The Hindu god Shiva, whose name in Sanskrit means “the Good One,” is also called “Siva.” The Saivite sects of India worship Shiva as the supreme lord, and he is one of the most important Hindu gods. The Supreme Being One of the most revered deities in Hinduism is Shiva. Even though his name means “the lucky one,” people usually call him “the destroyer.” 

Shiva is one of India’s most complicated gods, possessing seemingly contradicting characteristics. He is both the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the personification of sensuality, the kind soul-keeper, and the vengeful avenger.

Shiva in meditation

Who is Shiva

Shiva is also called Rudra, which was the name of a minor god who was only mentioned three times in the Rig Veda. After taking on some of the qualities of an older fertility god, he became Shiva, one of the three gods who make up the trinity, or Trimurti. Hindu scripture says that he takes on many different forms and has a whopping 1008 names. His many followers have given him many titles, but “Mahadeva,” which means “great god,” is among the most prevalent. 

He is usually considered one of the three holiest gods, or Trimurti. His contradictory nature makes him one of the most intriguing deities in Hinduism. Most people think that Shiva came from Rudra, a god who was worshipped in the Indus Valley during the Vedic era. Rudra was the deity of storms and hunting, and he was known for his ferocity. He was one of the most important gods in Vedic religion. 

The Lord of Beings and Usha, the Goddess of the Dawn, were the parents of Rudra. He cried because he had been born without a name. After much pleading with his father, he was given the name “Rudra,” which comes from the Sanskrit root rud (meaning “to wail” or “to howl”). The name Rudra, which refers to the Hindu god Rudra, is often rendered as “the howler” because of the mighty forces he wields as the storm god. Shiva, a synonym for “kind,” was a name occasionally used to describe him. Over time, Rudra became synonymous with Shiva, and the contemporary deity took his name.

The Many Names And Appearances Of Shiva

Each of Shiva’s devotees will have his own unique interpretation of the many names and appearances he takes. He is one of the three most important Hindu deities, known as the Trimurti. Vishnu is known as “the preserver,” whereas Shiva is known as “the destroyer.” That whole thing is the cosmic cycle. “Destruction in Hindu belief means reproduction,” said Iyengar. This is different from the Western view, which usually condemns destructive acts. Hindus think of destruction as a holy ritual that must happen before a new life can begin. 

People who believe in the Trimurti often argue that one of them is more powerful than the others. Many would argue that it is Shiva since he has the ability to destroy the universe, while others would say that Brahama or Vishnu are the most powerful. In one myth, Brahman and Vishnu argued about who deserved to be worshipped as the highest deity. A pillar of fire materialized in front of them out of nowhere. 

While Vishnu dug a tunnel to the pillar’s base, Brahman tried to fly to its top. The next time he saw Vishnu, Brahman told him that he had reached the top of success. After emerging from the pillar, Shiva rebuked Brahman and claimed divinity for himself. Shiva’s enduring might and omnipresence are represented by this pillar. Shiva may be compared to Brahman by some schools of Hinduism, who holwhichhat he is the Supreme Lord of reality.

In addition to his many other names, Shiva is also known as Nataraja, the dancer god. Numerous depictions of Shiva as Nataraja can be found around the world. When represented, he is frequently shown dancing alone within a torána, a ring of flames. The tandava is represented by these movements. Devastation’s frantic dance of rage clears the path for invention. A damaru, or drum, “emanates the creative spirit of the universe” in portrayals of this dance, while a flame of destruction is held by another arm (Cush). 

What Shiva stands for

The top two arms represent protection or Abhaya, and the bottom two arms represent salvation. His right foot is firmly on Muyalaka, the demon of misunderstanding, and his left foot is just hanging there, helpless. He has the capacity to wipe out the universe with this dance of rage. The Lasya natana, a dance for two people representing love and harmony, is often performed in Shiva’s honor. Together with his partner, Parvati, he dances. “Shiva’s Cosmic Dance” consists of both the tandava and the lasya natana.

Paradoxical manifestations and abilities are a hallmark of Shiva’s personality. The Mahayogi is a holy man who practices yoga and meditation atop the sacred mountain Kailasa in the Himalayas. It’s a vantage point from which he can survey the entire human race. In this disguise, he is a beggar who walks around with a bowl made from a human skull and doesn’t date. He has the power to do miracles and to open the doors to the deepest levels of spiritual wisdom. In addition, he can stand for sexual vitality and fertility as a god. 

Shiva is depicted in a variety of ways, including in a pacific mood with his consort Parvati and son Skanda, as the cosmic dancer (Nataraja), as a naked ascetic, as a mendicant beggar, as a yogi, as a Dalit (formerly known as an untouchable) accompanied by a dog (Bhairava), and as the androgynous union of Shiva and his consort in one body, half (Arishvara). He is both the greatest ascetic and the master of fertility, and his ambivalent power over snakes makes him the master of both poison and medicine. 

As Lord of Cattle (Pashupati), he is the kind herder or, at times, the ruthless butcher of the “beasts” that are the human souls under his care. Some of the role combinations might make sense if Shiva was similar to other legendary figures, but most of them come from the Hindu tendency to find complementary traits in a single confusing figure.

Different versions of Shiva’s Wife

Uma, Sati, Parvati, Durga, and Kali are all different versions of Shiva’s wife. Shiva is also sometimes linked to Shakti, the personification of force. It is thought that the holy pair, along with their sons Skanda and Ganesha, reside on Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas. The six-headed Skanda is said to have come from Shiva’s seed, which was spilled in Agni’s mouth and then moved to the Ganges River and six stars in the Pleiades constellation.

According to another well-known version, Parvati formed Ganesha out of the mud she brushed off during a bath, and Shiva, who was responsible for his beheading, gave him his elephant head. The bull Nandi is Shiva’s vehicle, or vahana, in the world; a sculpture of Nandi stands opposite the main sanctuary of many Shiva temples. Shiva is also worshipped in the form of the lingam, which is a cylindrical votive object that is often put inside a yoni, which is a dish with protruding spouts.

Shiva is usually shown in paintings and sculptures with a white body (from the ashes of dead bodies that are smeared on him) and a blue neck (from holding in his throat the poison that came from the churning of the cosmic ocean and threatened to destroy the world). He usually wears his hair in a coil of matted locks (jatamakuta), and as signs of his power, he wears the crescent moon and the Ganges River. 

Shiva with wife Parvati

Shiva’s Third eye

Shiva’s third eye lets him see what’s going on inside, but when it’s turned outward, it can cause disaster. He wears a garland of skulls and a serpent around his neck and wields a deerskin, a trident, a small hand drum, or a club with a skull on the end in his two (or occasionally four) hands. This skull shows that Shiva is a Kapalika, which means “skull-bearer,” and it shows that he cut off Brahma’s fifth head. 

The head clung to his palm until he reached Varanasi, a city dedicated to Shiva in what is now Uttar Pradesh, India. On the spot where it landed, a shrine called Kapala-mochana (“The Releasing of the Skull”) was built to wash away all sins.

Some of his shapes are highly provocative and have an erotic aspect. One reason he is worshipped as a lingam and yoni, symbols of the male and female reproductive systems, is because of this. He has both male and female genitalia, signifying both destruction and rebirth. Shiva is revered and feared, and he embodies all polarities.

Even though Shiva has countless guises, there are some physical traits that are always present. The third eye in the center of his forehead is his most recognizable feature. With this ascetic shape, he turns his attention inward rather than outward, using this eye. Through it, he might bestow enlightenment or bring about his own destruction. It is well known that he burned Kamadeva, the Hindu love god, to death. Kamadeva wanted Shiva to marry Parvati, so he tried to get Shiva to break his promise not to get married. 

While Shiva was praying, arrows of lust shot through him. When Shiva woke up, he opened his third eye and killed Kamadeva. As a whole, Shiva’s triad of orbs stands for the sun, the moon, and the elemental fire. Shiva is also distinguished by his blue throat. When the gods and demons began to stir the ocean, he drank halhala, a poison created in the process. 

Shiva’s Appearance

Shiva ate the poison and kept it in his throat, far from his stomach, where the trinity of worlds lives, so that it wouldn’t kill everyone on Earth. Shiva is often shown with animal skins and a trident as a representation of the three gods, who are called the Trimurti. His hair is matted into a bun, and legend has it that the holy Ganges river springs from atop his head. 

A cobra and a string of prayer beads adorn his neck. Among the most ferocious predators, the cobra is a symbol of Shiva’s unrivaled might. The rudrska beads mean “the eyes of Rudra” in Sanskrit (Cush). The rudrska is a symbol of celibacy. It is made from seeds that Shiva strung together instead of letting them grow in the soil. He is often seen with his bull Nandi behind him in his artwork. Nandi guards the entrance to the sacred Shiva-Parvati shrine and keeps any unwanted visitors out. 

The presence of demonic spirits is sometimes linked to Shiva as well. People say that he is accompanied by a group of ghosts and goblins, who are called “Ganas” as a group. They’re savages, and they’re called malformed. Shiva would summon his Ganas to fight by his side whenever he felt the need for vengeance. Ganesha, which means “king of the Ganas,” is the name he gave to his kid.

The Shaivism Cult

The Hindu religion known as Shaivism centers on devotion to the god Shiva. Shaivism is a religious sect that predates Hinduism. Shiva, in the eyes of Shaivites, need not rely on the other two gods of the Hindu trinity (the Trimurti) to finish the cycle of the cosmos. The origins of this group extend back more than eight thousand years, well before the Vedic era. There are various regions of India where Shaivic cults have developed. 

Each subculture highlights a different facet of Shiva’s character. Some communities, for instance, worship naga (snakes) and adhere to strict ascetic lifestyles in order to appease him. The southern part of the country and the northern city of Kashmir, both of which are heavily influenced by Hinduism, are the most popular places of worship dedicated to Shiva.

The Lingam and yoni

Shiva lingam decorated with flowers

Shiva is often shown in Hindu art, but he is rarely worshipped in the form of a statue. In most temples, people worship him as a shivling, which is a combination of a linga and a yoni. When Shiva’s actual shape was discovered, the sage Bhrigu cursed him so that he could only be worshipped in this form. 

Bhrigu got this curse when he went to see Shiva, but Nandi, the gatekeeper, wouldn’t let him in because Shiva and Parvati wanted to be left alone. The shivling is a symbol of Shiva, the god of fertility, but it has other meanings as well. The word “linga,” which means “mark” or “characteristic,” stands for the “formless divine” (Pattanaik). The linga is open to numerous interpretations due to its simplicity. 

He can’t choose just one because Shiva is everything. A linga can also be shaped like an oval stone and used as a pocket token or a necklace pendant. To make the linga more approachable, a mask is sometimes placed over it. It can also stand in for the column of fire that Shiva shot up to show that he was the most important of the three Hindu gods. During rituals, cow’s milk is poured over the shivling to unleash good energy. 

The act of taking a holy bath in honor of Shiva is believed to bring its adherents good fortune. The most popular method of worshipping Shiva, however, does not limit one to just this one form. Nataraja Shiva is revered as the god of dance. This is more unusual and is only found in Shiva temples. He’s a family man if he’s adored by Parvati. They make up half of the ideal couple for Hindus everywhere. 

Shiva – The Mahayogi

Shiva is called on for strength in meditation because he is the Mahayogi, the most powerful ascetic. Some say he has five “faces,” each of which stands for a different slogan. Devotees turn to one of Shiva’s many manifestations in prayer for help with specific issues. Shiva is respected in Hinduism because he is seen as the first person to teach people how to live. He showed his followers the way to moksha by doing it himself and instructing them through periods of silent meditation. Some go so far as to say that moksha represents the true union of Shiva and Parvati, whose two energies are global awareness and global joy.

Many pieces of Hindu literature show Shiva’s development over time. His name in the Vedas was Rudra. His name is in many hymns in the Rig Veda, and he is thought of as the guardian of the Vedas. The Puranas elevate Shiva to the status of the supreme god. The Shiva Purana is the holiest text for practicing Shaivites.

Numerous Hindu festivals and holidays are dedicated to Shiva. Monday is widely thought to be Shiva’s holy day, so many single women fast on Mondays and call it the Solah Somvar Vrat. A woman will fast and pray to Shiva for a good spouse every Monday for sixteen weeks. With this plan, you can fast whenever you want. The primary Shiva celebration, Shivatri, occurs in either January or February. Hindus fast entirely on this day. 

How Shiva is Worshipped

To honor Shiva, devotees leave him baths of milk, curd, ghee, and honey as well as fruit offerings. Some devotees take a dip in the holy Ganges river, while others cover themselves with ash to honor Shiva in his role as the Great Ascetic. The celebration of Shivratri is not universally recognized. There are two competing legends about this day: one says it was the day Shiva swallowed the poison to preserve humanity, while the other says it was the day he married Parvati.

Shiva is “anand” in Hinduism, which implies he was neither born nor died. His abilities are limitless, and his insight is comprehensive. Shiva’s mystique is a big part of why he’s become such a popular deity. His power and omnipresence are only amplified by the intrigue and contradictions surrounding him. Shiva was and continues to be one of Hinduism’s most important figures, and the devotion he inspired will have an impact on the religion for many years to come.

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