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Saivism: The Oldest Practice Of Hinduism

907 words - 4 pages

Saivism is a pan-Hindu religion that focuses on the traditions of Hinduism that worships the deity Shiva (or sometimes his consort and power, Sakti), practiced widely across India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Saivism is also the oldest form of Hinduism worship. Like Vaisnavism, Saivism has obtained many varieties of ritual practices and ideologies, though it has leaned more towards ascetic ideals. An important myth in the tales of Shiva is the story of Daksa, which is told in the Mahabharata, where we learn that Shiva was originally excluded from the vedic sacrifice, and conceivably a deity from outside the pantheon, but came to be accepted as a god. Many can interpret the myth as a metaphor for the development of Saivism. As Shiva is outside the vedic fold, so are the traditions and practices that are connected with him, and as Shiva makes his presence known, so are the Shivic traditions that are incorporated into vedic ideology and practices.
Regardless of all texts and myths, the origins of Saivism is hard to pinpoint. “Like Vişņu, Śiva is also a high god, who gives his name to a collection of theistic trends and sects: Śaivism. Like Vaişņavism, the term also implies a unity which cannot be clearly found either in religious practice or in philosophical and esoteric doctrine. Furthermore, practice and doctrine must be kept separate” (Michaels 387).
The earliest references to the deity Saiva are found in the Rg Veda where three hymns are addressed to him as “the roarer,” also known as Rudra. While he is described to be dangerous and destructive, he is also described to be the kind and benevolent healer and cooler of diseases. Rudra is an outlying deity in the vedic pantheon and the descriptions of him living away from Aryan communities may indicate that his origins are not of vedic beginnings, but because he is mentioned in hyms shows that his is a part of the vedic pantheons. The Svetasvatara Upanisad (or teachings of the sage with the white mule) was written around the fifth or fourth centuries BC. The Svetasvatara Upanisad is an important text because it marks a transition between a more simple idea of monism that belongs to early Upanisads and later theisms of Shiva and Vaisnava traditions.
There are other early references to Siva and Saiva worship, notably in Patanjali’s “Great Commentary” and with Puranas, ancient Hindu texts rhapsodizing various deities. It is with Puranic literature and texts in the Gupta Dynasty (c. 320 - 500 CE) that Saivism began to spread rapidly. The Saiva Puranas contained the usual puranic subjects as well as exclusive Saiva elements, and it is with those that we see Saivism develop as a major strain of Hinduism.Apart from material on the worshipping of...

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