Shaivism is the religion which is the oldest of the four Hindu sects. The adherents are known as Shaivas or Saivites and worship Shiva as the Supreme Being. The religion is mostly spread through India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

It is thought that the religion originated sometime between 400 and 200 BCE.

During the Gupta Dynasty 320 to 500 BCE the religion developed and spread rapidly throughout the subcontinent, spread by the singers and composers of the Puraic narratives.

Sacred ash came to be used as a sign of the religion. Devotees of Shiva wear it as a sectarian mark on their foreheads and other parts of their bodies with reverence. The Sanskrit words bhasmaand vibhut ican both be translated as sacred ash.

Hash or Ganja is not only offered to Shiva, but also consumed by Shaivite yogis. Charas is smoked by some Shaivite devotees and cannabis itself is seen as a gift prasador offered to Shiva to aid in religious observance.

Although there are many Shaivistic sects they are generally subdivided into two groups, Vedic Puranic and Non Puranic.

The Non Puranic are subdivided into many more groups:

  • Pashupata
  • Kashmir
  • Shaiva
  • Siddhanta
  • Siddha
  • Lingayatism
  • Shiva Advaita

    The liturgy of Shaivism is contained in a set of twenty-eight books, known as the Agama written in Sanskrit. Each temple follows its own Agama.

    People also worship at home as well as at temples. They have natural lingam-shaped stones to which they perform ablution flower-worship and Nivedyam, a type of food-offering.

    It is also common to have small shrines or altars dedicated to Lord Shiva, with images of his sons Ganesha or Skanda, other household deities, or his consort.However,many Shaivas just worship Shiva as their main god,along with other deities such as Krishna, Durga, Ganesha, Saraswati and Hanuman.

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