Shaivism – The Origin and Growth of Shaivism essay

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Shaivism – The Origin and Growth of Shaivism

Origin of Shaivism

The origin of Shaivism in India can be traced from very early times. It may be a legacy of the non-Aryan religious belief of the pre-historic period. The excavations in the Indus valley have revealed images of deities resembling Siva and phallus or Siva-linga. However the cult of Siva developed by the fusion of the character of many deities, particularly the Vedic God Rudra.

In the ‘Rig-Veda’, Rudra is the God of destruction and storm. But in the `Yayur-Veda’, a synthesis is made between his destructive and benevolent character. Gradually Rudra rose into importance.

In the ‘Svetasvatara Upanishada’, Rudra or Siva is regarded as the Supreme God (Mahadeva). But inspite of the growing importance of Siva, the cult of Siva as the Supreme God and philosophy of Saivism did not grow before the early Christian era.

The Growth of Shaivism

The credit for the growth of  Shiva-worshipping religious sect goes to a person named Lakulin or Nakulin. That Lakulin is not a legendary figure, but a historical personage seems to be certain. Lakulin is generally regarded as the first great teacher of Shaivism.

The Nathadwar Inscription of Udaipur and another inscription of thirteenth century A.D. refer to him. According to R.G. Bhandarkar, he flourished in the second century B.C.’ But the Mathura Inscription of Chandra Gupta II prove that he flourished in the second century A.D.’

However, Lakulin is said to have founded the Pasupata or Mahesvara sects. The Pasupatas believed that Siva has prescribed Five Paths for releasing life from bonds. They are Karya (effect), Karana (cause), Yoga (path), Vidhi (rule), and Dukkhanta (end of misery). In course of time, four distinct Saiva sects developed, viz., Pasupata, Saiva, Kapalika and Kalamukha.

Progress of Saivism

In the fourth century B.C. Megasthenes recorded that the Indians worshipped Dionysus. This Dionysus is identified with Shiva. In the second century B.C. Patanjali refers to image of Siva and also to the worshippers of Siva. The Maurya rulers sold the images of Shiva in exchange of money. Jalauka, a successor of Asoka was also a Shaiva. In the Christian era some of the Kushana kings became worshippers of Siva.

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata describe in detail the legends growing round Siva and his family. This shows the growing popularity of the Siva cult. The opposition to the Saiva cult by some Brahmana die-hards is alluded to in the story of the sacrifice performed by king Daksha, an anti-Saiva ruler. Saivism had a great popularity in South India. The literature of the Sangama Era refers to Siva as the Supreme God.

Shiva Images and phallus

The Saivas worshipped from the beginning, the image of Siva in human form and also his phallic emblem. But gradually phallic form replaced the worship of the image of Siva. The early phallic emblems of Siva were more realistic in appearance. But probably due to opposition of orthodox section the form of phallus under-went changes and lost its early realism.

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