Shiva, bronze statue, Madras, c. AD 900.—Courtesy of the Government Museum, Chennai; photograph, Royal Academy of Arts, London
Major deity of Hinduism, believed to have many manifestations. Like Vishnu, he is the subject of an elaborate and sometimes contradictory mythology. He is both the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger. His female consort is known under various manifestations, including Parvati, Durga, and Kali. In Shaivism he is worshiped as the paramount lord.