Without any origin or end, Mahadeva (The Great God) Shiva is the supreme Creator of all. The three eyed Lord, Shiva is known by a thousand name and is worshiped in bodied, bodiless, Aum-kar and Linga forms. Mahadeva is full of mysteries. All the great saints, devotees, philosophers, teachers, preachers, yogis and even Gods failed to unveil all about him. In his popular aspect, Rudra is a member of triad, along with Brahma and Vishnu. This Triad form the top most group that controls all the aspects of the universe. But in truth, Shiva is the supreme creator of all – even the Triad. His personality is so versatile that at times the explanations seem to contradict it. On one had Shiva is considered as the destructor; on the other hand he is the supreme creator and is worshipped widely in Linga form, which symbolizes creativity. He is the root and the cause of the universe and yet in inactive. He is many a times depicted as of dark complexion and at other times is considered as white as camphor. Lord Rudra, whose anger instills fear in all beings, whose third eye opens only to destruction, who never fail to punish wrong doers be his own devotee like Kagbhusandi or even Brahma, a member of Triad; the same Ashutosh because of his benevolence and simplicity is known as Bholenath (The Simple God) and can be pleased by a little effort. Ironically, Mahamritynjay (Conqueror of Death) is considered often considered God of Destruction; which is only one of the aspect of his personality.
But even the contradictions provide an uniformity. Let us try to find out little of his personality on the basis of written works of great ancient sages and Gods.
Shiva is the Supreme Creator
Shiva, without any origin or end, is the supreme creator of the universe. He is the only one to be above the bondage of life and death, and the controller of time. He is root and cause of universe; still is inert and inactive. Long before any thing existed there was darkness – complete and omnipresent darkness. Then Shiva thought of universe …
Universe needed a force to run it and somebody to manage it. Shiva separated his Shakti (power) from himself and started the creation. Shiva and Shakti created Vishnu to manage the universe. Lord Vishnu created Brahma whom he entrusted with the job of Creation. Vishnu himself became preserver. Then Lord Shiva incarnated as Rudra to act as the Destructor. Thus the Triad was formed to handle Creation, Perseverance and Destruction which formed a cycle. Shiva decided the life of the entire universe including Triad. The Life span of universe is termed as "Kalp-Chakra" the largest measure of time known to world. (Of late science calculated the average life span of universe which is very close the Kalp-Chakra). At the end of a Kalpa, Shiva disposes the entire creation and starts the re-construction of it which invariably starts with the constitution of the Triad.
Shiva, the supreme creator is formless and is represented by Lingam (See Mystery of Shiva Lingam) and is pronounced by universal syllable Aum ॐ .
To Create the Universe, Lord Shiva separated his power (Shakti) from himself. Shiva represents the Masculine power, while Shakti the feminine. Since both masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) are part of him, shiva is known as Ardh-Nar-Nari-shwar (God who his half male and half female).
When Brahma started creating the universe, he found his creations would die out someday and he would require creating again. He failed to think of a way so that the process of creation could go on itself. Then he turned to Lord Shiva for advice. He worshiped Shiva for long time. Pleased with his devotion; Shiva appeared before him. He took a special form – half of which was male and another half was female. He hinted Brahma to create a reproducing specimen. He also hinted on equality of male and females for the creation. This form of Shiva was popularly termed as Ardha-narishwar form.
Shakti is an inseparable part of Shiva. Shakti represents the feminine aspect of Shiva; in fact the creation. Shiva and Shakti complement each other. There is no existence of Shiva without Shakti or Shakti without Shiva. Shiva is inactive. Shakti is the dynamism of Shiva. Shiva merely plans; it is Shakti that executes. So what is the relation between Shiva and Shakti?
Shiva is the cause; Shakti is the action.
Shiva plans; Shakti executes.
Shakti is the conscious mind; Shiva is Subconscious mind.
Shakti is brain; Shiva is the heart.
Shiva is Brahma; Shakti is Sharaswati.
Shiva is Vishnu; Shakti is Laxmi.
Shiva is Mahadevaa; Shakti is Parvati.
Shiva is water in ocean; Shakti is the wave.
Let us elaborate our last point. Shiva-Shakti is like ocean. Shiva is the water and Shakti is the wave. What is wave? It is water in motion. It has not existence with water itself. And water without wave or motion is stale water. Similar is the relation of Shiva and Shakti. Let us pray to him and to her in this Ardha-narishwar Strottam.
Rudra the Destructor
Of all the aspects of Lord Shiva, one as destructor is perhaps most popular and confusing. To maintain the equilibrium, destruction is as important an aspect as creation and sustenance. Lord Shiva, incarnated as Rudra, to complement Brahma (The Creator) and Vishnu (The Protector), to assume the role of Destructor. But it is important to understand the true aspect of "Destruction" which is more versatile than what meets the eye and mind at first. Shiva is NOT the God of "Death". Yama is God of Death. There are two aspects of "Destructive" role of Shiva.
Rudra is a destroyer of negative forces such as fear, ignorance, anger, lust and violence. Destruction of negative forces implicitly means protection of positive forces. In this aspect Rudra supplements Vishnu. No wonder we turn to Rudra for Protection (Mahamritynjay) from death and its fear.
In the second aspect- Creation, Sustenance and Destruction form a cycle. A cycle has no start or end point. As such destruction can be considered as the pre-requisite and essence of creation. If you want to mould some structure from and iron bar, we need to first melt it. This necessary destroys the original shape of the iron bar, but we must appreciate that this destruction is a pre-requisite of creation. Thus Shiva as destructor complements Brahma in his creation.
Nataraj is made of two words – Nata (dance or skills) and Raja (King). Nataraj Shiva is the God of dance. As Nataraj, Lord Shiva is the cause and source of all arts and skills. Shiva is famous for his dance called Tandava. There are two forms of Shiva’s Tandava
The First form, Raudra Tandava, is well identified with his anger and destruction. Second is soft and soothing Anand Tandav. Mostly the word "Tandava" is associated with the first form. Shiva performing Raudra Tandva is known as Rudra, while Natraaj performs Anand Tandav.
Ancient preachers connect the creation, substances and destruction of the universe with Shiva’s Dance. The Universe comes to existence with Shiva’s Tandava and ends with it.
The famous Nataraj posture of Shiva carries a lot of meaning in itself. Nataraj Shiva is depicted with four hands with encircling fire, one leg resting on a dwarf and the other rose in the dancing posture.
The First right hand, raised up, holds the Dumru (Drums). The sound of the drum represents the sound of creation. Thus Drum signifies the creative aspect of Shiva.
The upper left hand contains Agni or the fire. The fire symbolizes Destruction. Thus the upper left and right hands define the opposing forces of construction and destruction which actually signifies complementary aspects of Shiva –Construction and destruction.
The second right hand shows Abhaya (fear not in Sanskrit), bestowing protection from both evil and ignorance to those who follow the dharma.
The second left hand points towards the raised left foot which signifies Upliftment and Salvation.
The dwarf on which Nataraj dances is a demon that symbolises ignorance. The Nataraj crushing the dwarf signifies that, Shiva has defeated the ignorance.
The surrounding flames represent the manifest Universe.
The snake swirling around His waist is kundalini, man’s inherent power.
The entire form distinctly takes the Shape of ॐ (AUM).Thus Aum signifies Shiva – his creative and destructive aspects.
Within Lord Siva’s dancing manifestation is represented not only all of time and space, but also the primal creative force that is beyond the circle of illusion that mortals live within, all movement and vibration of the universe, and the stillness beyond all existence.
The famous Nataraj posture of Shiva is installed in the Chidambaram temple. Let us pray to Nataraj in this prayer (Nataraj Stuti)
Shiva is the origin and the source of Yoga, The art and the science of Living. We get the reference of this sacred science in the oldest Hindu literatures. Yoga is the only comprehensive science known to mankind till date that studies both body and soul.
Our body which is the store house of ultimate energy can be best utilized by a systematic study and practice of this science which originates right in Shiva.
Shiva, in his expressed form, appears as a Yogi. He sits in the Yoga mudra, concentrating and generating the energy which runs this whole world. Shiva is the store house of that endless energy that runs this world.
Kaal Bhairav/Maha Kaal
The practitioner and gurus of tantras worship Shiva as Kaal Bharav or Maha Kaal. These Aghoris often practice in cemeteries, strangled lands, forests and other such places which seem to install fear in ordinary peoples. This form of Shiva is often feared.
Lord Shiva is the cause of the Universe. He is the Deity of all leaving beings. Apart from Humans and Gods, even demons and animals pray to him. He is the God of beasts (Pashu) and as such is Pashupati nath. Ruins of pre-historic civilization contains various statues and other sign depicting Pashupati form of Lord Shiva.
Digamabar literally means one who wears sky as dress. In absence of any other dress, it also is interpreted (or misinterpreted) as naked. The Digambar word actually implies the omnipresent aspect of Shiva. Shiva himself contains the whole Universe. The endless sky is his dress. Shiva is also known as Vyomkesh (One to whom sky is hair). Again this reflects the omnipresent aspect and the vastness of Shiva.
Shiva is the Lord of all, but is simple. He is easily pleased by simple and sincere gestures. He doesn’t require his disciples to follow strict and orthodox rituals or a fixed style of worship. Anyone following any path of worship can reach Mahadevaa.
He accepts every offering from a sincere devotee. He uses tiger skin for dress, snakes in place of jewelry, ash for decoration. This is what identifies him. The Great God sites on Mount Kailash and always remains concentrated in his yoga. He is God of simple needs and is said Digambar (or naked), as he is original and pure and without any decorations.