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The Dance Of Shiva
Oct 15, 2023 12:57 PM 562 Views

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Let's talk books today.


There are some books which become referrals. This is one such.


I have just finished reading The Seven Secrets Of Shiva by Devdutt Pattnaik. The book explains the symbols associated with Hindu deity Lord Shiva and his varied manifestations.


The book is divided into seven chapters - each chapter dealing with each manifestation - it's mythical and mythological aspects. Wonderfully written, the book delves deeper than mere depiction and description of the various forms and extends to the core of their spiritual implications. In short, the book is an expansive treatise.


Lord Shiva is worshipped as the Linga - the nirakar swarupa(formlessness). Lord Shiva is also portrayed as a hermit with closed or half closed eyes. A snake coiled around his neck. A stream of water flows through his unkempt, long hair which is tied up in a knot on top of his head. He also holds a crescent moon on his head. A trident stands next to him. He holds a rattle drum in one of his hands. In the backdrop of snow capped mountains Shiva sits still on the asana or yoga mat of tiger skin. Shiva's throat is blue in colour. While his body is smeared in ashes. A formidable and imposing figure which is also guardian-like but meditative.


Devdutta says that humans are differentiable from animals by one distinctive trait - that of imagination. No other animal has the ability to imagine. They are guided by their biological needs.


Evolution of human being is catalysed by power of imagination which has enabled them, on one hand, to prosper materially and technologically through inventions, discoveries, developments and spiritually by realizing the Supreme Consciousness. On the other hand, human imagination has given rise to fear of scarcity and death. Fear has led humans to see the world around them in three variants - me, mine and others. This is what the trident of Shiva symbolises. In some manifestation like Lakulesh he holds a staff in place of the trident which symbolises control over mind.


Ancient artists portrayed human mind in the form of the male body. Shiva depicts the awakened mind. The half closed or closed eyes indicate inward concentration of the mind which does not respond to external stimulus like the snake. The snow capped mountains in the backdrop symbolize stillness. The stream of water indicates taming of the deluge. The rattle drum in his hand is the chaotic Nature which is ever-changing.


Shiva is the mind which does not focus on the transient Nature or Prakriti. Shiva spectates impermanence with indifference or aloofness because he is aware of the true nature of everything around - the continuum of creation, decay and destruction. However destruction here does not mean the end. It is de-construction or the process of re-construction or re-birth. There is no beginning and no end, says Devadutt. It is the cyclic order of the cosmos.


Shiva's throat is blue because he holds all that is venomous. The ashen body symbolizes victory over death. His friends are ghostly creatures. He accepts and embraces what is considered trash and discardable.


Shiva's consort is the Goddess Gauri who conjugates with Shiva in different forms - Parvati, Kali, Durga, Sati. She is mother Nature who changes forms and understands the fears of her human children. She wants Shiva to open his eyes to give darshan so that her children are able to outgrow fear. In one of the stone carvings Parvati carries a mirror or darpan in her hand. She wants Shiva to open his eyes and gaze into the mirror or the world of fear stricken humans. An aroused Shiva can give abhay to his mortal children and immortalize them by helping them to overcome their imaginary fears.


In another swarup or depiction Shiva is Nataraja or the king of all cosmic dances. He dances within the wheel of fire which is this chaotic cosmos. His one leg is still while the other leg moves in a cyclic motion. His one hand is still palm outward symbolizing abhay daan - the boon of being fearless - and the other hand points towards the leg in motion. The choice is ours whether we wish to be in a frenzied motion or stilled and introspective amidst chaos and confusion.


Devdutt Pattanaik deciphers the secrets of Shiva in seven chapters - seven mighty forms of Shiva. Amongst them, Lingeshwara or the formless form signifies the intangible within the tangible. The others are - Bhairava, Shankara, Bholenath, Ganesha, Murugan and Nataraja. Ganesha and Murugan are Shiva and Gauri's sons.


Those who are interested in Hindu mythology and mythical symbols of worship can grab this book for sure. I myself was unaware of the many secrets that Devdutt decodes systematically and patiently in this Hindu Trinity Series. There is more to the book and more to the enormous personification of Shiva. The book also has a beautiful collection of portrayals of Shiva taken from different parts of the country which also include poster arts, calendar arts, sculptures, temple arts and photos of the deity in different forms as worshipped in temples like the ice linga in Amarnath.


A little about the author:


Devdutt Pattnaik was trained in medicine and worked in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry for fifteen years before becoming a full time professional writer of mythology which is his passion. He has authored thousand articles and around fifty books which have been translated in many national and international languages. He is also a corporate leader and consultant on leadership and culture.


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