This article is about the Hindu God. For the Jewish ritual of mourning, see Shiv'ah. For the Slavic goddess, see Siwa.
Lord Shiva. The water flowing from his locks is a depiction of the River Ganga
considered to be a goddess in Hinduism. In Hindu mythology, when Ganga descended from the heavens, the Earth could not bear her flow so Lord Shiva agreed to bear it. The colour of Lord Shiva's skin turned bluish as he drank Visha which came out of the churning of the oceans.
Shiva (also spelled Siva, Sanskrit: शिव) is a form of God in Hinduism. The name Siva means "One who purifies everyone by the utterance of His name." Alternatively, Siva means the Pure One, who is not affected by the three gunas (characteristics) of Prakrti (matter), Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.
He is the third form of God as the Destroyer, one of the trimurti (popularly called the "Hindu trinity"). In the trimurti, Shiva 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 on from destruction. Worshippers of Shiva are called Shaivaites. For Shaivaites, however, Shiva is the only Ultimate Reality. See Ishta-Deva for greater discussion.
Shiva is not limited to personal characteristics as typically depicted in the displayed image and is beyond any personal characteristics and can transcend all attributes. Hence, Shiva is often worshipped in an abstract manner, as God without form, in the form of linga. (This view is similar to the view of God in Semitic religions such as Islam or Judaism.) However, the Semitic religions 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.
Hindus believe that if we can hear the voice of God similar to how Judaeo-Christian religions believe that God communicates, then it is not neccessarily wrong to view a form of God so long as it is recognized that God is not limited to a particular form. Shiva is anadi (without beginning/birth) and ananth (without end/death).
According to the Bhagavata Purana, Lord Shiva appeared from the forehead of Lord Brahma. When Lord Brahma asked his sons the four kaumaras to go forth and create progeny in the universe, they refused. This angered Lord Brahma and in his anger a crying child appeared from his forehead. As the child was crying he was called Rudra, and became Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was asked to go forth and create progeny but when Lord Brahma observed the power as they shared the qualities of Lord Shiva he asked him to observe austerities instead of creating progeny. A slightly different version is told in the Shiva Purana . In the Shiva Purana, Shiva promises Brahma that an aspect of His, Rudra, will be born and this aspect is identical to Him.
Some of His chief attributes are signified by His hundreds of names, such as Mahabaleshwar (Great God of Strength), Tryambakam (Three-Eyed One, i.e. All-Knowing), Mahakala (Great Time, i.e. Conqueror of Time), Nilkanth (The one with a Blue Throat), etc.
Shiva is the supreme God of Shaivism, one of the two main branches of Hinduism today (the other being Vaishnavism). His abode is called Kailasa. His holy mount (called vahana in Sanskrit) is Nandi, the Bull. His attendant is named Bhadra. He is usually represented by the Shiva linga (or lingam). He is generally represented in Hindu tradition as immersed in deep meditation, on Mount Kailash (reputed to be the same as the Mount Kailash on the Tibet-India border, near Manasarovar Lake) in the Himalaya, which is supposed to be his abode.
Shiva's consort is Devi, God's energy or God as the Divine Mother who comes in many different forms, one of whom is Kali, the goddess of death. Parvati, a more pacific form of Devi is also popular. Shiva also married Sati, daughter of Daksha, who forbade the marriage. Sati disobeyed her father and Daksha held a Yajna (ritual sacrifice) to Vishnu, but did not invite Shiva. In disgust, Sati sacrificed herself in the same fire Daksha used in his sacrifice. Shiva arrived at the scene, angry at the death of his wife, and killed many of the guests, as well as decapitating Daksha, though he later replaced his head with that of a goat. Shiva created the monster Virabhadra during his quarrel with Daksha, and he was the leader of Shiva's men who came to prevent Daksha from conducting the Yagna. According to legend (Shivpurana, Ramcharitmanas and other Hindu scriptures), this same Sati was reborn in the house of Himalaya (who is almost certainly the mountain-range personified) and performed a great tapa (sequence of austerities, culminating in sustained meditation on the object desired, which in this case, was the Lord Shiva). This tapa caused Shiva to break his Samadhi(State of deep, usually ecstatic meditation) and accept Parvati as his consort.
Shiva gave Parashurama his axe. Shiva's great bow is called Pinaak and thus he is also called Pinaaki.
Shiva and Parvati are the parents of Karttikeya (also known as Murugan in South India) and Ganesha (also known as Vinayagar in South India), the elephant-headed God of wisdom. He acquired his head due to the actions of Shiva, who decapitated him because Ganesha refused to allow him to enter the house while Parvati was bathing. Shiva had to give him the new head to placate his wife. In another version, Parvati showed the child off to Shiva, whose face burned his head to ashes, which Brahma told Shiva to replace with the first head he could find, an elephant. Karttikeya is a six-headed god (thus called shadaanan, the one with six heads, Sanskrit: shad, six + aanan, head) and was conceived to kill the demon Tarakasura, who had proven invincible against other minor gods.
According to the foundation myth of Kalism, Kali came into existence when Shiva looked into himself; she is his mirror image.
In another version, she had gone out to kill demons but she went on a rampage. To stop her, Shiva went and lay down on the ground in front of her path. When she stepped on him, she looked down and realized that she had just stepped on Shiva. Feeling ashamed, she stuck out her tongue, and the rampage ended.
As Nataraja, Shiva is the Lord of the Dance, and also symbolises the dance of the Universe/Nature, with all its delicately balanced heavenly bodies and natural laws which complement and balance each other. At times, he is also symbolized as doing his great dance of destruction, called Taandav (Pronounced with a soft 't' and a hard 'd'), at the time of pralaya, or dissolution of the universe.
Some Hindus (non-Saivaites), especially Smartas, believe Shiva to be one of many different forms of the universal Atman, or Brahman, a monistic entity to which all things (essentially), and Shiva, as form of God are identical. Others see him as the one true God from whom all the other deities and principles are emanations, essentially a monotheistic understanding usually related to the bhakti sects of Shaivism.
Although he is defined as a destroyer (or rather recreator), Shiva, along with Vishnu, is considered the most benevolent God. One of his names is Aashutosh, he who is pleased by small offerings, or, he who gives a lot in return for a little.
Traditionally, unlike Vishnu, Shiva does not have any avatars. However, several persons have been claimed as avatars of him, such as Shankara. Some people consider Hanuman to be an avatar of Shiva.
Nayanars (or Nayanmars), saints from Southern India, were mostly responsible for development of Shaivism in the Middle Ages.
The important Shaivite sects were Kashmir Shavaites from Northern India, Lingayats and Virasaivas from Southern India. Saiva Siddhanta is a major Shaivite theory developed in Southern India.
This is not complete yet. More details on Shaivite texts/schools needed.
Shiva has produced no full lifetime avatars, but short stage dramas to help his devotees (particularly nayanmars). This is greatly explained in Thiruvilayadalpuram. Basically all this happened in South India, mostly Tamil Nadu. Madurai was the host for most of the short avatars.
Shiva is an aspect of God or Saguna Brahman,(i.e. God with form) who Hindus pray to. In trimurti belief, He is the aspect of God (i.e., God as the Destroyer) of the trimurti (also called the Hindu Trinity), along with Brahma and Vishnu.
Aspects of God such as Shiva or Vishnu are personal attributes of the impersonal Nirguna Brahman, God without attributes, the type of God similar in Semitic religions such as Islam or Judaism (i.e., God without form or without personal characteristics.) The term Hindu god should not be equated with Shiva and is confused with Devas. Devas or demigods, are celestial beings similar to angels as discussed in Judaeo-Christian traditions. Devas in Sanskrit literally means "shining beings".
Siva does not occur in the Vedic hymns as the name of a god, but as an adjective in the sense of kind, or auspicious. One of His synonyms, however, is the name of a Vedic deity, the attributes and nature of which show a good deal of similarity to the post-Vedic god. This is Rudra, the god of the roaring storm, usually portrayed in accordance with the element he represents, as a fierce, destructive deity, terrible as a wild beast, whose fearful arrows cause death and disease to men and cattle. He is also called bapardin (wearing his hair spirally braided like a shell), a word which in later times became one of the synonyms of Siva. The Atharva Veda mentions several other names of the same god, some of which appear even placed together, as in one passage Bhava , Sarva , Rudra and Pasupati. Possibly some of them were the names under which one and the same deity was already worshipped in different parts of northern India. This was certainly the case in later times, since it is expressly stated in one of the later works of the Brahmapa period, that Sarva was used by the Eastern people and Bhava by a Western tribe. It is also worthy of note that in the same work, composed at a time when the Vedic triad of Agni, Indra-Vayu and Surya was still recognized, attempts are made to identify Siva of many names with Agni; and that in one passage in the Mahabharata it is stated that the Brahmins said that Agni was Siva.
It is in his character as destroyer that Siva holds His place in the triad, and that He must, no doubt, be identified with the Vedic Rudra. Another very important function appears, however, to have been early assigned to him, on which much more stress is laid in his modern worship, that of destroyer being more especially exhibited in his consort, viz, the character of a generative power, symbolized in the emblem representing Him, (linga) and in the sacred bull (Nandi), the favorite attendant of Him. The non-Aryans have worshipped the linga as a phallic symbol. This feature, however, is entirely alien from the nature of the Vedic god, it has been conjectured with some plausibility, that the linga-worship was originally prevalent among the non-Aryan population, and was thence introduced into the worship of Siva. On the other hand, there can, we think, be little doubt that Siva, in His generative faculty, is the representative of another Vedic god whose nature and attributes go far to account for this particular feature of the modern deity, viz. Pushan .
Siva, originally, no doubt, a solar deity, is frequently invoked, as the lord of nourishment, to bestow food, wealth and other blessings. He is once, jointly with Soma, called the progenitor of heaven and earth, and is connected with the marriage ceremony, where he is asked to lead the bride to the bridegroom and make her prosperous (civatama). Moreover. Lie has the epithet bapardin (spirally braided), as have Rudra and the later Siva, and is called Par upa, or guardian of cattle, whence the latter derives his name Parupati.
Parupa is a strong, powerful, and even fierce and destructive aspect god, who, with his goad or golden spear, smites the foes of his worshipper, and thus in this respect offers at least some points of similarity to Rudra, which may have favored the fusion of the two gods into a monotheistic conception of God, into Shiva.
http://www.rudraksha-ratna.com/lordshiva.htm - Bhajans, Shlokas, Hymns, Mantra & Aartis.
http://www.dlshq.org/download/lordsiva.htm - A Divine Life Society book on Shaivism, also available on pdf.
Characteristics of Shiva and Shaivism. http://www.shaivam.org/shp.htm
http://www.dlshq.org/download/hinduismbk.htm#_VPID_96. -Swami Sivananda's book, "All about Hinduism".
http://www.hinduism-today.com/archives/2003/10-12/44-49_four_sects.shtml - Overview of Shaivism and basic beliefs.
http://www.himalayanacademy.com/resources/books/dws/Contents.html - The book "Dancing with Siva"
Meanings for some of the names of Shiva. http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/series/11_names_of_shiva/11_names_of_shiva_top.ht
Lord Shiva saves British devotee in the nineteenth century. http://www.ashram.org/satsang_eng/ladymartin.html
Lord Shiva easily pleased, His Greatness and Sivaratri. http://www.gita-society.com/section3/shivaratri.htm
The famous Siva temples. http://www.lingayat.com/festtemple/festitemple.asp
Last updated: 02-08-2005 16:46:04