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Compare and contrast the iconography and mythology of at least two major Hindu deities.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the iconography and mythology of at least two major Hindu deities. In Hindu tradition, Brahma created the universe, Vishnu maintained it and Shiva destroyed it. These three gods comprise the Hindu trinity (the trimurti) and are considered to be the leading gods of the religion, especially Brahma, who is the oldest of all the gods. This point is questionable though as the Visnu Purana talks of Brahma emerging from Vishnu's navel to maintain the world after Vishnu has created it and then he returns to the navel after Shiva has destroyed it. If this is the case then Vishnu's position as a god is elevated from merely the maintainer to the creator. This essay intends to compare and contrast the iconography and mythology of the two major Hindu deities Vishnu and Shiva with reference to their relationship with Brahma as part of the Hindu trinity. The Hindu god Vishnu is very powerful to his followers, the Vaishnavas, and he is found as an icon in many temples although he is also believed to dwell in the heart of all beings. Vishnu is said to be young compared to the other gods and blue in colour. ...read more.

Middle

He is seen to have crescent moons in his hair to represent the horns of the bull god and his third eye burns with erotic love (kama). His hair, which is in a knot tied up at the back of his head, has "the Ganges pouring from his locks" (Flood, 1996:151). A third representation shows Shiva as the family man with his wife Parvati and his sons, Ganesha and Skanda. Here he is seen to be caring and protective of Parvati as he chops off Ganesha's head to defend her after failing to recognise his son and not wanting his wife to come to any harm. Parvati is most distressed by this and requests that Shiva bring her son back to life. Siva promises to administer a head to Ganesha of the next passing animal. The animal happens to be an elephant, which is why Ganesha is always seen with an elephant's head. A fourth depiction of the deity Shiva is of him representing "a phallus within a vulva, symbolic of the union of Shiva with his dynamic energy or sakti" (Flood, 1996:151). In this form as the Shiva linga (icon), he is a wild man with a strong sexual desire and is symbolised by a cylindrical stone as a phallic item. ...read more.

Conclusion

Vishnu in the Visnu Purana and Shiva in the Siva Purana. With many people being unable to read during and around the Puranic period, the iconography became of vast importance. People relied on the pictures to tell them the stories of the gods and that is a large reason why each aspect of the icon represents something different, to tell the story of the god. For example, Vishnu's lotus he holds symbolises his purity and the fire Shiva encircles is representing the life cycle of the universe. However, this essay does not attempt to deny the importance of the scriptures, as without them, the pictures are merely pictures and not visions of spirituality. In conclusion, although this essay has looked at Vishnu and Shiva individually as separate deities, the focus must be left on them as one, for that is what they are, existing only with each other. The cycle of the universe relies on all of them, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, to continue for if one were to disappear, the chain of the creation, destruction and recreation of the world would be broken. "Germination creates the tree, destroys the seed and preserves the species; the joiner creates the table, destroys the tree and preserves the wood" (Larousse, 1965:211). 1 ...read more.

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