Path to Siva: A Catechism for Youth

20 What Are Our Holy Scriptures?§


A devout Hindu holds a well-worn text, showing he has chanted these verses thousands of times. In front is a copper pot filled with water blessed & adorned with flowers and mango leaves.§


Our holiest texts are the Vedas and the many Agamas. These large collections of religious books are called shruti, “that which is heard.” This means they were revealed by God to Indian rishis long, long ago. For the Vedas this possibly occurred more than 6,000 years ago. For many centuries they were chanted from memory, then finally written down in the Sanskrit language. The Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva are the four Vedas. Each has a section on hymns, rites, interpretation and philosophy. Many of the mantras chanted during temple worship are from the Vedas. The Upanishads are the most popular and mystical part of the Vedas. The Agamas date back about 2,000 years and are also in Sanskrit. Each major Hindu lineage has its own Agamas. There are 28 main Saiva Siddhanta Agamas, each with four sections. The Agamas provide knowledge in temple design and construction, daily worship and festivals. They also provide teaching on meditation and Saiva philosophy. The Vedas have been published in many languages, but the Agamas are not yet widely known. In addition to the Vedas and Agamas, Saiva Siddhanta has thousands of sacred books and songs. These comprise a vast body of secondary scriptures called smriti, many of which are written in the Tamil language. A popular smriti text is the Tirumurai, a twelve-book collection of hymns composed by numerous Saivite saints. Most important among these is the Tirumantiram, a yogic treatise by Rishi Tirumular, recording the Saiva tenets in 3,047 verses. Tirumantiram is prized for expressing a unified understanding of Siddhanta and Vedanta. Another important smriti text is the Tirukural, containing 1,330 couplets by the weaver saint Tiruvalluvar. Tirukural, one of the world’s greatest ethical scriptures, is sworn on in South Indian courts of law. We also regard the writings of our satgurus as scripture.§


GURUDEVA: If you desire to find the answer to any question intently enough, you can find the answer within yourself, or you can find it in our holy scriptures or books of wisdom.§