Vishnu and Shiva are two of the most important gods in Hinduism, and people often ask how they were created. In this article we are going to look at the question: Did Vishnu create Shiva?
Vishnu created Shiva after being the only one to survive the destruction of the universe. Vishnu, who is eternal, first made Brahma the Creator from his naval, in order to create life on earth. Vishnu then created Lord Shiva from his forehead, to create an end to the journey of the beings that Brahma was creating.
Together, these three gods make up the Principle Trinity of Hinduism, and by understanding them, you are well on your way to having a solid understanding of the core principles of Hinduism.
The Principle Trinity of Hinduism
In Hinduism, there is the Principle Trinity of three gods, also called the Trimurti, which are Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. Together they cover the cosmic functions of creation, preservation, and destruction, and each of the three have their specific role.
Vishnu the Preserver
Vishnu, the supreme being, is also known as ‘the preserver. Vishnu became a more prominent part of Hinduism after the Mahabharata, the epic Sanskrit poem, was written in around 400 AC. It is believed that Vishnu manifests in the form of an avatar whenever it is necessary for him to protect dharma, the cosmic law of human decency. His vehicle in our world is an eagle named Garuda, and he lives in his abode, which is called Vaikuntha.
Vishnu is represented in a human body with blue skin, and four arms. He carries four objects, which represent the things he is responsible for. These include the conch, whose sound produces the ‘Om’, the primeval sound of creation. He also carries a chakra in his hand, representative of the mind. The third object is a lotus flower, symbolizing existence and liberation. The fourth is a mace, symbolic of physical and mental strength.
Vishnu is usually portrayed in one of two positions. He is either standing upright on a lotus flower, or else he is seen reclining on a bed made out of a serpent, surrounded by the cosmos. In both cases he is accompanied by Lakshmi the goddess of wealth, his consort.
Shiva the Destroyer
Shiva is the god of Time, and the destroyer of all things. In Hinduism the world goes through a process of regeneration every 2,160,000,000 years, with Shiva destroying it at the end of each cycle, making way for a new creation.
At times Shiva is depicted as living in Mount Kailash as an ascetic, abstaining from material pleasures, instead focusing on meditation to achieve happiness. Other times he is presented as a family man with his wife Parvati and their two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya.
Shiva is also the leader of evil spirits, and is the god of the thieves and beggars in the streets. He is the patron god of yoga, meditation and the arts. He is often portrayed with a snake around his neck named Vasuki, representative of the fact that he controls death. He has a crescent moon in his hair which represents time. Shiva has a trident as his weapon, with the three spikes representing sattva the basis of creation, rajas which is continuity, and tamas the base of destruction. He also has an instrument called an admru.
Another important feature of Shiva is the presence of the third eye on his forehead, which represents the ability to perceive time and the future. Shiva is lord of the past, present, and future.
Each year Hindus celebrate Shiva with a festival where they chant prayers, fast, conduct rituals, meditate, and do yoga. There is also a particular sect of followers called Shaivites, who consume bhang, a drink made from cannabis, and smoke marijuana. According to myths, Shiva smokes marijuana.
Brahma the Creator
The other deity in the Trimurti, less relevant to this article though certainly not less important, is Brahma the Creator. Brahma created the earth and everything in it. He is usually depicted as having four faces, four arms, holding a bowl, a bow, a book, and prayer beads.
Vishnu created Brahma when he was relaxing on a bed of snakes in the cosmos. Practicing yoga nidra, which a form of meditative sleep, when Lakshmi offers to help him with her services. When he woke up, a lotus flower rose out of his belly, and eventually turned into Lord Brahma. Brahma pays his respects to Vishnu, and then begins his creation process.
The Hindu concept of avatars
According to Hindu belief, deities can incarnate in human or animal form in order to counteract evil. Usually, discussion of avatars are in reference to the ten avatars of Vishnu. The concept is described in the Bhagavadgita, when Lord Krishna says to Arjuna “Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and rise of unrighteousness then I send forth Myself.”
Understanding the difference between Vishnu and Krishna
Both Vishnu and Krishna are the supreme lord. Vishnu is himself, whereas Krishna is the complete incarnation in human form of the supreme lord. Another way of describing the difference is that Vishnu is God at office, while Krishna is like God at home. This means the Vishnu is the formal and professional version, while Krishna is the relaxed personable version. Lord Krishna is the original personality of the Godhead, and Vishnu is an expansion.
Is Shiva an avatar of Vishnu?
No, they are separate deities, both part of the holy trinity of Hinduism. Like Vishnu, Shiva also has avatars. Shiva is known as ‘the destroyer’, while Vishnu is called ‘the preserver’. Next, we are going to look at the avatars of Vishnu.
The 10 Avatars of Vishnu
Vishnu is known as the preserver because he incarnates in human form when the strength of evil becomes too much for good, in order to preserve the balance and restore righteousness. It is believed that the ten avatars of Vishnu were present in the world during the time of Satya Yuga, which is the golden time of the Yuga cycle in Hindu astronomy. Together the ten avatars are known as dasavatara, and each one is unique, and appeared at a different moment in history, though al incarnated with the purpose of restoring dharma. It is believed that he will incarnate one more time, at the very end of Kali Yuga.
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