I come from a Vaishnaviite family – our deity being Vishnu. And as such had no exposure to Shiva, the third god in the Hindu triumvirate – Brahma, the creator of the universe, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva’ whose role is to destroy the universe in order to re-create it. Quite honestly, I am not your regular religious person, who prays three times a day, lights the lamp, knows every relevant shloka by heart… but I have always wanted to read about this rather intriguing, much revered, and one of the most amazing Gods of this cosmos. An enigma shrouded in mystery.
My introduction to this amazing God was in a song in a popular hindi cinema. He comes surrounded by ghosts and goblins, riding a buffalo, sporting dread locks, smoking pot, drinking cannabis singing and dancing with untamed passion much to the chagrin of his father-in-law Daksha who famously castigated him as the ‘monkey-faced nobody’ whom Brahma receommended as a groom for his ‘fawn-faced’ daughter. What attracted me at the first sight was the benign smile behind this violent looking man! How could someone who is so wild be so gentle? How could one so masculine try to “win” over his beloved?
Shiva is the epitome of contradictions therefore seen as the source of both good and evil and is regarded as the one who combines many contradictory elements. He is represented by the linga – a phallic statue, representing the raw power of the God and his masculinity. He is sometimes depicted as an ascetic and at others a hedonist. While other gods are depicted in lavish surroundings, Shiva is dressed in simple animal skin and in austere settings. Easily attained, Lord Shiva is petitioned by saint and sinner alike. Demons and gods gain boons from him – sometimes in contradiction of each other, sometimes cleverly cancelling each other out.
Even though Shiva is the destroyer, he is usually represented as smiling and tranquil. He is said to have a neck blue in colour because he drank the poison from the churning of the ocean so the earth remained pure! He effortlessly captured the wild Ganga in his locks as she fell to the earth to protect the earth from her wrath. Now why would the destroyer play the saviour? Amazing eh?
He is said to sport a third eye! An amazing concept, the “third eye” is referred to as the spiritual eye, the intuitive eye, or the eye of the soul. It is associated with the brow chakra, which facilitates intuition and extra sensory perception. The third eye is depicted on the forehead of Shiva, and is symbolic of the inner eye that sees all things within a cosmic perspective. Now how amazing is that!!!
He is the universal vibration for dancing, the essence of Michael Jackson/Beyonce’s! Dance is one of the most important art forms in India. The “Tandav Nritya” 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. Shiva is believed to assume two states – the unmanifest (nirgun) and the manifest (sagun). It is considered to represent the five actions of God, namely creation, sustenance, dissolution, the covering of the Great Illusion (Maya) and initiation (anugraha) (God’s grace to be liberated from the Great Illusion). So I mean like WOW!
And then in many scriptures He is represented as half man, half woman. His figure is split half way down the body, one half showing his body and the second half that of Parvati’s denoting equality. He is soft and gentle and a putty in his wife’s hands he wears the Cobra around his neck to signify power over the most dangerous creatures in the world.
Shiva is Pure Consciousness; the masculine principle of the universe. It is hard to conceptualise him. No pictures I have seen do him justice. His beauty lies in one’s inability of one to describe Him. He is just way too cool and I love to read about him!!! The more I read, the more I learn and the more intrigued I am.