My question is specifically about the earliest times and location of the origin of Lord Shiva's legends.

What are the earliest recorded stories about him, do the legends of Shiva originate within traditional Hindustan (India) region or from further out areas like Iran or Tibet etc? What historical records and/or archaeological artifacts have been found?

Edit:

I did some reading up following Veneet's comments below, and the earliest artifact found comes from Mohenja-Daro - the Pashupati seal, dating from 2600–1900 BCE. Reading 2 Reading 3

The Pashupati Seal, dating from 2600–1900 BCE

Some further reading led me to Celtic god Cernunnos. His artifacts had been made further away, in ancient Thrace (near Turkey/Greece/Bulgaria). They also date later after the Mohenja Daro seal. 200BC-300AD as compared to Pashupati seal's 2600–1900 BCE. Does this suggest that worship of Shiva extended much further than today? Then it would be similar to how Buddhism extended far and wide, and then shrank to smaller pockets of worship.

Celtic God Cernunnos

A more clearer picture, found on Gundestrup Cauldron artifact, dating 200 BC to 300 AD, probably from Thrace, located at modern Southern Bulgaria, Eastern Greece and North-western Turkey.:

enter image description here

I for one, find the similarity between our Shiva and their Cernunnos to be bloody remarkable.

This article, section "The Horned God - Cernunnos, Shiva or Pashupati?", talks about this, and Lord Shiva's and Sanskrit's connection to Celtic Druidism.

Can anyone shed further light?

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    Your Euhemeristic speculation, concerning Shiva being a human being, is probably what offends people. If you take that out and simply ask a question about what the earliest records of Shiva are, that might not offend people as much. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 4 '14 at 22:25
  • By the way, you should know that Euhemerism has been widely discredited in the scholarly community, especially when it comes to Indology, but if you're interested there's one book that takes a Euhemeristic approach to the Hindu gods: amazon.com/Indra-Other-Vedic-Deities-Aeuhmeristic/dp/8124600805 It's a good book even if you're not interested in Euhemerism. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 5 '14 at 8:24
  • for starters, the Pashupati figurine which was a common motif in IVC is often proposed to be the precursor to Shiva, as we know today. – Vineet Menon Aug 5 '14 at 10:23
  • @a20 In the nineteenth century, when Europeans didn't know that much about Hinduism, they assumed a Euhemeristic explanation. They assumed, for instance, that Vishnu originated from a deification of the sages Nara and Narayana (the seer of the Purusha Sukta). But they soon realized that these sorts of hypotheses didn't stand up to scrutiny for many reasons, including the fact that references to the divinity of these gods occur much earlier in the historical record compared to references to the biographical details of human incarnations. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 5 '14 at 17:55
  • @a20 You may be interested in my answer here, concerning the development in our understanding of Vishnu: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/6896/36 – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 23 '15 at 17:49

First of all try not to compare Gods with Humans - this is not a Amish Tripathi Novel of Shiva and it will mostly offend people.

I had once read in Linga Purana and this is Online Version that once Brahma and Vishnu were fighting over each other’s power, trying to prove who is superior. Scared by the intensity of the battle, the other gods asked Shiva to intervene. Lord Shiva assumed the form of a flaming gigantic Linga.

Surprised at the gigantic form, they both tried to measure its height by going in the opposite directions of the linga (upwards & downwards). Brahma changing his form to a swan and Vishnu to a boar (Varaha), they travelled for eons but they couldn't find either end of it.

On the way up, Brahma met Ketaki flower and told her to lie to Vishnu that he (Brahma) had seen the top, so they both descend and meet Vishnu and they both lie that they have seen the top of cosmic column.

At this point, the central part of the column split and the Supreme Lord Shiva appears in front of them in full grace. He explained to them that both were borne of him and three of them separated into three different divinities.

However Lord Shiva was also angry with Ketaki and Brahma for making the false claim, and cursed Brahma to never be worshiped, and barred Ketaki forever from being offered in worship.

If I am not wrong, that day is worshiped as Maha-Shiv-Ratri ("Grand Shiva Night").

I don't think there might be any historical records other than Vedas and Puranas, and I guess Nataraja Idol can help you with some records.

  • Don't worry, going back and researching, Shiva is still a god, although portrayed in different forms, i.e, less limbs and weapons. He doesn't seem to be portrayed as a human. – a20 Aug 6 '14 at 9:31
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    Most of this answer is irrelevant to the question. Only the last sentence is somewhat relevant, but you shouldn't just give a link to the Wikipedia article without comment. You should say what relevant information that Wikipedia article has. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 3 '14 at 21:46
  • @KeshavSrinivasan I don't understand where there is wiki link in this, I have totally mentioned about linga purana as I have read it, and other thing is that I have written this answer before the question was edited, He was asking the origins of lord shiva earlier so I mentioned about him, and later he wanted to know any records so I mentioned nataraja idol. I don't understand whats there to down vote in this. – Questioner Oct 7 '14 at 4:05
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    @Questioner Well, first of all I didn't downvote you, someone else did. Second of all, the question was about the origin of stories about Shiva, not be origin of Shiva himself, so I don't see what relevance this story about Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva has to the question. And the wiki link I was referring to is the one on Nataraja in your last sentence. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 7 '14 at 5:10
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    The time is given in Shiva Maha purana. I will let you know tomorrow. When Narada asked Lord Brahma, Brahma told the name of the "Kalpa". I just not able to remember the name of kalpa. – Mr. P Jan 6 '15 at 6:05

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