Is Shiva the chosen god of the youth's generation? There are TV shows revolving around him. Books are being written about him. Numerous magazines are doing cover stories on this latest fad. How much of it is devotion? Or is any of it devotion? The youth don't seem to relate to Shiva as a god or object of devotion. They seem to take him in as more of a "cool dude."
The Indian media noted this phenomenon quite a while ago, with the rise of the Devon ke Dev TV serial, the mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik's books, and who can forget Amish's trilogy. Arun Poorie, Editor-in-Chief of India Today wrote in his magazine: "In his rising popularity, Shiva has left behind Krishna and Ram, the avatars of Vishnu, both of whom had dominated popular culture since the 1980s."
In fact, it is the first time that I have seen a national magazine give such widespread coverage to a religious figure, and so unabashedly. This indicates that they realized that Shiva is no longer merely a religious figure, he has entered the imagination of popular culture and enjoying a wave of entirely non-denominational support.
That is not to say that he is popular across lines of religion (though I have seen even Christians sporting a rudraksha mala because it is cool). Perhaps most of those who are "into" Shiva are Hindus. But though that may be their religion according to the census or their ID cards, they do not relate to Shiva as a Hindu relating to a god of the Hindu pantheon.
It is something more deep-seated than religion that draws people to Shiva. Maybe it is his penchant for wildness and the unconventional. Youth always seem to go in for that. Isha Foundation's Sadhguru calls Shiva the "ultimate outlaw." Perhaps it is the stories told in the Shiva Purana about his all-inclusiveness - gods, demons, ghouls and goblins, all find a place in his entourage. Maybe it is the fact that he is supposed to smoke cannabis and drink alcohol, and yet remain the ultimate ascetic. Maybe it is all of these factors.
What appeals to me about Shiva is the fact that he embodies so many contrasts. A married man who can also be a celibate ascetic; a wild dancer who can sit absolutely still in meditation; his grief knows no bounds when Sati dies, yet he casually lops of ganesha's head. He embodies every aspect of human nature. If you can make your peace with this bewildering multidimensional individual, you've made your peace with the existence and everything in it.
Either way, it is heartening that today's youth can take Shiva and raise him to such heights while still maintaining the secular nature and diversity of Indian culture. As Arun Poorie said, "I find it interesting that Shiva's rising popularity graph has little to do with religion. Even atheists are happy to play along. Remarkably, it is a completely secular cultural trend. Om Namah Shivaya.