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If you are an art lover and have a spiritual/religious bend of mind, then you must have observed that there are numerous Lord Shiva paintings depicting Lord Shiva in his various forms. From paintings depicting the famed ‘Bholenath’ form or the Lord of Dance, ‘Natraja’ to those that depict the union of Shiva (consciousness) and Shakti (Nature) in the form of Ardhanarishvara, Lord Shiva paintings are one of the most sought after forms of paintings amongst devotees.

The most intriguing and appealing aspect of Hindu tradition is that here deities take many forms. Each of these forms of Hindu Gods and Goddesses symbolizes a potent possibility for inner evolution. If we consider different forms of Lord Shiva, each of them has a significance and basis.

Bholenath: Lord Shiva is considered as the Supreme Being; however, for his devotees, he is innocent like a child who does not know a thing about the materialistic world. That is why he is called and revered as Bholenath. The literal meaning of Bholenath is innocent. But, when used in regard to Lord Shiva it means innocent and at times ignorant. In our day-to-day life, we witness many situations where even the intelligent of the lot is taken for a ride. This happens because many times intelligent people fail to employ their intelligence to trivial things. A person, who is not-so-intelligent, but is shrewd and possess crafty skills, can easily outsmart an intelligent person. All these things value in this materialistic world; however, it does not mean anything in terms of life. When we term Lord Shiva as Bholenath, it does not mean that he is stupid; rather he chose not to use his wisdom and intelligence in petty ways.

Nataraja: You must have seen Bronze idols of and Lord Shiva paintings depicting the deity in dancing pose. This dancing Shiva is called ‘Nataraja’, the Lord of Dance. It is one of the most important forms of Shiva. It signifies the liveliness and dance of formation (at times dance of destruction). The dancing posture also represents stillness. It is believed that one cannot connect with his inner-self and the ultimate truth of life.

Ardhanarishvara: Many artists like to create Lord Shiva paintings and depict him as half-man and half-woman. This form, where Lord Shiva takes the form of both man and woman is called the ‘Ardhanarishvara’ form. The Ardhanarishvara form represents the union of Shiva and Shakti, mind and heart, and consciousness and nature.

Kalabhairava: We all know Lord Shiva as the destroyer. The forms that we have discussed till now, i.e. Bholenath, Natraja and Ardhanarishvara are the forms that depict Lord Shiva in his most benevolent form. One of his forms where he becomes a destroyer of time is Kalabhairava. No one can destroy time (kal), except Lord Shiva. He created this form to end the ultimate suffering of his devotees. It is said that when you lay on your deathbed, you witness a flashback and you suffer. Lord Shiva takes the form of Kalabhairava to minimize this time of suffering.   

Adiyogi: In paintings, Lord Shiva is often depicted in meditating posture. He is often called ‘Adiyogi’. In the yogic tradition, he is not worshiped as God, but revered at the first Yogi (Adiyogi) and the first teacher (Adi Guru). He is the originator of yogic sciences.

Triambaka: It is believed that Lord Shiva has a third eye and thus, he is called ‘Triambaka’. The significance of having a third eye is that he is able to understand and perceive things that are beyond the reaches of a common man. His third eye is the eye of wisdom and vision. The two eyes of human are sensory organs. They only see materialistic things. They cannot penetrate in the heart and mind of people. To connect with a person, God and even with your inner-self, on a spiritual level, you need to free your mind and open up this third. Until and unless you have a clear inner vision, no amount of thinking, reasoning and philosophy can bring clarity in your mind and vision.

The different forms associated with Lord Shiva have their own significance. In one way or other, they are the embodiment of ultimate truth. Therefore, when you choose Lord Shiva Paintings for your home, don’t choose them with the intention to adorn your place, rather choose and arrange them in such a way that they will be the focal point that will help you connect with your inner-self.