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Changing landscapes of Saiva Siddhanta: Transforming tradition through innovation - Current Developments (2/2)

Panel Chair: Ulrike Schröder | Tuesday, August 25, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

India’s religious traditions are subject to processes of constant innovation and transformation. Saiva Siddhanta, one of the traditional philosophical systems in Saivism which is especially popular among Tamils in South India, has undergone significant changes from the 19th century onwards. The panel focuses on the analysis of the modern transformation of Tamil Saiva Siddhanta and its religious practice as a consequence of global discourses on religion. It discusses the standardization of Tamil Saiva Siddhanta and the significant modifications that its teachings and religious practices have been undergoing vis-a-vis the unifying forces of modern Hinduism in India and the spread of South Asians as a global diaspora. This encompasses the entanglement of traditional Saiva institutions with modern lay organizations as well as the re-reading of Saiva Siddhanta as the original religion of all Tamils. Thus, Tamil Saiva Siddhanta provides a paradigmatic case for the discursive dynamics of religion past and present.

S. Joseph Fatimaharan

Saiva Siddhantham of England – Past, Present and Future

Saiva Siddhantam means “A true end or the ultimate goal”. Tamils developed their religious thoughts with this motto. Saiva Siddhantam explains how God’s grace on the Soul executes itself to get self-realization when it depends on the ultimate source of universalism, “Sivam” (God). The development of Saiva Siddhantham declared the great Tamil values “One God and one nation”, and “All towns are ours and all people are our relations”. These values helped very much to promote human equality and the importance of valuing the diversity of human thoughts. Saiva Siddhantham was introduced in England by protestant missionaries who returned from Tamil homelands and by Tamil immigrants who settled in England. The purpose of this paper is to examine how Saiva Siddhantham was built up in England in the past, how it is executed now by expatriate Tamils, and how it could help to promote humanism in future.

Rafael Klöber

What is Saiva Siddhanta? Contemporary conceptions of a universal, yet Tamil religion

The philosophy of Tamil Saiva Siddhanta was struggling for pan-Indian recognition as an eminent school of Hindu thought at the turn of 20th century. Despite the efforts of Tamil reformers Saiva Siddhanta hardly gained trans-regional importance, due to the global appropriation of hegemonic Neo-Hinduism. It almost disappeared from public and scholarly attention in the 20th century. In the last two decades, however, several renowned religious institutions (i.e. Maths and Adhinams) as well as private initiatives started to revive Tamil Saiva Siddhanta in the public sphere and forged novel ways to propagate the philosophy/religion among Tamils. My paper focuses on the recent Saiva Siddhanta discourse in Tamil Nadu and will elaborate on crucial concerns in current discussions in the Saiva Siddhanta spectrum. This encompasses issues of language, lineage, canon and practice which are debated among “traditional” monastic orders and “popular” propagators alike, circling around the question: what is Saiva Siddhanta?

Ulrike Schröder

Being Saivite the South African Way: The Reshaping of Tamil Saiva Siddhanta in South Africa between Local Traditions and Global Saivism

The paper analyses questions of cultural and religious identity among Tamil people in South Africa by looking at Saivite revivalist movements which emerged in Durban in the twentieth century. The revival led to the formation of a broad network of Saivite organizations in South Africa. The groups focus on practicing Saivism and its philosophy and strongly advocate a distinct Tamil cultural identity which can be traced back to the renewal of Tamil cultural and religious expression in South India earlier in the twentieth century. After the end of Apartheid, various religious leaders even seek to reestablish links with traditional South Indian authorities of Saivism. Thus, I will argue that the Saivite movement in South Africa has not only led to the emergence of new “diasporic” forms of Saivite religion but also mirrors the close but hybrid connection between local and global forms of Tamil religious identity.


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