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Vishnu (left half - blue)and Shiva (right half - white)

Harihara is the name of a combined deity form of both Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Hara) from the Hindu tradition. Also known as Shankaranarayana ("Shankara" is Shiva, and "Narayana" is Vishnu), Harihara is thus worshipped by both Vaishnavites and Shaivities as a form of the Supreme God, as well as being a figure of worship for other Hindu traditions in general. Harihara is also sometimes used as a philosophical term to denote the unity of Vishnu and Shiva as different aspects of the same Supreme God. The exact nature of both Vishnu and Shiva (from their associated stories in Vedic and Puranic scriptures), and their position of difference or unity (or both), is a subject of some debate amongst the different philosophical schools.


Different Concepts

Vishnu (left half, holding disc) and Shiva (lighter coloured half, holding trident) combined in a single murthi form, along with Lakshmi and Parvati

Due to the fluid and diverse nature of Hinduism there are a wide variety of beliefs and traditions associated to both Vishnu and Shiva. Some schools hold that only Vishnu (including his associated avatars) is the Supreme God, and others that Shiva (including his different incarnations) is actually the Supreme being. Some argue that both Shiva and Vishnu are the Supreme God - both being different aspects of the one person; and there are others still who regard the Supreme God as being ultimately formless (advaita) and thus see both Vishnu and Shiva as different facets of the one formless Brahman.

Depending on which scriptures (and translations) are quoted, evidence is available to support each of the different arguments. In most cases, even if one personality is taken as being superior over the other, much respect is still offered to both Vishnu and Shiva by the other's worshippers (i.e Shiva is still regarded as being above the level of an ordinary jiva and 'the greatest of the Vaishnavas' by Vaishnavas who worship only Vishnu).[1] Some see Vishnu as the male incarnation of Shiva's feminine half, Shakti.

One and the same

Sivananda states: "Shiva and Vishnu are one and the same entity. They are essentially one and the same. They are the names given to the different aspects of the all-pervading Supreme Soul or the Absolute. ‘Sivasya hridayam vishnur-vishnoscha hridayam sivah—Vishnu is the heart of Siva and likewise Siva is the heart of Vishnu’."

Swaminarayan holds that Vishnu and Shiva are different aspects of the same God;[2][3][4] Notably, the Swaminarayan view is a minority view among Vaishnavites, but the dominant view in contemporary Hinduism which follows the Smarta view in general.[5]

Milk and Yoghurt Analogy

A Vishnu devotee A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada states: "Similarly, by expanding Himself as Lord Shiva, the Supreme Lord is engaged when there is a need to annihilate the universe. Lord Shiva, in association with maya, has many forms, which are generally numbered at eleven. Lord Shiva is not one of the living entities; he is, more or less, Krishna Himself. The example of milk and yogurt is often given in this regard – yogurt is a preparation of milk, but still yogurt cannot be used as milk. Similarly, Lord Shiva is an expansion of Krishna, but he cannot act as Krishna... The essential difference is that Lord Siva has a connection with material nature, but Vishnu or Lord Krishna has nothing to do with material nature."[6]


Harihara sculpture, British Museum. The left half represents Shiva (with the Trishula) and the right half represents Vishnu (with the Chakra and Conch)
  1. ^ "Lord Sambhu [Siva] the greatest of Vaishnavas" from Bhag-Purana 12.13.16
  2. ^ [1], verses 47, 84, of their scripture, Shikshapatri, [2] states, "And the oneness of Narayana and Shiva should be understood, as the Vedas have described both to be brahmaroopa, or form of Brahman, i.e., Saguna Brahman, indicating that Vishnu and Shiva are different forms of the one and same God.
  3. ^ Swaminarayan Satsang - Scriptures
  4. ^
  5. ^ Heart of Hinduism: The Smarta Tradition
  6. ^ The Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Chapter 8: The Avataras Author: A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

See also

External links

The Nature of Shiva & Vishnu

Harihara images

Simple English

Harihara is the name deity that combined Vishnu and Shiva. It comes from the Hindu tradition. Harihara is also sometimes used as a philosophical term when one wants to speak of the unity of Vishnu and Shiva as different aspects of the same Supreme God.

Other websites

The Position of Shiva & Vishnu

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Harihara images


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