Meet a God: Shiva

The final God in the trinity is Shiva. He is known as the destroyer. What he destroys is ignorance, pride, and anything standing in the way of enlightenment.

There are many different forms of Shiva that you will see depicted. Sometimes he is meditating on a tiger rug, his hair wild. Sometimes he is the lord of dance, the Nataraja.

A few years ago my cousin found a lovely gift for me at an art show, it is a mini altar to Shiva that is hung next to my front door. Each time I leave the house I see Shiva peacefully meditating:

(Follow this picture to a webpage of bhajans for Shiva: http://pbfloridahomes.com/bhajans/shiva/)

Notice that Shiva carries a trident. It is called a trishula and Wikipedia has this to say:

“The three points have various meanings and significance, and, common to Hindu religion, have many stories behind them. They are commonly said to represent various trinities—creation, maintenance and destruction, past, present and future, the three guna.”

(I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to be careful what you learn on the web. My friend pointed out last week that the translation given at that time for the trishula was completely ridiculous. Someone had put in a joke translation, but it appears to be fixed).

In the Nataraja form, you can see Shiva dancing within a ring of fire on top of a demon called Apasmara, a representation of ignorance.

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Shiva Nataraja in Bronze, 12th Century
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I’ve always really related to this image of Shiva. His dance is the basis for bharatnatyam, the classical Indian dance that I practice.

Another aspect of Shiva is as the father of Ganesha.

There are a few stories about it, but he most common that I’ve heard is that Shiva’s wife Parvati created the child Ganesha out of clay while Shiva was away. Shiva came back while Parvati was in the bath and Ganesha wouldn’t let him in. He became enraged and cut off the child’s head, not knowing Parvati had created him. When Parvati became upset, Shiva went to find a new head for the child, and it was an elephant that he found. So he attached an elephant head to his son.

The Happy Family

There are a lot of stories about Shiva!

More detailed information about Shiva and how he is worshiped is available at my subscription-based blog

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About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.


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