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Tirupati Balaji was a Buddhist Shrine

Tirupati Balaji was a Buddhist Shrine

Preface by Prof. Dr. M. D. Nalawade, M.A., B.Ed., LL. B., Ph. D.,

Ex- Registrar, Retd. Professor and Head of History Dept.

Pune University,

K. Jamanadas proves Tirupati Temple as a Buddhist Shrine

Authors Preface



Chapter 1: Strife between Buddhism and Brahmanism Chapter 2: Some examples of Brahmanic usurpation Chapter 3: Jagannatha of Puri is Buddhist Chapter 4: Vitthala of Pandharpur is Buddha Chapter 5: Lord Ayyappa is Buddhist Chapter 6: Draksharama is Buddhist Chapter 7: Srisailam is Buddhist


Chapter 8: Traditional Story of Lord of Tirumalai Chapter 9: Self Manifested Murthi Chapter 10: Vishnu Worship Chapter 11: Hindu Shilpa Shastra on Vishnu Images Chapter 12: Nature of Image of the Lord of Tirumalai Chapter 13: Is the Image a Female Deity? Chapter 14: Is the Lord a Harihara Murthi? Chapter 15: Account in Venkatachala Itihas Mala Chapter 16: Evidence of Alvars Chapter 17: Description of the Murthi by the Alvars Chapter 18: Hostilities of Alvars Towards Buddhism Chapter 19: Iconographical Examination of Lord’s Image Chapter 20: Lakshmi on Chest of Lord of Tirumalai Chapter 21: Buddhist Images and Lord of Tirumalai


Chapter 22: Early History of Vengadam And Sangam Age

Chapter 23: Emperuman : Buddha or Vishnu Chapter 24: Proxy Image of Lord and Bhoga Srinivasa

Chapter 25: Silappadhikaran Chapter 26: Tonsures at Tirupati Chapter 27: Rathayatra Chapter 28: Temple and Its Sculptures


Chapter 29: Identification of Tirupati with Potalka Chapter 30: Conclusion Bibliography


by Prof. Dr. M. D. Nalawade,M.A., B.Ed., LL. B., Ph. D., Ex- Registrar, Retd. Professor and Head of History Dept.Pune University,K. Jamanadas proves Tirupati Temple as a Buddhist Shrine

The book by K. Jamanadas “Tirupati Balaji was a Buddhist Shrine” has potential credibility to createcontroversies unknown to historical writing and the Hindu common folks who flock to worship Tirupati Balajias one of the supreme deities. It is also a new challenge to indologist at a time when politically imbuedscholars are engaged to wash out their hands by proving and disproving claims of Hindus and the Muslimsagainst each other as they did over the issue of Ayodhya Shrines. The writing of K. Jamanadas, but stand tothe test of researchers and it surpasses all controversial writings relating to Hindu Muslim difference.

Of course, a reader while going through this book requires to be equipped with relative knowledge of theVedic forms and symbols of worship and the creation of monk hood, prayers and practice of Buddhist way ofreligious life. The author does not show at any place, his intention to religiously injure anybody and hispresentation is purely of academic nature. Neither he intends to dethrone Tirupati Balaji from his presentglory nor his popularity. He also does not make any comment on his devotees and his paraphernalia, he haswith him. His research is to find out the truth hidden in the origin, growth and glory and his relation with the common man.

An eminent surgeon turned to be an indologist, K. Jamanadas stands for operational methods in thehistorical research. His study of Tirupati Balaji is the best in the science of architecture, theology and history.It seems from his book that all the essentially necessary and available sources and historical writings relatedto Balaji are carefully taken into consideration. Of course, one can not confidently say that a new evidencemay not come up hereafter.

Religious life and socio-cultural interactions, so also their amalgamations on philosophical lines as well as inday today life among the people of this ancient land have created numerous problems for separating andidentifying a particular set of features in a religious life either of the Buddhist or the Hindus except broadfeatures and major differences. The land is the same and the people are also the same, naturally customsand traditions that they have carried on for ages together can not go far away from each other than theywere in their previous religious life. There can not be a total change in the manners and etiquettes bychanging and earlier religion. The walks of people in the earlier native religion, then to the Vedic which isnamed by the foreigners as Hinduism and then to Non-Vedic religions i. e. Buddhism and Jainism arethrough which this land is traveled and people have common following and practices even contradictorycustoms and philosophies they have through such livings of them although they learnt many things and havecome across many images, idols and symbols of worships. The institution of the Viharas in Buddhist periodis the first one of its kind as an institution of Temple which attracted the masses to keep its existence eitherin the manner the Buddhist have or the manner the Brahmins changed to their convenience to influence themasses. Originally Brahmins and their religion are centered around the system of the institution of Yajna.The Yajynas of various types such as Isthi, Pashu, Som, Chayan, Sava, Satra and others, for their selfishmotives of seeking food, prestige and power. The very institution of Yadyna is to make commoners by wayof traits, traps and tricks for sacrifices, the Brahmins are to loose nothing but in all the circumstances gainand gain much more beyond their demands and needs. This is how the institution of Yadyna works.

Nowhere it is found and no text of the Brahmin literature tells that in pre-Buddhist time the Brahmins arevegetarians. The offerings and oblations offered to gods and goddesses so also, the sacrifices made in theYadynas are basically originated in the minds and tastes of the Brahmins. As being the non – vegetarians orthe flesh eaters Brahmins ask the masses to offer such things to gods and to them also. History, therefore ofthe vegetarian gods in Hinduism opens a new avenue for fresh research in Indology. In pre-Buddhist timescow was never a pious animal and Brahmins of those days are found very fond of cow flesh. Rigvedas aregenuine witnesses for that, and the river Charmnyavati is the best example. There is enough of informationto know as to how both of her banks are covered over by skins and her waters are redden by the flesh bloodof cows and other animals washed into her waters. The very name of the river Charmnyavati in a Rigvedatells many more things as Charm – means skin. The river banks of this river are used for performingYadynas and the cows are used in sacrifices on large scale in the Yadynas. The whole delta of the riverseems to have seen as how Cow Satra – Killing of cows is carried on and the name, therefore, of the riverCharmnyavati in a Rigveda confirms the same.

The institution of Yadyna and sacrificing or killing cows in it is very much vital if it is understood against theagricultural background of those times. In those days no other animals but bullocks are used mostly for tillingthe soil. Killing of the cows means no bullocks and no bullocks means no farming, no agricultural products. As a result there is starvation and then submission to enemies or the rulers of the religion. The pre-Buddhisttimes, therefore, are worse in a regard to atrocities and injustices carried on, on the Peasant communities.Fortunately but lord Buddha understands the grave situation and stops cow sacrifices in the Yadynas andprevents the slaughtering of cows. He, thus becomes the First saviour of cows who preached farmers inancient times not to offer cows to Brahmins and in the Yadynas. Under the circumstances it is very safe tohold a view that the adoption of cow as a pious one in later days and vegetarian food for gods and to theBrahmins for themselves is one of the greatest achievements of Buddhism, but it has to pay its cost in returnof that achievement because the Brahmins adopted their means and methods to attract and lure the farmingcommunities and attack Buddhism. It is thus the Hindus and the academicians have to admit that the creation of non – vegetarian gods is not the creation of the Brahmins. Therefore, it is in vain to trace out theorigin of gods who are vegetarians in pre-Buddhist times. Morality and non-violence are never the cardinalprinciples of Brahmanical teaching and religion. They are the Buddhist and they are most unacceptable forthe Brahmins in those early days.

The institution of Temple that the Brahmins practice and which exists at ‘Tirupati Balaji’ and at all the placesof the Hindus is origin in Buddhism as K. Jamanadas rightly states that there are a good number ofevidences to prove those facts. The walks of people in the ancient times from one sect or religion to another,from native religion to Vedic, Vedic to Non-Vedic religions that is Buddhism and Jainism and then back toMixed- Vedic or Brahmanical religion, although, outwardly, have changed them in adopting different religiousnames and ultimately, the Brahmanism to which popularly called as Hinduism, they continued to practicemany of the customs and traditions they liked most and were most difficult for them to unalienate. And totheir convenience Brahmins have very skillfully converted Buddhists forms of worship and prayers quite inconsonance to Brahmanical or Hindu ideals. Therefore, separation and identification of many images, idolsand temples have become to show exactly that they either belong to Buddhists or Hindus but as Buddhismis made to disappear, Brahmins claimed them, in totality as the Hindus. And the history of Hindu vegetariangods is certainly hidden in such changes and conversions from Buddhism to Hinduism.

The book is divided into four parts, but the main theme is dealt with in the second and third parts. Part firstnaturally begins with earlier findings and interpretations about the strife between Buddhism andBrahmanism. The mature saintly opinion of Swami Vivekananda that ” Buddhism was mainly responsible forstopping or lessening the customs of drinking wine and killing living animals for sacrifice or for food in India”during the dominance and arrogance of the Brahmanical period is given at very appropriate instance.”Buddhism and Vaishnavism are not two different things” as is stated by the Great Swami to make clearthat, “During the decline of Buddhism in India, Hinduism tool from her a few cardinal tenets of conduct andmade them her own, and these have now come to be known as Vaishnavism”. The author, not out of vindictive mood, but purely from academic interest collected sources and evidences, that too again from theHindu saints and scholars to reveal the truth and truth alone as the proud heritage of this ancient land.

Brahmin’s usurpation and imitation of the Buddhist customs, traditions and ideals, so also of forms ofarchitecture , art and sculpture are very common and long back indologists and historians like R. G.Bhandarkar and D. D. Kosambi have brought all those thing to light. The sites at Ter, Aihole, Undavali,Ellora, Badrinatha, Ayodhya, Sringeri, Buddha Gaya and other religious important places have ably beenshown as how richly influenced by Buddhist religion and culture and Brahmins have adopted them to theirtastes to make the masses feel religiously at home as the Hindus. A fresh touch is given to reascertain forthe proved facts by R. G. Bhandarkar, R. C. Dhere and others that the temples of Lord Jagannatha of Puri,Vithalla of Pandharpur, Ayyappa of Kerala, Srisailam of Andhra and many others as they were originally theBuddhist temples.

The real task of discovering Lord Tirupati as the Buddhist Shrine starts in the Second part. The history givenof the worship of Vishnu needs to be added by the information of hymns in Rigveda. Max Mueller, Muir andWilson who have well explained the importance of Vishnu and his Three Strides – Trivikrama. In the Purnsha- Sukta of the Yajurvda (1-31-32) has his description. And to collaborate the original concept of his creationand creating his three different images and the necessities of the Brahmins to convert him in appearancelike lord Buddha are not unintentional and without any selfish motive. The author has ably proved that suchefforts of the Brahmins have expected good results for them to show their superiority over Buddhism. Thechapters- Hindu Shilpa Shastra on Vishnu Images, Nature Image of the Lord of Tirumalai, Is the Image of aFemale deity, Is the Lord A Harihara Murthi, and the Account In Venkatechala Itihas Mala, are interestingand thought provoking. They make even commoners to think twice whether he is worshiping Buddhistimages or Hindu images and what is his place in such a controversies The reference from a book of Shri.Sitapati P., on Shri. Venkatesvara is of great importance in support of author’s theory on Tirupati Balaji. Thereference runs -”The image (of Lord Tirumalai) bears some resemblance to the famous BodhisattvaPadmapani painting in cave I of the Ajanta Hills”. This statement, is thus, self explanatory to record the


Part third of the book has debased old challenges of the Hindu claims in South India. How “not only ideals and morals but also temples were taken over by Brahmins” has been aptly shown quoting well knownauthorities in the field and interpreting the original sources. It is very interesting to know the even TirthaYatras are started by the Buddhists and the Brahmins followed them from the Buddhist traditions to forgettheir earlier Buddhist religion and traditions. The Kalavars and Kalabhras, the names of clans and familiesquite in resemblance to Kalewar, Kalawad or Kalawade and Kalbhor, Bhor, Kalmegh and even Kale inMaharashtra are not without their historical roots. The Kalabhras mentioned by the author belonged to Cholacountry and are the Buddhist, but later on converted to Brahmanism.

The claim put forth by the author on Lord Tirupati Balaji as a Buddhist Shrine is based on sound theory andthe evidences approved and accepted by the academicians. The fundamental questions which needs to becorrectly answered to prove Tirupati Balaji as a Buddhist Shrine have the following points and which are welltaken into account-­

1. Yet why the attributes of Murthi are not allowed to be discussed openly and publicly?

  1.  Tirupati has no parivar devatas, his family members as gods. why?
  2.  And as to why it is the only ek-devata temple in whole of India.?
  3.  There was no regular worship of this Tirupati till 966 A. D, Why was it?


5.Why the various murthis are not recognized in this temple by their Agamic names?

The term “self manifested” applied to Tirumalai means that the Murthi or idol is existed earlier and it is at thatplace only. It is found by one Shudra Rangadasa. Then it is resurrected and worshiping it began. Before theMuslims came, Buddhists are the only people who opposed the Brahmins. But no Buddhist King norBuddhist people are intolerant towards the Brahmins and no evidence is yet produced by any scholarproving that the Buddhists or any Buddhist King made efforts for destroying Brahmanical images, idols orplaces of worship. In fact the Brahmins have done hundreds of such things and they are in reality theenemies of the Buddhists. Hence allowing the Murthi or idol of Tirumalai uncared, then the quarrel over itspossession in between the Vaishnavism and Shaivism, all such matter never happens in case of the originalidols of Hindu or Brahmanical gods. Fortunately till this day this Lord is mistaken and misunderstood as Sivaor Vishnu and as the Vaishnavaites and Shavaites claim him as if he belongs to one of the two, he grows ineminence. In reality the place and the idol are the Buddhist one, which eternally convey the message of wellbeing to all people.

Temple institution is the creation of the Buddhist people and to grab that glory the Brahmins have usurpedthe Buddhists Temples for their selfish purpose and to attract the masses and then have converted thosetemples into Hindu forms making necessary changes and alterations. A good number of authorities haveproved long ago and many of the authorities on the subject like R. G. Bhandarkar, Percy Brown, G. S.Ghurey, L. M. Joshi, D. D. Kosambi, K. A. N. Sastri, K. R. Vaidyanthan and others have been taken intoconsideration in the spirit and letters they presented numerous sources and evidences.

So far the story of Lord of Tirumalai stands historically and on the basis of the available sources it is aBuddhist Shrine. Right from its name, fashions and styles, so also customs like the Tonsure, offering of hairand Rathyatra it is all in one – the Buddhist way. Rathayatra is not originated in the Brahmanical life due tocaste system and observance of untouchability and touch no one those who even from your kin and kith ifthey are unbathed and the women of their blood also. Under the circumstances Rathayatra tradition iscertainly of the Buddhist origin and where ever it is carried on, the places and gods are the Buddhists,without any doubt. The author K. Jamanadas has maintained throughout his work a very high standard ofargument and at all instances he placed either the authorities or the evidence in support of his argument and statements.

Although in the socio-cultural life of this country, it introverts all of those who have their origin in this land, topositively come up for better understanding as if it is vicissitude as the times and culture demand. A goodlesson will also be derived out of the reading of this thesis for making this land as if of one people with anappeal to both the Hindus and the Muslims to know their best of heritage and noble humane way of life inBuddhism as one people, blessed and guided eternally by that Great, Supreme Lord, Bhagwan Buddha, theGreat.

Contents Preface

Authors Preface

The subject of the consequences of fall of Buddhism is not really examined in all aspects by the IndianScholars; whatever attempts have been made are limited to certain aspects. This is quite natural because ofthe dimensions involved in it. The area being vast, differing local conditions have different effects anddifferent forms, in the attack on Buddhism and the procedure of its assimilation into Brahmanism. Thedeclaration of the Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu had a tremendous impact on conversion, to make thisconversion of Buddha into Vishnu more painless operation. This was the strategy of Brahmins to accept theMaster for names sake and denounce the Doctrine. Also this was not accomplished in a day, and the timetaken for this conversion also was so great, that the conversion was imperceptible. But it is not withouthaving its scar marks. The origin of untouchability, rigidity of caste system, suppression of women in theHindu society, various manipulations Brahmins had to do in their pantheon, various seemingly stupidinjunctions, various rites, new development of the religious vratas, various inconceivable stories spread inthe masses, the irrational thinking, and all that goes with it, had a method in madness. And that was to winthe masses away from Buddhism, to strengthen the roots of chaturvarnya, and support the supremacy ofBrahmins. What ensued was slavery for centuries, but the purpose of Brahmins was fulfilled. Even in slaverythis class maintained its supremacy.

During the process which went on for centuries, many Buddhist shrines were converted for Brahmanicaluse. The purpose of this writing is to show that the great shrine of Tirupati was one of them, a claim whichwas not made by any previous author. Many ancillary subjects are discussed besides this main theme, andmany new directions are shown for the scholars of tomorrow to pursue. Certain new claims have beenmade, e.g. the Rathas of Mahabalipuram are thought to be Buddhist, the Kalabharas are thought to besupporters of Buddhism, the traditional story of Alvaras describing the Murthi of Lord of Tirumalai isdisputed, the evidence of Silappadhikaran is shown to be of no use, the importance of tonsure in Tirumalai isstressed and Rathayatra is shown as a Buddhist tradition. The importance of proxy image and the history ofthose times is stressed. The murthi is compared with other Vishnu images and the Buddhist images. The oldhistory of people around the area traced and they are shown to be Buddhists. The tribal population wassupporter of Buddhism as seen by Shankaracharya’s destruction of Srisailam, a Buddhist centre ofChenchus, (a tribal community of that area) and also by traditional association of Jagannatha with tribalchiefs. Also it has been suggested that the institution of present day Devadasis is the indication ofdegradation of institution of Buddhist nuns. Lastly it has been shown that it is possible that Tirupati could bethe Potalka of Huen Tsang.

No new facts are brought out, only a new interpretation is given to the facts already known to all. The factsare taken mainly from the four authors, acknowledged below, who wrote on Tirupati. None of them is biasedin favour of Buddhism. They are all intimately connected with the Temple and are devotees of the Lord andare Vaisnavas by faith. The facts are so obvious to show that Tirumalai was a Buddhist shrine, that it issurprising how the scholars missed them. May be the possibility never occurred to them, at least they do notmention it, though in some writing a slight allusion could be traced.

Mostly secondary sources are used as it was felt that interpretations of other scholars would be more usefulto the readers than my own. As far as possible the original quotations are given in detail even at the cost ofmaking the writing more bulky. The word Tirupati is used rather loosely, sometimes as Tirupati on the Hillsand sometimes as Tirupati on plains, but the context should make the meaning clear.

Points of Claim

The claim that Lord Venkatesvara was Buddhist shrine is based on the following grounds:

1. The Murthi itself is Buddhist, the weapons are provided at a later date. It does not conform with VishnuImages, but is similar to Padmapani.

2. The area was inhabited by Tribal Buddhists.

3. The Murthi was not present in Mamulanar’s time but the Shravana Festivals existed on the hill. TheShravana Festivals are traditionally a Buddhist phenomenon.

4. Traditionally “Mouni Guru” and “Self manifestation” were the devises used by the Brahmins for usurpedBuddhist temples.

5. The list of earliest Vishnu Temples does not include Tirumalai, though temples a few miles away areincluded.

6. Tirumalai was unimportant temple for Hindus.

7. Mere praying by Alvaras as Vishnu does not make it a Vishnu image.

  1.  Tirumalai Tonsures are relics of Buddhist tradition.
  2.  The Rathayatra is a relic of Buddhist traditions.


10. The presence of Shudra’s well inside temple denotes it being deity of lower castes.

11. The deity of lower castes had to be associated with Vishnu in the form of Almel Mangai though quitelate.

12. The temple had to be renovated for making it agreeable to the Agama rules.


It was Khushwant Singh, during whose editorship of ‘Illustrated Weekly of India’, many articles werepublished on various social groups of India, during early seventies. That was the real depiction of the IndianMasses. One of those articles was on Tirupati Temple. That inspired me to undertake the study of TirupatiTemple.

The detailed information is obtained from the publications of T. T. D., the books by Dr. S. KrishnaswamiAyangar, T. K. T. Veera Raghavacharya and Dr. Ramesan and from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s publicationby P. Sitapati. I am extremely grateful to these authors.

I am highly indebted to the able guidance of Prof. B. L. Bhadke of Janata College of Education Chandrapurwho gave very valuable suggestions, and to Principal I.T.Tembhare of Dr. Ambedkar College and lateProf.K. Patil of Dept. of History for their valuable inspiration. Very valuable suggestions were made by Prof.N. L. Sao of Siddhartha College, Bombay and Prof. B. K. Jha of Janata College of Education Chandrapur.

I am highly grateful to Shri V.J. Chaugule for his help in proof reading.

Jamanadas Chandrapur26.1.91

Second Edition

Though there have been costant demands for the book being translated into regional languages, it was notpossible to do so for financial constraints. In 1998, however, the workers of local organizations voluntered tocollect some amount as prepublication sale, for which, I must thank sarva sri Moon guruji, Dange, Gedamand many others. Similarly a couple of young typists sri Nale and Bujade volunteered to type out the HindiMSS. Prof. Dharmik helped with proof reading and vetting. Ultimately, the Hindi edition was inagurated inAugust 1998 in Nagpur at the hands of BSP National President sri Kanshiram ji. This got exausted andsecond reprint became neccesary in 2000.

However, no translations are yet done in South Indian languages. For this the International Dalit Forum hasbeen given all rights.

This is the Second English edition, that is being published as E-Book on Dalit Web sites. My thanks are dueto these dedicated workers, who are painstakingly maintaining these web sites.

Many portions are revised and enlarged and the ambiguous points are clarified. However, the format ismaintained, and the quotations are given in full, though it adds to size of the book. This was thoughtneccesary, as common people might find it difficult to get the original books.

Hope the readers like it.

Dr. K. Jamanadas 14th April 2001

Foreword Chapter 1

Chapter 1Strife between Buddhism and Brahmanism

It is a well known fact that Lord Buddha had revolutionized the old Vedic religion and the whole country wasonce Buddhist. However, there was a counter-revolution and Brahmanism gained ground and the religion ofBuddha, declined the country of its origin. The Bhikkus were killed and the remaining were compelled tomigrate to foreign lands, taking with them some religious literature. The lay Buddhists were converted toHindu fold. The Buddhist books disappeared from this land and when the western scholars were looking forthe Buddhist Texts, no books were found except, perhaps a solitary instance of Manjushri mula kalpa foundin Kerala. [Rahul Sankrutyayan, "Buddhacharya", quoted by Bhau Lokhande:1979:p.107] On the point ofabsence of Buddhist texts Chaudhari has observed:

“… In a region where the philosophic doctrines of Buddhism and Jainism flourished for over three centuries,the absence of literature seems inconceivable. Perhaps there was a king of literary vandalism at the hand ofliterary vandalism at the hands of Hindu zealous…” [Chaudhari:1984:50]

However most of the Buddhist Doctrines, customs and practices among the masses in India remained in adistorted from and are still seen in the various groups of people. The Buddhist places of worship, thetemples, the mutthas, viharas and the shrines which had been abandoned by bhikshu degenerated intoruins; but not all. Most of the important ones were appropriated by the Brahmins and converted forBrahmanic use. It is already shown by many scholars that the Lord Jagannatha of Puri, Lord ofBadrikeshvara, and Vithoba at Pandharpur in Maharashtra were once Buddhist. But nobody has, up till now,to out knowledge, has shown that Lord Venkatesvara, the presiding deity on the Hill at Tirupati which is veryimportant deity of South India and has also become very popular in the North as Balaji among the Hindus, tobe a Buddhist deity and that at one time it was a worshiping place sacred to Buddhist and had been takenaway from them in days of decline of Buddhism. The endeavor of this writing is to show that this famousshrine of Tirupati, which is now being worshipped in the form of Vishnu, was actually a Buddhist centre ofolden times.

Residual Effects of Buddhism on Brahmanism

It goes without saying that the present day Hinduism is mostly influenced by Buddhism. Let us see what thescholars have to say about the influence of Buddhism on Hinduism and its residual effects which are seeneven now, L. M. Joshi, observes:

“In his speeches and writings Swami Vivekananda has often noted the diverse Buddhist influences onHinduism. He had observed that “Modern Hinduism is largely Pauranika, that is, post-Buddhistic in origin.”He pointed out that Buddhism was mainly responsible for stopping or lessening the customs of drinking wineand killing living animals for sacrifice or for food in India. He rightly traced the origin of Hindu images andtemples to Buddhist models. About the relation of Vaishnavism to Buddhism, he was declared that”Buddhism and Vaishnavism are not two different things. During the decline of Buddhism in India, Hinduismtook from her a few cardinal tenets of conduct and made them her own, and these have now come to be known as Vaishnavism.” It should be noted here that Vaishnavism does not consist mainly of a few cardinaltenets of conduct. The Swami is briefly referring to moral principles and practices, such as ahimsa, karuna, maitri, respect for the guru, control of the mind and the senses of yoga, etc. which Buddhism transmitted to Vaishnavism. The Bodhisattva ideal and the idea of Buddhavatar also became integral parts of Vaishnavatheology.” [Joshi:1977:348]

Not only ideals and morals but also temples were taken over by Brahmins

About the ideals and morals taken up by Brahmanism to make it stand among the people of this country,L.M.Joshi further observes:

“Speaking of Buddhist ascetic ideals and institutions, Swami Vivekananda has said that the monastic vowand renunciation began to be preached all over India since the time of the Buddha, and Hinduism has absorbed into itself this Buddhist spirit of renunciation. The ochre robe found a lasting home inHinduism also. The Hindu teacher not only accepted the Buddhist institution of monks. Theyoccupied the Buddhist monasteries also. The many monasteries that you now see in India occupiedby monks were once in the possession of Buddhism. The Hindus have only made them their own now by modifying them in their own fashion. Really speaking, the institution of Samnyasa originated with theBuddha. In conclusion the Swami has stated that Hinduism has become so great only by absorbing allthe ideal of the Buddha. Swami Vivekananda has been a pivotal figure in modern Hinduism and his opinions are representative of the educated Hindus.” [Ibid:348, emphasis ours]


Social conditions were influenced

About the impact of Buddhism on the social conditions in this country and how it influenced the conditions ofwomen and shudras, L.M.Joshi again, observes:

“Buddhism made profound impact in Indian social life in several ways. Its leaders and teachers continuouslycriticized the theory of castes and ridiculed the false claims to superiority based on birth (jati) and colour(varna). On the other hand, Buddhism opened the doors to higher religious life and the highest goal for allthose who sought them, including the members of the lower strata of society. Although Buddhism was notdirectly concerned with the abolition of castes, it strongly opposed the caste system and repeatedly taughtthe evils of casteism. Another aspect of Buddhist social inhibition. Buddhism along with Jainism but unlikeBrahmanism gave the equality of opportunity in religious culture to women. Some of the female members ofthe earliest ascetic order known to history were the Buddhist Theris or nuns whose religious poetry hascome down to us in the Theriagatha. The eminent position attained by large number of women in Buddhisthistory, viz. Khema, Patacara, Dhammadinna, Subha, Kisa, Sujata, Visakha, Samavati, Ambapali,Upplamanna, and Soma, etc. shows that Buddhism had done much for the emancipation of women in Indiansociety. The same is true with regard to the Buddhist contribution towards the upliftment of shudras.”[Ibid:368]

What happened to the Buddhist Population

After the fall of Buddhism, what happened to masses who were in majority? It is already shown by Dr.Ambedkar that many among the Buddhists were condemned to be untouchables. If proper study is made,we feel that it is possible even now to recognize the population groups who got converted to Hinduism.Some minor groups are identified by Joshi:

“It has been pointed out by scholars that the cult of Dharmathakura had been current among the people oflow class, such as the Domas, Hadis, Fishermen, Carpenters, etc. In the Brahmanical social scheme thesecastes belong to the shudra order. S. B. Dasgupta describes their religion as “a mixture of later Buddhisticideas and practices with the popular Hindus beliefs and practices of the non-Aryan aborigines.” According tohim “Dharma cult owes many of its elements to that form of later Buddhism, which is known as Mantrayanaand latterly and most commonly, as Vajrayana.” He suggests some Muslim influences on theDharmathakura cult, and contrariwise, some Buddhist influence on the Muslims of Bengal.” [Ibid:350]

However, it is our feeling that many more, more important and bigger groups from modern Indian populationcan be identified to have been originally Buddhists. Nagendranath Basu has investigated the forest areas ofMayurbhanj and discovered the people there, being Buddhists. Dr. Haraprasad Shastri, writing in 1911 in hisIntroduction to this book of Shri Nagendranath Basu, found out some groups in modern population, whowere originally Buddhists. He mentions among them the followers of Goraksha Nath, Dharmaghadiya Yogis,many Guptas, Baidyas, Kars, Goldsmiths, Carpenters and Painters, Business class of Bengal, most of theKayasthas, Sonar Baniyas, Vaishnava Sahajiyas. [Basu:p.12]

More work needs to be done to identify other classes who became Buddhists, in addition to those amongBuddhists, who have been condemned to be untouchables. (1) One of the clues could be that all thosegroups for whom derogatory remarks and various hidden, and not so hidden, abuses are showered in themedieval Brahmanic texts, did in fact belong to Buddhist sects. (2) The other clue could be all those groupsof people who are and were successful in getting educated, and acquiring literacy in spite of opposition ofBrahmins during the middle ages could be conveniently recognized and identified as Buddhists of oldentimes. (3) Many groups in higher castes also who are not given status of equality within the same caste, canbe identified as Buddhist of olden times. If some work is done on these lines, we feel that scholars would be surprised to find in the Brahmanic texts of medieval ages, a very large number of groups.

Though Hinduism has borrowed all these tenets from Buddhism, it is still different from Buddhism. Joshiobserves:

“Although modern Hindu culture has a great many elements of the Buddhist culture, the two are notidentical. The Hindus consider the Buddha as a maker of Hinduism and worship Him as an avatara of God;Hinduism has accepted all the great and noble elements of Buddhism. These facts do not alter the historicaltruth that Buddhism is different from Hinduism and Hinduism is different from Buddhism. The Hindus mayworship the Buddha, because their religion is largely based on the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddhistsdo not worship either Vishnu or Siva, not is their religion based on the Vedas.” [Joshi:p.330]

Image Worship originated amongst the Buddhist

A few people who like to think that roots of everything are found in Vedas, think that practice of Image worship started from Vedic times. However, consensus of opinion is that it originated as a Buddhist practice.For example Joshi has following to say:

“The worship of icons, images and symbols also seems to have been introduced by the Buddhist and theJains, although its ultimate origin may be traced to the pre-vedic Harappan culture. In historical times the artand ritual of image worship was popularized first by Buddhist. It soon became an essential feature of all thesects of puranic Brahmanism. There is remarkable correspondence in the iconography of Buddhist andBrahmanical sculptures and painting of gods and goddesses.” [Joshi:p.336]

Tirtha yatras were started by Buddhists

L. M. Joshi observes:

“The practice of visiting the holy places (tirthas) possibly originated with the Buddhists. In the Maha parinibban sutta visit to the spots sanctified by the Buddha is recommended. In the Vedic texts, a tirtha wasunderstood to mean a place where animal sacrifices were performed. But in the Epics and Puranas, whichteach the cult of tirthayatra or pilgrimage, killing of animals in sacrifice in holy place is prohibited. The eighthchapter of the Lankavarara sutta perhaps contains the strongest exposition of vegetarianism which becamecentral feature of Vaishnavism in medieval India.” [Ibid:337] Shri K. A. Nilkanata Sastri acknowledges thisfact as follows:

“…The temple and the palace are both indicated by one word koyil in Tamil, and prasada in Sanskrit, and ituniversally recognized that temple – worship was not part of the original Vedic religion…” [Sastri:1966:64]

It is usually accepted that the first image that was manufactured in India for the purpose of the worship wasthat of the Buddha. Whether it was first manufactured at Mathura or in Gandhara could be a debatable point,but that the images of Vishnu and other Hindu gods were manufactured later than the image of Buddha, isuniversally accepted by scholars.

When did the Buddha worship start

The worship of Buddha was started with the emergence of Mahayana, which is a fact accepted by almost allscholars. We will only see what L.M.Joshi has to say:

“…The Mahaparinibban sutta narrates how the nobles and the commoners, both men as well as women, of the Malla clan honoured the body of the Tathagata by dancing and singing in accompaniment withinstrumental music, with garlands and perfumes. Similar artistic activities full of ceremonial dignity andaesthetic sense are reported in the Lalitavistara and the Buddhacarita to have been performed by men andwomen of Kapilvastu at the birth of the Bodhisattva Sidhartha. “…With the emergence of the Mahayana, theBuddha image became the central plank of popular Buddhism and it was manufactured in a thousand plasticforms. Manufacturing religious icons and emblems was viewed as pious deed. So was excavating viharas inlive rocks and erecting shrines and stupas. The Pali Apadanas as well as the Sanskrit Avadanas eminentlydisplay popular enthusiasm for adoration (puja) of emblems, such as the wheel, bowl, foot-prints, the Bodhitree and other items connected with the Master’s earthly existence. From about the beginning of theChristian era images of the Buddha began to come into existence, and revolutionized rituals of worship notonly in Buddhism but also Brahmanism. In place of sacrificial rituals temple rituals now become popular…”[Joshi:p.158]

In contrast to this, the worship of Brahmanic images started mostly from Gupta period.

Struggle between Brahmins and Buddhists was the cause of origin of Image Worship among Hindus

Dr. Ambedkar, while discussing the origin of untouchability in his book ‘The Untouchables’, has given a shortdescription of the struggle between Brahmins and Buddhists, and described why Brahmins had to start, inter alia, temple worship. This is what he says:

“To my mind, it was strategy which, made the Brahmins give up beef-eating and start worshipping the cow.The clue to the worship of cow is to be found in the struggle between Buddhism and Brahmanism andmeans adopted by Brahmanism to establish its supremacy over Buddhism. The strife between Buddhism and Brahmanism is a crucial fact in Indian history. Without the realization of this fact, it isimpossible to explain some of the features of Hinduism. Unfortunately students of Indian history have entirely missed the importance of this strife. They knew there was Brahmanism. But they seem to be entirelyunaware of the struggle for supremacy in which these creeds were engaged and that their struggle whichextended for 400 years has left some indelible marks on religion, society and politics of India. “This is not theplace for describing the full story of the struggle. All one can do is to mention a few salient points.


Buddhism was at one time the religion of the majority of the people of India. It continued to be thereligion of the masses for hundreds of years. It attacked Brahmanism on all sides as no religion had done before. Brahmanism was on the wane and if not on the wane, it was certainly on the defensive. As aresult of Buddhism, the Brahmanism had lost all power and prestige at the Royal Courts and among thepeople. They were smarting under the defeat they had suffered at the hands of Buddhism and were makingall possible efforts to regain their power and prestige. Buddhism had made so deep an impression on theminds of the masses and had taken such a hold of them that it was absolutely impossible for the Brahminsto fight the Buddhism except by accepting their ways and means and practicing the Buddhist creed in itsextreme form. After the death of Buddha his follower started setting up the image3s of the Buddha andbuilding stupas. The Brahmins followed it. They, in their turn, built temples and installed in the images ofSiva, Vishnu and Rama and Krishna etc., – all with the object of drawing away the crowd that was attractedby the image worship of Buddha. That is how temples and images which had no place in Brahmanism camein to Hinduism. The Buddhist rejected the Brahmanic religion which consisted of Yajna and animal sacrifice,particularly of the cow. The objection to the sacrifice of the cow had taken a strong hold of minds of massesespecially as they were an agricultural population and the cow was a very useful animal. The Brahmins in allprobabilities had come to be hated as the killer of the cow in the same as the guest had come to be hated asGoghna, the killer of the cow by the householder, because whenever he came, a cow had to be killed in hishonour. That being the case, the Brahmins could do nothing to improve their position against the Buddhistexcept by giving up the Yajna as a form of worship and the sacrifice of the cow.” [Ambedkar: Untouchables:1969:146]


Chapter 2Some examples of Brahmanic usurpation

As is well known, the archaeological remains of Buddhism speak themselves of the glory of Buddhism inancient times. L.M.Joshi has following to say:

“…Even if we judge only by his posthumous effects on the civilization of India, Sakyamuni Buddha wascertainly the greatest man to have been born in India. Before becoming a major faith and civilization force inthe world, Buddhism had been a mighty stream of thought and a tremendous fountain-head of humanculture in its homeland. Ignorance or neglect of the available Buddhist literature is not the only shortcomingof the traditional approach. The fact that the knowledge of Indian archaeology if confined to a handful ofscholars in another factor which has prevented most students from viewing Buddhist culture in its entirety.

Moritimer Wheeler observes that ‘archaeologically at least we cannot treat Buddhism merely as a heresyagainst a prevailing and fundamental Brahmanical orthodoxy.’ For in spite of the ravages of time anddestruction by Indian and foreign fanatics, Buddhism is still speaking vividly and majestically through itsthousand of inscriptions, about one thousand rockcut sanctuaries and monasteries, thousands of ruinedstupas and monastic establishments, and an incalculable number of icons, sculptures, painting andemblems, that it prevailed universally among all the classes and masses of India for over fifteen centuriesafter the age of the Buddha, and that its ideas of compassion, peace, love, benevolence, rationalism,spiritualism and renunciation had formed the core of the superstructure of ancient Indian thought andculture.” [Joshi:1977:357]

This is the state of affairs, even if we consider only the Buddhist structure in their ruined condition. So manyof the Buddhist monuments were, however, not allowed to degenerate to ruins. They were taken up forBrahmanical use. This happened in all areas of India. As far as Buddhist shrines in Andhra Pradesh, whereTirupati is situated, are concerned, it is an accepted fact that many shrines of Buddha in Andhra Pradesh,were converted for Brahmanical worship.

Andhra and Deccan

K.A.N. Sastri observed:

“…In the Andhra country also, where Buddhism had flourished in great strength in the early centuries of theChristian era, there came about a strong Hindu revival … Mathas grew up and were occupied by monks …and … many Buddhist shrines and viharas were turned to Hindu uses…” [Sastri:1966:434]

“…Its (Buddhism) decline in Andhradesa, where it had flourished in the early centuries A.D., was noticed byYuan Chwang, and this decline proceeded further after his time. the renascent Hinduism of the period beganthe worship of the Buddha at Amaravati as an incarnation of Vishnu and into Hindu shrines…”[Sastri:1966:436]

Ter and Chezarala

“At Ter is Sholapur district and Chezarala in the Krishna district are found Buddhist chaitya halls built inbricks, perhaps in the fifth century A.D. and surviving to this day because they were appropriated toBrahmanical uses after the decline of Buddhism. We refer to the Trivikrama temple at Ter and theKapoteshvara temple at Chezarala. These two small buildings, each not more than 30 feet long, are now theonly means of judging the external appearance of the Buddhist structural temple as the rock-cut chaityashas no exteriors except their facades.” [Sastri:1966:448]

Mention may be made here, of other experts in Archaeology and Sculpture who agree with this finding ofSastri. Sri. K. R. Shreenivasan agrees:

“Fortunately there are two apsidal shrines of this period of original Buddhist dedication and subsequentconversion to the Hindu creed, still existing in their entirety. They are the Trivikrama temple at Ter, inWestern Deccan, and Kapoteswara Temple at Chejerala, in coastal Andhra. Both are dated earlier than 600A.D., but not earlier than 300 A.D. Of the two, the Kapoteswara may be the earlier one judged from thestylistic and architectural points of view.” [Sreenivasan:1971:24]


Regarding the Durga Temple at Aihole Sri. K.A.N. Sastri mentions that it was also a Buddhist Chaitya. “Very different from Ladh Khan is the Durga temple which was another experiment seeking to adapt theBuddhist chaitya to a Brahmanical temple” [Sastri:1966:451] It may be pointed out here that name of temple as Durga has nothing to do with the famous Brahmanicalgoddess Durga and it was never dedicated to Her.


Similar is the case of Anantasayangudi cave-temple, Sri K. R. Shreenivasan confirms that this was originallyfor a Buddhist dedication.

“…A similar rock-cut cave excavation, now called Anantasayangudi in Undavalli on the south bank of theKrishna, also belongs to this class. It is perhaps of the Vishnu-kundin times and was meant originally for aBuddhist dedication…” [Sreenivasan:1971:33]

“…The Anantasayangudi cave-temple at Undavalli is the largest of the group and is three-storied structureakin to the Ellora Buddhist Caves 11 and 12, the Do-tal and Tin-tal. It belongs to the seventh century if notearlier, and was perhaps intended originally for the Buddhist creed, but was adopted later for a Vishnutemple, the principal deity being a recumbent Vishnu or Anantasayin…” [Sreenivasan:1971:81]


About cave no. 15 of Ellora, it is accepted by all scholars that it is a case of reconditioning of Buddhist shrinefor Brahmanical use.

“The Dasavatara, or cave no.15, is an odd example in as much as it is the only two-storied cave-temple orcave-complex of a very large size. It is apparently a case of reconditioning of what was all prepared and cutout for Buddhistic requirements. It would mark the earliest example of Rashtrakuta work at Ellora. Its frontpavilion carries the inscription of Dantidurga (c. 752-56) and is an accomplished piece of contemporary rockarchitecture.” [Sreenivasan:1971:72]

About same fact Yazdani observes:

“… The revival of Brahmanic faith in the Deccan had begun during the rule of Chalukyas, who builtrock-hewn shrines of that faith at Badami, the seat of their government; but they were tolerant to thefollowers of Buddhist religion and the shrines of the latter faith continued to the built under their regime.During the reign of Rashtrakutas, who ousted the Chalukyas from the greater part of their kingdom in theDeccan, an aggressive religious spirit seems to have prevailed, for they not only converted Buddhist viharasinto the temples of their own faith, *fn.* but also built new shrines on such a grand scale as to eclipse in theeyes of their co-religionist the glory of Buddhist religion…” [Yazdani :1960 :731]

To chisel out Buddhist images was the method used

Yazdani further observes:

“Cave XV, called the Dasavatara, was originally a Buddhist vihara, and the images of Buddha, althoughchiseled off with care from many a niche, may still be noticed in some places. This cave has a longinscription of Dantidurga carved over its entrance.” [fn.]

As to how conversion of these shrines was effected Yazdani observes:

“…Dasavatara, which was originally a Buddhist shrine and was later converted into Brahmanic temple andadorned with both Shaivite and Vaishnavite bas-reliefs..” [Yazdani :1960 :754]

About other Buddhist shrines he has observed:

“In the sphere of religion Buddhism had lost ground more and more since the days of Huen Tsang, and theBuddha of Amararama (Amaravati) had in fact come to be worshiped as an incarnation of Vishnu; the otherfour aramas of Bhimapura, Dakaremi, Palakolanu, and Drakshrama are believed to have been once famouscentres of Buddhism. But subsequently became Hindu Shrines…” [Yazdani :1960 :500]

Shaivas and Vaishnavas were together in this

Thus we find that to chisel out old Buddhist images and replacing them with newly carved Brahmanicimages was popular method of converting Buddhist shrines into Brahmanic ones, and also we find that Vaishnavas and Saivas were together in this. For example, in Ellora cave XV we find, after the chiseling outBuddhist images, one wall occupied by Vaishnavas and other by Shaivas:

“…Sculptures on one side are mostly Vaishnava while those on the other are entirely Shaiva…”[Sastri:1966:543]

As a matter of fact there are innumerable cases, but it is not necessary to see more examples. The followingwill suffice as examples of Buddhist shrines taken over for Brahmanical use in days of decline of Buddhism.


“…Even today images of Buddha are worshiped as Siva or Vishnu in many places in Bengal…” [MajumdarR.C.: 1966: 402]


“…One of the centres founded by Samkara was located in Puri in Orissa. According to Swami Vivekananda,a leading modern teacher of Samkara’s school, ‘the temple of Jagannath is an old Buddhistic temple. Wetook this and others over and re-Hinduised them. We shall have to do many things like that yet.’ …” [Joshi L.M.: 1977: 351]


Name of Adi Samkara is associated with this temple. Dave observes:

“The tradition is that the temple of Badrinarayan was erected by Adi Shankaracharya in about 9the CenturyA.D. He secured the image which was lost, by diving deep in the Narada Kunda. …(he) founded here one ofhis four principal monasteries known as the Uttaramnaya Jyotirnath.” [Dave J.H.: 1970: 142]

Like other Buddhist centers taken over by Brahmins, here also, the caste restriction are not strict.:

“The Naivedya of Badari, if offered, can never be refused. There no untouchability before the Lord, noimpurity in accepting the Lord’s Prasad from any one. … One refusing the Prasad with ignorance and asense of superiority is worse than a chandala unfit for any religious duty. Even touched by the lowliest(chandala), it is never impure.” [Dave: 1970: 15. Chandala is the original word in Sanskrit quotation]

Dave describes this Murthi:

“…Inside the temple Lord Narayana is seated in Padmasana with two hands in yoga mudra. The image is ofblack saligram stone about three feet high…” [Dave: 1970:145]

L.M.Joshi avers that this Image is the image of Buddha.

“…Among other temples of the Buddhist, took over by the Hindus, mention may be made of the one atBadrinath in Garhwal in which even the original Buddha image is still in situ and worshiped as that ofVishnu…” [Joshi: 1977: 351, emphasis ours]


It is an accepted ancient Buddhist centre, where Buddhism flourished till about 9th century. It was such animportant centre of Buddhism that the ancient school of Buddha images goes by its name.

“Mahakachhayana, one of the famous disciples of Buddha, actively preached Buddhism in Mathura. WhenBuddha visited the city, he noticed the abundance of women-folk. It is mentioned as the most famous placein Millinda Panha. Upagupta, the preceptor of Emperor Asoka whom he converted to Buddhism was the sonof Gupta and a perfumer. The accepted view is that Upagupta was born in Mathura where he built a bigBuddhist monastery which existed till the 7th century A.D. He converted many people of Mathura toBuddhism. Eighteen thousand pupils attained sainthood through Upagupta. The well-known courtesanVasavadatta, who was ultimately converted to Buddhism was a resident of Mathura. Fa-Hein called Mathurathe Peacock city. In his day Buddhism was flourishing here. Huen Tsang also visited it and found it 20 li incircuit. In his day there were five Deva temples, three stupas built by Asoka, twenty Buddhist monasteriesand 2000 Buddhist priests.” [Dave: 1970: 88]

After the fall of Buddhism, Brahmins erected temples on Buddhist sites and established their supremacy. “Bhutesvara Mahadeo’s Temple is the place where there was the stupa of Sariputta, one of the famousdisciples of Buddha. “The Kesav Deo Temple was built on the site of the great Buddhist monastery called Yasa Vihara.” [Dave:1970: 90]

However, this temple was destroyed by Mohammed of Gazni in 1017 A.D.


That the parts of Siva-Linga at Ayodhya and Bansi are Buddhist Relics, is well known. I.K. Sarma observes:

“…We shall cite here a unique linga shrine near Buddhist Dhauli, the ancient Tosali, capital of Kalinga 11Km. South of Bhuvaneswar. The unusually high Bhaskaresvara Linga, 2.75m. high and 3.70m.circumference at the bottom, on excavation, was found to be resting on a lateritic pedestal shaped into anagrhapitha. This pillar was recognized as an Asokan Pillar broken at the top. A monolithic Lion capital wasrecovered from a nearby trench. Several other relics (Bell capital, massive yaksa images) of Asokan vintagewere found and now preserved in the State Museum Bhuvaneswar. This appears to be the case with thelotiform bell with Mauryan polish used as the base of Siva linga in the Nagesvaranatha temple atAyodhya, Dist. Faizabad, U.P.; Lotiform capital and leg part of a lion in the Linga set up at Bansi,Dist. Basti, Eastern U.P. From these evidences we can infer that certain sacred Buddhist Sthalas were converted into Shaiva Ksetras after a general decline of Buddhism…” [Sarma I. K.: 1988: 10, emphasis ours]


On the authority of Journal of Mythic Society, p.151 and Eliot, Hinduism & Buddhism vol. II p.211, L.M.Joshiobserves:

“Samkara is known to have founded his Sringeri matha on the site of a Buddhist monastery…” [Joshi: 1977:314]

Bodhi Gaya Buddha temple at Buddha Gaya was in the custody of a Shaivite Mahanta and he used to extract money by applying gandha to forehead of the image of Buddha upto beginning of 20th century. Eventoday, in the managing committee of that temple, non Buddhist Hindus only dominate. [Lokhande: 1979:120]


There is an ancient image of Buddha near Sarnath, which is famous by the name of “Siva – Sangheswara”(Siva – the Lord of Sangha). [Lokhande: 1979: 120]


A Buddha image is worshiped near Delhi in the name of “Buddho – mata” [Lokhande: 1979: 120]26


There are two beautiful images of Buddha near Nalanda. One is popular as Teliya Baba (one who is pleasedby pouring oil on him) and the other as Dheliya Baba (one who is pleased by being beaten up by a lump ofearth). [Lokhande: 1979: 120]


Coming back again home, i.e. near Tirupati, even the Mahanagaparvata (Guntepalli) was not spared inAndhara Pradesh. I.K.Sarma observes:

“…Mahanagaparvata regained its pristine position as a Buddhist centre from early first century andrenovation works went on briskly, perhaps, after a temporary spell of aggrandizement by the Jains. Evensome new Vihara caves were established (nos. 36, 3, 38 and 39). The later inscriptions listed here under notonly indicate Mahayana- Vajrayana affiliation of the establishment but proclaim the continuance ofMahanagaparvata as a great Buddhist centre in the ancient Vengi country right upto 11the century A.D. …

The place was finally usurped by the Saivites and the oldest circular Caitya cave was named asDharamalingesvara and a Nandi was placed in its front. The place is venerated as a great livingksetra by the locals and on Sivaratri day, particularly the female folk, worship the Caitya as a bestower of fecundity. [Sarma: 1988: 85, emphasis ours]

Role of Puranas

It is noteworthy that Buddhist places were regularized as Hindu temples by writing Puranas. Role of Puranasis well recognized in re-establishing Brahmin supremacy, but it is not properly understood that one of themain aims of writing Puranas was to claim Buddhist places of worship. L.M.Joshi observes:

“…Not only the Buddhist holy places and shrines were occupied and transformed into Hindu Tirthas anddevalayas and this occupation of non-Brahmanical places and sanctuaries were strengthened by inventedmyth or pseudo- history (purana), but the best elements of Buddhistic culture, including the Buddha, wereappropriated and homologized in sacred books…” [Joshi: 1977: 338]

Chapter 1 Chapter 3


Chapter 3Jagannatha of Puri is Buddhist

Swami Vivekananda’s view

Swami Vivekananda’s view that Jagannatha Temple of Puri is an old Buddhist Temple is already mentionedbefore. Dr. Bhau Lokhande has reviewed the subject in detail. Following is the summary of it. [Lokhande:1979: 120] Lokhande summarizes

1. Poet Manohardas writes in his Amarkosha that Buddha is Arjuna and Krishna is param vishva atma.(Nagendra Nath Basu- Bhakti Margi Bouddha Dharma. Trans. By Narmadeshvara Chaturvedi, Allahabad,samt. 2018, p.173.

2. Buddha was also called Hari. (Ibid.,p.176)

3. Dr. Jadunath Sarkar has quoted a poem called ‘Daru- Brahma’ by a poet from Orissa, whereinJagannatha himself says, I am incarnation of Buddha, I will give salvation to beings in Kaliyuga.” (Sarkar, India Through Ages, p.177)

4. According to Nagendranath Basu, Buddhaswami of “Alekhlila” can be considered a Dhyani Buddha andJagannatha as Bodhisattva or Padmapani and there is no doubt that the image of Lord Jagannatha wasoriginally a Buddha image. (Ibid., p.177)

5. From a book Yashomatimalika it is clear that upto 41st regnal year of Mukundadeva, Lord Jagannathawas considered only as Buddha. That Mukundadeva was a great devotee of Buddha is known from LamaTaranath.

6. Behind Jagannath Temple at Puri, there is a huge stone image of Lord Buddha in Bhumisparsha mudra.In front of this image a big wall is erected. This image, which could have told many a thing to the students ofAncient Indian History, has now become a sealed book. This wall must have been erected so that the imageof Buddha should not be visible to the people. The tradition of considering Lord Jagannatha as secretBuddha must have been started since then. Similar story is told about the image at Badrinath.

7. Ratha Yatra at Puri of Jagannatha, Balaram and Subhadra is nothing else, but a transformation of theRatha Yatra of Buddha surrounded by Bodhisattvas and this Yatra was seen by Chinese pilgrim Fa Heinwith his own eyes in the 5th century A.D (Sarkar, India Through Ages p.33)


Lord Jagannatha was worshipped by Tribals

Apart from account given by Dr. Bhau Lokhande there are other points to be noted about Jagannatha ofPuri.

There is a legend that Lord Jagannatha was a deity worshiped by a tribal chief, secretly in a cave. Later thisdeity was to be interned in a wooden image. There images are buried and new images installed from time totime, but Navi-Padma of Shri Jagannatha is transferred from the old to the new images. It is believed byhistorians that it contains the tooth of the Buddha. The details of legend told to the tourists are as follows:

The first temple, according to the legend, has been built by King Indradyumna. He felt that there was aconcrete presence of the Lord somewhere near about, but he did not know where. He sent four seekers infour directions. One of them, Vidyapati, a young Brahmin, reached a forest and stayed as the guest of tribalchief, Visvavasu. The chief’s charming daughter, Lalita, fell in love with him and they got married.

While there, Vidyapati came to know that Visvavasu worshipped some secret deity in a cave. Through Lalitahe traced the cave and at once realized that this was the Divine, and escaped to Puri.

Later King Indradyumna apologized to Visvavasu, and obtained his consent for installing the deity in thetemple he had built. But the deity was to be interned in a new image, to be carved out of a log that had comefloating in the sea. A mysterious old man offered to carve the image. As the image resembled the King’svision, he was allowed to proceed with his work, on the condition that nobody would open the closed room inwhich he would work before a certain time. But after some days, Gundicha, Indradyumna’s queen grewimpatient. She pushed open the door. The craftsman disappeared, leaving the three images incomplete inwhich form they are seen to this day. The images are buried and new images installed at the interval ofmany years, when the astrological calculations demand it. But the Navi Padma (the lotus shaped navel) ofShri Jagannatha is transferred from the old to the new image. What does this Navi Padma contain? Some historians believe that it contains the tooth of Buddha.


Evidence of a Text from Sri Lanka

Sri H. L. Kosare has mentioned:

“A Simhalee Buddhist Text from Sri Lanka, Datha vamsho, is considered to belong to fourth century A.D. Itsays ‘The ruler of Kalinga was one Guha-shiva. He was the vassal of the Emperor of whole of Bharat andJambudwipa ruling from Pataliputra. This emperor was the worshiper of Brahmin dharma and arya dharma.’From this it appears that, this reference is of Samudragupta and this king Guha or Guhak was his vassal.The text further mentions that, the Emperor at Pataliputra was complained about this vassal was worshipingthe ‘dead bones’ and abuses the arya devatas. (datha vamsho, J.P.T.S. p. 167, verse 72-94). This provesthat Buddha’s Tooth was being worshipped in Kalinga state, about which a complaint was lodged withSamudragupta.” [Kosare H. L.: 1989: 245]

Caste barriers are weak at Jagannatha

It is well known that Buddhists never believed in caste, and those castes, who in Hindu system of Varnasare considered to be very low, are also treated on equal terms by the Buddhists. It is therefore clear, thatthose places of worship where respect and honour given to low caste people is comparatively better, shouldbe considered as old Buddhist shrines. Such is the case of Temple of Lord Jagannatha of Puri. Catholicity ofLord Jagannatha about caste is well known.

Prof. Ghurey observes:

“The officiating priest of the famous Temple of Jagannatha is a barber, food cooked for the deity by himbeing acceptable to all but the most orthodox amongst Brahmins…” [Ghurye G. S.: 1969: 27]

J.H. Dave observes:

“Jagannatha is a god of the people. High and low are enjoined to eat here together. In presence of the Lord,all are equal as all barriers of caste, race and faith are transcended. To deny the mahaprasada of the Lord,which is always bloodless, is said to invite the wrath of the despised God.” [Dave: 1970: 45]

Dave further observes:

“The temple attendants are divided into 36 orders and 97 classes. The leading one is the Raja of Khurdawho calls himself by the lowly title of “sweeper to Jagannatha”…” [Dave: 1970: 46]

Puri is Dantapura

Dave observes:

“There are 24 high festivals during the course of the year. the greatest of them all is, of course, the CarFestival or the Ratha Yatra. Fa Hien’s description (5th century A.D.) of the yearly procession of the Buddha’ssacred Tooth applies greatly to this procession.” [Dave: 1970: 46]

He further confirms that Puri is the same place as Danta Pura. This is what he says.

“Following on the early Hindu period of the worship at Puri, according to Dr. Rajendralal Mitra, there was aBuddhist period which in turn was followed by the period of Krishna or Vishnu worship. The peculiarities ofJagannath worship, its catholicity, its broad basis, its ignoring of caste barriers, and the similarity of theRatha Yatra or Car Festival with the procession of Buddha’s tooth – these and similar other factors tend tosupport the view that Puri was the same Danatapura where the sacred relic of Buddha’s tooth was alsosituated and preserved. It was taken out every year in a procession with great pomp and devotion andsubsequently removed to Ceylon.” [Dave: 1970: 43]

Views of Prof. Rao

Lastly, it would be desirable to see what Prof. T.A. Gopinatha Rao has observed a long time back. “…Thetemple of Jagannatha is believed to have belonged to the Buddhist at one time and to have been convertedinto a Vishnu Temple at a later date. The image of Jagannatha is an ill-shaped log of wood with two big eyesmarked on it rather prominently. Once in twelve years the log is renewed, the log being brought mysteriouslyfrom some unknown land. This is utilized for carving a new image of Jagannatha, in which some ancientrelic is considered to be embedded. It is the insertion of this relic which sanctifies the new images. This relic is believed by some to be relic of Buddha…” [Gopinath Rao: 1985: 273] For those who always wondered as to why the images are ill shaped, this explanation should be enough, asit is not the wooden image but the relic, that is of importance.

Chapter 2 Chapter 4

Chapter 4Vitthala of Pandharpur is Buddha


The deity at Pandharpur, in Western Maharashtra, is called Vitthala, Vithoba or Panduranga. Like the murthiat Tirupati, this murthi is also said to be self manifested. [Keshavdas: p.1] All the relogio-spiritual activity ofMaharashtra saint poets of middle ages was centered around this deity. The role of these saint poets inpreparing the mental state of Maharashtra of establishing Maratha rule by Shivaji, is universally accepted tobe very important. Even today, it is an important deity and is worshiped by all the castes, low and high, and itis the surce of inspiration to a vast sectin of society. A big sect of devotees is called varkari and thesepeople walk down to the shrine from long distances at least once a year for festival.

Deep rooted tradition

That Vithoba of Pandharpur is none else than Buddha is a well rooted tradition in Maharashtra. In ourchildhood, the book of numbers and alphabets used to have pictures of ten avatars of God, ninth avatarabeing depicted as Buddha, and the picture of Buddha shown was that of Vithoba of Pandharpur and none ofthe pictures of Ajanta etc. this shows a great deep rooted feeling in Maharashtra mind that Vithoba isBuddha.

R.C.Dhere [Dhere: 1984: 231] has observed that since the practice of printing panchangas on press wasstared, the picture of Vitthala is shown as the ninth avatara of Buddha, with the caption buddha or boudhaprinted in the bottom. He has such panchangas in his possession. In one of the comparatively recent bookshri ram sahastra nam a picture of Vitthala and Rukmini with Garuda and Hanumanta is printed with acaption of ‘boudha’. He knows at least two sculptures depicting Vitthala as the buddhaavatara among the tenavatars, one at Genesh temple at Tasgaon in Sangali dist., and second in Mahalakshmi temple at Kolhapur.Image of Buddha avatara in Dasavatras at Rajapur in Ratnagiri dist., though worn out is seen as that ofVitthala.

Dr. Lokhande summarizes

Dr. Bhau Lokhande, in his above quoted work has summarized the literary evidences in a nut shell, showingthat all the saints of middle ages considered Vitthala as Buddha and none else. The following is itssummary. [Lokhande: 1979: 123]

12th century poet Jaideo has praised Buddha as ninth avatara on the authority of puranas. Marathi saintshave considered their principal deity, Vitthala as Buddha only.

Saint Eknatha, while considering Vitthala as Buddha says

“Oh! Vitthala, seeing people madly invloved in wealth and women, you Vitthala have taken the form ofBuddha and keeping your hands on waist, and observing silence, station yourself on the brick as the ninth (avatara).”

“…At your door, saints wait for you eternally, but you in great grandeur of Vitthala are standing for Pundalika keeping yourself on brick in the incarnation of Buddha.”

Even to saint Tukarama and Namadeva, Vitthala appears in the form of Mouni Buddha (i.e. one whoobserves silence).

“It is my misfortune that you as Buddha have adopted the vow of silence. As Buddha in name and form, God has become silent in meditation.”

Saint Eknatha says to Lord Vitthala that,

“You have manifested yourself on the immorial ksetra of Pandharapur in the form of Buddha seeing that theDharam has declined and adharma has increased.”

Lokhande thinks that, the origin of the word Vitthala as given in the Uttar Khanda of Padma Purana shouldbe considered in the same context. Padma Purana, chapter 35, verse 24 says Vitthala is one who sheltersignorant, downtrodden, criminals and gives them knowledge. Who else was such a great personality otherthan Buddha and Vitthala, the above derivation of the word Vitthala has got special significance whichcannot be denied. Another important fact is that Lird Buddha gave His first sermon to the Panch Vargiya Bhikkus on the fullmoon day of Ashadha. This day is called Guru Paurnima and main festival at Pandharpur is celebrated onthis day. Also Lord Vitthala wears Yellow Robes called Pitambar. This all fits well with the Buddhist traditionand history.

Views of Dr. Ambedkar

Views of Dr. Ambedkar that Vitthala is none other than Buddha are well known. He had started writing abook on this subject. Unfortunately book could not go beyond a few pages. [Keer:p.501] Even these fewpages are not available to us. Whether these pages are still preserved int he unpublished works of Dr.Ambedkar and whether this writing will see the light of the day, only the furture can tell.

Views of Dr. Ambedkar as given by his biographer Dhananjaya Keer are as follows :-­

“…Images of Vithoba at Pandharpur is in reality the image of Buddha. I am writing a Thesis on it which willbe read at Bharat Sanshodhan Mandal of Pune. Name Panduranga is derived from word pundarika.Pundarika means Lotus and in Pali Lotus is called Panduranga, which means Panduranga is none else butBuddha…” [Keer: p.50]

Views of Kulkarni

The views of Sri. A. R. Kulkarni are also well known and they are given in the Appendix to Dhammapadaedited by him. He has reviewed the saint poets’ literature and derived conclusions similar to those of BhauLokhande. Kulkarni also mentions that there are images of Dhyani Buddha on the stone pillars on the hall ofthe temple. He further avers that the famous western scholar John Wilson has given evidence that thistemple is Buddhist, in his ‘Memoris on the Cave Temples.’ [Kulkarni: 1978: 129]

Kulkarni points out that the Buddha conquered the enemies by love and non-violence unlike Rama andKrishna who used weapons, and believes that Image has got both hands on waists because of this andquotes the story of Angulimal in its support. Whether one agrees with Kulkarni’s views or not, one thing iscertain that the image of Panduranga is a fine example of webbed hand, ‘a traditional mark of Buddha’ andthe image depicts a bilateral Katyavalambita mudra. The nurthi of his consort is not along with the Lord, andcontarary to depiction in modern picutres, consort Rukmini is in another room.

Kulkarni points out that Vitthala is different from Krishan because firstly there is a separate Krishna Templenearby, secondaly Saint Dnyaneshwara mentions Madhava and Vitthala separately, and thirdlyMahanubhavas who are devotees of Krishna, visit only Krishna temple in Pandharpur and not the temple ofVitthala.

Inscriptinal Evidences

Archaeologically, two inscriptions are mentioned by R. G. Bhandarkar. First is of 1249 A.D., a grant of avillage in Belgaum district at Paundarikakshetra, a holy place situated on the Bhimarathi, in vicinity of theGod Vishnu, and identifies it as Pandharpur; the second is of 1270 A.D. mentioning of a Aptoryama sacrificein Pandurangapura, which is another name of Pandharpur, probalbly named after Panduranga. [Bhandarkar:1982: 122]

It is belived that originator of Varkari cult, which forms the main bulk of present day devotees of Lord ofPandharpur, was Saint Dnyaneshwara who completed his commentary on Gita, ‘Dnaneshwari’ by 1290 A.D.[Ibid:p.131] Dynanedeve rachila paya i.e. Dnyaneshwara laid the foundation, is a popular tradition. Certainlythe shrine was present before Dnyaneshwara and bhakti of Panduranga was prevalent then. It is to be notedthat inscriptions mention the names Panduranga and Pundarika, which are concerned with Buddhisttrditions, a well known Buddhist text is called Sadharma Pundarika, i.e. Lotus of Teachings of Buddha.Obviously name Vitthala came at a later date. Vitthu is said to be Kannada rendering of word ‘Vishnu’. Thisshows that this cult must be Buddhistic before Panduranga was equated with Krishna Vishnu.

Legend was created to connect up names of Pundarika and Vitthala

To establish connection between the names Pundarika and Vitthala the authors of Mahatmya had to do a lotof acrobatics and the faniciful story as mentioned by Bhandarkar is as follows:

“…Pundalika who spent all his time in service of his aged parents and god Krishna was pleased with hisdevotion to them, …In the mean time while Krishna was living at Dwaraka, he remembered Radha, …who …was living at mountains for practice of austerities… came to know of this through her innate cognitic powersand came at once to Dwaraka and sat on the lap of Krishna. … Rukmini, the wedded wife of Krishna came to the place and Radha did not rise up to honour her. … Rukmini got offended, left Dwaraka and wanderedabout until she came to Dindiravana and rested there on the site of modern Pandharpur. Krishna was filledwith sorrow at the disappearance of Rukmini and went about in quest of her to all parts of the country untilhe came to the place where Rukmini was lying. After some explanations she was reconciled to him andKrishna then went to the hut of Pundalika to reward him for his devotion to his parents by personalmanifestation. Pundalika being engaged in attending to the wants of his father and mother was not able togreet him at once and threw back a brick (Marathi : vit ) and asked him to stand on it and wait for him untilhe finished what he was engaged on. Krishna stood on the brick and there he was joined by Rukmini andthus the shrine of Pandharpur grew up.”8 Views of R.C.Dhere

Shri R. C. Dhere in his Marathi monograph “Vithala: ek maha samanvaya” i.e. “Great Syncretization,’ (astory of vaishnavization and sanskritization of a god of ‘gopa janas’ i.e. cow herds of South) has discussedthe various aspects. He reviews all the sthala-puranas. He is of the opinion that all the pandurangamahatmyas of all the sthal-puranas is an attempt to “Vaishnavize” the god Vitthala. In places where theworshipers of original local deities wanted to preserve the identity of their god, the writers of sthala puranansaccepted their claim and attempted to superimpose on it the greatness of Vitthala, thus promoting theprocess of vaishnavization. (p.42).

He believes that Vithala may be more ancient than Krishna, Vedic or even prevedic. (p.62). He wasoriginally a folk god of cowherds (gopas). He avers that he was a god of dhanagars, a tribal community ofthe area and has given many tribal folk songs, to prove his point (p.387). He agrees broadly withDhanpalwar who contemplates a shaivite stage during conversion of Vithala from Buddhism to Vaishnavism.(p.109 ff.)

Giving archeological evidences to show that ‘Pandarange’ was the original Kannada name of this Vitthalashrine, he avers that all the words like Pandurang, Pandurang kshetra, Pandurangpur, Poundarik kshetra,Pundarik and all such concepts originated from the word ‘Pandarange’. He believes that “The origin of word’Vithala’ is not yet satisfactorily explained, and only to explain this name, a story is compiled, depicting thethrow of a brick (marathi-vit) by Pundarika’, a sankritizised form of “Pandrange” (p.43). He quotes Khare whobelieves the name Vithala is the name in south Indian Tamil language, denoting hands akimbo i.e hands onthe kati, (p.160). He opines that the origin of word ‘Vitthala’ from ‘vit’ i.e brick is very artificial and story thatVitthala kept on standing on the brick (vit) is the fable to support it. (p.160). The story of Pundalika, whichwas accepted by the masses before Dyandeva, is not historical, it is purely mythological. Pundlika is not ason of history but an imaginary hero of devotees’ fancy. (p.50)

In addition to saints’ verses given above, he mentions more verses including some of Dynandeva andobserves that all saints from Dnyandeva to Tukarama call him ‘twenty fifth : different from 24 avataras’(verse-68) and Namadeva calls him ‘one not seen in a thousands, and not among the twenty fours’. Thoughonly ten avataras are popular, twenty four is the highest limit of Vishnu’s incarnations. Vishnu has onethousand names which go by the title of ‘Vishnu sahasra naam’ but Vitthala is not found in it. (p.52) He isalso described as ‘naked’ ‘digambar’ by Eknatha, and described as ‘a child.’ (p.55)

He avers that the first song ever written in any Marathi text is for the praise of Buddha avatara, inManasollas, a sanskrit text of 1131 A.D. Here the description is of ‘maya moha Buddha’, like that in Puranas(p.232)

He further observes:

“The description of Buddha incorporated in ten incarnations in Puranas comes with slight difference hereand there in various Puranas like, Harivamsha (1.41), Vishnu Puran (3.18), Bhagwat Puran (1.3.24, 2.7,37,11,4.23), Garud Puran (1.1), Agni Puran (16), Narad Puran (2.72), Ling Puran (2.71), Padma Puran (3.252)etc. Vishnu took this incarnation to deceive the ‘daityas’ by heretical views, says Vishnu Purana. Harivamshasays, Vishnu took this incarnation in Kikat-desha to confuse the lowly people doing yadnyas by vedicmantras. Garud Puran calls him ‘Jin putra’. Bhagwat says, after the start of Kali, to deceive those who hatethe devas, a ‘jin suta’ by name of Buddha will take incarnation in Kikat desha.

Kikat meaning Bihar, the historical birth place of the Buddha, similarly a term ‘Saugat’, names of places likeSarnath and Mrigdaya, term ‘parivrajika’ applied to disciple of Buddha, all these are found in the descriptionsin Puranas. Vishnu Puran calls him ‘mundit’ (i.e. tonsured) and ‘nagna’ (naked). ‘Maya-Moha’ is a specialadjective for him, because he deceives the daityas by his moha. Becoming ‘Digambar’, he only, taught Jinadharma, and becoming ‘raktambar’ he advised Buddha dharma. He is also the same as promoter ofheretical ideas like Charvaka.”


“It makes one sad to see these descriptions in puranas about the Buddha. To call Buddha a maya moha andhis teaching to be heretical to divert the demons away from the right path, is a great injustice to thegreatness of the Buddha. While converting the Buddha to Vishnu avatara, the puranas have disposed off theteachings of Buddha in such a manner. They accepted the Buddha but completely discarded the Buddha’steachings. In this background a verse in “Meru tantra” is important, which says that the Vipras following leftpath, Kundaks, Degraded from the caste, having no vedic sanskaras, those becoming ‘mlencha’ by mistake,the Golaks, the Kayasthas etc. can obtain salvation by taking refuge in Vishnu in Buddha avatara. Jaydev,the poet of ‘git govind’ also praises the Buddha in the same way. Buddha who despises the yadnyas andshrutis and animal sacrifice is the great ocean of compassion.” (p.233)

Knowing well the derogatory remarks of Puranas about the Buddha, why did the saint poets praise theBuddha? he observes:

“We must not forget that, practically nothing gets lost in our tradition, it only changes the name and form.Maharashtra was a land of follower of Buddha for about 1500 years before the Namadeva. There is not onesingle mountains range where Buddhists have not excavated their caves. In this womb of Sahyadri, theBuddhist bhikshus were eternally chanting ‘Buddham shranam gachami’ from hundreds of Buddhist caves.The great precepts of ‘ahimsa’ and ‘karuna’ were echoed from every particle of marathi land. From princes toartisans, every body was in service of these homeless bhikshus, as seen by numerous epigraphs. Tohonour these bhikshus, newly born children were christened as ‘Bhikoba’ and ‘Bhikubai’ in various town andvillages. To think that, this influence of ten fifteen centuries was wiped out just by influence of one vedicintellectual, would be out of place of History. On the contrary, he was abused as “prachanna boudha.” Suchindelible was this Buddhist influence.” (p.234) (This last remark is obviously addressed to AdiShakaracharya.)

“It is not proper to say that such a powerful religion completely disappeared from the minds of the Marathimasses just by the fall of bhikkus or by the origin of new influential cults in the land. The stream of universallove and karuna which was spread by Dynandeva and Tukaram in Maharashtra, was originated by theinnumerable bhikkus from the influence of Buddha’s teachings of Karuna. This fact can not be easilyforgotten. The Buddhist society of pre- Dnyandeva period is not seen clearly as ‘Buddhists’. Even then, ithas to be presumed that it merged with some other popular cult”

“Buddha’s religion, which flourished in this land for ten fifteen centuries, emptied its pot of karuna here whiledeparting in twelfth thirteenth century, and the saint poets mixed their various streams of bhakti in this mainstream to maintain it as a strong flowing current. Even the perversions coming in the form of tantrism werediscarded in Maharashtra by the Buddhism which came now came in the form of Bhagawat dharm. Even inthis new form it did not stop criticizing the Vedas. But its label of non-vedic disappeared. This religion ofsaint poets is a new incarnation of Buddhism, in the cultural life of Maharashtra, this is the ‘mahan yugantra’- The great change of Era.” (p.235)

Chapter 3 Chapter 5

Chapter 5Lord Ayyappa is Buddhist

In addition to Temple at Puri, Pandharpur, and Badrinath in three different corners of India, even theextreme south, viz. Kerala, was also under the influence of Buddhism and among others, the famous deityLord Ayyappa was originally a Buddhist shrine.

Buddhism prospered in ancient Kerala

K.R. Vaidyanathan observes:

“Like Jainism, Buddhism also held sway in ancient Kerala during the reign of Asoka in the 3rd century B.C.Coming by sea, Buddhism was popular in coastal districts, Karumati, Mavelikkara, Bharanikkavu, Pallikkal,Karunagappalli, Idappalli, Dharmapattabnam, Matayi and Pallikkunny being its chief centers… Manyprominent Hindu Temples of today like the Vadakkunnathan temple, Trichur and the Kurumga BhagwatiTemple, Kondugallur, and even the famous Ayyappa shrine atop Sabarimala are believed to have beenat one time Buddhist shrines. … While Jainism did hardly leave any impress on Kerala society, Buddhism was absorbed in Hinduism in respect of some of its ceremonies and forms of worship. The images,processions and utsavam, etc. associated with popular worship in present day Hindu temples in Kerala aresaid to be a legacy of Buddhism. Even the chakiyar kuttu conducted in temples is said to be anadaptation of the Buddhist monk’s religious expositions.” [Vaidyanathan: 1982: 4]

Ayyappa is Dharma Sasta

Coming specifically to Lord Ayyappa, it would be interesting to know that Lord Ayyappa is also generally,and popularly known as Dharma Sasta. Vaidyanathan observes:

“There are temples dedicated to Dharma Sasta as Ayyappa is generally known all over the State of Kerala ­and now of course, in other states also. Even in temples dedicated to other deities in Kerala there will begenerally a Sasta shrine. …” [Vaidyanathan: 1982: 70]

As is well known that word ‘Dharma’ is deeply rooted in Buddhist literature. Eg. ‘sadhamma’ as meaningTeachings of Buddha. Sasta is a well known epithet applied to Buddha. Even today Buddha is referred to asSasta in daily prayer of Buddhists, e.g. ‘ Sattha dev manussanam ‘. Amarkosha mentions this as one of thenames of Buddha. It appears that though the nature of deity changed, the name still persists. The presentnature of the Lord is considered to be a son of Siva on Vishnu. Vaidyanathan observes:

“The story is that, Siva was captivated by the charms of Mohini in which form Vishnu appeared at the time ofchurning of the Ocean of Milk in order to entice the asuras so that the devas could divide the nectar amongthemselves. Siva succumbed to the beauty of Mohini and Sasta is believed to have been born out of theunion.” [Vaidyanathan: 1982: 71]

Caste barriers are weak

Another notable feature is the caste barriers are comparatively weak in this temple, which is a commonfeature of all those shrines which were previously of Buddhist faith. This became necessary for the Brahminsto concede to, so that masses could be wooed away from Buddhism. Vaidyanathan observes:

“…the temple doors of Sabarimala are open to all, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and social status.Here the high and low, the rich and poor, meet on equal terms; all are alike – Ayyappas as the devotees arecalled after the deity itself.” [Vaidyanathan: 1982: 75]

The pilgrimage to Sabari, in itself thought to be an act of tremendous virtue by the Ayyappas, involves a lotof austerities to be followed by them. It is well known that there are 18 steps that are to be climbed only bythose who observe these austerities. But it is little known that these austerities are similar to the vows, known as ashta-shilas, taken by Buddhists. This point should also demonstrate how the traditions persistthough the labels change.

Early Hindu literature has no mention of Ayyappa

About references in ancient literature, T.A.Gopinath Rao observes: [Gopinath Rao: 1985: 486]

“This deity which is very peculiar to the Dravida country does not appear to have been known to the regionnorth of Godavari. In no early Sanskrit work is the deity mentioned. Even the dictionaries do not record this name and give its origin…” In the Vishnu Purana, we hear about Mohini, but

“…It is in the Shri Bhagwata that we learn for the first time that Hara fell in love with Vishnu in his form ofMohini. From the union between Hara and Hari, Arya, Shasta or Hariharputra is said to have been born…”

“…The Suprabhedagama very distinctly mentions that Sasta was distributing the ?amrita? among the godswhen it was churned from the milk ocean, by the union with her of Hara…”

Ayyappa is a Deity of lower castes

Shri Rao further observes:

“…That this deity is peculiarly Dravidian and has been taken into fold of the Aryan pantheon at a later periodgoes without contradiction. At present Hariharputra is treated in the Tamil country as a village deity and is mostly worshiped by the lower classes and the puja in the temple of Hariharputra of Ayyanar (orAyyanarappan) is performed by a Shudra. The Padmasamhita states that the puja in the temple ofArya should be performed by the Parashava; We know from other sources that a Parashava is ananuloma born of a Brahmana father and a Shudra mother. But somehow Ayyanar, like the moretamasic form of Devi, such as Kali, which are worshiped by lower classes in Tamil country, is madepuja to by the Brahmanas in Malabar.

Ayyappa was Buddhist

About the origin of the name Shasta, Shri Rao has to say:

“This deity is called Shasta because he is able to control and rule over the whole world; etymologicallytherefore, the word means a ruler of a country; and is sometimes applied to teachers and fathers. The Amarkosha applies the name to Buddha also. The Tamil Nighantus call him by the additional names Satavahana, the rider of the white elephant, kari, the wielder of the weapon known as sendu, the consort ofpurana and pushkala, the protector of Dharma and Yogi; they also state that the vehicle of Sasta is theelephant and the crest of his banner a cock. The names rider of the white elephant, Yogi, protector ofDharma coupled with the significance of Buddha applied to Sasta in the Amarkosha incline one toconclude that Buddha as conceived and worshiped in the Tamil country was ultimately included inthe Hindu pantheon and a Puranic story invented for his origin at a later period of the history of Hindu Iconology…” [Gopinath Rao: 1985: 487]

Ayyappa has weapons of Bodhisattva

Rao gives description of image as per texts, The Amshumabhedagama, Suprabhedegama andKaranangama, notable among the description is that Lord is seated on a pitha…” with his left leg hangingdown the seat and the right one folded and rested upon the seat vertically. On the knee of this latter legshould rest the elbow of the stretched left arm. In the right hand there should be a vajradanda, which iscrooked stick (note the vajra a characteristic weapon of the Boudha Bodhisattva)…”

Buddha is worshipped in many forms

Lastly we may quote the opinions of Thiru. N. Vanamalai

“Though Buddhism disappeared from Tamilnadu, it became Tamil by integrating into Tamil. Buddha hadbecome reincarnation of Tirumal. The worship of Sathanar, Ayyanar, Dharma Raja and Bodhi Raj are oldBuddha worship.” [Arachi: 1969: 160]

Chapter 4 Chapter 6

Chapter 6Draksharama is Buddhist

Draksharama is situated at a distance of 4 miles from Ramachandrapuram which is a taluk head-quarter inEast Godavari district of Andhra… The place is very famous as a seat of a temple of Bhimeswaraswami[Ramesan N., Temples and Legends of Andhra, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, p. 112] The epigraphy on the wallsof the temples is perhaps the richest amongst all the temples of Andhra…” [Ibid. p.11]

Story of Daksha Prajapati

About the origin of name, Ramesan observes:

“The name Drakshrama is said to be a corrupted form of ‘Daksha’ ‘arama’ or the garden ofDaksha-prajapathi…”

“…Daksha Arama or the modern Draksharama, is said to be the seat of this famous Yajna ofDakshaprajapathi, and in memory of it, even today, orthodox Brahmins do not perform any Yajna orsuch ceremonies, within the premises of Drakshrama. [Ibid. 113]

This seems to be far fetched. The word should means a garden of grapes. Be it as it may, the fact remainsthat word arama is a well known Buddhist word applied to abodes of Buddhist bhikshu.

As a matter of fact the story of yajna of Daksha Prajapati is told about many shrines all over the length andbreadth of the country and not only about Draksharama. Also it has many versions. And hence there isnothing historical about it, but it denotes the trend of people of those times. Dr. Ambedkar gives details ofstory in many places. One version of the story is as follows: [Ambedkar: 1987: Riddles in Hinduism, vol.4,163]

“… Who is this Shiva whom the Brahmins adopted as their God in preference to Indra? The story of DakshaPrajapati’s Yajna and the part played by Shiva throws great light on Shiva. The story is that somewhere inthe Himalayas king Daksha was performing an Yajna. This Yajna was attended by all Devas, Danavas,Pishachas, Nagas, Rakshasas and Rishis. But Shiva absented as Daksha did not give him invitations.Dadhichi one of the Rishis scolded Daksha for his failure to invite Shiva and to perform his puja. Daksharefused to call Shiva and said “I have seen many of your Rudras. Go away, I don’t recognize your Shiva.”Dadhichi replied ” You have all conspired against Shiva, take care, your Yajna will never reach a successfulfinis.” Mahadeo coming to know of this created a Rakshas from his mouth and this Rakshas destroyed theYajna started by Daksha. This shows that there was a time when Brahmins refused to recognize Shiva asthe God to be worshipped or it shows that Shiva was against the Yajna system of the Brahmanas.”

“The difference between the Aryans and the Non-Aryans was cultural and not racial. The cultural differencecentred round two points. The Aryans believed in Chaturvarna. The Non-Aryans were opposed to it. TheAryans believed in the performance of Yajna as the essence of their religion. The Non-Aryans were opposedto Yajna. Examining the story of Daksha’s Yajna in the light of these facts it is quite obvious that Shiva was aNon-Vedic and a Non-Aryan God. The question is why did the Brahmins, the pillars of Vedic culture, adoptShiva as their God?”

Thus anti-Yajna and anti-chaturvarna spirit is shown by this story. As Saivism had already become a part ofHinduism by the time this centre came up, the association of this story with this place should be consideredas an allusion of it being a Buddhist site, as Brahmins are known to shun the Buddhist places, and that maybe the reason of origin of the legend of Daksha-Prajapathi.

This place is also sacred to Muslims.

Ramesan observes:

“…There is a tomb in Draksharama of a Muslim saint by name Saiyid Shah Bhaji Aulia with a mosqueattached to it. This muslim saint is said to have lived 500 years ago. He was born according to tradition, atGardex near Madina in Arabia, and came to Draksharama with his disciples during the course of his tours.Being hungry, they slaughtered the temple bull of a Saivite mutt at Drakshrama and ate it. In the dispute thatensued, the relative greatness of the saint and the local Saivite head of the mutt has called into question,and to settle the matter, a Sivalilngam was thrown into the pond, by name Lingala Cheruvu, and both the Muslim saint and the Saivite Mathadhipathi were asked to bring back the Linga by the power of theirworship. The Muslim saint, it appears, prayed to the infinite Lord who is the same for all, irrespective of alldifference, and the Lord being pleased with the depth of his devotion acceded to his request. The Muslim saint who won in the contest was then given the mutt to live in, and he converted it into a sacred mosque.The descendants of this saint are said to be still living in Draksharama”. [Ibid. p118] Miracles apart, the gist of the legend shows that the masses around the area supported the Muslim saint. Asis well known, the supporters of these Muslim saints were people of lower castes, who of course, wereoriginally Buddhists. Hence, it stands to reason that in olden times, the area was predominantly Buddhist.

Archaeological Evidence of it being a Buddhist Shrine

However, Ramesan gives what he calls ‘a legend’ in support of this. As a matter of fact, this is no merelegend but a statement of scientific, archaeological facts:

“The third legend about this temple is that the temple was originally a Buddha Chaitya and thatduring the course of revival of Hindu worship, it was converted into a Hindu temple. The Mula Virat or the Linga is said to be one of the Ayaka Stambhas of the original Buddha Chaitya. Chaityas or Stupas inBuddhists methods of worship, are mounds raised over the corporeal relics of Lord Buddha or a greatAcharya. Buddhist Stupas and Chaityas are spread all over India, but one of the main characteristics of theAndhra type of Chaityas and Stupas is the existence of the five vertical pillars, called the Ayaka Stambhas,which are erected in the four cardinal directions viz. East, South, West and North. In all the Chaityas ofAndhra, this is a peculiar characteristic which is found. These Ayaka Stambhas which are five in number,are said to represent the five major incidents in the life of Lord Buddha viz, Janana or Birth, Mahabhiniskramana or the great renunciation, Samyak-Sambhodi of the prefect realization. Dharma ChakraPravarthana or the setting in motion of the wheel of Dharma, and Mahaparinirvana or the final absorption ofLord Buddha into the Infinite. The Ayaka Stambhas are generally vertical pillars made of white marblestone.” [Ibid. p.114]

Amaravati and other centres converted

He further continues:

“Andhra Desa and especially the Krishna river basin has been a famous seat of Buddhism, and many stupashave been found in this valley as for example at Amaravathi, Goli, Jaggayyapeta, Gantasala etc., not tospeak of the Mahachaitya at Nagarjunakonda. During the period of the revival of Hindu worship. Forexample, in the Garbha Griha of the Amareswara temple of Amravathi in Guntur district, there is atypical white marble lotus medallion slab of the Buddhist type. The peculiar characteristic Buddhisttype of bricks are also found in the temple. It is therefore possible that the Buddhist Chaitya and theAyaka Stambhas have been reconverted into a Hindu temple and adapted for linga worship. There is nothing irregular about this, since in whatever form one worships the Lord, the place still retains itsgreatness”. [Ibid. p.114]

Without joining issues on the last statement, however, it might be pertinent to ask, whether it would be

proper to worship the Lord Bhimeswaraswami by Trisaran and Pancha Sheela if a devotee so desires.

Very many shrines were Buddhist

It is also proper to quote another legend which gives correlation between various shrines:

“There is yet another popular legend about the origin of this temple. In this temple, Lord Shiva is worshippedin Lingakara. The shape of the Mula Virat, is a long cylindrical pillar some 20 or 25 feet high. The legend is,that these are parts of an original linga which broke off into 5 pieces and fell at five different places orAramas viz. Bheemarama in West Godavari, Amararam of Amravati in Guntur, Daksharama or Draksharama in East Godavari and Kurmarama which is Lotipalli in East Godavari District…” [Ibid. p. 113]

This legend connects the various place. Some of them have been already shown to be Buddhist in origin.Because of this connections, it may be presumed that all these places were originally Buddhist.

Ayaka Stambhas were converted into Siva lingas

Dr. I. K. Sarma, while discussing various sites in Andhra Desa, observes:

“…The Mauryan conquest of coastal Andhra was, therefore, probably earlier to Asokan accession and theReligion of Buddha came to Andhra almost certainly in the pre-Mauryan age. It is of great importance thatAsoka in his IVth pillar edict defines the duties of such rajukas in the administration. We have seen above how Amravati – Dharanikota grew with a Buddhist base right from a Pre- Mauryan period. This very place came to be regarded as an aramaksetra with the Amareswara Linga as the presiding deity of the Sthala.The toponym Amaravati itself is regarded as a corrupt from of “Aramavati”. It is not without significance thatthe long east coast covered by Godavari- Krishna deltas, located mid-way between the Magadha (the homeof Buddhism) and Ceylon (the strong-hold of Buddhism) developed aramakshetras. We have known at leastfive such aramas. These are Draksharma and Kurmarama, both in East Godavari district; Somarama and Ksirarama, in west Godavari district and Amararama in Guntur district. In each of these places a vast temple complex for Siva was raised by Bhima-I (812-921 A.D.) the Eastern Chalulkyan monarch. Anunusually tall Linga was consecrated in the Sanctum which is double storied Sarvatobhadrika shrine.Several angalyas, tall prakara walls with dalans were added by the successive rulers. An examination of such a Linga within the Amaresavra temple, Amaravati itself has revealed that the upper most part ofthe Linga, which is nearly six meter high, has a square mortise hole although rounded off and in theremaining four places too (also Adikesvara temple, Chebrolu Guntur district, the Linga within themain sanctum was similarly tall and of Palnad lime stone. There is no doubt that a Buddhist pillar(ayaka or mandapa Khambha) was shaped to a linga in all these cases.” [Sarma: 1988: 9]

Affinity of Magadha towards coastal Andhra

He further observes:

“…We may now recall to mind certain important Aramas of Buddhist fame. Veluvanarama and Jivakarama (Rajagruha); Ambapalivanaarama (Vaisali), Jetavanarama (Sravasti), Goshitarama, Kukkutarama and Pavarr-arama (Kausambi) etc. All these belong to rich merchants. They were famed right from Buddha’s time and nurtured the growth of Buddhism. At the Amaravati Mahacaitya a unique sculptured Steeledepicted these aramas with full architectural detail and each frame … was duly labeled also in early Brahmicharacters of 3rd century B.C. No where else in Buddhist art we have such well dated sculptured scenes. All these facts emphasize the close affinity and the firm hold of the Magadhan Buddhism on the coastal Andhradesa with Amaravati- Dharanikota as its nucleus.” [Sarma: 1988: 10]

Chapter 5 Chapter 7


Chapter 7Srisailam is Buddhist

Srisailam is situated in the thick and inaccessible forests of the Nallamalai Hills, and is famous as Srisaila. The sanctity of this place is claimed both by the Hindus as well as by the Buddhists…” [Ramesan, Temples and Legends of Andhra, p.11]

It was temple of tribals

There is a legend about a cow giving all its milk on a stone, which was latter enshrined in a temple by divineorder. [Ibid. p.11] Similar legends are attached to many other temples, including Tirupati.

“There is another legend concerning the origin of this temple, among the tribal population called Chenchus,who live in this part of the hills. According to this legend prevalent among the Chenchu tribes. Lord Sivacame once to Srisailam on hunting expedition, and fell in love with a beautiful Chenchu woman, whom hemarried, and who used to accompany him in his hunting expeditions to the neighbouring forests. Hence even today Lord Mallikarjuna is known among these tribes as “Chenchu Malliah”. This tribal legend is beautifully borne out by an interesting bas-relief on the prakara of the temple, in which a tiger is shown asbeing killed by Lord Siva with a trident. In this Lord is shown as being followed by Parvati dressed as a forestwoman with arrows and four dogs. It is interesting to note that the Chenchus have free permission, eventoday, to go into any part of the temple, including the Garbha Griha, enshrining the sacred linga. It is in fact, these tribal people that help to drag the car in the big Ratha festival of the temple and also at other minor services within the temple. During the great Sivaratri festival, when thousands of people congregatehere, to bathe in the sacred waters of the Patalganga and worship Lord Mallikarjuna, the Chenchus also go and worship inside the Garbha Griha independent of all the priests. To this day, caste, creed or sex, does not prohibit any one, providing he or she is a Hindu, form doing Abhiseka to the Lord from the watersof Patalganga or to do Archana with flowers directly. Such a catholic form of worship is unknown anywhereelse in Andhra, except at Srisailam, and this custom probably dates back to the Buddhist period when casterules were not so rigid.

“Srisailam may be traced back to the Buddhist period and perhaps even earlier than to the Mahayana schoolof Buddhism which is known to have flourished during the first century A. D. The Buddhist pilgrims, Fa Hainand Hiuen Tsang have made references to the Sriparvatha hill which is in the Nagarjunakonda valley of thesame river Krishna. After the decline of Buddhism, the Hindu religion would appear to havere-established its authority, probably due to the efforts of Adi Samkara and Srisailam which is a seatof Hinduism, is now counted as one of the sacred Khsetras with an important seat for Sakti in thename of Madhavi which later on came to be called as Bhramarambha. Srisailam is also a principal seat of the Jangams and is one of the five main mathas of the Veera Shaivas. …” [Ibid., p.14]

Here lithic records, preserved in the temple, however, do not take us back earlier than the 14thcentury A.D…” [Ibid., 16]

“The main festivals of the temple last from February to the end of May and during this period, the templeis under the management of Pushpagiri Math of Cuddapah district, whereas on the other days the management is left to a Jangam priest assisted by the local Chenchus. …The Chenchus take a leading partin the festivals both before and after Sivarathri….” [Ibid., p.17]

“…The main temple of Lord Mallikarjuna stands in the centre of this inner courtyard and is surrounded by anumber of minor shrines. The temple of Bhramarambha or the Amman temple as it is popularly known is in aseparate enclosure west of the inner courtyard.” [Ibid., p.18]

“…On the northern side of the temple under the shade of a Vat Vriksha is another shrine dedicated toMallikarjuna, and local legend say that this shrine contains the original linga over which the black cow ofprincess Chandravati gave its milk.” [Ibid., p.18]

One of the bas reliefs show a Kiratarjunaiya scene and here….

“… The bas – relief shows entire sequence of story, and it is interesting to note that Parvati is, in this bas ­relief dressed as a Chenchu woman.” [Ibid. p.18]

Huen Tsang informs us that Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna was staying here. [Lokmat, 27.2.97]

Tribals were Buddhists


All this information is sufficient to link up the temple with the tribal population. The important point to note isthat all these tribals belonged to the Buddhist faith. The mere fact that these shrines had to be destroyedwith sword and fire for establishing Brahmin supremacy over Buddhism, gives ample evidence that thesetribal people practiced the Buddhist faith and the shrines were their centers not only of worship but also oflife. All the activities of tribal folks used to be centered around the temple. That is the reason why theseplaces had to be destroyed if Brahmin supremacy had to prevail at any time. The relation of the tribals with the Buddhist faith is the crucial point that is missed unfortunately by Indian scholars, thoughsome of the westerners have mentioned. This holds true for almost all areas, and specially for SouthIndia. You may name any temple, any shrine that is subjected to Brahmanic iconoclasm, it would be closely related to Buddhist faith, and belong to the tribals. The relation between Buddhism and the tribal racesseems to be great and significant. We would see later that Tirupati is no exception to this.

Nagarjunakonda and Srisailam were destroyed and acquired for Brahmanic use

Now we would concentrate on Srisailam and observe what the scholars have to say about Nagarjunkonada,as well as Srisailam. Prof. Bhagvan on the authority of Longhurst has observed as follows:

“… Under his (Sankara’s) very supervision, the Buddhist, their statues and monument at Nagarjunakondawere destroyed. A.H.Longhurst, who conducted excavations at Nagarjunkonda, has recorded it in hisinvaluable book: ‘Memoir of the Archaeological Survey of India’ No.54, The Buddhist Antiquities ofNagarjunkonda, by A.H.Longhurst, Delhi, 1938, p.6.

The ruthless manner in which all the buildings at Nagarjunakonda have been destroyed is simplyappalling and cannot represent the work of treasure seekers alone as so many of the pillars, statues,and sculptures have been wantonly smashed to pieces. Had there been a town close at hand a Amaravati, one can understand the site being used as a quarry by modern builders as was so often done inIndia. But this never occurred at Nagarjunakonda as there are no towns and no cart roads in or out of thevalley. Local tradition relates that the great Hindu philosopher and teacher Shankaracharya of medievaltimes came to Nagarjunakonda with a host of followers and destroyed the Buddhist monument. Be this as itmay, the fact remains that the cultivated lands in the valley on which ruined buildings stand representa religious grant made to Shankaracharya and it was only with the sanction of the present religious Head of the followers of the great teacher that I was to conduct the excavations. This same Brahmin pontiff, whoresides at Pushpagiri in the Guntur District, also owns the Srisailam temple in the Nallamalais, which nodoubt was acquired in the same manner as it seems to have been a Buddhist site originally.”

[Bhagwan K.S.: 1986: 14]

Apart from the manner of capturing the Buddhist sites by Shankaracharya, the narration of Longhurst givesan evidence of Srisailam originally being a Buddhist shrine, and that it was acquired for Brahmanical use,though the original rights of the tribals had to be conceded, and the tribals in the changed circumstanceshad to be satisfied with the portrayal of Parvati as a tribal women. It would be remembered that even theBrahmanic literature had to depict Parvati as a tribal women has become the subject matter of many adance drama scenes. The Chenchus are known to be the poorest tribals of the lot. But they have not givenup their rights of Ratha Yatra, which we will see later (chapter 27), is a relic of Buddhist tradition. It is alsoworth noting that during the most profitable period the temple is in charge of outsiders, and during rest of theyear, it is left in charge of locals. One would find such arrangements in many other places. Why? Does thisneed any comment?

Chapter 6 Chapter 8


Chapter 8Traditional Story of Lord of Tirumalai

Legends concerning the Hill

Many Puranas contain references to Tirumalai, the important ones being Varaha Purana and BhavishyotarPurana. In short the story is as follows:

“Legends dealing with the sanctity of the Hill are distinct from those which deal with the sojourn of Vishnufrom Srivaikuntham…” [Raghavacharya: I,30]

These stories give the explanation why the hill has various names like Vrishabhachala, Anjanachala,Sheshahala, Venkatachala etc. Though it is obvious that name Venkatachala is derived from old nameVengadam, the Mahatyams are keen on narrating the story that name Venkatachala is given because thesins incurred by a brahmin living with a chandala woman of bad reputation were burnt here.

“But great Sanskrit scholars have not even to this day been able to derive this meaning etymologically forthe word Venkata…” [Ibid., 32]

Legends of Self Manifestation of Murthi

Sitapati Observes:

“…Lord Srinivas manifested himself in a celestial Vimanam on the Swami Pushkarni located on the Lord’s Kridadri or Seshachalam and that this Kridadri or Venkatachalam was specially brought down to earth fromSri Vaikuntam, the Lord’s abode. The manifestation was in the yuga of the Sweta Varaha Kalpa. In this ageBrahma was the first to worship the Lord then became an idol assuming the archavatara in Kaliyuga. This idol was discovered in an ant-hill by one Tondaiman with the assistance of one Rangadasa and was firstworshipped by the Sage Vaikhanasa…” Sitapati:15]

Sage Bhrigu kicks Vishnu on chest

Why Lord came to earth is explained in the following story which is condensed from P.M.Munniswamy Chetty’s Mahatyam.

Sage Bhrigu, in order to find our who was the proper god to receive Yagnaphalam, went to Brahma and Siva and thought both to be unfit. Then he went to Vishnu and kicked the Lord on the chest, and instead ofpunishing the sage, Vishnu inquired of him if the feet of best among the twice born were hurt. Bhrigudeclared Vishnu as a proper god for yagnaphalam. But Lakshmi was annoyed and left for earth, and Lordfollowed in search of her, and remained in as ant-hill under a tamarind tree on the banks of Holy Pushkarni.After thousand years, during the Chola rule Brahma and Rudra as cow and calf arrived to feed the Lord.Chola king was cursed by Lord as the Lord was hurt by a stick thrown by the cowherd at the cow. Howeverhe was assured release from curse and that he would be reborn as Akasa raja and give his daughter inmarriage in the Lord, and also present a gold studded crown.

Venkatesvara as a tribal youth falls in love with Padmavati

Later when Akasa Raja was ruling the Tondamandalam, he found a lotus with a baby girl in it, duringploughing. The child, named Padmavati, grew into a beautiful damsel and met one day Lord Srinivasa, as a kirata hunter youth. Lord Srinivasa fell in love with her and expressed his desire for marriage. Through themediation of his mother Vakula devi, marriage was arranged. Lakshmi who was in Karavirapuram arrived onreceiving the information and was happy to know that Padmavati was none other than Vedavati who wastaken by Ravana instead of Sita. The marriage was solemnized with great pomp and grandeur with themoney borrowed from Kubera on the understanding that debt would by repaid in thousand years. AkasaRaja presented the crown and gods showered flowers on the couple.

Why Venkatesvara has no weapons

Some years after the marriage, Akasa raja died, and his son Vasudana ascended the throne, But he did notunderstand the rightful place of his uncle Tondaman, and on the issue of sharing the kingdom, war ensuedbetween them. Srinivasa gave away His chakra and sankha to Tondaman and joined in person to fight for Vasudana. Ferocious war broke out. At one stage chakra was sent against Lord Himself and Lord felldown unconscious and war stopped. There was truce and kingdom was partitioned between the two. Aftersettling the dispute thus, Srinivasa went to Agastya ashram. One day Lord asked Tondaman to build a temple for Him, and King Tondaman built the Temple.

Above is the popular story. But Brahmanda Purana does not mention any war between Vasudana andTondaman. It says that once the enemies of Tondaman waged war against him. Tondaman rushed to thetemple via a tunnel and prayed. Lord appeared before him and gave him His chakra and sankha.Tondaman won the war and while returning the weapons begged the Lord to wear them invisibly, so that the world may remember the great help rendered by Him to a devotee. The Lord agreed and from thatday weapons were invisible till Ramanuja prayed to the Lord and begged Him to wear them visible for “mendisputed about His identity in ignorance.”

Time of start of Cult of Tirupati

It has been claimed that this Raja Tondaman, who is said to have built the temple for the Lord, was ahistorical person and his time was:

“…in kaliyuga when the yuga had advanced sufficiently to have given occasion to the institution of the erawhich now- a-days goes by the name of Vikramaditya, and say definitely that the other era known to theHindus, that of the Saka had not yet come into existence. This would mean a period of time between 57 or58 B.C..and 78 A.D…” [Aiyangar: I,22]

Somebody had to be there to start the cult of Tirupati, and the king who did, was named by Puranas asTondaman, which name represents more a people than an individual. But his times around the beginning ofChristian era and presumption that cult of Tirupati started around this time can only mean worship of somerelic and not installation of Murthi; we will discuss this in detail in later chapters.

Chapter 7 Chapter 8


Chapter 9Self Manifested Murthi

Belief in self manifestation obscures history

It is a great paradox that in this country a lot many people are made to believe that murthis can be selfmanifested, i.e. murthis are making their presence without being made by the human hand.

It is not only the illiterate masses, who believe in this but also the most educated and the learned do. Such isthe mentality that has been purposefully created by the few elites of this land. It does not only remain aharmless superstition on personal level but is used by these clever people to obscure any inquiry, any kindof intelligent interchange of ideas. It is understandable if a devotee believes in this but for a student ofhistory it is of no use. Unfortunately, the scholars dealing with the subject of Tirupati have taken refugeunder this theory of self manifestation to explain away the historical fact, such as:

*. 1.Why one need not discuss the attributes of Murthi

*. 2.Why there are no parivar devatas. Why it is the only ek-devata temple in whole of India.

*. 3.Why the murthi does not conform to the Agamic rules.

*. 4.Why there was no regular worship in this Temple, till 966 A.D.

*. 5.Why the various murthis are not recognized in this temple by their Agamic names.

and many such points which are inconvenient for Brahmnic scholars to answer, are tried to by solved by thepanacea of ‘self manifestation’. For example T.K.T.Vira Raghavacharya, while refuting the theories of ShriSrinivasa Rao who had challenged the Vaishnavite creed of the temple, explains away the absence of updevatas as follows:

“…As for connection which Kapila and Bhrigu are said to have had, it may be stated that Kapila, Bhrigu,Ganesa, Durga, Siva and Brahma are all Updevatas in a temple consecrated to Vishnu according to boththe Vaishnavite Agamas. But they never had a place in Tirumalai for the simple reason that SriVenkateswara is svayamvyakta murti and not consecrated according to Agamas…” [Raghavacharya: I, 300]

These stories of self manifestation are constructed by the learned few and are incorporated in dailyrituals,for ignorant many.Several sthala puranas and stories are compiled for this purpose, and incorporatedin various Puranas. The purpose of these stories was not only to attach the divine importance to the shrinebut also to explain to ignorant masses how they happened to come across a new image overnight.Historically speaking, it only means that the person who wrote the sthalapurana either does not really knowwho manufactured the murthi or does not really know who manufactured the murthi or does not want tomention it because of his vested interests, even if he knows. In plain language it existed before the sthalapuranas were compiled.

R.C.Dhere rightly avers that any image with attributes, features or weapons can never be ‘self manifested’, itis always sculptured. Any attempt to say so by the so called research scholars and priests on the verdict ofsaint poets, should only be considered as preservation of their selfish interests. [Dhere: 1984: 150]

Usurped Buddhist Murthis are labeled as ‘Self manifested’

In context of Lord of Tirumalai, ‘Self manifested’ should only mean that the murthi existed. It was there. Itwas abandoned by its devotees or there were no devotees left to care for it. It was uncared for, it wasunworshiped, it was friendless, it was lying in a state of bad preservation for a length of time, such a lengthof time that it got buried in an ant hill. When it was found by one shudra Rangadasa, it was resurrected, andits worship started. Then the quarrel ensued for its ownership, each of the two main religions Vaishnavismand Saivism, claiming the ownership. Were they so depressed by any of the enemies form outside or frominside that they could not dare to look after their beloved idol? Devotees of either Siva or Vishnu or any otherBrahmnical sect never had any such misfortune and calamity, except in times of Muslim invasion, It was onlythen, that Brahamnic idols had to be guarded, concealed and protected from the iron and fire of Muslimhand. Before the Muslim onslaught Brahmin murthis were never in a state of such humiliating anddeplorable conditions. The people of various sects quarreled among themselves but never annihilatedothers to the extent that nobody remained there even to light a lamp in the temple. Before the Muslimscame, Buddhists were the only enemies of the brahmins. But none of the Buddhist kings was so intolerant toBrahmnical images so as to let it suffer such a fate. Then why this image of Lord of Tirumalai was lying uncared for, for such a long time, if it was an image of any Brahmnical deity?

On the contrary, there is a definite historical evidence that Brahmnical kings persecuted the Buddhists andBuddhists had to abandon their shrines, with the result that no bhikshus were left to look after their viharas, Hiuen Tsang has given many examples where the local deities protected themselves. L.M.Joshi hasobserved:

“Although Buddhism in South India during the 7th and the 8th centuries had ceased to receive royalpatronage, since the Pallavas and their rival dynasties were followers of Brahmnical religion, yet it continuedto face the rising opposition from Jainism and Saivism.” [L.M.Joshi: 1977: 38]

“In Dhanyakataka or Dharanikota on the Krishna, many Buddhist monasteries were not in ruins whenHsuan-tsang visited the province. Still about 20 of them were occupied by about 1,000 Mahasanghikamonks. The famous Purvasaila and Avarasails monasteries near the capital city (modern Bezwada) as alsoAmaravati, were still extant, but without any monks. In the time of Hsuan-tsang only ‘the local deitiesguarded the monasteries.’” [L.M.Joshi: 1977: 38]

Thus in Buddhist monasteries, the images were left uncared for, for the simple reason that there were nopeople to go about worshiping the Buddha, to such an extent that the caves of Ajanta which wereunparalleled in the world in aesthetic were forgotten for a pretty long time and not one bhikku or a layBuddhist remained there to narrate to glory the Buddhism was. Thus the memory of Buddha was graduallywiped out from the minds of people.

Device of ‘Pandavas’

In addition to this device of so called ‘self manifestation’, Brahmins have resorted to use another device to appropriate Buddhist shrines, temples, mathas and viharas. That is ‘Pandavas’ device. Any cave , any oldtemple, any old structure which is found deserted, Brahmins have christened it, rather crudely, in the nameof Pandavas. Surprisingly millions of god loving, god fearing, ignorant gullible masses have believed this,just ignoring the fact that the Pandavas, either singly or collectively, were never the subject matter ofworship. Such structures are scattered all over the country. Even for the great ‘Seven Pagodas’ or so called’Rathas’ of Mahabalipuram, which definitely deserved a better treatment, it is a pity, that Brahmins could notfind a better nomenclature than that of Pandavas.

Dr. Ambedkar had very aptly said:

“The people with selfish motives say that the caves in Maharashtra are Pandava caves. What for did thePandavas come here? Pandavas never went more than 80 miles away from Delhi. How did they dig upfifteen hundred caves in Alwar state? They neither had a pick or a spade.” [Ambedkar's speech at Pune.,"Janata", 1.1.55, Ganjare's vol.VI, p. 121]

Device of ‘Rakshasas’

It was told to masses that a certain temple or the other was built by Rakshasas, overnight. This is a wellknown device used by brahmins about many temples. May be, that was the real attitude of brahminstowards the Buddhists. They have called all charvakas as rakshasas, and they don’t seem to make anydifference between them, anyway.

Device of Mouni

Another device is to declare that God mouni in kali yuga, i.e. God observes silence in the present Kali era.This is a clever instrument to keep the masses away from the Doctrine, at the same time glorify the Masteras a ‘Guru’, which could have been very useful in those early days of conversion from Buddhism toBrahmanism. ‘Your God has gone silent, he does speak, does not preach, though you must worship him asa ‘Guru’ could be a good advice for the neo-converts to Brahamnism. We have to understand that in ancienttimes, and to same extent even now, the medium of approach to masses was folklore, folk theater, dramas,songs, and bhajans, kirtans and pravachans. These artistes were very efficient as propagators of ‘godordained’ chaturvarnya, and even a small of slogan like ‘mouni guru’ is enough for their pravachana for the whole night. The importance of this device can only be appreciated if these facts are taken intoconsideration. People were bound to ask if Buddha is present avatara of God, how, are we supposed toobserve chaturvarnya and caste, which is against Buddha’s teachings. The ready made answer was thatthough he is avatara of god, his teachings are not to be followed, as he no more preaches in kali yuga, thereby making it imperative for them to observe chaturvarnya as was ordained by avatars previous to theavatara of Buddha. By silencing the Guru the Teachings were silenced. Avatara of Buddha, any way, wastaught to be maya moha and was declared apujya i.e. unworshipable. ‘Mouni guru’ seems to be a part of a broader conspiracy to allure the masses away from Teachings of the Buddha and at the same time retainHis name in the scriptures, only for the names sake. We find Marathi saint poets lamenting about the “moun”of Vitthala, as previously mentioned.

Chapter 8 Chapter 10


Chapter 10Vishnu Worship

Literary evidence

To understand the origin of Lord of Tirumalai as a Vishnu, we have to understand the origin of Vishnuworship in India. Prof. G. S. Ghurye has given comprehensive account and the following is the summary ofit. [Ghurye: Gods & men: 140]

Sathpatha Brahmna and Taitreyya Aranyaka narrate a story which tries to explain the attainment ofSupreme Godhead by Vishnu, who from being one of the many Vedic deities had been raised to thisposition in these texts. Highest place of Vishnu is also shown in Katha Upanishada. Baudhayan Grihyasutra(I,11,7)includes Narayana among twelve name of Vishnu. Later Vayu Purana and Mahabharata insist onidentification of Narayana with Vishnu and Vasudeva Krishna. The name Padmanabha mentioned inBaudhayan Grihya Sutra shows that Sheshyashayi form was also conceived. Kalidas in Raghu Vansa givesa pen picture of this form of Vishnu. These are the earliest references in the literature.

Archaeological Evidence

The earliest invocation to Vishnu, and not to Vasudeva, Krishna, Keshava or Samkarshana, occurs in a Sanskrit Inscription of 404 A.D. and discovered at Mandsor in Gwalior district (Sircar).

(i) Earliest extant representation of Sheshashayi Vishnu is from 5th century brick temple at Bhitargav inKanpur district.

(ii) The next is on a relief at half ruined temple at Devgadha in Lalitpur district, of 6th century. A.D.

(iii) Red stone relief at Badami of last quarter of 6th century A.D.

(iv) Aihole in Bijapur is from end of 8th century A.D.

(v) Pallava representation of this forms of Vishnu in the temple at Mahabalipuram is of middle of 8th century



In the reign of Vikramaditya (5th monarch of Gupta line), Boar Vishnu was sculptured in the cave atUdayagiri near Bhilsa and Bhopal in M.P.,and nearby at Eran a feudatory of Gupta under suzerainty ofHunas erected a stone temple having inscription of 500-515 this deity in Boar form.

Later Vijayanagar monarchs in 14-16th centuries adopted Varaha form, adoption being so complete thattheir coins were called varahas.

Gajendra Moksha Vishnu is seen Deogadh temple of 6th century A.D.

We do not know about the sectarian affiliation of the first four Gupta kings. Fifth king Chandragupta II wasdescribed as Param Bhagwata. Sixth and seventh were named after Skanda. Skanda Gupta Junagadhinscription of 455-458 A.D.refers to Vamana or Trivikrama. Skanda Gupta having won great victory overHunas created statue of Vishnu at Bhitar in Gazipur district of U.P.,in inscription he likens himself to Krishna.From the above account, it should be clear that the worship of Vishnu in its own form was quite late. Theliterary sources though believed to be earlier, there can always be a controversy about their dates. Here weare only concerned about Vishnu as such and not His avataras,as for our purpose, Lord in Tirumalai isbelieved to be Vishnu as such and not in any of the avatara forms.

Earliest popular form of Vishnu was reclining and not standing

The form of Vishnu which was popular in these early days was not in standing position, but in the

sheshashayi form. Prof. Ghurye observes:

“To begin with, I shall take up the worship of Sheshashyayin form of Vishnu Narayana. For first, it is the formof Vishnu which according to Kalidasa was appealed to and by implication the form that has to be approached for incarnating for the good of humanity; second, it is the form which Rama, as stated by same poet mentioned to Seeta as residing in ocean beyond or near Lanka;third, it is the form that according to theaccount in Vayu Purana is the Super Cosmic source; fourth, it is the form in which Vishnu is invoked as the super god in one of the inscriptions of the beginning of the fifth century A.D.; and fifth, His representationon a brick of the Bhitargav Temple near Kanpur of the fifth century is perhaps the earliest of Vishnu


Not only that, this was the most popular representation of Vishnu, but Laxmi as His consort was present onlyin this form till much later, till the period of Ramanuja. Prof. Ghurye observes:

“The genesis of this spread of Sheshashayi worship may be traced to Ramanuja’s philosophy and personalinclination postulating Vishnu together with Laxmi as supreme deity. Sheshashayi form of Vishnu was theonly one, at least till then, that had Laxmi described and shown being with Vishnu…” [Ghurye: Ibid: 152]

Other forms of Vishnu

Ghurye further observes:

“Next comes the form of God known simply as Vishnu in inconological and mythological literature. In the latter, Vishnu Anantashayin and Vishnu Garuda Vahana are the only deity that favoured the devotees byremoving their trouble makers without resorting to incarnations…” [Ibid:153]

“Vishnu in other than Telugu Tamil districts is known either as Vishnu or more often as Laxmi Narayana oras in North India Balaji. In the former form his image is generally standing erect pose, very dignified. He has more often four arms than either two or eight and is par excellence “Chaturbhuja” four arms as Brahma is Chaturanana, “four faced”. As Laxmi Narayana He has His consort Laxmi by His side. In South India, as inthe Laxmi Narayana temple at the Tirupati hill in the North Arcot district, is the image of Laxmi Narayana, Laxmi seated, on the left lap of Vishnu with His two left arms entwining Her. This appears to be the more usual representation of this form of Vishnu in South India. It appears to me to be imitation of early Saiviteimages of Shiva in the embrace of Uma or Parvati.” [Author is not referring to the Lord of Tirumalai]

“Vishnu has still other names in South India by which He is known in preference to Vishnu or even LaxmiNarayana. And these are Sri Nivasa, Venkatesa, Venkataramana. The deity of the most famous shrine of Tirupati is known as Venkatesha.” [Ibid. 153 ff.]

Consorts of Vishnu

“From early iconological literature there has been a school of thought assigning two consorts to Vishnu, Srior Laxmi and Bhu or Earth. But representation of Vishnu with two consorts is rare in North India till late, when Krishna cult familiarised the two consorts of Krishna viz. Satyabhama and Rukhmini. But in South India it is fairly common even in the form of Vishnu or Venkatesa since Ramanuja’s system of Vaishnavismgives three consorts, Laxmi, Bhu or Earth and Lila…” [Ibid. 154]

Above is, in short, history of Vishnu worship. It is noteworthy that though literary identification of Vishnu withsupreme God was in various texts for which quite early dates are claimed, the archaeological representation does not start much before the Gupta Age. Apart from the avatara form, Vishnu as such, is more important in the form of Ananta Sheshashayi.

There were many Vishnu shrines in South India but Tirumalai was not amongst them

We would like to see the conditions of Vishnu centres in South India, as given by Dr. S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar.

“… we may note down such inscriptional references as have cone down to us in regard to Vishnu shrines and Vishnu worship in this region of the country. The first inscriptional reference, in pint of time, is the record known as British Museum plates of Charudevi. This is a Prakrit charter issued in the reign of MaharajaVijaya Buddhavarman and mother of Buddhyankura. It is a grant to a temple of Narayana at a place called Dalura. The nest one is what is known as the grant of Simhavarman. The record opens frankly with an invocation to Vishnu in the name of Bhgagavat, and purports to have been issued from the camp atMenmatura, and is a grant of Simhavarman, son of Maharaja Vishnugopa, who in turn is stated to have been the son of Maharaja Skandavarman. The next one is what is known as the Uruvappalli grant of Yuva Maharaja Vishnygopavarman who is described as a worshiper of Vishnu (Parama Bhagvata). It is a grant tothe temple of God Vishnuhara at the village of Kandukura. The next one is what is known as the Mahendravadi inscription of Gunadhara. It is an inscription of the great Mahendravarman and the shrine is called Mahendra Vishnugraha on the bank of the Mahendratataka in the city of Mahendravadi,all of thesenames having reference to Mahrendravadi. The next one is Mahendagappattu of Vichitrachitta, another name of Mahendravarman. It refers to the to the construction of a cave-temple to Brahma Isvara and Vishnu by Mahendravarman. The next one is series known as the Vaikunthaperumal constructed by NandivarmanII, Pallavamalla. The temple is in Conjeevaram, and the inscriptions describe the circumstances under which Nandivarman came to the throne of Kanchi. The next one is what is known as the Tandantottam plates of Kovijaya-Nandi- vikramavarman. This makes provision for the conduct of worship the local Vishnu and Siva temples and for the reading of the Mahabharata in the temple. A similar provision for the Mahabharata in thetemple is referred to in the Kuram plates of Paramesvaravarman I, three or four generations earlier. The next reference is the inscription of the temple of Adivaraha at Mahabalipuram dated in the 65th year of the same sovereign Nandivarman II, Palla- vamalla. The next one is what is known as the Tiruvellarai inscriptionof Dantivarman in the Pundarikaksha Perumal temple near Trichinopoly. The next one is an inscription of the 9th year of Dantipottarasar in the Vaikunthaperumal temple at Uttaramallur, which is much nearer. Then we come to the Triplicane inscription of the same sovereign in the garbhagriha of the temple. This is dated inthe 25th year of Dantivarman Maharaja and refers to a donation to the temple. The next one is one of the 21st year of the same king in the Vaikunthaperumal temple at Uttaramallur. The next on is a reference in the 51st year of Vijaya-Dantivikrama to the Perumanadigal at Tiruvilangovil in Tirucchokinur in Kudavur- Nadu, asub-division of Tiruvengadakottam. If this Bijaya- Dantivikrama is the Dantivarman son of Nandivarman II this would be the earliest record in this region of the Pallavas. The next is a record in the Ulagalanda-Perumal temple at Conjeevaram dated in the 18th year of Nandipottarayar, victor at Tellaruobviously Nandivarman III. The next one is in the Venkatesapperumal temple at Tirumukkudal in the Madhurantakam Taluk of the 24th year of Nrpatungavarman. It is a gift of gold to the temple of Vishnu, which was taken charge of by the assembly of Siyyapuram, the modern Sivaram near Conjeevaram. Thisspread of the inscriptions, and the number of Vishnu shrines coming under reference would indicate the prevalence of Vishnu worship, at least as one of the popular religions of the country. But in all these there is still the remarkable omission of Tiruvengadam as a Vishnu Shrine, which omission may be explained as being due to causes already indicated above.” [S.Krishnasvami Aiyangar, History of Tirupati, vol. I, p.112,emphasis ours]

Why there is no mention of Tirumalai

It is clear that though many centres of Vishnu worship are mentioned, there is no mention of Vengadam. The first reason suggested by Aiyangar is that the practice of inscriptions had not yet become common. Heobserves:

“…we find Pallava rule beginning betimes, almost immediately after the rule of Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan, andwe could mark three separate groups of rulers, as indicated before, from that period down to the later years of th 6th century. The point of consideration at present is why these rulers who have left someinscriptional records of their own in various other places, have left none in the shrine of Tirupati. Wecannot say exactly why. Tirupati must have been in age of the Pallavas as inaccessible as in the earlier, and even down to the much later period of the Cholas, and the practice of recording of inscriptions gifts to the temples had not become so much a vogue as yet. That seems to be enough explanation, and, at any rate, that is all that we are in a position to offer. …” [Aiyangar: I,106]

The second reason given is that, being an area under frontier disputes no important person could visit. He observes:

“…Pallava sovereigns of this dynasty though engaged primarily in war were not negligent of their duties as civil rules. Their achievement is on the whole very considerable both in useful public works and in the piousacts of benefactions to religion. Notwithstanding this we do not find them to have done anything worthy of record to the holy shrine at Vengadam, notwithstanding the fact that the shrine had attained to great fame early in its history. This can be explained as due more or less to Vengadam being on a frontier in disputebetween the Pallavas and their northern neighbours for one reason.” [Aiyangar: I,111]

Both these explanations are far-fetched and unjustifiable. One may not forget that lithic records had startedabout thousand years ago during Ashoka’s reign. And the argument that, because of frontier area no dignitary visited it, is most unsatisfactory. Kings and their ministers do not keep away from the religious places simply because of their locations at border area. The real reason seems to be that this area wasstronghold and home land of Kalabhras, who were Buddhists by faith, and hence rulers who were anti Buddhist were not expected to visit the place.

The explanation that inscription were rare those days is also flimsy and unbelievable, and even the scholars like Ragavacharya did not accept the explanation.

Tirumalai was not important for Hindus

Raghavacharya, however gives another explanation that the temple was not important. This is what heobserves:

“An attempt was made in the last chapter to show that neither the so-called Puranic accounts nor other legends can be trusted to explain when and why the God of Tiruvengadam manifested Himself on the Hill, and why the Hill itself came to be credited with the virtue of burning away all sins. It cannot however, be doubted that the Hill was considered sacred and the Deity thereon more so. The fact that neither the Hill not the Deity thereon is mentioned by name in the Itihasas, the Vishnu Purana, Sri Bhagavatam andthe Bharatam [Emphasis ours] does not militate against it. It was however, rarely resorted to by pilgrims in ancient times.

“So was and still is Ahobilam, to which among the Alwars only Sri Tirumangai Alwar seems to have paid a visit. It was so inaccessible. It came into prominence during the period of the Sangama Dynasty of the Vijayanagar Kings and after the battle of Talikota again relapsed into obscurity. … There was no regulardaily worship although the Temple is said to have been consecrated according to the Pancharatra Agama by the Ahobila Mutt Jiyars. There was a Niyogi Brahmin of the Cuddapah District doing puja voluntarily although he knew nothing of the Agama form of worship. … This was for the Tiruvilankoyil God in the plains.Five miles away on the Hill is the real Ugra Narasimhaswamy partly in a rock cut cave. There was no daily puja for Him. … Outside the temple, and even inside the Gopuram, animal sacrifice used to be made by the villagers making the waters of the Bhavanasini stream (on whose banks the temple is situated) turn red withblood.

Tiruvengadam might have been in similar state in the earlier stages. Except for the Alwars singing its glory, there was nothing historically great about it. Epigraphical researches disclose that some Vishnu temples existed from unknown times and more were built from time to time and endowed by the Pallava Kings….” [Raghavacharya: I,50]

The author then mentions the Charudevi plates, Uruvappalli grant, Mahendravadi inscription, Mandagappatu inscription, inscription of the Pallavaram cave temple, and further observes:

During the eighth century A.D. and the 9th century also grants were made very near to Tirupati forthe Siva and Vishnu temples as may be seen from inscription in Gudimallam in Chittoor District,Tiruvallam (North Arcot District) and Tirumukkudal (Venkatesa’s temple) [Emphasis ours] These are not repeated here in extenso as we are not much concerned with the details. Among the donors are the Bana Kings (Mavali Vana Rayas) one of whom Vijayaditya Banarayas a donor for the Tiruchukanur Tiruvilankoyil about the closing years of the 9th century A.D. The absence of any inscription showinggrant of land or relating to the construction of a temple on Tirumalai cannot therefore be accountedfor only by a simple statement that inscriptions were rare in those days as Dr.S.Krishnaswami Ayyangar would have us believe. It can be accounted for only by assuming that the Tirumalai temple, although considered sacred, was not considered important. That must also have been the reason for having a Tiruvilankoyil in those early days.” [Raghavacharya: I,50]

Tirumalai being a Buddhist Centre, was unimportant to Hindus

It was not mentioned in ‘Itihasas’ meaning Ramayana and Mahabharata, neither in Vishnu Puranas nor even in the Bhagavat Purana, which is believed to have been compiled around 10th century A.D. Many Brahmanic shrines just nearby Tirumalai are mentioned in inscriptions. Then why not Tirumalai? It wouldseem that though sacred, the temple was not important to Hindus as compared to temples mentioned in the inscriptions.

That raises another question. When Vengadam was famous for festivals in Sangam age, how did itloose its fame and why was it not important till about tenth century A.D., till Bhoga Srinivasa wasinstalled? The most satisfactory explanation is that it was not important as a Vishnu shrine, simply because it was a Buddhist temple and could become important as a Vishnu Shrine only after the idea of Buddhabeing an Avatara of Vishnu caught the imagination of masses, after decline of Buddhism, and after the fall of Kalabhras.

Chapter 9 Chapter 11  


Chapter 11Hindu Shilpa Shastra on Vishnu Images

Three poses Vishnu Images

How the images of Vishnu were ordained to be made by the Agamas and other texts? We will discuss themost salient point from Sitapati’s ‘Sri Venkatesvara’

Sitapati observes:

“The Vishnu images are generally shown in one of the three poses -sthanaka, asana and sayana, Sthanaka is the standing pose, Asana is the sitting pose, and Sayana is the reclining pose. … The Agama sastrassuch as the Vaikhanasa Agama, the Pancharatra Agama, the Tantrasara and Vishnu Dharmottaram laydown the principles on which Vishnu images are to be made. There are four important types of Vishnuimages namely Yoga, Bhoga, Veera and Abhicharika types. … Vishnu images have usually four arms, the ayudhyas or weapons held in the hand usually being Chakra, Sankha or conch, the bow and arrows and the gada or club. … The hands are usually in the Abhaya, Varada, and Katyavalambita poses. … The Abhayapose is the one in which the Lord holds his hand aloft, with the right palm facing the devotee with all thefingers of the hand pointing upwards. … The Varada hasta is the pose in which the Lord holds His hand (lefthand) with the palm facing the devotee with all the fingers of the hand pointing downwards. … TheKatyavalambita hasta pose is the one in which the Lord keeps His hand (left hand) on the kati or waist …Vishnu images are shown to carry several ornaments such as the padma or the lotus, Kireeta or the crown, Makara Kundalas or crocodile ear ornaments around the waist, Kati bandhas or ornaments around the waist and hips, the sacred thread etc. There is usually a mole on the right chest called Srivatsa and a garlandreaching up to the knees called the Vaijayantimala. Sree Koustubam is a gem studded jewel on the chestwhich is sacred to Laxmi. The consort of the Lord is usually carved or exhibited near the Srivatsa and the Sree Koustubam…” [Sitapati:9]

Lord of Venkatesvara Image

“…The Lord’s image at Tirumalai is a Sthanaka or standing figure. The worship in the Sri VenkatesvaraTemple at Tirumalai follows the Vaikhanasa Agama. It is, therefore, relevant and necessary for us to informourselves about the rules laid down in the Vaikhanasa Agamas for Vishnu images in Sthanaka pose.According to Mariach Samhita, Vishnu images in Sthanaka pose can be Yoga, Bhoga, Veera or Abhicharikamurthis. In each type there would be three subtypes, namely then Uttama, Madhyama and AdhamaMurthis.” [Sitapati: 13]

“The Yoga-Uttama-Sthanak murthis should be Syam (dark) in colour with four arms; the Sankha and Chakrashould be exhibited; one of the right hands should be in the Abhaya hasta pose, while one of the left handsshould be in the Katyavalambita pose. On the right, the sages Bhrigu and Markandeya should be seated.Brahma with four arms should be shown as standing near the right side facing north with his ayudhyas suchas Aksha Mala and Kamandala; two of his hands should be in the Abhaya and Katyavalambita posses. Sivashould be shown facing south with four arms, two of them in the Abhaya and Katyavalambita poses andother two holding a Mriga (deer) and a Parasu (axe). The complexion of Siva should be white.”

“In the Yoga-Madhyama-murthi, the Parivara devathas Brahma and Siva should be absent. In theYoga-Adhama-Sthanaka murthi sages Bhrigu and Markandeya should be absent”

“The Bhoga Uttama-Sthanaka murthi should be dark in colour with four arms. The Sankha and Chakrashould be exhibited. One of the right hands should be either in the Abhaya or Varada Hasta poses. One ofthe left hands should be in the Katyavalambita simhskarana pose. Siva and Brahma should stand to theright; Sri Devi or Laxmi with a lotus in left hand and a Prasaritha Dakshina Hasta (extended right hand)should stand to the right while Bhudevi with Prasaritha and Druthotpala hastas should stand to the left. The Parivara Devas and sages include Bhrigu, Ved Vyasa, Maya, Samhladini Vyaygini, Thumbru, Narada,Kinnara, Mithuna, Yaksha, Vidyadhara, Sanaka, Sanath Kumara, Surya and Chandra.”

“In the Bhoga-Madhyama-Sthanak murthi, Thumburu, Narada, Yaksha and Vidyadhara should be absent”

“In the Bhoga-Adhama-Sthanaka murthi, the Sun and the Moon should be absent”

“The Veera-Adhama-Sthanaka murthi should be Syama in colour with four arms. The sankha and chakra should be exhibited. Brahma and Siva should be on the right and left sides. Similarly Bhrigu andMarkandeya, Kishkinda and Sundara, Vyajaka, Sanaka, Sanath Kumara, the Sun and the Moon should bepresent.” “In the Veera-Madhyama Sthanaka murthi, Kishkindha, Sundara, Sanaka and Sanath Kumara should be absent. In the Veer- Adhama-Sthanka murthi, Sun, the Moon and the sages should be absent.”

“All the Abhicharika Sthanaka Murthis should have two or four arms. The colour of the murthi should be gray(Dhuma Varna-colour of smoke). The murthi should have dark lips, withered or dried up limbs, should exhibitthamoguna; should have eyes turned upwards. The Parivardevas, Brahma etc. should be absent. It shouldhowever be surrounded by paisachas or evil spirits, and should not have any auspicious qualities.”

Self manifested murthi

There are stories in Puranas about the murthi being swayambhu, i.e. self-manifested. Let us see the gist ofthese stories in Sitapati’s own words:

“…Lord Srinivasa manifested himself in a celestial vimanam on the Swami Pushkarni located on the Lord’s Kridadri or Seshachalam and that this Kridadri or Venkatachalam was specially brought down to earth fromSri Vaikuntam, the Lord’s abode. The manifestation was in the yuga of the Sweta Varaha Kalpa. In this ageBrahma was the first to worship the Lord. The Lord then became as idol assuming the archavatara in Kaliyuga. This idol was discovered in an anthill by one Tondaiman with the assistance of one Rangadasaand was first worshipped by the sage Vaikhanasa …” [Sitapati:15]

Shri Sitapati further observes:

“If the above claim that the Lord’s image is a self manifested figure is accepted, the question of examiningit from the standpoint of the Agamas and Silpasastras does not arise at all. It would however be interesting to study the Lord’s image first and examine how far it conforms or differs from the standards ofconstruction, excellence etc. laid down in the Agamas, particularly the Vaikhanasa Maricha Samhita.”

Description of Lord’s Image

Shri Sitapati then describes the image: [Sitapati: 16]

About height etc:

“…The Lord’s image is in Sthanaka or standing pose. The Lord is standing on a high lotus pedestal. Theheight of the Lord has never been recorded, but cannot be less than nine feet from the tip of the ‘mukutam’i.e., the crown to the bottom of the lotus pedestal as can be seen clearly on a Friday when ‘abhishekam’ isdone after removing all the gold ‘kavachas’ etc. ornamenting this figure. The priest performing the worship,about five feet tall, standing on a stool two and a half feet high is not able to perform ‘abhishekam’ on theLord’s mukuta without assistance from a priest standing behind the idol. Keeping in view this fact and thatthe pedestal on which the Lord stands is itself below the floor in the sanctum sanctorium, the Lord stands isitself below the floor in the sanctum sanctorium, the Lord’s figure from tip of the crown to the vase of thelotus pedestal, must measure between nine and ten feet”.

About the beauty etc:

“The image is perfection personified, and it would not be incorrect to say is the most handsome and perfectlyfeatured idol of India.”

About the material etc:

“According to tradition, the idol is a manifestation of the Lord in Saligram Sila…. The idol of the Lord isliberally anointed frequently with civet or ‘punugu’ oil; this application of oil makes the idol dark in colour anddoes not enable us to make an accurate assessment of the material of the image. The material of the idolcould be granite or the red igneous rock…”

About the eyes etc.:

“…The Lord’s majestic beauty is best seen at the time of the Friday Abhishekam when the jewels and otherparaphernalia do not cover our view of Him in His celestial glory. It is at this time that we see the eyes of theLord in the ‘sama drishti pose’ showering divine grace… The eyes neither look up nor downwards, butstraight into devotees’ eyes (as laid down in Sukraniti)…”

About the face etc.:

“The face is beaming with joy and wears a smile. An aura of meditation and abundant love is the constantatmosphere around the Lord, wearing a mukuta or crown which is more than 20 inches high.”


About the hair etc.:

“The Lord’s figure is richly adorned with flowing locks of hair or jata juta and some of these locks of curly hairrest on his shoulders.”

About the mouth and nose etc.:

“The nose is delicately carved and is neither prominent nor flat. The mouth of the Lord is also exquisitelyshaped. According to Pratima Mana Lakshanam the mouth should be made slightly smiling, pleasant andpossessed of all good signs. One should absolutely avoid the construction of the mouth which is passionate,impetuous, wrathful, sour, bitter, or circular. … The chin and the ears are carved proportionately. The earswear beautiful ear ornaments…”

About the body etc.:

“The chest of the Lord is magnificent in cut and size and should, if measured, be between 36 to 40 inches inwidth, while the waist would be between 24 to 27 inches. The neck is conch like and the body in the postureof a lion and exquisitely shaped. The belly is also beautifully modeled.”

About the arms etc:

“The Lord’s image has four arms, the upper two being carved to hold the chakram and the conch; the chakram and the conch are not integral parts of the main idol. The upper right arm holds the Sudarshana Chakra; the upper left arm holds the Panchajanya, … The lower right hand of the Lord is in theVarada hasta pose, while the lower left hand is in the Katyavalambita pose. Actually the fingers of the lefthand rest on the left thigh, with the thumb of the hand almost parallel to the waist line…”

About posture etc.:

“While the idol itself is not exactly standing in the tribhang pose, as in the case of Shri Rama idols, the nearand below the waist has taken a slight tilt to the left and the knees themselves are bent and open slightlyoutwards, giving the idols peculiar grace and charm”.

About Laxmi etc.:

“Mother Laxmi is carved on the right chest of the Lord in the sitting pose and is an integral part of the mula murthi.”

About ornaments etc.:

“The yajnopavitam and a set of four necklaces or ornaments of the neck can also be clearly made out on theidol. The arms have armlets with finger-like projection which appear to be Nagabhushanams or Cobraornaments. A cobra is also said to be coiled around the Lord’s right arm. The figure is depicted as wearing adhoti from the waist downwards, while the upper portion is not covered by any dress or vastram. The nipplesof the Lord on his chest are button like and are prominent. There is however a katibandham or waistband and this waistband is about 2 inches thick.”

About legs etc.:

“The legs and feet of the Lord are beautifully shaped, strong and lissome, As indicated earlier, both theknees are bent and open slightly outward, giving the stately figure charm and grace, that words cannotadequately describe. The feet are models of perfection and have ornaments near the anklets.”

About bow marks etc.:

“The Lord’s image has on the shoulders marks resembling ‘scars made by the constant wearing of the bowand a pack of arrows’.”

The Image resembles Bodhisattva Image

After describing the murthi, Shri Sitapati observes:

“The perfectly modelled image of the Lord is personified beauty and is indeed a Divya Manohara Murthi. The image bears some resemblance to the famous Bodhisattva Padmapani painting in cave I of the Ajanta Hills. Bodhisattva has of course only two arms; but if the Bodhisattva is shown with four arms and with his neck erect and his eyes in the Sama Drishti pose instead of the Avanita Drishti pose, theBodhisattva would appear as if it is study of the Lord at Tirumalai.” [Sitapati: 20 emphasis ours]

Shri Sitapati, however, hastily adds:

“The resemblance can only be ascribed to chance and no inference whatsoever can be made linking up thetwo.”

He, of course, does not give any reasons why the two should not be linked, neither he explains why there isso much resemblance. We will have more to say about this later.

The Image does not conform to Vishnu Images

Sitapati further observes:

“We may now examine how far the image conforms to the yardsticks of construction, exhibition etc. laiddown in the Maricha Samhita. The figure is syama in colour, and has four arms. It is not a Yoga-SthanakaVishnu, as the right hand according to Maricha Samhita has to be an Abhaya Hasta. In fact, the Lord onlyexhibits a Varada hasta and not an Abhaya Hasta. The other deities mentioned as essential for a Yogasthanaka image are absent. The image is also not a Bhoga or Veera or an Abhicharika murthi as one or theother of the characteristics mentioned in the Maricha Samhita are not satisfied by the Murthi.” [Sitapati:20]

Pre-Agamic Image of Different Class

Sitapati observes thus:

“One can therefore argue that the Lord’s image is a super- agamic manifestation, that is, one that existedbefore the Agamas came into being. Another plausible argument is that the image is class by itself and notsimple Vishnu image. It is one that combines in the Hari and Hara aspects of the Supreme Spirit.”[Sitapati:20]

It should be noted that no rules can be framed in a vacuum. So when the Agamas described the norms,these were prescribed on the basis of Vishnu images in existence at the time of writing of Agamas. Age ofAgamas is believed to be about 9th century, and the Vaikhanasa Agama is believed to be earlier one. T. A.Gopinath Rao observes:

“The prose recension of the Vaikhanasagma is perhaps the oldest among the Agamas of the Vaishnavas.The same work is also in verse; and this is distinctly of a later date. … that the Vaikhanasagama, as it is inverse, is certainly not older than the 9th century A.D.” [Rao: I,56]

Though the Agamas were written later on, this does not mean that artists sculpturing the Image of Lord ofTirumalai did not know that Vishnu images must have weapons. Because the Agamic rules were followed inMurthis older than Agamas. Rao observes:

“In the sculptures of Mahabalipuram and in other Dravidian rock cut shrines, including the famous Kailasa atEllora, it is the Vaikhanasagama that appears to have been followed …” [Rao: I,78]

He further observes:

“Thus it may be seen that the age of the Agamas and the Tantras is mainly between the 9th and the 12thcenturies of the Christian era. But the descriptions of the images as contained in them may nevertheless, beolder than this period. It is well to bear in mind that these descriptions were most probably not invented bythe authors of the Agama works under consideration, but were collected from various authoritative sources.In proof of this, may be mentioned that Varahamihira who is known to have lived in the 6th century, givesdescriptions of certain images and that his descriptions of certain images are not in any way different fromthose found in these later Agama works. The rules for the making of the images must have indeed beenformulated at a much earlier time, and must have long remained unwritten…” [Rao: I,58]

The Lord of Vengadam does not fit in with any of the rules prescribed in Agamas. Therefore the possibilitythat the image was that of Vishnu can be ruled out on this basis alone. Because the compilers of Agamaswould have taken into consideration, all the Vishnu images in existence, without any exception whileprescribing the norms. At least, the absence of weapons in the Image, certainly, cannot be explainedaway by saying that the image is pre-Agamic. The Image existed and definitely would have been taken into consideration by compilers of Agamas, if it was considered to be a Vishnu Image at that time. However, the examination of Lord’s Image from iconographical point discussed in Chapter 19.


We would recapitulate the important points in Shri Sitapati’s Account.

*. 1. The weapons of the Lord in His upper two arms i.e. sankha and chakra are not integral parts of themurthi, showing that the original murthi was without weapons, and these were added later. These are madeof gold, as per Bharatiya Sanskriti Kosh (Marathi) which observes: “Even today, the weapons in the hands ofimage are not original and placed in the Murthi’s hands later on and are made of gold.” [bhartiya sanskruti kosh, IV,117]

*. 2. The image resembles, in great detail, with the Bodhisattva Padmapani of Ajanta Cave No.1

*. 3. The murthi of Lord Venkatesvara does not conform with any of the different Vishnu murthis asdiscussed above.

*. 4. The image is of the period before the period of Agamas, and/or that it is class by its own,.

We will now proceed to see what was thought to be the nature of the murthi from time to by different peoplein further chapters.

Chapter 10 Chapter 12

Chapter 12Nature of Image of the Lord of Tirumalai

The nature of Lord of Tirumalai has always been a matter of discussion.

Disputes about Nature of Lord Venkatesvara

Sitapati observes:

“Is Lord Venkatesvara of Tirumalai a manifestation of Vishnu of Siva? Is He manifestation of SubramanyaSwamy or Shakti? These are the questions which time and again agitate the minds of the devotees. … ShriVaishnavas hold that the Lord is Vishnu and Vishnu alone, while Shaivas, who see in Him their Ishta Daivam Shiva, hold with equal enthusiasm that He is Shiva. Some again hold the view that the image is that ofSkanda. A few Sakti worshipers also believe that the deity is Parasakkti. Several devotees of the Lord areagain of the view that He is the combination of Vishnu and Shiva elements and is in fact a Hari-Hara murthi.There are again others who hold that Lord Venkatesvara is manifestation of Paravasudeva.” [Sitapati: 21]

Court Disputes in 11th or 12th century A.D.

Sitapati gives an account of the court proceedings that took place in 11th or 12th century A.D., the details ofwhich are important. He observes:

“The controversy about the Hara nature of the Lord was actually argued by the contending parties in the11th or 12th centuries A.D. before a Yadava Raja of Narayanvanam in the Jaykonda Chola Manadalam. TheSri Venkatachal Itihas Mala, a Sanskrit work of the 12 th century, describes in detail in the first threestabakas a scholarly discussion carried on at a high intellectual level long long ago, between theVaishnavites led by Sri Ramanuja and the Saivites about the nature of the Lord’s image at Tirumalai ­whether it was a Shaivite image or the image of Vishnu…” [Sitapati: 21]

Points against it being Vishnu as argued by Shaivas

“The image of the Lord in Tirumalai is that of Skanda or Kumara Swami. The holy Pushkarni on Tirumalaiitself is therefore called Swami Pushkarni. Swami is really an appellation commonly used for Skanda orKumara Swami. The shortened form ‘Swami’ is used instead of calling the Pushkarni ‘Kumara SwamiPushkarni’. It is not unusual for nouns to be used thus in the shortened from. For example, the nounsBheema sena and Satya Bhama are usually used in the shortened forms as Bheema and Bhama. TheVamana Purana also mentions that Skanda performed penance on Venkatachala on the advice of fatherSiva. The image of the Lord at Tirumalai is that of Skanda and not Vishnu, Venkatachalam is primarily aVaraha kshetram and as Vishnu has already manifested Himself here in the Boar from, the image of theLord at Tirumalai can only be that of Skanda.

“The image of the Lord has not got the characteristic weapons of Vishnu such as the Chakra and theSkanda came to perform tapas on the banks of Pushkarni and has manifested himself without his weaponsor his extra hands. Vaishnavites had taken possession of the temple of Subramanaya and had converted itinto a Vishnu temple. The presence of the matted locks or jata jutas on the image and the Nagabhushanams(snake ornaments) prove that it is a Saivite image. Puja is also done in the temple with ‘bilva’ leaves; bilvaare used only for worship in Saivite temple and not used for Vishnu worship. The image has also acrescent mark on the head indicating that the image is Siva if not Kumara Swami.

Points in favour of it being Vishnu as argued by Vaishnavas

“The term ‘Swami’ need not apply to Kumaraswami. It only means that Swami Pushkarni is the ‘Swami’ in’tirthams’ and thus a Lord among the holy tirthas. The holy tirtha associated with Kumaraswami isKumaradhara. The Varaha Purana also mentions that Swami Pushkarni is the sporting tank of Vishnubrought down to earth from Vaikuntham. All the Puranas state conclusively that the deity on the Pushkarni isthe Lord of Laxmi. Skanda came to worship Vishnu at Tirumalai. It would also be deified on Venkatachalam.The Lord’s image has four arms and one face whereas Skanda should normally have six faces and twelvehands. In the verses of Nammalvar the deity is recognized clearly as Vishnu.

The image does not bear the sankha and chakra because Lord Vishnu in His infinite divine graceparted with the weapons to assist his devotee Tondaiman Chakravarti in battle against his enemies.This is confirmed in Bramhand Purana. While it is true that worship is done in the temple with bilva, it can be argued that bilva is acceptable to Lakshmi, and what is acceptable to Lakshmi is naturally acceptable toher consort, Vishnu. Vishnu images can also have jata jutas as laid down in the Bhagwata. The Nagabhushanams can not be strong arguments as Padma Purana mentions of instances of Vishnu wearingnaga figures. The Bhavishyottara Purana also mentions that naga jewels were presented by Akasa Raja tohis son in law and the wearing of the jewels cannot be said to be peculiar. The image of the Lord hasVakshasthala Lakshmi and also the Srivatsa mark. Even the early Alvaras who stressed the Saiva featuresof the image speak of him as Narayana only. The Puranas also mention that Brahma and Rudra came toworship Srinivasa when he manifested himself on Tirumalai. It is true that image has a mark on its faceresembling that of crescent-moon. This however can not mean that this is a Saivite character. The image is certainly not even a Hari-Hara manifestation and is clearly a Vishnu figure.” [emphasis ours] It was Ramanuja who managed to place the weapons in the hands of the Murthi

“The Itihas Mala then states that the local ruler was fully convinced by the arguments and gave his award infavour of the Vaishnavas. Before this to put the matter beyond doubt, Ramanuja is said to have requestedthe king that the weapons of Vishnu and the weapons of Siva should be made and left in the temple and thematter left for finalisation by the Lord of Tirumalai Himself. Accordingly weapons of Vishnu and Siva wereplaced before the Lord and the temple doors closed. That night Ramanuja is said to have approached theLord as Adishesha and prayed to the Lord to assume the Vaishnavite weapons. And lo! When the templedoors were opened next morning the Lord was found wearing the conch and the chakra! This legend fromthe Itihas Mala informs us that the controversy about the Hari-Hara character of the Lord existed even in the12th century. Sri Ramanuja, himself a Srivaishnava, seems to have made up his mind to worship the Lord atTirumalai as Lord Vishnu. The Saivite pundits of his age were certainly no match to this genius andthe sage of Visitha Advaita, and there is no wonder that he won in the battle of wits, puranic lore andyogic powers and arranged for the worship of the Lord of Tirumalai from thenceforth as VISHNU”

[Sitapati: 25 emphasis ours]

The image which was neglected can not be a Brahmanic one

From the above account of controversy, it is clear that Ramanuja somehow managed to get the imagedeclared as that of Vishnu. One thing that is lost sight of is the fact that, the image must have been lyingunclaimed at least for some time, before being taken up for worship by Vaishnavas or by Shaivas. This isalso clearly seen from the legendary account that the image was found buried in an anthill. This legend maybe taken to mean that it was neglected by original devotees, though it may not have been actually in an anthill. There was never a time in the history of the region of Tondai Mandalam when either the Vaishnavites orthe Saivites were so dormant, depressed and helpless. On the contrary it was only the Buddhists, who hadto face the attacks of Saivites and Vaishnavites together. This was the reason for abandoning of the templesby the Buddhists, at various places, as already seen. There were no Buddhists left to claim the image astheirs. The very fact that the Saivites and the Vaishnavites had to fight for a neglected image, in an’unimportant’ temple, gives ample evidence that it belonged to neither of them. The arguments put forwardby Ramanuja and the episode of weapons of Vishnu being taken over by the Lord Himself, might havesatisfied the intelligence of Yadava Raja, but it is certainly not sufficient for people of this century.

Shaivas and Vaishnavas conspired to claim the murthi for Brahmanism

Dave, while commenting on this episode of Ramanuja managing to put weapons of Vishnu in the hands ofthe Lord, observes:

“Whatever the dispute, the conception of the Tirupati appears to belong to that age ‘when the dominantfeeling was not sectarian either Saiva or Vaishnava-but a period of compromise when sectarianism had tobe kept under control because of other enemies to overcome’,…” [Dave: I,117]

These ‘other enemies’ of course were none other than the Buddhists and Jains, as Aiyangar had observedpreviously in the same vein:

“The period was one in which people were making an effort to provide for worship for the masses of people,probably with a view to wean then from attachment to and attractions of other contemporary religions suchas Jainism and Buddhism. It was therefore not so much of distinction, much less of antagonism, betweenVaishnavism and Shaivism; but it was rather of Hinduism, kind of transformed Brahmanism as against thetwo heretical religions from the point of view of the Hindu…” [Aiyangar: I,195]

Chapter 11 Chapter 13


Chapter 13Is the Image a Female Deity?

Points in favour of Devi theory

At the time of Ramanuja, controversy about the nature of Lord was only between worshipers of Vishnu andthose of Shiva. But now there appears to be a group of devotees who claim the Lord of Tirumalai as afemale deity.

Their claim rests on the following points as mentioned by Sitapati:

“…Holders of this view usually quote a verse from the Devi Bhagwatam which describes the Lord as ‘SriVenkateswari’, the only deity of Kaliyuga. Certain practices in temple such as the use of turmeric paste forthe abhishekam of the Lord, the fact that the abhishekam for the Mula Vigraham is done on Fridays, the factthat ‘tomal seva’ is called ‘Bhagvati Aradhana’ and that Srisukta mantras are read during this abhishekam ofthe Lord are relied upon by them to make out a case that the Lord is Shakti or Kali or Durga. Uniquelyenough the temple Vimanam has the ‘Sakteya symbol’ on it-the lion-and not the Garuda, as one wouldnormally expect. The Lord is called ‘Bala’or ‘Balaji’ in the Nort and as ‘Bala’ stands for a girl, these contendthat the presiding deity at Tirumalai is the Divine Prakriti Herself.” [Sitapati:25]

Symbol of Lion does not necessarily imply Shakti worship

There is hardly anything to comment on the points raised by Sitapati. Only thing one could understand isthat Lion which is believed to be a ‘sakteya symbol’, was considered to be Buddhist symbol from muchearlier times than the shaki puja came into vogue. Lord Buddha was Himself called ‘Sakya simha’ meaning aLion among the Shakyas. The so called Lion Capital of Asokan Sarnath pillar is in reality a Dhamma Chakra Pravartan Capital. It was seen like that by Hiuen-Tsang.

Lion Capital is in fact Dhamma Chakra Capital

Dr. L.M.Josi describes it as follows:

“The excellent example of this type is the so called ‘Lion Capital’ from Saranatha, now the exalted emblem ofthe Indian Union. It is in fact the ‘Dharma Chakra-capital’ and not the ‘Lion Capital’! Originally, the pillar ofSarnath was crowned by a wheel placed in a deep socket between the heads of the lion. Not only the sevenfragments of the wheel are extant in the Sarnath museum but also the above words of Hiuen-Tsang provethat this was a Dharma-Chakra-Capital and not a Lion Capital, though the latter name has attained widerenown. Its right designation should be Dharma-Chakra- Capital.” [Joshi: 49]

Percy Brown has given a reconstructed picture of this Dharma-chakra-capital. [Percy Brown: I, 16]

Garuda is missimg

Of course, the lions on the temple of Tirumalai do not have any Boddhist meaning. The vimanam of thistemple is built much later than the Buddhist times and those who put the lions there did not put there assymbols of Buddha, perhaps Buddha was long forgotten before the vimanam was built, but the fact remainsthat Garuda is missing from the vimanam, and even during the late times of building the vimanam, Garudawas not thought to be a symbol to be put there, by the then followers of the Lord.

Female aspects are more in favour of Buddhist Image

It is worth noting, that the association of worship of female deity with the worship of Vishnu is quite late aswe have seen, and is in the form of consort, and not as a main deity, worship by courtesy and not by right. Itis worth mentioning that if the practice of using turmeric etc. denote Sakti worship then in the late phases ofBuddhism – Tantrika Buddhism, with which we are directly concerned, the worship of female element waspredominant. In any case if there is any indication that it was a deity of worshipers of female goddess thenthe association of female deity with the Buddhist pantheon is pertinent to be noted, and the presence offemale aspects associated with this shrine does not in any way antagonize the possibility of a Buddhistcreed. And the presence of male and female aspects in one and the same murthi, – iconologically as well ashistorically – should go more in favour of it being a Buddhist Image than that of Vishnu.

Chapter 12 Chapter 14


Chapter 14Is the Lord a Harihara Murthi?

Worship of Hari Hara forms started late

It is claimed that Lord could be an image of Harihara. In this regard we should consider as to when didHarihara forms came into vogue?

As a matter of fact, Hari Hara forms of worship i.e. fused forms of Siva and Vishnu, was quite late and itoriginated out of the attempts at syncretization, and bringing together of Vaishnavas and Shaivas with theprimary intention of fighting against the enemies of Brahmanism, and their appearance starts around eighthor ninth century, in any case much later than the appearance of the murthi of Lord of Tirumalai. So in thepresent context, when the time of appearance of image of Tirupati is thought to be earlier, it is irrelevant andshould not have been necessary to consider the Lord as a Hari Hara manifestation. But as the modernscholarship is keen on declaring it as a Hari Hara murthi, we will consider this view in short.

Contradictory remarks of Sitapati

Sitapati gives the following account to show it to be a Hari Hara murthi:

“Several Puranas no doubt say that Venkatachalam is a Vishnu Kshetram. The Svetha – Varaha Murthi andthe Lord Venkatesvara are the deities of Tirumalai. The acceptance of the Lord as a ‘Hari-Hara Murthi’ will inno way conflict with the claim of the Puranas that Venkatachalam is a Vishnu Kshetram. …” [Sitapati:26]

Thus giving contradictory remarks, he gives the following points in support of this theory.:

1. “… The Lord’s Hill also bears the name Srisailam, and Srisailam is sacred to Lord Siva.”

  1.  ”According to sri Dave, ‘in the famous Dwadasa Jyotirlinga stotra of Sri Sankaracharya, there is adescription of Mallikarjuna of the Srisaila mountain which is part of the Seshachlam Hills and Srisaila itself isused as a name for Tirupati.”
  2.  ”… puranas view the range of hill from Tirupati to Srisailam, famous for its Mallikarjuna temple as oneunit.”
  3.  Puranas give a graphic description of a cobra to hill associating four shrines viz. Kalahasti, Tirupati,Ahobilam, and Srisailam.


One could have laughed off these arguments, but for the personality like sri Sitapati, and his attempts toproject his hypothesis in world Telugu Conference.

None of the above points is any evidence of it being a Hari Hara Murthi, as it only connects the shrine ofTirumalai with Srisailam. On the contrary, if anything, this Puranik link proves our point that all these wereBuddhist shrines. The account of Srisailam is already narrated by us (chapter 7) showing it to be Buddhistshrine and how sword and fire was used to capture it for Brahmanism under the very supervision of AdiShankara.

There is another hypothesis, which he has postulated is that of “Vyakta Vishnu and Vyakta-Avyakta Shiva”,which seem to be more popular in recent times. This novel hypothesis contemplates that the Lord’s image isnot that type of Hari-Hara showing the fused forms of Vishnu and Shiva but because of certain featuresresembling both Shiva and Vishnu being present in the Murthi, it is still a Hari-Hara and that the ‘earlyAlvaras’ thought it to be “Manifested Vishnu, manifested-non-manifested Shiva”. As the real evidence for thishypothesis as given by him, concerns Alwaras, we will discuss this point in the Chapters on Alwaras.

Chapter 13 Chapter 15


Chapter 15Account in Venkatachala Itihas Mala

There are some scholars who consider that the murthi was not declared as that of Vishnu at the time of Ramanuja, but it was so even before him. Such scholars consider that the Venkatachala Itihas Mala is abook of fables. Our interest in this book is limited to show the acts done by Ramanuja in Tirumalai andTirupati.

Is it a book of fables?

T.K.T.Veer Ragavachary is one of those who consider so. He observes:

“The other book of some facts and more fables and untruths is the Itihas Mala on which Dr. S. Krishna Swami Aiyangar based some reliance, but soon found that it defied facts and historical dates. This bookrelates mainly to the activities of Shri Ramanuja. Palm leaf books have been more successfully tamperedwith than would be possible with printed books.” [Raghavacharya: I,39]

Every palm leaf text is not to be discarded

Just because it is a palm leaf book, it need not be discarded. The best course would be to see if there is anyadditional evidence to corroborate the palm leaf text and base the judgment on it.

Scheme of Venkatachala Itihas Mala

S.Krishna Swami Aiyangar had to say:

“Of the seven divisions of the work, Sri Venkatachala Itihas Mala, the first three sections or Stabakas, as they are called, are concerned with the discussion as to the Vaishnava character of the image. Theremaining four stabakas are taken up with what Ramanuja did for the temple, and, after him, his discipleAnantraya. Since the inscriptions of the next following century do mention the gardens and other featuresnamed after Ramanuja and Anantraya, we may take it that Ramanuja’s doings there and Anantaraya’spresence are matters which need not be regarded as historically doubtful…” [Aiyangar: I,150]

Activities of Ramanuja as mentioned in VIM.

The following are some of the important actions done by Ramanuja, as given in the Itihas Mala. [Aiyangar:I,150]

He published the Yadavaraja’s award that the shrine was a Vishnu shrine, performed the initial purificatoryrite of the great ablution of the temple and restored the rituals of worship as per Vaikhanasa Agama,repaired the tower over the temple, according to Vaikhanasa Agama, put around the neck of the God, anecklet of image of Padmavati, arranged weekly ablutions, and face mark Urdhwa Pundra.

He performed purificatory cermony of Vaishnava initiation to descendants of early Vaikhanasa priestBhimbhadra and entrusted them the work of worship. He installed images of Alvaras at the foot of the hill in shrine of Govindaraja. He built temple of Govindaraja at the foot of the hill, got made from Yadavrajaan Agrahara round this temple and Tirupati. Nambi and Anantraya were invited to reside at lower Tirupati.

He installed image of Goda, and started two new festivals, restored two wells and got divine sanction foruse of this water. He arranged for gold Naga jewels on both hands of Lord and made Narashimha shrine within the walls of temple.

He arranged for footmarks of the Lord, halfway up the hill, and made ita place of worship as even thechandalas were allowed to go there and offer worship after bath in a tank called Chandala Tirtha. He installed images of Rama and Sita, enforced the worship of Varaha to thake place before that of Venkatesaand arranged for garlands to Vishvakshena.

After Tirumalai Nambi passed away, Ramanuja instituted a festival in his honour, made regulations aboutstay at Tirupati, appointed a bachelor superintendent and during his last visit, he gave 2 or 3 assistants tothe Superintendent from disciples of Anantraya, advised Yadavraja to see to the affairs of the templeaccording to the advice of Anantraya and left finally for Srirangam.

Time of Ramanuja’s visit


S.Krishnaswami Aiyangar observes:

“…the Venkatachala Itihas Mala states that while Ramanuja was still in Tirupati, news of removal of imagesof Govindaraja in the Govindaraja shrine in Chidambaram reached Tirupati. …For this event a precise datingis possible… So about 1135 A.D.ought to be the time …(from three separated works of the poetOttakhuttar.)” [Aiyangar: I,144]

Yadavaraya, who heard Vaishnava’s case was Ghattideva

“…we may take it safely that it was this Ghattideva, the feudatory of both Vikrama Chola and KulottungaII,that was actually the Yadavaraya who called in the assistance of Ramanuja to settle the dispute in theTirupati temple. …” [Aiyangar: I,146]

Fear of Saivite Chola monarchs claimed to be cause of absence of inscriptions

Though all these works were done by Yadavaraya in consulatation with Ramanuja, he did not put anyinscriptions. Why? We are told:

“…as he might have felt such a thing might have been displeasing to the sovereign, who showed himself tobe an enthusiastic follower of Saivism personally, and what is really more, what he did to the Vishnu templeboth at Tirupati on the hill, and the town below, were acts which might have been regarded as going againstsome of the acts of suzerain…the Yadavaraya felt shy that these acts of his may not be actively approved atthe headquarters. …” [Aiyangar: I,147]

Account in well corroborated by inscriptions

That Dr.S.Krishna Aiyangar observes:

“…the details given in the Sri Venkatachala Itihas Mala, which though compiled laterseems more or less toreflect the actual existing institutions in the temple since then. That Ramanuja was there as well asAnandalvar, and that the principal flower garden made by Anandalvar was given the name Ramanuja,appear in evidence in inscriptions just a few generations, two or three, after Ramanuja in inscriptional just afew generations, two or three, after Ramanuja in inscriptional records. Full provision was made for therecitation of the Prabhandhas, and the celebration given of an Adhyayana Utsava as in Srirangam. Some ofthe details of it such as the Tiruppavai utsava on the hill shrine, and the shrine to Goda in the Govindarajashrine appear in inscriptional records of the Yadavaraya and others. …? [Aiyangar: I, 200]

Murthi was without weapons before Ramanuja is a historical fact

Not withstanding the miracles, the account of Venkatachala Itihas Mala is thus corroborated in theinscriptional records of the period which followed by a few generations.

Dr.S.Krishna Swami Aiyangar observes:

“…Even where they are miracles, the institutions based on them remain…in less than a century of time,some of these institutions get to be in inscriptional records in parts of the Tirupati temple which may not bealtogether late structures, …The Venkatachala Itihas mala seems to be a work composed at a period muchlater than Ramanuja, it may be;but even so, it records the traditions comming down to the time, and, at thevery best, it would be a mere effort at explaining the institutions that actually existed in the temple. So theinstitutions were there, whether the origin of these had anything miraculous to support it or not…” [Aiyangar:I, 159 ff.]

Thus it could be noted well that the fact of Lord accepting the weapons of Vishnu, may be considered bydevotees as a miracle, but the fact that the image was without weapons before Ramanuja and theweapons are present since his times is a historical fact.

Chapter 14 Chapter 16


Chapter 16Evidence of Alvars

Alvars and Nayanaras

As already mentioned, the recent theory of ‘Vyakta Vishnu Vyakta-avyakta-Siva’ propagated by recentscholars is mainly based on verses by early Alvars, which could be interpreted to mean Vishnu and Sivacombinations.

The worshipers of Vishnu were called the Alvars, who moved from place to place, singing the praises of theLord Vishnu and asking the people to join their creed, and advocating the tenets of what came to be knownlater on as Vaishnavism. They produced the most marvelous poetry in Tamil country. Their teachings aboutcaste and position of women etc. were copied from those of Buddhism and Jainism, which were the mostprevalent religions of the time. But they opposed Buddhism and Jainism, and propagated Brahmnism. TheirSaivite counterparts were the Nayanaras doing the same thing in the name of Siva. Here we are onlyconcerned with the Alvars as the Lord of Tirumalai is presented to us as one of the Vaishnava shrines.

Alvars and Avataras of Vishnu

Our interest in this study is to find out the description of the Murthi from the writings of the Alvars, and not tostudy their conception of the Image. Murthi existed before the Alvars, and it can not be considered as Harihara Murthi only by Alvars’ praying as such.

The most popular avataras with the Alvars, however, seem to be only Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Ramaand Krishna, and the majority of the verses of these Alvars centre around these avataras only. Lord ofTirumalai is praised as any one or more than one, of the popular avatars, at the same time. To know whichavatara is alluded to, we have to consider the various attributes mentioned by the Alvara in his song.

‘Vyakta-avyakta’ is a myth

Surprisingly some of the verses of early Alvars can be interpreted to suggest that the Lord of Tirumalai wasconsidered by them to be Siva rather than Vishnu, or Siva in combination with Vishnu. These versesdescribe the image with “long hanging jata” and the “shining malu,” i.e. AXE and crown, chakra and coililnground serpent. Raghavacharya avers positively that “it is an obsolute truth that the image has no jatadepicted integerally on the image; there is no serpent coiling round any portion of body” and “Neithersankham, chakram or Malu is an integral part of the image”. [Raghavacharya: II,1126] This is really aperplexing situation for the modern scholars. Some scholars like Raghavacharya tried to dismiss the issueby considering the same verses as “spurious interpolations”, taking place during the Chola Rule. [Ibid.] Thiswas the time when Ramajuna also had to flee the area and take shelter in Mysore country, his followerswere persecuted and chief disciple was blinded.

The more recent scholars, wish to resolve this by saying that the Lord was always considered as “Vyakta Vishnu and Vyakta- avyakta Siva”. Sitapati and his colleagues come in this group. Sitapati observes in “SriVenkateswara”.

“…the view that the Lord is a Hari-Hara Murthi is perhaps nearer the truth, as the image combines qualitiesof Vishnu and Siva. …for the Lord has always been considered even during this period as Vyakta Vishnuand Vyakta-Avyakta Siva. The peculiarities of the Lord’s image make us pause and consider, whether Lordof Tirumalai is really not a combination of Siva and Vishnu. The image has four arms; the upper two armsdo not really have the chakra and sankha as integral parts of the image. These would appear fromtradition as well as from traditional account of the Venkatachala Itihas Mala to have been fixed to the Lord’s hand by Sri Ramanuja during one of his three visits to Tirumalai in the 12th century A.D. TheCharacteristics of the image namely the cresecent-moon mark on the mukta of the Lord, the JataJutas or matted locks common to Siva, the nagabharanams and the cobra on the right arm of theLord, certain other peculiar customs followed in the temple such as worship by using ‘bilva’, thepresence of the Sakteya symbols on the Vimanam of the temple, the fact that a Garuda shrine cameto be constructed in the temple only after fifteeth century are all strong pointers that the Lord hasseveral ‘Saiva’ Gunas or aspects” [Sitapati:25, emphasis ours]

He relies on the evidence of Alvars for this as he observes: “We have then the more reliable evidence for the Alvars” [Sitapati:27] So we will now try to examine who were these Alvars and what did they actually sayabout the Lord of Tirumalai.

Verses of Alvars had gone in oblivion

What exactly is meant by saying that the verses of Alvars had gone into oblivion, should be understood. Thepoets were non- Brahmins, preaching an egalitarian religion like those of Buddhists. Naturally, elites did notcare to pen these down, but the masses remembered the songs and sang them. That is how they werepreserved. Later elites wished to use these songs for propagating their religion, after the fall of Buddhists,and they resurrected these verses.

These Alvars – flourished, earlier Alvars decidedly, flourished in centuries before Shankaracharya. The onlyreligious sects known to the Alvars were Vaishnavism, Saivism (Lingam Worship), Buddhism and Jainism.[Raghavacharya: II,933]

The pantheon (of the Alvar) certainly did not come into existence till after the days of Sriman Natha Munigaland even long after Sri Ramanuja’s days, having gained country wide acceptance during their life time.[Raghavacharya: I,64] They lived at different times and their works were therefore not composedsimultaneously. They do not seem to have been called Alvars in their own days; [Raghavacharya: II,938]The Tamil word Alvar was used as an honour to designate Sri Nammalvar only and for the first time by SriPillan a commentator on Tiruvoymoli composed a few years before death of Ramanuja. [Raghavacharya:II,967] In fact Sri Nammalvar’s Tiruvoymoli appears to have been the first of the Prabandhams made known to the Tamil world. The works of all the Alvars had gone into oblivion and Sri Nathamuni resuscitated theTiruvoymoli first and the others were discovered later by others from time to time. [Raghavacharya: II,939]

Natha Muni recovers these verses by yogic powers

Sriman Nathamuni was a great yogi, a great scholar in Sanskrit and Tamil, a vendantin and a musician. Hehappened to hear some verses of Nammalvar through some pilgrims. His desire to hear more of thesesongs brought him to a disciple of the disciple of Nammalvar, on whose advice Sri Nathamuni being a yogiwent through yogic exercise and established direct contact with the spirit of Sri Nammalvar. The thousandverses of his Tiruvoymoli were then revealed to to Nathamuni by word of mouth. [Raghavacharya: II,939] Heis said to have been 340 years in yoga to acquire the Tiruvoymoli from Nammalvar himself direct. [Aiyangar:I,134]

Acharyas wrote Taniyans

The greatness of every devotional literature and its worth is invariably summarized in a verse called’Taniyan’(in Sanskrit or Tamil) composed by some great scholar and expounder who first sponsored thestudy of the same or who first rescued the work from oblivion. [Raghavacharya: II,941] The greatness of thework is judged by the number of Taniyans and commentaries on it.

“Judged by this standard Sri Nammalvar’s Tiruvoymoli stands unrivaled among the works forming the TamilPrabandham. Besides the Sanskrit taniyan composed by Sriman Nathamuni, there as many as fiveTaniyans in Tamil…” [Raghavacharya: II,944]

The date of Nathamuni’s Taniyan is given as about 900 A.D. [Raghavacharya: II,950] and the date of firstcommentary on Tiruvoymoli by Pillan is given as between 1100-1130 A.D. [Raghavacharya: II,956]

This is in short how we know about the verses of Alvars. This is how the sayings of Alvars have reached us.And on the basis of such books, Sitapati tries to base his theory of “vyakata vishnu vyakta-avayakta siva”, claiming it as history. There are many more commentaries said to be written by various sect authorities, withwhich we are not concerned. Without any prejudice it could be justifiably assumed that whatever be thetenets of religion of Alvars, the factual information regarding the image and worship at Tirumalai, whilereaching us through these processes would have been coloured by the the views of different acharyas, whowrote the Taniyans and commentaries and it is reasonable to presume that the verses of Alvars as we knowthem now, do not necessarily give a reliable picture of the conditions prevailing in the times of Alvars, to saythe least.

Nammalvar was denied status of Kulapati because of his caste

About the purpose of asking Pillan to write a commentary on Tiruvoymoli, we are told:

“Sri Nammalvar was born in the fourth caste and whatever may be the merits of his work and philosophythere would have been a natural hesitation on the part of the members of the three higher castes to acknowledge him as as the ‘Kulapati’ of all Sri Vaishnavas … Sri Ramanuja commissioned his ganaputra SriTirukkurukaippiran Pillan (the younger son of his uncle Sri Tirumalai Nambi) to write this commentary. …”[Raghavacharya: II,948]

Modern examples of discrimination

It may be noted that Raghavacharya calls the hesitation “natural”. The tendency of caste discriminationcontinues even in modern times. For example, when Dr. Ambedkar was trying for “Hindu Code Bill”, whichwas to remove the injustice on Hindu women, Jereshastri the then Shankarachrya of Sankeswara Pitha, wrote:

“… Milk or Ganges water may be holy, but if it comes through a nallah or a gutter, it can not be consideredsacred. Similarly, the ‘Dharmasastra’ howsoever it may be authentic, it can not be considered authenticbecause it has come from a ‘Mahar’ like Dr. Ambedkar. Ambedkar is a scholar, it is said that his study ofscriptures is great, but he is an ‘antyaja’. How can the Ganga of Scriptures comming from the nallah ofAmbedkar be holy? It must be discardable like milk comming from the gutter…”

Quoting this passage from ‘Nav Bharat‘, daily, 21 Jan. 1950, Yashwant Manohar observes, even the womenfor whose liberation was this Bill opposed it. We see today these women participating in hindutwavadiorganizations. They opposed Mandal Commission, and they still oppose the reservation of OBC and otherwomen, however, they demand right to priesthood. [Yashwant Manohar:, 1999: p.73]

The other reason of Commentry

The other reason for this commentary is given by Bhandarkar as follwos:

“… The necessity for such a work was felt by the leaders of the Vaishnava faith, since they found it notpossible to maintain this doctrine of Bhakti or love in the face of the theory of Advaita or Monism of spirit setup by Shankaracharya as based upon the Brahmasutras and Upanishidas.” [Bhandarkar: 1982: 71]

Evidence of Alvars is unreliable as history

We have seen that they had considered the murthi as of Vishnu in general terms, which is natural for them.We need not be concerned with their conceptions. We want to know what they said about the weapons inthe hand and presence of Devi etc., i.e. the physical features of the murthi rather than their conception of it;that is what matters for our purpose.

The traditional story as we have seen earlier is based on Mahatyams in Puranas. Alvars knew Puranas butnot the traditional story of Lord of Tirumalai. Raghavacharya observes that the other names in vogue todaylike Seshadri, Seshachalam, Venkatadri, Vrishadri, Vrishachalam etc. were not known to the Alvars. These names became more common after the compilation of the book ‘Venkatachala Mahatmyam’ about the endof the 15th century A.D. [Raghavacharya: II,1091] The Alvars do not mention the existence of any village likeTiruchanoor and the Deities therein; nor Tirupati and the Parthasarathyswami there or of any other place ofworship on the hill or nearby in the plains. Even the Deity Sri Varahaswami has not been mentioned. Eithernone existed or were too insignificant. [Raghavacharya: II,1091] Raghavacharya further explains:

“…Even a cursory reading of the Prabandhams will show that the Alvars were well versed in the Puranasand that they frequently refer to incidents connected with the different avatars of Sri Vishnu. But there is not a single reference in the Prabhandhams to any of the anecdotes mentioned in the Brahmandaand other Puranas mentioned in the Venkatachala Mahatmyam which assign a reason for themanifestation of Vishnu on the Vengadam Hill.” [Raghavacharya: II,1091]

Tirumangai Alvar

He is considered the last Alvar. He was leader in establishing proxy image of Lord at the foot of the hill.Raghavacharya assumes that Tirumangai Alvar flourished sometime after 775 A.D. and that he was acontemporary of Dantivarman (775-826 A.D.) Raghavacharya feels there is one observation worth making:

“… It is strange that he has not said one word about Periya Alvar, Sri Andal, Madhurakavi and SriNammalvar. They were not perhaps considered great religious leaders in those days; or Tirumangai Alvarhad not a high regard for the Kings and people of the extreme South. He calls Varaguna Maharajah by thename (the man of the South) which is not quite a respectable way of referring to a King. The sameindifference may have been shown by him to the religious leaders of the South. He did not visit Srivilliputturand Tirukkurukur (Alvar Tirunari). [Raghavacharya: II,1014]

What Raghavacharya calls ‘indifference’ may also be termed as arrogance. It could also be presumed thathe was ignorant about the other Alvars. It must be remembered that the name Alvar, which was rather anhonorific title, was given to them during a much later period.

Worship during Alvars’ time

There was not much organised worship, nor there was any singing of Prabandhams during their own times,and it started quite late. As Raghavacharya observes about Vishnu worship during Alvars’ times:

“No definite type of worship seems to have been current then. … They (devotees) had full faith in allanecdotes of Vishnu Purana.” [Raghavacharya: II,975]

“The recital of Tirumoli was commenced in 1253 A.D. in Tirupati only but not in Tirumalai. … Tirumoli wasnot sung then in Tirumalai; nor was Tiruvaymoli. This was done perhaps soon after the renovation ofthetemple in 1250 A.D.” [Raghavacharya: II,1018]

Ramanuja had created 74 aharyapurushas with hereditory rights of succession to spread vishistadvaitaphilosophy and temple worship, in contrast to sankara’s teachings. So non- brahmins were also given seal ofauthority to convert. However, Vedas were restricted to Brahmins.:

While the recitation of Vedas was the monopoly of the Brahmins the recitation of Prabandhams was made the common right of all castes and both sexes.” [Raghavacharya: II,974 italics original]

As most of the Alvars belonged to Shudra caste, it is said that they abstained form ascending the hill whichwas considered sacred. At least the reason put forward for not putting the images of Alvars in Tirumalai issaid to be Alvars’ hesitation to set foot on the hill. [Aiyangar: I,151]

It is however mentioned that each Alvar visited the hill once, except Nammalvar who visited twice.[Raghavacharya: II,990]

Chapter 15 Chapter 17


Chapter 17Description of the Murthi by the Alvars

None of the Early Alvars described the Murthi

The verses from which the hypothesis of Vyakta Vishnu Vyakta-avyakta Siva is formulated belong to theEarly Alvars, i.e. Poygai, Pey and Bhuddatan. From the zest with which this hypothesis was put forward bySri Sitapati and his followers, even in World Telugu conference, it would have given the impression to themasses, that these Alvars really described the murthi in such a way that it could be presumed to havefeatures of both Siva and Vishnu. Unfortunately, for propagators of this hypothesis, it is not true, and theirclaim is based on false grounds. Sri Veera Raghavacharya observes:

“…None of the early Alvars has described even cursorily, the form and the features of the image, thedivine ornaments depicted thereon and the divine weapons borne. We have to draw the inference that they attached little importance to these…” [Raghavacharya: II,1093, emphasis ours]

Poygai Alvar

However, Poygai Alvar has alluded to the Archa form of Vishnu in the form of Krishna. Raghavacharyaobserves:

“…that the deity on the Vengadam hill is identified by Poygai Alvar with the avatars of Krishna, Rama andTrivikrama. The archa form of Sri Krishna which was observed in the Sun’s disc seems to have had neither Chakram not Sankham in hand. Shri Devi alone was on the chest…” [Ibid., II,1115]

This is clearly an imaginary and conceptual description based on story in Mahabharata and is not the actualdescription of the Murthi. It is also clear from the verse itself that till the time of writing this verse therewas no conch and discus on the image.


“There is only one point worth nothing…His impression probably was that terrestrials worship in Srirangamand only celestials in Vengadam.” [Raghavacharya: II, 1137]

Tirumalsai Alvar describes Murthi without weapons

He is one of the early Alvars, though not included in ‘mudal’ i.e. first three early ones. His account issupposed to be more realistic and interesting.:

“…We learn from this description that there was not in those days any structure enclosing the image,but that the image stood high and was visible to bhaktas coming from every direction.” [Raghavacharya: II,1136, emphasis original]

“Tirumalsai Alvar’s description is more elaborate. He definitely stated that Deity was standing on thedeforested ground … He changed his religion from Buddhism to Jainism and Saivism successively and atlast found rest and salvation by pinning his faith in the worship of Narayana. … Silppadhikaran whichdescribes the Vengadam hill and the deity as having been decorated with flowers and having Sankham,Chakram and Bow in hand which are not mentioned by Tirumalsai…” [Ibid. II, 1008, emphasis ours] This means that during Tirumalsai’s times, there was no sankha or chakra on the murthi, which was standingwithout any enclosure.

Description of Murthi by Nammalvar is conceptual

Whatever description given by him, is it factual or only his spiritual and psychic experience, was the murthiof Lord of Tirumalai already fixed with Sankham and chakram at the times of Nammalvar, as can be judgedfrom his writings? These are the questions which need to be clearly answered. Veera Raghavacharyaobserves:

“…His prayer, in addition to the evangelical work, was to see God face to face; and therein he did notsucceed. He sang about the deities in Tiruvanvandur (6-1 ten verses); Tiruvinnagar (6-3), Tiruttolaivillimangalam, (6-5), Tirukkolur (6-7). He could not rest content without seeing God. He did Saranagati to thedeity in every temple he sang. As his desire remained unfulfilled, he sang in great distress and in the highestpitch the ten verses of 6-9. There was no response. It was in this predicament that he decided to throwhimself at the feet of Tiruvengadattan. From the wording of the last line of every verse (6-10) it does not appear that he actually went to Vengadam for this Saranagati. But his body and soul would havebeen psychically at the feet of the Lord. He appeals to Him through Goddess Sri Alarmelmangai who is on his chest, to Him of matchless glory, the Lord of three worlds, to Him whom the Immortals and Munisadore, and He is his only Saviour. (6-10-10).

“Note:- These ten verses as well as the twenty verses of 2-3 and 2-4 distinctly describe the features of thebody, the divine ornaments and the divine weapons which the Alvar had observed, … The presence ofSridevi on chest, the sankham, chakram and Sarangam in the hands, the posture of the right lower hand pointing to the feet for Saranagati as the only means to obtain salvation are the principal ones.” [Ibid. II,1151 ff. emphasis ours]

These verses are uttered by the Alvar in emotional tension, as psychic and spiritual experiences, due to hisinability to go to Vengadam for Saranagati and should not be taken as denoting the description of the murthi.Similarly, about ten verses of 3- 4, Veera Raghavacharya describes that “He (Nammalvar) describes thedeity as seen with his spiritual eyes in the ten verse of 3-4.” (Ibid. II, 1146 ) Therefore we have toconsider that the verses of Nammalvar do not give us any specific information about the murthi, butare of general nature.

Dr. S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar observes:

“…we fail to find, even in the references to Tirupati as such, references to such details even of worship, or offestive celebration, as we occasionally do come upon in the earlier poets of this group. Even in the tens specially devoted to Tirupati, the Alvar does not give us any definite knowledge of details whichwould warrant the inference of his direct acquaintance with the place, or the organisation of worshipin the temple.…This section III is devoted entirely to Tirupati and the details he gives of Tirupati are more or less of a general character absolutely,…” [Aiyangar: I,75)

Sri Andal

A verse from her Nachchiar Tirumoli makes the reference to presence of Devi on the Lord's chest.[Raghavacharya: I,299]

So the picture as appears from the writings of these Alvars, which reached us by devious methods of directcommunication with the spirit of the Alvar by direct word of mouth to yogi Nath Muni, who had to be in Yogafor 340 years, is not very conducive to prove Sitapati’s hypothesis. Some saw the AXE, some saw the BOWdenoting Parashurama and Rama. But nobody saw conch and discuss, the real marks of Vishnu. Also thelord was prayed as ‘killer of Vali’. Which Vali is alluded to is not clear from Raghavacharya’s account. If itwas brother of Sugriva, then Rama is meant and if it was King Vali, then Wamana is meant. Whatever it is, itcertainly does neither mean Vishnu, nor Siva. Even deity on Vengadam has been described by Poygayialvaras one “whom the ASURAS claimed as dear one.” [Raghavacharya: II,1113]

From the above discussion it is quite clear that the so called evidence of Alvars for Vyakta VishnuVyakta-Avyakta Siva is very flimsy, it is a myth rather than reality. It is not only false but misleading.

Chapter 18Hostilities of Alvars Towards Buddhism

Alvars copied Buddhist tenets

On doctrinal basis the Alvars copied the Buddhists, as Veera Raghavacharya observes:

“… It (new faith of Alvars) copied the Buddhists in this respect and also in respect of placing women on afooting of equality with men in spiritual field…” [Raghavacharya: I,64]

“… Nammalvar’s creed is that even a chandala by birth is person fit to receive our obeisance if he is only aNarayana Bhakta. Caste is no barrier. …” [Raghavacharya: II,974]

But the Alvars were bitter enemies of Buddhists, and we have to understand that in the controversy aboutthe nature of murthi of Lord of Tirumalai, as far as Buddhists are concerned, the evidence of Alvars is of no use, for a simple reason that these were the most hostile people towards Buddhism.

Alvars and Nayanaras were hostile towards the Buddhists

Shri Sarma speaks of this hostility as follows:

“While Kumarila and Sankara fought Buddhism on the ground of karma and jnana respectively, theVaishnavite and Saivite saints of Southern India fought it on the ground of Bhakti and vanquished it. It is saidthat they sang Buddhism and Jainism out of their provinces. There is a legend that the Saivite saint Jnanasambandar, the opponent of Jainism, had a friendly meeting with the Vaishnavite saint, TirumangaiAlvar, the opponent of Buddhism, at Shiyali in Tanjore District. We are told that the Vaishnavite saint at firstrefused to set foot in the town which had no temple of Vishnu and that the Saivite saint met his objection byinforming him that an old image of Vishnu taken out of a temple which had fallen into disuse was beingregularly worshipped in the house of a priest in Shiyali.” [Sarma, D.S., Hinduism through the ages, BharatiyaVidya Bhavan, pp.33 ff.

On this legend Prof. Nilakantha Sastri comments:

"Impossible as history, this beautiful legend enshrines the belief in the common mission of Saivism andVaishnavism entertained by the Tamil Vaishnavas of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In stemming thestrong current of antivedic heresy, the Alvars and Nayanaras had labourd together in the past and what wasmore natural for their successors than to bring together the great Saiva antagonist of Jainism and theequally great Vaishnava opponent of Buddhism." [K.A.N. Sastri: 426]

Tirumanagai Alvar

“…He was the petty chieftain of Alinadu in Tanjore district who, legend says, became a highway man inorder to carry off and marry the daughter of a Vaishnavite doctor of higher caste, for whom he also changedhis religion. He is said to have stolen a solid golden image of Buddha from a monastery in Nagapatam topay for renovating the temple of Srirangam … His hymns, and they are equally full of good poetry andattacks on Jainism and Buddhism…” [Ibid.:426]

Tirumalsai Alvar

“He says, in the course of one of his works, that the ‘Sramanas are ignorant men, while the Buddhas areunder a delusion; while those that have fallen into to Siva are of comparatively inferior intellect. Those whowill not worship the fragrant feet of Vishnu are indeed inferior people.’ This put in another form in thetraditional account in a fugitive verse, where the Alvar himself is made to say ‘We learnt the teaching ofSakya (Buddha); we learnt the teaching of Jina; we learnt the Agamas taught by Sankar; but as good luckwould have it, we have resolved to devote ourselves to Vishnu of dark colour and the red eye, and thus putourselves beyond harm’s reach. There is nothing therefore that is impossible for us.” [Aiyangar: I,53]


Even Nammalvar, who was denied status of Kulapati only because of his low caste, inaugurated hiscampaign of evangelical work and addressed himself to Saivites, Lingaits, Jains and Buddhists.[Raghavacharya: II,1149] How Lingaits are mentioned before the period of Basavesvara is rather surprising.Even a person like Nammalvar who was a victim of caste system, rejoiced the fall of Buddhist seats in thefollowing terms: “…He says that ‘Kali yugam has ended and Krita yugam has set in; Yama has no more work and the angelsof the Lord are come and are dancing in ecstasy because the heretical seats have been destroyed. May thisgain in strength and glory.’ He found that Vishnu bhaktas had grown in numbers and in strength.”[Raghavacharya: II,1149]

A nice example indeed of a slave enjoying his slavery, and a prisoner guarding the prison gates himself.

From all the above evidences, it would be quite clear that the Alvars were quite hostile to Buddhists, they didwhat ever was in their power to uproot Buddhism from this land, even going to the extent of committing atheft of a golden image of Buddha. (what a great saintly attitude!) Should one expect them to say that Lordof Tirumalai is a Buddhist image?

Tirumalai was a compromise site

Alvars had to join hands with Saivite saints to fight Buddhism. The selection of Vengadam was acompromise site. The important point that is missed by the scholars is why Tirumalai was a compromisesite? Raghavacharya observes:

“…when faced with the spread of Buddhism and Jainism they (Alvars) were put to necessity of postulating aGod and a religion which was neither rank Saivism nor rank Vaishnavism, Tiruvengadamudaiyan was thusrepresented as the only true God who combines in Himself all the Murthis…” [Ibid.:I,39]

Why Vengadam was thought to be neither rank Saivism nor rank Vaishnavism? Is it not a natural conclusionthat it belonged neither to Vaishnavites nor to Saivities, it was recently usurped by these people and notfounded by them. That is why it was treated as if it was no man’s property, that is why the worship was notsettled, that is why Alvars postulated a mixed claim, that is why some of the verses of Alvars can beinterpreted as combination of Siva and Vishnu, that is why a new silver replica with sankha and chakra had to be installed, and that is why Sitapati and his friends keep on saying ‘vyakta Vishnu, vyakta- avyakta Siva’.The so called main evidence of this theory, the evidence of Alvars, is discussed above and no valuableinference can be derived from Alvars’ verses and the theory of vyakta Vishnu, vyakta-avyakta Siva is a false and misleading myth which has no historical background, and it needs to be abandoned forthwith.

Chapter 17 Chapter 19


Chapter 19Iconographical Examination of Lord’s Image

Vishnu Images

We have already seen that in reality the image of Lord of Tirumalai has only two prominent hands, thesebeing in Varada and Katyavalambita mudras Originally, there were no weapons in its hands but sankha and chakra were fixed later on to the Lord by Ramanuja. We have also seen that the image does not fit in withthe description of Vishnu Images as per the Shastras and Agamas. Therefore, it is considered by Sri Sitapatithat it was a super agamic manifestation and the image was probably made, before the Agamas came intoexistence. Therfore we would like to examine the image from that standpoint. Images of Vishnu areclassified into three main classes:

1.Dhruva bheras

2. Avataras and

3. Vyuhas

As the Image of Lord of Tirumalai is considered only as a Dhruva bhera, we will only discuss Dhruva bheras.

Vishnu Images usually have four arms

First point we will consider is the number of arms of Vishnu image. Not a single image is found in India,belonging to Gupta age, or post Gupta age having two arms. Shri Vasudeo Upadhyaya observes:

“…In short, after the fourth century A.D. four weapons were installed in four armed images. Vayjayanti malawas given a place later on. From the same century Vishva Rupa image of Vishnu came into vogue. In Guptaage the standing Vishnu image is found usually with four arms. In all the four arms are four weapons and kirita mukuta along with dhoti and chaddar…” [Upadhyaya: 93]

Two armed Vishnu images

There were Vishnu images having two arms, but those are believed to be of Kushana age. Only five suchimages are described. These two armed images are not showing any mudras of hands but they are holdingsome or the other weapons of Vishnu. [Upadhyaya:85]

All these images believed to be of Kushana age, are small in size and are transportable. As it is, we are inknow of only 48 images of Kushana Vishnu and 39 out of these are from Mathura region. [Joshi N.P.: 1977:74]

It is clear that the image of Lord of Tirumalai does not fit in with the description of any of the two armedVishnu images, either of post-Gupta, Gupta, or pre-Gupta age.

Mudras of hand weapons

Second point we have to consider is the presence of mudras of hands. Discussing the asanas and mudras in Brahmnical and Buddhist images, Dr. Vasudeo Upadhyaya has observed:

“The exhibition of mudras of hand is hardly seen in Brahmnical images. Varada mudra and Abhaya mudraare seen equally in Buddhist as well as Brahmnic images. The weapons are seen in the hands of Brahmnicimages in place of exhibition of mudras in the Buddhist images. But there is no such thing as weapons in thehands of Buddhist images…” [Upadhyaya: 269]

“…History of Indian art shows that exhibition of mudras of hands is maximum in Buddhist images. In theHindu images mudras are as good as nil…” [Upadhyaya:270]

Various popular Buddhist mudras like the Dhyan mudra, Bhumisparsha mudra, Dhamma chakra pravartanamudra, Vyakhyan mudra are described and Abhaya mudra mentioning its example in Manquar sittingBuddha is also described. Varada mudra in standing Buddha is described as follows:

“…In the standing Buddhist images, one more mudra is also seen. It is called Varada mudra. Left hand is holding sanghati, Right hand is straight near the waist and plam is facing outwards. This palm is similar topalm while giving ahuti in yajna by brahmins or while offering water libation to Sun. In the Buddhist imagesthese mudras were used in plenty in art…” [Upadhyaya: 271] It is also an accepted fact that Varada mudra which is found in the Image of Lord of Tirumalai is alsounknown in Vishnu images. Raghavacharya observes:

“…Varada position is not associated with any of the Agama form of Standing murthi…” [Raghavacharya:I,270]

Also the Katya-avalambita mudra is described in Buddhist images as follows:

“In standing images, Katya-avalambita mudra also has a place. Here whole left arm is hanging near thebody and hand is shown touching the waist. This mudra is exhibited in Buddha image of Gupta age.Mankquar Buddha image is depicting this same mudra…” [Upadhyaya: 272]

Katyavalambita mudra is a fine example of webbed hand which is well known to be a “traditional mark of Buddha.” [Ray: 1970: 525]

It has been already shown that the presence of mudras of hand in an image is mostly considred to be aBuddhist sign. So much so, a murthi which otherwise would be called a Vishnu, was considered to be that ofBuddha because of the presence of mudras as could be seen from the follwing:

“…The oldest image of Vishnu was made in Kushana age in Mathura centre, wherein one hand is in abhayamudra and there is pot of nectar in the other. Other two hands have gadha and chakra. Other images ofVishnu do not exhibit any mudras. Because of this, many scholars thought that this image is similar toBuddha image (Bodhisattva) and denotes a transitional period. That was the time since when images ofbrahmnism started to be made just like Buddhists. But the speciality of these images was the presence ofweapons…” [Upadhyaya: 93]

Ramanuja had accepted that the Murti had no weapons

While on the subject of weapons of murthi, mention may be made, as a reminder, of argument of Ramanujaabout the absence of weapons. He had argued:

“…The image does not bear the Sankha and Chakra because Lord Vishnu in his infinite divine grace partedwith the weapons to assist his Tondaiman Chakrawarthi in battle against his enemies. This is confirmed inBrahmanda Purana. …” [Sitapati: 23]

Srivatsa was the Mark of Buddha

It is well known that Vaijayantimala and Srivatsa are popular marks in Vishnu Images. But it is ignored thatSrivatsa Mark is present on Buddhist Images also. Rao observes:

“One or two ornaments are peculiar to Vishnu and they are Srivatsa and Vayjayanti. We are aware that on the chest of Buddha there is the mark known as srivatsa; it is perhaps introduced here in the beliefthat Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu. …” [Rao: 25]

Srivatsa on Buddhist Images has nothing to do with incarnation theory, may be that Vaishnavites had tocopy the mark of Buddha, as it is found in images of the Buddha created much before the Buddha wasplaced in the avatars of Vishnu by Brahmins.


About this necklace, which was associated with Vishnu images, Rao observes:

“The Vayjayanti is a necklace composed of a successive series of groups of gems, each group wherein hasfive gems in a particular order. …” [Rao :26]

It would be remembered that in the description of Lord of Tirumalai, there is a remarkable absence ofVaijayantimala.

Chapter 20Lakshmi on Chest of Lord of Tirumalai

Lakshmi on the Image

It is pointed out that the image of Lakshmi, forms an integral part of the mula murthi of Lord of Tirumalai. It isrepresented as a seated image in the padmasana or lotus pose, She has four arms; the two upper hold lotusbuds; the right lower arm is in the Abhaya pose, the other lower arm on the left is in the Varada hasta pose.[Sitapati: 32]

Lakshmi was a Buddhist deity

The idea of Lakshmi as one of the consorts of Vishnu is so deeply ingrained in present day Indian psychethat, the fact that She was originally a Buddhist monuments, and not a Brahmanic ones. Dr. VasudevaUpadhyaya observes:

“…The birth of Buddha is depicted by many symbols, in addition to Bodhi tree, chakra and Stupa. In thetoranas of Bharhut and Sanchi the birth of Buddha is depicted by an elephant (dream of Maya) and a devisitting or standing on a lotus. … In one place a devi seated on a lotus is being anointed with water from jarsheld over her head by two elephants. This is termed in Hindu art as Gaja Lakshmi. In Buddhist art thisis considered a symbol of birth of Buddha. It is the opinion of western scholars that the idea of Gaja Lakshmi of Hindus is copied from this Buddhist symbol. Evidences of this is found from the artistic examplesof Bharhut, Boudha Gaya and Sanchi. Gaja Lakshmi had a place in Buddhist art of Shunga times…”

Upadhyaya, however, does not agree that Hindus copied her from Buddhist, and thinks that Hindusoriginated the idea from the Shrutis. However, he admits that no Brahmanic image of Lakshmi before theChristian Era is found. [Upadhyaya: 312- emphasis ours] Whether Gaja Lakshmi of Hindus is influenced by Buddhist or not, the fact remains that the earliest archaeological representation of this form of devi isfound only in Buddhist sculpture, and not in Brahmanic ones. The earliest Brahmanic representation is atMahabalipuram:

“…Gajalaxmi … in Varaha temple at Mamallapuram (being first to appear in the Hindu garb, though theBuddhism had used it from the times of stupa of Bharhut)…” [Bhattacharya: 1967: 329]

Saraswati was also a Buddhist Deity

It may also be mentioned that Saraswati was also a Buddhist Deity and the earliest representation wasevident in Buddhist monuments and not in the Brahmanic ones. J.N.Banerjea observes:

“…a Bharhut railing pillar, contains a standing female figure playing on a harp; it may be regarded as theearliest representation of Saraswati in Indian Art. Her separate figures from the late Gupta period onwards,however are comparatively common…” [Banerjea J.N.: 1967: 314]

Even in literature Lakshmi was not related to Vishnu

It may seem strange, but it is true that Lakshmi was originally not related to Vishnu. H. D. Bhattacharya hasthe following to observe:

“…That Lakshmi was originally not linked with Vishnu may be gathered from the fact that she was supposedto have been bestowed upon Vishnu after the churning of ocean had brought her forth, though a latertradition would have it that she came out of the lotus which grew out of Vishnu’s forehead” [Bhattacharya:1968: 470]

Before Lakshmi came to be recognized as one of the consorts of Vishnu, her position in Brahmanic traditionwas not very steady. Dr. J. N. Banerjea observes:

“…The tendency to regard some of the goddesses as indispensable consorts of the major gods, led to themultiple matrimonial alliances of Sri and of Saraswati. As noted above Sri and Lakshmi (regarded as twopersonalities) appear in the Vajasanniyi Samhita as two wives of Aditya. Later tradition made Sri andMahaveta the two wives of Surya, one on either side of the Sun Image. This was followed by the still laterconception in North India (especially Bengal) of Lakshmi and Saraswati as the two wives of Vishnu, placedon two sides of Vishnu image. Identification of Lakshmi with Durga, Amba, Devi or Ekanasa is also notunknown. Even Skanda’s wife of Devasena has Lakshmi as one of her names, and Kubera, too claimed her as wife at a later time. Popular belief, however, made her wife of Vishnu, and in some Puranas his creative activity; and in Vishnudharmottara it is mentioned that gifts dedicated to Lakshmi should be given only toone well versed in the Pancharatra doctrine. Her figure appears in the lintels of Vishnu temples at Badamiand Aihole, and latterly she degenerates into a parivardevata in the temple of Brahma as Visvakarma. If shehad not lost her hold on veneration of men, it is because she represents the docile type of womanhoodintensely attached to the husband and devoted to his service, and also because she is looked upon asgoddess of wealth in the pursuit of which all sects are equally interested.” [Banerjea J. N.: 1970: 452]

Lakshmi recognized as consort of Vishnu, only since Alvandar’s time

This discussion should be sufficient to show that the devise of Lakshmi was in Buddhist traditions and that the image of Lakshmi found on the chest of Lord of Tirumalai does not exclude it from being considered asBuddhist image. At the same time mere presence of Lakshmi on the chest of this idol does not prove it thatthe idol is that of Vishnu.

We have already seen in Chapter 10 that even after Her acceptance as a consort of Vishnu, Lakshmi wasdepicted only with the Sheshashyai form and not with the standing form.

However, we have to consider the time when Lakshmi got accepted as a consort of Vishnu. It was Alvander,who for the first time propagated Lakshmi as consort of Vishnu in South India. [Raghavacharya: I,150]

This raises another question. If Lakshmi was not considered as the consort of Vishnu as late as the time ofAlvander, (918- 1038 A.D.) then how do you account for Her presence on the chest of Lord of Tirumalai?Surely the image was earlier than this period. This is discussed in next chapter.

Chapter 19 Chapter 21


Chapter 21Buddhist Images and Lord of Tirumalai

Buddhist symbols of worship

Having studied the Vishnu images, we might study some of the Buddhist images, with advantage. As is wellknown, the Buddhist pantheon is very, it is neither possible to go into detail, nor it is necessary for our purpose.

Before the the image of Buddha came into existence, various symbols were worshipped: These were:

1. White elephant, symbolizing birth of Lord Buddhda – dream of Maya.

2. Lotus denoting walking of Buddha immediately after birth when seven steps were taken by Him and alotus grew under each step.

  1.  Horse, denoting Maha-abhi-nishkraman
  2.  Bodhi Tree, denoting Enlightenment
  3.  Vajra Asana, denoting Enlightenment
  4.  Gandha Kuti, denoting His cottage


7. Begging Bowl

8. Ushnisha i.e. Head gear

  1.  Prabha Mandal
  2.  Dhamma Chakra
  3.  Foot Prints


12. Tri Ratna, denoting Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.

Demand for Buddhist art was greater

The image of Buddha was made at the beginning of Christian Era. In the third regnal year of Kanishka, ahuge Buddha image was installed at Sarnath by Bhikshu Bala, and is labeled as Bodhisattva.[N.P.Joshi:364,marathi]

The controversy whether the first Buddha image was made in Gandhara or Mathura has no relevance to ourpurpose. Mathura art of Kushana age and the Sarnath art of Gupta age are too well known to merit anydiscussion.

Discussing the centres of Buddhist art Dr. Vasudeo Upadhyaya observes:

“…The Buddhist rulers selected different centres and got the work done from skilled artists. Thereforevarious schools of Buddhist art were established. Schools of Gandhara, Mathura, Sarnath denote a definite art form. For the images of Brahmnism there was absence of usual school (definite centre). Brahmnicimages were made at different places. It is more likely that compared to Buddhist images, the demand forBrahmnic ones was less. Objects are manufactured only according to demand. Therefore it was not possiblefor the Brahmnic artists to settle at one place and manufacture images. During the Gupta age, centre ofSarnath was famous for Buddhist images. Art of making of highly beautiful Buddhist images, full ofphilosophical features, was on zenith. In such a prosperous age there was no centre for Brahmnic images…”[Upadhyaya: 309]

Depiction of Bodhisattvas

Bodhisattvas are the beings who are in the process of obtaining, but have not yet obtained Buddhahood,such as Gautama or Sidhartha before attainment of Nirvana.

The Bodhisattva was also not depicted in human form earlier, but symbols were used. They were a caparisoned horse without a rider, with a parasol held above and a bodhi treen with the vajrasana beneath it. [Banerjea: 394]

Later on the era of Bodhisattva images followed. Earlier local artists, in contrast to Gandhara ones, made nodistinction between the terms Buddha and Bodhisattva, and the inscribed standing and seated images ofMathura, representing Gautama dressed as monk, are sometimes described in their pedestal inscriptionseither as Bodhisattva or as Buddha. [Ibid:394] In Gandhara art three different Bodhisattvas are depicted,Maitreya and Avalokitesvara and Manjushri. With the emergence of Mahayana, a mahayana pantheon cameinto being with five Dhyani Buddhas, viz. Vairochana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha andAmoghasiddhi who are said to have issued out of Adi Buddha through contemplation. Each of theseBuddhas is associated woth a Bodhisattva and a goddess, called Tara. [Dutta:III,379] For the spirit of selfabnegation the Bodhisattvas began to rise higher and higher in the estimation of masses till some of thembecame objects of veneration. The most distinguished of these, who ranked almost as gods, wereAvalokitesvara, Manjushri, Vajrapani, Samantabhadra, Akashgarbha, Mahasthanaprapta, Bhaishjyaraja, andMaitreya. [Dutta: III,390]


“Avalokitesvara is the personification of compassion. He is full of mercy, and extends his ever helping handto all those who seek him in distress. (Saddharmapundarika Ch. XXIV), According to Chinese pilgrims, theworship of Avalokitesvara was prevalent in India form the fourth to seventh century. The images ofAvalokitesvara are quite common among the archaeological finds. Usually the images are richly decoratedand show the Buddha Amitabha in the head dress. In some of the images, the goddess Tara appears withthis Bodhisattva. The goddess Tara is personification of Knowledge (prajna). She is so called because onlywith her help could people cross the world of misery. She is also known as goddess Prajnaparmita, as it isby the fulfillment of this paramita that a Bodhisattva reaches the goal. The next popular Budhisattva is theever youn g (Kumarabhuta) Manjushri. He is the personification of wisdom and is sometimes associated withLakshmi (=Shrimahadevi) [Suvvarnaprabhasa, ch.IX.Her function is to furnish monks with robes, food, andother requisites.]or Saraswati [Suvarnaprabhasa Ch. VIII. The function of Saraswati devi is to give the powerof intonation to Dharma - preachers, teaching dharani, etymology, and of reviving memory etc.] or both. Heimparts education to the people, teaches the Buddhist dharma, and is the instructor of Maitreya, the futureBuddha. His worship was prevalent in India at the same period as that of Avalokitesvara.” [Dutta: III,390]

Literary references to Avalokitesvara

He further observes:

“The earliest literature which may be called precursor of Tantra was known as Dharanis and formed part ofthe Mahayana sutras … Karandakavyuha of about the fourth century A.D…is a text devoted to glorification ofthe Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara who with Tara formed the chief deities of worship in the early tantraliterature. …” [Dutta: IV, 260]

“The only deity invoked in most of the earlier Dharanis is the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvra, who was a devoteeof Bouddha Vairochana. The abode of Avalokitesvara is placed at Potalka, a place somewhere in theSourth, near Shri- Dhanyakataka (Amaravati). In the Karandavyuha (fourth century A.D.) this Bodhisattva isglorified as the first god to issue out of the primordial Buddha (Adi-Buddha = Adinatha = Vajra) and to createthe Universe. In this text, Goddess Tara does not appear while there are references to Maheshvara and Uma, as devotees of Avalokitesvara. It seems that in course of time this Uma – Maheshavra conception was superimposed on Mahayana and paved the way for the advent of Tantrayana.” [Ibid. p.261]

Vishnu or Avalokitesvara

How does the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara or Padmapani look like? In the later periods many forms ofAvalokitesvara are seen, but in early periods he is depicted as ‘a well dressed figure who holds a lotusflower in his right hand or bears a lotus on it.’ [Banerjea: II,395] Some of the murthis resemble Vishnu andsome resemble Shiva and there are some which resemble both at the same time.

Nalinaksha Dutt observes:

“…If a careful analysis is made of the iconographic traits of some of them, there is hardly and difficulty inrecognizing on good many of them the mahayanastic adaptation of two of the principal Brahmnical culticons, viz. Vishnu and Siva. The iconography of the general form of Avalokitesvara and of a few others of hisspecial ones has some analogy to that of a Vishnu, and the ideology underlying both these gods, speciallyrelating to their character as gods of preservation and deliverance, is one and the same…” [Dutta:IV,277] If the images of Avalokitesvara and those of Vishnu are similar, how do we recognize them? There should be no problem, if the weapons are considered. Mere presence of number of arms is not enough, there are four arms, six arms and more also in both Vishnu as well as in Avalokitesvara. But the weapons are onlyfound in the images of Vishnu. If an image looks like Vishnu, but is without the weapons, it is anAvalokitesvara. If you put the weapons in the hands of an Avalokitesvara it becomes a Vishnu.

In this connection, the views of authorities on iconography are worth observing. Stella Kramrisch observesas follows:

“…Whether the figure is Brahmnic or Buddhist, Vishnu or Avalokitesvara, the treatment is identical; it hasTantrism for the inspiration.” [Stella Kramrisch: 224]

She has further to observe:

“…A Vishnu image thus does not differ from the figure of a Bodhisattva in feature or in composition; it can be distinguished by its position, only in attributes, and its accompanying figures…” [Ibid. p.210, emphasis ours] By attributes, she means mainly weapons and mudras and objects held in hand. We havealready seen that Lord of Tirumalai has mudras, but no weapons. It has no accompanying figures, which aswe have seen should have been there. We have also seen that it is the only “Ek-Devata” temple in whole ofIndia.

Dhyani Buddhas were absent in many Buddhist images

There is another point which needs consideration. A Buddhistic image specially the late one, usually has adepiction of a Dhyani Buddha in the head gear. Almost all the images after 9th or 10th century have got it,except those of Adi Buddha, and almost all the early images e.g. in Mathura and Sarnath school, i.e. duringthe Gupta period do not have these figures. If it is postulated, that the image is of Gupta period, it could bewithout the Dhyani Buddha. However even in late stages some of the Buddhist images were made withoutthe Dhyani Buddhas. Vasudeo Upadhyaya observes:

“In Buddhistic art, in some images the Dhyani Buddhas are not present on the crown. Therefore theseimages are considered as independent ones. By the influence of Hinduism so many such independentBuddhist images were made in the middle ages.” [Upadhyaya: 313]

Does Lord of Venkatesvara conform to Buddhist images?

We have already established that the image of Lord of Tirumalai does not conform with the description of theVishnu Images. In the light of the description of the Buddhist images we will now try to see whether itconforms to the description of the Buddhist images. We have already discussed the position of arms, theabsence of weapons, and presence of crown in Buddhist images. We know that the Buddhist images andVishnu images do not differ much in the composition of eyes, nose, mouth with its smile, chin, ears,proportion of chest, waist, neck, position of legs and feet. All these points in the description of Lord ofTirumalai agree with the description of Buddhdist images. However, there are some points present in theimage of Lord of Tirumalai, which need further verification.

Pedestal has distinctive features

It is well known fact the pedestal of the murthi is very important and essential structure of the image. Somekind of pedestal is a must to bear the weight. The standing murthi requires heavier pedestal than the sittingone, for the weight is distributed in smaller area. There can be no murthi without a pedestal. From ancienttimes the design and character of this has been changing. For example yaksha images of Shunga times areshown on dwarfs or animals; in Kushana times big images of Buddha and Jina are on unornamentalpedestal. Late in 1st century the lion appears and denotes the images of time of Kanishka or Vasudeo. InGupta age two types are seen. One being simple as an Buddha of Mathura and Sultanganj, and secondtype where figures of Buddhist origion are engraved. For example Manquar Buddha has a chakra betweentwo lions and Sarnath Buddha depicts panch vargiya bhikshus along with chakra in centre, denotingDhamma chakra prvartana and also two antelopes denoting the place of it, i.e. Mrigadaya (Sarnath).Pedestal of middle age images is a well known entity of double lotus in Buddhist images. But in Brahmnicalimages there is the figure of the mount (vahana) of the deity engraved on it. It is noteworthy that both inBoddhist as well as Brahmnical images this principle was strictly followed while sculpturing of the murthis.[Ibid:285]

As per Agamas pedestal for Vishnu images is described as:

“…This figure would be on the top of the pitham or pedestal which as usual is represented as if made up of four planks one above the other. All the four are shown as bound together by three girdles known as’Trimekhala’. This is mythological pedestal … four planks represent Dharmam, Gnanam, Aisvaryam andVairagyam. They appear in a slightly different order in the Vaikhanasa and the Pancharatra Agamas. Butthey are essential as pedestal in both. On the top of this pedestal would be a Padmam with eight or sixteenpetals. In the centre of this, or in place of this, should be six pointed yantram referred to above. In the case of Dhruva Beram, the padmam itself is covered over and could not now be seen even by archakasunless the structure of the pedestal is broken up.” [Raghavacharya: I,273 - emphasis ours]

Pedestal of Lord is covered, Why?

We are not concerned with the yantram, but the strange thing is why the pedestal is covered. Thecircumstances that led to covering the pedestal are not mentioned. Vira Raghavacharya wants us to believethat the Murthi was without pedestal before 900 A.D. He observes:

“But the pedestal itself would have been constructed when the temple was constructed and possibly notbefore. This statement is based on the practice that the pedestal, the Vedi and the walls of the temple are allproportioned to the height of the standing Murti. There is no evidence that the present temple was builtbefore about 900 A.D….” Ibid:274]

However, this still does not clarify why and when the pedestal got covered. It is just not possible that murthiwas without the pedestal at the time of manufacture, as it just cannot stand without some kind of support,the feet of the Lord have to rest on some kind of platform, and not just on ground. In any case the pertinenceof covering the lotus pedestal is not understood. Whether it was intentional, we can only guess.

Was there a Buddhdist formula on the pedestal?

It is important not only to see the design and markings on the pedestal, but also to see whenther there isanything engraved on it. As is well known that on some of the Buddhist images usual Buddhist formula iswritten on pedestal, as:

ye dharma hetu prabhava hetum tesham thatagato hyavadat tesanc ya nirodha eyam vadi maha sramanah

It could be rendered as: For everything to originate, there is a cause. This cause is explained by the Lord.This is the Dhamma of Maha Sramana Buddha.

The scholar who imagined and started the sculpturing of this verse on the pedestal of the Buddhist imagesdeserves all the praise. Because this verse on one side strongly condemns the brahmanical doctrine ofexistence of eternal God, and on the other warns the Buddhists that they must not consider the Buddha asGod.

Therefore, it is necessary not only to examine the structure and figures on the pedestal but also to find outwhether any thing is engraved on it. As is well known, this verse is engraved on many Buddhist images. Thisis seen not only in North India but also in South India, for example image of Padmapani from Guntupallibears it. [Sarma I.K.: 82]

The presence of this formula is the conclusive evidence of the Buddhist character of any murthi, but theabsence does not prove or disprove anything. It has value only when present. Unfortunately for us, the lotuspedestal of Lord of Tirumalai is not possible to be seen, as it is covered.

Jata Jutas etc. not againse Buddhist character

Presence of Jata, Jutas, and Naga bhushanams was one of the points raised by the Saivites againstRamanuja’s claim , and as we have seen Ramanuja had agreed that the jata jutas were present on themurti, but argued that Bhagwata mentions Jata Jutas for Vishnu image. The presence of jata Jutas may beargued as a point against murthi being a Vishnu, but certainly it cannot be argued against it being aBodhisattva.

Yadnopavitam was also on Buddhist murthis

The presence of yadnopavitam on Lord of Tirumalai may cause some confusion because it denotesrecongnition of supremacy of higher castes, which Buddhism never believed in. Therfore one would expectthat there should be no yadnopavitam was also installed. [Upadhyaya: 72]

Unexplained features

There are cetain points which are not properly explained by the historians. It is sure that worship of Lakshmi was started not before the days of Alvander, in South Indian Vaishnavism. In North it was much later. Insuch conditions, how do we find presence of Lakshmi on the Lord’s chest? Was it there since the beginningof manufacture of the murthi or was it carved later on?

Was the srivatsa mark on the chest present on the murthi since beginning?

Nagbhushanams are mentioned by Saivites in their claim and it was accepted by Ramanuja, as per Venkatachala Itihasmala as we have already seen. Are they still there? P.Sitapati, writing in 1972, mentionsthem to be present as we have already seen [Sitapati: 19] but T.T.K.Veera Raghavacharya avers with equalforce, in 1951, that they are not there. [Raghavacharya: I,294] Both these authors are intimately connectedwith the temple.

Silappadhikaram describes a bow. Was it there? If it was, why was it removed? It cannot be argued that bow was against Vaishnavism and hence it was not necesary to remove it. Was it really a bow that wasdescribed or was it a long lotus stalk whose flower is broken? Stella Kramerisch has described an image ofAvalokitesvara as:

“…It (image of Avalokitesvara) is complemented by the bow shaped lotus stalk, from which the flower isbroken off…” [Stella: 194]

Third eye

Venkatachal Itihas Mala mentions that there was a crescent moon mark on the crown or the forehead. But none of the present day scholars make any mention of it. How did it disappear? How do we account for itsdisappearance? Is it possible that there could have been a ‘dhyani buddha’ which was later removed andhence it resembled a crescent moon mark. We saw a story in Chapter 8 about the wound caused on theforehead of the Lord by a stick thrown by a cow herd. Describing this episode in detail, R. C. Dhere, whilediscussing the Shaivite charecter of the image, suggests that the practice of putting thick camphor mark onforeshead to nostrils, which was started by Ramanuja, was meant for hiding some distinctive featureof the Lord. He says such a doubt is justifiable, and that one can be easily convinced that the legendary ‘wound’ was actually the ‘third eye’ of Shiva. [R.C.Dhere: 93]

This ‘justifiable doubt’ of hiding some vital distinctive sign and this ‘easily convinsing’ cavity need not onlysuggest the Third Eye of Siva; it can also be explained by removal of Dhyani Buddha from theforehead, and the observation of Dhere is equally applicable to Buddhist claim.

All such points require an explanation.

Presumption of Vajra-lepa is essential to explain certain points

It appears that Sri V.N. Srinivasa Rao, had published a book, refuting the Vaishnava creed of the Lord, and

T.T.K. Veera Raghavacharya has criticized some of Rao’s arguments.

He observes:

“…Mr. Rao writes that the makings of the Srivatsam on the right chest, near the shoulder (instead of on themiddle of the left chest as is usual with Vishnu images) betrays hasty and imperfect execution by later artist.He displays here not only his ignorance but the audacity in starting that some later artist interfered with theMurti and executed the work. …(as peer) Bhrigu Samhita, Lakshmi kalpam… The markings of the Srivatsamdepend on the rupam or form of the particular Murti and is not identical for all …” [Raghavacharya: I,297].

Thus the idea of somebody tampering with the murti was repulsive to him and would be still be repulsive tomany like him, because of their devotion, which is quite natural. But this ignores the fact that the murti at onestage was without the weapons but now has the weapons, this is itself is a great interference.

There is a rite known as ‘vajralepa’, Which is performed for making changes, if it becomes necessary. Aboutthe Ambabai murti at Kolhapur, which is considered as one of the consorts of Lord of Tirumalai, such aprocedure is reported to have been performed, and out of the lower two arms the weapons areinterchanged. [bharatiya sanskriti kosha, Marathi, II,110]. Whether any such procedure was carried out onthe murti of Lord of Tirumalai is not known. But unless it is presumed to have been performed, many of thecontradictory findings can not be explained.

Chapter 20 Chapter 22


Chapter 22Early History of Vengadam And Sangam Age

India was land of Nagas and its language Tamil

To understand the history of Vengadam, it is necessary of know the history of South India in general.Though we need not go into details of pre-Asokan period, a few salient points would be necessary.

It is propagated by Brahmanic scholars that main stream Indian culture is Vedic, which is erroneous. Shri H.

L. Kosare quotes the opinions of Datta Ray Chaudhari and Majumdar that:

“The main basis of Indian social cultural system is presumed to be Vedic Culture. This presumption isbaseless, and this opinion can not be accepted. There is no doubt that, the Indus valley culture played agreat role in the development and preservation of Indian culture.” [Kosare: 1989: 263]

He further says that:

“About the existence of the Nagas in this country, V. K. Rajwade mentions that Rajtarangini describes in detail about the Naga kingdoms in Kashmir in olden days. Astik parva of Mahabharata is related to Nagasfrom beginning to end. It mentions the inhabitation of Nagas in the Khandavaprastha and Khandav vanasituated to the south of Yamuna river. Harivamsha mentions the residence of Nagas to be in Nagpur.Therefore, there is no doubt that in olden days, during the Pandava times and thereafter, there were Nagasresiding on a vast territory of India. It can definitely be stated on the basis of description of ‘sarpa satra’, thatthere was a fierce war between the Nagas and Manavas for some time. Arjuna married a Naga princessUlupi. From this it can be inferred that many Nagas were friendly towards the Manavas.” [Kosare: 270]

Who were the people who inhabited South India? The scholars think that they were the descendants ofpeople from Indus Valley Civilization. Dasaku Ikeda observes:

“… Study of the Vedic Indus script reinforces the assertion that the creators of the Indus civilization were theforefathers of the Dravidians, who today mainly inhabit southern India. …” [Karan Sing: 1988: 2]

That they were the Nagas is clear from the account by Dr. Ambedkar, who observes:

“When students of ancient Indian History delve into the ancient past they do often come across four names,the Aryans, Dravidians, Dasas and Nagas..” [Untouchables:58]

“Starting with Aryans, it is beyond dispute that they were not a single homogeneous people. That they weredivided into two sections is beyond doubt…” [Ibid:59]

“A greater mistake lies in differentiating the Dasas from the Nagas. Dasas are the same as Nagas. Dasas isanother name for Nagas… Dasa is the sanskritised form of the Indo Iranian word Dahaka. Dahaka was thename of the king of the Nagas… Who were the Nagas? Undoubtedly they were non- Aryans. A careful studyof Vedic literature reveals a spirit of conflict, of a dualism, and a race superiority between two distinct typesof culture and thought…The mention of the Nagas in the Rig Veda shows that the Nagas were a very ancientpeople. It must also be remembered that the Nagas were in no way aboriginal or uncivilized people. Historyshows a very close association by intermarriage between the Naga people with the Royal families of India…Not only did the Naga people occupy a high cultural level but history shows that they ruled a good part ofIndia… That Andhradesa and its neighborhood were under the Nagas during early centuries ofChristian era is suggested by evidence from more sources that one. The Satvahanas, and theirsuccessors, the Chutu Kula Satkarnis drew their blood more or less from the Naga stock…” [Ibid:63]

“Who are the Dravidians? Are they different from the Nagas? Or are they two different names for the peopleof the same race? The popular view is that Dravidians and Nagas are the names of two different races. Thisstatement is bound to shock many people. Nonetheless, it is a fact that the term Dravidians and the Nagasare merely two different names for the same people.” [Ibid: 66]

“…the word “Dravida” is not an original word. It is the Sanskritised form of the word `Tamil’ when importedinto Sanskrit became Damila and later on Damila became Dravida. The word Dravida is the name of the language of the people and does not denote the race of the people. The third thin o remember is that Tamilof Dravida was no merely the language of South India but before the Aryans came it was the language ofthe whole of India, and was spoken from Kashmir to Cape Camorin. In fact it was the language of the Nagasthroughout India…” [Ibid: 75]


Nagas were Buddhists

That the Nagas were sympathizers and followers and followers of Buddha is well knows. Dr. Ambedkar in1956, while converting half a million of his followers to Buddhism at Nagpur, had remarked that his selectionof Nagpur was due to the historical association of the area with the Nagas, who were friendly towardsBuddhism. We might also quote a Buddhist tradition from Mahavatthu:

“Nagas are generally devoted to the Buddha. The enthusiastic devotion that our compilers believed Nagasto possess towards the Teacher and the Teaching finds expression in the popular episode of Mucalinda’sextraordinary way of protecting the Exalted One during the seven days of untimely rain. The were alsoamong the beings who formed a body of guards protecting the Bodhisattva and his mother. At theBodhisattva”s birth some Nagas came to bathe him, a scene that had long been a favourite amongsculptors. On the Buddha’s visit to Vaisali they displayed their respect for Him in a magnificentdemonstration of bearing parasols. From other sources we learn how they happened to obtain relics of theBuddha, which they jealousy guarded for a long time.” [Bhikku Telwate:1978:172]

T. A. Gopinath Rao discussing Hindu iconography has agreed that majority of Buddhists were Nagas. This iswhat he said, quite a long time back:

“In historical times, portions of India were inhabitated by race of men who went by the name of Nagas andthey are said to have formed the majority of persons who joined the newly started Buddhistic religion. Somescholars of Malabar are inclined to believe that the modern Nayars (Shudras) of Malabar might bedescendants of early Nagas as name within modern times might have been corrupted into Nayars.

The hypothesis is more fictitious and fanciful than real and tenable.” [Rao: II,554 emphasis ours]

Prof. Rao, who categorically mentions Nayars were Shudras, finds the theory untenable. It is difficult tounderstand what faults Prof. Rao found with the theory. At least, I do not find any particular reason todisbelieve this theory. One thing is certain that the Nayars were the original inhabitants of the region, theydid not come from outside. Before the Brahmins came from the North and establish ‘sambamdhams’ with the female folks of Kerala, and thus dominate the Nayar community, the original inhabitants were the Nagasonly. From ‘Naga’ they could have become ‘Nayar’. What is so peculiar in this, that Prof. Rao finds, is hard tounderstand. Let it be as it may, the fact remains that the Nagas became Buddhist in great numbers, is a factthat is certain. Todays Indian society is made up of and is developed from the erstwhile aboriginal tribalpeople, is a fact recognized by all the scholars. Then what is the difficulty in accepting that the word ‘Nayar’might have come from ‘Naga’?

There was a casteless society among the Naga culture

The non-aryan Naga people were believers in Buddhistic social culture. During their rule, there was asociety based on social equality in India, because their cultural values were influenced by the Buddhisttraditions. This social system of Nagas, even in those early days, is noteworthy in contrast to Brahmanicalsocial system of inequality. It is unfortunate that the modern high caste scholars, while narrating thegreatness of ancient Indian culture, ignore this fact. Shri H. L. Kosare opines:

“As all the elements in the Nagas society were treated with equal status, casteless social order was the mainbasis of social system of Nagas. As the Naga culture was based on Buddha’s principles of equality, itreceived the status of Buddha’s religion. Thus, Naga culture played the greatest role in the process ofestablishing a casteless egalitarian and integrated society in Indian cultural life.” [Kosare: 256]

“A. L. Basham has shown that there is no mention of caste anywhere in ancient Tamil literature. But afterAryan influence increased, and political and social system became more complex, caste system which wassomewhat more severe than in north, evolved even here. (‘The wonder that was India’, Rupa & Co., 1975,p.151) The period of Sangam literature is third century A.D., This shows that during the Satavahana rulethere was no caste system.” [Kosare: 251]

Nagas had their Republics

Not only their social system was public oriented, but unlike the Brahmanical system, their political systemalso was designed to give social justice to all sections of people. Kosare observes:

“From first to the beginning of fourth century A.D., the central countries in India comprised of strongRepublics of Nagas. Samudragupta destroyed these republics. About the system of administration ofBharshiva Nagas, Dr. K. P. Jaiswal has observed that their social system was based on the principles ofequality. There was no place for any caste system in them. They all belonged to one and the same caste.”[Ibid.] He further avers that:

“There were independent kingdoms of Nagas in South India. These kingdoms came together and formed afederal republic. This federal republic of Nagas was termed as Fanimandal or Nagamandal. ThisCheromandal republic of Nagas of South India was very powerful and indivisible at the time of Periplus, 80 A.D. Later during Ptolemy’s times, i.e. 150 A.D., north eastern part of Tondemandalam becameseparate. (Dr. J. P. Jain, bharatiya itihas, p. 239). This Cheromandal or Fanimandal was a federation ofseparate kingdoms of Nagas coming together to form a united national federation. In reality, it was a unitedNaga Nation of South India.” [Kosare: 179]

Region of Tirupati was within Asoka’s Empire

Coming to the Asokan times, it is a well known fact that the empire of Asoka extended to the whole ofmodern India excepting the extreme regions of south India. The region of Tondamandalam was included inthe empire of Asoka. K.A.N. Sastri observes:

“…it seems not unlikely that a part of the Tondamandalam was included in it; at any rate, a Pallavainscription of the ninth century A.D. (the Velurpalaiyam plates) mentions an Ashokavarman among theearliest rulers of Kanchipuram. …” [Sastri: 1966: 89]

There is ample evidence to show that in post-Asokan period, Buddhism flourished in South India, and therewas a great Buddhist atmosphere all over South India. Sastri says:

“The kingdoms of South India, together with Ceylon, are mentioned in the second and thirteenth rock-edictsof Asoka. The list in the second edict is the more complete and includes the name of Chola, Pandya,Satiyaputa, Keralaputa and Tambapanni (Ceylon). All these lands are distinctly stated to have lain outsidethe empire of Asoka;but the great emperor was on such friendly terms with them that the undertook toarrange for the proper medical care of men and animals in all of them and for the importation and planting ofuseful medicinal herbs and roots wherever they were needed. He also sent missionaries to preach thedhamma, the essentials of Buddhism, among the people of these countries, thus evincing a keen interest intheir spiritual and moral well-being no less than in their physical fitness…” [Sastri: 1966: 85]

“… The political unification of India under the Mauryas was then very real, and the court of Pataliputra wasinterested in occurrences in the extreme south of the peninsula. `Vadugar’ literally means `northerners’, andwas the name applied in Sangam literature to the ancestors of the Telugu Kannada people living in theDeccan, immediately to the north of the Tamil country whose northern limit was Vengadam, the TirupatiHill…” [Sastri: 1966: 89]

Earliest Inscriptions were definitely Buddhist

In addition to these Asokan Edicts many more inscriptions The short Bare found in South India. K.A.N. Sastriobserves: [Sastri: 1966: 89]

“The short Brahmi inscriptions found in natural rock caverns in the hill of the South have many features incommon with the similar, but more numerous, records of Ceylon, and are among the earliest monuments ofthe Tamil country to which we may assign a date with some confidence. The script employed resembles thatof the inscriptions from Bhattiprolu and may well be assigned to the second century B.C. The laterinscriptions may be taken to be of the third century A.D. like the one at the auricular Cave in Coimbatoredistrict. The Brahmi graffiti found on the pottery from Arikamedu excavations may be taken also to belong tohis class of inscriptions. They are definitely datable to about A.D. 50 and fall chronologically about themiddle of the period covered by these records. These inscriptions have not yet been fully elucidated; butclearly they re mostly either brie donative records or he names of the monks who once lived there. One ofthe places where the caverns are found bears the name Kalugumalai, `vulture’s hill’, Tamil for Gridhrkuta,name hallowed in the annals o early Buddhism. From this fact it ha been deduced that these monumentswere all of them of Buddhist origin; but it is premature to formulate final conclusions of this matter. Newcaves and inscriptions are still being discovered, such as the inscribed natural cave at Malakonda in Nelloredistrict [*** 5 ***] and the one at Ariccalur just mentioned. And tradition is strong, as we have seen, thatJainism came into South India about the same time as Buddhism, if not earlier. It is not possible to assertthat these monuments owe their origin exclusively to Buddhists or Jains; it is probable that some may beattributed to the one and some to the other….”

“The exact contents of these inscriptions still remain obscure, but a few facts emerge from tentative studiesof them. We can say, for instance, that among the cities named are `Maturai’ (Madura) and ` Karu-ru’(Karur), that among the donors of monuments were a husbandman (Kutumbika) of Ceylon (Ila), besides a woman, merchants (vanikar), and members of the Karani caste. The professions of pon-vanikam (goldmerchant), and kaikkolan (weaver?) are mentioned. The term nikamttar (members of a guild) occurs twice,once as donor, and again as donees. The word kon (chief of king) also occur. Some words of religiousimport are: atittanam (abode), dhamam (dharma), arattar (followers of dharma), tana (gift), upasaa (layworshiper), paliy (palli, a Jaina or Buddhist place of worship), and yakaru (Yakshas) and Kuvira (Kubera).These brief inscriptions are thus seen to bear testimony to the support commanded from all classes of thelaity by the ascetics who pursued their spiritual life in the solitudes of mountains and forests. Yet it seemseasy to exaggerate their social and religious significance; there is no evidence that the Tamil people ingeneral had accepted Jainism or Buddhism in this early period; and the evidence form the literature of thesucceeding age, that of the Sangam shows the Vedic religion of sacrifice and some forms of popularHinduism entrenched in the affection of the people and their rulers.” [Sastri: 1966: 89]

It is rather strange that Sastri places more importance on the literary evidences of Sangam poets of laterdate than on the inscriptions and underestimates the inscriptions and expresses uncertainty on the clear cutproofs. However, we feel this is no justified and all these inscriptions do give an unmistakable evidence thatSouth India was in fact very much under the influence of Buddhism, and that the Brahmanic influence wasminimal.

South India was free from Brahmin influence

About the early history of South India, Barnet rightly observes:

“Even in the first entry of Christian era the south seems to have felt little influence from the Aryan culture ofNorthern India. Some Brahmin colonies had made their way into the south, and in a few cases Brahminshad gained there a certain position in literature and religion; but on the whole they counted for little in the lifeof the people, especially as their teachings were counter balanced by the influence of the powerful Buddhistand Jain churches, and Dravidian society was still free from the yoke of the Brahman caste system…”[Barnet L. D.: I, p.540]

About Agastya he observes:

” The tradition that the Brahman sage Agastya led the first Aryan colony to the Podiya Hill and created Tamilliterature probably arose in a later age, after Brahmin influence had gained the ascendant in the south, onthe basis of the legends in the Sanskrit epics.” [fn.]

Satvahanas and Later

K.A.N. Sastri, who expressed doubts about early inscriptions as mentioned above, observes about theSatvahana period.:

“Buddhism was well established by the third century B.C. and continued to flourish throughout theSatvahana period; indeed, the first two centuries of the Christian era constitute the most glorious epoch ofBuddhism in the Deccan. The stupa of Amaravati was enlarged and embellished, and at Alluru,Gummandiduru, Ghantsala, Gudivada and Goli new stupas were built or old ones enlarged. New caveswere cut and additional benefactions made at Nasik, Karle, and Kanheri. In the inscriptions of the timeappear the names of a number of sects as well as of monks of various grades of learning and eminenceengaged in enlightening the faithful in the Law of the Master. Stupas, the sacred tree, the footprints of theMaster, the trisula emblem, the dharmachakra, relics and statues of the Buddha and other great teachersand of the Nagarajas were all objects of worship. The sculptures of this time show men and women in statesof ecstatic devotions rather than merely kneeling or perhaps prostrating themselves with joined hands beforethe objects of their devotion.” [Sastri: 1966: 89]

Even after the Satvahanas, the Buddhist tradition still continued to flourish. Further he observes:

“…The Satvahanas were described as `lord of the three oceans’ and promoted overseas colonization andtrade. Under them Buddhist art attained the superb forms of beauty and elegance preserved to this day inthe cave-temples of western India and the survivals from the stupas of Amaravati, Goli, Nagarjunikonda andother places in the Krishna valley; and the tradition was continued long after the Satvahanas by theirsuccessors both in the eastern and western Deccan.” [Sastri:3]

Satvahanas were Buddhists and not of Brahmanic faith

Because Goutamiputra Satkarni performed the sacrifices, some scholars tend to think that he belonged toBrahmanic faith. This is a wrong interpretation. They were in fact Buddhists. The nature of yajnyasperformed by him was political. Shri Kosare avers: “Satvahanas were not Brahmanic, they were Kshatriyas of Naga race. Nanaghat inscription of Naaganika(Journal of Bombay Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 13, 1870, p.311) mentions yajnyas being performed byGotamiputra Satkarni. The nature of these Vedic yajnyas must be considered as a political act of a Kshatriyato raise ones own political prestige, status and glory as an Emperor. These yajnyas had absolutely noBrahmanic effect on the republican style of their social culture in Satvahana times. Similarly, there are no records to show that any other king of Satvahana dynasty performed any Vedic sacrifices. On thecontrary, it appears that Buddhism flourished and developed to a great extent during the Satvahana periodonly.” [Kosare, p.167]

Ikshvakus reign

After Satvahanas, started rise of Ikshvakus of Sriparvata, which is definitely identified with Nagarjunkonda,an ancient Buddhist site destroyed under the supervision of Adi Shankara, as already seen. K.A.N. Sastri,observes:

“The Ikshvakus ruled over the Krishna-Guntur region. The Puranas call them Sriparvatiyas – Rulers ofSriparvata and Andhrabhrityas (`Servants of the Andhras’). Though seven kings are said to have ruled for 57years in all, only a few are known by name from Inscriptions. Originally they were feudatories of theSatvahanas and bore the title mahatalavara. Vasithiputa Siri Chantamula, the founder of the line, performedthe asvamedha and vajapeya sacrifices. The reign of his son Virapurisadata (A.D.275) formed aglorious epoch in the history of Buddhism and in diplomatic relations. He took a queen from the Saka family of Ujjain and gave his daughter in marriage to a Chutu princes. Almost all the royal ladies wereBuddhists: an aunt of Virapurisadata built a big stupa at Nagarjunikonda for the relics of the great teacher,beside apsidal temples, viharas and mandpas. Her example was followed by other women of the royalfamily and by women generally as we know from a reference to one Budhisiri, a woman citizen. The nextmember of the line, son of Virapurisadata, is Ehuvula Chantamula, who came after a short Abhirainterregnum (A.D.275-80) and whose reign witnessed the completion of a devivihara, a stupa and twoapsidal temples. We hear also of a Sihala vihara, a convent founded either by a Sinhalese, or moreprobably, for the accommodation of Sinhalese monks; and a Chaitya-ghara (Chaitya hall) was dedicated tothe fraternities (theriyas) of Tambapanni (Ceylon). Ceylonese Buddhism was thus in close touch with that ofthe Andhra country. … The sculptures of Nagarjunikonda, which include large figures of Buddha, showdecided traces of Greek influence and Mahayana tendencies,…” [Sastri: 100 ff.]

Tondamanadalam was the land of Nagas

About this area, Dr S.Krishnaswami Aiyangar observes:

“…in the age of the inscriptions, Vengadam is generally described as belonging to Tiruvengadakottam of theTondamandalam…In classical Tamil literature, however, the division called Tondamandalam is described generally as Aruvanadu indicating Tondamandalam proper; and the country beyond and still dependent upon Tondamandalam and having intimate connection with it, is described as Aruvavadatalai, that isnorthern Aruva. Taking the two together the whole territory would be territory occupied by the people towhom belongs the Aruvanadu…” [Aiyangar:103]

That these people were none but what we understand as Nagas. It is well known that the Nagas were thefollowers and supporters of Buddhism. L. D. Barnet observes:

“…Another group is that termed by the poets Nagas, a word which in Hindu literature commonly denotes aclass of semidivine beings, half men and half snakes, but is often applied by Tamil writers to a war like racearmed with bows and nooses and famous as free booters. Several tribes mentioned in early literature areknown with more or less certainty to have belonged to the Nagas, among them being the Aruvalar (in theAruva-nadu and Aruva-vadatalai around Conjeeveram), Ennar, Maravar, Oliyar, and Paradavar (a fishertribe)…” [Barnet, L.D., Camb.Hist. I, 539]

Old name of Vengadam was Pullikunran, land of Pullis

Dr. S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar described this area on the basis of Sangam poets: [Aiyangar: 5]

The name of the hill was Vengadam. Mamulanur the most important and perhaps the oldest poet, has sevenpoems referring to Vengadam. He refers to Vengadam as belonging to Pulli, the Chieftain of Kalvar, andnotes that Vengadam was famous for its festivals. In another poem he refers undoubtedly to Tirupati asPullikunran, the Hill of Chieftain Pulli. Another poem says these Pullis were liberal in gifts. There is no mention of the great shrine in any of the authors, though festivals are mentioned. “It will be noticed that although a number of authors of eminence in this collection actually refer toVengadam, … there is no reference to the great shrine…Mamulanur refers to it as Vengadam of greatprosperity, prosperous because of its having festivals. …” [Ibid p. 7]

“…region was under government of chieftain by name Pulli ruling over a people who are described asKalvar, possibly with a variant from Kalvar. Subsequently to him it seems to have come under the authorityof a chieftain called Tiraiyan with a capital at Pavattiri, a little further north…”

This territory was considered part of Tondamandalam. Mamulanar’s poem 61 of Ahananuru has a passagethat,

“the chieftain of Kalvar who are in the habit of handing over elephant tusks, barter in them for liquorprepared from paddy, and who wore anklets characteristic of warriors, was Pulli famed for conquest of theland of the Malavar, and for great gifts to those who went to him. (Your lover) it is rarely possible willreconcile himself to stay away even if he got thereby Vengadam, the capital of Pulli which is prosperousbecause of the festivals celebrated in it. This is how a heart broken damsel is consoled for delay of her lover’s arrival from distant parts.” [Aiyangar: 5, emphasis original]

Rulers of Vengadam were Kalabhras who were Buddhists

These Kalavars are the same as Kalabhras. When Satvahanas put pressure on them, these anti-BrahmanicBuddhist people who were ruling around Tirupati migrated to whole of South India and ruled most of it forcenturies, and these centuries are now termed by Brahmin historians as `dark age’, not only because scantyinformation is available from Brahmanic sources but also because it was anti-Brahmanic age. They wereabused by the Brahmins and their history was wiped out. But the Buddhist books still preserve their history.

Dr. Aiyangar observes:

“The Andhra rulers…had an alternative capital in the basin of lower Krishna at Amaravati wherefrom theystretched south wards, and, perhaps at one time, made an effort to extend their authority successfully evendown to the southern Pennar…” [Ibid. p. 108]

“…The gradual pressure from the Andhra Empire seems to have set up a popular movement resulting in themigration of the somewhat less civilized people who seem to have completely upset the Governments ofSouth India and introduced what may well be regarded as a period of anarchy to which later inscriptionsrefer to in unmistakable terms. This is the movement of the people called Kalvar or Kalavar, and they musthave moved down from the region round and about Vengadam, if not from the whole of Tondamandalam. …”[Ibid. p.108]

Kalabhras fought against Brahmin supremacy and were abused by Brahmin epigraphists after theirrule ended

Now we will discuss the history of these people now known as Kalabhras, who were the rulers of this area.Shri K.A.N. Sastri has the following to say about them: [K.A.N. Sastri: 144 ff.]

“A long historical night ensure after the close of the Sangam age. We know little of the period of more thanthree centuries that followed. When the curtain rises again towards the close of the sixth century A.D., wefind a mysterious and ubiquitous enemy of civilization, the evil rulers called Kalabhras (Kalappalar), havecome and upset the established political order which was restored only by their defeat at the hands of thePandyas and Pallavas as well as the Chalukyas of Badami. Of the Kalabhras we have yet no definiteknowledge; from some Buddhist books we hear of a certain Acchutavikkanta of the Kalabharakula during whose reign Buddhist monasteries and authors enjoyed must patronage in the Chola country. [emphasis ours] Late literary tradition in Tamil avers that he kept in confinement the three Tamil kings – the Chera, Chola and Pandya. Some songs about him are quoted by Amitasagara, a Jaingrammarian of Tamil of the tenth century A.D. Possibly Acchuta was himself a Buddhist, a politicalrevolution which the Kalabhras effected was provoked by religious antagonism [emphasis ours] At any rate the Kalabhras are roundly denounced as evil king (kali-arasar) who uprooted many adhirajas andabrogated brahmdeya rights; there was no love lost between these interlopers and the people of the landsthey overran, The Cholas disappeared from the Tamil land almost completely in this debacle, though abranch of them can be tranced towards the close of the period in Rayalaseema, the Telugu Cholas, whosekingdom is mentioned by Yuan Chwang in the seventh century A.D.”

” The upset of the existing order due to the Kalabhras must have affected the Chera country as well, thoughthere is little evidence on this country in this period apart from the late legend of the Keralotpatti andKeralamahatyam. According to these, the rulers of the land had to be imported from neighbouring countries, and they assumed the title of Perumal. [emphasis ours] Possibly the Vaishnava saint Kulasekhara Alvar was one of these Perumals; in his poems he claims sovereignty over Chera , Chola andPandya, besides the Kongu country and Kolli mountain. His age cannot be determined with any certainty,though a date as early as the sixth century has been suggested for him, on the ground that at no later periodcould this claim to rule over Pandya and Chola be plausible. It seems more likely, however, that this claimwas merely rhetorical, and that he belonged to a much later time, say ninth century A.D.”

“This dark period marked by the ascendancy of Buddhism, and probably also Jainism, wascharacterized also by great literary activity in Tamil. Most of the works grouped under the head, ‘The Eighteen Minor works’ were written during this period as also the Silappadhikaran, Manimekhalai and otherworks. Many of the authors were the votaries of the `heretical’ (meaning Buddhists and Jains) sects.”[K.A.N. Sastri: 144. ff.]

Strangely enough, even the modern scholars such as Sastri like to call this period as `dark’ only because itwas an anti- Brahmanic age, not withstanding the creation of the excellent literature. This is the psyche ofIndian scholars. Nothing appears great to them unless it is done for bettering the cause of chaturvarnya.

Kalabhras were Buddhists

About these so called `wicked’ Kalabhras, R. Sathinathaier observes.

“We have already made a few references to the Kalabhras, and to their king Achchutavikranta. TheVelvikudi plates of the third regnal year of Ndunjadaiyan Pandya (c.765 – c.815) say thatPalyagamudukudumi – Peruvaludi Pandyadhiraja gave the village of Velvikudi as brahmadeya (gift to abrahmana). It was enjoyed for long. Then a Kali king named Kalabhran took possession of the extensiveearth, driving away numberless great kings (adiraja), and resumed the (village mentioned) above. Afterthat…the Pandyadhiraja Kodungon recovered the territory under the Kalabhra occupation. It would appearfrom the brief account that the Pandya country was seized by the Kalabhras long after Mudukudumi. Theyoverthrew many adhirajas and resumed even brahmdeya lands. Thus they were terrible and ruthlessconquerors. Their sway was put an end to by Kodungon, who may be assigned conjecturally to c.590 – 620.There are other references to the Kalabhras in Pallava and Chalukya inscriptions; they are said to havebeen conquered by Simhavishnu and Narasimha Varman I and by Vikramaditya I and II.” [Sathianathier:1970: 265]

“The identification of the Kalabhras is very difficult problem of South Indian History. They have beenidentified with the line of Muttaraiyar of Kondubalur (eighth to eleventh century). Others regard them asKarnatas on the strength of a reference in Tamil literature to the rule of a Karnata king over Madura. A thirdview is that the Kalabhras were Kalappalar, belonging to Vellala community and referred to in Tamilliterature and inscriptions. But the most satisfactory theory identifies the Kalabhras with the Kalavar,and the chieftains of this tribe mentioned in Sangam literature are Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and Pulli ofVengadam or Tirupati. The latter is described as the cattle lifting robber chief of the frontier. The Kalavar must have been dislodged from their habitat near Tirupati by political events of the third century A.D., viz.the fall of the Satvahanas and the rise of Pallavas, as well as by the invasion of Dakshinapatha bySamudragupta in the following century, resulting in political confusion in Tondamandalam. The Kalabhrainvasion must have overwhelmed the Pallavas, the Cholas and the Pandyas.” [Ibid. p.266 Emphasis ours]

“Despite the various explanations given above, the Kalabhras cannot but be regarded as mysterious peoplewho convulsed the affairs of the Tamil country for a few centuries. Achchutavikranta caused the dispersal ofthe Cholas. In the Pandya country even brahmdeya gifts were not treated as sacrosanct by the predatoryKalabhras. Ultimately their power was broken by Kodungon Pandya and Simhavishnu Pallava, andChalukya campaigns against them in the seventh and eighth centuries.” [Ibid. p.266]

” The Muttaraiyar and Kodunabnalar chiefs of Kalabhra origin, according to one view, were feudatory to thePallavas and the Pandyas respectively, and in the contest between two powers, they fought on oppositesides. The Muttaraiyar ruled over Tanjore and Pudukkotai as the feudatories of the Pallavas from the eighthcentury to eleventh. There is a reference to Perumbidugu – Muttaraiyan II who attended the coronation ofNandivarman Pallavamlla. One of the titles of the Muttaraiyar was Lord of Tanjore. Vijayalaya Chola, whoconquered Tanjore from a Muttaraiyan in the ninth century, was a Pallava feudatory. A vindication of the lawof nemesis is discernible in the victory of a Chola chief over a descendant of the Kalabhras who hadoverthrown the earlier Chola kingdom.” [Ibid. p.266]

” The history of Cholas of Uraiyur (near Trichinoply) is exceedingly obscure from fourth to the ninth century,chiefly owing to the occupation of their country by the Kalabhras. Buddhadatta, the great writer in Pali,belonged to Uraiyur. He mentions his contemporary, King Achchutavikranta of the Kalabharakula, as rulingover the Chola country from Kaveripatnam. He was a Buddhist, Tamil literary tradition refers to an Achchuta who kept the Chera, Chola and Pandya king in captivity. On the basis of the contemporaneity of Buddhdattawith Buddhaghosha, Achchuta may be assigned to the fifth century. Thus after the Sangam age, thedescendants of karikala Chola were forced into obscurity by the Kalabhras, who disturbed the placid politicalconditions of the Tamil country.” [R. Sathianathier: 1970: 263 ff.]

According to ‘Chulavamsa’, Buddhadatta and Budhaghosa are certainly represented as contamporaries. Theformar belongs to Uragapura [Uraiyur] near modern Trichinopoly in South India. He himself speakspatriotically of the kingdom of Cola and associates his literary activity with the reign of Accutavikkanata orAccutavikkama of the Kalabbha or Kalamba [kadamba] dynasty. The vinaya – vinicchaya at its end describes that Buddhadatta of Uragapura wrote it. The Abhidhammavatara at its end also refers to it.

He is said to have flourished when king Accutavikkanta of the Kalamba (Kadamba) dynasty was one thethrone. It is difficult to identify King Accuta or Accutavikkanta (Acyta Vikrama) of Kalabhra or the Kadambadynasty. But the Kalabhras once made a great influence over the Chola territory and Simhavishnu, thePallava king, defeated them in late sixth century. Colian king Acytavikranta or Acytavikrama who isdescribed as ‘Kalambakulnandana’ or ‘Kalabbhakulanandana’ (also Vaddhana). [Hazra K.L.: 1991: 90, 128]

Alvara’s views

Raghavacharya, who assigns date prior to that of Sankaracharya, to all Alvars, mentions that according toPoygai Alvar, the Vengadam hill was the habitat of elephants, which the “Kuravars” or “Kurbas” whoinhabited or frequented the hill used to capture and tame and also scare away huge pythons. He observesthat, the Tamil term Kuravar used by the early Alvars is corruption of “Kuraba”, who were residents of thisarea and also of Kurnool, Mysore, Salem, Koimbtore and the Nilgiris. He mentions the names ofKurubalakota, Kurubalpatti, Kuruba Nagalapuram, Kurumba Palayam, Kurumbapatti, Kurumbharhalli etc. invarious areas. He says Kurabas or Kuravar were a verile people, who were in possession of Tirumalai Hillsand surrounding area before Pallavas conquerred it. [Raghavacharya: II,1006]

In a nutshell

Thus it is clear that the people around Tondamandalam were Nagas, though the name Naga is now a daysrestricted to a few groups of people and not applicable to the whole race unlike in pre-Aryan times, but thefact remains that those Naga tribes who are mentioned above were Buddhists, as that was the original areaof Kalabhras. Thus we find that this area was under the influence of Buddhists before the coming up of theBrahmin culture and was free from the caste rivalries. It was forming the part of Asokan empire, andconsequently had the advantages of all the religious reforms brought in by Asoka. In later times it cameunder the Satvahanas who were also having friendly relations towards Buddhism. Nagarjuna’s relations withSatvahana king are well known.

The local people were the Pullis and Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and these so called less civilized Kalavar peoplelater migrated from the land of Tondamandalam to southward areas and caused so called anarchy and gotdesignated as wicked by the Brahmin epigraphists. And these Kalabars were the same as Kalabhras, andwere Buddhists. The whole situation boils down to one thing that during the period from Satvahanas to theascendancy of Imperial Pallavas and even in later times the area of Tondamandalam was inhabited by theBuddhist people and ruled by the Buddhist kings, initially under the Satvahanas and later independently, andnot only that but they ruled whole of South India for about three centuries. And these Kalabhras were termedas ‘uncivilized’, ‘wicked’ and by all sorts of abuses, and their history suppressed, only evidences remainingextant in Buddhist books, i.e. whatever was left of these books. The real bone of contention seems to be that they cancelled the rights of the Brahmins from the brahmdeya villages, i.e. the villages gifted to Brahmins.

Presence of Festivals but absence of Murthi is against it being a Brahmanic shrine

That there was no deity in Vengadam in Sangam age, is agreed by all scholars. Veera Raghavacharya hasthe following to observe:

“Vengadam or (Tiruvengadam) is the name of the hill according to the Tamil grammar Tolkappiyam. TheSangam poet Mamulanur gives the same name to the Hill. But the name of the deity Tiruvengadamudiyam(or any variant thereof) is not mentioned by either of the above; nor is the existence of any temple for anyother deity mentioned. …” [Raghavacharya: I,106]

It is quite clear that Murthi was absent but festivals existed on the hill during the Mamulanar’s time which isconsidered to be in 2nd century A.D. The festivals always are held at the places where some religiousactivity is taking place. The people meet and transact secular business activities and enjoy merry making,but always the nucleus is the religious object, around which all other activities are centered. It is impossibleto believe that the people would undertake the hazardous journey to Tirumalai only for secular purposes of barter etc. and if the festivals were taking place, the have to be for something sacred. If there was no murthion the Vengadam hill, what was that object which was venerated and in whose honour the festivals werecelebrated? Certainly, the worship of Vishnu cannot be performed when there is no murthi of Vishnu. It is,therefore, certain that the festivals on the hill were not connected with worship of Vishnu in any form.

These festivals are referred to by Tirumalsai as Ona Vilavu meaning “Sravana Festivals” [Aiyangar: 11]. It isworth mentioning that Sravana Festivals are a well known Buddhist entity. Lord Buddha delivered His firstsermon at Sarnath on Ashadha full moon day and went into varshawasa from next day, which was Monday,being 1st day of Sravana. In North India, months end on full-moon day. There used to be festivals in Sravana all over the Buddhist places. People considered it meritorious to visit these festivals on these days,listen to the sermons of Bhikkus, observe uposatha, offer food to bhikkus before having meals themselves,[Dharma Rakshita:1956:21] and also to become shramner or shramneri on these occasions. Such practicesare common in Buddhist countries even now and the month of Sravana is considered as auspicious.Therefore, the presence of “Sravana Festivals”, without the presence of any image, on the hazardous hill, inthe midst of the Buddhist Tribal inhabitants can have only the Buddhist meanings. This period of Varshavas had tremendous effect on Indian population, and we find, even now, the lay people refrain themselves fromeating meat and other forbidden objects of food during this period, and observe fasts on Mondays.

Murthi came into existence during Buddhist rule

It is already shown that the Murthi is that of Avalokitesvara. In about 2nd century A.D., fairs and festivalsexisted but no deity. This gives us the approximate time of installation of the Murthi between 3rd to 5thcentury. This would also agree with the times of Kalabhras, proving thereby that the murthi came intoexistence during the period when Kalabhras were ruling the area around Tondamandalam, during so called’dark age’ – dark age for Brahmanism.

Puranic Tondaman is a myth

Traditional story of Tondaman is already mentioned. The contention of Aiyangar, seen in Chapter 8, is thatthe Tondaman Chakravarthy of Puranas was a historical person and that he installed the Murthi and built asmall temple for the Lord, and this was in the times around beginning of Christian era. He identifies thisPuranic Tondaman with Tondaman Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and has averred that he is different from TondamanIlam Tiraiyan of Kanchi. Tiraiyan means men of sea. He observes:

“…We found that the region dependent upon Vengadam or Tirupati changing hands from the Kalvar chieftainPulli and passing into the possession of the Tondaman chieftains before the time of the great Pandyan victorat Talaiyalanganam, from reference to Sangam literature. This very literature gives us a Tondaman, rulingfrom his northern capital at Pavattiri, Reddipalem in the Gudur Taluk, and held rule over the northernTondamandalam. We have referred rather more elaborately to another Tondaman that the literature knowsof, namely, the Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan. So we seem to have now three Tondamans before us, theTondaman or the Tondaman Chakravarthi referred to in the Puranas, the Tiraiyan of Pavattiri or northernTondamandalam and Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan of Kanchi…” [Aiyangar:I,22]

Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan of Kanchi, he observes, was “a great celebrity in Tamil literature…TheTolkappiyam,…classes him as of royal descent, but not of monarchical standing. He is regarded as the sonof a Chola ruler (from a Naga Princess)…” [Ibid.p.11] The story says that the king fell in love with a Nagaprincess and when a child was about to be born, advised her to put the baby in a box and send it afloat onthe sea with a twig of creeper of the Tondai tied round his ankle. This was done and the baby reachedsomehow the shore and was brought to the king who brought him up as his own child and appointed him asViceroy of Kanchi in due course, from where he was ruling over whole of Tondamandalam. [Ibid. p.13]

Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and Ilam Tiraiyan were different from each other, [Ibid. p.23] and the Tondaman Raja ofPuranas is distinct from Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan can be seen from “…The Perumban-arruppadi which givesspecific details regarding the Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan and mentions the Vishnu temple at Vekha at Kanchi,makes no mention whatsoever of Tirupati, nor of Ilam Tiriyan’s association with Tirupati. This omission on the part of Ilam Tiraiyan is significant, and stands against an identification between the two…” [Ibid. p.23]

The attempts to connect the Tondaman Raja of Puranas with the celebrities from Sangam era areunjustifiable because firstly there was no murthi at that time as agreed by all scholars and secondly theprayer of Tondaman to wear the weapons invisibly, as mentioned in later Puranas, indicates that this Puranic story mentioning the absence of weapons is definitely a later introduction to justify theabsence of weapons. Around the beginning of Christian Era, the Buddhists cults were the only cults in vogue in South India and the area concerned was a predominantly Buddhist area, therefore it is more logicalthat this cult started in Vengadam was a Buddhist cult. It is clear that the Kalvar chieftains Pullis and Tiraiyans of Pavattiri are people of one and the same stock,i.e. of Kalabharakula, as already seen. They were all Buddhists and they migrated south wards anduprooted various kings. There was religious animosity with Brahmins, villages gifted to whom were cancelledby them and consequently they were abused by Brahmin epigraphists. In spite of all this it seems Brahminscould not get rid of the name of Tondaman who finds a place in the Puranas as founder of Tirupati. We haveto remember that Pullis, Tiraiyans, Tondamans represent people rather than individuals, and that all thesepeople being the same, one could see how Tondaman is designated as ‘Chakravarthi’ when in story itself hewas described as no more than a small chieftain. At the same time, the Kalabhras who were the same people, when they uprooted various kings and convulsed the great Emperors for centuries, are designatedas ‘wicked’, ‘kali-asar’ etc. simply because they had to depict these people in the first place as devotees ofBrahmanism and in the second place as enemies of Brahmanism. Such is the mentality and scholarship ofour elites.


Chapter 21 Chapter 23


Chapter 23Emperuman : Buddha or Vishnu

Among the other murthis, one of the important ones is the silver replica of the Lord called Bhoga Srinivasaor Manavalapperumal. In this murthi, the sankha and chakra are not detachable unlike in the mula murthi. Itwas consecrated in the snapana mandapa “by keeping open a power line consisting of gold and silver cordsin between Mula murthi and Bhoga murthi. the power line exists to this day.” The date of this consecration isworked out by scholars to be 966 A.D. from the inscriptional sources. The worship was not regular beforethis Murthi was installed. It is only since this was installed, the puja started regularly, which was a significantdevelopment.

Name in subscription changed from Emperuman to Vishnu

Veer Raghavacharya, has pointed out the changes that took place around that time. He observes:

“We also learn from a comparison of the closing words in inscriptions No.4,12 and 8 volume I that theworshipers of Vishnu down to the year 936 A.D. styled themselves as Emperumandiyar. Thereafter theycame to be called SriVaishnavas. SriVaishnava Rakshai became the subscription in all later inscriptions.The significance and implication of this change would be apparent to all.”

“Before the days of Sri Alvandar, Vaishnavas did not form and organized community, but only individualswho had faith in Emperuman, (Vishnu) as the Supreme deity. Sri Devi was not considered as beingcoequal to Vishnu. It was Sri Alvandar who first made it an essential article of faith that Sri and Vishnu should be worshipped together and as forming one entity. Vishnu worshipers who did not subscribe to thisdoctrine such as Dvaitins are only Vaishnavas. And not Sri Vaishnavas.” fn.

About other inscriptions, he says:

“It is not clear whether emperumandiyars refers to some agency, which looked after the due performance ofthe charity. In the inscription we are now considering (I,12 of 935 A.D., the inscription closes with theexpression “Emperumandiyar Rakshai”, who are therefore expected to protect the trust. This term obviouslyintended to denote those who were devotees of Emperuman, whether Vishnu in general, or the particulardeity Tiruvenkatupperuman. This term marks one phase in the history of Vaishnavism. We will see that aquarter of century later, this phrase yields place to “Shri Vaishnava Rakshai” when Samavai consecrated thesilver idol of Manavalaperumal in the Vengadam Temple in 966 A.D…” [Raghavacharya: 116]

Emperuman could mean Buddha

These are very important observations in understanding the events around that time. All the inscriptionsbefore 966 A.D. have got the concluding part of the inscription as Emperumandiyar Rakshai and not as SriVaishnava Rakshai, but after or around the time of installation of Bhoga Srinivasa, this name was changedby the Brahmins to Sri Vaishnava Rakshai. Any inscription bearing the words Emperumandiyar Rakshai isalways considered to belong to times earlier than 966 a.D. Why did the Brahmins do it? The situationbecomes clear when we consider that the word Emperuman need not necessarily mean Vishnu. The wordEmperuman could be equally applicable to Lord Buddha, as were the words ‘Bhagavat’ and ‘Hari’ originallyapplied to Buddha. The difference between the Vaishnavas and Sri Vaishnavas is explained byRaghavacharya to be due to Lakshmi, but what was the difference between Vaishnavas and theEmperumandiyar, and why this change was necessary to be made? If Emperuman always referred toVishnu in the historical times, and if it was a common knowledge and belief that Emperuman meant Vishnu,it would be equally pertinent to ask why the name was changed to Sri Vaishnava Rakshai fromEmperumandiyar Rakshai, if it was not to avoid reference to Lord Buddha, and make clear reference toVishnu, so that there remains no confusion on the minds of recent converts to Vaishnavism.

Emerging importance of Lakshmi cannot explain the change in subscription

It is clear that Emperuman is a general term whereas Vishnu is a specific term. If Brahmins wanted only toincrease the importance of Lakshmi, they have added to word ‘Sri’ or some of its equivalent to Emperuman.So the emerging importance of Lakshmi in 10th century cannot, alone, explain the change in subscription inepigraphic records.

If Lakshmi was not considered to be a consort of Vishnu till the times of Alvandar, how do we account for Her presence on the Lord’s chest? This was already discussed in Chapter 20.

Devadasis were degraded Buddhist nuns

The word Emperumandiyar which was used in the sense of Vaishnavas before 966 A.D. got the meaning ofdancing girls, attached to Vishnu temples, in inscriptions of about 1230-1240 A.D. in the time of Raja RayaIII. [Raghavacharya: I,118] In Maharashtra, they are called ‘Devadasis’ meaning female servants of God’ Inthe opinion of present author these devadasis were originally Buddhist nuns, and the system of making firstborn daughter, a Bhikshuni was prevalent, and the fall of Buddhism caused the degradation of thesebhikshunis to the level of todays devadasis.

It is a mistake to trace the origin of Indian Temple dancers to Greek or Egyptian tradition or any foreignancient customs. Indian scene is comparatively more recent.

About Ambrapali of Buddha’s times in ancient India, Vasantsena, the heroine of sanskrit dramaMrichakatikam of seventh century in middle ages, and Madhavi, a courtesan of the epic Sillapadhikaran ofeighth ninth century or so, it should be clearly understood that, none of them was a Devadasi.

One has to differentiate between Ganikas and their inferior counterparts Varanganas on one hand and the Devadasis on the other. That the devadasis were Buddhist nuns can be deduced from many evidences.

They are unknown to ancient India. Jaatakas, Kautillya or Vatsayana do not mention them, but laterPuranas found them useful. The system started only after the fall of Buddhism and records of themstart appearing around 1000 A.D. [bharatiya sanskruti kosh, IV, 448]

In certain castes the system of offering at least one daughter from family was rampant in almost all familiesof the caste. [Ibid.] It is well known that 95% of the devadasis today belong to caste of Untouchables, whowere of course Buddhists originally. The system was present in almost all parts of India, though in South, itwas more prevalent. These dancing girls and their male counterparts had different names in different partsof the country, and the important point to note is that the pair was, and even today is, considered not ashusband and wife but as brother and sister, the relation that existed among the Buddhist nuns and Bhikshus.

In certain parts of Maharashtra, these devadasis are known as ‘bhavin’ or ‘jogin’ or ‘jogtin’. All these wordsliterally mean a Buddhist nun.

There always used to be and still is, some religious rite conducted at the time of their initiation and that theywere looked upon with respect by the society in early days. [Ibid.] It is also noteworthy that they have theDeities of their own, which are distinct from Brahmanic Deities, and the original connection with BuddhistDeities is already forgotten. Some of the Deities of these Devadasis are also now homologized as Brahminsworship these Deities, and the people whose ‘kuladaivatam’ are these deities, are of lower castes and do notbelong to Brahmanic order. These are some of the points denoting Buddhist origin of Devadasis.

Origin of Devadasi system is religious and not economical

It must be clearly understood that it has got not only economic facets but also religious ones. For example,devadasis have a firm religious belief that they must not get married, which poses a difficult problem, notonly to find them husbands but also to persuade them for marriage. Instances are abundant that these girlsrefused to get married and some of those who did get married, lost their prestige in the eyes of their kith andkin. This kind of orthodoxy can only be explained on religious grounds and not on economical ones.

Unfortunately the present Devadasis are ignorant of their glorious past and that the prominent among themand their families have dissociated themselves from the problems of Devadasis. They are against any kindof reform and are associating with the very social institutions and people, who made them cheap prostitutesfrom servants of god

What more evidence is needed?

It is a matter of understanding. 95 per cent of Devadasis are untouchables. Being untouchables they wereBuddhists of olden days as shown by Dr. Ambedkar very aptly. Before the name ‘Vaishnava’ came in vogue,the devotees of the Lord of Tirumalai were known by the name ‘emperumandiyars’. The same name wasbeing applied to these women who became devadasis from Buddhist bhikkunis. This is a direct evidencethat the ancestors of todays devadasis who were devotees of Venkateswara, were Buddhists and that theLord of Tirumalai was the Lord of these Buddhists.

The name by which these erstwhile Buddhists are known today, was the name of the devotees of theLord Venkateswara. What more direct evidence could there be that the Lord Venkateswara was the Buddhist deity.

The moot question is, untouchability started around fifth century, and the devadasi system started around1000 A.D. How were the untouchable girls allowed inside the temple after practice of untouchability started? The obvious answer is that these girls were already present in the temples as Buddhist nuns, and when thetemples were taken over by the Brahmins, these girls were degraded as devadasis. The subject howBuddhist nuns became Devadasis is discussed in greater detail by us in “Rise and Fall Buddhist Nuns”.["World Fellowship of Buddhists WFB Review", (January-March 2000), from Bangkok.]


Chapter 22 Chapter 24

Chapter 24Proxy Image of Lord and Bhoga Srinivasa

Crucial years

The time from installation of proxy image at the foot of the hill around 830 A.D. to the installation of BhogaSrinivasa in 966 A.D. in Tiruvirankoyil on the top of the hill is a crucial period not only in the History of Lordof Tirumalai but of Indian Buddhism as a whole because this was the time Brahmnism gained ground andBuddhism was defeated.

The attack of Brahmanism against Buddhism was multi pronged. Kumaril fought on Karmakanda andShankara on Vedanta, both on Philosophy; Naynars on Shaivism and Alwaras on Vaishnavism, both on Bhakti; the Rajputs were created to fight militarily and the Acharyas were engaged in shastrartha, all this was happening at a time when foreign hordes of newly formed religion of Mohammed were knocking on thewestern borders. The leaders of this country were more interested in driving away the Buddhist rather thanstopping the invaders. The country paid a heavy price for it. There was a hectic activity all around, inlegislative, judiciary, executive and military fields and all the activity was directed against the Buddhists. Thisis the time when Hindu Tirupati erupted, and the following is the history of it.

The history of modern Hindu Tirupati starts not at Tirumalai or Chandragiri, but at Trichannur. The first inscription concerning the temple of Venkatesvara is found here, mentioning that a proxy image of Lord wasinstalled at Trichannur. There were actually three images installed. One was mula murthi, second was utsava murthi, and the third one was specially meant for conversion of people to Vaishnavism. The first twowere already present in 826 A.D. or so, and the third came a few years later.

First records are not at Tirumalai

T.K.T. Veera Raghavacharya observes:

“.. the earliest inscriptions – that is, all those that are found till we reach the date of the consecration of theMannavalapperumal in the Tiruvengadam temple – are to be found only in Tiruchchokinur. The onlyexception to this is the solitary slab which was found as a stray piece in front of the Tiruvengadam temple…commemorating the birth of one Vijayaditya… about the year 790. The year of the consecration ofManavalapperumal as will be shown later was much later than this. There is an interval of one and threequarter centuries between the two during which period there are no inscriptions in Tirumalai to tell usanything about the temple on the hill.” [Raghavacharya: I,106]

First record mentions of the Proxy Image

This inscription tells us that a proxy image of Lord on the hill is installed at Tiruchchokinur at the foot of thehill:

“The earliest inscription found in Tiruchchokinur was made in the 51st regnal year of KovijayanDantivikramar. This we take to be 826 A.D. This inscription tells us in distinct terms that the proxy ofTiruvengadatupperumandigal existed in the Tiruvilankoyil at Tiruchchokinur. … The main point to note in thisinscription is that a Tiruvilankoyil (or a proxy temple) for the Tiruvengadam Deity was built and that a proxyDeity was set up … The term Tiruchchokinu Tiruvengadattupperumanadigal would only go to show that hewas not the original Deity on the Vengadam hill, but only a copy thereof. There were temples dedicated toTiruvengadattupperuman in other places also. …” [Raghavacharya: I,106]

Purpose of Proxy Image was religious conversion

Veera Raghavacharya says it was due to the activities of Alvaras and specially due to the work ofTirumangai, that this Temple came up. The reason of coming up of this Temple, as he gives, was for the convenience of the devotees, to save them the trouble of climbing the hazardous hill. Indians, sincecenturies are used to shrines on hazardous hills in all parts of the country, but no proxy image is usuallyworshipped except perhaps that of Kedarnatha. But for this relatively less hazardous shrine, we are told thatit was for convenience of devotees. May be it was so. But could that be the only reason? If we look at theactivities of this proxy temple we would get clear picture that the main object was to start the conversion toVaishnavism. In addition to this the real object seems to be to woo away the people from going up to theHills.

T.K.T. Veera Raghavacharya observes: “The base of operation nearest to Tirumalai was Tiruchchokinur as Tirupati had not then come intoexistence. An auxiliary temple was constructed there and a duplicate Tiruvengadamudaiyan was installed.Conversion of Saivites into Vaishnavism was obviously carried on in a supplementary shrine where another image was set up to preside over the conversion ceremony. By the time attempts were made by the Saivitesto stem this tide by the construction of a temple for Shiva in the same village (Sri Parasaresvara orTippaladisvaranudaiyan) it was considered better to transfer the work to Tirumalai itself by entering intosome sort of an agreement with the Vaikhanasas there” [Ibid. 108]

How conversion was carried out

T.K.T.Veera Raghavacharya observes:

“Regarding the Tirumantira Salai Perumandigal, … We gather that Brahmins were being fed in that temple.Tirumantira Salai is, as the name indicates, the temple or shrine where the new convert to the Vaishnavafaith was initiated into the Ashtakshara or Tirumantram. It therefore happens to be the place where theconvert was also provided with food for the day. The endowment made by Gunavan Aparajitam was forfeeding two Brahmins daily, not necessarily Vaishnavas.” [Ibid:110]

“In the early days one of the main functions of the leaders of Vaishnavism was to convert the Saivites toVaishnavism. It is a well known fact that branding on the fore part of the shoulder with the Chakram andSankham marks was necessary function before being initiated into the Tirumantram or Ashtaaksharam. He must be an acknowledged and accredited Acharya who can do this. Tradition tells us that Tirumalai Nambigave his two sisters in marriage only after the intended bridegroom embraced Vaishnavism and wentthrough the ceremony of branding and initiation into Ashtakshara. Sri Ramanuja’s father is one of the two.We know that Sri Ramanuja created a band of 72 persons, known as Simhasanadhipatis who were giventhe authority and the power to carry on this proselytising work. But our inscriptions relate to a period whichmay be at least two centuries anterior to Sri Ramanuja. The procedure adopted at that time seems to be thatthe function took place in the presence of the Deity in the Tirumantirasalai. The Sudarsana and the Paanchajanya blocks used for the branding would have been duly consecrated and in enjoyment of the dailypuja to the Deity. It is only such a consecrated instrument that would have been permitted to be used for thisceremony. After the daily Tiruvaradhanam was over the branding would take place. In all the Sri VaishnavaMathams there is a presiding Deity and the Sudarsanam and Paanchajanyam also share the daily puja. Theacharya-purushas who have been doing this work have likewise been doing puja to some Murthi or otherand the Sudarsanam and Paanchajanyam would find a place in the pantheon. After Sri Ramanuja organisedhis School of Acharyas, there was no need for a Tirumantirasalai in temples. But before his days there wereonly a few recognised Acharyas; the temple was therefore the most accredited place. Even to this day thiskind of branding takes place in Tirumalai by the seven recognized Acharya Purushas of the Temple duringthe Brahmotsavam.

“We can now have a clear picture of the three Murthis (with perhaps a separate temple of each) existing inTiruchchokinur at the time of the downfall of the Pallava supremacy and the establishment of that of theCholas.” [Raghavacharya: 113]

As it cannot be said that all these murthis appeared on one day, even in 826 A.D. when these murthis aredescribed as ‘in existence’, it could be very conveniently seen that the first installation of the murthi atTrichakkanur must have been even earlier than 826 A.D.

Socio-political conditions need to be taken into account

The appearance of the temple at Trichakkanur as a Proxy Temple and proxy image has to be viewed, takinginto consideration the social and political conditions of the land, as has been rightly remarked by VeeraRaghavacharya, who observes;

“In fact the history of Tiruvengadam Temple is seen to commence not on the Hills, but in the small village ofTiruchokinur (Tiruchochokinur or Tiruchchukanur) now going by the name of Tiruchannur or Chiratanurabout ten miles South of the Hills by road. Changes in the political conditions of the country seem to havelargely influenced the building of a temple on the Vengadam Hill itself and in the founding of a new villagenear the foot of the hill by Sri Ramanuja known as Tirupati. The Pallava rule during which the temple wasbuilt was overthrown by the Cholas and Shaivism gained the upper hand for some time. For a correctunderstanding of the inscriptions which reveal this history, it is necessary that we should understand thereligious atmosphere of the corresponding period and the political conditions favourable or unfavourable atthe time.” [Raghavacharya: I, 81]

However, he has described the conditions at the time of fall of Pallavas, around the end of tenth century.Instead, it should be the time around the end of 7th to end of 9th century, that should be the subject matter of our discussion, because that was the time of rise of the cult of Hindu Tirupati, when installation of ProxyImage was done. We will have to consider the situation regarding social, political, and religious atmosphereof India in general, and South India and Andhra Tamil region in particular.

Brahmanism amended its laws

This was the time when Brahmanism got itself braced to combat Buddhism on all fronts. It made tremendouschanges in its criminal, civil and personal laws to fight Buddhism with all might. These changes are termed kalivarjya i.e. forbidden in Kali age. Dr (M.M.) P. V. Kane has enumerated 55 changes. The prominentamong these changes are those which were necessary to outdo moral precepts of Buddhism, such asabandoning procreation by husband’s brother on a widow, considering other types of sons illegal except auras and dattak, abandoning killing of cows on certain yajnyas, killing of animals in honour of bridegroom,guests and pitars, actual killing of animal in Yajna, selling of soma, committing suicide by old people,narmegha, ashwamegh, rajsuya, killing of animals in Yajna, and drinking intoxicating liquors.

Second group of injunctions were put on the society to strengthen the caste system. These includedprohibition of widow marriages, prohibition of inter caste marriages, prohibiting women polluted by rape mix in society even after prayschitta, prohibiting mixing in the society of persons who have committedadultery with lower varnas in spite of the prayschitta. Some prohibitions on food and drinks by differentcastes made caste system more and more rigid. Importance of brahmin caste was enhanced e.g. killing of aBrahmin even as an aatatayin was prohibited, and Brahmins were exempted from capital punishment. Sanyasa and Vanprastha were prohibited for others.

The third group of injunctions isolated Indians from the rest of the world. Brahmins were prohibited fromundertaking distant journeys, or undertaking pilgrimages of distant lands and crossing the sea was totallyprohibited. All these injunctions were imposed on the society with the intention of preventing free associationwith Buddhist ideas and preventing free assimilation among the castes. Thus Brahmnism started to isolateits members from the rest of the world. The maritime people of Chola and Pallava country, who used to havegreat links with far east Buddhist countries, stopped their voyages and lost their maritime skill in due course.And the sphere of activity of people gradually shrank more and more and ultimately remained restricted tothe caste and to the village or at the most five villages, panchakroshi.

These kali varjya injunctions, it has been pointed out by Dr. Ambedkar, are not condemned but onlyprohibited. This new technique of forbidding but not condemning, which he calls very strange, is a new oneinvented by the Brahmins, in utter contrast to the procedures followed in earlier ages. This was necessarybecause the policy of Brahmins was to copy Buddhist on one side and to condemn Buddhism on the other,so that principles like equality and condemnation of Chaturvarnya etc., which are unwanted for the Brahminscould be kept out but popularity of Buddhism could be utilised for their selfish ends. L.M.Joshi has rightlyobserved:

“In the sacred writings of Neo-Brahmnism one encounters a strange paradoxical situation, viz. systematicassimilation as well as a sustained condemnation of Buddhism.” [L.M.Joshi: 1983: 216]

Anti-Buddhist activities were at peak

This was the time when the religious activities against the Buddhists were at their zenith. L. M. Joshi hasobserved:

“…The views that, constant Brahmanical hostility towards Buddhism both in letter and spirit seems to havebeen the foremost factor in loosening its hold on Indian classes and masses, and that the anti-Buddhistpropaganda in Brahmanical literature was not a mere ‘war of the pen’ but was periodically accompanied withits social counterpart, such as social boycott and royal edicts against those who violated the ‘divinelyordained’ scheme of chaturvarnya, and establishments by Brahmanical kings, etc. have been put forward forthe consideration of our historians who account for the decay of Buddhism by exaggerating the effects ofTurkish conquest of India.” [L.M.Joshi:1973:xxi]

Brahmanical Crusade against Buddhism

This was the time, when Brahmanism started country wide crusade against Buddhism. Speaking of this age

L. M. Joshi describes this crusade thus:

“…It was the age when Buddhist logic and dialectics were perfected by Dharmakirti and Shantirakshita;when Buddhist moral and spiritual fervour received supreme expression at the hands of Shantideva andKamalashila; when some of the master minds of ancient India including Shantideva, Chandrakirti,Dharmakirti, Shantirakshita, Uddyotkara, Kumarila and Sankara, were busy in a life and death struggle for the defense of their own doctrines; when Buddhist logicians like Samkarananda and Brahmanical teacherslike Gaudapada were trying to harmonise the tenets of Buddhist and Brahmanical philosophies; whenTantrika adepts like Sarahapada, Nagarjunaa II, and others began to broadcast that Esoteric Gospel whichsoon transformed Sakyamuni’s Gospel, dominated the whole medieval period of Indian culture, and which,through Gorakhanantha, Kabirdasa, Nanaka and others, was transmitted down to Ramakrishna, RamanMaharshi and Sri Aurobindo of our own days; it was during this most critical and decisive period in thehistory of Indian Buddhism, in fact, of Indian culture as a whole, that while a host of BuddhistDoctors of Indian Buddhist Universities were engaged in their scientific and cultural missions indistant parts of Asia, their Brahmanical counterparts at home were actively engaged in orgnising acountrywide intellectual and cultural crusade against Buddhist ideals and practices; when Brahmnism, re-armed with Buddhist arsenal, sacked its rival creditor; when Tantrikism washed off distinctive traits of Buddhism and swept all religious sects of the country in one massive stream of devotionalmysticism; when Buddhism began to recede into background and Brahmnism reshaped itself into ‘Hinduism’considerably refined and enriched by constant contacts with Buddhist ideals and practices, and remodelledaccording to the new circumstances brought about by the growth and popularity of Shramanic ideologies forcenturies, Brahmnism now emerged, under its puranic garb as the undisputed national ‘Hindu’ culture. In thetwo fold process of assimilation and condemnation of Buddhism, the Brahmanical priests sacrificed at thealtar of mythical Vishnu even the most historical and overwhelmingly non-Brahmanical personality ofBuddha and mystified the historical existence of Buddhism as a delusive trick of a Puranic God. ‘Thiswell-conceived and bold stroke of policy,’ remarks R. C. Majumdar, ‘cut the ground from under the feet ofBuddhism which was already steadily losing ground and the ultimate result was the complete effacement ofBuddhism from India as separate sect.’ (The Cultural Heritage of India, 2nd edn., vol.IV,p.48) The transformation of Brahmnism or the birth of Hinduism, we may add, had been the eclipse ofBuddhism in its homeland – one of the major tragedies in the annals of Indian culture – a factfrequently overlooked or confused by most of our historians.” [L. M. Joshi: 1977: xxii] Reason for Buddha being given place in avatars, Principle or Strategy?

This was the time when Buddha had been given a place in Avatars of Vishnu, by some of the Puranas. Thetime of this is estimated by Bhandarkar as follows:

“… Thus Buddha had come to be recognised as an incarnation of Vishnu before the date of Dharmparikha,which is Vikrama 1070, corresponding to 1014 A.D. If the approximate date assigned to the temple at Sirpuris correct, Buddha must have been admitted into the Brahmanic pantheon before the eighth century. …”[Bhandarkar R.G., Vaishnavism, Saivism &c., p. 64].

Why did the Brahmins give place to Buddha in their Avatars? Did they really like His ideas and ideals or wasit only as a part of their strategy to win over the masses away from Buddhism? Adherence to chaturvarnyawas the life of Brahmnism, they could never give it up and to follow Buddha would have meant giving it up.So they adopted Buddha only for name sake. Similar picture we see even today, about Sankaracharyareverently garlanding the photo of Late Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. [ Tarun Bharat, Nagpur, 18.4.89] That wasnecessary; Buddha was too great to be ignored. About avatara of Buddha L.M. Joshi observes:

“Buddha had penetrated the Indian mind very deeply; His images had covered thousands of pillars, wallsand gates of so many monasteries all over the country, His teachings had been popularised and broadcastthrough an almost inexhaustible mint of Pali and Sanskrit literature, many emperors and subtle thinkers hadespoused the cause of His rational and humanitarian mission, and His praise had been sung by numerousIndian for centuries; He was too great to be neglected. He naturally came in as the most exalted member inthe galaxy of avataras. The acceptance of Buddha as an incarnation had been accomplished probably insixth century A.D. first in the Matsya Purana. The Matsya Purana’s verse is found engraved on Pallavamonuments of cir. 700 A.D. at Mahabalipuram, where the Buddha is mentioned as the 9th avatara ofVishnu.” [L. M. Joshi: 1977: 317].

Puranas invented stories to capture and retain Buddhist places of worship

New Puranas were written and old were edited and re-edited to give stories for new revival of Brahmanism,for supporting chaturvarnya. Sthala puranas and myths were invented to capture and retain the Buddhistplaces of worship, as already mentioned in chapter 2. This latter purpose of Puranas is not yet properlyexplored.

Shaivas and Vaishnavas were together in uprooting Buddhists and Jains

Alvars and Nayanaras forming the bhajan parties and they were ‘singing out the Buddhism out of thiscountry. Vaishnavas and Shaivas were coming together. We are told a story of meeting at Shiyali of a greatsaint of Vaishnavism, Tirumangai Alvar, under whose guidance this proxy temple is said to have established and who is said to have stolen a solid gold image of the Buddha from monastery at Nagapattinum forrenovating the temple of Vishnu at Srirangam and who is the only Alvar whose image is depicted with asword in his hand, with the great Saivite saint Nanasambandar who is said to have worked against theJains, vanquished them in debate and converted the king of Madura and his subjects to Saivism and thestory goes that on his occasion eight thousand Jains were put to death by impalement, and a festival inMadura Temple is supposed to commemorate the gruesome event of this day. Whether the story of themeeting of these two saints is historically correct or not, the fact remains that it shows the trend of friendshipbetween the Saivites and Vaishnavites at the time, making it improbable for Tirumangai to set up a Templefor conversion of Saivites.

Examples of Ellora

Rashtrakuta reign had started in northern part of Deccan and they were very much hostile againstBuddhists. We find in their reign, the images of Buddha being chiselled out from the monuments at Ellora,Cave XV, Dasavatara being the glaring example. We also find archaeological evidence at Ellora, whereshrines like the Kailas were being excavated. Here we find Vishnu and Siva Murthis coming up side by side.

Rathas Mahabalipuram were Buddhist

This was the time when the work of Seven pagodas, also called the Rathas at Mahabalipuram seems tohave stopped. The great monuments were left unfinished. Percy Brown wonders why this has happened. Heobserves:

“From the unfinished state of nearly all the rock architecture at Mamallapuram, much of it lacking that finalefforts which would have made these shrines really serviceable, it would seem as if some unexpectedpolitical cataclysm had intervened, causing the rock-cutter to throw down his mallet and chisel and hastenaway, never to return. History records no such upheaval, so an explanation must be looked elsewhere…”[Percy Brown, Indian Architecture, vol.I, p.80].

The reason was not far to seek. A glance at the anti- Buddhist sentiment prevailing among the higher ups inthe society around, could give a clue. Kalabhras, the friends of the Buddhists, were put down and none leftto protect these people, and the ‘monasteries were looked after by local deities’.

Percy Brown further observes:

“These monolith shrines were of Saivite attribution, and in their proximity are images, also carved in rock, ofa lion, an elephant, and a bull, symbolizing respectively Durga, Indra and Shiva. Yet the fact that these Siva shrines are in a style architecture traditionally associated with the Buddhists, seems to imply that they were a type of structure not the monopoly of any one religion, but had a common origin. There is evidence insupport of this in certain emblematical subjects carved within the gable ends of the three chaitya hallexamples, each of which is full of allegory. (Plate LX). And in more than one of them there is a central symbol not unlike a stupa. Each gable a conventional or diagrammatic rendering of a prayer hall, the curved barge-boards taking the place of the vaulted roof, the decorated brackets on either side simulationthe ribs of the vault, while, most significant of all, the central object is a tabernacle or sacred relic. Each ofthese representations of tabernacles or reliquaries takes a different form, just as the ratha on which it isdepicted also is of a certain design, so that both ratha and reliquary may be identified as belonging to oneanother. It is possible, therefore, that each ratha is a shrine consecrated to one of the manifestations of Siva,its shape being conditioned by the tradition which has ordained that it should take such a form for thatparticular manifestation”

But Percy Brown ignored that these could have been Buddhist Structures. He noticed and described theBuddhist features, but strangely enough, thought that it was Buddhist influence on Saivite structures. Thepresence of lion, elephant and a bull reminded him of Durga, Indra and Siva, not of Buddha, though it isuniversally accepted that the worship of Indra had ceased a long time before the work of Mamalapuram hadeven started. The observation by Percy Brown of Buddhist features on the structures and to think them to beSaivite in spite of the clear appearances of Buddhist features is unjustifiable. Therefore, it is certain thatthese Seven Pagodas were meant to be Buddhist structures and had to be relinquished by Buddhistbecause of anti-Buddhist sentiments all around and though the Buddhists had started the work, they couldnot finish it.

The structure which goes by the name of “descent of Ganges”, as per Brahmanic scholars, it may be notedwas already declared by Fergusson to a Naga Representation.

Rise of Rajputs was for suppressing Buddhism

This was the time when a new people i.e. Rajputs were coming up on the horizon, in North India, who weresubsequently to dominate the history of India for some centuries to come. Rise of Rajputs is too big asubject to be discussed here. It could form a subject matter of a separate work. [See my Decline & fall of Buddhism] Suffice it to say here that these people were made prominent by the Brahmanism, for the specificpurpose of suppressing Buddhism by use of force, from among the remnants of Hunas and other foreignhordes who had been broken down by the activities of kings like Baladitya and others.

Dr. Ambedkar has observes:

“…One view is that they are foreigners, remnants of the Huns who invaded India and established themselvesin Rajputana and whom the Brahmins raised to the status of Kshatriyas with the object of using them asmeans to suppress Buddhism in Central India by a special ceremony before the sacred fire and who weretherefore known as Agnikula Kshatriyas…” [Who were the Shudras: 1970:204]

He has also given views of Vincent Smith, William Crooke and R.D.Bhandarkar. A relevant portion isreproduced here. Vincent Smith observed:

“…These foreigners like their fore-runners the Sakas and the Ye-chi universally yielded to the wonderfulassimilative power of Hinduism and rapidly became Hinduised. Clans or families which succeeded inwinning chieftains were admitted readily into the frame of Hindu polity as Kshatriyas or Rajputs and there isno doubt that the Pratiharas and many other famous Rajput clans of the north were developed out of thebarbarian hordes which poured into India during the fifth and sixth centuries. The rank and file of thestrangers become Gujars and castes ranking lower than Rajputs in their precedence. Further to the south,various indigenous or aboriginal tribes and clans underwent the same process of Hinduised social promotionin virtue of which Gonds, Bhars, Kharwars and so forth emerged as Chandels, Rathors, Gaharwars andother well known Rajput clans duly equipped with pedigree reaching back to the sun and the moon.” [Quotedby Dr. Ambedkar, Ibid. p.204].

Agnikula Rajputs

On the top of Mt. Abu, an Yajna was conducted where certain new clans were created to fight againstBuddhism. About this, William Crooke observed:

“…The group denoted by the name Kshatriya or Rajput depended on status, rather than on descent, and itwas therefore possible for foreigners to be introduced into these tribes without any violation of the prejudicesof the caste, which was then only partially developed. But it was necessary to disguise this admission offoreigners under a convenient fiction. Hence, arose the legend, how by a solemn act of purification orinitiation under the superintendence of the ancient Vedic Rishis, the fire born septs were created to help theBrahmins in repressing Buddhism and other heresies. This privilege was confined to four septs known asAgnikula or fire born – viz., the Parmar, Parihar, Chalukya and Chauhan.” [Quoted by Ambedkar, Ibid.p.205].

Hiranya-garbha prasuta Kings of South India

The rite mentioned above was called Hiranya-garbha mahadana and the king was designated as “Hiranya-grabha-prasutta,” i.e. one who performed the sacred rite of hiranya-garbha which consists in theperformer passing through an egg of gold which was afterwards distributed among the officiating priests.”[Sircar : 1970: 225]

Concerning ourselves with South India, we find that this rite was performed, among others, by MaharajaMadhava-varman I of Vishnukundin family. [Ibid.:208] and by king Attivarman who was father ofDamodaravarman of Ananda family, and by Madhava-varman III of Visahnukundins, [Ibid.:225] and byChalikya Vallabhesvara, i.e. Pulakesin I, of Chalukyas [Ibid.:231] and also by the mighty Pandyan kingMaravarman Rajasimha I. [Ibid.p.268].

Ranas of Mewar too

Also some tribal chiefs were among those who were made the Rajputs. Giving example of House of Mewarwhich played important role in political and military history of India and gave heroes like Bapa Raval, RanaSanga, and Rana Pratap, Stella Kramerish observes:

“Formerly they (Bhils) ruled over their own country. This was prior to the arrival of Rajputs. The Rajputs, the’sons of kings’, invaded the country, subsequently Rajasthan, in about sixth century A.D. They becomeKshatriyas, the nobility par excellence of India. Some of these Rajput princes, including the most exalted ofthem, the Rana of Mewar, at the inception of their rule , had their foreheads marked with the blood of a Bhill.It was drawn from his thumb or big toe. This was an acknowledgment of the precedence of the Bhils as rulers of the country.” [Stella Kramerish: 1968 :90; fn.:-Koppers,'Die Bhil',p.14].

Activities of Kumarila and Sankara

On doctrinal front, activities of Kumarila Bhatta, Vachaspati Misra and Acharya Sankara were in prominence,in conducting debates and annihilating the Buddhists. We get a vivid description of pleasure of Acharya onseeing the people of non- brahmnic faith being burnt to death, from Sankara Digvijaya. L.M.Joshi observes:

“Far more fatal to Buddhism were the onslaughts of Kumarila, the fiercest critic of Buddhism. TheSlokavartika shows that he was a hostile critic and avowed enemy of Buddhist ideals. He is reported, both inIndia and Tibetan traditions, to have organised religious crusade against Buddhists. He is said to haveinstigated king Sudhanvan of Ujjaini to exterminate the Buddhists. This report has not been accepted bymodern scholars as a genuine and historical fact. No other historical details of this pro-Brahmanical king ofUjjaini are known to us. Hsuan-tsang refers to a king of Ujjain who was brahmana by caste and well versedin heterodox lore, but not a Buddhist. This king was ruling when the pilgrim visited the city of Ujjaini. Fromthe Mricchakatika we learn that the king’s brother-in-law in Ujjaini harassed the Buddhist monks. He beatwith blows a newly turned mendicant, Samavahaka by name, and treated other bhikshus as ‘bullocks bycart’. It may not be an impossibility that the evidence furnished by the Samkardigvijaya, Hsuan-tsangand the Mricchakatika – three independent sources – allude to some historical episodes in which theBrahmanical followers persecuted the followers of Sakyamuni in the country around Ujjain.

“There can be no doubt as to the fact that Kumarila was the strongest protagonist of Vedic ritualism,Brahmanical theology and priestly superiority. The Tibetan historians also record his wars against theBuddhists. The Keralautaptti documents his extermination of the Buddhists from Kerala. The name of Kumarila is thus associated with the decline of Buddhism in diverse sources. According to GopinathKaviraja, Kumarila ‘was one of the most potent forces actively employed in bringing about this decline.’ “[L.M.Joshi: 312].

Kings like Sudhanvan, thus we see, standing behind the activities of Sankara. His was not only a doctrinalbattle of pen, but it was backed up by fire and sword. Nagarjunakonda was destroyed by Sankara’s ordersand under his personal supervision as we have already seen. About such activities, Swami Vivekanandahas observed:

“And such was the heart of Shankar that he burnt to death lots of Buddhist monks by defeating them inargument. What can you call such an action on Sankara’s part except fanaticism” [complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol. VII, p.117; quoted by Bhau Lokhande:131].

Real reason for proxy image was conversion and not more convenience of devotees

Such were the times when the proxy image of Lord at Tirumalai was installed in a proxy temple atTiruchannur under the guidance of Tirumangai Alvar. It is very difficult to believe that the reason of puttingup a proxy temple on the plains at Tiruchannur was simply to provide convenience to the members of publicto save them the trouble of climbing the hill. It was much more than that. If we look at the environment asdescribed above and if we consider the activities of the temple of Tichannur in subsequent years ofconverting people to Vaishnavism, we can come to conclusion that the real reason to provide a shrine atTrichannur was religious conversion rather than just simple convenience of devotees to avoid climbing thehill.

Thus, providing the image at Trichakkanur as a substitute for the image on the hill, was the most clevermove by the Brahmins. If giving place to Buddha in avataras of Vishnu was a masterpiece move in thestrategy of Brahmins, this move of providing, proxy temple of Lord of Tirumalai, was a supreme mark ofintelligence and master brains were behind it. This move did succeed in weaning away people from going upthe hill which was the main intention.

Whose conversion was sought

We have to consider at least two points which are important while discussing this subject.

First, who were the people who were being sought after, for the conversion by the Vaishnavas toVaishnavism. Raghavacharya considers that these converts were Saivites. This could not be true, at least,in earlier times as we have already seen that Vaishnavas and Saivas were together in driving out theBuddhists. The only conclusion is that the people sought to be converted were of so called heretical sects,specially Buddhists. As the Lord Buddha was included in the Avataras, the job had become easier, easier forboth, the converters and converts. Devotees of the Lord on the hill had only to be told that, “Your god issame one who is now at Tiruchchukanur at the foot of the hill.”

Why not Kanchi?

Second, why Trichannur was selected for this purpose. Kanchi was site of more important and prosperousVishnu shrine and was the center of all religio-political activities of all sects of the time, so why not Kanchi?Temple at Tichakkanur was very unimportant and insignificant, so why this should be selected as a place fora new center for conversion, if the conversion was meant for Saivites. It is very clear that conversion wasmeant for the devotees of the Lord on the hill and that the Tichakkanur was selected because it was in proximity to the temple on the hill of Tirumalai. Other effect of this could have been that it was possible to identify those staunch Buddhists who did climb up the hill in spite of the temple below. Thesepeople could be readily identified and persecuted and eliminated.

Even in modern times we find that those who like to convert people to their own faith, have to go into interiorand inaccessible areas, that is the place for their field work. Similar was the purpose of Brahmins to wooaway the people from the worship of deity on the hill. The selection of Trichkkanur would be considered veryappropriate, only if the shrine on the hill would have been a Buddhist shrine and these people who weresought to be converted to Vaishnavism were Buddhists. However, an intermediate stage may be postulatedwhen Buddhist got converted to Saivism, and later to Vaisnavism.

Installation of the silver image on the hill

Afterwards we get another important event occurring on the hill that is the consecration of the BhogaSrinivasa in 966 A.D. and Shifting of the activities from Tiruchannur and subsequent abandoning of Templeat Tiruchannur. The reason for this is said to be the apprehension of conflict with Saivites.

“…it was stated that the silver replica of Tiruvengadamudaiyan was consecrated in Tirumalai with a view to

avoiding any possible source of friction between the Saivites and the Vaishnavites, since a temple for Siva,

known as Sri Parasaresvaraswami, was constructed some time after the Tiruvilankoyil in Tiruchochunur.

There is no mention anywhere that tension existed between the two sects at that period in

Tiruchochokinur. It was also pointed out as a result of a close study of the wording of some inscriptions,

that the Vaishnavite Temple was doing proselytising work and therefore open to all and that feeding also

was open to members of both sects on equal terms. There was therefore the possibility of the friction and

the astute Vaishnavas of the day wanted to eliminate all chances of such friction arising at a future date.

Right up to the days of Sri Ramanuja, however, there was no sign of such friction.” [Raghavacharya:


Friction among the Saivites and Vaishnavites

Two minor incidents of friction, if it could be so called, are described. One was in 1008, and other 1013 A.D. which were incidences of inquiry by the Officers of the Royal court into the affairs of mismanagement of trustby the temple authorities.

“We do not find any other instance of friction. That about or some time before, the year 1000 A.D. there wassome friction as evidenced by the two incidents mentioned in our inscriptions. The reader will now see thewisdom of the Vaishnava leaders of the time in transferring their activities to Tiruvengadam Hill, practicallyabandoning the Tiruchchukanur Tiruvilankoyil. In a small village the two Temple of rival sects could not haveworked in healthy cooperation. It is very necessary to go into the history of the Temple of Sri Parasaresvarato feel convinced of their wisdom.” [Ibid. I,124]

“…the Vaishnavites from the date of founding of a Saivite temple apprehended the possibilities of friction andtherefore removed the centre of their activities to Tiruvengadam Hill.” [Ibid. I,128].

“There is, and there naturally can be, no inscription which would state why the Tiruvilankoyil had for allpractical purposes to be abandoned and the Vaishnava activities centered in Tirumalai itself. The Chola rulewas in full swing and all the Chola kings were staunch Saivites. There was therefore no wisdom in sticking toTiruchchukanur. We have to read between the lines to explain the most important step which theVaishnavites of the day took. At that time Sri Alvandar was steering the ship is the Tamil country for the spread of Vaishnavism and he must have advised the Sri Vaishnavas to transfer their activities to Tirumalai.”[Ibid. :I,129]

To recapitulate

Before summarising the whole situation we would like to recapitulate the dates:

* 1.Around 826 AD- Proxy Image is installed and Vaishnava activities started at Trichakkanur instead of on the hill

* 2.966 AD – Bhoga Srinivasa installed on the Hill, and all Vaishnava activities transferred back to hill.

* 3.1006 A.D.- first signs of any friction between Vaishnavas and Saivites.

* 4.Siva Temple constructed not long before 1008 A.D.

* 5.This Siva Temple did not get any grant from Chola Kings till 1073 A.D. in spite of Chola rule starting in1008.


There was no rivalry at early stage

If some attention is paid to chronology of events it becomes clear that this activity of converting Saivitescame at a later date. We are now thinking of time, when both Saivites and Vaishnavites were fightingtogether to wipe out the heretical sects of Buddhism and Jainism. During earlier times of A.D. 830 or sothere was no rivalry between Vaishnavas and Shaivas. That came later, at the times of Ramanuja or so,during the Chola rule. In the earlier times Buddhist were the real enemies of Vaishnavas and Shaivas andthey had to be dealt with. So all the activities of all Brahmanic sects were primarily directed against theBuddhists. That was not the time or infighting among the Vaishnavas and Shaivas. Mr. Dave has very rightlyremarked, as mentioned earlier, that the time of emergence of cult of Tirupati was the time of combinedfight of Vaishnavas and Shaivas against Buddhism.

By 966 A.D., things had changed. Buddhists were suppressed. The quarrels among Vaishnavites andSaivites started now. The coming up of a Saiva temple at Tiruchakkanur is said to be the cause of this, asobserved by Veera Raghavacharya. It always happens that when a common enemy is put down, the internalrivalries prop up. There may be no surprise if the same happened here. Now the Saivites and Vaishnaviteshad no reason to work together, as the Buddhists were suppressed. But this is only one aspect.

Indoctrination of masses

The other aspect which is often ignored is that during the activities of the proxy temple, the devotees of theLord on the hill were indoctrinated to Vishnu worship and they had to be shifted back to the original Shrineon the hill, because it was too great to be ignored, now in the form of Vishnu without any mention about theBuddha avatara. By this time masses had forgotten that it was Buddha they were worshipping as an avataraof Vishnu. Now the devotees are told to worship the Lord as Vishnu, not as a Buddhavtara Vishnu but asavatara of Krishna, prominently. This is more important reason of abandoning Trichokkinur than theapprehension of conflict with Shaivas.

Ramanuja made Tirupati important artificially

Then the great Ramanuja comes on the scene and regularizes worship and adjusts all loose ends, whateverthere might have been. A new township, by name Tirupati, is established at the foot of the hill and itsimportance increased rather artificially, as observed by Veera Raghavacharya:

“… circumstances made it imperative that Tirupati should be made more important by artificial means, suchas making it obligatory for anyone having any dealings with the Tirumalai Temple to keep a house inTirupati.” [Ibid.: I,6].


Our interest in this text is very limited. It is already shown that it was Ramanuja who managed to put sankhaand chakra in the hands of murthi and got it declared as a Vishnu Shrine. But some people like to think thatit was Vaishnavite Shrine even before that time, the evidence put forward being that of Silappadhikaran. It isan ancient Tamil epic which deals with the tragic story of Kovalan and his wife Kannagi. Kovalan, amerchant’s son having lost all his wealth on a courtesan Madhavi, starts with his wife Kannagi westwards toMadura to start a new life, and meets on way a Vaishnava Brahmin from Malabar who was travelling fromwest coast to visit Vishnu shrines. During this conversation, various shrines are mentioned

Mention of Chakra and Sankha

Dr. Krishnaswami Aiyangar quotes a verse to show the image had a ‘fearsome disc’ and ‘milk white conch’and further observe:

“The term in which the Vishnu shrine both at Srirangam and Tirupati, and the one at Tirumal Trumsolai, arereferred to, give clear evidence that shrine at Tirupati had a reputation of being a Vishnu shrine and nothingelse, and that reputation had reached so far out as the West coast and people there were in the habit ofgoing on a pilgrimage to Tirupati as they do now as one of the holy Vaishnava centers. A statement like thatfrom an author who was not himself a Vaishnava, and who makes the statement no doubt in poetry, and inthe course of romantic epic, does not invalidate the general position that the temple at Tirupati was bycommon repute a temple dedicated to Vishnu.” [Dr. S. K. Aiyangar, op. cit. vol. I., p.51]

If we accept this statement we have to bring back the date of fixing of weapons to the murthi of Lord ofTirumalai to Silappadhikaran’s time. We have seen that Tirumalsai Alvar who is said to have been about acentury earlier than Silappadhikaran, [Raghavacharya: II:1008] does not mention any weapons. So we haveto consider the time of fixing the weapons about 7th to 8th century, instead of Ramanuja’s time

But Aiyangar’s theory is not acceptable on many counts.

Interpolations cannot be ruled out

a)Firstly, it presupposes that there were no interpolations and the whole of Silappadhikaran, was received byus in its original form. When people have expressed doubts about a book like Venkatachal Itihas Mala aboutit being a tampered book, how does one suppose that Silappadhikaran which was a subject matter ofvarious dramas acted on village folk theaters since centuries till about 50 years ago, was received by us inoriginal form, and that there was no influence, of Vaishnava faith prevailing in the region for centuries, onthis originally nonbrahmnic text.

Date of Silappadhikaran is doubtful

b) Secondly, it presupposes that we know exactly when those particular lines, mentioning sankha andchakra, were written. Unfortunately scholars do not agree with the dates of this epic and there is greatconfusion about the dates. On the end Sitapati places the text in 18th century, [Sitapati P., SriVenkateshwara, p. 88] making it unnecessary for our purpose to discuss anything about it. On the other endKasthuri Sreenivasan, author of modern drama version of Silappadhikaran in English “The Anklet”, placesthe text to 1st or 2nd century A.D. [K.Sreenivasan, The Anklet, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, p. vii]

Dr. Swamikannu Pillai places this text in 756 A.D. [Raghavacharya: II: 1008]. Whether such a precise datingis possible, seems to be doubtful. Also, dating of many other dignitaries based on this date, and calculationseem useless. Veera Raghavacharya has criticised the way Dr. Pillai has estimated the dates of Alwars.[Ibid., Vol. II, p. 996].

This kind of situation makes this text useless as historical literacy evidence, for presence of shankha andchakra on the image in 8th century.

Ilango Adigal

c)Thirdly, its author is said to be Ilango Adigal, a scholar not belonging to brahmnism, but who was either aJain or Buddhist. His being non-brahmnic, is considered by Aiyangar to be important and the account givenby him about the Vengadam hill to be more reliable and authentic. [Aiyangar: I:49] This belief does not reallyhave any basis. As he belonged to non_brahmnic faith, he would not be expected to go to a Vishnu shrine for worship, andhe would not undertake such a hazardous journey, unless he was a serious devotee of the deity on the hill.And if we presume that the deity was at that time considered to be Vishnu, we have to consider that hisdescription was based on preconceived ideas from Puranas. On the contrary these verses should prove thatthe shrine was not considered brahmin as dignitaries like Ilango Adigal, from non-brahmin (Jain or Buddhist)Royal family visited it.

About the Bow

d)Fourthly, Silappadhikaran does not only describe the sankha and chakra, but also a bow in the hands. To presume that at one time the Murthi had a bow, but was later removed would not be in keeping with theknown history. From this account if we presume that the description of the disc and the conch as given byIlango Adigal was based on imagination we would not be wrong. Otherwise how do we explain thedescription of bow? The fact that it mentions that there was bow on the murthi, [Raghavacharya: 45], is veryconveniently ignored by scholars while discussing the subject. This is itself should have been sufficient toshow that the description given in Silappadhikaran should be treated as description on Vishnu in generaland not the description of any specific image.

Tiruvenkatam other than Tirumalai

e)Fifthly, the mention of Tiruvenkatam in Silappadhikaran need not necessarily apply to Tiruvenkatam ofTirupati. For example, it could equally, and rather more appropriately fit the description in Silappadhikaran isin very general terms. In any case, Silappadhikaran is a very poor evidence to show that the murthi had chakra and shankha on Him, in eighth century, and need not be taken seriously.

What does it prove

And even if one wants to be skeptical, and insists on this description having historical importance, whatdifference does it make to our thesis? It merely brings back the date of fixing of the weapons to the murthifrom Ramanuja’s time to Silappadhikaran’s time, presuming of course, that this extract from Silappadhikaranwas earlier than Ramanuja. The fact remains that the weapons were not originally there, and were fixed bysomebody at a later date.

Chapter 24 Chapter 26

Chapter 26Tonsures at Tirupati

Not only men but also women undergo tonsure.

There is a custom of tonsure which is speciality of this Temple. Many devotees go there with the intention ofvotive offering of their hair to the Lord. Performing tonsure at this place is considered praiseworthy andbelieved to confer great merit. Not only the men perform this tonsure but also women,married as well asunmarried offer their hair by getting Mundana performed here. Sri Sitapati observes;

“Another unique custom of Tirumalai is the Tonsure ceremony. Pilgrims to Tirumalai usually offer the hair ontheir head to the Lord as a devotional offering. Persons in need of the assistance of the Lord,usually take avow and when they visit the temple,offer their hair at the Kalyaanakatta, special hall erected for this purpose.A bath in the Pushkarini follows the Tonsure ceremony; The pilgrims then enter the temple and worship theLord.” [Sitapati: 1972: 155]

There are legends and inscriptions in this temple for such trivial things, as use of camphor and suchmaterials for the deity, and champaka and tamarind trees. But the most surprising thing about tonsure hereis that, though it is being practiced since hoary past, there is not even a legend, let alone an inscription.

No inscriptions mention about tonsure

Shri Sitapati observes:

“The Tirumalai Temple inscriptions mention about food offering etc. made to the Lord, but no mention ismade of this curious custom of offering of hair. The custom was perhaps introduced to stress the quality ofhumility, as well as renunciation of what is usually prized. It is also possible that this custom came intoprominence when the Vaishnavas vigorously started their poselytising activities by setting upmissions and by converting people from other sects and beliefs into the Vaishnava fold. Some fees are collected for the Tonsure ceremony and it is possible that the revenue aspect might have been onestrong reason for the introduction of this custom in Tirumalai. Sri T.K.T. Veera Raghavacharya in his book’History of Tirupati’ has reproduced in Appendix I, a reprint of an article published in August 1831 A. D. by anEnglish District Collector of the region about Tirumalai in the Asiatic Journal. The reprint mentions that”offerings or counickee are made generally from interested votives, and are of a very diversity of articlesconceivable; gold and silver lumps, coins of all sorts, bags of rupees, copper, money, spices, asafoetida, the hair cut off the head frequently vowed from infancy, and given up by some beautiful virgin incompliance with her parent’s oath. [emphasis original] From the above it is evident that this custom at least existed in the year 1831 A.D. if not earlier. [Sitapati:154]

Conversion is the main reason for tonsure

In the above account, Sri Sitapati gives three possible reasons for starting the practice of ceremonialtonsure, as follows;

(a) To stress humility,

(b) Conversion of other sects to Vaishnavism, and

(c) Monetary reasons.

Of the above (a) and (c) are not of any importance. Only we have to consider a point of conversion of othersects into Vaishnava fold. Shri Sitapati is not very explicit about his point, or is rather shy, as to why thepractice of mundana as associated with the conversion of other sects to Vaishnavism. Perhaps devotee inhim overrides a scholar in him. What is the relation of mundana with the people who got converted?Presuming these other sects were Shaivites, mundana has no value in Shaivism. It is certain that mundana does not form a traditional method of worshipping Vishnu. Also mundana does not form a part of conversionto Vaishnavism, as will be seen from the description of Vaishnava conversion given in Chapter 24. WhatSitapati probably means to say (but does not) is that, those converted to Vaishnava fold were already usedto, and rather fond of ceremonial tonsure at temples and did not want to give up the practice even afterconversion to Vaishnavism. Who were such people? It was one of the old practices of Buddhists, as weknow to becomes Shramaner or Shramaneri and to stay at a place of worship, pilgrimage or a centre oflearning for a few days in attendance with the masters, the essential requirement being the tonsure ofhead at that time. This practice of spending few days as Shramaner or Shramaneri, either for learning and spending more time, or for the purpose of ceremonial initiation of Shramaner as a notional gesture for a fewdays, is prevalent even today, in most of the countries where Buddhism is a living faith. This is true ofcountries following Southern Buddhism as well as Northern Buddhism.


Tonsure was practiced by the Buddhists

We find innumerable references to this practice in old Buddhist texts. Dr.Anganelal observes:

Pravajjya and upsampada were the special sanskaras of Buddhists. To accept pravajjya, either lifelong orfor a few days was considered meritorious and to give moksha for all Buddhists. There are four categories ofBuddhists with regard to observance of good conduct; upasakas who observe five, upasakas, who observe eight, Shramaner who observe ten and shramana or bhikshus, who observe two hundred and twenty eightsheelas. First two are for house-holders. Initiation of Shramaner is known as pravajjya and that of bhikshu is called upsampada. It is compulsory to become a shramaner, before becoming a bhikshu. [Angnelal, Sanskrit baudha sahitya me bharatiya jivan, (hindi), Kailash Prakashan Lukhnow, p. 159]

Description of rite of Pravajja

He has also given the ritual to be followed at this time.

“Only bhikshus could initiate others. We find a detailed account of pravajjya of Nanda in Saundarananda and Rahula in Mahavasstu. First of all the seeker of initiation was tonsured and then given ochre robes to wear. After wearing this the seeker lay Buddhist was initiated by Triratna and Pancha-sheelas and Shramaner was initiated by Das Sheela, (Mahavastu III 268/17-18). After cutting his hair Rahula wasinitiated with Trun Sanstaran, Sariputra holding his right hand and Moudgalayan holding left hand.(Mahavastu III/268- 69.) “After Pravajjya the initiated Bhikshu had to bow down to guru and seek his advice and orders. “This sanskar was open to women also (Divyavadana 318,7) and they too had to shavetheir heads and wear ochre robes, (Divyavadana 317/31-32.)”

Tonsure is ancient practice in this Temple

If the idea that the practice of tonsure is related to the conversion of other sects into Vaishnava fold is kept inmind, then it becomes clear that this practice is going on since the days of fall of Buddhism and emergenceof Vaishnavism. It is not possible to postulate any later date for the beginning of this custom, because as thedays went by the orthodoxy prevailed supreme and the sight of a shaven headed Hindu woman wasconsidered more and more inauspicious. Under these circumstances it is inconceivable that practice ofpresenting the shaven headed women before the Lord could have started. And it must have been an ancientcustom and continued in spite of being ignored by the Puranas, and in spite of being ignored by the writersof inscriptions. Rather, it could possibly be argued that such a neglect of its mention was intentional forobvious reasons that this practice had to be continued much against the wishes of the Brahmins. Therefore,Ramesan seems to be correct when he says;

“This custom of removing hair as a part of religious ceremony has a very hoary past.” [Ramesan N., The Tirumala Temple, T.T.D., p. 587]

Shaven headed men, let alone women, are inauspicious to Hindu tradition.

It is a well known fact that a sight of shaven headed is inauspicious to a Hindu since long back, because ofhatred against Buddhists. There are references to this not only in religious texts, but also in Sanskrit Dramaslike ‘Mrichacha Katika’

Hindu men have their heads shaven only when somebody elderly dies in the house and women wereshaven headed only when they are widows and not otherwise. It is also well-known that sight of shavenheaded widow is inauspicious to a Hindu. A glaring example of this was demonstrated by Brahmo Samaj inBengal, when they arranged a reception of a dignitary by shaven headed widows on a New Moon day just topress home their point of view that neither the shaven headed widow nor the New Moon day wasinauspicious.

Story in Vishnu Purana

That even the sight and a talk with a mundaka was considered inauspicious and punishable by severalconsequences is shown by a story in Vishnu Purana (part III Chapter 18 verse 53 to 100). The summary isgiven by Dharmanand Kosambi. [Dharmanand Kosambi, Bhartiya Sanskriti Aur Ahimsa, (hindi), p.184] Itsays that a king happened to talk to a pashandi, i.e. a shaven headed Buddhist monk, on the day of a vrata, as a result of which he was born as a dog then as a jackal and afterwards as a lamb, a vulture, a crow, aduck, a peacock etc. The author concludes this narration by saying;

“It is clear that the author of this puranic story has written it to show that on days of Vrata even talking with a Pashandhi can lead to horrible consequences”.

Contempt of Buddhists in ancient Hindu texts

Dr. Ambedkar has given many instances of contempt of Buddhists in the ancient Hindu literature.[Untouchables, p. 96]

“That there existed hatred and abhorrence against the Buddhists in the minds of the Hindus and that thisfeeling was created by the Brahmins is not without support.

“Nilkanta in his Prayaschit Mayukha I, quotes a verse from Manu which says:- ‘If a person touches aBuddhist or a flower of Pachupat, Lokayataka, Nastika and Mahapataki he shall purify himself by a bath’.”

“The same doctrine is preached by Apararka in his Smriti. Vraddha Harit goes further and declares entry intothe Buddhist Temples as sin requiring a purificatory bath for removing the impurity.

“How widespread had become this spirit of hatred and contempt against the followers of Buddha can beobserved from the scenes depicted in Sanskrit dramas. The most striking illustration of this attitude towardsthe Buddhists is to be found in the Mricchakatika …”

After describing how the monk is insulted and beaten up by Brahmin hero Charudatta, in this dramma, Dr.Ambedkar observes:

“Here is a Buddhist monk in the midst of the Hindu crowd. He is shunned and avoided. The feeling of disgustagainst him is so great, that the people even shun the road the monk is travelling. The feeling of repulsion isso intense that the entry of the Buddhist was enough to cause the exit of the Hindus. A Brahmin is immunefrom death penalty. He is even free from corporal punishment. But the Buddhist Monk is beaten andassaulted without remorse, without compunction as though there was nothing wrong in it.”

Tonsures followed by Hindus

It has been pointed out that sight of a shaven headed man, let alone a woman, was inauspicious to a Hindu.This does not mean that Hindus were doing tonsure only at inauspicious times. Many examples can bequoted when Hindus indulge in tonsure. There is a ceremony called Chudakaran which is one of the sanskaras and is said to be to achieve long life. [Pandey: 1969: 94] Pandey avers that this ceremony wasnot concerned with the dedication of the hair to the deity. It was originally performed in childhood, but now adays it is usually done just before Upanayana. [Pandey:96] It is particularly interesting to note that a tuft ofhair is left unremoved on the top and is called sikha. It is arranged according to family tradition, number oftufts being decided by number of pravara in the family. [Pandey:98]

Tuft of hair was reaction against Buddhism.

Pandey observes:

“Keeping the top hair, in its course of evolution, became an indispensable sign of the Hindus. The tuft andthe sacred thread are the compulsory outward signs of the twice born. … It may be a reaction againstBuddhism and sanyasa”, Pandey further adds. [fn.]

It is noteworthy that at Tirupati no tuft or hair is left over after the tonsure and thus it is against the tenets ofHindu Sastras.

Vedic Tonsures

The same applies to the tonsures in Sanskaras of Upanayana, Samavartanaa, and also as preliminarytonsure in Vedic sacrifices like Soma festival and Chaturmasya and Agnistoma where tonsure is performed,more as a part of general cleaning of body, rather than as a rite. And in any case, these tonsures associated with Vedic rites cannot explain the tonsures at Tirumalai for a simple reason that Vedictonsures are privileges to be enjoyed only by so called ‘twice born’, whereas, at Tirumalai it ispracticed by all castes and predominantly by the non-twiceborns. Can it be argued that this privilege was passed on by the Brahmins to other castes in later times? This is against the known history of this land.In this country, once any privilege is established, the Brahmins never renounced it for the benefit of others. Aglaring example can be cited, when the Brahmins of Maharashtra complained to Brahmin Peshava rulersand got decree against Sonars, who wanted to wear dhoti in a particular fashion, but it was consideredexclusive privilege of the Brahmins to wear dhoti that way. [Ambedkar: 1970: 58, Annihilation of Caste] If thisis the state of affairs in secular matters, can it be surmised that a religious privilege like Vedic tonsure would be passed on to shudras? So it is futile to say that tonsures at Tirumalai have anything to do with Vedic rites.

Votive offering of hair is contrary to Hindus Sastras

Study of comparative religion shows that in ancient civilizations, tonsure was practiced by Semitic people,the Syrians, the Phoenicians, and the Priests of Isis. About all the above views of anthropologists, Shri RajBali Pandey comments that these views are not valid for tonsure in India. It is specially to be noted thatoffering of hair to the deity is contrary to the sastras. Shri Pandey observes:

“…In the opinion of some anthropologists, however, this ceremony had dedicative purpose in ins origin, thatis, hair was cut off and offered as a gift to some deity. But this supposition is not correct, at least so far asHindu tonsure is concerned. The dedicative purpose was unknown to the Grihyasutras and the Smritis. …” [Pandey:95]

Why Brahmins had to concede to Tonsure

The Brahmanic practices always considered tonsure inauspicious, but the system was so deeply rooted inthe minds of Buddhist common people that they would not give it up. So it became necessary for theBrahmins to adopt this system like many other Buddhist practices. In the case of tirthas, Puranas andNibandhas of medieval period prescribed tonsure in temples and tirthas. e.g. Samba Upapurana, and we find in later Puranas like Kasi Khand of Skanda Purana, it is advised for pilgrims to undergo shave at atirtha, with some amendments. Shri J.H.Dave tells us the rules are as follows:

“Whenever one goes to any Tirtha, the usual rule is that one should get shaved at that place, and shouldobserve a fast. But, this rule does not apply in the case of the following four Tirthas: Kurukshetra, Visala,Viraja and Gaya. With respect to ladies, particularly those whose husbands are alive, it has been stated thatmundana or shaving in their case is to be understood as cutting of their braid of hair by only two fingerbreadths.” [Dave: I, xxiv]

Here we find an example of borrowing by Brahmins of a custom from the Buddhists much against theirwishes, because they could not recommend a complete shave for women, unlike the Buddhists.

Ramesan observes:

“Exceptions were introduced to the rule about tonsure. Daksa forbade tonsure, the offering of pindas and the carrying of a corpse and all funeral rites to one whose father was alive and to a man whose wife waspregnant. But his prohibition did not apply to penances. The Baudhayanasutra already referred to prohibitsthe tonsure of women in penances. Angiras 163, Apastamba smrti I.33-34, Brahdyama IV.16, Vradha-HaritaIX. 386, Parasara IX 54-55, Yama 54-55, all provide that in the case of married women whosehusbands are alive, and in the case of maidens all their should be held together and only twofinger-breadths of hair should be cut off. In the case of widows and ascetics the entire head was tobe shaved.” [Ramesan: Tirumala Temple, p.591]

Tonsures at Tirthas

Tonsure is also prescribed in ancient Dharmasastras while going on pilgrimage. Padmapurana and SkandaPurana advocate tonsure when starting for pilgrimage. A verse from Vishnu Purana which is also quoted by Tirtha-chintamani and Tirtha prakasha enjoins:

“Tonsure should be carried out at Prayaga when on a pilgrimage, and on the death of one’s father ormother, one should not in vain (lightly) tonsure the head…” [Ramesan: 1981: 587]

Here Vishnu Purana has actually enjoined NOT to perform tonsures without a valid cause and in no casethis passage of Vishnu Purana can explain the tonsures at Tirumalai. Thus Tirumalai tonsure do not conformwith the rules of Puranas either.

Tonsure is not a method of Vishnu Worship

It is also noteworthy that the method of worship of Vishnu Image is described popularly as Shodas Upachar. These are 16 ways in which Vishnu Image should be worshipped. It should be noted that mundana or tonsure ceremony is not included as one of them.

Tirumalai tonsures are not Tantric or Natha practices

It has been suggested that offering of hair is equivalent to and symbolic of offering of head. This explanation also is not appropriate for a Vishnu temple because offering of head involves himsa which is against thetenets of Vaishnavism, though it may be permissible in Shakti puja.

Ramesan informs us that, seventh century reliefs at Mahabalipuram depict hair offering to the Devi Vakpati,eighth century court poet of Kanauj refers hair offered in a shrine of goddess Vindhyavasani, Tantrikaascetics considered sikha as one of Tantric angas to be worshipped at four comers of yantra. Offering ofsikha was also an important ritual in the initiation of Tantric ascetics. Mahanirvan Tantra notes that Pitars, Devas and Devarsi and also ‘the acts performed in the worldly stage of life reside in the sikha’. The asceticoffers his sikha in fire uttering mantras. Offering of sikha by the initiates is still a practice among theNathapanthis.

What is the connection of these cults with Vaishnavism? They are both so called heretical cults and muchnearer to Buddhism than to Brahmanism. How does one account for Tirumalai tonsures on the Tantric and Natha practices? As a matter of fact Nathism is considered by scholars as a corrupt from of Buddhism andbelieved to have originated from Buddhist Nikayas during the general decline of Buddhism.

Tirumalai tonsures are not prayschittas

There is one more group where tonsure was undertaken by followers of Brahmanism in ancient times. Thatis the performance of tonsure as a punishment and sentence by law.

Ramesan observes:

“… To these occasions may be added penances. The idea seems to have been entertained that whateversin a man commits it becomes centered in the hair, as seen for verse quoted by the Madanaparijata and Prayaschittasam uchchaya Gautama. (27.3), Vasista Dharmasutra(24.5), Baudhayanasutra Dh.S(II.1.98-99)

and others provide for the tonsure of the hair on the head and lips (except those on the eye-brows, the hairon the trunk and the top knot). [Ramesan: 591]

The Brahmins were exempt from capital punishment. Offenses which were punishable by corporal sentencefor non-Brahmins, were punishable by tonsure in case of Brahmins. [Manu VIII, 379] It seems strange to thepresent day scholars that for the same offence, the punishment by ancient law was cutting of an arm in caseof non-Brahmin and only a tonsure in the case of Brahmin. Though this discrimination is unfair, it should berealised that the ultimate effect of even this sentences of tonsure resulted in condemnation by the societyand deprivation of the means of sustenance, because many times in the case of punishment to the brahminsby tonsure, they were also excommunicated and driven out of the village. Every student of ancient Indianhistory knows the severity of the sentence of excommunication. It was because of this that many authoritieshave made exceptions and given some concessions to brahmins under certain circumstances. Ramesanobserves:

“… It was further provided by Parasara (IXC 52-54), and Sankha (pp.290-291) that in the case of a king or aprince or a learned Brahmana, tonsure of head should not be insisted upon, but that they should have toundergo double the usual penance and the dakshina would have to be double. The Mitakshara, III.325 quotes a verse of Manu (not found in the printed text) – ‘tonsure of the head is not desired in case of learnedBrahamans and kings except in the case of those guilty of mahapatakas, of cow-killing or of being anavakirnin …” [Ramesan: 59]

It is of course improper to think that the people who undergo tonsure at Tirumalai are sentenced to undergoany punishment, neither is there any feeling of guilt in their minds. They undergo tonsure gladly with fullreligious reverence, and this type of tonsure as prayaschittas has nothing to do with tonsures in Tirumalai.


In conclusion, we may say about Brahmanic tonsures, that:

* 1. Hindu Sastras do not recognize tonsure as votive as an offering to a deity.

* 2. Preservation of tuft of hair on the top is obligatory for the followers of Brahmanism.

* 3. Young unmarried maidens and married women are not to shave.

* 4. Only widows are shaven headed.

* 5. Shaven headed men, and not only women, were considered inauspicious.

* 6. Shaving was done as punishments and in case of death of relatives.

* 7. In short, it was an occasion for sorrow and mourning.

Therefore, the traditional custom of tonsures performed at Tirumalai as religious ceremony can not beviewed upon as a custom of the Brahmanic religion, and as it is an unique and important part of worship atTirupati, the shrine at Tirumalai could not have been a Brahmanic centre in olden days. There is aremarkable absence of legends or epigraphs about tonsures, denoting the displeasure of priestly leaders ofthe shrine, about it. All these go to prove that the practice of tonsure at Tirumalai is the relic of old Buddhistcustom, and suggests the Buddhist origin of Tirumalai Deity.

Chapter 25 Chapter 27

Chapter 27Rathayatra

Ratha Yatra is an important part of Bramhotsawam

Among the several festivals conducted on the Hill, a festival called Brahmotsavam is the most popular onedrawing huge crowds. Varaha Purana mentions Brahmotsavam is so called because the very first festival issaid to have been conducted by Brahma. The following is the summary of description of theseBrahmotsavams as given by Sri Sitapati. [Sitapati:143]

“The festival actually commences on the first day with the Dhvajarohanam caremony in which the Lord’s flagwith the Garuda emblem is flown on a flag staff erected next to the Dhvajastambhan. … The Lord’s UtsavaVigraham (with or without his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi) is also taken in procession twice–once in theday time and again in the night time with the appropriate Vahanam…”

“The important festival days are the fifth, eight and eleventh days. The morming procession of the Lord onthe Seventh day with Surya Prabha Vahanam is also worth seeing.

“The Utsavam on the night of the fifth day is called the Garuda Seva or Garudotsavam. On this day theprocessional deity alone is taken in procession on the Garuda; the consorts of the Lord are not seated byHis side on the Vahanam as usual. On this day, the Lord is given ‘Uyyala Seva’in the evening. This UyyalaSeva or ‘Seva in the Swing’ takes place in the open area near the Dhvajastambhan…”

“The deity is then taken and installed on Garuda Vahaanam…The vahanam is then taken in processionaround the east, west, north and south Mada streets of Tirumalai. The Lord has the usual paraphernliaduring this procession such as Chatra, Chamara, Mangala Vadyas, recital of the holy books etc.

“The car festival taakes kplace on the eighth day. This ‘Rathotsvam’ attracts the largest crowds during theBrahmotsavam festival days. The Utsava murthi along with the consorts is brought on to the temple car andthe temple car are then gaily decorated; the temple chariot is to be taken round the streets of Tirumalai. Onthe eleventh day of the festival, the processional deity is taken on a Tiruchi Vahanam to the SwamiPushkarni. The Chakram of the Lord (also called Chakrattalvar) then gets a bath in the Swami Pusshkarini…The Brahmotsavam comes to an end with this snana or bathing of the Lord in the Pushkarini.”

From this description it should beclear that procession of Deity i.e. Ratha Yatra forms the main and poppularpart of this festival. We will see further that Ratha Yatra, though seen in many modern brahmnic temples, isbasically a Buddhist practice, and a relic of Buddhist traddition.

Ratha yatra in old records

After the image worship had started in India the practice of festivals, where procession of deities formed themain and imkportant part, was started. Sri Vasudeo Upadhyaya has given ample evidences about RathaYatra in various shrines in India from old copper plate inscriptions. The following is the summary of it.[Upadhyaya: 295]

  1.  Harsha inscriptions of Vigraha Raja of Vikram Samant 1030 describes the gift of four villages on theoccasion of Ratha Yatra near Pushakar Tirtha.
  2.  It is mentioned in the Nadalai gift place of the same dynasty of Vikram Samant 1200 that on the occasionof Ratha Yatra the king used to impose taxes on rich people.
  3.  Ekpigraphica Indica part 11 p.42 gives inscription of Vikram Samant 1200 of Ram Pal Deva mentioninggift for the purpose of Ratha Yatra.
  4.  In the Bhimamal gift plate of Udaya Sinha deva, king of Rajasthan describes collection of 40 rupees forthe purpose of Deva Yatra.
  5.  From Anjaneri copper plate of MadhyaPradesh (Corpus Inscription Indecorum part 4 p.150) it becomesclear that people were donating one rupee at the time of Ratha Yatra.
  6.  Account in ChahaMan inscription for the Ratha Yatra of Jain deities is similar to the account of Hindu giftplates. Lalarai copper plate of Lakhan Pal Deva of Vikram Samant 1133 describes Deva Yatra of TirthankarShaantinath. (Epigraphica Indica Part 11 p.51) Plates of Chaha Man King Alhan Deva mentions the payment of taxes by merchants on the occasion ofDeva Yatra. Ratha Yatra was seen by Fa Hain

All the above evidences belong to 11th century and onwards, that was the time when the practice of RathaYatra started among the Hindus. As a matter of fact this was an imitation of Buddhist practice of RathaYatraa which was seen in Buddhist temples even 500 years before the above mentioned instances of RathaYatra in Hindu temples. The following observations by Nalinaksha Dutt will make it clear that Ratha Yatraexisted amongst Buddhist much earlier.

“Both Fa-Hein and Hiuen Tsang noticed another iimportant Buddhist ceremony, viz. procession of images.Fa-Hein saw the Khotan procession reads as follows:- ” On a four wheeled chariot is seated in the centre theimage of Buiddha with two Bodhisattva on the two sides. The chariot is decorated with seven preciousstones, silken streamers and canopies. The king prostrated himself before the image while the queen andthe other ladies scattered flowers. The ceremony commenced on the first day of the fourth month and endedon the fourteenth.” Hiuen Tsang gives a similar account. I- tsang does not refer to such processions butgives an elaborate account of the daily ceremony of bathing images. He sayss that it was incumbent uponthe monks of a monastery to wash the image of Buddha daily with scented water and other suitablerequisites.” [Dutta: 1970: 193]

Sarkar’s views that the Ratha Yatra of Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra at Puri is nothing else but atransformation of Ratha Yatra of Lord Buddha surrounded by Bodhisattva and that this Ratha Yatra wasseen by Fa Hain in 5th century, so also Dave’s view that Puri is Dantapura, where sacred Tooth of Buddhawas preserved, is already mentioned in Chapter 3.

Ratha Yatraa is against Chaturvarna system

Why Ratha Yatra cannot be considered as Brahmnical practice would be clear if we consider that the Varnadharma which led to caste system is sine quo non of Brahmnism. It is not possible for a Hindu to indulge inactivities which will be inducive to the mnixing of various castes. And what is a Ratha Yatra, if it is not thefree mixing of people of differnetr castes. Not only the deities but also the priests are exposed to people ofvarious castes in a Ratha Yatra. Ancient Hindu literature is full of evidence to show that free mixing ofpeople of different castes is sacrilegious to Brahmnical tenets.

Even those who do not consider that Lord Buddha’s main message and purpose was to abolish caste

sysgtem, e.g. L.M.Joshi also think that Buddha’s teachings led at least to lessen the barriers of caste.

And all forms of Buddhism, including Tantrik Buddhism, from ancient to modem time, howsoever so calledcorrupt, never gave any importance to varna Dharma and always denounced the caste. Vajra SuchiUpanishad e.g. which has tremendous arguments against caste and which was tried to be shown to belongto Brahmanic religion by some recent scholars, is in fact also a Buddhist text, not withstanding its name asan Upanishad. It might be interesting to know that a Marathi shudra saint poet Tukaram in 17th century gothis Brahmin disciple Bahinabai to translate it in Marathi.

How can it be expected of a devoted propagator of Chaturvarna system,to inddulge in activities like RathaYatra, where people will be free to take part in it without disclosing their castes.

As is well known “the Agamas proclaim curses on the man who goes into the temple with upper part hisbody covered …” [Raghavacharya: 193] Thus there are arrangements in temples to know who the Shudrasare, making it obligatory for male devotees to remove upper garments to see the presence or otherwise ofYadnyopavitam, so that appropriate mantras could be used for a particular devotee. In Tirupati though thereis no caste distinction like Pandharpur or Puri while distributing prasad and Dharma Darshana etc., still atcertain Arjitha Sevas of the Lord, male devotees mostly remain present without garments above the waist.

Shudras have different mantras in Vaishnavism

We have already seen that, in the Mantra “Om Namoh Narayana”, already referred to as Ashtakshara or Tirumantram, word “Om” is omitted for the Shudras, by some sects. Those conversant with history ofMaharaja Shahu of Maharashtra, will remember the episode that a brahmin priest, who after a visit todancing girls used to attend the palace for puja, without a bath, and he refused to perform puja according toVedic rites and insisted on puranic lore, on the ground that Chhatrapati Shahu was a shudra, and notentitled to Vedic Puja.

So Ratha Yatras are shramnic in origin, started by Buddhists and then by Jains but later on copied by people of Brahmnic reigion, much against their wishes and now it presists there as a relic of Buddhist faith.

Venkkateswara Suprabhatam

Mention may be made here about ‘Waking up ceremony’ of Lord performed every morning by siging thepraises. These verses were composed, according to tradition in the 14th century. Vedas were ordered to besung in 1430 A.D. There are a few verses from this ‘Venkatesvara Suprabhatam’ which need to be mentioned. One of them reads:

“Thy devotees that shine by wearing thy dust on their heads, desire not either Heaven or Moksha; theygrieve that another ‘Kalpa’ may deny them thy grace. Oh Sri Venkatachalpati! Awake.” [Sitapati:115]

“A ‘Kalpa’ runs for about the few lakhs of years. According to tradition, the Lord of Tirumalai is the deity ofKaliyuga, in Sweta Varahakalpam. The position may change in the Kalpa that follows. Hence the grief anddistress of devotees of the Lord of Tirumalai.” [Sitapati:115]

In another verse ten avatars are mentioned without the Buddha avatra.

As per Maricha Samhita ‘Sri Vimanarchana Kalpa’ the Lord is worshipped as GURU [Sitapati:8] It is also wellknown that Panduranga and Jagannatha are praised as ‘Guru’, but both are considered to be ‘mouni’ in Kaliyuga. i.e. they maintain silence during the kaliyuga. This appears to be very effective devise used bybrahmins to preach the people that Lord will only give darshana, but will not preach, i.e. His Teachings arenot to be followed in kaliyuga. The same is true of Tirumalai. Here also Lord is considered ‘mouni’ by theVaraha Purana. [Sitapati:124] It is noteworthy that both Jagannatha and Vithala are confirmed to be oldBuddhist shrines, as already seen.

Chapter 26 Chapter 28


Chapter 28Temple and Its Sculptures

Temple as was in pre-Ramanuja days

The present temple has two gopurams and two outer prakarams with two cicumambulatory paths; the thirdpath around the sanctum called Mukkoti pradaksinam is now incomplete because of later construction and isopen only for one day in the year. This pradaksinam together with the sanctum and hall are the onlystructures of pre-Ramanuja days, except for two wells of that period, which concern us. The differentstructures in the temple complex are construccted at different times by different people, but we areconcerned chiefly with the main temple.

Water from wells in the temple was not used for Puja

Pulla Bhavi, a well of flowers, which was dug by Rangadasa, a shudra, who discovered the image of theLord, lying buried in an ant-hill, is a step well and used for disposing flowers since days of Ramanuja.[Sitapati:56]

The legend says that:

“… Water for abhishekham of the Lord in the olden days was being obtained from the Papanashanamtirtham in the Tirumalai hills. Once Sri Alavandar present at Tirumalai noticed that Tirumalai Nambi who wasat this time performing the duty of carrying water for the temple was not in a position to do so due tosickness. Sri Alavandar therefore prayed to the Lord that He should accept the water from the well in thetemple constructed by one Rangadasa. Sri Ramanuja who heard the above legend during his visit toTirumalai also ordained that the waters of Papanashanam Tirtham, Akash Ganga Tirtham and the wellcalled Sundaraswamy well (or Bangaru Bhavi) are holy and can be used for all purposes in the temple eversince.” [Sitapati:63]

In spite of two wells being present in temple premises, the water of these wells was not being used for pujaetc. till then. This unusual practice, may be due to caste prejudices. It is well known that caste rules are strictabout water and food. An incident a few years ago could be cited of a severe devastating cyclone hitting theAndhra coast destroying many villages. It will be remembered that the volunteers rehabilitating the victims ofthe great tragedy were faced with the problem of cleaning two wells in each village because caste Hindusrefused to share water from same well with the untouchables, even in the face of such a grave calamity. Sowe need not blame the pre-Ramanuja Brahmins for not using the water from shudra’s wells. Actually thisshould denote the importance of the work, towards the lower castes, of Ramanuja who also is said to haveallowed the untouchables to enter the temples for one day in the year. [K.A.N.Sastri:430]

The more important point is how did it happen that two wells were allowed to be dug up by a shudra, withintemple premises. It is possible only if the temple belonged originally to lower caste people. At a later date,even Alvars, we are told, hesitated to set foot on the hill due to their low caste.

Time of temple construction

Sanctum sanctorium or garbha griha which was called Koyil Alwar is described:

“… the walls of the garbha griham as they exist at present are made up of cut stone, and can be dated tobelong to the 8th century or 9th century A.D. at the earliest. The temple type consisting of a Garbha Grihamwith a Mukha mantapam with a Pradikashanapath got established in South India about 8th century A.D. Inview of this we cannot say with any degree of certainty that the present temple structure belongs to theperiod earlier than 8th century A.D. …” [Sitapati:82]

Garbha Griham

“The garbha griha is almost square shaped structure (12 feet square). The walls of garbha griham as well asthe walls of Sayana mantapam, otherwise called Mukha mantapam, are really double structures with twoseparate sets of walls enclosing some air space between them. This was perhaps necessitated byconstruction of the additional structures comprising of the Mukhoti pradikshanam built later.” [Sitapati:82]

“… the Garbha Griham houses only one Mula murthi and the temple in Tirumalai is unique in that it is theonly Eka- murthi temple for Vishnu in India.” [Sitapati:83]

The non-recognition of other murthis is the basic principle of the Tirumalai temple. [Raghavacharya:215]

Snapana mantapam

The Snapana Mantapam or Tiruvilankoyil is the other structure of Pre-Ramanuja days. It was here that theBhoga Srinivasa, the silver replica donated by Pallava queen, was consecrated in the year 966 A.D. Itspillars bear the Vaishnava bas reliefs now. But these pillars are not original pillars. The original pillars werecircular while pillars now in mantapam are square in shape. [Sitapati:79]

Double walled structure

The sayana mantapam, a chamber of 18′ 6″ square is devoid of any noteworthy a sculptures. [Sitapati:81]This is also a double walled structure like garbha griha. [Sitapati:82]

T.K.T. Veera Raghavacharya observes:

“The real shape and size of the temple in Tirumalai have remained a secret or a riddle… Even persons whoare intimately and hereditarily connected with the working of the temple are not aware of these. … For thefirst time we learn that Sanctum Sanctorium, consisting of the Garbha griham and the mukhamantapamattached thereto, is a double structure. Two distinct and separate set of walls do exist, with space (orantaramandalam) in between. The vimanam was built along and in connection with the new (orouter) walls of the garbha griham between the years 1244 and 1250 A.D. [emphasis orignal] The outer faces of the walls of the old temple bore at least four ancient inscriptions in Tamil referable to years 966 1013 A.D. True copies of these were taken before the new walls were built to enclose the old ones…”[Raghavacharya:193]

“… The method employed for constructing a new temple did in no way adversely affect the old structure,which would have been considered sacred because it was presumed to have been built by the devasthemselves.” [Raghavacharya:200]

Purpose of renovation was to make Temple conform with the Agamic Rules

About the motive of the renovation, we are told:

“There were beautiful temples built for images made and consecrated by man, Manushya pratishta, in otherplaces. Here was a poor temple on the most sacred Hill for a Svayam- vyakta Murti. The temple wasattracting streams enlightened men…the surface of these walls would have been plain and devoid of anyarchitectural features and sculptures worth mentioning. It probably had no Vimanam to boast of… Everyother temple of fame conducting puja according to Vaikhanasa or the Pancharatra agama had agarbhagriham whose architecture answered to the agamic stipulations. Sri Vira Narsinga… set his heart on building a temple worthy of his patron Deity and of his own importance… To the Vaikhanasaarchakas also it meant a provision for the installation of all or most of the deities which according to theiragama should find representation even during the Daily puja.” [Raghavacharya:200 emphasis ours]

The walls of the Garbha Griham were not conforming to Agamas. There were no alcoves outside. So suchalcoves were made on the renovated temple to agree with Agamic norms.

T.K.T. Veera Raghavacharya further observes:

“…new pradakshanam was designed to hold within it one or more images for worship … a niche is sculptured in the body of the wall. There are similar niches on the western and northern walls also. Therewas (and probably still is) one on the east wall also. … These niches form an essential feature of the design of garbhagrihams according to the Vaikhanasa as well as the Pancharatra agamas…”

[Raghavacharya:205 emphasis ours]

In the renovated temple the first avaram or pradkshnam deliberately built was soon closed, and RamarMedai was formed by putting walls across the eastern part of the path. This path is now open for only oneday in the year of Vaikuntha Ekadasi day. This was the result of conflict between Vaikhanasas andPancharatras, we are told. T.K.T.Veera Raghavacharya observes.

“It prevented the Pancharatras from making an attempt to form a chatur murti alayam by putting upPancharatra images on the south, west and north walls of the garbhagriham.” [Raghavacharya:209]

Late appearance of Garuda shrine

The salient points to note are that even after the addition of Tiruvilankoyil in 966 A.D., the temple was very modest and devoid of all murthis according to Vaikhanasa system, though legends say that SageVaikhanasa was the first to worship the Lord of Tirumalai. As a matter of fact, the worship as per Agamashad already started in all other important Vishnu temples in South India, much before this time, Srirangam in 756 A.D. [Sitapati: 202]

Another notable feature is that Dwajastambham and Bali pitham are found in the outer avaranam which israther strange as they have to be within first avaranam. So it is to be postulated that they were shifted at thetime of construction of Tirumannani mantapam in 1417 A.D., and even this position, though recognised as alast resort, is in the wrong quarter. [Sitapati:59]

Another important point to note is about the Garuda shrine. This shrine was constructed rather crudely in1417 A. D. Earliest mention of Garuda in Tirumalai Devasthanam inscriptions is in 1446 A.D. and it is seenthat offerings given are only for the Garuda figure painted on the flag. The earliest inscriptions mentioningGarudallwar residing in his own shrine is in the year 1512 A.D., which is presumed to be the time of itscomming into being. [Sitapati:76] It is rather strange that though since Ramanuja’s time, it is considered as aVishnu shrine, the Garuda shrine should make its appearance so late.

Chapter 27 Chapter 29


Chapter 29Identification of Tirupati with Potalka

The origin of Tantrika Buddhism was previously thought to be in Assam and Bengal. But now it is believedthat it actually started in South India, and Potalka, a mountain in South India, was its centre.

Trantrika Buddhism started in South India

L.M. Joshi observess:

“Potalka Parvata has been suggested as a third possible early seat of the origin of Vajrayana in the far southapart from Dhanyakataka and Sriparvata; this suggestion is based on the authority of Hsuantsang, theSadhanamala and the Gilgit text of the Sarva-tathagatadhisthaanasattv-avalokanaBiddhaksetra-san-darsanavyuha. South Indian origin of Tantrika Buddhism, already suggested many yearsago by the late pt. Rahula Samkrtyayana, has been further strengthened by fresh evidence extracted fromthe Sekoddesatika, the Blue Annals, the Biography of Dharrmasvamin and the above mentioned Gilgit text.These authorities finally overthrow the generally accepted theory of Bengali origin of Tantrika Buddhsim”[Joshi:1977: xx and xxi]

The text quoted above was translated by Itsing in A.D.701. N. Dutt, the editor of the text, places this book inthe fifth or sixth century A.D. The text locates Buddha’s residence at Potalka, in South India referred to byHsuan-Tsang as the abode of Avalokitesvara. [Joshi:1977:251]

Hiuen Tsang has described various places from South India as Buddhist centers, three among them beingthe most iportant. These were Dhanyakataka, Sri Parvata and Potalka. Out of these three, Dhanyakatakaand Sri Paarvata have been identified with Amaravaati and Nagarjuna Konda respectively. The third one i.e.Potalka is not identified as yet, to any degree of satisfaction, though it is lately suggested to be identifiedwith Potarlankaa in Divi Taluq of Dist.Krishna not far away from Amaravati – Bhattiprolu region, whereexuberance of the images of Tara was found. [Sarma: 1988: 21]

Potalka was inaccessible

First point to note is that Potalka was most inaccessible part. Taranatha has given the following descriptionof this. [Taranatha: 1980: 181] He mentions Acharya Dignaga being born in a Brahmana family in the city ofSingavakta near Kaanchi in south. He received Pravajjya from Nagdatta, who was Vatsiputriya and also learned in doctrines of Tirthikas.

Narrating about the period of Dignaga, Taranatha mentions about an Upasaka going to Potalka, or Potala,the residence of Avalokitesvara and Arya Tara. This Upasaka was sent to Potalka to invite Avalokitesvara.Upasaka knew that journey was long and hazardous and risky to life. He took with him a road guide toPotala and “…Interestingly, Tg contains a work attributed to srimat Potalka Bhattaraka (Avalokitesvara), withthe title Potalka-gamana-patrika (rglxxii.51,fn). [Taranatha:181]

About the identification of Potalka, many efforts have been made in modern times. Sri L.M.Joshi hassummarized the position about the identification in the following words.:

“This Potalka is located by Hsuan-tsang in Malakuta, identified by Cunningham with a tract between Madura,Tanjore and Travancore. Nandolal De suggtested that Potalka lay in Western Ghats. N. Dutt suggests thatmodern Potiyam may represent Potalka. This Potalka was near Dhanyakataka and Sripavata, which placeshave been identified with Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda respectively…” [Joshi: 1977: 257]

Hiuen Tsang’s description

The description of Potalka in Hiuen Tsang’s own words, is as follows.:

“To the east of the Malaya mountaains is Mount Po-ta-lo-kia (Potalaka). The passes of this mmountain arevery dangerous; its sides are precipitous, and its valleys rugged. On the top of the mountain is a lake; itswaters are clear as a mirror. From a hallow proceeds a great river which encircles the mountain as flowsdown twenty times and then enters the southern sea. By the side of the lake is a rock-palace of the Devas.Here Avalokitesvara in coming and going, takes his abode. Those who strongly desire to see thisBodhisattva do not regard their lives, but, crossing the water (fording the streaams), climb the mountainforgetful of its difficulties and dangers, of those who make the attempt there are very few who reach thesummit. But even of those who dwell below the mountain, if they earnestly pray and beg to behold the god,sometimes he appears as Tsz’-tsai-t’-ien (Isvara-deva), sometimes under the form of a Yogi (a Pamsupata); he addresses them with benevolent words and then they obtain their wishes according to their desires.Going north-east from this mountain, on the border of the sea, is a town; this is the place from which theystart for the Southern sea and the country of Sang-Kia-lo (Ceylon). It is said commonly by the people thatembarking from this port and going south-east about 3000 li we come to the country of Simhala.” [SamuelBeal, Buddhist Records of the Western World, pp. 233 ff.]

Similarty of physical features

From the above account of Hiuen Tsang, and also as mentioned by Taranatha the following points seem toappear important.

.             1. Journey to Potalka was hazardous,and even guide for traveling had to be used, and very few peopleattempted to reach the hill.

.             2 On the top of the mountain there was a lake of clear water. * 3 By the side of lake there was a rockpalace of Devas. Avalokitesvara was taking his abode here. Sometimes He appeared before his devotees inthe form of Yogi or Isvara Deva.


Even now we find that Tirupati has got clear water lake and journey is hazardous.

Potalka was being Hinduized

Commenting on this accopunt Sri L.M.Joshi observes;

“The Potalka mmountain in this country was the favourite resort of Avalokitesvara who still appeared beforehis devotees in the guise of Pasupata Tirthika or as Mahesvara.

This last passage seems to indicate that Avalokita who has many attributes of Siva, was now in theprocess of being converted into Hindu god Siva…” [Joshi: 1977: 39]

We could like to suggest, that this Potalka as described by Hiuen Tsang, can be identified with present dayTirupati Hill and we can presume that at the time of Hiuen Tsang the Buddhist influence was declinning andthe shrine was in the process of being Hinduised. Mere presence of abundance of Tara images is notenough to identify Potalka. It must be shown that the Avalokitesvara was in fact being converted to HinduGod, the fact clearly mentioned by Hiuen Tsang. Search for Potalka has to be among the Buddhistshrines converted to Brahmnic use.

Similarity in name

It is worthy to note that the earlier name of Vengadam, was ‘Pullikunram’ i.e. the hill of Chieftakin Pulli. Thisis mentioned in poems of Mamulanur, the most important of the Sangam poets. [Sitapati: 87] It was perhaps,more popular name among the Buddhists, as Pullis were Buddhists, and hence it was used by Hiuen Tsang,and perhaps name Potalka has been derived from Pullikunram. It is reasonable to presume that Pullikunramhas become Po-ta-io-kia”

Chapter 28 Chapter 30


Chapter 30Conclusion

Precedents of usurping Buddhist Temples for Brahmanic use

It was shown that Image Worship originated amongst the Buddhist and that the struggle between Brahminsand Buddhists was the cause of it. Brahmanism took over many Buddhist Temples for Brahmanical use, forexample Ter, Chezarala, Aihole, Undavali, Ellora. It was shown that chiseling out Buddhist images was themethod used in many temples, and Shaivas and Vaishnavas were together in this. Various other examplesfrom Bengal, Puri, Badrinatha, Delhi, Nalanda, Ayodhya, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Sringeri are also seen,with special reference to Guntepalli, and also role of Puranas in claiming the Buddhist places and retainingthem. We summarized the scholars’ views who have proved that Jagannatha of Puri, Vitthala of Pandharpur,Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala in Kerala, Draksharama and Srisailam in Andhra were once Buddhist Temples.The relation of Tribals with Buddhism with reference to Puri, Srisailam, and Pandharpur was also discussed.

Image of the Lord

We saw the traditional story of Lord of Tirumalai, the Brahmanic explanation of absence of weapons on theimage, and noticed how cleverly the device of ‘self manifestation of murthi’ is used to obscure the scientifichistorical inquiry. We noted various earliest Vishnu shrines. We saw that earliest popular from of Vishnu wasreclining and not standing. It is stressed that there are many records of Vishnu shrines in South India, evenin the vicinity of Tirupati but Tirupati is not amongst them. There is no mention even in Bhagavat Purana, letalone Mahabharata, Ramayana and Vishnu Purana. That the reason of its absence in epigraphical, as wellas literary sources, was that it was unimportant as a Brahmanic shrine because it was a Buddhist shrine.

We also saw how various forms of Vishnu images were ordained to be made and that Lord of Tirumalaidoes not resemble any of these forms; and that the Image resembles Bodhisattva Image. The Image doesnot conform to Vishnu Images and is either a pre- Agamic Image or of ‘Different Class by itself’, and indeed, that class is the class of Buddhist Images converted for Brahmanic use.

The nature of image of the Lord was always a disputed matter. Court dispute in 11th or 12th century of Shaivas and Vaishnavas, the points against it being Vishnu as argued by Shaivas, points in favourof it being Vishnu as argued by Vaishnavas, were studied. It was Ramanuja who managed to place theweapons in the hands of the Murthi. It is clear that an image which was neglected, cannot be Brahmanicone. Shaivas and Vaishnavas conspired to claim the murthi for Brahmanism. We saw how it cannot beHarihara or Devi murthi.

Account in VIM is discussed in detail. Is it a book of fables? Every palm leaf text is not to be discarded.Activities of Ramanuja as mentioned in VIM are borne out by archaeological evidences coming soon afterhis age, and it is a historical fact, that the Murthi was without weapons before Ramanuja.

The theory of ‘Vyakta-avyakta’, based on Alvaras’ account by modern scholars, is a myth. Verses of Alvarashad gone into oblivion, Natha Muni recovered these verses by yogic powers, Acharyas wrote Taniyans thus possibility of their views being quoted as those of Alvaras cannot be excluded. Even then there is nodescription of murthi in Alvaras’ writings. But the present day scholarship is bent upon propagating thistheory. The Murthi existed before the Alvaras and it does not become a Hari-Hara or a Vishnu Murthi just byAlvaras praying it as such. The description of the Murthi by Alvaras does not agree with the conception ofHari-Hara or of Vishnu.

None of the Early Alvaras described the Murthi. Tirumalsai Alwar, even describes Murthi without weapons.Description of Murthi by Nammalwar is conceptual. Even otherwise, the Alvaras and Naynaras were hostiletowards Buddhists, and their evidence is useless in discussing a claim for a Buddhist image. We also sawthat Tirumalai was a compromise site among the Saivites and Vaishnavites.

On inconographical examination of Lord’s Image, we noticed that Vishnu Images usually have four arms,and two armed Vishnu images are very few and of small size. Mudras of hand are more common inBuddhist images and weapons are a must in Vishnu images. We saw that Lakshmi was Buddhist deity.Even in literature, Lakshmi was not related to Vishnu, Lakshmi got recognition as a consort of Vishnu onlysince Alvandar’s time.

We saw that the only difference in appearance between Vishnu and Avalokitesvara images lies in weapons.Dhyani Buddhas were absent in many Buddhist images. Does Lord of Venkatesvara conform to Buddhistimages? This has answer in affirmative. The pedestals of images have distinctive features, but the pedestalof Lord of Tirumalai is covered, Why? Was there a Buddhist formula on the pedestal? Jata Jutas etc. are not against Buddhist character, neither is Yadnopavitam. Presumption of Vajra-lepa is essential to explaincertain points about the Murthi like Srivatsa, Lakshmi, crescent moon mark etc.

History of Tirupati

India was land of Nagas and its language was Tamil. Nagas were supporters of Buddhism. The region ofTirupati was within Asoka’s Empire. Earliest Inscriptions found were definitely Buddhist, and South India wasfree from Brahmin influence. Tondamandalam was the land of Nagas and there was no Murthi in Vengadamin Sangam Age. Murthi came into existence during Buddhist rule. Old name of Vengadam wasPulikunram,land of Pullis who were Buddhists. Later rulers were Tiraiyans of Pavattiri who were differentfrom Tiraiyans of Kanchi.

Rulers of Vengadam were Kalabhras who were Buddhist. Kalabhras fought against Brahmin supremacy andwere abused by Brahmin epigraphists after their rule ended. The emerging importance of Lakshmi cannotexplain the change in subscription in the epigraphic records. The word Emperuman was not necessarilyused with reference to Vishnu alone, but could also mean Buddha. Emperumandiars or Devadasis weredegraded Buddhist nuns is clear from many evidences.

The first epigraphic records are not at Tirumalai, but at Trichakkanur, and these records mention of theproxy image being installed at the foot of the Hill around 830 A.D. Purpose of this proxy image was religiousconversion, and not mere convenience. How conversion was carried out is explained. After the purpose ofconversion was served to a great extent, Silver Image was installed on the Hill and all activities transferredthere. Friction among the Saivities and Vaishnavites cannot be the sole cause of shifting of activities to thehill and abandoning the proxy temple, as there was no rivalry at that stage.

Socio-political conditions need to be taken into account. Kalivarajya was started to change laws.Anti-Buddhist activities were at peak. Reason for Buddha being given place in avatars, was strategical andnot on principle. Puranas invented stories to capture and retain Buddhist places of worship. New Puranaswere written and old edited and re-edited to give stories for new revival of Brahmanism, and supportingchaturvarnya and Sthala Puranas and myths invented to capture and retain the Buddhist places of worship.This latter purpose of Puranas is not yet properly explored. Shaivas and Vaishnavas were together inuprooting Buddhists and Jains, e.g. at Ellora Shaivas and Vaishnavas occupy two walls in a hall. TheRathas at Mahabalipuram were Buddhist, and are in an unfinished state because of anti Buddhist feelings atthe time.

The rise of Rajputs was for suppressing Buddhism. Agnikula Rajputs, Hiranya-garbha-prasuta Kings ofSouth India and Ranas of Mewar are explained. Activities of Kumarila and Sankara and other Acharyaswere all anti Buddhistic. Therefore, the real reason for Proxy Image was conversion and not mereconvenience of devotees. The people whole conversion was sought, were Buddhists. That is why Kanchi isnot selected. Indoctrination of masses is done during this time of activities of proxy temple.

That Murthi was without weapons is a physical fact. It only remains to discuss whether the weapons werefixed during the time of Ramanuja or earlier. Those who do not think that Murthi was converted by Ramanujato Vaishnavism point out that Silappadhikaran has described sankha and chakra on murthi. They like tothink that the text belongs to 8th century. So the real question is what was the time when Murthi was givenweapons. Our interest in this text is limited to this. This non-Brahmanic text which is said to mention sankhaand chakra on the murthi, is quite unreliable evidence to show the presence of weapons, because it alsomentions bow. Its description is also on general lines and based on preconceived ideas of Puranas. It couldalso be referring to Tiruvenkatam other than Tirumalai. In any case, it only suggests that time of fixing theweapons to the murthi was earlier than Ramanuja,if we consider this passage from Silappadhikaran to be ofan earlier date.

We saw the unique practice of Tonsure at Tirupati. Here not only men but also women, married as well asunmarried undergo tonsure. Though it is an old respectable and popular practice, no inscriptions mentionabout tonsure. There are not even legends about tonsure. It seems Brahmins have ignored the practicealtogether. After all why? It is proper to consider that Conversion of Buddhists is the main reason fortonsure. Tonsure was practiced by lay Buddhists as well as by Bhikshus. Tonsure is ancient practice in thistemple. Shaven headed men let alone women are inauspicious to Hindu tradition. It is a well known fact thata sight of shaven headed is inauspicious to a Hindu since long back, since the decline of Buddhism in India.There are references to this in a Sanskrit Drama Mrichacha Kaitika. Story in Vishnu Purana showndispleasure of Hindus towards tonsure. But there are times when Tonsures are followed by Hindus. Theypreserve tuft of hair,which was a reaction against Buddhism. Vedic Tonsures have no relation to Tirumalaitonsures. Votive offering of hair is contrary to Hindu shastras. Brahmins had to concede to Tonsure muchagainst their wish. Tonsure is not a method of Vishnu worship, and Tirumalai tonsures have no relation withVaishnavism, also they are not Tantric or Natha practices. Tonsures at Tirthas in late Puranas have no relation to Tirumalai tonsures, neither Tirumalai tonsures are praischittas. They are the remnants of Buddhistpractices.

Ratha Yatra is main part of Bramhotsawam. Ratha yatra in old records of Hindus start much late, whereas itwas Buddhist practice in olden days and was seen by Fa Hain. Ratha yatra can not be a Brahmanic customas it is against Chaturvarnya system. Puri is Dantapura, where tooth relic of Buddha is worshipped. Shudrashave different mantras in Vaishnavism.

The water from wells in the temple was not used till Ramanuja. Time of temple construction waspre-Ramanujan. Garbha Griham, and Snapana mantapam are made later into double walled structures. Thegreat renovation of Temple was done with the intention of making the Temple agree with Agamic rules. Theappearance of Garuda shrine is late.

Tirupati is Potalka

Tantrika Buddhism started in South India and its birth place Potalka was inaccessible. Hiuen Tsang’sdescription of Potalka agrees with the physical features on the hill, and Tirumalai could have been HiuenTsang’s Potalka.

Lastly, we refer again to Ramanujacharya’s activities in Tirupati regarding giving of weapons to the Lord.Whatever may be the conviction of a person about the above points, the fact remains that the image of Lordof Tirumalai, originally, had no sankha and chakra. The question now arises whether the artist who started tosculpture the murthi, wanted to make the Murthi of Vishnu or somebody else? Why no weapons weresculptured if he meant to sculpture the image of Vishnu?

Answers to enigmatic problems of Lord of Tirumalai

These are the questions which every student of Ancient Indian History should prepare himself to answer onthe basis of recognised historical methods. Our answers to these enigmatic problems of Lord Venkatesvaraare as follows:­

  1.  The image of Lord Venkatesvara was not sculptured by the artist as an image of Vishnu, but that ofAvalokitesvara, sometimes in the reign of Kalabhras, after the period of Mamulanur, and before the period ofSilappadhikaran, around 3rd to 5th century A.D.
  2.  Murthi’s hands were not holding the sankha and/or chakra. The sankha and chakra were placed in thehands of the murthi at some date later than the date of sculpture of the murthi, and in all probability at thetimes of Ramanuja. Before Ramanuja, it is unlikely to have these weapons. The reference inSilappadhikaran is not trustworthy in this respect.
  3.  To consider Venkatachal Itihasa Mala unreliable because it is a palm leaf text is unjustifiable. To tamperwith Itihasa Mala would involve a greater labour and greater difficulties than with Silappadhikaran. VIM is areligious book whereas Silappadhikaran is an epic of a tragic romance on which folk dramas are staged fromancient times, and is exposed to modifications in the folk theater, in contrast to VIM.
  4.  The theory of Vyakta-avyakta is very recent and had to be postulated to explain away Alvaras’ writings.There are no references in the writings of Alvaras about the presence of Sankha and chakra on the murthi,and what ever description is there, is conceptual, imaginary, as seen by mental eye, mainly based onPuranic preconceived ideas and in any case untrustworthy as history for proving the presence of weapons,and also to a large extent, as conceived by the commentators, rather than the Alvaras.
  5.  In the times of decline of Buddhism,