Body, Community, Cosmos: A Śaiva Siddhānta Rite of Initiation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines a central initiatory ritual in the Śaiva Siddhānta Hindu tradition known as nirvāṇadīkṣa in relation to theories of embodiment and social cohesion in ritual studies. The preparatory ritual for nirvāṇadīkṣa is the construction of a “cord of fetters” (pāśasūtra). This cord serves as the substitute body and ātman of the initiate: the cord is measured according to his physical height, then is tied to the tuft of hair on the top of his head and hangs down the length of the body to the toes. The purpose of the cord is to serve as a surrogate body and ātman of the initiate so that negative karmic fetters can be physically removed and destroyed. I argue that through the integration of the initiate’s body (human and divine) with the cosmos, deeply structured social values are established as “truths” and naturalized within a doxic order. It is the “naturalization” of these values that serves as the primary mode of Śaiva Siddhānta socialization; by mapping an entire cosmology onto the human body in the form of the “cord of fetters,” the ritual establishes those social values as naturally given. Thus, through nirvāṇadīkṣạ, body, community, and cosmos become coterminous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Religion and the Body
EditorsYudit Kornberg Greenberg, George Pati
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781000834611
ISBN (Print)9780367528157
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Handbooks in Religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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