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This project was intended as a contribution to the historical study of the development of early Shaivism from the fifth to the ninth century CE, a pivotal period during which Shaiva religious culture increasingly came to the fore and emerged as one of the leading religious forces of the early medieval Indic world. Its main focus of interest was the Shivalinga cult, that is to say, the worship of the aniconic representation of the god Śiva, as reflected in the influential Shivadharmashastra. This sphere of devotional practices related to the Shivalinga represents one of the most archaic traceable modes of Shiva worship, with material evidence dating back to the beginning of the Common Era, and was adopted and adapted as the core of the Tantric Shaiva ritual repertoire. The Shivadharmashastra is a work for the Shaiva laity that constitutes the earliest source to systematically promote the idea of a Shaiva social order with its own institutions, officiants and practices. Composed sometime between the fifth and the seventh century CE, the Shivadharmashastra constitutes a key text of this transformative period during which two important developments took place: firstly, the increase of religious systems favoring devotion to a deity (bhakti) over Vedic ritualism, and secondly, the emergence of Tantrism as a larger phenomenon. While the study of early Shaivism has largely focused on its initiatory traditions, i.e. the pre-Tantric Shaiva ascetic groups (the Atimarga) and the various branches of Tantric Shaivism (the Mantramarga), little attention has so far been given to the study of the broad community of Shaiva lay devotees, ranging from common householders to kings and members of the royal elite, that constituted the socio-religious environment within which the initiatory traditions developed and thrived.
This is partly due to the fact that such key texts as the Shivadharmashastra remain hitherto unedited and only accessible through published but uncritical transcriptions, or directly through the manuscript material. This project is expected to make a crucial step towards filling this gap in the history of early Shaivism by providing a critical edition and annotated translation of a substantial portion of the Shivadharmashastra, namely chapters 1-5 and 9. These sections constitute the earliest textual source to systematically propagate the beliefs and practices related to the Shivalinga cult, yet they have never been considered in studies on the development of Shivalinga worship. Thus, these chapters have been chosen to form a theme for a case study through which the socio-religious background of the Shivadharmashastra and its impact on the Tantric traditions will be explored. The results of this project will contribute towards the understanding of the formation and context of Shaiva religious culture at this important but complex historical intersection.