The Concept of Siva
Saivism and Vaishnavism are two prominent schools of religious beliefs among Hindus. Each one claim that his concept of God is superior to the other. Today, most Hindus look at both these with equal reverence. Lord Ayyappa is an example.
The Siva family consists of Siva, Parvati, Ganapathy and Subramania. Here Siva represents the Self (Atma), Parvati (Maya), Ganapathy, the mind and Subramania the spring season (Time).
Lord Siva is the embodiment of Atma (the Self), with attributes (Saguna). Atma is an entity without attachment and attributes (Nirguna). Therefore, Siva is shown as always immersed in meditation. This is a beautiful (Sundara) and peaceful (Santa) pose. (Siva means the Auspicious). The face of Siva is full of brightness. The blue colour of His body represents infinity or eternity.
Siva is blue necked (Neela-kanta). His neck or throat, became blue by consuming the poison Kaalakoota, which emerged from the mouth of Vasuki, a serpent used in churning the ocean of milk. This sybolises the concept that those who strive for the welfare of the world, have to be prepared to undergo many difficult experiences.
The serpent adorning the neck of Siva is a symbol of Time, which represents the ‘end’ or ‘death’. Siva who destroys Time (Kaala), has conquered death (Mrithyunjaya). Thus he has made ‘death’ as an adornment.
The trident (three pronged spear) in Siva’s hand represents the three aspects, ie, the Knower, Known and Knowledge. These three aspects are the three branches of Supreme Knowledge (Paramatma). The observer attains consciousness of the world through these three aspects.
Naada is the first vibration or mystic sound from which all creations have emerged. The Upanishads proclaim that this is OM-kara or the three syllables A, U, M sounded together. From the Damaru (an hourglass shaped drum) hanging on Siva’s trident, emanates Naada, and from this, the universe is unfolded and all creations take place.
The river Ganges (Godess Ganga), is hidden in the matted hair of Siva. This Godess represents the enegy that arises from the Mooladhara-chakra (located at the lowest point of the Sushumna nadi (spine) and reaches upward to the 7th chakra, called Sahasrara-chakra. This is called Kundalini or Serpent power. From this point flows the Ganges. This flow of the river Ganges is the personification of the flow of Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being-Consciouness-Bliss), a state which represents the state of complete liberation (Moksha).
The crescent moon on Siva’s head, represents the concept of growth and decay. No creation can avoid this phenomenon. Siva adorns the crescent moon to make a devotee recognize this fact.
The third eye of Siva is ‘the eye of knowledge’ and also ‘fire’. It ca see the past, present and future. Knowledge is the fire or power of destruction. Siva reduced Kamadeva (the God of desire) to ashes, by opening this third eye. Desire is the enemy of Supreme Knowledge.
Siva’s body is smeared with the sacred ash (Bhasmam). This ash represents the burnt remains of the three Gunas (Satva-Raja and Tamas). Therefore Siva is beyond the three gunas (Gunatita).
Parvati, the consort of Siva represents Maya (illusion). Only with the help of Mayadevi (Sakti or the dynamic energy) Siva (the inert) can create the world. Without Sakti (energy), Siva is like a corpse.
The abode of Siva-Parvati is Kailasa. Kailasa means a high place, not easily accessible to the common man. It represents the 4th state (Turiya) beyond the three states, Jagrat (waking), Swapna (dream), and Sushupti (deep sleep)
The bull, Nandi, is the vehicle of Siva. The body is the vehicle (carriage) that carries Atma. The docile bull has been selected as the vehicle of Siva, since it represents peace and beauty. A person, who is aware of the existence of the body, must be aware of the existence of Atma, and hence you have to always face it. Therefore, the Nandi is installed facing the idol of Siva (Linga).