Shiva is one of the gods in the Hindu trinity of
Vishnu and Shiva. In this triad, Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Shiva must originally have been a tribal god during the time of the
Indus Valley Civilization, well before the concepts of Brahma or Vishnu even came into existence. He is believed to be boundless and eternal.
Also known by the name Maheshwar, Shiva is represented as residing in the funeral ground, smeared all over with ashes, and wearing snakes for ornaments. He also wears tiger hide and sits on tree bark, usually in meditation. In the face of injustice and evil, a third eye on his forehead opens and the evil burns out to ashes in the fiery blaze. He is said to have reduced even gods like Kamadeva to ashes.
Shiva is said to reside in the
Kailash range in the Himalayas. Parvati is his consort, and Lord Ganesh and Subramanya his sons. He also has another son, Lord Ayyappa, by Mohini (Lord Vishnu in woman form).
Shiva probably has more worshippers than any other Hindu god. He is usually worshipped in the Shivlinga form, the phallic emblem of supreme creative energy. The
Nataraja, or Shiva in the cosmic dance, is also very common. Shiva is also known by the names Mrityunjay, Shankar, Mahadev, Rudra, Neelkanth, Mallikarjun, Nandikeshwar, Gaurishankar, Gangadhar, among many others.