Hindu homes often contain an altar which is generally dedicated to the deity worshipped by the family, most usually Lord Krishna, Shiva, or one of the many manifestations of the female God force that has various names, like Durga Lakshmi, or Devi. Shrines and temples dedicated to particular deities may also become regular pilgrimage destinations for devotees. Yet other mainstream Hindus exercise their religion within the frameworks like eclecticism, atheism, or secularism without leaving Hinduism’s embrace.
Shaivites worship Lord Shiva above other aspects of God. Shiva, the awesome and frightening aspect of God, represents destruction, the force that leads to regeneration. Shiva’s energy is also Shakti, the force which is inseparable from female creativity. Shiva Shakti is often perceived as one impersonal, genderless power. Shaivism is monistic or Advaita meaning that matter and consciousness are viewed as one in God.
Shiva is probably the earliest manifestation of God that existed in Hinduism. Lord Shiva has been identified with the Rigvedic God of wind and storm who was described as benevolent and kind. The Sanskrit meaning of Shiva is “auspicious.” Shiva is thought to have also been worshipped in the Indus Valley Civilization which flourished before the predominance of Aryan culture in India.
Tune in next week to learn about the Vaishnavites in another excerpt from On Hinduism from Irina Gajjar. To purchase the book, visit our Amazon link.
Several legends explain how Ganesh/Ganpati got an elephant’s head. The most popular one tells that his mother Parvati created him out of the sandalwood paste on her body and of the river Ganges. Then she told him to guard her bathroom while she bathed.
Lord Shiva, Parvati’s husband, had been away and when he returned he did not recognize his son and was angry at Ganesh for keeping him away from his wife. As a result, Shiva struck off Ganesh’s head.
Parvati became devastated. To comfort her, Shiva promised to restore Ganesh to life. He told his attendants to bring him the head of any sleeping being they found who was facing north. In a while, the attendants returned with an elephant head which Lord Shiva affixed to Ganesh.
Parvati was not consoled. She told Shiva that no one would respect her son with a big elephant head on his shoulders. So Lord Shiva promised that all worshippers would forever pray to Ganpati before praying to God and would invoke Ganpati’s blessings before beginning any important undertaking in life.
In this manner, Ganpati became the leader of the people, the lord of success, the remover of obstacles, and the destroyer of evil. He is honored in most Hindu homes and establishments and people celebrate him every year in a big ten-day-long festival held in August or September. True to Shiva’s word, Ganpati has become a part of every Hindu’s life.
You can read more from On Hinduism and other titles, by Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com.
In the last verse of Chapter 14 of the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, states:
I am Brahma’s home.
I am everlasting and unchanging.
I am unending goodness and unending joy.
Though these few beautiful words are open to interpretation, they embody an important concept: Lord Krishna is the home of Lord Brahma. How is this true?
Hindu Scriptures teach that Lord Brahma, the Creator, Lord Vishnu, the Preserver and Lord Shiva, the Destroyer all emerge from Brahman, the idea of an unfathomable God, beyond the grasp of humankind. This momentous idea gives rise to more easily imaginable ideas about more fathomable aspects or forms of God. The invisible, unimaginable, all powerful and all knowing Brahman is the source of Lord Brahma. Brahman is the first idea, the origin and hence the home of Brahma, the Creator.
Thus, we see how the notion of God led to the visualization of God and how an extraordinary superhuman concept has empowered human devotion, thought, and action throughout living memory
See The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina Gajjar.
Act Three – Shiva, the Destroyer
Hindu Philosophy understands that the universe appears and disappears in space-time. Its destruction is performed by God. Though essentially unfathomable, Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, represents the human knowledge that existence can be frightening.
The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva embodies a human depiction or explanation of the forces that create, preserve and destroy existence.
Read the the first two acts here:
Act One: Brahma the Creator
Act Two: Vishnu the Preserver
See On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar
Ganesh, fondly known as Ganpati, is one of the most popular figures in Hinduism’s pantheon representing God’s manifestations as well as divinities, heroes and demons. The characters symbolize qualities we admire, or fear or love while the personifications arise from a collective consciousness brought to life. There are several versions of stories about how Ganpati, the elephant god, got his head. One of the favorites is this:
One day Ganpati was guarding the bathroom while his mother was taking a bath. His father, Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, came home after a long trip. Ganpati didn’t recognize him and wouldn’t let him in the bathroom. Lord Shiva got so angry at being kept out that he cut off Ganpati’s head.
When Parvati, his mother, saw what happened, she cried and cried. But her husband said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get him a new head,” and Lord Shiva ended up giving His son an elephant head.
Ganesh’s Mother was still very sad and upset. She said that no one would like her son with an elephant head. But Lord Shiva fixed it so everyone would love and worship him. He made sure that all Hindus pray to Ganpati before they pray to God and before they embark upon any important endeavor.