Lord Siva – In Vedic Scriptures

Hari Om

Siva is the third person (Deity) of the Hindu Triad. As Brahmā was Creator, Vishnu Preserver, in order to complete the system, as all things are subject to decay, a Destroyer was necessary; and destruction is regarded as the peculiar work of Siva. This seems scarcely in harmony with the form by which he is usually represented. It must be remembered, however, that, according to the teaching of Hinduism, death is not death in the sense of passing into non-existence, but simply a change into a new form of life. He who destroys, therefore, causes beings to assume new phases of existence—the Destroyer is really a re-Creator; hence the name Siva, the Bright or Happy One, is given to him, which would not have been the case had he been regarded as the destroyer in the ordinary meaning of that term.

In the later Hinduism, as taught in the Epics and Purānas, Siva plays a most important part, several books having been written for the purpose of celebrating his praise; yet his name as that of a god does not occur in the Vedas. In order, therefore, to gain greater reverence for him amongst men, he is declared to be the Rudra of the Vedas. In some passages in the Vedas, Rudra is identified with Agni; yet “the distinctive epithets applied to him in the Rig-Veda appear sufficiently to prove that he was generally discriminated from Agni by his early worshippers.” 

Between the texts from the Brāhmanas relative to Rudra, and the earliest descriptions of the same deity which we discover in the Epic poems, a wide chasm intervenes, which, as far as I am aware, no genuine ancient materials exist for bridging over. The Rudra of the Mahābhārata is not indeed very different in his general character from the god of the same name who is portrayed in the Satarudriya, but in the later literature his importance is immensely increased, his attributes are more clearly defined, and the conceptions entertained of his person are rendered more distinct by the addition of various additional features and illustrated by numerous legends. Instead of remaining a subordinate deity, as he was in the Vedic Age, Rudra has thrown Agni, Vāyu, Surya, Mitra, and Varuna completely into the shade; and although Indra still occupies a prominent place in the Epic legends, he bas sunk down into a subordinate position, and is quite unable to compete in power and dignity with Rudra, who, together with Vishnu, now engrosses the almost exclusive worship of the Brāhmanical world.” 

In the following texts from the Vedas, referring to Rudra, will be seen the germs of some of the legends found in the later books concerning Siva:—”What can we utter to Rudra, the intelligent, the strong, the most bountiful, which shall be most pleasant to his heart, that so Aditi may bring Rudra’s healing to our cattle, and men, and kine, and children? We seek from Rudra, the lord of songs, the lord of sacrifices, who possesses healing remedies, his auspicious favour; from him who is brilliant as the sun, who shines like gold, who is the best and most bountiful of the gods.” “We invoke with obeisance the ruddy boar of the sky, with spirally braided hair, a brilliant form.” “Far be from us thy cow-slaying and man-slaying weapon.” In the same hymn Rudra is called the father of the Maruts or Storm-gods; to explain which the commentator introduces a legend of a later date which is found in the account of the Maruts. In another hymn Rudra is thus addressed: “Thou fitly holdest arrows and a bow; fitly thou [wearest] a glorious necklace of every form [of beauty].”

The name Siva may have been connected with Rudra from a verse in the Vajasaneyi recension of the white “Yajur Veda,” wherein Rudra is thus addressed: “Thou art gracious (Siva) by name.” Other epithets, which are afterwards extended into legends, are seen in a prayer in the same Veda: “Shine upon us, dweller in the mountain, with that blessed body of thine which is auspicious.” 

” May he who glides away, blue-necked and red-coloured, be gracious unto us.” “Reverence to the blue-necked, to the thousand-eyed, to the bountiful, and to the lord of spirits, and to the lord of thieves.”

In the following account of Rudra’s birth, he is identified with Agni:—”The lord of beings was a householder, and Ushas (The Dawn) was his wife. A boy was born (to them) in a year. The boy wept. Prajāpati said to him, ‘Boy, why dost thou weep, since thou hast been born after toil and austerity?” The boy said, ‘My evil has not been taken away, and a name has not been given to me. Give me a name.’ Prajāpati said, ‘Thou art Rudra.’ Inasmuch as he gave him that name, Agni became his form, for Rudra is Agni. He was Rudra because he wept (from rud, to weep).” This account of the birth of Rudra agrees with that of the Vishnu and Mārkandeya Purānas, and to some extent with that of others.

It is impossible to give a connected account of the life of this deity. His career was not clearly defined like an Avatāra of Vishnu, of which we have a history of his birth, life, and death. Though he often appeared on earth in human form, and frequently dwelt at his favourite city, Benares, his heavenly home was at Kailāsa on the Himalayas. All that can be done is to give a few out of the many legends found in the sacred books in which his character and works are described. From these we may learn something of the idea of the age in which they were written respecting Siva.

Rudra, according to the Rāmāyana, married Umā, the daughter of Daksha, who reappears in various stages of the life of Siva as Pārvati, Durgā, Kāli, etc. Fearing that the children of such parents would be dangerous to live with, the gods entreated Siva and Umā to live a life of chastity: to this they consented. The request, however, came too late to prevent the birth of Kartikeya. Umā declared that the wives of the other gods should also be childless. Rudra took a prominent position at the churning of the ocean; he drank the poison, as nectar, that was produced before the amrita, which caused his neck to become dark-coloured—hence one of his names is Nilkanta, “the blue-necked.”

As Umā was sitting with her husband in their home on Mount Kailasa, seeing the gods driving by in their chariots, she was told that they were proceeding, at her father’s invitation, to take part in a great sacrifice he was about to make. As Siva had offended him, Daksha had not invited him. The “Bhāgavata Purāna” gives the cause of this slight upon Siva: “On one occasion the gods and Rishis were assembled at a sacrifice celebrated by the Prajāpatis. On Daksha’s entrance, all rose to salute him excepting his father Brahmā and Mahādeva (Siva). Daksha, after making his obeisance to Brahmā, sat down by his command, but was offended at the treatment he received from Siva. Seeing him previously seated, Daksha did not brook this want of respect; but looking at him obliquely with his eyes, as if consuming him, thus spake: ‘Hear me, ye Brāhman

Rishis, with the gods and the Agnis, while I, neither from ignorance nor passion, describe what is the practice of virtuous persons. But this shameless being (Siva) detracts from the reputation of the guardians of the world—he by whom, stubborn as he is, the course pursued by the good is transgressed. He assumed the position of my disciple, inasmuch as, like a virtuous person, in the face of Brāhmans and of fire, he took the hand of my daughter who resembled Savitri. This monkey-eyed [god], after having taken the hand of [my] fawn-eyed [daughter], has not even by word shown suitable respect to me, whom he ought to have risen and saluted. Though unwilling, I yet gave my daughter to this impure and proud abolisher of rites and demolisher of barriers, like the word of a Veda to a Sudra. He roams about in dreadful cemeteries, attended by hosts of ghosts and sprites, like a madman, naked, with dishevelled hair, wearing a garland of dead men’s [skulls] and ornaments of human bones, pretending to be Siva (auspicious), but in reality Asiva (inauspicious), insane, beloved by the insane, the lord of Bhutas (spirits), beings whose nature is essentially darkness. To this wicked-hearted lord of the infuriate, whose purity has perished, I have, alas! given my virtuous daughter, at the instigation of Brahmā.’ Having thus reviled Siva, who did not oppose him, Daksha, having touched water, incensed, began to curse him: ‘Let this Bhava (Siva), lowest of the gods, never at the worship of the gods receive any portion along with the gods Indra, Upendra (Vishnu), and others.’

“Daksha then left the assembly. After his departure a follower of Mahādeva pronounced a curse upon him, and the Brāhmans who sympathized with him: ‘Let Daksha, brutal, be excessively devoted to women, and have speedily the head of a goat. Let this stupid being continue to exist in this world in ceremonial ignorance!’ Upon this, Bhrigu (a brother of Daksha, and a Rishi) launched a counter-curse upon the followers of Siva: ‘Let those who practise the rites of Bhava be heretics and opponents of the true scriptures. Having lost their purity, deluded in understanding, wearing matted hair and ashes and bones, let them undergo the initiation of Siva, in which spirituous liquors are the deity.’ Hearing this imprecation, Siva and his followers left the assembly, while Daksha and the other Prajāpatis celebrated for a thousand years the sacrifice in which Vishnu was the object of veneration.”

The enmity thus commenced between Siva and Daksha continued; and in consequence, at the great sacrifice made when his father-in-law was appointed chief of the Prajāpatis, Siva was not invited. Umā was greatly grieved, as her husband told her, “The former practice of the gods has been that in all sacrifices no portion should be divided to me. By custom, established by the earliest arrangement, the gods lawfully allot me no share in the sacrifice.” According to the Mahābhārata, he then sets off for the assembly and with his attendants puts an end to the sacrifice, which, taking the form of a deer, is followed by Siva into the sky. A drop of perspiration falls from his forehead, from which a fire proceeds, out of which issues a dreadful being Jvara (Fever), which burns up the other things prepared for the sacrifice, and even puts to flight the gods. Brahmā, now appears to Siva, promises that the gods shall henceforth give him a share in the sacrifices, and proposes that Jvara shall be allowed to range over the earth.

The Bhāgavata gives a more lengthy and somewhat different account of the termination of Daksha’s ceremony. Sati (Umā) was most anxious to attend it. Though her husband tries to dissuade her, she “disregards his warning and goes; but, being slighted by her father, reproaches him for his hostility to her husband, and threatens to abandon her corporeal frame by which she was connected with her parent. She then voluntarily gives up the ghost. Seeing this, Siva’s attendants, who had followed, rush on Daksha to slay him.” This, however, is prevented, and Siva’s followers are put to flight. When Siva heard of his wife’s death, he was greatly angered, and “from a lock of his hair a gigantic demon arose (named Virabhadra), whom he commanded to destroy Daksha and his sacrifice.” This was accomplished. He plucked out Bhrigu’s beard, tore out Bhaga’s eyes, knocked out Pushan’s teeth, and cut off Daksha’s head. In their distress, the gods are advised to propitiate Siva. For this purpose they resort to Kailāsa, where they see Siva “carrying the linga desired by devotees, ashes, a staff, a tuft of hair, an antelope’s skin, and a digit of the moon, his body shining like an evening cloud.” Siva in part relents, and allows Daksha to have a goat’s head: the sacrifice is completed, and Vishnu gives an address in which he shows that he is the supreme deity, and that the troubles of his worshippers arise from imagining themselves to be different from him. Daksha himself worships Siva, and Umā, who had voluntarily given up herself to the flames, and thus become a Sati, was re-born as Pārvati, being then the daughter of Himavat, the god of the Himālayas and Menā.

Siva adopted the garb, and lived the life of an ascetic. Though generally worshipped under the form of the linga, he “is represented in human form, living in the Himālayas along with Pārvati, sometimes in the act of trampling on or destroying demons, wearing round his black neck a serpent, and a necklace of skulls, and furnished with a whole apparatus of external emblems, such as a white bull on which he rides, a trident, tiger’s skin, elephant’s skin, rattle, noose, etc. He has three eyes, one being in his forehead, in allusion either to the three Vedas, or time past, present and future. He has a crescent on his forehead, the moon having been given to him as his share of the products of the churning of the ocean. Again, Mahādeva, or the great deity Siva, is sometimes connected with humanity in another personification very different from that just noted, viz. that of an austere ascetic, with matted hair, living in a forest and teaching men by his own example, first, the power to be obtained by penance (tapas), mortification of the body and suppression of the passions; and, secondly, the great virtue of abstract meditation, as leading to the loftiest spiritual knowledge, and ultimately to union, or actual identification with the great spirit of the universe.” 

The following legend from the “Vāmana Purāna,” describes the ordinary life of Siva as an ascetic. Devi (Pārvati), oppressed with violent heat, thus addressed her lord: “O Isha! the heat increases in violence; hast thou no house to which we might repair, and there abide, protected from the wind, the heat, the cold?” Sankara replied: “I am, O lovely one, without a shelter, a constant wanderer in forests.” Having thus spoken, Sankara with Sati remained during the hot season under the shade of trees, and when it was passed, the rainy season with its dark clouds succeeded. On beholding which, Sati said to Siva, “Heart-agitating winds do blow, O Maheshwara, and rushing torrents roar; let me entreat thee to build a house on Kailāsa, where I may abide with thee in comfort.” Siva replied, “O my beloved, I have no riches for the erection of a house, nor am I possessor of aught else than an elephant’s skin for a garment, and serpents for my ornaments.” The soul of Siva, having heard these harsh words, seemingly true, but devoid of truth, was alarmed, and looking on the ground with bashfulness and anger said, “Then say, O Sambhu, how can we pass in comfort the rainy season under the shade of trees?” Siva replied, “With our bodies covered with a cloud, O lovely one, shall the rainy season pass without any rain falling on thy tender frame.” Having thus spoken, Siva stopped a cloud, and with the daughter of Daksha, fixed his abode within it, and hence has he since been celebrated in heaven under the name of Jimula-Kitu (he whose banner is a cloud). When the rains were over, they took up their abode in Mount Mandara.

The home life of Siva and his spouse does not appear to have been of the happiest. As they could each bestow gifts upon their worshippers, it sometimes happened that the one wanted to bless those whom the other wished to curse. In the Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata is an account of a dispute between them in connection with the struggle between Rāma and Rāvana. In the earlier part of the contest, Rāma being unable to overthrow his enemy because of the assistance afforded him by Siva, the gods whom Rāvana had oppressed went, with Rāma at their head, to ask him to withdraw his help. Siva consented to accompany them on the seventh day of the conflict to witness the destruction of their foe. Durgā (Pārvati) severely reproached her husband, asking how he could witness the destruction of his own worshipper, a worshipper who had stood praying to him in the most sultry weather surrounded by four fires; who had continued his devotions in the chilling cold, standing in water; and had persevered in his applications, standing on his head, amid torrents of rain. She then poured forth a torrent of abuse, calling him a withered old man, who smoked intoxicating herbs, lived in cemeteries and covered himself with ashes, and asked if he thought she would accompany him on such an errand. Siva now gets angry, and reminds his wife that she was only a woman and therefore could know nothing; and further that she does not act like a woman, because she too wandered about from place to place, engaged in war, was a drunkard, spent her time in the company of degraded beings, killed giants, drank their blood and hung their skulls around her neck. Durgā became so enraged at these reproaches, that the gods were frightened. They entreated Rāma to join them in supplication to her, or Rāvana would never be destroyed. He did so; she then became propitious and consented to the destruction of the demon. Durgā is represented in the Sivopākhyana as being exceedingly jealous because her husband, in his begging excursions, visited the quarters of the town inhabited by women of ill-fame, and in the Rāmāyana is an account of a terrible quarrel between them because Parasurāma beat her sons Kartikeya and Ganesa.

In the “Vāmana Purāna” is a legend explaining why Siva adopted the dress and habits of a religious mendicant. Formerly, when all things had been destroyed, and naught remained but one vast ocean, that lord who is incomprehensible (Brahmā) reposed in slumber for a thousand years. When the night had passed, desirous of creating the three worlds, the skilled in the Vedas, investing himself with the quality of impurity, assumed a corporeal form with five heads (Brahmā). Then also was produced from the quality of darkness another form with three eyes, and twisted locks, and bearing a rosary and a trident. Brahmā next created Ahankara (consciousness of individual existence), which immediately pervaded the nature of both gods; and under its influence Rudra said to Brahmā, “Say, O lord? how earnest thou hither, and by whom wert thou created?” Brahmā asks in return, “And where have you come from?” The result is a terrible quarrel, in which Siva, inflamed with anger, cut off the fifth head of Brahmā, which had uttered the boastful words. But when Siva tried to throw the head to the ground it would not fall, but remained in his hand. Brahmā then created a giant to slay Siva in his weakened state, which was caused by the sin of injuring Brahmā, the father of Brāhmans. To escape from him Siva fled to Benares. The peculiar sanctity of Benares arises from the fact that it was there Siva became absolved from his great sin, and was freed from the dissevered head of Brahmā, which, as a penance, he was doomed to carry with him wherever he went. It was his attempts to get free from the sin of Brāhmanicide that made Siva a wandering mendicant.

The ordinary name by which Siva is known is Mahādeva, the great god; the origin of this is taught in the Mahābhārata. The asuras had a boon bestowed by Brahmā, that they should possess three castles which could be “destructible only by the deity who was able to overthrow them by a single arrow.” Owing to this defence, they became hateful to the other gods, who, in their distress, went to Brahmā, and he again conducts them to Mahādeva. Siva tells them that he alone cannot destroy these castles, but that with the aid of half his strength, they themselves would be able to accomplish this. They answered that as they could not sustain half his strength, they proposed that he should undertake the work aided by half their strength. Mahādeva consented to this, and thus became stronger than all the gods, and was thenceforward called Mahādeva. Notwithstanding this, in the account of Parasurāma a legend is given in which Vishnu’s superiority to Siva is shown; whilst in the Purānas devoted to Siva’s praise it is distinctly affirmed that Brahmā and Vishnu are inferior to him.

The unity of the various deities is taught in the following legend. As Lakshmi and Durgā were sitting together in the presence of Siva, Lakshmi contended that her husband (Vishnu) was greater than Siva, because Siva had worshipped him. As they were conversing, Vishnu himself appeared, and, in order to convince his wife that he and Siva were equal, entered his body, and they became one. Another form of this story is found in the “Skanda Purāna.” Siva asked Vishnu on one occasion to assume the form of a beautiful woman, such as he did at the churning of the ocean to attract the attention of the asuras whilst the gods drank the amrita. Vishnu consenting, Siva became excited and sought to embrace her. As Vishnu ran away, Siva followed him, and though Vishnu resumed his proper form, Siva clasped him so tightly that their bodies became one, and a name Har-Hari, is given to the deities thus united.

Siva is always represented as having a third eye situated in the middle of his forehead; the reason of this peculiarity is given in the Mahābhārata. As he was seated on the Himalayas, where he had been engaged in austerities, Umā, attended by her companions, and dressed as an ascetic, came behind him and playfully put her hands over his eyes. The effect was tremendous. Suddenly the world became dark, lifeless and destitute of oblations. The gloom, however, is as suddenly dispelled. A great flame burst from Mahādeva’s forehead, in which a third eye, luminous as the sun, was formed. By fire from this eye the mountain was scorched, and everything upon it consumed. ‘Lima hereupon stands in a submissive attitude before her husband, and in a moment, the Himālaya, her father, is restored to his former condition.

Each god is represented as having special fondness for some bird or animal, on which he is supposed to travel, and which therefore is called his Vāhan or vehicle. The bull is Siva’s; and the image of his favourite bull, Nandi, is seen in front of many of the shrines sacred to Mahādeva. Owing probably to this circumstance, a curious custom prevails, similar in many respects to the setting loose of the scapegoat by the Israelites. At the death of a worshipper of Siva, if his friends are pious and can afford it, they set a bullock loose, and allow it to wander at will. By the Hindus generally it is considered a meritorious act to feed these sacred bulls, and a sin to injure them. In country places many of them are seen, and they become a great nuisance to the cultivators into whose fields they wander; for though they do much damage, as they have no owner, no compensation can be obtained. If a man were specially devout, or his friends eminently pious, as many as seven bulls are set loose at his decease.

The idea seems to be this: as Siva was delighted with Nandi, he will graciously receive into his presence those on whose behalf these bullocks are given.

As Siva himself lived the life of an ascetic, and practised severe penance, a similar life is supposed to be pleasing to him; hence many of the Saivites, or worshippers of Siva, practise great austerities, and resort to cruel rites as a means of gaining his favour. Wandering through the country are tens of thousands of Sanyāsis, or pilgrims, who subsist upon charity, and expose themselves to cold and heat and many discomforts, in the belief that their life is pleasing to this deity. Some of them inflict upon themselves great physical pain by retaining their arms or legs in one posture for years, until it has become impossible to move them; others allow the thumb nail to grow through their finger; others gaze into the sun until they become blind; others again impose upon themselves a vow of silence, until at length they cannot speak. At certain festivals held in his honour, the lower orders of the people used to swing from bamboos, having iron hooks forced into their bodies, whilst others threw themselves from a height upon sharp knives; at the present time, though these cruel practices are prohibited by the Government, in out-of-the-way places they are still carried on. To assist them to bear the pain, an intoxicating drug made from hemp is freely indulged in; the authority for this practice being the life of the god, as described in the Purānas. As Krishna is believed to be pleased with songs and dances, not always of a highly moral character, Siva is believed to delight in the cruel practices of his ignorant and intoxicated worshippers.

The following extract from the Bhāgavata, descriptive of Siva’s appearance and conduct, countenances much that now forms part of his worship. Understanding that one of his worshippers was in distress, Siva “assumed half the body of Pārvati, fastened up his matted hair, rubbed his body over with ashes, ate a large quantity of hemp, swallow-wort and thorn-apple; and wearing a Brāhmanical thread composed of white snakes, clad in an elephant’s hide, with a necklace of beads, and a garland of skulls, riding upon Nandi, accompanied by ghosts, goblins, spectres, witches, imps, sprites and evil spirits, Bholonāth came forth. On his forehead was the moon; he placed the Ganges on his head, and his eyes were very red. His most destructive weapon was a trident: with this he slew the foe who was obnoxious to his follower.”

Though Siva’s appearance is repeatedly described with considerable minuteness in the Purānas, and in pictures he is usually represented in the human form, it is in the form of the Linga that he is almost universally worshipped. This image does not suggest anything offensive to those unacquainted with its symbolic meaning, and some writers speak of its being innocuous to the Hindus themselves. But it is impossible for any one acquainted with the legends which account for its being the symbol of Siva, to see and worship it without impure thoughts being suggested. It is intended to represent the male and female reproductive organs.

Several legends are given to explain how it came to be the representative of Siva. The probability is that it was an object of worship of some aboriginal tribe, incorporated into Hinduism. The “Padma Purāna” teaches that it was the result of a curse pronounced by Bhrigu. When that Sage was sent to discover which of the three gods was the greatest, he came to Siva’s abode, but was prevented from entering immediately he arrived by a doorkeeper, who informed him that his master was with Devi his wife. After waiting for some time, Bhrigu’s patience being exhausted, he said, “Since thou, O Sankara! hast treated me with contempt, in preferring the embraces of Pārvati, your forms of worship shall be the Linga and Yoni.”

The Vāmana makes it the result of a curse pronounced by a number of Sages. When Sati died at Daksha’s sacrifice, Siva wandered from place to place like a madman, mourning her absence. He travelled from hermitage to hermitage, but could find no rest. When the hermits’ wives saw him they fell desperately in love with him and followed him from place to place. Their husbands, incensed at this, cursed the god, and deprived him of his manhood. A great commotion followed. Brahmā and Vishnu interceded on his behalf with the hermits, who consented to withdraw their curse on condition that the offender should be represented by the Linga; and thus it became an object of worship to gods and men.

As a specimen of the legends by which the worship of Siva under this form is inculcated, I give the following extract from the “Siva Purāna.” A Rākshas named Bhīma, have obtained invincible might as a boon from Rāma, commenced exerting his newly acquired power by attacking the king of Kāmrupa. Having conquered the king, and seized his kingdom and riches, he placed him in chains in a solitary prison. The king, being eminently pious, notwithstanding his confinement, continued daily to make clay figures of the Linga, and to worship Siva with all the prescribed rites and ceremonies. Meanwhile the Rākshas continued his conquests, and everywhere abolished religious observances, and the worship enjoined in the Vedas. The gods being reduced by his power to great distress, appealed to Siva for help, and propitiated him by the worship of clay Lingas. Sāmbhu assured them that he would effect the destruction of their enemy by means of the king of Kāmrupa, then a prisoner. At this very moment the prisoner was engaged in profound meditation before a Linga, when one of the guards, seeing him thus occupied, went and informed the Rākshas that his captive was performing some improper ceremonies in order to injure him. Hearing this, the monster, enraged, seized his sword and hastening to the prison, thus addressed the king: “Speak the truth, and tell me who it is that thou worshippest, and I will not slay thee; otherwise I will instantly put thee to death!”

The king, placing firm reliance on the protection of Siva, undauntedly replied, “In truth, I worship Sankara; do then what thou pleasest!” The Rākshas asked, “What can Sankara do to me? I know him well, that he was once obliged to become the servant of my uncle (Rāvana); and thou trusting in his power didst endeavour to conquer me; but defeat was the result of thy attempt. However, until thou showest me thy lord, and convincest me of his might, I will not believe in his divinity!” The king replied, “Vile as I am, what power have I over the god? But mighty as he is, I know he will never forsake me!” To which the Rākshas said, “How can that delighter in ganja, and inebriation, that wandering mendicant, protect his worshippers? Let but thy lord appear, and I will immediately engage with him in battle.” He then ordered the attendance of his army; and reviling the king, the mighty Rākshas smiting the Linga with his sword, said, laughing, “Now, behold the power of thy lord!” Scarcely had his sword touched the Linga than Hara issued from it, and exclaimed, “Behold I am Iswara (god), who appears for the protection of his worshipper, on whom he always bestows safety and happiness; now learn to dread my might!” Siva then attacked the Rākshas, and with the glory which issued from his third eye, consumed him and his army to ashes.

Siva is said to have a thousand names; in addition to those already mentioned the following are most common:—

Maheswara, “The great god.”

Ishwar, “The glorious.”

Chandrashekara, “He who wears a half-moon on his forehead.”

Bhuteswara, “Lord of Bhuts, or goblins.”

Mritunjaya, “He who conquers death.”

Sri Kanta, “He whose neck is beautiful.”

Smarahāra, “The destroyer of Smara or Kāmdeva.”

Gangadhara, “He who holds Gangā (the Ganges) in his hair.”

Sthānu, “The everlasting.”

Girisha, “The lord of the hills.”

Digambara, “He who is clothed with space (naked).”

Bhagavat, “The lord.”

Isāna, “The ruler.”

Mahakāla, “The great time.”

Tryambaka, “The three-eyed.”


This is a form of Siva in which he is represented, as his name teaches, with five faces; the appearance of his body and the ascetic’s dress being the same as in his ordinary forms. It is under this name that prayers for recovery from sickness are addressed to him as the physician or healer. In places where there is no temple, and no image of this deity, worship is offered to him before a shapeless stone, painted red, placed under a tree. This is a very common form of worship in the villages of Bengal. Some shrines of Panchānana have acquired considerable celebrity, to which women resort to obtain the gift of children as well as other blessings. In times of sickness offerings are made to this deity without scruple, though the sufferer is not ordinarily a worshipper of Siva. In cases of epilepsy it is the common belief that the victim is possessed by Panchānana, and offerings are made to induce him to depart; recovery is believed to be the result of the god’s departure (Extracts from “Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic”).

GF’ Blessings.