Shiva, bronze statue, Madras, circa AD 900.
Major deity of Hinduism
, believed to have many manifestations. Like Vishnu
, he is the subject of an elaborate and sometimes contradictory mythology. He is both the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger. His female consort is known under various manifestations, including Parvati
, and Kali
. In Shaivism
he is worshiped as the paramount lord.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.