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Shaiva Siddhanta

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shaiva Siddhanta (IAST: Śaiva-siddhānta)[1][2] is a form of Shaivism popular in South India and Sri Lanka which propounds a devotional philosophy with the ultimate goal of experiencing union with Shiva. It draws primarily on the Tamil devotional hymns written by Shaiva saints from the 5th to the 9th century CE, known in their collected form as Tirumurai. Tirumular is considered to be the propounder of the term Siddhanta and its basic tenets. In the 12th century, Aghorasiva, the head of a branch monastery of the Amardaka order in Chidambaram, took up the task of formulating Shaiva Siddhanta. This is an earliest known Aghora Paddhati system of Shaiva Siddhanta of Adi Shaivas mathas in Kongu Nadu which rejects the Meykanda Shastras as a later addition. Meykandar (13th century) was the first systematic philosopher of the school.[3] The normative rites, cosmology and theology of Shaiva Siddhanta draw upon a combination of Agamas and Vedic scriptures.[4]In the Sri Lankan Sinhalese society, king Rajasinha I of Sitawaka reverted to Saiva Siddhantism and made it the official religion during his reign,[5]after a prolonged domination of Theravada Buddhism following the conversion of king Devanampiya Tissa. This Sinhalese Saiva Siddhanta led to the decline of Buddhism for the next two centuries until being revived by South East Asian orders aided by Europeans, but left vestiges in the Sinhalese society.

This tradition is thought to have been once practiced all over India,[6] but the Muslim subjugation of North India restricted Shaiva Siddhanta to the south[7] where it was preserved with the Tamil Shaiva movement expressed in the bhakti poetry of the Nayanars.[8] It is in this historical context that Shaiva Siddhanta is commonly considered a "southern" tradition, one that is still very much alive.[8] The Tamil compendium of devotional songs known as Tirumurai, the Shaiva Agamas and "Meykanda" or "Siddhanta" Shastras,[9] form the scriptural canon of Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta.

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Nataraja, moderating Panchakritya, the supreme being of Siddhantism.

Monier-Williams gives the meaning of siddhanta as 'any fixed or established or canonical text-book or received scientific treatise on any subject ... as .. Brahma-siddhanta ब्रह्म-सिद्धान्त,... Surya-siddhanta, etc.' The name of the school could be translated as "the settled view of Shaiva doctrine" or "perfected Shaivism."[citation needed]


Shaiva Siddhanta's original form is uncertain. Some[who?] hold that it originated as a monistic doctrine, espoused by Kashmiri northern shaivites (date unknown). South India is another theorized location of origin, where it was most prevalent. It seems likely to others, however, that the early Śaiva Siddhānta may have developed somewhere in India, as a religion built around the notion of a ritual initiation that conferred liberation. Such a notion of liberatory initiation appears to have been borrowed from a Pashupata (pāśupata) tradition.[10] At the time of the early development of the theology of the school, the question of monism or dualism, which became so central to later theological debates, had not yet emerged as an important issue.

Ontological Categories

Shaiva Siddhanta believes in three different categories, which are distinct from each other:[11]

  1. pati ("Lord"), is Siva himself and cause of emission, maintenance, re-absorption, concealment and grace.
  2. pasu ("Soul"), is individual Soul, distinct from Siva, but bound because of impurities.
  3. pasa ("Bond"), the three impurities - anava (darkness), karma (deed) and maya (delusion).

The soul gains experience through its action (rituals), which removes the three impurities, but the liberation is realized only by the grace of Lord Siva.[11]

Four stages

According to Shaiva Siddhanta texts, there are four progressive stages of Siva bhaki for a path to attain moksha:[12]

  1. dāsamārga, offering service to devotees of Siva in different ways such as cleaning temple, weaving flower garlands for the image of Siva, praising Lord Siva.
  2. satputramārga, a true son's way, offering personal devotion by preparing pūjā and performing meditation.
  3. sahamārga, offering devotion by practicing yoga.
  4. sanmārga, the way of truth and reality and the highest way, offering devotion by knowledge of God, experiencing the bliss of liberation and becoming one with God.

Tamil bhakti

Om symbol
Om symbol
Om symbol in Tamil
Om symbol in Tamil
The twelve volumes of Tamil Śaiva hymns of the sixty-three Nayanars
Parts Name Author
1,2,3 Thirukadaikkappu Sambandar
4,5,6 Thevaram Thirunavukkarasar
7 Thirupaatu Sundarar
8 Thiruvasakam &
9 Thiruvisaippa &
10 Thirumandhiram Thirumular
11 Various
12 Periya Puranam Sekkizhar
Paadal Petra Sthalam
Paadal Petra Sthalam
Rajaraja I
Nambiyandar Nambi

From the 5th to the 8th century CE Buddhism and Jainism had spread in Tamil Nadu before a forceful Shaiva bhakti movement arose. Between the 7th and 9th centuries, pilgrim saints such as Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar 63 nayanmars used songs of Shiva's greatness to refute concepts of Buddhism and Jainism. Manikkavacakar's verses, called Tiruvacakam, are full of visionary experience, divine love and urgent striving for truth. The songs of these four saints are part of the compendium known as Tirumurai which, along with the Vedas, Shaiva Agamas, and the Meykanda Shastras, are now considered to form the scriptural basis of the Śaiva Siddhānta in Tamil Nadu. It seems probable that the Tirumurai devotional literature was not, however, considered to belong to the Śaiva Siddhānta canon at the time when it was first composed:[13] the hymns themselves appear to make no such claim for themselves.

The Bhakti movement should not be exaggerated as an articulation of a 'class struggle'; there is nevertheless a strong sense against rigid structures in the society.[14]

Tamil exclusivist reform Saiva Siddhanta:

The exclusive Tamil reformist Saiva Siddhanta are people living in a community faced with strong nationalist ideas. In that way their beliefs in a religious way and their beliefs in a political way were mostly intertwined. Maraimalai Adigal and his religious belief in the Saiva Siddhanta, for example, were heavily influenced by the Tamil Nationalism and especially by the party of the Shivaistic Revivalist, which he and his mentor had a part in creating. In Adigals belief system you can see how the Saiva Siddhanta that he relies his core beliefs on is mixed with his and the Revivalists core political to a very an individual tamilic Saiva Siddhanta Tradition. For example, though the Saiva Siddhanta in itself is not anti-Brahmanic Adigal develop it into having that tendency. That way his religious teaching in the Saiva Siddhanta strengthens his pro-Tamil and pro-shivaism attitude. It helps him and the Revivalists to establish their idea of the "pure Tamil", by becoming a religious tradition not reliant on any ties to older traditions by becoming itself the oldest tradition.[15]


Adi Shaiva Siddhanta:

In the 12th century, Aghorasiva, the head of a branch monastery of the Amardaka order in Chidambaram, took up the task of formulating Shaiva Siddhanta. Strongly refuting monist interpretations of Siddhanta, Aghorasiva brought a change in the understanding of Siva by reclassifying the first five principles, or tattvas (Nada, Bindu, Sadasiva, Isvara and Suddhavidya), into the category of pasa (bonds), stating they were effects of a cause and inherently unconscious substances, a departure from the traditional teaching in which these five were part of the divine nature of God.

Aghorasiva was successful in preserving the rituals of the ancient Āgamic tradition. To this day, Aghorasiva's Siddhanta philosophy is followed by almost all of the hereditary temple priests (Sivacharya), and his texts on the Āgamas have become the standard puja manuals. His Kriyakramadyotika is a vast work covering nearly all aspects of Shaiva Siddhanta ritual, including the daily worship of Siva, occasional rituals, initiation rites, funerary rites, and festivals. This Aghora Paddhati of Shaiva Siddhanta is followed by the ancient gruhasta Adi Shaiva Maths of Kongu Nadu[16] and the temple Sthanika Sivacharya priests of south India.

Meykandar Sampradaya:

In Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta, the 13th century Meykandar, Arulnandi Sivacharya, and Umapati Sivacharya further spread Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta. Meykandar's twelve-verse Śivajñānabodham and subsequent works by other writers, all supposedly of the 13th and 14th centuries, laid the foundation of the Meykandar Sampradaya (lineage), which propounds a pluralistic realism wherein God, souls and world are coexistent and without beginning. Siva is an efficient but not material cause. They view the soul's merging in Siva as salt in water, an eternal oneness that is also twoness. This later Sampradaya is followed by the 18 cardinal non Adi Shaiva sanyasi Adheenam Maths in Chola, Pandya, Nadu and Tondai Nadus.

Sinhalese Shaiva Siddhanta (extinct):

In the Sri Lankan Sinhalese society, king Rajasinha I of Sitawaka reverted to Saiva Siddhantism[17] after a prolonged domination of Theravada Buddhism following the conversion of king Devanampiya Tissa.

King Rajasinha arranged the marriage of his Tamil minister Mannamperuma Mohottala to a sister of a junior queen known as the "iron daughter" He converted to Shaiva Siddhanta[18] He was reported to have settled Brahmans Adi Shaivas and Tamil Shaivite Velalars at significant Buddhist sites such as Sri Pada, etc. The Velala Gurukkals acted as religious mentors of the King and strengthened Shaiva Siddhantism at these centres. Under the advice of Mannamperuma Mohottala, he razed many Buddhist religious sites to the ground. Buddhism remained in decline thereafter until the formation of the Siam Nikaya and Amarapura Nikaya with the support of the Portuguese and Dutch East India Company respectively.

Traces of the era exist in temples like Barandi Kovila (Bhairava-andi kovil) in Sitawaka and the worship of other Shaivite deities by the Sinhalese, like the syncretic Natha deviyo, Sella kataragama and others.

Tamil exclusivist reform Saiva Siddhanta:

This colonial new age movement was initiated by the Tamil purist nationalist Maraimalai Adigal. This school is followed by modern Maths dating from the colonial age likes of the Perur Adheenam (Circa 1895 initiate of the then Arasu Palli caste headed Mayilam Bommapuram Lingayat Adheenam) of Coimbatore which holds Lingayatism as the 'primeval' form of Shaiva Siddhantism . This modern sampradaya aims to 'rid' Shaiva Siddhantism of the two former earlier traditions which follow the Vedic and Agamic texts and Adi Shaivas thereby 'purifying' Saiva Siddhanta with the Dravidian movement related Tamil Nationalist undertones.

Modern Shaiva Siddhanta:

Post colonial and contemporary movements like that of Bodhinatha Veylanswami's Shaiva Siddhanta Church have stressed upon reforming orthodox Shaiva Siddhanta of the pre-colonial era by initiating the non Shaivite born, both Indians and westerners. This movement also rejects animal sacrifices mentioned in the Siddhantic Vedic and Agamic scriptures.

Saiva Siddhanta today

Saiva Siddhanta is practiced widely among the Saivas of southern India and Sri Lanka, especially by members of the Adi Shaivas, Kongu Vellalar,[16] Vellalar and Nagarathar communities of South India.[19] It has over 5 million followers in Tamil Nadu, and is also prevalent among the Tamil diaspora around the world.[citation needed] It has thousands of active temples predominantly in Tamil Nadu and also in places around the world with significant Tamil population [citation needed] and also has numerous monastic and ascetic traditions, along with its own community of priests, the Adishaivas, who are qualified to perform Agama-based Shaiva Temple rituals.

Kumaragurupara Desikar, a Tamil Saivite poet says that Shaiva Siddhantha is the ripe fruit of the Vedanta tree. G.U. Pope, an Anglican Tamil Scholar, mentions that Shaiva Sidhantha is the best expression of Tamil knowledge.[20]



The texts revered by the southern Saiva Siddhanta are the Vedas; the twenty-eight dualist Hindu Agamas; Shaiva Puranas; the two Itihasas[21] which form the ritual basis of the tradition; the twelve books of the Tamil Saiva canon called the Tirumurai, which contains the poetry of the Nayanars; the Aghora Paddhati, a codified form of all the above and additionally the Saiva Siddhanta Shastras for the Meykandar denomination.[22]

Early theology

Siddhas such as Sadyojyoti (c. 7th century[23]) are credited with the systematization of the Siddhanta theology in Sanskrit. Sadyojyoti, initiated by the guru Ugrajyoti, propounded the Siddhanta philosophical views as found in the Rauravatantra and Svāyambhuvasūtrasaṅgraha. He may or may not have been from Kashmir, but the next thinkers whose works survive were those of a Kashmirian lineage active in the 10th century: Rāmakaṇṭha I, Vidyākaṇṭha I, Śrīkaṇṭha, Nārāyaṇakaṇṭha, Rāmakaṇṭha II, Vidyākaṇṭha II. Treatises by the last four of these survive. King Bhoja of Gujarat (c. 1018) condensed the massive body of Siddhanta scriptural texts into one concise metaphysical treatise called the Tattvaprakāśa.

Later theology

The culmination of a long period of systematisation of its theology appears to have taken place in Kashmir in the 10th century, the exegetical works of the Kashmirian authors Bhatta Narayanakantha and Bhatta Ramakantha being the most sophisticated expressions of this school of thought.[24] Their works were quoted and emulated in the works of 12th-century South Indian authors, such as Aghorasiva and Trilocanasiva.[25] The theology they expound is based on a canon of Tantric scriptures called Siddhantatantras or Shaiva Agamas. This canon is traditionally held to contain twenty-eight scriptures, but the lists vary,[26] and several doctrinally significant scriptures, such as the Mrgendra,[27] are not listed. In the systematisation of the ritual of the Shaiva Siddhanta, the Kashmirian thinkers appear to have exercised less influence: the treatise that had the greatest impact on Shaiva ritual, and indeed on ritual outside the Shaiva sectarian domain, for we find traces of it in such works as the Agnipurana, is a ritual manual composed in North India in the late 11th century by a certain Somasambhu.[28]

Monastic orders

Three monastic orders were instrumental in Shaiva Siddhanta's diffusion through India; the Amardaka order, identified with one of Shaivism's holiest cities, Ujjain, the Mattamayura order, in the capital of the Chalukya dynasty, and the Madhumateya order of Central India. Each developed numerous sub-orders. Siddhanta monastics used the influence of royal patrons to propagate the teachings in neighboring kingdoms, particularly in South India. From Mattamayura, they established monasteries in regions now in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala.

In today's Tamil Nadu, there are both the ancient grhasta Amardaka lineage Aghora Paddhati Adi Shaiva Maths and the sanyasi non Adi Shaiva Meykandar Sampradaya Adheenams (monastic) today. Adi Shaiva Maths numbering around 40 are usually centred in Kongu Nadu[16] and the 18 Adheenams in Tondai Nadu, Chola Nadu and Pandya Nadu.[29]

In the Sinhalese areas of Sri Lanka, the Tamil Velala Gurukkal either returned back or merged with the priestly Kapurala caste but retaining their Tamil surnames with a few persisting in places like the SellaKataragama temple.


  1. ^ Xavier Irudayaraj,"Saiva Siddanta," in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, Vol.III, 2010, pp.10 ff.
  2. ^ Xavier Irudayaraj, "Self Understanding of Saiva Siddanta Scriptures" in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, Vol.III, 2010, pp.14 ff.
  3. ^ "Shaiva-siddhanta | Hindu philosophy". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 18 March 2017. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  4. ^ Flood, Gavin. D. 2006. The Tantric Body. P.120
  5. ^ "ගණින්නාන්සේලා කියවිය යුතු සංඝරජ වැලවිට සරණංකර චරිතය". Archived from the original on 20 January 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2010.
  6. ^ Schomerus, Hilko Wiardo (2000). Śaiva Siddhānta: An Indian School of Mystical Thought : Presented as a System and Documented from the Original Tamil Sources (Reprint ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. pp. 5–7. ISBN 978-81-208-1569-8.
  7. ^ Flood, Gavin. D. 2006. The Tantric Body. P.34
  8. ^ a b Flood, Gavin. D. 1996. An Introduction to Hinduism. P.168
  9. ^ S. Arulsamy, Saivism - A Perspective of Grace, Sterling Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi, 1987, pp.1
  10. ^ See Alexis Sanderson's The Lākulas: New evidence of a system intermediate between Pāñcārthika Pāśupatism and Āgamic Śaivism. Ramalinga Reddy Memorial Lectures, 1997. In: The Indian Philosophical Annual 24 (2006), pp.143-217.
  11. ^ a b Flood, Gavin D. (1996). An introduction to Hinduism. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. p. 163. ISBN 0-521-43304-5. OCLC 50516193.
  12. ^ Klostermaier, Klaus K. A survey of Hinduism. p. 193. ISBN 0-7914-7081-4. OCLC 70251175.
  13. ^ Dominic Goodall, The Parākhyatantra. A Scripture of the Śaiva Siddhānta, Pondicherry, French Institute of Pondicherry and Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, 2004, pp.xxix-xxxiv.
  14. ^ Flood, Gavin. D. 1996. An Introduction to Hinduism. P. 170
  15. ^ Vaitheespara, Ravi. 2010. Forging the Tamil caste: Maraimalai Adigal (1876-1950) and the discourse of caste and ritual in colonial Tamilnadu.
  16. ^ a b c "Saivacharyas honoured". Retrieved 17 December 2023.
  17. ^ "ගණින්නාන්සේලා කියවිය යුතු සංඝරජ වැලවිට සරණංකර චරිතය". Archived from the original on 20 January 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2010.
  18. ^ Mayadunne and Rajasinha I The Island - May 20, 2011
  19. ^ "Kongu Vellalar Sangangal Association". Archived from the original on 3 August 2021. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  20. ^ "The Shaiva Siddhanta". Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  21. ^ "Vaidhika Shaiva Siddhanta". Retrieved 16 September 2023.
  22. ^ Flood, Gavin. D. 1996. An Introduction to Hinduism. P. 169
  23. ^ See Alexis Sanderson, "The Date of Sadyojyotis and Brhaspati." In Cracow Indological Studies 8 (2006), pp.39–91. (Actual publication date 2007.)
  24. ^ Alexis Sanderson, "The Saiva Exegesis of Kashmir", pp.242-248, in Tantric Studies in Memory of Hélène Brunner, edited by Dominic Goodall and André Padoux, Pondicherry, French Institute of Pondicherry and Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient, 2007.
  25. ^ Dominic Goodall, Problems of Name and Lineage: Relationships between South Indian Authors of the Shaiva Siddhanta, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 10.2 (2000).
  26. ^ Extant lists are presented by Dominic Goodall in Appendix III of Bhatta Ramakantha's Commentary on the Kiranatantra, Pondicherry, French Institute of Pondicherry and Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient, 1998, pp.402-417.
  27. ^ This is one of the few demonstrably pre-10th-century scriptures of the Shaiva Siddhanta to have been completely translated into a European language: Michel Hulin, Mrgendragama. Sections de la doctrine et du yoga, Pondicherry, French Institute of Pondicherry, 1980, and Hélène Brunner-Lachaux, Mrgendragama. Section des rites et sections du comportement, Pondicherry, French Institute of Pondicherry, 1985.
  28. ^ This manual, called the Kriyakandakramavali or Somasambhupaddhati, has been edited, translated and richly annotated by Hélène Brunner and published in 4 volumes from the French Institute of Pondicherry in 1963, 1968, 1977 and 1998.
  29. ^


  • Flood, Gavin (2005). The Tantric Body: The Secret Tradition of Hindu Religion. I. B. Tauris. ISBN 1845110110.

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