As I discuss in this answer, Hindu scripture is made up of two categories, Shruti or that which is heard from the gods, and Smriti or that which is composed by humans authors and passed down from teacher to student via oral tradition. It's well-known that Smriti encompasses many different categories of texts, like the Puranas, Itihasas (Ramayana and Mahabharata), Dharma Shastras, etc. What is not as well-known, however, is that Shruti also has two categories - Nigamas aka the Vedas which primarily focus on performing Yagnas (fire-rituals), and Agamas which focus on worshipping the gods through idol worship and other means.

The divide between these two categories isn't always so clear-cut, however. Pretty much all mainstream Vaishnavas follow a set of Agamic texts known as the Pancharatra Agamas, which I discuss here. But as I discuss in this answer, many people believe that the Pancharatra Agamas actually originate from a now-extinct Shakha (recension) of the Shukla Yajur Veda, known as the Ekayana Shakha, founded by Vishnu's incarnation sage Narayana. (I discuss the Vedic Shakhas more generally here.). Similarly, the Vaikhanasa Agamas, which are followed by a tiny minority of Vishnu-worshippers, are believed to originate from a branch of the Krishna Yajur Veda founded by Brahma's incarnation Vikhanasa, whom I discuss here.

My question is, do people make any similar claims about non-Vaishnava Agamas? In addition to the Vaishnava Agamas I discussed above, there are also Shaiva Agamas and Shakta Agamas, more commonly known as Tantras. (Ignore the modern connotations of the word.) Are there any claims by followers of those Agamas that they originate from some Vedic Shakha? Does Kashmiri Shaivism or Shaiva Siddhanta, for instance, claim that their respective Tantric texts originate from a Shakha of the Vedas?

Note that I'm not just looking for generic claims that an Agama is Vedic in origin; I want a claim of a specific Shakha of the Vedas. Also, the purpose of my question isn't to adjudicate the validity of these claims, simply to find out if any such claims exist.

  • I am not very sure, but there is a big project being undertaken @ the Pondicherry French Institute where they are digitising the palm scripts. As far as Shaivism is concerned its the Kamika Agamas. I have read a couple of the major 18 Puranas ( Devi and Vishnu ) and I find no reference about Agamas. The best way to find out is by the reading the Shrauta Sutras relating to a particular Veda as to see if there is any reference or not.I think the Shruta Sutra which is a fire sacrifice might have relation to Agamas. – user7016 Jun 29 '16 at 1:04
  • It depends who's follower you are, mostly people would belong to Apasthamba, but there are other saints too like Gautama and Boudhayana. The issue nowadays is if you want to read a whole Purana it might take a long time and reading Agamas would take even more time and that too if books are available. Thanks – user7016 Jun 29 '16 at 1:04

Swami Vivekananda said (Complete Works V4, p 335-336 -"Reply to the Madras Address"):

The three Prasthanas, ("Courses, viz, the Upanishad, (Shruti), the Gita, and the Shariraka-Sutras.) then, in their different explanations, as Dvaita, Vishishadvaita, or Advaita, with a few minor recessions, form the "authorities" of the Hindu religion. The Puranas, the modern representations of the ancient Narasamsi (anecdote portion of the Vedas), supply the mythology, and the Tantras, the modern representations of the Brahmanas (ritual and explanatory portion of the Vedas), supply the ritual. Thus the three Prasthanas, as authorities, are common to all the sects; but as to the Puranas and Tantras, each sect has its own.

The Tantras, as we have said, represent the Vedic rituals in a modified form; and before anyone jumps into the most absurd conclusions about them, I will advise him to read the Tantras in conjunction with the Brahmanas, especially the Adhvaryu portion. And most of the Mantras, used in the Tantras, will be found taken verbatim from their Brahmanas. As to their influence, apart from the Sharuta and Smarta rituals, all the forms of the rituals in vogue from the Himalayas to the Comorin have been taken from the Tantras, and they direct the worship of the Shakta, or Shaiva, or Vaishnava, and all others alike.

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    That's not I'm looking for. I'm trying to find claims that a given set of Agamas originally constituted their own Shakha of the Vedas. Like Vaikhanasas consider themselves to be their own Shakha of the Krishna Yajur Veda, complete with Shrauta Sutras, Smarta Sutras, a Mantrasamhita, etc. Similarly, Sri Vaishnavas believe the Pancharatra tradition was originally a Shakha of the Shukla Yajur Veda called the Ekayana Shakha. So I'm looking for claims of that nature. I'm not just looking for evidence that Agamic/Tantric texts overlap with the Vedas in general. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 11 '15 at 5:54

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