Rudraksha is a seed traditionally used as a prayer bead in Hinduism. Rudraksha seeds are covered by a blue outer shell when ripe, hence being called blueberry beads; the seeds are produced by several species of large evergreen broad-leaved tree in the genus Elaeocarpus, with Elaeocarpus ganitrus roxb being the principal species. They are associated with the Hindu deity Lord Shiva and are worn for protection and for chanting the Om Namah Shivaya mantra by devotees; the seeds are used in India and Nepal as beads for organic jewellery and malas and are valued to semi-precious stones. Various meanings and potencies are attributed to beads with different numbers of segments and rare or unique beads are prized and valuable. Rudraksha is a Sanskrit compound word consisting of akṣa. Rudra is one of Lord Shiva's vedic names and Akṣa means'teardrops'. Thus, the name means Lord Rudra's teardrops. There are sources like Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami and Kamal Narayan Seetha who translate Akṣa as eye. In this case the meaning of rudraksha could mean "Eye of Lord Shiva" or "Eye of Rudra".
The term Rudraksha is used both for the berries themselves and in reference to the type of mala made from them. There is a long tradition of wearing rudraksha beads in India within Shaivism, due to their association with Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva; the mantra Om Namah Shivaya is repeated using the rudraksha beads. Rudraksha malas have been used by Hindus as rosaries from at least the 10th century for meditation purposes and to sanctify the mind and soul. Rudraksha beads may be strung together as a mala and used to count the repetition of a mantra or prayer, similar to the use of rosaries in Christianity. Most garlands contain 108 beads plus one, as 108 is considered sacred and a suitable number of times to recite a short mantra; the extra bead, called the "Meru", bindu, or "guru bead", helps mark the beginning and end of a cycle of 108, as well as having symbolic value as a'principle' bead. While counting the mala, the meru should not be overtaken but when it is reached the mala is recited in reverse order.
Recitation should be done after covering the mala and it should not touch the ground. After recitation, the mala should be kept in a cotton bag. Rudraksha malas contain beads in the following combination: 27+1, 54+1, or 108+1. 54+1 needs to be recited twice for one complete round. 27+1 needs to be recited four times for one complete round. It is possible to carry a single seed or several seeds strung on the same thread. Devi-Bhagavata Purana describes the preparation of rudraksha mala; the beads are strung on silk or on a black or red cotton thread. Less jewellers may use copper, silver, or gold wires, though the rudraksha may be damaged if strung too tightly. Elaeocarpus ganitrus roxb grow to a height of 60-80 feet and are found from the Gangetic plain in the foothills of the Himalayas to Southeast Asia, Nepal, New Guinea, to Australia, Hawaii, Taiwan, parts of Malaysia, Java. Out of 300 species of Elaeocarpus, 35 are found in India. Rudraksha seeds are covered by an outer husk of blue when ripe, for this reason are known as blueberry beads.
The blue color is structural. It is an evergreen tree; the rudraksha tree starts bearing fruit in three to four years from germination. As the tree matures, the roots form buttresses, rising up near the trunk and radiating out along the surface of the ground; the tree can be found from sea level up to 3000m. It tends to grow in narrow spaces, not on open ground, its leaves are longer. It yields one to two thousand fruits annually; these fruits are known as Amritphala. Rudraksha beads are found with a variety of much ranging from 1 to 21. A 27-mukhi rudraksha was found in Nepal. 80% of all rudrakshas have 4, 5, 6 mukhi. 1-mukhi is the rarest type of bead. Rudrakshas from Nepal are of bigger size and Indonesian rudrakshas are smaller. Rudrakshas are available in white, brown and black. There are special types of rudraksha available, such as Gauri Shankar, Sawar and other rare ones like Ved, etc. A rudraksha's surface should be hard and the projections should be well grooved, as found in most of the Nepalese Rudrakshas.
The Indonesian rudraksha has a different appearance. Rudrakshas from India show high and grooved projections resembling natural deep hills and valleys. Most fake rudrakshas exhibit 1 mukhi due to its rarity. A variety of rudrakshas called; the 1-mukhi rudraksha is faked using Areca nut. Some suppliers sell fake rudrakshas which have a serpent, Shiva-lingam, etc. carved on them. A real rudraksha does not have these markings. Fake rudrakshas are made by carving extra lines on lower-mukhi rudrakshas to obtain the rare and higher-priced higher-mukhi rudrakshas or by hiding lines to make a rarer lower-mukhi rudraksha. A fake Gauri Shankar rudraksha is made by gluing together two rudraksha beads. To recognize real rudrakshas, many techniques are used, such as sinking and floating of rudrakshas as well as revolving rudraksha
Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honor of Lord Shiva, in particular, marks the day of the marriage of Shiva. There is a Shivaratri in every luni-solar month of the Hindu calendar, on the month's 13th night/14th day, but once a year in late winter and before the arrival of Summer, marks Maha Shivaratri which means "the Great Night of Shiva", it is a major festival in Hinduism, this festival is solemn and marks a remembrance of "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in life and the world. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, non-injury to others and the discovery of Shiva; the ardent devotees keep awake all night. Others go on pilgrimage to Jyotirlingams; this is an ancient Hindu festival. In Kashmir Shaivism, the festival is called Har-ratri or phonetically simpler Haerath or Herath by Shiva faithfuls of the Kashmir region. Maha Shivaratri is an annual festival dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, is important in the Shaivism tradition of Hinduism.
Unlike most Hindu festivals which are celebrated during the day, the Maha Shivaratri is celebrated at night. Furthermore, unlike most Hindu festivals which include expression of cultural revelry, the Maha Shivaratri is a solemn event notable for its introspective focus, meditation on Shiva, self study, social harmony and an all night vigil at Shiva temples; the celebration includes maintaining a "jaagaran", an all-night vigil and prayers, because Shaiva Hindus mark this night as "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in one's life and the world through Shiva. Offerings of fruits, leaves and milk to Shiva are made, some perform all-day fasting with vedic or tantric worship of Shiva, some perform meditative Yoga. In Shiva temples, "Om Namah Shivaya", the sacred mantra of Shiva, is chanted through the day. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated over ten days based on the Hindu luni-solar calendar; every lunar month, there is a Shivaratri. The main festival is called Maha Shivaratri, or great Shivaratri, held on 13th night and 14th day of the month Phalguna.
In the Gregorian calendar, the day falls in either March. The Maha Shivaratri is mentioned in several Puranas the Skanda Purana, Linga Purana and Padma Purana; these medieval era Shaiva texts present different versions associated with this festival, & mention fasting, reverence for icons of Shiva such as the Lingam. Different legends describe the significance of Maha Shivaratri. According to one legend in the Shaivism tradition, this is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation and destruction; the chanting of hymns, the reading of Shiva scriptures and the chorus of devotees joins this cosmic dance and remembers Shiva's presence everywhere. According to another legend, this is the night when Parvati got married. A different legend states that the offering to Shiva icons such as the linga is an annual occasion to get over past sins if any, to restart on a virtuous path and thereby reach Mount Kailasha and liberation; the significance of dance tradition to this festival has historical roots.
The Maha Shivaratri has served as a historic confluence of artists for annual dance festivals at major Hindu temples such as at Konark, Pattadakal and Chidambaram. This event is called Natyanjali "worship through dance", at the Chidambaram temple, famous for its sculpture depicting all dance mudras in the ancient Hindu text of performance arts called Natya Shastra. At Khajuraho Shiva temples, a major fair and dance festival on Maha Shivaratri, involving Shaiva pilgrims camped over miles around the temple complex, was documented by Alexander Cunningham in 1864. Maha Shivaratri is considered the day when adiyogi or the first guru awakened his consciousness at the material level of existence. According to Tantra, at this stage of consciousness, no objective experience takes place and the mind is transcended; the meditator transcends time and causation. It is regarded as the brightest night of the soul, when the yogi attains the state of Shoonya or Nirvana, the stage succeeding samadhi or illumination.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in Tamil Nadu with great pomp and fanfare in the Annamalai temple located in Tiruvannamalai district. The special process of worship on this day is'Girivalam'/Giri Pradakshina, a 14-kilometer bare foot walk around Lord Shiva's temple on top of the hill. A huge lamp of oil and camphor is lit on the hilltop at sunset - not to be confused with Karthigai Deepam; the major Jyotirlinga Shiva temples of India, such as in Varanasi and Somanatha, are frequented on Maha Shivaratri. They serve as sites for fairs and special events. In Andhra and Telangana, Shivratri yatras are held at Mallayya gutta near Kambhalapalle, Gundlakamma Kona near Railway Koduru, Bhairavakona, Uma Maheswaram amongst others. Special pujas are held at Pancharamas - Amararamam of Amaravati, Somaramam of Bhimavaram, Kumararama of Samarlakota and Ksheerarama of Palakollu; the days after Shivratri are celebrated as Brahmotsavaalu at Srisailam, one of 12 Jyotirlinga sites. Mahashivaratri utsavalu are held at the Rudreshwara Swamy's 1000 pillar temple in Warangal.
Devotees throng for the special poojas at Srikalahasti, Yaganti, Kattamanchi, Bhairavakona, Keesaragutta, Panagal, Kolanupaka amongst others. The Mandi fair is in the town of Mandi is famous as a venue for Maha Shivaratri celebrations, it transforms the town. It is believed that all gods and goddess
Karma means action, work or deed. Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and happier rebirths, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and bad rebirths; the philosophy of karma is associated with the idea of rebirth in many schools of Indian religions as well as Taoism. In these schools, karma in the present affects one's future in the current life, as well as the nature and quality of future lives - one's saṃsāra. Karma is the executed "deed", "work", "action", or "act", it is the "object", the "intent". Wilhelm Halbfass explains karma by contrasting it with another Sanskrit word kriya; the word kriya is the activity along with the steps and effort in action, while karma is the executed action as a consequence of that activity, as well as the intention of the actor behind an executed action or a planned action. A good action creates good karma. A bad action creates bad karma. Karma refers to a conceptual principle that originated in India descriptively called the principle of karma, sometimes as the karma theory or the law of karma.
In the context of theory, karma is difficult to define. Different schools of Indologists derive different definitions for the karma concept from ancient Indian texts. Other Indologists include in the definition of karma theory that which explains the present circumstances of an individual with reference to his or her actions in past; these actions may be those in a person's current life, or, in some schools of Indian traditions actions in their past lives. The law of karma operates any process of divine judgment. Difficulty in arriving at a definition of karma arises because of the diversity of views among the schools of Hinduism. Buddhism and Jainism have their own karma precepts, thus karma has not multiple definitions and different meanings. It is a concept whose meaning and scope varies between Hinduism, Buddhism and other traditions that originated in India, various schools in each of these traditions. O'Flaherty claims that, there is an ongoing debate regarding whether karma is a theory, a model, a paradigm, a metaphor, or a metaphysical stance.
Karma theory as a concept, across different Indian religious traditions, shares certain common themes: causality and rebirth. A common theme to theories of karma is its principle of causality. One of the earliest association of karma to causality occurs in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad of Hinduism. For example, at 4.4.5-6, it states: The relationship of karma to causality is a central motif in all schools of Hindu and Buddhist thought. The theory of karma as causality holds that executed actions of an individual affects the individual and the life he or she lives, the intentions of an individual affects the individual and the life he or she lives. Disinterested actions, or unintentional actions do not have the same positive or negative karmic effect, as interested and intentional actions. In Buddhism, for example, actions that are performed, or arise, or originate without any bad intent such as covetousness, are considered non-existent in karmic impact or neutral in influence to the individual.
Another causality characteristic, shared by Karmic theories, is that like deeds lead to like effects. Thus good karma produces good effect on the actor; this effect may be material, moral or emotional — that is, one's karma affects one's happiness and unhappiness. The effect of karma need not be immediate; the consequence or effects of one's karma can be described in two forms: samskaras. A phala is the visible or invisible effect, immediate or within the current life. In contrast, samskaras are invisible effects, produced inside the actor because of the karma, transforming the agent and affecting his or her ability to be happy or unhappy in this life and future ones; the theory of karma is presented in the context of samskaras. Karmic principle can be understood, suggests Karl Potter, as a principle of psychology and habit. Karma seeds habits, habits create the nature of man. Karma seeds self perception, perception influences how one experiences life events. Both habits and self perception affect the course of one's life.
Breaking bad habits is not easy: it requires conscious karmic effort. Thus psyche and habit, according to Potter and others, link karma to causality in ancient Indian literature; the idea of karma may be compared to the notion of a person's "character", as both are an assessment of the person and determined by that person's habitual thinking and acting. The second theme common to karma theories is ethicization; this begins with the premise that every action has a consequence, which will come to fruition in either this or a future life.
Durga, identified as Adi Parashakti, is a principal and popular form of Hindu Goddess. She is the warrior goddess, whose mythology centres around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace and dharma of the good, she is the fierce form of the protective mother goddess, willing to unleash her anger against wrong, violence for liberation and destruction to empower creation. Durga is depicted in the Hindu pantheon as a Goddess riding a lion or tiger, with many arms each carrying a weapon defeating Mahishasura; the three principle forms of Durga worshiped are Maha Durga and Aparajita. Of these, Chandika has two forms called Chandi, of the combined power and form of Saraswati and Parvati and of Chamunda, a form of Kali created by the goddess for killing demons Chanda and Munda. Maha Durga has three forms: Ugrachanda and Katyayani. Bhadrakali Durga is worshiped in the form of her nine epithets called Navadurga, she is a central deity in Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, where she is equated with the concept of ultimate reality called Brahman.
One of the most important texts of Shaktism is Devi Mahatmya known as Durgā Saptashatī or Chandi patha, which celebrates Durga as the goddess, declaring her as the supreme being and the creator of the universe. Estimated to have been composed between 400 and 600 CE, this text is considered by Shakta Hindus to be as important a scripture as the Bhagavad Gita, she has a significant following all over India and Nepal in its eastern states such as West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar. Durga is revered after autumn harvests, specially during the festival of Navratri; the word Durga means "impassable", "invincible, unassailable". It is related to the word Durg which means "fortress, something difficult to defeat or pass". According to Monier Monier-Williams, Durga is derived from the roots gam. According to Alain Daniélou, Durga means "beyond defeat"; the word Durga, related terms appear in the Vedic literature, such as in the Rigveda hymns 4.28, 5.34, 8.27, 8.47, 8.93 and 10.127, in sections 10.1 and 12.4 of the Atharvaveda.
A deity named Durgi appears in section 10.1.7 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka. While the Vedic literature uses the word Durga, the description therein lacks the legendary details about her, found in Hindu literature; the word is found in ancient post-Vedic Sanskrit texts such as in section 2.451 of the Mahabharata and section 4.27.16 of the Ramayana. These usages are in different contexts. For example, Durg is the name of an Asura who had become invincible to gods, Durga is the goddess who intervenes and slays him. Durga and its derivatives are found in sections 4.1.99 and 6.3.63 of the Ashtadhyayi by Pāṇini, the ancient Sanskrit grammarian, in the commentary of Nirukta by Yaska. Durga as a demon-slaying goddess was well established by the time the classic Hindu text called Devi Mahatmya was composed, which scholars variously estimate to between 400 and 600 CE; the Devi Mahatmya and other mythologies describe the nature of demonic forces symbolised by Mahishasura as shape-shifting and adapting in nature and strategy to create difficulties and achieve their evil ends, while Durga calmly understands and counters the evil in order to achieve her solemn goals.
There are many epithets for Durga in Shaktism and her nine appellations are: Shailaputri, Chandraghanta, Skandamata, Kaalratri and Siddhidatri. A list of 108 names of the goddess are recited in order to worship her and is popularly known as the "Ashtottarshat Namavali of Goddess Durga". One of the earliest evidence of reverence for Devi – the feminine nature of God, appears in chapter 10.125 of the Rig Veda, one of the scriptures of Hinduism. This hymn is called the Devi Suktam hymn: – Devi Sukta, Rigveda 10.125.3 – 10.125.8, Devi's epithets synonymous with Durga appear in Upanishadic literature, such as Kali in verse 1.2.4 of the Mundaka Upanishad dated to about the 5th century BCE. This single mention describes Kali as "terrible yet swift as thought" red and smoky colored manifestation of the divine with a fire-like flickering tongue, before the text begins presenting its thesis that one must seek self-knowledge and the knowledge of the eternal Brahman. Durga, in her various forms, appears as an independent deity in the Epics period of ancient India, the centuries around the start of the common era.
Both Yudhisthira and Arjuna characters of the Mahabharata invoke hymns to Durga. She appears in Harivamsa in the form of Vishnu's eulogy, in Pradyumna prayer. Various Puranas from the early to late 1st millennium CE dedicate chapters of inconsistent mythologies associated with Durga. Of these, the Markandeya Purana and the Devi-Bhagavata Purana are the most significant texts on Durga; the Devi Upanishad and other Shakta Upanishads dated to have been composed in or after the 9th century, present the philosophical and mystical speculations related to Durga as Devi and other epithets, identifying her to be the same as the Brahman and Atman. The historian Ramaprasad Chanda stated in 1916 that Durga evolved over time in the Indian subcontinent. A primitive form of Durga, according to Chanda, was the result of "syncretism of a mountain-goddess worshiped by the dwellers of the Himalaya and the Vindhyas", a deity of the Abhiras conceptualized as a war-goddess. Durga transformed into Kali as the personification of the all-destroying time, while aspects of her emerged as the primordial energy integrated into the samsara concept and this idea was built
Maya "illusion" or "magic", has multiple meanings in Indian philosophies depending on the context. In ancient Vedic literature, Māyā implies extraordinary power and wisdom. In Vedic texts and modern literature dedicated to Indian traditions, Māyā connotes a "magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem". Māyā is a spiritual concept connoting "that which exists, but is changing and thus is spiritually unreal", the "power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality". In Buddhism, Maya is the name of Gautama Buddha's mother. In Hinduism, Maya is an epithet for goddess, the name of a manifestation of Lakshmi, the goddess of "wealth and love". Maya is a name for girls. Māyā is a word with unclear etymology comes from the root mā which means "to measure". According to Monier Williams, māyā meant "wisdom and extraordinary power" in an earlier older language, but from the Vedic period onwards, the word came to mean "illusion, deception, trick, sorcery and magic".
However, P. D. Shastri states that the Monier Williams' list is a "loose definition, misleading generalization", not accurate in interpreting ancient Vedic and medieval era Sanskrit texts. According to William Mahony, the root of the word may be man- or "to think", implying the role of imagination in the creation of the world. In early Vedic usage, the term implies, states Mahony, "the wondrous and mysterious power to turn an idea into a physical reality". Franklin Southworth states the word's origin is uncertain, other possible roots of māyā include may- meaning mystify, intoxicate, delude, as well as māy- which means "disappear, be lost". Jan Gonda considers the word related to mā, which means "mother", as do Tracy Pintchman and Adrian Snodgrass, serving as an epithet for goddesses such as Lakshmi. Maya here implies art, is the maker’s power, writes Zimmer, "a mother in all three worlds", a creatrix, her magic is the activity in the Will-spirit. A similar word is found in the Avestan māyā with the meaning of "magic power".
Words related to and containing Māyā, such as Mayava, occur many times in the Vedas. These words have various meanings, with interpretations that are contested, some are names of deities that do not appear in texts of 1st millennium BCE and later; the use of word Māyā in Rig veda, in the era context of "magic, power", occurs in many hymns. One titled Māyā-bheda includes hymns 10.177.1 through 10.177.3, as the battle unfolds between the good and the evil, as follows, The above Maya-bheda hymn discerns, using symbolic language, a contrast between mind influenced by light and magic. The hymn is a call to discern one's enemies, perceive artifice, distinguish, using one's mind, between that, perceived and that, unperceived. Rig veda does not connote the word Māyā as always good or always bad, it is a form of technique, mental power and means. Rig veda uses the word in two contexts, implying that there are two kinds of Māyā: divine Māyā and undivine Māyā, the former being the foundation of truth, the latter of falsehood.
Elsewhere in Vedic mythology, Indra uses Maya to conquer Vritra. Varuna's supernatural power is called Maya. Māyā, in such examples, connotes powerful magic, which both devas and asuras use against each other. In the Yajurveda, māyā is an unfathomable plan. In the Aitareya Brahmana Maya is referred to as Dirghajihvi, hostile to gods and sacrifices; the hymns in Book 8, Chapter 10 of Atharvaveda describe the primordial woman Virāj and how she willingly gave the knowledge of food, agriculture, water, knowledge, inspiration, charm, vice to gods, demons and living creatures, despite all of them making her life miserable. In hymns of 8.10.22, Virāj is used by Asuras who call her as Māyā, as follows, The contextual meaning of Maya in Atharvaveda is "power of creation", not illusion. Gonda suggests the central meaning of Maya in Vedic literature is, "wisdom and power enabling its possessor, or being able itself, to create, contrive, effect, or do something". Maya stands for anything that has real, material form, human or non-human, but that does not reveal the hidden principles and implicit knowledge that creates it.
An illustrative example of this in Rig veda VII.104.24 and Atharva veda VIII.4.24 where Indra is invoked against the Maya of sorcerers appearing in the illusory form – like a fata morgana – of animals to trick a person. The Upanishads describe the universe, the human experience, as an interplay of Purusha and Prakṛti; the former manifests itself as Ātman, the latter as Māyā. The Upanishads refer to the knowledge of Atman as "true knowledge", the knowledge of Maya as "not true knowledge". Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, states Ben-Ami Scharfstein, describes Maya as "the tendency to imagine something where it does not exist, for example, atman with the body". To the Upanishads, knowledge includes empirical knowledge and spiritual knowledge, complete knowing includes understanding the hidden principles that work, the realization of the soul of things. Hendrick Vroom explains, "The term Maya has been translated as'illusion,' but it does not concern normal illusion. Here'illusion' does not mean that the world is not real and a figment of t
Shaivism is one of the major traditions within Hinduism that reveres Shiva as the Supreme Being. 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. 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, it considers the Agama texts as important sources of theology. The origin of Shaivism may be traced to the conception of Rudra in the Rig Veda. Shaivism has ancient roots, traceable in the Vedic literature of 2nd millennium BCE, but this is in the form of the Vedic deity Rudra; the ancient text Shvetashvatara Upanishad dated to late 1st millennium BCE mentions terms such as Rudra and Maheshwaram, but its interpretation as a theistic or monistic text of Shaivism is disputed. In the early centuries of the common era is the first clear evidence of Pāśupata Shaivism.
Both devotional and monistic Shaivism became popular in the 1st millennium CE becoming the dominant religious tradition of many Hindu kingdoms. It arrived in Southeast Asia shortly thereafter, leading to thousands of Shaiva temples on the islands of Indonesia as well as Cambodia and Vietnam, co-evolving with Buddhism in these regions. In the contemporary era, Shaivism is one of the major aspects of Hinduism. Shaivism theology ranges from Shiva being the creator, destroyer to being the same as the Atman within oneself and every living being, it is related to Shaktism, some Shaiva worship in Shiva and Shakti temples. It is the Hindu tradition that most accepts ascetic life and emphasizes yoga, like other Hindu traditions encourages an individual to discover and be one with Shiva within. Shaivism is one of the largest traditions within Hinduism. Shiva means kind, gracious, or auspicious; as a proper name, it means "The Auspicious One". The word Shiva is used as an adjective in the Rig Veda, as an epithet for several Rigvedic deities, including Rudra.
The term Shiva connotes "liberation, final emancipation" and "the auspicious one", this adjective sense of usage is addressed to many deities in Vedic layers of literature. The term evolved from the Vedic Rudra-Shiva to the noun Shiva in the Epics and the Puranas, as an auspicious deity, the "creator and dissolver"; the Sanskrit word śaiva or Shaiva means "relating to the god Shiva", while the related beliefs, history and sub-traditions constitute Shaivism. The reverence for Shiva is one of the pan-Hindu traditions, found across India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. While Shiva is revered broadly, Hinduism itself is a complex religion and a way of life, with a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions, it has no ecclesiastical order, no unquestionable religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet nor any binding holy book. Shaivism is a major tradition within Hinduism, with a theology, predominantly related to the Hindu god Shiva. Shaivism has many different sub-traditions with regional differences in philosophy.
Shaivism has a vast literature with different philosophical schools, ranging from nondualism and mixed schools. The origins of Shaivism a matter of debate among scholars; some trace the origins to the Indus Valley civilization, which reached its peak around 2500–2000 BCE. Archeological discoveries show seals. Of these is the Pashupati seal, which early scholars interpreted as someone seated in a meditating yoga pose surrounded by animals, with horns; this "Pashupati" seal has been interpreted by these scholars as a prototype of Shiva. Gavin Flood characterizes these views as "speculative", saying that it is not clear from the seal if the figure has three faces, or is seated in a yoga posture, or that the shape is intended to represent a human figure. Other scholars state that the Indus Valley script remains undeciphered, the interpretation of the Pashupati seal is uncertain. According to Srinivasan, the proposal that it is proto-Shiva may be a case of projecting "later practices into archeological findings".
Asko Parpola states that other archaeological finds such as the early Elamite seals dated to 3000–2750 BCE show similar figures and these have been interpreted as "seated bull" and not a yogi, the bull interpretation is more accurate. The Rigveda has the earliest clear mention of Rudra in its hymns such as 2.33, 1.43 and 1.114. The text includes a Satarudriya, an influential hymn with embedded hundred epithets for Rudra, cited in many medieval era Shaiva texts as well as recited in major Shiva temples of Hindus in contemporary times. Yet, the Vedic literature only present scriptural theology, but does not attest to the existence of Shaivism; the Shvetashvatara Upanishad composed before the Bhagavad Gita about 4th century BCE contains the theistic foundations of Shaivism wrapped in a monistic structure. It contains the key terms and ideas of Shaivism, such as Shiva, Maheswara, Bhakti, Atman and self-knowledge. According to Gavin Flood, "the formation of Śaiva traditions as we understand them begins to occur during the period from 200 BC to 100 AD."
According to Chakravarti, Shiva rose to prominence as he was identified to be the
A lingam, sometimes referred to as linga or Shiva linga, is an abstract or aniconic representation of the Hindu deity Shiva in Shaivism. It is a votary symbol revered as self-manifested natural objects; the lingam is represented within a lipped, disc-shaped platform called a yoni that symbolizes the goddess Shakti. Lingayats wear a lingam inside a necklace, called Ishtalinga. Lingam is additionally found in Sanskrit texts with the meaning of "evidence, proof", or in sexual context where it means the "male generative organ, phallus". Lingam iconography found at archaeological sites of the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia includes simple cylinders set inside a yoni, rounded pillars with carvings such as of one or more mukha, anatomically realistic representations of a phallus such as at Gudimallam. In the Shaiva traditions, the lingam is regarded as a form of spiritual iconography. Lingam, states Monier Monier-Williams, appears in the Upanishads and epic literature, where it means a "mark, emblem, characteristic".
Other contextual meanings of the term include "evidence, symptom", "gender, male organ, phallus". The term appears in early Indian texts on logic, where an inference is based on a sign, such as "if there is smoke, there is fire" where the linga is the smoke. According to James Lochtefeld, it is sometimes "simplistically called a phallic symbol", it is a religious symbol in Hinduism representing Shiva as the generative power, all of existence, all creativity and fertility at every cosmic level. The lingam of the Shaivism tradition is a short cylindrical pillar-like symbol of Shiva, made of stone, gem, clay or disposable material. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the lingam is a votary aniconic object found in the sanctum of Shiva temples and private shrines that symbolizes Shiva and is "revered as an emblem of generative power", it is found within a lipped, disked structure, an emblem of goddess Shakti and this is called the yoni. Together they symbolize the union of the feminine and the masculine principles, "the totality of all existence", states Encyclopædia Britannica.
According to Rohit Dasgupta, the lingam symbolizes Shiva in Hinduism, it is a phallic symbol. Since the 19th-century, states Dasgupta, the popular literature has represented the lingam as the male sex organ; this view contrasts with the traditional abstract values they represent in Shaivism wherein the lingam-yoni connote the masculine and feminine principles in the entirety of creation and all existence. According to Wendy Doniger, for many Hindus, the lingam is not a "male sexual organ" but of a spiritual icon and their faith, just like for the Christians the cross is not an "instrument of execution" but a symbol of Christ and the Christian faith. According to Alex Wayman, given the Shaiva philosophical texts and spiritual interpretations, various works on Shaivism by some Indian authors "deny that the linga is a phallus". To the Shaivites, a linga is neither a phallus nor do they practice the worship of erotic penis-vulva, rather the linga-yoni is a symbol of cosmic mysteries, the creative powers and the metaphor for the spiritual truths of their faith.
According to Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, the lingam signifies three perfections of Shiva. The upper oval part of the Shivalingam represent Parashiva and lower part of the Shivalingam called the pitha represents Parashakti. In Parashiva perfection, Shiva is the absolute reality, the timeless and spaceless. In Parashakti perfection, Shiva is all-pervasive, pure consciousness and primal substance of all that exists and it has form unlike Parashiva, formless. According to Nagendra Singh, some believe. According to Chakrabarti, "some of the stones found in Mohenjodaro are unmistakably phallic stones"; these are dated to some time before 2300 BCE. States Chakrabarti, the Kalibangan site of Harappa has a small terracotta representation that "would undoubtedly be considered the replica of a modern Shivlinga." According to Encyclopædia Britannica, while Harappan discoveries include "short cylindrical pillars with rounded tops", there is no evidence that the people of Indus Valley Civilization worshipped these artifacts as lingams.
The colonial era archaeologists John Marshall and Ernest Mackay proposed that certain artifacts found at Harappan sites may be evidence of yoni-linga worship in Indus Valley Civilization. Scholars such as Arthur Llewellyn Basham dispute whether such artifacts discovered at the archaeological sites of Indus Valley sites are yoni. For example and Ryan state that lingam/yoni shapes have been recovered from the archaeological sites at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, part of the Indus Valley Civilisation. In contrast, Indologist Wendy Doniger states that this rare artifact can be interpreted in many ways and has unduly been used for wild speculations such as being a linga. Another postage stamp sized item found and called the Pashupati seal, states Doniger, has an image with a general resemblance with Shiva and "the Indus people may well have created the symbolism of the divine phallus", but given the available evidence we cannot be certain, nor do we know that it had the same meaning as some project them to might have meant.
According to the Indologist Asko Parpola, "it is true that Marshall's and Mackay's hypotheses of linga and yoni worship by the Harappans has rested on rather slender grounds, that for instance the interpretation of the so-called ring-stones as yonis seems untenable". He quotes Dales 1984 paper, which states "with the single exception of the unidentified photography of a realistic phallic object in Marshall's repo