Hinduism and Tribal Religions

Living Edition
| Editors: Jeffery D. Long, Rita D. Sherma, Pankaj Jain, Madhu Khanna


Living reference work entry

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1036-5_99-2



Itinerant Śaiva practitioners belonging to the Kāpālika order/Tantric adepts following the skull-bearer’s observance (kāpālikavrata).

The Kāpālikas (“skull-bearers”) were antinomian itinerant ascetics worshiping the terrific hypostases of Śiva (e.g., Kapālin, Kapāleśvara/Kapālīśa, Bhairava) and/or the Goddess (e.g., Cāmuṇḍā, Caṇḍikā, Caṇḍā Kāpālinī, Aghorī). They are first mentioned in a handful of sources from the first half of the first millennium CE, including Hāla’s Sattasaī (third–fifth century CE; [1], p. 13), the Bṛhatsaṃhitā of Varāhamihira (first half of the sixth century), and, possibly, other Buddhist and Jaina sources from the fourth–fifth century ([2], p. 5 note 17). From the seventh century, references to Kāpālikas become widespread in the Sanskrit and vernacular literature from all over the Indian Subcontinent and beyond (e.g., Java; see below), eventually fading away...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE, PSL)ParisFrance