Towards a History of Saivasiddhanta



Start Date: Jan, 2010
Status: Ongoing

Project Details

Department Indology
Funding Agency(ies)

French Institute of Pondicherry

University Paris-III, France



Mondes Iranien et Indien (U.M.R. n°2578)

A Research team involving University Paris-III




Email ganesan AT ifpindia DOT org

Project Description


Saivasiddhanta is one of very influential Saiva sytems, which, since the first millennium, is a major feature of Indian religio-philosophical life, especially in Tamil Nadu. It is one of the most complete and strongest religious systems: even today, most of South Indian Siva temples follow Saivasiddhanta rules. Since its foundation, the French Institute of Pondicherry has been the leading institution in the study and publication of Saivasiddhanta texts. The scholars attached to the Institute are elaborating the patterns of the complex history of this main current of Saiva religion. Saivasiddhanta studies rely on a wide bilingual textual corpus:

  • Canonical texts in Sanskrit (28 main Agamas and numerous secondary texts or Upagamas) describing doctrine, religious practices - both public and private -, temple building, image making, etc.
  • Sanskrit philosophical treatises which elaborate the teachings of the Agamas.
  • Doctrinal treatises and adaptations in Tamil, of which Civajnanapotham is one of the main texts.
  • Puranas as well as holy legends (Sthalapurana-s) in Sanskrit, pertaining to various religious trends. These texts, with a far wider scope, nevertheless include important elements for the understanding of Saivasiddhanta ideas and history.

Material and Methods

IFP manuscripts collection is one of the most complete in the field of Saivasiddhanta texts, and thus provides the basic material for all projects dealing with it, the approach being philological, historical and anthropological.

Critical editions of unpublished canonical texts: Suksmagama

  • Sûksmâgama, another Saivasiddhanta main canonical text, offers a fairly complete description of temple rituals together with special ceremonies, ordeals of various types and festivals, with a special emphasis on ceremonies involving the Goddess. Its critical edition (already two volumes were published in 2009 and 2012, the third one planned for 2018) will enhance the place occupied by certain ancient features of the Agamic tradition in the domain of deities, mantras and rituals.
  • Historical survey of Saivasiddhanta in Tamil Nadu: Civajnanapotham is the first and the most commentated upon of the doctrinal treatises pertaining to Saivasiddhanta. It has been translated along with an up-to-now unpublished Sanskrit commentary (16th century). Pauskaragama, one of the canonical texts well known in Tamil Nadu, is critically edited (vol.I published in 2015) together with an hitherto unpublished Sanskrit commentary, by Jnanaprakasa, a 16th century Saiva teacher, who enlightens the continuity between canonical and later literature, especially in Tamil Nadu.
  • Study of Early Saivasiddhanta Sources: Some of the basic philosophical texts of the system were composed in Kashmir and other parts of north India. One such early text of authority is RATNATRA authored by SRIKANTHA in Kashmir in the 10th century. There is a detailed commentary written by Aghorasiva of south India in the 12th century. This research study accompanied by a critically edited text along with the commentary will be a very useful and important contribution in the domain  of Saivasiddhanta bringing to light some of the fundamental aspects of this system in its early period as found  in other parts of India.

Ongoing projects

External team members:

  • Marie-Luce BARAZER-BILLORET (Maître de Conférences, Université Paris III/Sorbonne nouvelle)

Main Outputs:

  • Two Śaiva teachers of the sixteenth century. Nigamajñāna I and his disciple Nigamajñāna II.

T. Ganesan, 2009, xviii, 274 p. (IFP - Publications Hors série n° 9).
Language: English. 600 Rs (26 €). ISBN: 978-81-8470-169-2.

This book is a complete analytical study of all the œuvres of Nigamajñāna I and his nephew-cum-disciple Nigamajñāna II. This study aims at bringing to limelight the great contributions made by these two teachers in the sixteenth century for the consolidation, elaboration and propagation of the Śaivasiddhānta religious system and philosophical doctrines.

For the first time the contents of all the available texts of these two Śaiva teachers in Sanskrit and Tamil, of which many are unpublished, are completely and critically analysed with a  view to fully bring out the richness of these texts in their totality and their value in the propagation of Śaivasiddhānta during one of the most crucial periods in Indian history.

Another monograph fully devoted to an analytical study of all the œuvres  of Sivagra Yogi, another great Saiva teacher of the 16th century who has composed important texts and commentaries is forthcoming in 2018.

Keywords: śaivasiddhānta, ritual, compilation, āgama