Item Code: NAB047
by Namita GokhalePaperback (Edition: 2009)
Viking Penguin India
Size: 7.4" x 5.0'
Pages: 130 (13 Line Drawing)
Price: $19.00 Shipping Free
Shiva: Destroyer and Protector, Supreme Ascetic and Lord of the Universe. He is Ardhnarishwara, half man and half woman. He is Neelakantha, who drank poison to save the three worlds-and yet, when crezed with grief at the death of Sati, set about destroying them. Shiva holds within him the answers to some of the greatest dilemmas that have perplexed mankind.
Who is Shiva? Why does he roam the world as a naked ascetic covered with ash? What was the tandava? What is the story behind the worship of the linga and what vision of the world does it signify? Namita Gokhale examines these questions and many others that lie within the myriad stories about Shiva. Even as the unravels his complexities, she finds a philosophy and world-view that is terrifying and yet life-affirming -an outlook that is to many the essence of Indian thought.
About the Author
Namita Gokhale is the author of Paro: Dreams of Passion; Gods, Graves and Grandmother; A Himalayan love story and the Book of Shadows. She is also a regular contributor to major newspapers and magazines. She lives in Delhi.
Shiva has 1008 names, which describe his attributes. Chanting these guarantees his grace. The scope, diversity and contrary polarities which lie behind the meanings of these names evoke the truly unknowable nature of Shiva. Let us begin with an evocation of 108 of these names.
Achaleshvar: immovable lord, the resolute one; AdiNath: Primeval master;Aghora:non-terrifying, pleasing; Aja: unmanifest; Aja-Ekapada: one-footed lord; Ajagandhi: he who smells like a goat; Akrura: kind god; Andhakehsvar: dispeller of darkness; Antak: the ender; Apamnidhi: lord of the waters (semen); Ardhanari: half woman; Ashani: thunderbolt; Asuthosh: easily pleased; Avadhut: naked ascetic; Baleshvar: long-haired; strong; Basava: bull; Bhairava: quick-tempered god; Bhasmeshvar: smeared with ash; Bhava: existence; Bhikshatan: celestial beggar; Bhima: strong one; Bhisma: terrible one; Bhola: simpleton, guileless god; Bhootpati: god of ghosts; Bhuteshvara: lord of elements; Bhuvanesh: lord of the world; Bilva-Dandin: bearer of a staff of belva; Chandrachuda: moon-crested; Dakshineshvar: god who faces the south; Damarudharin: bearer of the rattle-drum; Ekavratya: unorthodox sage; Gajantaka: killer of the elephant demon; Gambhiresh: austere ascetic; Ganapati: lord of ganas; Gangadhar: bearer of the river Ganga; Ghora: fearsome; Girisha: lord of the hill; Grihapati: householder; Guheshvar: lord of the caves, mysterious one; Hara: router, seizer, ravisher; Hiranyaretas: lord of the golden seed; Ishana: lord; Ishvara: godhead; Jambukeshvar: lord of Jambudvipa i.e. India; Jateshvar: lord with matted hair; Jimutavahan: he who rides the clouds; Jvareshvar: lord of fevers; Kaleshvar: lord of time, lord of art; Kamandaludhari: bearer of the water-pot; Kamanashe: destroyer of desire; Kapalin: bearer of skulls; Kapardin: lord with a conchshaped topknot; Karpure-Gauranga: white as camphor; Kedar: lord of the hills; Kiraata: tribal; Krittivasa: he who wears animal hides; Lakulisha: bearer of the staff; Mahabaleshvar: almighty one; Mahadeva: great god; Maharshi: great sage; Mahesh: great lord; Maithuneshvar: lord of sexual union; Manish: conqueror of the mind; Marutta: wind, strom; Nageshvar: lord of serpents; Nagnavratadhari: naked sage; Nataraja: lord of dance and drama; Neelkantha: blue-necked one; Omkarnath: lord of the mystical syllable 'Om'; Pashaye: lord of the noose; Pashupati: lord of the beasts; Pavaka: fire, lava; Purusha: cosmic spirit, the primeval man; Rudra: wild god, howler; Sadjoyata: eternally radiant; Sailesh: lord of mountains; Samhari: destroyer; Sarva: archer; Shambhu: benigh; Shanker: benevolent, beneficent; Sharabha: dragon; Shikhandin: lord with a peacock plume; Siddhartha: one who is accomplished; Somasundara: beautiful as the moon; Somnath: lord of soma, the herb of vitality; Sthanu: the great pillar, that which is still; Sundarmurti: alluring body; Svashva: master of dogs; Tamasopati: lord of inertia, darkness, passivity; Tejomaya: radiant being; Trilochan: three eyed; Tripurantaka: destroyer of the demon cities; Trishuldhari: bearer of the trident; Ugra: fierce; Umapati: husband of Uma-Parvati; Urdhvalinga: aroused linga (life-force); Vaidyanath: lord of physicians; Vamadev: lord of the left-handed (tantric) paths; Vibhuti-Bhushan: he who is bedecked with ash marks; Vinapani: he who plays the lute; Virabhadra: the noble hero; Vireshvar: lord of martial arts; Virupaksha: lord with ill-formed malignant eyes; Vishvanath: lord of the universe; Vrikshanath: lord of trees; Vrishabhanath: tamer of bulls; Yakshanath: lord of yakshas, forest spirits; Yogesh: lord of yoga
Let us meditate on Lord Shiva, the supreme ascetic. He wears the crescent moon on his forehead, from which flows the celestial river Ganga. The river represents the ceaseless flux of time and is the embodiment of the nurturing life force. Shiva's body is smeared with ash, and a tiger skin is girt around his loins. Of his four arms, one carries a trident, one an axe and the other two are set in classical mudras, granting boons and removing fear.
Lord Shiva has three eyes, through which he can view the past, the present and the future. The third eye that of higher perception, looks inwards. When its vision is directed outwards, the searing intensity of its gaze emblazons and destroys all it looks at. The three-eyed aspect of Shiva is variously referred to as Virupaksha, Triaksha, Trinayana and Trinetra.
The crescent moon rests like a diadem on Shiva's long matted hair. According to myth, Soma, the moon, was discredited by an assembly of the gods for some indiscretion and so cast into the ocean. Later, during the samudra manthan, the churning of the ocean, Shiva resurrected Soma by placing the moon on his brow, thereby restoring the intuitive faculties to their rightful position.
The trident of Shiva, his trishul, represents the triad of the creator, the preserver and the destroyer. His spear, the pashupata, is the weapon with which he destroys the universe at the dissolution of the yugas, the ordained time cycles. His axe is called the parashu, which he gifted to Parashurama. He also carries a club called the khatvanga, which has a skull at its head. Around his neck is a garland of skulls, which earns him the epithet of Kapalin. The drum in his hand, the damaru, heralds the dance of creation, just as the ashes which anoint him signify the forces of destruction ever present in all that is living.
Shiva is accompanied in popular iconography by his wife Parvati, a beauteous ever-auspicious figure who shares his austerities and penance. Seated beside them is their son Ganesha, the elephant-headed remover of obstacles, and Skanda, or Kartika, their second son. The sacred bull Nandi, representing the powers of fecundity, procreation and constancy is also a member of this divine family.
Shiva is the god of life and death, of destruction and rebirth. The whole life process is imminent in him, but he transcends it and inhabits a mental, emotional and spiritual space, which is difficult to understand through intellectual processes along. To embrace Shiva, to comprehend his power, involves an intuitive leap into our deepest inner selves.
I am writing this book as an act of devotion, not presumption. The mythopoeic mind assigns attributes to godheads, visible symbols to unrepresentable mysteries. The attributes of a saguna, qualified god, is therefore completely different from the non-attributes of a nirguna, non-qualified god. Hindu divinity gives us an infinite variety and hierarchy of gods and goddesses to worship and aspire to, so that we may seek the version of saguna reality most suited to the accidental permutations of our personality and situation.
The Puranic tales recounted in this book contain a sense of timelessness. They are elastic and energetic and in a constant state of reinterpretation and reinvention. There has always been a remarkable flexibility between the oral and written traditions, and the immensely popular television mega-serials on the Hindu gods are an appropriation of technology and media by an ancient and uninterrupted culture. The Ramayana and Mahabharata television epics, aired on the national channel Doordarshan in the late 1980s and early 1990s created the conditions for the revival of both moderate and fundamental religious forces in India. While the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Odyssey, the Illiad and even the Old Testament may lose their immediate relevance to society, the Hindu sacred and religious literature reinsinuates itself back into the mainstream of life and technology with a startling contemporaneity.
India, with its infamous lack of the historical sense of time, with its non-linear approach to ideas and events, has managed to retain a sense of the dynamic and the interactive with reference to its mythology. The gods are still alive in India. They are not symbols or emblems of abstract conceptions, but vibrant anthropomorphic realities in the living faith of the river of Hinduism, flowing uninterrupted from the beginning of historically recorded time.
Lord Shiva is one aspect of the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Brahma is the creator and preceptor of life. Vishnu is the preserver of the divine movement of life, representing the forces of balance and equilibrium. Mahesh, another name of Shiva, is the greatest of the gods, for he alone is the god of death and resurrection, of the flux of being and non-being.
Shiva is the primeval, primordial aspect of these enduring and eternal forces. His worship is not for the weak minded, for the vision of the universe that Shiva offers us is as stark as it is magnificent. Shiva's father-in-law, Himavata, is the lord of riches and wealth and demands of his followers a life of awesome austerity and penances. Kubera, the god of wealth, owes allegiance to none other that the Lord Shiva, yet Shiva himself is a naked ascetic with a skull for a begging bowl.
The evolution of Shiva as both a concept and an anthropomorphic figure is a movement as natural as the flow of the river of faith. Shiva first appears in the historical consciousness in the figure of Pashupati, on the seals of Mohenjodaro, 2500 BC. This early iconography portrays Shiva seated in a yogic posture, in the Siddhasana, with feet crossed beneath the erect penis, the urdhava linga. The image bears three faces and with two arms. He is surrounded in this seal by representations of an elephant, a tiger, a rhinoceros and a buffalo. Similar seals of a deity holding a trident and accompanied by a bull have also been found at these sites. Over the millennia the iconic image changes, but never essentially. The accretations of myth and interpretation cannot shake this austere and enduring ascetic.
There have been suggestions of a degree of lateral influence by the Dionysic cults on the ecstatic ritual aspects of Shiva worship in the Indian subcontinent. The Greeks who came to India around 300 BC found commonalties with their own god Zagreus-Dionysius. The Indo-Aryan god did share some attributes in common, as in the convergence of the Varuna-Uranus myths. Dionysus was, like Shiva, a priapic god, characteristically symbolized by an arect phallus. The vine leaf was sacred to him, as the leaf of the belva was sacred to Lord Shiva. Shiva's ganas corresponded with the satyrs of the Orphic mystery cults. Like Shiva, Dionysus had a temperament which could concede of excess, and like Shiva, he was associated with hills and mountains. Greek myth and literature both record the Indian sojourns of these gods and among others, Megasthanes has written about the travels to India of essentially Greek gods such as Dionysus, god of the hills, and Hercules, god of the plains. Some scholars, however, suggests that the identification was perhaps a from of convenient cultural annexation during the course of Alexander's Indian campaign.
The identities of the celestials and the demons have of course changed constantly with the terrain, with geographical as well as historical compulsions. The divine ahuras of Persia and Asia Minor became the asuras of Hindu demonology, just as the devatas of the Indian subcontinent transmuted by reversal into daemonic beings. There is much that is common in the mythological structures of the Proto-Aryans and from the time of the composition of the Avesta, there is a complete polarity of interpretations regarding the character of Vedic and Avestan mythic figures. Those beings who are gods in India metamorphose into demons (daevas) in the Avesta, and the ahuras (god) become the asuras of the Indian subcontinent. The Vedic pantheon distinguished between the gods and demons in that the former were blessed by the celestial rta, or law and rightousness, while the demons yielded to maya, or the power of illusion and delusion.
Many indigenous tribal myths have also converged and been appropriated into the mainstream of the Shiva cult. The cult of Rudra-Shiva shows distinct influences of the great Shamanic tradition of Siberia and Central Asia. This ancient Shamanistic ethos had devolved into the pre-Buddhist traditions of the ancient religion of the Bonpo, and was also concurrent with the local Shamanistic religious systems of the aboriginal tribes of India. The use of the skull and the skeleton in mystical ceremony and much of the Tantric approach shares common antecedents with these traditions, as demonstrated in Mircea Eliade's seminal work on the spread of Shamanism.
Yet the philosophical unity in the concept of Shiva is not breached or violated by these contrary and often contradictory visions. The dreaming god of the mountains continues to hold the entirety of the created and uncreated world in the inner vision of his third eye.
|The Manifestations of Shiva||13|
|Shiva as Mahakala||21|
|Tandava, the Great Dance of Shiva||27|
|Shiva-Shakti: The Reconciliation of Male-Female Polarities||31|
|The Divine Family of Shiva||43|
|Swallowing the World Poison||53|
|Popular Legends and Scriptural Tales||59|
|The Erotic and Ascetic Aspect of Shiva||67|
|Shiva in the Daruvana||77|
|The Worship of Shiva||87|
|The Twelve Jyotirlingas||97|
|Schools of Shiva Consciousness||109|
|Satyam Shivam Sundaram||117|
|Songs of Shiva||125|