Origin of Saivism, Vaishnavism, Saktham, Gowmaram, Ganapathyam and Sowram

Origin of Hindu Religion

(Six - fold Religion)

Amongst the Dravidian religions, the Six-fold religion, which is hidden under the name 'Hindu religion' is briefly analyzed here. The religious sects that are in the Six-fold religion are Saivism, Vaishnavaism, Saktham, Gowmaram, Kanapathyam and Sowram. Since these are the denominations of one religion, altogether these are known as 'Six-fold religion'. This Six-fold religion is the development of two major sects viz. Saivism and Vaishnavism.

Though some form of worship existed during the pre-Christian era, Saivism and Vaishnavism developed into religions only in the post-Christian era. Doctrine of Trinity, Doctrine of Avatar and the Doctrine of Fulfillment of Sacrifice are the basic doctrinal aspects of Saivism and Vaishnavism. A fundamental question is, how did these doctrines become the foundation for the religions that developed in the post-Christian era? Also, can these doctrines be seen in the worship and religions of the pre-Christian era? The answers to these questions can be obtained by analyzing the worships and religions in the pre- and post-Christian eras in India.

Worships and Religions in the pre Christian era:

Worships and religions that prevailed in the pre - Christian era:

1) Indus Valley worship
2) Ancient Dravidian worship (After Indus Valley)
3) Jainism (6th c. B.C.)
4) Buddhism (6th c.B.C.) and
5) Vedic worship (evidences from 2nd c. B.C.)

They can be classified as follows:

  1. Worships which practised sacrifice (Indus Valley worship, Ancient Dravidian worship and Vedic worship)

  2. Religions which did not practise sacrifice (Jainism and Buddhism)

Indus Valley and Ancient Dravidian Worships

In the theistic worships (Indus Valley and Ancient Dravidian Worship) these doctrines are not traced since they were only in the form of worships and not of religions. There was no theistic religion in the pre - Christian era in India.

Jainism and Buddhism

Vedic Worship

Regarding the Vedas, it is generally thought that they are very ancient and are the basis for the development of Saivism and Vaishnavism. Before 2nd c. B.C. there is no historical evidence for the prevalence of Vedic worship in India. However, from the period of Pushyamithra, who established Sunga Dynasty in 185 B.C.1 there are evidences to hint the prevalence of Vedic worship in India. But, there was no Vedic religion in the pre - Christian era since the nomadic songs of worship were only in the oral form, and were later put into writing by Veda Vyasa, a Dravidian, in the post - Christian era. Only he compiled, arranged and classified them as 'Vedas'. The Vedas are in Sanskrit and Sanskrit inscriptions are seen only in 2nd c. A.D2 and thereafter.

Before 2nd c. A.D. the languages that are seen in the inscriptions in India are Tamil, Pali, Arthamakathi, Greek, Aramaic... but not Sanskrit. The inscriptions of Ashoka were also in Greek, Aramaic... but not in Sanskrit.

Since the Vedas are in Sanskrit (though it may be archaic or classical Sanskrit), the earliest Sanskrit inscription is seen only in the 2nd c.A.D. and thus the period of the Vedas cannot be ascribed to the pre - Christian era. The basic doctrines mentioned earlier (Trinity, Fulfillment of Sacrifice...) of Saivism and Vaishnavism are not found in the Vedas. If these doctrines are not found in the Indian forms of Worship and Religions in the pre-Christian era, then where could these doctrines have come from? These doctrines must have developed due to an outside religious influence exotic to the Indian soil.

Since all the religions and worships mentioned above (Indus Valley, Ancient Dravidian, Jainism, Buddhism) are the branches of the Dravidian religion that originated in India, the branches of the Dravidian religion that developed outside India also should be taken into account. The correlation between the Indus Valley worship and the memorial stone worship found in the Bible has already been pointed out. Hence the mutual religious contributions that have taken place between all Dravidian religions that originated in and outside India must be analyzed, in order to arrive at the truth.

Religion of Israel and Judaism

In the Israelite worship we found memorial stone, sacrificial altar and Calf. And the basic doctrine of Judaism is that God is formless and that a Messiah will come. The expectation of Messiah shows that the doctrine of Avatar is not fully seen in this religion. Since they were offering sacrifices to God, there was no room for the doctrine of fulfillment of sacrifice in these religions.


The Doctrines of Trinity, of Avatar and of the fulfillment of sacrifice are the basic doctrines of Christianity. It has already been shown that the religious contribution (memorial stone) had taken place amongst the Dravidian religions. It could be concluded that these Christian doctrines have contributed to the Dravidian religions developed in India in the post - Christian era. Christianity came to India in various periods of history which could be classified as follows:-

  1. Early Indian Christianity (of the 1st c.A.D.)

  2. Syrian Christianity (since the arrival of the Syrians on the   Indian soil      and evidences are from 4th c. A.D.)

  3. European Christianity (15th c.A.D.)

  4. Europeanized Indian Christianity (after 16th c.A.D.)

Europeanized Indian Christianity is the Christianity which was brought up by the Europeans after the 15th c.A.D. in India and followed by the Indians. Christianity which is followed by the Europeans is European Christianity, while the Christianity which is followed by the Syrians is Syrian Christianity.'1 Christianity which developed in the Indian soil in the Indian culture and in the Indian language from the first century A.D. is known as Early Indian Christianity.3

Beginning of Early Indian Christianity

Christianity which was brought to India by the apostle St. Thomas and others was deep rooted in the Indian soil and culture and developed as Early Indian Christianity. It is generally believed that St. Thomas on coming to India, met the Taxila ruler Gondophores and converted him to Christianity. Gondophores was considered to be a mythical figure until the recent excavations at Taxila where billon coins of Gondophores were unearthed.4 Though the arrival and the works of St. Thomas in India are denied, recent archaeological excavations and the historical study of sculptures and religions reveal the development of Early Indian Christianity. The trade relationship between India and other countries like Sumeria, Babylonia, Greek, Syria etc., has led to religious and cultural contributions. In Solomon's period silver, monkey, ivory, tukim, precious stones etc., were imported to his kingdom.

Of the foreigners who traded with India, the Greeks, the Romans, the Jews and the Syrians were collectively called 'Yavanas' by Indians.5 Ashoka's inscriptions tell of the settlement of Yavanas in North India and of the rule of the Yavanarajas in some of the places in North India.6 The Greek and the Aramaic inscriptions, discovered in North India, belong to the Ashoka period. B.N.Mukherjee explains this as follows:

"An octagonal pillar of white marble on which Aramaic inscription is engraved was found in Taxila."7

Traditionally Takshasila or Takshas'ila was the capital or the seat of power of Gandhara. An Aramaic inscription of king Ashoka, found at Takshasila proves that it had enjoyed an administrative and/or political status higher than that of the provinces ruled by high officials.

"Yona, Kamboja and Gandhara were in strategically important areas of the empire. The issuance of edicts in Aramaic and Greek in those territories speak in Volume of Asoka's concern for them."8

"In the Achaemenid empire Aramaic was one of the official languages and the principal speech of traders from Egypt and Asia Minor to India. Thus, at least during the Achaemenid rule in parts of the north-western section of the Indian sub continent and its borderlands there could have been settlements of Aramaic speaking (or knowing families of merchants and administrators) the language of the Aramaens is indicated in the Bible as 'aramit'. It belonged to the group of Semitic languages."9

Also Yavanarajas were serving under Asoka.10 It is to be noted that Aramaic was spoken by Jesus.

In Tamil Sankam literature (approximately 3rd c.B.C - 3rd c.A.D.) there are many references about Yavanas and about the settlement of Yavana11 in Pondichery. There are ample Numismatic evidences for this since many coins of the Yavanas were unearthed in Tamilnadu and in South India. Indian sculptures were influenced by the Yavana art. Since this relationship leads to cultural and religious contribution, the Indian beliefs and religious thoughts are seen in the Yavana beliefs and literature and vice versa. The correlation between the Indus Valley worship and the Bible has already been shown. Like this, the Christian doctrines such as trinity, avatar, fulfillment of sacrifice.... are also observed in the Indian religions. In the post - Christian era drastic changes had taken place in the Indian religions. The following statement tries to explain the changes that have taken place in the Indian Religions.

"From this medley of schisms and sects some order was found to emerge. The mosaic of belief was sure to produce patterns of well-defined norms, Accordingly we find in the first few centuries, before and after the beginning of the Christian era, these schisms and sects resolving themselves into well-known schools of widespread provenance. It was at this time that the multiplicity of Buddhist sects was crystallizing into the two great schools of Hinayana and Mahayana. It was also the time when the great sects of 'Saivism and Vaishnavism' were taking shape and there was a tendency for organization in a number of other sects (mentioned in the Puranas) through their medium. At this juncture the Jain sects coalesced to form the two great schools of Svetambara and Digambara. The historical imperative of the Kusanas and Guptas pursuing forward the process of synthesis and organization in the realm of faith and belief, aided this consummation."12


Six - Fold Religion

Saivism and Vaishnavism are the offshoot of Early Indian Christianity.13 Early Indian Christianity observed the elements of Dravidian worships that prevailed in the pre - Christian era, and developed as Saivism and Vaishnavism.14   Saivism and Vaishnavism developed as a Bhakti movement around 6th, 7th c. A.D. in South India and spread to the North. Since it is now totally camouflaged by the Brahman concept under the name of Hinduism, it is generally thought that the Vedas are the basis for the development of this Bhakti Movement. Generally Saivite Siva is identified with Vedic Rudra and Vaishnavite Vishnu is identified with Vedic Vishnu. An in-depth study of the Vedas will unveil the hidden truths. Saivism and Vaishnavism have nothing to do with the Vedic Rudra or Vishnu.

According to Saiva Sittanta, Siva is a Supreme loving God who took the form of a man and suffered to save the human beings. Whereas in the Vedas, Rudra is portrayed as one of the minor deities, and it is the god of storms. Likewise Vaishnavite Vishnu is nothing to do with the Vedic Vishnu. In the Vedas, Vishnu has the sun, a creature whereas Vishnu is the Prime God in Vaishnavism and without him there is no Vaishnavism.

'In the development of Hinduism, the Vedic gods lost their significance. Deities like Indra, Varuna, Mithra, Prajapathi, and Mathresvan had lost the first place and were given the last place. New Gods like Siva, Vishnu, Brahma attracted our mind and are highly venerated, says Kailasapathy.15

Also Velupillai16 confirms this in his statement. At that time (in the period of Campanthar) Vedic deities like Indra, Varuna, Surya...... lost their supremacy. Instead of these deities, worshipping God in three forms as Siva, Vishnu ,Brahma begun..

Findings regarding the development of Saivism and Vaishnavism without any Vedic influence are clearly given as follows:

  1. Emergence of the basic doctrines of Saivism and Vaishnavism            depending not on Aryanism or the Vedas.
  2. Development of these doctrines which are not seen in the Vedas
  3. Emergence of new Agamas, totally contrary to the Vedas
  4. Emergence of temple worship, contrary to the Vedas.
  5. Emergence of Nayanmars and Alwars who did not belong to the Vedic religion.
  6. The doctrinal explanation of Sankara, Ramanuja and Mathva which are contrary to the Vedas.
  7. Emergence of the names of Gods viz. Siva, Vishnu, Brahma, Sakthi ....who are contrary to the Vedic deities.
  8. Emergence of the worship of God in Triune form instead of worshipping the Vedic deities'.17

Thus the development of Bhakthi Movement is independent of the Vedas and the emergence of these new doctrines are seen in the post - Christian era only.

Drastic changes that have taken place in the post-Christian era in Indian religions are pointed out promptly by many scholars as follows:

'In the early period of Christianity, Buddhism split into Hinayana and Mahayana. The religions Saivism and Vaishnavism were formed. Jainism split into Digambara and Svetambara'.18

'In between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D Rama and Krishna became divine Avatars. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna became the full Avatar of Vishnu. In the Upanisads he became an eternal Brahma. Mahayana Buddhism was formed and Buddha became an eternal God. Though it seemed that there were no changes taking place in the Vedas, new Upanisads were formed'.19

"During the Saka-Kusana age the Bhagavata and Pasupatha attempts to bring humanity and divinity together were matched by Mahayana
Buddhism, Where the bodhisattva, especially bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, is hard to distinguish from a gracious god, easily accessible to man. The Saddharma Pundarika goes on to place the highest emphasis on repeating the name of Avalokitesvara and calling on him for help and guidance. The notion of the Buddha as a supernatural person manifesting himself in human form was elaborated into the doctrine of the three Bodies (trikaya) and also helped to the rise of the worship of the image of Buddha for worship. That, along with the new practice of the deva-kula(s) and the popular emphasis of pauranika Hinduism helped the rise of temple worship as a major feature among all the religious cults of India in the Gupta and the post-Gupta times.

The Puranas, which were originally bardic compilations, were recast in the Kusana and Gupta periods as veritable popular expositions seeking to present a Syncretic and theistic religion. The doctrine of Trimurti was one of their greatest triumphs and the idea of incarnation was taken up and further developed".20

Since Saivism and Vaishnavism are the offshoots of Early Indian Christianity, many scholars find similarities between these religions (Early Indian Christianity) and Christianity (Europeonised Indian Christianity). The following statements of different scholars would enlighten this idea.

Susmita Pande in her thesis 'Birth of Bhakti in Indian Religions and Art' says;

"It has even been held that the development of the true religion of the heart of bhakti really belongs to Medieval India, presumably owing its effervescence to the fertilizing influences of Islam, if not Christianity"21

and concludes

"that the concept of BHAKTI and God's grace in the above account (Vaishnavism) shows the influence of Christian doctrines".22

Monier williams states

"Vaishnavism has more common ground with Christianity than any other form of non-Christian faith" 23

'Pandita Ramabai felt that by becoming a follower of Christ, she had not betrayed her ancient culture and tradition. But on the other hand, she learnt that her ancient religion become more meaningful and enriched only with her experience in Christ.'24

'Christ of the history has reincarnated in the mythological India and He has become the Nishkalank Avatar (Sinless incarnation), Jivanmuktha, Sachidananda and Karmayogi'.25

Fr. Reymond Panickar in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras says;

"That from which the world comes forth and to which it returns and by which it is sustained, that "that" is Christ".26

Like this so many scholars find similarities among these religions (Early Indian Christianity and Europeanised Indian Christianity)).

When Christianity came to India, the New testament was not compiled at that time. Naturally this would lead to the lack of historicity. The need of presenting Christianity at the grass root level in the later period led to the development of myths. Since the doctrine of trinity, doctrine of avatar, and the doctrine of fulfillment of sacrifice have to be explained in the mythical aspect at the grass root level, mythical Christ is seen in the Indian religions in different languages in different terms.

Though the terms are different and seem to be different Gods and Goddesses, they all refer to one God. An unbiased examination of myths would unveil the hidden Christ.

Unless, the Saivite and Vaishnavite philosophies, theologies and hymns are analyzed deeply without any prejudice the hidden Christianity would not be unveiled.


  1. A.L. Basham, The Wonder that was India,Op.Cit., P.58
  2. Alexander Harris,'Holes in Vedic Valley Theory, The Week, Aug,9,1998
  3. M. Deivanayagam, Comparative Study of Bible, Thirukkural and Saiva Sittanta (in Tamil), International Institute of Tamil Studies. Madras 113, 1985, P.18.
  4. Jitendranath Banerjea, The Development of Hindu Iconography,      Munshiram manoharlal Publisher Private Limited, Delhi, 1974,P.118.
  5. (i) K.K. Pillai, Op.Cit., P.79 (ii) M. Deivanayagam, Op. Cit., P.71
  6. B.N. Mukherjee, Studies in the Aramaic Edicts of Asoka, Calcutta, Indian Museum, 1984, P.47
  7. Ibid, P. 23
  8. Ibid, P.65
  9. Ibid, P.44
  10. .Ibid, P.47
  11. .i) Akananuru 149   ii) Purasnanuru 56
    iii) K.A. Thirugnanasampanthan, Sanka kaala Pandamaatru Neriyum kaasugalin Puzhakkamum, (M.Phil, Thesis),   Madras University, 1980, P.99
  12.   Muni Uttam Kamal Jain, Jaina Sects and Schools, Concept publishing company, Delhi, F.p.1975.
  13.   M. Deivanayagam, Op. Cit.,
  14.   D.Devakala Jothimani, Op.Cit.,
  15.   Kailasapathy, Pandai Tamilar Vaazhvum vazhipadum, Makkal Veliyeedu, 1978, P.18
  16.   A.Velupillai, Tamil Ilakkiyathil Kaalamum Karuththum, Tamil Pathippagam, Chnnai,1969,P.83
  17.   M. Deivanayagam, Op. Cit., Pp.10,11
  18.   Muni Uttam Kamal Jain, Op. Cit., P.3.
  19.   J.N. Farquhar, An Outline of the Religious lliterature of India, Motilal Banarsidass,Delhi 7, F.Ed. 1920,     Pp.78,79
  20.   Susmita Pande, Op. Cit., P.5
  21.   Ibid, P.Vii
  22.   Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya, Evolution of Hindu Sects, upto the time of Sankaracharya, Munshiram          Manoharlal Oriental Publishers, New Delhi55, F.P.1970, p.60
  23.   Krishna Sharma, Bhakthi and the Bhakthi Movement- A New perspective, Munshiram Manoharlal          Publishers Pvt      Ltd., New Delhi 55, F.P. 1987,Pp.80,81
  24.   Quo.by M.Ezra Sargunam, Op.Cit.,P.48
  25.   Ibid.,
  26.   R.Panikkar, The Unknown Christ of Hinduism,Darton, Longman and Todd, P.131

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Dr. M. Deivanayagam
Dr. D. Devakala

The Revival Movement of Dravidian Religion