Lord Shiva is one of the prominent and most worshipped God in Hinduism. Basically, Hinduism described the existence of the universe with three main philosophies : 1) Brahma, the symbolism for creation, 2) Vishnu, the symbolism for sustaining force of the universe and 3) Shiva, the symbolism for destruction. One of the most interesting feature of Hinduism lies in worshipping even the destructor , Lord Shiva !!! The philosophy behind the depiction of Shiva runs around ‘death’ , the final result of destruction and burial ground is where he lives in. Lord Shiva is portrayed in every picture with symbols of destruction or ‘death causing elements’ in the world like fire (in third eye), snake ( around neck), Trishul ( a weapon in hand), whirling water (on his head), poison ( in the neck) and a demon (under his feet) etc. Apart from these elements, Shiva is also portrayed with musical features like ‘Dhamarukam’ in one hand with musical performers around him and a dancing posture (NATRAJ) and his dance is very popularly known as ‘Shiva Thandavam’ with a perfect rhythm.
The combination of these entirely different concepts ‘death’ and ‘dance’ in a single personification clearly shows how deep the understanding of Indian ancient sages about the life and its interaction with universe. Hinduism respects every form of life on this earth and recognises the importance of every stage of life in a living creature, so also the death. In Hinduism, death is not an end to the life journey of a living creature. It is viewed only as an important change, a turn, in the journey of life form to attain Moksha i.e. the liberation from ignorance to reach the ultimate reality, GOD. Philosophically, every creature is born and lives to gain knowledge with its material body and senses and dies as the material deteriorates with its constant interaction with this universe. Death results in the birth again and again just to procure some material elements (body and senses) so as to gain some more knowledge until one is liberated completely from the ignorance and attain Moksha. This theory of reincarnation stresses that birth and death will always be cyclic and this cyclic pattern is very similar to the constant rhythmic beat in the musical orchestra. This is where the ideas of ‘death and dance’ meet and is wonderfully depicted in personification of Lord Shiva in Hinduism, where in Lord Shiva dances to a musical rhythm.
Lord Shiva, with all his death identifying symbols and rhythmic dance reminds us that we have born and struggle to live only to liberate from ignorance and our death is merely a turn to a different phase of life and signifies that the rhythm of rebirth continues cyclically. Lord Shiva is popularly worshipped in ‘LINGA’ form which symbolises the union of male and female reproductive organs resulting in birth. Hindus depicts Lord Shiva as symbol of death and worship him in the form of LINGA , the symbol of birth. Both birth and death are culminated in the personification of Lord Shiva. Hindus worshipping Lord Shiva with chanting mantras is nothing but again and again trying to remember and realise about the cycle of rhythmic birth and death and to come out of this cycle with pious living for attaining Moksha. We are living in the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva.
“Isavasyam Idam Sarvam“… Upanishad
( Isa = Iswara, Vasyam = pervaded , Idam = this , Sarvam = whole universe ) Meaning : This whole universe is pervasion of Lord Shiva.