Shiva statue

Shiva statue

October 23, 2010

Shiva is considered one of the most complex Deities of Hinduism. He embodies seemingly contradictory qualities. Shiva is the God of ambiguity and paradox. He is the duality of destroyer and restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality. He is both benevolent and filled with wrath evoking both terror and delight.

Originally known as a fertility God named Ruda (roaring storm) in the pan era, he evolved through amalgamation into a single God and an aspect of the trinity: Shiva (destroyer), Vishnu (preserver) and Brahma (creator). He is one of the five primary Gods of Hinduism.

The word Shiva means “The auspicious one.” A person is purified by the utterance of his name. Shaivism embraces many theological practices. The emphasis being to die to the ego or earthly attachments. The Yogis who practice Shaivism mark their foreheads with three lines representing the aspects of the trinity.

Maha Shivratri, the night of worship to Shiva, is celebrated at midnight on the new moon in February. During the great mythical churning of the ocean, a pot of poison emerged that threatened the world. Shiva sucked the intoxicating poison into his throat, but did not swallow it. One drop in his stomach would have annihilated the Universe. It turned his throat blue. Devotees prepare an intoxicating drink made from cannabis, almonds and milk to honor his protection.

The symbol of Shiva is depicted with a crescent moon on his forehead or in his hair, a snake around his arm, a deer in his left hand and a trident in his right hand.

The snake is a symbol of Kundalini (sexual) energy. It also represents reincarnation and transformation, as the snake sheds its skin when it outgrows itself.

The trident is an emblem of sovereignty and represents the trinity as the connection to the cycle of life: creation, preservation and destruction.

The crescent moon illustrates that he can control the mind perfectly. The deer in his hand also illustrates this mastery as the deer jumps from one place to another like the undisciplined mind.

His matted hair is associated with the immortality of the Ganges. Shiva is said to have covered himself with cremated ashes denoting the desire to die to self.

He wears the sacred Rudraksha beads, perhaps as a reference to his earlier connection to animistic ways.

The white bull is his protector and a symbol of fertility. He is seen riding it or sitting beside it. When approaching a Shiva shrine, a person touches the bull and then gestures by touching the third eye, lips and heart. Then proceeds to walk in a clockwise fashion around the shrine. Flowers, fruit, incense and money are offered. People toss in coins for good luck. When approaching a temple, one waits until an attendant greets them and takes their offering. Tika, a colored dot on the forehead, is given by the attendant for blessings. The attendant may also offer fruit from Shiva’s plentiful basket.

Shiva is represented as a phallic symbol in the temples. A container of water is filled above the sculpture with a small hole that drips water as people make their offerings. In his effort to release himself from worldly attachment, Shiva smeared his body with ash and became chaste. This caused him to burn with a fire that threatened the whole Universe. The Yoni, a symbol of the Divine feminine, caught him and contained him within her vessel quenching the fire of destruction.

His consort, or other half, is known as Shakti. She is recognized as Divine mother and Divine energy. Shiva is absorbed by her as the source of creative energy. Shiva is considered the ideal role model for a husband because of his generosity and reverence for women. Parvati is Shiva’s wife. She once playfully covered both of his eyes. This caused his third eye to become pronounced. The third eye symbolizes consciousness and beckons the dawning of a new age of enlightenment.

Shiva uses the hourglass shaped drum, called a damaru (like that of the Tibetan shaman; perhaps a reminder of the pan era.) This drum brings the energy of the dance that spins Shiva into the destroyer that purifies the self to be offered as ash to the Creator.

He is also associated with androgyny. He is said to have mastered the balance of masculine and feminine. This is denoted by him split in half. One side wearing the earring of a female and the other the male. Balance is also reflected in the dance of Shiva: the Tandava, with the energy of masculine fierceness, and the Lasya, which is graceful and expresses the gentle emotions of the Divine Feminine.

Shiva is recognized as an Avatar who reincarnates to help humanity evolve in consciousness.