Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

From Universe of Visnu to Universe of Siva

Around the sixth and seventh centuries, South and Southeast Asia saw a great religious change: Saivism largely took over from Vaisnavism. We’re going to look at the way in which Saivism, the religion of the god Siva, presented itself with respect to Vaisnavism. In particular we’ll investigate the role of myths and rituals. The central question is: how could Saivism have developed in such a short time to become the state religion of large swathes of South and Southeast Asia?

2016  -   2020
Peter Bisschop

The 6th-7th centuries CE in South and Southeast Asia are characterized by a major shift in religion. Worship of the god Visnu (Vaisnavism) had flourished in the preceding centuries, supported by many of the kingly courts in India. In the said transitional period, the worship of Siva (Saivism) became the dominant religious model, with an impact reaching far beyond the borders of the Indian subcontinent, and stretching over many centuries. It had a lasting influence on the religious and political formations of the entire region.
The present project will be the first to study some of the foundational works of ritual and mythology of Vaisnavism and Saivism in tandem. This will uniquely enable us to explain what amounted to a sea change in terms of religion: the rapid takeover of the dominant position of Vaisnavism by Saivism.
Building on the long-running Skandapurana project, which will produce a complete critical edition of the 6th-7th century Saiva text called Skandapurana, the present project will integrate the cultural-historical study of Saivism with that of Vaisnavism. We aim to explain how and why the dominant discourse of a social and cosmic order controlled by Visnu came to be superseded by one in which Siva rules supreme. Our findings will elucidate one of the key historical moments in the formation of Hinduism, and contribute to a better understanding of Hinduism?'s pluralistic origins and identity.

About The Skandapurāṇa Project

Connection with other research

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