One of three main forms of modern Hinduism, centred on the worship of Shiva.

The earliest of the cults devoted to Shiva date from the 4th century BC. Texts written by devotees of Shiva in the 3rd century AD are the basis of Tantra in Hinduism and other Indian religions. Today Shaivism includes diverse movements, both religious and secular, all of which take Shiva as the supreme and all-powerful deity and teacher and view gaining the nature of Shiva as the ultimate goal of existence. This is believed to be brought about by the performance of complex rituals. See also Shaktism; Vaishnavism.

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▪ Indian religious cult
also spelled  Śaivism 

      cult of the Indian god Shiva, with Vaishnavism and Shaktism, one of the three principal forms of modern Hinduism. Shaivism includes such diverse movements as the highly philosophic Shaiva-siddhanta, the socially distinctive Lingayat (Liṅgāyat), ascetic orders such as the dashnami sannyasins, and innumerable folk variants.

      The beginnings of the Shiva cult have been traced back by some scholars to non-Aryan phallic worship. Although this is not conclusive, it is clear that the Vedic (Vedic religion) god Rudra (“the Howler”) was amalgamated with the figure of Shiva (“Auspicious One”) that emerged in the period after the Upanishads. The Shvetashvatara Upanishad treats Shiva as the paramount deity, but it is not until sometime between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE and the rise of the Pashupata sect that organized sectarian worship developed.

      There are several schools of modern Shaiva thought, ranging from pluralistic realism to absolute monism, but they all agree in recognizing three principles: pati, Shiva, the Lord; pashu, the individual soul; and pasha, the bonds that confine the soul to earthly existence. The goal set for the soul is to get rid of its bonds and gain shivatva (“the nature of Shiva”). The paths leading to this goal are carya (external acts of worship), kriya (acts of intimate service to God), yoga (meditation), and jnana (knowledge). Shaivism, like some of the other forms of Hinduism, spread in the past to other parts of Southeast Asia, including Java, Bali, and parts of Indochina and Cambodia.

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