Ahirbudhnya Samhita

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The Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitā belongs to the Pancharatra religion, is a Vaishnava tantrika composition, and was composed possibly over several centuries within the 1st millennium of the Common Era, after 300 CE.[1][2] Ahirbudhnya-Saṃhitā literally means a compendium (samhita) of the serpent-from-the-depths (from ahi for serpent and budhna for bottom / root),[2][3] it is now practically extinct, with few remnants preserved in southern India, though it was once cultivated in diverse places, including Kashmir, Orissa and Mysore.[1]



In the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Vishnu emanated in 39 different forms;[4] the Samhita is characteristic for its concept of Sudarshana. It provides mantras for Shakti and Sudarshana, and details the method of worship of the multi-armed Sudarshana, its chapters include explanations on the origin of astras (weapons), anga (mantras), Vyuhas, sounds, and diseases, how to make Sudarshana Purusha appear, how to resist divine weapons and black magic, and provides method for making and worshipping the Sudarshana Yantra. The Ahirbudhnya Samhita is the source of Taraka Mantra, Narasimhanustubha Mantra, three occult alphabets, Sashtitantra and select astra mantras, it also mentions the Purusha Sukta. The four Vyuhas in this samhita are Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.[5]

As with other samhitas, Ahirbudhnya provides its views on creation, siddhantas, senses, bondage and liberation, and rationale of avatars. There are compositions on rakshas, yantras and yoga, it mentions castes and periods of life, interdependence of two higher castes, and provides its characterization of the ideal purohita, the Mahashanti Karman. Besides the story of Madhu and Kaitabha, the Ahirbudhnya details stories of nine personages, namely, Manishekhara, Kasiraja, Shrutakirti, Kushadhvaja, Muktapida, Vishala, Sunanda, Chitrashekhara, and Kirtimalin.[1]

Another characteristic of the Ahirbudhayna Samhita is that it parallels descriptions of philosophical systems found in the Mokshadharma in which Samkhya is mentioned with four other systems, that is, Vedas, Yoga, Pancharatra (satvata) and Pashupata;[6] the Sashtitantra of Ahirbudhnya is close to the Samkhya representation of brahman as the ultimate principle, shakti as synonym for prakriti, with a prominent description of kala (time).[2] A note on yoga is attributed to Hiranyagarbha, who in Shvetashvatara Upanishad is identified with Kapila, though Ahirbudhnya itself makes no such identification.[2] Another feature of the Ahirbudhnya is that the opening line of Yogasutra appears in the Sashtitantra of Ahirbudhnya;[6] the Ahirbudhnya Samhita describes Kundalini Yoga with its chakras.[1]

Concept of caste[edit]

In the Ahirbudhnya concept of caste, in the Krta yuga, a pure group descends from Pradyumna. and a mixed group from Aniruddha and Brahman. However, Manus pass from Pradyumna's care to Aniruddha, with their withdrawal into Aniruddha accompanied by pralaya; the pure beings are Anagamins and Sakrdagamins of Buddhism who owing to their advanced stage of liberation return for one or two lives only. At the end of Krta yuga, Manu's descendants begin to deteriorate; while the Brahman are filled with better ones among the mixed specimen, until the Kali age when reincarnation becomes possible for everyone; the 400 manavas of Ahirbudhnya become 800 Vishnus of Mahasanatkumara Samhita each of whom is a chieftain (nayaka) of 1000 subjects each, located in 8 regions. But among the 800 Vishnus there are only 300 twice-born manavas, while the original group of Shudras are replaced by 5 mixed groups to eliminate Shudra males altogether. Names are given for each loka having descendants from permutations between mothers and fathers of all 4 varnas, with the samhita noting that innumerable Vishnus reside in Kapila-loka.[1] Notably, the text positions Anagamins and Sakrdagamins of Buddhism as descendants of Pradyumna.


Schrader notes the general trend of Pancharatra is non-advaitic. Though a verse is found in the Padma Tantra where the Lord says to Brahman that there is no difference between the Lord and the liberated soul, pluralism is maintained with the Lord reinstating that "liberated souls become like me except for governance of the world". While Lakshmi Tantra puts Shri at par with Vishnu, the Ahirbudhnya Samhita puts forth an ambivalent position where the lord and his shakti are inseparable, yet not equal;[7] the Ahirbudhnya recognizes one of the eleven Rudras; that is Shiva himself in his Satvik form, in the form of a teacher. In the Veda ahi budhna (serpent of the bottom) is an atmospheric god who Schrader says merged with Rudra-Siva (Pashupati); with Ahi Budhanya in later vedic texts connected to Agni Grahapatya, suggesting this was a benevolent being and not the malevolent Ahi Vritra. Ahirbudhnya and Aja-Ekapada had their share of allocated ghriya (Grihyasutra) rituals. In later puranic literature, Ahirbudhnaya becomes one of the 11 Rudras.[3]

Ahirbudhnya Samhita was a Bhagavata text, in which the conceptions of Sudarshana as Ayudhapurusha and Chakravartin were invoked; as per the Samhita, a king who worships Chakravarti inside the Sudarshana Chakra attains the Chakravartin rank; a concept which according to VS Agarwala was new and helped the Bhagavatas to use religious tenets in influencing political thought and state.[8][9]

Extinct samhitas[edit]

In the 12th chapter of Ahirbudhnya Samhita, 10 Samhitas are mentioned, namely Bhagavat Samhita, Vidya Samhita, Karma Samhita and seven other samhitas all of which are now extinct (non-surviving). Additionally, tantras mentioned in Ahirbudhnya such as Pati tantra, Pasu tantra, Pasa tantra from the Satvata and Pashupata religion are also extinct; though the Sattvata Samhita survives. A small portion of Ahirbudhnya Samhita is available in Telugu.[1]

Inaccessible samhitas[edit]

Among the inaccessible (not easily available) samhitas of Pancharatra, documented by Schrader for surviving copies found in different places are:[1]

  • Isvara Samhita (in Telugu from Mysore)
  • Kapinjala Samhita (in Telugu from Thirukkovalur)
  • Parashara Samhita (in Telugu from Bangalore)
  • Padma Tantra (in Telugu from Mysore)
  • Brihad Brahma Samhita (in Telugu from Thirupati)
  • Bharadvaja Samhita (in Telugu from Mysore)
  • Lakshmi Tantra (in Telugu from Mysore)
  • Vishnutilaka (in Telugu from Bangalore)
  • Sriprasna Samhita (in Grantha from Kumbakonam)
  • Sattvata Samhita (in Devanagari from Conjeevaram).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Schrader, Friedrich Otto (2012). Introduction to the Pañcaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita. Hardpress. p. ix-x, 2, 13, 18, 85–86, 91–92, 95, 97, 99. ISBN 129044112X.
  2. ^ a b c d Burley, Mikel (2007). Classical Samkhya and Yoga: An Indian Metaphysics of Experience. Volume 3 of Routledge Hindu Studies Series. Routledge. pp. 21–22, 27–28. ISBN 1134159781.
  3. ^ a b Sukumari Bhattacharji, (1988). The Indian Theogony: A Comparative Study of Indian Mythology from the Vedas to the Purāṇas, p.150. CUP Archive
  4. ^ Muralidhar Mohanty, (2003). Origin and development of Viṣṇu cult, p.105. Pratibha Prakashan. ISBN 8177020633
  5. ^ Bahadur Chand Chhabra, 2008. Findings in Indian archaeology, p.21. Sundeep Prakashan. ISBN 8185067767
  6. ^ a b Larson, Gerald J; Bhattacharya, Ram S (2014). The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Volume 4 of Princeton Legacy Library. Princeton University Press. p. 126. ISBN 1400853532.
  7. ^ Pratap Kumar P.,(1997). The Goddess Lakṣmī: The Divine Consort in South Indian Vaiṣṇava Tradition, p.135. Volume 95 of AAR Academy Series. Scholars Press. ISBN 0788501992
  8. ^ Wayne Edison Begley. (1973). Viṣṇu's flaming wheel: the iconography of the Sudarśana-cakra, p.65. Volume= 27 of Monographs on archaeology and fine arts.New York University Press
  9. ^ Śrīrāma Goyala, (1967). A history of the Imperial Guptas, p.137. Central Book Depot.

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