Himalayan Heritage Foundation

Center for policy research on Himalayan Region

Utpaldeva-The Anchor of Kashmir Shaivism

Utpaldeva was the disciple of another illustrious Saint-scholar Somananda who initiated the philosophical exposition of Trika by writing Sivadrishti.

Written by: Sunil Raina Rajanak || Posted in category: Trika || Dated: 2017-12-29

Swachanda Bhairava

Shaivacharya Utpaldeva who lived in Kashmir around the middle of 9th CE is one of the greatest Philosophers who was ever produced by India. Utpaldeva lived near Srinagar at a place called Vicharnag- Soura. His father was Udyakar and mother was Vagheshwari. His ancestors came from Gujarat and had settled in Kashmir during the reign of Lalityaditya Muktapida. Utpaldeva was the disciple of another illustrious Saint-scholar Somananda who initiated the philosophical exposition of Trika by writing Sivadrishti. However, the metaphysical thought of Somananda was further augmented by Utpaldeva who established the school of Pratyabhijna – Doctrine of Recognition. Besides being a great philosopher Utpaldeva was also a mystical poet the gems of which is expressed in his work of Shivstotravali. Pratyabhijna – Doctrine of Recognition Utpaldeva continued to enrich the Siva philosophy through his work of Isvarapratyabhijna karika and Vrtti. The word Pratyabhijnya means recognition.


According to this school individual soul named as Jiva is divine and is nothing else but Siva, but this reality or real nature is forgotten by Jiva. The teaching of Pratyabhijna enable Jiva to recognize one’s own real nature and to bring in the fact that real self is none other than Siva. Therefore, it enables individuals to understand and practice the means of spiritual discipline by which one can attain Sivahood or the perfect union. The school conceptualizes the Ultimate Reality, Universal Process, Individual Self, Bondage and Liberation. Utpaldeva emphasizes that everything we see and whatever exists is basically a reflection in realm of God Consciousness. That is to say that world we perceive is basically reflection of Siva as nothing lies outside the purview of absolute hence the perceived world traces its origin to Siva who is the basic source. Therefore, world is a reflection of Siva Consciousness.


The outline is Siva transforms itself through his kinetic energy Shakti to Jiva. That is to say that transcendental reality converts itself to immanent form through energy also known as Shakti and this process is called as Unmesh. Once self-realization is achieved then Jiva or the immanent form realizes his true nature and is known as Nimesh. The theory teaches spiritual aspirants how to be aware in their day today activities, like walking, talking, eating, hearing, etc. One has to focus these activities in relation to supreme consciousness only then their perception changes from limited to unlimited. The aspirant sees their action in Siva Consciousness and their actions become means of awareness. Sivastotravali : Mystical Hymns in Praise of Siva The Sivastotravali is a collection of Hymns in praise of Absolute Lord Siva. The twenty chapters are outstanding mystical literature which has no parallel in any mystic tradition. Utpaldeva the much serious author of Pratyabhijnya is completely different persona when it comes to poetry. In Sivastotravali he expresses spontaneously with an innate longing to be one with Lord Siva.


The experiences he expresses in Sivastotravali are precondition to understand the profound philosophy of Pratyabhijnya – Recognition. The compilation of all the verses of Utpaldeva’s work is done by his disciples Visvavartta, Adityaraja and Rama. However, Utpaldeva’s favorite verses are in chapter 13th, 14th and 15th which he names as Sangrahastotra, Jayastotra and Bhaktistotra. In these verses Utpaldeva expresses his experiences of close intimacy with Siva in such a way that he underlines that essentially Siva is the ultimate refuge and basis of every sentient being, or whatever there is as animate or inanimate. It is his mystic experience which he explains in stotras that essentially nothing exists apart from God. The verses of Utpaldeva are so original and authentic as to allow us to share their struggles, pain, madness, and even mystical wonder. Utpaldeva is engulfed with intense flame of love towards Siva which pushes him to take refuge in Him. The renunciation of all worldly ties of the devotee finds parallel in ascetic character of Siva himself. This renunciation of devotee with asceticism of Siva ushers in such a way that devotee experiences unconditional love towards Siva. The torch of mystical devotion was earlier started by Bhatta Narayana which was carried on by Utpaldeva and then by celebrated Laleshwari who spoke in commoner’s language so at to make them aware of universality of absolute.


The Sivastotravali resonates and reverberates with experience of intimacy of divine presence in his personal life. Hymns contain sympathy, compassion, cry of the soul, devotion, desire, confession, pangs of separation, grouse and ultimate surrender to Siva. The following few verses of Sivastotravali gives us an idea of the transcendence and immanence of Siva as conceived by Utpaldeva.


Describing Glory of Shambu

Samsaraikanimittyan samsaraikavirodhine I

Namah Samsararupaya nihsamasaraya Sambhave I

Obeisance to Shambhu who is only cause of the Universe and its only destroyer as well, He has taken form of the Universe and is devoid of Universe as he is transcendent.

Explaining Mystical way of Sankara

Duhkhany api sukhayante visam apy amrtayate I

Moksayate ca samsara yatre margah sa Sankarah I

Where suffering is transformed into joy, Where poison becomes immortal nectar, Where world becomes means of liberation,


This is the path of Shiva (Trika Shaivism) Desire for Union with Siva: Sangrahen Sukhdukhalakshanam ma preti sthitimidyam shruno prabhu I Sukhyamesh Bhavata Samagama Svamine Virah eva dukhita I Hear O Lord in brief the outline of pain and pleasure that has fallen on me a lot. Lord state of joy for me is Thy communion. The state of separation from you is pain.

Keywords: Utpaldeva,Trika,Shaivism, Kashmir,Srinagar, Pratyabhijna

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