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Shiva - saivam
Shiva (शिव) is an adjective meaning "auspicious, kind, gracious. Shiva is to have multiple meanings: The Pure One; One who purifies everyone by the very utterance of His name; One who is eternally pure; and One who can never have any contamination of the imperfection. Shiva and Rudra the god of the roaring storm, are viewed as the same personality. Śiva is a god of ambiguity and paradox - Destroyer versus benefactor; Ascetic versus householder. The depiction of Shiva as Nataraja (நடராஜா Cosmic Dancer) and Dakṣiṇamurthi as a teacher of yoga, music, and wisdom and giving exposition on the shastras. Saiva Sect? Saivite Hindus worship the Supreme God as Siva, the Compassionate One. Saivites esteem self discipline and philosophy and follow a satguru. They worship in the temple and practice yoga, striving to be one with Siva within.
Saivism is the world's oldest faith with high philosophy, the guru's centrality and bhakti-raja-siddha yoga leading to oneness with Siva within. Saivism is ancient, truly ageless, for it has no documented beginning. Scholars trace the roots of Siva worship back more than 8,000 years to the advanced Indus Valley civilization. Modern history records six main schools: Saiva Siddhanta, Pashupatism, Kashmir Saivism, Vira Saivism, Siddha Siddhanta and Siva Advaita. The Vedas state, "By knowing Siva, the Auspicious One who is hidden in all things, exceedingly fine, like film arising from clarified butter, the One embracer of the universe by realizing God, one is released from all fetters." Aum Namah Sivaya.
The path for Saivites is divided into four progressive stages of belief and practice called charya, kriya, yoga and jnana. The soul evolves through karma and reincarnation from the instinctive-intellectual sphere into virtuous and moral living, then into temple worship and devotion, followed by internalized worship, or yoga, and its meditative disciplines. Union with God Siva comes through the grace of the satguru and culminates in the soul's maturity in the state of jnana, or wisdom. Saivism values both bhakti and yoga, devotional and contemplative sadhanas, or disciplines.
God Siva is honored as Pure Love, Light, Energy and Consciousness. He is contemplated as the timeless, formless and spaceless Absolute Reality. Shivalinga worship is ancient, original, prehistoric and not merely an abstract symbol. Many Saints and Heroes in Puranas worshipped Lingam made out of Clay, metal, copper, iron, silver, gold, mud, stone, precious gems, wood, butter, ice, earth or transitory materials such as made out of flowing river., and invoked Lord Shiva into it. This sends the message that God can be invoked and worshipped in any convenient form; the form is irrelevant, but the divine power that it represents is important. Before Cholas, most of the sivalingams are workshipped in open spaces or under trees. Shiva is "abishekap praya" and devotees pour water and milk over linngams. The offerings get collected in pits for animals to drink. In this way we feed animals, may be god is also known as pasupathi (protector of animals)
Some of the Shivalingams are Swayambus, appeared on its own, some of them are untouched by a chisel; there are rare Shivalingams in Pallava period bearing several stripes shaped, witnessed at Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram. As you may be aware, Shivalingam is generally circular based, a quadrangular receptacle. The pedestal is shrewdly shaped to drain off the water when ablutions are performed. This is the only God whose Form and Formless appear together. Learned indicate that the bottle portion of the pedestal represents Brahma Swaroopam, the middle portion represents Vishnu while the upper portion or the cylindrical one represent Shiva. Images are also sometimes carved rarely, such is one Kathmandu Pashupathinath temple.
Shiva Lingam is in various shapes, 11 typed shapes, elliptical, aniconic iamge, with a circular base or Peetam. He is beyond all qualities of Forms and Formlessness, He appears in either form or Formless.
Raja Raja Chozha (Chola) was one of the greatest Emperors of medieval history in India. He lived about 1000 years ago. During his reign he ruled Ceylon, Burma, Sumatra, Java, part of Indonesia and Phillipines. He was a great Shiva Bhakta. During one of his visits to the famous Thiruvaaroor temple in Thanjavur District, he heard a few people singing some hymns on Lord Lord Shiva. The Raja was greatly fascinated by the quality of the language, the choice of the tune and the devotion it aroused.
The Saivaite Emperor then started making enquiries about the source of the hymns. He soon learnt these were parts of the Divine poetry written by the 4 great Sivacharyas of Tamizh Nadu - Sri (Thiru)Gnana Samandhar, Thirunavukarasar (popularly known as Appar), Sundarar and Manickavachakar. The music for Sri Gnana Samandhar verses were composed by a Shaivaite musician named Thiru Neelakanta Yazhpaanar who was with Sri Samandhar most of the time. With great difficulty was able to get in touch with a very old lady who belonged to Yaazhpanar's clan. She had with her some old palm scripts of Thiru Neelakanta Yazhpaanar handed down to her through several generations.
King approached Nambi Aandaar Nambi requesting him to help him trace the hymns composed by the Shivacharyas. Nambi Aandaar Nambi found out that palm leaves containing thousands of hymns composed by the great Shivacharyas - Thirunavukarasar (popularly known as Appar), Gnana Samandhar, Sundarar, Manickavachakar and others - were available within the precincts of the famous Chidambaram Temple.
Raja Raja requested the Brahma Dikshitar (Head of the Dikshitars who were performing the Poojas in the temple) to hand over the palm inscriptions to him. The Dikshitars resisted stating that the collection could be handed over only to the 4 great personally and to no one else. The Sivacharyas had attained Mukhti nearly 400 years ago! The Raja got idols of the Shivacharyas made, and brought them to Chidambaram. The Dikshitars yielded. The keys of the room lying locked for about 4 centuries were given to the Maharaja.
The palm inscriptions were buried under anthills. King organized to collect all the palm leaves and gave the task of compilation to Nambi Aandar Nambi. He sorted and classified the hymns into 11 volumes. Each volume is called a "Thirumurai". The first seven Thirumurais are known as Thevarams. This literally means, "garland of honey" symbolizing the sweetness of the language. It also means "hymns on the supreme power".
About 200 years later, Anabaya was credited with glory of tiling the roof of the sanctum of Chidmbaram Temple with gold. He is known as "Pon Veynda Chozhan" in Tamil and as "Hiranya Garbha Chakravarthi" in Sanskrit. During his reign, Sri Sekkizhaar Peruman composed the immortal "Thiru Thondar Puranam" (Popularly known as "Periya Puranam"). This depicts the life and times of the 63 Great Shiva Bhaktas or the Servitors whose selfless services to Lord in spreading His Glories among the masses. "Periya Puranam" (Great Epic) was added later as Twelfth Thirumurai.
Devotees of Lord Shiva in particular, owe a lot to Raja Raja Chola - the Great Emperor and staunch Shivaite, but for whom we would have lost a great treasure. Apart from its divinity, the hymns are of great literary value.