Lord Shiva has the quarter moon on his up-tied hair, as an ornament. It was said that, the moon has 14 phases of growth and 14 phases of reduction. The moon is also said to contain a dripping pot of nectar. This nectar is considered as the nectar of knowledge, an all-important aspect of life. Like the phases of the moon, people too might exhibit enthusiasm and brightness over some periods of time, and might show dullness and lack of enthusiasm at some other times. The permanent quarter-sized moon residing at Lord Shivas head, advises the individual who seeks the Truth.
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Another form of Lord Shiva is in the dancing posture. Lord Shiva is called as Lord Nataraja in this form. As the name suggests, he is the Lord of Dance. If one watches closely, one can see that he has one foot in the air and the other placed firmly over a baby-like demon of ignorance, called Apasmara. Like all the poses of Hindu deities, this too has several spiritual meanings. This is called as the joyful dance of the individual who has put his foot down on the Ahamkaara, the Ego of the Self, in its beginning stages itself.
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Lord Shiva has long matted hair that is carelessly tied up over his head in a wound heap. The colour of his hair can be compared to the rust on iron objects. River Ganges in a female form, and as his second consort, resides there in the up-tied bun. She is seen as starting from his hair, to flow into this world as the mighty Ganges of the Himalayas. A quarter moon is also seen among his up-tied matted locks. This moon is silvery in appearance and is worn like an ornament. In some images, a snake is also seen there, as an ornament.
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Lord Shiva is depicted as a tall handsome man, with long matted hair tied at the top, without much decoration. In some images, he is seen sitting on a mat of tiger skin and deeply immersed in meditation. He is dressed only in a tiger skin, wound around his waist, that covers his lower mid-body. His abode is said to be the Kailash in the Himalayas, where temperature would be almost all the time, below freezing point. Since he is capable of radiating such an amount of heat that could burn even the fire-god, he seems to require such a cold environment.
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There are many sects within the Hindu religion. All the sects agree with each other on almost all the fields of thoughts, and respect others viewpoints even when someone does not agree with it fully. The Followers of each sect of Hinduism focus their worship on a particular deity, and the Shaivites sect worships Lord Shiva as its principal deity. This sect has one of the most influential denominations in Hinduism. Most of the sects have an abstract form of their deities and they worship that form in Temples and other holy places. The Shaivites pray to Lord Shiva, keeping the abstract form as the Shivalinga.
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Among the Hindus, the primary aspects of the universal divinity are collectively called as the Trimurti. This collective form is also called as the Hindu Trinity. For all the Hindus, belonging to the Shaiva tradition of Hinduism, Shiva is seen as the Supreme God. There are a number of traditions within Hinduism, all meant for the easy access of the individual, from common man to one who is endowed with great knowledge. Smarta is one of such traditions of the Hindus, where a high level of learning is required. In this tradition, Lord Shiva is regarded as one of the five primary forms of God.
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The name Shiva means, the most auspicious One. For all Hindus of the world, he is a major deity, and for the Saiva sect of Hindus, he is the main deity. The Hindu tradition worships three major Gods as the representation of the nature of the Creation. In simple terms, they are Formation, Sustenance and Obliteration. Each one of the three jobs mentioned is connected and worshipped with one of the three main deities. Lord Shiva is for the Obliteration part. He is the Destroyer. This term has an inner meaning, as the destroyer of all humans general ignorance, or the one who does the transformation of the worlds at the end of the four eons, the Chathuryuga.
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Lord Shivas devotees do not smear on themselves, the ash of dead bodies, like how he does. Instead, they prepare the cows dung into a fine paste, make sure that it is devoid of solids and other impurities, and make it as ash. This they call as Bhasm. Some ancient Indian groups who were outside the fold of Brahmin orthodoxy practiced the cremation ground asceticism. But, as different beliefs converged, they all changed to practices that are accepted by all. The strength of Hinduism is its basic nature of peaceful existence in the general adaptation of all practices that it comes across.
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Lord Shiva smears ashes all over his body. He is also called as Shmashanavasin. It means, the inhabitant of the cremation ground. The body of a human, whether it led a kings life or a beggars life, would ultimately end as ash, when dead and cremated. Lord Shivas smearing the ashes all over his body signifies this. All his devotees put at least a small amount of ash on their body everyday. Mostly, a devotee wears it on his forehead. This is to remind us of two things. The first being what was said as above. The second being the knowledge that we dont take even our ashes, when we are dead and gone.
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Lord Shiva holds a little icon, that of a jumping deer, in one hand. This shows that one should hold ones mind under his control, and if left freely, it will jump and run like the deer. He holds down a dwarf demon, called Muyalakan, under one foot. This demon holds a snake in one hand. Muyalakan, always tries to come out of Lord Shivas hold, so, he is held down firmly. This demon is likened to our Ego, which always tries to show off. It is not only bad for the person who shows off, but also it is dangerous for all the people around him and the snake in Muyalakans hand shows this.