chapter  6
21 Pages

Çaiva

ByGavin Flood

Çaiva traditions are those whose focus is the deity Çiva, and a Çaiva is a Hindu whofollows the teachings of Çiva (çivaçåsana). These teachings are thought to have been revealed in sacred scriptures and propagated through the generations in traditions of ritual observance and theology. Many Çaivas have also worshiped the goddess, Çiva’s consort and power (çakti), as the esoteric heart of their religion, and it is often impossible to meaningfully distinguish between Çaiva and Çåkta traditions. Every culture creates its own forms (Castoriadis 1997: 84), and in the following pages I shall discuss the forms that Çaiva traditions produced and hope to convey something of the Çaiva religious imaginaire. This imaginaire is distinctive within the Indic traditions and relates to wider cultural and political history, both insofar as it has corroborated and upheld the values and goals of mainstream, orthodox society and in the ways it has challenged those norms. On the one hand, the Çaiva imagination has been in line with the instituting power of particular regions, on the other, it has brought to life a world that undermines that power through its promotion of a vision of the self that transcends social institutions and political stability. It is this ambiguity that shares many of the wider goals of collective life while eroding those goals through promoting a subjectivity external to them, which is a characteristic of Çaiva traditions. It is in this truly creative dynamic in which Çaiva values are embedded in social institutions, such as caste and kingship, while simultaneously undermining those values that the genius of the tradition resides. It is perhaps not a coincidence that this ambiguity is reflected in the ultimate imaginary signification of the tradition, Çiva himself, as the erotic ascetic (O’Flaherty 1981), as family man and vagabond, as form and formless, and as transcendence and immanence.