Being raised in a modern Hindu household, I was lucky to witness the attitude of several people towards Shiva. I have devoted grandparents, confused parents, and an atheist uncle. And I unraveled Shiva with these people.
In this article, I will share what I understood about Shiva, the God of Destruction.
Shiva, also known as Mahadev and Neelkand, is considered the God of Destruction. He is one of the three primary gods, the other two being Vishnu (God of Preservation) and Brahma (God of Creation).
Shiva is visually represented with a blue throat, hence the name Neelkand (translates to ‘Blue Throat’ in Sanskrit). He is shown to have unruly hair, half tied up in a tight bun, with Ganga (a river in India, considered holy by Hindus). He also has a crescent moon on his bun, conveying the relevance of the moon.
The God of Destruction has several characteristics that are frightening. The King Cobra wrapped around his neck, the third eye of wisdom on his forehead known for destruction, and the trident called Trishool, are just a few of them.
This god is mostly depicted sitting on tiger skin laid on a stone, meditating with his legs crossed elegantly. He adorns tiger skin, Rudraksha chain (a prayer chain made of dried stones of the stonefruit), and vibhoothi (ashes) as a symbol of his modest life.
Unlike other Hindu gods who wear gold jewelry and silk clothing, Shiva adorns tiger skin, ash, and rudraksha. He lives with his tribe called Guna, who, like Shiva, leads a simple life. Several mentions say Shiva and his tribe look unappealing due to their wild, rough lifestyle. He is often depicted to be meditating, showing the significance of a peaceful mind. Due to this, Shiva is called a Maha Yogi.
To give an insight into Shiva’s character, I’ll share a few of his stories with you.
Stories of Shiva
The Third Eye
Kamadeva, the God of Love (like Cupid), was burnt to ashes by Shiva. It’s believed that Kamadeva disturbed Shiva during his meditation by evoking lust. Upon realization, Shiva opened his third eye and destroyed Kamadeva.
Tandava is a popular, divine dance performed by Shiva. He is an elegant dancer known as the God of Dance or Nataraja due to his dancing skills. There are two forms of Tandav- Ananda tandava (out of happiness) and Rudra tandava (out of anger).
Ananda tandava is the dance of bliss and pleasure which sources from the purest form Shiva.
Shiva is believed to transform into his most vicious forms during Rudra tandava. This dance is said to destroy the cosmos. The god almost burnt the whole cosmos in a rage by dancing when his first wife, Sati, died.
There’s a story behind Tandav as well.
Apasmara, the Demon of Ignorance, is immortal so that knowledge is valued. Without Apasmara, anyone can attain wisdom without putting in any effort, reducing the worth of knowledge. When this demon went around plaguing people, Shiva took the form of Nataraja, performed Tandav, and crushed Apasmara with his right foot. This stance portrays that we need to overcome our ignorance, laziness, and ego, to gain knowledge and wisdom.
Shiva and Parvati
Shiva’s first wife, Sati, was the incarnation of Shakthi, the Goddess who is the energy of the whole universe. Sati committed suicide upon hearing how her own father insulted Shiva publicly. Being a yogi herself, she could moderate her inner fire and used it to burn her body.
After this, Shiva went into deep meditation for eons till Parvathy came by.
Parvathy is the reincarnation of Sati. Being absolutely smitten by Shiva since childhood, she tries everything to attract him. In fact, she was responsible for Kamadeva’s death as it was she who persuaded him to intervene in Shiva’s meditation.
She soon realized that Shiva wouldn’t pay her attention unless she became as strong and fierce as him. So she goes into deep meditation like Shiva, and after years, her inner energy becomes as strong and bright as Shiva’s — awakening him from his meditation. They both came together to form the ‘Ardhanareeshwaran’, which is half Shiva and Parvathy.
What I Learnt And You Can Learn From Shiva
- Develop inner energy
Our inner energy fuels our emotions, thoughts, and actions. Developing your inner energy will help you increase self-awareness, harness control over your emotions and thoughts, and find the purpose of your life.
And we can do that by meditating.
As said before, Shiva is a Maha Yogi. With meditation, he remains calm most of the time. But he succumbs to anger during challenging situations. This shows that Shiva still has human qualities despite being a god. It could also indicate that remaining calm in all circumstances won’t be fruitful.
2. Modest lifestyle
Though I am not a fan of minimalism, I feel it’s a way of life that will give me peace.
Shiva’s lifestyle isn’t just modest but also abstains him from worldly possessions like money and luxury. I believe the overdriven desire to own things makes us evil, egoistic, and depressed.
Also, a maha yogi like Shiva believes everything in the world is temporary, further emphasizing that materialistic obsession isn’t beneficial.
3. Kill ignorance with knowledge and work
We are all born with ignorance, and during our life, we gain knowledge, and that’s how we grow. But you’ll need a mind that’s willing to work.
For a long time, I was controlled by a lazy mind. It took me over two years to recognize it and mold myself into the active person I am today. And I know that only work can cure ignorance, and to reach a goal, you need to work, like Parvathy.
Shiva didn’t profess his love to Parvathy because she was beautiful or a princess. He did it because she gained the knowledge that was required to understand him and his life.