Perhaps because Shiva is a god of the south, as well as of the mountains; the ascetic and the animist. He is an accretion of gods, a figure built from many countries and districts, his cults more ancient than those of Krishna. He is also the transexual, the ardhanarishvara, whose origins can be traced back to Plato’s myth of a lost androgyny.
I like his dreadlocks, depicted in this bronze Chola dynasty image as the fan that radiates from his head. Look closely and you will see on the right side, the goddess Ganga, the personnification of the Holy river Ganges, who according to legend falls to earth through Shiva’s hair. In his dreadlocks, there is also a crescent moon and a drug-inducing flower expressing the wildness of Nature.
In the Nataraja form Shiva’s eyes are closed as he dances furiously in a trance to the tantric cycle of birth and death. Some say he is stoned. Eponomously, he is the destroyer of darkness. His South Indian aspect is found in some of the most ancient temples in the subcontinent.
Vishvarūpa was launched, sublimely, by Judith Beveridge last weekend at the Friend in Hand pub in Glebe (photographs at this link)
The book is available from 5 Islands Press http://fiveislandspress.com/catalogue/vishvarupa