Hindu Gods and Goddess
Tri Murties: Lord Shiva
A Tamil Thevaram (psalm), prising the Lord:
ulake laamu’nar:n thoatha’r kariyavan
:nilavu laaviya :neermali vae’niyan
alakil soathiyan ampalath thaaduvaan
malarsi lampadi vaazhththi va’nangkuvaam.
(OMneity is He who is rare to be comprehended.
And expressed in words by all the worlds;
In His crest rest the crescent and the flood;
Limitless is His effulgence;
He dances in the Ambalam.
We hail and adore His ankleted flower-feet. )
Lord Shiva, the destroyer
One of the main pillars of the Hinduism is Saivam. The first and foremost god of Saivam is Lord Shiva and those who worship Lord Shiva as their first and foremost god, are known as ‘Saivas’.
Most of the Saivas are living in South India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, Fiji, Mauritius and Caribbean Islands.
In recent years, many saivas emigrated mainly from Sri Lanka and living in North America, Australia, New Zealand and countries in European Community and Scandinavia.
The ancient holy scripts like ‘vedas’ and ‘puranas’ are explaining us about the Tri Murties. Lord Birahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva are known as the Tri Murties.
Lord Birama is creating a living being and Lord Vishnu is protecting it and Lord Shiva destroys it.
Our relationship with Lord Birahma ends even before we are born as he who decides our sex, whom and where we are to be born, how our life, our fate and destiny etc, are going to be in this world.
So it is understandable that there would not be many worshippers for him as nothing can’t be changed once we are born.
We worship Lord Vishnu to be protected from harms and diseases. Those who worship Lord Vishnu as their first and foremost god are known as ‘Vaishnavas’.
It is Lord Shiva who decides when our life in this world, come to the
conclusion. ‘Death’ is the process through which he removes us from this world. We, therefore call him as the destroyer.
The surprising fact is that, why there are many worshipers for Lord Shiva, the destroyer than Lord Biramha, the Creator.
Parents can decide when to have a baby and the modern medical facilities will determine precisely if a foetus in womb is a boy or a girl. Advanced medical facilities will save us from major diseases and increase our life span.
However no one knows the date of their death which is an absolute certainty for all living beings. How and when it is going to happen is something no one can predict precisely and this is something that Lord Shiva only knows. One may die of heart attack and another may die in an accident or by an incurable disease or many can die in a natural disaster like tsunami or an earthquake. The destroyer Lord Shiva keeps this as a top secret.
According to Hindu religious philosophy, those who do a lot of good deeds in their life time will be in heaven and at the lotus feet of the great god, after their death. Those who committed sinful deeds will be sent to hell and then back to this earth again as a result of those sins in the previous birth.
Depending the level of sins they will born either in to a rich or poor families or even in a royal family. There are many who finish off significant part of their life in prison and these are not without reasons.
So by worshiping Lord Shiva, the devotees ask him to remove all the sins away from them committed in the previous and present births before their death which is of course a certainty.
Thus there wouldn’t be any reason for them to come back to this earth which is full of trouble and instead they will enjoy the great boon of being close to lotus feet of the Lord in heaven.
It is then obvious that when the devotees ask for the removal of the sins of the previous births will not be committing anything further in this birth.
Even though he is doing the job of destroying all of us, Lord Shiva is full of kindness and grace. The purana stories explain us how he appeared in different forms to alleviate the sufferings of his devotees.
Lord Shiva is known by many different names as well. Haran, Neelakandan, Uruthiran, Umamakeswarar, Parameswaran, Sambu, Mukannan are just a few names.
Lord Shiva’s consort is Uma Devi. she is also known as Bharvathi Devi.She is the goddesses of bravery. Lord Ganesh and Lord Muruga are their children.
The four, Lord Shiva, Uma Devi, Ganesh and Muruga (Skanda) appearing beautifully as a family is explaining us the importance of a family life. Also the animals such as Ox, Lion, Peacock, Snake and Mouse which normally hostile against each other can be seen along with these god family in a friendly way reflecting the fact that all are equals and at peace in front of the god.
The Lord Shiva Family
The view of Lord Shiva, Uma Devi and their youngest son Lord Muruga appearing together is known as ‘Soma-skanda moortham’.
The vehicle of Lord Shiva is Ox which is called ‘Nandi Devar’. In a Lord Shiva’s temple we can see the statue of Nandi Devar mounted directly in front the sanctuary.
According to puranas, Lord Shiva with Uma Devi resides in ‘Sivaloga’ and blessing all living beings of the entire universe is gracing us, the inhabitants of this earth by mounting majestically in the highest mountain on earth, the ‘mount kailash’. (mount everest).
The volunteers, ‘sivaganas’ who serves the lord and the great sages are fortunate enough to be at his lotus feet in ‘Sivaloga’.
Lord Shiva is seen as an embodiment of love and kindness. His fair coloured skin is appearing white due to the application of ‘veepoothi’ (holy ash or thiru-neeru).
There is a third eye in his forehead known as ‘wisdom eye’. He wears a snake around his neck like a garland and a crescent is appear in his head. The ‘Ganga Devi’ is sitting on his head’s crest.
The tiger skin is used as a cloth around his hip. The Tiger represents desires (wishes). The ancient puranas say that all problems that the human beings face are because of the ‘desires’. To indicate that he won all kind of desires, he wears the tiger skin.
We worship Lord Shiva in different forms and let us now see them.
In the sanctuary (‘karpa-kiraga’) of many Shiva’s temples, we can see and worship Lord Shiva in the form ‘sivalinga’.
The figure ‘sivalinga’ is giving us a great philosophical explanation. The bottom part of the link is known as ‘aavudaiyar’ and that represent Sakthi, the Uma Devi. The Linga mounted on aavvudaiyar, represents Shiva. Thus the figure ‘sivalinga’ illustrates the point that the whole universe emanated from the union of Shiva and Sakthi.
‘Shiva-maha-purana’, an ancient scipts tells us the story of how ‘sivalinga’ formed.
When this universe came in to existence, there was an argument developed between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu as to who was the greatest between themselves. Both argued that they were the greatest and it went on endlessly.
Suddenly there was a huge torch (jothy) appeared between them like a pillar of fire. This surprised the duelists who stopped their arguments and stood there speechless. They then decided to figure out the beginning and the end of that torch.
Lord Vishnu took the form of a very large pig and saying, ‘I will find the bottom of the torch’, dug the land and went down under. Lord Birahma took the shape as a beautiful swan and saying, ‘I am determined to find the top portion of the torch’, flew above.
The swan could not find the top of the torch and the pig also failed to find the bottom of the torch. Tired and exhausted, both returned and standing next to each other, bowed to the torch and said; ‘you are the biggest than both of us and who you are?’.
At that point, the Lord Shiva’ emerged as ‘Ligootpavar’ from within that jothy and bless them both.
The sivalingas are carved out of granite stones. Some time metals are used too. There are some sivalingas made of special crystal called ‘spadikam’. This rare ‘spadikam’ stones are formed naturally in the bed of the river Narmada of India.
A linga generates naturally out of ice during winter in a cave at ‘Amarnath’, a village in the Himalayan mountain region of North India. Every year millions of pilgrims throng to worship this ‘ice-linga’.
In 1010 AD, in Tanjavur of South India, the Chola emperor ‘Raaja Raaja Cholan’ (Means; Chola King of the Kings) had built a magnificent temple for Lord Shiva. This beautiful temple known as ‘Periya Kovil’ (Great Temple) was built of granite stones.
The sanctuary of this temple has a 13 feet high ‘linga’ which is considered the biggest of all at sanctuaries.
13 Feet Linga is given an (Milk) Abishek by a priest.
The movements of the universe and its living beings are controlled by the cosmic dance of the Lord Shiva. The form of ‘dancing with one leg while throwing the other leg in the air’ is known as ‘Nadaraja Moorthy’.
The idol of ‘Nadaraja’ at the sanctuary of Shiva’s temple at Cithamparam of South India, has many significance.
The Chidamparam Nadaraja Temple sanctuary with gold plated roof
All the things that we see in the nature, are in motion. The motion of the sun is generating energy and thereby giving us the light and heat. The earth and all other planets are in a motion and thereby revolving in a circular path around sun.
The scientists had proved that the tiny micro particles known as electrons that are invisible to naked eye are spinning at high speed. We, the human beings born, grow and die which are in an order.
As per the Hindu philosophy, the dance of the Lord Shiva is the source for all things to be in regulated motion.
The Lord performs ‘aanatha nadanam’ (dancing in delight or happiness) in tranquil position (calmness) known as ‘shantha moorthy’.
But unable to tolerate the evils of the evils, he sets off to destroy them with great anger while performing very powerful ‘ugkira thandavam’ (dancing or surging with a rage).
Nadaraja Moorthy shows with four hands. A drum (udukkai), flame and a small deer can be seen In the palms of his hands.
The Lord who is known as the destroyer also shows as the ‘ghnaguru’ (guru who teaches the meaning of wisdom) who preaches the ‘sivanghnam’ to the world. This special appearance is called ‘Thatchana Moorthy’. In some saiva temples we can see and worship Thatchana Moorthy who would be mounted as facing towards southern direction.
Under a banyan tree that carved out of stone, Thatchana Moorthy, the Lord is sitting peacefully as an embodiment of kindness. The Lord’s right hand is showing a remarkable seal (sign of assurance). There are four sages (Rishies) seen sitting at his feet, bowing him while being preached by the ‘Mowna Guru’ (the quiet guru).
Lord Shiva is also seen in ‘aartha naareeswarar’ form as well. Aartha means half and Naree means woman. In this form the Lord is seen as half man and half woman. The male part represents Lord Shiva and the female part represents Uma Devi, the sakthi.
The ‘sivam’ can’t function without ‘sakthy’ is the philosophical message that is being given out by this wonderful appearance. One may wonder that this is not possible in reality but the flowers in our garden stand as a perfect example for this rare philosophy.
In flowers both male and female parts can be seen together. Fruits and vegetables are made available to us by their union.
Why we apply thiruneeru-vipoothy
The devotees who worship Lord Shiva apply the holy ash known as Thiru-neeru
(Vipoothy) in there forehead, shoulders, hands and chest. They apply thiruneeru as three parallel lines. (In the picture right, note the application of Thiru-neeru)
The holy ash or thiruneeru is obtained by burning the husk of rice along with the dung of sacred cow.
An emperor may reign a great empire and a poor may live off of alms of others. On death, their bodies will be cremated and what will be left behind at the end of all would be a handful of ash which will soon be mixed off with the soil and disappear.
By applying ‘thiru neeru’, we are reminded of this great philosophy that ‘we don’t bring anything when we arrive and we won’t be taking any when we depart’ and so we must refrain from committing sins after sins. What is counted in the court of the great Lord is our good deeds vs bad deeds.
When we apply thiruneeru, we must utter the name of the lord; ‘siva, siva’ or ‘ohm namashivaya’.
You may be asked by curious other non Hindus about ‘ThiruNeeru’ that you may have applied and it that situations simple and acceptable answer is, refer that as ‘blessing’.
The festival for Lord Shiva is ‘Maha Shivaratri’ (The Great Night of Lord Shiva) (we will learn later about this).
The ‘pancha atchara mantra’ (Pancha means ‘five’ and atchara means ‘letter’) that we must utter when worshiping Lord Shiva is ‘Ohm Nama Shivaya’.
(‘na’ -1st , ‘ma’ – 2nd, ‘shi’ – 3rd, ‘vaa’ – 4th and ‘ya’ – 5th)
Like the 12 ‘Alwars’ who sung about Lord Vishnu, the glories of Lord Shiva was sung by the four ‘samaya kuravars’ (great volunteers of saivam). They are Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar and Manicavasakar. They were the four of the 63 ‘Nayanmars’ and about whom we will learn later.
Now it is time for us to sing a song that glorify the ‘pancha adchara mantra’.
This was sung by ‘Thiru Ghna sambantha Moorthy Nayanar’ (Sambandar).
“kaatha laakik kasi:nthuka’n ‘neermalki
ooathu vaarthamai :nanne’rik kuyppathu
vaetham :naankinum meypporu ‘laavathu
:naathan :naamam :namassi vaayavae”
namacCivaya which is the name of the master, Civan)
Watch & Listen this song here (there are two song here)