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Shaivism is a sect of Hinduism whose followers believe in the deity Shiva, who is seen as an incarnation of the supreme God (or creator of the universe) Brahman.
Shiva is one of the three members of the Trimurti (the Holy Trinity of Hinduism). He is known as the destroyer and the god of all opposites.
Shiva is often depicted as either a man dancing (to create and destroy all things within the universe), an abstract symbol or as a man in deep meditation. Because he is seen as a god who is consistently meditating he has become the deity worshipped by many yogis. Though many deities are associated with Shiva he does not have a numerous incarnations, as Vishnu does.
Shaivas are characterized by their belief in the constant creation and destruction that defines the cycle of life. It is believed that there will come a time when creation ceases and at that time Shiva will be responsible for destroying all that exists so that Brahman can recreate the universe.
Although it is generally believed that Shiva is without incarnations, there are a variety of deities that are often associated with Shiva.
Deities Associated with Shiva:
Devi (in her many forms) – Devi is believed to be Shiva’s wife. She is also considered a member of the Trimurti and the mother of the universe.
Kartikeya – the son of Shiva and the deity associated with bravery. He is often depicted riding a peacock and carrying a bow and arrow.
Ganesha – the son of Shiva and the deity associated with good fortune, intelligence and wisdom. He is also thought to be a remover of obstacles. Ganesha is usually depicted as a man with four arms and an elephant’s head. He is often depicted with just one tusk and usually rides on a rat or mouse.
Nataraja – Shiva depicted as a four-armed man dancing. Nataraja is seen as constantly in the process of creating and destroying.
Hanuman – a monkey warrior who is a faithful servant of Shiva. He is the deity associated with devotion and courage.