Shiva: Pan-Hindu and Vaishnava Perspectives

How to Cite

Klaus K. Klostermaier. (2022). Shiva: Pan-Hindu and Vaishnava Perspectives: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 21(1), 63–80. Retrieved from


The trimurti of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva is popularly understood as the symbolic embodiment of Hinduism’s “polytheistic monotheism.”
It contains the basic elements of all religion: Creation (Brahma) – Maintenance in existence (Vishnu) – End of the world (Shiva). The widely practiced worship of the trimurti also suggests a harmonious co-existence of devotees of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, mutually recognizing each other’s God as their own.
The majority of Hindus, however, are either Vaishnavas or Shaivas or Shaktas, who subscribe to mutually exclusive theologies. There have also been cases of religious persecution in India: Vaishnava and Shaiva kings used violence against Jains and Buddhists and Shaivas have, at times, suppressed Vaishnavas. At the Kumbha Melas, when sadhus from all sampradayas line up for the first dip into the waters, there have been fairly routinely violent clashes between Shaiva samnyasins and Vaishnava vairagis over precedence.
To mention just one historic case: “Shaiva samnyasis and Vaishnava bairagis fought a great battle at Hardwar in 1760 to decide the dispute about precedence at that place. 

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