Since time immemorial, the Himalayas has been recognized as the sanctuary for ascetics and sages. The Himalayas also occupy a central place in Hinduism. The whole region is considered the realm of Shiva- the supreme ascetic, and ‘Pashupati’ - the protecting deity of pastoral herds. Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of a lingam - a phallus symbolizing the male principle in the universe. In his manifestation as the cosmic darer, the Natraja, he rhythmically creates and destroys the cosmos. Famous shrines like the ice cave at Amarnath in Kashmir, the glacial formation at Kedarnath in Garhwal, and Jageshwar amidst a thick stand of deodar in Kumaon are dedicated to him. Kalidas, a resident of Ujjain, a city of Shiva, aptly described the Himalaya as the dazzling laughter of Shiva.
Lord Shiva : Shiva is one of the gods of the Trinity. He is said to be the god of destruction. Shiva is believed to be at the core of the centrifugal force of the universe, because of his responsibility for death and destruction. But Shiva dissolves in order to create, since death is the medium for rebirth into a new life. So the opposites of life and death and creation and destruction both reside in his character. The other two gods are Brahma, the god of creation and Vishnu, the god of maintenance. The three gods represent the three fundamental powers of nature which are manifest in the world viz. creation, destruction and maintenance. These powers exist perpetually. Creation is going on all the time. So is destruction and maintenance. All three powers are manifest at all times. They are inseparable. Creation and destruction are like two sides of a coin. And maintenance is an integral part of the processes of creation and destruction. For example, morning dies to give birth to noon. Noon dies when night is born. In this chain of birth and death the day is maintained. To indicate that these three processes are one and the same, the three gods are combined in one form of Lord Dattatreya. Lord Dattatreya has the faces of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
He is the never-created creator of all: He knows all. He is pure consciousness, the creator of time, all-powerful, all-knowing. He is the Lord of the soul and of nature and of the three conditions of nature. From Him comes the transmigration of life and liberation, bondage in time and freedom in eternity. Some know him as Shiva the Beneficent. Others praise him as the Destroyer. For some he is Shiva the Ascetic, wandering the world. And for others still he is the Great Lord, king of all creation. But it is as "Lord of the Dance" that all his aspects come together in one horrifically significant form. Nowhere else in the human world is there a clearer symbol of what a god is and does. In The Symbolism of Shiva's Cosmic Dance is hidden a deep understanding of how our universe works, from the tiny atom to inconceivably immense intergalactic spaces. Shiva's unending Dance of Creation, Preservation and Destruction is art, science and religion merged as one. When we behold His Dance, the world is seen as it truly is--sacred. Every happening within it is His Divine Will.
Owing to His cosmic activity of dissolution and recreation, the words destroyer and destruction have been erroneously associated with Lord Shiva. This difficulty arises when people fail to grasp the true significance of His cosmic role. The creation sustains itself by a delicate balance between the opposing forces of good and evil. When this balance is disturbed and sustenance of life becomes impossible, Lord Shiva dissolves the universe for creation of the next cycle so that the unliberated souls will have another opportunity to liberate themselves from bondage with the physical world. Thus, Lord Shiva protects the souls from pain and suffering that would be caused by a disfunctional universe. In analogous cyclic processes, winter is essential for spring to appear and the night is necessary for the morning to follow. To further illustrate, a goldsmith does not destroy gold when he melts old irreparable golden jewelry to create beautiful new ornaments.
Lord Shiva is the Lord of mercy and compassion. He protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, greed, and anger. He grants boons, bestows grace and awakens wisdom in His devotees. The symbolism discussed below includes major symbols that are common to all pictures and images of Shiva venerated by Hindus. Since the tasks of Lord Shiva are numerous, He cannot be symbolized in one form. For this reason the images of Shiva vary significantly in their symbolism.
Various Symbols of Shiva are as given below