Understanding The Difference between Shiva & Shankar

Growing up, we all heard a few tales about Lord Shiva, the destroyer, and his many miracles. The list is just endless. We would worship him in his linga form or the form of his human body. But in most of its depictions, Shiva is shown while doing mediation. Hence, there is indeed a difference between the two of them.

Our parents would have told us that both are the same, but hey, they are not. Did they lie to us just to escape our bucket full of questions? Lol, let’s get back to find the ultimate reality. The linga of the formless is Shiva, while the angelic deity is called Shankar. We’re all set to carry you on tour to explore how different and related they are. But wait, why so hurry? First, we will tell you the meaning behind the two forms.


Formless Shiva

You must have seen Shivlinga or even worshipped it for any reason. But have you tried understanding it? The oval-shaped type of shivling which we worship has a much deeper meaning to it. Undoubtedly, Shiva is the supreme soul, the Paramatma. The universe started or came into existence because of Lord Shiva. The oval shape suggests the shapelessness of the Ishvara (no need to be confused with other devas of devatas). It’s the energy itself.

Shiva’s depiction as a linga is symbolic of its incorporeal nature. A tripund normally adorns a shivlinga. Not familiar with this word ‘Tripund’? We are here to guide you out. The tripund symbolises the three characteristics of Shiva-trinetra, Trilok Nath, and trikaldarshi. In other words, it refers to Trimurti-Brahma, Vishnu, and Shankar. Gotcha! Now we are talking. The little red dot is Shiva, who lives in all of them. Hence, the linga form is a reminder of it all.

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Shankar, the deity

Shankar has a very distinctly human form. His form is believed to be the most beautiful physical form in the Universe. Of Course, it must be. After all, it’s about Shankar. Shankar lives with his wife Parvati on Earth (in Kailash). He is depicted to have long, matt hair-a a sign of his ascetic days. A large snake is coiled around his neck, reflecting Shankar’s domination over fear. The trident put next to him (or with him) is symbolic of his power over all three worlds. He normally wears animal skin, which is again a reminder of his asceticism.

Myths attribute to him the appearance of a crescent-shaped moon on his matted hair, or jata, healing the moon, the god of the curse. The Damru signifies the non-dual essence of the universe. Damru, what many Indian rappers use while making Lord Shanka’s songs. He also keeps Holy Ganga in his head. He also has a blue throat because of the poison he drank to save the world. But the thing that stands out most is his third eye—a representative of everlasting wisdom and extreme awareness. The most popular characteristics of Shankar! Let us clear to you that Shankar is the destroyer, not only of the universe but of all the sins and impurities of the human soul.

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Shankar vs Shiva

Now that we have defined the differences in form between Shiva and Shankara let us take you through other comparisons. As we all know that Shiva is the destroyer. According to the Linga Purana, this particular shivling has the divine power to create, destroy and re-create the life of all things. The Supreme Soul is the reason why we all exist. On the other side, Shankar is the destroyer. As mentioned earlier, not only does he destroy the old world order, but he is also the destroyer of the impurities and darkness of the world. In fact, the definition of Shankar’s name literally translates into doubt (shanka) destroyer (hara). One of his many names is the Hara – The Destroyer.

We are not done yet explaining the difference between Shiva & Shankara. The formless Shiva is absolutely omnipresent. Shiva has no identity, is abstract, and includes the whole world. For Shiva, there is no such thing as good or bad, friend or enemy, honesty or falsehood. Strange but true. All started from him, and in the end, everything was going to merge with him, including Shankara, who is usually responsible for the end. He has many names, and also has complicated facets. It is mandatory for him to destroy the evil present inside oneself.

That’s just a simple understanding of the differences between Shiva and Shankar. Shiva and Shankara have a lot more about them in their own way. In simple words, all of this was just the tip of the iceberg. It’s almost impossible to know every detail about them. If one can know it all in one life, she/he will definitely be an enlightened soul.


Shankar = Shiva- How these two are correlated as one?

As we have said before, we often use Shiva and Shankar synonymously. However, people hardly know the subtle differences between the two. No, we’re not entirely wrong to worship them as one. But to do so, without the awareness of the essential difference, is a kind of ignorance. Anyway, come back to the similarities. The tales of creation refer to the roots of Brahma and Vishnu to the eternal formless Shiva.

According to one of the creation stories, Shiv appeared before Brahma and Vishnu as a huge linga with no end and no beginning. This eternal pillar of energy entrusted Brahma with the task of establishing life as we know it. Brahma had created man. While he was very pleased with his designs, he felt that there was something lacking and that there was no means of procreation. He wished Shiva for help.

Interestingly, Shiva appeared as Ardhanarishvara in front of him (half-male and half-female). Fascinated Brahma, asked Shiva the meaning behind his form. Shiva proceeded to explain to Brahma that without the existence of feminine forces (shakti) in the Universe, something would always be missing. Shakti is the power that makes him Shiva – The ultimate God. End of the debate!

Upon hearing Shakti’s excellence, Brahma asked Shakti to help him out. Laxmi (Vishnu’s consort) and Saraswati (Brahma’s consort) appeared in a very painful separation of Shakti from Shiva. Then Shakti went on to become the beauty of the universe, Prakriti. By the way, the feminine side of the world emerged from her. But, in doing so, she left her other half in a state of chaos. It is said that this remaining half of Shiva turned a blind eye to all the beauty of the world and began to live like an aloof sage. He went about, however, sharing a lot of wisdom.

The day Shiva appeared in his human form on this earth is celebrated as Shivaratri. Don’t stop the drums of celebrations! Here is the interesting thing, over the years, Shiva adopted the quirky aspects that makeup Shankar. And but obviously, without Shiva, the Universe will not function. Not even 0.01 percentage. That’s why all the gods were so hell-bent on the union of Shankar-Parvati. Fortunately, they chose to get married on Shivaratri – the day it all started!


Difference between Shiva and Shankar - The Conclusion

Yeah, that was a charging ride. Don’t you agree? After all, it’s about Devon Ke Dev Mahadev. Till now, we have unveiled the difference between Shiva and Shankar. Now, it’s your duty ( Choice is yours) to spread the clarity & make people aware of Lord Shiva’s depiction. Believe it or not, talking about Shiva’s greatness, even tons of books are not enough. Yes, we are saying this on a very serious note. Writing about the difference between Shiva and Shankar is just one drop of water from a great ocean. So, ending this blog with some most beautiful & impactful words; SATYAM…SHIVAM…SUNDARAM…..!