Siva is the God who is victorious over death since he conquered desires
In Hindu philosophy, Siva is the God who is victorious over death since he conquered desires and in essence has defeated death. Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are the sacred trinity of Hindu Gods. In Sanskrit, Siva means sacredness, auspicious and propitious. Siva has no form. He is also known as Digambara — dig meaning the north, south, east and west directions and ambara meaning the umbrella — the entire sky. He is the supreme controller of all the five elements — sky, earth, water, air and fire. When one sees the form of Siva, the Ganges at the top of his head denotes water, the crescent moon on His head represents the sky, the third eye of Lord Siva on His forehead symbolizes Agni (fire), the snake around his neck represents the earth and the hissing sound of the snake represents air. In most of the temples, Siva is seen in aruvuruvam form as a lingam. Linga means a symbol in which the created merges. Below the linga is a platform called Avudai. It is the world. Actually, lingam means nothing but awareness — wisdom. Only in Swami's siddhar peetam, one can see Lord Siva both with form as Chandramculishwar and without form as Narmadeswar in the same sannadhi. There are also twelve jyothir lingams which can be seen inside the same sannadhi. It is a unique sight to find all the above in the same place. A Nandi donated by a devotee from Shirdi, is installed in front of the sannadhi. Nandi represents the human and the lingam is divine. There should not be any hindrance between you and God. Often, we see people touch the horns of Nandi and have a darshan of Siva through them, meaning that one sees God straight without any intervention. According to Swami, Nandi is considered as the vahana and also the messenger of Lord Siva. So by touching Nandi, we transmit our desires to him (Nandi) and he in turn reveals the same to Lord Siva. Lord Siva is normally worshipped with bilva leaves.
Swami also narrated a legend about Lord Siva. During pralaya, that is when the whole earth was flooded with water, Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe had put the essence of all creations in a pot which was getting washed away by the fury of the floods. He prayed to Lord Siva to save the pot and in response to the request, Lord Siva sent an arrow which broke the pot and a portion of the pot, half semicircular in shape fell on earth. This place is presently known as Kumbakonam in south india.
When we asked Swami about the significance of various lingams, he gave us the following explanation. He always materializes a lingam from his heart, which comes out through his mouth. It is known as atma lingam. It is the soul of the spirit. The spatika lingam — pure and delicate spatikam is the gnana lingam. The sadasiva lingam denotes eternity. The jyothir lingam represents the divine light. It represents the Ardha nareeshwarar — the male and female aspect together (Siva Parvathi), cosmic knowledge and cosmic energy merged together (Siva Shakthi). Vadakkunathar, the lingam at the siddhar peetam is unique in that the lingam has remained covered with unmolten ghee for the past several years, in spite of the scorching summer heat of Chennai and is not affected by any insects. It is a miracle that one can witness in the peetam and bears testimony to the divine siddhis of Swami.
In the year 1994, during the prathishta day celebrations, this unique lingam was installed and the devotees gathered there were blessed to perform ghee abhishekam to the lingam. From that day till today, the ghee poured has remained intact, not at all affected by soaring temperatures or pests. During that time after the prathishta, Swami instructed me to take japa initiation of Shakthi Panchakshari Manthra Upadesam from an elderly person who had earlier initiated me with the Ganapathi and Balai manthrams. The whole peetam reverberated with Siva nama — Om Namah Sivaya, Sivaya Namah Om. Swami materialised a big atma lingam, a few spatika lingams and spatika nandis and distributed them to some of the devotees as per Devi's directions. Swami named this lingam as Vadakkunathar because it is a replica of the one in Trichur, Kerala. During the installation of the lingam, Swami gave a discourse to all present. He said that Adi Shankara created the Jyothir mutt and Sadguru Gnananandar was the first guru to manage its activities. Goddesses Mookambikai, Chothanikkara Bagavathi and Kalyana Bagavathi are all different manifestations but they are all one and the same supreme Divine Mother, Adi Parashakthi. All these forms of Devi have connections with Adi Shankara. Adi Shankara has merged with Gnananandar who in turn has merged with Swami. Not only that, Aryamba, the mother of Adi Shankara performed nei abhishekam on Lord Siva at the Vadakkunathar temple at Trichur which has not melted even after so many years. In similar fashion, in the Siddhar Peetam, the ghee on Vadakkunathar remains intact making it a wonder beyond human comprehension.
In January 2000, Swami had come to Bombay. My husband and I had gone to see him. There were a few other devotees also present at that time. Swami said that the forthcoming Sivarathri festival would be a special one and it would be celebrated in the peetam at Tambaram. He said that Devi had indicated that all the twelve jyothir lingams of India would be appearing in the form of ghee in a silver cup. The time and the arrival of the jyothir lingams was not yet known at that time. He added that the function might be from morning till night and other details were not clear to him. So, he asked the willing devotees to visit the peetam for the forthcoming Sivarathri on 4th March. He further added that for one to go around and visit all the twelve jyothir lingams and get blessings is very difficult. Devi was blessing all of us to have darshan of all the lingams at one place. All the devotees in Bombay were anxious to see the marvel and started booking their tickets well in advance. Swami then explained to us why it is known as Maha Sivarathri. Lord Siva had gone to Kailasam for austere penance leaving his consort Parvathi behind. None knew when Lord Siva would return and so all the gods, goddesses and demigods went on chanting Om Namah Sivaya continuously. The day Lord Siva returned from his penance, even Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu came to witness the merger of Siva and Shakthi setting aside their duties of creation and protection. The day of the reunion of Siva and Parvathi is celebrated as Sivarathri. It is a divine union of cosmic knowledge with cosmic energy. That is why in India, most of the Hindus fast the whole day and keep awake throughout the night constantly chanting Om Namah Sivaya.