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Friday, October 9, 2009
Shiva means “Auspicious One” and is also known as Rudra, the “Feared One.” He is silent in his presentation as the contemplative Shiva and fierce in his incarnation as Rudra. In the tradition of Hinuism, Shiva is seen as the Supreme God, and those who worship him are known as Shaivites.
One of the most interesting things is that Shiva is represented in so many different forms. He sits as a contemplative on the Banks of the Ganga and on top of Mount Kailash or dances as Nataraj, the Dancing Shiva, upon the Goddess Maya, the demon of ignorance. An even simpler form of Shiva is the Shiva lingham, an esoteric representation of Shiva. To the devotees, the Shiva lingham represents the last form to be seen before dissolving into the arms of God. A beautiful God, Shiva is usually pictured with his eyes half closed with the River Ganga wrapped in his hair, carrying a trident. Sometimes he is depicted with a Third Eye with which he burns desire. Known as the “one with matted hair,”Shiva smears his body with ash, thus symbolizing his connection to the cremation grounds. This connection to the cremation grounds attracts a fierce and ascetic devotion amongst Shiva’s followers.
It is also mythologized that Shiva wrapped the Ganga in his hair so that when the Ganga took incarnation, she would not flood and destroy the world. A deeper symbolism would be that Shiva is entwined with the beautiful Goddess Ganga and together with her, watches over humanity,keeping it foremost in his mind even while deep in contemplation.
A lesser known and most powerful aspect of Shiva is that he took the lowly form of Hanuman so that in that incarnation, he presents not just a lofty, detached form of God, but humility in the form of the lowly monkey. However, in this form of Hanuman, Shiva does not lose his fierceness and in fact Hanuman, now known as Bhajarangi Hanuman, is shown carrying the mountain as he travels to save Sita from the evil Ravenna.
Braham, Vishnu and Shiva represent the three aspects of the Divine: Brahma, the creator, Vishnu as the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva as the destroyer. It is believed that if Shiva were to put his foot down in his form as Nataraj, the world would be destroyed.
The question arises as to how one might pray to any of these triune forms. Would one pray to Brahma for help in creating, to Vishnu for preservation and maintenance of one’s life or to Shiva, for change or transformation of one’s life in a drastic, tumultuous fashion? It is comforting to know that as one progresses upon the spiritual life, one may reach out to any one of these Gods for help on their path, such is the wisdom and compassion of the Hindu religions for their devotees. There is no fundamentalism and one is encouraged to pray to any God one wishes. They await your prayers. Om Namah Shivaya!
For these and more Shiva books and statues visit Ma’s India Spiritual Gifts.
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