The "Pashupati" seal from the Indus Valley Civilisation. The origins of Shaivism are unclear and a matter of debate among scholars. Some trace the origins to the Indus Valley civilization , which reached its peak around — BCE. Of these is the Pashupati seal , which early scholars interpreted as someone seated in a meditating yoga pose surrounded by animals, and with horns. 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 even that the shape is intended to represent a human figure. According to Srinivasan, the proposal that it is proto-Shiva may be a case of projecting "later practices into archeological findings".
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The development of various schools of Shaivism from early worship of Rudra. The "Pashupati" seal from the Indus Valley Civilisation. The origins of Shaivism are unclear and a matter of debate among scholars. Some trace the origins to the Indus Valley civilization , which reached its peak around — BCE. Of these is the Pashupati seal , which early scholars interpreted as someone seated in a meditating yoga pose surrounded by animals, and with horns.
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 even that the shape is intended to represent a human figure. According to Srinivasan, the proposal that it is proto-Shiva may be a case of projecting "later practices into archeological findings".
The text also includes a Satarudriya, an influential hymn with embedded hundred epithets for Rudra, that is 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. Some scholars consider the deity as Shiva because he holds a trident , is in ithyphallic state and next to Nandi bull his mount, as in Shaivism.
However, this is controversial, as an alternate hypothesis for these reliefs is based on Zoroastrian Oesho. According to Flood, coins dated to the ancient Greek, Saka and Parthian kings who ruled parts of the Indian subcontinent after the arrival of Alexander the Great also show Shiva iconography, but this evidence is weak and subject to competing inferences.
These inscriptions have been dated by modern techniques to between and CE. In the early 7th century the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang Huen Tsang visited India and wrote a memoir in Chinese that mentions the prevalence of Shiva temples all over North Indian subcontinent , including in the Hindu Kush region such as Nuristan.
The description is conflicting, with some texts stating the tantric, puranik and Vedic traditions of Shaivism to be hostile to each other while others suggest them to be amicable sub-traditions. Some texts state that Kapalikas reject the Vedas and are involved in extreme experimentation, [note 2] while others state the Shaiva sub-traditions revere the Vedas but are non-Puranik.
Though both traditions of Hinduism have ancient roots, given their mention in the epics such as the Mahabharata, Shaivism flourished in South India much earlier. This is evidenced in Hindu texts such as the Isvarasamhita, Padmasamhita and Paramesvarasamhita. It features thousands of Shaivism-related sculptures. It is a carved five feet high stone lingam with an anthropomorphic image of Shiva on one side. This ancient lingam is in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Shaivism arrived in a major way in southeast Asia from south India, and to much lesser extent into China and Tibet from the Himalayan region.
It co-developed with Buddhism in this region, in many cases. This co-existence of Shaivism and Buddhism in Java continued through about CE when both Hinduism and Buddhism were replaced with Islam,  and persists today in the province of Bali. Shaivism and Shiva held the paramount position in ancient Java, Sumatra, Bali, and neighboring islands, though the sub-tradition that developed creatively integrated more ancient beliefs that pre-existed.
This classification was to accommodate the observed marriage between higher caste Brahmana men with lower caste women. They range from dualistic devotional theism to monistic meditative discovery of Shiva within oneself.
Within each of these theologies, there are two sub-groups. One sub-group is called Vedic-Puranic, who use the terms such as "Shiva, Mahadeva, Maheshvara and others" synonymously, and they use iconography such as the Linga , Nandi , Trishula trident , as well as anthropomorphic statues of Shiva in temples to help focus their practices.
There is a considerable overlap between these Shaivas and the Shakta Hindus. The majority within Shaivism follow the Vedic-Puranik traditions. They revere the Vedas, the Puranas and have beliefs that span dualistic theism style Shiva Bhakti devotionalism to monistic non-theism dedicated to yoga and meditative lifestyle sometimes with renouncing householder life for monastic pursuits of spirituality.
Their goals vary, ranging from liberation in current life mukti to seeking pleasures in higher worlds bhukti. Their means also vary, ranging from meditative atimarga or "outer higher path" versus those whose means are recitation-driven mantras.
The atimarga sub-traditions include Pashupatas and Lakula. According to Sanderson, the Pashupatas [note 5] have the oldest heritage, likely from the 2nd century CE, as evidenced by ancient Hindu texts such as the Shanti Parva book of the Mahabharata epic.
Some of these traditions also incorporate theistic ideas, elaborate geometric yantra with embedded spiritual meaning, mantras and rituals. These traditions compare with Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism as follows: Comparison of Shaivism with other traditions Shaiva Traditions.
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