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The Antiquity of Shaivism;


A Shaiva Ascetic

Some historians suggest that Saivism as a distinct tradition emerged between 300 B.C and 200 A.D. This hypothesis is difficult to accept because Svetasvatara Upanishad extols Shiva as the highest supreme Brahman. In character and composition, it is essentially a Saiva Upanishad. The Upanishad is considered one of the earliest and pre-Buddhist. The name of Shiva figures prominently in the later hymns of the Vedas and in the two epics namely the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is probable that Saivism as a distinct tradition gained popularity during 300 B.C to 500 A.D, but existed for a long time before that. Numismatic evidence showing Shiva on the coins of Greek, Saka, and Parthian kings, and a reference to Siva bhagavata in Panini's work also show the growing popularity of Saivism in the post Mauryan India and its spread to various parts of the subcontinent in the next few centuries. However, it is difficult to believe that Saivism emerged out of nowhere during this period. Saivism is certainly one of the earliest traditions of Hinduism, which probably prevailed in its earlier days in the hilly and mountainous regions of the subcontinent and gained wider recognition in the aftermath of the collapse of Sindhu-Sarasvathi civilization.

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