TWO DISTINCT VISIONS OF THE FUTURE
Although a more detailed investigation would certainly highlight other interesting features, the sketchy analysis presented here with its emphasis on a number of themes and terms might suffice at least to show that both the Ismaili prophetic ginans and the sectarian Agam Vanis present striking similarities, whereas they differ notably from the Epic/Puranic texts devoted to the same theme. As I have attempted to show, it is the general tone and atmosphere, as well as a number of details which help us to make this deduction. A brief survey of these key elements will lead us to formulate the final hypothesis. First of all, attention should be drawn to the terminologies used in these prophetic texts: the central figure of the ginans and of the Agam Vanis is the tenth avatar referred to as Nikalank, Kayam (Qaim), Mahdi and sometimes Shah Nizar, riding a white horse called Duldul. In both cases he is identified with Ali and with the Imam as his everliving manifestation, rather than with the Hindu Kalki with whom he is, however, compared. He comes from the West, more precisely from Alamut, in the Daylami region of Iran, which was the first center of the Nizari branch of Ismailism, instead of being born in Aryavarta as in the Epic/Puranic literature. In both traditions the symbol of the cosmic wedding is central and the bride is identified with the Virgin Earth (Visva Kunvari, Vasudha Kunvari) representing the community of the faithful also symbolized by Meghri. This sacred marriage which is to take place on the auspicious date of Asoj Bij is given a strong esoteric meaning: it is at that time that the final revelation of the mystical truth symbolized by the fifth Veda is to be made. As is well known, in Hindu tradition many sacred post-vedic texts were given the name of fifth Veda (for instance the Mahabharata), the only Veda which could be read or heard by all castes, including women, and the one which was meant for the corrupted Age of Kali Yuga. The Nizari preachers obviously drew from this concept but gave it a new meaning: the Nizari "fifth Veda" was referred to as Athar Ved, the eternal "immovable" Veda succeeding the fourth one, the Atharva Veda, and its represented the final esoteric revelation of the Satpanth (Ahmad, 1969: 25; Shackle and Moir: 113; Lakhani, 1973: 89). In the Nizarpanthi Agam Vanis the fifth Veda revealed with the advent of Nikalank at the end of the Kali Yuga is also called Athar or Atharva Ved. The description of the army led by the Messiah Nikalank is another crucial point. Not only does it include both Hindu and Muslim figures (contrary of course to the Hindu/Brahmanical army of Kalki which fights the Buddhist and Jain heretics), but reference is also made to one of those "Hindu Ismailized patterns" which reflect traces of the Ismaili influence. Both in the Agams and in the ginans one finds the sequence of five, seven, nine and twelve crores (forming a total of thirty-three crores) of souls to be saved during the four Yugas (Nanjiani: 164; Gohil, 1994: 27). The main enemy is known as Kalinga and not Kali or Kali Yuga (albeit both represent the last of the four Yugas), and his wife is said to be Surja Rani, a figure who is absent from the Epic/Puranic tradition. The faithful who will be saved - if they perform their duties - are members of a secret tradition and are referred to as Rishis (Rikhs, Rikhisars) and Momins, both terms being found in the Agam and ginanic literatures, whereas the word Rishi (rsi) has a thoroughly different meaning in the Epic/Puranic tradition where it refers to those ancient seers who had the revelation of the four Vedas. The faithful Rishis-Momins who have been properly initiated are called sugras in opposition to the ignorant nugras -a terminology that characterizes the Indian Nizari literature as well as the Medieval sectarian traditions studied here, whereas elsewhere they are generally used to distinguish "those who have a guru" and have thus obtained some kind of religious instruction in contradistinction to those who lack a guru and are full of vices. Among the duties to be performed by the faithful to avoid the terrible punishments described in the prophetic texts the central role is played by the partaking of consecrated water referred to as paval (Ivanow, 1948: 66; Shrimali, 1993: 243), variants of which are payal (Nizarpanthi Rajasthani tradition) and pahal (Bisnoi tradition), as well as the payment of the tithe known as dasondh (dasbandh). The importance of this religious tax established by the Nizari authorities in the Subcontinent (Shackle and Moir: 26) is also attested in the Bisnoi literary heritage, namely in a prophetic sabad (vani) ascribed to Jambha, the founder of the sect: the guru predicts that at the end of Kali Yuga people will be so corrupted than even the faithful will forget to pay the dasvand (Gyanprakash, 1992: 253). paval and dasondh, which were the two pillars of the Nizari dawa in the Subcontinent, can thus be said to be significant traces of the Ismaili presence.
The parallelism of these terminologies which differ from the Epic/Puranic ones may appear convincing enough. However, it could be of some interest to discuss the issue on a broader level which would reveal more general, conceptual similarities. Although the Hindu notion of Yugas is introduced in both the ginanic and Agam vani traditions studied here, the dominant ideas (as also confirmed by my field inquiries) is of an astrological determination of events. We have seen that Sahadev identified with Sadruddin, is said to be a "Joshi" (astrologer) and this is why he is the author of many Agam vanis, while astrology has also played a prominent part in the early Ismaili philosophy of the Ikhwan aI-Safa and continued to do so during its later phases of evolution. The emphasis on natural cataclysms and on all sorts of abnormalities, as well as on moral warning, strengthen the idea otherwise independently conveyed of a kind of revolution (an idea expressed in many other war-like ginans) which will result in an overthrow of power. The political rival is alluded to, if not directly mentioned, which is in keeping with the secretive character of the Nizari teaching, whenever one finds the motif of the conquest of Delhi, capital of the Sunni rulers from pre-moghol times onwards. In the Agam vani literature the triumph
of the new revelation of the fifth secret Veda is also characteristically associated with the cosmic wedding: "The marriage altar will be at Chittor (former capital of the powerful Rajput kingdom of Mewar) and the campment of the bridegroom in Delhi" (Gohil, 1994: 97). The Lord of Alamut (the Imam) wedding the Virgin Earth becomes thus a picturesque symbol of the victory of the "true path" (Satpanth) which is spiritual as well as political in nature - an association which is characteristic of Islam in general and of Ismailism in particular. The expectation of a revolution which will lead to the overthrow of the then existing political/religious Sunni rule is drastically different from the victory described in the Epic/Puranic tradition, which is that of the established Brahmanical order over the heretics, Buddhists, and Jains, and perhaps over all kinds of foreign powers (mlecchas). Therefore the Epic/Puranic messianic heritage is mainly exoteric and conservative by nature, whereas the ginanic/ Agamic literature studied here has a definitely esoteric and revolutionary background.