Lord Shiva represents the aspect of the Supreme Reality that continuously dissolves to recreate the cyclic process of creation, preservation, destruction and recreation of the universe. The words destroyer and destruction have become associated with him.
Creation sustains itself by a delicate balance between the forces of good and evil. When this balance is disturbed and sustenance of life cannot be maintained, Lord Shiva dissolves the universe for the creation of the next cycle so that the unliberated souls will have another opportunity to liberate themselves.
Is the lord of mercy and compassion – protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, greed, and anger. Grants boons, bestows grace and awakens wisdom. Since his task is numerous, he is depicted in many different ways, but there are some major symbols that are common to most depictions.
Half-open eyes: when he opens his eyes, a new cycle begins, when he closes them the universe dissolves for the next cycle. The half-open eyes convey the idea that creation is going through cyclic process, with no beginning or end.
Kamandalu: a water pot made from dry pumpkin contains nectar and is shown on the ground next to Shiva. The process of making Kamandalu has deep spiritual significance – a ripe pumpkin is plucked from a plant, its fruit is removed and the shell is cleaned for containing the nectar. In the same way, an individual must break away from attachment to the physical world and clean his inner self of egotistic desires in order to experience the bliss of the Self, symbolized by the nectar in the Kamandalu.
Cremation ground: Shiva sitting in the cremation ground signifies that he is the controller of death in the physical world.