Manifestation of Shiva and his description in Upanishads 

10384731_824429120950387_6052058024764946300_nLet me accept from the onset that this is not my original article neither an opinion piece. Most of it is borrowed from Gavin Flood’s work on Hinduism and Translation of Upanishads by Valerie J Roebuck. I did not know few words used here before I read their work though I did it only partly and may not remember them in future. But I am writing it because I think that it could be of purpose for few of the probable readers as Maha Shivaratri is falling on 17 February this year.


Apart from some findings of seals and few portraits near Indus Valley civilization region, the earliest reference to Shiva are found in Rig Veda, where there are three hymns glorifying the Lord as Rudra, ‘the roarer’. Rudra is brown, with a black belly and red back, clothed in a skin. These hymns, Rig Veda 2.33, 1.43 and 1.114 praise Rudra and ask him to leave their communities alone, not to take their children and grandchildren, not to kill their horses and cattle, and, having been praised, to go away and strike down someone else instead!

Shiva, for his ardent believers, is the supreme Lord who creates, maintains and destroys the cosmos though for the rest of the Hindu believers he is the God of destruction. Shiva is worshipped in many forms and iconographically depicted in the following forms in various temples all across India:Shiva is depicted as the Lord of Yoga meditating on Mount Kailash in the Northern parts of Himalayas. He is portrayed as covered in ashes, with a third eye with which he burned desire or Kama, with his matted locks in a chignon, a crescent moon in his hair, the Ganges pouring down from his locks, garlanded by a snake and sacred rudraksha beads, seated upon a tiger skin and holding a trident. This is the most authentic description of Shiva as described in the sacred Hindu texts.

Shiva is also described as a family man sitting with his wife, Goddess Parvati, with their two sons, Skanda and elephant-headed Ganesha, on their laps. Most of the time sacred bull Nandi is also shown in the depiction, standing nearby.

He is also shown as the Lord of Dance, the Nataraja. In this awe-inspiring dance form Shiva expresses his boundless energy, which creates, maintains and destroys the cosmos. He is four-armed, dancing upon the dwarf of ignorance and epilepsy; Apasmara, within a circle of flames.

In the last but most important form Shiva is represented as lingum or ‘icon’ found in most of the Hindu temples. The lingum represents phallus protruding out of yoni or vulva, symbol of the union of Shiva with his dynamic energy Shakti, most of time she is believed to be Parvati and the black color may represent Kali.

Thus Shiva may not be serially monogamous. If that be the case, then in my opinion, Shivalingum represents the well known saying ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’. It means that Shiva and Kali are the ultimate truth and Shiva and Parvati are the absolute beauty. Anyway, the lingam representation makes Shiva the national God of Hindus.

All four forms have countless stories in Hindu mythology and there can be even more forms portraying Shiva. As per modern traditions no Hindu temple can be considered as complete and official without there being representation of minimum one deity from Shiva family in any acceptable local form. Shiva is also described as Rudra in Svetasvatara Upanishad. This is an Upanishad of the Black Yajurveda.

Its philosophy is a form of Sankhya, in which creation emanates from the dual principles of purusha; spirit, and prakrti; matter, or man and nature. However, it reconciles the two principles with its theistic world-view by subordinating them both to the God. The God has characteristics of the Vedic Agni and Savitr; the solar deity, but above all of Rudra, who has already taken on titles and characteristics of Shiva. I here quote some of the hymns of this Upanishad.

Om. Scholars of Brahman say:

What is the cause-Brahman? From what were we born?

By what do we live? And on what are we based?

Ruled by what do we follow our course

In joys and their opposite, you knowers of Brahman?

Should we conceive of it as time, own nature, fate, or chance,

Elements, a womb, a person?

A conjunction of these? No, because of the existence of the self:

And the self is powerless over the cause of joy and sorrow.

(Svetasvatara Upanishad, Book one, Hymns 1-2)


The God faces all directions:

He was born of old and yet is in the womb,

Born and to be born, he stands

In front of people, facing every way.

To the God who is in fire, in water,

Who has entered the whole world,

Who is in plants, in trees-

To the God be praise, be praise.

(Svetasvatara Upanishad, Book two, Hymns 16-17)


There is one who bears a net, who rules with his powers,

Who rules all worlds with his powers,

Who is one in arising and ceasing.

Those who know this become immortal.

Rudra is the one- they do not give place to a second-

Who rules the worlds with his powers.

He stands in front of people. Protector of all worlds,

At the ending-time he has drawn them in again.

(Svetasvatara Upanishad, Book three, Hymns 1-2)

This is all in this piece. But no body should think that monism of earlier Upanishads and polytheism have any ideological clash. The Svetasvatara Upanishad makes a transition in between two schools of thoughts. For theist Hindus anyway there is none. In the end I will add few of very original lines showing relationship between Shiva-Parvati and Rama-Sita.

Pranava can be written as P+Rana+Va. Now n stands for Krishna but if it is accepted that Rama is the central-most important incarnation of Vishnu and Rama’s glory is deliberately hidden by Brahmins and transition n-m is performed and similar operation is performed on P and V, with one alphabet backwards they becoming O and U and the result of operation n-m is added to both sides, Pranava becomes Om+Rama+Aum. Similarly if Parvati is written as P+Rita+Va and a parallel operation is performed though rather in a clumsy way with R-S, one step backward transition on P and U and m is added Parvati becomes Om+Sita+Aum.

Fine, it is up to people to accept or reject my interpretation and there is a lot of it, while I know very well that this is hard to do so for anyone believing in Hinduism and understanding its parts and whole.