Śaivism, also written Shaivism and Saivism, is the branch of Hinduism that worships Siva as the Supreme God. Followers of Śaivism are called Śaivas or Śaivites.
History of Shaivism
Originating in India, Śaivism has wide appeal across the country and is particularly strong among the Tamils of Southern India and Sri Lanka. Some traditions credit the spreading of Śaivism into southern India to the great sage, Agastya, who is said to have brought Vedic traditions along with the Tamil language.
Nayanars (or Nayanmars), saints from Southern India, were mostly responsible for development of Śaivism in the Middle Ages.
Beliefs and Practices
Śaivism is a form of nondual spiritual practice and philosophy originating in India. Śaivites believe that the entire creation is both an expression of conscious divinity and is non-different from that divinity which they call "Śiva". Because he is simultaneously the created and the creator, Śiva is both immanent and transcendent. This concept contrasts with many semitic religious traditions in which God is seen as fundamentally different from the creation and transcendent, or "higher" than the creation. As in all Hindu denominations, Śaivism acknowledges the existence of many other deities. These deities are expressions of the Supreme One. This type of spiritual view is called Monistic Theism: the cosmos is a "monad" or single consciousness that expresses itself dualistically, but is fundamentally one.
Śaivism is a very deep, devotional and mystical denomination of Hinduism. It is considered the oldest of the Hindu denominations, with a long lineage of sages and saints who have outlaid practices and paths aimed at self-realization and the ultimate goal of moksha, liberation. As a very broad religion, Śaivism encompasses philosophical systems, devotional rituals, legends, mysticism and varied yogic practices. It has both monistic and dualistic traditions. Major theological schools of Śaivism include Kashmir Śaivism, Śaiva Siddhanta and Virasaivism.
Śaivites believe God transcends form, and devotees often worship Śiva in the form of a lingam, symbolizing all universe. God Śiva is also revered in Śaivism as the anthropomorphic manifestation of Śiva Nataraja.
There are innumerable Śaivite temples and shrines, with many shrines accompanied as well by murtis dedicated to Ganesa, Lord of the Ganas, followers of Śiva, and son of Śiva and Śakti. The twelve Jyotirling, or "golden lingam," shrines are among the most esteemed in Śaivism. Benares is considered the holiest city of all Hindus, but especially Śaivites. A very revered Śaivite temple is the ancient Chidambaram, in South India.
One of the most famous hymns to Śiva in the Vedas is Śri Rudram. The foremost Śaivite Vedic Mantra is Aum Namah Sivaya.
- "Shaivism." Wikipedia. 2005. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaivism>