Out of the texts which I have read till now.. I have found two descriptions of Lord Shiva... Some say he is blue from front and red from behind(Nilalohita) and the others say that he is white like a camphor(Karpuragauram).

Many people have told me that Nilalohita is a symbolic representation and KarpuraGauram has literal meaning.

So I want to know how to interpret both? For example: Is there something like lord Sadashiva is White but Lord Rudra is Blue and Red? Or something like one has literal meaning but another has Symbolic meaning?

  • Can you please give Shlokas for both. Shiva is imagined always white like camphor - Karpoora Goura, white like jasmine flower - Mallikarjuna. Etc. It also has tantric meaning, that is the same colour as human semen. But the colour Neelalohita may be of his eyes. Also which Shiva are you talking about? The deity Sadashiva or the first yogi also called as Adiyogi who was a historical personality.
    – user28152
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 9:25
  • @HariKumar generally I've seen nilalohita for Lord Rudra who was born from Lord Brahma and I've seen karpuragauram for Lord Sadashiva the 5 faced deity.
    – LSSJ Broly
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 10:00
  • I am not regular into Puranas hence it'll take time to find the descriptions..But AFAIR I've seen them multiple times in Shiva purana, Linga purana, Bhagvata Purana and Skanda purana. @HariKumar
    – LSSJ Broly
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 10:02
  • But the five faced Shiva, each face has different colours. The face in the East (that is in front) is of pearl-like luster. The Southern face is of yellow colour. The face in the West (that is at the back) is of the colour of a freshly-formed cloud. The face in the North is blue in colour and with three eyes. The Upper face is white. Source: hindu-blog.com/2022/05/…
    – user28152
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 15:31
  • The lord is beyond colour so he can take any colour by wish Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


First, let's cover all the terms representing colors listed by Vedas and Itihasa (Will not touch Purana). And using this we will decipher the meaning behind this which would answer your question.

Ṛṣis of the Vedas were very explicit about the appearance of Rudra and the commonality with that of Puranic Śiva. While the first declaration to Rudra is seen in the Rig Veda, the Saṃhitās of Atharva & Yajur Vedas gave utmost detail to His features and nature.

Let’s go over various shades/colors used to describe Rudra and find out how Rudra can have such diversity. Rig Veda says: *“He is brilliant shines like the Sun, dazzling like gold, and the best of the divine and of Vasu”*RV1.43.5, so the keyword here is “brilliance/ shine“. Now, let us compare this with Yajur Veda, Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.5.5 which says: “Oh lord of mountains, whose brilliance/rays which permeates”, the Sanskrit word here is Hiraṇya (हिरण्य) meaning the Golden/brilliant one. Let’s compare the above with titles from three different Vedic Śākhās, Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 16.11, Taittirīya Āraṇyaka 10.22.40 & Caraka-Katha Āraṇyaka:

Hiraṇyabhahavey : “he with golden/brilliant shoulders” Hiraṇyarūpaya : “golden form” Hiraṇyapathaye = “abode of all brilliance” Tvishīmat (त्विषीमते) = “brilliant and dazzling one”. ādityavarna = “Sun-colored-luster”

So, four different Vedic Śākhās described Rudra in the same way, this should have landed in the Upaniṣhads, which it did, in Svetasvatara Upaniṣhads also used the exact title ādityavarna आदित्यवर्णं SU3.8. Finding this consistency across scripture is the true goal of our exploration, so let’s try another color of Rudra, this time from Vedas to the Itihasa.

Both Rig Veda 2.33 and Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 16.6-17 address him as barúḥ (बभ्रु / बभ्लुश) meaning tawny-brown/red with beautiful lips. Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 16.6 further calls him Aruna (अरुण) meaning the yellowish-redness color of the sky during dawn. Taittirīya Āraṇyaka calls him Kṛṣṇapingala TA10.23.41.23, meaning tawny or orangish-yellow skin.

In contradiction to the above two shades, He is also addressed as śukra (शुक्र) in Rig Veda, meaning clear/white/opaque RV2.33 – hence the name Śukreśvara Liṅga of Varanasi. This coincides with Mahabharatam wherein Rśi Vyāsa says “Since he is of the form or color of smoke, therefore he is called Dhurjjati“ DP203. One must notice the diversity of Sanskrit Vocabulary used by the Rishis, yet the consistency in their description.

Apart from these shades let’s talk about the color of his neck. He has a blueish/white neck called nīlakanthāya/Nelagriva/Śitikaṇṭha sometimes addressed as Srikanta (नीलकण्ठ/नीलग्रीव/शितिकण्ठ) TS4.5/VS16.7/28 and bluish belly AV15.1,VS 16.7,KYV4.5 which is again consistent across various Vedic Śākhās. Among the 70 Svayambhu Liṅgas, Kālanjara takes the 32nd position in the list and is called Nilakanta (blue neck), similarly, Vimaleśvara Liṅga takes the 33rd position which is called Śrīkaṇṭha. Atharva Veda and both Yajur Vedas shared a similar hymn in which they addressed Rudra as Nīlalohita (नीललोहित) 1 meaning the one with blue and reddish-orange color, similar to the sky during the sunset (as shown in the image). The latter two called him Vilohita (विलोहित) meaning deep fiery red. Latter literature gave much prominence to the term Nīlalohita denoting the union of Prakṛti and Puruṣa which gave rise to Nīlalohitāgama, one among the 28 Siddhāntāgama. 1: [VS16.46/TS4.8.10/AV15.1.7,MB-KarnaParva34]

With so many detailed yet diverse descriptions, how does one justify so many hues/colors?

Vedas themself answered it. Atharva Veda 15.1.8 goes deeper in saying that, blue (Nila) represents how He overwhelms the evil and, red (lohita) represents Him inflicting pain on those who dislike him. The summary is, that each Hue is based on his role and action, meaning in deep meditative states he is White, in fierce action he is Red, in union with Shakti (the act of creation) He is blue, and so on. Hence, Rig Veda gave him the perfect title Pururūpam RV2.33.9 meaning Multihued, this is how the Rśis of the Vedas concur with each other. If we take a deep look into these colors of Rudra they are all the colors of Fire and Sun and Sky during various times of the day. This close relation with Sun (Surya) represents both His inner radiance and outer brilliance (ādityavarna) and it is this Sun/radiance that Rishis ask of Rudra RV2.33.1,KA-III-222.

Source: LINK

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