I see that many people (including me) remain confused about who is the Supreme God. The main reason for confusion is that in different Puranas, different Gods are shown as Supreme God, e.g., in Shiva Purana, Shiva is said to be the starter of everything and same is said in Vishnu Purana regarding Lord Vishnu.

Similarly, in Mahabharata, Vyasa showed Lord Krishna as the Supreme God. If all these are written by the same Vyasa, i.e, Krishna Dwaipayan, then why is it so or is it that they were written by different Vyasas or other people?

  • 7
    The Vaishnava Puranas contain an explanation of this: they say that there are three categories of Puranas, Sattvika, Rajasa, and Tamasa, and that Vyasa intentionally put false or misleading information into the Rajasa and Tamasa Puranas in order to mislead people with those bad gunas. I'm not sure whether Shaiva Puranas contain an analogous explanation saying that they're right and the other Puranas are intentionally misleading. Jul 30, 2015 at 14:44
  • 6
    Here is some information about this, dlshq.org/download/lordsiva.htm specially the section "Siva and Vishnu are One". ALl the best sir
    – Sai
    Jul 30, 2015 at 15:32
  • 8
    Saying Vyasa intentionally put false or misleading information is accusing him of lying. Sages do not lie. Their tapas deteriorates if they stray from satyam and dharma. Such statements in puranas, if they exist, are very likely later additions by Vaishanava fanatics or more accurately, Shiva-haters.
    – user1195
    Sep 20, 2015 at 15:13
  • 3
    @ram Logic helps us understand surely but it is often flawed or inadequate when it comes to understanding esoteric matters. Your argument presupposes that A and B are separate entities; when in reality there is only one paramatma and both A and B are mere manifestations of this singularity.
    – user1195
    May 6, 2016 at 7:29
  • 2
    @ram The contradiction is only limited to the time,space framework in which each manifestation is extolled. As long as these boundaries are acknowledged, yes A is superior (in abc). However B is also superior (in pqr). This frame of reference is the lacuna. Since the question is how can both A and B be superior (across time and space) , we need to go a step further and acknowledge that there is a singular truth beyond manifestations, and beyond time and space. However, since A, B as well as time and space are distortions of this singularity, it remains that BOTH A and B are superior.
    – user1195
    May 9, 2016 at 9:23

5 Answers 5


Shiva Purana says that Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra (Trimurti) rivaled one another and they propitiated the Supreme Lord (their father) and they got a boon of creating others at outset of various Kalpas. So, in one Kalpa, Vishnu creates Rudra and Brahma and in another Kalpa Rudra creates Brahma and Vishnu and this cycle continues.

Similarly Matsya purana says different Puranas were originally recited by Brahma at outset of Various Kalpas. So, events happened in that Kalpa were narrated in those Puranas. So, in those Puranas, "the particular Trimurti" who created others is described as Supreme and this created confusion. "Trikalajnani Sages" when recounting Puranas just remember these Puranas and narrate it exactly. So, Vyasa had to mention different Gods as Supreme in different Puranas.

Chapter 13 The Creation of Brahma and Vishnu- Vayaviyasamhita Section one of Shiva Purana (Pg No -1818) says

Vayu Said,

  • I shall narrate how Rudra was born and how Brahma and Vishnu were born from each other.
  • The three are Atmans as causes of born of Mahesvara; they are cause of creation, sustenance and annihilation of the Universe consisting of mobile and immobile beings. Endowed with great qualities they are sanctified by great Lord. Presided over by his Shakti, they can perform their activities. Brahma can create, Vishnu can protect and Rudra can annihilate.
  • But they rivaled with one other. Desirous of excelling one other they propitiated their father the Supreme Lord by means of penance. Attaining all around favor of Lord at outset in Previous Kalpa, Rudra created Brahma and Vishnu. In another Kalpa, Brahma created Vishnu and Rudra. In another Kalpa, Vishnu created Brahma and Rudra. Thus in different Kalpas, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra desiring mutual benefit are born of one another. Based on the events in their respective Kalpas, their process in being the cause of origin of one other is extolled by Sages.

See that chapter for more details.

Chapter 53 of Matysa Purana gives actual time of compilation of various Puranas.

  • Padma Purana - Padma Kalpa (hence the name)
  • Vishnu Purana - Varaha Kalpa (current Kalpa)
  • Vayu Purana (includes Shiva Purana) - Sveta Kalpa
  • Bhagavata Purana - Sarsvata Kalpa
  • Naradiya Purana - Brhat Kalpa
  • Agni Purana - Isana Kalpa
  • Bhavishya Purana - Aghora Kalpa
  • Brahma Vaivarata Purana - Rathantara Kalpa
  • Linga Purana - Agneya Kalpa
  • Varaha Purana - Manava Kalpa
  • Skanda Purana - Satpurusha Kalpa
  • Vamana Purana - Kurma Kalpa
  • Kurma Purana - Lakshmi Kalpa
  • Matsya Purana - Vaivastara Manvantara of Varaha Kalpa
  • 4
    That's not what Aby is asking about. Aby is asking why different gods are portrayed as the supreme lord in different Puranas, not about why the sequence of creation differs. In the Shiva Purana chapter you're quoting Sadashiva is still portrayed as the supreme lord throughout, so this is an example of the phenomenon Aby is talking about, not an explanation for it. Mar 19, 2016 at 13:36
  • 4
    @KeshavSrinivasan It is mentioned "Supreme Lord" or Maha+ Eeswara. It's good explanation to reconcile different Puranas. Just replace SadaSiva with Para Vasudeva and Vishnu with Vyooha Vasudeva.
    – The Destroyer
    Mar 19, 2016 at 13:42
  • 1
    Splendid answer! Jan 30, 2018 at 7:02

One has to read Vyasa's teachings on the gods to get an answer to this question.

Hari and Isana are equivalent

Well-adored by the Rishis, by Brahma, and by all the deities, that great God, the Lord of the universe, otherwise called by the name of Hari, then addressed the illustrious Isana and said these words:-He that knows thee, knows me. He that follows thee, follows me. There is no difference between thee and me. Do thou never think otherwise.

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CCCXLIII

Then Partha, with a cheerful soul, and joined hands and eyes expanded (in wonder), gazed at the god having the bull for his mark [Siva] and who was the receptacle of every energy. And he beheld the offerings he made every night to Vasudeva lying by the side of the Three-eyed deity.

Mahabharata Drona Parva Section LXXXI

Vyasa has already shown the equivalence of Hari and Shiva in Mahabharata. So it is a matter of taste whether one regards Shiva as the Supreme or Vishnu as the Supreme. The different Puranas are catering to different tastes.

  • 1
    Is there a Sanskrit version of the original Mahabharata text that you could link to? Meanings could get lost in translation.
    – ram
    May 6, 2016 at 1:36
  • @ram Check this PDF from indianscriptures.com for the Sanskrit verses. May 6, 2016 at 2:32
  • I looked at the original sanskrit shloka, it says 'navayorantaram' - na + avayo + antaram . antaram could mean either distance or difference. The very fact that one person is talking to another person means there are 2 different persons, because we wouldn't talk to ourselves. The 'equivalence' is one of near/dearness like a Lord and his Bhakta, it doesn't mean there is only one entity with 2 forms/names.
    – ram
    May 6, 2016 at 4:54

Let me explain with an analogy :
To a chaste (pativrata) wife, her husband is the supreme. She doesn't look up to any other man. Subjectively, there is no god greater than her husband. She doesn't go around comparing her husband with other husbands to find out who is the greatest husband Objectively. But if another woman comes nearby and claims that her husband is the greatest, she has every right to get angry and retort that her own husband is greater.
Every wife on the planet is a mixture of 3 gunas - sattva, rajas & tamas. Depending on her individual tastes, she may marry a man of sattva guna, rajo guna or tamo guna, and then obey him in her daily life.

Now in above analogy, replace wife with Man, husband with God, marry/obey with following Puranas, and Sattva with Vishnu, Rajas with Brahma, and Tamas with Shiva.

Vyasa realizes that it is the strength of bhakti or pativrata or attachment to husband that is more important than which husband they are married to, and that over several births, people will change gunas. Since there are people of different gunas, and to each guna, a particular God is favorite, each Purana extols a different God. Vyasa was not depicting an Objective supreme deity, but a Subjective supreme deity specifically for the readers of each Purana.

Now if we want to get into the argument of who is the Objective supreme deity, it would be like the wives fighting against each other. As long as we are all subject to the 3-gunas, we will have our different opinions.

  • I enjoyed reading this answer and the analogy. As much as I wish this was the reason for the differences mentioned in the question, the issue is, analogies don't form the basis of certainty. While this could be the real reason and explanation for the conflict mentioned in the question, it is simply hard to be certain this was the case. The challenge is, there is no correctness proof for us to evaluate these theories & notions (including my own) which brings us back to square one. Obviously it is not easy to apply objectivity and conventional logic here. That means back to the realm of faith.
    – Vidyarthi
    Jan 19, 2020 at 18:01
  • 1
    continuing from the previous message - but thanks for the post, and I enjoyed reading it.
    – Vidyarthi
    Jan 19, 2020 at 18:05
  • 1
    same here I enjoyed this analogy! May 20, 2021 at 6:46

Why vaishnavism,shaivism and shaiktism have their own head god?

Originally this started back from vedic period diffrent -diffrent hymns were created in the glory of its god. In rigveda there was vishnu sukta for lord vishnu In same rigveda there was devi sukta in praise of devi. Rudra suktam also was in rigveda. But the satarudriya of yajurveda is also a great hymn to god rudra.

But vedas also assested that these all gods are one and of no image.

This started and lord narayan in taitrayi aranyaka of yajurveda was considred as purush of vedas.

And in same taitrayi aranyaka place lord rudra was also attested to be the purush of vedas and all that exists.

And we can say that apart from drivercity the vedas and taittrayi aranyaka both have given equality of lord narayan and lord rudra. Same as vedas given equality of all gods.

Please read the article for further more information:— RUDRA AND VISHNU's EQUALITY PROVED IN VEDAS http://shivaandvishnu.blogspot.in/2017/10/rudra-and-vishnu-equality-proved-in.html?m=1

Sameas in post-vedic texts like ramayan and mahabharat the diffrenciation was at average level although some time they show both the gods as diffrent peesnality but then showed their equality.

Here's the proof:—

These two, viz., Brahma and Rudra, are the foremost of all the deities, having sprung respectively from the Propitiousness and the Wrath (of Aniruddha). Acting according to Aniruddha's direction, these two deities create and destroy. Although capable of granting boons unto all creatures, they are, however, in the matter of the concerns to which they attend (viz., Creation and Destruction), . instruments in the hands of Aniruddha.


Here is another proof:-

Thou art he that hadst created from thy right side the Grandsire Brahma, the Creator of all things. Thou art he that hadst created from thy left side Vishnu for protecting the Creation. Thou art that puissant Lord who didst create Rudra when the end of the Yuga came and when the Creation was once more to be dissolved. That Rudra, who sprang from thee destroyed the Creation with all its mobile and immobile beings, assuming the form of Kala of great energy, of the cloud Samvartaka (charged with water which myriads of oceans are not capacious enough to bear), and of the all consuming fire. Verily, when the period comes for the dissolution of the universe, that Rudra stands, ready to swallow up the universe. Thou art that Mahadeva, who is the original Creator of the universe with all its mobile and immobile entities.

The Mahabharata, Book 13: Anusasana Parva: Anusasanika Parva: Section XIV

Harivamsa parva says about this :-

rudrasya paramo viShNurviShNoshcha paramaH shivaH |eka eva dvidhA bhUto loke charati nityashaH ||2-125-41

The supreme lord of rudra (shiva) is viShNu and the supreme lord of viShNu is shiva (rudra). The same lord is moving in the world always in two forms.

But by the starting of puranic age gods were started to be mapped as supreme on their purans or the other god as second best. although oldest purans like vayu purana and matsya puran does not do so. As vayu puran was present at time of mahabharat.

The Vayu Purana is mentioned in chapter 3.191 of the Mahabharata, and section 1.7 of the Harivamsa

And both vayu purana and matsya puran gives creation story as Bhraman divided himself into bhramha,vishnu and shiva.


  • 1
    1. Don't advertise your blog in every answer. It is used in most of the answers 2. Use block quotes when you are using a translation of others. Oct 27, 2017 at 5:35

This confusion about who is supreme God disappears when we realise Hinduism is not a unitary religion but family of few closely related religions. We call vaishnavism, shaivism, shaktism, smarta as "sects" of Hinduism but each of them have theology, philosophy and traditions to qualify as religion on their own. Problem is most of the modern Hindus are non-sectarian but puranas were written by people from various Hindu sects even though they are all attributed to Vyasa. This attribution may not have meant to be taken literally, may have been part of literary tradition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vyasa#Other_texts_attributed

Modern Hindus should not get confused by this squabbling between sects about name of supreme being and remember instruction given in sruti. "Ekam Sat, Vipra Bahudha vadanti". Truth is one, sages call it by many names.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .