Devotee (bhakta) of the Hindu deity Shiva, who, together with Vishnu, is one of the Hindu pantheon's most important characters.

According to the evidence, the Kapalikas, Kalamukhas, and Pashupatas were the first sectarian Shaivites.

All three were communities of renunciant ascetics, presumably in keeping with their patron deity's example.

Since the sects have all vanished, the information for all three must be reconstructed.

In the Dashanami Sanyasis and the Nathpanthis, two live ascetic groups, Shaivas may still be found in ascetic life.

The devotional lyrics of the Nayanars, a group of sixty-three poet-saints who lived in southern India in the seventh and eighth centuries, were a primary conduit via which Shaiva devotional ism (bhakti) entered mainstream culture.

Their ardent devotion, expressed in Tamil hymns, was subsequently systematized into the Shaiva Siddhanta philo sophical school in southern India.

The Lingayat community in contemporary Karnataka, as well as the Krama and Trika schools of Kashmiri Shaivism, gained Shaiva expression when the bhakti movement migrated northward.

Tantra, a hidden, ritual-based religious practice, has long been associated with Shaivism, and tantra's impact may be seen in Kashmiri schools as well as the Nathpanthi ascetics' doctrines.

Shaivism lacks the bewildering sectarian diversity that characterizes Vaishnavas, adherents of the deity Vishnu, and Shaivites are less stringent about sect membership.

Despite this, Shiva has millions of followers in contemporary India, as well as a well-developed network of pilgrimage sites (tirtha), notably in the Himalayas.

Shaiva Nagas are a kind of Naga.

Naga ("naked," i.e., fighting) ascetics who are Shiva worshipers (bhakta) are organized into several akha ras or regiments, similar to an army.

The Bairagi Nagas, who were worshipers of the deity Vishnu, were the second main Naga group.

The Nagas' major vocation until the beginning of the nineteenth century was as mercenary troops, but they also had significant commerce interests.

Many Naga leaders became wealthy and powerful as a result of these riches, despite hailing from lower social classes, and such prospects would have made a career as a Naga an appealing proposition for an ambitious young man in the past.

Both of these sources of revenue have virtually vanished in modern times, while certain Naga groups still possess enormous tracts of land and are so wealthy and influential.

Also see shaiva.