Slowly & steadily entering the world of spirituality, but always amazed with Hinduism, from a very young age, I am attracted to Shiva, perhaps because of his celestial strength, even the long hair and the powerful physique or maybe because of the snake that he carries tied to his neck. Now that I can understand the scriptures in more detail, I am fascinated much more by Shiva, I feel protected by his energy/teachings in clear and dark times.
Reading around a little, has made me share a little about the attributes of Shiva. Many will see that all the Hindu gods carry things on their heads, they rest on different animals, they have different symbols and they are of some random color. Everything is there for some reason, and every Hindu knows there is a reason, but what are the reasons? Today it’s Shiva turn.
Shiva (or Siva) is one of the main deities of Hinduism. His name means “The auspicious one”. Devotees of Shiva are called “Saivites.” Shiva is known by many other names, including Sambhu (“benign”), Samkara (“Compassionate”), Pasupati (“Lord of Beasts”), Mahesa (“Great Lord”) and Mahadeva (“Great God”).
Shiva is a paradoxical god: “both the destroyer and restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent shepherd of souls and the avenger of wrath.” In the most famous myth concerning Shiva, he saves humanity by holding in the throat the poison that waved in the waters and threatened humanity. For this reason he is often represented with a blue throat.
Trimurti or Trident – Known as the Trishula symbolizes the three powers of Wisdom, Desire and Implementation. or the functions of Creation, Maintenance and Destruction. The trident in Shivá’s hand indicates that all three aspects are under his control. When Shiva has the Trishul in the hand where normally he holds the Rudraksha(beads), he indicates his control over time. – Shiva is the master of time therefore making him timeless.
The Drum – The sound of the drum is the origin of the universal word that gives rise to all language and expression. It is the small hourglass drum that Shiva holds in one of his hands in a specific gesture called “damaru-hasta”. The two sides of the drum, separated from each other by a thin structure, represent the two totally different states of existence, the unmanifest and manifest. When a damaru is stirred, “Nothing” is produced, just like the cosmic sound of the AUM, which can be heard during deep meditation. According to the Hindu scriptures, nothing is the source of creation. This is one of the attributes of Shiva in his dancing performance known as Nataraja.
The cobra necklace – Shivá is beyond the powers of death. He swallowed the kalketu poison for the welfare of the universe. In order not to be wounded by this poison, it is said that his consort Parvati tied a cobra to his neck. This retained the poison in his throat and, consequently, turned it blue. Hence its name Nīla-kantha (‘blue throat’). The dangerous cobra represents death, which Shivá has completely conquered. Shivá is also known as Nageśwara (‘lord of snakes’). The cobras around his neck also represent the dormant and lying energy, Kundalinī. The serpent is also known as the conquest over the ego.
Rudrakshra – It is a plant whose seeds are traditionally used as beads to pray in Hinduism and Buddhism. Sometimes he carries them in the right hand and sometimes in the left. When you have them in your right hand, they symbolize concentration and that Shiva is meditating. The rudrakshras (Rudra’s Eyes) are attributed medicinal powers.
River Ganges or Face in the Head – it is said that the sacred river flows from Shiva’s hair. As the myths go, a king named BhaguiRatha asked Mother Ganga to descend to planet earth to purify his sins and those of humans. Shiva offered to stop the fall of Ganga from the heavenly planets. The flow of water is one of the five elements that make up the universe and from which the Earth is born. The Ganges also represents fertility. In more practical cases it represents the flow of passing teachings of wisdom from one generation to another.
The Crescent – Shiva carries on his forehead the moon on his fifth day (panchami). It is located near the third eye and demonstrates the power of Soma (the sacrificial offering, which represents the Moon). It means that Shivá possesses the power of procreation along with the power of destruction. The Moon, in Hinduism to the contrary to the Sun in the gregorian calendar, works as the measure of time, therefore it also represents that Shiva is the master of time and is the same an existence outside of it. Shiva is then known by the names of Somasundara (Soma: god of the moon, Súndara: ‘beautiful’) and Chandrashekara (chandra: ‘moon’, śekhara: ‘crown’). It also refers to the symbol of his mount, a bull.
The Third Eye – It is usually represented as an oval point on the forehead of your face. It is the third eye of knowledge, wisdom that is known as Bindi. It is the eye that sees beyond the obvious. Consequently Shivá is known as Tri-netri-īshwara (‘lord of the three eyes’). If opened, reduces to ashes the person in his vision. The eye is associated as a symbol of the destruction of evil and ignorance.
Jata, Tangled hair – the wave of his hair represents him as the god of the wind, or Vaiú, which is the subtle form of breath present in all living forms. Therefore, it is Shiva as the life line of all living beings. He is Pashupatinath.
Vibhuti – it is about the three lines of ash drawn on the forehead and represents the essence of our being, which remains even after the bad (impurities of ignorance, ego and action) and vasanas (likes and dislikes, attachment to the body, to the world, to fame, mundane entertainments, etc.) have been burned in the fire of knowledge. The vibhuti is revered as the form of Shiva and symbolizes the immortality of the soul and the manifest glory of the god.
Bhasma, Ash – Shiva is covered with crematorium ash, and points out the philosophy of life and death and that death is inevitable and is the ultimate reality of life.
Tiger Skin – If you look cloesely, Shiva sits on the skin of a tiger. The tiger is the vehicle of Shakti, the goddess of power and strength. Shiva is beyond and above any kind of force. He is the Lord of Śhakti. The skin of a tiger symbolizes victory over all strength. Sitting on it, Shiva teaches that he has conquered desire. Shiva also wears the skin of an elephant. Elephants symbolize pride. Dressing in their skin symbolizes the conquest of pride. Then there is the deer, which symbolizes the jumping of the mind, its blinking. Wearing the skin of the deer symbolizes that it has controlled the mind perfectly.
Kamandalu – The pot of water (Kamandalu) that is often shown next to Shiva is another of his accessories. It is said to be made of a dried pumpkin and contains amrita (nectar). The yogis of India and the wise men are seen wearing Kamandalu as a staple item. The transport of the Kamandalu shows the nature of yoga in Shiva. But it has a deeper meaning. Just as when ripe pumpkins are picked from a plant, the fruit is removed and the shell is cleaned to contain the nectar, an individual must also renounce his attachment to the physical world and cleanse his inner selfish desires to experience the happiness of the Self, symbolized by the nectar in the Kamandalu.
Kunadalas – The Kundalas refer to the two earrings, Alakshya (meaning “he who can not be shown by any sign”) and Niranjan (meaning “he who can not be seen by the eyes of mortals”), used by Shiva. The ornaments in the ears mean that He is beyond ordinary perception. It is noteworthy that the Kundala in the left ear is of the type used by women and the one in the right ear is of the type used by men. The dual type of Kundalas represent the Shiva and Shakti (male and female) principle of creation.
Mount Kailasa – Shiva is often shown to be sitting with the beautiful Himalayas serving as a backdrop. Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, it is said to be His traditional residence. In Hindu mythology, Mount Kailash is said to represent the center of the universe. This denotes that Lord Shiva is ‘Kailas’ – the bestower of peace and also means ‘Kailashadhipati’ Lord of Mount Kailash.
Nandi – Shiva’s Bull who is said to be his vehicle. The bull is a symbol of both power and ignorance suggesting that Shiva eliminates the ignorance of his devotees and gives them the power of wisdom. In Sanskrit, a bull is called «Vrisha» which also means «justice». The bull Nandi next to Shiva indicates that he is the eternal companion of justice.
Eyes open to the middle – It is not simply a way of drawing so that it comes to look more serene, or in transit of meditation or more beautiful at that time. The half-opened eyes of Lord Shiva convey the idea that the universe cycle is in process. When the Lord opens his eyes a new cycle of creation begins and when he closes it, it means the destruction of the universe for the creation of the next cycle. The half-opened eyes means that the creation is going through an eternal cyclic process, without beginning or end.
Extra – In Japan, where many Hindu deities are worshiped by the relationship that these two nations maintained, Shivá is known as Shiba and Daikoki (meaning ‘black’, for Lord Shivá is covered with ashes from the cremated corpses and he calls her Kala or Kali)