Lesser Known Aspects of Lord Shiva
Unlike in Vaishnavism, there is no concept of incarnations in Shaivism. God being the supreme controller of all actions and manifestations and indweller of all beings, the followers of Saivism do not see the need for a separate incarnation by God to set things right in the mortal worlds. However Siva has many aspects and manifestations. These are essentially the various forms assumed by Lord Siva at different times to perform certain acts or manifest certain states of consciousness. Following are some of the lesser known as aspects of Lord Shiva.
In this aspect Siva is shown as a combination of both male and female attributes. One half of him is depicted as male and the other as female. Symbolically they represent the male and female or the: yin and yang principles of the universe. From the perspective of life and creation, they represent God (Purusha) and Nature (Prakriti). From the ritual perspective they represent Siva and Parvathi. From a tantric perspective they represent the blissful state of perfect union between a male and female. Ardhanariswara is an iconic representation of Sivalingam in more expressive and explicit form.:
Literally translated as “victor over death”, Shiva worshipped in this aspect as the conqueror of death and equated with Yama, the Vedic god of death. The particular legend associated with this aspect is mentioned in reference to the sage Markandeya, who was fated to die at the age of sixteen. On account of the sage’s worship and devotion to Shiva, the lord vanquished Yama to liberate his devotee from death. People worship Shiva in this aspect seeking protection from death and diseases. The famous mantra, known as Mahamrityunjaya mantram, is uttered on occasions by people, invoking Lord Shiva for his protection from physical and mortal harm. There are temples built in honor of Mrityunjaya, such as the temple of Thirupainyeeli, near Tiruchirappalli, and at a shrine in Thirukadaiyur, near Chidambaram.
Lord Shiva is known by many names. The Bhagavata Purana,for example, mentions eleven other names of Rudra, namely Manyu, Manu, Mahinasa, Mahān, Śiva, Rtadhvaja, Ugraretā, Bhava, Kāla, Vāmadeva and Dhrtavrata. Many names from the Bhagavata Purana appear in the Astamurti ascription. Astamurti, means eight forms. The name alludes to the eight principal aspects or attributes of Lord Shiva. Associating Hindu gods with their attributes or describing their: eight or nine aspects is a popular practice in Hinduism. For example goddess Lakshmi has eight aspects, while Durga has nine nine aspects. These aspects are mentioned in reference to Shiva in various scriptures, including the Vedas. These eight aspects are as mentioned below.
- Bhava – Existence,
- Sarva – The Archer,
- Rudra – Lord of Weeping – The Malevolent,
- Pasupati – Herdsman,
- Ugra – The Fearsome,
- Mahan, i.e. Mahadeva – The Supreme,
- Bhima – The Tremendous,
- Isana – The Directional ruler.
The Lingapurana describes these aspects in the following manner.
Sarva – Wife: Vikeshi; Son: Angaraka, i.e. planet Mars; The lord of all and the entity pervading the universe.
Bhava – Wife: Uma; son: Shukra, i.e. planet Venus; envelops the 7 world-spheres; protects the universe, infuses life in the universe.
Pashupati – Wife: Svaha; son: Shanmukha; envelops the universe; protects all life-forms, is manifest as fire.
Ishana – Wife: Shiva; son: Manojava; the substance of living and non-living forms; confers all wishes, is manifest as air.
Bhima – Wives: 10 directions; Son: Sarga; envelops the universe; basis of all manifestations in the universe, is manifest as space and as the sun.
Rudra – Wife: Suvarchala; Son: Shanishchara, i.e. Saturn; gives liberation and pleasures; cause of devotion in devotees, present as the nature of all pleasant things, is manifest as the sun.
Mahadeva – Wife: Rohini; Son: Budha, i.e. Mercury; bearer of offerings to gods and ancestors, is manifest as the moon.
Ugra – Wife: Diksha; Son: Samtana; manifests as the ritualist.