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Shiva: The Life of Hinduism's Most Popular Deity

Shiva

In Hinduism, there are numerous gods that followers may pray to for guidance or favors.

However, Shiva is perhaps the most popular among them all.

His worshippers come from all walks of life, with no particular demographic preferring him over others.

It is believed that wherever there are Hindus be it in India or other parts of the world there will always be a temple dedicated to Shiva and his various avatars (incarnations).

This article aims to give you an overview of the life of India’s favorite god, Shiva.

Who is Shiva?

Shiva, also known as Parameshwara, is one of the most influential deities in the Hindusim and is considered the supreme deity.

*It is regarded as one of the three important gods along with Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu. One of the Hindu theories is called Trimurti.

He is the one who ends all, removing all impurities and evil from the world.

And also, He is the god of yoga and is said to meditate beneath the Himalayas until the world's end.

Shiva is the supreme deity of the following:

  • Create the world, sustain the world
  • Destroy the world
  • End the world and recreate it

Also known as Adiyogi Shiva (First Ascetic), he is the patron deity of yoga, meditation, and the arts.

Shiva wears a serpent and has his body smeared with ashes.

The iconographical attributes of Shiva are:

  • The third eye on his forehead (the eye that turns everything in front of it into ashes when opened)
  • The serpent around his neck
  • The adorning crescent moon
  • The holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair
  • The three-pronged spear (Trishula) as a weapon
  • Drum (Damaru)

The legend of Shiva’s birth

Shiva is known as “The Lord of the Dance”.

He was born out of a merging of two gods, “The Lord of the Three Worlds” (Brahma) and “The Destroyer of the Three Worlds” (Shakti).

*The concept of three worlds has a number of different interpretations in Hindu cosmology. Traditionally, the three worlds refer to either the earth, heaven, and hell (or the netherworld).

This union came about when both gods accidentally consumed an enchanted poison, causing them to unite and lose their individual identities.

As a result, the new god that was formed was the “Lord of the Dance” Shiva.

As the son of two gods, Shiva was born with various powers and abilities.

His first act, however, was to kill the god who had accidentally consumed the enchanted poison.

Shiva image

I had waited too long to be born!

For this reason, Shiva is also known as “The Destroyer of the Three Worlds”.

Why is Shiva worshiped so much?

Shiva is worshiped so much because he has numerous powers and abilities.

He is the creator, sustainer, and destroyer of the universe, and can grant his followers any wish they have.

And also, as the supreme god, Shiva has the ability to destroy and recreate the universe, which he has done several times.

It is said

People image

At the end of the world, Shiva will destroy the universe, and then recreate it again.

In other words, it will be a “Big Clean”.

By the way, Shiva’s ability to grant wishes and desires comes from his third eye.

The third eye is said to have the following abilities:

  • Be able to see the universe, past, and future
  • Grant his followers whatever they need

Who is Shiva, the King of Dances?

Shiva in the form of Nataraja (Dancing King) is also widely accepted.

Nataraja

It is also known as Narutaka (Dancer) and Nichanalta (Eternal Dancer).

Dancing with Shiva, and the connection between Shiva and music are notable during the period of Purana literature (4th to 14th centuries).

* Purana literature is a general term for Hindu scriptures. It means "old tale".

In addition to the characteristic Nataraja pose, there are various forms of dance in multiple parts of India, and it is said that Tamil Nadu in India is particularly well systematized.

Some of the most famous forms of dance include:

  • Tandava: Shiva dances
  • Lasya: Parvati dances

When it becomes necessary to destroy the world, Tandava and Lasya destroy the world.

*Parvati is the consort of Shiva. She is said to be a beautiful goddess with a gentle, kind heart and golden skin.

Lasya is paired with Tandava as a feminine dance.

Tandava and Lasya are also associated with the destruction and regeneration of the world.

What is the lingam, the symbol of Shiva?

Besides being represented in human form, Lord Shiva is symbolized as a Linga (Lingam).

The shape of the lingam varies.

Lingam

The most common form is a yoni, a disc-shaped object with a spout and a vertical column rising from the center.

This yoni symbolizes Goddess Shakti.

* Shakti is the root of the universe in Hinduism or Indian philosophy.

In temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, the lingam is usually placed in a sanctuary within the temple, and includes the following offerings:

  • Milk
  • Flower
  • Petal
  • Fruit
  • Leaf
  • Rice

The oldest surviving lingam made as a symbol of Shiva dates from the 3rd century BC.

There are said to be64 lingams scattered throughout India.

A Shiva temple with a linga is called a Jyotirlinga (Linga of Light).

*This word is a compound word and Jyotir means brilliance.

Of these, 12 Jyotirlingam are considered the most sacred and are called Maha Jyotirlingam (Great Jyotirlingam).