Siva symbolically represents the tamasic quality. Because of
this, he is called pasupathi, (the lord of the animals). His body
color, which is white, denotes his purity (sivam) and association
with the snowy mountains. His three eyes represent the sun, the
moon and the earth, the three paths of liberation and the triple
nature of creation. The third eye is actually the eye of wisdom
or occult knowledge. The moon that adorns his head represents the
movement of time and also his cosmic proportions. With the moon
there, his head becomes the night sky, for which he earned the
name Vyomakesa (one who has the sky or space as his hair). The
moon also symbolizes his association with the occult and the
Siva is generally seated in yogic posture with which most
Hindus are familiar. However we also come across Siva as nataraja
or tandavamurthi in a dance posture. With his hair flying in all
directions and hands and feet in dynamic motion, the image of
nataraja is a symbol of harmony and rhythm. Among the objects,
which are associated with him popularly, apart from the trident
and the Damaru, are battleaxe (parasu), rosary (aksamala), pasa
(noose), khatvanga (magic wand) and khadga (sword).
Lord Siva is know as Pasupathinath, the lord of all creatures.
Being a lord of the animals he has complete control on their
behavior. Since a snake is one of the most feared and dangerous
animals in the world, the garland of snakes around the neck
firmly establish the fact that he is a lover of animals and the
animals always remain under his control.
Although universally acknowledged as one of the trinity gods
of Hinduism, to His followers, He is Maheswara, representing the
Trinity all by Himself, His different aspects manifesting
themselves as the creator, preserver and destroyer of the worlds
He creates. Symbolically He is worshipped as Lingeswara, which
name stands more for His creative powers.
Historians believe that He was a pre-Vedic god who was
admitted into the Vedic Pantheon because of His immense
popularity during pre-vedic period. There is a theory that the
seated yogi found on the seals of Indus Valley Civilization, was
a prototype of Lord Shiva only. References to Him are found in
In the Mahabharata we come across several references to Him.
Both Arjuna and Krishna worshipped Him and obtained favors from
Him. In the Ramayana too we come across several references to
Him. Sage Valmiki depicted Ravana, the demon king and chief
villain of the epic, as a great devotee and daily worshipper of
With the popularity of Saivism a great deal of literature grew
around Him, which came to be recognized as Agama literature. So
great was His popularity and fame that Agama literature was
placed on equal footing to even the Vedas by His followers.
Saivism as a popular movement took shape mainly in South India
because of the patronage of the Pallavas and the dedicated work
of many great Tamil Saints, who built enormous bhakti or
devotional literature in His honor and made His name a household
name. Siva is also referred as the Lord of the south as he faces
the south allways in his form as Dakshinamurthy.
Megasthanese mentioned the worship of Siva in his book Indika.
So did Patanjali, the composer of Yoga Sutras. Two great rulers
of ancient India, Kanishka and Harshavardhana were His great
followers. In the south the Pandiyas, Cholas and Pallavas built
many temples in His honor