Shiva (Hindu god)

Shiva (Śiva, ‘the auspicious’) is one of the oldest gods in India.

In the framework of the Trimurti (‘three-forms’, the Hindu Trinity ) together with Brahma (creator god of the universe) and Visnú (preservative god).


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  • 1 Definition
  • 2 Dating
  • 3 Attributes of Shiva
  • 4 Shiva avatars
    • 1 Shiva in his appearance Natarásh
    • 2 The five activities of Lord Shiva
  • 5 Sources


Shiva is the divinity of yogis, has great self-control, is celibate and at the same time lover of his consort, Shakti. The first wife was Sati, and the second was Parvati (her incarnation), also known as Uma, Gauri, Durga, or Kali. Her children are Ganesha and Kartikeya.

The symbol of Shiva is a phallus (a penis), usually in the form of a stone monolith, called Lingam , in the form of which he is worshiped throughout India .

In India the Shivaratri (the night dedicated to Shiva) is celebrated.

As a destroyer, he is sometimes called Kāla (‘black’), and is identified with time .


Shiva is not mentioned in the Rig-veda (the oldest text in India, from the middle of the 2nd millennium BC ) or in the other three Vedas, which are practically copies of the first and oldest. In the Rig-veda , the adjective shiva means only ‘auspicious’, ‘auspicious’, ‘kind’, ‘favorable’, ‘benign’, ‘kind’, ‘benevolent’, ‘kind’ and ‘dear’.

According to the British indologist Gavin Flood (b. 1954), Shiva appears as a proper noun (Śiva, ‘the kind’ or ‘the auspicious’) only at the end of the Vedic period (around the 7th century BCE), in the Katha-araniaka . [1] There it is mentioned as another name of the god Rudra of the Rig-veda . Rudra (‘who roars’ or ‘who howls’) was a terrible god of storms, and father and ruler of rudras (hurricanes) and maruts. In the Rig-veda , the god Rudra is closely related to the god Indra and even more so to Agni(the god of fire). As a destroying agent, it rages and crackles like the roaring storm. Later, at the end of the Vedic period, Rudra became related to kāla (time as total destroyer). He was depicted as a destructive deity, whose terrible arrows caused death or disease in men and cattle.

In the Asualaiana-srauta-sutra , Rudra began to be called by the euphemistic name Śiva (the ‘benevolent’ or the ‘auspicious’). At the same time, this idea was repeated in Greece, where the Furies were called Εὐμενίδες (Euménides, ‘the kind’) as a way to appease them. Healing powers were attributed to it because with its winds it removed the sickly vapors and purified the atmosphere. It gradually lost its special connection to storms and became a principle of disintegration and reintegration.

Already in the Majabhárata ( 3rd century BC epicorreligious text ) he was assigned the office of creation and reproduction, as well as the dissolution of the universe.

Shiva Attributes

God Shiva.

Shiva’s main attributes are:

  • The trident(trishula): symbolizes groups of three characteristics, such as creation, maintenance and destruction (the three functions of the Trimurti triad, Brahmá, Visnú and Shiva). It represents the past, the present and the future. As a weapon the trident represents the instrument of punishment for the wrongdoer on the three planes: spiritual, mental and physical. When Shiva is mentioned as the god of the underworld, the ancient city of Kashi (present-day Benares ) is said to be right above the trident.
  • The damaru drum: shaped like an hourglass that Shiva holds in one of his hands in a specific gesture called damaru-hasta (‘drum-hand’). The two sides of the drum separated from each other by a thin structure, represent the two totally different states of existence , the unmanifest and manifest. When Shiva strikes the damaru, the cosmic sound of om is generated , which can be heard during deep meditation. According to Hindu scriptures, Nothing is the source of creation. This is one of the attributes of Shiva in his representation as a dancer, known as Natarásh . [two]

The cobra that serves as a necklace around Shiva’s neck.

  • The necklace of charges: the god Shiva is beyond the powers of death. He ingested the Kalketu poison for the welfare of the universe . In order not to be hurt by this poison , his consort Parvati is said to have tied a cobra to his neck . This retained the poison in her throat and consequently turned her blue . Hence its name Nīla-kantha (‘blue throat’). The dangerous cobra represents death, which Shiva has completely conquered. Shiva is also known as Nageśwara (‘lord of serpents’). The cobras around his neck also represent the sleeping and lying energy.
  • Rudraksa(‘eyes of Rudra ‘): a rosary of beads that Shiva – who is a development of the older Rudras gods of the Vedic era (mid-2nd millennium BC) – sometimes held in the right hand and sometimes in the left. When you hold them in your right hand, they symbolize concentration and that Shiva is meditating. The superstitious Hinduists were attributed to the rudraksas magical medicinal powers . [two]
  • The Ganges River on the Head: The sacred Ganges River is said to flow from Shiva’s hair . According to Hindu mythology , a king named Bhagui Ratha asked Mother Ganga to descend to Earth to purify his and his ancestors’ sins. Shiva offered to stop Ganga’s fall from Heaven .

The crescent moon depicted on Shiva’s forehead.

  • The crescent: Shiva carries the moon on his forehead on his fifth day (panchami) . That moon is located near the third eye and represents the power of the soma (a plant psychotropic drug used by Shiva in addition to marijuana ), since the soma is a representation of the Moon, and is the name of the Moon god) . It means that Shiva possesses the power of procreation along with the power of destruction. The Moon is also a measure of time, therefore it also represents that Shiva is the master of time. Shiva is then known by the names of Somasundara ( soma: moon god; súndara: ‘beautiful’) and Chandra-sékara ( chandra: ‘moon’;śekhara: ‘crown’, ‘top of the head’).
  • The third eye: It is usually represented as an oval point on the forehead of his face. It is the third eye of knowledge, which is known as Bindi. It is the eye that sees beyond the obvious. Consequently Shiva is known as Tri-Netri-Īshwara (‘lord of the three eyes’). Opening it reduces the person in your vision to ashes. The eye is associated as a symbol of the destruction of evil and ignorance .
  • Ash: Shiva is covered in crematorium ash (bhasma) , and points out the philosophy of life and death and that death is inevitable and is the ultimate reality of life.
  • Tiger Skin: Shiva is sitting on the skin of a tiger , or uses the skin of a tiger as a loincloth. The tiger is the vehicle of Shakti , the mother goddess of force. Shivaists depict Shiva on a tiger skin to signify that Shiva is the master of his wife Shakti.
  • Elephant Skin: In some depictions, Shiva uses the skin of an elephant as a loincloth. Elephants symbolize pride . Wearing your skin symbolizes the conquest of pride.
  • Deer skin: In Hindu mythology, the deer symbolizes the jumping of the mind. When Shiva is depicted with the deer’s skin as a loincloth, it symbolizes that he has controlled the mind perfectly.
  • Water container (kamandalu):another of Shiva’s accessories. It is said to be made from a dried gourd and contains amrita (the nectar of immorality). The yogis of India always carry a kamandalu as a basic need.
  • Kundalas(earrings): Kundalas refer to the two earrings that Shiva has on his ears:
    • Alakshia ―which in Sanskrit means ‘invisible’ ‘without marks’, ‘without indications’, ‘that has no particular marks’, ‘insignificant in appearance’, and is also the name of a mantra to neutralize a magic weapon (according to the Ramaiana, 3rd century BC) -, on the left ear, is a hoop of the type used by women.
    • Niránshan – which means ‘pure’, ‘spotless’, ‘devoid of emotion’ and which is also a name of Shiva and his consort Durga -, on the right ear, is a hoop of the type used by men in India . The dual type of kundalas means that Shiva has the two principles, male and female.
  • Mount Kailasa: Shiva is often represented in the Himalayas . Mount Kailash – which until a century ago had not been conquered – is said to be his traditional residence. In Shivaism (the religion that considers Shiva to be the supreme god of all gods), Mount Kailash represents the center of the universe. Shiva is called Kailash Pati or Kailash Adipati (the lord of Mount Kailash).

The Nandi bull.

  • Nandi: Nandi is Shiva’s bull (vrisha) and his vehicle. The bull is a symbol of both power and ignorance , suggesting that Shiva removes the ignorance of his devotees and gives them the power of wisdom.
  • Eyes half open: Shiva is represented with his eyes half open, to make him look more serene. It also represents that Shiva lives in a state of intoxication caused by soma (unknown psychotropic drug, perhaps some form of ephedrine) or marijuana ( Indian hemp or Indian hemp ). Lord Shiva’s half-open eyes could also convey the idea that the cycle of the universe is in process: when the god opens his eyes a new cycle of creation begins, and when he closes them it means the destruction of the universe for the creation of the next cycle. . Half-open eyes means that creation is going through an eternal cyclical process, with no beginning or end.
  • Vibhuti: it is the three ash lines drawn on the forehead and represents the essence of being, which remains even after the bad (impurities of ignorance, ego and action) and vasanas (likes and dislikes, attachment to the body , to the world, to fame , worldly entertainments, etc.) have been burned in the fire of knowledge . The vibhuti is revered as the form of Shiva and symbolizes the immortality of the soul and the manifest glory of the god.
  • Yata( matted hair ): The wave of his hair represents him as the god of the wind , or Vaiú, who is the subtle form of breath present in all living forms. Therefore, it is Shiva as the life line of all living beings. He is Pashupatinath.

Shiva avatars

  • Agastia. Some [3] propose that thisVedic (sage) rishi was an incarnation of Lord Shiva. It is said [4] [5] that this rishi began the worship of Shiva in South India.
  • Agni. In the Majabhárata Lord Agni is said to be an avatar of Shiva.
  • Ardhanaríshwara: ‘half Shiva, half Parvati ‘ (being ardha: ‘half’, narī: ‘woman’, feminine of nara ‘man’; īshuara: ‘lord’), combined incarnation of the spouses.
  • Asta Murti: ‘that has eight forms’ [6]
  • Bhairava: another form similar to the Kali of Durga .
  • Durvasa, a mythical celibate and neurotic sage, declared that he could not control his anger because he was an incarnation of the angry Rudra.
  • Indra. Lord Shiva is said to be the same Indra. The Pauravas are heroes of the Rig-veda (the oldest text in India, from the middle of the 2nd millennium BC) and their lord was Indra. In the Rig-veda , Lord Indra calls himself Shiva on many occasions (2.20.3, 6.45.17, 8.93.3). Both are gods related to the psychotropic soma plant.
  • Jánuman. In Jánuman-chalisa and Shiva-purana , Śrī Jánuman (the devout anthropoid of Lord Rama ) is said to be an incarnation of Shiva.
  • Lingam: Lord Shiva is revered in the form of Shivling (Shiva phallus) because he is a yogi who denies his body and sexuality. The symbol of the Purus was this phallus.
  • Shankar(788-820): teacher who initiated the Vedanta doctrine(one of the six darshanas ) and restored Brahmanism , against Buddhist pacifism. In various texts he claimed to be an incarnation of Shiva (this form of self-propaganda is still used today in India). Although Shankar believed in the nirguna Brahman (God without any attributes), he still worshiped Shiva.
  • Subrahmanya(सुब्रह्मण्य), [7] which means ‘he who is favorable to the priests’, his being : ‘very’; and brahmanya: ‘friendly with the brahmans ‘. [8]

Shiva in his appearance Natarásh

Shiva is also known in his aspect of Natarash , which in Sanskrit means ‘the king of dance’, being nata: dance and rash: ‘king’. He is represented within a circle of fire (Agni Ananta: ‘endless fire’). Lord Shiva begins to dance and destroys the whole world.

According to the accounts of Hinduism, Lord Shiva offers his head or his powerful will to stop the descent of the Goddess Ganga turned into a waterfall, whose power would destroy planet Earth. In doing so it is said that he separated his abundant hair into seven strands, symbolized by the seven arms of the Ganges river. Its head is crowned by a miter in a truncated cone representing Mount Meru .

It has four arms, whose hands adopt different mudras (gestures) that hold some symbolic elements, which depending on the iconography symbolize different divine aspects. Above the waist is the iagña – upavita (or sacred cord), which he has stripped to show his contempt for the Hindu castes .

One of his legs, raised, indicates the path of salvation and crushes temptations, which in some representations dances on an asura (demon).

The five activities of Lord Shiva

The cosmic dance represents the five activities of Lord Shiva:

  • Sristi: the domain.
  • Sthiti: conservation.
  • Samhara: destruction.
  • Tirobhava: the illusion within creation.
  • Anugraha: liberation.


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