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If you carefully see the idol of Lord Shiva, you'll find that there are many things that are unconventional and way different than any other Hindu God. Lord Shiva is depicted as a divine man having an ash-smeared blue body with a snake coiled around His neck and three half-opened eyes. He is also seen having a fearsome yet calm and soothing look. In Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva has a great significance and so do things associated with Him. This Maha Shivratri i.e., on 11 March 2021, we are here to tell you about the meaning behind the symbols associated with Him. Scroll down to read more.
1. The Crescent Moon
In Hindu mythology, days are controlled by the waxing and waning phases of the moon. The crescent moon of Lord Shiva shows that He controls the time. He is the master of both day and night. He is the one who controls nature and nothing is beyond His control.
2. The Blue Body
The blue body of Lord Shiva has many meanings. It represents the mythological incident where Lord Shiva drank Halahal, the deadly poison that came out during the samudra manthan. Since Lord Shiva drank the poison, His neck and eventually the entire body turned blue.
Apart from this, it is also believed that blue is the last colour that our eyes can see. Therefore, the sky appears to be blue when light from the sun scatters in the sky. And Lord Shiva is the last thing that our soul can know or see, He is depicted as blue.
Since the sky is nothing but space which itself is spaceless, limitless, timeless, boundless and directionless. This makes space quite similar to Lord Shiva who happens to have the same characteristic, His body is believed to be blue.
The ash smeared body of Lord Shiva and the ash (bhasma) kept near to Him has a great meaning. The ash is not an ordinary one. It is from the cremetay ground. In the Hindu culture, when someone dies, he/she is cremated by burning the corpse on a burning pyre. The corpse is then turned to ashes. It shows that no matter who you are or what you did in your life, at the end you will be turned into ashes. So accept the reality of death and make this world a beautiful place for others to live rather than feeding your materialistic body.
Talking about the bhasma smeared on the body of Lord Shiva represents the deity is beyond life and death.
4. The Ganga
The river Ganga is believed to be the purest source of water in Hindu culture. It is believed that taking a dip into the pure water of the river Ganga can liberate one from the materialistic world and remove his/her sins. The Ganga is often seen flowing through the matted locks of Lord Shiva. The flow of the Ganga river from Lord Shiva's Jata symbolises the flow of energy and knowledge.
It is said that once King Bhageerath performed tough Tapasya to please Goddess Ganga to come to the Earth and liberate his 16,000 ancestors who were reduced to ashes due to a curse. Ganga agreed but feared that once she descends on the Earth, her furious flow will destroy life on the planet. So Bhageerath pleased Lord Shiva to do something. Lord Shiva asked Ganga to descend on earth through His matted locks. He said that His locks would always control the flow of Ganga thus, preventing Her flow from bringing destruction on earth.
5. Matted Jata (Hair)
The matted hair of Lord Shiva represents all forms of life on earth along with the wind and air. Whenever a living one inhales, he/she breathes Lord Shiva because He is everywhere. He is animals, birds, insects, humans, reptiles, wind, ocean, air, plants, etc. He nourishes life on earth.
6. The Third Eye
It is believed that the third eye of Lord Shiva represents destruction. Though His third eye is always close, once it opens, massive destruction takes place in the universe. However, the third eye of Lord Shiva has meaning beyond this belief. The third eye represents yogic eyesight. One may not always be able to see things beyond the materialistic needs, desires, happiness and world through his/her two eyes. But when one is able to utilise his/her pineal gland or say the third eye, he/she is able to see things beyond space and time. The person moves onto higher consciousness. In fact, it would be no wrong to say that the third eye of Lord Shiva is the gateway between the materialistic and spiritual world.
7. Half-Opened Eyes
The half-opened eyes of Lord Shiva depict the cycle of life and the fact that there's no end or beginning to the cycle of life. When Lord Shiva's eyes are completely open, then it shows that a new life is born while His closed eyes represent the destruction of life. Since He is always meditating and He needs to ensure that the cycle of life goes on, He keeps His eyes half-opened.
Trishul is also known as the Trident which further represents the three powers of Lord Shiva. These three powers are ikchha (will), kriya (action) and Gyan (knowledge). One needs to focus on developing the desire to do something and then act for the same. Only then, the person will be able to gain knowledge. Also, the Trishul represents that one can destroy evil by using these three fundamental powers.
Apart from this the trident is said to represent past, present and future. Lord Shiva holding a trishul means He is the one who controls the time and is also the slayer of time.
If you look closely, you will find that there are three different stripes on Lord Shiva's forehead. These three stripes symbolise Guna. These Gunas are:
- Sattva Guna- This represents purity, harmony, welfare and construction, goodness, kindness, creativity and balance.
- Rajas Guna- This represent confusion, eagerness, passionate, self-centered and ego
- Tamas Guna- It represents laziness, weight, destruction and impurity.
Damaru is believed to be the musical instrument of Lord Shiva. Devotees believe that Lord Shiva dances on the sound of a damaru which represents the cosmic sound. The sound produced by damaru is said to be of 14 types which when combined create one sound which is quite similar to that of 'OM'. When one is in deep meditation he/she can easily agree that damaru has a different vibration.
11. Rudraksha Mala
The rudraksha seeds are believed to be Lord Shiva's tears. The rudraksha mala represents the elements of the universe. Lord Shiva is seen wearing a necklace made up of 108 rudraksha beads which symbolise that the lord Himself abides by the cosmic laws of the universe. It also symbolises divine knowledge.
12. Vasuki (Snake)
The snake coiled around Lord Shiva's neck is said to represent time and its three forms namely past, present and future. It shows that Lord Shiva has conquered both time and death. Since snakes are also said to have huge faith in Lord Shiva, they prayed to the deity to bless them as the world only criticises them. Therefore, Lord Shiva accepted snakes as His ornament. He shows that one can conquer anything if he/she has faith, perseverance and determination.
13. Baghambar Chhal (Tiger's Skin)
Since Lord Shiva sits on a tiger's skin, He is also known as Baghambar which is derived from two words; Bagh (tiger) and Ambar (skin or body). By sitting on the tiger's skin, Lord Shiva symbolises conquering one's fear and lust. It shows that Lord Shiva is above all kinds of materialistic thoughts and emotions.
Since the tiger is also considered to be the symbol of power and energy, Lord Shiva sitting on the tiger's skin shows that all kinds of energies and power flow through Him.
The kamandal of Lord Shiva has a great significance and is said to be related to humans. The kamandal is made up of pumpkin shell and holds 'Amrit' (elixir) in it. The kamandal is made by first plucking the pumpkin and removing all its content. After that, it is given the shape of a pot and the Amrit is kept in it. Similarly, we as humans need to discard all evil thoughts, greed, lust, anger, worries, fears, anxieties and materialistic desires. Only then, we will be able to walk on the path of spirituality.
Though Nandi is Lord Shiva's bull, it symbolises joy, delight, power and righteousness. It is said that Nandi is devoted to Lord Shiva and His ardent worshipper. In fact, Lord Shiva considers Nandi as His animal form. Nandi on the other hand, is also Lord Shiva's means of transportation.
16. The Yogic Posture
Lord Shiva usually stays in the Yogic posture. As per Hindu mythology, the yogic posture tells us that one can achieve anything if he/she is into yoga, meditation and spirituality. It teaches one to find out there's more than just being human. One should understand there's much more than just himself/herself. The one who understands this conquers all his/her fears, anxiety, worries and evil thoughts.