Shaiva Siddhantins

Doctrines The Shaiva Siddhanta is a Hindu tradition whose focus of worship is Shiva. The Shaiva Siddhanta maintain that there are three ontologically distinct categories: the Lord (pati, i.e. Shiva) who performs the five actions of creating, maintaining, and destroying the universe, revealing and concealing himself; the 'beast' (pashu) or individual soul; and the 'bond' (pasha) or universe created through the Lord's female power or shakti.
The soul is trapped in the chain of reincarnation, being born over and over again due to the power of its actions (karma) until it gains liberation (moksha). Liberation is not realising the identity of the soul with Shiva, as it is in Kashmir Shaivism, but is a becoming equal to Shiva, with all his powers and qualities, while yet remaining separate. The only thing which differentiates the Lord from the liberated soul, apart from an eternal ontological difference, is that the Lord performs the five actions. The bound soul is covered with pollution (mala), a substance preventing its liberation, which can be removed, after initiation, by daily ritual action. Having been initiated and having performed the correct daily and occasional rituals, at death, with Shiva's grace, the Shaiva Siddhantin is liberated by becoming a Shiva. In Tamilnadu Shaiva Siddhanta is permeated by a strong element of Tamil devotionalism (bhakti).

History The Shaiva Siddhanta reveres the dualistic Tantras as revelation which were in existence by the tenth century CE but whose origins may go back to the seventh or eighth century, or perhaps earlier. The Tantric Shaiva scriptures are divided into those of the Shaiva Siddhanta and those others which include the monistic scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism. By the tenth century Shaiva Siddhanta was strong in Kashmir but died out due to the influence of the monistic ideology of Kashmir Shaivism and also probably because its temple-based culture could not survive the Moslem invasions. However, by the eleventh century Shaiva Siddhanta had become established in Tamilnadu in south India where it remains, along with Shri Vaishnavism, a popular and powerful religious institution, promulgated by the Adi-Shaivas, a caste of temple priests. With the move from Kashmir to the south, Shaiva Siddhanta became infused with Tamil popular devotionalism (bhakti), particularly through the songs of the Shaiva poet-saints, the Nayanars, in the seventh century. Indeed, along with the Shaiva Tantras, the poetry of the Nayanars was absorbed into the Shaiva canonical literature. One of the most famous Shaiva saints was Appar (7th cent.) who is said to have converted the Pallava king Mahendravarman to Shaivism.

Symbols The image of Shiva is the most powerful symbol in Shaiva Siddhanta. Shiva is worshipped in a number of forms in temples, including the dancing Shiva (at Cidambaram) and as the five-headed Sadashiva. Shiva is also worshipped in the aniconic form of the linga (see 'Shaivas').

Adherents No figures are available, but Shaiva Siddhanta, along with Shri Vaishnavism, is the most popular form of Hinduism in Tamilnadu. There are also communities of Tamil Shaivas overseas.

Main Centre
 There are Shaiva temples throughout the 'sacred geography' of Tamilnadu with Adi-Shaiva priests officiating, particularly at Cidambaram and Thanjavur.