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Contents of Pāñcarātra Āgama

When a person hears the word Āgama, he thinks of an idol of a Devatā, the Ālaya where it is housed, daily rituals and occasional festivals conducted there. This is true to a large extent. When a vidvān hears the word āgama he thinks of the Vedas and their topmost position and also there is no mention of devatā idols in the Vedas.

The Āgama is considered as a counter part to Vedas by most traditionalists. It is important to note that even āgamas at the early stage of their development did not give much importance to idols and temples, just like the Vedas. However it must be noted that words pratimā, arcā, bimba, vigraha, mūrti.

Also few references to temples can also be found in the early texts. That shows worship of idols were not completely unknown even at the earliest stages of development. Just like with the Vedas where mantra and their usage is the most prominent aspect, early āgamas are also primarily contain information about mantras and their usage.

ex - early Pāñcarātras like Jayākhya and Sāttvata Samhitās deals with mantras of Vyūhas, Mantra nyāsas for the mūla mantra, śakti mantra in elaborate detail.

Yoga, construction of temples and mūrtis, consecration, dīkṣā, daily pūjās, utsavas are described in detail in later samhitās. Mantras, yantras, mudrās and nyāsas are described in most smahitās along with the vyūha doctrine which is specific to Pāñcarātra.

In Shrauta smārta tradition besides four Vedas, there are Vedāṅgas, Smṛtis four guiding people in their daily activities and duties. Āgamas also contain similar instructions within. Cosmology is dealt in Āgamas in a much clearer way than its found in Vedas and Purāṇas. Āgamas divide creation in to three kinds, pure, impure and mixed. To facilitate this system of creation, āgamas introduce the feminine sentient principle called Śakti. And this Śakti becomes the consort of the male Devas.

The act of worship is divided in to two namely antaryāga and bahiryāga, worship conducted in mind and externally. Āgamas also give worship conducted at homes in great detail. Similar to smṛtis, āgamas describe funeral rites and ceremonies that comes after.

While Prapatti can be traced all the way back to Vedas, Pāñcarātra āgamas give an elaborate treatment for this.Texts like Lakṣmī tantra gives an elaborate description of ethical principles to be followed by the followers in accordance with Vaiṣṇava code of conduct and character. Some texts also treat the philosophy of Advaita, Dvaita and Viśiṣṭādvaita in brief. Śaṇḍilyasamhitā of Pāñcarātra also contains a Lalitā Sahasranāma.

Pāñcarātra āgamas divides themselves in to four parts or pādas - Jñāna, Yoga, Kriyā and Caryā. Jñānapada deals with creation, features of Brahman, means for attaining puruṣārthas and different realms of universe.

Yogapāda deals with yogāṅgas, nāḍis and other practices connected to yoga.

Kriyāpāda deals with construction of temples, preparing idols and installation, worship conduct at the houses. In this section the temple is conceived as manifestation of Supreme Puruṣa and an abstract representation of the Universe.

Caryāpāda deals with the daily worship, annual and other minor festivals, also personal conduct of the initiated.

Pañcarātras are also divided in to four based on siddhāntas - Āgamasiddhānta, Mantrasiddhānta, Tantrasiddhānta, Tantrāntarasiddhānta. Just like in Vaidika system where sāṅkarya of crossing one Veda with other, one kalpasūtra with another is considered a defect so is mixing of these siddhāntas in the āgamas.

This concludes the topic on contents in pāñcarātra.

🙏 Namo Narasimha 🙏

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