Kashmir Saivism and its Echoes in
by B. N. Kalla
this paper, I propose to discuss at some length the salient features of what is
known today as Kashmir Savism. Towards the end, I shall talk about the influence
of this school of religious thought on Kashmiri poetry. In that context, I shall
refer to some vaakhs of Lal Ded and shruks of Nunda Rishi for illustrative
Kashmir Saivism, like
Mahayana Buddhism, has played a key role in the assimilation of different
cultures in Central Asia, while adopting the logic of the Buddhist Acharyas; it
refuted the fundamental concept of Shunyavad and looked upon the creation of the
absolute as real and as the manifestation of the light of intelligence or
universal consciousness. It took the cardinal principles of social equality,
individual liberty, absence of dogma and rituals from Buddhism. Like Mahatma
Buddha being considered the saviour of mankind, the Saivas regarded the absolute
Parma Siva as the creator, preserver and absorber. In his different aspects, he
mainfests his shakti and withdraws it when His free will (Swatantrya) demands
it. The individual is a mini shiva, who, when he recognizes his true self,
becomes one with the universal consiousness. Somananda, the father of
Pratyabhijna' philosophy, hailed from Tibet and naturally influenced the thought
and ideology of those who lived in Central Asia.
The growth of Islam in
Central Asia found a fertile soil there. It was influenced not only by the
ideology of the Buddhists but also by that of the Saivas in and outside Kashmir.
Their Mathikas (Centres of theological discourse) seem to have been easily
accessible to the sufis who were deeply interested in the Buddhist thought. As a
result of the synthesis of Buddhism and Islam, Sufism adopted a liberal outlook
quite in agreement with the tenets of Saivism. It laid great emphasis on
Self-recognition, the pratyabhijna doctrine of the saivas. Like the latter it
denounced idolatory and caste and advocated individual freedom in attaining
realisation. Though the sufis, like the vedantis, regarded the world as illusory
and transitory, this view came closer to the saiva philosophy, with respect to
its fundamental principle of an individual's free will and his potential to
recognize his true self.
Saivaism is the most
ancient faith of the Indian people. We find its roots in one form or another in
the prehistoric period of the Indus valley civilization, Though basically
pre-Aryan and pre-vedic in its origin, it developed by stages in the vedic
religion and became one of the most vital elements of Hinduism in the age of the
Epics and Puranas.
From very remote times,
Brahmins of Kashmir had been performing vedic rituals which are predominantly
vaisnavite in character. The worship of Shiva and Shakti also had become very
popular in this land right from the prehistoric ages. There are many
prehistorical shrines of Siva in Kashmir.
Kashmir Saivism has
achieved distinction as the monistic Saiva philosophy of the Tryambaka school,
being the most valuable contribution of Kashmir to the Indian culture. This
philosophy had basically originated in the trans-Himalayan areas near the
Kailasa around the 4th century A.D. Traymbakaditya, a disciple of the sage
Durvasa, was the first teacher of this school. Sangmaditya, the sixteenth
desendant in the line of Tryambaks, settled in Kashmir in the eighth century
Different Saiva scriptures
as Malinivijaya tantra, Swacchanda, Netra, Mrigendra etc. were later revealed to
different teachers of this school in about a century. Somananda, the fourth
descendant of Sangmaditya, 'churned' the ocean of scriptures and extracted from
it the 'nectar' consisting precisely of the principles of the monistic saiva
philosophy of Kashmir in the 9th century. He expounded those principles in a
logical style in his work Sivadrsti, which is the first philosophical treatise
on the subject. Utpaladeva, the chief disciple of Somananda, developed this
philosophy further in his Isvarapratibhijna and in some works like
Sambandhasiddhi, Isvar Siddhi etc. The principles of this philosophy were later
explained clearly and interpreted by Abhinavagupta, the grand disciple of
Utpaladeva, in the later part of the tenth and the beginning of the 11th
The Sivasutras were
revealed to Vasugupta, a teacher in the school of Tryambaka, in the 8th century.
Kallata, a disciple of Vasugupta, composed the Spanda-Karika in which he
explained the principles contained in the Siva-sutras.
In view of the above
facts, the saiva philosophical movement reached its zenith from 8th century A.D.
to the 12th century A.D. Really, it was a golden age in the field of Indian
philosophy, involving the emergence of a new thought in this field. The Saiva
monism of Kashmir has a pragmatic approach towards the problems of philosophy.
It is not idealistic like the Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism. The universe,
according to it, is neither like a mirage nor like the child of a barren woman.
It is real for all practical purposes. It exists in the absolute reality in the
form of pure limit-less and all comprehending consciousness. That consciousness
is called Parama Siva. The universe is nothing but an objective manifestation of
His divine powers. He is a reality and his powers are his essence. So his powers
are also a reality and the manifestations of those powers too are a reality. He
has an ever pure and limit-less consciousness which is full of godly powers and
does not undergo any change even when the activities of creation etc. are going
on. This is His static aspect in which he is called Siva. The mainfestations of
His God-head are comprehended in His sakti. Both are merely two aspects of one
and the same absolute, all powerful and independent reality. As the rays of the
moon are not different from the moon, similarly shakti or power of Siva is not
different from the power-holder (shaktiman). Thus Siva, the male principle in
its quiescent state, is whole and absolute, but in its manifested state, it
becomes shakti, which is a part and parcel of its nature. The whole, though a
part of it as shakti is separated from it, still remains full. Its fulness never
ceases. The one becomes many in its active state but at the same time it holds
its oneness and perfection. The same idea is explained in this verse:
According to the Vedanta
philosophy, the manifestation of the universe is explained to be false and has
been denied in the long run, but in Kashmir Saiva philosophy, the manifestation
is regarded as based on shakti. Nobody can deny this fact. The apparent world to
the saiva philosophy is a thing of enjoyment while in the vedanta system it is
false and illusory. Saiva advaita explains that the universe already exists in
Siva. Thus the world is the expansion of shakti which is not different from
Kashmir Saivism accepts no
restrictions based on caste, creed, colour and sex etc. Every person can have
access to it, both to its theory and to its practice. In practice, it does not
prescribe the profession of monks but advises one to live the life of a
householder and to practise, side by side, the Saiva yoga for the sake of self-realitization.
It does not advocate sannyasahood. It prohibits all suppression of one's
emotions and instincts and advocates the path of their sublimation, It does not
ignore the worldly and heavenly aims of life consisting in objective enjoyments.
It rather advocates a path aimed at both Bhukti (Enjoyment) and Mukti
(Liberation), which can be pursued side by side. Too much of discipline
regarding food etc. has not been considered to be absolutely essential.
As mentioned above,
Kashmir, Saivism was in vogue here for about five centuries from the 8th to the
12th. Kashmiri poetry did not, remain untouched by its influence. The first
specimen of Kashmiri poetry is Shitikantha's Mahanaya Prakasha of the '13th
century AD., which is in fact the first work of Saivism in the Kashmiri
language. This influence has remained prevalent even upto the present time.
The 14th century witnessed
a political upheaval in Kashmir, Kuta Rani, the last ruler of Kashmir was
murdered by Shahmir. Consequently, he proclaimed himself the Sultan of Kashmir
in 1339 A.D. Thus the Hindu rule was uprooted from the soil of Kashmir for about
500 years. It was during this period that Islam spread in Kashmir. Suppression,
destruction, demolition of temples and massacre of the Hindus were the policy of
the fanatic Sultans of Kashmir. Successive Sultans of Kashmir adopted the policy
of Sikandar But-Shikan (iconoclast) except for Zain-Ul-Ab-Din /Budshah
(1423-1474 A.D.). The only ray of hope for the suppressed masses was the message
of the Sufis.
Suflism was introduced
here by the Sayids and their followers who came from Persia and Central Asia to
settle down here in the 14th century. The spread of Sufism side by side with
that of Saivism (Pratyabhijna philosophy) brought about the growth of a
composite humanitarian thought in the valley. This composite Saiva-cum Sufi
philosophy consciously or unconsciously has influenced the people of Kashmir.
We cannot ignore the
remarkable contribution of Lalleshwari or Lal Ded (B. 1335 A.D.) in the field of
the Kashmiri Language. She was the first Kashmiri poetess who expersed the Saiva
philosphy in a charming poetic style in the modem Kashmiri language. She was
followed in the tradition by many mystic poets, both Hindus and Muslims. She
preached this philosphy in the language of the masses (the then Kashmiri) and
not in Sanskrit. She denounced rituals, narrow-mindedness, fanaticism and the
debasing distinction of caste. Moreover she gave the message of universal
brotherhood, peace and love based on the, Upanishads. What follows now are a
couple of vaakhs of Lal Ded along with their translation
Shiva is all-pervading
(present in each particle), never differentiates between a Hindu and a Muslim.
If you are intelligent, know thy own self, that is God-realization.
Lalla willingly entered
through the gardengate, there, joy ! I found Siva united with Sakti; ' there and
then I got absorbed, drinking at the lake of Nectar. Immune to harm am I, dead
as I am to the world, though still alive.
Lalla entered the Samadhi.
In that state, what did she see? Siva, the Transcendental Being, united with his
power of manifestation, Sakti. She was now totally free from all kinds of doubts
based on the sense of duality. The nectar of bliss was within her easy reach,
not in drops but in the form of a lake. She attained (parmananda) the state of
the highest bliss.
You are the sky and you
are the earth. You are the day, the atmosphere and the night, You are the
grains, the sandal (wood), flowers and water; You being everything yourself,
What can be offered to you in worship.
Everything in the universe
is Divine manifestation, and parma siva inheres in all that exists. His nature
has primarily two-fold aspects, an immanent aspect in which He pervades the
universe, and a transcendental aspect in which He is beyond all universal
Nunda Rishi was one of the
Sufi poets of Kashmir who was a younger contemporary of Lalla. He is considered
the founder of the Rishi cult in the valley. He introduced a new poetic form in
Kashmir- the shruk comparable to Lalla Vaakh. His shruks (slokas) are very
popular among the Kashmiris. Nunda Rishi's philosophy is very akin to
pratyabhijna philosophy according to which parma siva can be realized in one's
own self. This is precisely what Nunda Rishi also says in the following shruks:
He is in me, I am in Him.
I experienced bliss in his company. It was futile of me to seek Him in an alien
land. I found- Him in my own country-my own self.
Nunda Rishi completely
indentifies himself with the Absolute Reality. It is through his merger with Him
that he attained bliss. This is clarified by him further in another shruka :
He is here, He is there,
He pervades all. He is all-in-all, concealed and transcendent. (in the form of
In the following verses,
Nunda Rishi refers to his search, for the divine - an inward quest (the mystics
talk of) :
I forsook everything and
took shelter in you. When I got hold of you in my own self, I merged with you.
(in that state there is no duality at all. Nunda Rishi thus realized absolute
reality in himself)
Oh God ! bless me with the
boon that I may scale the Kailas. (This indicates the strong urge of Nunda Rishi
to merge with the absolute reality, so that he attains the very seat of the
1. M.A. Stein : Edited
Kalhana's Rajatarangini vol. II (English translation).
2. Prof. Shri Kanth Kaul
: Edited Jona Raja's Rajatarangini.
3. Prof J. L. Kaul : Lal
4. Dr. R.K. Kaw: Doctrine
5. Dr. B.N. Pandit :
Aspects of Kashmir Saivism.
6. Prof. B.N. Parimoo :
Ascent of Self.
7. Dr. B.N. Kalla :
Koshur Shaivmat, published by Kashmir University, Srinagar.
[The author, Dr. B. N.
Kalla, is well-known for his writings. He is a reputed scholar of Sanskrit,
conversant with Kashmir Saivism]