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An Historical Sketch

Part 5

Patañjali the grammarian (c. 150 B.C.) mentions devotees of Śiva[1] and also images of Śiva and Skanda. There is thus no reason to doubt that worshippers of Śiva were recognized as a sect from at least 200 B.C. onwards. Further it seems probable that the founder or an early teacher of the sect was an ascetic called Lakulin or Lakulîśa, the club-bearer.

The Vâyu Purâṇa[2] makes Śiva say that he will enter an unowned corpse and become incarnate in this form at Kâyârohana, which has been identified with Kârvân in Baroda. Now the Vâyu is believed to be the oldest of the Purâṇas, and it is probable that this Lakulin whom it mentions lived before rather than after our era and was especially connected with the Pâśupata sect. This word is derived from Paśupati, the Lord of cattle, an old title of Rudra afterwards explained to mean the Lord of human souls.

In the Sâṅtiparvan[3] five systems of knowledge are mentioned. Sâṅkhya, Yoga, the Vedas, Pâśupatam and Pâncarâtram, promulgated respectively by Kapila, Hiraṇyagarbha, Apântaratamas, Śiva the Lord of spirits and son of Brahmâ, and "The Lord (Bhagavân) himself."

The author of these verses, who evidently supported the Pâncarâtra, considered that these five names represented the chief existing or permissible varieties of religious thought. The omission of the Vedânta is remarkable but perhaps it is included under Veda. Hence we may conclude that when this passage was written (that is probably before 400 A.D. and perhaps about the beginning of our era) there were two popular religions ranking in public esteem with the philosophic and ritual doctrines of the Brahmans.

The Mahâbhârata contains a hymn[4] which praises Śiva under 1008 names and is not without resemblance to the Bhagavad-gîtâ. It contains a larger number of strange epithets, but Śiva is also extolled as the All-God, who asks for devotion and grants grace. At the close of the hymn Śiva says that he has introduced the Pâśupata religion which partly contradicts and partly agrees with the institutions of caste and the Âśramas, but is blamed by fools.[5]

These last words hint that the Pâśupatas laid themselves open to criticism by their extravagant practices, such as strange sounds and gestures.[6] But in such matters they were outdone by other sects called Kâpâlikas or Kâlâmukhas. These carried skulls and ate the flesh of corpses, and were the fore-runners of the filthy Aghoris, who were frequent in northern India especially near Mount Abu and Girnar a century ago and perhaps are not yet quite extinct. The biographers of Śankara[7] represent him as contending with these demoniac fanatics not merely with the weapons of controversy but as urging the princes who favoured him to exterminate them.

Hindu authorities treat the Pâśupatas as distinct from the Śaivas, or Śivaites, and the distinction was kept up in Camboja in the fourteenth century. The Śaivas appear to be simply worshippers of Śiva, who practice a sane ritual. In different parts of India they have peculiarities of their own but whereas the Vaishṇavas have split up into many sects each revering its own founder and his teaching, the Śaivas, if not a united body, present few well-marked divisions.

Such as exist I shall notice below in their geographical or historical connection.[8] Most of them accept a system of theology or philosophy[9] which starts with three principles, all without beginning or end. These are Pati or the Lord, that is Śiva: Paśu, or the individual soul: Pâśa or the fetter, that is matter or Karma.[10]

The task of the soul is to get free of its fetters and attain to the state of Śiva. But this final deliverance is not quite the same as the identity with Brahman taught by the Vedânta: the soul becomes a Śiva, equal to the deity in power and knowledge but still dependent on him rather than identical with him.[11]

Peculiar to Śaiva theology is the doctrine of the five kañcukas[12] or envelopes which limit the soul. Spirit in itself is free: it is timeless and knows no restrictions of space, enjoyment, knowledge and power. But when spirit is contracted to individual experience, it can apprehend the universe only as a series of changes in time and place: its enjoyment, knowledge and power are cramped and curtailed by the limits of personality. The terminology of the Śaivas is original but the theory appears to be an elaboration of the Pâncarâtra thesis that the soul is surrounded by the sheath of Mâyâ.

The early literature of the worshippers of Śiva (corresponding to the Saṃhitâs of the Pâncarâtras) appears to have consisted of twenty-eight works composed in Sanskrit and called Âgamas.[13] There is fairly good evidence for their antiquity. Tirumular, one of the earliest Tamil poets who is believed to have lived in the first centuries of our era, speaks of them with enthusiasm and the Buddhist Sanskrit works called Âgamas (corresponding to the Pali Nikâyas) cannot be later than that period. It is highly probable that the same word was in use among both Hindus and Buddhists at the same time. And since the Mahâbhârata mentions the Pâśupatam, there is no difficulty in supposing that expositions of Śivaite doctrine were current in the first century A.D. or even B.C.

But unless more texts of the Âgamas come to light the question of their age has little practical importance, for it is said by native scholars that of the twenty-eight primary books there survive only fragments of twenty, which treat of ritual, besides the verses which form the text expounded at length in the Śivañânabotham.[14] There are also said to be 120 Upâgamas of which only two or three have been preserved entire. Of these two have been printed in part, the Mṛigendra and Paushkara.[15] The former is cited in the Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha (about 1330) but does not show any signs of great antiquity.

It is thus clear that the Âgamas are not much studied by modern Śivaites but it is unhesitatingly stated that they are a revelation direct from Śiva and equal to the Veda[16] and this affirmation is important, even though the texts so praised are little known, for it testifies to the general feeling that there are other revelations than the Veda. But the Vedas, and the Vedânta Sûtras are not ignored. The latter are read in the light of Nîlakanṭḥa's[17] commentary which is considered by south Indian Pandits to be prior to Śankara.

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- Footnotes:


Śivabhâgavata, see his comment on Pâniṇi, V. 3. 99 and V. 2. 76. The name is remarkable and suggests that the Śivaites may have imitated the Bhâgavatas.


I. xxiii. 209. The Bibliotheca Ind. edition reads Nakulì. Aufrecht (Bodl. MSS.) has Lakulî. The same story is found in Linga P. chap. XXIV. Lakulî is said to have had four pupils who founded four branches. Lakulin does not play an important part in modern Śivaism but is mentioned in inscriptions from the tenth till the thirteenth centuries. The Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha describes the Nakulîśa-Pâśupata system and quotes Nakulîśa who is clearly the same as Lakulin. The figures on Kushan coins representing Śiva as holding a club may be meant for Lakulin but also may be influenced by Greek figures of Herakles. See for Lakulin Fleet in J.R.A.S. 1907, pp. 419 ff. and Bhandarkar Vaishṇavism and Śaivism, pp. 115 ff. The coins of Wema Kadphises bear the title Mahiśvara, apparently meaning worshipper of the Great Lord. Temples in south India seem to have been named after Kâyârohana in the seventh century A.D. See Gopinâtha Rao, Hindu Iconography, II. p. 19.


Mahâbhâr. XII.


Mahâbhâr. XII. 13702 ff. It is recited by Daksha when he recognizes the might of Śiva after the unfortunate incident of his sacrifice.


Śânti-parvan, section cclxxxv especially line 10, 470 ff.


See Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha, chap. VI. and the comments of Râmânuja and Śankara on Vedânta Sûtras, II. 2. 36.


E.g. Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya. The first notice of these sects appears to be an inscription at Igatpuri in the Nâsik district of about 620 A.D. recording a grant for the worship of Kapaleśvara and the maintenance of Mahâvrâtins (= Kàpàlikās) in his temple. But doubtless the sects are much older.


The principal are, the Pâśupatas, the Śaivasiddhântam of southern India and the Śivaism of Kashmir.


The Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha, chap. VII. gives a summary of it.


The Pâśupatas seem to attach less importance to this triad, though as they speak of Pati, Paśu and the impurities of the soul there is not much difference. In their views of causation and free will they differed slightly from the Śaivas, since they held that Śiva is the universal and absolute cause, the actions of individuals being effective only in so far as they are in conformity with the will of Śiva. The Śaiva siddhânta however holds that Śiva's will is not irrespective of individual Karma, although his independence is not thereby diminished. He is like a man holding a magnet and directing the movements of needles.


There is some difference of language and perhaps of doctrine on this point in various Śivaite works. Both Śivaites and Pâncarâtrins sometimes employ the language of the Advaita. But see Schrader, Int. to Pâncarâtra, pp. 91 ff.


The five Kañcukas (or six including Mâyâ) are strictly speaking tattvas of which the Śaivas enumerate 36 and are kâla, niyati, râga, vidyâ and kalâ contrasted with nityatva, vyâpakatva, pûrṇatva, sarvajnatva, sarvakartṛitva which are qualities of spirit. See Chatterji, Kashmir Śaivism, 75 ff., 160, where he points out that the Kañcukas are essentially equivalent to Kant's "forms of perception and conception." See too Schrader, Int. to Pâncarâtra, 64, 90, 115.


See for names and other details Schomerus, Der Śaiva-Siddhânta, pp. 7, 23: also many articles in the Siddhânta-Dipika.


They are taken from the Âgama called Raurava. The Śivaites of Kashmir appear to have regarded the extant Śiva-sûtras as an Âgama.


The Sanskrit text and translation of the Mṛigendra are published in the Siddhânta-Dipika, vol. IV. 1901 ff. It is sometimes described as an Upâgama and sometimes as the Jñânapâda of the Kâmika Âgama.


So Tirumûlar. Nîlakanṭḥa in his commentary on the Vedânta Sûtras says: "I see no difference between the Veda and the Śaivâgama."


Or Śrîkaṇṭha. The commentary is translated in Siddhânta-Dipika, vol. I. ff. In spite of sectarian views as to its early date, it seems to be influenced by the views and language of Râmânuja.

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