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Diptagama: Edition critique (Tome III).

Diptagama: Edition critique (Tome III). By Marie-Luce Barazer-Billoret, Bruno Dagens, and Vincent LefevrE, avec la collaboration de S. Sambandha sivacarya et la participation de Christele Barois. Collection Indologie, vol. 81.3. Pondichery: InstItut Francais de Pondichery, 2009. Pp. viii+701.

Two Saiva Teachers of the Sixteenth Century: Nigamajnana I and His Disciple Nigamajnana II. By T. Ganesan. IFP Publications Hors Serie, vol. 9. Pondichery: INSTITUT FRANCAIS DE PONDICHERY, 2009. Pp. xviii + 274.

These two volumes continue the distinguished and ever-growing publication series of the French Institute of Indology at Pondicherry in the field of South Indian Saiva studies. For over a half century now French and Indian scholars (with an occasional British director) have collaborated in an extraordinary project to collect, edit, publish, and translate the Sanskrit manuscripts of the Saiva Agamas and their ancillary works. This effort has resulted in a long list of critical editions of the Agamas and related texts, starting with the 1961 edition of the Rauravagama by N. R. Bhatt. It is appropriate that the concluding volume in this critical edition of the Diptagama be dedicated to Bhatt, who as Chief Pandit at the French Institute over many years was the pioneer most directly responsible for laying the groundwork on which this proliferation of studies rests.

One of the twenty-eight "root treatises" of the South Indian Saiva textual tradition, the Diptagama is a massive work. The lengthy third volume reviewed here covers forty-nine chapters, and brings to completion the full text of one hundred eleven chapters. (The first two volumes were reviewed in this journal in 2008, JAOS 128.1, pp. 158-59.) The editors have consulted more than forty manuscripts in their reconstruction of the Diptagama, and have come up with an edition that is as organized and authoritative as is possible, given the diversity of the text's manuscript corpus. They recognize that the ordering of chapters in this volume is not altogether satisfactory, and that some chapters would fit more suitably in the earlier treatments of pratistha that are contained in the previous volumes.

The most notable sustained topic in the third volume is the mahotsava, the "great festival" that is so distinctive of South Indian temple culture. The Diptagama devotes fifteen continuous chapters to the matter (chapters 79-93), and adds several more later on that may reflect new developments in festival practice subsequent to the initial redaction of the Agama. The discussion here constitutes one of the most extensive published treatments of this major topic, and will provide valuable primary source material for the historical study of temple festivals in South India. One of the editors, Marie-Luce Barazer-Billoret, wrote a groundbreaking 1999 dissertation on mahotsava ("La Grande Fete du temple d'apres les agarna Sivaites"), still unfortunately not published.

Since the reconstructed text of the Diptagama presented here apparently draws on different stages or moments in the development of the manuscript corpus rather than representing a single moment in the textual evolution, it is not possible to assign a single date to the work. Nevertheless, the editors devote a very interesting section of the introduction to making some highly educated guesses. Comparing the textual prescriptions in the Diptagama with the physical remains of South Indian temples and sculpture, and with inscriptional references to such matters as the role of the king in temple affairs and the performances of certain types of temple festivals, the editors conclude that much of the work here accords with historical evidence from the Cola period of the ninth through thirteenth centuries. An initial redaction of the text, they postulate, was not earlier than early Cola times. The text evidently grew with new additions reflecting new ritual developments at least through the twelfth century, and may well have entertained interpolations as a living text even into the Vijayanagar period.

The continued life of the Diptagama into Vijayanagar times reminds us that Saivism in South India has a long and complex history, and the second work under review here adds some useful material for tracing that history. By far the greatest attention in the study of South Indian Saivism up to now has been devoted to the earliest works, the Agamas themselves and the paddhatis of early Saiva authors like Somasambhu and Aghorasiva (of the eleventh and twelfth centuries). But T Ganesan's work on the two Nigamajnanas shows us that the sixteenth century was also particularly rich in the production of new Saiva Siddhanta works, a veritable "Saiva textual renewal," as he terms it. Ganesan postulates that this vigorous effort of Saivas in Tamilnad may have been prompted competitively by the support for Vaisnava institutions shown by Vijayanagar elites and by the "widespread popularity" of Advaita Vedanta.

Ganesan covers the works of two figures who lived and wrote in sixteenth century Cidam-baram during the reign of the Vijayanagar king Sadasiva: Nigamajnana I (also known in Tamil as Marainanacampantan) and his nephew and disciple Nigamajnana II. Both composed large numbers of works in both Tamil and Sanskrit, some thirty in all, including works on ritual matters relevant to both priests and initiated laity, Sthalapuranas proclaiming the greatness of special Saiva holy sites like Tiruvarur, and philosophical commentaries in the Saiva Siddhanta school of thought. Ganesan provides here a learned summary of the contents of all these works, most of which remain unpublished.

Of the two authors, Nigamajnana I appears to have written mostly in Tamil, and to have oriented himself towards the education of Tamil-speaking Saiva lay devotees. He treats such topics as daily worship in home shrines and special vows, matters of lay interest, with considerable detail and care. He also shows a strong interest, Ganesan observes, in harmonizing the Tamil devotional poetry of the nayanmar poet-saints, collected in the Tirumurai, with the ritual and philosophical traditions of the Sanskrit Agamas. Nigamajnana II, by contrast, wrote primarily in Sanskrit. He even wrote a Sanskrit commentary on the Tamil composition of his teacher, Nigamajnana I. His greatest contribution, however, rests with his pioneering work in developing comprehensive digests or compilations, drawing on selections from the Agamas and Puranas, dealing with topics such as daily worship (Atmarthapujapaddhati) and initiation (Diksadarsa). These were some of the first and most authoritative digests in Saiva Siddhanta.

Both the works reviewed here provide valuable contributions to our growing understanding of the rich, complicated religious literature of South Indian Saivism, which encompasses ritual, theology, devotional poetry, hagiographic treatments of persons and places, and much more. The complete critical edition of the Diptagama will stand as one of the most comprehensive Cola-period Agama treatments of topics such as temple architecture, iconography, and public temple rituals like pratistha and mahotsava. Ganesan's useful precis of the sixteenth-century works of two Saiva acaryas of Cidam-baram helps fill in the contours of later medieval religious developments in the tradition, so often overlooked by scholars who restrict their attention either to early forms or to modern manifestations. I honor the scholars of the French Institute for diligent research and pathbreaking publication in this area for over a half century now, and I hope other students of history, religious studies, and art history will make good use of the remarkable materials they keep making available to us.


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Author:Davis, Richard
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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