Shaivism, also Saivism, is a branch of Hinduism that worships Siva as the Supreme God. Followers of Saivism are called Saivites.
Saivism is a monotheistic faith. Saivites believe that there is only one God, who simultaneously permeates all creation and exists beyond it, being both immanent and transcendent. The concept is in contrast with many Semitic religious traditions, where God is seen as transcendent only. As all other Hindu denominations, Saivism acknowledges the existence of many lower Gods under the Supreme One. These Gods are encompassed by Him, seen as either as manifestations of the Supreme Being or as powerful entities who are permeated by Him, as is all Creation. This type of Monotheism is called Panentheism or Monistic Theism.
Saivism is a very deep, devotional and mystical sect of Hinduism. It is considered the oldest of the Hindu denominations, with a long lineage of sages and saints who have outlaid practices and paths aimed at self-realization and the ultimate goal of moksha, liberation. As a very broad religion, Saivism encompasses philosophical systems, devotional rituals, legends, mysticism and varied yogic practices. It has both monistic and dualistic traditions.
Saivites believe God transcends form, and devotees often worship Siva in the form of a lingam, symbolizing all universe. God Siva is also revered in Saivism as the anthropomorphic manifestation of Siva Nataraja.
Originated in India, Saivism has appeal all over India and is particularly strong in South India (especially, Tamil Nadu) and the island of Sri Lanka. Some traditions credit the spreading of Saivism into southern India by the great sage, Agastya, who is said to brought Vedic traditions as well as the Tamil language.
There can be found almost innumerable Saivite temples and shrines, with many shrines accompanied as well by murtis dedicated to Ganesa, Lord of the Ganas, followers of Siva, and son of Siva and Sakti. The twelve Jyotirling, or "golden Iingam", shrines are among the most esteemed in Shaivism.
Benares is considered the holiest city of all Hindus and Saivites. A very revered Saivite temple is the ancient Chidambaram, in South India.
One of the most famous hymns to Siva in the Vedas is Shri Rudram. The foremost Saivite Vedic Mantra is Aum Namah Sivaya.
Major theological schools of Saivism include Kashmir Shaivism, Saiva Siddhanta and Virasaivism.
Nayanars (or Nayanmars), saints from Southern India, were mostly responsible for development of Shaivism in the Middle Ages.
- Additionally, please see excerpts from the book, "Dancing with Siva" which discusses Hinduism and Shaivism in particular on the web site,