Last weekend we took a road trip to the coastal town Murudeshwara (another name for the Hindu god Shiva), located two hours north of Manipal on the National Highway 66 (India’s very own Route 66). Continue driving north on the same road and you’ll end up in Goa (we were toying with that idea for a brief instant). But, instead, we decided to stick to more cultural activities.
Murudeshwara is home to the world’s second tallest statue of Hindu god Shiva, the Lord of destruction and transformation. Along with two other deities, Brahma the creator and Vishnu the preserver, the Hindu triad form the Holy Trinity in Hinduism, also called trimurti in Sanskrit.
Lord Shiva is responsible for destruction or rather change in both a positive and negative sense. He brings death as well as destruction of the ego which also includes the breaking of old habits and attachments. The power of destruction associated with Shiva is therefore of a purifying nature as it opens up a path for new creations and opportunities.
The statue is visible from a great distance and stands 37 metres (123 feet) high. Opposite the statue and in walking distance you can find the 20-storied Gopura (72 metres, 237 feet), where two life-size elephants stand guard at the entrance. A Gopura or Gopuram is an ornate, monumental tower serving as gateway at the entrance of each temple, especially in southern India.
The main mythological and iconographic attributes of Lord Shiva are: the trident, the snakes that show his power beyond death and poison, the two-sided drum which maintains the rhythm of the heartbeat and the white bull Nandi which serves him as a vehicle. Often, Shiva will be seated on a tiger skin or will be wearing one, the tiger representing the mind. He lives on Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas.
Photographs by Paula Mittermayer and Natalia Flemming