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Somananda – A Saiva Philosopher

Somananda, a Saiva philosopher, was one of the distinguished masters and a principal architect of the Kashmir monistic system. The Kashmir Sanskrit series was brought out, with critical notes and annotations, the works of major Saiva philosophers. Shiva Drishti is one of them that have been composed by Somananda. He belonged to 870-900 CE. His major contribution in formulating the tenets of pratyabhinja has been acknowledged by all Saiva followers with great respect and regard. His work Shiva Drishti is also well received by all scholars. The work is divided into seven chapters, having seven hundred verses. In this work we find a systematic presentation of monistic idealism with a sound philosophical base. He wrote his work on the basis of the doctrine of Saiva Tantras, which were prevailing during his times. Besides this, we find a reference of his commentary on his own work, Shiva Drishti. However, scholars of Kashmir Shaivism express their doubts regarding the genuineness of the work. Utpaladeva, the son and pupil of Somananda, wrote a commentary the four chapters of Shiva Drishti.

Abhinavagupta, who flourished between 990 – 1020 CE is the fourth in the line of succession. His teacher, Lakshmanagupta, was the follower of Somananda. In many of his works, Abhinavagupta takes delight and is happy to quote Somananda with great respect.

Somananda was also a contemporary of Jallandharnath, who is well known as one of the pioneers of the Nath sect. Jallandharnath belonged to the 9th century CE. There is a tradition which is attached to Trimbak, the famous pilgrim Saiva center of Maharashtra. According to this tradition, some of the worshipers of Trimbak were known as the followers of the Saiva branch. This branch was an off-shoot of the Somananda School.

It is interesting to note the relative positions of Vasugupta and Somananda. Most probably Somananda had access to the works of Vasugupta. All these references regarding Somananda help us to fix the limits of his time. In this context, the visit of Adi Shankaracharya to Kashmir is noteworthy. It helps us to build the history of Kashmir Shaivism. It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya visited the valley in 820 CE. So, it is clear that Somananda and his Pratyabhinja School sprang up after the visit of Adi Shankaracharya to Kashmir.