This is totally for my assignment not a theist atheist thing. Actually the sentence I need to narrate is

Lord Shiva once said, "I am responsible for everything."

Now Shiva is actually a Hindu god so should I treat this as a universal truth and not change any tense or should I treat this a normal quote?

So option 1 will be like without considering it universal truth

1) Lord Shiva once said that he was responsible for everything.

And if I consider it universal truth then

2) Lord Shiva once said that he is responsible for everything.

  • 2
    I'm not sure what you are asking. How would you write this differently if it is (or isn't) meant to be a "universal truth"?
    – Andrew
    Apr 8, 2018 at 22:37
  • 2
    @Andrew Agree. OP, can you give us a couple of options that you're trying to decide between and possibly some more context?
    – godel9
    Apr 8, 2018 at 22:40
  • I edited the question and the examples to make the capitalization consistent. In English, "a god" is not capitalized, but the name of a particular god is capitalized.
    – Jasper
    Apr 9, 2018 at 4:00
  • In American English, I would not consider either of the two options provided as more/less indicative of "universal truth" or the author's belief in such. In fact, barring some further context I would be more likely to consider them identical in meaning. Apr 9, 2018 at 16:55

2 Answers 2


Either version is grammatically acceptable and understandable: the choice might depend to some extent on the writer's viewpoint.

If the writer is an atheist scholar who is reporting Hindu myths, the first is appropriate.

If the writer is a Shaivist who believes that Lord Shiva was, is and will be everything, then the second (universal truth) version is appropriate. The Shaivist would be much more likely to simply state the text as a universal truth, rather than as reported speech:

Lord Shiva is responsible for everything.


If the question is whether or not to backshift indirect quotes from deities, then the answer is that it depends on the context. To add on to JavaLatte's answer: As a related example, most (if not all) of the quotes from God in the Bible are direct rather than indirect quotes.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

I imagine it would seem slightly disrespectful for the religious to indirectly quote God, as if they were reinterpreting the words. Which is to say, in actual scripture and other religious texts, use direct quotes.

Lord Shiva said, "I am responsible for everything."

In non-religious texts, such as scriptural analysis, opinion, and other related essays, it depends on the intended audience. If the audience is religious, again, I suspect it's a good idea to use direct quotes as much as possible to show that you are not changing the words in any way.

For non-religious audiences, it doesn't matter. Since you are talking about a figurative entity, you can treat Shiva the same as a classical scholar would talk about any of the ancient Greek gods, using backshifted indirect quotes:

To Paris was given to judge who was most fair and would win the golden apple. First Hera, Queen of the Gods, stood forward and offered to make him a mighty king, ruler over many lands. Then Athena, Goddess of Wisdom spoke, and offered Paris the gift of wisdom, that he would be so revered among men that many would come from far and away to seek his counsel. Lastly, Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, offered him the most beautiful woman in the world to be his wife.

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