Shiva is said to encompass within his personality the dual strains of the householder and the ascetic, alike. This dichotomy in Shiva’s mythology, facilitate the maintenance of order in the universe and are commonly known as the Pravritti and Nivritti marg.
Broadly speaking, the Pravritti marg, involves one’s engagement in worldly activities and in “orthodox sacrificial culture” & the latter or the Nivritti marg is the path of renunciation & yoga. The Ashrama system in Hinduism engenders within it these two paths, as that of the householder or “Grihansta” & that of the ascetic or hermit as “Vanpratsa” & “Sanyasin”. So under the social system, one follows the former at a younger age and graduates to the latter as he fulfils his worldly duties & responsibilities.
Pravritti Marg is fuelled by the sexual urges of an individual & forms the basis of the family. Accordingly, the individual, is born, grows, marries & procreates, living in society following its traditions, performing tasks, engaging in rituals, wealth creation, and sensual pleasure & seeking approval of others. Shiva’s association with Parvati is said to illustrate this path. However, the lifestyle of orthodox ritualistic Vedic rites and sacrifice followed by Parvati’s father Daksha who used these as a means of self aggrandizement to display & assert his power, wealth & fame is not the end this path ought to serve. Daksha’s misgivings about Shiva & the heavy price of his devastating end, is a case in point of how a misconstrued use of ritual & sacrifice leads to “Avidya” or ignorance & eventual collapse & destruction.
This life path however, when employed in moderation & aimed at gaining knowledge of the self & progressing towards spiritual pursuits bears meritorious results, as it is the precursor to the need for solitude & aspiration for higher knowledge. Only after, churning in the cauldron of samsara & its miseries is one, disillusioned and propelled towards detachment & inner pursuits.
Nivritti Marg chartered as the latter half of the journey, pertains to an inward withdrawal, an utter disinterest in sensual pastimes & a joy in seclusion. The ascetic in this mode, does more than abstain from everyday worldly activities, instead his pursuits gravitate towards gaining wisdom & transcendence in the spiritual realm. This entails an inward journey of meditation (tapas) & concentration (dhyana) to attain enlightenment or knowledge of the absolute.
While the Ashrama system of Brahamanic tradition accommodates this path in the latter half of the human life cycle, other proponents of non Vedic philosophies recognize the life of asceticism, as the only means to affirming faster spiritual evolution & attainment of spiritual ecstasies. The followers of such ideologies, reject the preoccupation with religious rites & ceremonies altogether and maintain that the god realisation or “sat chit anand” happens through leading a simple reclusive lifestyle, often of as a wandering mendicant, abandoning any desire for wealth, sons or fame, in the deep stillness of intense focused meditation as a Tapasvi or Yogi.
This is in fact, deeply akin to Shiva’s life trajectory, as he dresses in tiger skin & ashes, roams cremation grounds befriending ghosts & s, participates in nonconformist undertakings & yet exhibits a total mastery of situations, accentuating his spiritual prowess & invincible stature, as the supreme Lord.
Thus, the two paths- the Pravritti and Nivritti Marg, interwoven in his enthralling life are subjects of much thought & learning for the seeker of Shiva’s wisdom & follower of his ways.