Lord Shiva – The Destroyer
Lord Shiva, a major deity and the third god in the Hindu triumvirate, is also known as the destroyer or the transformer. The other gods in the triumvirate are Brahma – the creator and Vishnu – the preserver of the universe. It is believed that Shiva possesses the power to destroy the world in order to rid it of all evil and pave way for its recreation.
Shiva’s powers of destruction and recreation are used to destroy the illusions and imperfections of this world and change it for the better. This makes him a source of both good and evil – a supreme being who combines many contradictory elements. These contradictions are evident in the god’s various representations. The yogi who leads the life of an ascetic deep in meditation, while balancing his roles of a husband and father with his wife Parvati and his two sons Ganesha and Kartikeya. The destroyer with a ‘third eye’ who slays demons as well as the merciful god who rids the universe of vish (poison) by consuming it and sharing amrit (elixir or gift of immortality) with the gods and the asuras (demons). Another popular form of Shiva is that of the Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. Many myths and legends talk about how the energy of Shiva’s dance sustains the universe while his indulgence in the destructive Tandava dance can destroy it.
Shiva means the ‘pure one’ or the ‘auspicious one’ – the Supreme Being who cannot be contaminated by the imperfections of the world. It is believed that the very utterance of his name purifies everyone.
Shiva is in fact the only god who is not affected by the three Gunas of Prakriti. In Samkhya philosophy, there are three Gunas (guiding principles) of Prakriti (universal nature). These are Sattva– forces that are responsible for purity and goodness; Rajas – all that motivates activity and passion; and Tamas, which is loosely translated as darkness – forces that promote sloth, ignorance and death. Unaffected by these principles, Shiva is said to be the only Hindu god who has no Aadi(birth or beginning) or Anta (death or end), often referred to as AadiAnanta Shiva.
These beliefs help understand the god who is feared as the destroyer and loved as the merciful ‘BholeNath’. His powers and actions are better described as transformative, not simply destructive. Shiva is responsible for change – through death and through the destruction of the ego and through the shedding of old habits and material attachments. His various depictions propagate balance and harmony. They teach one the importance of the life cycle and how one must understand and respect it in order to co-exist harmoniously with nature, society and the universe.
All that has a beginning must have an end – through Shiva’s powers nothing is truly destroyed except the illusion of individuality. His transformative and purifying powers pave the way for a better reality – a beautiful new beginning along with new opportunities. As the god who constantly meditates and lives as a simple ascetic, Shiva searches and strives for a universe in perfect harmony and balance. While best known as the destroyer, Shiva truly represents hope, transformation and goodness.