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Shiva, The Ardhnarishwar & Nataraja by Swati Joshi

There are many stories that explain the origin of Shiva. The most popular is story from Puranas. At the beginning of the universe, Lord Brahma and Lord VIshnu had been fighting over who was superior. Amidst their fighting, a tall and blazing pillar rose between them. They heard a heavenly voice tell them that the one to find the top of the pillar was more superior. The two of them tried hard to find the top of the pillar. When they met again, Brahma lied to Vishnu and told him he had found the top. Shiva emerged from the pillar and confronted Brahma. He told them he was the true God and that no one was superior. The pillar represents Shiva's eternal power and omnipresence in this universe. Shiva is depicted as a man in many pictures. In fact, Shiva is “Ardhnarishwar”. This means that he is half man and half women. Shiva has a powerful third eye. He is adorned with a  necklace of cobras. He's often shown with three lines across his forehead. This is known as “Vibhuti”. He holds a trident in one hand and wears simple animal skins. He often sits on a lotus pedestal. Shiva's consorts are different forms of Shakti. Shiva and Parvati have two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya. Hindus believe that Shiva and Parvati live in Mount Kailash in the Himalayas.  The Natraja statue portrays Shiva as a cosmic dancer who creates and destroys the world through his cosmic dance. Interestingly, modern physicist now consider that Shiva's cosmic dance is similar to the 'cosmic dance' of subatomic particles.  India gifted CERN University a Natraja statue. The statue is on permanent display in the square between buildings 39 and 40, a short distance from the Main Building. Shaivism is a branch of Hinduism that worship Shiva. As of 2018, 240 million people identified as followers of Shaivism. There are many holy sites to worship Shiva at. These are called Jyotirlingas. 12 of the Jyotirlings are considered extremely auspicious. The most famous Jyotirlinga is Kedarnath in Uttrakhand. Shiva is also called by many names. It's said that he has a total of 1008 names. There are various texts associated with Shaivism like Shiva Puran, Shiva Agamas, Shaiva Upanishad, and Kashmiri Shaivism.

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