"Truth is one, the wise call it by various names." - Hinduism (Rig Veda!)
name means "auspicious" and it is an appropriate description
of him. He is often portrayed as a king, yogi, or ascetic in Hindu mythology and
art. His importance earns him a place as the third member of the Hindu
"trinity" in which he is usually thought of as the god who destroys
(recall, Brahma is the Creator and Vishnu the Preserver). Actually, he is one of
the more complex images of deity in the Hindu pantheon. His destructive power
leads ultimately to good for he removes impurity for the sake of liberation.
Like in other places in Hindu religion, we find in Shiva the union of opposite
principles which make him a representation of the totality of life. He is at the
same time creator and destroyer, ascetic and erotic, life-denying and
life-affirming, spiritual and material. He combines the Hindu life-stages (asramas)
of householder and ascetic. In at least one depiction, he exhibits both male and
female qualities. In the West, he is best known in his form as Shiva "Nataraj"
-- Lord of the Dance -- who dances the world both into and out of existence.
Several attributes or associations which are related to Shiva are his bull (Nandi),
cobra snake, phallus (lingum), trident, matted hair, and tiger-skin
loincloth. His wives include Parvati and Sati and his sons are Ganesh
(elephant-headed) and Skanda (many-headed).
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