Lord Shiva is one of the Trimurti, the trinity of mighty Hindu gods. His main function is the destruction or dissolution of the universe at the end of time.
He is also the most complex deity in Hinduism, combining auspiciousness (Shiva), terror (Rudra), art (Nataraja) and power (Vishvanatha) within himself. He is infinite, formless, transcendental, immutable, and has no beginning or end. Out of that Brahma arises, resides in Him and returns to Him. He is both Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman.
Shiva is full of contradictions. He destroys and restores. He is sensual, yet an ascetic. He is kind as well as angry.
Shiva exists in 3 states.
Nirguna: Here, he is formless. In his pervasiveness lies the entire universe and creation.
Saguna: In this state, Shiva is the entire universe. His “Part” is present in the entire creation. Yet no form can describe it.
Nirguna-Saguna: In this state he is Shivling, The word comes from Sanskrit – Shiva (Lord) + Lingam (sign/symbol). Thus, the Shivalingam represents the mark of the Lord within his creation. All things in the world emerge from a dome/ball/pindi. The seed of the tree is round, the cell that becomes the child is round, all the heavenly bodies are round, and the earth is round. This roundness is a sign of Shiva. As we cannot understand him, we worship his mark. In other words, we worship the entire Brahman in a Shivling.
The Yajurveda says, “Na tasya pratima asit,” which means ‘He has no image.’ Hence he is formless. But all forms are his.
He-She-These are the three forms in which the world appears, and they arise from it. While Shiva is male, Shiva is female, and Shivam is neutral.
Thus, he is beyond gender..
Icons of Lord Shiva
Shiva is rich in symbolism. His body, as well as the things he wears, are all symbols. Let us explore the symbolism of Shiva.
The crescent on Shiva’s head is a symbol of time. In ancient times, the setting and decreasing of the moon helped to calculate the days and months.
The Moon on Shiva’s head indicates that he controls time and is beyond time or even eternal. To control nature it is necessary to control time and moon. It is the Moon’s gravity that causes the high tide and low tide. One of the names of Shiva is Chandrashekhar, which means ‘the one who holds the moon in the knot of his hair’.
ashes on his body
The ashes on Shiva’s body actually belong to a graveyard. The graveyard is also one of Shiva’s favorite places, where he roams with his ganas. The ashes remind us that death is our final destination. In the end we will all be ashes. But Shiva is beyond the circle of life and death. The ashes are Shiva’s way of telling us to remain humble and grounded and to stay away from vanity, arrogance and pride.
Shiva controlled the waters of the Ganges with his matted hair. It is a symbol of the power that He has over the whole creation. A hymn in the Vedas says that those who have long hair have a special relationship with souls.
Ganga is a river as well as a goddess in Hinduism. It is the holiest river in India. Legend says that it originates from the matted hair of Shiva. Another legend says that Shiva let it flow through his hair. That’s why the Ganges water is considered holy and holy. One of the many names of Shiva, ‘Gangadhara’ means “bearer of the river Ganges”. Thus, Shiva is not only the destroyer but also the conductor of purity and peace. Ganga also represents knowledge. Thus, the ultimate knowledge is flowing from Lord Shiva.
his third eye
Lord Shiva has a third eye which is called Tryambakam, Trinetra etc. The third eye represents the vision of knowledge. It indicates that our 2 eyes are not enough to judge things and understand the truth. It symbolizes the destruction of the world of Maya. It helps us differentiate between right and wrong.
His third eye also symbolizes the rejection of desire. A person needs samata (balance), sadhuta (purity of character), and fardrishti (broad vision). She should not succumb to immoral desires for the opposite sex (other than her husband or wife), wealth (which is not earned honestly), and fame (which is not born out of virtuous actions).
Yogis believe that when the pineal gland or ‘third eye’ is awakened, one can see beyond space-time into time-spaces. It is like a spiritual antenna that helps the individual to reach a higher level of consciousness while he is still present in the physical body.
her half open eyes
Shiva’s eyes are not fully open. This implies that the cycle of the universe is still in progress. When his eyes are fully opened, a new cycle of creation begins. When He closes them, the universe will dissolve and make way for the next cycle of creation. Thus, creation is an eternal and cyclical process. It has no end or beginning.
snake around his neck
The snake is wrapped around Shiva’s neck thrice. The 3 coils represent past, present and future times. The horoscopes show the cyclical nature of time. Shiva wearing it shows that Shiva is beyond time and death. The snake is also a symbol of Kundalini Shakti. The snake is a symbol of passion and desire. So the second meaning is that Shiva has conquered such worldly desires.
The three stripes on his forehead are called Tripunda. They symbolize the 3 qualities.
The tiger is the vehicle of Goddess Shakti and represents Shakti. Shiva wearing a tiger skin signifies his great power and he also controls Shakti. The tiger often represents lust, so it suggests that Shiva has conquered lust. In addition, the tiger is a symbol of energy. Shiva is the source of relativistic energy which is present in the entire universe. He activates this energy by his divine will and creates the universe in infinite cycles.
The necklace of Shiva’s Rudraksha has 108 beads made from his own tears. Pearls represent the elements of the world. So, Shiva wearing a necklace means that he also obeys the cosmic laws. It is also a symbol of grace and penance.
Shiva’s Damru represents the cosmic sound called Pranavamand. It also represents the “word Brahma” or Om. This is where grammar and music originated. It is believed that when Shiva is in the state of creation, his drum vibrates 14 times. These 14 basic sutras contain all the letters of Sanskrit, arranged in ways to facilitate various grammatical procedures. So, Damru represents alphabets, grammar and language.
The lingam, which represents Shiva, is a phallic idol. It symbolizes his masculinity and raw power. It is seen by Hindus as the seed of the universe.
His trident has three prongs that represent the three fundamental forces of Shiva: Ichha (desire), kriya (action), and jnana (knowledge). This means that he can destroy evil and ignorance and also that he punishes the wicked in three levels: spiritual, astral and physical. It also shows his 3 aspects – the creator, the protector and the destroyer. It can also represent the balance of the 3 gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas.
Kamandal is a water pot made using dried pumpkin. There is nectar in it. It depicts Shiva as a yogi. The pumpkin is plucked, its fruit removed and the shell peeled off so that it can carry the nectar. Similarly, one should renounce the material world and free oneself from the ego to attain the pure spiritual form.
These are the earrings of Shiva. One is Lakshya, which means ‘that which cannot be shown by any sign’, and Niranjan, ‘which cannot be seen by mortal eyes’. These refer to the imperceptible nature of Shiva. Women wear on the left and men wear on the right. The coils reflect the dual nature of Shiva, as he is also Shakti, the female principle.
Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva, is believed to be the center of the universe. It means that Shiva is Kailash, the one who bestows peace.
Nandi, the bull, is the vehicle of Shiva. It represents dharma or righteousness. The Sanskrit word for bull is “Vrisha”, which means “righteousness”.
Mantras of Lord Shiva
There are many mantras of Lord Shiva. The most famous of these is the Panchakshari mantra ‘O Namah Shivaya’, which means ‘Greetings to the good’. Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra is also very famous. Shiva is also called Marundhesvara and Vaitheeswarar, the god of healing or healing. Some of the powerful healing mantras of Lord Shiva are Shivashtakam, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and Panchakshari Mantra.
Lord Shiva Temple
There are many Shiva temples in India. Some of the most famous are: