This aspect is awesome but being a part of the ‘Unmanifest Supreme Lord’ He cannot be divorced from the benevolence of ‘Ishwar’. The real meaning of ‘Rudra’ is to relieve from sorrows. Perhaps death is a release from all sorrows of life and living, hence the name.
The Aryan mind did create the destroyer in the form of Shiva, but they could not take away the Godliness from him, otherwise he would be wholly evil — which no aspect of the Almighty can be — as the paramount nature of God is merciful and loving and yet in the nature of things what has been created must have an end and that is also the doing of the Almighty. That aspect due to the fright of death and destruction — was given the garb of an austere, frightening and ill-kept God.
Yet in the true Hindu belief, creation and destruction are a continuous cycle, and death is not the end as it opens the door to another life which could and should be for the betterment of the ‘Being’ — depending on his or her ‘karma’ — so the work of Shiva as destroyer is a natural course of events in the existence of every created being or thing. And death is as natural as birth and creation. Therefore, the nature of Godliness in Shiva does not differ from that of Brahma or Vishnu.
In fact, Shiva is portrayed as being really ‘naive’ and is called ‘Bholenath’. He is the one that circle around the world on his vehicle ‘Nandi’ the bull, along with Parvati, his consort, to see if all is well down here and if at that time a person asks for a boon it will be granted, but the wish should be right in the heart of the person at that very moment, when Shiva and Parvati are passing the spot where he or she is.
Shiva and Parvati do not have a fixed time for each place, so a person must devote himself absolutely to that wish for the entire twenty-four hours. It can, of course, just happen by a coincidence that Shiva and Parvati are just there when a wish is being expressed and the wish does come true however unimaginable it could be! Does that not happen once in a while!!
Since Shiva has much to do with this world, He is equally worshipped by the Hindus of all sects and temples to Him and his consorts are as numerous as the ones to Vishnu and Laxmi.
The idea of Shiva being equal to the Creator is accepted by the Hindus even as the creative form of the Unmanifest, as his accepted form is the ‘ling’ depicting the pallus of the male form and the ‘yoni’ of the female form, in openly accepting the symbol of creation. Most temples represent Shiva in this form only. The Hindu did not fight shy of the act for creation (as given to the living beings) in his acceptance of the entirety of functions as ordained by nature.
Then Shiva is equated with Vishnu in his great interest in the three worlds and their working, when he is in his benevolent form becomes to help anyone who is devoted to him and prays to him. We have Hindus absolutely devoted to Vishnu, and others absolutely devoted to Shiva or Shankar or Mahesh as he is also called.
There are strong feelings for Vishnu in the Vaishnavites and the same goes for those that follow Shiva. They wear distinctive markings on their foreheads if they are staunch followers of one or the other sect. Shiva actually means ‘good’, because to destroy is to recreate and Shiva regenerates. Deaths stand in the gateway of life.
The first primeval sound, the holy and eternal ‘OM or ‘AUM’ represents Shiva as the ‘Omnipresent’ with all the qualities of the ‘Supreme’ intact, thus accepting the three aspects to be really ‘One’ in its deepest meaning and is known as ‘Onkar’ or as ‘Omkar’, the one who created AUM or the first sound of the Universe.
Mahadev, as Shiva is also called, is the master and protector of the animal world also and is known as Pashupati. In this garb He controls and tames the wild animals. This is represented by Shiva wearing a tiger skin and having live snakes round his neck. He even appears in more of an animal form in some temples on the Himalayas where he is thus portrayed beside the ‘ling’.
The idols of the shrines of Kedarnath and Pashupati temple of Kathmandu in Nepal are testimonies to it. Shiva is also the master of the arts in the form of ‘Natraj’, the king of dance. The ‘Tandav’ is depicted as the dance of destruction which Shiva performed in grief and anger when he lost his first wife Sati and carried her body on his person and is livid with rage and melancholy. He dances in a frenzy, which nearly destroys the three worlds.
The devtas had to rush to ‘Vishnu’ to save the world from Shiva’s wrath. Vishnu summons his ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ and cut up the body of Sati even while it was in Shiva’s hands and it fell in pieces from the grasp of Shiva who had refused to give it up and thus Vishnu succeeded in pacifying Shiva.
Another form of his dance is in peace and harmony; it is very beautiful. He dances this with his second wife Uma or Parvati (who is a reincarnation of Sati). Together they dance as one and the dance is known as ‘lasya’ where Shiva and Parvati become one in a form of half male and half female known as Aradha Nareeshivas.
The concept of the male and female being complementary to each other and only then being complete (an equality of the sexes is accepted by the Hindus) Shiva as the male is the right side and Parvati as the female is the left side, they then complete the full human body.
This depiction of Shiva is known as ‘Sada Shiv’ or the auspicious God in the form which has always been and shall always be — the giver of well-being, happiness and health. He is affectionately also called ‘Shambhu’. In this mood He is easily pleased with little effort and fulfils wishes instantly and He is called ‘Ashutosh’, being generous to a fault he lands himself into difficulties and causes great anxiety to the other demi-Gods.
There is one story of a demon named “Bhasmasur” who performed Shiva’s worship with singular devotion and pleased him into granting him a boon that could burn anyone on whom he placed his hand. On receiving this boon, Bhasmasur ran towards his benefactor to place his hand on Shiva himself.
Shiva has to run to Lord Vishnu for help. Realising the grave situation Vishnu turned himself into a beautiful maiden and fascinated Bhasmasur by her beautiful dance. The demon forgot about Shiva and started to copy the beautiful movements of the bewitching enchantress and soon enough without knowing he put his hand over his own head in copying the dance movements of the damsel and burnt himself to death.
Shiva does not distinguish between demons and saints and any one with great ‘bhakti’ for him can reach him easily. Therefore he is the God of thieves, murderers, ghosts and the lesser beings even they can please him by the path of ‘Bhagti’.
He even created a dreadful being known as Veerabhadra who played havoc with his own father-in-law at Daksh’s yagya when Sati (Shiva’s first wife) threw herself in the yagna fire, because her father insulted her husband, by not inviting him for the yagna and also for not taking out a portion of the sacrifice for Him, which is a must for all Gods during a ‘yagya’.
Shiva has four hands and he carries the ‘Trishul’ (a three- pronged trident) in the left upper hand, a damru (drum) in the right upper hand and a kamandal (a wooden bowl with a handle) in the third, the lower right is held up right in a gesture of a blessing.
His neck is blue as he had drunk up the poison which had come out of the ocean when it was churned at the time of creation. He managed to confine the poison in his neck which turned blue. He sits on a tiger skin and has his consort Parvati very close to him. He lives on top of Mount Kailash in the Himalayas and travels on a white bull called ‘Nandi’.
Shiva with the unkempt uncouth looks, with ash smeared all over his body, with snakes coiled round his neck, arms and ‘Jatta’, with the tiger skin round his waist — visiting cremation grounds and mixing with spirits and ghosts still is accepted by the mighty and holy river Ganga to fall first on his ‘Jatta’, because of the fear of going down straight to Pataal Lok due to the great force of her descent from the heavens.
The benign moon accepted the ‘Jatta’ of Shiva as his abode as it came out of the ocean at the time of being churned by the Gods and the asurs. Parvati sits with her body senuously touching his body — yet Shiva, is untouched with either the foul or the glorious and is totally at peace within himself.
He is the only God that has children of his own. The other two aspects of the ‘Supreme’ Brahma and Vishnu have consorts but they have no children born of them in the manner of the living beings on the earth. Shiva and Parvati have two sons Kartik and Ganesh. Lord Hanuman is also portrayed as Shiva’s son born of Anjani, the wife of Pawan — the God of the air and wind.
Kartik is supposed to have been born of six different mothers from the seed of Shiva, the six of them gave birth to six different parts and then threw them in the Ganga— but the Ganga could not bear that load and instead threw them in a forest where they assembled into one known as ‘Shadanan’ because he had six faces — since he had six mothers.
He was looked after by a divine woman named Kritikas and therefore got the name of Kartikeya. Shiva and Parvati on hearing of the birth of the son of Shiva brought him to Mount Kailash. Ganesh is also said to have been born in the absence of Lord Shiva and was said to have been born out of the scruf of Parvati’s body. Both of them are accepted as Shiva’s and Parvati’s children, whatever the circumstances of their birth.
This is the pragmatism of the Hindu religion.Shiva is fond of Bhung and so his followers partake it as Prasad. His worship is done by offering behl leaves, bhung, dhatura, aak and flower and fruits. Dhatura is poisonous and is not eaten by the worshipper but the rest is consumed by the bhakts. He is also very amorous and cannot resist a beautiful woman. Normal for the gods is what is normal for human beings in the imagination of the Hindu.
Amongst the ‘asurs’ Ravan and Banasur were given great favours by Shiva due to their great devotion to him. Vishnu as Ram had to come to the world to destroy Ravan and Krishna had to come to fight Banasur to whose aid Shiva came. It was a great fight and went on and on.
The demi Gods and devtas had to come to the rescue of the world, which was in danger of being destroyed. Both who fought were aspects of the Supreme, Shiva on the side of Banasur and Vishnu in the form of Krishna were equal to each other, and none could win from the other, The devtas and demi Gods found a way out of the impasse and we still have the world intact for good or bad God only knows!