Shaivism is a tradition, which worships the deity Shiva. Followers of Shaivism are called shaivites. Its roots can e traced back to pre-historic times, as far back as Indus valley civilisation. Seals found from that period, depict a seated figure surrounded by animals. Another seal showing a man sitting cross legged in deep meditaion could be the great yogi shiva. Phallic symbols or ‘lingams’ have also been found in excavation from in rig veda, where hymns are addressed to rudra.
Shaivism is less orthoprax than vaishnavism. It has absorbed within it a variety of religious froms, like orthoprax smarta or pauranic worship of shiva, ecstatic bhakti, highly esoteric forms of tantric worship, and tending more towards ascetism.
Svetasvatara Upanishad composed around 5th or 4th century BC contains a compendium of shaivite theology, where shiva is identified as the theistic absolute. Other scriptures to this tradition are shiva purana, agamas and tantras. Shiva purana and linga purana give details about the worship of shiva, the various forms of shiva, and about installation of lingams in temples. They describe shiva as transcendent and immanent.
Shaivites could either be lay pauranic devotees, performing pauranic puja, making offerings and chanting vedic mantras for orthodox forms of shiva, or they could be a proper initiate into a shaivite sect. An initiate is the one who has undergone an initiation through a guru and follows the teachings of shivasnana, contained in shaivite scriptures. Shaiva initiates can be classified into two groups as described in agamas and tantras, depending on which path they exclusively for the purpose of salvation from salvation:
(a)ati marga(outer path): the followers of this path comprise ascetics who follows this path exclusively for the purpoe of salvation from samsara.
(b)mantra marga (path of mantras): this path is open to both, householders and ascetics. It leads to salvation via aatainment of supernatural or magical powers and pleasure in higher worlds worlds along the way, for the initiates.
Puranas classify shaivism into four groups:
c) Shaiva siddhanta
This is the oldest Shaiva sect, probably from 2nd Century AD. The only available scripture about this sect is pashupata Sutra, which is supposed to be the revelation of Rudra, who became the historical sage Lakulisa, by entering and reanimating the corpse of a Brahmin in a cremation ground. Pashupata Sutra deals with Ati Marga and is followed mainly by ascetics. A pashupata ascetichasto be a male Brahmin, whohasunder gone the high caste initiation ceremony and remains a celebate. He values the Vedic purity and principles. Liberation from Karma and rebirth occurred at death through the grace of Rudra. He has to make certain efforts throughout his life, such as living by a Shiva temple , covered in ashes, worshipping daily and meditating on sacred Mantras. Finally, when he succeeds in meditating effortlessly, he has to move to a cremation ground , where he survives on whatever he finds and ultimately dies, gaining union with Rudra.
Lakulisa are a group of pashupatas, who are extreme ascetics. They wander all around, carrying a skull topped staff and a skull begging bowl. They are covered in ashes with matted hair imitating Rudra. They reject Vedic values.