Śaivism is a monotheistic faith. Śaivites believe that there is only one God, who simultaneously permeates all creation and exists beyond it, being both immanent and transcendent. The concept is in contrast with many semitic religious traditions, where God is seen as transcendent only. As all other Hindu denominations, Śaivism acknowledges the existence of many lower Gods under the Supreme One. These Gods are encompassed by Him, seen as either as manifestations of the Supreme Being or as powerful entities who are permeated by Him, as is all Creation. This type of Monotheism is called Panentheism or Monistic Theism.
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.
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.
Originated in India, Śaivism has appeal all over India and is particularly strong in South India (especially, Tamil Nadu) and the island of Sri Lanka. Some traditions credit the spreading of Śaivism into southern India by the great sage, Agastya, who is said to brought Vedic traditions as well as the Tamil language.
There can be found almost 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 Iingam", shrines are among the most esteemed in Śaivism.
Benares is considered the holiest city of all Hindus and Śaivites. A very revered Śaivite temple is the ancient Chidambaram, in South India.
Probably the greatest author on the Śaiva religion writing in Sanskrit was Abhinavagupta, from Srinagar, Kashmir, c. 1000 CE.
Nayanars (or Nayanmars), saints from Southern India, were mostly responsible for development of Śaivism in the Middle Ages.
The presence of the different schools within hinduism should not be viewed as a schism. On the contrary, there is no animosity between the schools. Instead there is a healthy cross-pollination of ideas and logical debate that serves to refine each school's understanding of Hinduism. It is not uncommon, or disallowed, for an individual to follow one school but take the point of view of another school for a certain issue.
- http://www.shaivam.org/index.html; specifically, http://www.shaivam.org/shp.htm
- Śaivism from a dualistic perspective. (http://www.geocities.com/shivaperuman/)
- For a brief discussion about these branches and Hinduism in general, please see Swami Sivananda's excellent book, "All about Hinduism" at http://www.dlshq.org/download/hinduismbk.htm#_VPID_101
- For an excellent overview of Śaivism and basic beliefs, please see the following web site,
- Additionally, please see excerpts from the book, "Dancing with Śiva" which discusses Hinduism and Śaivism in particular on the web site,
- http://www.geocities.com/nayanmars/Documents.html (link for obtaining PDF documents of prayers to Śiva.)
- Listen to Kashmir Śaivism Scriptures in streaming realplayer (http://www.spiritual-happiness.com/scriptures.html) Including Śiva Sutras, Spanda Karikas, and Pratyabhijnahrdayam
- Coverage of the famous preminent Śiva temples, the 12 Jyotirlingas and Panchabhoota Stalams. (http://www.lingayat.com/festtemple/festitemple.asp)
- Wikipedia. (2005). Śaivism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9Aaivism). Retrieved on July 17. 2005.