(Last Updated on : 27/05/2014)
Among the important Saiva sects of south India, special attention can be drawn to the Viasaivas or the Lingayatas whose philosophy was influenced both by the teachings of Sankara and those of Ramanuja. The followers of this sect gave great prominence to the linga and the Nandin or the bull. Bijjala i.e. in the time period of 1156 A.D. raised this sect into prominence. He laid great stress on bhakti i.e. love and self- surrender, truth, morality and cleanliness. This sect was characterized by an anti-Brahmanical sprit. The widows among the Lingayatas are allowed to marry again. Instead of Yajnopavita or the sacred thread they hang the linga by a silken cloth, formula is substituted for the Gayatri mantra.
The Lingayatas regard Siva as supreme and must worship only Him, hence they are called Vira Saivas or stalwart Saivas. They must also worship each as his own guru. Reverence is paid by the Lingayatas to the 63 Nayanaras of the Tamil country whom they regard as elders or Puratanas. They also honour 770 later saints among whom are included Basava and his chief disciples.
According to the Siva Jnana Bodham by Meykanda Devar i.e. in the first half of the 13th century, the world, animate and inanimate, passes through a cycle of three phases. These three can be mentioned as evolution, maintenance and dissolution.
Of the three phases dissolution is primary because all evolution is the manifestation of the inherent potentialities of the unresolved or dissolved. The purpose of the periodic reproduction is to free souls from anava i.e. the impurity born together with the soul by association with which souls have been enveloped in the darkness of unconsciousness from eternity. This release is affected by providing for souls the earthly experience in the midst of which they may receive by divine grace the light of the knowledge of their oneness with God and their dependence upon Him.
The soul, which is neither real nor non-real can depend on and identify itself with either. In association with the non-real it can by its help to know the real. It is Shakti or power of Siva, not karma that provides souls with the condition of finite experience. But karma is the principle of action and reaction determines the form and quality of the experience. When God comes as a guru and teaches the soul, the soul is made to see that the world of experience evolved from Maya is non-real. Jnana or knowledge follows upon Charya i.e. menial service in a temple, Kriya, is acts of worship and Yoga is inward spiritual worship. In all cases of divine it is not human in origin, but the inner in which it is imparted varies according to the class of soul. Siva is the source of all enlightenment. Sole embodiment of intelligence and hence the true object of all devout aspirations. The system transcends caste and ritual, and calls for inner devotion. According to one writer contentment, justice and wisdom are the flowers of worship.
Saivism attaches great importance to the practices, especially to asceticism, but it values Bhakti or devotion with less importance. It leans towards asceticism. It was Saivism that gained he firmest foothold in Eastern Asia and produced a vast body of speculative literature principally in old Javanese.