The Body of Shiva and the Body of a Bhakta: the Formation of a New Concept of Corporeality in Tamil Śaiva Bhakti as a Tool and Path for the Liberation of the Bhakta

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The author analyses the change in the Tamil Śaiva bhakti concept of corporeality showing that understanding the body of a bhakta as the main obstacle to connecting with the body of Śiva based on the attitude of rejecting one's corporeality has much in common with Buddhist and Jain ideas about the body. Therefore, the main task of the bhakta was to liberate from his body, its elimination or transformation (remelting the physical body as an impure body, as an obstacle body on the way to union with God). They solved this task in various ways, including various practices of ecstatic behaviour and self-harm. The concept of kaya siddhi put forward by Tirumūlar is the idea of a perfect body, potentially immortal and homologous to the body of Śiva. He also formulated and developed sophisticated techniques for using the physical body of a sādhaka as the primary tool for achieving liberation based on yoga techniques and working with the mind of an adept. The result achieved was presented in the description of Tirumūlar's own mystical experience. As a result, he achieved the state of the super material body of yoga-deha , the ideal of which is the manifest body of Śiva as Naṭarāja. The new iconography of Naṭarāja formed in the visionary insights of bhaktas, who described their darśans in their hymns. Then it became the basis for forming a new iconology of Naṭarāja and the cult of images of the bhaktas themselves embodied in the intensive temple construction of the Chola Empire. In combination with new ritual practices, the Tamil philosophy of Śaivism had formed as a tripartite religious and philosophical canon of Śaiva Siddhānta. This canon included the poetic canon of Śaiva bhakti (Paṉṉiru Tirumuṟai), the agamic temple ritual, and 14 philosophical treatises of Śaiva Siddhānta (Meikaṇṭar Shastras).

About the authors

Olga P. Vecherina

Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5223-4683

PhD in History, The Assistant Professor if the Department of Mediation in the Social Sphere

Sretenka str., 29, Moscow, 129051, Russian Federation


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