The Nagarjunakonda stone inscription dated in the reign of the Ābhīra king Vasuṣeṇa presents many problems of interpretation, solutions for some of which are proposed in this article. For example, it has been understood by previous editors as referring to the joint establishment of an image of Aṣṭabhujasvāmin by a group of kings, but in reality it refers to the establishment by a single person, apparently an official of Vasuṣeṇa. The mention of the other kings actually refers to the well-attested custom of seizing sacred images from rivals. The deity Aṣṭabhujasvāmin, whose affiliation was previously contested, is shown on comparative grounds to be a form of Viṣṇu.
Epigraphical evidence, supported by archaeological remains, have shown that the ancient Dakṣiṇa Kosala was a rich centre of early Śaivism. At the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century ce, the region was under the control of king Śivagupta ‘Bālārjuna’ of the Pāṇḍavas of Śrīpura (modern Sirpur). From his records it becomes clear that this king was a great patron of religion, and of Śaivism in particular. Among the inscriptions pertaining to Śaivism, eleven report on and relate to the construction of a Śiva temple established by the king himself (svakārita) and the transformation of this temple into a great centre of early Śaivism (to be precise, the Śaiva Siddhānta and Soma Siddhānta traditions). This article presents Śivagupta and the Śaiva officiants of the ‘Bāleśvara-bhaṭṭāraka’ Temple Complex as an example of the successful establishment of early forms of Śaivism, due to the close links between the king and his ‘rājaguruḥ’.
The main topic is the attempt to trace activities of different religious groups, Hindus, and in particular Śaivas, on the one side, and Buddhists on the other, as reflected in specific wordings of inscriptions.
Koṭīvarṣa/Koṭivarṣa, alias Devīkoṭa and Śoṇitapura, in North Bengal is known to be one of the early centres of Tantric Śaivism. In this paper, the history of Śaivism at the site up to the twelfth century will be examined, using textual, archaeological and epigraphical sources, of which the two recensions of the Skandapurāṇa are the main material. The study reveals a strong local tradition of goddess worship throughout the period. The site was subsumed under Śaivism possibly by the fourth century; thereafter, diverse streams of Tantric Śaivism—goddess-oriented followers of the Yāmala scriptures and the orthodox Saiddhāntikas—took hold there in different periods and interacted with the local tradition of goddess worship.
The string of territories called Campā, lying in what is today Vietnam, has yielded about two hundred and fifty inscriptions spanning over ten centuries, from ca. 400 well into the fifteenth century ce. These inscriptions have not yet drawn much attention from the point of view of the shared religious history of South and Southeast Asia. In the present contribution, we focus on a group of seven short Sanskrit inscriptions issued by a king named Prakāśadharman-Vikrāntavarman who ruled in the seventh century. A careful reading of these texts, in parallel with related Sanskrit texts from South Asia, reveals something of the intellectual and religious cosmopolis of which the poets behind these inscriptions were a part, suggesting for instance that tantric Śaiva scriptures had reached Campā by the late seventh century.
The Paśupatināth temple in Kathmandu, dedicated to the deity Śiva Paśupati, is Nepal’s national shrine. The existence of this site and local Śaiva religious activities can be traced back to as early as the fifth century ce, but it was the ruler Aṃśuvarman (fl. 605–621) who first publicly declared his allegiance to the god of the main shrine by styling himself as “favoured by the Venerable Lord Paśupati” in his inscriptions. This allegiance would remain deeply implanted in the religio-political discourse of Nepal thenceforth. Mainly on the basis of the epigraphical record, this article investigates some historical and political processes responsible for shaping the links between Śiva Paśupati as a religious symbol and the ruling elite of Nepal in this early phase, a period in which powerful ministers gradually supplanted the royal elite. Thus, in the wake of Aṃśuvarman’s reign the Paśupatināth shrine had also risen to enough prominence to be included in the list of sacred Śaiva sites in the Indic religious scripture Skandapurāṇa.
This paper examines the prescriptions for multi-headed representations of śaiva deities, in particular of yoginīs and Bhairavas, in early tantric or āgamic literature. Multi-headed deities appear mostly in the prescriptions of mantra images, usually without any discussion of their material representation. The paper shows that the four-faced mantric representation of Śiva, Bhairava and other divine creatures precedes the five-headed one, as is observable in epic literature and in art history. The fifth head is associated with tantric or āgamic śaivism, whose supreme deity is the five-headed Sadāśiva. As the five-headed mantra image becomes the standard, texts are rewritten to conform to this norm. Moreover, female deities are also often assimilated to this god and can be assigned four or five heads depending on the context. It is suggested as a hypothesis that the four-faced Śiva, or rather Īśvara, was perhaps adopted from the proto-tantric currents of the Atimārga (or from one particular current), from a representation whose Eastern or frontal face represented Śiva as half man, half woman (ardhanārīśvara).
This paper begins with the identification and analysis of some earliest textual references to Pāśupata ascetics, their tenets, and behaviours. Then it inquires into the genesis of Pāśupatism by analysing some critical passages of the Pāśupatasūtra, going beyond Kauṇḍinya’s Bhāṣya. It analyses relevant passages from the Jaiminīyabrāhmaṇa, Mahābhārata, and Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa, and shows how the Vedic govrata or anaḍudvrata has been first adopted and then adapted in Pāśupata tradition, and how Indra, a deity associated with the original vow, comes to be depicted as the primaeval observer of the newly defined pāśupatavrata. It argues further that the conception of the celestial bull as a divinity and the idea of imitating the bull’s behaviour to please that divinity are at the heart of the Pāśupata praxis, in all stages of its development. This paper also argues in favour of recognising “Megasthenes’ Heracles” as Indra, and the Sibae people mentioned in his report as the Śibis.
This paper considers the limitations of the Śaivas’ prescriptive literature as evidence of the reality of their religion and stresses the benefits of reading it in the light of inscriptions and other forms of non-prescriptive evidence. It utilizes these other sources to address a number of questions that the prescriptive texts do not or cannot address. The first is that of the early history of Śaivism between the Mauryas and the Guptas. It concludes that when initiatory Śaivism achieved its dominance, as it did after the Gupta period, it did so on the basis of a widespread tradition of popular devotion that goes back at least to the second century bc, and that while the ingenuity and adaptability of the emerging Śaiva traditions were instrumental in this rise, a more fundamental cause may have been that in investing in these traditions their patrons were adopting an idiom of self-promotion that would be efficacious in the eyes of an already predominantly Śaiva population. It then presents evidence of this rise to dominance, explains the contradiction between the power and wealth of the Atimārga’s pontiffs seen in inscriptions and the ascetic disciplines prescribed in its literature, shows that the Āmardakamaṭha, the Mantramārga’s earliest monastic centre, at Auṇḍhā, was already active in the sixth century, argues that it was the initiation of rulers, seen in inscriptions from the seventh century on, that enabled the Mantramārga to spread throughout the subcontinent, and demonstrates that already in the seventh century Śaiva initiation had become routinized as a calendrically fixed duty imposed on temple-attached officiants as a condition of their tenure, thus illustrating how inscriptions can reveal mundane realities that the high-minded prescriptive literature is designed to conceal and transcend.