Like many of the Hindu deities, Hindu God Shiva is said to have many Avatars. One such Avatar is that of Virabhadra. Virabhadra is said to have been born when Shiva grabbed a lock of his own hair and threw it upon the ground. He was a powerful being created by Shivas wrath when we wanted to destroy Dakshas Yagna, or fire sacrifice.
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Legend has it that Dashkas youngest daughter Sati set her sights on Shiva at a young age. When she was at an age to marry, Dashka invited all the gods and princes together to find a suttor for her, leaving out Shiva. Furious that he did not invite the one she loved, Sati threw her wreath into the air calling upon Shiva. Shiva appeared with the wreath around his neck, forcing Dashka to allow her to marry her. Disapproving of the match however, Dashka again omitted Shivas attendance to a great fire sacrifice. Sati, out of fury, confronted her father. She condemned his actions and fell dead at her father’s feet.
When Shiva heard of this, he became enraged. Out of anger, her tore out a lock of his hair that with glowing with his furious energy. At this moment Virabhadra was born. His tall menacing body had a thousand arms, 3 burning eyes, and fiery hair. He was draped in skulls and carried unfathomable weapon. Shiva instructed him to destroy the fire sacrifice of Daksha and sever Daksha’s head. Vuraghadra is a said to be a tremendous warrior causing other gods to flee the battle field whenever he appears. No gods are a match to his fury and strength in battle.
Hindu God Shiva, The Destroyer, comes in many forms. One such important form and his most fear invoking is that of Bhairava, the annihilator of evil. This fierce form is manifested when demons make themselves present and are in need of destruction. Shiva in this form is often depicted draped in serpents as jewelry, wrapped bare naked in tiger skin, and decorated in a ritual adornment of human bones riding atop his divine vehicle, a dog named Shvan. His frightful characteristics as banisher of evil are almost indistinguishable from Hindu Goddess of Death Kali. He is seen with devastatingly angry eyes, sharp teeth, and carrying a noose, trident, and skull within his hands. In this form he is said to embody the very essence of fear itself, often forcing those who come upon him to confront their most terrifying sources of fear
The origination of Shiva as Bhairava is said to have been by Shiva himself in order to chastise Brahma, the great creator of the Universe. Legend has it that Brahma lusted after his own daughter and created four heads in order to constantly be able to see her. His desires for his daughter caused her shame and she is said to have ascended to the heavens in escape. Brahma then created a fifth head and insisted on her letting him live with her. Upon hearing of this, Shiva used his sword to rid Brahma of his new fifth head. Seeing this as an act of killing, Shiva was punished to walk the earth as a beggar carrying around the fifth head of Brahma until he was forgiven of his sin, in which case the skull of Brahma would finally fall from his hands. Many did not recognize Shiva in his naked and violent beggars form as he howled and danced in madness.
Finally one day as Shiva enters the holy city of Varanasi, the skull falls from his blackened hands and he is rid of Brahmas curse.
Glory to you, O Shiva! Glory to you, O Omkaara! May Brahma, Vishnu and the assembly of other gods, including the great Lord Shiva, relieve me of my afflictions!
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As many know, Hindu God Shiva comes in many different forms. One such popular form is that of Shiva as Harihara, an important integration between Hindu God Shiva and Hindu God Vishnu. The worship of Shiva as Harihara is an important form as it reiterates to devotees that worship of Shiva, Vishnu, or any of the prominent Hindu Gods is but the worship of every prominent Hindu God, one and the same. When one worships Shiva, one also worships Vishnu, and all the other important deities collectively in the spirit of divine oneness. All followers of Hinduism are all looking for one thing, the divine. When one comes to fully realize this concept, they understand that we are all worshiping the same inherent thing, dharma, just from different approaches. Both Vishnavites and Shaivities worship Harihara as a form of the one supreme god.
There is often much debate within Hinduism as to the inherent importance of Shiva and Vishnu. Vishnavites believe that Vishnu is the supreme god, while Shaivities believe Shiva to be the ultimate being. Conversely others believe that both are equal, manifesting different aspects of the same Supreme Being. In many cases, however, even if one is preferred over the other, much respect is allotted to the other.
“Shiva and Vishnu are one and the same entity. They are essentially one and the same. They are the names given to the different aspects of the all-pervading Supreme Soul or the Absolute. ‘Sivasya hridayam vishnur-vishnoscha hridayam sivah—Vishnu is the heart of Siva and likewise Siva is the heart of Vishnu’.”
Although Hindu God Shiva is most often depicted in human like form, the worship of Shiva as lingam or linga is also a very important practice within Hindu society. Shiva is often worshiped in the form of a vertical rounded column. Within Hinduism linga means symbol while Shiva is thought to be one who is all knowing. Therefore, Shivalinga stands as a symbol for the great God of the universe who is all-auspicious.
Within the Shivalinga Hindus believe lays all the knowledge of the universe. Since hindus believe one god creates, sustains, and draws back the universe the Shivalinga is a symbol of God himself. This symbolism was brought to life in the Vedas where devotees sung praise to a sacrificial post.
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This Lingam is used for worship in temples throughout the world. Many debate whether the lingam is actually a symbol of the actual body of Shiva himself, or simply as a spiritual metaphor for the all-knowing God. Most Hindus believe it is a source of divine energy, and give offerings to the linga in their temples. The Lingam is said to be a limitless and endless pillar symbolizing the infinite.
Tripurantaka is a form of Hindu God Shiva, the Destroyer. As Destroyer of Evil, one of Shiva’s most pronounced legends tells of Shiva destroying 3 mythical cities known as Tripura.
Legend has it an evil demon by the name of Taraka had 3 princely sons. As they grew each served penance to Brahma, the great Creator, in order to get in his good favor. They gained immense power in the process. Pleased with them, Brahma bestowed on them each their own city in the sky. These three fortresses were virtually impenetrable and they were granted life for a thousand years as they lived their lives in their great kingdoms. Only by an arrow merging the three cities setting them ablaze could they be destroyed. Armed with this immense power bestowed by Brahma, the three demon sons began to wreak havoc on the universe. From cliff sides within their great citadels they would taunt and threaten the gods, mounting attacks from the sky.
Seeing no end to their harassment within their virtually impassable cities, the great Hindu Gods went to Shiva for help. Lord Shiva agreed to help but waited for the perfect moment to strike. Shiva created a bow, arrow, and chariot from pieces of the gods in order to mount his attack. As he raced into the sky, Shiva hit the converged cities with a flaming arrow as Brahma steered the divine chariot. The arrow was created from Hindu God Vishnu, protector and preserver of the universe, destroying the three cities and freeing the gods from the princes reign of torment. Forgiving as he was, Shiva forgave the repenting princes and gave them each duties within his abode. Originally Shiva devotees, he recognized their following of an evil path, but forgave them of their sins. After destroying the cities, Shiva smeared the ashes of the three cities on his forehead. This has become a widely known symbol of Shiva and devotees smear ash on their foreheads in his honor to this day.