Shiva: the destroyer
Shiva (sanskrit: auspicious one), the third deity of the Hindu Trinity, is responsible for the dissolution of the universe. Literally, Shiva is one in whom the universe ‘sleeps’ after destruction and before the next cycle of creation. All that begins must come to an end. All that is born must die. This is the inviolable law. Shiva is the principle that brings about this disintegration, and is the power behind this destruction. But as Shankara he also reproduces that which has been destroyed.
Shiva means that which is transcendent. Shiva means God who cannot be contained by space or time, God who needs no form. His symbol ‘Lingam’ of the phallus represents his reproductive power. His guardian is Nandi (the white bull) whose statue can be found watching over the main shrine. The bull is said to embody sexual energy, fertility. Riding on its back, Shiva is in control of these impulses. The goddess Parvati is his consort and shakti. Ganesha and Kartikeya are his sons.
The sacred mark of Shiva is three horizontal lines across the forehead. In mythic art, vertical lines associated with Vishnu represent activity, while horizontal lines represent inertia. Shiva’s mark is horizontal to remind us that nothing needs to be done actively to destroy the three worlds. The three worlds created by Brahma i.e. the body, the property and the rest of nature will eventually collapse as Prakriti (nature) stakes her claim (Pattanaik, D., 2011).
As part of the Hindu Trinity; Brahmā is the priest, who creates the world, Vishnu is the king, sustains it and Shiva is the ascetic destroys it.
Interesting facts about Shiva
His abode is Kailasa in the great Himalayas.
Shiva is worshipped both in the anthropomorphic aspect and as the Linga.
Shiva is said to be half man and half woman. The Shiva Linga –the symbol of Lord Shiva consists of both Lingam (phallus) and yoni (the female organ).
Ichnographically Shiva may have two, three, four, eight, ten or even thirty-two hands. Some of the various objects shown in his hands are: Trishula (trident), Cakra (discus), Parasu (battleaxe), Damaru (drum), Aksamala (rosary), Mrga (deer), pasa (noose), Danda (staff), Pinaka or Ajagava (bow), Khatvanga (magic wand), Pasupata (spear), Padma (lotus), Kapala (skull-cup), Darpana (mirror), Khadga (sword) and so on.
Shiva’s bow is called the Pinaka. It was this bow that the princes were asked to lift and string in order to win Sita’s hand in marriage. The prince Rama not only lifted the bow with ease but also broke it while attempting to string it and won the hand of Sita.
Shiva is Purusha (humanity), while Parvati is Prakriti (nature). In art Purusha is visualized as the male head without the body while Prakritit is visualized as the female body without the head.