Shaiva Upanishads

The Shaiva Upanishads are minor Upanishads of Hinduism, specific to Shiva theology (Shaivism). There are 14 Shaiva Upanishads in the Muktika anthology of 108 Upanishads.[1] They, along with other minor Upanishads, are generally classified separate from the thirteen ancient Principal Upanishads rooted in the Vedic tradition.[2]

The Shaiva Upanishads also contrast from other groups of minor Upanishads, such as the Samanya Upanishads which are of a generic nature, the Sannyasa Upanishads which focus on the Hindu renunciation and monastic practice, the Yoga Upanishads related to Yoga, the Vaishnava Upanishads which highlight aspects of Vishnu, and the Shakta Upanishads which highlight Shaktism.[3][4]

The Shaiva Upanishads extol Shiva as the metaphysical Brahman and the Atman (soul, self).[5] A few texts such as Atharvashiras Upanishad include alternate terms such as Rudra, and assert all gods are Rudra, everyone and everything is Rudra, and Rudra is the principle found in all things, their highest goal, the innermost essence of all reality that is visible or invisible.[5] Some Shaiva Upanishads include sections with symbolism about costumes, rites and objects of worship in Shaivism.[6]


The Shaiva Upanishads and other minor Upanishads are a separate subgroup from the thirteen major Principal Upanishads considered to be more ancient dated to be between eighth and first century BCE; however, the estimates for the minor Upanishads vary.[7] According to Mahony, the minor Upanishads are approximately dated to be from about 100 BC to 1100 AD.[7] Patrick Olivelle states that sectarian Upanishads attached to Atharvaveda were likely composed in the second millennium, until about the 16th century.[8]

One of the thirteen Principal Upanishads, namely the Shvetashvatara Upanishad mentions Shiva, Rudra, Hara and other Vedic deities, as well as Samkhya-Yoga and Vedanta philosophy.[9][10][11] Shvetashvatara is neither considered a Shaiva nor a minor Upanishad.[9][12][13]

The Nilarudra Upanishad is an important Shiva-focussed Upanishad, remarks Deussen, from the group of five minor Upanishads which assert god Shiva as a symbolism for Atman (soul).[14] These are ancient Hindu texts, with Nilarudra likely the oldest (composed closer to Shvetashvatara Upanishad), but Nilaruda is not included in the anthology of 108 Upanishads by Muktika like the other four of the five.[14]

List of 14 Shaiva UpanishadsEdit

List of the Shaiva Upanishads according to Muktika anthology
Title Muktika serial # Attached Veda Period of creation
Kaivalya Upanishad 12 Krishna Yajurveda also Atharva Veda 1st millennium BCE
Atharvashiras Upanishad 22 Atharvaveda 5th century BCE
Atharvashikha Upanishad 23 Atharvaveda 1st millennium BCE
Brihajjabala Upanishad 26 Atharvaveda Late medieval, post-12th century
Kalagni Rudra Upanishad 28 Krishna Yajurveda Unknown
Dakshinamurti Upanishad 49 Krishna Yajurveda Unknown
Sharabha Upanishad 50 Atharvaveda Unknown
Akshamalika Upanishad 67 Rigveda Late medieval, post-12th century AD
Rudrahridaya Upanishad 85 Krishna Yajurveda Unknown
Bhasmajabala Upanishad 87 Atharvaveda Late medieval, post-12th century
Rudrakshajabala Upanishad 88 Atharvaveda After 10th century
Pancabrahma Upanishad 93 Krishna Yajurveda About 7th century AD
Jabali Upanishad 104 Samaveda

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Deussen 1997, p. 556.
  2. ^ Mahony 1998, p. 271.
  3. ^ William K. Mahony (1998). The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination. State University of New York Press. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-7914-3579-3.
  4. ^ Moriz Winternitz; V. Srinivasa Sarma (1996). A History of Indian Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 217–224 with footnotes. ISBN 978-81-208-0264-3.
  5. ^ a b Deussen, Bedekar & Palsule (tr.) 1997, p. 769.
  6. ^ Klostermaier 1984, pp. 134, 371.
  7. ^ a b Mahony 1998, p. 290.
  8. ^ Olivelle 2008, p. xxxiii.
  9. ^ a b Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, pages 301–304, 317
  10. ^ R Tsuchida (1985), Some Remarks on the Text of the Svetasvatara-Upanisad, Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies (印度學佛教學研究), Vol. 34, No. 1, pages 460–468, Quote: "The Svetasvatara-Upanisad occupies a highly unique position among Vedic Upanisads as a testimony of the meditative and monistic Rudra-cult combined with Samkhya-Yoga doctrines."
  11. ^ Max Muller, Shvetashvatara Upanishad, The Upanishads, Part II, Oxford University Press, pages 238-241
  12. ^ Robert Hume (1921), Shvetashvatara Upanishad, The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press, pages 400–402 with footnotes
  13. ^ M Chakravarti (1995), The Concept of Rudra-Śiva Through the Ages, Motilal Banarsidas, ISBN 978-8120800533, pages 20–23 and Chapter 1
  14. ^ a b Deussen 1997, p. 769 footnote 1, 783-787.