The end of the world is near but Shiva will save us

Hindu ascetic, Shiva follower. India.

Hindu ascetic, Shiva follower. India.

The Mayans have predicted the end of the world will occur on 21 december 2012. While some believe a cataclysm is going to destroy the universe, others may consider the time of Shiva has come.  

For hindus, Shiva is one of the three most important gods. He is worshipped as the destroyer of the universe and the builder of the next one. An indigenous god ( not an Aryan one, he is not mentioned in the Veda, the first “hindu” holy books that have been written something like 3.500-2.500 years ago. But effigies depicting a god looking like Shiva have been found in the ruins of the Indus valley civilization towns, an indigenous culture that existed about 4.000 years ago), he was known as Rudra in his earlier form. In contrast to Vishnu’s reputation as the benevolent creator god, Shiva represents destruction, austerity ( austerities are believed to be a powerful mean to build a new world, cleared of the faults of the last one)  and the more malignant forces of life. This divergence has the effect that whereas Vishnu manifested himself through avatars ( the most famous being Rama, Krishna …but also Buddha !), Shiva is represented by different aspects of his own powers ( In hinduism, many gods are worshipped as aspects of Shiva) and that of his consort Parvati.

His religious ancestor, Rudra, was ambiguous, being both benevolent and malevolent, but the latter aspect gradually prevailed. The combination of the ideas of destruction and creation is expressed in his late aspect as Mahadeva, the Supreme Being. In this form, he is frequently represented as the phallic symbol (“linga”) which is worshipped in a Shiva temple. But Shiva is shown in many other forms. Usually represented with 2 or 4  arms, he may have more. He has six arms in his boon giving forms; eight in his destructive forms; twelve in his benign forms;… He has three eyes, the third one ( between the eyebrow) being usually closed, except at the time of destruction of worlds. He wears long hair, supports the Ganga river on his head and the crescent moon on his matted hair. He holds a trident in his hand, is naked except for a tiger skin, besmears himself with ash and is decorated with snakes on his neck and arms. He is fair coloured but have a blue throat because he drunk poison when the ocean was churned by the gods. He holds an axe, a club and a drum. He wears a garland of skulls and is also known as the lord of the cremation grounds. He is the father of Ganesha ( the god who remove obstacles) and Skanda ( the god of war, also known as Kartikeya in south India). His vehicle is a bull called Nandi.

Sometimes, he is represented dancing. In such a case, his name is Nataraja. The symbolism of the dance can be interpreted in many ways. It may show Shiva as the moving force of the universe and his five acts of creation, preservation, destruction, embodiment and release ( of the human souls from illusion). Sometimes also, he is worshipped as the god of asceticism. He is depicted using a human skull to beg his food. Since a few millenniums, even before Buddha’s time, errant ascetics have travelled throughout India. Famous masters like Mahavira, Gosala,…were ascetics who used to expose their views to the local populations. Asceticism was then the most transcendent form of religious life ; it seems it has prepared the emergence of a new ethic. Indeed, the Buddha has been an errant ascetic too before been enlightened under the Bodhi tree.

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