Lord Shiva known as Rudra
Shiva was originally known as Rudra, a minor deity addressed only three times in the Rig Veda. He gained importance after absorbing some of the characteristics of an earlier fertility god and became Shiva, part of the trinity, or trimurti, with Vishnu and Brahma. Shiva often wears a snake coiled around his upper arms and neck symbolizing the power he has over the most deadly of creatures. Snakes are also used to symbolize the Hindu dogma of reincarnation. Their natural process of moulting or shedding their skin is symbolic of the human soul’s transmigration of bodies from one life to another. Thiruvalangadu, north of Madras, is associated with the dance contest between Shiva and his consort in the form of Kali. According to legend, Shiva danced vigorously, and to subdue Kali, threw up his leg in the rhythm of the dance. Being a lady, Kali could not repeat this feat and stood dismayed. This dance and the subjugation of Kali, are described in the hymns of the female saint-poet Karaikkal Ammai. Shiva's female consort and wife is Parvati; because of his generosity and reverence towards Parvati, Shiva is considered an ideal role model for a husband. The divine couple together with their sons - the six-headed Skanda and the elephant headed Shiva - reside on Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas. Shiva often holds a trident, which represents the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. It is also said to represent the threefold qualities of nature: creation, preservation and destruction, although preservation is usually attributed to Vishnu. As the destroyer Shiva is dark and terrible, encircled with serpents and a crown of skulls. Shiva wears sacred Rudraksha beads, perhaps a reference to his earlier name Rudra. The crescent moon Shiva wears on his crown, besides being a symbol of Kama the goddess of nightly love, also represents the bull, Nandi, a fertility symbol. “Shiva holds a skull that represents samsara, the cycle of life, death and rebirth." Shiva holds a skull that represents samsara , the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Samsara is a central belief in Hinduism. Shiva himself also represents this complete cycle because he is Mahakala the Lord of Time, destroying and creating all things. His guardian is Nandi (the white bull), whose statue can often be seen watching over the main shrine. The bull is said to embody sexual energy, fertility. Riding on its back, Shiva is in control of these impulses. Shiva is represented in a variety of forms. One such form is as a lingam. The ovoid shape is a representation of the absolute perfection of Lord Shiva - if that which is beyond form had to be given form, the lingam would be the closest form to the mystical experience of the absolute perfection of Shiva. A great figure in the dance of life is the Hindu god Shiva. Although his name literarily means the kind and the friendly one, he has three faces and combines in himself contradictory qualities of both destroyer and restorer. What does Shiva destroy? Ignorance! This is considered a great blessing in Hindu culture. Indeed, what better accomplishment could there be during our short visit on earth, than to learn to destroy the erroneous concept we have of ourselves? How can we destroy such ignorance, in other words, how can we work towards our salvation? The Hindu culture teaches the use of Yoga and meditation, other cultures teach prayers, more primitive cultures teach sacrifice. Whichever path we chose, we must always "act and react," even the Christian Bible says that. We cannot and must not isolated ourselves completely, and even if we try, our thoughts will always be in charge of our lives, and we must to learn to handle them. So, there is a constant physical and mental movement going on; a dance as mentioned before. How ugly or beautiful we make that dance is up to us. If we are successful, we begin to understand and appreciate the dance of life, moving along in a soft way. The negative can destroy us, or it can help restore our sanity; that is, if we learn to dance around it, even flirt with it, so that we attract the negativity close enough to allow the light to illuminate our minds, and wipe out our ignorance about our True Self.