Thursday, 25 December 2014

Purnagiri - the Tantrapitha

The following is  a summary of a paper title "Purnagiri : The Tantrapitha" written by Dr Nagaswamy and published in his book Facets of South Indian Art and Architecture. This was one of the papers which I summarized in my lecture, for the ongoing Tamil Heritage Trust Pecchu Kacheri.


The Hevajra Tantra, a 7th century Buddhist book, refers to four important pithas:

            Jaalandhara, Oddiyaana, Purnagiri and Kaamarupa

While the other three have been identified, Purnagiri was disputed. Such texts as Sadhaanamaala, Rudrayaamala, Abul Fasl’s Ain-i-Akbari and Hindu texts that refer to Saaktha pithas refer to these. 

DC Sirkar identified Purnagiri near Bijapur.

Agehananda says four pillars are allocated to four directions, but it is purely theoretical. Oddiyaana is far west, Jaalandhara in north west, and others in far east, none in the south.

Nagaswamy identifies a Kannagi temple on the Kerala – Tamilnadu border, whose oldest inscription is of RajaRaja Chola. It also has inscriptions of Maravarman Sundara Pandya and Kulasekhara Pandya, which identify the mountain as Purnagiri and the presiding deity as Purnagiri Aludaiya Naaciyaar. There are no records after 14th century.

Lokesh Chandra said that Oddiyaana is Kanchipuram Kamakshi temple, citing extensively from Tibetan Buddhist sources. The word kacchi in Tamil means Oddiyana as a waist-belt. But no Tamil epic like Silappadikaaram or Manimegalai use the word Oddiyana.

Second, as per Lokesh Chandra, the city of Kanchi was called WuCha mean Uda (Oddiyana), in a letter by the king of WuCha addressed to Chinese emperor, by the 8th century Buddhist teacher Prajnaa. But Kanchi was called Kin-chi by Hwi-Li a contemporary of Prajnaa

A poem in the Rudrayaamala, compares the various impartant sites to parts of the human body. A section of this poem is given below:

Muulaadhaara Kamarupam hrdi Jaalandharam tathaa
lalaatE Purnagiri-aakhyam ca Oddiyaanam tad-oordhvakE
Vaaranaasim bhruvOrmadhyE Jvalanteem lOcana dvayE
(Rudrayaamala, cited in Tantrasaastra)

Third, all texts locate Oddiyana in the east.

Citing such evidence, Nagaswamy concludes that the Purnagiri is the hill with the Kannagi temple, not Kanchipuram Kamakshi temple.

Siva in Chidambaram is worshipped with Vedic chants, considered prescribed by Patanjali, who is considered same as author of Mahabhaashya and Yoga Sutra. This is mentioned by Umpathy Sivam in the 14th century.

Nagaswamy differs. He thinks that  Makutaagama is followed. Also peculiarly, Devi is worshipped with Tantric chants, from Saakta texts. There are no Vedic chants used in the worship of Parvati. This too points to a strong Saakta influence, perhaps the reflection of Bengal influence, where the Saakta cult is very strong.

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