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Shiva and Parvati as Ardhanarisvara

1. Shiva’s  Trishul or Trident symbolizes the unity of 3 worlds of a human being-his inside world, the immediate world around him and the broader world, a harmony between the 3. The crescent moon on his forehead that gives him the name of  Chandrashekar, dates back from the Vedic age when Rudra and Soma, the Moon God, were worshipped together. The Trishul in his hand also represents the 3 Gunas-Sattva,Rajas and Tama, while the Damaru or the drum represents the sacred sound OM from which all languages are formed.

Shiva's Trishul or Trident
Shiva’s Trishul or Trident

2. Bhagiratha  prayed to Lord Shiva for getting the Ganga to earth, which would flow over his ancestor’s ashes and grant them salvation. However when Ganga was descending to Earth, she was still in a playful mood. She felt she would just rush down and sweep Shiva off his feet. Sensing her intentions, Shiva, imprisoned the falling Ganga in his locks. It  was again on Bhagiratha’s plea, that Shiva let Ganga flow from his hair. The name Gangadhara comes from Shiva carrying Ganga on his head.

Lord Shiva and Ganga
Lord Shiva and Ganga

3. Shiva is represented as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, and there are two forms, Tandava, the fierce aspect representing destruction of  universe, and Lasya, the gentler one. The demon being surpressed under Shiva’s feet is Apasmara symbolizing ignorance.

Shiva as Nataraja
Shiva as Nataraja

4. Shiva along with his consort Parvati is represented in the Ardhanarisvara form, which is a half male, half female icon. The concept is  of  the masculine energy(Purusha)  and feminine energy( Prakrithi)  of the universe in a synthesis. At another level, this is also used to symbolize that in a marital relationship, the wife is one half of the husband, and has an equal status.  That is the reason why Shiva-Parvati are often held as examples of a perfect marriage.

Shiva and Parvati as Ardhanarisvara
Shiva and Parvati as Ardhanarisvara

5. Kamadeva, the Hindu god of love, Cupid’s equivalent albeit clothed, was burned to ash by Shiva. This was when Devas were waging a war against Tarakasur. He could only be defeated by Shiva’s son. But Shiva was busy in meditation and well, no one procreates when meditating. So Devas asked Kamadeva to pierce Shiva with his love arrows. He managed except Shiva woke up in rage. Apart from Tandava, the other thing that Shiva is known to do in anger is open his third eye. If he views anyone from his third eye, then the person is burned down. This is exactly what happened to Kamadeva.

6. Ravana was one of Shiva’s greatest devotees. Once he tried to uproot Mount Kailasa, Shiva’s abode in the Himalayas. I cannot remember the exact reason why he wanted to do so but anyway, he could not succeed in this endeavour. Shiva trapped him beneath Kailasa. To redeem himself, Ravana started singing hymns in praise of Shiva. He cut off one of his heads to make a veena and used his tendons as the instrument’s string to make music. Eventually, over many years, Shiva did forgive Ravana and freed him from under the mountain. Also, post this episode, Shiva was so moved by Ravana’s prayer that he became his favorite devotee.

Shiva and ravana
Shiva and ravana

7. He is known as Tripurantaka because he destroyed the 3 flying cities Tripura with Brahma driving his chariot and Vishnu propelling the warhead.

Shiva as Tripurantaka
Shiva as Tripurantaka

8. Shiva is a pretty liberal God. He allows everything which is otherwise considered unconventional or taboo in religion. One need not follow any set rituals to pray to him. He is not a sucker for rules and is known to grant wishes to anyone and everyone. Unlike Brahma or Vishnu who want their devotees to prove their mettle, Shiva is fairly easy to please.

hindufaqs.com Shiva- Most Badass Hindu Gods Part II

Shiva One of the most Badass Hindu GOD, also referred to by names like Rudra, Mahadev, Trayambak, Natraja, Shankar, Mahesh, etc. is considered the personification of the Masculine element of the universe. In the holy trinity of Hinduism, he is considered the ‘destroyer’ of cosmos.
Origin of Shiv shown in a graphic novel

Such is the scale of his wrath, that he had cut off, one of the heads of Brahma, who is a major god and also happens to be part of the trinity. Hindu mythology is loaded with his exploits.

The nature and character of Shiva is marked with simplicity, yet there are unpredictable, contradictory and complex philosophical traits in his personality. He is considered the greatest dancer and musician, yet he prefers to stay away from the pomp of the heavens. Shiva is a hermit, lives a secluded life and enjoys the company of heinous and outcast creatures like Pisachas (vampires) and Preta (Ghost). He dresses himself with tiger hide and sprays human ash all over himself. Shiva loves intoxication (opium, cannabis, and hash are openly offered to him in hindu temples to this day!)however, he is known for being kindhearted, selfless and a maintainer of cosmic balance.  Not only did he slay demons and egotist demi-gods, he has beaten the hell out of all major Heroes of Indian Mythology like Arjuna, Indra, Mitra etc. at some point to destroy their ego.

In contemporary Hindu religion, Shiva is one of the most revered gods. But he is also the most feared.

There are many versions of this story. However in all of them, there are certain common observations. Brahma was a conformist, brahmanical god. A critical study of his character would reveal his prejudice and unfair bias towards Rakshas, Gandharva, Vasu, non-human races and lower forms of creation. Brahma is not immortal. He sprang out of Vishnu’s navel and was entrusted the responsibility of creating mankind. Shiva on the other hand is something different and beyond Brahma. As the omnipresent present manforce of the cosmos, Shiva adored all forms of creation without any bias and prejudice. There are no sacrifices allowed in Shiva temples. Even breaking coconuts (which is symbolic of human sacrifice) is forbidden, despite sacrifice being an essential element of Vedic/brahmanical culture.
Shiva's Rudra avtar shown in a TV serial

Shiva’s boons to rakshasas were the root cause of all major disturbances and invasion on paradise (Swarga). Brahma’s four heads were representative of four dimensions of his thinking. One of it looked down upon of Shiva, and was purist and Devkula (Aryan stock convieniently!) supremacist. Brahma had some grudge against Shiva, for he had slayed one of Brahma’s biological sons Daksha (who also happened to be Shiva’s father in law!!).
Still in his Shankara (cool) form, Shiva had requested Brahma on various occasions to be more kind and inclusive, but that was all in vain. Finally succumbing to his anger, Shiva assumed the dreaded form of Bhairava and chopped off the Brahma’s fourth head that represented his egoist side.

Shiva is representative of the egalitarian and all-inclusive spirit of Hinduism. He was on the verge of supporting Ravana against Ram, if not for Ravana’s towering ego. Though the list of his victims includes the who’s who of Indian mythology (He didn’t spare even his own son Ganesh!), Shiva is considered the easiest god to be pleased.

shankar Idol in Uttarakhand

Some More Info

Symbols of Shiva

1. Trishul : knowledge, desire and implementation

2. Ganga : flow of wisdom and spiritual teachings

3. Moon : Shiv is Trikal-Darshi, master of time

4. Drum : words of vedas

5. Third Eye : destroyer  of evil, when it opens it destroy anything that comes in vision

6. Serpent : ego as ornament

7. Rudraksh :  creation

Bhasm on body and rudraksh never dies like flowers and does not have any distraction (smell)

8. Tiger skin : no fear

9. Fire : destruction

Credits: Post credits Ashutosh Pandey
Image credits to the original post.