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Early Strata of Śaivism in the Kathmandu Valley

Śivaliṅga Pedestal Inscriptions from 466–645 CE

Nina Mirnig

The Sanskrit liṅga pedestal inscriptions produced in the Kathmandu Valley during the Licchavi period between 466 and 645 CE are the earliest dated sources for local Śaiva religious activities. This article aims at a comprehensive survey and analysis of this group of inscriptions, examining (1) their material aspects and locations, (2) donative patterns and related social and economic features, such as the prominent agency of merchants and women of high rank, and (3) religious concepts linked to the spiritual and soteriological reasons for establishing the liṅgas, as expressed in the donative formulas. In addition, these formulas will be compared to contemporaneous prescriptive literature (e.g. the Śivadharmaśāstra) as well as to Buddhist donative practices. As will be shown, the Pashupatinath temple emerged as a key site in the propagation and shaping of liṅga worship, with the accumulation of wealth and related socio-religious activities contributing to the appearance of local Pāśupata groups and the elevation of Pashupatinath’s status to that of a national shrine.