Shiva (also known as Mahadeva or Maheshvara) is one of the three major gods of India, the other two being Brahma and Vishnu. While Shiva is commonly known as “the destroyer,” his name also means “the Auspicious One.”

Shiva is often portrayed as a god of the mountains and forests. His wife is Parvati or Uma, and they are said to live together in the mountains of the Himalayas. He is the god of hermits, yogis, wandering sadhus, and others who do not fit into civilized society.


Shiva’s mount is the bull, Nandi. His is generally represented with the third eye and a crescent moon. In North India, his symbols are the trident and the snake; in the South, the antelope and the axe. He is worshiped in the form of the lingam.

Shiva represents the Supreme Reality or pure consciousness (chaitanya). He possesses three powers (shaktis) known as Jnana (Knowledge), Iccha (Will), and Kriya (Action). His worship is intended to bring about transcendence and liberation (moksha).