The worship of the Divinity Shiva as the “Highest Lord” is known in Sanskrit-based cultures as Shaivism. Shaivism became popular in the last few years amongst Orientologists (Indologists and Buddhologists). The Shaiva texts happen to exhibit a rich expanse of spiritual knowledge that Orientologists utilize to try to explain the unknowns in Tantricism and Buddhism. Jan Gonda was the pioneer Orientologist to approach the Shaiva exegetes in India and incorporate the knowledge attained from them with that of the academics.
There are several traditions of Shaivism. Uttara Shaivism is today popularly known as Kashmiri Shaivism. In practice it is extant in Nepal, as well as other parts of India. In the early nineteenth century, the government of India formed an institution to research these Shaiva traditions known as the “Kashmiri Society of Texts and Study.” In a sense, it is from this event that the term “Kashmiri Shaivism” emerged. One reason for this is that the texts themselves employ the term “Kashmiri Shaivism.” Another reason is that these texts predominantly originate from the Kashmiri region. And another is that this form of Shaivism was prevalent in the Kashmiri region. In India and Nepal past, Kashmiri Shaivism was known as Uttara Shaivism. However, this form of Shaivism is not merely located within the Kashmiri region. It can be found in the very south of India. In other words, it was vogue from Nepal in the North through Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Bengal to as far south as Tamil Nadu in India.
Tamil Shaivism can be termed as Shaiva Siddhanta. It is found not only in South India but also in the Tamil inhabited northern part of Sri Lanka. Similarly, there is in the state of Karnataka, in South India, another form of Shaivism known as Virashaiva. These Shaivites are also known as Lingayats. Apart from this, Shaivism is also current in the Indonesian island of Bali. In the past, Java was a cultural bed for this form of Shaivism. Cambodia was another cultural bed for Shaivism.
The teachings of Shaivism form part of a tradition in India known as the Agamas. There were a few major forms of Agamas in India, namely, the Shaiva Agama, the Vaishnava Agama, and the Bauddha Agama. The Vaishnava Agama worships the Divinity Vishnu as the “Highest Lord.” The “Krishna Consciousness Movement,” founded by Swami Shrila Prabhupada, is an Agama that forms part of the Vaishnava Agama. Similarly, the Bauddha Agama worships the Buddha as the “Highest Divinity.” The worship of Buddha as the “Highest Divinity” is current in Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan. It is also upheld in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Sri Lanka has a unique interpretation of Buddhism.