As we know, Vaishnavism and Shaivism are two largest sects within Hinduism.While Vaishnavas believe Vishnu as Supreme,Shaivas believe in Shiva as Supreme. My question is, if there is any reference in scriptures (preferably Vedas) where Vishnu and Shiva are proclaimed to be one and same. I remember reading somewhere that in Mahabharata, Vishnu is considered same as Shiva. Is it true? what about other scriptures especially Vedas?

5 Answers 5


I remember reading somewhere that in Mahabharata, Vishnu is considered same as Shiva. Is it true?

Yes. This is true.


Krishna says the following to Arjuna -

Rudra is otherwise called Kaparddin. He has matted locks on his head, and sometimes displays a head that is bald. He loves to dwell in the midst of crematoriums which constitute his home. He is an observer of the austerest vows. He is Yogin of mighty puissance and energy. He is the destroyer of Daksha's sacrifice and the tearer of Bhaga's eyes. O son of Pandu, Rudra should be known to have always Narayana for his Soul. If that deity of deities, viz., Maheswara, be worshipped, then O Partha, is the puissant Narayana also worshipped. I am the Soul, O son of Pandu, of all the worlds, of all the universe. Rudra, again, is my Soul. It is for this that I always adore him. If I do not adore the auspicious and boon-giving Isana nobody would then adore my own self. The ordinances I set are followed by all the worlds. Those ordinances should always be adored, and it is, therefore, that I adore them. He who knows Rudra knows myself, and he who knows myself knows Rudra. He who follows Rudra follows me, Rudra is Narayana. Both are one; and one is displayed in two different forms. Rudra and Narayana, forming one person, pervade all displayed things and cause them to act. No one else than Rudra is competent to grant me a boon. O son of Pandu. Having settled this in my mind, I adored in days of yore the ancient and puissant Rudra, for obtaining the boon of a son. In adoring Rudra thus I adored my own self. Vishnu never bows his head unto any deity except his own self. It is for this reason that I adore Rudra, (Rudra being, as I have already told thee, my own self).

  • Are there any other references in Vedas?
    – RishX
    Jan 26, 2020 at 7:50
  • @RishX References in vedas are either of dubious authenticity or of a generic nature.
    – user17987
    Jan 26, 2020 at 8:50

Nither a vedic source, nor a very direct statement. In Nila-Saraswati Tantra 12th Ullahasa 9th Verse:

तावत्तन्त्रे भेदबुद्धिस्तावदेव प्रृथक्‌ क्रिया। हरिहरे भेदबुद्धिर्जायते जगदम्बिके-! ॥

Until that* is realized the tantras would be separate, until that the actions (kriya) are separate. Until that 'Hari' and 'Hara' would be different.

(*): Knowledge (its very difficult to state what that Knowledge is)

I found one more in Sarvollāsatantram:

विश्वसारे - यथा दुर्गा तथा विष्णुर्यथा विष्णुस्तथा शिव: । नानाभाव-मनो यस्य तस्य मोक्षो न जायते । सर्व देहमयं ज्ञात्वा देह जीवमहं शिवे ॥

According to vishvasar tantra, Durga is infact vishnu, Vishnu is infact Shiva! One who believes they are separate, they remain stagnant in their way towards Moksha. I* am myself the jiva as everything resides within the body. Thus, the jiva with body (dehi) and myself are one and the same.

(*)- here I refers to shiva himself.


The short answer is yes. The long answer requires many references and too much typing. If you would be kind enough to give me a few days, I could fill the sections here with references.

Right now I am going to provide somewhat concise answer which may end up terse as I recall from my memory (which is not good as it used to be when I was young). I am doing my best in the interest of providing some pointers.

And please note the names of the Purana as references. Not every thing is online and I use mostly physical books.

I will edit this with the exact chapter names later.

In the Vedas, it depends on if you are willing to consider certain upanisads that are not commented by our Acharyas.

1) In Shatarudriya Lord Shiva is eulogized with the name "sipiVishta". Scholars interpret this to mean vishNu.

2) In Mahopanisad (attributed to Sama Veda, though can't be traced in any of the sakhas extant today) and in Skandopanisad (again can't be traced, but attributed to Sri Krishna Yajur Veda) there are references. In Skandopanisad (besides The Mahabharata) we find the verse

Shivaya vishNu rUpaya vishnavE shiva rUpaya

3) NarayanOpanisad - not to be mixed with the MahA nArAyanOpanisad of the Taittiriya Aranyaka. This is also attributed to Yajur Veda and one can find the reference to

shivascha nArayana

4) There is a reference in Nrsimha Tapani Upanisad as well. Here note that part of this mantra also occurs in the Taittiriya MahA nArAyanOpanisad. Hard to tell which one was the first composition, but Sri Adi SankarachArya quotes from both. So we know at HIS time both these upanisads existed in some form.

rtam satyam purusham narakesari-vigraham |
urdvarEtam virUpaksham Sankaram nIlalOhitam |
UmApatiH pasupatiH pinAkI hyamitadyutiH |
IsAna sarva vidyAnAm Isvara sarva bhUtAnAm ...

  1. MahA nArAyanOpanisad (taittiriya AranyakA) - says

sa Brahma sa Shiva (sa-Hari) sa-Indra

Some texts consider the 'sa-Hari' as an addition, but with or without it, the meaning would be similar. Identification of Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma, and Lord Narayana as one.

[Also take note of the passages from The Rudra-Hrdaya Upanisad from the previous answer, though I do not agree with the concluding statement of that member]

That said, some people do not take the aforementioned Upanisads as original part of The Vedas.

In the Itihasas:

1) In The Mahabharata many places - just too many. I will have to add them slowly over days if you want them. Arjuna tells Lord Shiva while getting the PAsupatA weapon that Lord Shiva is Lord Krishna, and Lord Krishna is Lord Shiva (kirAta parva). More in the anuSasanIka parva (will add those references)

In The Puranas:

1) Sri Vishnu Maha Puranam:

2) In Kurma Purana in multiple places. Especially in the 2nd and 5th chapter of Iswara Gita (slokhas 35, 42).

3) Here are a few references from Srimad Bhagavata Purana:

Canto 4 Discourse 8: Lord Vishnu says the following:
अहं ब्रह्मा च शर्वश्च जगतः कारणं परम् । आत्मेश्वर उपद्रष्टा स्वयंदृगविशेषणः ॥ ५०॥
Meaning: Me being the supreme cause of the Universe, I am also Brahma and Shiva. I am the self (Atma), The Lord (Ishvara), looker (as in perceiver or witness),self illuminating, and devoid of attributes.
आत्ममायां समाविश्य सोऽहं गुणमयीं द्विज । सृजन् रक्षन् सृजन् हरन् रक्षन् विश्वंहरन् विश्वंदध्रे संज्ञां क्रियोचिताम् ॥ ५१॥
Meaning: Using my own Maya (Atma-maayam), showing Gunas, I create, sustain, and withdraw (srjan, rakshan, haran) the universe. According to those functions I assume names (implying, the names like Brahma, Vishnu, and Sankara), O' twice born (dvija)
तस्मिन् ब्रह्मण्यद्वितीयेकेवले परमात्मनि । ब्रह्मरुद्रौ च भूतानि भेदेनाज्ञोऽनुपश्यति ॥ ५२॥
Meaning: In this (tasmin) Brahman which is the absolute (paramAtma), single one without a second, ignorant ones view Brahma, Rudra and others as different ones
यथा पुमान् नपुमान् स्वाङ्गेषु शिरः पाण्यादिषु क्वचित् । पारक्यबुद्धिं कुरुते एवं भूतेषु मत्परः ॥ ५३॥
Meaning: (this does not directly enforce the unity among the deities, but says the following) - Like a man doesn't treat head, hands and limbs as different (from the body, or having separate existence), my devotee does not see the other beings different from him
त्रयाणामेकभावानां यो न पश्यति वै भिदाम् । सर्वभूतात्मनां ब्रह्मन् सब्रह्मन् शान्तिमधिगच्छति ॥ ५४॥
Meaning: The one who does not distinguish the three of us (tryAnAm - Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra), and understands the identity as the same, attains peace.

In Chapter 8 of The Srimad Bhagavatam, as the poison comes out of the serpent Vasuki, The Devas pray to Lord Shiva. In that prayer the following occurs in Discourse 7 slokha 23:

गुणमय्या स्वशक्त्यास्य सर्गस्थित्यप्ययान् विभो ।
धत्से यदा स्वदृग्भूमन् ब्रह्मविष्णुशिवाभिधाम् ॥ २३॥
Meaning: Using the three Gunas and your own shakti, you manifest as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva for the purpose of creation, sustenance, and withdrawal oh, YOU THE GREAT ONE !!

Another reference from Canto 12 Discourse 10 Slokha 22, when Lord Shiva grants a boon to The divine Sage Markandeya.

न ते मय्यच्युतेऽजे च भिदामण्वपि चक्षते ।
नात्मनश्च जनस्यापि तद्युष्मान् वयमीमहि ॥ २२॥
Meaning: Those devotees (referenced from the previous verse in which Lord Shiva describes them for their saintly, and pious nature), do not see any least difference between Me, Achuyta, and The Creator (Brahma, who was not born / birthless), and neither do they see difference among themselves and the other living beings (therefore) we speak of you (or praise you / appreciate you)

4) Vayu Purana calls The unity of Lord Shiva and Lord Narayana using the name "Rudra Narayana" (chapter 25, but keep in mind the chapter number is different across the editions)

prakAsam chaprakAsam cha jangamam sthAvaram cha yat |
viswarUpam idham sarvam rudranArAyanAtmakam ||

5) Brahma Purana contains reference - will add the exact location and the verse later

6) Shiva Purana - many references (will fill this section in a couple of days)

7) Harivamsa Purana - quite a few - again need time to do a lot of typing

  • WOW! Thanks for this answer. Isn't Bhagavata Purana the most important Vaishnava Purana? Same with Shiva Purana being the primary Shaiva Purana. Please do add sources whenever you can particularly of these two Puranas.
    – RishX
    Jan 26, 2020 at 7:53
  • Though majority of the verses in those Puranas establish the supremacy of the deity they eulogize, there are a few verses that speak of the unity. That said, both Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Shiva Maha Purana are quite sectarian content wise. Their periods of composition and completion raise some questions. For example scholars put different dates for Srimad Bhagavatam, and His Holiness Sri Ramanuja did not quote from it in His Sri Bhashyam and Vedarta Sangraha. That raises questions though doesn't prove either way. Linga Purana and Shiva Purana are different in terms of their sectarian style.
    – Vidyarthi
    Jan 26, 2020 at 8:04
  • I know thats why I was astonished when you listed Bhagvata purana here.
    – RishX
    Jan 26, 2020 at 8:24
  • Added one of the Srimad Bhagavata references. Will add one or two more tomorrow / in the next couple of days.
    – Vidyarthi
    Jan 27, 2020 at 4:43

no hindu Vaishnavi sect will see Rudra maheswara as a emanation or avatara of vishnu,since no vaishnavi sect today is advaita.

however the shaivites do see vishnu and every deva as forms of shiva.not just vishnu is shiva as the vedas state shiva or vratya became,but somaa,indra ,agni and surya too are shiva.

“vishvatashchaxuruta vishvatomukho vishvatobaahuruta vishvataspaat.h | saM baahubhyaa.n dhamati saMpatatrairdyaavaabhuumii janayan.h deva ekaH |” (Sve. Upa. 3.03) “His eyes are everywhere, His faces everywhere, His arms everywhere, everywhere His feet. He it is who endows men with arms, birds with feet and wings and men likewise with feet. Having produced heaven and earth, He remains as their non—dual (deva ekaH) manifester”.

“sarvaanana shirogriivaH sarvabhuutaguhaashayaH | sarvavyaapii sa bhagavaa.nstasmaat.h sarvagataH shivaH |” (Sve. Upa. 3:11)

“All faces are His faces; all heads, His heads; all necks, His necks. He dwells in the hearts of all beings. He is the all—pervading Bhagavan. Therefore He is the omnipresent and benign Lord''

Sri Rudram from yajurveda says:

“Namo bhavaya cha rudraya cha namah sharvaya cha pashupataye cha namo girishaya cha shipivishhtaya cha |” (Anuvaka 5) “Salutations to Him who is the source of all things. And to Him who is the destroyer of all ills. Salutations to the destroyer and to the protector of all beings in bondage. Salutations to Him who dwells on the mount and who is in the form of Shipivista (Vishnu)“.

this rudra is none other than shiva because the same hymn calls him kapardin,he is with umaa(somaa),he wears animal skin,he lives on a mountain,he is three eyed etc

“sá yád dhruvā́ṃ díśam ánu vyácalad víṣṇur bhūtvā́nuvyàcalad virā́jam annādī́ṃ kr̥tvā́ |” (Atharva Veda 15:14:5) “He (Vrata/Shiva), when he went away to the stedfast region, went away having become Vishnu…”.

“somaḥ pavate janitā matīnāṃ janitā divo janitā pṛthivyāḥ | janitāghnerjanitā sūryasya janitendrasya janitota viṣṇoḥ |” (RV 9:96:5) “Father of holy hymns, Soma flows onward the Father of the earth, Father of heaven: Father of Agni, Sūrya’s generator, the Father who begat Indra and Viṣṇu

vishhNorjanaka.n devamiiDyaM” (Sharabha Upansiahd 1-2) “[Shiva]who is the father of Vishnu and other devas”.

“rudraatpravartate biijaM biijayonirjanaardanaH |” (Rudra Hridayopanishad 8) “Rudra is the generator of the seed. Vishnu is the embryo of the seed”.

“umaa sha~Nkarayogo yaH sa yogo vishhNuruchyate |” (Rudra Hridayopanishad 11) “The combination of Uma and Sankara is Vishnu”.

“kaarya.n vishhNuH kriyaa brahmaa kaaraNa.n tu maheshvaraH | prayojanaartha.n rudreNa muurtirekaa tridhaa kR^itaa |” (Rudra Hridayopanishad 15) “The effect is Vishnu. The action is Brahma. The cause is Maheshwara. For the benefit of the worlds. Rudra has taken these three forms”.

Sri Rudram says:

“Namo agriyaya cha prathamaya cha nama ashave chajiraya cha” (Anuvaka 5) “Salutations to Him who was before all things and who is foremost Salutations to Him who pervades all and moves swiftly”

again the rudra of shri rudram is not vishnu but shiva as it describes him with the traits of shiva like kapardin,nilakantha,blue and red etc and vedas say rudra or vratya became vishnu and begot him.

hope this helps.

so vishnu is shiva but shiva is not vishnu if this makes any sence.


Thus the one god, Janarddana, takes the designation of Brahma, Visnu, and Siva, accordingly as he creates, preserves, or destroys. Visnu, as creator, creates himself; as the preserver, preserves himself; as the destroyer, he destroys himself at the end of all things. (Vishnu Purana I.2.62-63)

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