Shiva represents unlimited Consciousness, which is omnipresent and resides in everyone. Shiva is referred to as ‘the good one’ or the ‘auspicious one’. Shiva – Rudra is considered to be the destroyer of evil and sorrow. Shiva – Shankara is the doer of good. Shiva is ‘tri netra’ or three eyed, and is ‘neela kantha’ – blue necked (having consumed poison to save the world from destruction. Shiva – Nataraja is the Divine Cosmic Dancer. Shiva is the third deity of the Hindu pantheon, refered to as the Destroyer, but also has the aspect of regeneration, Brahma is the Creator and Visnu The Preserver. The sanskrit word Shiva is the confluence of two phonetic parts – Shi and Va, meaning liberator and destroyer as creation & destruction the two sides of existence. In photos Shiva is depicted as half-naked human, donned in a tiger skin, decorating his head with a crescent moon and the Ganga, wearing serpents on his limbs and around his neck, holding a trident and the body massaged with ashes. These are all symbolic languages which convey the messages of Shiva. The trident symbolises the Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra. The crescent and the Ganga indicate that Shiva is as clear as the Ganga and as cool as the crescent. Serpents represent anger and threat. The serpents under His arms and neck mean that He has control over anger and is fearless. The tiger skin around His waist and below means the ferocious animal power under His control. The ashes on His body mean that all living beings are subject to death. Thus, this human look is unique and conveys the messages of the Lord to the mortal world. Shiva and Shankara are one and the same deity, he usually has two arms when shown seated in meditation as an ascetic and four arms when shown performing his tandava dance of cosmic destruction. In his ascetic form he sits on or is clothed in a tiger-, leopard-, or lion-skin. He carries a double-headed drum and a trident or gig, called in Sanskrit a trisula, which he uses as a weapon. His vehicle is a bull whose name is Nandi and bracelets and necklaces of living cobra snakes (nagas). He is sometimes shown holding prayer beads (malla) in one hand. His forehead is marked with a design of horizontal stripes.
The Mahamritunjaya Mantra- Om Tryambakkam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pustivardhanam Urvaruookameva Baandanaan Mrityormoksheeya Maamritati: Everything that is created will one day be dissolved anyone who takes birth will also have to face death. Death is an integral part of living. How we face death will (in many ways) be decided by how we live our life. Mahamritunjaya Mantra Tryambakkam refers to the Three eyes of Lord Shiva. ‘Trya’ means ‘Three’ and Ambakam means eyes. These three eyes or sources of enlightenment are the Trimurti or three primary deities, namely Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and the three Amba Yajamahe means, “We sing thy praise”. Sugandhim refers to His fragrance (of knowledge, presence and strength i.e. three aspects) as being the best and always spreading around. Fragrance refers to the joy that we get on knowing, seeing or feeling His virtuous deeds. Pustivardhanam, Pooshan refers to Him as the sustainer of this world and in this manner. Urvaarokameva means “Vishal” or big and powerful or deadly. Aarookom means ‘Disease. (CUCUMBER interpretation given in various places is also correct for the word.) Urvarookam Bandanaan means bound down. Mrityormooksheya means to deliver us from death (both premature death in this physical world and from the neverending cycle of deaths due to re-birth) for the sake of Mokshya (Nirvana or final emancipation from re-birth). Mamritat means ‘please give me some Amritam (life rejuvinating nectar). Read with the previous word, it means that we are praying for some ‘Amrit’ to get out of the death inflicting diseases as well as the cycle of re-birth.
Shiva Festival – Shiva Ratri: Celebrate the night of the great Lord Shiva [ratri means night]. Once when everything in all the worlds got reduced into Lord shiva, in that darkness of nothing present, the mother Parvati worshipped Lord shiva with great devotion. The Parameshwar pleased by her prayer blessed her. She asked for the benefit of all the creatures that in future whoever worships the Lord on the Shiva Ratri day with devotion, they should be blessed and should be given the ultimate liberation. The pashupati granted that showing way for all of us to get blessed easily. The day is marked by a fasting period of 24 hours on Shiva Ratri and they hold four worship ceremonies, or pujas, during the night and it is typically celebrated in mid-Feburary. The festival of Shivaratri also signifies the end of winter and arrival of spring. Thos who celebrate go to a shrine nearby, or at home set up a small shivalingam which is a small pillar.
Shivalingam: Shiva, in temples is usually found as a phallic symbol of the linga, which represents the energies necessary for life on both the microcosmic and the macrocosmic levels, that is, the world in which we live and the world which constitutes the whole of the universe. The Lingam is a visible symbol of the Ultimate Reality which is present in us and in all objects of creation. The Shivalingam denotes the primeval energy of the Creator. The is generally mounted on a circular or quadrangular receptacle called the Avudaiyar. This pedestal is designed so as to drain off the water offered during ablution ceremonies. The bottom of the pedestal represents Bhrama, the octogonal middle represents Vishnu and the upper circular portion represents Shiva. The upper portion of the Shivalingam may be of various shapes, cylindrical, elliptical, umbrella shaped.
Shiva Pooja: The pooja, or service are conducted in the usual manner of sprinkling water, offering flowers, leaves, incense , wave pieces of burning camphor on a plate (this process is called aarati while listening or repeating the mantras. First and foremost begin with cleansing, i.e. clean the area where the altar is to be set up. This should face the eastern direction if possible. You and others who will participate in the performance of the Puja should bathe, and wear clean and comfortable clothes. Alter Set-Up A small bench or a wooden table or a cardboard box covering an area no larger than 36″ x 24″ and about 15″ to 24″ tall is adequate. The size can vary if you wish to arrange more or fewer pictures and/or statu es on the surface. Remember that you should be able to see the items on the altar and have easy access to make offerings during the worship. Place the table (or box) against a wall, cover it with a clean cloth, preferably white, and secure the same by tucking it under so that it won’t slip off easily. Tape it if necessary such that the tape is not visible. Now arrange a picture of the God/Goddess to be worshipped, preferably at least an 8.5″x 11″ size such that it makes about 10 to 15 degrees to the vertical and leans against the wall. Similarly pictures/statues of the family Godhead and Guru must also be arranged on the altar. Prepare one or two lamps with cotton wicks soaking in oil. Place the lamp/s about 6″ in front of the picture if it is one lamp, or about 10″ apart if two lamps. Do not light these until you are ready to begin the Puja. Prepare a worship plate (stainless steel, silver or any other metal, 12″ to 24″ diameter) by placing on it small vessels (cup-like, preferably metallic) of kumkum, turmeric, one packet of camphor, sandal paste, a dozen agarbatti sticks (incense sticks), and a match box. (Please learn Shiva Pooja from a qualified teacher)
Nataraj Lord of The Dance: As Nataraj (Sanskrit: Lord of Dance) Shiva represents apocalypse and creation as he dances away the illusory world of Maya transforming it into power and enlightenment. If one had to select a single icon to represent the extraordinarily rich and complex cultural heritage of India, the Shiva Nataraj might well be the most remunerative candidate. Shiva here symbolizes the alchemy of Yoga. Nataraja’s dance activates which dormant vital energy (kundalini shakti) and becomes an act of both creation and destruction. Nataraj’s dance is not just a symbol. It is taking place within each of us, at the atomic level, this very moment. The Agamas proclaim, “The birth of the world, its maintenance, its destruction, the soul’s obscuration and liberation are the five acts of His dance.” Aum Namah Sivaya. The Nataraj was developed in South India in the 9th and 10th centuries during the Chola Dynasty (880-1279 CE). It was made of bronze and artist used the lost wax process. The following list identifies the various motifs of the statue he Nataraj, Lord Shiva and the Dance represents the symbolic of the movement of the universe. Dance is an important aspect in Indian life. The Dance of life is the dance of life-death-life.
Two-sided drum held by the first right hand is a symbol of creation. It is beating the pulse of the universe. The drum also provides the music that accompanies Shiva’s dance. The drum represents sound as the first element in an unfolding universe. Sound is a vehicle of speech, conveyer of revelation and Truth. Hourglass drum also can represent male and female,two triangles as they penetrate each other to form a hexagon.. When parted, the universe dissolves. Fire held in the first left hand represents destruction which leads to creation, over and over again. Fire also cleanses the impurity of the soul. Both upper arms show balance of creation and destruction. Flame halo (Circle of fire ) represents samsara (reincarnation), the endless cycle of birth and death. Life comes as a result of heat (passion). Life ends in the fires of destruction. And then life comes over and over again. Mudra (hand gesture) of lower right hand means “Do not be afraid.” Mudra of lower left hand means “There is a way out.” This gesture promises salvation or release from the world of forms and rebirth. This hand points to the way out. Upraised left foot symbolizes release from rebirth and the promise of moksha-nirvana. Dwarf being crushed by the right foot symbolizes not evil but rather ignorance of moksha which Nataraj is overcoming. Dwarf can also symbolize forgetfulness, heedlessness, blindness. Two feet together symbolize interplay of insight and forgetfulness. Shiva’s matted hair flowing out as he dances reminds viewer he was an ascetic. Image of Ganges River in Shiva’s hair. Reminds viewer that Shiva can control (tame) nature. Ganga had returned to the Himalaya mountains but the people on the plain needed water. A sage performed extraordinary feats of devotion and Ganga agreed to come back to the parched earth. Shiva feared the force of the river would crush life on the plane so He allowed the Ganges River to flow from the Himalayas through his hair and then flow gently onto the Gangetic plain. River Ganges also purifies all things.
Expression on Shiva’s face is calm, aloof, unaffected by the display of his own energy, the flow and change of time. Snake ornaments also symbolize his control over the powers of nature. Snake may also symbolize egotism which one must overcome in order to realize moksha. Snake also symbolizes cycle of life and death. The raised foot is out of the plane of the rest of the image as the raised foot takes the viewer out of the world of forms into the formless reality of moksha. Image rests on a lotus, the Indian symbol of the creative force of the universe.Crescent moon in crown of his matted hair represents highest principle of consciousness or illumination. Two different ear-rings Shiva wears symbolizes that he embodies both masculine and feminine aspects of existence. One worn by men is a combination of a fish and a crocodile, the other worn by women is a simple spiral. Third eye in his forehead symbolizes his all-seeing ability. Also symbolic of insight or enlightenment. Skull of Death as a crown symbolizes Shiva conquers death.
Aum Namah Sivaya I bow to Shiva (divine consciousness)
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