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Shaivism in Hindu Religion (Hindu Shaivism, Saivism)

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Shaivism and Shaivas

Shaivism (also Saivism) in Hindu religion is associsted with Lord Shiva. The followers of Hindu Shaivism is referred to as Shaivas or Saivas. Lord Shiva is the supreme god and is prevalent widely through out India.

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Prehistory: Hindu Saivism in India is possibly a legacy of the non-Aryan religious belief of the pre-historic period. Even in Indus-Valley region excavations have revealed some images of deities which resemble Siva (also Shiva) and Siva-linga. In fact the cult of Shiva is the fusion of the characters of many deities – specially the Vedic God Rudra.

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The symbol of “Shiva-Linga” and God Shiva were worshipped during the early Harappa civilisation period.

Rudra in Vedas: According to the Rig Veda, Rudra is the God of destruction and storm while the Yayur Veda made a synthesis of his destructive and benevolent character.

Mahadeva in Upanishad: Later on, in Svetasvatara Upanishad, Siva or Rudra has been made the Mahadeva (Supreme God). Though Siva as a God was gaining importance gradually yet the cult of Shiva as the Supreme God or even the philosophy of Shaivism became popular only after the early Christian era.

Vaishnavism and Shaivism: In fact, there are two mono-theistic religions:

  • the Vaishnavism and
  • the Shaivism.

Both the religious postulate Bhakti. In Siva we find the synthesis of Rig Vedic Rudra and the non-Aryan God of power, fertility and prosperity. He is thus the embodiment of two contradictory aspects. In one, he is the father of all gods, the symbol of morality, in the other he is the destroyer (Mahakala).

Shiva Linga: The Shaivas begins by worshipping the images of Shiva in human form and the shiva-lingam side by side. But gradually the “Shiva Linga” replaced the worship of the images of Siva. Linga means “symbol”. Shiva Linga reminds us of the omnipresent and omnipotent nature of God Shiva.

Founder of Shaivism sect: It was due to Lakulin or Nakulin, a legendary as well as historical personage, the Siva worshipping religious sect was founded. He was the first great teacher of Saivism. Both the Nathadwar inscription of Udaipur and another inscription of 13th century A.D. have given us his reference. Lakulin or Nakulin was a man of 2nd century B.C. However, Nakulin founded the Pasupata or Mahesvara sect of Shaivism. According to the Pasupata Shaivism, Lord Shiva has directed five paths to make life free from the bonds:

  • Effect (Karya),
  • Cause (Karma),
  • Path (Yoga),
  • Rule (Vidhi) and
  • End of sorrows and sufferings (Dukkhanta).

Later on four separate Saiva sects emerged out of this Pasupata or Mahesvara sect. They are­ :

  • Saiva,
  • Pasupata,
  • Kapalika and
  • Kalamukha.

Later on Patanjali, during the 2nd century B. C. referred to the image of Shiva and about his worship.

Lord Shiva in great epics: In the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata we find the legends about Shiva and his wife Parvati and his sons and daughters. Possibly by that time the Shiva cult became popular.

Opposition: There were some orthodox Brahmins also who opposed the spread of Shiva cult but their opposition was eventually washed out. The legend about king Daksha, an anti-Saiva ruler speaks of that opposition.

Worshippers of Lord Shiva in history: Even in the Christian era, some of the Kushana kings were also Saivas. Many of the Gupta kings were Shaivas. The Guptas were not sectarians and under their rule Shaivism had flourished along with other forms of Hinduism.

Kumar Gupta, the ruler of Gupta Empire seems to favor the Skanda-cult in spite of him being a follower of Vaishnavism. It  as is evident by his peacock coins and by the name Skandha he gave to his son. Not only the Guptas, even some foreign rulers also worshipped Shiva.

Kalidasa, the greatest Sanskrit poet and play writer, was a devotee of Shiva. His great epic ‘Kumarasambhavam’ has immortalized the Paranika episode of the birth of Skanda (Kartikaya).

Bharavi a poet of sixth century A.D. wrote a Mahakavya ‘Kiratarjuniya’ to describe Shivas fight with Arjuna. Both Vayu and Matsyapuranas, which are devoted to Shiva, are the creation of the Gupta age. The Guptas had built many temples and images of Shiva.

The Huna King Mihirakula was also a great devotee of Shiva. In Bengal King Sasanka himself and some members of the Pushyabhuti dynasty of Kanauj and the Maitraka dynasty Vallabhi were the devotees of Shiva.

In the Deccan as well the Brihat Valayanas, the Anandas, the Vishnukundins, many of the Vakataka, Salankayana, Kademba and Western Ganga rulers used to worship Shiva. The Great upsurge in favor of Shaivism was mainly due to the enormous devotional poetry that flowed from the lips of leading Shaiva saints who lived in this age.

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