I lived in Varanasi/Benares/Kashi, whose residing deity is Vishvanātha – one of the names of Shiva – for 3 ½ years, but just what is Shiva?
Shiva holds the Gaṅga (Ganges) in his matted hair. Gaṅga stands for sweetness (rasa) of Vāk and Oṁkara. The function of speech is complicated (gahanā gati) and therefore incomprehensible (durjñeyā). This complication is well represented by his matted hair. Praṇava is concealed in the matted hair. Its seven currents (sapta ūrmi) are seven rhythms (sapta chandaḥ), seven specific fields of accumulation of power (sapta vyāhṛti) & the seven regions (sapta bhūmi).
Shiva’s head decoration & snake
Shiva’s head is decorated by ardhamātrā which links together nāda, bindu, kalā (patency, potency, partial). It is covered by a ring of serpents (ahi valaya). The expression of speech is the life principle (prāna) represented by “ahi” (serpent). “Ahi”, the entire alphabetical system beginning from ‘a’ and ending with ‘ha’ (Sanskrit alphabet), and ‘ī’ means gati, the evolution of the differentiated from the undifferentiated. The life principle moves in a wave pattern and this is indicated by the word “bhujaga”.
Shiva’s four hands
Shiva is virūpākṣa, controller of what is “virupa-chandaḥ” or disharmony. Paraśu (sword), mrga (deer), vara (boon), abhaya (hope) are held in his four hands. These are the forces of controlling and harmonizing discordant forces. The sword shapes the discordant to fit in with the eternal law of harmony (chandah). The deer suggests inquiry (anveṣaṇa) into the goal of life (iṣṭa). Vara or boon makes the discordant agree with the concordant, and hope makes it one (ekarūpa) with the concordant.
Shiva’s three eyes
Shiva’s three eyes stand for sūrya, chandra and agni (sun, moon and fire). The third eye in the middle of the forehead (jñāna chaksu) depicts the inner vision in which the revealed knowledge embodied in the three Vedas flashes.
– from an exposition of “Japasūtram” by Pratyagatmananda Saraswati by S.N. Roy (slightly modified)
Shiva in “Highway of Spirits”
In Chapter 28 of “Highway of Spirits” my protagonist – Jude Ryder – meets & has a conversation with Shiva and his son, Krittikeya.