Shiva (Sanskrit: Śiva, meaning "The Auspicious One"; Tamil: Śivan, meaning "The Red One"), also known as Mahadeva ("Great God"), is one of the three deities of Hinduism. Shiva is distinct from Vishnu and Brahman yet one with them. He is "Anant" [Who is neither found born nor found dead]. He is the supreme god within Shaivism, one of the three most influential denominations in contemporary Hinduism. He is one of the five primary forms of God in the Smarta Tradition, and "the Destroyer" or "the Transformer".
At the highest level, Shiva is regarded as limitless, transcendent, unchanging and formless.Shiva also has many benevolent and fearsome forms. In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash,as well as a householder with wife Parvati and his two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya, and in fierce aspects, he is often depicted slaying demons. Shiva is also regarded as the patron god of yoga and arts.
The main iconographical attributes of Shiva are the third eye on his forehead, the snake Vasuki around his neck, the adorning crescent moon, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, the trishula as his weapon and the damaru as his musical instrument. Shiva is usually worshiped in the aniconic form of Lingam.
The Sanskrit word "Shiva" (Devanagari: शिव, śiva) comes from the Shri Rudram Chamakam of the Taittiriya Shakha of the Krishna Yajurveda. The root word √śi means auspicious. In simple English transliteration it is written either as Shiva or Siva. The adjective śiva, is used as an attributive epithet for several Rigvedic deities, including Rudra. Other popular names associated with Shiva are Mahadeva, Mahesha, Maheshvara, Shankara, Shambhu, Rudra, Hara, Trilochan, Devendra (meaning Chief of the gods) and Trilokinatha (meaning Lord of the three realms).
The Sanskrit word śaiva means "relating to the god Shiva", and this term is the Sanskrit name both for one of the principal sects of Hinduism and for a member of that sect. It is used as an adjective to characterize certain beliefs and practices, such as Shaivism.
Some authors associate the name with the Tamil word śivappu meaning "red", noting that Shiva is linked to the Sun (śivan, "the Red one", in Tamil) and that Rudra is also called Babhru (brown, or red) in the Rigveda.
Adi Shankara, in his interpretation of the name Shiva, the 27th and 600th name of Vishnu sahasranama, the thousand names of Vishnu interprets Shiva to have multiple meanings: "The Pure One", or "the One who is not affected by three Guṇas of Prakṛti (Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas)" or "the One who purifies everyone by the very utterance of His name." Chinmayananda Saraswati, in his translation of the Vishnu sahasranama, further elaborates on that verse: Shiva means "the One who is eternally pure" or "the One who can never have any contamination of the imperfection of Rajas and Tamas".
Shiva's role as the primary deity of Shaivism is reflected in his epithets Mahādeva ("Great god"; mahā "Great" and deva "god"), Maheśvara ("Great Lord"; mahā "great" and īśvara "lord"), and Parameśvara ("Supreme Lord").