Shaiva Siddhanta

This belongs to the path of Mantra and is followed by most of the Shaivites today. It isthe most important system in south india, although it originally developed in the north.Teachings of the system are derived from twenty-eight agamas and those of the reputed nayanmars of south india. It thus incorporates emotional devotion(bhakti) expressed in hymns  of tamil saints.They believethat shiva creates,preserves,and destroys the universe.Shiva is the supreme Reality. He is omniscient,benevolent,omnipotent,transcendent and immanent.He gives life to the matter through the energy,the shakti,linked to him in an indissoiuble way.Shiva and shakti are like the sun and its rays . Shiva is the fire and shakti is the fire and Shakti is the heat. If Shiva is knowledge and consciousness,shakti is absolute beatitude.

There are three kinds of existence:

Pati (Lord or sadashiva): He performs the causation of cosmos,its maintenance and re-absorption or destruction or destruction . He conceals himself and reveals through bestowing grace on his devotees.

Pashu (Soul): This is the individual soul distinct from Shiva. It is bound in cosmos due to impurities (mala ) , Karma, Maya, and Shiva s will  .

Pasha (Bond): This is the Universe which comprises all mental and material phenomena.

Their philosophy is that spiritual practice and divine grace are the means to liberation. Initiation and teaching of the guru are of fundamental importance.Proper worship of the divinity and right behaviour bring prosperity and walfare.worship of ganesha and kartikeya is also associated with shaivism,as they both are sons of shiva.Liberation for the initiated occurs at death,which means he becomes omniscient and omnipotent like shiva, but remains distinct from him.The path of initiation and rituals is open to all castes, but not to women .Women can participate in the worship of shiva with their husband.They can reach shiva’s abode through the merits of their husband’s worship.

Kapalika Shaivism

The followers worship ferocious forms of shiva, like bhairava and ferocious goddess Kali.They practise ascetism in cremation  grounds. They appease their deity by offering blood, meat , alcohol and sexual fluids obtained from ritual intercourse with their female partners.

Kashmir Shaivism

This system is almost defunct now. The prominent proponent of this cult was Abhinavagupta (960 AD -1020  AD ). The followers of this sect believed that all reality, including Shiva and Shakti and their union, is mirrored in human soul, and liberation lies in recognising one  s own nature . They practised Sadhna , which involved a daily ritual and yogic practice called Kundalini Yoga.

Lingayat (Vira Shaivism)

They constitute a large following in Karnataka. This system was initiated by a religious reformer called Basava around 12th Century AD. The followers of this cult wear a Shivalingam around their necks all the time , indicating the constant presence of Shiva and a feeling that their bodies have been transformed into temples of Shiva. They reject temple and idol worship. They preach abolition of caste differences. They bury the dead instead of cremating them.

Shiva Ascetism

Dasanamis, the ten orders of Sanyasins (ascetics) created by Sankara in 9th Century AD are Shaivites. They are known for their learning and quest for the Absolute and go to extremes in showing disdain for normal life. Nagas go completely naked, with their bodies smeared with ashes. Aghoris live near cremation grounds. Yogis or Nathpanthis are constantly on the move, and they are generally  Shaivites.

Kanphatis (hole in the ears ) practise a peculiar initiation ceremony, during which the Guru pierces the disciple s earlobes and inserts an iron ring.