Countless religions have come and gone since the beginning of human civilization, but Hinduism has always stood against time, making it the oldest religion in the world. Despite its antiquity, some questions never got solved. One such question is –
Vishnu & Shiva are said to be the supreme gods in Hinduism. They are the holy part of the Trimurti – a group of three gods (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) whose duty is to create, maintain and destroy the cosmic universe. Together they share the most special bond of love, devotion, and admiration for each other.
The Contradiction Of Superiority
They also represent the cyclic nature of our existence from birth, preservation to destruction, and the cycle repeats itself for infinity. However, Hindus have always been confused about the superiority of these three gods, particularly between Vishnu and Shiva as both of them are supreme and invincible.
Hinduism is the oldest surviving religion, with many oral traditions and customs dating back more than 10,000 years in the past. Therefore the natural evolution of the religion over this long period of time made various contradictions and confusions. Many times, even the artistic iconography of any specific deity overlaps with what is written in the actual scriptures.
Shiva Purana, which is one of the sacred scripture of Hinduism, describes Lord Shiva as the ultimate almighty of the cosmic universe and on another side, another scripture named Vishnu Purana praises Lord Vishnu above all gods & deities. These contradictions make an average person think of Hinduism as nonsense and baseless, but the truth is no way near that.
The confusion also starts from the fact that both Lords Vishnu and Shiva are the highest devotees of each other. However, there are a few incidents of great fights mentioned in Puranas that happened between them giving us a hint of how powerful they are.
The Fight Between Vishnu & Shiva
The story starts from a time when Lord Shiva got detached from Adi Shakti (the hindu goddess of marital felicity and longevity). She is also the eternal source of feminine energy required to run the cycle of existence.
Thus, both Lords Vishnu and Brahma got into the dilemma that without Lord Shiva, they could not complete the cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction.
Vishnu as the god of preserver of the universe then came up with a plan to make Lord Shiva and Adi Shakti together. As per the plan Lord Brahma ordered Prajapati Daksha (the manasputra of Brahma) to please Adi Shakti with his penance.
Prajapati Daksha then went to a mountain and started doing extreme meditation for a couple of years to please Adi Shakti. When Adi Shakti was pleased with his penance and appeared before him, Daksha asked her to incarnate as his daughter. Adi Shakti did what he asked for, she manifested herself as his daughter. Later the daughter was renowned as Sati.
When Sati reached her marriageable age Lord Brahma proposed to Shiva to marry her. Because by then Devi Sati became a devotee of Lord Shiva and wanted him as her spouse as well. However, Lord Shiva ignored the proposal.
Why Did Shiva Fight With Vishnu?
Lord Shiva rejected the proposal of marrying Devi Sati because he had lost important emotions when Adi Shakti detached from him. To regain the lost emotions of Shiva, Lord Vishnu made another plan. He ordered Garuda (the bird god of Hinduism) to kill every snake in the world. Garuda then started killing every snake that appeared in front of him.
Nagraj Vasuki (the king of snakes) could not believe what Garuda was doing. So, he went to Lord Shiva and begged for help. Hearing that, Lord Shiva got angry and asked Garuda to stop killing the snakes. Garuda, being a devotee of Lord Vishnu, answered Shiva that he could not stop as he was doing what his master asked him to do.
Lord Shiva was about to throw his Trishul (one of the most powerful divine weapons in Hinduism) to Garuda, Lord Vishnu appeared between them. Thus the great fight between Vishnu and Shiva started.
Both of them are supreme and invisible, which stretched the length of the fight for many celestial years. Vishnu knew the fight could never stop without provoking Lord Shiva to come in his ultimate form.
Thus, he suddenly choked Lord Shiva with his hand making him angrier and violent. Shiva then pushed Lord Vishnu and threw his Trishul, which went straight into the heart of Lord Vishnu.
The fight was over after that, as Lord Vishnu was smiling at Shiva. Seeing the smile of Vishnu tears of regret were coming out of the eyes of Lord Shiva. He understood the mistake he had done to Lord Vishnu, and thus regained his lost emotions. Later he agreed to marry Devi Sati.
Now if you carefully study the fight between Lord Vishnu and Shiva, you would see that Shiva is a little superior to Vishnu in strength and power. However, if you take out Vishnu or Brahma from the Trinity then the equation turns to the opposite direction. Lord Shiva is incomplete without Vishnu and Brahma, no matter how strong he is.
It is common sense I think, Lord Shiva is the god of destruction which essentially makes him stronger as long as he has the support of Lord Vishnu and Brahma.
So, you can say Lord Shiva is a little more powerful but no one is superior to each other. They all represent the physical form of the Paramatman (the ultimate divine soul of all creations). Therefore each has its own attributes, characteristics.