Tell me more about Lord Shiva

IMG_0513

Wondering what Maha Shivratri on Friday 24th February is all about and who Lord Shiva is?  Here’s a 101 introduction to Lord Shiva, the Lord of Dance, the husband of Parvati, the father of Ganesha and the God that saved the world but turned blue in the process.

Lord Shiva, alongside Vishnu and Brahma, is a member of the Trimuri (or the Great Trinty), a Hindu concept that sees the functions of the universe fall to three principal Gods.  Lord Shiva, the destroyer, Lord Vishnu, the preserver, and Lord Brahma, the creator.

Maha Shivratri, literally, Shiva’s great night, is celebrated by devotees in honour of the Lord.  Devotees fast during the day and stay up all night in meditation and worship.  For some Maha Shivratri represents the day Shiva drank poison, saved the world, but turned blue in the process (see later).  Others, that it is the night that Shiva danced on and destroyed ignorance (more about that in a bit).  And there’s another set of follower that believe it is the anniversary of Shiva’s marriage to Parvati (more to come on this too).  Whatever the reason, it’s a big day.

Shiva belonging and symbolism. Shiva carries a Trishul or Trident, whose three prongs represent will, action and knowledge.  He has a third eye of wisdom that when opened burns to ashes anything in its path.  The moon in his hair represents the cyclic nature of the universe whilst the snake, which represents ego, is worn by Shiva to show that this can mastered and he’ll show us the way.

Lord Shiva, alongside Vishnu and Brahma, is a member of the Trimuri (or the Great Trinty), a Hindu concept that sees the functions of the universe fall to three principal Gods.  Lord Shiva, the destroyer, Lord Vishnu, the preserver, and Lord Brahma, the creator.

The consort of Lord Shiva is the Goddess Parvati, but she is not his first wife.    Lord Shiva’s first wife was Sati, but she passed away after retreating into a cave to meditate.  Some say Parvati is a reincarnation of Sati.   Goddess Parvati is the mother of Lord Kartikeya and Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva’s chlldren.

Nandi is Lord Shiva’s vahana, or mount, and serves as the Lord’s loyal servant.  Nandi, the bearer of truth and righteousness, is devoted to the Lord.  At temples Nandi always sits in front of Lord Shiva.  Devotees whisper into Nandi’s ear to share their secrets and wishes in the hope that they will come true.

Lord Shiva was once challenged by a boy he did not recognise and cut of his head as a punishment.  Unfortunately, the child in question was his son, Ganesha.  To bring him back to life he replaced his human head with that of an elephant’s and breathed life back into the boy.  It’s not a simple story, but it is well told in this children’s animation. Find out more about Ganesha at this link.

Shiva is the Lord of the Dance.   Shiva crushes ignorance beneath his feet as Natraja, the dancing king. Shiva performs the dance of joy (Ananda Tandava) on Apasmara Purusha, a demon dwarf who represents ignorance.

The Ganga flows down from the locks of Shiva’s hair.  A king who wanted to wash away the sins of his family, sent the heavenly river ganga down to earth, but because it’s flow was so strong it risked destroying the world.  So, in steps Lord Shiva, to soften the raging torrent and let the river run though the locks of his hair.

Shiva is blue because he swallowed poison to save the world.  During the great churning of the ocean between the gods and the demons in the hope of discovering amrita (the nector of immortality), poison burst from the waters and threatened to destroy everything.  To save the world, Shiva took the poison, drank it but stored it in his throat.  It was powerful, turning Shiva blue, but by staying awake all night he survived and, so too, did the world. 

The Shiva Linga (or lingam) is an iconic representation of Lord Shiva.  Puja is performed around an on the lingam with ganges water, honey, sugarcane juice, cow’s milk, ghee, rose water and oils amongst liquids poured over the lingam.  The Ice Shiva Lingam at the Amarnath Cave in South Kashmir is one of the most important pilgrimage site for Shiva devotees.  In 2016 the naturally formed ice lingam melted to its lowest ever height of 18 metres.  Climate Change is being blamed for its shrinking size.

During puja (prayer) Shiva devotees mark three lines on their forehead with sacred ash or sandalwood paste.  Shivaism or Shivites is a branch of Hinduism that sees the Shiva as the one true God.   

img_4596-2

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Tell me more about Lord Shiva

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s