Worship of Shivalingam: Infinite Cylinder of Auspiciousness

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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.

Legend of Hindu God Shiva as Tripurantaka

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.

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Hindu God Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance

 

Statues of Hindu God Shiva the destroyer

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Shiva, Hindu God of Destruction, is also known as Nataraja, Lord of Dancers, in one of his most popular forms.  He is depicted as sacred dancer, dancing to restore the universe of its fatigued nature making way for Brahma to create within the universe.  He has a restorative power revitalizing the universe and preparing for growth.  Shiva as Lord Nataraja is his most popular within Hindu temples. His likeness is often sculpted in bronze as Shiva dances around a ring of flames.  His left leg is often raised balancing over a lesser being that stands as a metaphor for the ignorance of the world.  Shiva as Nataraja is a powerful symbol of Indian culture for its spirit and energetic nature.  He represents the precise flow and generation of the universe.  Shiva as Nataraja is perhaps the most renowned symbol of Hindu art.

Nataraja statues

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Shiva’s dance is often said to come in two forms.  The first form represents the gentle, or the nature associated with creation upon the earth, while the second from is said to be that of violence as he destroys the tired and suffocating ways of the universe.  Shiva terminates what is weary in order to create what is profound. He tears down the old in order to make way for the new.

Legend has it that one day Shiva journeyed to a thick forest in the South of India in order to confute with the multitude of heretical sages that lived within.  Traveling with him was Hindu God Vishnu, The Preserver, disguised as a woman.  Upon arrival, the sages became very angry towards Shiva and attempted to destroy him via powerful incantations.  They first induced a violent tiger which was no match as he skinned it in one foul swoop and draped it around his body like a blanket. Next appeared a deadly serpent of which Shiva quickly overtook and hung like a necklace about his neck.  Through all their confrontation simply Shiva danced about their ring of fire laughing, destroying everything they threw his way.  Thus, Shiva became the lord of dancers, a symbol of the divine.

Legends of Hindu God Hanuman

‘Bow down to Hanumān, who is the slayer of demons, and who is present with head bowed and eyes full of flowing tears wherever the fame of Rāma is sung.’

Hindu God Hanuman

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Hanuman is a renowned Hindu deity and eager follower of Rama, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, according to Hindu myth.  Some Hindu texts also liken him as an incarnation of Shiva.  Depicted as an ape-like human, his facial features are characteristically monkey in form.  He is said to have been born to humanoid creatures known as vanaras, monkey-like human forms known for their brave and intellectual prowess.  His mother, Anjana, was born to earth as a female vanara due to a curse that could only be redeemed with the birth of a son.  His father Kesari joined his wife Anjana in prayer to Shiva for a child of their own.  Pleased with their endless devotion Shiva granted them a son, which was considered a reflection of Shiva himself.

Legend has it that Indra, King of Gods, struck Hanumans jaw during his youth, which left Hanuman disfigured with a protruding jawline.  Indra, God of Fire, had heard of Hanuman trying to take the Sun for himself mistaking it for a mango, interfering with the Vedic planet Rahu who was seeking the sun to turn its eclipse.  As punishment, Indra struck Hanuman with his lightning bolt, throwing him back to earth in an unconscious state.  Vaju, Hanumans main father figure and God of Air, went into seclusion out of despair, taking with him the world’s air.  The Devas revived Hanuman out of devotion for Vaju allowing human beings to no longer suffocate from Vajus retreat and bestowed sacred gifts upon Hanuman.   Brahma, a prominent Deva, gave Hanuman the ability to cheat death at the hand of any weapon of war, the ability to bestow fear in enemies, extinguish fear in friends, change his form at will, and travel on a whim.  From Shiva he received longevity and insurmountable wisdom.  Indra blessed him with immunity from his lightning bolt and from Angi immunity from fire.

Hanuman received many sacred gifts from the most prominent Deities becoming a powerful deity from childhood.  He is known to be a profound scholar knowing all the Vedas and Scriptures by heart with flawless speech and written articulation.

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Indra: Hindu God of War, Heavens, & Thunderstorms

‘He under whose supreme control are horses, all chariots, the villages, and cattle;
He who gave being to the Sun and Morning, who leads the waters, He, O men, is Indra.’
Rigveda

God of War, Indra Hindu god

Indra Hindu God of War

Originally, Indra was one of the most prominent deities within the Rigveda as the leader of the Gods and Lord of Heaven according to Hindu myth.  He was the God of war, storms, thunder, and the ultimate warrior carrying his famous lightning bolt, Vajra, as weapon protecting Dharma alongside Vajrapani, the Chief Defender. Indra, Agni’s twin, was said to be the strongest of all beings defending all the Hindu Gods and humans alike from danger.  Indra was described as being very powerful with either two or four very long arms wielding his bolt or at times bow or hook. His parents were the sky god Dyaus Pita and the earth goddess Prthivi.  It is even said he was born fully grown and fully armed from his mother’s side ready to defend the world.

His most notable achievement was fighting the asura Vrita who in form of a mighty dragon stole all the water from the earth.  When Indra was born he heard of the offenses of Vrita and fought to reclaim the precious water he had stolen form the world.  He rode forth to seek him out, smashed through all 99 of Vritra’s fortresses, and battled Vrita as dragon and destroyed him.  Water began flowing from his fallen adversary after battle which restored the earth from its perpetual drought.  Replenishing the land of its most necessary nutrient, Indra became a hero not only to the people, but to the Gods alike.  In show of allegiance the gods elected him as their king.

Although a notable deity within the Rigveda, over time Indras importance as a prominent deity began to diminish in favor of Vishnu and Shiva.  More recent accounts of his famous battle even include his rescuing by Vishnu and Shiva in order to defeat the dragon.  He was eventually demoted to that of simply god of weather and of the lesser gods.

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