Siva and Bhavani
by Richard Stoney
An essay showing similarities between two "different" goddesses, but with a unique twist why their names both mean "living". These are the three main elements to this essay:
Siva, a Slavic goddess. Her name means "living, being, existing." She is is also known as Siwa, pronounced "sheeva" in modern Polish; she was worshipped in Poland, Czechoslavakia, East Germany. Also known as Russian Zhiva/Z'iva, Polabi Zhywie and Slovak Zivena. Even other forms of her name are Sivve, Shiwa, Sieba, Syeba, Siba and Dsiva (Znayenko, pp. 75, 220). With regards to the etymology of her name, “some scholars associate the name with Dlugosz’s Zywye, others with the Indian SHIWA, [sic] god of life, still others with SIVA, 'grey'”.
Bhavani, Hindu goddess. Her name means "coming into being, existence" < Skt. BHAVA < BHU, "to be, exist, live".
Shiva, "Auspicious" Hindu god; third member of the Hindu triad with Brahma and Vishnu. He is aso known as Ardhanarishvara, "Androgynous Lord", who is half-Shiva, half-female/half-shakti.
The interesting aspect of this is that in Bengal and Assam, they do use Shiba as a name for Shiva; both areas also happen to have been strong centers of Shakti worship.
The purpose of this article is to point out the close similarities between Bhavani and Siva. But here is the critical, compelling element/factor joining the two. Bhavani is one of Shiva's Shakti. The Sanskrit word shakti means "power", but it can also be used as "the meaning of words." (Monier-Williams, p. 1044). Therefore as Shakti of Shiva, Bhavani has the meaning of Siva.
Similarities between Bhavani and Siva.
Both Siva and Bhavani are goddesses of life, offspring production and fertility. There is another similarity between Siva and Bhavani: “In pagan worship…Friday was sacred to the goddess [Siva] of the Western Slavli.” (Hubbs, p. 117). There are stories of the twelve Fridays, which “provided protection from some specific evil—fire, sickness, flood, and so forth” (Ibid). In the case of Bhava’ni’, she is known as Sankata’ Devi’, “Goddess of Dangers”, for she is the one who vanquishes dangers for her devotees with celebrations taking place on Fridays in Benares (Eck, pp. 168-9).
In Slovakia, the equivalent to Siva is life-goddess Zivena, who is counterposed with chief god Praboh (Jones and Pennick, p. 187). His name means “(original) primitive god” (Konus, p. 906). Compare these interrelated Sanskrit words:
PRA- (prefix): "before, in front", and therefore, "first, original"; BHU, #1 BHU', #2 BHU': "becoming, being, produced, live". All are the root words of BHAVA/BHAVANI
---PRA-BHU*, “excelling, powerful, lord”, a name of Shiva. The name itself means “before-living”, in other words, “original God”. It obtains the concept of “excelling, powerful” exactly in the same way that Eng. PRIME implies “the best”.
---PRA-BHU/PRA-[root]BHU’, -BHAVATI, “originate from, be powerful/master.”
---PRA-BHAVA*, “excelling, production, origin, Creator (“might, power”=PRA-BHA’VA) (Monier-Williams).
A picture of Siva shows her with a sun-disk behind her head (admittedly, not an unusual occurrence for ancient deities). And there is mention of Siwa/Syuna, a goddess of the Polabi (Hastings, vol. 11, p. 594). According to one source, etymology about this word is confusing at best, but consider [?] Skt. SYU’NA, “ray of light, sun.
The following deals with Zhiva: “..…There persisted another religious rite more closely related to Procopius’s account of the veneration of nymphs. This religion appears to have had no organized priesthood. It revolved around the goddess called Zhiva … by the Elbe Slavli…The ceremonies were performed by the whole community in the depths of the forests [like the Baiga’ and Savara’s of Northern India, who believe fully in forest spirits. (Hastings, vol. 2, p. 333; vol. 7, p. 214}] and in places where land and water met. (Hubbs, pp.12-13). “Chroniclers, who confirm Procopius’s earlier observations, refer to the river, lake, and forest nymphs as BEREGINY” (from BEREGINA, “earth, shore”). BEREGINY represent the fertility goddesses (Ibid, pp.14-15).
The role of diety of guardianship/family/ household is shared by Bhava’ni’, Prabha’ and the BEREGINY (Kinsley, pp. 109 and 110; Ann and Imel. p. 291; Hubbs, p. 13).
In a similar vein, Shiva-Bhava is the “presiding diety of the waters” (Gupta, p.15). Bana’ras/Benares, known as Shiva’s City, is referred to as the center of Earth, “this shore,” on the Ganges River and is an embodiment of the goddess Ka’shi’ (“shining, sun”. Cf. Hebrew names Ziva or Zivah, “shining, radiant”). Kashi is a counterpart to Bhava’ni’ and is a shakti of Shiva (Eck, pp.159, 418). Ka’shi’ is said to sit above the earth as a “crossing place” between earth and the “far shore” of the transcendant Brahman. (Eck, pp. 6, 35). It is said that, when one dies, Shiva whispers the "ferryboat mantra", or mantra of the crossing (Eck, p. 331). This compares with Slavic concepts of the dead traveling across an ocean with a “conductor” to guide the deceased. Likewise, the Slavic Siva is connected with the life/death cycle. (Ann and Imel, p. 73).
Compare Slavic SHIVAYA/ZHIVAYA VODA (various sources give different spellings), “living water”, which brings dead people back to life; and MERTVAYA VODA, “dying water”, which makes a living person dead (Professor A. Babyonyshev, email). The “dying water” heals all wounds on the corpse of the deceased, and then the sprinkling of “living water” bring it to life.
And in the Kanjar tribe, Bhava’ni’ is worshipped along with the goddess Prabha’, “light” (Hastings, vol. 7, p.653). This word is associated with a sun-disk (Monier-Williams, p. 683). The Kanjar use a protector-exorcist called a SYA’NA’ (“wise one”) to propitiate bad spirits (Hastings, vol. 7, p. 653). Neither the Kanjar nor the followers of Siva had any formal priesthood (Hubbs, pp. 13, 14; Hastings, vol. 7, p. 652).
There is a tale in which Zhiva falls in love with Dazhdbog, “the god who gives well-being” (Gutkin). Like Shiva, he is god of prosperity and wealth. (Jobes, vol. 1, p. 420; Smith, p.158). In the end, they “accept the gold wreath and get married. So that is how Russians appeared, and that’s why they are called his grandchildren” (Naoumov). Similarly, “in the Chhatti’sgarh District, the Baiga worship centers around the Du’lha’ Deo, the deified bridegroom god and Devi’, the Mother-Goddess, in her manifestation as Bhavani” (Hastings, vol. 2, p. 333).
Dazhdbog is the third member of the Kievan pantheon, while Shiva occupies the same position in the Hindu triad. And there is a picture which shows, in order from the left, Prono, Ridegast and Siva.
In some mythology, Slav Svarog is the supreme god, and since he created the living Universe (Naoumov), he could be considered the “original god”. He had a son, Perun, who then had a son, Dazhdbog. That would make Dazhdbog the grandson of the Original God. However, according to one mythology, Perun is top god, so that would make Dazhdbog “Son of the Original God”. Similarly in another myth, “in old chronicles, Daz^bog is termed ‘Czar Sun’ and ‘Son of Svarog’” This would make him the son of the Original God who is married to Zhiva/Siva (MYTHOLOGY OF ALL RACES, vol. 3, p.297). Meanwhile on the Hindu side of the equation, Bhava’ni’ is worshipped by the Baiga with Na’ra’yan Deo (Hastings, p. 333)(cf. Skt. Na’ra’yana, “son of the original god” from Skt. NARA, "primeval Man or eternal Spirit pervading the Universe"; he is always associated with Na'ra'yana. Both are considered as gods [Monier-Williams, pp. 528-9, 536]). He is a sun-god, like Dazhdbog, but I am not aware of whether he is actually married to Bhavani.
There is mention of a Polish god, Zivalo (Hastings, vol. XI, p. 593). Could he be a male counterpart to Siva, just as Bhava corresponds to Bhavani?
Here is some information about Bhavani in her role as Annapurna: "On the eleventh day of each fortnight, when the giving of alms is especially prescribed, one will hear [elderly people] at the doors of Banaras households, calling to the mother of the house..., "Mother, give me food." (Eck, p. 161). Similarly, Naumov explains the meaning of Dazhdbog's name: "There is one version of Yuri Miroliubov that I personally support. The word is a complex conglomerate of the two. Listen: Dazhdbog--->Dazhdbo--->Dai Bo--->Dai Bog. The final two are in English 'Give me, God'". The connection between Bhavani and Dazhdbog is weak in this case, but I am including it just for the record.
Also, the Kanjar wandered around in gangs, supporting themselves by theft and highway robbery (Hastings, vol. 7, p. 652). Bhavani was also worshipped by The Thugs of India. The Thugs were assassins and robbers, whose victims were “always taken unawares from behind”. They formed their own organizations and held responsible positions in government (Walker, vol. 2, pp.501-2). (cf. Slang SHIEVER, “double-crosser”. Quote: “The worst thing you can call a crook is a shiever”; Ger. SCHIEBERTUM and SCHIEBUNG, “corruption, graft, dirty politicians”; Ger. SCHIEBEN, “act corruptly”; CHIVE-FENCER, “murder-protector” (Wentworth and Flexner, p. 466) or “criminal-protector” (Partridge, p. 149); CHIVING-LAY, “robbing the rear of a coach by cutting” (this final word may actually derived from CHIV/SHIV, “knife.”).
Interestingly enough, the Polabi worshipped a goddess named Svantovit on the island of Rugen/Rungen in the Baltic, where there is a mention of armed military men who were pirates. There is a statue of Svantovit which mirrors that of a Tree of Life goddess found in northern Russia and which is said t be similar to statues of Scythians (=ancient Iranians). This Shiva-like statue has four faces, is phallic-like, has females breasts on one side, and is associated with fertility and warrior functions. (Hubbs, p. 12). The high priest had long hair, longer than was customary for the day (Hastings, vol. XI, p. 593), while Shiva has hair that is dishevelled/shieveld (see Oxford English Dictionary). According to http://www.waningmoon.com/guide/library/lib0019.html (under "Slavic"), Dazhdbog was worshipped as Svantovit during harvest. There have been various interpretations of Svantovit's name, the most common being "Holy Light". But consider Skt. SV-ANTA, "auspicious"; Slavic -OVIT, "son of." Son of Auspicious?
According to at least one source, Slavli are the only people among the European nations with mythology based on Indo-European and Indo-Iranian beliefs. They are believed to be of Indo-European stock, so there are many similarities between Hindu and early Slavic worlds: practice of cremation and belief in reincarnation; karma, in which like produces like; existence of vampires, phallic deities plus polycephalous gods in their mythologies; having the sun represented by Sanskrit SU'RYA and Slavic ZORYA; and the use of waving iron to drive away demons. Also, women played an important part in religious ceremonies. There is mention of early Slavli being leery of the wind; in their heaven, there are no cold winds. Compare that with the fact that Hindu “heaven”, Nirvana, means “no wind”. In the end, both the Slavli and Hindus basically believed in one god but accepted the smaller gods as viable (henotheism). Admittedly, however, many of these concepts are characteristic of many other ancient ethnic groups.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Aspects of Lord Shiva
- Saivism or Shaivism - Basic Concepts
- Shaivism Literature
- Mantra and Yoga
- Nataraja, The Lord of the Cosmic Dance
- What Shankara Means?
- Shaivism Sects
- Siva and Bhavani
- Devotional Prayers to Lord Shiva
- Significance of Lord Shiva
- Shaivism Links, Websites and Resources
- Famous Saints of Saivism
- The Worship of Lord Shiva
- History of Shaivism, Lord Shiva in Vedic Literature and Recorded History
- Methods of Worship in Shaivism
- Hindu Gods - Lord Ganesha
- Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism
- About Goddess Parvathi or Shakti
- Quotes on Religious Tolerance in Hinduism
- Sects and Sectarian Movements in Hinduism
- Hinduism - The Role of Shakti in Creation
- Hindu God Lord Shiva (Siva) - the Destroyer
- A Critical Study of the Chronology of Siddhas
- Hindu God Murugan, Kumaraswami, Skanda or Ayyappa
- Symbolic Significance of The Hindu Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu And Siva
Ann, Martha, And Imel, Dorothy Myers. Goddesses Of The World
Babyonyshev, A, Professor. Email)
Eck, Diana. Banaras City Of Lights
Gupta, Shakti M. FROM Daityas To Devatas In Hindu Mythology
Gutkin, Irina, Professor. Email
Hastings, James , Ed. Encyclopedia Of Religion And Ethics
Hubbs, Joanna. Mother Russia
Jobes, Gertrude. Dictionary Of Mythology, Folklore And Symbols
Jones, Prudence, And Pennick, Nigel. A History Of Pagan Europe
Kinsley, David. Hindu Goddesses
Konus, Jozef J. Slovak-English Phraseological Dictionary
Monier-Williams, Monier. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary
Naoumov, Sergei. "Dazhdbogs Grandchildren", Sunsite.Unc.Edu/Sergei/Dazhdbog.Html
Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition
Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary Of Slang And Unconventional English
Ralston, W.R.S. The Songs Of The Russian People
Smith, David. The Dance Of Siva
Walker, Benjamin. The Hindu World
Wentworth And Flexner. Dictionary Of American Slang
Znayenko, Myroslava. The Gods Of The Ancient Slavli
Source:©2000 and subsequent years.Richard Stoney of Humboldt County, California, USA. No part of this article shall be reproduced in any manner either in part or in full without the prior permission of its author.