Shiva, the one-third of the holy trinity of Hindu dharma is often the subject of folklore, mysticism, simple living and of course- anger. Lord Shiva can be described as the beginning, the blackness and void from where everything started and everything will eventually culminate into. Shiva has long been described as an ascetic, a yogi or even Adiyogi.  Known for his generous boons, forgiving nature, simple living as well as feared for his anger Shiva is a complex entity.

Shiva is considered to be the origin of everything. SHIVA is described as ‘Tatwaateetaha Paraatmaham, Mayaateetaha Paraha Shivaha, Mayaateetaha Paramjyotir, Ahame Vaaham Avyayaha’  literally meaning, ‘ I am beyond all philosophies, beyond the Universe, I am an Eternal Light, I am inexhaustible forever’.

Our scriptures say that there are multiple universes(Anantha Koti Brahmanda) and SHIVA is the ORIGIN of all and in the end, everything goes back to him. Here’s our attempt to bring some Unknown Facts about Shiva.

1. Origin of Shiva

According to Shiva Purana, after the creation of the world and Bhramanda,  Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu were both arguing about their powers. Both of them wanted to prove that one is mightier than the other. Right then, amidst the heated discussion, an inexplicable blazing pillar appeared in front of them, whose roots and tip were not visible. The roots seemed to penetrate deep into the earth with the tip piercing into the skies beyond eternity. Amazed by the view of this pillar, both the Lords wondered about this third entity that stood there, challenging both of their supremacy. Now their argument had subdued and they started discussing how to find out more about this new entity. Both Brahma and Vishnu set out to locate the start and end of that pillar.

Brahma turned into a goose and flew up to find the top of the pillar, while Vishnu transformed into a boar and dug into the earth to look for its roots. The search went on for ages but the outcome proved futile as neither of them succeeded in their respective missions. After their unsuccessful attempts, both Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu felt humbled and came back to their original place only to find Lord Shiva manifesting in front of them. They understood the depth of  Shiva’s power and cosmic existence.

2. Shiva – The first Yogi

Adi Yogi - Shiva
Image source – Sadhguru.org

Many, like Sadhguru, believe Shiva was the Adiyogi. Yoga being the science and technology to know the essential nature of how this life is created and how it can be taken to its ultimate possibility. Sadhguru says “This first transmission of yogic sciences happened on the banks of Kanti Sarovar, a glacial lake a few miles beyond Kedarnath in the Himalayas, where Adiyogi began a systematic exposition of this inner technology to his first seven disciples, celebrated today as the Saptarishi. This predates all religions. Before people devised divisive ways of fracturing humanity to a point where it seems almost impossible to fix, the most powerful tools necessary to raise human consciousness were realized and propagated.”

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3. Shiva exists in 3 states

  1. Nirgun: In this state he is formless, and the whole universe and creation lie in the pervasiveness of Shiva.
  2. Saguna: In the Saguna state Shiva is the entire universe and his “ansh” is present in the tree, the insect, the animal, male, female and the whole creation. In this state though all forms arise out of him yet, no form can describe him.
  3. Nirgun-Sagun: In the Nirgun-Sagun state Shiva is worshiped as the Shivalingam. The word Shivalingam has been derived from Sanskrit roots Shiva (Lord) + Lingam (Mark/Chinha/Symbol). Hence, Shivalingam is the mark of lord within its creation. Everything in the world arises out of a dome/a ball/ a pindi. Be it a tree which comes from a seed which is round, a child which comes from a cell which is round, all heavenly bodies are round, the minutes of cells are round and our very earth is round. Everything being round is a mark of the Lord/Shiva. Since Shiva can’t be comprehended, we worship his mark or we worship the whole Brahmman in a Shivalingam.

4. Avatars of Shiva

Kalantaka Avatar of Shiva
Kalantaka Avatar of Shiva

Lord Shiva is believed to have 19 avatars. Nandi, Rishi Durvasa, Lord Hanuman and Ashwatthama are few lesser-known Avatars of Lord Shiva.

5. Shiva and Samudra Manthan

During the divine churning of the ocean, a ply to bring the Gods into power and overthrow the Asuras, Amrita, the great nectar of Immortality was produced. Samudra Manthan began, using Mount Mandara as a churning stick and the serpent Vasuki as the churning rope, they carried out the order of the Lord. Vishnu appeared as a turtle and acted as the pivot for Mount Mandara.

While we know nature has a way of maintaining balance, Halahal the great poison of Samudra-Manthan was produced to balance Amrit generated from Manthan. When the uncontrollable poison was forcefully spreading up and down in all directions, all the demigods approached Lord Shiva, seeking shelter in him and praying for his protection.

Being compassionate and dedicated to auspicious, benevolent work, Lord Shiva agreed to drink all the poison. Goddess Parvati, the wife of Shiva, being aware of her Lord’s capabilities and strength, gave her consent.

Shiva reduced the vast slick of poison it to a small quantity that he could hold in the palm of his hand. While he was drinking it, a few drops fell from his hand and was immediately consumed by poisonous snakes, scorpions, toxic plants and other venomous creatures of the world.

After Lord Shiva drank the poison, his neck became bluish, enhancing his beauty. One of his names is, therefore, Nilakantha – ‘one with a bluish neck’. Impressed by this act of snakes, Shiva accepted Vasuki (king of snakes) around his neck.

In the Bhagavat Purana, there is an instructive verse regarding Shiva’s compassionate act, as follows:  “It is said that great personalities almost always accept voluntary suffering because of the suffering of people in general. This is considered the highest method of worshiping the Supreme Lord, who is present in everyone’s heart.”

6. Shiva Tandav and Nataraja

Shiva is believed to assume two states – the samadhi (Superconscious) state and the tandav or Lasya dance state. The samadhi state is His Nirguna (Non-materialised) and tandav or Lasya dance state is His Saguna (Materialised) state. Nataraj is the manifest form of all activity of God. Nataraj’s dance is considered to represent the five actions of God, namely Creation, Sustenance, Dissolution, the covering of the Great Illusion and initiation.

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The dance presents the following features

  • Different earrings in each ear signifying Ardhanarishwar avatar
  • Damaru in the rear right hand- indicating Creation of nada and shabda Brahman
  • Fire in the rear left hand indicates Purification of animate and inanimate creation
  • Front right hand offering Protection to devotees
  • Front left-hand Points to the foot raised for Liberation of jivas
  • Apasmara or Muyalaka crushed under the right foot-Destruction of avidya (Ignorance) or adnyan (Lack of knowledge)
  • Surrounding circle – Cycle of Maya
  • Hand and foot touching the chakra – Purifying Maya
  • Five radiant fireballs arising spontaneously from the flames of the chakra – The subtle Panchatattvas.

Shiva is the symbol of ‘Brahman’, the universal consciousness. The cosmic serpent called ‘Kundalini’, draped by the Lord of all dance, is mythically present in every living form. Arousal of the ‘kundalini’ is a metaphor for the awakening of the seven energy centers or ‘chakras’ situated in the spine.

It is said that during such a destructive, fearsome dance, Shiva not only destroys the world but also frees jivas (Embodied souls) from bondage. The Shmashana is selected for the dance to depict that the ego of the jiva is reduced to ashes. Devas, as well as Asuras are enthusiastic to accompany Shiva during the tandav dance.

7. Apasmara and Nataraja

Apasmara is a figure in Hindu scriptures who represents both ignorance and epilepsy. He is a dwarf who is also sometimes called Muyalaka or Muyalakan. Apasmara is often depicted holding his hand in Anjali mudra. He is said to have a dwarf’s face, but the body of an infant. Apasmara also gives his name to the neurological condition of epilepsy.

The myth of Apasmara states that in order to ensure the knowledge in the world is preserved, he cannot be killed. To kill him would mean attaining knowledge without any dedication or effort, which would devalue all knowledge and unbalance knowledge and ignorance in the world. Thus, he is destined for immortality. Apasmara used to plague humans who prayed to Shiva to control him.

According to the story, because Lord Shiva could not kill Apasmara, he instead took the form of the Lord of the Dance, Sri Nataraja. He performed tandava, the cosmic dance, in order to suppress Apasmara and managed to crush him under his right foot. Thus, because Apasmara must remain immortal, Lord Shiva must remain forever in this form, suppressing Apasmara forever. It is said that Shiva’s stance in doing this is a symbolic reminder of the need to suppress ignorance, ego, and laziness in order to realize the truth.

CERN has Nataraja statue (which is Shiva in his brahmandanrityam stance) Brahmandam means Universe, nrityam means Dance. The statue indicates continuous creation and continuous destruction, it also indicates a positive and negative charge.

Nataraja at CERN
Source

Nataraja statue is placed due to the popularity the image had acquired from so many physicists in the last century, the De Broglie’s theory and Max Planck’s theories “Dual Nature of Matter” is a common concept in Saiva Siddantham and almost all Tamil Siddhars have strong beliefs on dual nature of matter and parallel universe, multiverse and warm holes.

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8. Ashokasundari – Daughter of Shiva

According to Padma Purana, Once Shiva took Parvati to Nandanvana, a beautiful garden where Parvati found Kalpavriksha which could fulfill any wish. She asked for the Daughter and her wish was granted. Ashokasundari was born as a daughter of Parvati and Shiva.

9. Half Open Eyes of Shiva

Lord Shiva Facts

The half-open nature of the eyes conveys that the cycle of the universe is still in process. When Shiva opens his eyes completely, then a new cycle of creation begins, and when he closes them, then the universe is destroyed until the next phase of creation. The half-eyes show that creation is an eternal cyclic process that has no end or beginning.

10. The Snake Around the Neck

The snake coils three rounds on the neck of Shiva, and that represents time in its most accurate form: the past, the present and the future, and the coiling signifies the cyclic nature of it. And him wearing the snake shows that Shiva is immune to the wrath of time and death. They also represent dormant energy known as Kundalini Shakti that resides within him.

The snake turns in the same direction as the Lord, and that shows that the laws of Shiva is the law of reason and justice that preserves the natural order.

(Last Updated On: July 1, 2020)
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