Shiva, the destroyer, is one of the three supreme gods in Hindu mythology. The other two are Brahma, the creator, and Vishnu, the preserver. Shiva's destructive powers are awesome, but they also have a positive side in that destruction usually leads to new forms of existence. In art, Shiva is often portrayed with four arms, four faces, and three eyes. A glance from the third eye in the center of his forehead has the power to destroy anything in creation, including humans and gods.
Shiva first appeared when Brahma and Vishnu were arguing about which of them was more powerful. Their argument was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a great blazing pillar whose roots and branches extended beyond view into the earth and sky. Brahma became a goose and flew up to find the top of the pillar, while Vishnu turned into a boar and dug into the earth to look for its roots. Unsuccessful in their search, the two gods returned and saw Shiva emerge from an opening in the pillar. Recognizing Shiva's great power, they accepted him as the third ruler of the universe.
Shiva is a complex god with many roles and powers. In his destroyer role, he often haunts cemeteries, wearing a headdress of snakes and a necklace of skulls. A band of terrifying demons, hungering for blood, accompanies him.