The Hindu God Of Destruction: The Cult Of Shiva

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Lord Shiva is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. The Shaivites worship him as the supreme God. The literal meaning of his name is “that which is not.” He is the Hindu God of destruction, which symbolizes the cycle of nature: anything that is created needs to be destroyed for re-creating.

He is also known by the names Shankara (“Beneficent”), Shambhu (“Benign”), Mahadeva (“Great God”), and Mahesha (“Great Lord”).

How Is Shiva Represented?

Shiva is mostly represented sitting in the lotus position. In all his representations, he has a blue face and throat, while his bare body is smeared with ash. There are few features in Shiva’s representation.

A Third Eye

The third eye represents the innate wisdom and insight of Lord Shiva. In many references, it is believed to be a source of natural energy and destruction. There is a story in Hindu mythology that, once, Lord Shiva was distracted from his meditation by the love God, Kama. This enraged Lord Shiva, prompting him to open his third eye and burn Kama to ashes instantaneously.

After his wife, Goddess Parvati, explained why Kama distracted him, Lord Shiva agreed to resuscitate Kama, but let him live only in a disembodied form. This is another reason why he is also recognized as the Hindu God of destruction.

A Cobra Necklace

The snake represents the power and fearlessness of Lord Shiva. Snakes are venomous and powerful creatures, and when Lord Shiva wears the snake necklace, it means he is the fearless one.

The name of the snake that Lord Shiva wears is Vasuki. Many traditions associate it with the power of destruction as well as recreation. As the snake sheds new skin, it represents the continuous cycle of life.

The Trident

The three-pronged Trident represents the three Gunas – sattva (harmony), rajas (passion), and tamas (ignorance). There are many stories in Hindu mythology about the meaning and significance of the Trident, but to sum it up, it is believed to be associated with trinities such as creation, maintenance, destruction; past, present, future; heaven, mind, earth, etc.

The Vibhuti

The Vibhuti is the sacred ash applied on the forehead of Lord Shiva. It is drawn by making three lines covering up the third eye. Vibhuti or the ash symbolizes the ultimate truth of human beings, which is death. It has several religious symbolisms and represents detachment from the worldly and connection to the divine god.

Power Drum

Not many know this, but Shiva is a great dancer and musician. His power drum is associated with the Tantric traditions. It is believed to be created by Shiva to produce spiritual sounds. These sounds created and continue to regulate the whole universe.


Lord Shiva is depicted sitting on a tiger skin. He is also seen wearing a tiger skin. As the tiger is a powerful animal, when Shiva wears or sits on the tiger’s skin, it signifies him as the controller of all powers in the world.

Other Representations Of Shiva


In some statues, he is seen as half-female, half male. In his Ardhanarishvara depiction, he is split half where the right half is him, and the left half is Parvati. It is hence a form in which Shiva combines with Parvati.

The word Ardhanarishvara is composed of ‘Ardha,’ ‘Nari,’ and ‘Ishwara,’ meaning ‘half,’ ‘woman,’ and ‘lord.’ It symbolizes dilution of the duality of sexes, denoting god is beyond the duality of sexes. It also implies that men and women are equals.


Lingam is also a representation of the Lord Shiva. In Sanskrit, the word lingam means symbol. So, it means it is the symbol of the generative powers of Lord Shiva.

According to Brahmanda, it is like an egg and represents the cosmic egg. Linga signifies the union of Prakriti and Purusha, the male and the female powers of nature. In Hinduism, the lingam is a short cylindrical pillar-like symbol of Shiva and can be made of stone, metal, wood, clay, etc.


The Nataraja or dancing Shiva is the most iconic statue of Shiva, where he is seen dancing with his power drum. His dance is called Tandavam or Nadanta, and he is depicted as the cosmic dancer.

His dance is set within an arch of flames. His upper-left hand holds Agni (the fire of destruction), while the upper-right hand holds the damroo. His lower hands are in the Abhaya mudra.

His legs are bent, and his long-matted tresses are flying during the dance. The figure trampled by his right foot is Apasmara Purusha (a symbol of laziness, ignorance, and evil thoughts).

There are numerous representations of Shiva, and therefore, you can’t understand him through one representation. He is a complex deity to understand since he is considered the Hindu God of destruction.