Agama (Hinduism)

The Agamas (Devanagari: आगम, IAST: āgama) are a collection of scriptures of several Hindu devotional schools.[1][2] The term literally means tradition or "that which has come down", and the Agama texts describe cosmology, epistemology, philosophical doctrines, precepts on meditation and practices, four kinds of yoga, mantras, temple construction, deity worship and ways to attain sixfold desires.[1][3] These canonical texts are in Sanskrit[1] Telugu and Tamil (written in Grantha script, Telugu Script and Tamil script).[4][5]

The three main branches of Agama texts are Shaiva, Vaishnava, and Shakta.[1] The Agamic traditions are sometimes called Tantrism,[6] although the term "Tantra" is usually used specifically to refer to Shakta Agamas.[7][8] The Agama literature is voluminous, and includes 28 Shaiva Agamas, 77 Shakta Agamas (also called Tantras), and 108 Vaishnava Agamas (also called Pancharatra Samhitas), and numerous Upa-Agamas.[9]

The origin and chronology of Agamas is unclear. Some are Vedic and others non-Vedic.[10] Agama traditions include Yoga and Self Realization concepts, some include Kundalini Yoga,[11] asceticism, and philosophies ranging from Dvaita (dualism) to Advaita (monism).[12][13] Some suggest that these are post-Vedic texts, others as pre-Vedic compositions.[14][15][16] Epigraphical and archaeological evidence suggests that Agama texts were in existence by about middle of the 1st millennium CE, in the Pallava dynasty era.[17][18]

Scholars note that some passages in the Hindu Agama texts appear to repudiate the authority of the Vedas, while other passages assert that their precepts reveal the true spirit of the Vedas.[2][19][20] The Agamas literary genre may also be found in Śramaṇic traditions (i.e. Buddhist, Jaina, etc.).[21][22] Bali Hindu tradition is officially called Agama Hindu Dharma in Indonesia.[23]

Etymology

Āgāma (Sanskrit आगम) is derived from the verb root गम (gāma) meaning "to go" and the preposition आ (ā) meaning "toward" and refers to scriptures as "that which has come down".[1]

Agama literally means "tradition",[1] and refers to precepts and doctrines that have come down as tradition.[8] Agama, states Dhavamony, is also a "generic name of religious texts which are at the basis of Hinduism and which are divided into Vaishnava Agamas (also called Pancaratra Samhitas), Shaiva Agamas, and Shakta Agamas (more often called Tantras).[8]