Lord Shiva is one of the chief deities of Hinduism that is worshipped as the high-priority lord by the Shaivite sects of India.
In Hinduism, Lord Shiva is observed as the representation of the Supreme existence. He is known as the 3rd element in the Hindu Trinity (Trimurti), the other two members being Lord Brahma – the creator and Lord Vishnu – the protector. Shiva is the destructive form of the Almighty. As the cycle of destruction and recreation is always in a circle, Shiva’s main responsibility is maintaining the life cycle. Scholars say, as the Mahakaal, Shiva destroys and dissolves everything into zero but as Shankara, he also reproduces that which has been destroyed and dissolved. His symbol of Lingam or the phallus represents this reproductive power.
Lord Shiva is also contemplated to be the most masterly of all Hindu gods and also the God of all. A great devotee, Shiva is the only godhead who is forever in deep meditation, totally absorbed in speculation in His abode, Kailaasa Mountain (Kailaas Parvat) in the great Himalaya. Lord Shiva is also said to be Indivisible from Shakti – Parvati the daughter of King Himavaan – Haimavati. There is no Shiva without Shakti and no Shakti without Shiva, the two are one – or the absolute state of being.
Shiva is often shown with many faces, as creator, destroyer and preserver in total command of the universe. He restrains both good and evil. He is moody, free of prohibition, easy to please, protector of the downtrodden, and has the power to alter the laws of luck. Thus, it is Lord Shiva is famous as the God of mercy and kindness. He protects his devotees from all evil that are always around us. He blesses his followers with grace, knowledge and peace.
Lord Shiva as Ardhanareeswara
Lord Shiva is said to be half man and half woman. In the full figure of Shiva the male and female principles are united. Shiva Linga – the symbol of Lord Shiva which structure of both Lingam (phallus) and yoni (the female organ) represent the totality of his nature and the totality of all created existence.
Appearance and Attributes of Lord Shiva
God Shiva is shown either in raised or in the form of a Dancing God Nataraj where his dance is to the beat and rhythm of the invention. He is also shown in the status with many hands. One pair of hands, for example, represents the balance between life and death. Shiva is ′tri netra′ or three eyed, and is ′neela kantha′ – blue-necked (having consumed poison to save the world from destruction). Besides, there are a lot many attributes concerned with God Shiva. Here is a brief description of some of the important symbols that depict God Shiva. Each of his depiction signifies a different aspect of his Supreme Being.
Lord Shiva – Unclad body covered with ashes:
This form of Lord Shiva depicts that Lord Shiva’s presence is much higher than this physical incidence. According to some scholars, Shiva’s body smeared with cemetery ash points to the philosophy of the life and death and the fact that death is the definitive reality of the life.
Lord Shiva Jata (Matted Hair):
The flow of his matted hair represents Shiva as the Lord of Wind (Vayu), who is the subtle form of breath present in all living beings. Thus, it is Shiva which is the lifeline for all living being. He is Pashupatinath.
The holy rivers, Ganga flows from the matted hair of Shiva. According to a legend, Shiva allowed an outlet to the great river to traverse the earth and bring scouring water to the human being. Ganga also denotes fertility – one of the creative phase of the Rudra.
The Third Eye:
Lord Shiva is Conversant as the three eyed Lord or Tryambaka Deva. The sun is his right eye, the moon left while the third eye of Shiva on his forehead is the eye of wisdom. It is the eye that looks away the obvious. The third eye can search evil from anywhere and destroys it perfectly.
The half-open eyes show that the globes cycle in process. When the eyes are completely closed it signifies the dissolvent of the universe and when it is completely open a new cycle of creation begins.
Shiva bears on his head the moon of the panchami (fifth day) moon. This is placed near the glowing third eye and this shows the power of Soma, the sacrificial offering, which is the delegate of the moon. It means that Shiva maintains the power of procreation along with the power of destruction. The moon is also a measure of time, thus Crescent also represent his control over time.
The Cobra Necklace:
This infers that Shiva is beyond the powers of death and is often the sole support in case of suffering. He swallowed the poison kalketu for the goodness of the Universe. The deadly cobra represents that aspect that Shiva has completely succeeded. The cobras around his neck also represent the dormant energy, called Kundalini, the serpent power. The snake curled three times around the neck of Lord Shiva depicts the past, present and future time. The snake looking in the right direction of Lord Shiva signifies that the Lord′s perpetual laws of reason and justice process natural order in the universe.
Vibhuti is a three line of ashes drawn on the forehead that imports the Heaven of the soul and showed the glory of the Lord.
Lord Shiva is shown relaxing on or wearing a tiger skin. The tiger is the vehicle of Shakti, the Goddess of power and force. Shiva is beyond and above any kind of force. He is the leader of Shakti. The tiger skin that he wears expresses victory over every force. Tiger also designs lust. Thus sitting on Tiger skin, Shiva indicates that he has conquered lust.
The Elephant & Deer Skin:
Shiva also uses elephant skins. Elephants represent pride. Wearing elephant skin, Shiva symbolizes that he has conquered pride. Furthermore, deer represent the flickering mind. Shiva wears deer skin which indicates that he has commanded the mind perfectly.
‘Rudra’ is the different name of Shiva. It also means stringent or uncompromising and ‘aksha’ means eye. Rudraksha, the necklace worn by Lord Shiva explains that he is firm about his cosmic laws and to maintain law and order in the everything. The necklace has 108 beads, which signify the elements used in the production of the world.
A small drum with two sides separated from each other by a thin neck-like structure represents the two utterly different states of existence, unclear and clear. When a damaru is shaken, the sound formed indicates Nada, the cosmic sound of AUM, which can be heard throughout the deep meditation.
A three-branched trident shown adjoining to Lord Shiva symbolizes His three original powers will, action and knowledge. As a weapon the trident describes the instrument of punishment to the evildoer on all the three planes – spiritual, subtle and natural.
Nandi, the Bull:
Nandi is declared to be the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The bull represents both power and simplicity. Lord Shiva′s use of the bull as his vehicle expresses the idea that He removes blindness and bequeaths power of wisdom on His followers.