Nov 22, 2007

Om namaH Siddham

A student of music here has brought me a text aboutGamelan music based on a palm leaf manuscript in Indonesian which has anunmistakeably Sanskritic beginning. It reads: om awighnam astu nama siddham. A few lines later it reads: "om sidhingastu nama ciwaya."

Madhav Deshpande responded:
The evidence suggests that this may have originated in the Jain traditions of Western India. Then it was adopted by grammatical traditions like that of the Kaatantra, which was widely studied by the Jains. From the Jain traditions, it was generalized to common Indian tradition, and Hinduized at some point. In Western India, many alphabets begin with avernac ularized form of this phrase: 'onaamaasiidham'. This was commonly used in Maharashtra to begin formal teaching of writing to aboy. Similarly it was generalized to mark all beginnings.

I remember having seen a similar explanation of "Om namaH Siddham" elsewhere also, I think it was by Acharya Vinoba Bhave. It was an ancient tradition to start a text by "Siddham". For examplethe inscription of the son-in-law of Kshatrapa Nahapan at Nasik (2ndcent AD), ins. of Vasithiputra Pulmayi etc also at Nasik ((2nd cent AD), ins.of Naravarman of Mandsaur (5th cent AD) etc start with "Siddham".

The word "Om" has the following Jain interpretation. It is anacromym made up of the initial letters of the following:

Arihanta
Ashariri (i.e. Siddha, a released soul)
Aacharya
Upadhyaya
Muni (Sadhu)
a+a+a+u+m = om.
Thus "om" is short for all 5 beings being mentionedin the Namokar Mantra.

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