In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Rudra-Shiva

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Saivism
  • Iconography
  • Kāvya
  • Devotional Poetry

Hinduism Rudra-Shiva
Peter Bisschop
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 January 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 January 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0097


Shiva is one of the great gods of Hinduism and perhaps more than any other attests to the complexity of the religious culture of South Asia. The name Shiva is not yet in use in the Rig Veda, but an ambiguous deity called Rudra appears, who shares many traits with the god who is later more commonly referred to as Shiva, “The Auspicious One.” In fact, Shiva is known and referred to by many different names, each reflecting different sides of his character, such as Śaṃkara, Śambhu, Bhava, and Paśupati. In classical Hindu mythology, Rudra is represented as one of the three aspects of the Hindu trinity (Trimurti): Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Rudra the destroyer. This indicates that Rudra’s ambiguous character remained, but from a Saiva religious perspective, Shiva is the Great Lord (Maheśvara) who encompasses this trinity and simultaneously transcends it. This article focuses on the historical development of the early deity Rudra into the later great god Shiva.

General Overviews

Monographs devoted to Shiva’s character and mythology have appeared only relatively recently in the West, starting with Doniger O’Flaherty 1973 (and partly Doniger O’Flaherty 1976), followed by Kramrisch 1981. Although these works have opened up different ways of looking at the complex character of Shiva, a study of Shiva that presents the development of his mythology within a sociohistorical context is still lacking. Chakravarti 1986 should only be used with great care. Clothey and Long 1983 contains some relevant individual studies. Bisschop 2009 gives a general introductory survey of the development of the mythology from the Vedas to the Puranas, and Bhattacharji 1960 collects different pieces of evidence for the changes of Rudra-Shiva’s character in the Vedas and epics.

  • Bhattacharji, Sukumari. “Rudra from the Vedas to the Mahābhārata.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 41 (1960): 85–128.

    Encyclopedic article by the author of The Indian Theogony, in which she assembles data relevant for tracing the development of Rudra in the Vedas into the great god Shiva in the Sanskrit epics, in particular the Mahābhārata.

  • Bisschop, Peter. “Śiva.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol. 1, Regions, Pilgrimage, Deities. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, 741–754. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2009.

    A concise overview of the mythology of Shiva in the Vedas, epics, and Puranas, emphasizing the need for a more historically informed treatment of the subject.

  • Chakravarti, Mahadev. The Concept of Rudra-Śiva Through the Ages. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986.

    A broad survey of the development of the character and concept of Rudra-Shiva, taking the view that he is a composite Aryan and non-Aryan deity. Chakravarti’s attempt to link the god to the religion of the preceding Indus Valley civilization remains highly speculative.

  • Clothey, Fred W., and J. Bruce Long, eds. Experiencing Śiva: Encounters with a Hindu Deity. New Delhi: Manohar, 1983.

    A collection of articles by different authors on various aspects of Shiva worship, ritual, and literature, with a particular emphasis on Saivism in Tamil Nadu.

  • Doniger O’Flaherty, Wendy. Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Śiva. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

    A significant and influential study of the mythology of Shiva, positing that Shiva’s mythology addresses a fundamental contradiction in Hindu culture between the two opposing ideals of the householder and the ascetic. Reprinted in paperback form in 1981 under the title Śiva: The Erotic Ascetic.

  • Doniger O’Flaherty, Wendy. The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

    An extensive study of the problem of evil in Hindu mythology, in which Rudra-Shiva is discussed from a variety of perspectives, such as the paradox of the evil god, god as a corrupter of demons and man, god as a heretic, and Shiva’s conquest of death.

  • Kramrisch, Stella. The Presence of Śiva. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

    A personal and integrative account of Shiva-Rudra, covering a huge amount of material, but with a tendency to gloss over historical differences between Vedic Rudra and Puranic Shiva. A proper index is missing.

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