Who is Lord Shiva?
A major Hindu deity, Lord Shiva is part of the Hindu Trinity. Together with Brahma and Vishnu, Lord Shiva forms the Trimurti. While Brahma and Vishnu are the creator and the preserver respectively, Lord Shiva holds the place of the destroyer. While he is known by many names including Mahadeva, Mahayogi, Pashupati, Natraja, Neelkanth and Bhole Nath, Lord Shiva is most commonly referred to as The Destroyer. In this form, Lord Shiva is worshipped as the destroyer of all things negative like ego, lust, anger and envy. According to Shaivism, Lord Shiva is the supreme deity and much more important than both Brahma and Vishnu. Lord Shiva is also the husband of goddess Parvati and the father of lord Ganesha and Kartikeya.
The Hindu religion has over 330 million gods who are worshipped in one form or another. Of all these gods, Lord Shiva is one of the most famous and identifiable gods. Almost anyone who knows even a bit about Hinduism knows this god. He is easily identified with his matted hair that comes down to the middle of his back, his ash smeared body, the snakes that form a necklace around his neck, the crescent moon as an ornament in his hair and the only stitch of clothing on him, his loincloth. And even though Lord Shiva is a well-known and much loved Hindu god, he is followed by many non-Hindus who find his dichotomy inspiring.
In another branch of Hinduism, Lord Shiva is regarded as one of five important gods, the others being Devi, Vishnu, Ganesha and Surya. The name Lord Shiva has two different meanings. It can mean both Pure and The Auspicious One. If one digs further, many more meanings of the word Lord Shiva arise depending on how the word is used. Lord Shiva can mean The pure one, The one who remains unaffected by the three gunas of prakriti or The one who purifies those who utter his name. According another noted scholar, Lord Shiva means the one who is eternally pure or the one who can never have any contamination from the imperfections of Rajas and Tamas.
The role that Lord Shiva plays in Shaivism comes out more distinctly when we delve further into the religion. According to Shaivism, Lord Shiva is also known as Mahadeva, meaning the Great God where Maha means great and Deva means god. He is also known as Parmeshvara meaning the Supreme Lord. Lord Shiva has 1008 names all of which are listed in the Mahanyasa. It is easy to see why this great god is considered the most important god of the Hindu Pantheon according to the Shaivite religion.