Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Studies


Paul Younger




This thesis examines a set of Saiva religious institutions, the Tiruvavatuturai Adhinam, the Dharmapuram Adhinam, and the Kasi Matha of Tiruppanantal, all located in Tamilnadu, india. Preliminary research indicated that models of monastic retreat and seminary yield incomplete and sometimes distorted pictures of the institutions in social setting. Mindful of the dynamic character of these institutions, this thesis endeavours to construct a better model of understanding the institutlons' basic structure.

This work used a variety of sources to gauge the institutions scope of activity. These sources ranged from classical material, inscriptions, hagiographies, doctrinal and ritual writings, to contemporary records first-person observation and interviews. In addressing the question of basic structure, the thesis argues that though these three institutions are conveniently called Saiva matas, the matam and the religious institutions represent two different abstract entities.

The work suggests that the religious institution is structured around the concept of lineage. The institution is above all an aggregate of religious individuals tied together by "fictive kin" ties. Though ascetic, the members of the institution are individuals who see themselves as related to each other through their relationship to a line of preceptors, from whom they are reborn through the rites of initiation. The work discusses in some detail the nature of the different stages of initiation, it examines how group membership is articulated in ritual patterns, and it establishes that the self-identity of the group as a whole is intimately tied in with its description of its pedigree.

The work also demonstrates that the matam, as part of the Hindu temple complex, often housed religious groups such as those studied, but the matam and the religious institution defined by the group are not coterminous. The thesis demonstrates that the matam is a site within the Hindu temple complex where ritualized forms of gifting occurs and suggests that a specific form of dana (gifting) informed by values of lineage propitiation helps account for the settlement of ascetic lineage groups at temple sites.


[missing page 237]

McMaster University Library

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Religion Commons