita" is a systematised
collection of Vedic thought and insights couched in
various forms. The "samhita" is thus the very basis of
a particular Vedic "sAkhA" or rescencion.

The Vedic 'samhita' is a very vast collections of
suktA-s and mantrA-s and deals with many vaster
subjects.Ritual, iconography, forms of worship and 
architecture etc.are only a fractional part of the
'samhitA-s". The "brAhmaNa" portion deals with the
rules of procedure for rituals and the interpretation
of mantrA in the samhita part. The Aranyaka deals
exclusively with metaphysical inquiry into the truths 
described in mantrA and ritual form by the samhita and
the brAhmaNa. 

So it is said that in each "samhita" one can find
"Agami-c" portions. There are thus many "AgamA-s"
variously dealing with the subjects of iconography,
the structure of worship and forms of rituals.

In the SriVaishnava tradition there are principally 2
'AgamA-s' which as you know are 'pAncharAtrA' and

Each of these 'agAmA-s' lays down very detailed
procedures for the design and construction of temples,
the way idols and icons should be fashioned, how
worship should be conducted in temples, what
'yantrA-s' (a kind of consecrated talisman) should be
placed where etc. 

Now each 'AgamA' has its adherents claiming
superiority over the other but really if you study
them carefully their agreements are said to be so
numerous that their differences are so very
insignificant by comparison. In any case both
'AgamA-s' have been accorded equal recognition by
principal AchAryA-s like Ramanuja and Desikan.  

Now one may ask, why we need to have these special
'agamA-s' to tell us how to build temples and idols?
After all modern architecture and metallurgy could
very well do the job for us. What is so sacred about
these "AgamA-s" that they are the only standards to
which our temples should measure up?  

We will deal with such questions in the next post
(please pardon my "long-windedness" and bear patiently
with adiyen) Thanks.

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