Madhava, Vidyaranya, Sringeri, and Kulke

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Thu Jun 1 22:35:09 UTC 2000

If the attribution of texts to Adi Sankara is not reliable in many cases, why
should one believe that they are authored by any 'Sankaracarya' at all? All
of them could have been spuriously attributed to Sankaracarya. For instance,
there have been multiple auvaiyar, kapilar, kallATar, agattiyar (agastya),
etc. whose works are found in Tamil literature. Attribution of a later text
to an earlier famous personality or a totally mythic personality has been
very common in India. In a similar context related to Agastya, K. N. Sivaraja
Pillai quotes Mahamahopadhyaya S. Kuppuswamy Sastry as saying the following
in his introduction to Part II of Vol. II of the Descriptive Catalogue of the
Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras: "The name of Agastya or Ahattiyar in
Tamil has to be specially mentioned as the most prolific writer on these
subjects (Alchemy, Medicine, Yogam or the Siddhars). Who this Agastiyar is,
to whom so many works are attributed, cannot be stated. He does not seem to
be the same as the well-known Agastiyar, who is said to have systematized the
Tamil language and wrote the First Tamil Grammar. In all probability works
written by different persons at different periods of time seem to have been
attributed to Ahattiyar to invest them with dignity and antiquity, but the
language used in many of these works is very commonplace and betrays them in
their true colour as later compositions."(As I have argued elsewhere, even
Agastya, the Tamil grammarian, was most probably a mythical person.)

In the present case, when the author of a work like Saundaryalahari is
claimed to be Sankaracarya, one cannot simply take the name at face value. It
could have been authored by an x while being attributed to Sankaracarya.
After all, we have at least one source according to which author was someone
other than Sankaracarya. Given the prestige commanded by the name
Sankaracarya, it is possible that it was in fact authored by a householder.
But due to the prestige of Sankara's name, the attribution to Sankara gained
wider acceptance resulting in more manuscripts being produced with Sankara's
name. One cannot deduce from this that the name Sankaracarya implies a
titular Sankaracarya which implies the existence of a maTha. (to be continued)

S. Palaniappan

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list