Divinity must come with its dilemmas.
Being God is as much a choice as it is bestowed. Ironically enough, the god given quality of being born a God is something that does indeed take superhuman effort knowing, carrying, exercising and keeping.
Lord Shiva, arguably the strongest presence in Hindu philosophy, seems to have been the only one who really took his time being one, becoming one or probably didn’t deem himself one until he had been fairly human – flawed and all.
And then again, he made his mistakes as God as well, owned them and moved on, being the greater human that he was – God and all.
We love Shiva.
Anyone who has come to know this whimsical, powerful, inexplicable phenomenon does.
Because we see so much of ourselves inside of him.
Because human beings are whimsical, inexplicable and crave power over themselves and
unfortunately for themselves, over others too.
Shiva neither craved it nor cared for it. And then one day, he discovered he had it, to destroy evil for the good to live. And he understood sooner than most would have that that was the sole purpose of his power.
There’s a shloka (a quote, poem or couplet) that became very popular to make plain our connection with, closeness to and fondness for Lord Shiva. It reads as:
Jeevaha Shivoha: Shivo Jeevaha
It simply says that my soul is Shiva because Shiva resides in my soul.
Which plainly translates into: I am Shiva; Shiva is me.
A human reading, feeling and explanation of which is that this particular Lord is so real, so believable in his behaviour, so relatable in his conduct, so palpably present for me that he could be mistaken for the human I am, for the human I am not and aspire to be.
When he is blissful,
He can be so overcome with happiness that he will give unreservedly of himself as he does to devotees or demons alike, who please him, inspire him, better him and move him. He could break into an “Ananda Tandava”, a cheerful dance and smoke a chillum to let it all soak in.
When he’s in love,
He can dance with Parvati in an “Uma Tandava” to put on display the most divinely energetic, romantic and unforgettable performance possible.
When she walks away, he can discern just how much she means to him; to keeping the balance – his and the world’s. And he can swallow his pride, to beg her to return.
His love for her can make him go to war. As he did, for Sati, when she disappeared from his life forever.
When his love is taken away from him,
He can storm into a “Rudra Tandava”, a dance of fury with rigorous, impossible, horrific and intimidating movement.
And resolve to annihilate everything in sight because life without the love of his life is no life at all.
Yet, despite the love he is capable of holding and having and giving,
When he is enraged,
He can be volcanic and make some very impulsive decisions, commit some heinous acts – such as the murder of Manmatha – the very Lord of Love that had struck him with his arrows of feeling, passion and tenderness.
And then, he can light a smoke to rediscover his centre, put things into perspective and bring what he destroyed back to life when he realizes that singeing Cupid to ashes was in fact an overreaction.
When he is ill-at-ease,
And a smoke won’t do the trick,
Such as when he has to decide once and for all – whether or not to help Rama (the righteous King) defeat Ravana (the purportedly-devious-but-most-devoted-to-him demon King),
He will dance the “Samhara Tandava” to destroy the world once and for all because the absurdity of having to choose between a devotee – a genius, gift of a man – whose only fault was falling in love with another’s wife, and empowering a man who had a point to prove by winning back his wife, meant the world should probably just come to an end.
Of course, he caves into restoring a man with his wife because sometimes, you must choose what is necessary over what feels right, to set an example, to ironically set the record straight.
When he is overly sensitive,
Most often, after an argument or disagreement with other members of the divine pantheon, or when he has been too harsh with his beloved sons – Kartikeya or Ganesha – cutting off a head here or breathing a harsh word there,
He ponders, only to realize that his acts, his responses, his current state of being is a manifestation of his ego.
And so, he will kill that inside of him (as he does in other beings) and rise above himself, restoring heads and winning back those he has lost because of his insensitivity, violence, stubbornness or crudeness.
May be do a jig to loosen up, lighten up and stop taking himself so seriously.
When he’s peaceful,
He is appreciative. He is meditative. He listens patiently.
He is devoted to the people devoted to him.
He is ours and he is us.
And he will conclude the evening with a “Sandhya Tandava” to illustrate grace.
One sees why it is said to be godly.
A chillum is lit to let that moment of beauty linger a little longer, as everyone hopes it would.
The God in him can make it.
Because the human in him aspired to it.
Shiva thought he was human.
When he found out he was God,
He chose to remain human.
Good, messed up, reactive, good again, enraged, loving, egotistical, restive, reactive, sensitive, restless, perceptive, restored and then, great.
Perhaps that’s what makes him godly anyway.
Godly human. Humanly God.
We are him. Or, we hope to be.
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