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Tolerance, Exclusivity, Inclusivity, and Persecution
in Indian Religion During the Early Mediaeval Period - Part Two

by Alexis Sanderson May, 2016

Mahakuta Temples

A Vishnu temple in nagara style on the left. The Mahakuta group of temples were consecrated by the Badami Chalukyas in the 6th-7th century time period in Mahakuta, Bagalkot district of Karnataka state, India.

Editor’s Note:

Alexis G. J. S. Sanderson is an Indologist and an Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College in the University of Oxford. After taking undergraduate degrees in Classics and Sanskrit at Balliol College from 1968 to 1971, he spent six years in Kashmir studying with the Śaiva scholar and guru Swami Lakshman Joo. From 1977 to 1992 he was University Lecturer in Sanskrit and a Fellow of Wolfson College. In 1992 he was elected to the Spalding Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics and became a Fellow of All Souls.

Sanderson is a scholar of Sanskrit and of Indian religions, especially of Shaivism and esoteric Śaiva Tantra. In his own words, "The understanding of Śaivism can only aspire to objectivity if it includes a sincere effort to see how things are in the subjective perception of its practitioners. One has to be able to enter into the spirit of their world, to be with them intimately, to see what they are saying and why they are saying it, to go beneath the surface of their texts. There has to be empathy."

This is the Chapter 1 from Tolerance, Exclusivity, Inclusivity, and Persecution in Indian Religion During the Early Mediaeval Period by Prof.Sanderson. To be continued.

Excerpts taken from In Honoris Causa: Essays in Honour of Aveek Sarkar, edited with a foreword by John Makinson (Allen Lane, 2015), pp. 155–224

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Let us now begin by looking at the extremes that reject or contradict this unity. Any claim that tolerance of religious diversity is at the heart of Hinduism must overlook the view of the Vaidikas, whose theoreticians flatly denied the validity of any religious practice that was undertaken on the authority of texts lying outside the Veda (vedabāhyāni), that is to say, outside the Vaidika scriptural corpus of Śruti and such secondary literature (Smṛti) as was accepted to derive from it. Thus in the ninth or tenth century Medhātithi[1] states in his erudite commentary on the Manusmṛti: [2]

So all those outside [the Veda], namely the worshippers of the Sun (bhojaka-), [3] the followers of the [Vaiṣṇava] Pañcarātra, the Jainas, the [Buddhist] deniers the Pāśupatas, and the rest, hold that their doctrines of the self (anātmavādi-) [4], have been authored by exceptional persons or deities who have had direct experience of the truth they teach. They do not claim that their religious practices derive [like ours] from the [eternal and unauthored (apauruṣeya-)] Veda; and indeed their teachings contain doctrines that directly contradict it.

Similarly, the seventh-century Mīmāṃsaka Kumārila declares:[5]

The texts that may not be drawn on, because they contradict the Veda and because we can detect their [base] motives, are, we are taught, [the following. Firstly they are] these well-known works of religion-cum-irreligion rejected by Vaidikas and accepted [as scriptures] by the Sāṃkhyas, the followers of the Yoga school, the Pāñcarātrika Vaiṣṇavas, the Pāśupatas,[6] the Buddhists, and the Jainas. These hide in the shadow cast by a screen of pious observance containing some elements of the Veda’s teaching; but their real purpose is to win social approval, wealth, veneration, and fame. They are contrary to the Veda and incoherent. The greed and other [vices of their authors] are manifest. They have been composed on the basis of arguments framed within the limits of [the means of non-transcendental knowledge, namely] sense-perception, inference, analogy, and presumption. They are perfumed with the fragrance of a handful of teachings congruent with Śruti and Smṛti, [advocating such virtues as] non-violence, truthfulness, self-control, generosity, and compassion; but [at the same time] they propagate teachings of a quite different nature, teachings that are little more than means of making a living, by demonstrating the occasional successes of a handful of spells and herbs able to counteract the effects of poison, to subject people, to drive them out, to drive them mad, and so forth. And [secondly they are] the works even more remote [from the Veda] (bāhyatarāṇi) that prescribe [observances] that are contaminated by [culturally alien] practices proper to barbarians (mlecchācāramiśra-), such as eating from a skull-bowl (kabhojana-) and wandering naked (nagnacaraṇa-).[7]

Concluding his argument he points out that greed and other such base urges (lobhādi) are a sufficient explanation of the source of all these traditions, and that they themselves make no claim to be Veda-based (vedamūlatvam). So, he says, it is these that are referred to by Manu when he speaks of followers of forbidden religious practices (pāṣaṇḍinaḥ) and rules that they should not be honoured even with speech: [8]

[The householder] should not honour even with speech those who follow forbidden religious practices,[9] those who practice professions forbidden to their caste, those who practice religion for profit, deceivers, those who reason [against the teachings of the Vedas], and pious hypocrites.


Vishnu - Birmingham Museum of Art

The context of this prohibition is the behaviour of householders towards uninvited guests (atithiḥ), the respectful feeding of whom is one of their cardinal duties. Commenting on this verse Medhātithi says that if a would-be recipient of food belonging to these prohibited categories arrives at the home, which in our present context means any follower of the Pañcarātra or of any one of the Śaiva systems, a Buddhist, or a Jaina,[10] he is not to be greeted respectfully, nor to receive the customary enquiries concerning his birth and learning, nor to be offered a seat and the rest. He may be fed, but only as one feeds untouchables and the like.[11]

This equation with untouchables is more than rhetorical. For other Smṛti passages tell us that even the sight of such persons is pollutant for the orthoprax, let alone physical contact:[12]

If he comes into physical contact with Buddhists, Pāśupatas, materialists, deniers [of life after death, the validity of the Veda, and the like], or brahmins engaged in improper employment, he should bathe fully clothed.


If he sees Jainas, Pāśupatas, Buddhists, Kāla[mukha]s, [Śākta] Kaulas, or peripatetic [mendicants] he should glance at the sun. If he has come into contact with any of them he should bathe fully clothed.

Likewise a verse from an unidentified Smṛti text cited with approval in the digest-like commentary on the Yājñavalkyasmṛti attributed to Aparāditya, the twelfth-century Śilāhāra ruler of North Konkan:[14]

If he sees Kāpālikas, Pāśupatas, Śaivas [of the Mantramārga], or Kārukas,[15] he should gaze at the sun [in order to purify himself]. If he has come into physical contact with them he should bathe.[16]

He comments:[17]

On the evidence of this further Smṛti [it is established that] the Śaivas and other [sectarians mentioned in it, that is to say] those who adhere to bodies of [non-Vaidika] scripture such as those proclaimed by Śiva (śaivādi ), are considered by those fully versed in the injunctions of the three Vedas to be as pollutant as the basest of untouchables (antyāvasāyivat)[18] if seen or touched.

It is clear from the discussion in which Aparāditya makes this point that for him, and no doubt for the Smṛti in question, the term Śaiva here refers to all branches of the Mantramārga, including the Siddhānta, in spite of the latter’s relatively innocuous, Veda-congruent observances. Nor was this vituperative rejection of all religious traditions other than the Vaidika confined to theory. For Manu goes so far as to exhort kings to put it into practice by expelling all followers of such religious systems from his kingdom:

[The ruler] should expel from his capital without delay any gamblers, newsmongers, men of violence, men adhering to non-Vaidika religious observances (pāṣaṇḍasthān), men engaged in occupations not in keeping with their caste, and publicans. For if these are present in the kingdom they are like thieves in disguise for the king. They constantly oppress his virtuous subjects with their deviant activities.[19]

For the Vaidikas, then, there certainly was no Hinduism as defined in our opening paragraph, since they looked with abhorrence on all systems, including the Vaiṣṇava Pañcarātra and the varieties of Śaivism, that deviated from their definition of orthopraxy; and, as we have seen, the Manusmṛti, far from tolerating these with indifference, urged the state to banish their adherents. Moreover, it enjoined the orthoprax to avoid dwelling in any place where they were numerous.[20]


Indian Lotus Man (Padmesh - Vishnu) - Walters collection 25258

It may be doubted that the Manusmṛti’s rule of exile was often if ever implemented; but the idea that it should be put into effect survived centuries during which the non-Vaidika systems flourished and Śaivism among them rose to become the dominant religion of the era.[21] For this survival is gently satirized in Kashmir around the turn of the ninth and tenth centuries in Jayanta’s play Āgamaḍambara (‘Much Ado About Religion’). There two Vaidikas – an officiant (ṛtvik) and an instructor (upādhyāyaḥ) – face the failure of the ultra-orthoprax camp to persuade the state to revert to a purely Vaidika utopia free of Śaivas, Pāñcarātrikas, Buddhists, and Jainas. The official protest of its champion, the Snātaka Saṃkarṣaṇa, fresh from his long training in the Veda, had met with initial success. The government of Kashmir had agreed to ban a particularly antinomian and subversive cult of the Kaula type known as the Black-Shawl Observance ( nīlāmbaravratam), a measure whose historicity is confirmed by another source.[22]

But this led to panic among the Śaivas in general, who felt that they too might be driven out. The status quo is restored by the king by summoning Saṃkarṣaṇa, finding him a wife, favouring him with the (white parasol and other) insignia of distinction (mānaiḥ),[23] a golden fillet for his head (paṭṭabandhena),[24] and the honorific Śrī- (śrīśabdena),[25] and putting him in charge of the Department for the Protection of Religion (dharmarakṣādhikāre niyuktaḥ) with authority throughout the kingdom. In this office he goes forthwith to the hermitage of the ascetic Bhaṭṭāraka Dharmaśiva, apparently the official representative of all the Śaiva groups in Kashmir, to reassure him that the Śaivas will not be further targetted. The officiant laments:

What a disaster! The way things have turned out is not at all what we envisaged. We imagined that all the religions outside the Veda would be suppressed and that in this state of affairs the result would be (vedabāhyasakalāgamatiraskāreṇa) that the whole kingdom would become our fiefdom (sarvam asmadbhogyam eva bhuvanaṃ bhaviṣyatīti cintitam). But the outcome is that the alien religions (bāhyāgamāḥ) are in precisely the same position as before (yathānyāsam eva). For [v. 4.1]:
These Śaivas, Pāśupatas, Pāñcarātrikas, Sāṃkhyas, Buddhists, Jainas, and the rest, are all enjoying exactly the same status as before. Damn the Snātaka [Saṃkarṣaṇa]’s useless erudition!

The Upādhyāya responds:

My friend, [the Snātaka] has now become the servant of the king, has he not? And the king is entirely devoted to Śiva (paramamāheśvaraḥ). So it is inevitable that [Samkarsana] should be directing all his thoughts to winning his favour. For [v. 4.2]:
In the presence of kings their servants habitually do nothing but parrot their commands and being greedy to enhance their positions they no more distinguish between what is good or bad than echoes.

The officiant agrees but asks how they can survive as Vaidikas in a society that under-values them:

It is indeed as you hold, my friend: it is a rare man that in disregard of his own interests will impartially restrict his thoughts to what is ordained by the Veda. But how are we to survive [here] when we can support ourselves only by purely Vaidika services such as performing sacrifices for others [in my case] and teaching the Veda [in yours]?

The Upādhyāya says:

My friend, we shall live out our future as we have our past, satisfied with nothing more than a mouthful of food and cloth to cover us.

The real world, it seems, no longer pays more than lip-service to the orthoprax Vaidika position. The non-Vaidika elements have become too strong to be suppressed, and the Vaidika camp is too weak, and impoverished, to lobby successfully to diminish their power. The king, Śaṇkaravarman, is after all a devotee of Śiva inclined to be indulgent towards all forms of established religion, [26] and his queen, Sugandhā, we are told, favours the Pāñcarātrikas, as does, according to report, one of the king’s functionaries.[27]


[1] On the probable date of Medhātithi see KANE 1930, p. 275.

[2] Manubhāsya, vol. 1, p. 57, ll. 5–6.

[3] The term bhojakaḥ denotes the Maga or Magabrāhmaṇa officiants of the Sūrya cult (Old Persian magu), descendants of Pahlavas who established kingdoms in Northwest India in the first century BC. It renders Middle Iranian *bōžak, ‘one who saves’ (SCHEFTELOWITZ 1933, pp. 305–306).

[4] I have emended the edition’s nirgranthānārthavāda to nirgranthānātmavādi, since anārthavāda yields no meaning, while anātmavādi ‘denier of the self’ yields a meaning fully apposite to the context, defining Buddhists as it does in terms of the doctrine that most starkly differentiates from them all other Indian religious traditions.

[5]Tantravārttika, vol. 1, pp. 114, ll. 20–115, l. 6, on 1.3.3–4.

[6] By the time of Kumārila, an approximate contemporary of the Buddhist Dharmakīrti, who was active sometime between c. 550 and 650, the Śaiva Mantramārga was well enough established to attract trenchant criticism from the latter. Its earliest scriptural texts go back to the fifth to sixth centuries, inscriptions recording the initiation of kings following its procedures are attested from the seventh onwards, and epigraphical evidence of its monastic institutions goes back to the late sixth (SANDERSON 2013b, pp. 235–236). It is extremely improbable, therefore, that Kumārila was familiar only with the Atimārga and not also with the Mantramārga. I am therefore inclined to think that he is using the term Pāśupata here to cover the Pāśupatas and all subsequent Śaiva developments up to his time, understanding it as meaning ‘one who follows what has been taught by Paśupati’, where Paśupati is to be understood simply as a synonym of Śiva (see, e.g., Nāmaliṅgānuśāsana 1.1.130–134). The same will apply to Medhātithi’s use of the term Pāśupata in my preceding citation. Both authors are perhaps using what they considered to be the properly Vaidika expression for the teachings of Śiva, following Mahābhārata 12.337.59ab: sāṃkhyaṃ yogaṃ pañcarātraṃ vedāḥ pāśupataṃ tathā.

[7] Here I propose that Kumārila wrote mlecchācāramiśrakabhojananagnacaraṇādi rather the edition’s readingmlecchācāramiśrakabhojananagnācaraṇa, and, as my translation shows, I analyse this compound asmlecchācāramiśrakabhojananagnacaraṇādi, taking ka in the meaning ‘human head’, ‘skull’ (syn. kapālam) (see, e.g.,Abhidhānaratnamālā 5.61). In this I am swayed by the testimony of a parallel discussion in Medhātithi, Manubhāsya on 2.6: syāt tādṛśī vedaśākhā yasyām ayaṃ narāsthipātrabhojananagnacaryādir upadiṭo bhavet, ‘There might well be a branch of the Veda [now defunct] which is such that in it such [practices] as eating from a vessel made from a human skull and wandering naked might have been prescribed’. JHĀ(1924) did not see the reference to the skull-bowl users here, dividing the compound as mlecchācāramiśrakabhojanaācaraṇa and translating it as follows: ‘absolutely repugnant practices fit for Mlecchas, such as the eating together of many persons, and the like’. Similarly KATAOKA 2011, pt 2, p. 351: ‘barbarian customs, i.e. the practice of eating together’. Evidently this ‘eating together’ renders Kumārila’s miśrakabhojana. I argue against this interpretation in detail in my forthcoming Śaivism and Brahmanism. Those who ate from a bowl fashioned from a human skull were the ascetics of the Lākula and Kāpālika traditions of the Atimārga and, in the Mantramārga and Kulamārga, persons engaged in the propitiation of Bhairava and/or Cāmuṇḍā/Kālī through the practice of the Kāpālika observance. On the three Mārgas (Ati-, Mantra, and Kula-) see SANDERSON 2014. Kumārila’s and Medhātithi’s ‘wandering naked’ (nagnacaraṇam, nagnacaryā) probably refers to the practice of wandering Jaina mendicant ascetics. See also Medhātithi on 4.30: ‘The pāṣaṇḍinaḥ are the red-robed, the naked wanderers, and others, who adopt the insignia [of religious observances] that are outside [the Veda]’ ( pāṣaṇḍino bāhyaliṅgino raktapaṭanagnacarakādayaḥ). The expression ‘red-robed’ (raktapaṭaḥ) is commonly used as a somewhat undignified term for Buddhists in non-Buddhist sources, as in Āgamaḍambara, prose before 1.17 (bho raktapaṭa) and 3.26 (raktapaṭocchiṣṭaṃ), and Śaṅkara, Brahmasūtrabhāsya on 2.2.35, and the pairing of Buddhists and Jainas is standard.

[8] Manusmrti 4.30.

[9] The term pāsaṇḍin, often misleadingly translated ‘heretic’, is defined as I have translated it here by Medhātithi’s gloss onpāsaṇḍam, from which pāsaṇḍin is formed by the addition of the possessive suffix, in his commentary on Manusmrti 1.118:pāsaṇḍam pratiṣiddhavratacaryā ‘pāsaṇḍam is to practice a forbidden religious observance’ and on 5.89: ś āstraparityāgena bāhyadarśanāśrayaṃ naraśiraḥkapālaraktāmbarādidhāraṇaṃ pāsaṇḍam ‘pāsaṇḍam is to turn one’s back on the teachings [of the Veda] and thereby to carry the skull of a human head, to wear red robes and the like, [practices] that are proper to religions outside [the Veda]’. The term ‘heretic’ is better reserved to denote professed followers of a religion whose views or practices reject or are seen as rejecting the established norms of that same religion. From the Vaidika point of view those it terms pāsaṇḍin are apostates rather than heretics, Vaidika observance being seen as the default and all other faiths as arising through its rejection.

[10] The South Indian Vaiṣṇava Yāmuna cites a text without attribution in his Āgamaprāmāṇya (p. 26, ll. 9–7) that rules on the authority of Smṛti that the term pāsaṇḍam covers the whole range of non-Vaidika systems: the Vaiṣṇava Pañcarātra, the Śaiva [Mantramārga], the Pāśupata, the Kāpālika, Buddhism, and Jainism.

[11] Manubhāsya on 4.30: ‘There is certainly no question of respectfully giving them a seat and so forth. Nor may one even speak to them, saying, for example, “Welcome. Please be seated here”. One is allowed to give them food [but only] as one would to untouchables and the like (śvapacādivat). Concerning this giving of food the venerable Kṛṣṇadvaipāyana has taught the following Smṛti: “One should not enquire concerning his birth or learning”.’

[12] The Ṣaṭtriṃśanmata quoted by Aparāditya, Yājñavalkyasmṛtiṭīkā, p. 923.

[13] An unnamed Smṛti text (smṛtyantaram) quoted by Aparāditya, Yājñavalkyasmrtitīkā, p. 923.

[14] There were two Aparādityas among the Śilāhāra kings of North Konkan. The earliest known inscription of Aparāditya I is dated in AD 1127 (CII 6:20), and his reign ended in 1148 (CII 6:62). Aparāditya II has dated inscriptions from 1184 to 1197 ( CII 6:30–32, 63). The last known inscription of his predecessor Mallikārjuna is dated in 1162 (CI 6:29) and the first known inscription of his successor Anantadeva II is dated in 1198 (CII 6:33). KANE has argued (1930, p. 334) that the great commentary on the Yājñavalkyasmṛti is more probably to be assigned to the first of these two Aparādityas on the grounds that the work is quoted in the Smṛticandrikā of Devaṇṇabhaṭṭa. This is because he dates that work c. 1200 (1930, p. 346) on the evidence that it cites Vijñāneśvara and is cited by Hemādri. This would not preclude Devaṇṇabhaṭṭa’s having known a work by Aparāditya II, but it would, he argues, leave uncomfortably little time for the work to have become well enough known to have been cited as an authority. This is less compelling than it seems, since Hemādri tells us that he wrote while he was a minister of Mahādeva, the Seüna king of Devagiri, who ruled from 1260 to 1271, as KANE himself agrees (1930, p. 357). There is therefore no good reason to date Devaṇṇabhaṭṭa as early as 1200 on the grounds that he is cited by Hemādri, and there is therefore no good reason to doubt that the Yājñavalkyasmṛtitīkā was by Aparāditya II solely because it was cited by Devaṇṇabhaṭṭa. However, that the author of that work was indeed Aparāditya I does find some support in a fact not noted by KANE, namely that the colophons of that work describe the author simply as the Śilāhāra king Śrīmad-Aparādityadeva, which is as we find Aparāditya I modestly identified in his inscriptions ( CII 6:20–22 [śrīmadaparādityadeva or śrī aparādityadeva]). Aparāditya II assumed the much grander title of Mahārājādhirāja (CII 6:32). A further point in favour of Aparāditya I is that the author of the commentary on theYājñavalkyasmṛti is uncompromising in his rejection of the non-Vaidika religion of the Pāñcarātrikas and Śaivas, whereas Aparāditya II, as we can see from inscriptions, had one Vyomaśiva/Vyomaśambhu, an initiated Saiddhāntika Śaiva officiant, as his chief minister (Mahāpradhāna/Mahāmātya), as did his immediate predecessor on the throne, Mallikārjuna (r. c. AD 1155–1170). See CII: 6:29, 30, and 32.

[15] The Kārukas of this passage are a group closely related to the Lākulas and sometimes take their place when the totality of Śaivas is intended, as here, through the listing of their four major types: Pāñcārthika Pāśupatas, Lākulas/Kālamukhas, Kāpālikas, and [Mantramārgic] Śaivas. Cf. Bhāskara on Brahmasūtra 2.3.37: tatra māheśvarāś catvāraḥ pāśupatāḥ śaivāḥ kāpālikāḥ kāṭhakasiddhāntinaś ceti; Vācaspatimiśra,Bhāmatī on Śaṅkara, Brahmasūtrabhāsya on 2.3.37: śaivāḥ pāśupatāḥ kāruṇikasiddhāntinaḥ kāpālikāś ceti. In these two passages the readings kāṭhakasiddhāntinaś andkāruṇikasiddhāntinaś yield no apposite sense and are both, I propose, corruptions of kārukasiddhāntinaś ‘followers of the Kāruka doctrine’ introduced by later Vaidika scholars unfamiliar with this somewhat obscure Śaiva tradition.

[16] Yājñavalkyasmṛtitīkā, p. 18. According to Viṣṇudharma 25.7, 25.11cd, and 25.29cd (quoted by Aparāditya, Yājñavalkyasmṛtitīkā, p. 171, ll. 18 and 29), purification in these cases requires the power of the Śucisad Mantra: ‘If the learned has spoken with [any of] these persons [following a forbidden religious practice] he should meditate on Viṣṇu Śuciṣad . . . If he has seen one he should utter [the Mantra] OṂ NAMAḤ ŚUCIṢAD and then glance at the sun . . . If he has come into physical contact with one the learned will be purified if he bathes while mentally reciting the Śuciṣad.’

[17] Yājñavalkyasmrtitīkā, p. 18.

[18] The term antyavasāyī, here rendered ‘the basest of untouchables’ but literally ‘one who makes his abode in the lowest [of places]’, is defined in the Manusmṛti as the cremation-ground-dwelling son of a Caṇḍāla man born to a Niṣāda woman, despised even by the other divisions of the excluded (bāhyānām api garhitam) (10.39). Bhāruci comments in his Manuśāstravivaraṇa: ‘Cremation-ground-dwelling means working and living therein. This being the case he should be recognized as even more sinful (pāpataraḥ) than the Caṇḍāla.

[19] Manusmṛti 9.225–6. In his commentary on this passage Bhāruci makes it clear that although Manu states only that they should be expelled from the capital (purāt), the implication is that they should be exiled from the whole kingdom: ‘He should expel them from the capital. It is implied that these should be expelled from the whole kingdom too (rāṣṭrād apy ete ’rthato nirvāsyāḥ), since the effect of their banishment from the kingdom [and the capital] is the same.’

[20] Manusmrti 4.61: ‘He should not live in any kingdom governed by Śūdras, in one full of people who neglect their religion, in one occupied by communities adhering to non-Vaidika religious observances (pāṣaṇḍigaṇākrānte), or in one beset by the lowest born.’ Medhātithi gives in clarification of the last the case of Balkh (bāhlīkāḥ) in ancient Bactria between the Hindu Kush and the Amu Darya (Oxus), which, he accurately reports, was beset by people of alien culture(s) (yathā bāhlīkā mlecchaiḥ).

[21] On the rise of Śaivism to dominance in early mediaeval India see SANDERSON 2009a.

[22] That the suppression of the followers of the Black-Shawl Observance was not the theatrical invention of Jayanta but a historical fact is attested by Jayanta himself in his philosophical masterpiece Nyāyamañjarī. For he writes there (vol. 1, p. 649, l. 4): ‘King Śaṅkaravarman, knowing the nature of [true] religion (dharmatattvajñaḥ), banned (nivārayām āsa) the Black-Shawl Observance, in which uninhibited couples would indulge in many [indecent] activities (-aniyatastripuṃsavihitabahuceṣṭam) wrapped in a single black shawl (asitaikapaṭanivīta em : amitaikapaṭanivīta Ed.), because he realized that it was without precedent ( apūrvam), having been invented (kalpitam) by some libertines.’ That this was a variety of Kaula Śākta-Śaivism is apparent from the account of it in the Āgamaḍambara, where it is clearly a cult involving unrestrained sexual indulgence and the drinking of intoxicating liquor, only meat among the Kaulas’ three M’s (madyam, māṃsaḥ, and maithunam; see Tantrāloka 29.97–100b, quoting the Yogasaṃcāra) failing to be mentioned here. It is confirmed by the account of the Śaiva scriptural canon quoted from the otherwise lost Śrīkaṇṭhīyasaṃhitā by Takṣakavarta in his Nityādisaṃgrahapaddhati, an account that was the locus classicus for the Kashmirians. For this includes a Nīlāmbara in its list of ‘eight Kaula[tantra]s’: nīlāmbaraṃ sutāraṃ ca sandhyā yoginidḍāmaram | svāyambhuvaṃ siddhamataṃ gaṇākhyaṃ khecarīmatam |aṣṭau kaulās tv amī khyātāh sadyaḥpratyayakārakāḥ (Nityādisaṃgrahapaddhati f. 10r13–14). Some of these, including Nīlāmbara, also appear in a list of Śaiva scriptures in the Kaula Kularatnoddyota f. 2r2: nīlāmbaraṃ ca tārākhyaṃ gaṇākhyaṃ khecarīmatam. This is not the only report of action against this cult. According to a story about its followers, the Nīlapaṭaprabandha, contained in the Puratānaprabandhasaṃgraha (p. 19) compiled by the Jaina scholar Jinavijaya Muni, King Bhoja, the famous Paramāra emperor who ruled from Dhārā in Mālava for most of the first half of the eleventh century (on his date see SANDERSON 2014, p. 16, fn. 61), heard about this cult from his daughter, who told him that she was going to join it. He then invited all of its adherents, forty-nine couples in all, to assemble in his presence on the pretext that he wished to become their devotee, executed all the men, and sent the women into exile. That they were Kaulas is evident from a verse that they recite in answer to Bhoja’s asking them whether they are happy: ‘There aren’t rivers flowing with wine; there aren’t mountains made of meat; and the whole world doesn’t consist of women. How [then] can a Nīlapaṭa [“one of the Black Shawl (cult)”] be satisfied?’ (na nadyo madyavāhinyo na ca māṃsamayā nagāḥ | na ca nārīmayaṃ viśvaṃ kathaṃ nīlapaṭaḥ sukhī). For this is a variant of a verse about Kaulism cited by Rājānaka Jayaratha on Tantrāloka 15.169c–170b: na nadyo madhuvāhinyo na palaṃ parvatopamam | strīmayaṃ na jagat sarvam kutaḥ siddhiḥ kulāgame.

[23] Cf. the Cambodian Sanskrit inscription K. 762 of AD 673, v. 6: sitātapatrādisanmānaḥ (CœDèS 1937– 1966, vol. 1, pp. 12–15).

[24] On the designs of the various fillets, also called mukuṭaḥ, to be worn by the king, the chief queen, the crown prince, and the general, and as an honour bestowed by the king (prasādapaṭṭaḥ), see Bṛhatsaṃhitā 48.1–5. According to that source all are to be made of pure gold (48.4cd).

[25] This transforms him from plain Bhatta-Samkarsana into Bhaṭṭaśrī-Saṃkarṣaṇa; see Āgamaḍambara, prose immediately before 3.1: ‘Inhabitants of the capital and country, Bhaṭṭaśrī-Samkarṣaṇa, at the command of His Majesty Mahārāja Śaṅkaravarman, hereby informs you . . .’ Other Kashmirians named with this title are Kallaṭa (author of the Spandakārikā), Jayanta (author of the Nyāyamañjarī), Nārāyaṇa (author of the Stavacintāmaṇi), Nārāyaṇakaṇṭha (author of the commentary on the Mṛgendra), Bilhaṇa (author of the Vikramāṅkadevacarita ), Bhāskara (author of the Śivasūtravārtika), Bhūtirāja (Guru of Abhinavagupta’s father), Mukula (teacher of Pratihārendurāja), Rāmakaṇṭha (son of Nārāyaṇakaṇṭha), Vāmana (=Hrasvanātha), Śaṅkara (the father of Cakradhara), Śaśāṅkadhara (the Guru of Cakradhara), Śitikaṇṭha (author of the Kaulasūtra), Śivasvāmin (author of the Mahākāvya Kapphiṇābhyudaya), and Somānanda (author of the Śivadṛṣṭi).

[26] Āgamaḍambara, Act 3, prose between 3.3 and 3.4: ‘For the king, his Majesty Śaṇkaravarman is entirely devoted to Śiva (paramamāheśvaraḥ) and shows compassion to all religious disciplines (sarvāśrameṣu ca dayāluḥ).’

[27] Āgamaḍambara, Act 4, prose after 4.4.

Prof. Alexis G. J. S. Sanderson

by Prof. Alexis G. J. S. Sanderson

May, 2016

About Prof. Alexis G. J. S. Sanderson

After taking an undergraduate degree first in Classics (1969) and then in Sanskrit (1971) at Balliol College, Oxford, Alexis Sanderson spent six years in Kashmir, studying with a scholar and traditional guru of Śaivism. He was Lecturer in Sanskrit in the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Wolfson College from 1977 to 1992. From 1992 to the present he has occupied the Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics in the same university, and as the holder of that post became a Fellow of All Souls College. His field is early medieval religion in India and Southeast Asia, focusing on the history of Śaivism, its relations with the state, and its influence on Buddhism and Vaishnavism. In addition to his research, he trains both undergraduate and postgraduate students at Oxford, especially those undertaking the M.Phil. in Classical Indian Religion and those preparing theses for the D.Phil.

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