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Shiva, Hindu God

Shiva Dancing Over Maya In Bronze

Background and History
  • Hinduism is an ancient religion from India. Hinduism believes in a variety of gods, many of which are often in contention with one another for power over regions of the universe. Each 'God' has different physical features and different powers and tasks to perform which are explained in the mythologies of India. Many of the Hindu gods date back several thousand years while others, which are said to be manifestations of other gods or newly created gods entirely, are more modern. Shiva is one of these Hindu 'Gods'.
  • Shiva is known as the wild god in Hinduism. He has many qualities that span the entire history of Hinduism, dating back to the earliest sacred texts, called the Vedas, around three thousand or more years ago. Primarily, Shiva was known as the lord of animals and creatures.
  • In ancient Hindu sacrifices conducted by priests, called Brahmins in Sanskrit, Shiva is associated with the creative power in the universe known as Prajapati. Later texts describe Shiva as the lord of destruction and chaos, which in Hinduism is considered a positive trait rather than a negative one as in many Western religions. Further, stories about Shiva depict him as a yogi who practices yoga in a cave in the Himalayas. There, through the practice of self-restraint for thousands of years, he accumulates vast supernatural power that allows him to rival all other Hindu gods.
  • Sometimes Shiva is worshiped as Rudra, the red colored wild god who is infused with the five elements, earth, water, fire, air, and space. As Rudra, he is the totality of creation, meaning he is the supreme figurehead and the overarching principle that binds all things together. With this power, Shiva has been described as the defeater of death, or the death of death, because he transcends time. This quality makes Shiva one of the three most important deities in Hinduism and is the reason he is often called the destroyer, while Vishnu is the sustainer and Brahma the creator.

Role in Hindu Society
  • Shiva’s many characteristics make him especially appealing to Hindus, as stories about him are often fascinating and contradictory. One of the most common representations of Shiva is the lingam. Although lingam in Sanskrit simply means symbol, the physical representation of Shiva as the lingam refers to his male genitalia, since this is a symbol for creation and potentiality. Phallic stone rocks or stones are often carved into lingams representing Shiva. Lingams typically are surrounded by a yoni, which is a symbol representing a woman’s womb and the complementary female aspect of creative energy. The lingam and yoni combination is not intentionally sexual but is instead a symbol of birth, referring to one’s own creation and one’s own promise to create future births. Shiva, then, is the wild god who is simultaneously the god of destruction, the hermit ascetic in a Himalayan cave, and the master of sex and creation. 
  • All life originates from Shiva just as all life ceases with Shiva.
  • Typically Shiva is the god most worshiped by world-renouncing people, like holy men, who withdraw from society. Therefore, Shiva’s role in Hindu society in the modern world is mostly associated with meditation, yoga, smoking substances like marijuana, and chaos. Despite these sometimes controversial qualities, Shiva is also seen as an ideal husband and is worshiped by many women who have devotion to female goddesses as their cosmic lord. 
  • The goddesses  Durga and  Kali are associated with Shiva in that they are considered to be emanations of Parvati, Shiva’s traditional consort in the Hindu pantheon. In stories where Durga or Kali are key, Shiva inevitably acts as the jester in the deck since his power can make him the ultimate wildcard.

  • People who worship Shiva as their main deity are called Shaivas, literally meaning “devotees to Shiva.” The Shaiva sect of Hinduism, along with the Vaishnava sect (devotees of Vishnu), is the largest sect within Hinduism. It is unclear which sect is the most populous, as many followers of Shiva are also devotees to Vishnu and vice versa. Much religious literature has been written throughout the last few thousand years depicting either Shiva or Vishnu as the most powerful and ultimate singular deity. Regardless of which sacred religious text a devotee takes as canonical, Shiva’s role within Hindu society cannot be denied since his popularity comes from his diverse characteristics.
  • While many Hindu gods are intimately connected to the Hindu priestly caste, Shiva’s association with ascetics and those who have renounced society make him appealing to people of all castes, since one does not need to have secret priestly knowledge in order to worship him. Similarly, a lingam and yoni combination is a relatively simple and cheap construction and may be built or even found in nature in any village regardless of the priestly presence. In contrast, to build a statue or carve a scene into the side of a temple is an expensive and sometimes long process that disallows some poor communities from taking part in housing and worshiping a god. Shiva, therefore, may be viewed as a god for all people and can be easily accessed. Prayers to Shiva range from those pertaining to household life, like wishing for a son, to those seeking the power to meditate and renounce the world to seek spiritual development.

Being a Hindu consumed about Shiva today
  • We can look at Hinduism and Shiva in a historical and mythological context, an objective look from an outsider's point of view. But how do Hindus consumed in Hinduism and Shivasim beliefs perceive Shiva as a God and what are their beliefs and consumption of what is taught. This is best understood by reading their statements. Here are some examples as printed in the Facebook page, ''The Shiva Tribe''. The key issues are, the powers of Shiva and his role, the symbol of Shiva, the Lingum (or Shivalingum), the role of Mantras, Bilva leaves, mythology of Shives life, Rudraksha beads (seeds ), why is Shiva blue and rituals to follow.

1. Why is Shiva coloured blue ?
  • This question is best answered by the Hindu believers in ''The Shiva Tribe ''. ''This child dressed up as Lord Shiva, in blue colour, with the ash smeared all over his body in Kumbh Mela. Generally we see Hindu gods depicted in blue colour. Blue is the colour of the infinite. All Hindu gods are an attempt by the human mind to give form to the formless Brahman. The colour blue symbolises immeasurable and all perva ding reality – formless Brahman. The blue colour thus teaches us that what appears as Shri Vishnu, Krishna and Lord Shiva is the all pervading reality. Brahman , the Supreme Reality, takes a particular form to satisfy the human mind. Whatever is immeasurable can appear to the mortal eye only as blue; thus the cloudless summer sky is blue to us because the endless distance of space is interpreted by the physical eye as blue in colour. Lord Shiva however is not blue coloured. It's just his throat that's blue, due the effect of Halahal stored in his throat. He is Karpur Gauram, camphor coloured. The colour of the ash on his body is depicted blue though. A simple reminder that This body that we are so proud of and we are so much attached to will become a heap of ash one day! That ash which is dear to Lord Shiva. Shiva applies ash on his body just to remind that this Life is transient.''

Indian Hindu child painted blue and dressed to resemble Lord Shiva