The University of Jaffna is the pioneer university in offering the Discipline of SaivaSiddhanta in Sri Lanka. The Jaffna Campus was established in 1974 with Faculties of Humanities and Science. Then the Faculty of Humanities consisting of four departments; Hindu Civilization was one of them. Since 1974 – 1998 it was affiliated with the Department of Hindu Civilization. Since 1998 the Department of Hindu Civilization has been expanding its academic sphere with the introduction of Hindu Philosophy (Saiva Siddhanta) as a separate discipline.
Since the establishment of the Faculty of Hindu Studies (06/06/2019), the Discipline of Hindu Philosophy (Saiva Siddhanta) has been promoted as the Department of Saiva Siddhanta. Mainly History of Saiva Siddhanta, Meikanda Shastras, Six Systems of Hindu Philosophy, Hindu Ethics, Vethantha Philosophy are the subjects covered under the Department. Dr.Vigneswary Pavanesan, Senior Lecturer in Hindu Civilization has been appointed as the founder Head of this new Department. There are two permanent lecturers attached to this Department viz: Mr.P.Chandrasekaran, Mr.T.Selvamanoharan.
Mr.P.Chandrasekaram, who joined in 2008 as a Lecturer (Prob) in Hindu Philosophy, works today as a Senior Lecturer in this newly established Department. He undertook his Doctoral Research at Tanjavur Tamil University and has submitted his Thesis.Mr.T.Selvamanoharan, Lecturer (unconfirmed) joined in 2018 as a Lecturer in the Discipline of Hindu philosophy, is presently working as a Lecturer in this Department of Saiva Siddhanta. He is also engaged in his Doctoral research at the Faculty of Post Graduate Studies, University of Jaffna. Along with them, Dr.I.Jeyanthiran is also working as an Assistant Lecturer. It is worth mentioning here that he did his Ph.D. in the field of Saiva Siddhanta at Madras University, Tamil Nadu.
Since 2008, Master of Arts in Saiva Siddhanta has been a taught Course at the Faculty of Post Graduate Studies. Prof.M.Vethanathan was served as the first Co-ordinator. Academic staff attached to the Department of Saiva Siddhanta playing a key role in this Postgraduate Degree Programme. From 01.01.2019, Dr. Vigneswary Pavanesan has been functioning to date as the Coordinator thereof. In the development of Saiva Siddhanta in the history of Sri Lanka, ‘Saiva Siddhanta’ happens to be taught as a course for postgraduate studies only at the University of Jaffna. This is a matter that needs to be specially mentioned here.
Apart from the courses provided for Degrees like the Bachelor of Arts, M.Phil, and M.A., various doctoral studies were undertaken by aspirants also expound the importance of Saiva Siddhanta.
Saiva Siddhanta in global recognition
Among those great men who helped to propagate the fame of Saiva Siddhanta at a global level, were Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam who lived in wisdom, blessed by the great Arudparananda Swamy.Such reputed Saiva works as Thayumanavar Hymns, Thirumuru -hattuppadai, and other literary verses that (embodied) carried the essence of Tamil culture, were translated by Sir. P. Arunachalam, in keeping with the English poetry style.
Next, Sir P. Ramanathan a multi-field exponent and wise scholar, conducted during the years 1905-06, a tour for religious discourses in countries like England and America, where western people were inspired by the philosophy of Saiva Siddhanta. American professor Miron M. Felbs who had invited Sir P. Ramanathan to deliver religious, discourses, collected the gist’s of all such speeches and published them in 1906 under the title ‘soul culture’. This work, abounding in Saiva Siddhanta truths, was sold in its thousands. Such services glorified not only Saiva Siddhanta, but also the Tamil language in western countries.Kadayit Swamy, Sellappah Swamy, Sivayogas Swamy and the American Swamy were among the sages well renowned in the admonishing tradition of Jaffna.
Poopvaraneesan of California, who understood the spiritual elucidation of Sir. P. Ramannathan based on Saiva Siddhanta, became an aspirant of spiritual knowledge. He came to sage Sivayoga Swamy and became his disciple. He was ordained under the name ‘Subramaniyar’. Becoming a scholar, this revered Swamy went to America and as commissioned by his teacher, made Saiva Siddhanta very popular in that country. The service rendered by him to Saiva Siddhanta is of international repute.
This brief history is an exposition of the fame of Saiva Siddhanta in keeping with the quotation of sage Kachchiyappa Sivachari…” Let the glorious principle of Shiva, illumine the entire world.” The contribution of Sri Arumuga Navalar is remarkable in the history of Saiva Siddhanta in Sri Lanka. The services provided by him with both Sri Lanka and Tamilnadu as his bases helped immensely to keep the activities of the Christian missionaries under control and gave an upheaval to Saivism and Saiva Siddhanta with great interest.The services rendered by Navalar were continued by his disciples and their generations as well as by those affiliated with them.In this regard, Kasivasi Senthinathaiyar had been a disciple of Navalar. He committed himself to propagate the philosophic truths placed forward by Navalar, among the public.
Senthinatyhaiyar was a person who studied the elements of those philosophies and brought out the rare principles underlying therein. This indicates a stage of development in the history of Saiva Siddhanta in Sri Lanka during the time of Navalar.Following him, the Saiva Siddhanta services of N. Kathiravetpillai from West Puloly, had Tamil Nadu as their main base. He captivates the fame of being the teacher of several scholars born and bred in Tamil Nadu. The critical views expressed by him against, ‘Mayavada’, and his achievements in continuing the “Arudpamaruppu” movement initiated by Navalar, brought him immense fame. Titles conferred on hi, such as “Advaita Siddhanta Mahottharanar” and “Mayavada Tuamsa Kolari” are indicative of the honour bestowed on him by Tamil Nadu to a Sri Lankan for his achievements in establishing Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy.
Next to him, comes the great Saivaist S.Sivapathasundaram whose period (1878-1955) was of prominent record in the history of Sri Lanka and India. It was in such an atmosphere that the services of M.Kandiah, (M.Lit) and Sivatthamilselvi Thangammah Appakutty continued to flourish. Apart from living with Saiva Siddhanta as their lifestyle, they also stressed the need to establish a Saiva Siddhanta field at the University of Jaffna and also worked hard for the establishment of that field. Thus, their services are of prime importance in developing Saiva Siddhanta in the footsteps of Navalar.
In this context, the educational scholarship of the former heads of the field of Hindu Civilization, including Professor K. Kailasanathakurukkal, Professor P. Gopalakrishna Iyer, Dr Kalaivani Ramanathan, Mrs Nacchiyar Selvananyagam, Dr.M. Vethanathan, Mr P.Ganeshalingam along with that of Professor V.Sivasamy of the Sanskrit Department becomes noteworthy in the development of Saiva Siddhanta. The development of Saiva Siddhanta in Sri Lanka has its own unique quality. Saivism is based on the worship of Siva. It holds Siva as the supreme God. Saiva Siddhanta is the philosophy behind Saivism. There is enough evidence of the co-existence of Saivism and Tamil in Sri Lanka. These are supportive of the growing trend of Saivism.
Mahavamsa, the historical chronicle of Sri Lanka, speaks of the existence of the worship of Yakkas and Nagas even before the arrival of Buddhism. This refers only to the earlier part of the growth of Saivism. Even epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata bear evidence to Siva worship in Sri Lanka. Ramayana characters like Ravana and Vibheeshana were ardent devotees of Siva, observing Saivism. Their religion was by all means Saivism. The devotional hymns that speak of Sri Lankan history, indicate the evidence for the growth of Saivism. Particularly those hymns on Thirukketheesvaram and Trincomalee temples reveal the existence of Saivism in this country.
There are also archaeological evidences including stone inscriptions, indicating the existence of Saivism in Sri Lanka. The Saiva temples found in Sri Lanka are of historical fame. History speaks of how rulers and affluent personalities constructed and maintained temples in Sri Lanka. There was a parallel development of Saivism in both South India and Sri Lanka. Among the Saiva Saints in South India, Thirugnana Sambanthar and Suntharamoorthy have sung devotional songs adoring Sri Lankan Saiva temples like Thirukketheesvaram and Trincomalee. These hymns clearly show the growing trend of Saiva Siddhanta that prevailed here. Thirumular calling Sri Lanka ‘the land of Siva” (Sivaboomy) is clearly indicative of the Siva Worship that prevailed here.
In addition to Siva, even Murugan and Sakthi had been worshipped in Sri Lanka. In his ‘Thirippuhal’ Saint Arunagirinathat has sung the glory of several temples including the Murugan temple at Kathirkamam. Likewise, the Nagabhoosani temple at Nainativu has to be treated as one of the Sakthi faculties while Shakthi worship in Sri Lanka has to be seen as part of the development of Saivism in Sri Lanka.
We may observe in the course of history that ‘Veerasaivam” – a sub-discipline of Saivism has also developed considerably in Sri Lanka. The north and east of Sri Lanka are areas predominantly occupied by Tamils. Out of these, while the north may be treated as the area where Saiva Siddhanta flourished, the east may be regarded as the area where Vedantic traits have developed. Although Vedanta and Siddhanta have developed both in the north and east, the foregoing is an overview taken on the basis of majority opinions.
The trend of the growth of Saiva Siddhanta reached its peak level with the ‘Meikanda Sastram’ of the 14th century. Temples and Monasteries were encouraging the philosophic principles behind Saiva Siddhanta. In the trend of Saiva Siddhanta development, the contribution made by Sri Lankans together with those monasteries was indispensable.
Gnanaprakasa Thambiran of Jaffna wrote a commentary on Sivagnsana Siddiyar, which is one of the Meikanda Sastras. This is seen as one among those of the six commentators. Gnanaprakasar is also seen as the first of those predecessors (forefathers) who developed Saiva Siddhanta. The contributions made by scholars including Arumuga Navalar, Kasivasi Senthinatha Iyer and Atchuvely Kumarasamy Kurukkal are worthy of mention here. The contribution of Sri Lankans is thus essential to the Saiva Siddhanta sastras as well as to the 12 sacred precepts (Thirumurai) in Saivism.
Till the last century, Saiva Siddhanta was known only to a few people. During the course of the last century, the Thiruvavaduthurai monastery, with the intention of propagating it among all, initiated a personal training centre and is contributing to the development of Saiva Siddhanta at various levels. Today its cause is separately nurtured in Sri Lanka.
The Saiva Siddhanta truths which were maintained earlier through a ‘teacher – disciple’ order, is now available to be learnt by all. Saiva Siddhanta is now being taught at various levels from schools to universities. Ever in the history of higher education in Sri Lanka, the field of Hindu Civilization has been inaugurated and Saiva Siddhanta was also taught there. In 1998 a division knows as ‘Hindu Philosophy’ was combined with the field of Hindu civilisation where Saiva Siddhanta was taught.
As a milestone in the growth of Saiva Siddhanta, when the Faculty of Hindu Studies Studies was inaugurated in 2019, the Discipline of Hindu Philosophy hitherto attached to the Department of Hindu Civilization emerged as a separate Department. Up to this time, the fields of Hindu Philosophy and Hindu civilization were exerting their influence over the field of Hindu Philosophy. But today the emergence of Saiva Siddhanta as a separate Department indicates a very important stage in the trend of its growth in Sri Lanka. In times to come students are to be admitted to special Saiva Siddhanta courses in the Universities.
Pioneering staff of this Department then and now
In times to come field oriented researches and related studies are to be specially taken forward. This can bring forth vast changes in the trend of Saiva Siddhanta. Today the first Head of the Department of Saiva Siddhanta is Dr. (Mrs). Vigneswary Pavanesan.
Retired Prof.Dr.Mrs.Kalaivani Ramanathan – Master’s degree & Doctor of Philosophy (University of Jaffna)
Prof. Kalivani Ramanathan has celebrated as the first lady professor of the Faculty of Arts, University of Jaffna. She graduated from University of Colombo in 1972.She was recruited for the Department of Hindu Civilization as an Assistant Lecturer in 1975. Prof. Kalivani Ramanthan completed M.A. in Saiva Siddhanta and conferred the Ph.D in Saiva Siddhanta thoughts expounded in Ashdapirakarana Treatises.
She has authored, edited and published many books, and journal articles. Her published books are Hindu dharma & Varna dharma, Vetha Paramparja & Saiva Siddhantha, Priciples of Saiva Siddhantha Morality, Realism of Saiva Siddhantha and Charitable Morality of Hindus. Her specialized fields and teaching areas are focus on Saiva Siddhanta, Hindu Social Theories and Hindu Ethics.
Retired Prof. Dr. M. Vethanathan – Doctor of Philosophy ( University of Thanjavur)
Prof.M.Vethanathan graduated from the University of Jaffna in 1981 and attached to the Department of Hindu Civilization in 1984. Prof.M.Vethanathan obtained his Master’s Degree in Shakta worship in Sri Lanka with special reference to the Ritual Tradition. He received his Ph.D. in Saiva Siddhanta under the guidance of Professor S.Bhaskaran in 2002 from Thajavur University, India. (Title of the Thesis: Saiva Siddhanta concepts in Kanthapuranam- A Study).Prof.M.Vethanathan’s academic contribution covers the fields of Hindu Cults, Temple Studies, and Saiva Siddhanta .
Prof. (Mrs). Vigneswary Pavanesan (Head of the Department, Senior Lecturer Gr.I)
Dr. (Mrs).Vigneswary Pavanesan is a Senior lecturer attached to the Department of Hindu Civilization and currently serving as Head of the Department of Saiva Siddhanta. She attached to the Department of Hindu Civilization during the years 1994/95 as a temporary lecturer. In 1996 she got appointed as a Permanent lecturer. Under the supervision of Professor.Kalaivani Ramanathan, Dr.Vignesvary Pavanesan undertook her Post Graduate research on “The problems faced by Hindu women”.In 2002, she got her M.Phil. Degree. Following this, she undertook research on ‘Hindu Ethics’ under the supervision of Professor Gnanakumaran and succeeded in obtaining her doctorate.
Title of her Ph.D. Thesis: “A Critical Study of Hindu Ethical thoughts as expounded in the Tamil literary works during the Vijayanagara naykka Age”
Her main research interests lie in the fields of Hindu Ethics, Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy, Gender Studies in Hindu Society, Modern Movements of Hinduism and Hindu Political Theories. She earns the credit of being a Tamil person who visited Japan, having won the scholarship for selection to participate at the South Asian Youth Invitation programme held in 1998. In 2010, she got selected for a ‘short term overseas training’ and was engaged in researches for four months at the Madras University.
The texts written by her include, “The theory of Vishnu’s birth”. “Rural forms of worship Sri Lanka” and “The Hindus and the worship of planets”. In addition she has also published texts like…. “Valliammai’s matrimonical section” including its original form and commentary by Uduppiddy poet Sivasambu and books including ‘Sethupurana vasanam’ and ‘Pirapancha visaram’. She also the visiting lecturer in Master of Arts in Saiva Siddhantha. She has submitted several research papers at national and international seminars and conferences.
Dr.P.Chandrasekaram (Senior Lecture Gr.II):
Mr.P.Chandrasekaram is a Senior lecturer attached to the Department of Saiva Siddhanta . He graduated from University of Jaffna in 2005, and appointed to the Department of Hindu Civilization in 2008.He obtained M.A.in Saiva Siddhanta at Madras University in 2013.
He has submitted his research Thesis for Ph.D. in the field of Sivagamas at Tanjavur Tamil University.
Title of the Thesis: Impact and influence of Sivagamic Traditions in Sri Lanka
His teaching and research interests are mainly in the fields of History of Saiva Siddhanta, Sivagamas, and Tenets of Saiva Siddhanta. He has authored, edited and published many books, and journal articles in those fields. He has also participated in and presented research papers at several national and international conferences.
Dr. T. Selvamanoharan (Senior Lecture Gr.II):
Mr.T. Selvamanoharan is a lecturer attached to the Department of Saiva Siddhanta.He Graduated from University of Jaffna in 2003, completed MPhil.in Hindu Philosophy in 2012. Title of his M.Phil. Thesis:The Structure of Philoophy Saiva Siddhanta and Kasmir
Saivaism – A Comparative Analysis
Mr.T. Selvamanoharan is currently pursuing his Doctoral Degree in the field of Hindu Philosophy under the supervision of Senior Professor N.Gnakumaran, at the Faculty of the Graduate Studies University of Jaffna.
His specialized fields and teaching areas are focus on Epistemology, Sects of Saivism,and Shad Drshanas.He has authored, edited and published books, and journal articles in those fields. He has also participated in and presented research papers at several national and international conferences.
Dr. I.Jeyanthiran (Senior Lecture Gr.II)
Dr. I.Jeyanthiran graduated from the University of Jaffna in 2005, obtained his M.A. in Saiva Siddhanta at Madras University in 2013, and conferred the Ph.D. in 2019 at the same University. He has published several research articles and participated in numerous national and international conferences.
There are also several qualified teachers of SaivaSiddhanta working as visiting lecturers.
Though the field of Saiva Siddhanta was started recently, while Saiva Siddhanta is being learnt at the Faculty of Higher studies in the M.A., Course, researches are also going on for the M.A and doctoral studies.The development of the Department of Saiva Siddhanta is of utmost importance in the history of Sri Lankan Tamils, for this is the only field pertaining to the religious philosophy of these people. Whereas all other religions here including Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam have many separate faculties to develop their religious philosophies. Saiva Siddhanta is the only field available to develop Saiva Philosophy and to take its valuable inner doctrines among the people. It is worth mentioning here that the contribution of this Department is going to occupy a very important place in the history of Saiva Siddhanta.