Essays About Shaivism

History, Philosophy, Beliefs and Practices of Shaivism,

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.


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