Layered in myth and legend, Shiva “the Auspicious” is of paramount importance to the Kathmandu Valley. As the object of worship for the Shaiva tradition of Hinduism, he is both creator and destroyer, simultaneously embodying the destructive and creative forces of the universe. Shiva has a long history and is said to have more than a thousand names to define his many forms and special qualities. The name for Shiva preferred by the Hindus of Nepal is Mahadeva (the Great God), but he is also known as Maheshvara (the Great Lord), Pashupati (Lord of the Animals), and Bhairava (the Terrible One) when wrathful. Furthermore, sacred places for devotion and pilgrimage are located throughout the Kathmandu Valley and relate to the different stories and manifestations of Shiva. One common narrative portrays Shiva as a householder with a wife and two sons. His spouse, Parvati, the Great Goddess, also plays a leading role and, like her husband, has many names and legends. She is Uma when seated next to Shiva, Parvati when daughter of Himavat—God of the Himalayan mountains—and the ferocious Durga when slaying demons. Their two children are also renowned throughout Nepal; the beloved elephant-headed god, remover of obstacles, Ganesha, and the commander of the divine armies, Kumara Kartikeya.

Hinduism | Buddhism | Ritual Aesthetics | Divine Feminine | Shiva and Family

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