According to TimesofIndia,

There is a subtle difference between the Supreme Soul Shiva and Shankar the deity. The Supreme has been worshipped in the oval or egg-shaped form of the Shivalingam.

Even Speaking tree states they are different

This did confuse me. I was thinking them as one. Can someone please shed light on this topic? (maybe from scriptures)

If they are different deity forms, please explain the difference between them.

  • No there is no difference between Lord Shiva & Lord Shankar. Both name points to same God. One more famous name is Mahesh. In short : Are lord Shiva and lord Shankar are two different deities ? Answer is NO
    – Kedarnath
    Jul 23, 2014 at 6:20
  • 1
    yeah they are different aspects of god, but for all practical purposes they refer to same god. unless you re doing a thesis or stand to benefit from this differentiation, i dont see any reason why you should be concerned about this.
    – Advaitin
    Oct 3, 2014 at 19:18
  • 1
    No shiv and Shankar are not different .if both are differnt then answer my question - why nandi always sitting outside shiv's temple?
    – user2819
    Apr 18, 2015 at 12:06

5 Answers 5


Yes, there is a technical difference. Generally these two terms are used interchangeably as a synonym. But Shankara, Rudra, Mahadeva, etc. mean the God who dwells in the Kailasha mountain. And Shiva means His absolute formless mode of bright light.


The Linga Purana has the description regarding the origin of Siva which goes something like below:
Just before the beginning of the creation, Brahma and Vishnu had some disagreement and a quarrel ensued. At that time a column of bright light appeared before them and solved their issues. That bright light is described as below:

jvālāmālāsahasrāḍhyaṃ kālānalaśatopamam
[LP - 1.17.34]

That linga was surrounded by thousands of flames and hot like fire of death. Without any beginning, middle and end, that was free from decay and growth.

This endless formless form of bright light is known as Shiva:

śivaiko brahmarupatvānniṣkalaḥ parikīrtitaḥ [Shv. Pu. - 1.5.10]
- Shiva alone, being Brahman, is known as formless and quality less.

Shankara or Rudra

The Vishnu Puran has the following description regarding origin of Rudra:

Later on Brahma commenced the process of creation. During that time he desired a child like himself. Then a blue-red colored child appeared on his lap and started crying as he wanted a name. Brahma named him Rudra, but he still continued to cry. So Brahma gave him another seven names. They are: Bhava, Sarva, Ishana, Pashupati, Bhima, Ugra and Mahadeva. Rudra married to Sati, the daughter of Daksha. Sati getting angry on Daksha gave up her life and reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himavat and Mena. Then Hara (Shiva) again married Parvati. [VP - 1.8.2-14]

Also, in the Gita Shri Krishna says He is Shankara among all the rudras:

rudrāṇāṁ śaṅkaraś cāsmi [BG - 10.23]
- Of all the Rudras, I am Shankara

So it means Shankara is a Rudra. Hence, although Shiva and Shankara both imply the same deity, Shiva means his formless pure bright light form (meditated upon by Yogis) and Shankara means his commonly known Kailasa dwelling ascetic form (worshiped by devotees).


To remove the doubt that some may incur, I am explaining it further. Shiva, Mahadeva, Shankara, Rudra, or whatever name we may say for the Kailasa dwelling God, the fact remains the same that He has a formless aspect. So we can say Shiva, Mahadeva, Shankara, or any other name has a formless aspect. For example, Keshav cites a statement from a book which says as per Kurma Purana Mahadeva is by nature formless. The verse actually exists in the purana and it is as below:

arūpaḥ kevalaḥ svastho mahādevaḥ svabhāvataḥ [Kurm. Pu. - 1.10.82]
- Mahadeva is by nature formless, single, dwelling in his own self.

This verse doesn't say Mahadeva is the formless aspect, but it says by nature He is formless. So this means, He has a more general aspect that is endowed with form. And we all know that general form having the moon on his head. For example the following verse states the form:

tadantare mahādevaḥ śaśāṅkāṅkitaśekharaḥ
prasādābhimukho rudraḥ prādurāsīnmaheśvaraḥ
[Kurm. Pu. - 2.1.31]

Then Rudra, the great lord Mahadeva, whose head is endowed with the moon, appeared with a smiling face.

But forms like these are illusory as stated in the previous line of the book or in the verse [1.10.82]. So if forms like these are illusory and dependent, then which one is the independent formless form? Well, that formless aspect, although can be referred by any name, generally referred as Shiva. So Shiva also means the formless form that Yogis meditate upon as already mentioned in the answer :

jyotiḥ paśyanti yuñjānāstasmai yogātmane namaḥ
yayā saṃtarate māyāṃ yogī saṃkṣīṇakalmaṣaḥ
prapadye tat paraṃ tattvaṃ tadrūpaṃ pārameśvaram
nityānandaṃ nirādhāraṃ niṣkalaṃ paramaṃ śivam
[Kurm. Pu. - 1.10.70,72]

To Him whom the yogis see as the bright light and by whom the yogis becoming sinless cross over maya, I offer my obeisance. I surrender to that supreme essence, supreme lord, always blissful, independent, without from (parts) supreme Shiva.

Because a person's name which is a Sanskrit word can have a meaning, someone may argue that the name Shiva in the above verse means auspiciousness, a quality of the deity not the deity Himself. But if the meaning is taken literally, then the same will also apply to Mahadeva. Beacuse Madhadeva can literally mean the title or definition (saṃjñā) meaning great god or it can also mean the Rudra named Mahadeva that originated from Brahma as stated above from Vishnu Purana. The same names are also given in Kurma Purana:

bhavaḥ śarvastatheśānaḥ paśūnāṃ patireva ca
bhīmaścogro mahādevastāni nāmāni sapta vai
[Kurm. Pu. - 1.10.26]

He has these seven names: Bhava, Sarva, Ishana, Pashupati, Bhima, Ugra and Mahadeva.

So literally the title Mahadeva can be addressed to the formless Brahman or any other god, but generally it means the moon crested form of Shiva. Nevertheless, to make it more clear I am citing another verse which makes the subtle difference more apparent:

mahādevaṃ arcayitvā śivasāyujyamāpnuyāt [Kurm. Pu. - 2.35.31]
- By worshipping Mahadeva, the worshipper obtains sayujya (identity) with Shiva.

We know sauyjya means a type of mukti where the soul merges in the formless Brahman, and here the term Siva is explicitly used apart from Mahadeva to refer to the formless Brahman where the jiva merges. Even to describe the one and only supreme Brahman, the word Shiva has been used:

nityānandamamṛtaṃ satyarūpaṃ śuddhaṃ vadanti puruṣaṃ sarvavedāḥ
tamomiti praṇaveneśitāraṃ dhāyāyanti vedārthaviniścitārthāḥ
na bhūmirāpo na mano na vahniḥ prāṇo'nilo gaganaṃ nota buddhiḥ
na cetano'nyat paramākāśamadhye vibhāti devaḥ śiva eva kevalaḥ
[Kurm. Pu. - 2.10.15,16]

All the Vedas state that the purusha (or supreme entity) is always blissful, pure, and has the form of truth. Those who have understood the meaning of the Vedas meditate upon Him through the pranava (OM). Neither the earth, nor the water, nor the mind, nor the speech, life air, wind or sky, nor the intellect, nor the consciousness, nothing shines in the supreme sky, only one Shiva alone.


So from examples like these and above cited references, it is just apparent that there is a subtle difference between Shiva and other terms, even though they are used interchangeable at many places. But the names are used so interchangeably that it doesn't make much sense literally and depends upon the context. So the point is, even if the difference is subtle, it certainly holds true from the Yoga point of view where Shiva is most often used to denote the supreme Brahman.

  • I haven't read those purans but from others experience, I am commenting here that the stories are different in each puran. So, I think referring a single puran would be better.. please let me know if I am wrong.
    – Mr_Green
    Jul 23, 2014 at 10:13
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Be Happy
    Aug 3, 2014 at 6:16
  • @Be Happy So...Shiva refers to Nirguna Bramhan and Shankara is Saguna Bramahan but generally the names can be used interchangebally?
    – user4627
    Feb 21, 2017 at 11:32

Yes, depends on how one look at it. if you look at it as feelings poured by many generations, distorted then answer is NO.

If one is truly open minded, and seeking for real truth, without any pre conceive and pre poured ideas from generations and traditions...then one can find Answer YES. Before there was no universe formed , there was just ONE spirit. Which is Origin, Param, and It was AOM/OM...Spirit...The whole..., Just that and it is Shiva. Once the AUM/OM energy , which is part of AUM/OM Spirit, universe was formed, Western philosophy describes it Bang theory, Eastern Sound AUM/OM. Both are same, both energy of various Frequency...Light/Fire force, sound/vibration force, wind/Air force, water/moving force, Earth/gravitational force. and manage these Trinity of Brahama, Vishnu & Mahesh was formed, but as Sihiv wanted companion (Shakti / Energy which is called Shakti Maa, Maha Shakti. As Eastern way to describe Shiv & Shakti/Shivji/Shankara, western describes as Spirit/Shiva & Holy Spirit/ Shak=nkara/Shakti. Shiva is Whole, Shankara is part of Whole, but not whole...so all Shakti's in various names and forms we are used to call them God, Bhagwan, Ishwer they all are Shakti's/Holy Spirits but no one is whole....So we say there is ONE GOD, it is suppose to mean Spirit/Shiva....but over the many generation, we established all avataras/ incarnations of Holy spirit whether we call Ram, Krishna, Shanker, Brahma, Vishnnu, Jesus ...etc, all are Holy Spirit but not Spirit /Shiva/Whole/Param?Original/Ultimate..... In this sence and simplicity, Shiva and Shakera are not one, Shiva is ONE but Shanakara is part of ONE...but prominent of one with Shivlinga as sysmbole...symbole of Unity of Shiva & Shankara, or Unity of Spirit & Holy Spirit.... Our ultimate goal to be Free, Nirvana....should be with Spirit, but with help of or through Holy Spirit/Shankera/Any shakti, no mater what name one is aligned to. Then why bother who follow, or devoted to whom, as long as goal is Spirit... If this is clear , then there is no fight for way of salvation, as it is for all, as they wish to take path, and mostly assigned by Spirit giving birth in particular family, and their rituals and belief system....one must follow, without any taking interest converting to others in their own.

In short follow your Inner Spirit. Listen to Holy spirit, Guru, parents etc, but then analysis with mind and intellect, which are special gift to each Human soul to use it with freewill. Do not blindly follow any one or any religion, use mind and intellect wisely, un bias, purely, truthfully as they are spirit of Origin engraved in each of us, for just for our own salvation, uniquely designed for each of us as He has designed our face uniquely....not others.


No, Lord Shiva and Lord Shankar are same. Its same as one deity has many names so as Lord Shiva.

The other popular names associated with Shiva are Mahadev, Mahesh, Maheshwar, Shankar, Shambhu, Rudra, Har, Trilochan, Devendra (meaning Chief of the gods) and Trilokinath (meaning Lord of the three realms)

Source : Wikipedia


Yes There is a difference,

In Shiva Puran first chapter it has clearly stated the difference.

Shiva created Sankara. From Sankara left hand side came Visnu From right hand side Mahadev and from vishnu belly button (Nabhi) Brama came.

Primarily there are 5 supreme head out of which is Shiva is the Highest one.


Shanker is Avatar of God to pray and meditate on most hard condition and stay vigilant with snack on his neck and anger in third eye

Shiva is not a Human avatar it is symbol of Vibration with bright light on collision of atom and devine for ever without death or vanish in dark with symbol of shivaling as worship instrument.

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