Over a mound of Himalayan rock the Lord has spread His tiger-skin mat. He rests upon it, steeped in contemplation or samadhi, which is the highest limb of yoga. He is clad in little more than a loincloth, also made of tiger-skin, and a bunch of adornments made by rudraksha beads woven together. These merely set off the superior sculpted musculature of the parama-guru, founding guru, of yoga (indeed, He is said to have been the first teacher of yoga and His wife, Devi Parvati, the first student of yoga).
Angular jaws, features that are sharp and handsomely set. The jatas (dreadlocks) of Lord Shiva - partly coiled atop the head, with the rest cascading down the back - are an integral aspect of His seated or standing silhouette. On His shoulder is the raised hood of the naga (serpent) and right next to Him stands the trishool or trident, without which any Shaivite iconography is incomplete.
The Atharva Veda mentions those manifestations of Shiva which rule the directions of space (see P. Banerjee, Early Indian Religions, p.30). The various aspects of Shiva in this regard are:
a). Bhava (The Originator of Things) - As Bhava, Shiva rules over the east, the direction of beauty and of the sun. In this form he protects the humble, wanderers (mendicants or nomads), the excommunicated, and the excluded etc.
b). Sharva (The Archer) - Ruler of the south, the direction of death and of the ancestors.
c). Pashupati (Lord of the Animals) - Rules over the west, the direction of night and of magic.
d). Ugra (The Terrible) - Rules over north, the direction of the moon.
e). Rudra (Lord of Tears) - Rules over the nether regions.
f). Ishana (The Supreme Sovereign) - Rules over the vault of heaven and the gods.
Rudra, Sharva and Ugra are the destructive aspects of Shiva, whilst Bhava, Pashupati, and Ishana are his benevolent aspects.
Here the sculptor has sought to delineate Shiva in his benevolent aspect of 'Bhava,' or the 'Source of all things he is seated on a tiger skin, and the head of the dead animal can be seen hanging over the symbolic mound which signifies the Mount Kailash, whose summit serves as his abode. The ornaments adorning him (armlets, bracelets and necklaces) are made up of the sacred rudraksh beads. In addition, he wears a amuletic choker and also a serpent coils himself around his neck, rasing its venomous hood at Shiva's right shoulder.
Shiva's attire is composed solely of an animal-skin loin cloth, worn typically by sadhus and mendicants. The sacred thread crosses his body diagonally. His right hand is raised in the mudra of blessing. Inscribed over the palm is AUM, Hinduism's holiest mantra. The trident stands majestically in the background, and tied to it is the damaru, the hourglass shaped drum, Shiva's favorite musical instrument. The swirls of his hair are tied in a high knot, perceptible there is a distinctly feminine face. She is Ganga, and the whirls symbolize her scared waters.
For practising Yoga and for performing beneficent rites, one must always face east. Indeed, temples dedicated to the beneficent aspects of a god, always open to the east.
This is what the Linga Purana say about Shiva as Bhava:
"Bhava, the knower of the Veda say, is the all-powerful god. He is the nature of the life of the worlds. His consort is called Peace-of-the-Night (Uma) by the sages, his son is the planet Venus. He is the reservoir of the seed of the seven worlds; he is the protector of the seven worlds." (Linga Purana 2.13.5-6.).
Banerjee, P. Early Indian Religions: Delhi, 1973.
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