Salutations unto the ancient Rishis, seers, saints, Paramahamsa Sannyasins and Sadhus, who are the repositories of divine knowledge and wisdom and who guide the destiny of the world in the past, present and future.
Every religion has a band of anchorites who lead the life of seclusion and meditation. There are Bhikkus in Buddhism, Fakirs in Mohammendanism, Sufistic Fakirs in Sufism, and Fathers and Reverends in Christianity. The glory of a religion will be lost absolutely if you remove these hermits or Sannyasins or those who lead a life of renunciation and divine contemplation. It is these people who maintain or preserve the religions of the world. It is these people who give solace to the householders when they are in trouble and distress. They are the messengers of the Atman-knowledge and heavenly peace. They are the harbingers of divine wisdom and peace. They are the disseminators of Adhyatmic science and Upanishadic revelations. They heal the sick, comfort the forlorn and nurse the bedridden. They bring hope to the hopeless, joy to the depressed, strength to the weak and courage to the timid, by imparting the knowledge of the Vedanta and the significance of the ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ Mahavakya.
Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanat-Kumara and Sanat-Sujata were the four mind-born sons of Lord Brahma. They refused to enter the Pravritti Marga or worldly life and entered the Nivritti Marga or the path of renunciation. The four Kumaras were the pioneers in the path of Sannyasa. Sri Dattatreya also is among the original Sannyasins. The Sannyasins of the present day all descendants of the four Kumaras, Dattatreya and Sankaracharya.
Sri Sankaracharya, regarded as an Avatara of Lord Siva and the eminent exponent of Kevala Advaita philosophy, established four Mutts—one at Sringeri, another at Dvaraka, a third at Puri and a fourth at Joshi-Mutt in the Himalayas, on the way to the Badarinarayana shrine.
Sri Sankara had four Sannyasin disciples, viz., Suresvara, Padmapada, Hastamalaka and Totaka. Suresvara was in charge of Sringeri Mutt, Padmapada was in charge of Puri Mutt, Hastamalaka was in charge of Dvaraka Mutt and Totaka was in charge of Joshi-Mutt.
The Sannyasins of Sringeri Mutt, the spiritual descendants of Sri Sankara and Suresvaracharya, have three names, viz., Sarasvati, Puri and Bharati. The Sannyasins of the Dvaraka Mutt have two names, viz., Tirtha and Asrama. The Sannyasins of the Puri Mutt have two names, viz., Vana and Aranya. The Sannyasins of the Joshi-Mutt have three names, viz., Giri, Parvata and Sagara.
The Dasanamis worship Lord Siva or Lord Vishnu, and meditate on Nirguna Brahman. The Dandi Sannyasins, who hold staff in their hands, belong to the order of Sri Sankara. Paramahamsa Sannyasins do not hold staff. They freely move about as itinerant monks. Avadhutas are naked Sannyasins. They do not keep any property with them.
The Sannyasins of the Ramakrishna Mission belong to the order of Sri Sankara. They have the name Puri.
Then, there are Akhada Sannyasins, viz., Niranjani Akhada and Jhuna Akhada. They belong to the order of Sri Sankara. They are Dasanamis. They are found in the Uttar Pradesh State only.
Rishikesh and Haridwar are colonies for Sannyasins. Varanasi also is among the chief abodes of Sannyasins.
In South India, there are Tamil Sannyasins who belong to the Thiruvavaduthurai, Dharmapuram, Madurai Adhinams and Kovilur Mutt. They belong to Saiva Pillai community and do not belong to the Sri Sankara order. They are Saivas and originated from Thirumoolar Saiva Sidhantha. They are the custodians of most of the Siva temples in the Southern part of the India.
Shaivism encompasses the traditions of Hinduism that focus on the deity Siva. Siva symbolizes eternal principle or force that is responsible for the creation, sustanence and destruction is Parashiva is primordial, without form and all pervading. The symbol of this all pervading energy is Sthavara ling ( Linga at a perticular place and is in form). It is this Saivalinga that is being mainly worshipped by the devotees. Those devotees or followers of the tradition are called Shaiva(s) or Shaivite and they worship Shiva as the supreme God.
The devotees of Shiva wear sacred ash on their foreheads and other parts of their bodies with reverence, which came to be used as a sign of Shaivism. The Sanskrit words Bhasma or Vibhuti can both be translated as ‘sacred ash’ and also wear Rudraksa or Rudraksa mala.
Origin of Shaivism
The worship of Shiva is a pan-Hindu tradition, practiced widely across many parts of South Asia, especially India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
The worship of lord Shiva can be traced to Vedic period. Satarudriya of Yajurveda is the best example for this. There are many evidences for the existence of Saivism in ancient period in Harappa and Mohonjodaro civilizations. Ancient Saivas are found in holy places especially in South India and mainly in Kasi, Kedara, Srisaila, Madurai, Thirunelveli, Pandiya territory, Chola territory, Chera territory, Ramesvara, Gokarna etc, which reveals the antiquity of Saivism.
Philosophy of Saiva school follows the Veda and Upanishads. But these are not considered as sources of Saivism. 28 Agamas, Periyapurana, Tirumurai and Tamil literature of Saiva saints are the main sources of this school. It is not yet possible to say definitely how many Saiva sects used or produced Agamas. One is inclined to suggest, very tentatively, a division of mediaeval Saivas into two groups as under:
Group 1 – Pasupata Saivas :
Group 2 – Agamic Saivas :
Kashmir Saivas and
Virasaivas, and Sanskrit School of Saiva Siddhanta,
Agamas are a set of 28 books written in Sanskrit. Agamas have directly come from Parasiva. It is these, which constitutes the Philosophical doctrines. There are twenty-eight Agamas. In the earlier portions of Agamas, Saiva Philosophy has been propounded and in the later portions Virasaivas Philosophy has been propounded.
Shivayogi Shivacharya has written this in the books. In those, Agamas are ten and Rudragamas are eighteen.
Ten (10) A gamas are as follows:
Eighteen (18) Rudragamas are as follows:
Bimba (Mukha Bimba),
Siddha (Bindu Siddhi),
In this way, the names of the Agamas have been mentioned in the scripture called Kriyasara. But in the scripture called Tantraloka, there are some other names as follows: (Agneya, Sourabheda, Narasimha and Bhadra Sarvatnam – instead of these names, the following have been mentioned: Anala, Vira, Vimala and Sarvottara.
Nagas are Saiva Sannyasins. They are in a naked state. They smear their bodies with ashes. They have beard and matted locks.
Guru Nanak’s order of ascetics are called Udasis. They correspond to Sannyasins and Vairagis. They are indifferent to the sensual pleasures of this world (Udasina). Hence they are called Udasis.
A Vairagi is one who is devoid of passion. Vairagis are Vaishnavas. They worship Lord Rama, Sita and Hanuman. They read the Ramayana of Tulasidas. The mendicant Vaishnavas of the Ramanandi class are the Vairagis. This ascetic order was instituted by Sri Ananda, the twelfth disciple of Ramananda.
The founder of this order was Ramcharan who was born in the year 1718 in a village near Jaipur in Rajasthan. The Rama Sanehi mendicants are of two classes, viz., the Videhis who are naked and the Mohinis who wear two pieces of cotton cloth dyed red in ochre. Their monastery is in Shahapur in Rajasthan. The Rama Sanehi sect has the largest following in Mewar and Alwar. They are found also in Bombay, Gujarat, Surat, Poona, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Varanasi.
Kabir Panthis are the followers of saint Kabir. They are numerous in all the provinces of Upper and Central India. There are twelve branches. Kabir Chaura is at Varanasi. It is a big monastery of Kabir Panthis. Dharamdas was the chief disciple of Kabir. The followers are expected to have implicit devotion to the Gurus, in thought, word and deed. They should practise truthfulness, mercy, non-injury and seclusion. The followers of Kamal, son of Kabir, practise Yoga.
The Dadu Panthis form one of the Vaishnava cults. Dadu, the founder of this sect, was a disciple of one of the Kabir Panthi teachers. The followers worship the Lord Rama.
Dadu was a cotton cleaner. He was born at Ahmedabad. He flourished about the year 1600. The Dadu Panthis are of three classes, viz., the Viraktas who are bareheaded and have one cloth and one water-pot, the Nagas who carry arms and who are regarded as soldiers and the Vistar Dharis who do the avocations of ordinary life.
The Dadu Panthis are numerous in Marwar and Ajmer. Their chief place of worship is at Naraina, which is near Sambhur and Jaipur. Passages from the Kabir writings are inserted in their religious scriptures.
Gorakhnath was a contemporary of Kabir. He is regarded as the incarnation of Lord Siva. He calls himself as the son of Matsyendranath and grandson of Adinath. There is a temple of Gorakhnath at Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. Bhartrihari was a disciple of Gorakhnath.
Goraksha-Sataka, Goraksha-Kalpa and Goraksha-Nama were written by Gorakhnath. They are in Sanskrit.
The followers of Gorakhnath are usually called Kanphatas, because their ears are bored and rings are inserted in them, at the time of their initiation. They worship the Lord Siva.
Nimbarka Sampradayis And Ramanuja Sampradayis
There are Sadhus of the Nimbarka Sampradaya. There are Vaishnavas. The Sannyasins of the Ramanuja Sampradaya wear orange-coloured cloth, a holy thread and tuff and Tri-danda or three-staff. At present, they are very few in number.
Sri Pirannath is the founder of this sect. He was born in 1675 at Jamnagar, district Rajkot, in Kathiawar. He was the Divan of Raja Jam Jasa. The followers are to practise Ahimsa, Satya and Daya—non-violence, truthfulness and compassion. They study the sacred book, Kul Jam Svarup, or Atma-Bodha, in Hindi, which contains the teachings of Sri Pirannath. It contains 18,000 Chaupais. They worship Bala-Krishna, i.e., Krishna as a small lad.
The followers are found mostly in the Punjab, Gujarat, Assam, Nepal and Bombay. There are two Mutts or monasteries—one at Jamnagar and the other at Pamna.