Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

Harihara:Fusion of Vishnu and Shiva in Hindu Theology

Harihara, a significant representation in Hindu theology, embodies the amalgamation of Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Hara). Vishnu is revered as the preserver, while Shiva is known as the destroyer in Hinduism. The term “Harihara” reflects the fusion of these two deities, often symbolizing the unity of different aspects of the Ultimate Reality known as Brahman in Hindu philosophy.


Conceptual Significance

The diverse landscape of Hinduism allows for various beliefs and traditions, prominently centered around Vishnu and Shiva. Some sects venerate Vishnu as the Supreme God, while others hold Shiva in this regard. However, the Puranas and numerous Hindu traditions consider both Shiva and Vishnu as manifestations of the singular Brahman. Harihara serves as a symbolic representation of this fundamental idea of unity amidst the diversity within Hindu theology.

The philosophical notion of Harihara, particularly in the Advaita Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy, emphasizes the equivalence of Vishnu and Shiva, portraying them as different facets of the same divine reality.

Historical Context and Legends


The earliest references to Harihara can be traced to texts like the Vishnu Parva of the Harivamsha. One legend narrates that Vishnu, assuming the form of the enchantress Mohini, captivated Shiva, leading to their fusion into the singular entity, Harihara.

Another legend from the Skanda Purana recounts a dispute between devotees of Shiva and Vishnu regarding the supremacy of their respective deities. To reconcile this, Shiva and Vishnu merged into Harihara, unifying their divine essence.

Depiction and Symbolism

Artistic representations of Harihara typically depict a split image, with one half embodying Shiva and the other Vishnu. The Shiva half is characterized by matted locks and may wear a tiger skin, symbolizing asceticism. Vishnu’s half is adorned with a crown and jewelry, symbolizing his role in maintaining cosmic order. These visual distinctions highlight the duality of religious influence and secular authority present in Hindu mythology.

Spread and Iconography

Harihara’s presence in temple iconography spans across South Asia and Southeast Asia. Various temple illustrations reflect the concept of Harihara, showcasing its prevalence and influence in different regions. Temples incorporating deities like Ayyappan and Shasta in Kerala exemplify the continuation of this Hindu tradition.


Harihara stands as a profound embodiment of the unity between Vishnu and Shiva, representing the harmonious coexistence of diverse beliefs within Hinduism. Its depiction in art and its significance in theology underscore the profound philosophical and spiritual concepts embedded within this fusion deity.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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