Symbols associated with Lord Shiva


Symbols associated with Lord Shiva


Shiva Lingam/Jyotirlingam—References: The Atharva Veda’s (i) Bhasma Jabal
Upanishad, Canto 2, paragraph nos. 11-12,14 refer to the Shiva’s ‘Lingam’ and to his
‘Jyotirlingam’; (ii) Gopal Uttar Tapini Upanishad, verse no. 12.
The Atharva Veda’s Gopal Uttar Tapini Upanishad, verse no. 12 gives the names
of some of the twenty Shiva Lingams as follows—“Vireshwar, Rudreshwar,
Ambikeshwar, Ganeshwar, Neelkanth, Gopaleshwar, Bhadreshwar etc.”
The Shiva Lingam is a gross manifestation of Shiva who himself is a divine,
subtle and sublime Being. Just like the case of the rest of this creation being a visible and
gross manifestation of the supreme transcendental Brahm, the cosmic Supreme Being,
Lord Shiva’s Lingams too represents the otherwise invisible, attribute-less, cosmic, all-
pervading and the most sublime Lord Shiva’s subtle form in its grosser aspect or form
that is visible, and has attributes like the other grosser manifestations of the Supreme Being known as Brahm. This is one of the primary reasons why Lord Shiva is also called
‘Maha-deva’, the Great God, because he is none other than Brahm himself.
The Shiva’s Lingam is like an icon that is normally used to stand as a unique
symbol for a particular deity or God. It is an emblem of Shiva. If we look at the Lingam
closely we observe that it is a cylindrical structure passing through the center of a circular
girdle or ring. This structure reminds one of a wheel with the central axle. This imagery is
used to indicate the fact that Shiva is the supreme transcendental Brahm around whom
the whole of the creation rotates. ‘Rotates’ is a metaphoric way of saying that the entire
creation depends upon Brahm; it is centered around Brahm; Brahm is the pivot that
supports the entire edifice of creation. Just like the wheel cannot move if the axle is
removed, this creation cannot survive if Brahm, the Consciousness and the Truth of
creation, is removed from it. The fact that this creation is like a wheel rotating around the
central axle called Brahm is endorsed in a number of Upanishads, e.g. (a) Atharva Veda =
Prashna Upanishad, Canto 1, verse no. 11; Canto 6, verse no. 6; Mundak Upanishad,
Mundak (Canto) 2, section 2, verse no. 6; Nrisingh Purvatapini Upanishad, Canto 5, verse
nos. 2-7; Naradparivrajak Upanishad, Canto 9, verse nos. 4, 6; Tripdvibhut Maha-
Narayan Upanishad, Canto 7, paragraph 3-14 (which describes the ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ of
Vishnu); Shandilya Upanishad, Canto 1, section 4, verse no. 6-7 (which describes the
wheel or Chakra that is present in the navel and how it keeps the creature trapped in it);
Tripura Tapini Upanishad, Canto 2 (which describes the Sri Chakra dedicated to Goddess
Tripura who is regarded as the Mother Goddess; Surya Upanishad, verse no. 1 (describes
the Sun God as the one who keeps the wheel of life and death, known as the Kaal Chakra,
rotating). (b) Krishna Yajur Veda = Shwetashwatar Upanishad, Canto 1, verse no. 4, 6;
Canto 5, verse no. 12; Canto 6, verse nos. 1-3. (c) Shukla Yajur Veda = Paingalo-
panishad, Canto 4, verse nos. 3-4.
Besides this eclectic viewpoint we also observe that a cylinder is a smooth surface
that is round from all sides. It appears the same from whichever side one sees it. This
signifies the fact that Brahm is uniform and even in all respects, and neither does it have
any specific form and feature. Like the Lingam passing through the circular girdle around
it, the entire creation too forms a ring that moves around Brahm which holds the creation
together and passes through its center. Now, this ‘center’ also means a core, and hence
this refers to the Atma, the soul, that is the pivot or the core around which life revolves in
this world.
If we look further ahead and observe a potter’s wheel and how the potter moulds
his pots and pans on it we find that it has a striking resemblance to the Shiva Lingam. As
the wheel turns the potter expertly raises the shape of his wares at its center, and the
rotating potter’s wheel can be treated as an apt metaphor for the way the Shiva Lingam
represents the phenomenon of creation moulded from the dynamic energy of Brahm
revealed as the Shakti that continuously revolves around the principal known as Brahm.
Iconographically, the Shiva Lingam has three distinct parts—the lower part fixed
to the ground stands for Brahma the creator; the middle part of the wheel stand for
Vishnu the sustainer and protector of creation; and the upper part of the cylinder
represents Rudra the concluder. These three Trinity Gods stand for the three basic and
fundamental aspects of creation—birth, development and growth, and finally the end.
They thus represent Brahm in its entirety.

The Shiva Lingam is called Jyotirlingam because it is mentioned in the Linga
Puran, Chapters 17-20 that the Shiva Lingam appeared as an endless shaft of fire. And
‘fire’ is characterized by the virtues of light and illumination. It came to be known as the
‘Linga’ because all the creatures of this creation have a gross body in which their soul or
their Atma lived, called the ‘Linga Deha’, and they reproduced themselves with the help
of the genitals, called the ‘Linga’. Since only the Supreme Being has this capacity to
create and then sustain his creation, the grosser form of the Lord in the form of this
creation and its self-replicating creatures was symbolized in the grosser symbol of the
Linga. In other word, the Lingam represents the whole creation in a miniature gross
form. This icon of Brahm is called ‘Shiva’ Lingam because Shiva is a personified form of
Brahm.
It is also believed that it is called ‘Lingam’ because the entire creation would
collapse at the end in Brahm, the ethereal cosmic Consciousness. The phrase ‘Linga
Deha’ literally refers to the ethereal form of the corporal body of a creature. So when the
creature sheds the body, his Atma would merge with the cosmic Atma known as
Parmatma. Since Lord Shiva is the Parmatma—the Supreme Being—of this creation, it is
natural that his symbol would be called a Lingam. It is to emphasize the fact that one
should not be misled by its outer gross structure of being merely a cylindrical structure
made of stone or rock but a divine symbol of the cosmic Atma that cannot be visualized
by the naked eyes.
The physical Lingam is the visible form of the invisible Linga Deha of Shiva
which is the Lord’s ethereal and cosmic form.
The fact that the Lingam is an image of Lord Shiva is affirmed by the Lord
himself in the Atharva Veda’s Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto 2, paragraph nos. 12
where the Lord preaches about the immense symbolic metaphysical importance and
signifance of the Lingam, and in paragraph nos. 14-15 when he preaches about the great
many benefits of worshipping the Shiva Lingam which is his image, and how to worship
it. To quote—
“verse no. 12 =[This verse emphasizes the importance and the significance of the Shiva
Lingam as follows—] Even the Sun God, the Moon God, the Fire God and the Wind God
(i.e. the primary Gods) are unaware of the mysteries and enigmatic glories of this Shiva-
Lingam.
 The self-illuminated and self-emerged or self-created Lingam extends as far as the
pit of the earth known as Paataal.
 This Shiva-Lingam is an image of me who am the Lord of the world. Hence, it is
known as ‘Vishwanaath’ Lingam.
 Worshipping it and paying obeisance to it is directly worshipping and paying
obeisance to me.
 A worshipper who offers his worship and obeisance to me, who serves me and
honours me with full devotion, sincerity and faith, by offering three leaves of the Bilva
tree, and then offers the auspicious rewards of such exemplary worship to me (rather than
expecting any gain for himself in return for such worship or service), who wears the
Bhasma (sacred ash) and the Rudraksha beads as prescribed, who has sought my shelter
and has taken refuge in my holy feet, and who is an unquestioned and most committed
devotee of mine—verily I say that I accept his worship and free him from the fetter
represented by the endless cycle of birth and death.

Even a great sin and its evil consequences are neutralized by offering daily
worship to my Shiva-Lingam, by offering libations to me (a process known as
‘Abhishek’) and praying to me by reading or reciting the hymns of the Rudra Skuta daily
with the greatest of devotion and faith, and then drinking the water left over after the
completion of worship and offering of libations to my Lingam.
 Such a devotee is free from all sorrows, grief, miseries and torments. He is freed
from the shackling effect of this mundane and entrapping world. [12]
“verse no. 14 = (Benefits of worshipping the Shiva Lingam—) By offering libations to
my Lingam, which is my image, with the milk drawn from a Kapila cow (i.e. a cow with
reddish-brown, white, or white-spotted skin) while reciting the hymns of the Rudra
Sukta, a devotee can obtain purification (pardon) from the horrendous sin of killing a
Brahmin.
 Offering of libations with the curd made from the milk of the Kapila cow helps
one to eliminate or clean the great sin caused by drinking intoxicating liquids.
 Offering of libations with clarified butter made from the milk of the Kapila cow
helps one to overcome the grave sin caused by stealing gold (or theft of any kind).
 Offering of libations with honey helps one to overcome the horrible ignominy and
sin caused by being amorous towards the wife of one’s Guru (teacher and moral
preceptor).
 Offering of libations with white sugar helps one to overcome the sin of being
cruel to others.
 Offering of libations with milk and other products (as prescribed above) helps the
devotee fulfill all his aspirations, desires and wishes.
 By offering libations one hundred times with quantity of materials that are one
hundred times more than that used for one standard routine offering (i.e. roughly 100
kilograms or 1 quintal by weight) helps the aspirant to free himself from the fetters that
shackle him to this world. [14]
“verse no. 15 = (How to worship the Shiva Lingam—) My (Shiva’s) image in the form of
the Shiva-Lingam should be offered worship during the time of the Aadra Nakshatra (an
asterism known as Aadra), on the full moon day, on the new moon day, the Vyatipaat
Yoga (the seventeenth astrological union of stars), on the occasion of eclipses (solar and
lunar), and on the day of the Sakranti (the summer and winter solstice).
 During these days, worship should be done by first offering libations followed by
oblations. For this, the following items are to be used—sesame seeds, rice, barley, three
leaves of the Bilva tree, clarified butter made from the milk of the Kapila cow, scents and
fragrances, incense sticks, lighted lamp, sweets, fruit etc. Then flowers and water in
cupped palms of the hands should be offered most respectfully at the end of the worship.
 By offering worship and service to me with devotion and faith, the devotee
obtains Sayujya Mukti (i.e. he becomes one with me).
 If the worship is done with rice of quantity that is one hundred times that used for
standard routine worship (i.e. roughly 100 kilograms or 1 quintal), the worshipper obtains
the abode of the Moon God known as Chandra-loka.
 If equal quantity of sesame seeds (i.e. roughly 100 kilograms or 1 quintal) is used
for worship, the worshipper obtains the abode of the Vayu God (the Wind God).

If equal quantity of horse beans (i.e. roughly 100 kilograms or 1 quintal) is used
for worship, the worshipper obtains the abode of the Varun God (the Water God).
 If equal quantity of barley (i.e. roughly 100 kilograms or 1 quintal) is used for
worship, the worshipper obtains the abode of the Surya God (the Sun God).
 If twice the above amount of items are used for worship (i.e. if roughly 200
kilograms or 2 quintals are used), the worshipper obtains the higher heaven known as the
Swarga-loka.
 If four times the above quantity of items are used for offering worship to me (i.e.
if roughly 400 kilograms or 4 quintals are used), the worshipper obtains the abode known
as Brahma-loka, or the abode of Brahma the creator.
If worship is offered to me or my Lingam by using the items needed for such
worship measuring one hundred times than the standard offerings (i.e. if roughly 100 x
100 = 10,000 kilograms or 100 quintals are used), the worshipper is freed from the
jurisdiction of death, or clutches of death, as far as the Brahm-Kosha. [That is, he is freed
from the fear of death till the time the creator would be born again. The word ‘Kosh’
means the source from which Brahma the creator was born, the point of time when
Brahma was born. Refer paragraph no. 20 of this Canto 2 below.]
Since he is my devotee, he crosses over from the abode of Brahma and reaches
my abode known as the Shiva-Loka that is beyond it. There is no abode or heaven better
than it. He becomes free from all miseries and sorrows upon attaining it. He is freed from
all fetters and encumbrances that had kept him shackled.
By worshipping me in my form as the Lingam, ascetics have attained great
mystical powers. Those who do fire sacrifices (i.e. the worshippers of the sacred fire) are
actually offering their obeisance to me when they offer their oblations to the sacred fire.
It is me whose magnificence, holiness, eclectic glories and divine virtues are sung and
lauded by the Vedas in their hymns.
It is proved beyond doubt by the great scriptures such as the Vedangas (branches
of Vedas), the Upanishads, and the Itihaasas (ancient mythological histories) that there is
nothing besides me in this creation. Everything is me; everything is established in me; I
am the foundation and basis of everything. [This is because Lord Shiva is the supreme
transcendental Brahm personified. Nothing exists in this creation that is not Brahm; it is
Brahm who has manifested or revealed in every single unit of creation.] [15]”
The 12 Jyoti-Lingams—There are said to be twelve divine Lingams of Shiva, known as
the ‘Jyoti-lingams/Jyotirlingams’, meaning self-radiant symbols of Lord Shiva. They are
as follows—
 (i) Sri Somnath (the Lord of Soma, the elixir of bliss; the Lord who wears the
moon on his forehead)—This Lingam is situated in Saurashtra or Kathiawaad area of the
western seaboard of India, located in the state of Gujrat. The particular area is also known
in ancient scriptures as Prabhaas-kshetra.
 (ii) Sri-Shail (the holy mountain)—This Lingam is located atop a mountain
named Sri Mallikaarjun in the Krishna district of the state of Tamil Nadu in south India.
It is often called the Kailash of the south, and is situated on the banks of river Krishna.
 (iii) Sri Maha-Kaal (the Great Lord who controls death)—This Lingam is located
the town of Ujjain (also known as Avantika-puri) in the Malwa area of Madhya Pradesh
state of western India.
(iv) Sri Omkareshwar or Amaleshwar (the Lord whose cosmic form is represented
by the sublime sound of the divine word OM)—This Lingam is located on the banks of
river Narmada in the Malwa area of the state of Madhya Pradesh.
 (v) Sri Vaidya-nath (the Lord of medicinal herbs; the Lord who takes care of the
physical health and spiritual well-being of the world)—This Lingam is located in the
eastern part of India in the district of Santhaal Paragana in the present state of Jharkhand
(previously Bihar). [According to many beliefs, there is another Lingam with the same
name located in a village known as Parli. This village is near the town of Parvhani which
itself is near the city of Hyderabad, the capital of the south-eastern state of Andhra
Pradesh.
 (vi) Sri Bhim-shankar (the Lord who was worshipped by Bhim, one of the
Pandavas who were contemporaries of Lord Krishna during the Dwapar Yug, the era that
preceded the present era known as Kaliyug)—This Lingam is situated on the banks of
river Bhimaa, and is at a place that is east of the city of Mumbai and west of Pune in the
state of Maharastra in the west of India. The Lingam is present atop a hill known as
‘Sahya-Parvat’. It is believed that in ancient times this area was infested by ghosts and
phantoms, hence is also known as ‘Daakini’—the female ghosts. [According to
traditional belief, two other Lingams are also known by this name. One is mentioned in
the Shiva Puran, and this Bhimshankar Lingam is located in the north-eastern state of
Assam. Its exact location is atop a hill by the name of Brahma-pur which is situated in the
district of Kaam-rup near the state’s capital city of Gauhati. The other Bhimshankar
Lingam is said to be located at a place called Ujjanak in the district of Nainital in the
northern state of Uttaraanchal.]
 (vii) Sri Rameshwaram (the patron God of Lord Ram; the Lord who was
worshipped by Sri Ram, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu during the second of the four-era
cycle of creation and destruction, known as the Treta-yug)—This Lingam is located in
the southern tip of India in the district of Ram-nad in the state of Tamil Nadu. It was
established and worshipped by Lord Ram himself just before he launched his assault on
Lanka to free his divine consort Sita from the clutches of the demon king Ravana, as well
as to eliminate the demons who had been tyrannizing the world. This event is mentioned
in all the versions of the epic Ramayana that describes the story of the life and times of
Lord Ram.
 (viii) Sri Naageshwar (the Lord of serpents)—This Lingam is situated in the
district of Baroda in the state of Gujrat. This area is also known as Darukaa-van.
[According to some traditions, there are said to be two other places which are also known
by this name. One is in the village of Audhaa-gram in the district of Hyderabad in the
state of Andhra Pradesh. The second place is believed to be about 17 miles north-east
from Almora in the foothills of the Himalayas in the north of India.
 (ix) Sri Vishwa-nath (the Lord of the world)—This Lingam is situated in the well
known city of Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh in central part of India. It is located
on the banks of the holy river Ganges, and is also believed to be the terrestrial abode of
Lord Shiva. Varanasi is also known as Kashi in ancient texts, hence this Lingam is given
another name that associates it with this holy pilgrim city—and it is ‘Kashi
Vishwanaath’, the Lord of Kashi.
 (x) Sri Trayambakeshwar (the Lord with three eyes)—This Lingam is located on
the banks of river Godavari near a hill known as Brahma-giri in the district of Nasik in the state of Maharashtra. It is situated roughly 18 miles from a place known as Panchavati
where it is believed that Lord Ram had stayed during his forest exile, and it is here that
the demoness Supernakha had got her nose and ears chopped off for annoying Lord Ram.
 (xi) Sri Kedar-nath (the Lord of Mt. Kedaar)—This Lingam is situated atop a
peak known as Kedaar near the upper reaches of river Mandakini (Ganges) located in the
lofty northern part of the mighty mountain range known as the Himalayas. The famous
shrine of Badrinaath dedicated to Lord Vishnu is located on the upper banks of river
Alaknanda to the east of this Kedaar mountain. The shrine falls under the jurisdiction of
the state of Uttar Khand in northern India.
(xii) Sri Ghus-meshwar or Ghusri-neshwar—This Lingam of Lord Shiva is
located in a shrine that is roughly 12 miles away from Daulatabad railway station, in the
village of Berul.
The significance of the moon on his forehead, and his five heads and the ten arms—
Lord Shiva has been depicted in the Purans as having a crescent moon on his forehead.
The moon is said to have sixteen Kalaas or phases, symbolizing the sixteen Kalaas or
aspects out of the total of sixty four Kalaas of the supreme Brahm. These sixteen Kalaas
represent the visible world which is one fourth part of the entire creation consisting of the
remaining of the Kalaas of Brahm. The visible world is called ‘one Pada’ or one leg or
one aspect or Kalaa of Brahm. So, Shiva is the Lord who presides over the entire visible
part of creation, and this world is his ornamentation in the sense that the Lord appears to
be so beautiful if we consider the beauty of Nature as the astounding beauty and the
expert craftsmanship of Shiva on display.
 The moon present on Shiva’s forehead also stands for the various eclectic
qualities called Kalaas that he possesses and which adorn him like the moon.
Symbolically, the devotee is advised to follow the example of his chosen deity Lord
Shiva and note the symbolism of the Moon on his head. These eclectic qualities should be
as prominent as the moon on the head of Shiva and they should form an integral part of
the character of the devotee if he wishes to place himself in the position of being called a
sincere follower and worshipper of Lord Shiva. Now let us have a glimpse of these
Kalaas. They are the various eclectic qualities or attributes that an exalted man should
possess, and briefly they are the following—(i) Shraddha (faith, believe, conviction,
reverence, respect, devotion), (ii) Pran (life; the very essence of creation; the
vibrations of life; the rhythm and essential functions pertaining to life), (iii) Akash
(the all-pervading, all-encompassing sky or space element), (iv) Vayu (wind,
air element), (v) Tej (energy, splendour, radiance, glory, might, majesty and fire
element), (vi) Apaha (water element which is the all-important ingredient for life),
(vii) ‘Prithivi’ (earth element which is the base or foundation for all mortal
creation), (viii) Indriya (the organs of the body, both the organs of perception as
well as of action), (ix) Mana (the mind and heart complex and their stupendous
potentials), (x) Anna (food, the element without which life is simply not imaginable
because it provides it with the basic nourishment and energy), (xi) Virya (semen,
sperms, standing for courage, valour, potency, vitality and prowess), (xii) Tapa
austerity and penance, tolerance of hardship as a means of penitence, forbearance as well
as carrying out strict religious vows in order to purify one’s self) (xiii) Mantra the ability to give good advise, the power to contemplate and think, concentrate and focus,
logically arrive at a conclusion), Karma (taking actions and doing deeds), (xv)
Loka (worldly interactions and behaviours), and (xvi) Naam (good name,
fame, reputation, honour and glory).
Reference should be made to the Chandogya Upanishad, 6/7/1-6 of Sam Veda
tradition in this context.
The five heads of Shiva stand for the ‘Panch Vyom’ or the five forms that the sky
element is said to have. According to Vedanta, the concept of the sky or ‘Akash’ has
many connotations. According to one interpretation, there are five subtle skies
representing the space surrounding the five sheaths or Koshas present in the body of a
creature. They are the sheaths that surround the Atma and are called ‘Panch Akash’.
These are the following—(1) the Food Sheath called Anna Maye Kosh; (2) the Vital Air
Sheath called Pran Maye Kosh; (3) the Mental Sheath called Manomaye Kosh; (4) the
Intelluctual Sheath called Vigyan Maye Kosh; and (5) the Bliss Sheath called Anand
Maye Kosh. Refer—Mudgal Upanishad, 4/5 of the Rig Veda.

The ten arms of Shiva stand for the ten forms of the subtle sky element. They are the
following—(1) Ghatakash—the space inside a hollow pot; (2) Mathakash—the space
inside a holy building, such as a holy shrine, a monastery, an abbey etc.; (3)
Hridayakash—the subtle space inside the heart; (4) Akash—the vacant or blank space
above the earth; (5) Suryakash—the space of the solar system; the space around the sun,
or the solar system illuminated by the light of the sun; (6) Paraakash— the space above or
beyond the solar system, it is said to burn with the celestial fire; (7) Mahakash— the
great sky that is aglow with divine illumination, the heaven; that space which is radiant
with a divine glow; (8) Paramakash— the supreme sky beyond the Mahakash, it is said to
be very magnificent and encloses everything that exists, including all the other skies; that
space which is illuminated, all pervading, all encompassing and full of bliss and felicity;
(9) Tattwakash— the elementary space that is at the core of the concept of space, or the
space that surrounds the basic elements of creation; by natural corollary it refers to the
subtle, sublime, ethereal and supreme space where the eternal, transcendental Brahm has
his abode because Brahm is the cause of all the basic elements of creation; there is
complete beatitude and felicity there; that space which surrounds the essential truth
known as Brahm; and (10) Anatariksha—the physical space where stars are present in
deep space; the inter-galactic space. Besides these, there is one more space called
‘Swarga’ which means heaven or the Duloka.
These skies have been ascribed different names just to facilitate understanding,
and not because any one form of sky is fundamentally different from the other. For
example, the space present inside the mud-pot, called the Ghata-kash, is the same as the
space present outside the body of the pot. When the pot is broken, the demarcation wall
of the body of the pot is removed, and both the space inside and outside of the erstwhile
pot become indistinguishably and inseparably the same. Therefore, the various names are
artificial and misnomers.
To quote Yogtattva Upanishad, verse no. 100—“This Lord Shiva is most pure and
immaculate, and as clear and clean as pure crystal1
. He has a crescent moon tucked in the  lock of hairs on his head. He has five mouths, is very sober, gentle and pleasant, has ten
arms and three eyes (100).
[Note—Since Lord Shiva is the patron God of Yogis or those ascetics who do Yoga,
especially those who practice its exercises and rituals as propounded by Patanjali, and
this Upanishads deals with Yoga, the supreme transcendental Supreme Being known as
Brahm of metaphysics and Upanishads is personified here in him.]”
The significance of the serpents wrapped around his body—The snakes that are wrapped
around Lord Shiva show that he is beyond the power of death and poison.
These coiled serpents around his body indicate the fact that he constantly reminds
himself of imminent death, because serpents are very poisonous and symbolise
immediate death. They also remind him about the unholy and poisonous nature of the
gross world. This helps him to remain focused on his spiritual aim of self-realisation
instead of being attracted by the material charms of this material world of sense objects
and getting deluded by them.
The serpents also signify that Shiva is the Lord of death; he is death personified.
Since he is able to wrap the serpents around his body and they cannot harm him, it
indicates the fact that he has conquered death. That is why he is called ‘Mrityunjay’, the
conqueror of death.
Again, the coiled serpents represent the Kundalini, the coiled subtle cosmic
energy center at the base of the spine which when activated can entitle the spiritual
aspirant to experience a burst of stupendous spiritual energy which provides him a
glimpse of his own divine powers as well as the powers of the cosmic Consciousness
present inside his bosom as his Atma. This Kundalini is activated by doing numerous
Yoga exercises as described in the Upanishads on the subject of Yoga.
The coiled serpents may also represent cycles of time in the macrocosm and the
basic energy of life in the microcosm in the form of sexual energy.
These reptiles are very ferocious, dangerous, poisonous, and a symbol of male
potency. The symbolism is that Shiva is a very potent God who can be extremely ruthless
and unforgiving towards sinful creatures. He has exercised extreme self control and has
‘girdled’ or readied himself in preparation for enduring the greatest of hardships and
sufferance for self-realisation as well as to provide the world with liberation and
deliverance. The serpents warn his enemies not to fool around with him. That is also why
he has fire in one of his hands. This fire signifies his ability to reduce to ashes the entire
physical world consisting of falsehood and sins as well as eliminate all impurities,
imperfections, faults and shortcomings that cripple the creature’s spiritual well being.
The Trident of Lord Shiva is known as ‘Trishul’, and it represents the three Gunas, or the
three natural tendencies or the three fundamental qualities that are inherent in this
creation and they govern all characteristics in the living world. These three Gunas are
known respectively as the Sata Guna, the Raja Guna, and the Tama Guna.
The Trident is known as the ‘Trishul’, and is one of the most popular symbols
associated with Lord Shiva. It is a weapon used by Lord Shiva for the restoration of
Dharma. But the Trishul has a deeper symbolic meaning as follows—
The Trishul symbolizes the balance of the three forces of preservation, creation and
destruction. It represents the three aspects of consciousness—cognition, conation and
affection.

The sound of Shiva's two-sided drum represents the cosmic sound known as Naad that
reverberates in the background of the cosmos. This sound is symbolically represented by
the sound that is produced by uttering the word OM.
The vehicle or mount of Lord Shiva is the white bull called the Nandi—which means the
cheerful one, the joyful one. The bull on which Lord Shiva rides represents virility and
strength, the animal-like power and basic instincts in a man.
In Shiva temples, there is always a reclining bull placed in front of the chief
shrine or just outside it, with the head turned away from the deity but the gaze fixed on it.
It is interpreted as the Jivatma, the individual soul of all living being, with its animal-like
nature pulling it away from God, but the Lord’s grace pulling it back towards him.
Lord Shiva is often depicted in the Purans and imagery as seated on a tiger skin or wears
a tiger skin. Here, the tiger represents the stupendous power of the mind.
Lord Shiva lives on Mount Kailash that is located in the northern side of the mighty
mountain range known as the Himalayas.


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credit : Ajai Kumar Chhawchharia