The word Shiva means welfare or auspicious.
Shiva is known as “the Destroyer” and is the third God of the Hindu Triad along with Brahma “the Creator” and Vishnu “the Preserver”. However, according to Hinduism, creation follows destruction. Thus the true cosmic role of Shiva in the eternal cycle of creation is to dissolve the universe for the creation of the next cycle allowing unliberated souls another opportunity to free themselves from the bondage of the physical world.
Therefore Shiva is also considered a reproductive power and in this aspect is represented as the lingam or phallus, a symbol of regeneration.
Shiva is depicted in many forms, but most commonly with dark skin, a blue throat, sitting cross-legged in meditation on a tiger skin. His hair is coiled on his head, adorned with a snake and a crescent moon. Shiva has four arms and three eyes, the third eye, being vertical in the middle of the forehead, is always closed and only opens to destroy evil. On one hand, Shiva holds a trishula, a trident, representing, punishment to the evildoer on all three planes of existence.
Shiva is the Lord of mercy and compassion
To his devotees, Shiva is the Lord of mercy and compassion. He protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, anger, and greed. He bestows blessings and awakens wisdom in them. Shiva Nataraj’s cosmic dance represents the destruction and creation of the universe and also reveals the eternal universal cycle of birth, life, and rebirth. It is also a dance of bliss for the welfare of the world. In the pose of Nataraj he gives darshan (a divine vision) to his devotees. Under his feet, Shiva crushes the demon of ignorance, destroying evil and sorrow and shedding the shackles of old habits that hinder a devotee’s spiritual liberation.
Maha Shivaratri Festival
Maha Shivaratri is the night of the adoration of Shiva, a festival held every year on the fourteenth night of the cycle of the moon in mid-February to mid-March. Devotees of Shiva make a strict fast on this day and keep an all-night vigil. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night, while chants and offerings are made to the lingam. It is said that he who utters the names of Shiva during Shivaratri with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins and is liberated from the cycle of reincarnation.