The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1950 | 616,585 words

The English translation of the Shiva Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas. Contents include cosmology, mythology, yoga, description of sacred places (tirtha), geography, etc. The text is an important source for Shaivism and some of the oldest surviving content deals with Advaita-Vedanta philosophy and theistic Bhakti (devotion). This edition ...

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Introduction to Shiva Purana

The Purāṇa is a class of literature that treats of ancient religion, philosophy, history, sociology, politics and other subjects. It is an encyclopaedia of various branches of knowledge and ancient wisdom. It has been defined as a class of literature that contains material on the topics of Creation, Dissolution of Manus, Ages of Manus, Genealogies and the History of glorious kings. For dealing primarily with these subjects it has been called Pañcalakṣaṇa[1]—a title that was incorporated in the Purāṇas[2] themselves and had become popular by the Fifth Century A.D., for it was included by Amarasiṃha in his lexicon ‘Amarakoṣa’.[3] But as the process of interpolation continued, the Pañcalakṣaṇa definition was found inadequate. The Purāṇic redactors adopted a Daśalakṣaṇa[4] definition that suited the contemporary text. Still the dynamic forces were at work and the process of insertion, modification and abridgement went on and it was soon discovered that the Daśalakṣaṇa definition too fell short of an actual fact. It was found that the purāṇas contained certain aspects that were not covered by any of the five or ten characteristics. Besides some of the characteristics covered by the Pañcalakṣaṇa or Daśalakṣaṇa definition were not found in certain Purāṇas.

In fact the Purāṇa as a class represents the different phases and aspects of life of diverse ages. It is impossible to adopt a standard definition for the class of literary composition that contains heterogeneous phases and aspects. Moreover, a definition framed on the numerical basis of points is bound to be imperfect.

The Purāṇas are divided into two classes—the Mahāpurāṇas[5] and the Upapurāṇas[6]. Each class consists of eighteen purāṇas. Thus the number of the Purāṇas is thirty-six. The Mahāpurāṇas are classified into different categories—Vaiṣṇava, Brāhma, Śaiva etc. in proportion as they accord preferential treatment to Viṣṇu, Brahmā, Śiva and others[7]. Śivapurāṇa, as its title signifies is a Śaiva Purāṇa. It derives its designation from the fact that it eulogises the glory and greatness of Śiva, describes the ritual and philosophical principles of Śiva cult, embodies descriptions, sermons and dissertations on the greatness of his divinity, recounts his emblems, attributes, exploits and incarnations, narrates legends on the origin and importance of his phallic image and dwells upon the merit of installing and consecrating that image. In brief, Śiva-purāṇa is a sacred treatise of Śiva’s legends and ritual.

The extant text of Śivapurāṇa is arranged into seven[8] Saṃhitās designated as Vidyeśvara, Rudra, Śatarudra, Koṭirudra, Umā, Kailāsa and Vāyavīya. The second of these, Rudrasaṃhitā, is divided into five sections, viz. Creation, the narrative of Satī, the biography of Pārvatī, the birth and adventures of Kumāra and Śiva’s battles. The seventh Saṃhitā—Vāyavīya—has two parts (Pūrvabhāga and Uttarabhāga)[9]. It is called Vāyavīya, for though it was recited by the Sūta at the Naimiṣa forest, it was originally proclaimed by Vāyu at the advent of Śvetakalpa.[10]

According to the records of the Vāyavīya, the original Śivapurāṇa consisted of twelve[11] Sāṃhitās. That is to say, in addition to the extant seven there were five more Saṃhitās viz. Vaināyaka, Mātṛ, Rudraikādaśa, Sahasrakoṭi and Dharma. The complete group of twelve Saṃhitās comprised one hundred thousand Ślokas.[12] But five of the group were dropped in the course of reconstruction and abridgement of the purāṇas. The extant Śivapurāṇa is an abridged edition and comprises twenty-four thousand Ślokas.[13] The redaction was made by the sage Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa[14] himself.[15]

As previously stated, the Mahāpurāṇas are eighteen[16] in number. The Puranic scholars are agreed upon the authenticity of the seventeen Mahāpurāṇas but in regard to the eighteenth there is a difference of opinion. Most of the Purāṇas[17] include Śivapurāṇa in the list while a few others[18] substitute Vāyu for Śiva. The substitution of either was inevitable, for the traditional number had to be maintained. Therefore some voted in favour of Śiva, some in favour of Vāyu. Neither of the parties could agree which of the two was actually a Mahāpurāṇa.

Now let us examine if any solution could at all be possible. We know that Śivapurāṇa is divided into seven Saṃhitās, one of which is the Vāyavīya. We have the testimony of Śivapurāṇa itself that the original Śivapurāṇa consisting of one hundred thousand ślokas was abridged into twenty-four thousand ślokas. On the strength of this evidence it cannot be unreasonable to suppose that there was a proto-Śivapurāṇa and a proto-Vāyavīya. It is not unlikely that there was a close affinity between the extant Vāyupurāṇa and the proto-Vāyavīya or that the extant Vāyupurāṇa is a recension of the proto-Vāyavīya and thus a part of Śivapurāṇa itself. Solution lies in assuming identically of the two on the basis of this suggestion, not in accepting the one and rejecting the other.

Śivapurāṇa has all the characteristics of a Mahāpurāṇa. According to the ancients, a Mahāpurāṇa contained five main characteristics[19] that concerned either early religion or traditional history. Of these the origin of the universe (Sarga) is an important feature of every religion. As a Mahāpurāṇa and a sacred work of Śiva cult, Śivapurāṇa possesses this important trait. It discusses the origin of the universe which it traces to Śiva, the eternal god who though devoid of attributes has still an inherent Energy which manifests itself in the form of three principles—Sattva, Rajas and Tamas personified as the three deities Viṣṇu, Brahmā and Rudra. The three have their respective energies called Lakṣmī, Sarasvatī and Kāli, in collaboration with whom they create, maintain and dissolve the universe.[20]

According to this account, the work of creation is entrusted to Brahmā who creates the cosmic egg consisting of twenty-four principles. The cosmic egg is insentient at first but when Viṣṇu pervades it, it goes in motion. Then different kinds of creation are evolved out of it.[21]

Śivapurāṇa[22] classifies creation in three categories: Primary, Secondary and Primary-Secondary. The three categories are arranged in the following table:


Intellect and Ego;
Subtle elements;
Five organs of action and five organs of knowledge, Manas.

Insentient objects;
Divine beings;
Human beings;
Sentient feelings.

Mind-born sons of Brahma

According to Śivapurāṇa, the ninefold creation was unable to proceed on the work of creation. The mind-born sons of Brahmā refused to obey the creator and remained celibate. Then out of his body Brahmā produced eleven sons: Marīci from the eyes, Bhṛgu from the heart, Aṅgiras from the head, Pulaha, Pulastya, Vasiṣṭha, Kratu from his breath, Atri from his ears, Nārada from his lap and Kardama from his shadow.[24] When still the creation made no progress, Brahmā divided himself into two—one half in the form of a woman and the other half in the form of a man. In that half form of a woman he created a couple—Svāyambhuva Manu and Satarūpā who complied with the wishes of the creator and began the work of creation.

After all, the creation of the universe is not a permanent feature, for all creations end in dissolutions which in turn give place to re-creation. The description of this process constitutes one of the five main features of a Mahāpurāṇa. Śivapuraṇa[25] takes up this topic but withholds details.

The process of dissolution is complicated, for several dissolutions occur before the universe is completely dissolved. As the purāṇas relate, a creation lasts for a day of Brahmā equal to the age of fourteen Manvantaras. At the end of each Manvantara, there occurs a dissolution. Thus a day of Brahmā contains fourteen dissolutions. But these are partial dissolutions. At the end of fourteen Manvantaras, equal to a day of Brahmā[26] that lasts for a kalpa[27] there occurs a great dissolution. Thus during the life of the creator several creations and dissolutions take place. There occurs a complete dissolution when the creator has completed his life-time. The elements are dissolved and merged into the body of the creator. The creator takes rest for some time and then starts the process of recreating the Universe. Thus we have a series of dissolutions and re-creations succeeding each other.[28]

The description of the ages of Manus (Manvantaras) is another characteristic of a Mahāpurāṇa. Śivapurāṇa mentions fourteen Manus by name. They are Svāyambhuva, Svārociṣa, Uttama, Tāmasa, Raivata, Cākṣuṣa, Vaivasvata, Śāvarṇi, Raucya, Brahma-Sāvarṇi, Dharma-Sāvarṇi, Rudra-Sāvarṇi, Deva-Sāvarṇi, Indra-Sāvarṇi. Each Manvantara comprises 4,32,00 human years or 1/ 14th day of Brahmā. The fourteen Manvantaras make up one whole day of Brahmā. Each of the fourteen Manvantaras is presided over by its own gods, seers and kings. This scheme of Creation and Dissolution repeats itself from one age of Manu to another and is described in all the Mahāpurāṇas. Śivapurāṇa is no exception to the rule.

In the Pañcalakṣaṇa character of the Mahāpurāṇa, genealogies and deeds of glorious kings play an important part. The Sūtas were the custodians of genealogical records which they learnt by rote and which they recited at sessional sacrifices in exchange for the gifts they obtained from their patrons. But in the course of oral transmission from one generation to another some interpolations entered in these records. There were traditional variations too, for different versions existed in different families of the Sūtas. When the records were incorporated in the Purāṇas, the interpolations and the traditional variations also settled therein. This explains the difference that exists in the genealogical records of the Purāṇas.

Pargiter[29] has prepared a list of royal genealogies on the consensus of versions occurring in the Purāṇas. On comparing this list with that of Śivapurāṇa we find a marked difference. By way of illustration: (i) Pargiter’s list of Ayodhyā dynasty places Kākutstha as the direct descendant of Vikukṣi-Śaśāda while in Śivapurāṇa Kākutstha is the immediate descendant of Ayodha who is not mentioned in Pargiter’s list. (ii) Arinābha of Śivapurāṇa is substituted by Anenas in Pargiter. (iii) After Purukutsa Pargiter mentions Trasadasyu, Sambhūta, Anaraṇya, Trasadaśva, Haryaśva, Vasumanas and Tridhanvan. These names are omitted in Śivapurāṇa which mentions Trayyāruṇi as the immediate descendant of Purukutsa. Śivapurāṇa mentions Anaraṇya, Muṇdidruha and Niṣadha after Sarvakarman or Śarvaśarman while these are omitted in Pargiter. Instead Pargiter mentions a series of eleven kings who are not found in Śivapurāṇa at all.

With these variations, Śivapurāṇa proceeds with the statement of genealogies and deeds of glorious monarchs. But the statements are meagre, for Śivapurāṇa is not interested in furnishing details.[30] Still in regard to the solar dynasty of Ayodhyā it supplies a detailed information. The genealogical records of this dynasty are arranged chapterwise in three groups: (1) from Manu to Satyavrata (ii) from Satyavrata to Sagara (iii) from Sagara to Sumitra. There is another sort of grouping also based on the sequence of time. The dynasties from Ikṣvāku to Marut belong to the past. The reigning period of Marut, father of Agnivarṇa, is called the present time when this purāṇa is said to have been written. The reigning period of the kings from Agnivarṇa to Sumitra is called the future time that presupposes the existence of this work.

The genealogical lists are interspersed with the deeds of some illustrious monarchs. For it is a characteristic of the Mahāpurāṇa to record the deeds of some famous kings. Usually the deeds comprise the personal history of the ruler but are sometimes related to the conditions of his reigning period. Śivapurāṇa is interested in the records of the solar dynasty of Ayodhyā and as such it recounts the deeds of some monarchs of that house. Of these Kuvalāśva-Dhundhumāra, Satyavrata-Triśaṅku and Sagara figure prominently. The accounts of Vikukṣi-Śaśāda, Bhagīratha, Niṣadha, Hiraṇyanābha and others occupy a secondary place.

The above analysis clearly demonstrates that Śivapurāṇa possesses the conventional characteristics of a Mahāpurāṇa in common with its other colleagues. These entitle it to the status of a great purāṇa. But its real greatness lies in expounding the philosophical background of Śiva ritual. The Purāṇa conceives Śiva as the eternal principle, the supreme god, the cosmic soul, the support of all existence. But the ignorant aspirant bound in the meshes of illusion goes in quest for knowledge and imagines that his lord has a personal form possessed of attributes distinct from his self, who in moments of distress responds to his prayers and bestows grace. The devotee, then aspires for spiritual enlightenment and takes to ritual for selfpurification. Śivapurāṇa enjoins several rites of worship and acts of homage, comprising a series of physical and spiritual practices in accompaniment with the Tantra, Yantra and Mantra appliances. He starts with the threefold devotion[31] viz. hearing, glorifying and deliberating the attributes of God—a process that requires, according to Śivapurāṇa,[32] the same steady attention as in the sexual intercourse. In this connexion Rudrasaṃhitā[33] mentions eight means for attaining mental concentration and spiritual enlightenment. Further the aspirant is asked to control the six cakras located in the spinal canal called suṣumnā that lies between iḍā and piṅgalā—two of the vessels of the body. That is possible only by taking recourse to the means of knowledge, by the purification of six pathways, the performance of traditional rites and yogic practices[34]. The aspirant has to pass through this series of activities before he reaches another state of experience wherein he finds a perfect accord between his own self and his personal deity, yet there is an awareness of separateness from his deity till he reaches the last state of experience wherein all distinctions are obliterated and his self unites with his godhead.

Footnotes and references:


For details see Kirfel: Das Purāṇa Pañcalakṣaṇa.


Śiva-purāṇa Vāyu-purāṇa I. 1. 41; Kūrma I 1. 12; Varāha 2. 4; Matsya 53. 65; Vāyu 4.10-11; Bhaviṣya 1. 2. 4-5.


Dr. Pusalker: Studies in the Epics and Purāṇas: Intro. P. 23.


Bhāgavata XI. 7.910.


Vāyavīya I. 1. 42; Umā 44. 119-121.


For details sec R.C Hazra. Studies in the Upapurāṇas, 2 Vols.


Vāyavīya I.1.59-60.


Ibid. I.1.65.


Ibid. I.1.23.


Ibid. I.1.50-52.


Ibid. I.1.57.


Ibid. I.1.50-58.


Ibid I. I. 58; yuddha 16. 15.


The above records of the Vāyavīya Saṃhitā are found in the Vidyeśvara Saṃhitā also. (Vājasaneyisaṃhitā (of Śuklayajurveda) 2. 49-63). The two accounts are similar and confirm each other.


Umā 44-199.


Bhāgavata xii. 7.23 ff; Brahmavaivarta III. 133ff; Kūrma I. I. 13 ff; Liṅga I. 36. 61 ff. Mārkaṇḍeya 137. 18 ff; Padma, I. 62. 2ff. iv. iii. 50 ff; Varāha 112 74 ff; Viṣṇu III. 6. 21 ff.


Agni 272. 4ff. Matsya 53. 18: Nārada I.93.


Rudrasaṃhitā I. 16. 46, 48.


Ibid. I. 15- 29-33.


Ibid I. 15


The account of creation is recorded in Rudrasaṃhitā I. 15-16; Ibid II. 2-3; Umā 30 et seq. Vāyavīya I. 10-12 with the difference that in the Rudra-Saṃhitā the sentient feelings and emotions are replaced by the gross elements.


Cf Vāyavīya I. 12. 42. Here the names and the number differ.


Vāyavīya I. 11.


Vājasaneyisaṃhitā (of Śuklayajurveda) I. 16.




Ibid I I. 9.


‘Ancient Indian Historical Tradition’ (Pargiter) PP. 144-149.


Vāyavīya I. 17. 61-65.

rājñāmapi ca yo vaṃśo dvidhā so'pi pravartate |
sūryavaṃśaḥ somavaṃśa iti puṇyatamaḥ kṣitau ||
ikṣvākurambarīṣaśca yayātirnāhuṣādayaḥ |
puṇyaślokāḥ śrutā ye 'tra te pi tadvaṃśasaṃbhavāḥ |
anye ca rājaṛṣayo nānāvīryasamanvitā
kiṃ taiḥ phalamanutkrāṃtairuktapūrvaiḥ purātanaiḥ |
kiṃ ceśvarakathā vṛttā yatra tatrānyakīrtanam |
prasaṃgādīśvarasyaiva prabhāvadyotanādapi |
sargādayo 'pi kathitā ityatra tatpravistaraiḥ ||


Vājasaneyisaṃhitā (of Śuklayajurveda) 4.


Vājasaneyisaṃhitā (of Śuklayajurveda) 4. 4.


Rudrasaṃhitā II. 12. 9. These are detailed in Bodhasāra PP 121-128.


Vāyavīya II. 10.30.

jñānaṃ kriyā ca caryā ca yogaśceti sureśvari |
catuṣpādaḥ samākhyāto mama dharmaḥ sanātanaḥ ||

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