- In the tantric tradition (see TANTRISM) agama most commonly means “authoritative scripture.” Dif-ferent systems of tantric tradition may designate different texts as agamas. In South India, for instance, there is a tradition called Agamanta SHAIVISM that relies upon 28 agamas. In this tradi-tion, the VEDAS are referred to as NIGAMA.Agamas tend to be fairly late texts (compared to the Vedas); the earliest agama could hardly have been written before the sixth century C.E. Though many of the agamas of the diverse tantric tradi-tions are philosophical, others focus on Shaivite temple ritual, including the layout of temples, the installation of icons, and the ritual forms to be used. In this sense, they are foundational texts for temple Hinduism.In a more limited sense, an agama is a tantric text that takes the form of a teaching by SHIVA to PARVATI or another goddess. (In this context, a Nigama is a text taught by the goddess to Shiva.) Finally, agama is a linguistic term used in PANINI, The great Sanskrit grammarian, for an augment added to a base to form a complete word.Further reading: J. A. B. van Buitenen, trans., Yamana’s Agamapramanyam or Treatise on the Validity of Pancara-tra (Madras: Ramanuja Research Society, 1971); Bruno Dagens, Architecture in the Ajitagama and the Raurav-agama: A Study of Two South Indian Texts (New Delhi: Sitaram Institute of Scientific Research, 1984); Mark Dyczkowski, The Canon of the Saivagama and the Kub-jika Tantras of the Western Kaula Tradition (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988); Kamalakar Mishra, Kashmir Saivism: The Central Philosophy of Tantrism (Portland, Ore.: Rudra Press, 1993); S. K. Ramachan-dra Rao, Agama-Kosa: Agama Encyclopedia (Bangalore: Kapatharu Research Academy, 1994).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.