Shiva Matangari

Shiva in the aspect of triumph over hostile, malefic forces
By yoga teacher Gregorian Bivolaru

Another aspect of Shiva’s is Shiva Matangari, or in other words, Shiva in the aspect of triumph over hostile, malefic forces.  Shiva Matangari is aspect associated with the divine, omnipotent action of Shiva aimed at defeating the hostile, evil influences of the demonic beings, who took the form an elephant. This aspect of Shiva is also known in India by the name Gajahamurti, Gajasura Samharamurti or Gajasamharamurti. In Hindu tradition, the elephant is a symbol of huge froce. Its existence is associated with memory, wisdom, power, age and all qualities from birth or which are acquired, which enable human beings to achieve mastery and to have abilities in a certain direction. In general, in India, the elephant is a symbol of great material and spiritual riches. In certain old Hindu writings, the presence of the elephant symbolises the huge capacity of the individual consciousness to imagine a rich experience of life.

However the elephant is also an symbol associated with selfish action of possessing or fulfilling something that is not permitted or which is illegal. The elephant is by nature, an aggressive and massive animal and that is why it is also associated with lack of sensitivity to beneficial, subtle, superior influences because it is the animal that has the thickest skin.

The symbolic story that is associated with this aspect of Shiva, Shiva Matangari, is described in the Hindu work Sutrabheda. It is said that once, long ago, there was a very ambitious demon named Gajasura, who had the body of an elephant. Being impelled by a great desire for power, he made various tapas through which he obtained paranormal powers, siddhis. However, his mind remained weak, being unable to properly discern the way in which he had to necessarily use the paranormal powers he had obtained. Being also very selfish, he did not even think that he could ever use, in perfect harmony with the Will of God, the paranormal powers he had. To prove to himself his superiority and extraordinary power, he started firstly to provoke the most powerful ones to fight with him. Tempted by the illusion of a possible victory over the power of Gajasura, many warriors who were very ambitious came to fight, but were soon defeated by the incredible power of the demon.

The insidious drunkenness of power slowly gained complete control of the mind of Gajasura and he started to attack other beings who did not want to fight with him, causing many problems where it took place. He obtained with every day that passed a greater and greater power, which was amplified and more due to the exacerbated selfishness that already controlled him. The huge force which he had obtained came to scare even the gods, who began to fear Gajasura. Intoxicated by power and ego, he began to attack even devotees of Shiva, who were completely absorbed in meditation and focused in adoration of God, in the holy place of Kashi. In his insane rage, he almost no longer knew whom to attack. He had not realised that, with this insane action, his obtuse and limited mind made him step on the road of the lost. Then Shiva, the Guide of all human beings who are completely devoted to God, appeared suddenly taking a terrible, shocking countenance. With a single lightening motion of his divine arms. He cleaved the demon, rending from the huge body of Gajasura his thick skin. Gripped by a great pain, the demon screamed loudly, after which he fell defeated at the feet of Shiva. This terrible manifestation of Shiva which defeated the demon, manifest in the body of an elephant, is called Shiva Matangari. This aspect of Shiva is unanimously considered to be one of Shiva’s most terrible and frightening. In the iconographic representations of this aspect, a Shakti is also described as being afraid of the terrible energy of Shiva which was manifested to halt the destructive and insane actions of the demon Gajasura.
In this aspect, Shiva Matangari, Shiva is represented stepping with a unimaginable force on the elephant’s head, or left leg, flaying his thick skin from the body, with a single movement carried out with two of his hands. Being separated from the body of the defeated animal, the elephant skin is suddenly transformed into a sublime, luminous mandala, prabhamandala. The tail of the elephant becomes a ray of light which is added to the tresses that are part of the shining hair of the crown of Shiva.
However, the majority of iconographic representations show us Shiva smiling, even if he is represented in a terrible aspect, in his divinely integrated action to destroy the demon Gajasura. In the Hindu tradition, this aspect of Shiva is described as being the most frightening. The sin of the demon Gajaha is widely regarded as a very great one, i.e, the deviation from the spiritual path of beings who are orientated towards discovering God. This is why Shiva manifested promptly, halting the terrible mistakes of the demon Gajasura. The thick skin of the demon with the body of an elephant symbolizes here selfishness and opacity towards the subtle, spiritual influences that come from God. Divine integrated action, in this context, the flaying of the skin in a single movement and its use as a vestment shows us the path of rapid and also very painful purification which a sinful being who has committed the grave mistake of deviating other beings from the spiritual path has to go through.

Removing the barrier of selfishness

The severe correction that is applied here by Shiva is without doubt the measure of serious mistakes that were done by the demon Gajaha. Normally, the skin of a being is the agent or way that allows these beings to mysteriously feel, by touch, the reality of the environment in which they live. The flaying of the skin is, in fact, the action that has the true significance of the process of removing of barriers which have already become obstacles from the spiritual point of view and which makes the being insensitive to external influences. Such a thick and leathery skin shelters just the gross mass and limitations of the individual power and ego that are used for evil. Remaining without skin, the selfish and proud demon Gajasura is thus obliged by Shiva to begin to feel the reality outside of his sphere.  He is thus forced by the divine corrective action of Shiva to become receptive to beneficial superior influences to be instantaneously dispossessed of the gross cover of selfishness which has become a barrier in his case. The traditional treaty Amshubhabeda suggests that this aspect of Shiva is often represented having either four or eight arms. When the iconographic representation has four arms, the two upper arms hold in them the skin of the elephant Gajacharma, the right arm in front holds the rope, Pasha, a symbol of the complete control of Shiva over all forces of manifestation and the left arm in the front the elephant’s tusk, a symbol of the individual will, which here is subdued by Shiva. When the iconographic representation  has eight arms, the three arms on his right bear the trident, trishula, the drum, damaru and the rope, pasha, and the other three arms on the left hold the skull, kapala and the elephant’s tusk, the third making the divine gesture  that symbolizes divine, instantaneous intervention, visamaya. The other two arms of the eight keep the elephant’s skin raised up. The left foot of Shiva is firmly placed on the ground, while his right leg is bent and raised above the thigh of the other leg, a position which expresses a strong dynamism.

In the iconographic representation, Shiva Matangari is wearing many precious trinkets and wears a tiger skin around his waist, the symbol of sovereign power over the inferior nature of beings. The colour of his body here is an intense red. To his left is usually represented Parvati having a expression of astonishment at the terrible force which is represented by Shiva to defeat the demon Gajasura.
Here is a suggest description of Shiva in the aspect of triumph over hostile, malefic forces. “Supported firmly with his foot on the head of the defeated elephant, with his very powerful hands with which he would flay the thick skin of the animal in a move, he, Shiva Matangari makes it become a wonderful aura of his divine body. Holding his terrible trident in one of his hands, with the axe and antelope in the other arms and making the gesture of the gift of divine favour with the fourth hand, he, Shiva Matangari, takes here a terrifying face which paralyses especially those selfish and evil. He, the terrible Shiva Matangari, is accompanied then Parvati, who is profoundly amazed by his divine force that destroys evil promptly. Shiva Matangari is the Sovereign Master Shiva, the one who always triumphs over all hostile, vicious influences, which may disturb the sincere and fully devoted worshippers of God. ”

Article taken from Yoga Magazine No.43



November 2011


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