Shaiva Siddhanta

Ginni Ishimatsu

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:
Shaiva Siddhanta

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Shaiva Siddhānta (Śaiva Siddhānta, Śaivasiddhānta, Saiva Siddhanta, Caiva cittāntam), “the established conclusion of Shaivism,” is a school of thought and ritual practice based on twenty-eight Shaiva āgamas or tantras, authoritative scriptures in Sanskrit that proclaim their origins as divine knowledge revealed by Shiva. The system was originally grounded in a dualist doctrine that regards Shiva (pati or Lord) and souls (pashu/paṡu) as eternally distinct, divine entities; materiality (pasha/pāṡa), which makes up the rest of the universe, is inanimate, but also real. Rites of initiation and the daily worship of Shiva were understood as necessary acts leading to liberation. The earliest known Siddhāntin āgamas are first seen in northern India around the 6th century ce. From then until the 12th century, the school spread across India, its members connected with monastic institutions and temples; a number of its preceptors became royal gurus. After this period, however, Shaiva Siddhānta remained active only in the southern Tamil country, where its doctrines developed along such different lines that some scholars mark it as a separate system. From the 12th to the 14th centuries, preceptor-scholars wrote a series of doctrinal works in Tamil and Sanskrit that together came to be called the Meykaṇṭa Cāttiraṅkaḷ (Meykanda Shastras). This collection became the new Shaiva Siddhānta “canon” in the Tamil country, containing a number of features that move away from the doctrines of the earlier Sanskrit āgamic literature. While the Brahmin priests focused on the rituals, especially those performed “for the sake of others” (parārthapūjā) (i.e., temple rituals), high-caste, non-Brahmin preceptors practiced Shiva worship “for one’s own sake” (ātmārthapūjā), established monasteries, wrote theological works and commentaries on the Meykaṇṭa Cāttiraṅkaḷ, and embraced as part of their tradition not only the āgamas but also the Vedas (and especially the medieval devotional literature of the Tamil Tirumuṟai), so that the distinction between Shaiva Siddhānta and Tamil Shaiva bhakti has become blurred. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Dravidian cultural nationalists attempted to appropriate Shaiva Siddhānta by portraying it as the original, “pre-Aryan” religion of the Tamil people, a move that led to the common but inaccurate view that the school is essentially or originally a Tamil tradition. Today, Shaiva Siddhānta is seen mostly in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, in the ritual traditions of the gurukkaḷ temple priests and ōtuvar singers, and in monastic institutions, as well as in temples and monastic organizations in the Hindu diaspora.

Article.  5957 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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