Bodhisattva Becomes Shiva: On the Trans-Himalayan Cult of Lokeshvara Worship and its Reinterpretation in Pre-Modern Times
(Diwakar Acharya, University of Oxford)
Avalokiteśvara or Lokeśvara is one of the Bodhisattvas and one of the main deities of Mahāyāna Buddhism. There is a long history of his worship across the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet, and myths relate Lokeśvaras worshipped in the four major shrines found along the Nepal-Tibet trade route as four brothers. However, since last three hundred years and more, Lokeśvara in the Nepal Valley has been widely identified as Macchindranath (Skt. Matsyendranātha), a deified Śaiva teacher, responsible for rain and prosperity in the Nepal Valley (now called Kathmandu Valley). Though educated Buddhists still worship the deity as Lokeśvara, the rest identify him otherwise. In this talk, I will present the history of Lokeśvara worship across the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet, discuss the phenomenon of Lokeśvara’s equation with Śaiva deities in the Nepal Valley by the local rulers and elites in the 17th century.
Professor Diwakar Acharya is an eminent scholar focused on religious and philosophical traditions of South Asia and the early history of the region, particularly Nepal. He is the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at the University of Oxford, which is among the most prestigious academic positions. Since 2014, he has been an Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Indian Philosophy, the leading journal in its field.