The earliest evidence of the origin of Lord Shiva came from the excavation of two ancient cities of the Indus civilization, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, which flourished between 2,000-3,000 years B.C. A large number of terra-cotta seals and statuettes were discovered in the region, providing a wealth of insight into the religious beliefs of the area. Among the seals were representations of a figure seated in a cross-legged position, similar to that of the Indian yogi; in many of the figurines he is depicted having three faces, and surrounded by animals.
Without a doubt he is the forerunner of the Hindu God Shiva - the Prince of Yogis, Lord of the Three Worlds, and Protector of Animals Another feature of indigenous Indian religious belief is the law of karma, cause and effect, which determines man’s destiny through many lifetimes. This belief, as well as veneration of a female deity, was later adopted by the Aryan invaders. What is known of the .Aryans is mostly from their ancient collection of chants and hymns, called the ‘Rg-Veda’, written in the Vedic language, an earlier form of Sanskrit.
The Aryans believed that those who sinned were banished by the god Varuna, the dealer of justice and retribution, to a dismal place under the earth called “The House of Clay,” while the pious went to the blissful “World of the Fathers.”
Another important Vedic deity was Agni, theAlso discovered were statues of a female figure, frequently seen with crops issuing from her womb. She was extensively worshipped as the Mother Goddess, the source of all fertility. Besides the two major deities, phallic symbols were revered. Emphasizing the creative power of nature, these later became associated with the generative power of Shiva Himself. There was also veneration of a sacred tree which later developed into worship of the peepal, the holy tree of the Hindus.
It seems that the religious practices of the Indus Valley were mostly performed in the home, as no temple buildings of any kind were discovered. Much about the religious ideology of these people is unknown, as the unusual script found there has not yet been deciphered.fire god who accepted and took offerings to heaven for the gods. Later, when the Indo-Aryans cremated their dead, Agni was regarded as the one who transported mortal man to heaven after death.
The elite class of Aryan priests, Brahmins, gradually became accepted as the intermediaries between men and gods and co-operated with Agni in the performance of all sacrificial rituals, as offerings to the gods were always made through them.
Gradually the concept of karma was accepted as the Aryans became Dravideanized. The god Varuna yielded to Indra, god of war, who was of great importance to the Aryan warriors. The further migration into India by the Aryans brought many changes to the local cultural and religious attitudes including their Vedic social structure which divided people into religious, military, and economic communities. This hierarchy later developed into the caste system of India.By the beginning of the Christian era modern Hinduism had become recognizable. In the intervening centuries Brahmanization of the local village.
This great Indus civilization came to an end around 1,500 B.C., with the invasion of Nordic Aryans who imposed their culture, beliefs, and Sanskrit language on the earlier Dravideans. At the time of the invasion the religious ideologies of the Aryans and Dravideans differed considerably.
Outside the Indus Valley, throughout the rest of India, a village life style was common. In this agricultural economy the value of the fertile earth and her products gave birth to worship of the Mother Goddess who is still idolized today in the Dravidean areas of South India. This worship was not characteristic of the invading Aryans, whose gods were almost entirely male.cultures increased and the caste system developed.
Using the existing doctrine of karma to rationalize people’s superior and inferior status, the Brahmins multiplied the numbers of existing classes and assigned them specific roles within the society.
The Brahmins felt their privileged position was being threatened by the growing affluence of the merchants and with the advent of Buddhism were at a further disadvantage, as the Buddha openly criticized their sacrificial rites for the unnecessary killing of animals.
The Buddhist prohibition of meat eating gradually spread and became a prominent feature of Hinduism, so the adaptable Brahmins downplayed their sacrifices and emphasized their role as educators and preservers of culture. Knowledge of Sanskrit was the closely guarded privilege of the Brahmins, and to gain influence with the newly rich merchant classes, they gave Sanskrit names to their village gods and invented new religious rites for them.
The Brahmins preserved local customs and furnished myths and legends to assimiliate the elemental gods respectfully into their new pantheon. They universalized the regional gods and soon a trinity emerged: Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver; and Shiva, the Destroyer. As Lord Brahma’s importance gradually faded, Vishnu and Shiva became more popular. The Brahmins established themselves through determination to retain their status, religious tolerance and by imposing the caste system.
By the time of the Gupta Dynasty, 320-650 A.D., Shiva had become a God of love who also had a dark side, which he probably inherited from the Vedic god, Indra, the Lord of Destruction. Shiva was attributed with destroying the world at the end of each Kalpa, Hindu era. He became popular as the great ascetic whose meditation keeps the world in existence, and as the protector of animals. Also loved as the Lord of Procreation, His symbol became the linga, the male reproductive organ.
Goddess cults became popular in association with deities as their consorts. Shiva’s consort became known as Parvati, Shakti, or Kali, and personified the divine power of femininity. Usually the consorts of gods were honoured by those who worshipped the male deity, but the Shaktas honoured the goddess as the principle deity. This was a revival of the earlier Dravidian mother goddess worship. It was believed that the goddess of nature creates only to destroy her creation, so she was regarded as a fierce, ruthless deity who needed to be appeased by offerings of life, both animal and human.
Human sacrifice became illegal in 1835 and the practice only survives nowadays in the form of animal sacrifice. During the British rule of India many of the cults went underground and became veiled in secrecy Thus the villagers actually managed to pre¬ serve their non-Brahmin gods under new names. While publicly acknowledging the importance of the Vedas and Brahmins, they worshipped their traditional deities as they always had. Over thousands of years the glorification of Shiva and his consort continued to flourish, expressing the basic human need to identify with higher spiritual forces.
Based on the findings at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, Shiva is probably the oldest of the known gods to whom homage is still paid by millions, emphasizing the endurance of the civilization which gave him birth and the timeless truths that have sustained him through the ages.