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Who is Shiva?

Shiva with a cup of poison

Shiva means auspicious, pure, kind and gracious. In English it is written both as Siva and Shiva. Ancient Hindu scholars such as Shankaracharya interpreted the name variously as the "Pure One", or "One who is not affected by the Gunas of Prakrti (Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas)" or "One who purifies everyone when His name is uttered." The Hindu tradition which recognizes Lord Shiva as the highest supreme Brahman is known in English as Shaivism or Saivism. It is one of the oldest traditions of Hinduism, whose antiquity probably dates back to pre Rigvedic period and rooted in the fertility cults of prehistoric world. Apart from Shaivism, Shiva is also worshipped in the sects of both Tantrism and Shaktism.

According to swami Chinmayananda, Shiva means "One who is eternally pure" or "One who can never have any contamination of the imperfection of Rajas and Tamas".[11] .The name Shiva, in one interpretation, is speculated to have derived from the Dravidian or Tamil word Siva, meaning "to be red." As the principal deity of Shaivism Shiva is known by such epithets as Mahādeva ("Great God"- mahā = Great + deva = God),  Maheśhvara ("Great Lord" - mahā = Great + īśhvara = Lord), and Parameśhvara ("Supreme Lord").

His followers worship Him by uttering his 108 or 1008 names. There are at least eight different lists of the Shiva Sahasranama, devotional hymns (stotras) listing his many names. The list taken from the Book 13 (Anuśāsanaparvan) of the Mahabharata is considered to be the standard version. List of Shiva's 10000 names ( dasa-dahasranama) is the Mahanyasa.  Satarudriyam, popularly known as liturgy to Shiva (Shri Rudram Chamakam), is also used to extol the greatness of Shiva during his ritual worhsip. the leaves of bilwa tree are used in his worship as they are considered to be his faviorite.