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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lord Shiva

Shiva is one of the trinities of the Vedic Religion. The other two are Brahma and Vishnu. These forms stand for each of the three functions of the Absolute Primordial Force – namely, creation (Brahma), protection (Vishnu) and destruction (Shiva). When all three faces are seen in the same unit, the name is Trimoorthy (three embodied forms).

Shiva is often shown living in cremation ground. He wears sacred ashes and a garland of skulls. His neck is black (Neelakantan). Why is Shiva in this form?

He lives in cremation ground so that you and I can live in comfort.

He wears ashes and skull so that you and I can wear sandal powder and jasmine powder and garland of flowers.

His neck is black because he drank a poison (visham). He swallowed poison so that you and I can have the Divine nectar (amritha).

These represent the thyaga(sacrifice) of the Divine for the human. That is why, Shiva is also called Thyagaraja.

Although Shiva (meaning auspicious) is often depicted as Rudra (the formidable), this form of Thyagaraja shows His compassion for His subjects.

The root Sanskrit word for Rudra is “rudh” which means “ to cry”. One meaning for the name Rudra is That One who can make you cry. In other words, frightful, formidable. Another meaning for rudh is driving away. Therefore rudra may also mean one who drives away suffering. It appears that the name Rudra used in Rig Veda became Shiva subsequent to the writings of Svetaswatara Upanishad.

The name Shiva denotes auspicious or ultimate reality.

In His “terrible” aspect Shiva’s names are: aghora, bhairava, ugra and rudra. In His benevolent form, His names are: shiva, shankara, shambhu, thyagaraja, and dakshinamurthy.

The name Nataraja seems to be related to His “terrible” aspect. We will look at the symbolism behind Nataraja in the next essay.

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