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(also Shivaism), one of the two main branches of Hinduism, named for its principal divinity, Siva. Sivaism is rooted in the beliefs of the indigenous pre-Aryan population of India. The emergence of Sivaism as a separate current in Hinduism dates to the first centuries of the Common Era. Vestiges of the oldest fertility cults have survived in Sivaism; religious notions of Shakti—the creative basis of all living things—are associated with Sivaism. Veneration of the symbolic image of the genitalia of the male (the lingam) and of the female (the yoni) is to this day an indispensable part of the cult of Siva.
A major role in Sivaism is played by worship of the mother goddess, whose cult is identified primarily with Siva’s female hypostasis—his wife Durga (also called Kali, Devi, and other names). At the same time, Siva is regarded in the Trimurti as the destroyer, and his coterie includes evil spirits that inflict misfortunes on people. Bloody sacrifices, including human ones, survived in Sivaism longer than anywhere else.
A peculiarity of the pantheon in Sivaism is its family character. Siva’s spouse Durga is the personification of the female creative principle; Siva’s sons are Ganesha, the patron of wisdom and the bestower of a good beginning on any undertaking, and Skanda (Karttikeya), the god of war.
Sivaism has a multitude of sects (Lingayats, Shaktas, Smartas) and is practiced throughout India. The sacred literature of Sivaism consists mainly of Sivaist puranas and agamas written in the early Middle Ages.