Lord Shiva is one of the most important deities of the Hindu pantheon. The 'Shaivites' or the followers of Lord Shiva consider him to be the supreme power. 'Omkar' or the sound that existed before existence is said to be the origin of Lord Shiva.
Though the Hindu mythology is often conflicted when the topic of the first form of the almighty comes in, the Shaivites believe it to be that of Lord Shiva. As the first and the most powerful being to appear in the universe, Lord Shiva is formless, genderless and boundless.
Lord Shiva presides over the five elements found in the nature, which are earth, air, water, space and fire. All these forms of nature are thought to be combined in the Shiva Linga.
The Shiva Linga is the most common representation of Lord Shiva. There are a total of 64 forms of Lord Shiva mentioned in the Shiva Purana. Most of these forms are not known to the common man. Here we have listed the six most interesting forms of Lord Shiva. Continue reading.
Lingodbhava or ‘the immeasurable one' is the form of Lord Shiva which made its appearance on the Krishna Chaturdashi day of the Magha month. Lingodbhava manifested to show Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma that Lord Shiva is the ultimate spiritual being. In mythology, Lingodbhava is described as an endless beam of light.
The images of Lingodbhava in temples show a four-armed figure standing upright. The figure holds an antelope, an axe in his upper arms. The other two arms are poised to bless his devotees. This image is usually found on the western walls of Shiva temples.
Nataraja or ‘the king of dance' shows Lord Shiva in his dancing form. Lord Shiva is considered to be the Lord of destruction and the form that represents the rhythm of the life and death cycle.
When Lord Shiva dances the dance of destruction, it is called the Tandavanritya and it has the essence of birth, death and rebirth. It is said that when the Lord performs the dance, lightning flashes, giant waves arise, venomous snakes bring forth their venom and fire consumes everything. When the Lord performs the dance of creation, it is called the Anandanritya. It makes the universe calm and prosperous.
Dakshinamurti, or the God of the south, is the Lord of wisdom and truth. The image of Dakshinamurti is featured on the southern wall of temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The image shows the Lord seated on a pedestal under a banyan tree. His left leg is folded and the right leg dangles and rests on an ‘Apasmara - the demon'. His arms hold a trident, a snake and a palm leaf. His right forearm is adorned with the auspicious chinamudra.
Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti appear in the Ardhanarishwara form to depict the creation of life. The form is usually shown as a standing figure that is half female and half male. It teaches the world that the male and female forces are complementary and that neither is the greater sex.
The word Gangadhara translates as the one who wears or holds Ganga. It is said that when King Bhagiratha awaited the decent of Goddess Ganga from the heavens, she arrogantly said that she would come down with such force that the earth would be destroyed. On the request of Bhagiratha, Lord Shiva caught Goddess Ganga in his dreadlocks and only let her trickle onto the earth as the river Ganga. And this way, Goddess Ganga was freed from her arrogance.
In literal translation, the word Bhikshatana refers to the act of begging. But the Bhikshatana form of Lord Shiva is to remove arrogance and ignorance. Lord Shiva is depicted in a nude and provocative form. He is in the form of a four-armed saint holding the trident, a damaru and a skull cap in each of his three hands. His right forearm is shown feeding a doe.