from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Modern Shiva statue in a temple in Bangalore (2005): two of the hands are placed inside each other in the meditation gesture ( dhyanamudra ) in the figure's lap; the other two wear a trident ( trishula ) and an hourglass drum ( damaru ). A fur apron is wound around the hips; the god sits on a big cat skin. Snakes wind around his neck and upper arms; the braided strands of his long ascetic hair are tied into a 'crown of hair' from which a crescent moon ( chandra ) protrudes to the side and the goddess Ganga protrudes above .

Shiva ( Sanskrit शिव Śiva [ ɕɪʋʌ ]; "auspicious") is one of the main gods of Hinduism . In Shaivism , believers regard it as the most important manifestation of the Supreme. As part of the "Hindu Trinity" ( Trimurti ) with the three aspects of the divine, ie with Brahma , who is considered the creator, and Vishnu , the preserver, Shiva embodies the principle of destruction. Outside of this trinity he embodies creation and a new beginning as well as preservation and destruction.

The feminine power of Shiva is Shakti , who appears among other things as his wife Parvati .

Shiva is known by many different names; In the Shiva Purana 1008 names are given, each of which relates to an attribute of Shiva. Frequent epithets  - partly also handed down in the Stotra - are Mahadeva (“great god”), Nataraja (“king of the dance”), Bhairava (“the terrible”), Mahesha (“supreme lord”), Nilakantha (“the one with the blue Neck ”, related to the myth of the Milky Ocean ), Pashupati (“ Lord of all beings ”), Rudra (“ the savage ”), Shankara (“ the beneficiary ”) and Vishwanatha (“ Lord of the universe ”).

Meaning and legend

Some Puranas refer to Shiva as the highest manifestation of the One, which is why he is also called Mahadeva , "the great God". Shiva is also considered the god of ascetics , who remains absorbed in deep meditation on his mountain Kailash . He is the god of opposites: if on the one hand he forms the Holy Family with Parvati and Ganesha , on the other hand he appears as a great ascetic and loner. If he embodies the destruction on the one hand, believers see in him at the same time the omnipresent gracious, who erases the bad karma of his admirers.

Shiva is considered to be the father of Ganesha , and different Puranas report its origin in different versions. Legend has it that Ganesha was modeled and brought to life by Shiva's wife Parvati during his absence so that she could have her own watch while she bathed. Ganesha, as he was later called, prevented Shiva from entering, and Shiva cut off his head in anger. Out of regret for the deed, he brought it back to life by killing an elephant and putting the boy's head on.

However, Shiva's wife was not always Parvati. It is said that Shiva was married to Sati in her first marriage . Due to his unusual lifestyle as an ascetic , however, he came into conflict with Sati's father Daksha , so that the couple was not invited to a festival of sacrifices. Sati was so offended in her pride as a wife that she burned herself alive to restore her husband's honor. After that she was swallowed up by the earth and reborn under the name Parvati. In the meantime Shiva had immersed himself in an eternal meditation in the Amarnath Guva (in India), which no one could enter. But when Parvati was standing in front of the cave, she came in and saw Shiva. She cried in front of him and he woke up from his tapasya (meditation) because the god of love Kamdev wanted to wake him up with a love arrow. Shiva opened his third eye and destroyed Kamdev. He refused to recognize Parvati, but he knew that his sati was born again before him. Parvati wept and decided to sink into meditation to win Shiva. She made a Shivalinga out of ice and sat in front of it and started meditating for a year. After a year she was fragile and had no more strength. Shiva came into the cave and saw her. He gave life back to her body and she woke up. She had regained Shiva and was no longer a person, but Shiva's wife for the rest of her life and thus also a god. Today Parvati (Sati) is still very much worshiped by girls because she was a very strong woman and left a message to girls saying that girls should never be labeled or seen as weak and that girls should protect their honor.

Historical evidence

Shiva with Mother Goddess, 9th century AD, North India, Milan Archaeological Museum

The veneration of Shiva has only been secured by inscriptions and coin finds since the Kushana (100–250 AD). The Shiva cult is not widespread in northern India until the Guptas (approx. 300 to 550 AD), in southern India only from the 7th century. Especially in Southeast Asia, the deity Harihara was widespread around the middle of the 1st millennium, which unites the aspects of Shiva and Vishnu.

The hypothesis of leading scientists of the Indus culture such as Asko Parpola and Iravatham Mahadevan that Shiva was a god of that high culture or a god of the Dravids was greatly supported by a Harappa find, the Pashupati seal . On it you can see a figure with three or four faces facing in every direction, sitting next to animals in a lotus position . She seems to be wearing some kind of headdress. So some came to the conclusion that it was Shiva in his Pashupati aspect. Furthermore, lingams were found at the sites of the Indus culture , which testify to a very old veneration as it still takes place today. The theory that Shiva is a non-Vedic god is explained, among other things, with a story from the Puranas in which Shiva Vedabahya (“outside the Vedas ”, “unbeliever”) is mentioned. In fact, the name Shiva does not appear in the Vedas.

For believers in Hindu traditions, Shiva is often identical to Rudra , who was first mentioned in the Svetasvatara Upanishad Shiva. In contrast, the question of the identity of the Vedic Rudra with Shiva is controversial from a scientific point of view.


Together with Shiva, the bull Nandi as his mount , his wife Parvati and his sons Skanda ( Kartikeya / Murugan ) and Ganesha are often depicted. The representation of Shiva with Parvati and Skanda ( Somaskanda ) can be found especially in South India . In older depictions, some ganas can be seen more often with him.


Linga puja in a temple

The worship of Shiva in the form of the lingam or linga, a cylindrical stone with a rounded top, is possibly due to the influence of pre-Aryan aniconical stone cults . The creative power of the god is represented here by the lingam (often interpreted as a stylized phallus), which stands in a yoni (often interpreted as a stylized vagina). On feast days, believers first pour a mixture of milk and honey (symbolic for Amrita , the drink of immortality) over the linga in a solemn ceremony and then decorate it with flowers. The climax of the ceremony symbolizes the " Unio mystica ", the union between the divine and the worldly, between Atman and Brahman , or in Tantric Shaivism the union of Linga and Yoni. Most Hindus, however, do not worship a linga with the awareness of a phallus in front of them. The word Linga means "sign", a sign in which all forms dissolve. Shivaite writings repeatedly emphasize the formlessness of the divine. Therefore, Shiva is seldom worshiped by his believers in personal, but mainly in symbolic form, the linga or the trident ( trishula ).

According to different traditions, there are about seven to twelve important natural sanctuaries ( Jyotirlingas ) in India , each with a lingam formed by nature, such as in the Amarnath Cave in the Himalayas , where an ice column forms and disappears again in certain cycles. These places are important pilgrimage centers .

Shiva as Nataraja , dancing on the Apasmara ( Chola bronze , around 1050)

Nataraja Especially in the south of India, Shiva is shown as Nataraja ("King of Dance") in the cosmic dance , dancing on Apasmara , the "demon of ignorance". In dance Shiva destroys ignorance and beyond that the whole universe, which he however creates anew at the same time. Here mostly four or eight, occasionally more arms express his cosmic powers. One hand indicates the protective hand position ( abhayamudra ), the other hand the grace, while his other two hands carry the snare drum and a fire. Since there is no uniform Hindu iconography, the interpretation of this representation can be very different. The fire is mostly an indication of annihilation, but can also be understood as an expression of Shiva's energy. Ananda Coomaraswamy summarizes the symbolism of Nataraja in an essay: “ The essential significance of Shivas Dance is threefold: First, it is the image of his rhythmic play as the source of all movement within the cosmos, which is represented by the arch: Secondly , the purpose of his dance is to release the countless souls of men from the snare of illusion: Thirdly the place of the dance, Chidambaram , the Center of the Universe, is within the heart.

Painting Modern Hindu painting usually depicts Shiva with white or ash-gray skin - often with a blue neck as Nilakanta , then he is the savior who drank the poison of the primordial sea and thus saved the universe. On his forehead are the third eye and three horizontal ash lines. A snake often loops around his neck, and a crescent moon protrudes from his long, loose hair. Occasionally one sees water flowing out of his hair, which represents the goddess Ganga , the embodiment of the river Ganges , who jumped from heaven according to mythology, was caught by Shiva's hair and thereby ran gently onto the earth. Most of the images show Shiva with his trident ( trishula ) and the hourglass drum ( damaru ) in his right hand.

Theology and cult

Shiva and his wife Parvati. Small marble statue

Tantric interpretation

Shiva's work is also described in tantric terms by the so-called five acts of Shiva, the Panchakritya.

  1. Sṛṣṭi: emission or onward flow.
  2. Sthiti: conservation.
  3. Saṃhāra: dissolution or reabsorption.
  4. Tirodhana: covering up , forgetting.
  5. Anugraha: revelation, memory.


The most important holiday in honor of Shiva in India is Shivaratri , the "Night of Shiva" (also called Mahashivaratri), in which the worship of the lingam is the focus.

Reception in Europe

In the western interpretation, Shiva was often only assigned the role of world destroyer and he was interpreted one-sidedly as the god of ascetics and sadhus . However, its role is both to preserve and destroy the world. When Shiva's dance stops, so say convinced Shivaites, then the world will end, but Shiva's dance will never stop, so the world will never end. Therefore Shiva, especially in his form as Nataraja , is the epitome and the representation of the cyclical understanding of time of devout Hindus.

In the neotantra scene, Shiva is used synonymously with man . Shiva initially became the "favorite god" of the hippies who traveled to India in the late 1960s. Many may have been drawn to the fact that one of the herbs associated with Shiva is ganja ( hemp , marijuana ).

See also


Web links

Commons : Shiva  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Schiwa  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Anneliese and Peter Keilhauer: Imagery of Hinduism. The Indian world of gods and their symbolism . DuMont, Cologne 1983, p. 112 ff. ISBN 3-7701-1347-0 .
  2. Axel Michaels: The Hinduism. Munich, 2006, p. 240.
  3. Asko Parpola
  4. Iravatham Mahadevan
  5. Axel Michaels: Hinduism: Past and Present. Princeton University Press, Princeton (New Jersey) 2004, p. 217.
  6. Ananda Coomaraswamy : The Dance of Shiva. (on-line)
  7. Panchakritya
  8. Cf. Wolf-Dieter Storl : Bom Shiva - The ecstatic god of the ganja. Nachtschatten Verlag, Solothurn 2003, ISBN 3-03788-114-3 .