Lord Shiva is considered the supreme Godhead in the Hindu Pantheon.
With that, there are lots of interesting facts and stories of Lord Shiva that every seeker and devotee should know.
In this article, you are going to uncover many amazing truths of Shiva that will boggle your mind.
So let’s dive right in.
#1: Depiction of Shiva
The depiction of Lord Shiva as we know him today is a composition of older Vedic and Non-Vedic deities. The ideation originates from the Rig Vedic deity “Rudra“.
#2: Meaning of the Word “SHIVA”
The word “Shiva” doesn’t necessarily indicate only to “Mahadeva” or “Lord Shiva” as the word has been used in Rig Veda to address and revere many gods that have been mentioned thereon.
The word “Shiva” means someone who is auspicious, benevolent, kind, all-pervasive or ubiquitous, someone who signifies success, and many more.
#3: Features that Make Lord Shiva UNIQUE
The features that make Lord Shiva stand out from the other deities are…
The Crescent Moon on his head
The Flowing Ganga River from this matted dreadlocks hair
The Third Eye on his forehead. You can clearly see the Third Eye is between the three stacked horizontal lines on his forehead in the following image.
The Damaru Drum in his hand which is shaped like an hourglass
The Coiled Snake around his neck
The Tiger Skin wrapped around his waist (which hangs down around the legs)
The Trishula or Trident as his primary weapon…
And Rudraksha as a bracelet on his arms and wrists as well as around his erected fat bun on the head.
#4: Lord Shiva has Thousands of Names
Lord Shiva has many different names. In Shiva Sahasranama there are 1,000 names of Shiva as well as 10,000 names in Mahanyasa which is known as Dasha-Sahasranamas.
#5: The Followers of Shiva
The followers of Lord Shiva are called Shaiva (also known as Shaivite). Shaiva is a major Hindu sect (among Vaishnav, Shakta, and Smart Tradition) that regards Shiva as the supreme deity.
#6: The SHIVA LINGAM
The Shiva Lingam as we know it today is actually called “Jyotir Lingam” which symbolizes the inseparable union of Shiva and Shakti.
The Shiva Lingam in most temples are Shiva and Shakti together or Phallus (Erected Penis) and Yoni (Vulva) together.
#7: Shiva Applies Cremation Ash
Shiva applies cremation ash throughout his body.
This implies that everything in the existence is impermanent (even the existence itself) which will eventually decay and come to an end.
The cremation ash will never let anyone forget that the creation is impermanent or Nashwar (mortal or short-lived).
#8: Lord Shiva is Called NEELKATH
Lord Shiva is also known as “Neelkanth”, which signifies “Blue Throat” (Neel means “Blue” and Kanth means “Throat”).
The reason behind Shiva is known as Neelkanth is because he once drank an incredibly deadly poison called “Halahala” to rescue the people and existence.
Upon drinking the poison his throat became Blue, hence he is called Blue-Throated or Neelkanth.
Having said that Shiva is supposed to be the Supreme Godhead of the Hindu Triad (Brahma, Vishnu, and Meheshwara) due to the fact that no one was able to consume the Poison called “Halahala” except Shiva.
#9: Shiva is the First Yoga Practitioner (YOGI)
Shiva is known as “Mahayogi” and “Adiyogi”.
Mahayogi literally means The Great Yogi (Maha means “Great” and Yogi means “the person who practices Yoga”) and Adiyogi means the First Yogi (or simply the Founder of Yoga Philosophy).
Among Mahayogi and Adiyogi Lord Shiva is also known as Umapati which means the Husband of Uma (Parvati).
#10: Shiva has Many Jyotir Lingams Across the Country
The follower of Shiva, the Shaiva tradition (“Shaiva Pilgrimage Tradition” to be more precise) has 12 major Shiva temples across India known as Jyotir Lingam or Jyotirlinga.
Although there are in fact 64 Jyotir Lingams of Lord Shiva, these 12 Lingams are the most significant among them.
NOTE: The phrase “Jyotir Lingam” literally means “The Pillar of Light” or “The Linga of Light”.
#11: Lord Shiva’s Children
Lord Shiva has 3 children…
Kartikeya, Ganesha, and Ashoka Sundari.
Apart from these three children he has 7 more children…
Namely Jalandhar (born from Shiva’s “Krodhaagni” or “The Fire of Anger”)
Ayyappa (Who was born out of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu’s female avatar Mohini)
Bhuma (aka Mangala, Angaraka, or Lohitang, was born out of Shiva’s sweat)
Sukesh (who was adopted by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati)
Andhak (Who was born out of Parvati’s sweat)
Khuja (was born from Shiva’s ray that was emitted from his chest).
#12: The Protocol of Placing Shiva Lingam
In Shiva temples, Shiva Lingam is placed in the center beneath the Spire.
The Spire is the cone-shaped object that sits above the temple under which the Shiva Lingam resides (The Garbha Griha).
#13: Shiva is Known as MAHAKAAL
Lord Shiva is known as Mahakaal, which literally means Great Time (Maha means Great and Kaal simply means Time).
This is because he has transcended or gone beyond both Time and Death (The word “Kaal” means both Time and Death, which depends on the context), hence he is called Mahakaal.
#14: Shiva is Also Called SWAYAMBHU
Shiva is called “Swayambhu” (literal meaning “Self-Created”).
It signifies that he doesn’t possess a father and mother.
This is due to the fact that he created himself by himself or he creates his physical form on his own.
#15: Lord Shiva Engrosses in Meditation
Lord Shiva at most of the time engrossed in meditation (in Sanskrit it’s called “Dhyan”).
Through meditation, he communicates with Lord Vishnu, who is known as the preserver of existence.
This has to do with the balance and cycles of the creation that all of the three major Gods of the Hindu Triad, namely Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara communicate with each other to maintain.
To be more specific…
Brahma meditates on Shiva, Shiva meditates on Vishnu, and Vishnu meditates on Brahma.
#16: Lord Shiva Takes Incarnations as ANSH (Portion)
Shiva as opposed to Vishnu doesn’t take incarnation or avatar on Earth.
Shiva takes incarnations on earth as Ansh (Portion) but he doesn’t take complete incarnation for a reason.
The reason is that…
…Lord Shiva has the responsibility of and association with Destruction (Pralaya).
Hence it’s not his primary job to take incarnation on Earth to rescue humankind.
But on the other hand, Vishnu has the responsibility of taking care of the whole existence (he is the cause of sustenance of the Universe).
#17: Lord Shiva is known as Nataraja (An Iconic Depiction)
Lord Shiva as “Nataraja” which is an iconographical depiction (unique or one of a kind) signifies…
Creation: The Hourglass shaped drum in his back right hand.
Destruction: The fire in a vessel that he holds in his back left hand.
Fear Not Gesture or Blessing: This is indicated by his front right hand; the palm faces outward with the fingers pointed upward.
The Cycle of Birth and Death: The fire around Nataraja in circular form indicates pain & suffering in this illusionary world which is experienced through the Cycle of Birth and Death.
The destroyer of Ego and Ignorance: The dwarf under his right foot is called ‘Apasmara’, which means confusion, ignorance, forgetfulness, or loss of memory. Hence Shiva is firmly pressing the dwarf by his right foot to save or give birth to knowledge. Because Apasmara became too arrogant hat he challenged Shiva. And Lord Shiva couldn’t kill him because if he do so the acquiring of knowledge will be effortless, which will be unfair. Hence he is trampling Ego and Ignorance.
Eternal Bliss and Salvation: The left foot aloft signifies liberating mature souls and giving them salvation as well as giving or releasing knowledge to them by keeping the foot aloft.
The word “Nataraja” literally means the “The King of Dance”. Nata (comes from the Sanskrit root “Naatya”) means “Dance” and Raja means “King”.
#18: The Kamandalu Water Pot of Shiva
The Kamandalu (pronounced as /kə-mənd-loo/) or the water pot that is depicted beside Lord Shiva’s idol symbolizes the removal of Ego from a person and letting that person attain self-realization or spiritual enlightenment.
The pot is generally made from Pumpkin Shell (by removing the flesh and seeds), clay, metal, or wood (usually with a handle).
In terms of Pumpkin Kamandalu, the Pumpkin itself signifies the person, and the seeds and plum (flesh) signify Ego. Hence it symbolically means removing Ego from an individual to attain or accept Self-Realization.
The water in the pot is called Amrita or Elixir of life.
The Kamandalu is placed aloft a Shiva Lingam in Shiva Temples to pour Milk or Water by the devotees.
The Kamandalu also signifies an Ascetic or Yogic life.
#19: It is not Permitted to Fully Go Around or Circumambulate the Shiva Linga
In Shiva temples, the Shiva Lingam shouldn’t be fully circumambulated (although some devotees perform full circumambulation).
The rule is the following:
You should visit the Lingam from the east and then go around the Shiva Linga from the Southeast to the Northwest and from the Northwest to the Northeast.
You shouldn’t cross or traverse the trough (the channel from which the water and other liquids flow).
This is due to the fact that if you cross the trough the extremely potent energy that flows out from Shakti (the trough is Shakti’s energy flowing channel) adversely affects your energetic body.
Hence in Shiva Purana, it has been mentioned that one should only perform Half Parikrama (Half Circumambulation) of the Shiva Lingam.
Note: This half circumambulation rule is only applicable to man-made Shiva Lingams. This rule is not applied to Swayambhu (self-created or naturally formed ) Shiva Lingams.
Enjoyed Reading this Article? Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section Below. 🙂
Surajit Dhar says
Great article. I really enjoyed reading this.
Raktim Dutta says
Glad you enjoyed reading this!
Startling! I found the 19th tidbit quite interesting, The Half Parikrama. Thanks and keep up the good work.