The Kāpālika tradition was a non-Puranic form of Shaivism in India.[1] The word Kāpālikas is derived from kapāla meaning "skull", and Kāpālikas means the "skull-men". The Kāpālikas traditionally carried a skull-topped trident (khatvanga) and an empty skull as a begging bowl.[1] Other attributes associated with Kāpālikas were that they smeared their body with ashes from the cremation ground, revered the fierce Bhairava form of Shiva,[2] engaged in rituals with blood, meat, alcohol, and sexual fluids.[1]

According to David Lorenzen, there is a paucity of primary sources on Kapalikas, and historical information about them is available from fictional works and other traditions who disparage them.[3] Various Indian texts claim that the Kāpālika drank liquor freely, both for ritual and as a matter of habit.[4] The Chinese pilgrim to India in the 7th century, Hsuan Tsang, in his memoir on what is now northwest Pakistan, wrote about Buddhists living with naked ascetics who cover themselves with ashes and wore bone wreathes on their heads, but Hsuan Tsang does not call them Kapalikas or any particular name. Scholars have interpreted these ascetics variously as Digambara Jains, Pashupatas and Kapalikas.[5]

The Kāpālikas were more of a monastic order, states Lorenzen, and not a sect with a textual doctrine.[6] The Kāpālika tradition gave rise to the Kulamārga, a category of tantric Shaivism which preserves some of the distinctive features of the Kāpālika tradition.[7] Some of Kāpālika Shaiva practices are found in Vajrayana Buddhism, and scholars disagree on who influenced whom.[8] Today the Kapalika tradition has merged with Natha order, where it is practiced with the Kaula rituals.


Dyczkowski (1988: p. 26) holds that Hāla's Prakrit literature poem, the Gaha Sattasai, is one of the first extant literary references to a kapalika:

One of the earliest references to a Kāpālika is found in Hāla's Prakrit poem, the Gāthāsaptaśati (third to fifth century A.D.) in a verse in which the poet describes a young female Kāpālikā who besmears herself with ashes from the funeral pyre of her lover. Varāhamihira (c500-575) refer more than once to the Kāpālikas thus clearly establishing their existence in the sixth century. Indeed, from this time onwards references to Kāpālika ascetics become fairly commonplace in Sanskrit ...[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Gavin Flood (2008). The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 212–213. ISBN 978-0-470-99868-7.
  2. ^ David N. Lorenzen (1972). The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects. University of California Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-520-01842-6.
  3. ^ David N. Lorenzen (1972). The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects. University of California Press. p. xii. ISBN 978-0-520-01842-6.
  4. ^ David N. Lorenzen (1972). The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects. University of California Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-520-01842-6.
  5. ^ David N. Lorenzen (1972). The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects. University of California Press. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0-520-01842-6.
  6. ^ David N. Lorenzen (1972). The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects. University of California Press. p. xi. ISBN 978-0-520-01842-6.
  7. ^ Sanderson, Alexis. "The Śaiva Literature." Journal of Indological Studies (Kyoto), Nos. 24 & 25 (2012–2013), 2014, pp.4-5, 11, 57.
  8. ^ Ronald Davidson (2002), Indian Esoteric Buddhism, Columbia University Press. pages 202-218
  9. ^ Dyczkowski, Mark S. G. (1988). The canon of the Śaivāgama and The Kubjikā Tantras of the western Kaula tradition. SUNY series in Kashmir Śaivism. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-88706-494-9, ISBN 978-0-88706-494-4 Source: [1] (accessed: Thursday February 4, 2010)
  • Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna L. Dallapiccola (London : Thames & Hudson, 2002).
  • Kapalikas and Kalamukhas: Two Lost Saivite Sects (ISBN 0-520-01842-7) by David N. Lorenzen (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1972).
  • Mattavilasaprahasana by Māni Mādhava Chākyār
  • Ankalaparamecuvari : a goddess of Tamilnadu, her myths and cult (ISBN 3-515-04702-6) by Eveline Meyer (Stuttgart : Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GMBH, 1986)
  • The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. by Gavin Flood. 2003. Malden: Blackwell.
  • Indian Esoteric Buddhism. by Ronald Davidson. 2002. Columbia University Press.

The Aghori (Sanskrit aghora) are a small group of ascetic Shaiva sadhus. They engage in post-mortem rituals. They often dwell in charnel grounds, smear cremation ashes on their bodies, and use bones from human corpses for crafting kapalas (skull cups which Shiva and other Hindu deities are often iconically depicted holding or using) and jewelry. Their practices are contradictory to orthodox Hinduism.Many Aghori gurus command great reverence from rural populations, as they are supposed to possess healing powers gained through their intensely eremitic rites and practices of renunciation and tápasya.

Charnel ground

A charnel ground (Devanagari: श्मशान; Romanized Sanskrit: śmaśān; Tibetan pronunciation: durtrö; Tibetan: དུར་ཁྲོད, Wylie: dur khrod), in concrete terms, is an above-ground site for the putrefaction of bodies, generally human, where formerly living tissue is left to decompose uncovered. Although it may have demarcated locations within it functionally identified as burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoria, it is distinct from these as well as from crypts or burial vaults.

In a religious sense, it is also a very important location for sadhana and ritual activity for Indo-Tibetan traditions of Dharma particularly those traditions iterated by the Tantric view such as Kashmiri Shaivism, Kaula tradition, Esoteric Buddhism, Vajrayana, Mantrayana, Dzogchen, and the sadhana of Chöd, Phowa and Zhitro, etc. The charnel ground is also an archetypal liminality that figures prominently in the literature and liturgy and as an artistic motif in Dharmic Traditions and cultures iterated by the more antinomian and esoteric aspects of traditional Indian culture.

Dang Hyang Nirartha

Danghyang Nirartha, also known as Pedanda Shakti Wawu Rauh, was a Shaivite religious figure in Bali and a Hindu traveler during the 16th century. He was the founder of the Shaivite priesthood in Bali.


Ghanta (tibetan: drilbu) is the Sanskrit term for a ritual bell used in Hinduistic religious practices. The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. Hindu temples generally have one metal bell hanging at the entrance and devotees ring the bell while entering the temple which is an essential part in preparation of having a darshan. A bell is also rung by priests during Pūjā or Yajna - during the waving of light, burning of incense in front of the deity, while bathing the deity and while offering food or flowers. There are bells specially made to produce the long strains of the sound Aum.


The Kalamukha were a medieval Shaivite sect of the Deccan Plateau who were among the first professional monks of India. Their earliest monasteries were built in Mysore.

Kapalika (film)

Kapalika is a Malayalam Drama film directed by Preethy Panikker. The film is produced by Madhusoodanan and starring Sona Nair, K.Madhu and Sreelatha in the lead roles. The film is scripted by Rajeev Gopalakrishnan


Kapalkundala (Bengali: কপালকুণ্ডলা), also known as Mrinmoyee, is a Bengali romance novel by Indian writer Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. Published in 1866, it is a story of a forest-dwelling girl named Kapalkundala, who fell in love and got married to Nabakumar, a young gentleman from Saptagram, but eventually found that she is unable to adjust herself with the city life. Following the success of Chattopadhyay’s first novel Durgeshnandini, he decided to write about a girl who is brought up in a remote forest by a Kapalika (Tantrik sage) and never saw anyone but her foster-father. The story is set in Dariapur, Contai in modern-day Purba Medinipur district, Paschimbanga (West Bengal) where Chattopadhyay served as a Deputy Magistrate and Deputy Collector.Kapalkundala is considered as one of the finest and the most popular of Chattopadhyay’s novels. It has been translated into English, German, Hindi, Gujrati, Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit. Girish Chandra Ghosh, one of the pioneers of Bengali drama, and Atul Krishna Mitra dramatized the novel separately.

Kaula (Hinduism)

Kaula, also known as Kula, Kulamārga ("the Kula practice") and Kaulācāra ("the Kaula conduct"), is a religious tradition in Shaktism and tantric Shaivism characterised by distinctive rituals and symbolism connected with the worship of Shakti. It flourished in India primarily in the first millennium AD.

Kaula preserves some of the distinctive features of the Kāpālika tradition, from which it is derived. It is subdivided into four subcategories of texts based on the goddesses Kuleśvarī, Kubjikā, Kālī and Tripurasundarī respectively. The Trika texts are closely related to the Kuleśvarī texts and can be considered as part of the Kulamārga.In later Hatha Yoga, the Kaula visualization of Kuṇḍalini rising through a system of chakras is overlaid onto the earlier bindu-oriented system.


kubjika ( Sanskrit: कुब्जिक, Kubjikā also known as Vakresvari, Vakrika, Chinjini) is the primary deity of Kubjikamata, a sect of non -shaiddhantika mantra marga sect. The worship of Kubjika as one of the main aspect of Adishakti was in its peak in 12th century CE. She is still praised in tantric practices that are followed in Kaula tradition.

Mantra marga

Mantra marga is one of the two main sects of Shaivism while the other one is being Adi marga. Although it is believed that Adi marga precedes Mantra marga, there are so many contemporary evidences available for both sects. Mantra marga became more popular than Adi marga in its nature which focuses on social and worldwide temporal philosophy.

Mattavilasa Prahasana

Mattavilasa Prahasana (Devanagari:मत्तविलासप्रहसन), (English: A Farce of Drunken Sport) is a short one-act Sanskrit play. It is one of the two great one act plays written by Pallava King Mahendravarman I (571– 630CE) in the beginning of the seventh century in Tamil Nadu.Mattavilasa Prahasana is a satire that pokes fun at the peculiar aspects of the heretic Kapalika and Pasupata Saivite sects, Buddhists and Jainism. The setting of the play is Kanchipuram, the capital city of the Pallava kingdom in the seventh century. The play revolves around the drunken antics of a Kapalika mendicant, Satyasoma, his woman, Devasoma, and the loss and recovery of their skull-bowl. The cast of characters consists of Kapali or Satysoma, an unorthodox Saivite mendicant, Devasoma, Satysoma’s female partner, a Buddhist Monk, whose name is Nagasena, Pasupata, a member of another unorthodox Saivite order and a Madman. The act describes a dispute between a drunken Kapali and the Buddhist monk. The inebriated Kapali suspects the Buddhist monk of stealing his begging bowl made from a skull, but after a drawn-out argument it is found to have been taken away by a dog.


The Nayanars (alt. Nayanmars, Tamil: நாயன்மார்கள், lit. "hounds of Siva", later "teachers of Siva") were a group of 63 saints (also saint poets) in the 6th to 8th century who were devoted to the Hindu god Shiva in Tamil Nadu. They, along with the Alwars, their contemporaries who were devoted to Vishnu, influenced the Bhakti movement in Tamil. The names of the Nayanars were first compiled by Sundarar. The list was expanded by Nambiyandar Nambi during his compilation of material by the poets for the Tirumurai collection, and would include Sundarar himself and Sundarar's parents.

Netra Tantra

Netra Tantra (Tantra of [Lord of] Eye) is a Tantra text attributed to non-Saiddhantika Mantra margic sect of Shaivism produced between circa 700 - 850 CE in Kashmir. It was commented on by the Kashmiri Saivite Pratyabhijñā philosopher Kshemaraja (c. 1000-1050) and it was connected with royalty and used in the courts by Śaiva officiants in the role of royal priest (Rājapurohita).Netra Tantra, which also has the names of Mrityujit and Amṛteśavidhāna, praises Shiva and Shakti as the supreme beings in the forms of Amṛteśvarabhairava and Amṛtalaksmī. Amrtesvara literally means god of Amrita, Ambrosia. Mrtyunjya might be the later development of this deity. Netra Tantra is divided into 22 adhikaras or chapters and they describe various aspects of worshipping Amrtesa. The work, divided into 22 adhikaras of uneven length, describing Shaktis of Amritesha,Diksha, Chakras in body, yoginis, bhutas and meditation hymns. Netra Tantra seems the mixture of many traditions within Saivism as well as other sects of Hinduism.

Pancha Sabhai

Pancha Sabhai Sthalangal refers to the temples of Lord Nataraja, a form of Lord Shiva where he performed the Cosmic Dance. Pancha indicates Five, Sabhai means hall and Stala means place. All these temples are located in Tamil Nadu, India.


Pashupati (Sanskrit Paśupati) is an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva as "lord of the animals". He is revered throughout the Hindu world, but especially in Nepal, where he is unofficially regarded as a national deity.


Pāśa (Sanskrit: पाश, romanized: pāśa, lit. "bondage", "fetter") is one of the three main components considered in Shaivism. It is defined as whole of the existence, manifest and unmanifest. According to Shaiva Siddhanta, Pati (the supreme being), Pashu (atmans) and Pasha are eternal, self-consistent, neither distinguishable nor indivisible triad in the nature.

Shiv Chalisa

Shiv Chalisa (Hindi: शिव चालीसा, literally Forty chaupais

on Shiva) is a devotional stotra dedicated to Hindu deity, Lord Shiva. Adapted from the Shiva Purana, it consists of 40 (Chalis) chaupais (verses) and recited daily or on special festivals like Maha Shivaratri by Shivaites, and worshippers of Shiva.

Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga

Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga temple, also known as Baba dham and Baidyanath dham is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the most sacred abodes of Shiva.

Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Deogarh, Jharkhand

In Dwadasa jyothirlinga sthothram, Adi Sankaracharya has praised Vaidyanath jyothirlinga in following verses,

Poorvothare prajwalika nidhane

sada vasantham girija sametham

surasuraradhitha padapadmam

srivaidyanatham thamaham namami

This states that Vaidyanath jyotirlinga is located at Prajwalika nidhanam (meaning funeral place i.e., chithabhoomi) in the North-Eastern part of the country. Deoghar is far located in east compared to Parli which is in west central part of the country. Also Chidabhoomi indicates that, in olden days, this was a funeral place, where corpses are burnt and post-death ceremonies were performed. This place could have been a centre of tantric cults like Kapalika/Bhairava where Lord Shiva is worshipped significantly as smasan vasin (meaning, residing in crematorium), sava bhasma bhushita (meaning, smearing body with ashes of burnt bodies).This Śloka is true but the reference is for North East part of this Āryāvarta by which Baidyanath Dham is located in northern region.


Vajrayāna (वज्रयान), Mantrayāna, Tantrayāna, Tantric Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism are terms referring to the various Buddhist traditions of Tantra and "Secret Mantra", which developed in medieval India and spread to Tibet, Bhutan, and East Asia. In Tibet, Buddhist Tantra is termed Vajrayāna, while in China it is generally known as Tángmì Hanmi 漢密 (唐密, "Chinese Esotericism") or Mìzōng (密宗, "Esoteric Sect"), in Pali it is known as Pyitsayãna (ပစ္စယာန) , and in Japan it is known as Mikkyō (密教, "secret teachings").

Vajrayāna is usually translated as Diamond Vehicle or Thunderbolt Vehicle, referring to the Vajra, a mythical weapon which is also used as a ritual implement.

Founded by medieval Indian Mahāsiddhas, Vajrayāna subscribes to the literature known as the Buddhist Tantras. It includes practices that make use of mantras, dharanis, mudras, mandalas and the visualization of deities and Buddhas. According to Vajrayāna scriptures, the term Vajrayāna refers to one of three vehicles or routes to enlightenment, the other two being the Śrāvakayāna (also known as the Hīnayāna) and Mahāyāna.

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