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Lord Shiva: "Powerfull mantra for Success "

Shiva (pronounced /ˈʃiːvə/; Sanskrit: शिव Śiva, meaning "auspicious one";) is a major Hindudeity, and the Destroyer or transformer of the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine.[2] In the Shaiva tradition of Hinduism, Shiva is seen as the Supreme God. In the Smarta tradition, he is regarded as one of the five primary forms of God.[3]

Followers of Hinduism who focus their worship upon Shiva are called Shaivites or Shaivas (Sanskrit Śaiva). Shaivism, along with Vaiṣṇava traditions that focus on Vishnuand Śāktatraditions that focus on the goddess Shakti, is one of the most influential denominations in Hinduism.[3]

Etymology and other names

The Sanskrit word Shiva (Devanagari: शिव, śiva) is an adjective meaning "auspicious, kind, gracious".[5][6] As a proper name it means "The Auspicious One", used as a name for Rudra.[6] In simple English transliteration it is written either as Shiva or Siva. The adjective śiva, meaning "auspicious", is used as an attributive epithet not particularly of Rudra, but of several other Vedic deities.[7]

The Sanskrit word śaiva means "relating to the god Shiva", and this term is the Sanskrit name both for one of the principal sects of Hinduism and for a member of that sect.[8] It is used as an adjective to characterize certain beliefs and practices, such as Shaivism.[9]

Adi Sankara, in his interpretation of the name Shiva, the 27th and 600th name of Vishnu sahasranama, the thousand names of Vishnu interprets Shiva to have multiple meanings: "The Pure One", or "the One who is not affected by three Gunas of Prakrti (Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas)" or "the One who purifies everyone by the very utterance of His name."[10]Swami Chinmayananda, in his translation of Vishnu sahasranama, further elaborates on that verse: Shiva means "the One who is eternally pure" or "the One who can never have any contamination of the imperfection of Rajas and Tamas".[11]

Shiva's role as the primary deity of Shaivism is reflected in his epithets Mahādeva ("Great God";mahā = Great + deva = God),[12][13]Maheśhvara ("Great Lord"; mahā = Great + īśhvara = Lord),[14][15] and Parameśhvara ("Supreme Lord").[16]

There are at least eight different versions of the Shiva Sahasranama, devotional hymns (stotras) listing many names of Shiva.[17] The version appearing in Book 13 (Anuśāsanaparvan) of the Mahabharata is considered the kernel of this tradition.[18] 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.[19][20]

Historical development

The worship of Shiva is a pan-Hindu tradition, practiced widely across all of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.[21][22] Some historians believe that the figure of Shiva as we know him today was built up over time, with the ideas of many regional sects being amalgamated into a single figure.[23]How the persona of Shiva converged as a composite deity is not well documented.[24] Axel Michaels explains the composite nature of Shaivism as follows:

Like Vişņu, Śiva is also a high god, who gives his name to a collection of theistic trends and sects: Śaivism. Like Vaişņavism, the term also implies a unity which cannot be clearly found either in religious practice or in philosophical and esoteric doctrine. Furthermore, practice and doctrine must be kept separate.[25]

An example of assimilation took place in Maharashtra, where a regional deity named Khandoba is a patron deity of farming and herdingcastes.[26] The foremost center of worship of Khandoba in Maharashtra is in Jejuri.[27] Khandoba has been assimilated as a form of Shiva himself,[28] in which case he is worshipped in the form of a lingam.[26][29]Khandoba's varied associations also include an identification withSurya [26]and Karttikeya.[30]

The Pashupati seal

A seal discovered during the excavation of Mohenjo-daro has drawn attention as a possible representation of a "proto-Shiva" figure.[31] This Pashupati (Lord of animal-like beings)[32]seal shows a seated figure, possibly ithyphallic, surrounded by animals.[33] Sir John Marshall and others have claimed that this figure is a prototype of Shiva and have described the figure as having three faces seated in a "yoga posture" with the knees out and feet joined. However, this claim is not without its share of critics, with some academics like Gavin Flood[31][34] and John Keay characterizing them as unfounded.


Main article: Rudra

Three-headed Shiva, Gandhara, 2nd century CE

Shiva as we know him today shares many features with the Vedic god Rudra,[36] and both Shiva and Rudra are viewed as the same personality in a number of Hindu traditions. Rudra, the god of the roaring storm, is usually portrayed in accordance with the element he represents as a fierce, destructive deity.

The oldest surviving text of Hinduism is the Rig Veda, which is dated to between 1700 and 1100 BCE based on linguistic and philological evidence.[37] A god named Rudra is mentioned in the Rig Veda. The name Rudra is still used as a name for Shiva. In RV 2.33, he is described as the "Father of the Maruts", a group of storm gods.[38] Furthermore, the Rudram, one of the most sacred hymns of Hinduism found both in the Rig and the Yajur Vedas and addressed to Rudra, invokes him as Shiva in several instances, but the term Shiva is used as a epithet for Indra, Mitra and Agni many times.

The identification of Shiva with the older god Rudra is not universally accepted, as Axel Michaels explains:

Rudra is called "The Archer" (Sanskrit: Śarva),[39] and the arrow is an essential attribute of Rudra.[40] This name appears in the Shiva Sahasranama, and R. K. Sharma notes that it is used as a name of Shiva often in later languages.[41] The word is derived from the Sanskrit root śarv-, which means "to injure" or "to kill",[42] and Sharma uses that general sense in his interpretive translation of the name Śarva as "One who can kill the forces of darkness".[41]The names Dhanvin ("Bowman")[43] and Bāṇahasta ("Archer", literally "Armed with arrows in his hands")[43][44] also refer to archery.

Identification with Vedic deities

Shiva's rise to a major position in the pantheon was facilitated by his identification with a host of Vedic deities, including Agni, Indra, Prajāpati, Vāyu, and others.[45]


Shiva temple with trident standard,Audumbara State, Punjab, 1st century BCE.

Rudra and Agni have a close relationship.[46][47] The identification between Agni and Rudra in the Vedic literature was an important factor in the process of Rudra's gradual development into the later character as Rudra-Shiva.[48] The identification of Agni with Rudra is explicitly noted in theNirukta, an important early text on etymology, which says, "Agni is called Rudra also."[49] 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.[50]

In the Śatarudrīa, 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.[51] Agni is said to be a bull,[52] and Lord Shiva possesses a bull as his vehicle, Nandi. The horns of Agni, who is sometimes characterized as a bull, are mentioned.[53][54] In medieval sculpture, both Agni and the form of Shiva known as Bhairava have flaming hair as a special feature.[55]


According to a theory, the Puranic Shiva is a continuation of the Vedic Indra.[56] He gives several reasons for his hypothesis. Both Shiva and Indra are known for having a thirst for Soma. Both are associated with mountains, rivers, male fertility, fierceness, fearlessness, warfare, transgression of established mores, the Aum sound, the Supreme Self. In the Rig Veda the term śiva is used to refer to Indra. (2.20.3,[57]6.45.17,[58][59] and 8.93.3.[60]) Indra, like Shiva, is likened to a bull.[61][62] In the Rig Veda, Rudra is the father of the Maruts, but he is never associated with their warlike exploits as is Indra.[63]


Shiva with Parvati. Shiva is depicted three-eyed, the Ganges flowing through his matted hair (which are yellowish-white or like molten Gold), wearing ornaments of serpents and a skull necklace, and covered in ashes, and Trisula and Damaru are seen in the background.

  • Shiva's Form:

Lord Shiva wears a deer in the left upper hand. He has a Trident in the right lower arm. with a crescent moon on his head. He is said to be fair like camphor or like an ice clad mountain. He has fire and Damaru and Malu or a kind of weapon. He wears five serpents as ornaments. He wears a garland of skulls. He is pressing with His feet the demon Muyalaka, a dwarf holding a cobra. He faces south. Panchakshara itself is His body.

  • Third eye: Shiva is often depicted with a third eye, with which he burned Desire (Kāma) to ashes,[64] called "Tryambakam" (Sanskrit: त्र्यम्बकम्), which occurs in many scriptural sources.[65] 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".[66] However, in Vedic Sanskrit, the word ambāor ambikā means "mother", and this early meaning of the word is the basis for the translation "three mothers" ]].[67][68] These three mother-goddesses who are collectively called the Ambikās.[69] 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.[70]
  • Crescent moon: Shiva bears on his head the crescent moon.[71] The epithet Chandraśekhara(Sanskrit: चन्द्रशेखर "Having the moon as his crest" - chandra= "moon", śekhara = "crest, crown")[72][73][74] 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.[75] 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.[76] The crescent moon is shown on the side of the Lord's head as an ornament. The waxing and waning phenomenon of the moon symbolizes the time cycle through which creation evolves from the beginning to the end. Since the Lord is the Eternal Reality, He is beyond time. Thus, the crescent moon is only one of His ornaments.The wearing of the crescent moon in His head indicates that He has controlled the mind perfectly.
  • Ashes: Shiva smears his body with ashes (bhasma).[77] 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.[78] These practices associated with cremation grounds are also mentioned in the Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism.[79] One epithet for Shiva is "inhabitant of the cremation ground" (Sanskrit: śmaśānavāsin, also spelled Shmashanavasin), referring to this connection.[80]
  • Matted hair: Shiva's distinctive hair style is noted in the epithets Jaṭin, "the one with matted hair",[81] and Kapardin, "endowed with matted hair"[82] or "wearing his hair wound in a braid in a shell-like (kaparda) fashion".[83] 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.[84]His hair are said to be like molten Gold in color or being yellowish-white.
  • Blue throat: The epithet Nīlakaṇtha (Sanskrit नीलकण्ठ; nīla = "blue", katha = "throat")[85][86] refers to a story in which Shiva drank thepoison churned up from the world ocean.[87][88] (See Halāhala.)

Shiva bearing the descent of the Ganges River as Parvati and Bhagiratha and the bull Nandi look, folio from a Hindi manuscript by the saint Narayan, circa 1740

  • Sacred Ganges: The Ganges river flows from the matted hair of Shiva. The epithet Gaṅgādhara("bearer of the river Ga") refers to this feature.[89][90]The Ga (Ganges), one of the major rivers of the country, is said to have made her abode in Shiva's hair.[91] The flow of the Ganges also represents the nectar of immortality.
  • Tiger skin: He is often shown seated upon a tiger skin,[77] an honour reserved for the most accomplished of Hindu ascetics, the Brahmarishis.[92] Tiger represents lust. His sitting on the tiger's skin indicates that He has conquered lust.
  • Serpents: Shiva is often shown garlanded with a snake.[93] His wearing of serpents on the neck denotes wisdom and eternity.
  • Deer:His holding deer on one hand indicates that He has removed the Chanchalata (tossing) of the mind. Deer jumps from one place to another swiftly. The mind also jumps from one object to another.
  • Trident: (Sanskrit: Trishula): Shiva's particular weapon is the trident.[77] His Trisul that is held in His right hand represents the three Gunas—Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. That is the emblem of sovereignty. He rules the world through these three Gunas. The Damaru in His left hand represents the Sabda Brahman. It represents OM from which all languages are formed. It is He who formed the Sanskrit language out of the Damaru sound.
  • Drum: A small drum shaped like an hourglass is known as a damaru(Sanskrit: amaru).[94][95]This is one of the attributes of Shiva in his famous dancing representation[96] known as Nataraja. A specific hand gesture (mudra) called amaru-hasta (Sanskrit for "ḍamaru-hand") is used to hold the drum.[97] This drum is particularly used as an emblem by members of the Kāpālika sect.[98]
  • Nandī: Nandī, also known as Nandin, is the name of the bull that serves as Shiva's mount (Sanskrit: vāhana).[99][100] Shiva's association with cattle is reflected in his name Paśupati, or Pashupati (Sanskrit: पशुपति), translated by Sharma as "lord of cattle"[101] and by Kramrisch as "lord of animals", who notes that it is particularly used as an epithet of Rudra.[102] Rishabha or the bull represents Dharma Devata. Lord Siva rides on the bull. Bull is His vehicle. This denotes that Lord Siva is the protector of Dharma, is an embodiment of Dharma or righteousness.
  • Gaa: The Gaṇas (Devanagari: गण) are attendants of Shiva and live in Kailash. 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 gaa-īśa or gaa-pati, "lord of the gaṇas".[103]
  • Mount Kailāsa: Mount Kailash in the Himalayas is his traditional abode.[77] In Hindu mythology, Mount Kailāsa is conceived as resembling a Linga, representing the center of the universe.[104]
  • Varasani: 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.[105]

Forms and depictions

According to Gavin Flood, "Śiva is a god of ambiguity and paradox," whose attributes include opposing themes.[106] The ambivalent nature of this deity is apparent in some of his names and the stories told about him.

Destroyer versus benefactor

Shiva carrying the corpse of his first consort Dakshayani (Sati)

In the Yajurveda, two contrary sets of attributes for both malignant or terrific (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."[107] In the Mahabharata, Shiva is depicted as "the standard of invincibility, might, and terror", as well as a figure of honor, delight, and brilliance.[108] The duality of Shiva's fearful and auspicious attributes appears in contrasted names.

The name Rudra (Sanskrit: रुद्र) reflects his fearsome aspects. According to traditional etymologies, the Sanskrit name Rudra is derived from the root rud-, which means "to cry, howl".[109] 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".[110] R. K. Sharma follows this alternate etymology and translates the name as "terrible".[111]Hara (Sanskrit: हर) is an important name that occurs three times in the Anushasanaparvan version of the Shiva sahasranama, where it is translated in different ways each time it occurs, following a commentorial tradition of not repeating an interpretation. Sharma translates the three as "one who captivates", "one who consolidates", and "one who destroys."[112] Kramrisch translates it as "the ravisher".[88]Another of Shiva's fearsome forms is as Kāla (Sanskrit: काल), "time", and as Mahākāla (Sanskrit: महाकाल), "great time", which ultimately destroys all things.[113][114][115] Bhairava (Sanskrit: भैरव), "terrible" or "frightful",[116] is a fierce form associated with annihilation.[117]

In contrast, the name Śaṇkara (Sanskrit: शङ्कर), "beneficent"[41] or "conferring happiness"[118] reflects his benign form. This name was adopted by the great Vedanta philosopher Śaṇkara (c. 788-820 CE), who is also known as Shankaracharya.[119][120] The name Śambhu(Sanskrit: शम्भु), "causing happiness", also reflects this benign aspect.[121][122]

Ascetic versus householder

An illustration of the family of Shiva, consisting of Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha andSkanda(Kartikeya)

He is depicted as both an ascetic yogin and as a householder, roles which have been traditionally mutually exclusive in Hindu society.[123] When depicted as a yogin, he may be shown sitting and meditating.[124] His epithet Mahāyogin ("the great Yogi: Mahā = "great", Yogin = "one who practices Yoga") refers to his association with yoga.[125]While Vedic religion was conceived mainly in terms of sacrifice, it was during the Epic periodthat the concepts of tapas, yoga, andasceticism became more important, and the depiction of Shiva as an ascetic sitting in philosophical isolation reflects these later concepts.[126]

As a family man and householder, he has a wife, Parvati (known variously as Tripura Sundari, Umā, Durga, Kamakshi, Meenakshi, Gauri, or Narayani), and two sons, Ganeshaand Veerabhadra (Skanda) (also known as Karthikeya and Murugan). 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.[127] Umā in epic literature is known by many names, including the benign Pārvatī.[128][129] She is identified with Devi, the Divine Mother, and with Shakti(divine energy). As a householder, he is known for the great love and respect he has for his consort. Ganesha is worshipped throughout India andNepal as the Remover of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles. Veerabhadra is worshipped in Maharastra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.South India Karthikeya is worshipped in Southern India(especially in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka) by the names Subrahmanya, Subrahmanyan, Shanmughan, Swaminathan and Murugan, and in Northern India by the names Skanda, Kumara, or Karttikeya.[130] The consorts of Lord Shiva are the source of his creative energy. They represent the dynamic extension of Shiva onto this universe.[131]


Bronze Chola statue depicting Shiva dancing as Nataraja. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Main article: Nataraja

The depiction of Shiva as Nataraja (Telugu: నటరాజు, Tamil: நடராஜா, Sanskrit: naarāja, "Lord of Dance") is popular.[132][133] The names Nartaka ("dancer") and Nityanarta ("eternal dancer") appear in the Shiva Sahasranama.[134] His association with dance and also with music is prominent in the Puranic period.[135] In addition to the specific iconographic form known as Nataraja, various other types of dancing forms (Sanskrit: ntyamūrti) are found in all parts of India, with many well-defined varieties in Tamil Nadu in particular.[136] The two most common forms of the dance are the Tandava, which later came to denote the powerful and masculine dance as Kala-Mahakala associated with the destruction of the world. When it requires the world or universe to be destroyed, Lord Śiva does it by the tāṇḍavanṛtya.[137][138] 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.[139][140]Lasya is regarded as the female counterpart of Tandava.[140]TheTandava-Lasya dances are associated with the destruction-creation of the world.[141][142][143]


Main article: Dakshinamurthy

Dakshinamurthy, or Dakṣiṇāmūrti (Telugu: దక్షిణామూర్తి , Sanskrit: दक्षिणामूर्ति),[144] literally describes a form (mūrti) of Shiva facing south (dakia). This form represents Shiva in his aspect as a teacher of yoga, music, and wisdom and giving exposition on the shastras.[145]This iconographic form for depicting Shiva in Indian art is mostly from Tamil Nadu.[146]Elements of this motif can include Shiva seated upon a deer-throne and surrounded by sages who are receiving his instruction.[147]

Chola bronze from the 11th century. Shiva in the form ofArdhanarisvara.


Main article: Ardhanari

An iconographic representation of Shiva called (Ardhanārīśvara) shows him with one half of the body as male and the other half as female. According to Ellen Goldberg, the traditional Sanskrit name for this form (Ardhanārīśvara) is best translated as "the lord who is half woman", not as "half-man, half-woman".[148] In Hindu philosophy, this is used to visualize the belief that the sacred ultimate power of the universe as being both feminine and masculine.[131]


Main article: Tripurantaka

See also:Tripura (mythology)

Lord Shiva is often depicted as an archer in the act of destroying the triple fortresses, Tripura, of the Asuras.[149] Shiva's name Tripurantaka (Sanskrit: त्रिपुरान्तक, Tripurāntaka), "ender of Tripura", refers to this important story.[150]


A Shiva Lingam worshipped at Jambukesvara temple inThiruvanaikaval (Thiruaanaikaa)

Main article:Lingam

Apart from anthropomorphic images of Shiva, the worship of Shiva in the form of a lingam, or linga, is also important.[36][151][152] These are depicted in various forms. One common form is the shape of a vertical rounded column. Shiva means auspiciousness, and lingameans a sign or a symbol. Hence, the Shivalinga is regarded as a "symbol of the great God of the universe who is all-auspiciousness".[153]Shiva also means "one in whom the whole creation sleeps after dissolution".[153]Linga also means the same thing—a place where created objects get dissolved during the disintegration of the created universe. Since, according to Hinduism, it is the same god that creates, sustains and withdraws the universe, the Shivalinga represents symbolically God Himself.[153] Some scholars, such asMonier-Williams and Wendy Doniger, also view linga as a phallic symbol,[154][155] although this interpretation is disputed by others, including Christopher Isherwood,[156] Vivekananda,[157]Swami Sivananda,[158] and S.N. Balagangadhara.[159]

The worship of the Shiva-Linga originated from the famous hymn in the Atharva-Veda Samhitâ sung in praise of the Yupa-Stambha, the sacrificial post. In that hymn, a description is found of the beginningless and endless Stambha or Skambha, and it is shown that the said Skambha is put in place of the eternalBrahman. Just as the Yajna (sacrificial) fire, its smoke, ashes, and flames, the Soma plant, and the ox that used to carry on its back the wood for the Vedic sacrifice gave place to the conceptions of the brightness of Shiva's body, his tawny matted hair, his blue throat, and the riding on the bull of the Shiva, the Yupa-Skambha gave place in time to the Shiva-Linga.[160][161] In the text Linga Purana, the same hymn is expanded in the shape of stories, meant to establish the glory of the great Stambha and the superiority of Shiva as Mahadeva.[161]


Shiva, like some other Hindu deities, is said to have several incarnations, known as avatars. Although Puranic scriptures contain occasional references to avatars of Shiva, the idea is not universally accepted in Saivism.[162]

  • Adi Shankara, the 8th-century philosopher of non-dualist Vedanta"Advaita Vedanta", was named "Shankara" after Lord Shiva and is considered by some to have been an incarnation of Shiva.[163]
  • In the Hanuman Chalisa, Hanuman is identified as the eleventh avatar of Shiva, but this belief is not universal.[164]
  • Virabhadra who was born when Shiva grabbed a lock of his matted hair and dashed it to the ground. Virabhadra then destroyed Daksha'syajna (fire sacrifice) and severed his head as per Shiva's instructions.[165]
  • Ashwathama, son of Dronacharya is also considered as the 12th ansh of Rudra (or, Shiva). He is immortal and will be one amongsaptarishi in next manvantara.

The five mantras

Adoration of five-headed Shiva byVishnu (blue figure, to left of Shiva), Brahma(four-headed figure to the right of Shiva),Ganesha (elephant-headed son of Shiva, bottom left) and other deities. Painting fromLACMA.

Five is a sacred number for Shiva.[167] One of his most important mantras has five syllables (namaḥ śivāya).[168]

Shiva's body is said to consist of five mantras, called the pañcabrahmans.[169] As forms of God, each of these have their own names and distinct iconography:[170]

  • Sadyojāta
  • Vāmadeva
  • Aghora
  • Tatpuruṣa
  • Īsāna

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.[171][172]Doctrinal differences and, possibly, errors in transmission, have resulted in some differences between texts in details of how these five forms are linked with various attributes.[173] The overall meaning of these associations is summarized by Stella Kramrisch:

Through these transcendent categories, Śiva, the ultimate reality, becomes the efficient and material cause of all that exists.[174]

According to the Pañcabrahma Upanishad:

One should know all things of the phenomenal world as of a fivefold character, for the reason that the eternal verity of Śiva is of the character of the fivefold Brahman. (Pañcabrahma Upanishad 31)[175

Relationship to Vishnu

Vishnu (left half—blue) and Shiva (right half—white)

During the Vedic period, both Vishnu and Shiva (as identified with Rudra) played relatively minor roles, but by the time of the Brahmanas (c. 1000-700 BCE), both were gaining ascendance.[176]By the Puranic period, both deities had major sects that competed with one another for devotees.[177] Many stories developed showing different types of relationships between these two important deities.

Sectarian groups each presented their own preferred deity as supreme. Vishnu in his myths "becomes" Shiva.[178] The Vishnu Purana (4th c. CE) shows Vishnu awakening and becoming both Brahmā to create the world and Shiva to destroy it.[179] Shiva also is viewed as a manifestation of Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana.[180] In Shaivite myths, on the other hand, Shiva comes to the fore and acts independently and alone to create, preserve, and destroy the world.[181] In one Shaivite myth of the origin of the lingam, both Vishnu and Brahmā are revealed as emanations from Shiva's manifestation as a towering pillar of flame.[182] The Śatarudrīya, a Shaivite hymn, says that Shiva is "of the form of Vishnu".[183]Differences in viewpoints between the two sects are apparent in the story of Śarabha (also spelled "Sharabha"), the name of Shiva's incarnation in the composite form of man, bird, and beast. Shiva assumed that unusual form of Sarabheshwara to chastise Vishnu, who in his hybrid form as Narasimha, the man-lion, killedHiranyakashipu.[184][185] However, Vaishnava followers including Dvaita scholars, such as Vijayindra Tirtha (1539–95) dispute this view of Narasimha based on their reading of Sattvika Puranas and Śruti texts.[186]

Syncretic forces produced stories in which the two deities were shown in cooperative relationships and combined forms. Harihara is the name of a combined deity form of both Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Hara).[187] This dual form, which is also called Harirudra, is mentioned in theMahabharata.[188] An example of a collaboration story is one given to explain Shiva's epithet Mahābaleśvara, "lord of great strength" (Maha = "great", Bala = "strength", Īśvara = "lord"). This name refers to a story in which Rāvaṇa was given a linga as a boon by Shiva on the condition that he carry it always. During his travels, he stopped near the present Deoghar in Jharkhand to purify himself and asked Narada, a devotee of Vishnu in the guise of a Brahmin, to hold the linga for him, but after some time, Narada put it down on the ground and vanished. When Ravana returned, he could not move the linga, and it is said to remain there ever since.[189]

As one story goes, Shiva is enticed by the beauty and charm of Mohini, Vishnu's female avatar, and procreates with her. As a result of this union, Shasta - identified with regional deities Ayyappa and Ayyanar - is born.[190][191] Shiva is also served by Mohini when a bunch of naughty sages were taught a lesson by Shiva.[192][193]

Maha Shivaratri

Main article: Maha Shivaratri

(See also List of Hindu festivals)

Maha Shivratri is a festival celebrated every year on the 13th night or the 14th day of the new moon in the Krishna Paksha of the month ofMaagha or Phalguna in the Hindu calendar. This festival is of utmost importance to the devotees of Lord Shiva. Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the 'Tandava' and it is also believed that Lord Shiva was married to Parvati. On this day the devotees observe fast and offer fruits, flowersand Bael leaves to Shiva Linga


Main page:Shiva temples

There are many Shiva temples in the Indian subcontinent, the Jyotirlinga temples being the most prominent.

Jyotirlinga temples

Main article: Jyotirlinga temples

The holiest Shiva temples are the 12 Jyotirlinga temples. They are,




Prabhas Patan, near Veraval, Gujarat


Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh


Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh


near Indore, Madhya Pradesh


Kedarnath, Uttarakhand



  • Bhimashankar Temple, near Pune, Maharashtra (pictured)
  • Bheem Shankar (Moteshwar Mahadev), Kashipur, Uttarakhand
  • Bhimshankar temple near Guwahati, Assam
  • Bhimasankar temple near Gunupur, Orissa

Kashi Vishwanath

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh


Trimbak, near Nasik, Maharashtra


Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu


near Ellora, Maharashtra



  • Vaidyanath temple, Deoghar, Jharkhand (pictured)
  • Vaijnath temple, Parli, Maharashtra
  • Baijnath temple, Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh



  • Jageshwar temple near Almora, Uttarakhand (pictured)
  • Nageshwar Temple, Dwarka, Dwarka, Gujarat
  • Aundha Nagnath, Maharashtra


Manimahesh Lake (also known as Dal Lake, Manimahesh) is a high altitude lake (elevation 4,080 metres (13,390 ft)) situated close to the Manimahesh Kailash Peak in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas, in the Bharmour subdivision of Chamba district of the Indian stateofHimachal Pradesh. The religious significance of this lake is next to that of the Lake Manasarovar in Tibet.[1][2][3]

The lake is the venue of a highly revered pilgrimage trek undertaken during the month of August/September corresponding to the month of Bhadon according to Hindu calendar, on the eighth day of the New Moon period. It is known as the ‘Manimahesh Yatra'. The Government of Himachal Pradesh has declared it as a state-level pilgrimage.[4]


According to one popular legend, it is believed that Lord Shiva created Manimahesh after he married Goddess Parvati, who is worshipped as Mata Girja. There are many legends narrated linking Lord Shiva and his show of displeasure through acts of avalanchesand blizzards that occur in the region.[1]

Legend also mentions that Shiva performed penance on the banks of Manimahesh Lake. In the same vein, it is mentioned that Gaddis, the tribes of this region, adopted Lord Shiva as their deity. Gaddis are the people who reside in the Gaddi Valley which is the name of the upper regions of Ravi River where the Mount Chamba Kailash lies. Further, according to the legend, the Shiva, who lived in Mount Kailash, the highest mountain of the state, gifted the Gaddis with a Chuhali topi (pointed cap), which they wear traditionally along with their other dress of chola (coat) and dora (a long black cord about 10–15 m long). The Gaddis started calling the land of this mountainous region as 'Shiv Bhumi' ("Land of Shiva") and themselves as devotees of Shiva. The legend further states that before Shiva married Parvati at Mansarovar Lake and became the "universal parents of the universe", Shiva created the Mount Kailash in Himachal Pradesh and made it his abode. He made Gaddis his devotees. The land where Gaddis lived extended from 15 miles (24 km) west of Bharmaur, upstream of the confluence of Budhil and Ravi rivers, up to Manimahesh. Manimahesh was also considered the abode of the three Lords of the universe namely, Shiva, Vishnu andBrahma. Manimahesh was reckoned as the heaven (Kaliasa) of Lord Shiva. The waterfall seen at the Dhancho on the way to Manimahesh Lake, and which emanates from the lake, was considered as the heaven (Vaikunta) of Vishnu. The heaven of Bramha is cited as a mound overlooking the Bharmaur city. The Gaddis also believe that Shiva resides in the Mount Kailash for six months, whereafter he moves to thenetherworld handing over the reigns to Lord Vishnu. The day he departs to the netherworld is observed by the Gaddis reverentially every year, which is the Janmashtami day, the eighth day of the month of Bhadon (August), the birthday of Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Shiva returned from the netherworld to Bharamaur at the end of February, before the night of his wedding and this day is observed as theShivratri day; Gaddis observe this also as a festive day since Shiva and Parvati returned to Mount Kailash in the Gaddi land.[5]

Etymology of 'Manimahesh' signifies a "jewel (Mani) on Lord Shiva's (Mahesh's) crown". According to a local legend, the moon-rays reflected from the jewel can be seen from Manimahesh Lake on clear full moon night (which is a rare occasion). However, it has been inferred that such a phenomenon could be the result of reflection of light from the glacier that embellishes the peak in the form of a serpent around Shiva's neck.[3]

A legend in which Lord Shiva himself is tricked is narrated. According to this narration linked to Dhancho where pilgrims spend a night on their way to Manimahesh Lake, Lord Shiva, pleased with the devotion of one his ardent devotee Bhasmasur (an asura or demon) bestowed a boon, which gave powers to Bhasmasur under which Bhasmasur touching any one would reduce that person in to ashes. Bhasmasur wanted to try this boon on Shiva himself. He, therefore, followed Shiva to touch him and get rid of him. However, Shiva managed to escape and enter into the waterfall at Dhancho and take shelter in a cave behind the rolling waters of the fall. Bhasmasur could not get through the waterfall. Then, Lord Vishnu intervened and killed Bhasamasur. Since then the fall is considered holy and people take bath here before proceeding to Manimahesh.[6]

A rare event of the first sun's rays falling on the Mani Mahesh peak is seen in reflection in the lake like saffron tilak. This display in the lake has enhanced the legendary belief of the Gaddis on the sanctity of Manimahesh Lake at the base of the Mount Kailash, which they visit on an annual pilgrimage. This event has also contributed to the practice of taking bath in the lake on Janmashtami day or Radhashtami day, fifteen days after the birth of Lord Krishna.[5]


A small lake with pilgrims living in tents during the annual Manimahesh Yatra

The lake, of glacial origin, is in the upper reaches of the Budhil River, a tributary of the Ravi River in Himachal Pradesh. However, the lake is the source of a tributary of the Budhil River, known as ‘Manimahesh Ganga'. The stream originates from the lake in the form of a fall at Dhancho. The mountain peak is a snow clad tribal glen of Brahamur in the Chamba district originating as an off-shoot spur of the Pir Panjal Range. The highest peak is the Mani Mahesh Kailas, also called ‘Chamba Kailash' (elevation 18,546 feet (5,653 m)) overlooking the lake. The lake, considered a glacial depression, is sourced by snow-melt waters from the surrounding hill slopes. Towards the end of June with ice beginning to melt, numerous small streams break up everywhere, which together with the lush green hills and the myriad of flowers give the place a truly remarkable view. The snow field at the base of the mountain is called by the local people as Shiva's ChauganShiva's playground. According to a belief, Lord Shiva stayed here with his consort Parvati.[1][6][7][8]

Manimahesh is approached from three routes. Pilgrims from Lahaul and Spiti pass through Kugti pass. Pilgrims from Kangra and Mandi take the Karwarsi pass or Jalsu pass via Tyari village, near Holi in Bharmour. The easiest and popular route is from Chamba via Bharmour.[2][6] The most popular is the Bhanrlour–Hadsar-Manimahesh route which involves a 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) track from Hadsar village to the Manimahesh Lake. The highest altitude touched in this route is 4,115 metres (13,501 ft) and it takes three days. Season to be undertaken is June to October and it has a gentle grade. The path leading to the lake is well maintained.[2]

Half way up this track is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) of open and flat meadow land to Dhancho. Tented accommodation is available here during August–September. Night halt is preferred here. Free kitchens are opened by people to feed pilgrims. But many prefer to go and pitch their tents next to the lake to feel a divine experience. Enroute, there is waterfall at Gauri nallah known as the Dhancho fall. From Dhancho, it is a stiff climb. This track has seen lot of improvements over the years. In the past the first climb was first done by crossing Dhancho nalla. It was so tough that people used to crawl to get across. Since they used to crawl like a monkey in this stretch it was known as 'Bandar Ghati' (monkey valley). Now this track is much improved and the newly constructed path is used. However, some still prefer to take the old route as an adventure and go through the Bandar Ghati.[2][7]

In the past, on the trek from Dhancho, the bridge over the Mani Mahesh river was crossed to reach the left bank of the valley. After 2 kilometres (1.2 mi), the river was again crossed, over another wooden bridge, to the right bank.[9]

From this point, the climb passes through many zigzag paths along flowered meadows. Birchtrees are seen in the vicinity, which indicates a gain in altitude as the trek proceeds. Along this stretch of the trek route, there are a number dhabhas (eateries) at about 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) elevation. From this location, the trail to Mani Mahesh Lake could be discerned. The waterfall, flowing from the lake, is also seen at this stage. A further trek of 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) through the grassy ridges leads to the Manimahesh Lake.[9]

[edit]Lake and its precincts

Even though the Manimahesh Lake is of small size with shallow depth, its location, directly below Manimahesh Kailas peak and several other peaks and dangling glaciers, is an "inspiration even to the least devout pilgrim."[9]

Trekking in the last reach is through the glacier fields of the lake. However, on the way, the walk is through the valley of flowers and wild medicinal herbs up to the lake. The lake is situated at the centre of a snowy field touching the sacred peak. The lake is surrounded by sandy boulders, small hilly mounds and prickly dry bushes, and there is no sign of any grass. It is called Shiv Chaugan (play ground of Lord Shiva). The lake appears as if it has penetrated the rugged valley. On a clear day the reflection of the abode of Shiva, the Kailash Mountain can be seen on the lake surface. All the year round, the place remains desolate, without any inhabitants, because none dares to stay here. The air is fresh but icy cold. There are almost no fauna in the lake at its precincts – no ants, snakes or any kind of wild life. A few Bird species are sighted rarely. The silence of the place is broken only when the pilgrims visit the place in large numbers, an evening before the holy dip (locally known as naun) in the lake.[10]

According to legend, Lord Shiva performed penance for several hundred years here. The water cascades sprang out from his matted hair and took the form of the lake. The lake as formed appears like a saucer. It has two distinct parts. The larger part has icy cold water, called the 'Shiv Karotri' (the bathing place of Lord Shiva). The smaller part of the lake, which is hidden by the bushes, has lukewarm water and is called 'Gauri Kund', the bathing place of Parvati, Shiva's consort. Thus, men and women bathe in different parts of the lake. According to rites, the dip (called locally as naun) in the lake is taken four times, if permitted or otherwise only once.[10]

In the periphery of the lake, now there is a marble image of Lord Shiva, which is worshipped by pilgrims. The image is called the Chaumukha. The lake and its surroundings present an impressive view. The still, clear and unpolluted waters of the lake reflect the snow-capped peaks that overlook the valley.[1][6][11] There is also a small temple in the shikhara style on the periphery of the lake. A brass image of Lakshmi Deviknown as Mahishasuramardini is deified in the temple.


The holy pilgrimage to the Manimahesh Lake (revered by local people as resting place of Lord Shiva) is supported by the Government of Himachal Pradesh, Manimahesh Pilgrimage Committee and several voluntary organizations. For the Gaddi tribal population of the region, pilgrimage to the lake is most holy. It is held every year during the Hindu month of Badon on Radha asthami, the 15th day following the festival of Janmashtami, corresponding to the Gregorian month of August or September. The Yatra or Jatra, as it is called, is also popularly known as the 'Manimhesh Yatra'. It is heralded by a procession known locally as "holy chhari" (holy stick carried by the pilgrims on their shoulders) trek undertaken by pilgrims and sadhus. Pilgrims undertake the holy trek barefoot and cover a distance of 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) from the nearest road point of Hadsar to the Manimahesh Lake. Lord Shiva is the presiding deity of the yatra. The colourful procession of the "chhari" is accompanied by singing and recitation of hymns in praise of Lord Shiva. The Chhari trek, considered a tough trek, follows a set ancient route with stops at the designated places. To facilitate this trek, pilgrims are provided with facilities of transport (jeeps up to road ends), food and medical facilities and so forth. It is a two-day trek to the lake from Hadsar with a night halt at Dhanchho. Tents are available for hire at Bharmour or Chamba. Ponies are hired by some devotees for the trek. Direct trekking from Chamba is also an option undertaken by the devout, which is a nine-day trek; the route followed is Rakh(20 kilometres (12 mi)), Bharmaur, Hadsar (12 kilometres (7.5 mi)), Dhancho (7 kilometres (4.3 mi)) and Manimahesh (7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi)) with a brief halt at Bhiram Ghati. The return trip follows the same route.[1][4][6][8]

The holy trek starts from the Laxmi Narayan temple and the Dashnami Akhara in Chamba town, with the sacred stick ('Chhari') of GurCharpathnath carried by the pilgrims with participation of sadhus. The trek to the lake takes about 6 days. After the procession arrives at the lake, ceremonies are held all through the night. On the following day, pilgrims take a holy dip (naun) in the lake. After taking bath in the holy waters of the lake, pilgrims circumambulate the lake three times as an act of reverence, seeking blessings of the Lord Shiva.[1] However, before taking a final dip in the Mani Mahesh Lake, women devotees take a dip at the Gauri Khund, which is situated about a mile short of the lake while men take bath at Shiv Karotri a part of the main lake. The belief is that Parvati, Shiva's consort bathed at the Gauri Khund, while Shiva took his bath at the Shiv Karotri. State priests of Bharmaur Brahmin family perform the worship (pujas) in all temples within the lake precincts.[10][12][13]




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