How is Shakti/the consort of Shiva (including her various forms such as Kali, Durga, Parvati, Tara, etc.) seen in the various Vaishnava sampradayas?

I have read that, since she is the chaste stri of Lord Shiva, who himself is considered a great Vaishnava, she commands great reverence. I have also read that saints such as Sri Ramakrishna used to worship both Vishnu-tattva forms, such as Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, along with the Divine Mother Kali -- seeing them as one and the same at core. My question stems ultimately from a curiosity regarding the root of the historical tension between Shaktas and Vaishnavas in Bengal.

Continuing from the same question, are the various devatas manifestations of aspects of the Supreme God or are they subservient to the Supreme God, as is the view in orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnavism? (ISKCON even calls the devatas "demigods", which I never really understood, seeing that "demigod" is a term used to refer to mythological characters that are part god and part human such as Hercules from Greek mythology.) What is the view of the various Vaishnava sampradayas on this matter? What do Shaivites and Shaktas say?

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    There are various questions asked on this subject Oct 12, 2018 at 17:50

4 Answers 4


You have asked :1. Are the various devatas manifestations of aspects of the Supreme God or are they subservient to the Supreme God, as is the view in orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnavism?

2..How is Shakti/the consort of Shiva (including her various forms such as Kali, Durga, Parvati, Tara, etc.) seen in the various Vaishnava sampradayas?

Let me answer your question from the Gaudiya-Vaishnava perspective, as you failed to understand the use of the word 'demi-gods' by some followers of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

The Gaudiya Vaishnava sect originate from Mahaprabhu Sri Krishnachaitanya Who is regarded by many (including myself) as an incarnation of God. So we must focus on His and His direct disciples' views on this topic. In the Sri Sri Chaitanya-Charitamrita, we find Sri Chaitanya saying :

isvaratve bhed maanile hay aparadh/ ek i iswar bhakter dhyan-anurup(2/9/139-42)

which means : Its a sin to differentiate between various forms of God. God is one Who takes many forms as per the inclination of the devotees.

The above quotation shows how broad-minded Mahaprabhu was, as is expected from an incarnation like Him. So He would never accept a word like 'Demi-God'. Let us now come to Shiva and Shakti.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism on Shiva:

In Navadvip, Mahaprabhu has assumed different forms of God. In Murari Gupta's karcha(2/11), SriChaitanya-Bhagavata(Madhya, chapter 8) and Sri Chaitanya-Charitamrita (1/17), we have the description of Mahaprabhu taking the form of Shiva. 'He says :'I am Shiva' His devotee Mukunda Dutta chanted the Shiva-Mahimna-Stotra (Murari Gupter Karcha, 2/11/17).Mukunda Dutta was an ardent devotee of Mahaprabhu. The Shiva-Mahimna-Stotra that he chanted is a famous hymn composed by Pushpadanta.In this hymn, Lord Shiva is described as the Supreme Godhead:

traiyi saamkhyam yogah pasupatimatam vaishnavam iti prabhinne prasthaane paramidam adah pathyamiti cha ruchinaam vaichitryaad riju-kutila-naanaapthajushaam nrinaam eko gantavyas twamasi payasaam arnava iva (7)

meaning : Oh Shiva, as all rivers merge at the end with the sea, you are the goal of all human beings. They accept different straight and complicated paths like that of the Vedas, the saankhyas, the yogis, the paasupatas, the vaaishnavas merely because of difference in their mental inclinations.

This makes the concept of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas on Shiva vary very clear.We read in Sri Chaitanya-Bhagavata (Antya khanda):

siver gaurab bujhaaen gaurchandra/ eteke sankar-priya sarva-bhakta-vrinda// naa maane chaitanya-path bolay vaishnav/shivere amanya kare byartha taar sab//..pujaye govinda jena naa maane shankar/ ei paape aneke jaibe yamaghar

meaning: Sri Gaurchandra(Sri Chaitanyadev) makes all understand Lord Shiva's glory. So all His devotees worship Shiva. Someone not obeying Sri Chaitaya and calling self a vaishnava will be cursed by Lord Shiva and be ruined. Many worshipping Sri Krishna do not worship Lord Shiva. These people are sinful and will go to hell.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism and Shakti (Kali,Durga, Parvati)

Sri Chaitanyadev was born in Navadvip which is in Bengal. Bengalis are very devoted to Devi Shakti. Sri Sri Devi-Mahatmya, a part of Markandeya-Purana is highly respected by the bengalis.Mahaprabhu Himself copied this book and gifted to one of His relatives. In Sri Sri Chandi, we get

Devya yayaa tatam idam jagad aatma-shaktyaa nihshesha-devagana-shakti-samuha-murtyaa/ taam amvikaam akhila-deva-maharshi-pujyaam bhaktyaa nataah sma vidadhatu shuvani saa nah (mantra 3, chapter 5)

meaning : We bow down with devotion to the Mother Goddes, Who has covered the entire world with Her own power and Who is worshipped by all devas and rishis.May Devi provide us with all good.

yasyaah prabhabam atulam bhagavaan ananto brahma harascha na hi vaktum alam valam cha sa Chandika akhila-jagat-paripaalanaya nahaaya cha asurabhayasya matim karotu (mantra 4)

meaning: Even Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva are unable to describe Her unparallel effect and energy. May that Devi Chandika wish for preserving the world and destroying the fear from demons in us.

Someone accepting Sri Sri Chandi is therefore bound to accept the Mother Goddess as the Supreme Godhead.

Sri Chaitanya-Bhagavata (along with other biographies mentioned above) describes how Sri Chaitanya Himself assumed the form of Devi Chandi and the devotees started uttering hymn

jaya jaya jagata-janani mahamaya/ dukkhita jibere deho charaner chhaya// brahma-vishnu-mahesware tomar mahima/ balite na paare anye ke dibek sima//..tumi adya avikara parama-prakriti/jagat-janani tumi dvitiya-rahita//

meaning : Glory to thee O Mahamaya,the Mother of the world! Please give the suffering people resort to your feet. Even Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva can not describe your glory, then what will the others tell about you? You are the Primal Origin devoid of any change. O Mother of the world, You are One without a second.

If She is One without a second, can Sri Krishna be different from Her? Absolutely never.Sripada Jiva Goswami therefore quotes a sloka from Gautamiya-Kalpa:

yaa durga saiva krishnah syaad yah krishnah durga eva sa/anayor antaradarshi sansaraad na vimuchyate//

meaning: Durga is one with Krishna and Krishna is one with Durga.Whoever sees them as two can never be liberated from worldliness.

Mahaprabhu Himself used to go to temples of Shiva, Rama, Nrisimha, Durga,Bhairavi and worshipped all. Yes, He preached the worship of Lord Krishna, but has instructed His devotees:

Anya deva anya sastra ninda naa karibe. meaning never criticise other forms of God. By the way, Sri Nityananda Mahaprbhu, who is also worshipped by the followers of Sri Chaitanyadeva worshipped Lord Shiva and Devi Shakti regularly.

Hope the above throws some light on the topic you questioned about.

Referencees: 1.Chandi-Chinta by Dr.Mahanambrata Brahmachari,Mahanaam Angan, 2.Gaudiya Vaishnava Darshan by Radhagovinda Nath, Sadhana Prakashani, 3.Mahaprabhu Sri Gauranga by Radhagovinda Nath,mSadhana Praakashani,4.Sri Sri Chaitanyadeva by Swami Saradeshananda,Udbodhan.


Srila Sripada Radharaman Charan Das Babaji was a renowned Gaudiya Vaishnava saint contemporary of Sri Ramakrishna.Its He who established temples at all the places Mahaprabhu visited. According to Him:

Who attract the soul of the devotees is Hari.The Shaivas should relate this word to Surya, the Shaktas to the Mother Goddess, the Shaivas to Lord Shiva and the Vaishnavas to Lord Vishnu. No pesonal or secterian system or behaviour can be universal.(His biography by Ava Sarkar,Pustak Vipani, page 16).There is no difference between Kali,Durga,Shiva, Vishnu, Nitai,Gaur etc because God is Purna Purnatama(Ibid page 17).

This also is in perfect confirmity with what has been mentioned in the answer.


I will answer from Gaudiya Vaishnava perspective..

Since you seem have to issue with iskcon, I will quote from his authentic biographies and six goswamis who established gaudiya vaishnava theology.

What is the position of Durga?

The highly regarded book of Gaudiyas Brahma Samhita states:

sṛṣṭi-sthiti-pralaya-sādhana-śaktir ekā chāyeva yasya bhuvanāni bibharti durgā icchānurūpam api yasya ca ceṣṭate sā govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi

BS 44: The external potency Māyā who is of the nature of the shadow of the cit potency, is worshiped by all people as Durgā, the creating, preserving and destroying agency of this mundane world. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda in accordance with whose will Durgā conducts herself.

Devi Dhama is described there which is material world and its presiding deity is Durga.

Thus, Durga is external energy or Bahiranga Shakti of Krishna.

Jiva goswami says the same in Tattva Sandarbha, text 33

The Lord does not interfere with the skillful actions of māyā, the controller of the material world, who has been his devotee without beginning. Desiring that the jīvas become favorable to him out of fear of māyā, the Lord teaches:

My māyā, made of the guṇas, fit for the jīva’s pleasure, is hard to surpass, but those who surrender to me alone can cross over this māyā. BG 7.14

The Lord, as ācārya, later teaches this particularly through his form of Vyāsa, a līlāvatāra. Vyāsa saw bhakti which destroys māyā (anarthas anarthopaśamaṁ). Thus there are coordinated functions of the māyā and the Lord concerning bewilderment of the jīva and desiring to make the jīva favorable.

“Māyā is a śakti and a śakti has ability to act. Śakti is merely a quality. Why then does māyā have the particular quality of being ashamed (if she is just an insentient śakti)?” Scriptures describe that there are controlling deities of these śaktis. One should see the discussion between Indra and Māyā (who is personified as a person)[Uma] in Kena Upaniṣad. Now let us return to the topic.

In commentary to Bhag 11.27.29:

With offerings such as prokṣaṇa one should worship Durgā, Vināyaka, Vyāsa, Viṣvaksena, the spiritual masters and the various devas. All these personalities should be in their proper places facing the Deity of the Lord.

Jiva Goswami states that the names mentioned are not the wordly devas but eternal associates of Lord in Vaikuntha and he quotes from Padma Purana.

Thus, Durga name can also represent internal potency of the Lord.

Since, Gaudiya Vaishnavas worship Radha, who is primeval shakti, source of all laxmis and Durgas(a/c to Gaudiya Vaishnavism), they don't worship any other goddess. Worship is not prohibited, if done in the proper mood understanding them to servants of Krishna. Thus, you can say Gaudya Vaishnavas are also Shaktas because they worship Adi Shakti(Radha) along with Shaktimaan(Krishna).

The statements of non difference like "Krishna is Durga. Durga is Krishna. One who sees difference will not be be liberated", and "One should not see the difference between Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva" are explained by Jiva Goswami in Paramatma Sandarbha. He states that it means Durga, Shiva and Brahma are not independent manifestations, but they work under the will of Lord Vishnu only. Thus one should not see that they are independent agents. He quotes from Bhagavatama and other scriptures where clearly differentiation is made and Vishnu is stated to be superior. He also quotes statements which says one who thinks brama and Shiva are equal to Vishnu is a heretic.

Now coming to the portion where Sri Chaitanya is called by his followers as Durga. Shiva. Since, Gaudyas believe him to be incarnation of Krishna. The interpretation should be like this: in 10th chapter of gita, krishna says I am Garuda among birds, Vajra among weapons.. this means he is counting his opulences, that doesn't mean he is Vajra. One can interpret them similarly. Or another meaning there is no need to independently worship Lord Shiva because since all devas are just working under my will.

As Bhagavatam states:

SB 4.31.14: As pouring water on the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, twigs and everything else, and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the senses and limbs of the body, simply worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead through devotional service automatically satisfies the demigods, who are parts of that Supreme Personality.

Bhagavatam also lists which deva can be worshipped to get which material desires and concluding verse rejects all the above things and just states:

SB 2.3.10: A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead.

In Bhakti sandarbha, Jiva Goswami recounts story of previous life of Satyabhama wherein her father worshipped Surya but achieved Krishna, Jiva Goswami says it is because he worshiped him properly understanding him to be representation(servant) of Vishnu and also because of the effect of holy place. Otherwise worshippers of other devas don't attain Krishna.

Verses 307 to 318 from https://vedabase.io/en/library/cc/madhya/20/ gives us idea of position of devas where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu speaks to Sanatana Goswami:

Text 307: “Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, expands a portion of His plenary portion and, accepting the association of the material mode of ignorance, assumes the form of Rudra to dissolve the cosmic manifestation.

Text 308: “Rudra, Lord Śiva, has various forms, which are transformations brought about by association with māyā. Although Rudra is not on a level with the jīva-tattvas, he still cannot be considered a personal expansion of Lord Kṛṣṇa.

Text 309: “Milk is transformed into yogurt when it associates with a yogurt culture. Thus yogurt is nothing but milk, but still it is not milk.

Text 310: “ ‘Milk changes into yogurt when mixed with a yogurt culture, but actually it is constitutionally nothing but milk. Similarly, Govinda, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, assumes the form of Lord Śiva [Śambhu] for the special purpose of material transactions. I offer my obeisances at His lotus feet.’

Text 311: “Lord Śiva is an associate of the external energy; therefore he is absorbed in the material quality of darkness. Lord Viṣṇu is transcendental to māyā and the qualities of māyā. Therefore He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Text 312: “ ‘The truth about Lord Śiva is that he is always covered with three material coverings — vaikārika, taijasa and tāmasa. Because of these three modes of material nature, he always associates with the external energy and egotism itself.’(SB 10.88.3)

Text 313: “ ‘Śrī Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is situated beyond the range of material nature; therefore He is the supreme transcendental person. He can see everything inside and outside; therefore He is the supreme overseer of all living entities. If someone takes shelter at His lotus feet and worships Him, he also attains a transcendental position.’ (SB 10.88.5)

Text 314: “For the maintenance of the universe, Lord Kṛṣṇa descends as His personal plenary expansion in the form of Viṣṇu. He is the director of the mode of goodness; therefore He is transcendental to the material energy.

Text 315: “Lord Viṣṇu is in the category of svāṁśa because He has opulences almost equal to Kṛṣṇa’s. Kṛṣṇa is the original person, and Lord Viṣṇu is His personal expansion. This is the verdict of all Vedic literatures.

Text 316: “ ‘When the flame of one candle is expanded to another candle and placed in a different position, it burns separately, and its illumination is as powerful as the original candle’s. Similarly, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda, expands Himself in different forms as Viṣṇu, who is equally luminous, powerful and opulent. Let me worship that Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda.’ (bRAHMA sAmhita 5.46)

Text 317: “The conclusion is that Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva are simply devotee incarnations who carry out orders. However, Lord Viṣṇu, the maintainer, is the personal feature of Lord Kṛṣṇa.

Text 318: “[Lord Brahmā said:] ‘I am engaged by the Supreme Personality of Godhead to create. Following His orders, Lord Śiva dissolves everything. The Supreme Personality of Godhead in His form of Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu maintains all the affairs of material nature. Thus the supreme controller of the three modes of material nature is Lord Viṣṇu.’(SB 2.6.32)

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also says:(from Padma Purana)


yas tu nārāyaṇaṁ devaṁ brahma-rudrādi-daivataiḥ samatvenaiva vīkṣeta sa pāṣaṇḍī bhaved dhruvam ‘A person who considers demigods like Brahmā and Śiva to be on an equal level with Nārāyaṇa is to be considered an offender, a pāṣaṇḍī.’

As some one quoted above,

isvaratve bhed maanile hay aparadh/ ek i iswar bhakter dhyan-anurup(2/9/139-42)

If you see the context of the words, Chaitanya is talking only about Krishna and his direct incarnations like Narayana, Rama etc.. And also Chaitanya himself distinguished even among those incarnations, the actual context of the verse is that: just to satisfy the person to whom Chaitanya was speaking, he spoke this to avoid tension in the speech and to have common ground that all other Vaishnavas also accept.

Thus overall Gaudiya Vaishnava theology states Krishna is Supreme and Maha Vishnu, Rama others are his direct incarnations and are thus in same category of Krishna who can be worshipped. Other devas are servants of Krishna/Vishnu.

I recommend you to study commentaries of prasthana trayi of Gaudya Vaishnavas, Gita, Vedanta Sutra and Upanishads. And also the works of 6 goswamis whom Chaitanya Mahaprabhu instructed to establish Gaudya Vaishnava school theologically. No where will you anyone other than Vishnu/Krishna established as supreme. The equality of Shiva and Vishnu etc.. is clearly rejected in all theological works. I think here, people are more eager to push their views in the name of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by cherry picking one out of context to push one's own ideas and thus you will get only distorted version .

Or you can read Sat Sandarbhas of Jiva Goswami from https://archive.org/details/@vedantist?sort=creatorSorter&&and[]=subject%3A%22Srila%20Jiva%20Goswami%22.

If you have problem with ISKCON's demigod word, just use god or deva, it doesn't make any difference to theology.

Are the various devatas manifestations of aspects of the Supreme God or are they subservient to the Supreme God, as is the view in orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnavism?

All other devas are subservient to Supreme God. That is clear cut if you read primary sources of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. There is nothing to be confused at all in this point.

“What is the value of a throne to Lord Kṛṣṇa? The masters of the various planetary systems accept the dust of His lotus feet on their crowned heads. That dust makes the holy places sacred, and even Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Lakṣmī and I Myself, who are all portions of His plenary portion, eternally carry that dust on our heads.”(SB 10.68.37)

Further Additions:

If you just look at the context where Chaitanya took the form of Chandi and people offered prayers.

keha pade laksmi-stava, keha candi-stuti sabe stuti pade yahara yena mati//CB, Madhya 18.166// Some recited prayers to Laksmi, and some offered prayers to Durga. Everyone offered prayers according to their realization.

Which means, Seeing Sri Gaurasundara in the dress of a sakti, or consort, persons who were situated in false egos of goodness began to pray to Him as Narayani-Maha-Laksmi. Others who were situated in false egos of ignorance offered Him the prayers known as Candika-stotra.

And as Chaitanya said don't disrespect any deva.. The meaning is don't disrespect it doesn't mean that you have to say that a particular deva is equal to Vishnu and Chaitanya himself condemning saying that others are equal to Vishnu.

sivera gaurava bujhayena gauracandra eteke sankara-priya sarva bhakta-vrnda//CB, Antya 2.242//

In this way Gauracandra revealed the glories of Siva. That is why Sankara is dear to all the devotees.

na mane caitanya-patha bolaya `vaisnava' sivere amanya kare vyartha tara saba//CB, Antya 2.243//

The endeavors of one who does not follow the path of Lord Caitanya and disrespects Siva yet claims to be a Vaisnava are all useless.

The meaning is no follower of Chaitanya should disrespect Lord Shiva understanding his position as supreme Vaishnava.

As Bhagavatam states: (12.13.16) it is stated: nimna-ganam yatha ganga devanam acyuto yatha vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh purananam idam tatha “Just as the Ganga is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Acyuta the supreme among deities, and Lord Sambhu [Siva] the greatest of Vaisnavas, so Srimad Bhagavatam is the greatest of all Puranas.”

Those who disrespect the guna-avatara Mahadeva do not actually follow Sri Caitanya. Veteran Vaisnavas headed by Sri Anandatirtha worshiped the guna-avataras Brahma and Siva as devotees of the Supreme Lord. Sri Krsna Caitanya visited the temple of Siva, the incarnation of a devotee, and prayed for devotional service to Krsna.

Siva is the best among the twelve Vaisnava authorities(as per Bhagavatam); and he is the original spiritual master of the Visnusvami-sampradaya.

In the Srimad Bhagavatam (4.24.28) Lord Siva speaks the following words:

yah param ramhasah saksat tri-gunaj jiva-samjnitat bhagavantam vasudevam prapannah sa priyo hi me “Any person who is surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, the controller of everything—material nature as well as the living entity—is actually very dear to me.”

And in the Srimad Bhagavatam (4.4.13-14) Sati speaks as follows:

“It is not wonderful for persons who have accepted the transient material body as the self to engage always in deriding great souls. Such envy on the part of materialistic persons is very good because that is the way they fall down. They are diminished by the dust of the feet of great personalities.

“My dear father, you are committing the greatest offense by envying Lord Siva, whose very name, consisting of two syllables, si and va, purifies one of all sinful activities. His order is never neglected. Lord Siva is always pure, and no one but you envies him.”

If you read works of Six Goswamis, you will clearly understand the Gaudiya Vaishnavism. If you read the Chaitanya biographies, you will understand practically how to respect other devas as Chaitanya revealed by his actions etc.(that doesn't mean you say all are equal) and thus you can remain mature.

Thus, mature Gaudiya Vaishnavas though clearly say and know that Krishna is supreme and all others are servants of Krishna, don't disrespect any deva understanding them to acting as per the will of the Lord and their respective positions.

As Chaitanya Charitamrita clearly puts: https://vedabase.io/en/library/cc/adi/5/

Text 140: “Who is this mystic power, and where has she come from? Is she a goddess or a demoness? She must be the illusory energy of My master, Lord Kṛṣṇa, for who else can bewilder Me?” (quoted from Bhagavatam)

Text 141: “What is the value of a throne to Lord Kṛṣṇa? The masters of the various planetary systems accept the dust of His lotus feet on their crowned heads. That dust makes the holy places sacred, and even Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Lakṣmī and I Myself, who are all portions of His plenary portion, eternally carry that dust on our heads.” (quoted from Bhagavatam)

Text 142: Lord Kṛṣṇa alone is the supreme controller, and all others are His servants. They dance as He makes them do so.

Gopala Bhatta Goswami, one of the six goswamis gives the meaning of BG 9.23 as follows:

ye 'py anya devata bhakta yaj ante sraddhayanvitah te'pim am eva kaunteya yajanty avidhpi- urvakam

This verse may be interpreted in three ways.

One meaning is this:

'My faithful devotees (from initiation to the point of death) who occasionally worship the devatas disregarding the forbiddance, actually worship Me alone with great determination, not the devatas. This is indicated by the word 'eva' which means that they really worship only Me. By worshipping Me alone, realizing they are servants and I am to be served, they become free from the cycle of birth and death.

A second meaning is as follows:

'All those who are not my devotees, filled with material desires (sraddhayanvita) worship devatas with great determination to achieve material results quickly. They worship Me in this way, thinking the devas independent and equal to Me! They are not actually worshipping Me at all! 0 son of Kunti, Arjuna, the prescribed process is to hear about Me, chant My names, remember and worship Me. By this alone can one be freed from the bondage of birth and death in this material world. All other works such as worshipping devas, sacrifice, charity etc. are prohibited, because, being temporary they are the cause of the repeated cycle of birth and death. Therefore worship of Me is the best activity. Apart from this, there is no path to deliver oneself from the bondage of the material world, even for Brahma and Indra who have attained immortality by drinking nectar. What, then, to speak of mortals.

The same verse may be interpreted in a third way.

'Those worshippers of devas, bewildered by My external potency, from their birth become Saiva, Sakta, Saura, Ganapatya etc. Later by the instructions of a bonafide spiritual master and the association of Vaisnavas they worship Me alone with extreme faith (sraddhayanvita), with no other shelter. They certainly become My devotees by the effect of My bhakti. But they must not worship with a material motive (avidhi purvakam). To worship Me and at the same time to worship devatas is called avidhi Leaving aside such worship, a person must be dedicated to Me fully, without worshipping the devatas even in dreams. In that pure condition, that person becomes My devotee.'

What is forbidden above is of course independent worship of anya devas, and Gaudiya authors don't always mention that point explicitly.

Gopala Bhatta goswami then explain 6.9.22 of bhagavatam.

Other than devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, everything is perishable or impermanent, and should therefore be abandoned. In Srimad Bhagavatam 6.9.22 it is said:

avismi tam tam paripurna kamam svenaiva labhena samam prasantam vinopasarpaty aparam hi -balisah sva langulenati titarti sindhum

"Free from all material conceptions of existence and never wonder struck by anything, the Lord is always jubilant and fully satisfied by His own spiritual perfection. He has no material designation, and therefore He is steady and unattached. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the only shelter of everyone. Anyone desiring to be protected by others is certainly a great fool who desires to cross the sea by holding the tail of a dog."

Those who are situated in varna and asrama and do not worship the Supreme Lord Govinda, but superficial devatas, are greatly foolish. What are the qualities of Govinda? He is always satisfied by the perfection of His eight kinds of opulence called anima, laghima etc. He alone awards the surrendered souls their desired goal. Therefore, other than Him, no one else is fully satisfied. Lord Govinda is 'avismita,' because being eternal, there is no question of wonder in Him. He is 'prasanta,' because He has a form desired by His devotees. Bewildered by the external potency of the Lord, a person leaves the devotional service of the Supreme Lord and worships devatas. He is foolish; he is described as a foolish man trying to cross the ocean by holding the tail of a dog. Thus, one who has turned his face from the Lord to serve devas to fulfill his insignificant desires gets no result, as everything is dependent on the Supreme Lord. He has no way to escape from the bondage of repeated birth and death."

There are innumerable statements in works of 6 goswamis in support of what I said. Though Gaudiya Vaishnavas should not envy other devas or criticize them, they have made their position extremely clear i.e Krishna/Vishnu is the only lord, all other devas are subservient to him. If in a police station, if you say constable as constable and IG as IG, that is proper respect, but if you call constable as IG, that is not respect, in fact you make constable feel embarrassed by doing so.

Worshipping Shiva and other devas:

Here is further addition from Bhakti Sandarbha where Jiva Gowami says Brahma and Siva can be worshipped as devotees of Vishnu.

Brahmā, the original devatā, the instructor of bhakti for the world, situated on his lotus, considered how to carry out creation. He could not attain the knowledge by which the universe could be created. SB 2.9.5

Thus Mārkaṇḍeya speaks to Śiva:

varam ekaṁ vṛṇe 'thāpi pūrṇāt kāmābhivarṣaṇāt bhagavaty acyutāṁ bhaktiṁ tat-pareṣu tathā tvayi

I request one benediction from you, who are full of all perfection and able to shower down the fulfillment of all desires. I ask to have unfailing devotion for the Supreme Lord and for his devotees, especially you. SB 12.10.34

I ask for devotion you (tvayi), since you are dedicated to the Lord.

Persons criticize you as a ferocious, violent person obsessed with the cremation grounds and engaged in flirting with Umā, though you are engaged in intense austerity and your feet are the object of meditation by the best of ātmārāmas. Devoid of shame, they do not know your pastimes. SB 8.7.33

O Lord! By association with your dear friend Śiva, we have today attained you, the best remedy for birth and death, which are difficult to cure. SB 4.30.38

If one thinks that Śiva, the devotee, is equal to Viṣṇu, one does not attain bhakti. It is rather a sin. In Vaiṣṇava-tantra it is said:

Fools who concentrate their minds and see Viṣṇu on the same level as other persons do not attain pure bhakti to the Lord. He who sees Viṣṇu to be equal to Brahmā and Śiva is certainly a pāśāṇḍi.

These statements of non-difference with Viṣṇu are for śānta-bhakti-jñānīs. For instance, Śiva states in the story of Mārkaṇḍeya:

brāhmaṇāḥ sādhavaḥ śāntā niḥsaṅgā bhūta-vatsalāḥ ekānta-bhaktā asmāsu nirvairāḥ sama-darśinaḥ sa-lokā loka-pālās tān vandanty arcanty upāsate ahaṁ ca bhagavān brahmā svayaṁ ca harir īśvaraḥ

The inhabitants, the ruling devatās of all planets, Brahmā, the SupremeLord and I, glorify, worship and assist the saintly brāhmaṇas, who are peaceful, free of material attachment, compassionate to all living beings, purely devoted to us, devoid of hatred and endowed with equal vision.

These devotees do not differentiate between Viṣṇu, Brahmā and me, nor do they differentiate between themselves and other living beings. But surpassing that conception we worship you pure Vaiṣṇavas. SB 12.10.20-22

Surpassing them (tat), we worship you--Mārkaṇḍeya and others, who are pure Vaiṣṇavas.

Śiva speaks to the Pracetas:

You devotees are dear to me just as the SupremeLord is dear to me. The devotees hold me dear, just as they hold the Lord dear. SB 4.24.30

O gentle Bhavānī! When one performs benevolent activities for others, the SupremeLord is very pleased. And when the Lord is pleased, I am also pleased, along with all other living creatures. Therefore, let me drink this poison. May all the living entities have auspicious existence because of me! SB 8.7.40

Śiva describes Mārkaṇḍeya as a pure Vaiṣṇava:

Surely this saintly brāhmaṇa does not desire any benediction, not even liberation, for he has attained pure devotional service unto the inexhaustible Lord. SB 12.10.6

Because Śiva appeared in his heart Mārkaṇḍeya speaks of Śiva as non-different from the Lord when his samādhi breaks. (SB 12.10.13) In the end Śiva distinguishes the Lord from himself.

Difference of the Lord from Śiva is also stated in SB 1.2.24.

Smoke is superior to dull wood, and fire, sacred to the Vedas, is superior to smoke. Similarly rajas is superior to tamas, and sattva is superior to rajas, since it is favorable for realizing the Lord.

Śiva also says:

The person who desires to see me (Śiva) or Brahmā should first see powerful Vāsudeva. Brahma Purāṇa 226.46

This means that by knowing the Lord all others are known. Śiva should be worshipped as a Vaiṣṇava. If one has to worship Śiva in some circumstance, some Vaiṣṇavas say that one should worship the Lord within Śiva’s form.

There is a story in Viṣṇu-dharmottara. A great devotee brāhmaṇa named Viśvaksena wandered about the earth. One day he entered the edge of a forest. The son of the village leader came and said to him, “Who are you?” When the brāhmaṇa identified himself, the son said, “Today my head hurts. I cannot worship Śiva, my worshipable deity. You do the worship in my place..

The brāhmaṇa answered. I am a brāhmaṇa dedicated to Viṣṇu. I should worship only Viṣṇu. I worship no one else. Therefore go away quickly. Viṣṇu-dharma 3.354.12-13

When he said this, the son raised his sword to cut off his head. The brāhmaṇa, considered it not desirable to die by his hand said, “I will go there.” Going there, he thought in his mind, “Because he increases ignorance, for this reason, Śiva is in tamoguṇa. Nṛsiṁha should appear here to stop the worship of Śiva since ignorance can be broken with eradicationof Śiva’s associates, just as the sun rises and with its rays destroys ignorance. I will worship Nṛsiṁha in the Śiva deity since Śiva’s worshippers have worshipped him in this form.” Taking a handful of flowers he said “I offer respects to Nṛsiṁha.” The son of the village leader raised his sword in anger. Suddenly the liṅga split and Nṛsiṁha appeared and killed the son with his followers. There is a Nṛsiṁha deity in the south named Liṅga-sphoṭa.

Thus the devotees worship Śiva as a Vaiṣṇava and some worship Viṣṇu in the Śiva deity.

Attaining the Lord by independent worship of devatās is denied in Gītā:

Those who are devoted to other gods and with faith worship them, worship me by the wrong method, O son of Kuntī.

I am the enjoyer and master of all sacrifices. Those who do not know me as such continue to take birth.

The worshippers of the devatās go to the devatās, and the worshippers of the Pitṛs go to the Pitṛs. The worshippers of ghosts go to the ghosts, and worshippers of me come to me. BG 9.23-25

Some good qualities arise by worshipping the followers of the Lord (devatās). It is also an offense to disrespect them.

The disciple should learn to have faith in the Bhāgavatam, without criticizing other scriptures. He should learn to avoid sinful acts of mind, speech and body, to speak the truth and to control the mind and external senses. SB 11.3.26

Padma Purāṇa says:

The supremeLord should always be worshipped. One should not disrespect Brahmā, Śiva and others.

Gautamīya-tantra says:

If a person who worships Kṛṣṇa criticizes the devatās whatever dharma he has accomplished is destroyed, what to speak of attaining dharma in the future.

May Hayagrīva protect me from disrespecting the devatās when going on a path. SB 6.8.17

It is a great fault to disrespect Śiva. Nandīśvara gave a curse in the Fourth Canto:

The curses are suitable because he takes ignorance in the form of karma as knowledge, and he is foolish. Let those who follow Dakṣa, who insulted Śiva, take repeated birth and death in this world. SB 4.2.24

Disrespecting Śiva is an offense because Śiva is a great devotee of the Lord.

Because you have in anger killed many Yakṣas, killers of your brother, you have offended Kuvera, the brother of Śiva. SB 4.11.33

Remembering Kuvera’s friendship with Śiva (devotee of the Lord), Dhruva prayed to Kuvera for bhakti, since he desired the devotee’s nature of being respectful to all beings and desired bhakti. Thus it is said:

He who worships me constantly with pure devotion but criticizes Śiva goes to hell for certain. Kūrma Purāna

This principle is also seen in the story of Citraketu. Kapila condemned disrespecting ordinary living beings, what to speak of Śiva.

I, the soul of all beings, am always situated in all beings. He who disrespects me in all beings performs false worship of my deity form. SB 3.29.21

With one answer, you will not get full perspective, there are too many subtle points, but I just gave pointers. When you are theologically strong, you will understand Chaitanya biographies much better.

  • @Partha I cited primary resources if you refer. I directly read from primary sources, I don't depend on secondary sources..Even if I read from secondary sources, I verify what in primary source to get the context most of the times unless there is no primary source easily available on internet. I read from reliable secondary sources not some local gurus.
    – user2612
    Feb 26, 2019 at 10:55

In South canara region Vaishnava sees Vishnu in everything.

Here Shakti is worshiped as incarnition of Lakshmi devi and in every Shiva temple puja is done for saligrama and arati for shiva linga(Vishnu antargata shivalinga).

However I couldn't find any reference books, but this sampradaya is followed by local priest from very long time.

  • 2
    Reference needed Oct 14, 2018 at 3:06
  • Refer taratamya tree @RakeshJoshi
    – Prasanna R
    Feb 24, 2019 at 8:56

I'll be answering from the Gaudiya Vaishnava perspective since that's what you're more interested about.

In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Shiva and Shakti are seen as the greatest devotees of Sri Hari. The basis for this position for Shiva and Shakti comes from the Srimad Bhagavatam:

Just as the Ganga is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Acyuta the supreme among deities and Lord Sambhu the greatest of Vaisnavas, so Srimad-Bhagavatam is the greatest of all Puranas. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.16)

In the Brahma Samhita, an important Gaudiya Vaishnava text, describes the difference between Shiva and Hari the same as the difference between milk and curd:

When milk is transformed by acids into yogurt, the yogurt is neither the same as nor different from the milk. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda, of whom Lord Shiva is a transformation for performing the work of destruction. (Brahma Samhita 5.45)

Jiva Goswami, a renowned Gaudiya Vaishnava Acharya comments on this verse as follows:

In this verse Mahesha, the next in this sequence, is described. Here an example of cause and effect is given. Here the cause remains unchanged after creating the effect. In this sense the cause is like a cintamani jewel, which also remains unchanged after creating an effect. The Lord remains thus unchanged because His potencies are inconceivable. In the Shruti-shastra it is said:

eko ha vai purusho narayana asin na brahma na ca shankarah. sa munir bhutva samacintayat. tata ete tyajayantam vishvo hiranyagarbho ‘gnir varuna-rudrendrah

“In the beginning only Lord Narayana, the Supreme Person, existed. Neither Brahma nor Shiva existed then. Lord Narayana began to meditate, and from His meditation the material universe was manifested. From His meditation Brahma, Shiva, Indra, Varuna, and Agni were born.”

It is also said in the scriptures:

sa brahmana shrijati rudrena nashayati. so ‘nutpatti-laya eva harih karana-rupah parah paramanandah

“Lord Hari is the blissful Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the cause of creation and destruction. He employs Brahma to create the universe and Shiva to destroy it.”

He creates Lord Shiva by touching the modes of material nature. In Shrimad-Bhagavatam’s Tenth Canto is said: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is always uncontaminated by the modes of material nature, for He is beyond the material manifestation. On the other hand, powerful Shiva carries the marks of the three modes of material nature.”

In the scriptures it is also said:


“Shiva is touched by the modes of material nature.”

In some places in the scriptures it is seen that Shiva is not different from Lord Vishnu. For this reason it may be concluded that They are not different. This is described in the following words of the Rig-veda-shirah:

atha nityo narayano brahma ca narayanah shivash ca narayanah shakrash ca narayanah kalash ca narayanah dishash ca narayanah adhash ca narayanah urdhvam ca narayanah antar bahish ca narayanah. narayana evedam sarvam jatam jagatyam jagat.

“Narayana is eternal. Narayana is Brahma. Narayana is Shiva. Narayana is Indra. Narayana is time. Narayana is the directions. Narayana is below. Narayana is above. Narayana is within. Narayana is without. Narayana is the entire created material universe.”

Their relationship is described by Brahma in these words (Shrimad-Bhagavatam (2.6.32): “By His will, I create, Lord Shiva destroys, and He Himself, in His eternal form as the Personality of Godhead, maintains everything. He is the powerful controller of these three energies.”

Jiva Goswami also in his commentary to Brahma Samhita 5.3 describes the unique position of Durga:

Sometimes Goddess Durga is also described as the supreme controller. This is also correct because there is no difference between the potencies and Lord Krishna, the master of all potencies. This is confirmed by the following words of the Gautamiya Tantra:

“Krishna is Durga. Durga is Krishna. One who sees that they are different will not become liberated from the cycle of repeated birth and death.”

Durga is the personal potency of Lord Krishna, and therefore she is Lord Krishna Himself. For this reason Durga should not be considered manifested from a portion of the Lord’s illusory potency Maya. This fact is confirmed by the following statement of the Nirukti:

“Even if one continually worships her, Durga is still difficult to understand.”

Durga is also described in Narada-pancaratra, in the following conversation of Sruti and Vidya:

“Durga is the supreme goddess. She is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. She is the transcendental potency of the Lord. She is manifested from the form of Lord Maha-Vishnu.

“Simply by understanding her one immediately attains the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is not otherwise.”

“She is identical with Gokula’s queen Shri Radha, who possesses a great treasure of love for Krishna. By her grace the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all living entities, is easily understood.”

“She is the potency of personified devotional service. She worships Her beloved Supreme Lord. Because She is understood only with great difficulty, the saintly devotees call her “durga” (difficult to understand). She is the personal potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and she is always filled with the nectar of love for Him.”

“From her is manifested the maha-maya potency, the controller of all conditioned souls, who covers them with illusion. By this maha-maya potency the residents of the entire world are bewildered into thinking themselves identical with their external material bodies.”

In the Sammohana Tantra, Durga herself declares:

“I am Durga. I possess all virtues. I am not different from Shri Radha, the eternal, supreme goddess of fortune.”

In this way the word “durga” is explained. In this verse of Brahma-samhita the words “premananda” and “mahananda” refer to the fullest development of transcendental bliss. “Jyoti-rupena” means “self-manifested”, and “manuna” means “by the mantra”. The mantra is accompanied by the bija-syllable (kama-bijena sangatam). The kama-bija syllable in this mantra elaborately described in another passage where the independence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is explained.

In the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Mahaprabhu calls people who consider Rudra and Brahma absolutely equal to Narayana as a "pasandi":

A person who considers Devas like Brahma and Shiva to be on an equal level with Narayana is to be considered an offender, a pasandi. (Chaitanya Charitarmita, Madhya Lila, Chapter 25, Verse 80)

In the Sri Krishna Chaitanya Charitra Mahakavyam, Mahaprabhu is seen having Lord Shiva's prasadam and asking his devotees to worship Shiva as one with Vishnu:

After bathing in Bindu-Sarovara and taking darshana of Sri Bhuvaneshvara, the all- opulent Lord, Sri Krishna Chaitanya sat contentedly, wholly immersed in the bliss of prema. Mahaprabhu then ate choice foods prepared by the bhaktas, and afterwards as He rested contentedly, He contemplated the lotus feet of Sri Krishna.

The illustrious Lord thought, "If somehow the maha-prasadam of the trident-wielding god of gods could be obtained, then we could truly take pleasure." As He was reflecting thus, a certain Brahmana came before Him, bearing in his hands a small portion of Mahadeva's prasadam.

He said, "Please accept this prasadam of Mahadeva." Hearing this, Lord Gaura at once stood up and accepted the prasadam with bowed head. They all gathered together around the maha-prasadam, and the Lord honored it with His servants as though it were immortal nectar. Thus Gaura Hari showed how dear Shiva is to Lord Krishna. Again Gaura Hari arose very early in grat happiness, and after bathing quickly in Bindu-Sarovara, He bowed before Lord Shiva and then left on His way.

When the powerful brahmana Sri Damodara Pandita heard that the Lord had eaten the remnants of Shiva's food, He said, "One should not eat the remnants of Lord Shiva because Bhrigu Muni has placed a curse on those who worship him. Why then did the all-opulent transcendental Lord, knowing this, eat that food?"

Hearing this, Murari replied to the noble vipra, "Hear from me the reason for which the Lord ate those nectarean remnants of Lord Shiva."

When Sri Krishna Chaitanya made His auspicious arrival, Mahadeva joyously accepted Him as an honored guest. Please hear somewhat further. When bhaktas worship Mahadeva thinking of him as the best among Vaishnavas, Maheshvara accepts that offering from them, and that food should be considered great and pure prasadam. Those who in a sectarian spirit differentiate between Sri Krishna and his bhaktas indeed fall down. Sri Hari personally advented in the form of a bhakta as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in order to instruct such inimical persons. The Lord of all gods, who is the supreme controller of the cosmic manifestation, certainly seeks to benefit all embodied beings. Thus, by His reverential acceptance of Lord Shiva's food-remnants, He teaches them by His example. Wherever the lingam is established and worshipped with a conception that Lord Shiva and Sri Hari have separate parties, there Bhrigu's curse will act, because of this offense of a dualistic concept. Hari and Sankara have one interest. If in the presence of a Shiva liìgam someone worships Them without a dualistic concept, the curse will not have effect. By people understand Their unity of interest, love will increase for both Hari and Shankara, and worship for Them both will increase. By tasting such maha-prasadam one can attain liberation, be cured from terrible diseases, and obtain undisturbed prosperity. Those who out of delusion do not eat such maha-prasadam become offenders to both Hari and Shiva. They become diseased and bereft of opulence. Wherever the beginningless lingam of Lord Shiva is worshipped with great respect by Vaishnavas in order to develop love for Shri Krishna, there will be no doubt about accepting the remnants of Lord Shiva's food. O vipra, such devotional service is verily auspicious for all embodied beings.

(From Sri Krishna Chaitanya Charitra Mahakavyam, Canto 3, Sarga 9)

In the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Mahaprabhu is seen in one instance as performing kirtan for Lord Shiva:

On another day a great devotee of Lord Shiva, chanting of Lord Shiva’s qualities, came to Lord Caitanya’s house, where he began dancing in the courtyard and playing his ḍamaru [a musical instrument]. Then Lord Caitanya, adopting the mood of Lord Shiva, got on the man’s shoulders, and thus they danced together for a long time. (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-Lila, Chapter 17, Verses 99-100)

So Shiva and Shakti are both different and non-different from Hari according to Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

Also, unlike other Vaishnava Sampradayas, the worship of Shiva and Shakti are not prohibited in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself composed a hymn dedicated to Lord Shiva called the Shivashtakam and brought Durga Puja into Odisha. In fact, the worship of Shiva and Shakti is considered an integral path for an individual to become great devotees of Hari.

  • The concept of shambhu-tattva in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition is considered by many to be difficult, because it is easy for someone to get tripped up on statements like yas tu narayanam devam being apparently opposed to ksiram yatha dadhi. I think it is a difficult topic because there are so many apparently contradictory ideas to be reconciled. Feb 19, 2021 at 10:35

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