Shiva is major Hindu deity, and the Destroyer or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. 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.
Followers of Hinduism who focus their worship upon Shiva are called Shaivites or Shaivas (Sanskrit Śaiva). Shaivism, along with Vaiṣṇava traditions that focus on Vishnu and Śākta traditions that focus on the goddess Shakti, is one of the most influential denominations in Hinduism.
Shiva is usually worshipped in the abstract form of Shiva linga. In images, he is generally represented as immersed in deep meditation or dancing the Tandava upon Apasmara Purusha, the demon of ignorance in his manifestation of Nataraja, the lord of the dance. He is also the father of Ganesha and Murugan.
Etymology and other names
The Sanskrit word Shiva (Devanagari: शिव, śiva) is an adjective meaning "auspicious, kind, gracious". As a proper name it means "The Auspicious One", used as a name for Rudra.[ 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.
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. It is used as an adjective to characterize certain beliefs and practices, such as Shaivism.
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." 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".
Shiva's role as the primary deity of Shaivism is reflected in his epithets Mahādeva ("Great God"; mahā = Great + deva = God), Maheśhvara ("Great Lord"; mahā = Great + īśhvara = Lord), and Parameśhvara ("Supreme Lord").
There are at least eight different versions of the Shiva Sahasranama, devotional hymns (stotras) listing many names of Shiva. The version appearing in Book 13 (Anuśāsanaparvan) of the Mahabharata is considered the kernel of this tradition. 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.
Relationship to Vishnu
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 BC), both were gaining ascendance. By the Puranic period, both deities had major sects that competed with one another for devotees. 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. The Vishnu Purana (4th c. AD) shows Vishnu awakening and becoming both Brahmā to create the world and Shiva to destroy it. Shiva also is viewed as a manifestation of Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana. In Shaivite myths, on the other hand, Shiva comes to the fore and acts independently and alone to create, preserve, and destroy the world. 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.The Śatarudrīya, a Shaivite hymn, says that Shiva is "of the form of Vishnu".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, killed Hiranyakashipu.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.
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).This dual form, which is also called Harirudra, is mentioned in the Mahabharata. 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.
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. Shiva is also served by Mohini when a bunch of naughty sages were taught a lesson by Shiva.