We know that the complexion of Lord Vishnu / Krishna is dark (shyam varna) but what is the complexion of Lord Shiva, dark or white?

  • 3
    Shiva is very fair in color.
    – user1195
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 15:25
  • @moonstar2001 isn't it blue? Also I heard there is a difference between Shiva and * Shankar*. Probably Shiva might be colorless.
    – iammilind
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 0:47
  • 2
    @iammilind, Shiva, Shankar, Maheshwar and Sadashiv are names of same God, i.e Lord Shiva, just like Rama and Vishnu are other aspects/names of Krishna. Lord Shiva has two forms, Nishakal(formless) and Sakal(with form). Formless is called Sadashiv(infinite cosmic fire of light), from him, Maheshwar(another Nishakal, the shivling is born, i.e husband of Adi Shakti) is born and from him Prakriti is born and from Adi Shakti, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra/Shankar are born. Reference Linga Puran en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adi_Parashakti en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linga_Purana
    – user3870
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 12:55
  • 2
    @iammilind That supreme lord is Sadasiva.
    – user1195
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 17:34
  • 1
    @YDS This question asks what is the colour of Shiva. Other one asks why he is called as Nilalohita. Both questions are different. Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 2:25

6 Answers 6


Lord Shiva's Complexion was described in Chapter Four (Cancula's Salvation) of Shiva Purana Mahatyam in Shiva Puranam. You can see that from here.(Page 18)

  1. She saw the three-eyed Mahadeva, the eternal, being served devotedly by Brahma,Vishnu and other gods.

  2. He had the brilliance of ten million suns and was reverently served by Ganesha, Bhrngi, Nandisa, Virabhadreshwara and others.

  3. His neck had a blue hue ; he had five faces, three eyes , the cresent moon as crest-ornament and his left hand was apportioned to Gauri , who had the brilliance of lighting.

  4. He was white in complexion like camphor and wore all ornaments. Besmeared with white ashes all over the body and clad in white clothes,he shone brilliantly.

  5. The woman Cancula became highly delighted on seeing Shankara.In her flutter of delight she bowed again and again to Him.

  • there r few forms of Shiva whose complexion is dark that's why many images we she dark coloured Shiva.. hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/16375/… and another reason may be he applies bhashma all over his body, so he his depicted in dark coloured like Hanumanji is usually depicted in colour of sindoor as he applied it all over his body..
    – YDS
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 17:28

The complexion of Shiva is white. He is described as Karpura Gauram- white like camphor. But, the complexion of Maha-Kala and Kala Bhairava is Black, as they represent time and annihilation.

This may be of interest to you- http://pratyasha.deviantart.com/journal/Shiva-is-not-Blue-but-White-371562557


One of the common "śloka" chanted right after "Aarti" and It is found in Yajurveda, one of the four canonical texts of Hinduism is below one, in Praise of Lord Shiva

कर्पूर गौरम करूणावतारम संसार सारम भुजगेन्द्र हारम | सदा वसंतम हृदयारविंदे भवम भवानी सहितं नमामि ||

The first word in above sloka, describe the complexion of Lord Shiva.

कर्पूरगौरं (karpūragauraṁ): The one who is as pure/white as a camphor(karpur)


Ṛṣis of the Vedās were very explicit about the appearance of Rudra and the commonality with that of Śiva. While the first declaration to Rudra is seen in the Rig Vedā, the Saṃhitās of Atharva & Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedās give utmost detail on His features and nature. To start with, Rig Vedā 1.43 – which is the first declaration to Rudra – says in hymn 5: “He is brilliant like the sun, dazzling like gold, and the best of the divine and of Vasu”. Across the Vedās, His form is Viṣvarūpam, meaning the cosmic form or the all-encompassing omni-form RV2.33.10,TS4.5.4,TA10.23.1, or Pururūpam, meaning multiform/multihued, with trayambakam, meaning three-eyes RV 7.59,TS4.5.4,AV11.2.2. At the same time, the Atharva Veda calls him “the thousand-eyed”AV4.28.3. On multiple occasions, He is referred as the one with Virūpākṣa, meaning the one with odd eyes TA10.23.1 or thousands of eyes VS16.8. Please note that the term trayambakam, with regard to appearance, means three eyes. With regard to nature, ambaka means Ritu (season) and Ambikā represents Autumn or harvest season. Amba+ka also means mother and sister. Both Śrī Rudram and Śatarudrīya describe a furious form emerging out of Prajapati. This anger is called Manyu, the ferocious aspect of Rudra with a hundred head, a thousand eyes, and thousands of weapons. This all-encompassing form of Rudra was very difficult to iconify into sculpture or painting, hence after Nārāyaṇa Sukta and Śrīmad Bhagavādgita, Viṣṇu’s Viṣvarūpam took high prominence in its depiction. Alongside Rudra, Soma and Prajapati shared the title of Viṣvarūpam, but Varuna is also addressed in a similar way RV7.34. When it comes to hue or color, He is Kṛṣṇapingala, meaning with tawny or orangish-yellow skin RV2.33, with arms shining like gold, नीलग्रीव/शितिकण्ठ blue/white neck VS16.28 and bluish belly AV15.1,VS 16.7,KYV4.5. In contradiction, He is also addressed as शुक्र, meaning clear/white/opaque RV2.33 – hence the name śukreśvara linga of Varanasi. But how does one justify so many hues/colors? He is called Multihued and Pururūpam. His hair is called kapardi, meaning knotted/braided locks of hair RV1.114,AV 2.27. Rudra, in the Vedās, is associated in deep conjunction with Soma KYV 7.1,VS16 and Agni as one of his natures or epithets, and in several occasions with Surya. Similar to trayambakam or Virūpākṣa, there is a celebrated title “Somasuryagni Lochanaya“, meaning the one with Soma, Surya and Agni as his three eyes. Atharva Vedā 15th Kanda 18th Prayāya, famously known as Vrātyas Suktam, says “oh Vrātya, as for this right eye is the distant Sun/Āditya, so for the left eye is the Moon/Soma”. But what about the Agni of the 3rd eye which burnt Kamadeva? There is no direct declaration attributing the 3rd eye as Agni. However, Śrī Rudram of the YajurVedā urges Rudra’s missiles not to hit us. The same Vedā urges Agni – heat of those missiles – not to harm us, but be auspicious for us TS 4.61. Since we have described various contradictory features, attributes and forms, how can one visualize an image of the one who is called Viṣvarūpam/all-encompassing omni-form – who is but an enigma – especially when Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 16.44 says “homage to the one who is in tempest, storms, in the hearts (Sun), in whirlpools, in deep wells and in the very abysses”? The first declaration of Rudra in the Rig Vedā, then the details in the Yajur Vedā and the Atharva Vedā, gave rise to Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad (one among the 18 primary Upaniṣhads), which says in Chap 3, sloka 11:

सर्वानन शिरोग्रीवः सर्वभूतगुहाशयः । सर्वव्यापी स भगवांस्तस्मात् सर्वगतः शिवः ॥ ११॥ All (सर्वा) heads, necks/faces (शिरो + ग्रीव) are you, as you are dwelling in all (सर्व) beings and their cores/hearts (सर्वभूतगुहाशय)| You are omnipresent/all-pervasive (सर्वव्यापी) in all divine forms (भगवांस्तस्मात्), all-encompassing in all (सर्व+गतः) Please note: शिर+स्तस् means forms of heads, and भगवां+स्तस् means divine forms. Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 3.11

Please Note: RV = Rig Vedā, KYV = Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā, TS = Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Saṃhitā, VS = Sukla Yajur Vedā Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā, TA = Kṛṣṇa Yajur Vedā Taittirīya Aranyaka, Atharva Veda = AV

For further details please read: http://sanatanadhara.com/ishwara/siva-rudra-linga/


Depending upon the situation, time and place, god Shiva can appear to be of different complexions.

Chapter 14,

Anushasana Parva, Mahabharata

क्रीडते ऋषिकन्याभिर्ऋषिपत्नीभिरेव च।
ऊर्ध्वकेशो महाशेफो नग्नो विकृतलोचनः॥
गौरः श्यामस्तथा कृष्णः पाण्डुरो धूमलोहितः।
विकृताक्षो विशालाक्षो दिग्वासाः सर्ववासकः॥

He sports with the daughters and the spouses of the Rishis. His hair is long and stands erect. He is perfectly naked, for he has the horizon for his garments. He is endued with terrible eyes. He is fair, he is darkish, he is dark, he is pale, he is of the colour of smoke, and he is red. He is possessed of eyes that are large and terrible. He has empty space for his covering and he it is that covers all things.

However, in general, for contemplation of the Lord, Shiva said to be of the pure white complexion.

As is elucidated in this dhyAna Shloka of god Shiva from the Skanda Purāṇa.

Verse, Skanda-Mahāpurāṇa

कुंदेंदुधवलाकारं नागाभरणभूषितम् । वरदाभयहस्तं च बिभ्राणं परशुं मृगम् ॥ ४० ॥
सूर्यकोटिप्रतीकाशं जगदानंदकारणम् । जाह्नवीजलसंपर्काद्दीर्घपिंगजटाधरम् ॥ ४१ ॥उरगेंद्रफणोद्भूतमहामुकुटमंडितम् । शीतांशुखंडविलसत्कोटीरांगदभूषणम् ॥ ४२ ॥उन्मीलद्भालनयनं तथा सूर्येंदुलोचनम् । नीलकंठं चतुर्बाहुं गजेंद्राजिनवाससम् ॥ ४३ ॥रत्नसिंहासनारूढं नागाभरणभूषितम् ।

(Dhyāna or the form of Īśa for Meditation)

  • The Lord is as white as a jasmine flower and the moon. He is adorned with ornaments constituted of serpents. He poses his fingers in the gestures of granting boons and freedom from fear and holds in his hands axe and deer. He resembles ten million suns (in lustre). He is the cause of delight to the whole universe. He wears long and tawny-coloured matted hair due to coming into contact with the waters of Gaṅgā. He is embellished with a crown studded with jewels coming from the hoods of great serpents. His crown of matted hair shines with the crescent moon. He has arm-lets and other ornaments. His eye in the forehead is open. He has the sun and the moon as his other eyes. He is blue-necked and has four arms. He is clad in the hide of a lordly elephant. He is seated on a throne set with jewels. Serpents constitute his various ornaments.

Bhagawān Shiva is Sarva Varna Means All Coloured ) Purushottoma.

Atharva-Shikha Upanishad.:

प्रथमा रक्तपीता महद्ब्रह्म दैवत्या । द्वितीया विद्युमती कृष्णा विष्णुदैवत्या । तृतीया शुभाशुभा शुक्ला रुद्रदैवत्या । यावासानेऽस्य चतुर्थ्यर्धमात्रा सा विद्युमती सर्ववर्णा पुरुषदैवत्या

1.7.: The first is the red Lord Brahma ( creative aspect ) , the second the black Lord Vishnu ( the administrative aspect ), the third the holy white Lord Rudra ( destructive aspect ) , and the fourth which is like lightning is the all-coloured (have all aspects) Purushothama (Shiva).

Maitreya Upanishad also confirms this.:

*सर्वदा समरूपोऽस्मि शान्तोऽस्मि पुरुषोत्तमः" ।

III-24. "I (Shiva) am always equanimous, I (Shiva) am quiescence, the greatest being (Purushottama);"

And Also,

Rig-Veda Khilla Part, Shiva Sankalpa Shuktam.:

यो वै वेद महादेवं परमं पुरुषोत्तमम् । यः सर्व यस्य चित्सर्व तन्मे मनः शिवसंकल्पमस्तु ।। 21 ।।

21. The one who knows the great God (Maha Deva), Om the highest of Persons (Param Purushottoma) of the vedas, Om the Supreme Self, may such my mind be of beautiful and divine resolves, be always remain filled with Auspicious Shiva-thoughts.

I hope this clarifies all your queries. Prd..

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