Shiva contrasts with Vishnu in a number of ways. In the Hindu Trinity, his
main cosmological role is as the Destroyer - he brings each kalpa, or world
cycle, to an end with his dance of destruction. However, Shiva's force is by no
means just a negative one. As in modern physics, Hindu cosmology envisaged the
universe has having a cyclical nature. The end of each kalpa brought about by
Shiva's dance is also the beginning of the next. Rebirth follows destruction. In
the cosmological sense, Shiva's powers are more fundamental than Vishnu's.
The Khmers worshipped Shiva primarily in the form of a linga - a pillar,
usually in stone, derived from a phallus and representing the essence of the
god. The linga, mounted in a pedestal representing an equally abstract yoni, or
female organ, occupied the shrine of a temple, and, as for any statue, was the
focus of rituals conducted by the priests. The other forms in which Shiva was
represented were as the 10-armed god dancing the universe to destruction, just
mentioned, as the supreme yogi, or ascetic, and riding with his consort Uma on
his steed, the bull Nandi.
The third member of the Trinity, Brahma, despite his designation as the
Creator, was less commonly represented in Cambodia. He is worshipped in temples
where three shrines were used for the Trinity, one in each, such as at Phnom
Krom where he occupies the S shrine. In reliefs he is shown emerging from the
lotus that grows out of Vishnu's navel as he sleeps. Brahma is recognizable by
his four heads, each facing a cardinal direction.
He is also the god of the sky and rain, as such bringing prosperity. As
the chief of the guardians of the cardinal points, he is associated with the E
and is frequently seen on the E lintels. Like all Hindu gods he has a steed, or
vahana. In Indra's case, this is the elephant Airavata, normally shown with
three heads. Other gods include Ganesha (Shiva's elephant-headed son), Agni (the
Vedic god of fire), Kubera (guardian of the N), Surya (Vedic god of the sun),
Varuna (god of seas and rivers and guardian of the W) and Yama (god of Death and
guardian of the S).
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