Shiva (International Alphabet of Sanskrit
also spelled Siva; Modern main Indian languages, Shiv) is
one of the principal deities of Hinduism. Within Shaivaism or Shaivism, He is
viewed as the Supreme Being (i.e., God, whereas in other branches of Hinduism
such as the Smarta tradition he is worshipped as one of several manifestations
of the divine. Followers of Hinduism who focus their worship upon Shiva are
called Shaivites or Shaivas (Sanskrit Shaiva).
His role as the primary deity of Shaivism
is reflected in his epithets Mahadeva ("great god"; maha = great +
deva = god), Mahesvara ("great lord"; maha = great + isvara = lord),
and Paramesvara ("Supreme Lord"). Shaivism, along with Vaishnava traditions
that focus on Vishnu, and Sakta traditions that focus on the goddess (Devi)
are three of the most influential denominations in Hinduism.
Who is Shiva
Shiva is one of the five primary forms
of the Divine in Smartism, a denomination of Hinduism that puts particular emphasis
on five deities, the other four being Vishnu, Devi, Ganesha, and Surya. Another
way of thinking about the divinities in Hinduism identifies Brahma, Vishnu,
and Shiva as each representing one of the three primary aspects of the divine
in Hinduism, known collectively as the Trimurti. In the Trimurti system, Brahma
is the creator, Vishnu is the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva is the destroyer
Shiva is also often portrayed as the
supreme ascetic with a passive and composed disposition. Lord Shiva is said
to be the ultimate Vaishnava, one who chants or cantillates
and meditates the name of the great Lord Vishnu (or Lord Raama), or the supreme
soul, in his meditating form. To one point, the supremacy of both the gods Vishnu
and Shiva has unified in the devotees' hearts so much that, it is said that,
Lord Raama's guru is Shiva, and Lord Shiva's guru is Raama (Lord Vishnu's incarnation).
The Harihara image [the combination form of Lords Vishnu (Hari) and Lord Shiva
(Hara)] is very popular and common, and is well found in the classical and present
day Indian art and literature.
Vishnu and Shiva are still again the
two of the five main Gods of Hinduism, viz., Soorya (Sun God), Ganesha, Shiva,
Shakti (Mother Goddess) and Vishnu, and from these five godheads, the five main
subdivisions of the sects of Hinduism has taken birth. They are, Sourya (from
Soorya), Gaanapatya (from Ganesha), Shaiva (from Shiva), Shaakta (from Shakti)
and Vaishnava (from Vishnu). Vaishnavism and Shaivaism are the most popular
of them all at present. Though each of the Gods is the Supreme to his/her devotees.
Shiva is 'Shakti', Shiva is
power, Shiva is the destroyer, one of the most powerful Gods of the Hindu pantheon
and one of the godheads in the Hindu Trinity. Known by many names - Mahadeva,
Mahayogi, Pashupati, Nataraja, Bhairava, Vishwanath, Bhava, Bhole Nath - Lord
Shiva is perhaps one of the most complex of Hindu deities. Hindus recognise
this by making thousands of His temples all over the world, down the ages, which
can compete only with the temples of Lord Vishnu. He is often referred to be
in the form of the middle-aged man, or sometimes even bearded old (middle-aged
or old may be the symbol of the worn-out or destruction, or the experienced
one with yoga, or knowledge, or the age of an experieced yogi (ascetic).
Among his many different forms, Shiva sometimes is also shown naked, for which
He is attributed as Digambara (Sanskrit: Dik => sky; ambara
= cloth, or one who is clad).
The Sanskrit word "Shiva"
is an adjective meaning kind, friendly, gracious, or auspicious. As a proper
name it means "The Auspicious One", used as a euphemistic name for
Rudra. In simple English transliteration it is written either as Shiva or Siva.
In English it is pronounced as - ɕivə
(IPA). The adjective Shiva meaning "auspicious" is used as
an attributive epithet not particularly of Rudra, but of several other Vedic
deities. In the Rig Veda, Indra uses this word to describe himself several times.
(2:20:3, 6:45:17, 8:93:3)
The Sanskrit word saiva means "relating
to the god Shiva", and this term is the Sanskrit name both for one of the
principal sects of Hinduism, and for a member of one of those sects. It is used
as as adjective to characterize certain beliefs and practices, such as Shaivism.
The worship of Shiva is a pan-Hindu tradition,
practiced widely across all of India. Modern historians believe that the figure
of Shiva as we know him today was built-up over time, with the ideas of many
regional cults being amalgamated into a single figure. How the persona of Shiva
converged as a composite deity is not well-documented. Axel Michaels explains
the composite nature of Shaivism as follows:
Like Visnu, Siva is also a high god,
who gives his name to a collection of theistic trends and sects: Saivism. Like
Vaisnavism, the term also implies a unity which cannot be clearly found either
in religious practice or in philosophical and esoteric doctrine. Furthermore,
practice and doctrine must be kept separate.
An example of assimilation took place
in Maharashtra, where a regional deity named Khandoba is a patron deity of farming
and herding castes. The foremost center of worship of Khandoba in Maharashtra
is in Jejuri. Khandoba has been assimilated both as a name for Karttikya and
also as a form of Shiva himself in which case he is worshipped in the form of
a lingam. Shakti M. Gupta clarifies the possible confusion between these two
identifications by explaining that one of Karttikeya's functions is as the patron
deity of thieves, and it is in this capacity that the tribe called Ramoshis,
who are thieves by profession, worship Khandoba. Khandoba's varied associations
also include an indentification with Surya. The derivation of the name Khandoba
has been variously interpreted, and M. S. Mate says that the most commonly-held
belief is that it was a distorted form of Skanda, but also notes alternate theories.
The Pashupati Seal
A seal discovered during excavation of
the Mohenjo-daro archaeological site in the Indus Valley has drawn attention
as a possible representation of a "proto-Shiva" figure. This "Pashupati"
(Sanskrit = Lord of Animals) seal shows a seated figure, possibly ithyphallic,
surrounded by animals. Sir John Marshall and others have claimed that this figure
is a prototype of Shiva, and have described the figure as having three faces,
seated in a "yoga posture" with the knees out and feet joined.
This claim has not fared well with some
modern academics. Gavin Flood characterizes these views as "speculative",
saying that while it is not clear from the seal that the figure has three faces,
is seated in a yoga posture, or even that the shape is intended to represent
a human figure, it is nevertheless possible that there are echoes of Shaiva
iconographic themes, such as half-moon shapes resembling the horns of a bull.
Historian John Keay is more specifically dismissive, saying:
...there is little evidence for
the currency of this myth. Rudra, a Vedic deity later identified with Shiva,
is indeed referred to as pasupati because of his association with cattle;
but asceticism and meditation were not Rudra's specialties, nor is he usually
credited with an empathy for animals other than kine. More plausibly, it has
been suggested that the Harappan figure's heavily horned headgear bespeaks
a bull cult, to which numerous other representations of bulls lend substance.
Shiva as we know him today shares many
features with the Vedic god Rudra and both Shiva and Rudra are viewed as the
same personality in a number of Hindu traditions. Rudra, the
god of the roaring storm, is usually portrayed in accordance with the element
he represents as a fierce, destructive deity.
The oldest surviving text of Hinduism
is the Rig Veda, which is dated to between 1700–1100 BCE based on linguistic
and philological evidence. A god named Rudra is mentioned in the Rig Veda. The
name Rudra is still used as a name for Shiva. In RV 2.33 he is described as
the "Father of the Maruts", a group of storm gods.
The identification of Shiva with the
older god Rudra is not universally accepted, as Axel Michaels explains:
To what extent Siva's origins are
in fact to be sought in Rudra is extremely unclear. The tendency to consider
Siva an ancient god is based on this identification, even though the facts
that justify such a far-reaching assumption are meager.
Rudra is called "The Archer"
(Sanskrit: Sarva) and the arrow is an essential attribute of Rudra.
This name appears in the Shiva Sahasranama, and R. K. Sharma notes that it is
used as a name of Shiva often in later languages. The word is derived from the
Sanskrit root sarv- which means "to injure" or "to kill"
and Sharma uses that general sense in his interpretive translation of the name
Sarva as "One who can kill the forces of darkness". The names
Dhanvin ("Bowman") and Baanahasta ("Archer",
literally "Armed with arrows in his hands"), also refer to archery.
Lord Shiva's General Appearence
The actual image of Shiva is also distinct
from other deities: his hair piled high on the top of his head, with a crescent
tucked into it and the river Ganges tumbling from his hairs. Around his neck
is a coiled serpent representing Kundalini or the spiritual energy within life.
He holds a trident in his left hand in which is bound the 'damroo' (small leather
drum). He sits on a tiger skin and on his right is a water pot. He wears the
'Rudraksha' beads and his whole body is smeared with ash. He is well built,
strong-armed, powerful, and resembles a huge mountain made of dazzling silver.
All the features in his looks are symbolisms.
Lord Shiva's Forms
(I) Attributes of Lord Shiva:
* Third Eye:
Shiva is often depicted with a third eye with which he burned Desire (Kama)
to ashes. There has been controversy regarding the original meaning of Shiva's
name Trilochana (Sanskrit: tri = three; lochana
= eye(s) or eyed), or Tryambaka (Sanskrit: one with three
eyes of fire), which occurs in many scriptural sources. In classical Sanskrit
the word ambaka denotes "an eye", and in the Mahabharata
Shiva is depicted as three-eyed, so this name is sometimes translated as "Having
Three Eyes". However, in Vedic Sanskrit the word amba or ambika
means "mother", and this early meaning of the word is the basis
for the translation "Having Three Mothers" that was used by Max
Müller and Arthur Macdonell. Since no story is known in which Shiva had
three mothers, E. Washburn Hopkins suggested that the name refers not to three
mothers, but to three Mother-goddesses who are collectively called the Ambikas.
Other related translations have been "having three wives or sisters",
or based on the idea that the name actually refers to the oblations given
to Rudra, which according to some traditions were shared with the goddess
* Silver Complexion:
Lord Shiva's body complexion is silver, for which he is attributed as Rajatagirisnniva
(Sanskrit: rajata = silver, giri = mountain, sanniva
= resembling, or one who resembles).
* Blue Throat:
The epithet Neelakantha (Sanskrit neela = blue,
kantha = throat) refers to a story in which Shiva drank the poison
churned up from the world ocean, to save the creation.
* Crescent Moon:
Shiva bears on his head the crescent of the moon. The epithet Chandrashekhara
(Sanskrit: "Having the moon as his crest" - chandra = Moon,
shekhara = crest, crown), Bidhushekhara (bidhu
= moon), Chandramouli (mouli = crown), Chandrachoorha
(choorha = crest, crown) and others, refer to this feature. The placement
of the moon on his head as a standard iconographic feature dates to the period
when Rudra rose to prominence and became the major deity Rudra-Shiva. The
origin of this linkage may be due to the identification of the moon with Soma,
and there is a hymn in the Rig Veda where Soma and Rudra are jointly emplored,
and in later literature Soma and Rudra came to be identified with one another,
as were Soma and the Moon.
* Matted Hair:
Shiva's distinctive hair style is noted in the epithets Jatin,
"The One with matted hair" and Kapardin, "Endowed
with matted hair" or "wearing his hair wound in a braid in a shell-like
(kaparda) fashion". A kaparda is a cowrie shell, or
a braid of hair in the form of a shell, or more generally hair that is shaggy
* Sacred Ganga:
The Ganga rivers flows from the matted hair of Shiva. The epithet Gangaadhara
("Bearer of the river Ganga") refers to this feature. The Ganga
(Ganges), one of the major rivers of the country, is said to have made her
abode in Shiva's hair.
* Ashes: Shiva
smears his body with ashes (bhasma). In this connection, he is called
Vibhootibhooshana (Sanskrit: vibhooti = ashes, bhooshana
= ornament, or one who is ornamented). Some forms of Shiva, such as Bhairava,
are associated with a very old Indian tradition of cremation-ground asceticism
that was practiced by some groups who were outside the fold of brahmanic orthodoxy.
These practices associated with cremation grounds are also mentioned in the
Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism. One epithet for Shiva is "Inhabitant
of the cremation ground" (Sanskrit: smasanavasin, also spelled
Shmashanavasin) referring to this connection.
* Tiger skin:
He is often shown seated upon or wearing a tiger skin. In this connection,
he is called Krittivaasa (Sanskrit: kritti = tiger
skin, vaasa = attire or cloth to wear, or one who is wearing).
Shiva is often shown garlanded with a snake, for which he is also called Naagabhooshana
(Sanskrit: naaga = serpent, bhooshana = adorned
or ornamented, or one who has adorned himself with).
* Trident: (Sanskrit:
Trishoola) Shiva's particular weapon is the trident.
* Other divine &
neuclear weapons: Lord Shiva also holds, often in his five-headed [for
which he is called Panchaanana (Sanskrit: pancha
= five, aanana = head or face), ten-armed form, many weapons, among
which the particular ones are the axe, the scimitar, which is called the Chandrahaasa,
or one with the smile of the moon, his arrows and bow, which is called the
Pinaaka, for which, Shiva is also called Pinaaki,
or one holding the Pinaaka.
* Drum: A small
drum shaped like an hourglass is known as a "damaru" (Sanskrit).
For this, Shiva is also called Damarudhara (Sanskrit, "one
who is holding the damaru; dhar = holder). This is one of the attributes
of Shiva in his famous dancing representation, known as Nataraja.
A specific hand gesture (mudra) called Damaru-hasta (Sanskrit for "Damaru-hand")
is used to hold the drum. This drum is particularly used as an emblem by members
of the Kaapaalika sect.
* Nandi, also
known as Nandin, is the name of the bull, that serves as Shiva's
mount (Sanskrit: vaahana). For this, Shiva is known as Vrishavaahana
(Sanskrit: vrisha = bull, vaahana = mount, or one who is
mounting). Shiva's association with cattle is reflected in his name Pashupati
or Pasupati (Sanskrit: pashu = animal, pati
= lord), translated by Sharma as "Lord of cattle" and by Kramrisch
as "Lord of Animals", who notes that it is particularly used as
an epithet of Rudra.
* Varanasi (pronounced:
Vaaraanasi; < Benaaras) is considered as the city specially-loved
by Shiva, and is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage in India.
* Mount Kailasa
(pronounced: Kailaasha) in the Himalayas is his traditional abode,
for which he is called Kailasapati (Sanskrit = pati,
or the lord, of mount Kailasa, or the Lord dwelling in the Kailasa).
In Hindu mythology, Mount Kailasa is conceived as resembling a linga
(phallus), representing the center of the universe.
(II) Aspects of Lord Shiva:
Lord Shiva is known by several names
and worshipped in various forms- some myths, some legends, some beliefs, some
regional, and some are just stories, far beyond the facts or theories of the
Hindu scriptures. Among them, just a handful of a few of them are listed below:
In some temples Shiva is shown with five faces. Each face has a name and represents
a specific aspect. These five faces are Ishaana, Tatpurusha, Aghora, Vaamadeva
and Sadyojaata. Ishaana faces south east and represents Eeshwara
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. Vaamadeva faces
north. He is healer and preserver. Sadyojaata faces west and represents
the creative power of Shiva.
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:
The form which he assumed after cutting off the fifth head of Brahma.
The form he assumed while killing a demon named Nila.
The form he assumed while destroying the three cities of gold, silver and
iron built by the three sons of Andhakasura.
form in which he fought and defeated Yama, the god of death, to save his
The form generally found in connection with the secret cults of Tantricism
that involve his worship in the cremation grounds and grave yards.
The form in which he allegedly fought and sanctified, Narasimha, the incarnation
The form in which he destroyed Kama (pronunciation: Kaama),
or Manmatha, the god of love and lust, for disturbing him while
The form in which he defeated Andhakasura, who subsequently joined his forces
as his commander and became popular as Bhringi.
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 Nataraaja (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 Urddha-tandava-murhty,
dancing in the air.
The Eleven Rudras: Shiva
has eleven forms of Rudra. He has several names and avataras and various scriptures
and religious books give different names. However the 11 Rudras worshipped
in the Ekadasa Rudrabhishekam Pooja is the most reliable information. The
11 Rudras are as follows:
1. Mahadeva, 2. Shiva , 3. Maha Rudra, 4. Shankara,
5. Neelalohita, 6. Eeshana Rudra, 7. Vijaya Rudra, 8. Bheema Rudra, 9. Devadeva,
10. Bhavodbhava and 11. Adityatmaka Srirudra.
Their 11 consorts of these 11 Rudras respectively are:-
1. Dhee devi, 2. Dhritti devi, 3. Ushna (Rasala) devi,
4. Uma devi, 5. Neeyut devi, 5. Sarpi devi, 7. Eela devi, 8. Ambika devi,
9. Ieravati devi, 10. Sudha devi and 11. Deeksha devi.
The auspicious and sacred Easwara principle
is present in every man. This divine principle can be manifested only through
the practice of pure thoughts and actions. The
Rudras turn the intellect (Buddhi) towards sensuous objects and thrust
the individual in the sea of (worldly life). The Paramatama (Supreme Spirit)
is master of all the Rudras. Only the man who has conquered the eleven Rudras
can expect to realize the Supreme. There are so many theories and notions
about the eleven Rudras as well. One of them is, the Rudras are the symbolism
of the eleven sensory organs. Man must seek to control as much as possible
these eleven organs. From ancient times, the sages have stressed the supreme
importance of sense-control as the means to God-realization. The eleven organs
consists of ~
- The five organs of action
(Sanskrit: karma = work; indriya
= sense organ):
1. Chakshu (eyes)
2. Karna (ears)
3. Naasika (nose)
4. Jihavaa (tongue)
5. Tvak (skin)
- The five organs of perception
(Sanskrit: gnyana = knowledge; indriya = sense organ):
6. Baak (speech)
7. Paad (feet)
8. Paani (hands)
9. Paayu (anus)
10. Upastha (excretory organs- penis/vagina)
Ubhayendriya - One organ, acting as both
(Sanskrit: ubhaya = both; indriya = sense organ):
11. Manah (mind)
Nataraaja: 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
(pronounciation: Nataraaja) 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, or the ignorant darkness and the inauspicious
aspects of creation), 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.
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 is the 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).
This image signifies the importance of Shiva, as has been described in the
texts of the Linga Purana & the Shiva Purana (Puranas dedicated to the
glory of Lord Shiva), in the form of a magnanimous Linga (phallus)
of fire, with no beginning, middle or end, as the Supreme Self. 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.
This is Shiva in his ascetic aspect, wandering from place to place, with a
begging bowl made of human skull (from Goddess Annapurnaa- holding
the golden bowl of cooked rice to give alms to Lord Shiva and rescue the world
with food, being another form of Parvathi, Shiva's consert), 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.
is Shiva in a mood of reconciliation and friendship with Lord Vishnu. Also
known as Harihara or Sankaranarayana. The image shows sometimes the right
half of Shiva on the right side of the image and the left half of Vishnu on
the left side, or the vice versa.
Shiva and Parvathi together in one form signifying the unity of Purusha
(form of male) and Prakriti (energy as female). 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.
The Destructive & the Regenarting
Shiva is believed to be at the core of
the centrifugal force of the universe, because of his responsibility for death
and destruction. Unlike the godhead Brahma, the Creator, Shiva is the dissolving
force in life. But Shiva dissolves in order to create, since death is the medium
for rebirth into a new life. So the opposites of life and death and creation
and destruction both reside in his character.
Since Shiva is regarded as a mighty
destructive power, to numb his negative potentials he is fed with opium and
is also termed as Bhole Shankar, one who is oblivious of the world. Therefore,
on Maha Shivratri, the night of Shiva worship, devotees, especially the menfolk,
prepare an intoxicating drink called Thandai (made from cannabis, almonds, and
milk) sing songs in praise of the Lord and dance to the rhythm of the drums.
According to Gavin Flood, "Siva
is a god of ambiguity and paradox", whose attributes include opposing themes.
The ambivalent nature of this deity is apparent in some of his names and the
stories told about him.
Destroyer versus Benefactor
In the Yajurveda two contrary sets of
attributes for both malignant or terriffic (Sanskrit: Rudra) and benign
or auspicious (Sanskrit: siva) forms can be found, leading Chakravarti
to conclude that "all the basic elements which created the complex Rudra-Siva
cult of later ages are to be found here." In the Mahabharata, Shiva is
depicted as "the standard of invincibility, might, and terror", as
well as a figure of honor, delight, and brilliance. The duality of Shiva's fearful
and auspicious attributes appears in contrasted names.
The name Rudra
reflects his fearsome aspects. According to traditional etymologies, the Sanskrit
name Rudra is derived from the root "rud"- which
means "to cry, howl." Stella Kramrisch notes a different etymology
connected with the adjectival form raudra, which means wild, of rudra
nature, or even the midday's or summer's fierce sunrays, and translates the
name Rudra as "the Wild One" or "the Fierce God".
R. K. Sharma follows this alternate etymology and translates the name as "Terrible".
Hara is an
important name that occurs three times in the Anushasanaparvan version
of the Shiva sahasranaama, where it is translated in different ways
each time it occurs, following a commentorial tradition of not repeating an
interpretation. Sharma translates the three as "One who captivates",
"One who consolidates", and "One who destroys." Kramrisch
translates it as "The Ravisher". Another of Shiva's fearsome forms
is as Kaala, "Time", and as Mahakaala,
"Great Time", which ultimately destroys all things. Bhairava,
"Terrible" or "Frightful" is a fierce form associated
In contrast, the name Shankara,
"Beneficent" or "Conferring Happiness" reflects his benign
form. This name was adopted by the great Vedanta philosopher Shankara (c. 788-820
CE), who is also known as Shankaracharya. The name Shambhu,
"Causing Happiness", also reflects this benign aspect.
Ascetic versus householder
He is depicted as both an ascetic yogin
and as a householder, roles which are mutually exclusive in Hindu society. When
depicted as a yogin he may be shown sitting and meditating. His epithet Mahayogin
(The Great Yogi: Maha = great, Yogin = one who practices Yoga) refers to his
association with yoga. While Vedic religion was conceived mainly in terms of
sacrifice, it was during the Epic period that concepts of tapas, yoga, and asceticism,
became more important, and the depiction of Shiva as an ascetic sitting in philosophical
isolation reflects these later concepts.
As a family man and householder he has
a wife, Parvati (also known as Uma), and two sons, Ganesha
and Skanda. His epithet Umapati ("The husband
of Uma") refers to this idea, and Sharma notes that two other variants
of this name that mean the same thing, Umakanta and
Umadhava, also appear in the sahasranaama.
Uma in epic literature is known by many names, including Parvati. She is identifed
with Devi, the Divine Mother, and with Shakti (divine energy).
Shiva and Parvati are the parents of
Karthikeya and Ganesha. Karttikeya is popular in South India
by the names Subrahmanya and Murugan, and in North India he is more popular
by the name Skanda, Kumara, or Karttikeya. Ganesha being still again, one of
the five main Gods of Hinduism.
The Five Mantras
Five is a sacred number for Shiva. One
of his most important mantras has five syllables (na-mah shi-vaa-ya).
Shiva's body is said to consist of five mantras, called the pañcabrahmans:
As forms of god, each of these have their own names and distinct iconography:
These are represented as the five faces
of Shiva, and are associated in various texts with the five elements, the five
senses, the five organs of perception, and the five organs of action (see
above for details: Section: The Eleven Rudras).
Doctrinal differences and possibly errors in transmission have resulted in some
differences between texts in details of how these five forms are linked with
various attributes. But the overall meaning of these associations is summarized
by Stella Kramrisch: "Through these transcendent categories, Siva, the
ultimate reality, becomes the efficient and material cause of all that exists".
According to the Pañcabrahma Upanishad: "One should know all things
of the phenomenal world as of a fivefold character, for the reason that the
eternal verity of Siva is of the character of the fivefold Brahman".
Taandava & Laasya
Lord Shiva is also known as Nataraj,
the Dancing God. This divine art form is performed by Lord Shiva and his divine
consort (energy) Goddess Parvati. The dance performed by Lord Shiva is known
as Tandava. Shiva’s Tandava is a vigorous dance that
is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. Tandava
depicts his violent nature as the destroyer of the universe. According to scholars,
‘Characteristics of the Tandava Dance’ have been described in the
fourth chapter of Bharat Muni’s Naatya Shastra, which is referred to as
fifth Veda and an expression of Lord Shiva’s eternal dance - Tandava.
It says that Shiva’s Tandava is embellished with 108 karanas
and the 32 angaharas - the composite parts of the dance. Bharat Muni
further says that Lord Shiva conceived the dance, as he was very much fond of
dancing every evening. Shiva further mentioned that 108 karanas included in
tandava could be employed in the course of dance, fight, and personal combats
and in other special movements like strolling. Some scholars believe that there
are seven different types of Tandava. The tandava performed with joy is called
Ananda Tandava and that which is performed in violent
mood is called Rudra Tandava. The other types of tandava
identified are Tripura Tandava, Sandhya
Tandava, Samara Tandava, Kaali
Tandava, Uma Tandava and Gauri
Tandava. However, there are few people who believe that there
are 16 types of Tandava. According to religious scholars, the cosmic dance of
Shiva, called 'Anandatandava,' meaning, ‘the Dance of Bliss’
symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily
rhythm of birth and death.
The dance is a pictorial allegory of
the five principle manifestations of eternal energy - creation, destruction,
preservation, salvation, and illusion. According to learned scholar, Coomerswamy,
the dance of Shiva also represents his five activities namely,
* 'Shrishti' - creation,
* 'Sthiti' - preservation, support
* 'Samhaara' - destruction, evolution
* 'Tirobhava' - illusion
* 'Anugraha' - release, emancipation, grace
The overall temper of the image is paradoxical,
uniting the inner tranquillity, and outside activity of Shiva. The dance performed
by Goddess Parvati is known as Lasya. In Lasya, the movements
are gentle, graceful and sometimes erotic. Some scholars call Lasya, the feminine
version of Tandava. Lasya is of two kinds - Jarita Lasya
and Yauvaka Lasya. According to the Puranas, Shiva
dances a wild and vigorous (tandava) dance in the cremation grounds at night
but dances a soft and graceful (lasya) dance in the tranquillity of the twilight.
Relationships in the pantheon
Shiva's rise to a major position in the
pantheon was facilitated by his identification with a host of Vedic deities,
including Agni, Indra, Prajapati, Vayu, and others.
Rudra and Agni have a close relationship. The identification between
Agni and Rudra in the Vedic literature was an important factor in the process
of Rudra's gradual development into the later character as Rudra-Shiva. The
identification of Agni with Rudra is explicitly noted in the Nirukta, an important
early text on etymology, which says "Agni is called Rudra also".
The interconnections between the two deities are complex, and according to
Stella Kramrisch: "The fire myth of Rudra-Siva plays on the whole gamut
of fire, valuing all its potentialities and phases, from conflagration to
illumination." In the Shatarudria, some epithets of Rudra such as Sasipañjara
("of golden red hue as of flame") and Tivasimati ("Flaming
bright") suggest a fusing of the two deities. Agni is said to be a bull
and Lord Shiva possesses a bull as his vehicle, Nandi. The horns of Agni,
who is sometimes characterized as a bull, are mentioned. In medieval sculpture
both Agni and the form of Shiva known as Bhairava have flaming hair
as a special feature.
In the Rig Veda, Rudra is the father of the Maruts, but he is
never associated with their warlike exploits, as is Indra. In the Rig Veda,
the term siva is used to refer to Indra. (2.20.3, 6.45.17, and 8.93.3.)
Indra, like Shiva, is likened to a bull.
During the Vedic period, both Vishnu and Shiva (as identified
with Rudra) played relatively minor roles, but by the time of the Brahmanas
(c. 1000-700 BCE) both were gaining ascendance. By the Puranic period both
deities had major cults that competed with one another for devotees. Many
stories developed showing different types of relationships between these two
Sectarian forces each presented their
own preferred deity as supreme. Vishnu in his myths "becomes" Shiva.
The Vishnu Purana (4th c. CE) shows Vishnu awakening and becoming both Brahma
to create the world, and Shiva to destroy it. Shiva also is viewed as a manifestation
of Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana. In Shaivite myths, on the other hand, Shiva
comes to the fore and acts independently and alone to create, preserve, and
destroy the world. In one Shaivite myth of the origin of the lingam, both
Vishnu and Brahma are revealed as emanations from Shiva's manifestation as
a towering pillar of flame. The Satarudriya, a Shaivite hymn, says that Shiva
is "of the form of Vishnu". Rivalry between the two cults is apparent
in the story of Sarabha (also spelled "Sharabha"), the name of Shiva's
incarnation in the composite form of man, bird, and beast. Shiva assumed that
unusual form to chastise Vishnu in his hybrid form as Narasimha, the man-lion,
who killed Hiranyakashipu, an ardent devotee of Shiva.
Syncretic forces produced stories in
which the two deities were shown in cooperative relationships and combined
forms. Harihara is a the name of a combined deity form of both Vishnu (Hari)
and Shiva (Hara). This dual form, which is also called Harirudra, is mentioned
in the Mahabharata. An example of a collaboration story is one given to explain
Shiva's epithet Mahabaleshvara, "Lord of Great Strength" (Maha =
great, Bala = strength, Ishvara = Lord). This name refers to story in which
Raavana was given a linga as a boon by Shiva on the condition that he carry
it always. During his travels, he stopped near the present Deoghar in Bihar
to purify himself and asked Vishnu in the guise of a Brahmin to hold the linga
for him, but after some time Vishnu put it down on the ground and vanished.
When Ravana returned, he could not move the linga, and it is said to remain
there ever since. A number of lingas in southern India are associated with
this story, including the famous Mahabalesvara linga at Gokarna.
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. The hymn "Hari
Aum-Tat-Sat" is being often uttered at the end of a prayer (just as
"Amen" in Christianity). 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.
Shiva, like some other Hindu deities,
is said to have several incarnations, known as Avatars. Adi Shankara, the 8th-century
philosopher of non-dualist Vedanta was named "Shankara" after Lord
Shiva and is considered to have been an incarnation of Shiva. In the Hanuman
Chalisa, Hanuman is identified as the eleventh avatar of Shiva.