Indian tradition describes Shiva in various forms, each one of which represents a powerful possibility for the evolution of one’s inner self. I am going to describe few of the forms of Shiva here along with the basis which underlies each of them.
BHOLENATH- One of the most popular forms of Shiva is Bholenath, meaning the innocent or ignorant in literal terms. He is childlike and not very crafty with the worldly ways although he is a very powerful being. In other words, he does not subject or use his intelligence in petty things. This does, in no manner, imply that he is stupid, but he does not care enough to implement his intelligence in petty ways.
NATARAJA- Nataraja or Natesha, the lord of dance, is another very significant form of Shiva. The exuberance and dance of creation, self created from eternal stillness, is represented in the Nataraja form of Shiva. Chidambaram means absolute stillness and that is what makes Nataraja, standing in Chidambaram temple, absolutely symbolic. The art is to bring the same stillness into human beings. This is what has been so beautifully enshrined in this temple. True art can never come without stillness.
ARDHANARISHVARA- The Ardhanarishvara form, as the name signifies, finds one half of Shiva developed fully as a woman. This has been dome to make the inner masculinity and femininity so as to reach a state of perpetual ecstasy. Symbolically, it is not about two individuals wanting to meet but it is the two dimensions of life longing to meet both from inside as well as outside. This form shows that if one evolves in one’s ultimate context, he will be half man and half woman and not a neuter, thereby making him a full-blown human being.
KALABHAIRAVA- This is Shiva in his deadly form, that is, when he goes into destructing and destroying time which in turn would put an end to everything else. Shiva took over the form of Kalabhairava in order to create BhairavaYatana, thereby bringing about ultimate suffering and pain of great intensity at the time when death evades one. This situation brings an end to everything that is past, giving way to a super-intense suffering which has to end soon with life.
ADIYOGI- In this form, Shiva is looked at as the first Yogi, theAdiyogi or Adiguru, the first Guru who marked the origination of the yogic sciences. It was on Guru Purnima, the first full moon on Dakhshinayana, when Adiyogi transmitted the sciences for the first time to his first seven disciples known as the Saptarishis.
TRIAMBAKA-Triambaka, meaning having a third eye, and that is what Shiva has been referred to in this form. A third eye on the forehead means that he has been blessed with a perception which has reached its ultimate possibility, an eye of vision apart from the two physical eyes. The third eye is hence the eye which penetrates deeply so as to be able to see the Shiva in an individual. A perfect clarity comes only when one has an inner vision which in turn can be focused only with the help of the third eye. Shiva in this form has been referred to as the embodiment of ultimate perception.