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The Construction of Śaiva Identity in the Early Medieval Period: The Śivadharmaśāstra on External Signs of the Devotee


· Nina Mirnig Austrian Academy of Sciences (Vienna, Austria)


07/28 | 18:10-18:30 UTC+2/CEST


This paper will deal with the question of external signs of devotion in the Śivadharmaśāstra, the earliest extant text solely dedicated to propagating a complete Śaiva socio-religious order in the sixth/seventh century CE and amongst the earliest to feature prescriptions on this topic in the Śaiva corpus. While the Śivadharmaśāstra focuses on the religious life of the householder devotee, these signs include marks typically associated with the Śaiva ascetic – such as the wearing of ashes – and are also formulated in conjunction with the divinization of the devotee, thereby affording the bhakta a superior spiritual status. This move forms part of the Śivadharmaśātra’s project to elevate the community of Śaiva devotees above the existing orthodox brahmanical socio-religious order defined through the varṇāśramadharma, with a more radical approach than subsequent texts in the Śivadharma corpus. The paper will thus address the transposition of ascetic markers to the householder context, the related divinization of the devotee and the Śivadharmaśāstra’s impact on discourses about the status of the Śaiva community. It will also be explored to what extent echoes of these prescriptions can be traced in early visual representations of the Śaiva devotee.