History and Antiquity of Shiva and Shaivism
Shiva was worshipped in the ancient times in various parts of not only the Indian
subcontinent but elsewhere also. We have reasons to believe that He was worshipped
with different names in Europe, Aftica and Central Asia. Some believe that there
is a strong affinity between Shiva and the Greek god Dionysus. Some aspects of Shiva
are also ascribed to the Buddha in the Vajrayana sects of Buddhism. In ancient India
Shiva was a popular deity, who was worshipped both in the north and the south and
both by the Vedic and non-Vedic people. The Pasupathi seal, discovered from Mohenjodaro,
gives us reason to believe that the seated yogi depicted in the seal might have
been a form of Shiva. Shiva was also associated with various fertility and sacrificial
cults in ancient India. The ancient Vedic people worshipped Him originally as Rudra
and later identified Him as Shiva, one of the Trimurthis or the gods of Hindu trinity.
There is also a deep connection between Shiva and the the ancient tradition of yoga.
He is also described in the religious literature available to us as the source of
all art forms including dance and music.
The early Vedic people both feared and worshipped Rudra. Siva became more popular
during the later Vedic or Puranic period, mainly due to the popular devotional movements
initiated by his most devoted followers from Southern India and the tantric cults
which aimed to seek liberation through physical and sexual means. The Svetasvatara
Upanishad, reflected the growing sentiment among peope, by identifying Shiva as
the Brahman, or the Supreme Self. Various Shaiva sects emerged on the scene, having
their own sets of rules and rituals for the worship of Shiva and for attaining liberation.
Popular among them were the Pasupata and Adi Saiva sects. Lakulisa is credited with
the revival of Saivism around 1st century AD. Among the rulers, the Kushanas and
the Barasivas and some Gupta kings were responsible for patronzing the worship of
Shiva and construction of temples in his name. In the south the Nayanars were responsible
for spreading Shaivism among the rural masses. On the literary front, Sri Shankaracharya
played an important role in reviving the ancient philosophy of monism (Advaita),
while Abhinava Gupta contributed to the growing popularity of the Trika tradition
in Kashmir region, which became popular as Kashmir Shaivism. Emergence of Agama
shastras, a separate body of literature entrily devoted to Shaivism, and the resurgence
of several Tantric and Shakti cults also established Shiva as the most prominent
deity of ancient Hindu pantheon.