The Hindu God Nandi, Sacred Bull of Shiva

Nandi, Shiva's white bull

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Within Hinduism, Nandi, or sometimes called Nandin, takes on many different roles.  In his most prevalent form he is the sacred steed of Shiva the Hindu god of Destruction, depicted as a powerful white bull.  His white color is marked as a symbol of purity and devotion.  Nandi is said to be Shiva’s main form of transportation and most ardent devotee.  As his most astute follower, Nandi is in charge of leading all of Shiva’s followers.  Along the same lines, Nandi is regarded as the gatekeeper and protector of Shiva as well as Shiva’s consort the Hindu Goddess Parvati.  He can be found in many temples dedicated to Shiva throughout Asia seated and facing the main temple as protector.  His name, Nandi, is even used as metaphor meaning “to stand in the way of”.  It is said that one must first gain the approval of Nandi before being allowed worship of Lord Shiva himself.

Nandi in human form as Nandikeshwara

Click here to view Nandi in human form as Nandikeshwara

As a primary Hindu God, Nandi is traced in lineage back to ancient dairy farmers that depended on cows for their main livelihood.  As their foremost source of sustenance, Nandi was worshiped as keeper of the herds.  In this form he was said to be bull-faced with a body much like his hallowed Shiva, but with 4 hands.  Two hands holding axe and antelope, and the other two joined in homage.  In this human form he is known as Nandikeshwara.

It is said that many women visit these large Nandi statues outside temples throughout the world and decorate him with flowers and touch his stone in order gain fertility.  Many worshipers who flock to his side also often whisper to in him in order to announce their hopes and dreams hoping Nandi relays their message on to Shiva.

Click here to read more about Shiva the Destroyer

The Origins of Ganesh & His Elephant Head

“Shiva returned and fitted the elephant head on the child’s body and breathed new life into the boy.”

Bronze Parvati statue with her sons Ganesh and Murugan

Bronze Parvati statue with her sons Ganesh and Murugan 36″

In Hindu mythology, traditional stories have been passed down for generations regarding the birth of Ganesh and the reason behind his elephant head. Ganesh is the son of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer and Restorer, and his wife Parvati, an incarnation of the Great Mother Goddess, Devi. They lived high in the Himalaya Mountains, where Lord Shiva was away for many years at a time, creating, destroying, and preserving life. While Shiva was absent, Parvati became very bored and lonely, and her motherly instincts made her yearn for a son.

Legend says that Parvati decided to create a baby by scrubbing her skin with sandal paste and mixed it with clay to mold a figure of a boy. She used her powers to breathe life into the clay mold and instantly fell in love with the boy. One day, while Shiva was still away, Parvati asked her son to guard the entrance to her room and let no one enter, while she took a bath. Unannounced, Lord Shiva returned home and was refused entry by this boy who was a complete stranger. Irritated by the child’s insolence, a battle ensued and Shiva cut off the head of his young son with his trident.

When Parvati discovered her headless son, she was stricken with such grief that she threatened to destroy the heavens and earth. With the balance of the entire Universe at stake, Shiva wanted to console his wife and bring his son back to life. Lord Shiva and his troops set out into the forest to find anyone sleeping with their head facing north (the auspicious direction associated with wisdom). The first living being they came upon was a baby elephant and took its head. Shiva returned and fitted the elephant head on the child’s body and breathed new life into the boy. His wife’s reaction was one of enchantment and she declared this boy was even better than her first creation. They named their son Ganesh. Lord Shiva praised his son for his courage by being made Lord of New Beginnings and guardian of entrances. Ganesh is worshiped at the beginning of any new undertaking to reach success and a safe journey.

Ganesh Chaturthi is the celebration to honor the birthday of the Lord of Beginnings. It falls on the fourth day after the new moon in the month of Bhadrapada (August – September).