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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings - Shan Ranjit

Saivaism in Independent Tamil Eelam 

9 April 2001

"...Eelam should have firm and concrete plans to stem and stop the overwhelming dominance that Saivites would have in Eelam. A clear message should be sent to them early that Eelam should not only be a ‘Siva Bhoomi’ but also a sacred land for all other religions. Eelam should treat and respect all other religions - Christianity, Islam and Buddhism - in an equal way. Saivites have nothing to fear from other religions - mainly in the form of conversions- if they treat their socially and economically disadvantaged people with respect and dignity... Like wise other religious groups - mainly Christians - should have no hidden agenda in Eelam. One of the most irritating and annoying things that most of the Christian churches and groups do is to organize the so-called youth camps and social gatherings. Many Saivites consider these programs nothing but a form of bribery to convert socially innocent and economically vulnerable young Saivites boys and girls. Christian groups should understand that all are god’s children and not simply those belonging to Christianity. It is wrong to play with the emotions of a particular person or group who are either economically or socially disadvantaged in a society..."


Introduction
Saiva Siddhanta
Rise of Vaishnavism 
Eelam and Saivaism
Saivaism and Christianity
British and Saivaism
Messiah of Saivaism in Eelam - Arumuga Navalar
Saivaism in Post British Era
White warriors of 'Jaffna' Saivaism
Will Saivaism dominate in an independent Eelam?


Introduction

The somewhat dark, middle aged man was seated in front of his favorite lord – Siva. His bare chest was adored with the scared ‘Rudrashaka Malai’. Holy ash was liberally applied over his fore head and arms. As he sat cross legged, he chanted the Shiva Thuthi – a rendition by Adi Shankarar. He then slowly closed his eyes, and quickly lapsed in deep meditation. As he brought his usually agitated mind to a calm state in meditation, he visioned Lord Shiva presiding over his beloved land of birth - Eelam. He felt that his Lord was complaining to him about the atrocities committed to the religion where he is the supreme authority. He visioned his lord asking whether his bhaktas- devotes- will rectify the gross injustices that had befallen to Saivaism in Eelam. He then saw his Lord handing over the spear – Trisulam- and commanding him to destroy all the evil forces and hoist Saivaism back to its glory in Eelam. As his Lord was fading away from his vision, the man in deep meditation started to call out loud “Siva, Siva, Siva.” Suddenly, he was rudely awaked him from his meditation by his wife asking why he was calling out his own name.


Saiva Siddhanta

Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. It is said that it has neither beginning nor end. It worships one Supreme Reality - called by many names. Hinduism has four different sects- Saivaism, Saktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism. In Saivaism, the primary goal is to realize one’s identity with Siva in perfect union and non-differentiation. In Saktism, the goal is moksha- complete identification with God Siva. In Vaishnavism, the goal is Videha mukthi- liberation attainable only after death when the small self realizes union with God Vishnu’s body as a part of him, yet maintains its own individual personality. In Smartism, the goal is Moksha – to realize oneself as Brahman.

Saivaism is believed to be the oldest living faith today. The discovery of more than one representation of the “ prototype of the great God Siva” in Mohenjo Daro and Harappa in the Indus valley civilization, indicate the practices of Siva worship by the Dravidian people who inhabited the Indus valley (third millennium) even before the advent of the Aryans in to India.

Historians will trace Saivaism worship back more than 8,000 years to the advanced Indus Valley civilization. However, it is believed that Saivaism is ageless. There are six main Saivaism Schools – Saiva Siddhanta, Pasupatism, Kashmir Saivaism, Vira Saivaism and Siddha Siddhanta. 

The Eelam Tamils follow the Saiva Siddhanta branch of Saivaism. Saiva Siddhanta is the oldest among the Saiva schools. It means “ the final or established conclusions of Saivaism.” It is the formalized theology of the divine revelations contained in twenty-eight Saiva Agamas. 

The first ten are called Siva Agamas and the remaining eighteen are called Rudra Agamas. The first known guru of the Saliva Siddhanta tradition was Maha Rishi Nanditha of Kashmir (ca 250 BCE). The next prominent guru was Rishi Tirumular, a siddha who composed the Tirumanthiram. It was Thirumular who translated the vast Saiva Agma philosophy in Tamil language. Tirumantiram teaches the Saiva Siddhanta as a four – fold pathway. They are: Charya- moral and virtuous living, Kirya – Temple worship, Yoga- internalized worship and Jiva- the soul body fully merges with Siva.


Rise of Vaishnavism and the battle of Saivaites and Vaishnavaites

Saiva Siddhantam flourished in South India in the early 2nd to 5th century. The Pandyas and Pallavas who were the rulers during this time were staunch Siva followers. They promoted and propagated Saivaism by patronizing and building adoring Siva temples. However, by the fifth century, the biggest threat to Saivaism came from two fronts- Jainism and Buddhism. Among the two religions, Jainism seemed to be a bigger threat to Sivaism than Buddhism. Their influence and power was rising at an alarming rate in South India. Many Hindu kings were converted to Jainism and it seems that Saivaism was on the verge of annihilation in South India. It was during this time the famous ‘Bhakthi’ movement was born – 7th to the 9th century. Led by the child sage- Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar and Manikavasagar, they went from temple to temple singing the greatness of Lord Siva.

In their fight against the Jains and the Bhuddists, the Saivites found an unusual ally - Vaishnavites. Until then, Vaishnavism was neither popular nor powerful in South India. When the Saivities joined hands with the Vaishnavites to fight the Jains, they would have not dreamt that one-day Vaishanvites would pose a bigger threat to Saivism in the future. Like the Saiva Naynamars’, the bhakthi movement among the Vaishnavism was led by the twelve Alwars – between 6th to 10th centuries AD. Vaishnava Acharayas - of which Ramanujacharya (1017-1137AD) and Madhwacharya (-1199 - 1278AD) were famous- followed the Alwars.

By the early 8th century, Janinism and Buddhism were completely wiped out from South India due the ‘Bhakthi’ movement, and the Cholas were rising to power. To their horror, Saivaites now found that their ally - Vaishnavites - were firmly established in South India and posed a bigger threat to Saivaism. Vaishanavites made Srirangam- near Trichi- their bastion. The conflicts between Saivaism and Vaishnavism are best illustrated in Kalki's’s epic novel ‘ Ponnian Selvan’. From the 8th to 12 century, Chola power was at his zenith. Cholas were strong Siva worshipers. It is believed the Chola king, Kulothunga 1 banished Ramanujacharya from Srirangam. However, by the 13th century, Vijayanagar Empire rose to prominence and they were staunch patrons of Vaishnavism.


Eelam and Saivaism

Tamil Eelam is considered to be the ‘ Siva Bhoomi ‘ (Siva’s land). There is ample evidence from the pre historical times that Saivaism flourished in Eelam. The famous Yakka king- Ravana- was well known for his devotion and dedication to Lord Siva. It is believed that long before Prince Vijaya’s arrival there were five well-known Siva temples in Lanka. These were Thiruketheeswaram, Munneswaram, Tondeswaram, Tirukoneswaram and Naguleswaram. Even Prince Vijaya (483 BC to 445 BC) was a staunch Siva devotee. He is believed to have built four Siva allayams (temples) at the four corners of his infant kingdom. It was during the Devanampiya Tissa – a contemporary of King Ashoka (third century BC) of India- that Buddhism was introduced in to Lanka. It is believed that even Devanampiya Tissa was a Saivite, who later converted to Buddhism due to King Ashoka’s influence.

The famous Nayanmars had gloriously sung in praise of the Siva temples in Eelam- especially that of Thirukeetheswaram and Thirukoneswaram. Eelam was the land of birth for many Saiva Siddhas. It is believed that the legendary Saiva Siddha – Boganathar- gave initiation to his famous disciple- the deathless guru known as Babaji- in Kathirgamam some where in the second century AD. The Saivaism exalted in Eelam with the arrival of the Cholas. The famous Chola king, Raja Raja Cholan overran the northern part of Lanka in 993 AD. His son, Rajendra I completed the conquest of Lanka in 1017AD. Cholas made Polannaruwa their capital. The Chola period was the Augustan age of Saivaism. So far sixteen Hindu temples have been unearthed in Polanaruwa of which most are Siva temple.

Unlike South India, Eelam was spared the conflicts between Saivaism and Vaishnavaism. With virtually no challenge or opposition from any other Hindu dogmas, Saivaism became the foremost Hindu religion in Eelam. In fact many of the Saivites in Eelam consider the Saivaism that they practiced to be the purest version (Suddha). They also consider their Saivaism to be much better and refined than that that of the South Indian Saivaism. Some Saivites even take to a somewhat higher level, branding the Saivaism of Eelam as “ Jaffna Saivaism “. Though Buddhism posed some challenge to Saivaism in Eelam, their impact on Saivaism is not considered to be that significant.


Saivaism and Christianity

The biggest challenge to Saivaism in Eelam came with the arrival of the Portuguese. Among all the colonists who ruled Eelam, the Portuguese were the most brutal when it came to the Saivaism. They occupied Lanka from 1505 to 1658 AD. During this time they destroyed all most all of the Siva temples in Eelam. To the Portuguese, whose purpose was spiritual and temporal conquest and which was consistent with the spirit of the age and ideas pervading in their homeland, the Saivaism and their temple posed a challenge to their mission and they had no sympathy or mercy towards it. Saivaism and the Saivites were subjected to some of the abominable atrocities, often verging to primitive savagery. It is believed that the Portuguese Governor of the Jaffna destroyed more than five hundred Hindu temples. In 1546 the King of Portugal in a letter to Viceroy of Goa - Jaffna came under his review - ordered that all idols be smashed and those practicing idolatry be severely punished. By 1620 , all traces of Hinduism in Tamil districts were wiped out, and most of the Jaffna population had converted in to Catholicism. Those staunch Saivites who refused to give in to the Portuguese moved to Vanni, resulting in a redistribution of the Jaffna population.

The Dutch - who succeeded the Portuguese – ruled Ceylon for almost 150 years from 1658. Though less violent than the Portuguese, they had their own selfish interests when it came to their religion. However, it was the British - who succeeded the Dutch - caused the most damage to Saivaism. It is ironic that though they were the least violent among all the colonists, they caused the most humiliation and damage to Saivaism. The damage done to Saivaism during the British era is irreparable.


British and Saivaism

The British adopted a shrewd and cunning plan to propagate Christianity in Eelam. They coerced the masses through inducement, employment, titles and land distribution. It was during the British era that Eelam Saivites mostly converted to Christianity voluntarily. Those who converted were directly and indirectly helped by the state. Though the main reason for such mass voluntary conversion was economic and social, part of the blame should be borne by the Saivites. Had Saivaism and the Saivites treated their economically and socially disadvantaged brothers and sisters (it is wrong to call them low castes) with respect and dignity, the impact of Christianity would have been minimal.

Saivites – many of who consider themselves to be brighter and intelligent than other races- was ignorant and slow to understand the impact of the British rule on Saivaism. This might be partly due to the fact that the British outwardly appeared somewhat tolerant towards Saivaism. However, the British gave a free hand to their Christian churches and missionaries to do the dirty work for them. Like a spider slowly and painstakingly spinning a web around its prey, these Christian organizations very systemically and methodically spun the web around those potentially easy targets of the Saivite population. These organizations established some of the best educational institutions in Eelam. However, the Saivites felt that these institutions were nothing but a scheme to thrust the ‘ bible’ on the throats of the Saivite population.


Messiah of Saivaism in Eelam - Arumuga Navalar

By the time the Saivites realized the dubious role of these Christian organizations and the state, irreparable damage had been done to Saivaism. The Saivites had neither any strategy nor solutions to fight this. This only resulted in deep anger and resentment, both against the British and Christianity.

The messiah who led the revival of Saivaism in Eelam was Arumugam – later to be known as Arumuga Navalar was. He was born on 18th December 1822. As a young man he mastered the tenets of Saiva Siddhanta. He was eloquent in his speech and writing. He became a lighting rod to the Saiva revival movement in Eelam. His main objective was the worship of the Siva – Lingam and the devotion to Periya Puranam- Life and works of the 64 Saiva Nayanmars that was rendered by Sekilar. Arumuga Navalar carried out a campaign for the rebuilding of those destroyed Saiva temples, and the recitation of the Thevarams in every temple. Arumuga Navalr died in 1879 at a young age of fifty-seven.

By the time Navalar died, the Saiva revival movement had got firmly entrenched in Eelam. After his demise, two sons of his brothers led the movement. In 1888, the ‘Saiva Paripalana Sabai ‘ was formed with a commitment to uphold the tenets of Saivaism. In 1890 it formed the first Hindu school – The Jaffna Hindu College. This movement was later led by such eminent personalities like the Ramanathan brothers and Shivapathasundaram – former principal of Victoria College.


Saivaism in Post British Era

When the British decided to grant Independence, the Saivites were thrilled. They thought that with the British gone they and their religion can reassert themselves in their ‘Siva Bhoomi’. However, to their dismay and horror Eelam faced political challenges from the majority – who were mainly Buddhists. It should be clearly understood here the conflict between Eelam and the Sinhala nation was mainly of a political nature. Until today, Buddhism has not posed any major threat to Saivaism in Eelam as Christianity had posed in the past and continues to do so. This is mainly because there is not much ideological differences between the Hinduism and Buddhism.

Like the Saivites and the Vaishnavites joining hands to fight their common enemy-Jainism - the Saivites and the Christians have temporarily formed an alliance in their fight against the Sinhala nation. What will happen to this alliance once the threat of the Sinhala nation disappears with the birth of an Independent Eelam?


White warriors of 'Jaffna' Saivaism

Today, the protection and propagation of this so-called ‘ Jaffna ‘ Saivaism is neither carried out nor fought for in Eelam. It is carried out from the beautiful volcanic island of Kauai – one of the smaller islands of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. The man is in charge of this mission is none other than a seventy five year old white American known as Sadguru Subramanya Swami. He was born in Oakland, California and became the premier danseur of the San Francisco ballet by the age of 19. Renouncing the world at the height of his career, he traveled to Eelam in the quest of absolute truth. Here he met his Satguru, Yogar Swami. Yogar Swami initiated him and is believed to have given a tremendous slap on the back of this young American to spread Saivaism throughout the world- especially in America. He established his Saiva Siddhanta Ashram in Kauai in 1970. Subramanya Swami is believed to be the 162nd satguru of a famous Saiva Paramparai( lineage) that had many Saiva siddhas - The Nandinatha Sampradaya’s Kailasa Paramparai. His predecessor was Yogar Swami. The Paramparai also includes such illustrious Saiva siddhas like Chellapa Swami (1840-1915), Kadai Swami (1804-1891), Rishi (1770-1840 BC) and Thirumular (2100 BC).

It is believed that Kauai is a very sacred land not only to the locals but also to Saivites. Manikavasagar - late eighth century Nayanar - had sung about Kauai in one of his thevarams as “ Kaavail pathil valum Sivane “. Many Saivites interpret this as “the Lord Siva who resides in Kauai.” It is also believed that Subramuniya Swami had a vision one night in the early 1970 about Lord Siva residing near his ashram in the form of a Siva lingam. Next morning with the help of some swamis, they started to clear thick jungle that surrounded the ashram . About three to fours later, to their amazement, they found a perfect black Siva lingam buried in a thick bush. Even today, this Siva lingam is preserved at the same spot where it was found 30 years ago, and special poojas are conducted every day.

One is stunned as you enter the Kauai Ashram. For a moment you wonder whether you are in a small Jaffna village. Every aspect of this Ashram is based on and conducted in accordance with  traditional Jaffna Saiva practices. The Ashram has about 30 monks- mostly whites- who all have ‘Jaffna ‘ sounding names. This temple also possesses the largest crystal lingam in the world. Currently, the Satguru is busy with the building of an all granite Temple – second only to the Thanjai Periya Kovil built by Raja Raja Cholan. The whole temple is built in a suburb of Bangalore/ India , and will be shipped to Kauai in containers. The temple will be finished in 2007.


Will Saivaism dominate in an independent Eelam?

The biggest challenge and instability to an independent Eelam will not come from outside but within Eelam. This will mainly come in the form of religious misunderstanding and differences. Since Christianity will be second to Saivaism in Eelam, most of the misunderstandings would result due to the conflict between these two groups. It will be only natural for the Saivites to thrust their influence and dominate in a post-independent Eelam. Many of the Saivites have this deep seated anger and resentment against Christianity, and will be anxiously looking for an opportunity to settle of their old animosities in forceful and unjustified ways. They will be suspicious and skeptical about the role of the Christian organizations.

Many of these staunch Saivites feel that they and their religion had suffered tremendously due the past behavior and attitude of Christianity in Eelam. In fact they have always considered Christianity to be a much bigger threat to Saivaism than Buddhism or for that matter Islam. They would certainly want some of these injustices rectified- rightly or wrongly- in an independent Eelam.

Their main anger and grouse comes from some of the underhand and cunning activities of the Christian missionaries in conversion and forcefully thrusting their bible on Saivites in private schools. I still vividly recall how a Colombo – based uncle of mine dealt with the Christians. He would stay out side his house every Sunday with his walking stick. It was usual for the Christian groups to do their preaching (and their conversion) on this day. As these Christian groups approached his house, he would raise his walking stick and chase them away.

Eelam should have firm and concrete plans to stem and stop the overwhelming dominance the Saivites would have in Eelam. A clear message should be sent to them early that Eelam should not only be a ‘Siva Bhoomi’ but a sacred land for all other religions. Eelam should treat and respect all other religions - Christianity, Islam and Buddhism - in an equal way. Saivites have nothing to fear from other religions - mainly in the form of conversions- if they treat their socially and economically disadvantaged people with respect and dignity. Under no circumstances should the Saivites  be given a free reign. Saivites of Eelam should never be allowed to turn themselves into another fanatical “ Khaki ‘ wearing Indian Hindu organization like the RSS.

Like wise other religious groups - mainly Christianity- should have no hidden agenda in Eelam. One of the most irritating and annoying things that most of the Christian churches and groups do is to organize the so-called youth camps and social gatherings. Many Saivites consider these programs nothing but a form of bribery to convert socially innocent and economically vulnerable young Saivites boys and girls. Christian groups should understand that all are god’s children and not simply those belonging to Christianity. It is wrong to play with the emotions of a particular person or group who are either economically or socially disadvantaged in a society.

Likewise Eelam should also protect and preserve the other minority religions - Islam and Buddhism. They should be given equal status in the constitution. Their rights and practices should be protected. All religions can coexist peacefully in an independent Eelam. This is crucial for the very survival of Eelam. If there is no religious peace in Eelam, it will only play in to the hands of our enemies - Sinhala Nation.

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