Lord Shiva is the prime cause of creation. This is the faith of the followers of the Shaiva Sampradaya. Lord Shiva is Maheshwara. He is beyond the cosmic sound of Aum. He only assumes the forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra for creation, maintenance and annihilation. The Supreme of all, Lord Sada Shiva’s divine abode is Shiva lok. The Kailash that we see on earth and the one existing in heaven is symbol of that divine Shiva lok. Sadashiva is the cause of all causes. The destroyer form of Lord Shiva or the Rudra form is similar to the Brahma and Vishnu that Lord Shiva himself creates in every universe.
Description of Lord Shiva
There are two forms of Lord Shiva that can be worshipped. The first form is the 5-headed Panchamukhi form while the second one is Ekamukhi, or the one-headed form. Lord Shiva is fair and fresh as camphor. In the 5-headed form he bears 10 arms while in the Ekamukhi form he has 4 arms. He has three eyes on all his faces and adorns a crescent moon as the head ornament. He has a deep blue throat, and wears an ornament of snakes. A Trishula, bow and Damru are his accoutrements. The bull which stands for Dharma serves as his Vehicle and Lord Shiva keeps the very same bull symbol on his flag. He mainly clads animal skin. We also find a description of Deerskin, tiger skin and elephant skin.
There are many classes of Shiva devotees. Of these the most prominent Sampradayas are the Shaiv sampradaya of Kashmira, Pashupat sampradaya, Lingayat Sampradaya and many more. The Sampradayas have their unique doctrine, preach different modes of worship, worship Lord Shiva in different forms, have different mantras, rules and have their unique doctrine. Due to these many differences, you will find infinite names and forms of Lord Shiva.
There are 12 prominent Jyotirlingas (Shiva Peeth) in India. There are in total 108 divine Shiva Kshetras (regions resided by Lord Shiva). The Shiva samapradaya has its acharyas right from the north in Kashmir to the Southern realms of the nation. 5 Shaiva Acharyas are considered to be the direct incarnations of Lord Shiva. Shiva worship is well accepted and falls in line with the Vedic doctrine. It has its roots in the Vedas and is even cited in conventional scriptures. It is an authentic doctrine. In essence, you shall find its ancient footprints encompassing the entire planet.
Stories of Lord Shiva
1) The Supreme principle Lord Shiva in a playful spirit expanded himself into Brahma and Narayan. At their birth, Brahma and Vishnu started arguing as to who is the greatest among them. Then a Jyotirlinga appeared before them. That divinity which has no beginning and end, was pillared in shape. Lord Brahma and Vishnu decided amongst themselves that the one who reaches the beginning and end of this Jyotirlinga shall be declared supreme. Brahma soared towards the height while Vishnu plunged into the bottom. The journey was boundless. At last, the two were utterly exhausted and decided to give up. When the two met each other, Brahma brought the Ketkai flowers and a cow as the false witness and told Vishnu that he had won the challenge. He asserted that “He had reached the beginning.” However Lord Vishnu admitted his failure and spoke the truth. At that moment, Lord Shiva emerged from the Jyotirlinga. He praised Lord Vishnu for his truthfulness. Since Brahma spoke a lie, Lord Shiva reprimanded him and said- “You shall not be worshipped by the people.” Since the Ketaki flowers and Cow had given a false backing, the Kataki flowers are prohibited for Shiva worship, while anything touched by the cow’s mouth is considered impure.
2) That supreme principle, that beginningless and endless infinity is the Linga. The Linga is the union of both Praktrit and Purusha. So, Linga worship is the symbolic method of worshipping Prikriti and Purusha. It is similar to worshipping the Shaligram in Vishnu Puja. The Linga is special in comparison to worshipping Bhagavan in an idol form since a linga contains within it the cordial harmony of both the form and formless aspects.
3) Lord Shiva is known as Kapali. At the beginning of the creation, Lord Siva and Brahma had 4 heads. But Lord Brahma became arrogant and started hurling abuses at Lord Shiva, So Shankara with is nails chopped one head of Brahma. Brahma thus became 4-headed. However the head got stuck to Lord Shiva’s hand, hence he became acclaimed as Kapali. By Lord Vishnu’s advice, Lord Shiva bathed in Varanasi and was finally rid of the head.
4) Devi Sati discarded her body since her father had not assigned the rightful share of the sacrificial oblations to Lord Shiva. She could not tolerate such a horrendous humiliation of her husband. Lord Shiva on hearing the disastrous new of his wife’s immolation, gave rise to Virabhadra, to kill the convict, Daksha. The Shiva Ganas sabotaged the entire fire sacrifice of Daksha.
5) Later, Sati devi was reborn as the daughter of the mountain king- Himavan. Meanwhile, the Devatas were tormented by Tarakasura who had acquired the boon that only the son of Lord Shiva could kill him. However Lord Shiva led the life of a recluse after being separated from his consort. The Devatas sent cupid to distract the Lord, in order to fulfil their purpose. However Lord Shiva trembled with rage and burnt cupid himself with the fire flashing from his third eye. Hence He is also known as Madanari. Finally, by the appeal of Brahma and pleased by the pursuit of Parvatiji Lord Shiva agreed to be her husband and thus Skanda was born. Skanda killed the demon Tarakasura.
6) During the churning of the ocean deadly venom was produced causing havoc in the three worlds. Since creation was at stake, Lord Shiva gulped the venom and stopped it at his throat. The poison’s effect got his throat to turn blue. Since, then he is known as Neela kantha.
7) The demon-king Maya had crafted three miraculous aircrafts out of gold, silver and metal that could land on water, land and the airs and move as per one’s volition. These were full-packed cities. Maya offered the attorney of his creation to his three sons. However these sons were spoilt in the evil association of demons. They misused their powers and landed their aircraft wherever they desired, on holy sites thus causing havoc in the three worlds. The only means to vanquish the three-problematic cities was to attack at their juncture point which occurs once in a thousand years. To help the terrorized Devas, Lord Shiva produced a celestial chariot, bow, arrows and other weaponry, and when the three cites met at the juncture, Lord Shiva’s arrow found its aim and sabotaged the cities. He is hence known as Tripurari.
8) The Sound of Lord Shiva’s drum (Damru) during his entrancing dance has given rise to the alphabets. Lord Shiva is a maestro in all art forms, including dance, weaponry, Vedic- wisdom, mantras and the divine sciences. His Pashupatastra is consider to be the deadliest of weapons.
9) King Bhaghirata to redeem his ancestors from the rage of Kapila muni, called upon the river Ganga to descend on earth, and thus cleanse their sins. After severe austerities, Ganga Devi was pleased, but she needed an anchor to bind her forceful flow. Bhagirath then worshipped Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was pleased and caught the speedy Ganga in his dense locks. He is hence also known as Gangadhara.
10) Lord Shiva has killed many atrocious demons like Jalandhar, Andhak and Daruk.
11) Sri Krishna, Rama and even Narayana have worshipped Lord Shiva. Arjun had performed penance to acquire Lord Shiva’s Pashupatastra. Lord Shiva then assumed the guise of a hunter and tested the potential of Arjuna. He then awarded him withhis Pashupatastra.
12) Many Asuras like Ravana and Vanasar have experienced his grace and received numerable boons from Him. This Lord who has a simple heart has conferred extremely rare and unattainable boons to his devotees. To get deeper insight on the glories of Lord Shiva, you can look at the ‘Shiva Charita’ book written by the author (Sudarshana Singh Chakraji).