HE WAS THERE WHEN NOTHING WAS THERE. HE WILL BE THERE WHEN NOTHING WILL BE THERE.
Lord Shiva’s name itself has a beautiful meaning. The name Shiva means ‘that which is nothing’.
Science proves that everything comes from nothing and goes back into nothing. If you look at our cosmos, they are vast nothingness.
Yoga Yoga Yogeshwaraya
Bhuta Bhuta Bhuteshwaraya
Kala Kala Kaleshwaraya
Shiva Shiva Sarveshwaraya
Shambho Shambho Mahadevaya
Shiva has numerous forms that encompass every possible quality that the human mind can and cannot imagine. Some are wild and fierce. Some are enigmatic. Others are endearing and charming. From the naïve Bholenath to the fearsome Kalabhairava, from the beautiful Somasundara to the terrible Aghora – Shiva embraces every possibility, remaining untouched by it all.
Shiva is also known as Swayabu. One who is self-born, he is called the Adi Purush.
The first to roam the mighty Himalayas, he is also called Adi Yogi, first to propagate yogic science. Yoga is the science to know nature of life and how it can be taken to its ultimate reality. Shiva fist gave knowledge of yogic science to his seven disciples on the banks of Kanti Sarovar, a glacier lake, few kilometres beyond Kedarnath.
The disciples are known as Sapt Rishis. They assimilated inner yogic technology as powerful tools to raise human consciousness. Shiva is source of yogic traditions.
Shiva is also referred to as Rudra, meaning darkness. Light is a limited phenomenon. It has limited life. Darkness is eternal. You may say that darkness and nothingness are part of this universe.
The basis of existence and the fundamental quality of the cosmos is vast nothingness. The galaxies are just a small happening. The rest is all vast empty space. That is the womb from which everything is born, and that is the oblivion into which everything is sucked back. Everything comes from Shiva and goes back to Shiva.
Lord Shiva belongs to mighty Himalayas. How he settled down at Kailash Parbat is an interesting story. This is connected to the legend of Badrinath. This is where Shiva and Parvati lived. It is a magnificent place at height of around 10000 feet in the Himalayas.
Once, Lord Vishnu came down to the Himalayas looking for the right kind of place to do his sadhana. He found Badrinath to be a nice little place with everything just the way he thought it should be.
He found a house there and went into it. But then he realized it was Shiva’s abode. He really liked the place. So, Vishnu transformed himself into a little child and sat in front of the house. Shiva and Parvati, who had gone out for a walk, returned home. They found a little baby crying at the entrance of their home. Looking at this child crying, Parvati’s maternal instincts came into force and she wanted to pick up the child. Shiva tried to stop her, but Parvati said, “Nothing doing! The mother in me will not allow me to let the child cry. She took the baby inside the house.
Parvati comforted and fed the child and put him to sleep. Then she went with Shiva for a bath in the nearby hot water spring. When they came back, they found the door locked from inside. Parvati was aghast. Shiva said, I told you, don’t pick up this child. You brought the child into the house and now he has locked the door.
Parvati said what we shall do? Shiva said, let’s go somewhere else. Because it’s your beloved baby, I cannot touch it. They walked around, looking for an ideal place to live and finally settled down in Kailash Mountain.
Shiva is part of trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Trinity or Trimurthy represents deferent aspects of one supreme god. He is Brahma when he creates, Vishnu when he preserves and maintains, and Shiva, when he destroys.
Shiva perhaps has most complex personality. He is smeared in ash, and wears moon on his head. He carries a trident in his one hand and damroo in the other. His Trishul, Trident represents three forms of creation, preservation and destruction. He is called Bhole Nath, the innocent one, by his followers, who call themselves Saivite.
Shiva is also known as Nataraja, the cosmic dancer. His dance expresses exuberance of the cosmos. But once he is angry, he performs Tandav Nritya, called dance of destruction.
Shiva has always been referred to as Triambaka because he has a third eye. It simply means taking your sixth sense to another level of perception. The whole process of yoga is to evolve and refine your energies in such a way that your perception is enhanced and the third eye opens.
Shiva is called Somsundra for wearing moon. It means someone totally intoxicated but mentally fully alert.
Shiva carries Ganges in his matted hair. The legend has it that Ganges is a celestial river and it had to come to our planet. If it had fallen on earth with all its force, it would have destroyed it. Shiva, the saviour came to the rescue of humanity and took the Ganges on his head and allowed it to fall gently through his hair on slopes of Himalayas.
Ganges is considered pure and worshipped by devotees as a mother. Its water has special medicinal properties. Shiva is also called Neelkantha for his ability to filter poison. According to scriptures, during the ocean churning between devas and demons, pot of poison came out. No one among devas and demons had the capability to digest poison. Shiva came to their rescue. He drank the poison, filtered and digested it. That is how his throat became blue. Adi Yogi, first among gods, is called Mahadeva, God of Gods. He is also worshipped as Shivling.
Shiva often wears a snake coiled around his upper arms and neck symbolizing the power he has over the most deadly of creatures. Snakes are also used to symbolize reincarnation.
Nandi bull is one of Shiva’s main ganas. He is always looking at Shiva attentively and is in eternal waiting. Waiting is considered to be a main virtue in Indian culture. Nandi is a devotee, always ready to serve his master. When you sit in prayer in temple, you are talking to god. When you sit in meditation, you are listening to god. That is condition of Nandi’s mind. He is alert, he is sitting in meditation.
Shiva was an aesthetic. He first got married to Sati, daughter of Yaksha. Yaksha never liked Shiva and spared no opportunity to insult him. He held a Yagna where all kings and noblemen were invited. But he did not invite Shiva.
Sati went to attend the Yagna and was furious to know that her husband had not been invited. In a fit of rage, she self-immolated herself in Yagna fire. She took birth again as Parvati.
Gods planned to get Shiva married to Parvati, who herself was Shakti, mother goddess. The day of their marriage is celebrated as Maha Shivratri. It was a strange wedding between a princess and an ascetic. But it was a grand wedding. All kings and noblemen had been invited.
Parvati’s mother fainted with shock on seeing bridegroom. Shiva was all smeared in ash with unusual symbols adorning his body. Parvati went to Shiva and said, my dear mother has fainted on seeing you. You and me know who we are. But people judge you by your appearance. For my sake, please transform yourself into a proper groom. Shiva smiled and obliged. Lo and behold, a most handsome bride groom was standing there before Parvati. That is why Shiva is also called Sondeshwra.
Shiva and Parvati have two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya. Mount Kailash is their home. According to legends, Shiva was a wanderer who was mostly away from home. Once when Ganesha and Parvati were alone at home, she instructed her ten year old son to stay on guard and not allow anyone to enter the house as she was having her bath. At the same time, Shiva came back home, from one of his wander lusts, tired and hungry, and wanted to enter the house. Ganesha stopped him saying, no one can enter the house as my mother is having bath. Shiva lost his temper and in a fit of anger, chopped off Ganesha’s head. When Parvati saw her dear son lying in a pool of blood, headless, she became furious.
She told Shiva, give me back my son alive, otherwise, I will destroy whole world. Shiva instructed his men to get head of first living thing in sight as fast as they could. They spotted an elephant and presented Shiva with its head. Mahadev attached this head on Ganesha’s body and restored him to life. This day is celebrated as Ganesh Chaturthi. Shiva also named him Ganapathi.
In Hindu culture, Ganesha is worshipped first on any auspicious occasion.
You must have come across images of mother Kali, who is goddess Shakti herself, standing on Shiva’s chest as he is lying on ground. There is interesting story behind it. Once upon a time, demons and other evil forces started dominating the world. They made life of pious men and common people miserable. Mother Kali could not tolerate it and went in to a rage. She killed all demons and evil ones but her fury continued. She demolished everything around her . Kali would not stop. Devas and other gods went to Shiva and sought his help in stopping Kali. After all she was better half of Shiva. Shiva went to Kali unarmed to pacify her.
She refused to recognise Shiva and knocked him down to the ground and stood on his chest. Slowly she calmed down, recognised her mistake and sought Shiva’s forgiveness. Both returned to Kailash hand in hand and peace prevailed on this earth.
A Jyotirlingam, is a devotional representation of god Shiva. Shiva Purana mentions 64 original Jyotirlinga shrines in India , 12 of which are most sacred and they are called Maha jyotirlingam. Here are some important ones:
1. Mahakaleshwer is in Ujjain and is believed to be a Swayambhu, self-born. This in only Swayambhu Jyotirlinga and also only one facing south. Jyotirlinga and Shaktipeeth devoted to mother goddess Shakti are together here.
2. Kedarnath in Uttarakhand is closest to Shiva‘s eternal abode, Mount Kailash. It is accessible only for six months in a year.
3. Somnath in Gujarat is traditionally considered to be first pilgrimage site . This temple was destroyed and rebuilt 16 times. It is rich in history, tradition and legend.
4. The Vishwanath Jyotirlingam in Varanasi is one of most sacred shrines. The temple stands on western bank of the Ganges. Here also, Jyotirlingam and Shaktipeeth are together. Vishwanath means ruler of the universe. Varanasi, also known as Kaashi and Banaras, is one of the oldest living cities in the world. It has recorded history of 3500 years.
5. The southern-most Jyotirlingam is in Rameshwaram. It is worshipped as Ramalingeshwar. Lord Rama performed Pooja here before starting construction of stone bridge across sea upto Srilanka.
6. Other Jyotirlingam temples are Omkareshwar, Trimbakeshwar, Nageshwar, Vaidya Natha, Mallikarjuna , Damini, and Grishneshwar.