I’m a neophyte with respect to Hindu iconography–plus I read no Indian languages, so I may be wrong about this being a Shiva. Shiva is usually depicted clean-shaven, but I’ve seen bearded images. I mostly based my conclusion on the tiger skin (or stylized representation thereof) that he’s sitting on, which is often associated with Shiva.
Shiva is part of the Hindu trinity, which also includes Brahma (the creator) and Vishnu (the sustainer.) This leaves Shiva, the destroyer.
If you’re someone who actually knows about such things, and know I’m wrong, please drop me a comment to let me know.
This swing is located outside Bangkok’s Wat Suthat. It’s due west of the grand palace in an area north of the heart of little India and northwest of the heart of Chinatown, but very much in an area that reflects a blending of these cultures.
The swing is of Hindu origins. There’s a swing ceremony that reenacts events surrounding Shiva’s descent to Earth at Bramha’s behest. The ceremony involves people trying to snatch a satchel of coins off a pillar by swinging to it.
This frieze is located at Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu. Hoysaleshwara is dedicated to Shiva, and was finished in 1121AD–though many believe it was not actually finished. It’s one of the largest temples to Shiva in southern India and is actually a double temple–the inside being split between the king’s temple and the queen’s temple.
This is a depiction of Shiva dancing inside a vanquished elephant. It may seem mean to kill an elephant and dance inside it, but this particular elephant was a demon or possessed by a demon. Of course, the question remains as to why one would dance inside a slain enemy. I guess it’s a little like dancing on your enemy’s grave, but a lot stinkier and messier. It’s just weird no matter how you slice it.
I read the Wikipedia article on Shiva linga, which said that it was a grave error to think of a lingam as a phallus. However, the article went on to say that the union of the lingam and the yoni represents the inseparability of male and female and the act of creation. Therefore, I’m sticking with the neophyte view that this symbolically represents the male organ of amour. [Note: the terms linga and yoni are used in the Kama Sutra to describe the male and female organs, respectively. The terms may have been euphemisms that distorted the true initial meaning, or this might be taken as evidence of the correctness of the neophyte view. I’m not qualified to comment.]
Shiva is one of the top-tier aspects of God in Hinduism. He’s one aspect of the Hindu trilogy. Brahma is the creator. Vishnu is the operator. And, Shiva is the destroyer. This may seem a little ominous, but it’s obvious that something must be destroyed to make way for new things to come into existence. In a more modern interpretation, matter cannot be created or destroyed but can only change forms. These two ideas may seem very different, but when one considers that there is a finite amount of matter, if you want to make something new, then something else has to give up its matter to build it.
So while Shiva’s hallmark quote is, “I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” [reiterated by Robert Oppenheimer in referring to his role in the Manhattan Project] he’s really not so bad a deity.