Lord Shiva

Metal Casting of Dancing ShivaShiva is 'Shakti', Shiva is power, Shiva is the destroyer, the most powerful god of the Hindu pantheon and one of the godheads in the Hindu Trinity. Known by many names - Mahadeva, Mahayogi, Pashupati, Nyataraja, Bhairava, Vishwanath, Bhava, Bhole Nath. He, Mahadev, is the cause of the vast universe and maya (illusion) is his eternal slave. He is the cosmic absolute in visible form whose consciousness and deeds are inscrutable.

Shiva is one of the Hindu trinity that comprises the creator Brahma, the protector Mahavishnu, and the godhead Shiva whose primary responsibility is maintaining the life cycle. Shiva is the only godhead who is forever in deep meditation, totally absorbed in contemplation in His abode, Kailash mountain in the great Himalaya.

Shiva is an ascetic and several religious stories and dramas portray that all attempts to distract him from that principal pursuit through temptations always ended up with disaster for those initiating such an effort. Thus Kama, the Lord of Desires, who tried such a distraction was burned alive through the fire when Shiva opened His third eye.

Shiva, in temples is usually found as a phallic symbol of the linga, which represents the energies necessary for life. In a Shaivite temple, the linga is placed in the centre underneath the spire, where it symbolizes the naval of the earth. Since Shiva is regarded as a mighty destructive power, to numb his negative potentials he is fed with opium Therefore, on Maha Shivratri, the night of Shiva worship, devotees, especially the menfolk, prepare an intoxicating drink called Thandai (made from cannabis, almonds, and milk) sing songs in praise of the Lord and dance to the rhythm of the drums.

The actual image of Shiva is also distinct from other deities, his hair piled high on the top of his head, with a crescent tucked into it and the river Ganges tumbling from his hairs. Around his neck is a coiled serpent representing Kundalini or the spiritual energy within life. He holds a trident in his left hand in which is bound the 'damroo' (small leather drum). He sits on a tiger skin and on his right is a water pot. He wears the 'Rudraksha' beads and his whole body is smeared with ash.

He is also often portrayed as the supreme ascetic with a passive and composed disposition. Sometimes he is depicted riding a bull called Nandi decked in garlands. Although a very complex deity, Shiva is one of the most fascinating of Hindu gods.

God Shiva Temples in India

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