Textual traditions and religious identities in the Pāñcarātra
Leach, Robert Alexander Chapman
In this thesis I provide a study of the distinct traditions within the Pāñcarātra, concentrating especially on the ways in which these traditions’ identities were formed by their textual allegiances. In Chapter One, I show that the so-called “three jewels” of the Pāñcarātra scriptural canon were actually only considered as such by a minority of Pāñcarātrikas, and that this tradition arose much later than is commonly supposed. In Chapter Two I undertake a historical survey of the different groups within the Pāñcarātra as they are presented in the textual sources. In Chapter Three I argue that the tradition of the “three jewels” emerged within one of these groups, and that its eventual acceptance by other Pāñcarātrikas coincided with a decline in the “sectarianism” which had characterised relations between two Pāñcarātra traditions in particular. One of the outcomes of this decline, I argue, was the integration of previously distinct Pāñcarātrika identities, and the formation of the Pāñcarātra scriptural canon. In Chapters Four and Five I undertake a closer historical analysis of these two major South Indian Pāñcarātra traditions, focussing especially on the ways in which they sought to establish their legitimacy through being connected with texts which were situated outside of the Pāñcarātra scriptural corpus. As I show in a comparative study in Chapter Six, such strategies were also used by other Pāñcarātrikas who appealed to the authority of the Nārāyaṇīya section of the Mahābhārata. In Chapter Seven, I study the emergence of a distinct ‘Pañcarātra’ identity in this text, and argue for its dependence on the appropriation and synthesis of other religious identities. In Chapters Eight and Nine, I address the merging of Pāñcarātrika identities in South India nearly a millennium later. Here I argue that we are now in a better position to explain the decline of the sectarian culture which had dominated certain South Indian Pāñcarātra contexts, and the question of why one of the two major South Indian Pāñcarātra traditions appears to have disappeared.