Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva in Greek Mythology

As with every big god, Shiva was involved in several exciting episodes that demonstrated his virtuous character and provided guidance on how to live properly. When Vasuki, the Serpent King, tries to spew snake venom across the seas, self-sacrifice is illustrated. Shiva, disguised as a giant tortoise or turtle, gathered the poison in his palm and drank it. The poison burned his throat and left a lasting blue mark, so Nilakantha, or Blue Throat, became one of his many names.

A very well story tells how Shiva became synonymous with the bull Nandi. Surabhi, the original mother of all cows in the world, started giving birth to an untold number of perfectly white cows one day. The milk from all these cows flooded Shiva’s home in the Himalayas. The god, enraged by the interruption to his meditation, attacked the cows with fire from his third eye. As a result, patches of the cows’ hides turned muddy. Still enraged, the other gods attempted to please Shiva by presenting him with a magnificent bull – Nandi, the son of Surabhi and Kasyapa – which Shiva embraced and rode. Nandi also took on the role of animal protector.

Shiva is synonymous with the Linga (or Lingham), a phallus or sign of fertility or divine energy found in Shiva temples. Shiva was in mourning after the death of Sarti and before her reincarnation, so he went to the Daru forest to live with rishis or sages. The wives of the rishis, on the other hand, quickly became interested in Shiva. In jealousy, the rishis sent a huge antelope and then a massive tiger against the god, but Shiva dealt with them quickly and wore the tiger skin afterwards. The sages then cursed Shiva’s manhood, which fell off as a result. When the phallus landed on the ground, earthquakes began, and the ricsis became frightened and begged forgiveness. This was offered to them, but Shiva instructed them to always worship the phallus as the symbolic Linga.

Shiva throughout the Arts

Shiva can be portrayed in slightly different ways in Asian art depending on the culture: Indian, Cambodian, Javanese, etc., but he is most usually depicted naked, with several swords, and his hair tied up in a topknot. On his forehead, he frequently has three horizontal stripes and a third vertical eye. He wears he addresses with a crescent moon and a skull (representing Brahma’s fifth head, which he decapitated as punishment for the god’s desire for his own daughter Sandhya), a necklace of heads, and snake bracelets. In this form, he typically portrays Nataraja and dances the Tandava inside a circle of fire, symbolizing the never-ending period of time. He carries the holy fire (agni), which kills the world, as well as the drum (damaru), which produces the first sounds of life. One hand makes the soothing abhayamudra sign, while the other gestures to his left foot, which represents redemption. He also stamps one foot on Apasmara Purusha, the dwarf figure who portrays delusion and leads men away from reality.

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