Religious Role of Abhinavagupta in Kashmiri Shaivism

Abhinavagupta, a distinguished scholar, was born in a renowned family of scholars in Kashmir around 950 C.E. He was one of the significant Acharyas of the Shiva philosophy and injected new meaning to it. He was an effervescent personality and highly passionate about knowledge that he acquired from the best teachers of his time. His vital contribution existed in the field of philosophy of aesthetics. He fiercely opposed the idea that spiritual revelation could be conceivable only in monastic surroundings.

Abhinavagupta was perceived to be a popular poet, musician, dramatist, and theologian too. He made a telling contribution as he produced many works on the Indian culture. As an author, Abhinavagupta was observed to be a systematizer of the philosophical precept. He made well use of the available sources of his time and went on to rephrase, rationalize, and mould the philosophical knowledge into a more cohent form.

In his cherished career, the revered saint completed over 35 works. Among those his famed works, the biggest and most celebrated work is Tantralokha. The other notable works of Abhinavgupta include the commentary on Bhagvad Gita, Saiva Darshan. His tremendous knowledge in rhetorics earned him rich accolades from “Kavya Prakash” book author, Mammatta, who fondly addressed him as “Shankaracharya of Kashmir”.

Abhinavagupta has been hailed as “Mahamahesvara’ by the successive Kashmiri authors, his followers and admirers. The very term ‘Mahamahesvara’ holds significance and gives the meaning of “ardent devotee of Siva”.

The finest Shiva philosopher of Kashmir was in the same league of Adi Shankaracharya and was widely acclaimed by one and all as the depository of knowledge. In the first instance, he opposed the monistic theory as propounded by Adi Shankaracharya. However, in a philosophical debate over the interpretation of the sacred lore, Abhinavagupta lost out to Adi Shankaracharya and became his pupil.

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