Symbols associated with Lord Shiva—
Symbols associated with Lord Shiva—
The Atharva Veda’s Gopal Uttar Tapini Upanishad, gives the names of some of the twenty Shiva Lingams as follows—“Vireshwar, Rudreshwar, Ambikeshwar, Ganeshwar, Neelkanth, Gopaleshwar, Bhadreshwar etc.”
The Shiva Lingam is a gross manifestation of Shiva who himself is a divine, subtle and sublime Being. Just like the case of the rest of this creation being a visible and gross manifestation of the supreme transcendental Brahm, the cosmic Supreme Being, Lord Shiva’s Lingams too represents the otherwise invisible, attribute-less, cosmic, all-pervading and the most sublime Lord Shiva’s subtle form in its grosser aspect or form that is visible, and has attributes like the other grosser manifestations of the Supreme 24 Being known as Brahm. This is one of the primary reasons why Lord Shiva is also called‘Maha-deva’, the Great God, because he is none other than Brahm himself. The Shiva’s Lingam is like an icon that is normally used to stand as a unique symbol for a particular deity or God. It is an emblem of Shiva. If we look at the Lingam closely we observe that it is a cylindrical structure passing through the center of a circular girdle or ring. This structure reminds one of a wheel with the central axle. This imagery is used to indicate the fact that Shiva is the supreme transcendental Brahm around whom the whole of the creation rotates. ‘Rotates’ is a metaphoric way of saying that the entire creation depends upon Brahm; it is centered around Brahm; Brahm is the pivot thatsupports the entire edifice of creation. Just like the wheel cannot move if the axle is removed, this creation cannot survive if Brahm, the Consciousness and the Truth of creation, is removed from it. Iconographically, the Shiva Lingam has three distinct parts—the lower part fixed to the ground stands for Brahma the creator; the middle part of the wheel stand for Vishnu the sustainer and protector of creation; and the upper part of the cylinderrepresents Rudra the concluder. These three Trinity Gods stand for the three basic and fundamental aspects of creation—birth, development and growth, and finally the end. They thus represent Brahm in its entirety.
The Shiva Lingam is called Jyotirlingam because it is mentioned in the Linga Puran that the Shiva Lingam appeared as an endless shaft of fire. And ‘fire’ is characterized by the virtues of light and illumination. It came to be known as the ‘Linga’ because all the creatures of this creation have a gross body in which their soul or their Atma lived, called the ‘Linga Deha’, and they reproduced themselves with the helpof the genitals, called the ‘Linga’ The physical Lingam is the visible form of the invisible Linga Deha of Shivawhich is the Lord’s ethereal and cosmic form. Benefits of worshipping the Shiva Lingam which is his image, and how to worship it. Even the Sun God, the Moon God, the Fire God and the Wind God (i.e. the primary Gods) are unaware of the mysteries and enigmatic glories of this Shiva-Lingam.
The self-illuminated and self-emerged or self-created Lingam extends as far as the pit of the earth known as Paataal.
This Shiva-Lingam is an image of me who am the Lord of the world. Hence, it is known as ‘Vishwanaath’ Lingam.
Worshipping it and paying obeisance to it is directly worshipping and paying obeisance to me.
The 12 Jyoti-Lingams—There are said to be twelve divine Lingams of Shiva, known as the ‘Jyoti-lingams/Jyotirlingams’, meaning self-radiant symbols of Lord Shiva. They are as follows—
(i) Sri Somnath (the Lord of Soma, the elixir of bliss; the Lord who wears the moon on his forehead)—This Lingam is situated in Saurashtra or Kathiawaad area of the western seaboard of India, located in the state of Gujrat. The particular area is also known in ancient scriptures as Prabhaas-kshetra.
(ii) Sri-Shail (the holy mountain)—This Lingam is located atop a mountain named Sri Mallikaarjun in the Krishna district of the state of Tamil Nadu in south India. It is often called the Kailash of the south, and is situated on the banks of river Krishna.
(iii) Sri Maha-Kaal (the Great Lord who controls death)—This Lingam is located the town of Ujjain (also known as Avantika-puri) in the Malwa area of Madhya Pradesh state of western India.
(iv) Sri Omkareshwar or Amaleshwar (the Lord whose cosmic form is representedby the sublime sound of the divine word OM)—This Lingam is located on the banks of river Narmada in the Malwa area of the state of Madhya Pradesh.
(v) Sri Vaidya-nath (the Lord of medicinal herbs; the Lord who takes care of the physical health and spiritual well-being of the world)—This Lingam is located in the eastern part of India in the district of Santhaal Paragana in the present state of Jharkhand (previously Bihar). [According to many beliefs, there is another Lingam with the same name located in a village known as Parli. This village is near the town of Parvhani whichitself is near the city of Hyderabad, the capital of the south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh.
(vi) Sri Bhim-shankar (the Lord who was worshipped by Bhim, one of the Pandavas who were contemporaries of Lord Krishna during the Dwapar Yug, the era that preceded the present era known as Kaliyug)—This Lingam is situated on the banks of river Bhimaa, and is at a place that is east of the city of Mumbai and west of Pune in thestate of Maharastra in the west of India. The Lingam is present atop a hill known as ‘Sahya-Parvat’. It is believed that in ancient times this area was infested by ghosts and phantoms, hence is also known as ‘Daakini’—the female ghosts. [According to traditional belief, two other Lingams are also known by this name. One is mentioned in the Shiva Puran, and this Bhimshankar Lingam is located in the north-eastern state of Assam. Its exact location is atop a hill by the name of Brahma-pur which is situated in the district of Kaam-rup near the state’s capital city of Gauhati. The other Bhimshankar Lingam is said to be located at a place called Ujjanak in the district of Nainital in thenorthern state of Uttaraanchal.]
(vii) Sri Rameshwaram (the patron God of Lord Ram; the Lord who was worshipped by Sri Ram, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu during the second of the four-era cycle of creation and destruction, known as the Treta-yug)—This Lingam is located in the southern tip of India in the district of Ram-nad in the state of Tamil Nadu. It was established and worshipped by Lord Ram himself just before he launched his assault onLanka to free his divine consort Sita from the clutches of the demon king Ravana, as well as to eliminate the demons who had been tyrannizing the world. This event is mentioned in all the versions of the epic Ramayana that describes the story of the life and times of Lord Ram.
(viii) Sri Naageshwar (the Lord of serpents)—This Lingam is situated in the district of Baroda in the state of Gujrat. This area is also known as Darukaa-van. [According to some traditions, there are said to be two other places which are also known by this name. One is in the village of Audhaa-gram in the district of Hyderabad in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The second place is believed to be about 17 miles north-east from Almora in the foothills of the Himalayas in the north of India.
(ix) Sri Vishwa-nath (the Lord of the world)—This Lingam is situated in the well known city of Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh in central part of India. It is located on the banks of the holy river Ganges, and is also believed to be the terrestrial abode of Lord Shiva. Varanasi is also known as Kashi in ancient texts, hence this Lingam is given another name that associates it with this holy pilgrim city—and it is ‘Kashi Vishwanaath’, the Lord of Kashi.
(x) Sri Trayambakeshwar (the Lord with three eyes)—This Lingam is located on the banks of river Godavari near a hill known as Brahma-giri in the district of Nasik in the state of Maharashtra. It is situated roughly 18 miles from a place known as Panchavatiwhere it is believed that Lord Ram had stayed during his forest exile, and it is here that the demoness Supernakha had got her nose and ears chopped off for annoying Lord Ram.
(xi) Sri Kedar-nath (the Lord of Mt. Kedaar)—This Lingam is situated atop a peak known as Kedaar near the upper reaches of river Mandakini (Ganges) located in the lofty northern part of the mighty mountain range known as the Himalayas. The famous shrine of Badrinaath dedicated to Lord Vishnu is located on the upper banks of river Alaknanda to the east of this Kedaar mountain. The shrine falls under the jurisdiction of the state of Uttar Khand in northern India.
(xii) Sri Ghus-meshwar or Ghusri-neshwar—This Lingam of Lord Shiva is located in a shrine that is roughly 12 miles away from Daulatabad railway station, in the village of Berul.
The significance of the moon on his forehead, and his five heads and the ten arms—Lord Shiva has been depicted in the Purans as having a crescent moon on his forehead. The moon is said to have sixteen Kalaas or phases, symbolizing the sixteen Kalaas or aspects out of the total of sixty four Kalaas of the supreme Brahm.
The five heads of Shiva stand for the ‘Panch Vyom’ or the five forms that the sky element is said to have. According to Vedanta, the concept of the sky or ‘Akash’ has many connotations. According to one interpretation, there are five subtle skies representing the space surrounding the five sheaths or Koshas present in the body of a creature.
The significance of the serpents wrapped around his body—The snakes that are wrapped around Lord Shiva show that he is beyond the power of death and poison.
The sound of Shiva’s two-sided drum represents the cosmic sound known as Naad that reverberates in the background of the cosmos. This sound is symbolically represented by the sound that is produced by uttering the word OM.
The vehicle or mount of Lord Shiva is the white bull called the Nandi—which means the cheerful one, the joyful one. The bull on which Lord Shiva rides represents virility and strength, the animal-like power and basic instincts in a man.
In Shiva temples, there is always a reclining bull placed in front of the chief shrine or just outside it, with the head turned away from the deity but the gaze fixed on it.
It is interpreted as the Jivatma, the individual soul of all living being, with its animal-like nature pulling it away from God, but the Lord’s grace pulling it back towards him.
Lord Shiva is often depicted in the Purans and imagery as seated on a tiger skin or wears a tiger skin. Here, the tiger represents the stupendous power of the mind.
Lord Shiva lives on Mount Kailash that is located in the northern side of the mighty mountain range known as the Himalayas.