Lord Shiva

One of the most significant of all the Vedic gods is Shiva. Shiva or Mahadev is a Mahayogi. The name Shiva means auspicious. Shiva is the embodiment and controller of tama-guna, the mode of darkness, inertia, and the tendency towards annihilation.

Shiva is an ascetic deity, shorn of embellishment and splendour. Shiva embodies the principle of stoicism and is a revered deity in the Hindu trinity. Shiva holds a unique position in the world, known as Bhairava in Tantra Sadhana and Rudra in the Vedas. He is beloved for his gentleness, yet his raudra form is equally renowned. Shiva is attributed to the universe’s creation, conduction, and destruction, making him the source of the eternal creation process. He sustains the universe with his energetic dance, the Tandava.

In Hinduism, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are revered as the universe’s creators, nurturers, and destroyers, collectively representing the fundamental forces of existence. These three deities form the cornerstone of Hindu cosmology. Shiva, also known as Mahesh, holds a significant role throughout Vedic literature. Mahesh means Maha Ishwar, who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, which has neither beginning nor end. Shiva is eternal, one whose beginning and end cannot be fathomed.

Shiva is also known by many different names according to his function.

  1. Ishwara: He expresses himself through space and time.
  2. Sadashiva: He functions through the air, which incorporates the principles of both sound and touch.
  3. Rudra: He operates through the fire, which incorporates the principles of found, touch, and form.

You may also like to read: 108 names of Lord Shiva with their meaning

Manifestation of Shiva

Shiva is often shown as a handsome young man, with long hair from which flows a spurt of the Ganga (Ganges) River (an emblem of purity) and in which is also a crescent moon. He is also white or light bluish in complexion, sometimes with a third eye between the eyebrows on the forehead, and usually with four arms holding

  1. Trident (Trishula) shows his ruling proficiency over the three modes of nature), the
  2. Damaru (small hour-glass-shaped drum), the beating Damaru represents a language or the alphabet and
  3. exhibits the mudras (hand positions) of Abhaya (protection) and Varada (giving blessings).

The flow of the Ganges river represents the flow of knowledge and devotion to God. Shiva is known to be the foremost devotee of Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu, or Lord Rama, which is one of the meanings of the spout of Ganga water on his head.

While the two eyes represent the balanced form of love and justice, the third eye of Shiva represents the eye of wisdom or inner sight. Together, Shiva’s three eyes also represent the sun, moon, and fire, the means by which the universe is illuminated.

It is also said that Shiva’s drum represents srishti, the creation; the abhaya hand (giving blessings) represents sthiti, or preservation; his foot that presses down symbolizes tirobhava, or the veiling effect; and the uplifted foot means blessings (anugraha), especially toward seeing through the veil of illusion caused by ego.

The serpents entwined around the arms, waist, neck, and hair of Shiva signifies that Lord Shiva is the Lord over time and death. Snakes that often invoke fear also signify the value of time (people may die only a matter of time, if a poisonous snake bites).

Smearing of ash (vibhuti) from the cremation grounds all over the body of Shiva symbolizes death or detachment from the world and lust. His ash smeared form is a reminder of the impermanence of life. Ash is the sign of Shiva’s complete renunciation of the world.

Always remember: Ketaki and Champaka flowers are not offered to Shiva.

Sometimes Lord Shiva is shown wearing a garland of skulls. These skulls are representative of his being the lord of destruction and the cyclical nature of the appearance and disappearance of the material creation.

Family of Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva is the ardent and faithful consort of Goddess Parvati. Their children, Ganesh (Ganapati) and Kartikeya (Murugan), are divinities in their own right.

WifeParvati (Her other avatars are called Durga, Sati, Kali)
Other names of ShivaIshwara, Sadashiva, Rudra, Mahadeva, Shankara
SonLord Ganesha, Kartikeya
DaughterAshoka Sundari
Vahana (vehicle)Bull (Nandikeshvara or Nandi)
Identifying featuresGanges River, Crescent moon, third eye between the eyebrows on the forehead, Trident, Damaru, Vibhuti, etc.

Although he has nothing to attain in this material world, he is seen accompanied by his material and goddess Kali and goddess Durga. They serve us by killing all kinds of demons and impious persons.


The Vedas depict Lord Shiva’s existence through the symbol of the Linga, with particular emphasis on the Jyotirlinga at sacred Shiva sites. The Shivling, representing Shiva in its most recognizable form, derives its name from this symbol. The Jyotirlinga is revered as an awakened manifestation of the Linga, illuminated by Shiva’s divine presence.

In Hindu mythology, Jyotirlingas are believed to be self-manifested, elevating their significance above other Shivalingas. While numerous stories surrounding the establishment and importance of Jyotirlingas exist, they often need to be substantiated compared to scriptural texts. There are 12 Jyotirlingas, 11 located in India and one in Nepal, shared between Kedarnath and Pashupatinath temples, forming a complete Jyotirlinga.


Maha Shivaratri, the great night of Shiva, is the most important night of the year. It is dedicated to the Lord, whose energy keeps creation moving. On Shivaratri, we pray all night in eternal thanks to Shiva for his critical role in saving all life.

The legend tells of the churning of the ‘Ocean of Milk.’ The first thing emanating from this combined effort by the Devas and Asuras was suffocating, noxious poison from the mouth of Vasuki, the gigantic snake used as the churning rope. While the Asuras ran helter-skelter, the Devas ran to Shiva, seeking his protection. Benevolent as ever, He drank the poison, but Parvati stopped it in His throat by holding His neck.
Parvati and the world kept an attentive vigil, anxious that Shiva was not affected by the toxins that turned His throat blue. Shiva prevailed and earned the title Neelakantha, the blue-throated one.

Devotes remember Shiva’s extreme selflessness in saving the world from destruction by maintaining an all-night vigil that recollects and emulates the attentiveness of Parvati and the Devas.

Read more about Maha Shivarati in this post

Why Hindu

We, a group of youths born into Hindu families, were raised in the rich culture of Vedic Sanatan Dharma, embracing its cultures and traditions. Post-graduation, recognizing the immense value of our Sanatan Dharma for humanity, we initiated the "Why Hindu" project. With guidance from our elders, we aim to create awareness about Hindu Dharma, delve into Vedic scripture, explore Vedic mantras, and elucidate the significance of festivals. Through this endeavor, we strive to share the profound teachings of our heritage, fostering understanding and appreciation for the timeless principles of Sanatan Dharma.

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