Shiva (Hindu god)

Who is Shiva?

Shiva is one of the most important gods of Hinduism, capable of creating or destroying whatever he wants, because he is considered to dominate various supernatural forces in the cosmos.

The god Shiva represents universal destruction and transformation. Its name derives from the Sanskrit siva and means "the benevolent". He is also known as the lord of destruction, the lord of the beasts, the god of chaos, the god of mystery, the god of nature, the god of knowledge, Rudra, among others.

In the Hindu tradition, Shiva fulfills the function of the destroyer god in the Trimurti (three-forms) or Hindu Triad, composed of the gods Brahma and Vishnu. However, it also has the ability to recreate from death which, understood from Hinduism, represents a change in the way of life and not the nonexistence as such.

As a destroying god, Shiva destroys everything that exists so that the new emerges and life and the universe are regenerated, therefore, he is also considered a creator god. In the field of spirituality, destruction is necessary to evolve, hence he is also considered the most important yogi or god of yoga.

Likewise, Shiva is the revered god of Shivaism, one of the oldest and most influential beliefs in Hudaism.

Shiva characteristics and attributes

In Hinduism, Shiva is one of the most powerful gods for having the ability to create and destroy in order to achieve spiritual renewal and balance to the universe. Therefore, Shiva has various physical characteristics and attributes that differentiate him from other gods.

Characteristics (physical)

  • His skin is represented as gray-blue in color since he took the poison created to destroy all beings in the universe, whom he saved. It is a nectar created by the gods to make themselves immortal.
  • His skin is depicted covered in ash, which represents life and death as a reality of life.
  • His hair is matted. The waves of his hair represent him as the god of the wind (Vaiu), and the form of the breath that is present in all living beings.
  • From his head and hair flows the river Ganges, which represents the purification of his sins and those of his ancestors.
  • It has three eyes, one of them is located in the middle of its forehead. Their eyes are said to be able to see the past, the present, and the future.
  • It has four arms. In one he holds a trident that, for Shivaism, represents the attributes he possesses as a creator, destroyer and regenerator god. In another arm he holds a drum in the shape of an hourglass.


  • On his forehead he has the moon in the crescent phase, near the third eye. The moon serves as a measure of time, so Shiva is also represented as the master of time.
  • On his forehead, he also has three lines of ash (vibhuti) drawn, which represent the essence of our being (the ego, the impurities of ignorance, likes, dislikes, among others).
  • He wears a cobra around his neck. Shiva had ingested kalketu poison to protect the welfare of the universe, but it is believed that his wife Parvati tied a cobra to him to retain the poison in his throat, thus turning blue.
  • It has a string of beads that represents the extinction and generation of humanity.
  • Dress in elephant skin that symbolizes pride, and deerskin that symbolizes control of the mind to perfection.
  • On the dolls it has wooden bands to which medicinal powers are attributed.
  • He is seated on a tiger skin, which symbolizes victory over any force, and represents its conquest over desire.


Shivaism is one of the oldest and most practiced Hindu beliefs. He venerates only Shiva as the supreme god, who represents the destruction and creation to achieve the purification of the universe.

It is a fairly broad belief, encompassing various monistic and dualistic philosophical views about the origin of the universe, as well as myths, rituals, and yoga practices.

Shivaism is based on the sacred texts of the Vedas (four books of Indian literature) and the Agamas (Buddhist, Hindu and Yaina literature). In the Vedas texts Shiva is referred to as Rudra or Maheshwaram.

Shiva is usually worshiped as:

  • a supreme god of the Trimurti, (Brahma, Visnu and Shiva),
  • god of reproduction, whose symbol is called lingam (phallus),
  • destroyer god, so he can be called as Kāla,
  • in his various human forms, such as Nataraja or Natarash (dancer) or Dakshina-murti (image of a teacher who teaches the absolute truth to four sages).

Those who practice shivaism are called shivaístas or shaivas, for worshiping Shiva as creator, destroyer and preserver god. This belief is mainly practiced in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, although it has spread around the world.

Shiva worship is performed both in temples and on home-made altars of those who practice this belief.

Shiva story

The main sources of information on Hindu mythology are the ancient texts Vedas, Puranas and Tantras, which collect and describe the stories, epics and traditional myths about the gods of Hinduism and date, at least, to the second millennium BC.

In these stories, Shiva's story is not clear and does not have a coherent narrative thread. For example, in the Vedas texts the name of the god Shiva does not appear, but to increase his veneration he was associated with the god Rudra, who does appear in the Rig-veda (the oldest text in the Vedic tradition).

In the Vedic religion, one of the oldest beliefs in India, the only deity with great destructive potential is Rudra, god of "terrible" force, who later identified himself as Shiva "the benevolent". Both gods have the same qualities in Hindu scriptures, and are recognized as the same god by experts.

On the other hand, in the Puranas texts Shiva is referred to as Siva, Linga, Skanda, Agnim, among others. But in none of these texts or myths his origin is clarified, although he stands out as one of the main gods of Hinduism.

However, it is known that Shiva is part of the Trimurti or Hindu Triad, formed by the three great gods of Hinduism. Shiva represents the destroying god, Brahma the creator god and Vishnu is the preserving god. In this way, the cycle of creation, preservation and destruction is completed.

For Shiva, destruction is necessary to achieve spiritual purification. Its destructive aspect is also associated with the idea of ​​change and transformation of life and the universe as a continuous cycle.

His home is also known to be on Mount Kailasa, an image that can be seen in the background when he is depicted doing the Mahāyogī yoga posture, and where he has lived with his wives.

Shiva main myths

Shiva and Sati

Sati, goddess of marital happiness and longevity, daughter of Daksha and Prasuti, was the first wife of Shiva. Satí was born from the reincarnation of the goddess Adi Parashakti, of whom her parents were devoted and whom she warned that they could not mistreat their daughter because they would cause her death.

Sati married Shiva, but Daksha did not approve of the marriage. He held a party to which he invited all the gods except his daughter Satí and Shiva. Sati insisted Shiva to go, but he did not want to. Satí went to confront her father, who yelled at her and forbade her entry, which caused her suicide by setting herself on fire.

When Shiva found out, he was enraged to Dashka's house, whom he killed along with thousands of innocents through the dance of destruction or his representation of Shiva Nataraja.

Finally, Shiva brought back to life all those he had killed, took the charred body of Satí and wandered through the universe. Various parts of Sati's body fell in various places that are now considered sacred in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, and other Asian countries.

Shiva and Parvati

Shiva had as his second wife Parvati (also called Uma), with whom he lived on Mount Kailasa, his home. Parvati is the reincarnation of Satí.

Parvati represents the cosmic energy that allows renewal, transformation and regeneration. It also appears in other stages of Shiva's life such as Durga, Kali, among others. Shiva and Parvati form a complementary pair of universal forces.

Together they had a deep love story, and represent the search for the loved one from our own being. In the Hindu tradition, Parvati represents the feminine principle and Shiva the masculine principle.

Together they formed a cosmic family with three children:

  • Aiapa (female incarnation of Vishnu).
  • Kartikeia (god of war or violence), has six faces.
  • Ganesha (elephant-headed god), represents intelligence.

Shiva Nataraja

Shiva Nataraja or Lord of Dance is the representation of the dancing god Shiva. Generally, it is represented in stone or metal sculptures that shape the dance of fury, used by Shiva in order to destroy something and then make it reborn.

Shiva Nataraja is represented dancing in a circle of fire and on Apasmara (dwarf representing ignorance).

He shows a dynamic posture in which he leans on the right leg, while the left is raised and crossed. His hair is moving and his four arms are outstretched.

It may interest you: Ganesha

Shiva and yoga

Shiva is considered the god and spokesman of yoga or Great Yogi. Yoga is a thousand-year-old physical and mental discipline, whose objective is to free the material bonds of the soul. In yoga spiritual purification is necessary to evolve.

Shiva is considered the most important yogi because he symbolizes creative and destructive energy. His teachings serve as a bridge for the human being to understand himself and everything that surrounds him, in order to live a better existence without attachments, developing inner strength and mental concentration.

One of the most common representations of Shiva in yoga is that of Mahāyogī, in which he appears seated, in front of Mount Kailasa, on the skin of a tiger in the perfect posture or lotus posture.The third eye on your forehead represents the energy of wisdom.

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