Body and Cosmology in Kashmir Saivism


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This philosophy goes beyond the moral realm and is a cornerstone of a plural and secular society. The vast Himalayan mountain range has stirred the imagination of the Indian mind since time immemorial and engaged the human psyche. This name has rightly persisted in lexicon in human imagery. The Himalayas have always had a personal and profound influence on people since ancient times and it continues to do so.

It has given us mighty rivers, large wetlands, dense forests, and much more. It has shaped our mythology, folklore, music, and forms of worship. Its impact is felt both on our social life and spiritual consciousness. India's most outstanding poet Kalidas has called Himalaya the 'measuring rod of the earth', in one of his famous lyrical drama, Kumarasambhavam.

He mentions:.


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In the north of India , there is a mighty mountain by the name Himalaya- the abode of perpetual snow, fittingly called the Lord of mountains, animated by divinity and its soul and internal spirit. Spanning the wide land from the eastern to the western sea, he stands as it were like the measuring rod of the earth. Kashmir, situated on the western part of the Himalayas, has been a seat of learning and erudition from its hoary past. Its beauty and verdure, snow-capped peaks, sheen of sparkling waters, rustling leaves of dense forests, lakes and springs have charmed poets and creative minds to sing its praises-calling it a 'paradise on earth'.

Inspired and motivated by the pristine beauty of landscape, the myriad- minded genius of Kashmir has immense contributions to make to all segments of human knowledge and creative ventures. Poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, religion and music are some such domains that are vitally enriched by the Kashmirian share of contributions. Kashmir has recognisably carved a niche for itself in the total fabric of culture of the Indian subcontinent, and any attempt aimed at diminution of its role-profile as such does not deserve notice.

The Kashmirian style all through the ages-right from its seminal stages to the present state of civilisation-has been that of tolerance, mutual goodwill and humanism resulting in forging and strengthening of social bonds primarily responsible for shaping of a cultural ethos, which, in turn, affects the life of people living in close touch with it. Kashmir did not only receive various religious, intellectual and art impulses, but also gave them a new shape with a view to transforming them to suit its own religious, intellectual and aesthetic needs and aspirations.

There has always been an active exchange of ideas going on between Kashmir and the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Mountain ramparts never proved a barrier to the flow of religious, intellectual and aesthetic thought-currents and trends into Kashmir, leaving their imprint on the local genius only to generate a new ferment, which resulted in the enrichment of the cultural mosaic deeply entrenched in, and reflecting the life of the Kashmirians as a whole. Synthesis and assimilation have been the keynote of Kashmirian culture. There has been a close association between the cult of Nagas and that of Shaiva.

Sesha was considered the son of Shiva. Such an attempt at compromise was also made between the cult of Vaishnava and the cult of the Nagas. The Nagas became Vishnu in the seshashayi form, which belongs to water cosmology, and his images are made accordingly. Buddhism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism with their cult resulted in a new mould of religion, ritual, worship and myth-making. The interaction between Buddhism and Shaivism , Shaivism and Vaishnavism , and again between Buddhism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism and the indigenous cults and thought- currents generated new values of humanism, thereby vitally enriching life and aesthetic standards allied with it.

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The resurgence of Buddhism in the later periods of Kashmir history was accompanied by a silent tension, which had crept up between Buddhism and Hinduism. The tussle resulted in a deep understanding between the two philosophies at the intellectual level, thereby giving birth to the Trika philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism. It held sway not only in the Kashmir of that period, but continues to provide a common bond to the people of diverse faiths even today. The Trika philosophy represents a fusion and elements of both Advaita Vedanta and Madhyamaka Buddhism. Both, the Trika philosophy and the Islam are monotheistic in character.

There is hardly any difference, for instance, between Pratyabhijna and Wahdat-ul - wajood , and Om- Soham and Hamah- Ost. It is believed that the Rishi cult of Kashmir in its indigenous form , a synonym of Bhakti, was the outcome of the intermingling of the Trika and Islam. Both seem to converge at the same focal point of self- realisation and self-consciousness. It was in reality the resurgence of an indigenous tradition of the unique Kashmiri psyche known for its tolerance, secularism, universal brotherhood and love; in short, humanism.

But, the present-day attempts to isolate Kashmir from humanism and synthetical modes of thinking cannot be overlooked as a mere aberration as they are aimed at destroying the essential genius of Kashmir. Kashmir Shaiva philosophy has given birth to a distinct approach to truth and art. The same has been propagated by many great saints and sages of Kashmir.

The greatest saint-poetess, Lalleshwari , popularly known as Lalla Ded , propagated to the Brahmans to bring in 'unison their minds with the ultimate reality and the truth would dawn upon them'. The secret of her appeal lies in her power to translate the metaphors and symbols, the longing to know 'the burthen and the mystery' , to feel, at least vicariously, one with the infinite, the supreme power that is inherent in all things. Lalleshwari's forte was Kashmir Shaivism.

She adopted the theory and practice of Trika Shastras, which actually revolutionised the age-long attitudes of man, more of Brahmins. It advocates a casteless society, as also abhoriss Kitchen-Puritanism. Lalla urged the people to rise above caste, creed and colour and see the light within. Lalleshwari chose to address her masses in the local Kashmiri language, through her honey-sweet vaakhs :.

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Mo Zaan Hyund Ta Musalman ,. Soi Chhay Sahibassati Zani Zan '. Shiva is all-pervading and present in each particle. Never differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim. There lies acquaintance with God. Lalla's spiritual status was so high that she was closely followed by the greatest and most revered Rishi of Kashmir, Sheikh Noor - ud -din , popularly known as Nund Rishi.

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He has expressed his yearnings about Lalla in the following words:. That Lalla of Padaman pore,.


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  • Who had drunk the fill of divine nectar;. She was undoubtedly an avatara of ours,. Grant me the same spiritual powers. Both, Lalla and Nund Rishi, emphasised on the importance of overcoming the senses and the wavering mind and concentrating instead on meditation sadhana as a means to attain salvation, the emergence of individual soul with the Universal Consciousness.

    It really meant the realisation of the Divine in one's own being. This mystic ecstasy tradition was continued, enriched and strengthened by later mystic poets and poetesses like Roopa Bhawani , Parmanada , Shams Fakir , Abdul Ahad Zargar died in and a host of others. Under the tremendous impact of Shaiva thought-currents and due to the patronage of many kings in Kashmir, a large number of Shaivite images were made inside Shiva temples as well as depicted in form of reliefs on the body of these temples.

    188054620 Gavin D Flood Body and Cosmology in Kashmir Shaivism

    In Kashmir, the presence of Shiva in art has been depicted in his avyakta forms symbolical , in vaktyavakta forms symbolical as well as partially anthropomorphic , and finally in vyakta forms anthropomorphic. The excavations and explorations laid bare different aspects of Shaivite images but the number of lingas outnumbered the human representations of Shiva vyakta.

    Shiva is depicted in different mediums, in all possible forms, i. He appears in Saumya , Ugra and Samhara forms, in which he has different functions to perform for the benefit of the gods at one level and for the benefit of the universe and humanity at another. In Saumya rupa Anugrahamurti , Shiva is compassionate, benevolent and bestower of the bounties.

    In his terrific forms, Shiva is depicted as the destroyer of various asuras and devatas. Someone has rightly said that faith begins where reason ends. But as an individual with an average faculty of reasoning, many questions crop up in our minds. Are we so dumb that we cannot find any reasoning in faith? Should we always suspend our judgement? While looking at the universe as a perfect harmony of cause and action, we fail to comprehend how anybody, howsoever exalted, can breach the supposedly unaltered universal law?

    kunchalili.gq It has been generally claimed by the spiritually elevated people as happening. But the common people-with their mind- set at the gross level-cannot understand the phenomenon. It is at the gross level generally that human beings come into contact with the god men and god women. The author of the present volume would like to address some of these above concerns through Kashmiri Shaiva thought-currents. In one of his earlier publications on Trees in Indian Art Mythology and Folklore , he has taken up a holistic and scientific study of the 'tree symbol' to know the promptings for its adoration.

    The Shaiva thought and art of Kashmir represents the universal law of cosmos and Shiva Sadashiva as its primordial manifestation. The Great God Shiva has eight forms Ashtamurti both in his cosmic manifestations and on the individual level. In Shaiva tradition, the cosmos too comprises eight components, namely the five elements space, air, water, fire and earth and also the sun and the moon, which are the measures of time.

    The eighth is the Brahman, that is, man in his consciousness. Shiva Ashtamurti dwells everywhere, and over and above, it dwells in the human body in his consciousness also. Kashmir Shaivism with the Trika , Spanda , and Pratyabhijna concepts has been discussed at length by various scholars.

    Unfortunately, the Shaiva art and iconography, which was a hand maiden of its prevailing philosophical and religious system, could not fetch the desired amount of recognition to Kashmir. Similarly, the interrelatedness of the Shiva and Shakta cults were not duly propagated and highlighted.

    Body and Cosmology in Kashmir Saivism Body and Cosmology in Kashmir Saivism
    Body and Cosmology in Kashmir Saivism Body and Cosmology in Kashmir Saivism
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