Lord Shiva
13th Jyotirlingham
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Lord Shiva


Lord Shiva appears in a meditating but ever-happy posture. He has matted hair which holds the flowing Ganges river and a crescent moon, a serpent coiled around his neck, a trident (trishul) in his one hand and ashes all over his body. The Lord's attributes represent his victory over the demonic activity, and calmness of human nature. He is known as the "giver" god. His vehicle is a bull (symbol of happiness and strength) named Nandi.


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The Shiva-Linga, a sign of the Lord, is often adored instead of Lord Shiva directly. Shiva temples have Shiva-Linga as the main deity.



Shiva In The Trinity


The Hindu trinity is Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They are respectively the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe. They are also aligned as the cosmic mind, Brahma, the cosmic lord, Vishnu, and the transcendent Godhead, Shiva. In this regard they are called Aum-Tat-Sat, the Being, the Thatness or immanence and the Word or holy spirit. You will often hear "Hari Aum-Tat-Sat" being said at the end of a prayer.

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The trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva is similar to the Christian trinity of God as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The trinity represents the Divine in its threefold nature and function. Each aspect of the trinity contains and includes the others. Each God in the trinity has his consort. With Brahma is Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge. With Vishnu is Lakshmi, the Goddess of love, beauty and delight. With Shiva is Kali (Parvati), the Goddess of power, destruction and transformation. These are the three main forms of the Goddess, as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the three main forms of the God. The three Goddesses are often worshipped in their own right as well as along with their husbands.



More About Lord Shiva


While Brahma is the creator and Vishnu the preserver, Shiva is the destroyer. His duty is to destroy all the worlds at the end of creation and dissolve them into nothingness.


Before the worlds really come to an end, Shiva has much to do to ensure everything continues to work. His first task is to destroy many things in order to ensure the order of the universe. Shiva's destruction is positive, nourishing and constructive as it builds and transforms life and energy for the welfare of all. He destroys to renew and regenerate. His destruction is that of an artist, a surgeon or a cook. Through destruction he facilitates the smooth transitions of things and events from one stage to the next.


Shiva destroys our imperfections in order to ensure our spiritual progress. He destroys our illusions, desires and ignorance. He destroys our evil and negative nature. He destroys our old memories, so that we can move on with time. He destroys our relationships, attachments, impurities, physical and mental wrongdoings, the effects of bad karma, our passions and emotions and many things that stand between us and God as impediments to our progress and inner transformation. In the end when we have made sufficient progress, when we are ready and prepared, and when we are willing without any inner conflict, he destroys death.

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There is no reference to Shiva in the Vedas, except as a quality. There are some hymns addressed to Rudra, a fierce storm god, the father of Maruts, who heals with his thousand medicines.


"Shivaling" literally means the body of Shiva. Next to the symbol of OM, it is perhaps the most potent, powerful and popular symbol of Hinduism. In almost every Shiva temple, worship is made to a Shivalingam only. A Shivaling is usually a round or cylindrical and protruding object. The cylindrical part is held firmly by a circular base.


On the physical plane, the object resembles the male sexual organ, suggestive of the creative power of Shiva. The circular base resembles the female, suggestive of his consort Parvathi. Physically a Shivaling is phallic, representing the male and female sexual organs in a state of conjugal bliss. Mentally it symbolizes the union of mind and body. Spiritually it represents the union between Purusha and Prakriti, the highest principles of the manifest universe.


The Shivaling symbolizes the Supreme Self. It is Maheswara Himself, the Highest Self and the Lord of the universe. In this aspect it has three parts. The lower part represents Brahma. The middle part, octagonal in shape, represents Vishnu. The upper part, cylindrical in shape, represents Rudra and is also called Pujabhaga since it receives the actual offerings of milk and other substances.


Shivalinga are usually found installed in the temples. But many devotees of Shiva keep them in their houses and offer regular worship. People are cautioned not to keep Shivalinga in their houses without offering worship, since they are believed to be powerful sources of divine energy.


Shivalinga are either found naturally or made artificially. Different materials are used to make them, such as clay, gold, crystal, glass, diamonds, precious stones and wood. The round and smooth stones found in the river beds of the Narmada or the Godavari are considered to be the most ideal for worship.


The 13 Jyotirlinga are the most power linga. Of these, 12 are in India and the 13th is at the Mukti-Gupteshwar Mandir. All are naturally formed and are hundreds of millions of years old. Some Shivalinga are made temporarily with clay or sandal paste and disposed of after worship. Some devotees wear a Shivalingam on their body or around their neck. Finding a Shivalinga on a the river bed or desolate place is considered to be a great omen. They are housed in temples or peoples' homes and offered regular worship.


While Vishnu is usually presented in dark blue, Shiva is white in colour, except for his neck which is also dark blue. Images of Shiva in dark blue are common. He leads a life of severe austerity though in images we find him tall and well-built. His body is usually besmeared with ashes, denoting his frequent visits to the cremation grounds. He has three eyes, the third eye resting between his eyebrows. It is the eye of wisdom, and by opening it he destroys our false selves and myriad illusions. In contrast to Brahma who is generally depicted as old, Shiva is usually shown either as a young or middle-aged god.


Though he is described in the scriptures as god of anger, he is usually presented as cheerful and jovial. Sometimes he is depicted with a lot of innocence in his demeanor. He is generally shown sitting cross-legged in a yogic posture, with his eyes closed and deep in meditation. When he is shown with his eyes open, his face expresses love and compassion. Those who are inclined to worship god are naturally drawn to him as they hold him in their minds.


While Vishnu leads a luxurious life, surrounded by opulence, Shiva and his family lead austere lives in simple surroundings. He is a god of utter simplicity, exemplary humility and austerity. A tiger skin and elephant skin are his garments. His long matted hair is usually tied into a knot or left flowing. He has four arms. With one he holds his weapon the trident. With another, he holds Damaru, a small drum. The remaining two are held in the abhaya and varada postures.


The tiger and the elephant skin signify his ability to control and transform animal nature. The trident represents the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. The damru denotes his connection with the primal sound OM, the creation of alphabets, languages, grammar and music. His long matted hair denotes his spiritual life and great powers, and is also compared to the night sky. He wears a garland of snakes around his neck. Sometimes we see more snakes: one across his body like a sacred thread and two acting as bracelets around his muscular hands. The snakes symbolically represent his control over desire and sensuality. Sometimes in his ferocious aspects, he is shown wearing a garland of skulls. The crescent moon adorns his hair like a silver diadem. And the Ganges flows from his head down into the world below.

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Though he is an ascetic, he lives with his family. He is very fond of his consort, Parvathi, whom he married after subjecting to a lot of tests. Unlike Vishnu, who treats his wife more or less like a servant, keeping her at his feet, Shiva treats his wife as his equal and shares his seat with her. She is literally his better half and occupies half of his body. This earned him the title ardhanariswara (half female half lord). Usually we find her by his side, especially when he is seated in Kailash, and he shares his honours with her.


Shiva dotes on his two children, Skanda or Kumara and Lord Ganesha or Vinayaka. The Bull Nandi is his vehicle. Nandiswara is humility personified, and is also very knowledgeable. Nandi taught Hanuman the secrets of Vedas and lessons in humility. Another important member of his retinue is Bhringi, the zealous devotee who was not inclined to worship anyone other than Shiva and refused to worship even Parvathi, until he was made to realize his mistake. Although a mountain dweller, he is not attached to anything and is true to his ascetic nature, he keeps wandering from place to place. Mount Kailash is his abode, where he lives his family, his devotees who attained liberation and his great army of goblins, imps and ghosts.


Shiva symbolically represents the tamasic quality. Because of this he is called pasupathi (lord of the animals). His body colour of white, denotes his purity (Shivam) and association with the snowy mountains. His three eyes represents the three worlds: the sun, the moon and the earth, the three paths of liberation and the triple nature of creation. The third eye is actually the eye of wisdom or occult knowledge. The moon that adorns his head represents the movement of time and also his cosmic proportions. With the the moon there, his head becomes the night sky, for which he earned the name Vyomakesa (one who has the sky or space as his hair). His association with the moon is in contrast to Vishnu who is associated with the Sun as a solar deity. The moon also symbolizes his association with the occult and the tantras.

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Aspects of Lord Shiva: Shiva is known by several names and worshipped in various forms. These are listed below:


Panchanana Shiva: In some temples Shiva is shown with five faces. Each face has a name and represents a specific aspect. These five faces are Isana, Tatpurusa, Aghora, Vamadeva and Sadyojata. Isana faces south east and represents Iswara aspect of Shiva known as SadaShiva, or the Eternal Shiva. Tatpurusha faces the east. He is Shiva in his aspect as a deluded purusha or ego. Aghora faces the south and represents the destructive and regenerative aspect of Shiva that, like fire, first devours life and then prepares the ground for its renewal. Vamadeva faces north. He is healer and preserver. Sadyojata faces west and represents the creative power of Shiva.


Anugrahamurthy: This is the milder or peaceful aspect of Lord Shiva when he is in the company of his beloved devotees or his family members.


Ugramurthy: Also known as Raudra, Bhairava, Kankala or Samharamurthy, this is the ferocious or angry form of Shiva, generally associated with the events during which Shiva assumed his terrible form to slay the demons or the wicked. The following are his better-known terrible forms:


Kankala-bhairava: The form which he assumed after cutting off the fifth head of Brahma.


Gajasura-vadha-murthy: The form he assumed while killing a demon named Nila.


Tripurantakmurthi: The form he assumed while destroying the three cities of gold, silver and iron built by the three sons of Andhakasura.


Sarabhesa-murthy: The form in which he allegedly fought and killed, Narasimha, the incarnation of Vishnu.


Kalari-murthy: the form in which he fought and defeated Yama to save his devotee Markandeya.


Kamantaka-murthy: The form in which he destroyed Manmadha, the god of lust, for disturbing him while doing penance.


Andhakasura-vadha-murthy: The form in which he defeated Andhakasura, who subsequently joined his forces as his commander and became popular as Bhringi.


Bhairava-murthy: The form generally found in connection with the secret cults of Tantricism that involve his worship in the cremation grounds and grave yards.


Shiva As Nataraja


Tandavamurthy: Lord Shiva is a master of dance forms. He is the author of all dance forms. The science of dance (Natyasasthra) dealing with the 108 types of classical Indian dance forms said to have originated from him along with all the yogic postures. For Lord Shiva, all dance is a form of expression, which he uses either to relieve the tensions in the world or alleviate the sufferings of his devotees. Sometimes he entertains the gods or his wife or his devotees with his dance. About nine forms of Shiva in dancing mode are described, of which the most popular form is Nataraja (the king of dance). Though we have a number of icons of Shiva as Nataraja, he is rarely worshipped in this form. His other dance forms include Ananda-tandava-murhty, dancing in a pleasant and cheerful mood, Uma-tandava-murhty, dancing in the company of Parvathi, Tripura-tandava-murthy, dancing while slaying Tripurasura and Urdhva-tandava-murhty, dancing in the air.


Symbolism of Nataraja: For Shiva dance is a kind of entertainment, or just an activity that is spontaneous and without any purpose. Just as the entire creation is said to be an activity of God for His own entertainment and does not seem to have a definite purpose, so is the dance of Shiva. It is not a specific artistic activity. It is not some kind of a sport with a particular aim. It is a spontaneous movement of rhythm and harmony, that bursts out like a flower from the bud, a smile from a baby or a rainbow from the sky, without a flaw and pleasing to the mind and the senses. Everything he does, each and every movement of his body, is a spontaneous expression of beauty and rhythm.


Nataraja is Shiva who is hidden in all the rhythmic movements of the manifest creation, the so-called cosmic dance that ensures the orderliness (Rta) of the universe, the movement of the earth and the heavens, the arrangement of the galaxies and the interstellar spaces, on which depends precariously the whole balance. His dance is a divine activity that has no conflict. It entertains our suffering minds and dispels our ignorance. It destroys our illusions and burns the worlds of demons and darkness. Finally, at the end of creation it dissolves the entire universe into a mysterious period of suspended activity. He dances upon our ignorance. The Apsmarapurusha (the forgotten and deluded self), on whose body he rests his feet in the image of Nataraja symbolizes this fact. And for Shiva this whole wide world of apasmarapurushas is a stage on which he enacts his dance drama.


Dakshinamurthy: This is Shiva in his aspect as the universal teacher, teaching the secrets of yoga, tantras, yantras, alchemy, magic, occult knowledge, arts and sciences, ancient history or knowledge of the future to the sages and saints, gods and goddesses and his highly qualified devotees. He is called Dakshinamurthy, because he does his teachings sitting on the snowy mountains of Himalayas and facing towards the Indian subcontinent, which is in the southerly direction. The images of Dakshinamurthy, depict Shiva in his pleasant mood, seated on a high seat, with one leg folded while the other rests on the Apasmarapurusha, the deluded self. Two of his arms hold a snake or rosary or both in one hand and fire in the other. The snake is a symbol of tantric knowledge and the fire symbol of enlightenment. Of the remaining two one is in abhayamudra (posture of assurance) and the other holds a scripture in gnanamudra (posture of presenting knowledge).


Lingodhbhava-murthy: This image signifies the importance of Shiva in the form of Linga as the Supreme Self, without a beginning and without an end. According to Hindu mythology, Shiva once revealed his infinity to Brahma and Vishnu in the form of a pillar of fire that could not be scaled by either of them from one end to the other. As Lingodhbava-murthy, Shiva appears seated in the heart of a Linga, with four arms, while Brahma and Vishnu adore him from the two sides.


Bhikshatana-murthi: This is Shiva in his ascetic aspect, wandering from place to place, with a begging bowl made of human skull, doing penance or lost in his own thoughts. Even today we can see some followers of Shiva going around the villages in India in this form. Some of them even do a little magic to attract our attention or scare away the trailing children.


Hridaya-murthy: This is Shiva in a mood of reconciliation and friendship with Vishnu. Also known as Harihara or Sankaranarayana. The images show the right half of Shiva on the right side of the image and the left half of Vishnu on the left side.


Ardhanariswara: This Shiva and Parvathi together in one form signifying the unity of Purusha and Prorate. The feminine left half of Parvathi is fused with the masculine right half of Shiva in one continuous form, sometimes standing with the Bull Nandi in the background, or sitting on a pedestal and blessing the worlds, with eyes open or closed.


Minor Deities of Shiva: These are part of Shiva's Retinue. The most important of them are Nandi, Bhringi, Virabhadra and Chandesvara.


Nandi: It is interesting to note that unlike the Vedic people who regarded the cow as sacred animal, the followers of Shiva venerate the bull! It is because Nandi, the Bull, is Shiva's vehicle. Nandi is invariably found sitting right infront of the sanctum sanctorum in every Shiva temple facing the image and looking at him all the time. In fact no one is supposed to see the chief deity in a Shiva temple without paying homage first to the seated Nandi and looking at Shiva from afar through the space between the ears and the top of his head. There are some temples in India which are exclusively built for him like the famous Nandiswara temple in Karnataka. Nandiswara in his anthromorphic form appears just like Shiva, with three eyes and four hands of which two are permanently dedicated to the veneration of Shiva while the other two carry his weapons. Symbolically Nandi represents the animal or the tamasic qualities in man which Shiva rides and transforms with his energies. As we have already noted, Nandi is well versed in all scriptural knowledge and spiritual knowledge and imparted knowledge of devotion to Hanuman. It is a tradition in many parts of rural India to let a Bull roam free in each village as a mark of respect to Nandi and to inseminate the cows in the village.


Bhringi: He was originally a demon named Andhaka, who was transformed by Shiva into a humble devotee and admitted into his force as a commander of his armies. Bhringisa was so loyal to Shiva that in his state of devotion he would not offer his worship to any one including Parvathi. It is said that when he saw once Shiva in his Ardhanariswara form, he tried to bore through the middle of the body in the form of a bee to complete his obeisance to only the Shiva side of the form, much to the annoyance of Parvathi. Bhringi who got his name thus was made to realize his mistake and change his behavior by Lord Shiva.


Virabhadra: He is Shiva in his ferocious mood. Shiva manifested himself as Virabhadra, when Daksha, his father in law, ill treated and insulted his wife Sati, Daksha's own daughter, infront of a large gathering. Unable to cope with the insult, Sati immolated herself. This angered Shiva so much, that he descended upon the place of Daksha with his large army and beheaded Daksha's. The images of Virabhadra depict the anger and ferocity of Shiva in that destructive mood, wearing a garland of skulls, and with four arms holding four different kinds of weapons. Virabhadra is a warrior god who was worshipped during wars in ancient and medieval periods. He is also the principal deity of Virasaiva movement and still worshipped by many in the Karnataka region of India.


Chandesvara: He is an aspect of Chandi in human form later elevated to the status of divinity, to signify the connection between Shiva and Chandi, or Durga. Chandesvara is a ferocious god, holding weapons of war and ready to do battle for a divine cause. His images are generally found in a corner in all the Shiva temples. As in case of Nandi, devotees usually visit him and pay their respects before going to see the Shivaling in the sanctum sanctorum.


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