It is said that everything in the cosmos follows a cyclical pattern of creation, sustenance and destruction. From a blade of grass to a banyan tree, from animals to humans, everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. This idea of the cycle of life has been a part of several mythologies. In the Hindu mythology, this idea is represented by the holy trinity or the Trimurtis. Lord Brahma is the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer.
As humans, we tend to celebrate creation and mourn destruction. And yet, Hindus worship Shiva, the god of destruction, more than they worship Brahma. Ironic, isn’t it? In fact, there is more to Shiva that the fact that he is the god of destruction. Legend describes him as a recluse who lives in a graveyard with a deadly serpent around his neck. His hair is matted and his body smeared with ash. One may wonder why such an unusual god is worshipped so fervently by Hindus across the world. Perhaps, there is more to the destroyer than what meets the eye. Soulveda explores some legends that might answer the question.
The destroyer of ego
An allegorical legend in the Shiva Purana has it that in the beginning of time, Lord Brahma was all alone. At first, he created Shatarupa–an entity that can take on many forms. However, when Shatarupa took the form of a beautiful maiden, Brahma started lusting after her. Obsessed with her, he even developed four heads to constantly keep an eye on her. To avoid Brahma’s gaze, Shatarupa kept changing her form. When she became a cow, Brahma took the identity of a bull; when she became a mare, he became a horse. Ultimately, in his pursuit of Shatarupa, Brahma took on several identities and drifted away from his true self. When he developed a fifth head (ego) out of ignorance, Shiva intervened in the form of Bhairava and decapitated it.
This legend asserts that to walk the spiritual path, worldly life and desire need not be shunned altogether. If everyone did so, the world would come to an end.
By destroying Yama, Shiva eliminates the fear of death by instilling faith in a metaphysical realm beyond space and time.