Shiva or Śiva (Sanskrit: शिव, lit. "Auspicious one") is one of the principal deities or a form of Ishvara (God) representing one of the three primary aspects of the Divine — Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva — collectively as the Trimurti. In the Trimurti system, Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva is the destroyer or transformer. Within Shaiva tradition he is viewed as the Supreme deity, whereas in Smarta tradition Shiva is one of the six primary forms of the Divine (the other five being Vishnu, Shakti, Ganesha, Kartikkeya and Surya). Followers who focus their worship upon Shiva are called Śaiva. His role as the primary deity is reflected in his epithets Mahādeva ("Great God"), Maheśhvara ("Great Lord"), and Parameśhvara ("Supreme Lord"). Saiva, along with Vaiṣṇava traditions that focus on Vishnu, and Śākta traditions that focus on the Devī (Goddess) are three of the most influential denominations in Hindu system. Shiva is usually worshiped as the Shiva Linga. In images, he is generally represented as immersed in deep meditation or dancing the Tandava upon the demon of ignorance in his manifestation of Nataraja, the lord of the dance.


Shiva is referred to as 'the good one' or the 'auspicious one'. Shiva - Rudra is considered to be the destroyer of evil and sorrow. Shiva - Shankara is the doer of good. Shiva is 'tri netra' or three eyed, and is 'neela kantha' - blue necked (having consumed poison to save the world from destruction). Shiva - Nataraja is the Divine Cosmic Dancer. Shiva - Ardhanareeswara is both man and woman.

He is both static and dynamic and is both creator and destroyer. He is the oldest and the youngest, he is the eternal youth as well as the infant. He is the source of fertility in all living beings. He has gentle as well as fierce forms. Shiva is the greatest of renouncers as well as the ideal lover. He destroyes evil and protects good. He bestows prosperity on worshipers although he is austere. He is omnipresent and resides in everyone as pure consciousness.

Shiva is inseparable from Shakti - Parvati the daughter of Himavaan - Haimavati. There is no Shiva without Shakti and no Shakti without Shiva, the two are one - or the absolute state of being - consciousness and bliss.

The five mantras that constitute Shiva's body are Sadyojaata, Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Eesaana. Eesaana is Shiva not visible to the human eye, Sadyojaata is Shiva realized in his basic reality (as in the element earth, in the sense of smell, in the power of procreation and in the mind). The Vishnudharmottara Purana of the 6th century CE assigns a face and an element to each of the above mantras. (Sadyojaata - earth, Vaamadeva - water, Aghora - fire, Tatpurusha - air and Eesaana - space).

The names of the deified faces with their elements are Mahadeva (earth), Bhairava (fire), Nandi (air), Uma (water) and Sadasiva (space).

In some views Śiva is the third form of God as one of the Trimurti (popularly called the "Hindu trinity"). In the Trimurti, Śiva is the destroyer, while Brahma and Vishnu are creator and preserver, respectively. However, even though he represents destruction, he is viewed as a positive force (The Destroyer of Evil), since creation follows destruction. Other views contend that Śiva produces Vishnu who produces Brahma and thus creation begins, within which the cycle of the Trimurti exists. Śiva also assumes many other roles, including the Lord of Ascetics (Mahadeva), the Lord of Boons (Rudra), and also the Universal Divinity (Mahesvara). Worshippers of Śiva are called Śaivites who consider Śiva as representing the Ultimate Reality (see Ishta-Deva for fuller discussion).

In shiva temples, Navarha (9 plantes), Ganesh, Skantha, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Vishnu, Brahma, Ashtathig balar, Durga, Bairava, and all the other hidu gods will have the place, denoting the entire gods are uniquely said to Lord Shiva, so that only he is in shapeless (i.e. in linga form) there are five different avatars of shiva:

1. Bhairava
2. Natarajar
3. Dhakshinamoorthy
4. Somaskantha
5. Pitkchadanar

In most of the South indian temples , we can see all the five suprems in shiva temple. all the five characteristics in a single face is said to be sadashiva

Śiva is not limited to the personal characteristics as he is given in many images and can transcend all attributes. Hence, Śiva is often worshipped in an abstract manner, as God without form, in the form of linga. This view is similar in some ways to the view of God in Semitic religions such as Islam or Judaism, which hold that God has no personal characteristics. Hindus, on the other hand, believe that God can transcend all personal characteristics yet can also have personal characteristics for the grace of the embodied human devotee. Personal characteristics are a way for the devotee to focus on God. Śiva is also described as Anaadi (without beginning/birth) and Ananta (without end/death).

According to the Bhagavata Purana, Lord Śiva manifested in his multiple forms from the forehead of Lord Brahma. When Lord Brahma asked his sons, the Four Kumaras, to go forth and create progeny in the universe, they refused. This angered Lord Brahma and in his anger a child appeared from his forehead, which split into two - a male part and a female part. The male half started crying inconsolable and as a result, Brahma named him Rudra. The child cried seven more times and each time Brahma gave him a separate name. The eight names thus given to the child were Rudra, Sharva, Bhava, Ugra, Bhima, Pashupati, Ishana, and Mahadeva. Each of these eight names are said to be associated with specific elements of the cosmos, namely the earth, water, fire, wind, sky, a yogi called Kshetragya, the sun, and the moon respectively. This male child became Lord Śiva, who was asked to go forth and create progeny, but when Lord Brahma observed the power, as they shared the qualities of Lord Śiva, he asked him to observe austerities instead of creating progeny. A slightly different version is told in the Shiva Purana: in the Śiva Purana, Śiva promises Brahma that an aspect of his, Rudra, will be born and this aspect is identical to Him.

The tale about Lord Śiva being born and immediately splitting into two halves of male and female indicates the origin of the Ardhanarishvara - the union of substance and energy, the Being and his Shakti (force).

Śiva is the supreme God of Śaivism, one of the three main branches of Hinduism today (the others being Vaishnavism and Shaktism). His abode is called Kailasa. His holy mount (Skt: Vahana) is Nandi, the Bull. His attendant is named Bhadra. Śiva is usually represented by the Śiva linga (or lingam), usually depicted as a clay mound with three horizontal stripes on it, or visualised as a flaming pillar. In anthropomorphised images, he is generally represented as immersed in deep meditation on Mount Kailash (reputed to be the same as the Mount Kailash in the south of Tibet, near Manasarovar Lake) in the Himalaya, his traditional abode.

List of Hindu deities, Ardhanari, Siddha Yoga, Aum Namah Sivaya, the foremost Saivite mantra, Shri Rudram, a Vedic chant on the early manifestation of Śiva as Rudra, Kapalika, a secretive sect worship Shiva in it's Bhairava form, Aghori, Hindu views on God and gender.

Attributes of Shiva

Third Eye

Shiva is often depicted with a third eye with which he burned Desire (Kāma) to ashes. There has been controversy regarding the original meaning of Shiva's name Tryambakam (Sanskrit: त्र्यम्बकम्), which occurs in many scriptural sources. In classical Sanskrit the word ambaka denotes "an eye", and in the Mahabharata Shiva is depicted as three-eyed, so this name is sometimes translated as "Having Three Eyes". However, in Vedic Sanskrit the word ambā or ambikā means "mother", and this early meaning of the word is the basis for the translation "Having Three Mothers" that was used by Max Müller and Arthur Macdonell. Since no story is known in which Shiva had three mothers, E. Washburn Hopkins suggested that the name refers not to three mothers, but to three Mother-goddesses who are collectively called the Ambikās. Other related translations have been "having three wives or sisters", or based on the idea that the name actually refers to the oblations given to Rudra, which according to some traditions were shared with the goddess Ambikā.

Blue Throat

The epithet Nīlakaṇtha (Sanskrit नीलकण्ठ; nīla = blue, kaṇtha = throat) refers to a story in which Shiva drank the poison churned up from the world ocean. (see: Halāhala)

Crescent Moon

Shiva bears on his head the crescent of the moon. The epithet Chandraśekhara (Sanskrit: चन्द्रशेखर "Having the moon as his crest" - chandra = Moon, śekhara = crest, crown)[81][82][83] refers to this feature. The placement of the moon on his head as a standard iconographic feature dates to the period when Rudra rose to prominence and became the major deity Rudra-Shiva.[84] The origin of this linkage may be due to the identification of the moon with Soma, and there is a hymn in the Rig Veda where Soma and Rudra are jointly emplored, and in later literature Soma and Rudra came to be identified with one another, as were Soma and the Moon.

Matted Hair

Shiva's distinctive hair style is noted in the epithets Jaṭin, "The One with matted hair" and Kapardin, "Endowed with matted hair" or "wearing his hair wound in a braid in a shell-like (kaparda) fashion". A kaparda is a cowrie shell, or a braid of hair in the form of a shell, or more generally hair that is shaggy or curly.

Sacred Ganga

The Ganga river flows from the matted hair of Shiva. The epithet Gaṅgādhara ("Bearer of the river Gaṅgā") refers to this feature. The Ganga (Ganges), one of the major rivers of the country, is said to have made her abode in Shiva's hair. The legend of Bhagiratha states that when the sage of that name invoked the gods to send the divine Ganges to earth to relieve a drought and purify the remains of his ancestors, he was warned that the earth had not the capacity to withstand the descent of the Ganges from heaven, in pursuit of which he propitiated Siva to receive the Ganges upon her descent from heaven and release her with diminished force. Siva agreed to trap the youthful and mischievous Ganges in his matted locks and release her to the earth. It was thus, according to Hindu legend, that the Ganges came to be trapped in Siva's locks, and to be portrayed as flowing therefrom, in all representations of Siva.


Shiva smears his body with ashes (bhasma). Some forms of Shiva, such as Bhairava, are associated with a very old Indian tradition of cremation-ground asceticism that was practiced by some groups who were outside the fold of brahmanic orthodoxy. These practices associated with cremation grounds are also mentioned in the Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism. One epithet for Shiva is "Inhabitant of the cremation ground" (Sanskrit: śmaśānavāsin, also spelled Shmashanavasin) referring to this connection.

Tiger skin

He is often shown seated upon a tiger skin, an honour reserved for the most accomplished of Hindu ascetics, the Brahmarishis. "Mythology ~ The birth of Brahmarishis" (HTML). Retrieved on 2008-05-07.


Shiva is often shown garlanded with a snake.

Trishula (Trident)

Shiva's particular weapon is the trident.


A small drum shaped like an hourglass is known as a damaru (Sanskrit: ḍamaru). This is one of the attributes of Shiva in his famous dancing representation known as Nataraja. A specific hand gesture (mudra) called ḍamaru-hasta (Sanskrit for "ḍamaru-hand") is used to hold the drum. This drum is particularly used as an emblem by members of the Kāpālika sect.


Also known as Nandin, is the name of the bull that serves as Shiva's mount (Sanskrit: vāhana). Shiva's association with cattle is reflected in his name Paśupati or Pashupati (Sanskrit पशुपति), translated by Sharma as "Lord of cattle" and by Kramrisch as "Lord of Animals", who notes that it is particularly used as an epithet of Rudra.


In Hinduism, the Gaṇas (Devanagari: गण) are attendants of Shiva and live in Kailasa. They are often referred to as the Boothaganas, or ghostly hosts, on account of their nature. Generally benign, except when their Lord is transgressed against, they are often invoked to intercede with the Lord on behalf of the devotee. Ganesha was chosen as their leader by Shiva, hence Ganesha's title gaṇa-īśa or gaṇa-pati, "lord of the gaṇas".

Mount Kailāsa in the Himalayas

Is his traditional abode. Mount Kailāsa is conceived as resembling a Linga, representing the center of the universe.

Varanasi / Benares

Is considered as the city specially-loved by Shiva, and is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage in India. It is referred to, in religious contexts, as Kashi.


The depiction of Shiva as Nataraja (Tamil: நடராஜா, Sanskrit: naṭarāja, "Lord of Dance") is popular. The names Nartaka ("Dancer") and Nityanarta ("Eternal Dancer") appear in the Shiva Sahasranama. His association with dance and also with music is prominent in the Puranic period. In addition to the specific iconographic form known as Nataraja, various other types of dancing forms (Sanskrit: nṛtyamūrti) are found in all parts of India, with many well-defined varieties in Tamil Nadu (in southern India) in particular.

The Sons of Shiva

Śiva and Parvati are the parents of Karttikeya and Ganesha. Ganesha, the elephant-headed God of wisdom, acquired his head by offending Śiva, by refusing to allow him to enter the house while Parvati was bathing. Śiva sent his ganas to subdue Ganesha, but to no avail. As a last resort, he bade Vishnu confuse the stalwart guardian using his powers of Maya. Then, at the right moment, Śiva hurled Trishula and cut Ganesha's head from his body. Upon finding her guardian dead, Parvati was enraged and called up the many forms of Shakti to devour Shiva's ganas and wreak havoc in Swargaloka. To pacify her, Śiva brought forth an elephant's head from the forest and set it upon the boy's shoulders, reviving him. Shiva then took Ganesha as his own son and placed him in charge of his ganas. Thus, Ganesha's title is Ganapati, Lord of the Ganas. In another version, Parvati presented her child to Shani (the planet Saturn), whose gaze burned his head to ashes. Brahma bade Śiva to replace with the first head he could find, which happened to be that of an elephant.

Karttikeya is a six-headed god and was conceived to kill the demon Tarakasura, who had proven invincible against other gods. Tarakasura had terrorised the devas of Swargaloka so thoroughly that they came to Śiva pleading for his help. Shiva thus assumed a form with five faces, a divine spark emanating from the third eye of each. He gave the sparks to Agni and Vayu to carry to Ganga and thereupon release. In Ganga's river, the sparks were washed downstream into a pond and found by the Karittikas, five forest maidens. The sparks transformed into children and were suckled by the Karttikas, When Śiva, Parvati, and the other celestials arrived on the scene, there was a debate of who the child belonged to. Further, Parvati, who was the most likely to care for the child, was puzzled as to how she would suckle five children. Suddenly, the child merged into a single being and Shiva blessed him with five separate names for his five sets of parents to settle the debate. The child, despite having been born from five sparks, had a sixth head, a unifying principle which brought together the five aspects of his father's power into a single being. From here, the campaign in which Karttikeya would vanquish Tarakasura and liberate Swargaloka began.

Schools and Views of Śhaiva

Nayanars (or Nayanmars), saints from Southern India, were mostly responsible for development of Śaivism in the Middle Ages. Of the schools today, many Śaivite sects are in Kashmir and Northern India, with Lingayats and Virasaivas from Southern India. The Saiva Siddhanta is a major Śaivite theory developed in Southern India.

Śiva's life is often depicted in short stage dramas to help his devotees (particularly nayanmars) better understand his aspects. This is greatly explained in the Thiruvilayadalpuram. This form is especially prevalent in South India, particularly Tamil Nadu.

In Gaudiya Vaishnavism he is considered the best of devotee of Vishnu (vaisnavanam yatha sambhu) and also an aspect of Vishnu. The example of milk and yogurt is used to describe their difference in Brahma Samhita. He is depicted as meditating on Sankarsana, an expansion of Balarama. He also plays an important role in Krishna-lila as Kshetra-pala, protector of Vrindavan, holy dham of Krishna. As Gopisvara Mahadeva he also guards rasa-lila grounds. Authorship of Sri Sri Radha-krpa-kataksa-stava-raja (aka Radha Stava) (text and translation), from the Urdhvamnaya Tantra, is ascribed to him. This tantra, contemporarily available only in parts, is praised in chapter 3 of the Kularnava Tantra as 'the secret of secrets'.

Śiva is an icon of masculinity. In mythology and folklore, he can be interpreted to inspire masculine characteristics of the most extreme: absolute virility and fertility; aggression, rage and supreme powers in war; his resolve, meditation is absolute, as is his love for his consort. This form of Siva is strongly worshipped in Tantric Hinduism, especially with the linga as the icon of fertility, piety and the power of Siva.

Apart from Shaivism, Śiva also inspires Shaktism in Hinduism, which is strong in Assam and West Bengal, the eastern states of India. Shakti is the root power, force of Śiva. Shakti, his prime consort, is the female half of the Supreme Godhead. It is the root of the life force of every living being, and the entire Universe. The bond of absolute love, devotion and passion which embodies the existence of Śiva and Shakti, is considered the Ultimate Godhead form by itself, that a man is an incomplete half without a woman, who is the Ardhangini, (the Other Half) of his existence and power.

The pilgrimage to Amarnath (just over the Chinese line of the Himalayas, deep in the highest mountains of the world, on Mount Kailash) and Anantnag in Kashmir are the most difficult and dangerous, yet exalted pilgrimages for Hindus of all sects, ethnic origins and classes. The glaciers in sacred caves forms the Sivalinga or the natural embodiment of his linga.

Names of Shiva

The Shiva Purana lists a 1008 names for Lord Śiva. Each of his names, in Sanskrit, signifies a certain attribute of his. Some of his names are listed below

  • Mahadeva (The Supreme Lord : Maha = great, Deva = God - more often than not, the Aghora (fierce) version)
  • Rudra (The one who howls or strict and uncompromising)
  • Maheshwar (The Supreme Lord: Maha = great, Eshwar = God)
  • Rameshwar (The one whom Ram worships: Ram, Eshwar = worships, God; Ram's God)
  • Mahayogi (The Supreme Yogi: Maha = great, Yogi = one who practices Yoga)
  • Mahabaleshwar (Great God of Strength: Maha = great, Bal = strength, Eshwar = God)
  • Trinetra (Three-Eyed One, i.e. All-Knowing: Tri = three, Netra = Eye)
  • Triaksha (Three-Eyed One, i.e. All-Knowing: Tri = three, Aksha = Eye)
  • Trinayana (Three-Eyed One, i.e. All-Knowing: Tri = three, Nayana = Eye)
  • Tryambakam (Three-Eyed One, i.e. All-Knowing: Tri = three, Ambakam = Eye)
  • Mahakala (Great Time, i.e. Conqueror of Time: Maha = three, Kala = Time)
  • Neelakantha (The one with a Blue Throat: Neel = blue, Kantha = throat)
  • Digambara (One who has the skies as his clothes, i.e. The Naked One: Dik = Clothes, Ambara = Sky)
  • Shankara (Giver of Joy)
  • Shambhu (Abode of Joy)
  • Vyomkesha (The One who has the sky as his hair: Vyom = sky, Kesha =hair)
  • Chandrashekhara (The master of the Moon: Chandra = Moon, Shekhara = master)
  • Siddheshwara (The Perfect Lord)
  • Trishuldhari (He who holds the divine Trishul or Trident: Trishul = Trident, Dhari = He who holds)
  • Dakhshinamurthi (The Cosmic Tutor)
  • Kailashpati (He whose abode is Mount Kailash)
  • Pashupatinath (Lord of all Creatures)
  • Umapati (The husband of Uma)
  • Gangadhar (He who holds the river Ganga)
  • Bhairava (The Frightful One)
  • Sabesan - Lord who dances in the dais




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