Benjamin J. Fleming

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:


Shiva is one of the major gods of classical and contemporary Hinduism, along with Vishnu and Durgā. He figures prominently in South Asian art, ritual, literature, and liturgies and has been the topic of a range of scholarly studies, both thematic and historical. Some studies have sought to provide synthetic accounts of the mythology and iconography surrounding him, while others have explored the historical development of the figure of Shiva, Śaivite ritual schools, and “pan-Indian” Śaivism. A particularly rich line of research concerns the god’s relationship to the local spaces of the Indian subcontinent as constituted through pilgrimage practices and Māhātmya literature, his absorption of local deities, and the flourishing of regionally distinct traditions surrounding him; for instance, the distinctiveness of Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada traditions about the god in South India has long persisted, even in dynamic interaction with northern, Sanskrit-centered traditions. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries the study of medieval Sanskrit Puranas, long central to scholarship on Shiva, has been revitalized by the discovery and publication of an early version of the Skanda Purāṇa. New archaeological discoveries have also helped open new vistas onto the history of Śaivism, together with new work on Āgamic literature, epigraphical evidence, and Śaivism’s political history within and beyond India. This article focuses on the figure of Shiva. It also considers Śaivism, understood both in the more specific sense of the ritual schools as defined in Āgamic literature and in the broad sense of the complex of traditions surrounding the god in Hindu thought and practice.

Article.  8365 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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