Along with Brahma, the creator, and
Vishnu, the protector, Shiva makes up one third of the
trinity of Hindu gods.
Shiva is the destroyer and regenerator, and is one of
the oldest gods of India.
There have been images of Shiva found in India, which
date back as far as 2500 BC.
Shiva is destroyed creation after every
Kalpa, while simultaneously becoming the great ascetic,
preserving the world with his meditation.
In fact, Shiva
is often called the Destroyer, though it is more accurate to
consider him the God of Transformation, as his associations
are mostly tied to the creation spawned from destruction,
rather than the destruction itself.
representation is typically in one of 3 forms.
These are: a
Nataraj who is dancing, a lingam, or in an anthropomorphic
form. When Shiva is the Nataraj, he practices his cosmic dance. The
belief is that the energy from the cosmic dance is what
sustains the cosmos; it is also thought that once Shiva has
finished his dance, this universe will end and a new one
will begin. When
in the latter form, he is depicted as sitting cross-legged
and his eyes half-closed.
home is the sacred mountain of Kailash.
Sometimes Shiva strays from his mountain home and
wanders into crematoriums.
There, he smears his body with ash, and uses the
light of the funeral pyres for a place in which to dance.
This is a symbolic gesture to remind us all of the
transitory nature of material things.
clothing is usually represented as a loincloth, and
sometimes he also wears an antelope hide around him.
Frequently he is depicted as seated on a tiger skin.
Shiva wars a moon sickle in his hair, as well as a
snake coil or a string of sculls around his neck.
He holds a trident in one hand - the three tips of
this weapon represent the creation, sustenance, and
destruction of the universe - and an axe in the other -
symbolizing the breaking of ties with the material world.
Frequently there is a water jug included in his
likenesses. Snakes are often associated with Shiva, due to
the fact that they can regenerate their skins by first
discarding their old ones.
Similarly, southern Indian believers, associate dear
with Shiva as their antlers re-grow after falling out.
Usually, he is pictured facing the south, which is
the direction, which brings good luck.