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Kashmir Saivism and Its Literature

Though Saivism is an old religio-philosophical system prevalent in many parts of India, certain erudite and enlightened teachers from Kashmir developed a special brand of the same. This came to be popularly known as 'Kashmir Saivism' in the annals of philosophical literature of later periods. However, a more technical and acceptable title has been 'Pratya-bhijnadarsana'.

Although the basic literature of Kashmir Saivism is some of the agamas like the Svacchanda, the Netra and the Vijnanabhairava, a new class of cardinal works was produced by the later writers. Among them, the following are the principal ones: Siva sutras (revealed to Vasugupta) (9th century A. D.), Spandasutra of Vasugupta, Spandasutraurtti of Kallata (chief disciple of Vasugupta), Sivadrsti of Somananda (9th century A. D) and Isvarapratyabhijna of Utpala (A. D. 900).

Abhinavagupta (A. D. 950-1000) was the most brilliant of the later writers whose Vrtti on the Isvarapratyabhijna of Utpala, and his own independent works Tantraloka and Paramarthasra have made him immortal in the chronicles of Kashmir Saivism. Ksemaraja (A. D. 975-1025), Bhaskara and Varadaraja were the other noted writers who have enriched this literature.


Q1. What are the principles of Shaivism?


Shaivism recognizes three principles


Pati (Shiva) the Lord:  Siva is the pati, the husband, while jivas are pasus or animals or beings that have lost sight of their absolute nature. Siva is pasupati or the lord of all animals or jivas.


Pashu:  means animal, and denotes all beings, including the animals, plants, humans, and beings of other worlds. A pasu is an individual soul, clouded by ignorance and bound to the mortal world.


Pasha: Pasas are the bonds that keep the individual souls ignorant of their true Siva nature. The three pasas are- anava (individuality), karma (actions having consequences), and maya (delusion).

Q2. Why is Shaivism important?


The Hindu tradition accepts ascetic life and emphasizes yoga, and encourages an individual to discover and be one with Shiva within. The followers of Shaivism are called "Shaivites" or "Saivas". They believe Shiva - worshiped as a creator and destroyer of worlds - is the supreme god overall. Shiva's role is to destroy the universe to recreate it. Hindus believe these powers are used even now to destroy the illusions and imperfections of this world, paving the way for beneficial change. According to Hindu belief, this destruction is not arbitrary, but constructive.

Q3. What is the symbol of Shaivism?


Lingam, also spelled linga, in Hinduism, is a votary object that symbolizes the god Shiva and is revered as an emblem of generative power. The lingam appears in Shaivite temples and private shrines throughout India. In Shaivite temples, the lingam is often before the murtis (sacred images of shiva). The lingam is distinctively aniconic. It is a smooth cylindrical mass. Often it rests in the center of a lipped, disk-shaped object which is an emblem of the goddess Shakti. Hindus consider the two together to symbolize the union of the male and female principles and the totality of all existence.

Q4. How many Shaivites are there?


Pasupatis: Perhaps the oldest school within Shaivism.


Shaiva Siddhanta: Followed by many intellectuals. It has a personal doctrine, stressing the plurality of souls (as opposed to the Advaita idea that all souls and God are ultimately one).


Kashmiri Shaivism: Almost defunct today. Its most prolific writer is Abhinavagupta (c. 960 – 1020). The goal of this movement is to “become Shiva “and regain one’s universal nature. It is also called Shiva-Advaita.


Virashaivism (the Lingayats): Closely associated with the twelfth-century reformer, Basava. It opposed caste differences. Followers wear a small Shiva linga around the neck. The present community is centered around Karnataka.

Q5. Who is the supreme god in Shaivism?


Shiva is the Supreme Being in Shaivism, one of the major traditions within Hinduism. Shiva is known as "The Destroyer" within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity which also includes Brahma and Vishnu. In the Shaivite tradition, Shiva is the Supreme Lord who creates, protects, and transforms the universe. Also known as Mahadeva 'The Great God' or Hara is one of the five equivalent deities in Panchayatana puja of Hinduism. Shiva is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash, as well as a householder with his wife Parvati and his three children, Ganesha, Kartikeya, and Ashok Sundari.