Shiva Means Auspicious, Benign, and Friendly

Shiva (शिव), also known as Mahadeva (महादेव), is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. He is the Supreme Being in Shaivism, one of the major traditions within Hinduism. Shiva is known as “The Destroyer” within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity which also includes Brahma and Vishnu In the Shaivite tradition, Shiva is the Supreme Lord who creates, protects, and transforms the universe. In the goddess-oriented Shakta tradition, the Supreme Goddess (Devi) is regarded as the energy and creative power (Shakti) and the equal complementary partner of Shiva. Shiva is one of the five equivalent deities in Panchayatana puja of the Smarta tradition of Hinduism.

Omniscient Yogi

Shiva has many aspects, benevolent as well as fearsome. In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash as well as a householder with his wife Parvati and his two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya. In his fierce aspects, he has often depicted slaying demons. Shiva is also known as Adiyogi Shiva, regarded as the patron God of yoga, meditation, and the arts.

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Shiva as Yogi

Etymology and other names of Shiva

According to Monier Monier-Williams, the Sanskrit word “śiva” (Devanagari: शिव, also transliterated as shiva) means “auspicious, propitious, gracious, benign, kind, benevolent, friendly”. The root words of śiva in folk etymology are śī which means “in whom all things lie, pervasiveness” and va which means “embodiment of grace”.

The word Shiva is used as an adjective in the Rig Veda (c. 1700–1100 BCE), as an epithet for several Rigvedic deities, including Rudra. The term Shiva also connotes “liberation, final emancipation” and “the auspicious one”; this adjectival usage is addressed to many deities in Vedic literature. The term evolved from the Vedic Rudra-Shiva to the noun Shiva in the Epics and the Puranas, as an auspicious deity who is the “creator, reproducer and dissolver”.

Known by many names

Some authors associate the name with the Tamil word śivappu meaning “red”, noting that Shiva is linked to the Sun (śivan, “the Red one”, in Tamil) and that Rudra is also called Babhru (brown, or red) in the Rigveda. The Vishnu Sahasranama interprets Shiva to have multiple meanings: “The Pure One”, and “the One who is not affected by three Guṇas of Prakṛti (Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas)”.

Shiva is known by many names such as:

  • Viswanatha (lord of the universe),
  • Mahadeva,
  • Mahandeo, 
  • Mahasu,
  • Mahesha,
  • Maheshvara,
  • Shankara,
  • Shambhu,
  • Rudra,
  • Hara,
  • Trilochana,
  • Devendra (chief of the gods),
  • Neelakantha,
  • Subhankara,
  • Trilokinatha (lord of the three realms), and
  • Ghrneshwar (lord of compassion). 

The highest reverence for Shiva in Shaivism is reflected in his epithets Mahādeva (“Great god”; mahā “Great” and deva “god”), Maheśvara (“Great Lord”; mahā “great” and īśvara “lord”), and Parameśvara (“Supreme Lord”).

The version appearing in Book 13 (Anuśāsanaparvan) of the Mahabharata provides one such list. Shiva also has Dasha-Sahasranamas (10,000 names) that are found in the Mahanyasa. The Shri Rudram Chamakam, also known as the Śatarudriya, is a devotional hymn to Shiva hailing him by many names.

Historical development and literature

Assimilation of traditions

The Shiva-related tradition is a major part of Hinduism, found all over the Indian subcontinent, such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia, such as Bali, and Indonesia. Shiva has pre-Vedic tribal roots, having “his origins in primitive tribes, signs, and symbols.” The figure of Shiva as we know him today is an amalgamation of various older deities into a single figure, due to the process of Sanskritization and the emergence of the Hindu synthesis in post-Vedic times. How the persona of Shiva converged as a composite deity is not well documented, a challenge to trace, and has attracted much speculation. 

An example of assimilation took place in Maharashtra, where a regional deity named Khandoba is a patron deity of farming and herding castes. The foremost center of worship of Khandoba in Maharashtra is Jejuri. Khandoba has been assimilated as a form of Shiva himself, in which case he is worshipped in the form of a lingam. Khandoba’s varied associations also include identification with Surya and Karttikeya.

Pre-Vedic elements

Pre-historic art

Scholars have interpreted early prehistoric paintings at the Bhimbetka rock shelters, considered to be from the pre-10,000 BCE period, as Shiva dancing, Shiva’s trident, and his mount Nandi. Rock paintings from Bhimbetka, depicting a figure with a trident or Trishul, have been described as Nataraja by Erwin Neumayer, who dates them to the mesolithic.

Indus Valley and the Pashupati seal

Of several Indus valley seals that show animals, one seal that has attracted attention shows a large central figure, either horned or wearing a horned headdress and possibly ithyphallic, seated in a posture reminiscent of the Lotus position, surrounded by animals. This figure was named by early excavators of Mohenjo-Daro as Pashupati (Lord of Animals, Sanskrit paśupati), an epithet of the later Hindu deities Shiva and Rudra. 

Vedic elements

According to Anthony, the Old Indic religion probably emerged among Indo-European immigrants in the contact zone between the Zeravshan River (present-day Uzbekistan) and (present-day) Iran. 

It was “a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian and new Indo-European elements”, according to Beckwith borrowed “distinctive religious beliefs and practices” from the Bactria–Margiana Culture. At least 383 non-Indo-European words were borrowed from this culture, including the God Indra and the ritual drink Soma.

Proto-Indo-European elements

The Vedic beliefs and practices of the pre-classical era were closely related to the hypothesized Proto-Indo-European religion, and the pre-Islamic Indo-Iranian religion. The similarities between the iconography and theologies of Shiva with Greek and European deities have led to proposals for an Indo-European link for Shiva, or lateral exchanges with ancient central Asian cultures. 

His contrasting aspects such as being terrifying or blissful depending on the situation, are similar to those of the Greek god Dionysus, as are their iconic associations with the bull, snakes, anger, bravery, dancing, and carefree life. The ancient Greek texts of the time of Alexander the Great call Shiva as “Indian Dionysus”, or alternatively call Dionysus “god of the Orient”. 


Shiva as we know him today shares many features with the Vedic God Rudra, and both Shiva and Rudra are viewed as the same personality in Hindu scriptures. The two names are used synonymously. Rudra, a Rigvedic deity with fearsome powers, was the God of the roaring storm. He is usually portrayed in accordance with the element he represents as a fierce, destructive deity. In RV 2.33, he is described as the “Father of the Rudras”, a group of storm Gods.

According to Sadasivan, during the development of the Hindu synthesis attributes of the Buddha were transferred by Brahmins to Shiva, who was also linked with Rudra. The Rigveda has 3 out of 1,028 hymns dedicated to Rudra, and he finds occasional mention in other hymns of the same text. Hymn 10.92 of the Rigveda states that the deity Rudra has two natures, one wild and cruel (Rudra), another that is kind and tranquil (Shiva).

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Shiva as Rudra


Rudra and Agni have a close relationship. The identification between Agni and Rudra in the Vedic literature was an important factor in the process of Rudra’s gradual transformation into Rudra-Shiva. The identification of Agni with Rudra is explicitly noted in the Nirukta, an important early text on etymology, which says, “Agni is also called Rudra.” The interconnections between the two deities are complex, and according to Stella Kramrisch:

The fire myth of Rudra-Śiva plays on the whole gamut of fire, valuing all its potentialities and phases, from conflagration to illumination.

In the Śatarudrīya, some epithets of Rudra, such as Sasipañjara (“Of golden red hue as of flame”) and Tivaṣīmati (“Flaming bright”), suggest a fusing of the two deities. Agni is said to be a bull, and Lord Shiva possesses a bull as his vehicle, Nandi. The horns of Agni, who is sometimes characterized as a bull, are mentioned. In medieval sculpture, both Agni and the form of Shiva known as Bhairava have flaming hair as a special feature.


According to Wendy Doniger, the Saivite fertility myths and some of the phallic characteristics of Shiva are inherited from Indra. Doniger gives several reasons for her hypothesis. Both are associated with mountains, rivers, male fertility, fierceness, fearlessness, warfare, the transgression of established mores, the Aum sound, and the Supreme Self. In the Rig Veda, the term śiva is used to refer to Indra. (2.20.3, 6.45.17, and 8.93.3.) Indra, like Shiva, is likened to a bull. In the Rig Veda, Rudra is the father of the Maruts, but he is never associated with their warlike exploits as is Indra.

The texts and artwork of Jainism show Indra as a dancer, although not identical generally resembling the dancing Shiva artwork found in Hinduism, particularly in their respective mudras. For example, in the Jain caves at Ellora, extensive carvings show dancing Indra next to the images of Tirthankaras in a manner similar to Shiva Nataraja. The similarities in the dance iconography suggest that there may be a link between ancient Indra and Shiva.


A few texts such as Atharvashiras Upanishad mention Rudra, and assert all Gods are Rudra, everyone and everything is Rudra, and Rudra is the principle found in all things, their highest goal, the innermost essence of all reality that is visible or invisible. The Kaivalya Upanishad similarly, states Paul Deussen – a German Indologist and professor of philosophy, describes the self-realized man as who “feels only as the one divine essence that lives in all”, who feels identity of his and everyone’s consciousness with Shiva (highest Atman), who has found this highest Atman within, in the depths of his heart.

Rudra’s evolution from a minor Vedic deity to a supreme being is first evidenced in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (400–200 BC), according to Gavin Flood, presenting the earliest seeds of theistic devotion to Rudra-Shiva. Here Rudra-Shiva is identified as the creator of the cosmos and liberator of Selfs from the birth-rebirth cycle. The period of 200 BC to 100 AD also marks the beginning of the Shaiva tradition focused on the worship of Shiva as evidenced in other literature of this period. Other scholars such as Robert Hume and Doris Srinivasan state that the Shvetashvatara Upanishad presents pluralism, pantheism, or henotheism, rather than being a text just on Shiva theism.

Shaiva devotees and ascetics are mentioned in Patanjali‘s Mahābhāṣya (2nd-century BCE) and in the Mahabharata.

The monist Shiva is present everywhere

Shiva literature posits absolute oneness, that is Shiva is within every man and woman, Shiva is within every living being, Shiva is present everywhere in the world including all non-living beings, and there is no spiritual difference between life, matter, man, and Shiva. The various dualistic and monist Shiva-related ideas were welcomed in medieval southeast Asia, inspiring numerous Shiva-related temples, artwork, and texts in Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia, with syncretic integration of local pre-existing theologies.

Shiva within Hinduism


Shaivism is one of the four major sects of Hinduism, the others being Vaishnavism, Shaktism, and the Smarta Tradition. Followers of Shaivism, called “Shaivas”, revere Shiva as the Supreme Being. Shaivas believe that Shiva is All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer, revealer, and concealer of all that is. He is not only the creator in Shaivism, but he is also the creation that results from him, he is everything and everywhere. Shiva is the primal Self, the pure consciousness and Absolute Reality in the Shaiva traditions.


The Vaishnava (Vishnu-oriented) literature acknowledges and discusses Shiva. Like Shaiva literature that presents Shiva as supreme, Vaishnava literature presents Vishnu as supreme. However, both traditions are pluralistic and revere both Shiva and Vishnu (along with Devi), their texts do not show exclusivism, and Vaishnava texts such as the Bhagavata Purana while praising Krishna as the Ultimate Reality, also present Shiva and Shakti as a personalized form an equivalent to the same Ultimate Reality. The texts of Shaivism tradition similarly praise Vishnu. The Skanda Purana, for example, states:

Vishnu is no one but Shiva, and he who is called Shiva is but identical with Vishnu.

— Skanda Purana, 1.8.20–21

Mythologies of both traditions include legends about who is superior, about Shiva paying homage to Vishnu, and Vishnu paying homage to Shiva. 


The goddess-oriented Shakti tradition of Hinduism is based on the premise that the Supreme Principle and the Ultimate Reality called Brahman is female (Devi), but it treats the male as her equal and complementary partner. This partner is Shiva.

The earliest evidence of the tradition of reverence for the feminine in the Rudra-Shiva context is found in the Hindu scripture Rigveda, in a hymn called the Devi Sukta.

The Devi Upanishad in its explanation of the theology of Shaktism, mentions and praises Shiva such as in verse 19. Shiva, along with Vishnu, is a revered god in the Devi Mahatmya, a text of Shaktism considered by the tradition to be as important as the Bhagavad Gita. The Ardhanarisvara concept co-mingles the God Shiva and Goddess Shakti by presenting an icon that is half-man and half-woman, a representation and theme of union found in many Hindu texts and temples.

Smarta Tradition

In the Smarta tradition of Hinduism, Shiva is a part of its Panchayatana puja. This practice consists of the use of icons or anicons of five deities considered equivalent, set in a quincunx pattern. Shiva is one of the five deities, the others being Vishnu, Devi (such as Parvati), Surya, and Ganesha or Skanda or any personal god of the devotee’s preference (Ishta Devata).


Shiva is considered the Great Yogi who is totally absorbed in himself – the transcendental reality. He is the Lord of Yogis and the teacher of Yoga to sages. As Shiva Dakshinamurthi, states to Stella Kramrisch, he is the supreme guru who “teaches in silence the oneness of one’s innermost self (atman) with the ultimate reality (brahman).” Shiva is also an archetype for samhara (Sanskrit: संहार) or dissolution which includes the transcendence of human misery by the dissolution of Maya, which is why Shiva is associated with Yoga.

Major traditions

The theory and practice of Yoga, in different styles, have been a part of all major traditions of Hinduism, and Shiva has been the patron or spokesperson in numerous Hindu Yoga texts. These contain the philosophy and techniques for Yoga. These ideas are estimated to be from or after the late centuries of the 1st millennium CE, and have survived as Yoga texts such as the Isvara Gita (literally, ‘Shiva’s song’), which Andrew Nicholson – a professor of Hinduism and Indian Intellectual History – states have had “a profound and lasting influence on the development of Hinduism”.

Indian classical dance

Other famed Shiva-related texts influenced Hatha Yoga, integrated monistic (Advaita Vedanta) ideas with Yoga philosophy, and inspired the theoretical development of Indian classical dance. These include the Shiva Sutras, the Shiva Samhita, and those by the scholars of Kashmir Shaivism such as the 10th-century scholar Abhinavagupta. 

Abhinavagupta writes in his notes on the relevance of ideas related to Shiva and Yoga, by stating that “people, occupied as they are with their own affairs, normally do nothing for others”, and Shiva and Yoga spirituality helps one look beyond, understand interconnectedness, and thus benefit both the individual and the world towards a more blissful state of existence.


The Trimurti is a concept in Hinduism in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer. These three deities have been called “the Hindu triad” or the “Great Trinity”. However, the ancient and medieval texts of Hinduism feature many triads of gods and goddesses, some of which do not include Shiva.

Shiva Attributes

Third eye

Shiva is often depicted with a third eye, with which he burned Desire (Kāma) to ashes, called “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 “three mothers”. These three mother-goddesses are collectively called the Ambikās. Other related translations have been 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.

Crescent moon

Shiva bears on his head the crescent moon. The epithet Candraśekhara (Sanskrit: चन्द्रशेखर “Having the moon as his crest” – Candra = “moon”; śekhara = “crest, crown”) 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. 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 implored, and in later literature, Soma and Rudra came to be identified with one another, as were Soma and the moon.


Shiva iconography shows his body covered with ashes (bhasma, vibhuti). The ashes represent a reminder that all of material existence is impermanent, comes to an end becoming ash, and the pursuit of eternal Self and spiritual liberation is important.

Matted hair

Shiva’s distinctive hairstyle 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.


The epithet Nīlakaṇtha (Sanskrit नीलकण्ठnīla = “blue”, kaṇtha = “throat”). Since Shiva drank the Halahala poison churned up from the Samudra Manthan to eliminate its destructive capacity. Shocked by his act, Parvati squeezed his neck and stopped it in his neck to prevent it from spreading all over the universe, supposed to be in Shiva’s stomach. However, the poison was so potent that it changed the color of his neck to blue. This attribute indicates that one can become Shiva by swallowing the worldly poisons in terms of abuses and insults with equanimity while blessing those who give them.

Meditating yogi

His iconography often shows him in a Yoga pose, meditating, sometimes on a symbolic Himalayan Mount Kailasha as the Lord of Yoga.

Sacred Ganga

The epithet Gangadhara is “Bearer of the river Ganga” (Ganges). The Ganga flows from the matted hair of Shiva. The Gaṅgā (Ganga), one of the major rivers of the country, is said to have made her abode in Shiva’s hair.

Tiger skin

Shiva is often shown seated upon a tiger skin.


Shiva is often shown garlanded with a snake.


Shiva typically carries a trident called Trishula. The trident is a weapon or a symbol in different Hindu texts. As a symbol, the Trishul represents Shiva’s three aspects of “creator, preserver, and destroyer”, or alternatively it represents the equilibrium of three Gunas of “sattva, rajas, and tamas”.


A small drum shaped like an hourglass is known as a damaru. 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.

Axe (Parashu) and Deer

These are held in Shiva’s hands in Odisha and south Indian icons.

Rosary beads

He is garlanded with or carries a string of rosary beads in his right hand, typically made of Rudraksha. This symbolizes grace, mendicant life, and meditation.


Nandī, (Sanskrit: नन्दिन् (nandin)), is the name of the bull that serves as Shiva’s mount. 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.

Mount Kailasa

Mount Kailash in the Himalayas is his traditional abode. In Hindu mythology, Mount Kailāsa is conceived as resembling a Linga, representing the center of the universe.


The Gaṇas are attendants of Shiva and live in Kailash. They are often referred to as the bhutaganas, 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. His son Ganesha was chosen as their leader by Shiva, hence Ganesha’s title gaṇa-īśa or gaṇa-pati, “lord of the gaṇas“.


Varanasi (Benares) is considered to be 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.

Forms and depictions of Shiva

According to Gavin Flood, “Shiva is a god of ambiguity and paradox,” whose attributes include opposing themes. The ambivalent nature of this deity is apparent in some of his names and the stories told about him.

Destroyer and Benefactor

In Yajurveda, two contrary sets of attributes for both malignant or terrifying (Sanskrit: Rudra) and benign or auspicious (Sanskrit: śiva) forms can be found, leading Chakravarti to conclude that “all the basic elements which created the complex Rudra-Śiva sect of later ages are to be found here”. In the Mahabharata, Shiva is depicted as “the standard of invincibility, might, and terror”, as well as a figure of honor, delight, and brilliance.

The duality of Shiva’s fearful and auspicious attributes appears in contrasted names. The name Rudra reflects Shiva’s fearsome aspects. According to traditional etymologies, the Sanskrit name Rudra is derived from the root rud-, which means “to cry, howl”. Stella Kramrisch notes a different etymology connected with the adjectival form raudra, which means “wild, of Rudra nature”, and translates the name Rudra as “the wild one” or “the fierce god”. 

Ascetic and householder

Shiva is depicted as both an ascetic yogi and as a householder (grihastha), roles which have been traditionally mutually exclusive in Hindu society. When depicted as a yogi, he may be shown sitting and meditating. His epithet Mahāyogi (“the great Yogi: Mahā = “great”, Yogi = “one who practices Yoga”) refers to his association with yoga. While Vedic religion was conceived mainly in terms of sacrifice, it was during the Epic period that the concepts of tapas, yoga, and asceticism became more important, and the depiction of Shiva as an ascetic sitting in philosophical isolation reflects these later concepts.

As a family man and householder, he has a wife, Parvati, and two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya. His epithet Umāpati (“The husband of Umā“) refers to this idea, and Sharma notes that two other variants of this name that mean the same thing, Umākānta, and Umādhava, also appear in the sahasranama. Umā in epic literature is known by many names, including the benign Pārvatī. She is identified with Devi, the Divine Mother; Shakti (divine energy) as well as goddesses like Tripura Sundari, Durga, Kali, Kamakshi, and Minakshi.

Iconographic forms of Shiva


The depiction of Shiva as Nataraja (Sanskrit नटराज; Naṭarāja) is a form (mūrti) of Shiva (literally, “Lord of Dance”). 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 particular. The two most common forms of the dance are the Tandava, which later came to denote the powerful and masculine dance of Kala-Mahakala associated with the destruction of the world. When it requires the world or universe to be destroyed, Shiva does it by the Tandava, and Lasya, which is graceful and delicate and expresses emotions on a gentle level and is considered the feminine dance attributed to the goddess Parvati. 

Shiva Nataraja - 1000x786 Wallpaper -
Shiva as Natraja


Sanskrit दक्षिणामूर्ति; Dakṣiṇāmūrti is a form (mūrti) of Shiva (literally, “[facing] south form”). Dakshinamurthy is depicted as a figure seated upon a deer throne surrounded by sages receiving instruction. This form represents Shiva in his aspect as a teacher of yoga, music, and wisdom and giving exposition on the shastras. This iconographic form for depicting Shiva in Indian art is mostly from Tamil Nadu.

Lord Medha Dakshinamurthy 4K HD Wallpapers Photos Pictures for Free Download
Dakshinamurthy Surrounded by Sages


भिक्षाटन; Bhikṣāṭana is a form (mūrti) of Shiva (literally “wandering about for alms, mendicancy”). Bhikshatana is depicted as a nude four-armed man adorned with ornaments who holds a begging bowl in his hand and is followed by demonic attendants. The nudity and begging bowl are associated with the kapali tradition. This form of Shiva is associated with his penance for committing brahmicide, and with his encounters with the sages and their wives in the Deodar forest.


9 Most famous aspects of Lord Shiva that are known yet
Lord Shiva Bhikshatana Holding a Begging Bowl in His Hand


Sanskrit त्रिपुरांतक; Tripurāntaka is a form (mūrti) of Shiva (literally “ender of Tripura”). Tripurantaka is depicted with four arms, the upper pair holding an axe and a deer, and the lower pair wielding a bow and arrow. This form of Shiva is associated with his destruction of the three cities (Tripura) of the Asuras.

Yash Shetye Art on Instagram: “TRIPURANTAKA The legendary form of Lord shiva when he destroyed the three cities of Tripura. Long ago w… | Lord shiva, Shiva, Artwork
Tripurantaka: Four Arm Shiva


Ardhanarishvara (Sanskrit: अर्धनारीश्वर; Ardhanārīśvara) is a form (mūrti) of Shiva (literally “the lord who is half woman”). Adhanarishvara is depicted with one half of the body as male and the other half as female. Ardhanarishvara represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from (or the same as, according to some interpretations) Shiva, the male principle of God, and vice versa.

Ardhanarishvara : Divine Secret of The Lord Whose Half is a Woman - Vedic Sources
Ardhanarishvara is Depicted with one Half of the Body as Male and the Other Half as Female


Kalyanasundara-murti (Sanskrit कल्याणसुन्दर-मूर्ति, literally “icon of beautiful marriage”) is the depiction of Shiva’s marriage to Parvati. The divine couple is often depicted performing the panigrahana (Sanskrit “accepting the hand”) ritual in traditional Hindu wedding ceremonies. Agamic texts like the Amsumadbhedagama, the Uttara-kamaikagama and the Purva-Karanagama prescribe the iconography of the Kalyanasunadara icon. 

The most basic form of this murti consists of only Shiva and Parvati together, but in more elaborate forms they are accompanied by other persons, sometimes including Parvati’s parents, as well as deities (often with Vishnu and Lakshmi standing as Parvati’s parents, Brahma as the officiating priest, and various other deities as attendants or guests).

Somaskanda is the depiction of Shiva, Parvati, and their son Skanda (Kartikeya), popular during the Pallava Dynasty in southern India.

If Lord Rama - Sita and Lord Shiva - Parvati are ideal couples, why does a typical Indian girl want a husband like Lord Rama but not like Lord Shiva? - Quora
Shiva and Parvati: Kalyanasundara-Murti


Pañcānana (Sanskrit: पञ्चानन), also called the pañcabrahma, is a form of Shiva depicting him as having five faces which correspond to his five divine activities (pañcakṛtya): creation (sṛṣṭi), preservation (sthithi), destruction (saṃhāra), concealing grace (tirobhāva), and revealing grace (anugraha). Five is a sacred number for Shiva. One of his most important mantras has five syllables (namaḥ śivāya).

  • Sadyojāta
  • Vāmadeva
  • Aghora
  • Tatpuruṣa
  • Īsāna

Shiva’s body is said to consist of five mantras, called the pañcabrahman. As forms of God, each of these have its own names and distinct iconography: These are represented as the five faces of Shiva and are associated in various texts with the five elements, the five senses, the five organs of perception, and the five organs of action. 

Path to Siva
Pancanana: Five Faces of Shiva


The Linga Purana states, “Shiva is signless, without color, taste, smell, that is beyond word or touch, without quality, motionless and changeless”. The source of the universe is signless, and all of the universes are the manifested Linga, a union of unchanging Principles and ever-changing nature. The Linga Purana and Siva Gita texts build on this foundation. Linga, states Alain Daniélou, means sign. It is an important concept in Hindu texts, wherein Linga is a manifested sign and nature of someone or something. It accompanies the concept of Brahman, which as an invisible signless and existent Principle, is formless or linga-less.

The oldest known archaeological linga as an icon of Shiva is the Gudimallam lingam from the 3rd century BCE. In the Shaivism pilgrimage tradition, twelve major temples of Shiva are called Jyotirlinga, which means “linga of light”, and these are located across India.

Tallest Shiva lingam in country enters India book of records | Thiruvananthapuram News - Times of India
Tallest Shiva Lingam in the Country


Puranic scriptures contain occasional references to “ansh” – literally ‘portion, or avatars of Shiva’, but the idea of Shiva avatars is not universally accepted in Shaivism. The Linga Purana mentions twenty-eight forms of Shiva which are sometimes seen as avatars, however, such mention is unusual and the avatars of Shiva are relatively rare in Shaivism compared to the well-emphasized concept of Vishnu avatars in Vaishnavism.

Some Vaishnava literature reverentially links him to characters in its mythologies. For example, in the Hanuman Chalisa, Hanuman is identified as the eleventh avatar of Shiva. The Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana claim sage Durvasa to be a portion of Shiva. Some medieval-era writers have called the Advaita Vedanta philosopher Adi Shankara an incarnation of Shiva.

Shiva Festivals

Maha Shivaratri

There is a Shivaratri in every lunar month on its 13th night/14th day, but once a year in late winter (February/March) and before the arrival of spring, marks Maha Shivaratri which means “the Great Night of Shiva”.

Maha Shivaratri is a major Hindu festival, but one that is solemn and theologically marks a remembrance of “overcoming darkness and ignorance” in life and the world, a meditation about the polarities of existence, and a devotion to humankind. It is observed by reciting Shiva-related poems, chanting prayers, remembering Shiva, fasting, doing Yoga, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, noninjury to others, forgiveness, introspection, self-repentance, and the discovery. 

The ardent devotees keep awake all night. Others visit one of the temples or go on pilgrimage to Jyotirlingam shrines. Those who visit temples offer milk, fruits, flowers, fresh leaves, and sweets to the lingam. Some communities organize special dance events, to mark Shiva as the lord of dance, with individual and group performances. According to Jones and Ryan, Maha Sivaratri is an ancient Hindu festival that probably originated around the 5th century.

Kartik Purnima

Another major festival involving Shiva worship is Kartik Purnima, commemorating his victory over the demons Tripurasura. Across India, various temples are illuminated throughout the night. Shiva icons are carried in procession in some places.


Thiruvathira is a festival observed in Kerala. It is believed that on this day, Parvati met him after her long penance and Shiva took her as his wife. On this day Hindu women perform the Thiruvathirakali accompanied by Thiruvathira paattu (folk songs about Parvati and her longing and penance for Shiva’s affection).

Chithirai festival

Regional festivals dedicated to Shiva include the Chithirai festival in Madurai around April/May, one of the largest festivals in South India, celebrating the wedding of Minakshi (Parvati) and Shiva. The festival is one where both the Vaishnava and Shaiva communities join the celebrations because Vishnu gives away his sister Minakshi in marriage to Shiva.

Shaktism-related festivals

Some Shaktism-related festivals revere Shiva along with the goddess considered primary and Supreme. These include festivals dedicated to Annapurna such as Annakuta and those related to Durga. In Himalayan regions such as Nepal, as well as in northern, central, and western India, the festival of Teej is celebrated by girls and women in the monsoon season, in honor of goddess Parvati, with group singing, dancing, and offering prayers in Parvati-Shiva temples.

Kumbha Mela festival

The ascetic, Vedic and Tantric sub-traditions related to Shiva, such as those that became ascetic warriors during the Islamic rule period of India, celebrate the Kumbha Mela festival. This festival cycles every 12 years, in four pilgrimage sites within India, with the event moving to the next site after a gap of three years. The biggest is in Prayaga (renamed Allahabad during the Mughal rule era), where millions of Hindus of different traditions gather at the confluence of rivers Ganges and Yamuna. In the Hindu tradition, the Shiva-linked ascetic warriors (Nagas) get the honor of starting the event by entering the Sangam first for bathing and prayers.

In Pakistan, a major Shivaratri celebration occurs at the Umarkot Shiv Mandir in Umarkot. The three-day Shivarathri celebration at the temple is attended by around 250,000 people.

Shiva beyond the Indian subcontinent and Hinduism


In Indonesian Shaivism, the popular name for Shiva has been Batara Guru, which is derived from Sanskrit Bhattāraka which means “noble lord”. He is conceptualized as a kind spiritual teacher, the first of all Gurus in Indonesian Hindu texts, mirroring the Dakshinamurti aspect of Shiva in the Indian subcontinent. However, the Batara Guru has more aspects than the Indian Shiva, as the Indonesian Hindus blended their spirits and heroes with him. Batara Guru’s wife in Southeast Asia is the same Hindu deity Durga, who has been popular since ancient times, and she too has a complex character with benevolent and fierce manifestations, each visualized with different names such as Uma, Sri, Kali, and others. 

In contrast to Hindu religious texts, whether Vedas or Puranas, in Javanese puppetry (wayang) books, Batara Guru is the king of the Gods who regulates and creates the world system. In the classic book that is used as a reference for the puppeteers, it is said that Sanghyang Manikmaya or Batara Guru was created from a sparkling light by Sang Hyang Tunggal, along with the blackish light which is the origin of Ismaya. He has been called Sadāśiva, Paramasiva, and Mahādeva in benevolent forms, and Kāla, Bhairava, and Mahākāla in his fierce forms.

Central Asia

The worship became popular in Central Asia through the influence of the Hephthalite Empire and the Kushan Empire. Shaivism was also popular in Sogdia and the Kingdom of Yutian as found in the wall painting from Penjikent on the river Zervashan. In this depiction, he is portrayed with a sacred halo and a sacred thread (Yajnopavita). 

He is clad in tiger skin while his attendants are wearing a Sogdian dress. A panel from Dandan Oilik shows Shiva in His Trimurti form with Shakti kneeling on her right thigh. Another site in the Taklamakan Desert depicts him with four legs, seated cross-legged on a cushioned seat supported by two bulls. It is also noted that the Zoroastrian wind God Vayu-Vata took on the iconographic appearance of Shiva.


The Japuji Sahib of the Guru Granth Sahib says: “The Guru is Shiva, the Guru is Vishnu and Brahma; the Guru is Parvati and Lakshmi.” In the same chapter, it also says: “He speaks, and the Siddhas listen.” In Dasam Granth, Guru Gobind Singh mentioned two avatars of Rudra: Dattatreya Avatar and Parasnath Avatar.


Shiva is mentioned in the Buddhist Tantras and worshipped as the fierce deity Mahākāla in Vajrayana, Chinese Esoteric, and Tibetan Buddhism. In the cosmologies of Buddhist Tantras, he is depicted as passive, with Shakti being his active counterpart: Shiva as Prajña and Shakti as Upāya.

Mahayana Buddhism

In Mahayana Buddhism, Shiva is depicted as Maheshvara, a deva living in Akanishta Devaloka. He is depicted as Ishana, a deva residing in the 6th heaven of Kamadhatu along with Sakra Indra. In Vajrayana Buddhism, he is depicted as Mahakala, dharma protecting Bodhisattva. Also, in most forms of Buddhism, his position is lesser than that of Mahabrahma or Sakra Indra. However, in Mahayana Buddhist texts, Shiva (Maheshvara) becomes a buddha called Bhasmeshvara Buddha (“Buddha of ashes”).

China and Taiwan

In China and Taiwan, Shiva, better known there as Maheśvara (Chinese: 大自在天) is considered one of the Twenty Devas (Chinese: 二十諸天) or the Twenty-Four Devas (Chinese: 二十四諸天) who are a group of Dharmapala that manifest to protect the Buddhist dharma. Statues of him are often enshrined in the Mahavira Halls of Chinese Buddhist temples along with the other devas. In addition, he is also regarded as one of the thirty-three manifestations of Avalokitesvara in the Lotus Sutra.

In Mahayana Buddhist cosmology, Maheśvara resides in Akaniṣṭha, the highest of the Śuddhāvāsa (“Pure Abodes”) wherein Anāgāmi (“Non-returners”) who are already on the path to Arhathood and who will attain enlightenment are born.


Daikokuten, one of the Seven Lucky Gods in Japan, is considered to be evolved from Shiva. The god enjoys an exalted position as a household deity in Japan and is worshipped as the God of wealth and fortune. The name is the Japanese equivalent of Mahākāla, the Buddhist name for Shiva.

Frequently asked questions

Before posting your query, kindly go through them:

How Shiva is omniscient Yogi?

Shiva has many aspects, benevolent as well as fearsome. In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash as well as a householder with his wife Parvati and his two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya. In his fierce aspects, he has often depicted slaying demons. Shiva is also known as Adiyogi Shiva, regarded as the patron God of yoga, meditation, and the arts.

Who is known as Rudra?

Shiva as we know him today shares many features with the Vedic God Rudra, and both Shiva and Rudra are viewed as the same personality in Hindu scriptures. The two names are used synonymously. Rudra, a Rigvedic deity with fearsome powers, was the God of the roaring storm. He is usually portrayed in accordance with the element he represents as a fierce, destructive deity. In RV 2.33, he is described as the “Father of the Rudras”, a group of storm Gods.


How Shiva is worshiped in Buddhism?

Shiva is mentioned in the Buddhist Tantras and worshipped as the fierce deity Mahākāla in Vajrayana, Chinese Esoteric, and Tibetan Buddhism. In the cosmologies of Buddhist Tantras, he is depicted as passive, with Shakti being his active counterpart: Shiva as Prajña and Shakti as Upāya.

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