Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh are the three devas (deities) of creation, sustenance and destruction, respectively. The deva of destruction, Mahesh, is also more commonly known as Shiv, Shankar and Mahadev. He has many other names, related to his other virtues as we shall see later.

In the shastras he is described as having three eyes (the third in the centre of the forehead), a trishul (trident) and damru (small hand drum), coiled hair with the river Ganga pouring out, a crescent moon on the head, a cobra around his blue (neel) neck (kanth) and holy ash (bhabhut) smeared over his body.

Shivji’s consort is Parvati, also known as Sati. Consort means bhakta. His vehicle is Nandishwar – a divine cow. His abode (dham) is the Munjvat peak on Mount Kailas in the Himalayas, near Lake Maansarovar. His celestial abode is on Mt. Meru. His two sons are Kartikeya and Ganeshji. In his work he is helped by celestial beings known as devas, gandharvas, apsaras (damsels), devarshis, Yaatudhaans, rakshasas (demons), Kuber, ghosts and spirits. They are all known as Rudraganh – group belonging to Rudra (Shivji) and they live on Munjvat peak.

Shivji has also gifted half his body to Parvati. Therefore we also see this form of Shivji known as Ardhanarishwar. Ardha means half. Nari means female. Ishwar means Bhagwan. He is also Lord of the cosmic dance – Taandav. From the sounds of his damru originated Panini rishi’s Sanskrit grammar. Shivji also gave to mankind the knowledge of Ayurved and Dhanurved.

Other names of Shivji –
(1) Neelkanth: During the Samudra Manthan, the churning of the ocean, 14 objects, known as ratnas, sprung out. The first was a very deadly poison. It frightened both the devas and demons. They fled to Shivji for help. Being merciful, he drank the poison, but kept it in his throat (kanth). This turned it blue (neel). Hence he is also known as Neelkanth
(2) Chandrashekhar: The poison’s heat was so great, that to cool Shivji, the crescent chandra (moon), which appeared later from the ocean, took its place on Shivji’s head. Chandra has a cooling effect. Hence, he is named Chandrashekhar.
(3) Pashupatinath: Once he battled with three demons known as Taaraaksh, Kamalaaksh and Vidyunmaali. The beads of sweat from his forehead while fighting fell on earth. They became rudraksh, often used to make mala beads. The devas appointed him as pashupati during this battle. Nath means leader. Hence Pashupatinath.
(4) Har: This means destroyer. The sacred city of Hardwar is named from this. Mahadev is also worshipped as ling form, known as Shivling. This is a smooth and rounded form of black stone. Worship of the Shivling is first mentioned in the Shvetashvatar Upanishad (1-13).

Archaeologists have discovered the murti of Rudra in a meditational posture from the ancient site of the Mohenjo-daro civilization.

There are 12 sacred Jyotirlings in India, which are all divinely formed. Their names and location are given in the pilgrimage section of this website.

Additionally, there is the naturally forming ling from ice in a cave in Amarnath, in the Himalayas. Thousands of pilgrims trek there between the months of Ashadh and Shravan (June to August).

Mount Kailas, formerly in India, (now in Chinese territory), is itself a huge, grand Shivling!

Shivji and the Swaminarayan Sampraday
(1) During NilkanthVarni’s Kalyan Yatra, Shivji and Parvati served food to NilkanthVarni on two occasions – in Hardwar and in a desolate place in the jungles of south India.

(2) Bhagwan Swaminarayan consecrated Shivji in the Junagadh mandir as Siddheshwar Mahadev, on 1/5/1828 (Vaishakh vad 2, Samvat 1884).

(3) In the Shikshapatri (84), Bhagwan Swaminarayan has advocated venerable worship of Shivji, along with four other devas of Sanatan Dharma; Vishnu, Ganpati, Parvati and Surya.
In shlok 79, He commands us to devotionally celebrate Maha Shivratri with great festivity and observe a fast by having only farari food.

(4) The greatest Maha Shivratri pujan outside India, is performed in the Shri Swaminarayana Mandir, London. Thousands of devotees line up to do abhishek with milk of two large Shivlings, while sadhus chant Sanskrit mantras.

(5) Shivlings are consecrated in Ganapati’s shrine in all shikharbaddh (pinnacled) mandirs of the BAPS Sanstha. Besides the daily worship rituals, these Shivlings are offered pujan with bili patra (bili leaves) on behalf of bhaktas by the pujari everyday during the holy Shravan month.

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