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Nama Siddhanta – Theory Repeating The Name Of God In Hinduism

Nama Siddhanta is the theory relating to the recitation of the names of God in Hinduism. It stresses the value of repeating/singing different names of God as part of the devotional path to moksha or salvation. The concept is traced to the Rig Veda. A distinct school of thought, known as the ‘Nama-Siddhanta-Sampradaya”, emerged in Tamil Nadu at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. Nearly a score of works were written, and these are known as the Nama Siddhanta granthas.

Chanting names of Bhagavan is the way to Brahmananda or Ultimate Bliss. This easy and potent means of seeking the Absolute became a powerful movement propagated by several saints during the 17th and 18th century CE.

The progenitors of this movement were Narayana Tirtha, Bodhendra, Sridhara Venkatesa (Ayyaval), Sadasiva Brahmendra, Narayana Tirtha, Upanishad Brahmam and Sadhguru Swami.

Bodhendra established a mutt at Govindapuram in Thanjavur, paving the way for several all over Tamil Nadu. He was a Rama Bhakta, philosopher, and head of Kanchi mutt, who worked with his contemporary Sridhara Venkatesa, a devotee of Siva and poet to spread the philosophy. Maruthanallur Sadguru Swami, believed to be an incarnation of both these Margadarsis, strengthened and fortified this mode of worship.

The seed of Nama Siddhanta movement was sown by Narayana Tirtha. Bodhendra, the 59th pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Matha, secured from Jagannatha Puri a copy of Sri Bhagavannama Kaumudi, authored by Lakshmidhara Kavi and wrote eight works to place the tenets of the school on an authoritative footing.

Ayyaval of Tiruvisanallur (Sahajirajapuram ) — Ayyaval would roughly translate as Respected Sire — occupied a unique status in Bhagavata tradition. There is hardly any Bhajana mutt in South where Ayyaavaal is not worshipped. His devotional hymns, critical treatises and his own spiritual attainments laid a solid foundation for the Bhajana tradition.

Upanishad Brahman of Kanchipuram wrote his Upeya-Nama-Viveka and other works and gave a further impetus to the movement. Sadhguru Swami of Marudanallur codified the South Indian Bhajana tradition and also authored Sandeha Dhvanta Bhaskaram. Although the name ‘Rama’ is hailed as the king of the mantras, the followers of Nama Siddhanta are enjoined not to differentiate between Shiva and Vishnu nor give initiation to those who have no faith in it.

Bodhendra’s Namamruta Rasayanam, Ayyaavaal’s Bhagavan Nama Bhushanam and Aakhyaa Sashti are important works in this field.

Tyagaraja (1767 – 1847), the immortal composer of songs in the Carnatic music system, was a staunch follower of Nama Siddhanta and was conversant with several minor Upanishads dealing with the tradition and the works of authors like Upanishad Brahmam. Some of his works (kritis) read like commentaries on the tenets of the school and as an explanatory gloss on the relevant works. As a result, the Nama Siddhanta and Bhajana traditions gains ground in South India and strengthened the devotional path of Godhead.