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Books on Lord Shiva and Shaivism

It is the Svetasvatara Upanisad which explicitly declares the identity of Shiva with the highest Brahman (III. 2). This Upanisad is, therefore, sometimes called a Saiva Upanisad or an Agamic Upanisad.

The Maitri Upanisad refers to the trimurti conception: Brahma, Visnu, and Shiva (IV. 5). These three forms are respectively represented as embodiments of the three gunas: rajas, sattva and tamas (V.2).

For an understanding of Shaivism, the Agamas are as important as the Upanisads. They are in form of dialogues between Shiva and his consor Uma, the bestower of all vidya (knowledge).

The Shaiva Agamas, twenty-eight in number, form the largest body of religious literature in Sanskrit. They are said to have been revealed originally by Shiva to his disciple and attendant, Nandikesvara.

The twenty-eight Shaivagamas, which are believed to have emanated from the five faces of Siva, are: Kamika, Yogaja, Cintya, Karana, Ajita, Dipta, Suksma, Sahasra, Amsumat, Suprabheda, Vijaya, Nihsvasa, Svayambhuva, Agneya, Virabhadra, Raurava, Makuta, Vimala, Candrajnana, Mukhabimba, Prodgita, Lalita, Siddha, Santana, Sarvokta, Paramesvara, Kirana, and Vatula.

The next important body of Shaiva literature is formed by the Shaiva Puranas. Of the eighteen Puranas, six are usually styled Shaiva Puranas. They are: Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana, Matsya Purana, and Kurma Purana. The Shiva and Skanda are highly adored Puranas, especially the latter, which is a masterpiece of encyclopaedic interest. It contains stories about the births of Parvati, Ganesha, and and Karttikeya and the marriages of Parvati, Devakunjari, and Valli.

The Matsya Purana gives a detailed account of Siva’s destruction of Andhaka. The Linga Purana gives the philosophy of the worship of Siva in his form-cum-formless symbol, the linga.

Siva is a special favourite with Kalidasa, the great Sanskrit poet. Wherever Kalidasa mentions Shiva, he always uses glowing epithets. In this connections, we may mention Kumarasambhava where Shiva is the hero. In fact, there is hardly any book of Kalidasa where Shiva is not mentioned. Kalidasa also alludes to different forms of Shaiva worship, anusthanas and vratas. Bharavi’s (c. sixth century) Kiratarjuniya, Ratnakara’s (ninth century) Haravijaya, and Mankha’s (c. twelfth century) Srikantha-carita also deserve mention. In Kiratarjuniya, Shiva, in the guise of a kirata (hunter), fought with Arjuna and finally blessed him with his divine weapon, the pashupata astra. The other two works depict Shiva’s heroism.

Bharata in his Natyasastra mentions that Shiva and Parvati invented tandava and lasya forms of dance. Hymns add much to the importance of Shaiva literature. One such hymn is Shiva mahima Stotra of Puspadanta written in sikharini metre.

Kashmir Saivism is an ancient system and has to its credit a very large body of literature exclusively in Sanskrit. The earliest text, Siva-Sutras, is believed to have been revealed by Siva himself to Vasugupta. The Sutra has a vrtti (gloss), a varttika (explanatory text), and a vimarsini (critical comment). The Vimarsini of Ksemaraja, the famous commentator, is held in high esteem.

Trika Saivism owes its name ‘Trika’ (triad) to the fact that it deals with Siva, Sakti, and Nara. The literature of the Trika Saivism falls into three divisions: Agamasastra, Spanda-sastr, and Pratyabhijna-sastra. The Agamas are the basic ‘revelations’, Spanda means the ‘vibration or the stir of consciousness’, while Pratyabhijna is ‘recognition’.

The Siva-drsti of Somananda is the most important Pratyabhijna work. The next important work is the Isvara-pratyabhijna or the Pratyabhijna-Sutra by Utpala, a pupil of Somananda. Commentaries on it are: Vrtti by Utpala himself, Vimarsini (laghvi vrtti) and Vivrti-vimarsini (brhati vrtti) by Abhinavagupta (eleventh century). Abhinavagupta’s Paramartha-sara is another important work. There are also commentaries from the Trika point of view on some of the Agamas like Svacchanda, Netra, Vijnana Bhairava, and Matanga. Ksemaraja’s commentary Udyota on Svacchanda Agama is an important work.

The Spanda-sastras lay down the main principles of the system. The Spanda-Sutra or the Spanda-karikas (containing fifty-two sutras) is based on the Siva-Sutra and is attributed to Vasugupta by Ksemaraja. The Spanda-Sutra and the vrtti on it by Kallata are called Spanda-sarvasva. There are, besides, four commentaries on the Spanda-Sutra, namely, Vivrti by Ramakantha, Spandapradipika by Utpala, and Spanda-sandoha and Spanda-nirnaya by Ksemaraja.

The Tantraloka in twelve books by Abhinavagupta is a monumental work and deals with Advaita Saivism comprehensively in all its aspects.

Some of the Pratyabhijna works are highly poetical thought their main concern is philosophy. For example, Utpala’s Stotravali speaks of Sakti as an expression of the joy which the Lord felt when he saw his own splendour. Sakti, emanated by delight, created herself out of herself and became the manifested world.

Saiva Siddhanta

Saiva Siddhanta or Southern Saivism traces its origin to the Saiva Agamas. In fact, some early writers called the Saiva Agamas themselves as the Siddhanta. It treats both the Vedas and Agamas as revelations of God, the Vedas as general and the Agamas as special. While the Vedas propitiate many gods, the Saiva Agamas proclaim Shiva alone as the supreme One.

The same sentiment is echoed by Tirumular (fourth century) in his Tirumantiram in Tamil: ‘The Vedas and the Agamas are both authoritative as they emanated from God. The Vedas are general, the Agamas are specific. The learned do not discriminate’ (verse 2397).

The jnanapada of Saiva Agamas, on which Saiva Siddhanta is based, has been condensed into eight treatises called astaprakaranas: Tattva-sangraha, Tattva-nirnaya, Bhoga-karika, Moksa-karika, and Paramoksa-nirasa by Sadyojyoti Sivacarya; Tattva-prakasa by Bhoja; Ratna-traya by Srikantha; and Nada-karika by Bhatta Ramakanda.

Saiva Paddhatis

The rituals of the Agamas are not mere kriya-kramas (methodologies), but also definite means to mystic experience. The mantras (hymns), mudras (poses and postures of fingers, hands, or body), nyasas (gestures of touching the various parts of the body for purification), etc. are highly artistic expressions of the spiritual delight that he participants, both individual and congregational, attain during worship. These procedures are written in the form of Saiva paddhatis. Composed in simple Sanskrit, these procedural texts are in use even today. The paddhatis were all written by sivacaryas (Saiva teachers) who must have been Agamic pundits or heads of mathas.


Q1. What book should I read for Shiva?


·        Seven secrets of Shiva – by Devdutt Pattanaik


·        Immortals of Meluha (The Shiva Trilogy Book 1) by Amish Tripathi


·        {The incredible Qualities of Lord Shiva: Life lesson to learn from Shiva


·        {Shiva: Stories and Teachings from the Shiva Mahapurana


·        {The Magnificent Shiva: Why there is no one like Lord Shiva?


·        {The Love Story of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti: A tale of divine Love}


Above four books By Santosh Gairola


·        SHIVA, the Ultimate Time Traveller by Shailendra Gulhati


·        Shiv by Ashok Sharma (in Hindi)


·        Shiva, the Lord of Yoga by David Frawley


These are the most famous books on Lord Shiva.

Q2. What should we not offer to Lord Shiva?


It is said the holy scriptures mention that the offering of following Lord Shiva is considered inauspicious.


·        Turmeric is never offered on Shivling because turmeric is believed to be related to women and Shivling is a symbol of masculinity.


·        Vermilion


·        Broken Rice


·        Tulsi: Angered by the death of her husband, Tulsi boycotted Lord Shiva.


·        Til or anything made of sesame:  originated from the filth of Lord Vishnu.


·        Ketki flower: Due to the curse of Lord Shiva,  Ketki flowers are never used in the worship of Shiva.


·        Shankh Jal: Lord Vishnu is worshiped with a conch, not Shiva.

Q3. Who is the biggest bhakt of Lord Shiva?


Kannappa was a staunch devotee of Shiva and is believed to have plucked his eyes to offer to Srikalahasteeswara linga, the presiding deity of Srikalahasti Temple. Moved by his extreme devotion, Lord Shiva appeared, stopped him from plucking his only eye, and restored both his eyes. He made Thinnan the 10th of the 63 Nayanars.


 Kannappa Nayanar is a South Indian saint also known as Thinnappan. Lord Shiva also blessed Arjuna to be born as his greatest devotee in his next birth as Kannappa Nayanar. Kannappa merged into the lingam along with Lord Siva and attained moksha (liberation) at last.

Q4. How was Shiva born?


Many believe that God Shiva is a Swayanbhu – not born from a human body, instead was created automatically! He was there when there was nothing and He will remain even after everything is destroyed. That is why he is also called the 'Adi-Dev' of Hindu mythology.


The Vishnu Purana says that lord Shiva originated from the eyebrows of lord Vishnu, whereas others say he was born from the forehead of four-faced Lord Brahma who had emerged from the navel of Mahavishnu. Shiva is also thought to have originated from Rudra, a god worshiped during the Vedic period.

Q5. How do I start reading Shiva?


Read the greatest book Shiv Purana if you love and want to know more about Supreme Lord Shiva. Every chapter of Shiva Purana shows the glory of God Shiva. It is a summary of all Vedas and Puranas. Lord Shiva can only be reached by devotion. He says devotees are dear to him, dependent on them and he always takes care of devotees. Learned about transcendental pastimes and partial incarnations of Lord Shiva. In one chapter, Lord Shiva says that Lord Vishnu is in heart of Shiva and Lord Vishnu also says O Siva, you are in my heart.

Q6. Where can I read everything about Shiva?


To learn about Shiva, one needed many books, since any one book can't cover everything about Shiva,

·        7 Secrets Of Shiva by Devdutt Pattanaik


·        This is Where I Leave by Jonathan Tropper


·        Shiva Trilogy (Shiva Trilogy, #1-3) by Amish Tripathi


·        Life... Love... Kumbh by Aporva Kala


·        SHIVA, the Ultimate Time by Shailendra Gulhati


·        Shiva: The Wild God of Power by Wolf-Dieter Storl


·        Mahagatha - 100 Tales from the Puranas by Satyarth Nayak


·        Dancing with Siva by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami


·        The incredible Qualities of Lord Shiva: Life lesson to learn from by Santosh Gairola


·        Brahma Gyan - The science behind Shiva by Ravikumar Kakde

Q7. Which are the 3 books of the Shiva trilogy?


Includes 3 books by Amish Tripathi, namely


The Immortals of Meluha #1, The Secret of the Nagas #2 and The Oath of the Vayuputras #3 Tripathi has created a story around one of the most revered gods in Hindu mythology - Lord Shiva portrayed as a simple human being – who, by the end of the series becomes a friend to the readers because they can identify with his humanity. The Shiva trilogy is truly one of the best books to look at when considering this genre of mythology. Especially the central characters Shiva and Sati are modeled upon Lord Shiva and Goddess Sati.