Lord Shiva is a part of Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh and is associated with Moksha which is relief from the cycle of birth and death.
By Moksha, He is actually taking us out from the illusionary world of Kama, Krodha, Moha, Mada and Lobha and making us realize who we are and what is our true purpose of existence. Thus the power of destruction of Lord Shiva has a great purifying power on a universal level. The destruction opens the path for a new creation of the universe, a new opportunity for the beauty and drama of universal illusion to unfold. Being Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram which denotes the Truth, Goodness and Beauty, Lord Shiva represents the essence of impeccable goodness and godliness. Shivaratri puja performed on the Festival called Maha Shivrartri invites the blessings of Lord Shiva and His divine consort, Goddess Parvati.
His favorite ornament is Rudraksha which He wears on his arms, wrists, neck, waist and hair mat. He holds a snake coiled around His neck, a Trishul, drum and Kamdalu in hand and wears a tiger skin. His body is smeared with ash.
In Hindu mythology there are various forms of meditations and different paths for yogis but Shiva represents the art of meditation in its most absolute form. In meditation, not only mind is made still but everything is dropped. In deep meditation or Samadhi, even the object of the meditation (like a mantra, Tantra or Yantra) is transformed into its formless essence, which is the essence of absoluteness and "Purna"(completeness). Thus Shiva stands for letting go everything in the world of forms. The path of Lord Shiva is undoubtedly the path of the ascetic yogi.
Forms of Shiva
Shiva has different forms: The first being Aghora (which resides in the cremation grounds), then Ishana (most often appears as the Shivalingam), the third being "Tat Purusha" where He is meditating, then Varna Deva (the eternally auspicious Shiva) and then Sadyojat or Braddha Rudra (the old wrathful form). The last also forms of the Lord has the deepest connection to the Rudrakshas and Rudraksha mala - a rosary made of the dried fruits of the Rudraksha tree. Shiva has different forms: The first being Aghora (which resides in the cremation grounds), then Ishana (most often appears as the Shivalingam), the third being "Tat Purusha" where He is meditating, then Varna Deva (the eternally auspicious Shiva) and then Sadyojat or Braddha Rudra (the old wrathful form).The last also forms of the Lord has the deepest connection to the Rudrakshas and Rudraksha mala - a rosary made of the dried fruits of the Rudraksha tree.
Yet another form is the Nataraj, where the Lord Shiva Nataraj's dance implies both the destruction and the creation of the universe and reveals the cycles of death, birth and rebirth. His Dance of Bliss is for the welfare of the world. In the pose of Nataraj, the King of Dance is giving darshan to his beloved devotees within the "Hall of Consciousness", which is the heart of the human. Under his feet, Shiva crushes the demon of ignorance called Apasmara Purusha, caused by forgetfulness. One hand is stretched across his chest and points towards the uplifted foot, indicating the release from earthly bondage of the devotee. The fire represents the final destruction of creation, but the dance of the Nataraj is also an act of creation, which arouses dormant energies and scatters the ashes of the universe in a pattern that will be the design of the ensuing creation.
Then in His Mahamrityunyaya form, Lord Shiva is depicted as the great conqueror of death and giver of immortality. The Mahamrityunjaya mantra is one of the two main mantras of the Vedas, next to the Gayatri mantra. It is chanted to eradicate death and disease.
Another main form of Shiva is Ardhnarishwara, half Shiva, half Shakti.
Attributes of Lord Shiva
The Shiva's main attributes are :
- The trident that represents the three Gunas.
- The snakes that show he is beyond the power of death and poison and also stand for the Kundalini energy.
- The sound of Shiva's two-sided drum maintains the rhythm of the heartbeat and creates the sound AUM in the overtones.
- The vehicle of Shiva is the white bull called Nandi (which means the joyful).
- Shiva is seated on a tiger skin or wears a tiger skin.
- The tiger represents the mind. Shiva lives on Mount Kailasha in the Himalayas.
- His third eye symbolizes the all-knowing awareness of the very Brahman.
The power or energy of Shiva is Parvati. Shiva's first wife was Sati and his second wife was Parvati. Both are the forms of Adhi Shakti. They are also known by many other names, such as Uma, Gauri, Durga, Kali, Annapurna and Shakti. He is known by many names and titles. As a god of anger, He is Rudra, the Red One, feared by one and all. As Kailasapathi, He is the Lord of Kailash, His Abode in the Himalayas. As Purusha, He is Iswara Himself. As the Lord of the beings, He is known as Pasupathinath. His sons are Ganesha and Kartikeya. Shiva taught Parvati , Vedanta (transcendent knowledge), while Parvati taught him Sankhya (cosmological knowledge). Both are perfected yogis.
The Shiva Lingam
Lord Shiva is conceived in his unborn, invisible form as the Shiva Lingam. The Lingam represents the male creative energy of Shiva. This main symbol of Shiva is worshiped in virtually every Hindu temple and home. Through profound understanding of this symbol, the mystery of creation can be understood as an act of love.
When Ganga incarnated on Earth, Lord Shiva captured her in His hair mat to stop Her from flooding the earth. As the bearer of the sacred river Ganges, He is known as Ganagadhar. Because of His matted hair, He is dearly called as Jatadhari, by His ascetic followers. As a perfect being He is Siddheshwar. With His Trident in His hands, He became popular as heroic and fearless Trisuladhari. As the world teacher, He was eulogized as Dakhshinamurthi by Adi Shankara in his famous book, "Hymns to Dakhshinamurthi". The fact that a great mass of heterogeneous cults and practices came to be associated with Him, suggests that in His unlimited wisdom and boundless love as a World Teacher and Father of all, Lord Shiva, gives immense freedom to His followers to choose whatever path they want to follow for their self-realization.
Shiva worshippers (Shaivites) are among India's most ascetic Sadhus and yogis, their body smeared with ashes, dressed in saffron colors and wearing a Rudraksha mala. The path of Shiva can thus be seen as the inward-going path, the great journey to find the inner self and self-realization