the mythology of Indian subcontinent, it is quite common to find personifications of basic
forces and elements of Nature. It is also possible to see instances of actual human beings
deified and given divine status.
Prabal Pramanik ©
Some times these two concepts are presented in an ambiguous symbolic harmony in spiritual
philosophy that has been accepted in folk and classical lore in India from ancient times.
Such mystic presentation is symbolic in many aspects, and the cover of symbolism that may
often appear as fantasy to some, actually veils certain eternal truths that are revealed
to discerning minds only.
The concept of Shiva, in Indian spiritual and social history has developed in this manner
in my opinion. I am presenting my own views, so it is quite possible that the views of
other people may differ.
The concept of Shiva has been identified with the power of "Vinasha" or
"Sristi" or creation, "Sthiti" or maintenance and "Vinasha"
or destruction are accepted as the basic qualities of the cosmic forces in Hindu
Bramha is presented as the creative force, Vishnu is presented as the power that maintains
the creation and Shiva as the power that destroyes.
These powers are the multiple manifestations of the ultimate and absolute eternal
consciousness that encompasses each particle that exists whether in animate or inanimate
form. These basic qualities of birth or creation, existence or maintainance and
destruction or change of form influence every element and surpass the division between
life and death in absolute consciousness.
It is difficult to grasp such an abstract and complex idea, so through personification the
concept has been simplified while retaining the spiritual significance.
When any concept is personified by humans, human qualities are conferred on such concept
allowing the symbolic presentation a human face that can be widely accepted and revered by
most people from different walks of the society throughout the ages in Indian
Folklore based on such mythological presentations and sophisticated schools of art,
literary, visual and performing, accept the idea and give countless creative dimensions to
Faith accepts the personified concrete form as the basis to reach out to the abstract
formless and the devotion of the people who believe in such presentations find suitable
The story of Shiva the Yogiraj who consolidated and coordinated the mystic powers of
Tantra in India, and lived in mount Kailash with his consort, is likely to be based on
The process of deification and acceptance as the personification of certain basic power of
Nature, occurred in hoary past.
The concept of Shiva as a god is certainly pre Aryan. People in Indus valley civilization
are likely to have worshipped Shiva and Aryans accepted the concept and placed Shiva with
due importance in their mythological presentations or "Purana".
The concept of Shiva is accredited with the birth of the phonetics and "Ragas"
or musical entities. His "Shula" or trident and "Dambaru" or handheld
percussion instrument have their own symbolic significance.
The nature of Shiva is portrayed as the greatest of Yogics, who coordinated the science of
Yoga. He rides on his bull (or yak) in the traditional lore.
The concept of shiva is presented in personalized way in the folk lore of India. Many
different versions of the stories related to the life of Shiva and his consort are found
in many languages in folk literature.
This concept has been accepted in Hindu social customs and passed on from generation to
generation through tradition.
The basic system of "Yoga Sadhana" or yogic discipline is attributed to Shiva
too. Shiva is characterized as the greatest of all yogis.
The personalized rendering of Shiva in human form may indicate a great and liberated soul
who gave practical shape to the system of yogic discipline and by coordinating many yogic
postures or "Asanas" and by establishing the science of breath control.
These eliments of Spiritual discipline are likely to have existed from even earlier
period, yet, it required a Yogi of great spiritual understandig to coordinate the system.
This is the reason why Shiva is given such great importance in "Tantric"
discipline by those who follow this spiritual path of emancipation in Indian subcontinent.
Since Shiva the yogiraj is depicted as the embodiment of liberated consciousness that is
beyond the dictums and restrictions of human society, the spiritual path of
"Tantra" that does not accept the restrictions of values imposed by any society
and shows a practical path to the liberation of the soul through complete emancipation,
accepts Shiva as the "Mul Acharya" or the basic preceptor.
So the concept of Shiva, with the accepted imagery has influenced the culture of Indian
subcontinent in multiple ways throughout the ages.
This concept is used to personify the balance of the basic forces of nature in the cosmic
dance of Shiva Nataraj, who harmonizes the cosmic powers beyond the level of Maya or
illusions of crude animal urges.
Shiva, the Lord of the dances, symbolizing the cosmic power that creates the rhythm in the
balance of nature is accepted as the basic source of performing arts by many performing
artists of folk and classical schools of dance in India.
The cosmic dance of Nataraja with "Agni" fire, "Dambaru" the
percussion instrument symbolizing vibration, "Barabhaya" or assurance of
eternity and "Dana" the symbol of the giver, is loved and worshipped in Indian
The simplified form of "Yonilinga" that signify the meeting of positive and
negative energies is a form that is worshipped and revered widely in India as a symbol of
Shiva and his consort too.
It should be understood that when the consciousness in beings accept a concept and use
that concept as a medium to link with all pervading consciousness the concept acts as a
This spiritual path through the presentation of the concept of Shiva in many forms and
ways have opened up the doors of spiritual liberation for those who had faith in this
People from different communities in India have portrayed Shiva in their own ways and
ideas. This concept has been and still is at inspiration for creative activities in
various disciplines of art.
Creative innovations within the norms of mythology have enriched Indian culture with Shiva
as the subject from ancient times.
Various forms of Shiva presented through Devasthanakala paper cutting art in innovative
manner were made with a lot of love and respect for the Eternal power portrayed as
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