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Shiva Home -› Hindu Trinity -› The Destroyer -› Shiva
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shiva - mahesha
Shiva meaning 'the Good' is the third member of the triad. He is also named as MAHESHA or MAHADEVA (the Greatest God). He is much more many-sided and multi-colorful than many of the other gods including Vishnu.

Shiva is represented in various ways but the distinctive characteristics of this god are:
His seat, which is invariably either the skin of a tiger or a panther,
A number of cobras all around his neck and shoulders,
His long matted hair tied into a mop atop his head,
The crescent that he wears on the mop of his head,
The sacred river Ganga falling upon his head and flowing by his side,
The trident (trishula), the symbol of his power,
The sacred bull and
The mendicant's bowl

Besides these symbols another very important physical characteristic of Shiva is his VERTICAL EYE - the third eye. In the Mahabharata, the Great Hindu epic, the legend of how Shiva got the third eye is narrated this way. One day his beautiful consort Parvati, daughter of the King of Mountains, stealthily went behind Shiva and playfully placed her hands over his eyes. Suddenly darkness engulfed the whole world and all beings trembled in great fear as the lord of the universe had closed his eyes. Suddenly a massive tongue of flame leapt from the forehead of Shiva; a third eye had appeared there and this gave light to the world.

In "SRI SHIVA TATTVA" this eye is described as: "the frontal eye, the eye of fire, it is the eye of higher perception. It looks mainly inward but whenever directed outward, it burns all that appears before it. It is from a glance of the third eye that KAMA, the lord of love, was burnt to ashes and that the gods and all created beings are destroyed at each of the periodical destructions of the universe". Having three eyes, Shiva is also called TRI-NETRA, TRI-AMBAKA, TRI-AKSHA or TRI-NAYANA.

About the different symbols surrounding Lord Shiva, the scriptures gives various explanations.

The Tiger Skin:
The tiger is the vehicle of SHAKTI, the goddess of all power and force. Shiva is beyond and above any kind of force. He is its master and carries the skin of the tiger as the victor of every force. An interesting legend in Purana narrates that once Shiva wandered in the forests in the form of a bare-bodied mendicant and the wives of the sages were enchanted by him. The jealous sages in anger tried to over-power him by digging a pit. When Shiva passed by the pit, a tiger was made to rush out of it. Shiva slew the tiger and taking its skin wore it as a garment.

Cobras around neck:
Shiva is beyond the power of death though he is surrounded and encircled by death. This aspect is also emphasized by his name NEELKANTHA, the god who alone can drink the deadly poison to free the world from its effects. Now these cobras around his neck also represent the basic dormant energy, which in cobra-like manner is coiled at the base of the spinal cord. It is called KUNDALINI, the serpent power.

Crescent on hair-mop:
He bears on his head as a diadem the crescent of the fifth day moon. Placed near the fiery third eye this shows the power of Soma, the sacrificial offering, which is the representative of Moon. It means that Shiva possesses the power of procreation co-existent with that of destruction.

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