Lord Shiva is one of the main deities of Hindus. He is known as the third element in the Hindu Trinity and the other two Gods are Lord Brahma - the creator and Lord Vishnu - the protector.
Shiva is often shown with many faces, as creator, destroyer and preserver in total command of the cosmos. Shiva is the destructive form of the Almighty.
As the cycle of destruction and recreation is always in a circle, Shiva's primary responsibility is maintaining the life cycle.
Lord Shiva has a Snake coiled around his neck, a Trident (Trishul) in one of his hands and ashes all over his body. He appears in a meditating but ever-happy posture.
He holds a Moon on his head and it is beleived that the sacred river Ganges originates from his hair. The Lord's attributes represent his victory over the demonic activity and calmness of human nature.
He is known as the "Giver" god. His vehicle is a bull, called Nandi which represents happiness and strength. As Mahakaal, Shiva destroys everything into a zero but as Shiv Shankar, he reproduces which has been destroyed.
His symbol of Lingam or the phallus represents this reproductive power. Lord Shiva is also considered to be the most unique of all Hindu gods and also the God of all. A great ascetic.
Shiva is the only godhead who is forever in deep meditation, totally absorbed in contemplation in his abode, Kailaasa Himalayan range.
Lord Shiva is also said to be inseparable from goddess Shakti and the two are the absolute state of being. He contains both good and evil. Shiva is easy to please, thus, Lord Shiva is known as the God of mercy and kindness.
He protects his devotees from all evil that are always around . He blesses his followers with grace, knowledge and peace.
Attributes of Lord Shiva
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Lord Shiva is said to be half man and half woman. In the full figure of Shiva the male and female principles are united. Shiva Linga - is the symbol of Lord Shiva.
It consists of both Lingam (phallus) and yoni (the female organ) represent the totality of his nature and the totality of all created existence.
In sculptures, Shiva is shown with many hands. One pair of hands, represents the balance between life and death. Shiva is three eyed, and is 'Neela Kantha' - blue-neck since he had consumed poison to save the world from destruction.
3- Unclad body
According to some experts, Shiva's body smeared with cemetery ash points to the philosophy of the life and death and the fact that death is the ultimate reality of the life.
The flow of his matted hair, 'Jata' represents Shiva as the Lord of Wind or Vayu, who is the subtle form of breath present in all living beings.
5- Sacred Ganga
The holiest river, Ganga flows from the "Jata",matted hair of Shiva. Shiva allowed an outlet to this divine river to reach the earth and give sacred water to human being. Ganga denotes fertility.
Lord Shiva is known as the three eyed Lord or Tryambaka Deva. The sun is his right eye, the moon left while the third eye of Shiva on his forehead is the eye of wisdom. It is the eye that looks beyond the obvious. The third eye can search evil from anywhere and destroys it completely.
7- Half-Open Eyes
The half-open eyes show that the universes cycle is in process. When it is completely open a new cycle of Life begins.When the eyes are completely closed it signifies the end of the universe.
It is a symbol of Lord Shiva, which is worshipped by the devotees Shiva temples have Shiva-Linga as the main deity.
Lord Shiva in the form of a Dancer is God Nataraj. Shiva is said to be performing "Tandav Nritya" by swallowing "Somrasa".
As per the Shiva purana, the creator, Brahma and the preserver, Vishnu had an argument over the power of indivisuals. Suddenly a hot pillar came up, extending from earth to the sky.
Brahma and Vishnu both started looking for the start and end of the pillar. Brahma soon got converted himself into a goose to find out the peak of the pillar.
Lord Vishnu became a boar and dug into the earth to locate the bottom of the pillar. However they failed to reach to the bottom and top of the pillar.
Suddenly a divine power emerged from an opening inside the pillar and both Lord Brahma and Vishnu were amazed to see the birth of a third universal power, who was no one else but Lord Shiva.
Blue throat of Shiva
Once all gods and the demons gathered to churn the ocean in order to extract the nectar from the bottom of the ocean. This is well known as the 'Samudra Manthan'.
During the churning of the ocean a deadly poison called 'Halahala' came out of the ocean alongwith other several precious things.
The poison of the snake was very deadly which finished everything whatever came in its contact. After lot of struggle, lord Brahma and Vishnu were compelled to pray to lord Shiva for their rescue.
Lord Shiva being extremely powerful, swallowed the deadly poison which started fast spreading throughout his body and turned the it into blue colour.
As Goddess Parvati came to know this, she entered into Shiva's throat in the form of a 'Mahavidya' and controlled the spreading poison. Since the colour of throat was blue, lord Shiva was named as Neelkantha - Neel(blue) Kantha (throat).
Kali Mata's foot over Lord Shiva
Goddess Kali Mata killed the demon Raktbija and she was so furious that she further went on to destroy the entire universe.
Lord Shiva soon tried to stop her by lying down in her path. However in the blind fury goddess Kali Mata by mistake stepped onto Shiva.
Kali Mata was ashamed of this mistake and her anger was soon subsided. Hence she is always worshiped with a leg over Lord Shiva and her tongue out in shame.