Shaivism , the largest religious community in India.


Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Mrs Sudha Rani Maheshwari, M.Sc (Zoology), B.Ed.

Former Principal, A.K.P.I.College, Roorkee, India

“God and the individual are one. To realize this is the essence of Shaivism.”—- Swami Lakshmanjoo.

The “Hinduism” that  replaced Buddhism was not one religion, nor was it only religion; it was a medley of faiths and ceremonies. Religion in India limited itself by no one creed or dogma; it not only admitted a vast number of different formulations, it contained successfully within itself all the elements that have grown up in the course of the evolution of the elements that have grown up in the course of the evolution of religion and refused to ban or excise any: it developed occultism to its utmost limits, accepted spiritual experience, spiritual self-discipline. They accepted the law of Karma and the transmigration of souls, and they replaced with new gods the deities of the Vedas. These faiths had in part antedated and survived Vedic nature worship; in part they had grown from the connivance of the Brahmans at rites, divinities and beliefs unknown to the Scriptures and largely contrary to the Vedic spirit; they had boiled in the cauldron of Hindu religious thought even while Buddhism maintained a passing intellectual ascendancy.

The gods of Hinduism were characterized by a kind of anatomical superabundance vaguely symbolizing extraordinary knowledge, activity or power.

To the Hindu there are three chief processes in life and the universe: creation, preservation and destruction. Hence divinity takes for him three main forms: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer; these are the Trimurti, or “Three Shapes,” which all Hindus but the Jains adore. Popular devotion is divided between Vaishnavism, the religion of Vishnu, and Shivaism, the religion of Shiva. The two cults are peaceful neighbors, and sometimes hold sacrifices in the same temple;” and the wise Brahmans, followed by a majority of the people, pay equal honor to both these gods.

Shaivism is one of the largest religious community in contemporary India. It is commonly associated with asceticism. Lord Shiva himself is often depicted as a yogi sitting in meditation in the Himalayas. Shaivism includes the principle of avatar. Shiva has important forms as Rudra (in a fierce and angry mood), Nataraja (the King of Dance), and the Linga. Shiva’s followers often consider him the Supreme deity, above all others.

The worship of Shiva is one of the oldest, most profound and most terrible elements in Hinduism. There was nothing, not even Nirvana, that the Hindu desired so intensely as children. Hence, in part, his longing for sexual power, and his ritual adoration of the symbols of reproduction and fertility. Phallic worship, which has prevailed in most countries at one time or another, has persisted in India from ancient times to the twentieth century. Shiva was its deity, the phallus was its ikon, the Tantras were its Talmud. The Shaktiy or energizing power, of Shiva was conceived sometimes as his consort Kali, sometimes as a female element in Shiva’s nature, which included both male and female powers; and these two powers were represented by idols called linga or yoni, representing respectively the male or the female organs of generation.  Everywhere in India one sees signs of this worship of sex: in the phallic figures on the Nepalese and other temples in Benares; in the gigantic lingas that adorn or surround the Shivaite temples of the south; in phallic processions and ceremonies, and in the phallic images worn on the arm or about the neck. Linga stones may be seen on the highways; Hindus break upon them the cocoanuts which they are about to offer in sacrifice.”

Usually the phallic ritual is simple and becoming; it consists in anointing the stone with consecrated water or oil, and decorating it with leaves.”

Doubtless the lower orders in India derive some profane amusement from phallic processions;  but for the most part the people appear to find no more obscene stimulus in the linga or the yoni than a Christian does in the contemplation of the Madonna nursing her child; custom lends propriety, and time lends sanctity, to anything. The sexual symbolism of the objects seems long since to have been forgotten by the people; the images are now merely the traditional and sacred ways of representing the power of Shiva.  Perhaps the difference between the European and the Hindu conception of this matter arose from divergence in the age of marriage; early marriage releases those impulses which, when long frustrated, turn in upon themselves and beget prurience as well as romantic love. The sexual morals and manners of India are in general higher than those of Europe and America, and far more decorous and restrained.

The worship of Shiva is one of the most austere and ascetic of all the Hindu cults; and the devoutest worshipers of the linga are the Lingayats the most Puritanic sect in India.

The use of the linga and the yoni was but one of the myriad rituals that seemed, to the passing and alien eye, not merely the form but half the essence of Indian religion. Nearly every act of life, even to washing and dressing, had its religious rite. In every pious home there were private and special gods to be worshiped, and ancestors to be honored, every day; indeed religion, to the Hindu, was a matter for domestic observances rather than for temple ceremonies, which were reserved for holydays.

The roots of Shaivism are anchored in pre-historic India Between 700 and 1000 CE there lived sixty-three Nayanmars (singer-saints) whose poems are still recited today. Thereafter, Shaivism became the prominent religion of India, particularly in the South India. Magnificent temples were built in Shiva’s honour and many impressive sculptures were inspired by him. Shiva is mentioned in the four Vedas, and particularly the Svetashvatara Upanishad, the Shaivite equivalent to the Vaishnava Bhagavad-gita. There are numerous references to Shiva in the epics and Puranas.

Sir John Marshall reports “unmistakable evidence” of the cult of Shiva at Mohenjo-daro, partly in the form of a three-headed Shiva, partly in the form of little stone columns which he presumes to be as phallic as their modern counterparts. “Shivaism,” he concludes, “is therefore the most ancient living faith in the world.” The practice of worshipping Shiva Lingam as the holy symbol of Lord Shiva exists since time immemorial . The worship of Shiva Lingam was not confined to India  only. Vietnam was the home to a vibrant Vedic civilization. Many spectacular temples and sculptures still remain to this day .Throughout Vietnam many ancient Shiva Lingas have been found, dating back thousands of years.  Lingam was referred to ‘Prayapas’ by the Romans who introduced the worship of Shiva Lingam to European countries. The statutes of Shiva Lingams were found in the archeological findings in Babylon, a city of ancient Mesopotamia. In County Meath, Ireland, on the Hill of Tara sits a mysterious stone known as the Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny). According to The Annals of the Four Masters, an ancient document written by Franciscan Monks between 1632-1636 AD, this stone was brought to Ireland by the Tuatha Dé Danann .The Tuatha Dé Danann, meaning the children of the goddess Danu, are said to have ruled Ireland from 1897 B.C. to 1700 B.C. having arrived from the coast on ships. The Christian monks viewed the stone as a pagan stone idol symbolic of fertility. This stone was so important that it was used for the coronation of all Irish Kings up until 500 AD. The goddess Danu in European tradition was a river goddess. In some Irish texts her father is said to be Dagda (the good god), a father figure in Irish tradition. . Encyclopedia Britannica mentions under the headings “Etruria” and “Etruscan” that between the 2nd and 7th centuries BC, northern Italy was known as Etruria. During excavations many such “meteoric stones mounted on carved pedestals” are discovered in Italy. Obviously, therefore, this one was dug up from the Vatican itself. Many more must be lying buried in the Vatican’s massive walls and numerous cellars.

Shiva is viewed chiefly as a god of  destruction, the personification of that cosmic force which destroys, one after another, all the forms that reality takes all cells, all organisms, all species, all ideas, all works, all planets and all things. Never has another people dared to face the impermanence of forms, and the impartiality of nature, so frankly, or to recognize so clearly that evil balances good, that destruction goes step by step with creation, and that all birth is a capital crime, punishable with death. The Hindu, tortured with a thousand misfortunes and sufferings, sees in them the handiwork of a vivacious force that appears to find pleasure in breaking down everything that Brahma the creative power in nature has produced. Shiva dances to the tune of a perpetually forming, dissolving and re-forming world.

Just as death is the penalty of birth, so birth is the frustration of death; and the same god who symbolizes destruction represents also, for the Hindu mind, that passion and torrent of reproduction which overrides the death of the individual with the continuance of the race. In some parts of India, particularly Bengal, this creative or reproductive energy (Shakti) of Shiva or nature is personified in the figure of Shiva’s wife, Kali (Parvati, Uma, Durga), and is worshiped in one of the many Shakti cults. Until the last century this worship was a bloody ritual, often involving human sacrifice; latterly the goddess has been content with goats.” The deity is portrayed for the populace by a black figure with gaping mouth and protruding tongue, adorned with snakes and dancing upon a corpse; her earrings are dead men, her necklace is a string of skulls, her face and breasts are smeared with blood.  Two of her four hands carry a sword and a severed head; the other two are extended in blessing and protection. For Kali-Parvati is the goddess of motherhood as well as the bride of destruction and death; she can be tender as well as cruel, and can smile as well as kill; once, perhaps, she was a mother- goddess in Sumeria, and was imported into India before she became so terrible.  Doubtless she and her lord are made as horrible as possible in order that timid worshipers may be frightened into decency, and perhaps into generosity to the priests.

These are the greater gods of Hinduism; but they are merely five of thirty million deities in the Hindu pantheon; only to catalogue them would take a hundred volumes. Some of them are more properly angels, some arc what we should call devils, some are heavenly bodies like the sun, some are mascots like Lakshmi (goddess of good luck), many of them are beasts of the field or fowl of the air. Just as a good Christian may pray to the Madonna or one of a thousand saints, and yet be a monotheist in the sense that he recognizes one God assupreme, so the Hindu prays to Kali or Rama or Krishna or Ganesha without presuming for a moment that these are supreme deities. Some Hindus recognize Vishnu as supreme, and call Shiva merely a subordinate divinity; some call Shiva supreme, and make Vishnu an angel; if only a few worship Brahma it is because of its impersonality, its intangibility, its distance, and for the same reason that most churches in Christendom were erected to Mary or a saint, while Christianity waited for Voltaire to raise a chapel to God.



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