Many Paths to One God
God of Destruction
Love of Siva's feet eradicates bad karma. Love of Siva's feet grants
you the clarity of mind. Love of Siva's feet imbues the heart with gladness. Love of Siva's feet is consciousness itself.
All this universe is in the glory of God, of Siva, the God of Love.
The heads and faces of men are His own, and He is in the hearts of all.
-- Yajur Veda
Shiva literally means "auspiciousness, welfare". He is the third god of the Hindu Trinity. Shiva represents darkness. He is often portrayed as an "angry god" and the god of destruction. Often Lord Shiva destroys negative presences such as evil, ignorance, and death.
Shiva holds a complementary role to Brahma, the god of creation. Shiva protects souls until they are ready for recreation at the hands of Brahma. Creation follows destruction. Therefore Shiva is also regarded as a reproductive power, which restores what has been dissolved. As one who restores, he is represented as the linga or phallus, a symbol of regeneration.
Because of his connections with destruction, Lord Shiva is one of the most feared and heavily worshipped deities in Hinduism.
The snakes coiled at different places of Lord Shiva's body have names.
The serpents coiled at His ears are named Padma and Pingala.
The serpents coiled at His armlets are named Kambala and Dhananjaya.
The serpents at right and left wrists are named asvatara and taksaka.
The serpent at his waist is called Nila. --- Vamana Purana.
Shiva has a 1,008 names and a thousand faces. His names
include Mahadeva (the great god), Mahesh, Rudra, Neelkantha (the blue-throated one), and Ishwar (the supreme god). He is also called Mahayogi, or the great ascetic, who symbolises the highest form of austere penance and abstract meditation, which results in salvation.
Shiva has eight forms: Rudra, Sharva, Bhava, Ugra, Bhima, Pashupati, Ishana, and Mahadeva, which, according to the Shiva Purana, correspond to the earth, water, fire, wind, sky, a yogi called Kshetragya, the sun, and the moon respectively.
Shiva lives on Mount Kailas. Sometimes he rides a bull with his wife Parvati. Shiva's many-formed wife is the graceful Uma, Parvati, the fierce Durga or the blood-thirsty Kali. Her sons are Karttikeya, the warrior, and the gentle Ganesha, whose helper is a rat.
He who is without beginning and without end,
in the midst of confusion, the Creator of all,
of manifold form, the One embracer of the universe...
by knowing Him, one is released from all fetters.
Shiva is the essence of the Vedas, and the source of the Word.
He is the first among the gods of this world. He is inextricably woven into all that the eye can see.
Nataraja - The Lord of Dance
Shiva is the creator of dance. He has uttered the first 16 rhythmic syllables ever uttered, from which the Sanskrit language was born.
Shiva's dance of anger is called the Roudra Tandava and his dance of joy, the Ananda
Shiva dances the dance of creation, the dance of destruction, the dance of solace and liberation. Beneath his left foot ignorance is crushed; from his head springs the life-giving waters.
appear strange for the god of destruction to perform the dance of
creation. Remember that the world of maya is one of opposites. The death for devout Hindus is nearly synonymous with rebirth,
so when one dies another one is created. Thus, Shiva is not only a destroyer but
also a creator. The rhythm he dances to is that of a world perpetually forming, dissolving and re-forming.
His are the flames, the moon, the drum, and the lotus. His mount is the white bull, and the tiger has given its skin to gird his loins. Serpents coil about his limbs, and from his right hand flows the promise of release.
Maha Shivaratri, Shiva's great spiritual night, is traditionally devoted to Paramashiva (Shiva the Supreme, God). Shiva's devotees consider this night to be the holiest night of the whole year.
The Maha Shivaratri night falls on the night previous to the new moon night, in the February or March - in the Phalguna month in the Hindu calendar.
The devotees fast the previous day and stay awake, in sharp and devoted meditation all night. Those of the devotees who have not been yet initiated in the secret mantras of Shiva, meditate also, uttering uninterruptedly and transfigured the name of Shiva, or they sing hymns of devotion for His name. They also adore the Shiva Lingam, the phallic symbol of Shiva.
Maha Shivaratri is considered especially auspicious for women. Married women pray for the well-being of their husbands and sons. Unmarried women pray for the appearance of their ideal husband.
Shiva is said to have been married to Parvati on Sivaratri. Hindus believe that any person uttering Shiva's name with pure and ardent devotion on Mahashivaratri will be freed from all sins and will reach the adobe of Shiva, freed from the cycle of birth and death.
The cult of Sakti or the
mother aspect of Godhead had its roots in the Vedas. The Rg-Veda
describes Sakti as the embodiment of power and the upholder of
the universe. Sakti is represented as the sister of Krsna and
the wife of Siva. She is worshipped as Devi, who is one with
The literature of Saktism,
called the Tantra, gives a high place to women and reacts
strongly against caste distinctions. According to the doctrines
of the Sakta cult (embodied in 77 Agamas), Siva or the supreme
entity is impersonal and beyond activity.
Sankara in his
Saundarya1ahari declares: "Siva is able to function when
united with Sakti; otherwise he is inert."
A variant of the Saivite
philosophy, which developed in Kashmir, is known as the
Pratyabhijna system. Here, as Dr. Radhakrishnan says, Siva is
the subject as well as the object, the experiencer as well as
the experienced. "As the consciousness on which all this
resultant world is established, whence it issues, is free in its
nature, it cannot be restricted anywhere. As it moves in the
differentiated states of waking, sleeping, etc., identifying
itself with them, it never falls from its true nature as the
Hinduism by Dr. C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar, et.al.,
The Gazetteer of
India, Volume 1, Publications Div., Government of India, 1965.