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Narada Pancaratra – Information – History – Contents

Narada Pancaratra is a classical Vaishnava text on worship. It is generally referred to in Pancaratra Agama texts as denoting Naradiya Samhita. This Agama probably bears this name because of the fact that Narada is mentioned in many Agama texts as receiving instruction in religious matters.

The word ratra means knowledge, or statement, and that knowledge is of five kinds. For this reason, the wise have named this composition Pancartra.

Narada Pancaratra is recognized as an authority by several Pancaratra Agama texts. This work was most probably composed prior to Sanatkumara Samhita, which mentions it. The printed text comprises thirty chapters. After laying down the procedure for worship, the work describes the characteristic features of the images of different forms of Bhagavan Visnu in his four and twelve aspects and the ten manifestations. Then it describes the initiation and ablution of the votary, the gestures (mudra) to be made with the interlocking of the fingers for worship and offering to be dedicated to Bhagavan.

Narada Pancaratra deals with the characteristic features of temples and icons to be installed therein (both topics are not complete). Then it describes the consecration of the flagstaff, pavilions, renovated temples and celebration of temple festivals. While dealing with the abhisheka (bathing) of the deities, it permits the use of different materials if the prescribed materials are not available. It describes the rite of making an oblation as well as the final grand oblation. It permits the use of materials for worship offered by a follower of Vaikhanasa Agama. It deals with all the sacraments, commencing with the impregnation and concluding with cremation.

Similarly, Narada Pancaratra deals elaborately with the expiations for minor as well as major offences. The phalapujavidhi, tilapadmadana, rathapratistha and mahalakshmi bija are noticed as parts of the text in the printed text of Utsav Sangraha. The authenticity of the ascription of several other titles in the different catalogues of manuscripts as forming part of this work is uncertain.

Although this work is a treatise on the Vaishnava religion, it describes the benefits of accruing from visiting Saivite shrines. Moreover, it employs the expressions pasu and pasa normally used in the Saiva Siddhanta texts. These factors exhibit its broad-based outlook. While describing the greatness of Bharata, it mentions the names of important sacred places located in the different directions. It lays down that the devotees of Vishnu should not reside in certain regions of the country.

Jnanamaritasara, Paramagamacudamani, Padma Samhita, Paushkara Samhita, Lakshmitantra and Vriddhabrahma Samhita noticed under the title Narada Pancaratra in some catalogues of manuscripts are independent texts.