Shivas Arms


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Sati was eventually reincarnated as Parvati in her next life and she re-married Shiva. With Parvati, Shiva had a son, the god Ganesha. The boy was in fact created out of earth and clay to keep her company and protect her while Shiva went on his meditative wanderings. However, Shiva returned one day and, finding the boy guarding the room where Parvati was bathing, he enquired who he was. Not believing the boy was his son, and thinking him an impudent beggar, Shiva called up the bhutaganas demons who fought the boy and eventually managed to distract him with the appearance of the beautiful Maya and, whilst he admired the beauty, they lopped off his head.

At the commotion, Parvati rushed from her bath and screamed that her son had been killed. Realising his error, Shiva then sent for a new head with which to make the boy whole again but the nearest at hand was of an elephant.

History of Shiva and Shiva-Worship

And so Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, was born. Other sons of Shiva are Skanda or Karttikeya, the god of war and Kuvera, the god of treasures. Ganga the goddess who personified the river Ganges was given to Shiva by Vishnu who could not take any more of the constant quarrels between his then three wives of Lakshmi goddess of good fortune , Saraswati goddess of wisdom and Ganga. As with any major god, Shiva was involved in many adventurous episodes which illustrate his virtuous character and offer instruction on how to live correctly. For example, self-sacrifice is emphasised when Vasuki, the king of Serpents , threatened to vomit snake venom across the seas.

Shiva, assuming the form of a giant tortoise or turtle, collected the venom in his palm and drank it. The poison burned his throat and left a permanent blue scar, hence one of his many titles became Nilakantha or Blue Throat.


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Another celebrated episode describes how Shiva became associated with the bull Nandi. The milk from all these cows flooded the home of Shiva, somewhere in the Himalaya. Angry at this disturbance to his meditation, the god struck the cows with fire from his third eye. Still angry, the other gods sought to calm Shiva down by offering him a magnificent bull - Nandi, the son of Surabhi and Kasyapa - which Shiva accepted and rode. Nandi also became the protector of all animals.

Shiva's Family and Associations

Shiva is closely associated with the Linga or Lingham - a phallus or symbol of fertility or divine energy found in temples to the god. Following the death of Sarti, and before her reincarnation, Shiva was in mourning and went to the Daru forest to live with rishis or sages. However, the wives of the rishis soon began to take an interest in Shiva.

In jealousy, the rishis first sent a large antelope and then a gigantic tiger against the god but Shiva swiftly dealt with them and wore the tiger skin thereafter. When the phallus struck the ground, earthquakes began and the ricsis became afraid and asked for forgiveness. This was given but Shiva told them to forever after worship the phallus as the symbolic Linga.

In Asian art Shiva may be represented in slightly different ways depending on the particular culture: Indian, Cambodian, Javanese etc. He often has three horizontal stripes and a third vertical eye on his forehead. Shiva dances on the body of a dwarf apasmara-purusha the man of forgetfulness who embodies indifference, ignorance and laziness. Creation, indeed all creative energy is possible only when the weight of inertia the tamasic darkness of the universe is overcome and suppressed.

The Nataraja image thus addresses each individual to overcome complacency and get his or her own act together. The ring of fire and light, which circumscribes the entire image, identifies the field of the dance with the entire universe. The lotus pedestal on which the image rests locates this universe in the heart or consciousness of each person.

The Nataraja image is also eloquent of the paradox of Eternity and Time. It shows us that the reposeful ocean and the racing stream are not finally distinct. This wonderful lesson can be read in the significant contrast of the incessant, triumphant motion of the swaying limbs to the balance of the and the immobility of the mask-like countenance.

As Nataraja, King of dancers, his gestures, wild and full of grace, precipitate the cosmic illusion; his flying arms and legs and the swaying of his torso produce the continuous creation-destruction of the universe, death exactly balancing birth. The choreography is the whirligig of time. History and its ruins, the explosion of suns, are flashes from the tireless swinging sequence of the gestures.

In the beautiful cast metal figurines, not merely a single phase or movement, but the entirety of this cosmic dance is miraculously rendered. But the face remains, meanwhile in sovereign calm. Steeped in quietude, the enigmatic mask resides above the whirl of the four resilient arms and cares nothing forthe superb legs as they beat out the tempo of the world ages. This head, this face, this mask, abides in transcendental isolation, as a spectator unconcerned. Its smile, bent inward, filled with the bliss of self-absorption, subtly refutes, with a scarcely hidden irony, the meaningful gestures of the feet and hands.

A tension exists between the marvel of the dance and the serene tranquillity of this expressively inexpressive countenance, the tension, that is to say, of Eternity and Time. The two, invisible and visible, are quintessentially the same. Man with all the fibers of his native personality clings to the duality; nevertheless, actually and finally, there is no duality.


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  • Another aspect of Nataraja rich in a similar symbolism is his lengthy and sensuous hair. The long tresses of his matted hair, usually piled up in a kind of pyramid, loosen during the triumphant, violent frenzy of his untiring dance.

    Shiva's Arms

    Expanding, they form two wings, to the right and left, a kind of halo, broadcasting, as it were, on their magic waves, the exuberance and sanctity of vegetative, sensuous life. Supra-normal life-energy, amounting to the power of magic, resides in such a wildness of hair untouched by the scissors.

    Belly Dance Elements - Shiva Arms Routine 20090906 - Practice - Belly Dance, Fusion

    The conceptualization here is similar to the legend of Samson who with naked hands tore asunder the jaws of a lion. His strength was said to reside in his hair. On the other hand, anyone renouncing the generative forces of the vegetable-animal realm, revolting against the procreative principle of life, sex, earth, and nature, and entering upon the spiritual path of absolute asceticism, has first to be shaved. He must simulate the sterility of an old man whose hairs have fallen and who no longer constitutes a link in the chain of generation.

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    He must coldly sacrifice the foliage of the head. The tonsure of the Christian priest and monk is a sign of this renunciation of the flesh. Clergymen of denominations in which marriage is not considered incompatible with the saintly office do not wear a tonsure. With their voluntary baldness they have broken through to the peace beyond the seasons of growth and change. Thus by donning long, luxurious hair, Shiva dispels the notion of the conventional ascetic and reiterates that the image of Nataraja assimilates and harmonizes within itself apparently contradictory and conflicting aspects. Shiva is thus two opposite things: archetypal ascetic and archetypal dancer.

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    Overview 'Is there a happy medium between Hindu tradition and American style, or does the battle of wills between a mother and daughter-in law for the love of the man caught in the middle trump all else? Amma wreaks havoc over Alice's household until a family secret is revealed that costs the old woman everything. Now it is up to Alice to heal the rift. Shiva's Arms evolves into an exploration of cultural identity, the power of reconciliation, and the meaning of home.

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    About the Author

    About the Author Cheryl Snell is the author of ten books of fiction and poetry, and has published over four hundred poems, stories, and book reviews online and in print. She cooks in the Indian idiom and plays a mean classical piano, and Shiva's Arms is her first novel. Average Review. Write a Review. Related Searches. While Jacob went on to study philology, Wilhelm wrote.

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