Shiva (above) is the primary deity of Shaivism. Ritual at Muni ki Reti, Rishikesh

Shaivism m/ (Śaivam; Tamil: சைவம்; Devanagari: शैव संप्रदाय;[1][2][3] Assamese: শৈৱ; Bengali: শৈব; Telugu: శైవ సాంప్రదాయం; Kannada: ಶೈವ ಸಂಪ್ರದಾಯ; Malayalam: ശൈവമതം;Odia: ଶିବ ସମ୍ପ୍ରଦାୟଂ; Sinhala: ශිවාගම/ශෛවවාදය) is one of the major traditions within Hinduism that reveres Shiva as the Supreme Being.[4][5][note 1] The followers of Shaivism are called "Shaivites" or "Saivites". It is one of the largest sects that believe Shiva, worshipped as a creator and destroyer of worlds, is the supreme god over all.[6] The Shaiva have many sub-traditions ranging from devotional dualistic theism such as Shaiva Siddhanta to yoga-oriented monistic non-theism such as Kashmiri Shaivism.[7][8][9] It considers both the Vedas and the Agama texts as important sources of theology.[10][11][12] The origin of Shaivism may be traced to the conception of Rudra in the Rig Veda.[13]

Shaivism has ancient roots, traceable in the Vedic literature of 2nd millennium BCE, but this is in the form of the Vedic deity Rudra.[14] The ancient text Shvetashvatara Upanishad dated to late 1st millennium BCE mentions terms such as Rudra, Shiva and Maheshwaram,[15][16] but its interpretation as a theistic or monistic text of Shaivism is disputed.[17][18] In the early centuries of the common era is the first clear evidence of Pāśupata Shaivism.[14] Both devotional and monistic Shaivism became popular in the 1st millennium CE, rapidly becoming the dominant religious tradition of many Hindu kingdoms.[14] It arrived in Southeast Asia shortly thereafter, leading to the construction of thousands of Shaiva temples on the islands of Indonesia as well as Cambodia and Vietnam, co-evolving with Buddhism in these regions.[19][20] In the contemporary era, Shaivism is one of the major aspects of Hinduism.[14]

Shaivism theology ranges from Shiva being the creator, preserver, and destroyer to being the same as the Atman (self, soul) within oneself and every living being. It is closely related to Shaktism, and some Shaiva worship in Shiva and Shakti temples.[9] It is the Hindu tradition that most accepts ascetic life and emphasizes yoga, and like other Hindu traditions encourages an individual to discover and be one with Shiva within.[7][8][21] Shaivism is one of the largest traditions within Hinduism.[22][23]

Etymology and nomenclature

Shiva (IAST: śiva, Tamil: சிவன், Sanskrit: शिव) literally means kind, friendly, gracious, or auspicious.[24][25] As a proper name, it means "The Auspicious One".[25]

The word Shiva is used as an adjective in the Rig Veda, as an epithet for several Rigvedic deities, including Rudra.[26] The term Shiva also connotes "liberation, final emancipation" and "the auspicious one", this adjective sense of usage is addressed to many deities in Vedic layers of literature.[27][28] The term evolved from the Vedic Rudra-Shiva to the noun Shiva in the Epics and the Puranas, as an auspicious deity who is the "creator, reproducer and dissolver".[27][29]

The Sanskrit word śaiva or Shaiva means "relating to the god Shiva",[30] while the related beliefs, practices, history, literature and sub-traditions constitute Shaivism.[31]

Some authors associate the name Siva with the Tamil word śivappu meaning "the Red one" in Tamil and this tallies with the description of Rudra who is also called Babhru (brown, or red) in the Rigveda.[32][33]