Who is Shiva? – An Introduction to Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva is also fondly known as “Bholenath” (simpleton) for his modest nature which has different facets. Shiva is also the cosmic dancer (Nataraja), a naked ascetic, as a vagrant beggar, as a yogi, as a Dalit (untouchable) accompanied by a dog (Bhairava), and as the androgynous union of Shiva and his consort in one body, half-male and half-female (Ardhanarishvara). One of the names given to Lord Shiva is Pashupatinath which literally means ‘master of animals’. However, this description of animals includes every being.

Who is Shiva?

Of the 1,008 names, include Mahadeva (the great god), Mahesh, Rudra, Neelkantha (the blue-throated one), and Ishwara (the supreme god), Mahayogi, or the great ascetic, who symbolizes the highest form of austere penance and abstract meditation, which results in salvation.

Shiva is a state of pure consciousness. He is the creator of time, all-powerful, all-knowing. He is the Lord of the soul and of nature and of the three conditions of nature. From Him comes the shifting of life and liberation, bondage in time and freedom in eternity. This coupled with his “Bholenath” persona is maybe why priests, kings/queens, asuras meditated to please the Mahadev to make their dreams come true. So on Shivaratri, Hindus, Yogis, and followers of Shaivism all worship, meditate and rejoice in the Bhakti ras of Mahadeva.

Image credit – DeviantArt/Logarithmicspiral

Shiva is the dark-skinned austere with a blue throat. Shiva’s hair is matted and coiled on his head, adorned with a snake and a crescent moon. Ganga is always depicted flowing out of his topknot. Shiva is also the god with three eyes. The third eye, in the middle of his forehead, is always closed and only opens to annihilate an evildoer. While the Gods adorned gold and gemstones and gave up things that weren’t too pretty, Shiva is adorned with a garland of skulls, rudraksha beads, or a snake hangs from his neck.

The serpent race was despised and feared by all other creatures, but found a place of honor on Shiva’s sacred person, simply because he was moved by their plight. Shiva wore snakes as armlets and bracelets.

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In one hand, Shiva holds his Trishul, the Pinaka. The Trishul usually has a damaru or waisted drum tied to it. On another hand, he holds a conch shell, and in the third, a rudraksha rosary, a club, or a bow. He wears a tiger or leopard skin around his waist, and his upper body is usually bare, but smeared with ashes, as befits an ascetic. His third eye is believed to have appeared when Parvati (Parvati, the goddess of power, is Shiva’s cosmic consort), in a playful mood, covered his eyes with her hands. Immediately, the universe was plunged into darkness and there was chaos. To restore order, Shiva formed another eye on his forehead, from which emerged fire to restore the light.

Why is Shiva the destroyer?

In Hindu trinity, as Brahma is referred to as a creator, Vishnu as a preserver and Shiva as the Destroyer. The work of Brahma involved creating new worlds and bringing life to them, that of Vishnu involved managing and sustaining the world with his energies, and that of Shiva involved destroying and withdrawing the manifestations.

Creation ends at the point of Maha-Pralaya when manifestation is withdrawn back into the Great Void. This is when Shiva begins his Shiva Tandav, his famous cosmic dance. From his dance, the destructive energies are released and activated that dismantles all of the creation. (Read)

Whenever Shiva is referred to as the Destroyer, it means that He destroys the bad and paves to a new beginning.  Shiva performs the dissolution task of dissolving everything into him.

He destroys your gross form – the identification you have about yourself so that you return back to where you actually came from, you merge back into the absolute Bliss called Shiva himself.