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The Legend of Svacchandanatha

The Mythic Origins and a Brief History of Kashmir Shaivism

by Dr. Sushil Fotedar

Beyond the infinity of Eternity when Time was not and Being was immersed in the fullness of Nothingness, Lord Shiva was content to be by Himself, for Himself and in Himself. His nature was coextensive with the Silence Supreme, the Para-vaak, brimming with the absolute Freedom of Svatantrya Shakti. A movement of Vimarsha then occurred in the stillness of His Prakaash and Time, Space and the Universes came tumbling out of Him ; from the One He became the Many while staying by Himself, for Himself and in Himself.

Looking around He found that Satyuga had begun and so
, in order to enlighten the worlds through the Tantras, the Shaiva Shastras, He sent down a manifestation of His, a magnificent Being with eighteen arms and five heads of Chit-shakti, Jnana-shakti, Ananda-shakti, Iccha-shakti and Kriya-shakti --, the greatest of them all, the dearest of the dear, Lord Svacchandanatha. By the Anugraha of Lord Shiva these five energies decided to manifest through the five mouths of Svacchandanatha as Eeshan, Vaamdeva, Tatpurusha, Aghora and Sadyojaata respectively and pour out the Tantras.

Initially, in a rather sleepy casual manner, the mouths spoke about the ten dualistic, Dvaita Tantras
the Shiva Tantras. Not being really satisfied with the results,  Svacchandanatha shook His five massive heads, giving the Ultimate Reality one massive, divine thought, and thereby came into existence the eighteen monist-cum-dualist, Bhedaabheda Tantras, the Rudra Tantras. The outcome was a definite improvement over the initial phase of the Shiva Tantras but then something more needed to be done. Now, with the power of Svatantrya Shakti behind them, the five mouths attained gigantic proportions. Each mouth became filled with the other four mouths and simultaneously through all of them, the Lord roared the roar of the sixty-four monist, Abheda Tantras, the Bhairava Tantras—the most beautiful, the most complete, expositions of Anuttara, the Ultimate Beyond.

Initially, Svacchandanatha had no problems in disseminating the knowledge. The times of Satyuga, Tretayuga and Dwaparyuga were such that masters and disciples had profound intelligence and memory and so initiation took place verbally, there being no need to put down anything on paper; but when the unfortunate age of Kaliyuga dawned with the tragic passing away of Lord Krishna, the true masters were totally disappointed with humanity and, therefore, decided to go into hiding. The Bhairava Tantras were lost and the universe was immersed in an overwhelming darkness .

But then Lord Shiva is full of kindness. He does not allow His Bhaktas to wander in the wilderness of Samsara for long. So now He reappeared on Mount Kailash in the form of Shrikanthanatha who though not possessing the five mouths of Lord Svacchandanatha, was filled with the knowledge of the Tantras which He taught to the angry sage Durvasa because he was the one who had preserved his energies through brahmacharya and was, therefore, an ‘urdhvaretah’. It was the turn of the sage thus to pass the knowledge on but, unfortunately, in keeping with the nature of Kaliyuga there were no fit disciples around. So, he created three mind-born sons and one daughter to whom he passed on the traditions. He initiated one son, Amardakanatha in the dualist Shiv Tantras and the other, Shrinatha, in the mysteries of the monodualistic Rudra Tantras. He, however, reserved the profundity of the Bhairava Tantras for his beloved son, the intelligent and modest Tryambakanatha. At the same time Rishi Durvasa was far ahead of his contemporaries, the Vedantists. He did not believe that women were any inferior to men .Being beyond caste, creed and gender, he initiated his beautiful and wise daughter, Ardhatryambaka also into the knowledge of the Bhairava Shastras. With her started the Ardhatryambaka school whose tenets were passed on secretly from woman to woman and, therefore, its status is not clear now.

The Bhairava Tantras were passed down from Tryambakanatha to his mind-born son Tryambakaditya and so the tradition of this knowledge continued from one mind-born son to another, the so-called ‘Siddhas’, for fifteen generations. The fifteenth Siddha failed to produce a mind-born son because, though knowledgable, he was afflicted with traces of ‘anava- mala’, the incipient disease of worldliness. He therefore decided to marry a woman of pious qualities and through her had a son named Samgamaditya who then settled in the beautiful vale of Kashmir to carry on his meditations after his initiation. The tradition was now carried on from son to son conceived through marriages, from Samgamaditya to Varshaditya and then to Arunaditya and his son Ananda.

It is here that the rivers of myth decided to merge with those of history. The valley of Satisar which the sage Kashyap had populated with his men was now the beautiful vale of Kashmir with the grand Vyeth flowing through its heart. This sage Ananda, residing somewhere along the banks of this life-giving river, was fully versed with the theory and practice of the Bhairava Shastras,  a true Shaiva Siddha. He was the father of Somananda, the originator of the Pratyabhijna School of Shaivism and the author of ‘Shiva Drishti’,  documented to have lived in the late 9th and early 10th century of the CE. After Somananda the initiation was not from father to son but from master to disciple. Utpaldeva, the celebrated author of one of the most poetic of Bhakti literature, the ‘Shivastotravali’, was the disciple of Somananda; his disciple was Laxmangupta who was the master of the Shaiva genius, Abhinavaguptacharya. Around the same time as that of Somananda, there lived in Harwan this saint Vasugupta, who had a dream in which Lord Shiva asked him to go to the Mahadev Mountain. There, he was told, he would find a rock on which he would find inscribed all the knowledge he had been seeking lifelong. Tradition goes that when he touched the rock, the ‘Shankar pal’, it suddenly turned upside down and he found the ‘Shiva Sutras’ inscribed on it. Once he memorized the Sutras the rock went back to its original position. The said rock is still supposed to exist on the mountain with a small spring nearby and is a place of pilgrimage even now. Of course, the inscriptions are nowhere to be seen, hidden from the gross sight of lesser mortals like us! Vasugupta is also supposed to have written the ‘Spanda Karika’ which was commentated upon by his disciple, Kallata Pandit.

Abhinavaguptacharya was a multi-faceted genius who in addition to his mastery of the Shaiva Shastras, was a prolific writer delving into many other subjects like dramaturgy, aesthetics and linguistics. This ‘Mahamaheshvara’ reached the pinnacle of greatness with the monumental ‘Tantraloka’, his magnum opus in twelve volumes, and is supposed to have gone into the Beyond with his body, taking hundreds of disciples along with him. Abhinavaguptacharya’s most famous disciple was Kshemaraja who wrote many vrittis and vartikas on the works of his master and other Shaivacharyas. His shishya in turn was Yograj who carried the tradition of Trika Shastra forward.

And then came the greatest hit,  the hardest blow of them all, the aggressive religion from beyond the borders of India riding on the zeal for conversion and destroying everything and anything that tried to challenge its supremacy, for it was proclaimed by the great Allah Himself through his beloved prophet, Mohammed (PBUH). Islam changed the face of Kashmir forever .

Trika Shaivism went into hiding once more. It had not witnessed anything so violent and destructive in the past even during the difficult Buddhist times when it had almost vanished from the Kashmiri homes. Conversions to the alien religion were taking place at a rapid pace and during the times of Sikander ‘butshikan’, achieved the most painful and destructive phase. People were being killed at random, temples razed to the ground and those beautiful and rare manuscripts and books burnt and thereby lost forever to humanity. Even during these difficult times, we find some sparks manifesting here and there. So we find a Jayaratha here, a Lalla-ded and a Rupabhawani there, somehow keeping the tradition alive till the arrival of Swami Ram who was born during the relatively peaceful reign of the Dogras. His disciple was Swami Mahtab Kak who was the master of the famous Swami Laxman Joo, our ‘Ishwar-swaroop’ of Ishber.

Bad times are hovering on the Kashmiri community once more. The Muslim onslaught has returned with renewed vigour. The community is on the verge of extinction. Our last saint-scholar, Swami Laxman Joo is gone and we stand at the edge of a precipice ready to vanish into the abyss of history. There is nobody to guide us. We are afraid, construing many theories about our plight but unable to find any lasting solutions. On the top of that, the country that is supposed to safeguard the concerns of its citizens, is acting against our interests due to the compulsions of electoral politics.

So, where do we go ?

Can we be saved ?

Lord God, I know Kalki Avatar is going to come. But that is too far away in the future for my cursed community to survive. I cannot wait. Time for me is running out fast .

So dear Lord Shiva, let the dance of myth begin once again!

Start the story of Svacchandanatha once more!!



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