Lord Shiva is one of the prominent Hindu gods and one of the “trimurti”(holy trinity) of the Hindu pantheon. Know about the different symbols of Lord Shiva as symbolized by the various things associated with Him. Each of these signifies a different aspect of his Supreme Being. In his physical existence, Shiva is in a household with Goddess Parvati. Every quality of Shiva makes him distinct from others.
Significance of Crescent Moon on Lord Shiva’s Head
Shiva Tattva is where there is no mind and the moon signifies the mind. When there is no mind then how can this ‘no mindedness’ be expressed and how can anybody understand it? You need a little bit of the mind to understand, experience and to express.
The no-mind, infinite consciousness requires that little bit of mind to express itself in the manifest world. So, to express that inexpressible, that little mind (crescent moon) is on the head.
Wisdom is beyond the mind, but it needs to be expressed with a tinge of mind and this is symbolized by the crescent moon.
Significance of Lord Shiva’s Damru
Damru symbolizes the Universe which is always expanding and collapsing. From an expansion it collapses and then it re-expands, this is the process of creation.
If you see your heartbeat, it is not just one straight line but it is a rhythm that goes up and down. The whole world is nothing but rhythms; energy rising and collapsing to rise again. So the damru signifies that. Look at the shape of the damru, from expansion it collapses and again expands.
The darmru is also a symbol of sound. Sound is rhythm and sound is energy. The whole universe is nothing but a wave function, it is nothing but rhythms. What does quantum physics say? It says the same thing – the whole universe is nothing but rhythms. It is just one wave (Adviata). So the damru signifies the non-dual nature of the universe.
Significance of Serpent around Lord Shiva’s Neck
A state of samadhi where there is nothing, just the inner sky of consciousness, is Shiva; where there is alertness and no action. To describe this alertness they put a snake around Shiva’s neck. So the serpent is a symbol of alertness.
In the state of meditation when the eyes are closed, it gives the impression that the person is sleeping, but he is not asleep, he is alert. To express this state of consciousness, a snake is shown around Lord Shiva’s neck.
Significance of Lord Shiva’s Trishul (Trident)
Trishul represents the three aspects of consciousness – waking, dreaming and sleeping, and it represents the three gunas – satva, rajas and tamas. Holding a trishul (Trident) signifies that Shiva (the divinity) is above all the three states – waking, dreaming and sleeping, yet is the upholder of these three states.
The divinity is beyond the three gunas, but it holds the three gunas together.
Shul means problems or suffering. Trishul means that which destroys all kind of suffering.
Three types of pain that arise in life:
1. Aadibhautik (physical)
2. Aadhyaatmik (spiritual) and
3. Aadidaivik (ethereal)
What relieves you from all the problems and suffering is the trishul. And it is in the hand of Shiva.
Significance of River Ganga flowing from Lord Shiva’s Head
Ganga means knowledge; knowledge that purifies your soul. Head is always the symbol of knowledge. Heart is the symbol of love. If Ganga were to be love, it should have come out of the heart of Lord Shiva. It is coming out of the head, because it simply means knowledge.
Knowledge is liberating, knowledge brings freedom, knowledge is purifying. All these are the characteristics of knowledge. Knowledge is also movement; motion. So Ganga (knowledge) has to come out of Lord Shiva’s (the divinity’s) head.
Significance of Lord Shiva’s Third Eye
The third eye is associated with alertness and awareness.
Significance of Shiva’s Blue Body
Blue means like the Sky. Blue signifies all-pervading, infinity which has no limits. It has no shape. Shiva does not have a body. Shiva was never a person at all. To symbolize the unfathomable, the infinite Divinity and to make that Divinity comprehensible to people, the ancient Rishis made a form.
Knowledge has no shape but it infiltrates each and every particle of the universe.
The whole world is filled with Shiva – whose body is in the whole universe.
Significance of Shiva Linga
Lingam means identification, a symbol through which you can identify what the truth is, what the reality is. What is not visible but yet can be identified by one thing, that is lingam.
When a baby is born, how do you know whether the baby is a male or female? Only through one part of the body can you identify whether this baby is a boy or a girl. That is the reason the genital is also called lingam.
Similarly, how do you identify the Lord of this Creation? He has no form! So then they said that there should be a sign to identify Him. So the sign, by which you identify both the male and female forms, combining them both to form one single symbol to identify the Lord who has no form or identity; who is all pervading in this entire Brahmanda (Creation), is Shiva Lingam.
Shiva Linga is very ancient, in fact most ancient. From the form, you go to the formless, through the Shiva Linga. It is a symbol that is the representation of the cosmos and the creator of the cosmos, as one.
It is the Shiva and the Shakti, the two principles in the creation. The silent un-manifest and the dynamic manifestation together are represented as Shiva Linga. Shiva Linga is not just Shiva, but the completion of the total Supreme Consciousness.
Significance of Nandi (Bull) – Vehicle of Lord Shiva
Bull has been used as a symbol of dharma (righteousness) from a long time, throughout the world. Lord Shiva riding on the bull simply means that when you are righteous and truthful, the infinite consciousness, the innocent consciousness is with you.
Significance of Shiva Tandav
The whole creation is the dance of one consciousness (Shiva). The one consciousness danced and manifested into a million species in the world. So this infinite creation is the dance of Lord Shiva or Shiva Tandav. The whole world is a place of Shiva.
Significance of Kailasa – The Abode of Shiva
The abode of Shiva is in Mount Kailasa, and the smashana (the cremation ground).
Kailasa means ‘where there is only celebration’, and smashana is where there is only void. The Divinity dwells in the void as well as in celebration. And in you there is void, in you there is celebration.