If the mention of the word Siva (auspicious) in the Vedas is considered to refer to Lord Siva, Siva spans all periods of Hindu mythology. No matter when he enters Hindu mythology, Siva is among the two or three most important gods— either as one of the later Hindu Triad, as the highest of the many gods (devas), or as the Absolute itself (Brahman).
One might think of layer upon layer of stories about Siva. Viewed from the present, the mythologies are intertwined and very complex. If each layer is viewed separately within the period of its development, there were different versions of the same story—some seeming to contradict the others.
Siiva not only had an independent mythology but also influenced the evolutionary patterns of the minor gods of later myths. Siva was the father of two significant minor gods named Ganesha and Skanda, or Kartikeya. The influence of Genesis Was reflected in the life of any Hindu in the regard for this deity as the remover of all obstacles.
In early Vedic texts mighty Rudra, the wrathful one and a god of storms, was referred to as Siva, the auspicious one. However, in the next period Siva appeared in the Epics as a god of supreme status, probably elevated from tribal origins. Then in the later Puranic texts he was given the popular epithet Mahesvara- Sankara-Siva—the first element meaning “the great god” and the second and third meaning “the auspicious one.” The transformation from the Vedic Rudram and Purusha to the Puranic Siva (and later to the Tantric Bhairava) might also indicate the merging of early myths into the later Saivite traditions, demonstrating the process of religious institutionalization of mythology. Finally the Siva Purana attributed all the three cosmic functions of creation, preservation, and destruction to the three forms of Sada-Siva (the always auspicious one). That replaced the post-Vedic version of the Hindu Triad (in which Siva was the destroyer of that which was created by Brahma and preserved by Vishnu) with a Siva who was the Absolute. Since, as it is told in the Kurma Purana, he was the lord of destruction and began and ended creation, he was also the master of death, Mrityunjaya, and time, Mahakala. There were also myths in Markandeya Purana propounding the nature of Siva as exceeding the powers of Yama, the god of death. Siva stood distinct among the Hindu gods for his complex and yet paradoxically unique features. He was an ascetic and detached from the attractions of life, yet at the same time the only god symbolically represented with sexual imagery. Though he was an ascetic he was worshipped (all over India) symbolically in the form of the linga (phallus), which was a sign of the ordinary life of householders and of procreation. What was interesting was that sexual imagery itself was used in order to transcend the innuendoes of the same—by its very use
Siva as Mahayogi is the master ascetic. (TRIP)
the imagery became nonsexual. Through worshipping the linga one went beyond the ordinary experiences of procreation. (Scattered over the map of India are twelve temples dedicated to the worship of the jyotirlingas, “fire lingas,” the consecrated symbolic image of Siva in the form of the phallus.) This interesting feature of the symbolism of a supreme god like Siva was justified, according to the many variants of a myth about a curse from the sage Bhrigu upon Siva: Siva would be the only god not worshipped by his face.
Siva was the master of dance, and the only one of the gods who could plunge into motionless yogic tapas (ascetic practices) and meditation. Though he himself was a resident of the graveyard (smasana vasi) and the lord of ghosts and goblins, he was the bestower of wealth and prosperity (Sankara).
As the king or lord of dance (Nataraja), Siva perfected dance, relating power (tandava natana) and grace (lasya natana) manifested through the physical body and affecting the cosmic body of the universe. Symbolically, Siva as Nataraja represented the intricate process of causation and the profound philosophical ideas associated with it. The ash-smeared, ferocious, and angry Siva danced alone in the graveyard, burning down all that was created. His tandava natana marked the destruction and return of what had been created to an original state of equilibrium. A story connected with the tandava of Siva was that of the Daksha yaga, of Sati’s jumping into the fire altar, after being humiliated by her father Daksha. Siva danced in the most ferocious way and destroyed the entire setting of the yaga (sacrifice). He himself, not able to bear the throes of the pain he felt over his wife’s ending her life, ended the manifested universe to find solitude.
While the tandava dance of Siva was always associated with his dancing alone in the absence of his female counterpart, the lasya natana was of more aesthetic significance. It involved the gentle moods of Siva and Parvati, his wife (or second wife in some accounts). The lasya natana of the divine couple was depicted in popular iconography as the ardha nareeswara or half male (right side), half female (left side). This was the dance of peace, love, and creation. Both tandava and lasya constituted the cosmic dance of Siva.
Siva was not only the king of dance and abode of auspiciousness (Sivam) that resulted in the epitome of that which was beautiful (sundaram) but also the origin of truth (satyam). He was the one god who encompassed the three seemingly contradictory planes of truth: beauty and wisdom and power. Therefore, one saw him as the great ascetic, the great dancer, and the great Yogi.
Siva was the first teacher of humankind, according to one myth, told in the Dakshinamurti Stotra. He presented the wisdom of immortality to mortals. He took the form of a young teacher facing northwards, the Dakshina murti (one who faces north). And, quite appropriately, the mode of teaching was silence.
Another notable feature throughout the development of myths about Siiva was his third eye and its nature. Siiva was the god of yogic powers. Siiva granted the light of wisdom through his third eye or turned the object of his wrath into ashes by the fire emanating from it. From the stories about his third eye came the popular epithets of Kshipra Prasadi (one who is compassionate to bless) and Kshipra Kopi (one who is wrathful). He was worshipped on the day of Shivaratri by the panchakshari mantra Siva, the five-syllable mantra aum namah Shivaya, and by the thousand and eight epithets describing his glories.
Iconographically, the linga was the most universal symbol of Siva as the generative principle of the universe. However, there were numerous forms of Siva that the artist captured to reflect the contrasting features of the mythology.
Temples to Siiva were often located at places celebrated in the scriptures or by local myths and legends. For example, the Elephanta cave temples carry out an extraordinary mythic program, telling of Siva and Parvati‘s lila (love play) in a cosmic game of dice symbolizing the creation and involution of time and space, causality, life and death, age after age.