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One of the names under which the Supreme Being is worshipped in Hinduism. Together with Brahma and Vishnu he forms the trimūrti, the triple form of the deity, conceived as the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the world. Siva is a complex figure and his cult has a long history. Originally a non-Aryan fertility god, he was later identified with the Vedic god Rudra, the god of storm and thunder who is also the "lord of cattle" (paśupati ). An early seal from Mohenjo Daro showing a yogi sitting cross-legged in meditation surrounded by animals is believed to be the earliest representation of Siva. Besides being the god of fertility, whose symbol is the linga, Siva is also the great ascetic who holds the world in being by his power of austerity. He is conceived as the reconciler

of opposites. He is the Destroyer of the world, who haunts the cremation grounds and wears a necklace of skulls, but he is also the divine physician who recreates the world at the end of time. He is absolutely inactive as the pure source of Being, but he also sustains the world as natarāja in the cosmic dance. Furthermore he is both male and female, and is sometimes represented as half man and half woman. Yet this strange ambivalent deity has come to be regarded as the Supreme Being, the Father and Creator of the world; as a personal god who is immanent in all things, dwelling in the heart of man and assisting him by his grace.

[b. griffiths]

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