Shiv Shankar Shambho

We often come across this phrase when chanting but do not give much thought to its word origin and conveying meaning. Through this blog, we will discover the distinction between Shiv and Shankar, as well as familiarize ourselves with the various forms of Shiva.

Shiva, Shankar, and Shambho are different names belonging to the same deity. Shiva is the Supreme Being himself. In a way, Shankar was created from Shiva. How? We pray to the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh, wherein Mahesh is created from the confluence of the words ‘Maha’ and ‘Eesh’, the latter being the word root of ‘Eeshwar’.

Shiva is considered to be the creator and the destroyer, and he symbolizes the cycle of life on earth. His Veerbhadra form is the expression of his destructive and devastating nature. It is believed that the first ray of consciousness or enlightenment that emerged from nothingness is Shiva. No one created Shiva, he is the creator himself, which is why he is addressed as Swayambhu. Shiva has existed before the conception of Shankar and predates the Vedic scriptures as well. He has been worshipped through a Shivaling, which represents simplicity and spirituality. The moniker ‘Sadashiv’ is also based on this form, signifying an omnipresent being or someone who is cool as ice. Shiva is depicted in images as a solitary being clothed in tiger hide and following a hermitic way of life. He embodies minimalism and innocence, a god who doesn’t ask for grand rituals, sacrifices or radical renunciation, but only loyalty, faith and belief. If a devotee only prays to him from his heart, Shiva is satiated and showers blessings upon him. Due to this, he is also named Bholenaath, the innocent lord.

The name Shankar is often paired with Parvati; a lot of times we say “Gauri Shankar” or “Shankar and Parvati”, but “Shiva Parvati” is seldom used. Shankar was created when Parvati (a woman) accepted an austere renunciation with the goal to marry Shiva, who appeared in the man-like form of Shankar. Who was earlier withdrawn from all material desires, and had achieved enlightenment through spirituality had now become a man drawn to the tangible world.

Sati sacrificed herself to the holy fire in the hawan, and the marriage to Shiva couldn’t happen. This infuriated Shiva and empowered his Raudra (calamitous) form, where the name ‘Rudra’ came into being. When Shiva abandons courtesy and discipline to unleash his animality, ferocity and Agni element, he becomes Rudra. He does not care for logic, reason or balance, and his primary goal is to extinguish all feelings of anger to bring back Shiva. This avatar emerged before the Shankar.

When he was wedded to Parvati, Shiva left behind his hermitic, ascetic lifestyle to become Shankar, embodying societal bonds, and marital life. Though Shankar is a family man, he doesn’t symbolize materialism itself for Shiva never goes beyond his composure. Even Rudra merges back into Shiva once his fury is expressed, hence Shankar is not materialism but a deity involved in the tangible world. This socialization brought forth his expression of affinity towards others. This is where the image of Shankar that we’re familiar with through temple idols was born.

Shiva and Shankar are not two different entities but one; Shankar is a part of the circle of life that Shiva embodies. To make the distinction between these two forms easier to understand for the layman, images of the hermit were circulated. Shankar is the deity whose icons we worship, and Shiva is a cosmic being who is omnipresent.

Shambho (Shambhu) is a word that was formulated through the spoken form of language; we discussed above that Shiva is addressed as Swayanbhu. If we chant the name over and over with some momentum, we can only hear “Shambho Shambho”. This is how Shiva became Shambhu.

Let us bring this Shiva in our remembrance:
“Jai Shiv Shankar Namaami Shankar Shiv Shankar Shambhu ॥
Jai Girija Pati Bhavani Shankar Shiv Shankar Shambhu ॥“


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