Shiva is one of the oldest gods of India. The oldest artefacts are found on the seals found in Harappa excavations. He is depicted as a sitting person with 3 faces. He is sitting in meditation surrounded by animals.
Shiva doesn’t play a role in the Vedas. In the Vedas Rudra is the god of storms. He has the power to destruct. One the other side he is also a god who is friendly and the bringer prosperity. These two sides are characteristics for Rudra. Later the name Shiva is used for Rudra. In the trinity Shiva is the god of destruction’.
Shiva has naked or he wears a tiger skin. His hair is either loose or in a knot and has a blue throat. He has three eyes. The third one, situated between the eyebrows, is normally closed, except at the time of destruction. He has normally one face and two arms (sometimes 4 up to 18 arms). Sometimes he has 5 faces symbolizing the 5 senses or the 4 winds and heaven.
He has three horizontal lines on his head symbolising his triple nature:
Shiva lives on the mountain Kailasha with his consort Parvati and his two sons, Skanda and Ganesha.
Hindus worshipping Shiva are called Shaivas.
Shaivism (= worship of Shiva)
His attributes are symbol for power.
Shiva in the North Indian version has a trident and a cobra.
Shiva in the South Indian version has a battle axe and an antelope.
Pinaki, His trident is a symbol of lightening.
The trident drive away demons like a thunderbolt.
The trident symbolizes the Trimurti.
If the rod is long than it symbolizes the axis of the universe
The snake symbolizes the eternal the cycle of life and dead.
Also a remnant of early fertility rites.
Battle axe (Parashu):
The axe symbolizes the victory on ignorance/ evil.
The antelope in Vedic time was the king of animals. The antelope was the strongest of all animals. The god who has an antelope is ruler of nature.
Conch shell (Sankha) :
The conch shell is a music instrument. Its sound chases away demons.
In Hindu tradition, the conch shell seems to have been extensively used in wars by ancient Indian. The white conchs shell whose humming sound proclaims the glory of the saints. It is especially given as a symbol to the gods as the sound vibrated through a shell penetrates far and wide.
Sometimes we see also other attributes:
(Half) Skull (Kapala) :
It symbolizes the cycle of life and dead
Vase (Kalasha) :
In Hindu tradition, kalasa contains the primeval water carried by Brahma, the creator.
The vase symbolizes immortality, wisdom and abundance.
Feathers of a peacock symbolize immortality.
We will see this at a dancing Shiva.
Begging bowl (Bhikshapatra):
The god in the form of an ascetic wears this.
The bell symbolizes the Base Sound which leads to the Creation of the universe.
In the hands of Shiva and Kali it is a weapon to drive away demons.
Riding animal :
Nandi, the white bull.
Nandi means” he who gives joy”
Nandi symbolizes justice, righteousness, compassion, truth and generosity
and sexual impulse.
Nandi used to be an independent god called Nandikeshvara, the god of joy.
He was a human with the head of a bull. During time he lost his power of creation
Consort of Shiva :