Vaisnava Agamas

Definition - What does Vaisnava Agamas mean?

The Vaisnava Agamas are Hindu religious texts that cover theoretical and practical aspects of worship for those who believe in the philosophy of Vaishnavism, one of the classical schools of Hinduism. There are 215 Vaisnava Agamas. The other two main divisions of agamas are the Saiva Agamas (Saivism) and the Sakta Agamas (Saktism).

The agamas, in general, cover knowledge (jnana), yoga, esoteric rituals (kriyas), exoteric worship (charyas). More specifically, they include information about mantras, tantras, yantras, meditation, social rules, mysticism, and even details about temple-building and holding religious festivals.

Yogapedia explains Vaisnava Agamas

Agamas are non-Vedic, but are not incompatible with the Vedas, the ancient Hindu texts. Also called the Pancharatra Samhitas (“Five Nights”), the Vaisnava Agamas feature Vishnu as the supreme deity in the forms of Narayana and Vasudeva. Devotion to Vishnu is presented as the path to liberation from the cycle of reincarnation.

The Vaisnava Agamas are subdivided into four categories:

  • Vaikhanasa
  • Pancharatra
  • Pratishthasara
  • Vijnanalalita

The "Pancharatra Agama" is typically considered the most authoritative of the Vaisnava Agamas, but some believe that the "Vaikhanasa Agama" is the oldest and the one from which the other agamas derived their information. Traditionally, it is believed that the "Vaikhanasa Agama" was compiled with the guidance of Vaikhanasa, a sage of the early Vedic era.

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