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

Shiva as Ardhanari: ‘Lord Who is Half Woman’

red marble shiva as ardhanari statue

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Shiva as Ardhanari, or Ardhanarishvara, translates to ‘Lord who is half woman.’ Ardhanarishvara is the androgynous combination of Shiva and his consort Parvati, split down the middle as half man half woman. Shiva, usually depicted on the right, is often adorned with headdress of a half crescent moon, serpent earring, third eye upon the center of his forehead, and wears a sacred thread across his chest. Parvati down the left is commonly portrayed with basket shaped crown, kundala earing, red dot matching Shiva’s third eye, and multi-colored or white linen dress. Visually, Shiva and Parvati embody their corresponding gender vigorously so as to starkly contrast their opposing counterpart.

Ardhanarishvara is said to characterize the fusion of the masculine and feminine energies of the world and exemplifies how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from Shiva, the male principle of God. The merger between these masculine and feminine energies is regarded as the root of all creation.

God is both Shiva and Parvati, “both male and female, both father and mother, both aloof and active, both fearsome and gentle, both destructive and constructive” and unifies all other oppositions of the universe.

It is believed that Parvati is not just Shiva’s consort, but an actual part of him.

Ardhanari is one of the most popularly worshiped forms of Shiva and can be found in virtually every temple or shrine throughout India and south-east Asia. It is often regarded that the ultimate goal of a devotee is to be united with Shiva as Parvati is in the Ardhanarishvara form.

Click to read more about Shiva or Parvati.

Learn to Quiet Your Anxious Mind with Shiva as Dakshinamurthy

The practice of yoga in the United States has been on a constant rise over the last 30 years since its introduction in the 1980s as a wonderful form of physical health and well being regardless of its original religious context.   As of January 2012 it was estimated that over 20 million Americans regularly practiced yoga as both a form of exercise and spiritual release, up from around 4 million in 2001.

It is no question that given the swelling numbers many have found value in the practice to both their physical and mental health.  Today yoga is even used as cancer treatment to decrease symptoms of depression, insomnia, pain, and fatigue in patients.  Hatha yoga specifically has become very popular in the west for its incorporation of physical exercise, breathing control, and meditation.  If you are looking for a way to reduce stress, symptoms of tiredness, increase general mood, and to get your body in shape, yoga is a great practice for all age groups and gender.

Slowing down and taking the time to become in touch with ones body can be a highly fulfilling practice as we all struggle with the stresses of daily living in our modern fast paced society.   As the Buddha said,

“Meditate. Live Purely.  Be quiet.  Do your work with mastery.  Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds!  Shine.” 

Almost all of us have a special place we hold dear and go to clear our heads and think…a favorite park bench, out for a run, sitting with our toes in the sand.  But what many don’t realize is that it isn’t the destination that is key, but actually the state of mind that place brings to you.  Instead of escaping somewhere external, try yoga and meditation.  Anyone can develop inner peace, without really going anywhere but in.

To help with your practice, add a Dakshinamurthy statue by Lotus Sculpture to your meditation corner.  Shiva in the form of universal teacher, Dakshinamurthy, can help guide you in your path to inner awakening.

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).

Shiva as Dhakshinamurti Quotes

Dhakshinamurti, Shiva as the south facing lord

Bronze Shiva as Dhakshinamurti, the south facing lord

“Salutations to Lord Dakshinamurti, the abode of all wisdom, teacher of the whole world, healing those who suffer from the disease of samsara.
Salutations to Lord Dakshinamurti, who is the meaning of “Om“, whose form is pure knowledge, who is taintless and utterly silent.”

“I extol Dakshinamurthy, the handsome youth who has transmitted the truth of Parabrahm by silent speech; who is surrounded by a host of venerable sages as disciples, all absorbed and established in meditation upon Brahman; who is the Supreme Teacher; who displays the sacred sign of fusion of the soul with the Absolute — the joining of forefinger and thumb — the paragon of bliss; who has a resplendent face replete with the rapture of the Self-Existent.”

“May this obeisance be directed to the Blessed Dakshinamurti to Him who takes the guise of the auspicious Guru, to Him whose eight-fold Form is this entire motionless and mobile cosmos, manifesting as earth, water, fire, air, ether, the sun, the moon and the soul; beyond whom, all-pervading and supreme, there exists nothing else for those who truly search!”

“Let us Praise Dakshinamurthy, the Supreme Father,
who is ‘having the Opening to Delight’,
who Delights in the Self alone,
who is the Embodiment of Delight,
who is with a Hand (with fingers closed in the fashion of) Sealing in
Brahman (as it were),
who is the pre-eminent among Spiritual Masters abiding surrounded,
by the foremost among spiritual disciples, who are Rishis resting in
Brahman,
who is a small boy,
who is of the Form of the Supreme Brahman, and
who denoted (the Supreme Brahman) by the Expounding that is Silence.”

“A young guru, imparting knowledge of Brahman through silence, surrounded by rishis who are firmly established in wisdom.
Teacher of teachers, whose gesture signifies wisdom, whose nature is fullness, smiling, reveling in himself, I worship that Lord Dakshinamurti.
Seated on the ground under the banyan tree, bestowing knowledge to all the rishis who have assembled near him…
teacher of the three worlds, destroyer of the miseries of birth and death, I bow to that Lord.”