The Importance of Pancharatra Studies
(with respect to Madhva’s Philosophy)

Prof. SrinivasaVarakhedi.


To the students and scholars of Madhva Vedanta, it is indeed well known that the major difficulty lies with the tracing of resources of Madhva’s quotations cited in his Bhashya and other works. The question of authenticity of the sources cited by Madhva was first time raised by Appaya Dikshita, after 300 years after Madhva. All the objections of AD, were efficiently set right by Vijayeendra Tirtha – one of his contemporary Maadhva exponents.

For the three centuries after Madhva, none is recorded to have encountered with such  hasty weapons. The sources where Madhva quotes from, were not unknown to contemporary scholars i.e., Shobhana Bhatta (Padmanabha Tirtha), Trivikrama Pandita and others, who later followed and admitted Madhva’s doctrines after a thorough deliberation. Probably those sources were available then and existing in the tradition of study, which might be ceased to continue to 300 years. Hence, the germination of such baseless charges took place.

And again, now the same path is tread by Mesquita Roque. For the same reason, once again this area has drew the attention of scholars worldwide. Recently, one successful attempt is made by Shrisha Rao in guidance of Mm. Dr.B.N.K.Sharma to answer some of Mesquita’s allegations.

In the same context, Dr.Sharma throw a light on the huge corpus of available Pa~ncaraatra Texts, which were believed to be last to us. PR texts are the prominent sources of Maadhva Philosophy, many of which are still unfortunately left out in the dark room of MS libraries.

We getting greatly inspired by Dr.Sharma’s write ups, started to trace out whereabouts of the PRs keeping Madhva’s quotations and tenets in view. In our way, we found some unforeseen faces of PRs, unexplored wealth of knowledge.

In this report we intend to present the importance of PRs, which is first of all necessary, we feel, to put forth in the community of scholars.

[ Note: kindly send your feedback and corrections if any found. We accept your valuable suggestions and appraisals with an open heart.]

1.1. General introduction to Pa~ncaraatras.

Paa~ncaraatras (PR) are the texts which have the subordinate position next only to Vedas, MahaaBharata (MB) and Bhaagavata (Bh). According to the Vedic hierarchy, Vedas are the higher most authority on Spiritual Knowledge[i]. The place after the Vedas is filled by MahaaBhaarata. Then comes the Bhaagavata. The very next position is occupied by P-texts (PRs). Thus PRs are considered as one among the highest authorities on Spiritual Knowledge. And the validity of PRs is unassailed as PRs are not only parasites to Vedas[ii], but also considered the utterances of Lord Narayana[iii].

According to Madhva, PRs are as authority as Vedas[iv], as they are produced by Lord himself.

Unlike the MB and Bh, PRs are of a large mass of literature. According to the traditional belief, PRs together have One and half Crore granthas. In 1919, F.Otto Schrader (OtS) (German Scholar), who was the then Director of the Adyar Library, Chennai, in the second decade of the last century, conducted the very first general survey of PRs. There were 215 PRs totally known to him. (App.1)

The second survey in 1968, by H. Daniel Smith (S), of Syracuse University, US, showed there were 288 PRs known, though out of them only 104 are available in MS form, and the rest of them were known by the later quotations and lists given in various texts. (App.2)

But still continuing further survey conducted by us {2001}, shows many more PRs known to us by later quotations of several philosophers i.e., Madhva, Yamuna and Vedanta Desika. (App.3).

Unfortunately most of them are last to us.


1.1.1. Topics of PRs.

Otto writes mostly the PRs preach the daily conduct and rituals of life in houses, temples to be observed by all i.e., Bachelors, Householders, Monks and Ascetics. He has listed out some important tenets of PRs[v].

Most of the scholars of west and east believe it. But, we trust that these are the Prima facie meanings of the PRs.

Prominent philosophers i.e., Yamuna, Ramanuja, Madhva and Vedanta Desika quote PRs in support of their doctrines. In the age, which spans from 10th century to 13th century, is called as `PRs age’ because in this period the texts of PRs found their highest position.

Thus, PRs are not to be underestimated as ordinary taantric literature. They must be regarded as authorities as Vedas.


1.1.2. Origin of the PRs.

Regarding PRs’ origin it is said that most of the PRs are the works of the Sages in times, though the matters they preach, is of God Naaraayan.a (N). But according to Madhvaacaarya (M), each and every text of PRs, which he has quoted in his works, has come out from the Mouth of N[vi].

It is comprehended by various sources that PRs are the compositions of Sages of different ages. However, the source of all these samhitaas is one, which was originated from Lord N[vii].

1.1.2. Name of PRs.

The very name of PRs is amusing. According to one tradition, N taught PRs to different gods like Caturmukha Brahman etc. and to the Sages Naarada etc. in 5 nights. Therefore the texts which are taught in five nights are called “Paa~ncaraatras”[viii].

According to Naarada Pa~ncaratra, the word `raatram’ denotes `knowledge’. The knowledge is fivefold. Hence, this is named as `pa~caraatram’[ix].

Explaing the fivefold knowledge Ahirbudhnya Samhitaa gives another noteworthy meaning of `pa~caraatram’[x]. Lord Vishnu has five forms. The texts which explain these five forms of Lord are called `Pa~caraatram’. There are so many such explanations are given in various `samhitas’.

There is a debate in total No of PRs, as they are said to have spaned about One and half Crore Granthas[xi]. The modern scholars do not believe in such claims.

The whole composition of PRs is ascribed to Lord Narayana, may be contents of which thereafter were abridged by later Sages[xii].

Different PRs got different names of Gods and Sages, because these PRs were taught by respective Gods and Sages to their disciples. It seems to us that there were thousands of PR sa.mhitaas separately taught by these Sages of different Vedic “Saakhaas in the same manner as their own Vedic “Saakhaas were taught[xiii]. It is evident as there are separate sa.mhitas of each Sage. This view is supported by a quotation of Brahmaa.nda by M in his Br.Ar.Up.Bhashya[xiv].

1.1.3. Validity and Authority of PRs

All Aacaaryas accepted these PRs as authority. Although “Sa.mkara criticizes some tenets of PR’s, by and large He accepted other tenets of PR’s that are not opponent to his doctrines. The commentators of “Sa.mkara have accepted the validity of PRs[xv] stating that PRs are authored by N solely. Recent controversies raised by Appayya Dikshita seem to be illogical, as it is in clear contradiction to his own preceeding Achryas i.e., Vacaspati and others. And Appayya did rise these objections not because he was a vedaantin, as S’ankara was. It is not unknown to the world of scholars that works like “Aagamapraamaan.ya” of Yamuna, and “Pa~ncaraatraraks’aa” of Vedanata Desika (VD) have efficiently refuted the views of their critics. Thus It is clear that PRs are the highest one authorities.

1.2. M’s philosophy is mainly based on PRs

We see that large corpus of quotations in M’s works is from PRs. It will be clear if we see the total number of works cited by M, and the number of PR’s in it (see appendix-1). Half of the 292 works cited by M, are PRs. Though some of them are not listed by O & S, It does not seem improper to think them as genuine PRs works as some of them are quoted by Yamuna, Ramnuja and Vedanta Deshiaka close contemporary philosophers to Madhva. Recently Dr.B.N.K.Sharma[xvi] claimed that the names of PRs quoted by Madhva that are unknown to others have been listed in the publication of Pa~craatra Parishodhana Parishad, Chennai. But, unfortunately we did not trace some of them in said publication as mentioned by Dr.Sharma.

1.2.1. Importance given to PRs by M

Whenever M counts the authoritative works, PRs are in third place. As we see

vedaadapi para.m cakre pa~ncama.m vedamuttamam/

bhaaratam pa~ncaraatra.m ca muularaamaaya.n.m tathaa//

(GB.1.1p. 2)

artho’yameva nikhilairapi vedavaakyaih.

raamaaya.naih. sahitabhaaratapa~ncaraatraih.


ityas’e.spuaraanebhya.h pa~ncraatrebhya eva ca/

bhaarataccaiva vedebhyao mahaaraamaaya.naadapi



ityeva “srutayao ‘”se.saa.h pa~ncraatramathaakhilam/

muularaamaaya.n.m caiva bhaarata.m smrtayo’khilaa.h//

vai.s.nvaani puraa.nani saa.mkhyayogau paraaupi/



As we see in all of these lists PRs are in either 2nd or 3rd places in the higherarchy. It shows the importance (next only to the vedas, and MB) given to PRs, by M. It is further supported by other facts.


It should also be noted that It appears to my mind that according to M, PRs are in a more good place, even compared to MB. It is evident from below given facts.


1) There is a mention of PR in BAU.(6-1-2) as “sloka, where as MB is mentioned in a general manner as Itihaasa.


2) Quotation from the Vaaraaha in AV. “iti giitaa ca tacchastrasa.mks’epa iti hiiritam” states the Giitaa is an abridged version of PRs.

3) Quotation from the Naaraaya.nasa.mhitaa

pa~ncaraatramrgaadyaas’c sarvameka.m puraa’bhavat/

muulaveda iti hyaakhyaa kaale krtayuge tadaa//” states that PRs existed eternally.


4) “Amitaak.sra.m pa~ncaraatra.m vidyetyaahurmanii.s.nah./

mitaak.sra.m s’lokavaacyamubhaya.m veda iiryate//“.


1.2.2. PR’s validity established by M

M did not write a separate treatise to establish the validity of PR’s. Apparently that issue was, more or less, settled by by Yamuna in Aagamapraamaan.ya. But he touched this matter twice, once in Bra.Suu.Bhaa. 1-1-3, and again in A.Vyaa. 2-2-12.

1) The Quotation of Ma.Bhaa. in Bra.Suu.Bhaa.1-1-3[xvii] is given here with detailed translation.

Janamejaya asks

Please explain! Whether Saam.khya, Yoga, Pas’upata, and Veda+Aaran.yaka are of one opinion! Or not!

Vai”smpaayana explaines

All these are of different opinion. Saam.khya is taught by Kapila, Hiran.yagarbha is the preacher of Yoga, Pas’upata is preached by S’iva, while Pancaraatra is told by N himself. Pancaraatra excels in all these sciences.

Here Janmejaya asked whether all these are one or not?. But the Sage answers these are different. Instead of answering, “vedaara.nyaka is different from Saa.mkhya, Yoga, Pas’upata”, he is stating “Pa~ncaraatra excels among them. This implies “Pa~ncaraatra and Vedaara.nyaka are one, and teaching one thing”. In this way Ma.Bhaa. says “pa~ncaraatra is an authority, unlike Saam.khya, Yoga, Paa”supata.

2) In A.Vyaa. (2-2-12)[xviii] M says,

1) “Those, who think this 2-2-12 adhikaran.a is to refute the validity of PR’s, are contradicted to Ma.Bhaa., as Ma.Bhaa. Clearly states, “PR is authoritative”.

2) And Vaaraaha says, “The Giitaa is a summury of PR. God only can be seen by the studies of Vedas and PRs”.

3) “Sruti (Br.Aa.U.6-1-2) tells “The “Slokas, i.e. PRs are authority”.

4) “God should be meditated through Vedas and PRs” “PRs and Vedas are one scince, manifested as two”.

All these texts are showing us PRs are Valid. So how can one refute the validity of PRs.

And what is the fault here “paramakaara.naat parabrahmabhuutaat Vaasudevaat naama jiivo jaayate; sa.mkar.s.naat pradyumnasa~njna.m mano jaayate; tasmadaniruddhasa~nj~no’ha.mkaaro jaayate” (Paramasamhitaa.[Pa.Sa.m]).

As the generation of jiiva is described here (“J~nota eva” 2-3-11, BS.) also. The generation of Jiiva who was not before, is not told in PRs also. “Jiiva travels in the sa.msaara, caught by eternal karma, by the order of God” It is the tenet of PRs. The internality of Jiiva is not told in PRs.

The meaning of the sentence of Pa.Sam. is like this…” The S’es.a who is the god of jiiva, namely Sam.kars.n.a is generated by God. Then Kaama the god of mind, namely Pradyumna is generated by Sam.kars.n.a.”.

And it can also be said “Lord himself took four Vyuuharuupa in name of Sam.kars.n.a etc”.

Hence the refutation of validity of PRs which is a mere product of furious minds, is not teneble.

1.2.3. Various quotations from PRs

According to our estimation, out of 292+ works, nearly 75 are PRs. This total is worked out after excluding the suspected works. If we take other suspected works as PRs, It will be more than 1/3 of the 292 works. In GB the first work of M, we find 18 PRs cited in the total of 64 works. The number increased further in later works.

It is our hypothesis that the quotations like naaradiiye, skaande, mahaakaurme, vaaraahe,, brahmavaivarte, and padme etc., probably refer to PR texts of that respective name. We have seen such style of quoting in works of Yamuna and Vedanta Deshika. While quoting `Paadmasmhita’, VD quotes it simply by name `paadme….’ etc.. And Acarya Madhva too quotes `Pravrttasamhita’ as `pravrtta’ and similarly  `Mularamayana’ as `Maharamayana’.

There are enough indications if we see the sarvamuula carefully. Whenever M is quoting from a, he has given an adjective to that text, as we see in following contexts Aaditya (GB.p.29) or skaande “saive, padme “saive (GB.p.19). When he is quoting the paadma and skaanda (PR) he simply quotes it as paadme, skaande (GBp.36).

If he is quoting the same text in both occasions, he could have quoted it as paadme, and not as padme “saive. Even if we think that  padme “saive is to show that even in a shivite work is extolled as Paramount  it is evidently useless, as we know the paadma is a as it belongs to that group.

It is more evident in the case of He could have cited it simply as Aaditye, to refer But he chose to call it as mostly to differentiate it from other PRs quoted.

And the priority given to PRs in all contexts, support this fact.

Hence those who criticized M, for citing the non-existing verses from, and, those who defended this action are proved to be left behind the curtain of ignorance.

One more thing is to be noted here that, all the quotations from paadma, skaanda, and gaaru.da seem to be clear-cut, where as the general pura.nic style is mostly confusion, except those of MBh, and Bh.

Thus we can accept that unless stated as a a, or otherwise, all cited works are the PRs. Sometime We get the support of lists of O & S, sometimes not, as it is evident, that the lists are not comprehensive, as stated earlier.


1.3. Some important tenets M’s Philosophy found in PRs

It is already seen in last pages, some of the important contributions of M’s Philosophy to the world are found in PRs. Jiiva-traividhya,,, are all found in PRs.

It is interesting to note that M’s first teaching of jiiva-traividhya is with a quotation from prakaa”sasa.mhitaa (PS) (GT.p.45). Still it is available in PS, even now, in a fragment of PS, with only two pa.talas, though the original verses are not traced.

And s.r.tivicaara, li”ngadehavicaara, saak.sivicaara are all found in PS. Surely much of M’s philosophy is found PRs, if we dig the whole texts of PRs.

If we come to M’s other works related to rituals like `tantrasaara’, no doubt, sources could be traced out in PRs with no difficulty.

Most of Madhva’s quotations in Bhagavata-taatparya, are from various samhitaas of PRs. Similarly the area of epistemology dealt by Madhva is greatly influenced by PRs.


  1. Studies already conducted

There were not many sa.mhitaas were available in print at the dawn of last century. Only a few PRs were printed. Most PRs were restricted to the pockets of Tamil Country.

2.1. First Servey

The first ever man to survey the available PRs, and to make a systematic survey and philosophical study of PRs was the F.Otto Schrader. When Adyar Library (AL) was bringing the edition of ahirbudhnya sa.mhitaa, German indologist, Otto was working as the Dierector of the AL and he wrote the book “Introduction to Pa~caraatra and ahirbudhnya sa.mhitaa ” in 1919.

At the beginning of the Ist world war, Otto was detained in Aurangabad, as he was of Germany, which was waging the war with British. But, fortunately, he was able to write the Introduction due to the courtesy of Jail authorities, as he had collected all the materials necessary to write the Introduction. His Introduction was printed in 1919, but soon he had to leave the country for Motherland.

In his book he gave the synopsis of sa.mhitaa-lists found in the kapi~jala, paadma,, haya”siir.s, and According to those lists the total number of the PRs came to 215 (210+5 with some PRs were available in MSs). Among them only 23 texts were available in MSs, and upto 1919, only 9 PRs were in print.

In his book, he also dealt with compehensible theory of PRs, their nature, origins, authors, contents etc.

It is unfortunate that such a man was not able to work more on PRs, for reasons, completely other than academic ones.


2.2. Second Servey

The next man to deal with PRs after long pause is the H. Daniel Smith (S). Inspired by the monumental work of O, he treaded the path shown by O. Fortunately he did more work than O’s. felicitated by the liberal scholarships of the US varsities.

S was working as the professor of religion in the Syracuse University, New York[xix].

His works are these—

1) Paa~caraatrapraasaadasaadhana (1963), which dealt with various aspects of the Temple building. It was his Doctoral theses, which comprised note from unpublished works.

2) Paa~caraatra nuulvi.lakkam (1967), which dealt, exclusively, with PR literature. All the available works of PRs were surveyed, and their contents (adhyaaya-wise) were summarized. It dealt with 104 sa.mhitaas, which were available in different MS libraries. Besides it included a good synopsis of sa.mhitaa lists found in kapi~jala, j~naanam.rtasaara, paadma, paarame”svara, puru.sottama, bhaaradvaaja, maarka.deya, vi”svaamitra, vi”s.nutantra, haya”siir.s, and mahe”svartantra. This synopsis also included some works quoted by Utpala[xx] (U) one of leading Kashmiri Taantriks. But apparently this synopsis left out some texts quoted by M and VD. This work is the tamil translation of the original notes of S in English, by K.K.A. Venakatachary. Original notes are not available to us.

3) Then came “Source Book of Iconography of Sri Vaishnavism”, which dealt with iconography in 1969.

4) The last of S’s work is the “A descriptive bibliography of the printed texts of Pancaraatraagama” in two parts (1975,1980). First part of this book dealt with a detailed summary (adhyaaya-wise) of 30 printed works of PRs, while the second volume served as index or first volume(GOS.168).

Besides these books, The “Paancaraatra Parishodhana Parishat”, which he founded with KKAV and others, in Madras, published a critical edition of the Paadmasa.mhitaa, jointly edited by Seetha Padmanabhan and R N Sampath[xxi].

2.3 Other Studies

Others who worked on PR are a few like Vrajavallabha Dwivedi who edited saattvatasa.mhitaa with com of A.lasinga Bha.t.ta, and wrote vai.s.navaagamavimar”sa ; Lakshmi Narasimha Bhatta who edited vi.svaksenasa.mhitaa and paa~caraatrapraamaa.nya (of Uttamuru Veeraraghvacharya)[xxii] ; P B Ananthacharya of ii”svaras.mhitaa ; Yatiraraja Sampatkuamaraswamy of Melkottai ; Parthasarathy Iyengar etc.(see appendix of the printed texts of PR). There are many other scholars, who studied PRs. But, many of them relied upon previous inventions of O or DS group.


2.3. Conclusion

Thus, we strongly urge the scholars of our system, not to fail to notice our recommendations on the studies to be conducted on PRs literature. As it is described, PRs play an important role in Maadhva Philosophy and a gigantic collection that are ignored for the centuries in Maadhva traditional studies of philosophical sources.


[i] rgaadyaa bhaarata.m caiva pa~ncaraatramathaakhilam |

muularaamaaya.n.m caiva caitadaatmakam// Vi.Ta.Ni.

[ii] vedamekaayanam naama vedaanaam shirasi sthitam |

tadarthakam pa~caraatram moks”dam tatkriyaavataam || Sriprashna.Sam 2-38.

[iii] paa~caraatrasya krtsnasya vaktaa svayam |  MB.Santi Parv. 359-65.

[iv] “vedaadapi para.m cakre pa~ncama.m vedamuttamam/

bhaaratam pa~ncaraatra.m ca muularaamaaya.n.m tathaa//” (GB.1.1p. 2)

[v] See Pg 30. Introduction to Paa~ncaraatra, published by ALRC, Chennai, in 1995.


[vii] See Pg 9. Naradiya Sam. Pub. By  RSV Titupati, in 1959.

[viii] Pa~caapi prthagekaikam divaaraatram jagatprabhu.h |

adhyaapayaamaasa yata.h………

……………… || Ishvara.Sam.

[ix]  raatram ca j~naanavacanam j~naanam pa~cavidham smrtam |

tenedam pa~caraatram hi pravadanti maniis”.n.h || Narada.Pa.Sam. 1-44.

[x] tat para-vyuuha-vibhava-svabhaavaadiniruupa.nam |

pa~caraatraahvayam tantram moks”aikaphalalaks”a.nam || Ahi.Sam. 11-63.

[xi] Saardha-kotipramaa.nena kathitam tasya vish.nunaa |

raatribhi.h pa~cabhi.h sarvam pa~caraatramata.h srtam || Markandeya.Sam.

[xii] See yaa”stottarashataadhyaayaa mahatii vis”s.nusamhitaa |

tatroktaanam tu sarve”saamrthaanaamiha sa.mgraha.h || Vishnu. Sam. 1-30.

[xiii] Yathaa tu vedavrks”asya shaakhaabhedaa hyanekasha.h |

tathaa bhedaa.h samaakhyaataa.h pa~caraatrasya suuribhi.h || Vishnu.Sam. 2-22/23.

[xiv] p. 323 Amitaak.sara.m Pa~ncaraatram.

[xv]  Buddhipuurvakrti.h pa~caraatram nishvasitam shruti.h |

tena jiivajanistatra siddhaa gau.nii niyamyate || kalpataru, Sh.Bh. 2-2-42.

[xvi] See `My latest four Research Papers’ by Dr.BNKS pub in 2001.

[xvii] “saa.mkhyam yoga.h paashupatam vedaara.nyakameva ca” ityaarabhya pa~caraatrasyaiva praamaa.nyamuktamitar’saam

bhinnamatatvam pradarshya mokxadharme”svapi. B.S.Bh of Madhva 1-1-3.

[xviii]  Pa~caraatrani”shedhaarthametaanyaacaxate yadi |

sutraa.nyativiruddham tad yata aaha sa bhaarate ||

pa~caraatrasya krtsnasya vaktaa svayam |

j~naanehvateshu raajendra sarveshvetad vishi”shyate ||

pa~caraatravido ye tu yathaakramaparaa nrpa |

ekaantabhaavopagataa vaasudevam vishanti te ||

iti giitaa ca tacchaastrasa.mkshepa iti hiiritam |

vedena bhaktyaa yaj~nena caiva hi ||

drshyo.aha.m naanyathaa drshyo varshakotishatairapi |

iti vaaraahavacanam shlokaa iti vacah shrutau ||

vedaishca pa~caraatraishca dhyeyo para.h |

pa~caraatra~ca vedaashca vidyaikaiva dvidheyate ||


yadi vidyaaccaturvedaanitivad vedapura.nam |

pa~caraatraaditi kuto dvesha.h shaandilyavartane ||

ata.h paramashaastrorudveshhadyditamaasurai.h |

duushha.nam pa~caraatrasya viixaayaamapi na xamam ||  anu.Vyaa. 2-2-12.

[xix]  He is reachable at (Syracuse, NY – USA).

[xx] We found that some of works quoted by Madhva i.e., “.Shaa.du.nya”, are mentioned by Utpala.

See `Vaish.navaagamavimarsha.h’ by prof. Vrajavallabha Dvivedi,

published by Sampurnananda Sanskrit University in 1997.

[xxi]  See My latest four research papers by Dr.BNK.Sahrma, 2001.

[xxii] Pub. by RSVP, Tpt, in 1991.