The family of Shiva

July 3, 2006

Someone asked me about the Hindu gods….been musing about them lately.

The Hindu Trinity consists of Brahma the Creator(whose wife is Saraswathi, the Goddess of learning) , Vishnu the Preserver (whose wife is Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth) , and Shivaa the Destroyer. Shivaa is portrayed as an ascetic, clad in tiger skins (NOT a wildlife enthusiast), frequenting cremation grounds; but a few centuries ago, he was also an erotic god; even now, he is sometimes represented by the Linga, a phallic symbol. He has the Ganges flowing out of his matted locks– he caught her there as she descended from Heaven to Earth. He has snakes for ornaments, and also wears the crescent moon on his head.

His wife is Paarvathi (Parvatha, mountain; Paarvathi, daughter of the mountain); she is believed to be the daughter of the Himalaya). She is also considered Shakthi, the moving force of the Universe. Sometimes, to show the unity of the male/female aspects, they are represented together as Ardha Nareeshwaraa, or the Half-Woman God; one half of the figure is female, and the other is male. (Obviously, only clothed representations!) She is incarnated as Meenakshi, the fish-eyed One, in Madurai…she is of greenish hue in this form. In a powerful form she is depicted as Kaali, (the dark One)..the most famous temple to this form being at Kolkata.

They have two children: Ganesha, the Lord of the Multitudes, whose head was cut off by his father when the son was guarding the mother and would not allow the father access, and which was replaced by the head of an elephant (NOT a wildlifer at all, this Shiva). He is sometimes considered a celibate, and sometimes portrayed with two wives, Siddhi and Buddhi. He is the remover of all obstacles and is always prayed to before any work is begun, in fact, even before other Gods are celebrated.

The younger son is Subhramaniaa or Kaarthik, who was born as 6 babies in 6 lotuses and fused into one. Ganesha is a benign, pot-bellied God; Karthik is more militant, and is considered the patron god of Tamizh literature. He carries a spear, the Vel; he is a celibate in North India, but in the South of India he has two wives, Valli, a tribal beauty, and Deivayaanai.(Devayani).

Some stories tell of the sibling rivalry between the sons.

Here they are, sculpted in glorious technicolour, in the Batu Caves of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which we visited in May 2003. I don’t know what all the yellow and red  paint at the base of the picture is all about, though turmeric and vermilion are sacred things used for worship. You can see them sitting amongst the snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya.

Hindu mythology has about 33 million gods and goddesses…one can pick and choose the formz( and the attributes) that appeal to one the most, and worship it.

<IMG height=375 alt=”Picture 206 Shiva, Parvati, Kartik and Ganesha” src=”” width=500>