Sri Swami Sivananda

This article is from the book Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

Siva Lingam at Sri Viswanath Mandir, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh.

Lord Siva at Sri Viswanath Mandir, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh. 

Siva and Vishnu Are Identical
Lord Siva’s Form and Its Significance
Worship of Siva Lingam
Siva Abhisheka
The Glory of Hymns in Praise of Lord Siva
The Panchakshara Mantra
The Dance of Siva
Worship of Lord Siva
Related Links


O Lord Siva,
Lord of Pasus or Jivas,
O Blue-necked Lord,
The Destroyer of Daksha’s sacrifice,
The Beloved of Uma,
The Five-faced Isvara,
Holder of Trident,
Swallower of Poison!
Prostrations unto Thee.
Through Thy Grace
I realised oneness with Thee.
Sivoham, Sivah Kevaloham.
Chidanandarupah Sivoham.

LORD SIVA represents the destructive aspect of Brahman. That portion of Brahman that is enveloped by Tamo-Guna-Pradhana-Maya is Lord Siva, who is the all-pervading Isvara, and who also dwells in Mount Kailas. He is the Bhandar or storehouse for wisdom. Siva minus Parvati, Kaali or Durga is pure Nirguna Brahman. With Maya (Parvati), He becomes the Saguna Brahman for the purpose of the pious devotion of His devotees. Devotees of Rama must worship Lord Siva also. Rama Himself worshipped Lord Siva at the famous Rameswaram. Lord Siva is the Lord of ascetics and Lord of Yogins, robed in space (Digambara).

Lord Siva, in reality, is the Regenerator and not the Destroyer. Whenever one’s physical body becomes unfit for further evolution in this birth either by disease, old age, or other causes, He at once removes this rotten physical sheath and gives a new, healthy, vigorous body for further quick evolution. He wants to take all His children to His lotus feet quickly. He desires to give them His glorious Siva-Pada. It is easier to please Siva than Hari. A little Prem and devotion, a little chanting of His Panchakshari, is quite sufficient to infuse delight in Siva. He gives boons to His devotees quite readily.

Lord Siva is the God of Love. His grace is infinite. He is the Saviour and Guru. He is engaged in freeing the souls from the thraldom of matter. He assumes the form of Guru out of the intense love for mankind. He wishes that all should know Him and attain the blissful Siva-Pada. He watches the activities of the individual souls and helps them in their onward march.

Lord Siva is an embodiment of wisdom. He is the Light of lights. He is Parama Jyoti or Supreme Light. He is self-luminous or Swayam Jyoti. The dance of Siva represents the rhythm and movement of the world-spirit. At His dance, the evil forces and darkness quiver and vanish.

Siva means that which is eternally happy or auspicious, Parama-Mangala. Om and Siva are one. Mandukya Upanishad says: Santam Sivam Advaitam. Even an outcaste can meditate on the Name of Lord Siva.

Lord Siva is the Supreme Reality. He is eternal, formless, independent, omnipresent, one without a second, beginningless, causeless, taintless, self-existent, ever free, ever pure. He is not limited by time. He is infinite bliss and infinite intelligence.

Siva and Vishnu Are Identical

Siva and Vishnu are one and the same entity. They are essentially one and the same. They are the names given to the different aspects of the all-pervading Supreme Soul or the Absolute. Sivasya Hridayam Vishnur Vishnoscha Hridayam Sivah: Vishnu is the heart of Siva, and likewise, Siva is the heart of Vishnu.

The sectarian worship is of recent origin. The Siva Siddhanta of Kantacharya is only five hundred years old. The Vaishnava cults of Madhva and Sri Ramanuja are only six hundred and seven hundred years old respectively. There was no sectarian worship before seven hundred years.

Brahma represents the creative aspect, Vishnu the preservative aspect, and Siva the destructive aspect of Paramatma. This is just like your wearing different garbs on different occasions. When you do the function of a judge, you put on one kind of dress. At home, you wear another kind of dress. When you do worship in the temple, you wear another kind of dress. You exhibit different kinds of temperament on different occasions. Even so, the Lord does the function of creation when He is associated with Rajas and He is called Brahma. He preserves the world when He is associated with Sattva Guna, and He is called Vishnu. He destroys the world when He is associated with Tamo Guna, and He is called Siva or Rudra.

Brahma, Vishnu and Siva have been correlated to the three Avasthas or states of consciousness. During the waking state, Sattva predominates; during the dream state, Rajas predominates; and, during the deep-sleep state, Tamas predominates. Hence Vishnu, Brahma and Siva are the Murtis of Jagrat, Svapna and Sushupti states of consciousness respectively. The Turiya or the fourth state is Para Brahman. The Turiya state is immediately next to the deep sleep state. Worship of Siva will lead quickly to the attainment of the fourth state.

Vishnu Purana glorifies Vishnu, and in some places gives a lower position to Siva. Siva Purana glorifies Siva, and gives a lower status to Vishnu. Devi Bhagavata glories Devi and gives a lower status to Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. This is only to instil and intensify devotion for the respective Deity in the hearts of the devotees. In reality, no Deity is superior to another. You must understand the heart of the writer.

There is no difference between the trinities Brahma, Rudra and Vishnu. The work of all the three Deities is done conjointly. They all have one view and one definite purpose in creating, preserving and destroying the visible universe of names and forms. He who regards the three Deities as distinct and different, Siva Purana says, is undoubtedly a devil or evil spirit.

Lord Siva’s Form and Its Significance

Lord Siva wears a deer in the left upper hand. He has Trident in the right lower arm. He has fire and Damaru and Malu or a kind of weapon. He wears five serpents as ornaments. He wears a garland of skulls. He is pressing with His feet the demon Muyalaka, a dwarf holding a cobra. He faces south. Panchakshara itself is His body.

His Trisul that is held in His right hand represents the three Gunas–Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. That is the emblem of sovereignty. He rules the world through these three Gunas. The Damaru in His left hand represents the Sabda Brahman. It represents OM from which all languages are formed. It is He who formed the Sanskrit language out of the Damaru sound.

The wearing of the crescent moon in His head indicates that He has controlled the mind perfectly. The flow of the Ganga represents the nectar of immortality. Elephant represents symbolically the Vritti pride. Wearing the skin of the elephant denotes that He has controlled pride. Tiger represents lust. His sitting on the tiger’s skin indicates that He has conquered lust. His holding deer on one hand indicates that He has removed the Chanchalata (tossing) of the mind. Deer jumps from one place to another swiftly. The mind also jumps from one object to another. His wearing of serpents on the neck denotes wisdom and eternity. Serpents live for a large number of years. He is Trilochana, the Three-eyed One, in the centre of whose forehead is the third eye, the Eye of Wisdom.

Lord Siva has white complexion. What is the significance of white colour? He teaches silently that people should have pure heart and entertain pure thoughts and should be free from crookedness, diplomacy, cunningness, jealousy, hatred, etc.

He wears three white-lined Bhasma or Vibhuti on His forehead. What is the significance of this? He teaches silently that people should destroy the three impurities, viz., Anavam (egoism), Karma (action with expectation of fruits), and Maya (illusion); the three desires or Eshanas, viz., desire for landed property, desire for woman, and desire for gold; and the three Vasanas, viz., Loka-vasana, Deha-vasana and Shastra-vasana and then attain Him with a pure heart.

What does the Balipeeta or altar which stands in front of the sanctum sanctorum of a Siva’s temple represent? People should destroy their egoism and mine-ness (Ahamta and Mamata) before they attain the Lord. This is the significance.

Rishabha or the bull represents Dharma Devata. Lord Siva rides on the bull. Bull is His vehicle. This denotes that Lord Siva is the protector of Dharma, is an embodiment of Dharma or righteousness.

The Lingam represents Advaita. It points out: “I am one without a second–Ekamevadvitiyam;” just as a man raises his right hand above his head pointing out his right index-finger only.

Worship of Siva Lingam

The popular belief is that the Siva Lingam represents the phallus or the virile organ, the emblem of the generative power or principle in nature. This is not only a serious mistake, but a grave blunder. In the post-Vedic period, the Linga became symbolical of the generative power of Lord Siva. Linga is the differentiating mark. It is certainly not the sex-mark. You will find in the Linga-Purana: “The foremost Lingam which is primary and is devoid of smell, colour, taste, hearing, touch, etc., is spoken of as Prakriti, Nature.”

Linga means “mark”, in Sanskrit. It is a symbol which points to an inference. When you see a big flood in a river, you infer that there had been heavy rains the previous day. When you see smoke, you infer that there is fire. This vast world of countless forms is a Linga of the omnipotent Lord. The Siva Linga is a symbol of Lord Siva. When you look at the Linga, your mind is at once elevated and you begin to think of the Lord.

Lord Siva is really formless. He has no form of His own, and yet, all forms are His forms. All forms are pervaded by Lord Siva. Every form is the form or Linga of Lord Siva.

There is a mysterious power or indescribable Sakti in the Linga to induce concentration of the mind. Just as the mind is focussed easily in crystal-gazing, so also the mind attains one-pointedness when it looks at the Lingam. That is the reason why the ancient Rishis of India and the seers have prescribed Lingam for being installed in the temples of Lord Siva.

Siva Linga speaks to you in the unmistakable language of silence: “I am one without a second. I am formless.” Pure, pious souls only can understand this language. A curious, passionate, impure foreigner of little understanding or intelligence says sarcastically, “Oh, the Hindus worship the phallus or sex organ. They are ignorant people. They have no philosophy.” When a foreigner tries to learn Tamil or Hindustani language, he first tries to pick up some vulgar words. This is his curiosity nature. Even so, the curious foreigner tries to find out some defects in the worship of symbol. Linga is only the outward symbol of the formless being Lord Siva who is the indivisible, all-pervading, eternal, auspicious, ever-pure, immortal essence of this vast universe, who is the undying soul seated in the chambers of your heart, who is your Indweller, innermost Self or Atman, and who is identical with the Supreme Brahman.

Sphatikalinga is also a symbol of Lord Siva. This is prescribed for Aradhana or worship of Lord Siva. It is made up of quartz. It has no colour of its own, but takes on the colour of the substances which come in contact with it. It represents the Nirguna Brahman or the attributeless Supreme Self or formless and attributeless Siva.

For a sincere devotee, the Linga is not a block of stone. It is all radiant Tejas or Chaitanya. The Linga talks to him, makes him shed profuse tears, produces horripilation and melting of heart, raises him above body-consciousness, and helps to commune with the Lord and attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Lord Rama worshipped the Siva Linga at Rameswar. Ravana, the learned scholar, worshipped the golden Linga. What a lot of mystic Sakti there should be in the Linga!

Siva Abhisheka

In Siva temples, a pot made up of copper or brass, with a hole in the centre, is kept hanging over the image or Linga of Siva, and water is falling on the image throughout day and night. Pouring over the Linga water, milk, ghee, curd, honey, coconut water, Panchamrita, etc., is Abhisheka. Abhisheka is done for Lord Siva. Rudri is chanted along with the Abhisheka. Lord Siva is propitiated by Abhisheka.

Lord Siva drank the poison that emanated from the ocean and wore the Ganga and moon on His head to cool His head. He has the fiery third eye. Constant Abhisheka cools this eye.

Abhisheka is a part of Siva Puja. Without Abhisheka, worship of Siva is incomplete.

Ganga water, milk, ghee, honey, rose-water, coconut water, sandal paste, Panchamrita, scented oil, sugarcane juice, lime juice–are all made use of for Abhisheka. After every Abhisheka, pure water is poured over the head of Siva.

The Abhisheka water is considered very sacred, and bestows immense benefits on the devotees who take it as the Lord’s Prasad. Similar is the case with other articles used for Abhisheka. The Abhisheka Tirtha purifies the heart and destroys countless sins. You must take it with intense Bhava and faith.

When you do Abhisheka with Bhava and devotion, your mind is concentrated. Your heart is filled with the image of the Lord and with divine thoughts. You forget your body and its relation and surroundings. Egoism gradually vanishes. When there is forgetfulness, you begin to enjoy and taste the eternal bliss of Lord Siva. Recitation of Rudri or Om Namah Sivaya purifies the mind and fills it with Sattva.

By offering Panchamrita, honey, milk, etc., to the Lord, thoughts of your body diminish. Selfishness slowly vanishes. You derive immense joy. You begin to increase your offerings unto the Lord. Therefore, self-sacrifice and self-surrender come in. Naturally there is an outpouring from your heart: “I am Thine, my Lord! All is Thine, my Lord!!”

Kannappa Nayanar, a great devotee of Lord Siva, a hunter by profession, did Abhisheka with the water in his mouth for the Lingam at Kalahasti in South India, and propitiated Lord Siva. Lord Siva is pleased by pure devotion. It is the mental Bhava that counts and not the outward show. Lord Siva said to the temple priest, “This water from the mouth of Kannappa, my beloved devotee, is more pure than the water of the Ganga.”

In northern India, every man or woman takes a Lota of water and pours it on the image of Siva. This also causes beneficial results and brings about the fulfilment of one’s desire. Abhisheka on Sivaratri Day is very effective.

If you do Abhisheka with Rudripatha in the name of a person suffering from any disease, he will be soon freed from that disease. Incurable diseases are cured by Abhisheka. Abhisheka bestows health, wealth, prosperity, progeny, etc. Abhisheka on Monday is most auspicious.

For getting rain, Abhisheka should be done with pure water. For freedom from disease, and for begetting a son, Abhisheka should be done with milk. If Abhisheka is done with milk, even a barren woman begets children. The person also attains plenty of cows. If Abhisheka is done with Kusa water, one becomes free from all diseases. He who desires wealth should perform Abhisheka with ghee, honey and sugarcane juice. He who desires Moksha should do Abhisheka with sacred waters.

The greatest and the highest Abhisheka is to pour the waters of pure love on the Atma Linga of the lotus of the heart. The external Abhisheka with various kinds of objects will help the growth of devotion and adoration for Lord Siva and eventually lead to internal Abhisheka with pure abundant flow of love.

The Glory of Hymns in Praise of Lord Siva

Ravana propitiated Lord Siva by his hymns. Pushpadanta pleased Lord Siva by his celebrated Stotra–Siva Mahimna Stotra–which is even now sung by all devotees of Siva throughout India, and obtained all Aisvarya or Siddhis, and Mukti. The glory of the Stotras of Siva is indescribable.

The mind is purified by constant repetition of Siva Stotras and the Names of Lord Siva. The Stotras are filled with good and pure thoughts. Repetition of the hymns to Siva strengthens the good Samskaras. As a man thinks, that he becomes. This is the psychological law. The mind of a man who trains himself in thinking good, holy thoughts, develops a tendency to think good thoughts. His character is moulded and transformed by continued good thought. When the mind thinks of the Image of the Lord during His hymns, the mental substance actually assumes the form of the image of the Lord. The impression of the object is left in the mind. This is called Samskara. When the act is repeated very often, the Samskaras gain strength by repetition, and a tendency or habit is formed in the mind. He who entertains thoughts of Divinity becomes transformed actually into the Divinity himself by constant thinking. His Bhava or disposition is purified and divinised. When one sings the hymns of Lord Siva, he is in tune with the Lord. The individual mind melts in the cosmic mind. He who sings the hymns becomes one with Lord Siva.

You must all sing the hymns of Lord Siva and obtain His Grace and Salvation, not in the unknown future, but right now in this very second. You can please Lord Siva easily.

The Panchakshara Mantra

Panchakshara is a Maha Mantra which is composed of five letters Na-Mah-Si-Va-Ya. The five letters denote the five actions or Pancha Krityam of the Lord, viz., Srishti (creation), Sthiti (preservation), Samhara (destruction), Tirodhana (veiling) and Anugraha (blessing); the five elements; and all creations through the combination of the five elements.

Namah means ‘prostration’. Sivaya Namah means ‘prostration unto Lord Siva’. The Jiva is the servant of Lord Siva from the Deha-Drishti.Namah represents Jivatma. Siva represents Paramatma. Ayadenotes ‘Aikyam’ or identity of Jiva and Paramatma. Hence, Sivaya Namah is a Maha-Vakya like Tat Tvam Asi, which signifies the identity between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul.

Panchakshara is the best among seven crores of Mantras. There are seven Skandhas in Yajur-Veda. There is Rudradhyayi in the centre of the middle Skandha. In this Rudradhyayi, there are one thousand Rudra Mantras. Namah Sivaya or the Siva Panchakshara Mantra shines in the centre of these one thousand Rudra Mantras.

Yajur-Veda is the head of Paramesvara, who is the Veda Purusha. Rudram, which is in the middle, is the face. Panchakshara is His eye. Si-va, which is in the centre of the Na-mah-si-va-ya, is the apple of the eye. He who does Japa of this Panchakshara is freed from births and deaths and attains eternal bliss. This is the emphatic declaration of the Vedas. This Panchakshara is the body of Lord Nataraja. This is the abode of Lord Siva.

Siva-Nama is the very soul of all Mantras. Japa of the sacred Names of Lord Siva and meditation on them will free you from all sins and lead you to the attainment of Siva Jnanam or eternal bliss and Immortality.

The Dance of Siva

Lord Siva is the only dancer. He is the master or expert dancer. He is the king of dancers. He quelled the pride of Kaali. Lord Siva’s destruction is not a single act, but is a series of acts. There is a different kind of dance at every stage.

The dance of Lord Siva is for the welfare of the world. The object of His dance is to free the souls from the fetters of Maya, from the three bonds or impurities of Anava, Karma and Maya. He is not the destroyer, but He is the regenerator. He is the Mangala-data and Ananda-data, bestower of auspiciousness and bliss. He is more easily pleased than Lord Hari. He grants boons quickly, for a little Tapas or a little recitation of His five letters.

You can witness the dance of Siva in the rising waves of the ocean, in the oscillation of the mind, in the movements of the senses and the Pranas, in the rotation of the planets and constellations, in cosmic Pralaya, in epidemics of infectious diseases, in huge inundations and volcanic eruptions, in earthquakes, landslips, lightning and thunder, in huge conflagrations and cyclonic storm.

The whole cosmic play or activity or Lila is the dance of Siva. All movements within the cosmos are His dance. He gazes on Prakriti and energises Her. Mind, Prana, matter begin to dance. Then the universe of names and forms is projected. The undifferentiated matter, energy and sound become differentiated.

In the Night of Brahman or during Pralaya, Prakriti is inert, motionless. There is Guna-Samya Avastha. The three Gunas are in a state of equilibrium or poise. She cannot dance till Lord Siva wills it. Lord Siva rises from His profound silence and begins to dance. The undifferentiated sound becomes differentiated through the vibration set up by the movements of His Damaru or drum. Sabda Brahman comes into being. The undifferentiated energy also becomes differentiated. The equipoise in the Gunas becomes disturbed. The three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, manifest. All the spheres, the atoms and the electrons also dance rhythmically and in an orderly manner. Atoms dance in the molecule and molecules dance in all bodies. Stars dance in time and space. Prakriti also begins to dance about Him as His glory or Vibhuti. The Prana begins to operate on Akasa or subtle matter. Various forms manifest. Hiranyagarbha or the golden egg or cosmic mind also manifests.

When the time comes, Lord Siva destroys all names and forms by fire while dancing. There is stillness again.

Nataraja of Chidambaram is the expert dancer. He has four hands. He wears the Ganga and the crescent moon on His matted locks. He holds Damaru in His right hand. He shows Abhaya Mudra to His devotees with His raised left hand. The significance is, “O devotees! Do not be afraid. I shall protect you all.” One left hand holds the fire. The other right hand points down on the Asura Muyalaka who is holding a cobra. He has raised the left foot in a beautiful manner.

The sound of the drum invites the individual soul to His feet. It represents Omkara. All the Sanskrit alphabets have come out of the play of the Damaru. Creation arises from Damaru. The hand which shows Abhaya Mudra gives protection. Destruction proceeds from fire. The raised foot indicates Maya or illusion. The hand which points down shows that His feet are the sole refuge of the individual souls. Tiruakshi represents Omkara or Pranava.

He dances quite gently. If He dances vehemently, the whole earth will sink down at once. He dances with His eyes closed, because the sparks from His eyes will consume the entire universe. The five activities of the Lord–Srishti, Sthiti, Samhara, Tirobhava and Anugraha (creation, preservation, destruction, veiling and grace)–are the dances of Siva.

Worship of Lord Siva

A devotee of Lord Siva should apply Vibhuti to the forehead and body. He should wear a Rudrakshamala. He should worship the Sivalinga with leaves of the Bilva tree. He should do Japa of the Panchakshara “Om Namah Sivaya.” He should also meditate on the Panchakshara. Lord Siva is propitiated by every one of these actions. Vibhuti or Bhasma is very sacred. It is worn by Lord Siva Himself. The bead of a Rudrakshamala represents the third eye in the forehead of Lord Siva. Bilva leaves are regarded to be one of the five abodes of Lakshmi or the Goddess of Wealth.

Japa of Panchakshara and meditation on Lord Siva should be done particularly in the Pradosha Kaala or just before sunset. The Pradosha which comes on the thirteenth Tithi after a full moon or a new moon day is known as the Mahapradosha. The Devas visit Siva temples for the worship of the Lord at this period. You can worship the Devas also if you visit temples during Mahapradosha. Devotees of Lord Siva observe full fast on Mahapradosha days.

Have special Pujas on Mondays and Mahapradosha days. These days and Maha Sivaratri are very sacred for Lord Siva. Maha Sivaratri means the great night consecrated to Lord Siva. Maha Sivaratri falls on Trayodasi or the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of the Kumbha (Phalguna) month. The important features of this religious function are rigid fasting for twenty-four hours and sleepless vigil during the night. Every true devotee of Lord Siva spends the night of Sivaratri in deep meditation, keeps vigil, and observes fast.

Lord Siva is the God of Love. His grace is boundless. He is the Saviour and Guru. He is the Beloved of Uma. He is Satyam, Sivam, Subham, Sundaram, Kantam. He is the Supreme Light that shines in your heart.

Meditate on His form. Hear His Lilas. Repeat His Mantra Om Namah Sivaya. Study Siva Purana. Do His worship daily. Behold Him in all names and forms. He will bless you with His vision.

Related Links:
Lord Siva and His Worship a book by Swami Sivananda
Shivaratri by Swami Sivananda
Siva–The Mystic Night by Swami Krishnananda

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